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TPWD’s New Leader on Parks, Economics and the PBS Show 


David Yoskowitz took over as executive director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department on Nov. 14 after 16 years at the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. He sat down with Editor Russell Roe to answer a few questions about himself and the job.  

What interested you in this job at Texas Parks and Wildlife?
At the Harte Institute in Corpus Christi, we wanted to move science into solutions. But that final step is the implementation of all of it. Being here at the department provides that opportunity to be on the implementation side. So really, it completes the arc of my professional and personal interests around conservation.

What challenges do you anticipate?
What keeps me up at night in thinking about providing recreational opportunities for the state is the number of people moving here. The most aggressive numbers put that at 25 million more people by 2050, so 55 million people here. How are we planning now for 2050? That’s something that I want to focus on. A good percentage of them are going to want to have access to recreational opportunities, whether that be camping, hiking, boating, hunting or fishing.

What do you see as a priority here at the agency?
I think the commission was interested in my background in economics, in the social sciences, to continue to build that human dimension to the agency. The challenges that we have are not challenges with the natural environments — the challenges are with humans. There are no environmental or conservation issues but for humans, so you have to understand the human animal and how the human animal behaves.

As an economist, you look at the intersection of conservation and economics. Can you tell us more about that?
I cut my teeth on water economics while I was at Texas Tech. As a graduate student and early on in my career, it was all about putting a dollar value on water in its uses outside of direct consumption — water for the environment. It can be difficult to put dollar values on our natural resources and the ecosystem services that they provide. I think at the very minimum you have to be able to demonstrate the value in many different ways to people so they begin to take a vested interest in whatever it might be — freshwater inflows, protecting oyster reefs, land conservation. What’s the value in that? People will take those values in different ways. Some will need a dollar sign; others will say just give me the ecological value. You need to be able to communicate that.

What do you and your family like to do in your free time outdoors?
For the last 20 years we’ve been in Corpus Christi, and so we spend quite a bit of time on the water when we can, or at the beach. My son and wife and I take backpacking trips from time to time and go camping. I’ve been bird-watching a little bit more. I never would have thought I would have been doing bird-watching, but moving to Corpus Christi, wow, you can’t help it.

Do you have a favorite state park or state park memory?
My first experience with a state park in Texas was Hueco Tanks. I was a graduate student, and I was a climber. We headed out to Hueco Tanks to do some bouldering. That was a beautiful place. This past August, we were up in the Davis Mountains. My wife and I did a morning hike at Davis Mountains State Park and then we drove down the hill to Balmorhea and did some swimming. It was great to be able to hit those two parks in one day.

How do you think Texas Parks and Wildlife can use both traditional media and new communication tools to support its mission?
I’ve watched the TV show for years, and in the last month and a half I have watched many more episodes of the show. It has been a huge education for me on what the department is doing. The magazine is also critical in communicating what impact the department and its partners are having on conserving our wildlife and wild places and how Texans and visitors benefit from that. Now more than ever there are new “channels” popping up that allow us to reach new audiences. I’m looking forward to using those. 

 Russell Roe;  Maegan Lanham

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