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May 2010 cover image 12 Vulnerable Nursery

From the Pen of Carter P. Smith

Raconteur. Sportsman. Cowman. Land steward. Conservationist. Man of all seasons. Rest assured they don’t make ’em like Caesar Kleberg anymore and probably never will.

A legendary son of the King Ranch family and a lifelong bachelor who spent his entire adult years on the ranch, Kleberg was also a pioneering conservationist and steward who set the stage for many of Texas’ most progressive game laws.

As Eileen Mattei writes in her accompanying article, Caesar Kleberg was well ahead of his time, both on the ranch and in the state, in the early 1900s. As manager of the ranch’s sprawling Norias Division, he became concerned about declining wildlife populations and enacted stringent hunting rules for family and guests to follow, collaborated actively with state game wardens to protect the wildlife resources and implemented a host of innovative and experimental habitat enhancement projects. Today, the King Ranch’s various wildlife enterprises are as highly valued as its famous lineage of Santa Gertrudis cattle.

And, through his 20 years of service on the Texas Game, Fish and Oyster Commission (predecessor to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department), Caesar Kleberg persuaded the state to take far-reaching actions in the interest of wildlife restoration, such as banning turkey hunting for 10 years, establishing state game preserves, and stocking deer and turkey in suitable habitats around the state. In short, “Mr. Caesar,” as he was called, did much for Texas’ lands, waters, fish and wildlife. And, while he passed away from his beloved South Texas pastures in 1946, his deep-rooted conservation ethic, as well as his good name, did not.

One such place where his footprints and legacy still reign large is the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, on the campus of Texas A&M at Kingsville. Established posthumously in 1981 with a gift from his foundation, the institute is now a vibrant, nationally renowned center for applied conservation and wildlife management research. For those interested in the extraordinary diversity and uniqueness of the region, the institute is the go-to place for the most contemporary, relevant, practical and applied research on South Texas wildlife, ecology, natural history and stewardship.

At TPWD, we are a proud partner and collaborator with the institute’s scientists on a range of species-specific research projects involving everything from ocelots and mountain lions to white-tailed deer, redhead ducks and bobwhite quail. We also work with the institute on addressing important conservation issues involving invasive plant species, wind energy development, wildlife diseases, native grass restoration, threatened species and much more.

The institute’s science helps make our conservation work at TPWD better. For more information on our partner, visit its website at http://ckwri.tamuk.edu.

Thanks for caring about and for the future of Texas’ wild things and wild places. I am forever thankful Caesar Kleberg did.

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