Shooting Blanks

Strapped for cash and confounded by our state’s changing demographics, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is hunting for a new mission.

THE MOST COMPELLING EVIDENCE that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is an agency at a crossroads—maybe even in the cross hairs—was the annual public meeting of its nine-member commission in August. It was conducted under the sort of red-alert security usually associated with a high-profile murder trial: While an impressive number of law enforcement agents stood watch, disparate groups of hunters, animal rights activists, bikers, hikers, birders, campers, and rock climbers eyed each other suspiciously as they passed through a metal detector and were warned that rigorous rules of conduct were in force.

The added security was partly a response to a recent flurry of death threats against Parks and Wildlife’s executive director, Andrew Sansom, and the high-profile commissioners appointed by Governor George W. Bush in early 1995. In

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