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From the Pen of Carter P. Smith

Their talents are many. Their time is a godsend. And, if they were an army, they would be a formidable one.

Each day, scores of dedicated volunteers come to work on behalf of Texas’ lands, waters, fish, wildlife and parks. You don’t have to look far to find them. They are in the parks, the hatcheries and the wildlife management areas. They are in the schools and on the shooting ranges, on the water and in the watersheds. Wherever the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has a conservation project to undertake, a property or facility to manage or an outdoors-related skill or topic to teach, there is an able volunteer right there to help.

As volunteers, their roles are varied and indispensible. Some, like the Nature Trackers, help collect important biological data on species of interest from monarch butterflies to freshwater mussels. Organized friends groups such as those at Sea Center Texas and across the state park system help us maintain and operate our core facilities. Others, like the cadre of hunter, angler and boater education instructors, teach burgeoning outdoor enthusiasts how to hunt, fish and boat safely, responsibly, lawfully and ethically. Still others, like state park hosts, serve as official ambassadors to park visitors, all the while helping out with tasks big and small to keep the parks up and running.

Across the agency, their impact is widespread. As a group, they gave almost 1 million hours of volunteer service to the agency last year. In the aggregate, their service represents the equivalent of hundreds and hundreds of additional full-time employees. They are, without a doubt, an integral part of the TPWD team.

During my last six-plus years at the agency, I have had the privilege of meeting hundreds of our volunteers from every corner of the state. I walked away from every interaction with the same overwhelming sentiments of pride and gratitude. You see, their dedication is simply unreal. Their passion for what we do is infectious. And, their generosity of service has no bounds.

In this issue of the magazine, my colleague Tom Harvey highlights a group of volunteers that has been quietly raising money to support important conservation projects — from the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens to the acquisition of new parkland to pronghorn antelope restoration in West Texas to the new Game Warden Training Center. These are our partners at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, a private nonprofit organization, which in its 20 or so years of existence has done much to advance conservation and outdoor recreation opportunities across the state.

This month, as part of National Volunteer Month, we are proudly celebrating our volunteers from all corners of the state for their generous donations of time, talent and treasure. Quite simply, we couldn’t do it without them.

So, to all our volunteers who do so much for Texas and for Texans, thanks for caring about our wild things and wild places. They need you now more than ever.

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