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From the pen of Robert L. Cook

Throughout much of my career there has been a kind of uneasiness between a set of folks who share almost all wildlife conservation beliefs. I’m talking about the hunters, fishers, environmentalists, landowners, game wardens and biologists of Texas, whom you will read about in this issue.

The casual observer might assume that we are all pretty much cut from the same cloth, that we hold the same values, defend the same principles. And in general, that is correct. However, below that normally tranquil surface there has, at times, been apprehension among these folks who should stand solidly together in the defense of our natural resources, private property rights and individual freedoms.

Several of the most basic freedoms of Texans — such as the right to bear arms, the public’s ownership of wildlife and landowners’ right to control the access to and use of their land — are fundamental beliefs which we support 100 percent. We support and defend the privileges of hunting and fishing, which many of us share and enjoy. We believe in conservation and management of our natural resources and the sustainable use of these resources. We believe that hunting and fishing may be the most important conservation tools available to ensure that habitat for fish and wildlife is properly cared for and maintained well into the future.

Yet, there have been times when this uneasiness has stood in the way of these champions of conservation in Texas. Hunters and anglers are too often viewed as uncaring users who sometimes exceed the bag limit, instead of the absolutely essential conservationists that they are. Some landowners still cast a suspicious eye on game wardens, wildlife biologists and hunters and they assume that anyone from the government is trying to interfere in their business.

I’ve never paid too much attention to claims from a few outdoor users that our wardens are mean and uncaring, but I’m sure there have been times when we could have done better. Biologists have, at times, been too zealous, too insensitive to people in their defense of the environment and in their desire to conserve the wildlife and lands that we all love. They have also at times, I fear, been jealous of our game wardens — who are seen by most Texans, especially landowners, as the defenders of the wildlife and our land. Landowners, hunters and fishermen have, now and then, not understood and have rejected the biological data which our fish and wildlife biologists collect and upon which they base their harvest and management recommendations. Environmentalists are often viewed as anti-hunters opposed to any form of active management and their voices fall on deaf ears.

We have all made mistakes; fortunately, we have learned from those experiences. Today, our biologists and game wardens work closely together as a unified team of professional conservationists for Texas. Out of necessity and as a result of lessons learned, our hunters, anglers, landowners, non-consumptive users, environmentalists and the millions of Texans who simply appreciate all wildlife are more closely bound together today than ever. It is critical that we continue to work together, that we put aside our differences and focus on the conservation, management and appreciation of our incredible natural resources.

Read and learn more about conservation in this issue of Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine. Get involved.

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