The Texas Park and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is a state agency based in Texas that oversees and protects wildlife and their habitats. Mainly, the departments responsibilities include a range of activities. State law permits TPWD to plan, obtain, improve, operate and maintain a system of public lands, including historical and cultural areas. Notably, these resources encompass approximately 1.4 million acres of parks, wildlife management areas, recreational areas, historical or cultural sites, and natural areas. Additionally, the department serves as the state agency with prime responsibility for conserving, protecting and enhancing the states fish and wildlife resources whereby, it monitors and assesses habitats, surveys fish, and game populations, conducts studies and demonstration projects, and operates eight fish hatcheries.
Also, TPWD is charged with regulating and enforcing commercial and recreational fishing, boating, and hunting laws in the state. It sets and administers all rules concerning the taking of fish and wildlife in Texas since the merger of related regulatory powers in 1983. Currently, the agency comprises 11 internal divisions, which include Wildlife, Coastal Fisheries, Inland Fisheries, Law Enforcement, State Parks, Infrastructure, Legal, Administrative Resources, Communications, Human Resources, and Information Technology.
History of TPWD
The department was created in 1963 when the Texas Game and Fish Commission and the State Parks Board merged. It was governed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission that was appointed by the governor and led by an executive director. The TPWD encompassed six primary divisions namely Parks, Wildlife, Fisheries, Resource Protection, Law Enforcement, and Administrative Services. After its formation, its immediate hurdle was to improve the state park system by renovating existing facilities and obtaining new land. Its efforts were evident since between 1968 and 1976, the total amount of state-owned parkland doubled, from 62,000 acres to approximately 117,000 acres. By the late 1980s, the Texas parks systems encompassed 129 parks, historic sites, and natural areas, totaling over 433,000 acres.
It is essential to note that, in 1983, the Wildlife Conservation Act was passed that gave TPWD the authority to manage fish and wildlife resources in all Texas counties to include finfish and crabs. Notably, before the passage of the Act, all hunting and fishing laws in 13 Texas counties and special laws in 72 counties were set by the Legislature. In 1990, the agency was designated as a State Natural Resource Trustee by the Governor according to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act. This designation made the department responsible for assessing injuries to natural resources and the services they avail from unauthorized discharges of oil releases of hazardous substances and pursuing compensation from the responsible individuals.
The agencys mission is to manage and protect Texass natural and cultural resources and to avail hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation activities for the use and enjoyment of today's and future generations.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has several programs that work towards the achievement of its mission. The Private Lands and Habitat Program seeks to avail advice and resources to private landowners involved in the conservation and establishment of wildlife habitat on their land. The Wildlife Management on Private Lands Program guides the protection of individual areas and habitat. On the other hand, the Wildlife Habitat Assessment Program that provides information and recommendations that will conserve fish and wildlife resources to local, state and federal agencies that approve, allow, license, or construct developmental projects. Additionally, the agency runs a student internship program that seeks to provide students with a realistic view of what a career with TPWD entails. This program comprises the agencys efforts to uphold the corporate responsibility to the local community.
Within the structure of appropriations authority granted by the Legislature, TPWD develops its annual, agency-wide budget based on the agency needs and priorities balances against available and anticipated incomes and appropriation authority. Notably, the budget development process commences during the spring and culminates in the adoption of the budget by the commission in August of each year. The amounts budgeted by the agency for any given year exceeds the original appropriation authority as stipulated in the General Appropriations Act. Primarily, this is because the budget will reflect increases in funding authorized in riders and general provisions. Also, the budget encompasses amounts associated with employee compensation, which is not reflected in the TPWD appropriations. For example, the Fiscal Year 2013 combined budget totaled approximately $357.5 million, which included operating expenses, capital projects, grants, and employee benefits.
Type of Leadership Structure
The agency is organized into 11 internal divisions, which include Wildlife, Coastal Fisheries, Inland Fisheries, Law Enforcement, State Parks, Infrastructure, Legal, Administrative Resources, Communications, Human Resources, and Information Technology. The Executive Office and the Deputy Executive Directors for Operations, Administration, and Natural Resources bear the division oversight responsibilities. The executive director serves as the department's chief executive officer and is liable to the commission for the overall operation of the agency. He or she acts as a link between the board and the employees as per the set policies. TPWDs current executive director is Carter Smith. He has management and oversight of all the 11 divisions. The executive office staff receives and coordinates all incoming correspondence and most public contact. Its team coordinates all activities related to the commission, legislature, and foundation.
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