Covering Texas Conservation History — Resources for News Media

Tom Harvey, 512-389-4453,

News Image Share on Facebook Share Release URL

Note: This item is more than nine years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has posted on its website a trove of historic photos, magazine articles, and research reports that yield a fascinating look at hunting, fishing and fish and wildlife conservation in the early to mid-1900s. For those willing to look back, these show how things have changed, but also how many of the same pressing issues are still with us today.

On the department’s web home page, click the little News link in the middle of the page. Then on the left click News Roundups, then select the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration link. Here’ll you find a narrative story or news release at the top, followed by links to historic photos and documents.

All this material was posted to help writers cover the 75th Anniversary of WSFR in 2013. This vital federal funding source has paid for almost every important conservation achievement in Texas, starting in 1937, when Congress passed the Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid to Wildlife Restoration Act. The law levies an 11 percent excise tax on rifles, shotguns, ammunition and archery equipment and a 10 percent tax on handguns. In 1950, Congress passed the Dingell-Johnson Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act, mandating a similar excise tax on fishing rods and related equipment.

On the News Roundup web page, note the 1940s and 50s articles from Texas Fish and Game Magazine, precursor to today’s Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine.  Stories here about pronghorn, quail and Black Gap Wildlife Management Area reflect the earliest use of federal aid dollars in Texas.

Below the magazine articles, you’ll see wildlife restoration reports. Files like “1938-1953 Wildlife Restoration Spending By Species” reveal how Texas first used what was then a brand new federal funding source. The file “1945-1953 WMA Land Acquisitions” shows early use of WSFR dollars to buy land to create WMAs, which provide settings for wildlife research, hunting, birding and the like.

The News Images link offers photos of Sierra Diablo, Texas’ first WMA, plus images showing early pronghorn and deer restoration work and other topics.

These online resources are the tip of the iceberg. At TPWD headquarters, we’ve assembled more than 2,000 pages of historic reports from the Texas State Archives. The Wildlife Division also has cabinets full of early reports, some featuring original 8”x10” black and white photos, maps and charts.

Look through this, and you’ll find people who did the early spade work to bring back fish and game in our state, some of whom have been called conservation heroes. One example is Dan Lay, one of the earliest Wildlife Restoration Program leaders in Texas, author of two magazine articles mentioned above, and of the award-winning book Land of Bears and Honey. (See the Texas Legacy Project entry about Dan at

For help with any of this, feel free to contact Mike Cox,, or (512) 389-8046 or Tom Harvey,, (512) 389-4453. They encourage you to find a way to cover the 75th Anniversary of WSFR this fall, to shed light on our past, and to make sure current generations understand the role of hunters, anglers and boaters in keeping our outdoor heritage alive.

On the Net: