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Picture of the cover to the September 2006 magazine

From the Pen of Robert L. Cook

It is not difficult to write “At Issue” each month. There are many issues which we need help on and which I would like the people of Texas to know about and carefully consider. Frequently I hear back from Texans who have a different perspective. Agree or disagree, most of the folks I hear from share a common concern for and interest in the conservation of our state’s cultural and natural resources.

Issues? As you know, one of my all-time favorite topics is water, the availability and the conservation of fresh water for industry, agriculture, fish, wildlife, and for all Texans. Water is The Big Issue for conservation and for Texas.

How about funding for state parks? There’s one that has been getting lots of press this year, and, from an operational and strategic standpoint, it is a very important issue as we approach the upcoming legislative session. Whose fault is it that our state parks are in such dire need of major repair, new equipment, additional staff, and new land to meet the current and future needs of Texas? Why don’t we already have the best state parks system in the nation? It seems to be convenient and easy for some folks to blame the Legislature, our elected officials. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, that is wrong! Do not blame the Legislature or your state elected officials. It is not their fault. They have had far too many requests for more and more money, and they have not had enough money to give everybody everything they want or need. The Texas Legislature has been fair and supportive of state parks and they have done the best they could with the funding available. Some folks blame me for not making it a big enough issue, for not throwing a big enough fit, for not screaming that the sky is falling. I accept that responsibility, and if you choose to blame me, OK, blame away. I will simply ask that you look at our Legislative Appropriations Requests over the last decade and at the several reports and documents that have been submitted on TPWD and our funding needs. We are guilty of being “team players” through some lean financial times, but we always identified our needs for additional funding for state parks and made it clear that it was our highest priority. If you insist on blaming someone, blame all of us: me, yourself, all Texans. We just did not make adequate funding for state parks one of our top priorities as Texans until the last few months.

Other issues? How about the growing commercial sales of native nongame wildlife such as prairie dogs, snakes and turtles to the overseas markets, or “privatization” of native white-tailed deer for commercial purposes? How about alternative energy sources such as the wind powered generating farms with hundreds of 200 – 300 foot tall windmills along the Texas coast and offshore in the Gulf? What about the planned super highways and their impact on the people and the landscape of Texas? or Why don’t we build a big, new lake in the Pineywoods of East Texas and pipe the water to our major cities; we must have more water, you know? And what really happened to all the horny toads?

Continued growth is important to Texas and to our economy. As Texans, we have many important issues to deal with; to fund or not fund; to address or to ignore. Our leadership has many difficult decisions to make. Many of these issues will impact all Texans and will impact the conservation of our natural resources. It is TPWD’s responsibility to base our comments and our concerns about these issues on good science, good data. Please. Get informed, and get involved.

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