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From the Pen of Carter P. Smith

Aldo Leopold once famously wrote, "There are some who can live without wild things and some who can not." If you are a regular reader of this magazine, you most likely fall into the latter camp. So do I.

Thankfully, Texas is blessed with an abundance of riches when it comes to our wild things. Within our 267,000 square miles of lands and inland waters, one can find plenty of wildness to experience from bat caves nestled in Hill Country sinkholes to prairie chicken leks spread across the high plains to pitcher plant bogs tucked deep in the Pineywoods. Comparatively speaking, Texas is one of the most biologically unique places in all of North America. In fact, according to a 2002 NatureServe study, we rank second in biodiversity only to California.

Our state's composition of wildlife is made up of a host of rather curious and interesting species, some of which are common, many are rather elusive, and still others are quite rare and imperiled. Some of the rarer species that grace the borders of our state such as ocelots, whooping cranes, peregrine falcons and even horned lizards possess more than a passing share of charismatic appeal to the average nature enthusiast. Others such as the lesser prairie-chicken, the Texas fatmucket mussel and the ferruginous pygmy-owl are burdened with names only a biologist could love. Either way, they all need our help.

Pressures from urbanization, habitat loss and fragmentation, invasive species, and diminished spring and river flows are all taking their toll on our state's native fauna. Add to it, complex challenges associated with border walls and climate change and even the most optimistic of conservationists may be racing for the Tylenol. Needless to say, complacency in conservation is not an option. And, as you will read in E. Dan Klepper's accompanying article about endangered species and the Texas Wildlife Action Plan, we are taking action, and I hope you will too.

Developed with support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and in consultation with multiple private and public agency partners, the Wildlife Action Plan offers a comprehensive suite of recommendations for attenuating threats to our rare and non-game species of wildlife. Through this coordinated plan for monitoring the health of our native species, restoring and enhancing habitats, combating invasive and exotic species, improving water quality and quantity, protecting unique lands and waters, and enabling good stewardship on private and public lands, we can ensure our wild things and wild places persist for future generations. But, rest assured we can't do it alone.

I have no doubt that if we can collectively succeed in this worthwhile endeavor, our children and their children and their children after that will be forever grateful. And if we don't, they may never forgive us. I hope you will take time to take action on behalf of those species that need it the most. Thanks for caring about the future of Texas' wild things.

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