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From the Pen of Carter P. Smith

History certainly suggests I am not much of a soothsayer. Nor, as my wife will attest, am I much of a New Year’s resolution maker. That being said, with the advent of 2015 upon us, I do want to share a few words about what is on the department’s seemingly never-ending “to-do list” in the coming year. 

First, I hope you will indulge me as I look back into the 2014 rear-view mirror at some of the more notable highlights in the realms of Texas’ lands, waters, fish, wildlife and parks. Your TPWD team, along with its many private and public partners, had a pretty fruitful year. And, as the hunters, anglers, park-goers and outdoor enthusiasts who make that work possible, you deserve an accounting of what we helped accomplish on behalf of our home ground.

It was a busy year on the coastal waterfront with TPWD’s expansion of the five-trout limit up through Matagorda Bay and the work of Aransas County and CCA to reopen the historic fish pass at Cedar Bayou between San Jose and Matagorda islands. Add to it the acquisition of Powderhorn Ranch, the reopening of Sea Rim State Park, the celebration of the 100th birthday of the Battleship Texas, the reefing of a ship off Corpus Christi and record years for both flounder production and oyster restoration. It was a banner year for the Gulf Coast.   

Inland, the outcomes were no less impressive. Guadalupe bass, the state fish of Texas, was successfully restored in the Blanco River, where it had been absent for over two decades. In West Texas, bighorn sheep were restored to Nine Point Mesa and Capote Peak, while Eastern turkeys were returned to portions of the East Texas woods. A massive five-state, range-wide conservation effort was launched to help recover the lesser prairie-chicken, and the third year of transplanting pronghorn antelope from the Panhandle Plains to the Marfa and Marathon basins was successfully undertaken. Major research, conservation and outreach initiatives to help recover the beloved bobwhite were launched in places from the Rolling Plains to the Coastal Plains. Our new K-9 teams more than proved their mettle in helping our officers locate unlawfully taken fish and game.

On the recreation front, new paddling trails were added on waterways such as the Lower Neches and over 25 miles of public river access were leased to offer more fishing opportunities. The one millionth hunter education student was certified, and the new Outdoor Annual app and online public hunting program systems were launched, making it even easier for outdoor enthusiasts to get out and hunt and fish throughout the state. Meanwhile, our state parks team significantly expanded the Texas Outdoor Family program, worked with Texas A&M University to update the State Parks Economic Impact Study, and worked toward finalizing public use plans for the new Devils River State Natural Area unit, Palo Pinto Mountains State Park and the Albert and Bessie Kronkosky State Natural Area.

Rest assured, we have no plans to rest on our laurels. 2015 will be just as busy, if not busier.

We have an active legislative session to work our way through. We also have plans to roll out a new and improved Mother Neff State Park, open new cabins at Fort Boggy State Park, partner with CCA and the TPW Foundation to build a major reef off Port O’Connor, complete a monarch butterfly conservation plan, wrap up a statewide catfish management plan, add a new wildlife management area in the Texas Panhandle, help host the national Children in Nature conference, expand public hunting and fishing opportunities and kick off the first-of-its-kind joint law enforcement academy for the state’s game wardens and park police officers. 

We’ll also continue important fish and wildlife conservation efforts, including those on Guadalupe bass, oysters, pronghorns and Eastern turkeys. And we’ll keep fighting the good fight against the spread of exotics such as giant salvinia and zebra mussels and continue the pioneering research at the Kerr Wildlife Management Area on the control of feral hogs.

Be assured your team at TPWD joins you in caring deeply about our wild things and wild places. They need us now more than ever. 

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