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presents his lust-release 08? join avvyeriactivisticivi ertarian Dave Richards, Tile Texas Observer, fellow progressives, friends and famil y for a book signing party! Other Texas dates: Houston , , . .April 2 530-8 pm …Starbooks & Fine Gi fts San Antonio ..Aprifik . .5-7 pm .. :Twig Bookshop TPWD, continued from page 11 Texas Youth Hunting Program and the Texas Big Game Awards. New board chair Idsal is seen by observers as, understandably, private land-oriented, and not someone likely to go to bat for public access issues. TPWD watchers both inside and outside the department suggest that she has taken a somewhat autocratic approach to steering the agency. The casual intimation is that Idsal’s ascension helped push Sansoni, and perhaps board member Carol Dinkins, who was generally considered supportive of acquisition, out the door. There’s no evidence for that, but it approaches the status of conventional wisdom in conversations with knowledgeable people who are either too tactful or too entangled to say so for the record. Idsal was unable to arrange an interview, and Sansom returned my initial call to schedule one, but then became mysteriously inaccessible. Dinkins says she left the board simply because she felt she needed to pay more attention to her attorneyship. y ou almost want to pity the poor bastards at TPWD. Trapped between do-gooding conservationists \(many of whom comprise the rank and file of department in the habit of treating TPWD like a red-headed stepchild on allowance day, under the fiscal and philosophical thumb of networks of hunters whose license fees fund a goodly part of the department’s budget, and pulled like taffy in a thousand different directions by an ever-changing constituency that includes just about every citizen of the state, TPWD is charged with performing a balancing act worthy of the Wallendas. We expect Parks to piece back together whole ecosystems from the fragments we’ve cut, provide safe and cheap access to spacious wilderness areas, keep the toilets clean and stocked with paper, maintain healthy wildlife populations, schedule a tee-time at noon, stoically look the other way while we down a cold beer at riverside, and change our flat with good cheer some late night in Bastrop, among a thousand more menial tasks. All of this while simultaneously performing an elaborate courtship dance with the private landowners who own 95 percent of the state’s land mass. It’s no small task, and any time the department inevitably missteps, some “stakeholder” or another steps up to complain about TPWD’s inability to be all things to all people. It’s hard to argue that programs designed to encourage private landowners to practice conservation are bad. Nor would it be appropriate to question the yeoman’s job that private non-profit land trusts do in augmenting TPWD’s conservation efforts.Yet there is an observable trend at work here, an increasing and so far unquestioned focus on private land conservation and private land trust stewardship that amounts, one could argue, to a department hand-off to the private sector of its traditional duties and obligations. This may be part of the answer for conservation, but conservation is only half of the battle. Access to public land is the other half, and nothing about the department’s focus indicates any inclination to address that issue. Meeting the Texas Tech study goals will require about $3.6 billion in expenditures over 30 years. Public opinion surveys commissioned by the Tech study show broad public support for more park spending. “You have to realize,” says Tech’s Schinidly, “what we presented here was a 30-year plan. We’re not saying that Chicken Little is going to fall out of the sky if this is not done in the next biennium. We’re simply saying that for the rate at which Texas’ population is growing, if you look at the distribution of public lands that we have right now for outdoor recreation, that distribution does not match well with the projected population growth for this state. And if it’s a value for Texans, if political leadership and policy makers believe there’s value in Texans accessing open space, then this is an issue that’s going to have to be addressed.” Brad Tyer is a freelance writer living in Houston. DAVE RICHARDS 20 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3/15/02