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262 CHAPTER 16 Parks in a Changing Texas I rotated off the National Park Foundation with deep regret but fired up with knowledge gained during my time on the board. In the summer of 2000 I sought out my friend Andy Sansom, who was executive director of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD), serving with great distinction and vision. I explained that I wanted to put my national park enthusiasm and experience to use in Texas. After an hour or so of conversation and exchange of ideas, Andy wrote something on a piece of paper, folded it up, and handed it to me. On it was one word: “Money!” “George,” he said, “the department is underfunded, particularly the park system , but we also need increased appropriations for fish hatcheries, wildlife areas, and a number of other conservation venues.” I told Andy while I knew the legislative process, I had not worked on conservation and parkland issues and did not know the legislative or conservation players across the state. However, I thought I could raise enough money from friends and associates to give me breathing room to learn, while at the same time begin to build an organization diverse and strong enough to succeed. Andy suggested several people I ought to meet and in December of 2000 introduced me to the constituency groups he had assembled over the years to explain the upcoming legislative budget and issues situation. That was of immense help to me, as I met people who signed on with my next project early and who to this day I count as supporters and friends. This was the genesis of what would become the Texas Coalition for Conservation (TCC). To form an organization takes time and planning. One of the early breaks I got was that the Trust for Public Land, headed by my ex-wife Valarie, had recently completed a poll and an in-depth but anonymous interview study of Texans’ perceptions of parks, conservation, and TPWD. I spent a month or so pouring over those documents. Parks in a Changing Texas 263 What was most apparent was how diverse and disconnected the various conservation and environmental groups were, and in many instances how suspicious they were of one another. Even for an amateur it was easy to figure out some of the organizations and individuals by the manner in which they stated their case or criticized their opponents, real or imagined. A TPWD commissioner said that dealing with the various constituencies was like herding cats through a fish market. Another keen observer pronounced, “It’s like dealing with Afghan warlords.” I visited with friends and the people Andy had suggested. Most were receptive, but David Gochman of Academy Outdoor Sports and Mort Meyerson, my National Park Foundation partner and friend, were generously supportive. David agreed to chair the Coalition. I could not have begun without them. Early in the formative months I decided that I did not want to have the Coalition board totally comprised of professional conservationists and environmentalists. Rather, I thought it essential to have a board that could help in key areas of accounting, law, organization , and public relations. That’s not to say that an accountant who disliked conservation would be asked. All had to have at least a working knowledge of, and appreciation for, the natural areas of the state. I had sat on and witnessed too many boards—for-profit and nonprofit—that were torn asunder by conflicts of interests and turf wars. I had no time for, or interest in, a debating society. However, I did choose two members to represent the environmental and the hunting and fishing (the “hook and bullet”) conservation arenas, respectively. For the most part they have served with active and supportive participation. We also put together an advisory council, which was broad and representative of many of the fine organizations and individuals who were devoting themselves to leaving the landscapes, parks, wildlife, and habitat of Texas better than they found it. Over the years, many from the advisory council helped guide TCC through the constantly changing labyrinth of people and issues. By experience and through instinct I knew that I did not want a big staff or operation . Obviously a large operation is costly to maintain, and money is always tight for a fledgling organization. More important, I knew that this start-up was going to take at least four years to complete and that we would need flexibility to meet...


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