Fort Worth attorney reappointed to Parks and Wildlife Commission

Posted Friday, May. 10, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Growing up in Missouri, Ralph Duggins inherited a reverence for the outdoors that was passed down from his grandfather, a longtime head of the Missouri’s conservation department.

The Fort Worth attorney has transferred the family tradition to Texas, where he is vice-chairman of the nine-member commission that oversees the state’s vast parks and wildlife system. He has been on the commission since 2008 and has just been tapped for a second term.

It’s commitment that the avid fly fisherman is eager to embrace. He’s already mapping out plans to visit as many of Texas’ 100-plus state parks as possible.

“I’ve got a lot of driving to do,” he said Friday.

Gov. Rick Perry this week reappointed Duggins, 61, a senior partner at Fort Worth’s Cantey Hanger law firm, to another six-year term on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission. The term will end Feb. 1, 2019. Houston investment executive Jim Lee was also appointed to a six-year term.

The appointments are subject to Senate confirmation and are expected to be considered by the Senate Nominations Committee next week as the May 27 adjournment of the 2013 Legislature approaches.

The commission oversees the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, whose 3,000 employees’ assignments reach from the mountains of West Texas to the forests of East Texas and the waters of the Gulf Coast.

Operating on a budget of about $400 million a year, the department is responsible for state parks, wildlife management, hunting and fishing management, biological research and a host of other duties. The department’s responsibilities affect millions of Texans, ranging from urban dwellers looking for a weekend getaway to Gulf Coast watermen who harvest shrimp and red snapper.

After five years on the commission, Duggins has high praise for Executive Director Carter Smith, and the department’s employees.

“The state should be very proud of the Parks and Wildlife Department,” Duggins said. “It’s a group of people the who love going to work everyday.”

Duggins believes the agency is rebounding after devastating budget cuts by the 2011 Legislature raised the prospect that the commission might be forced to close some state parks.

Instead, an infusion of state revenue has enabled legislative budget-writers to fully fund the park system as they prepare to sign off on a new budget for the 2014-15 biennium. Duggins said he is “cautiously optimistic” that most of the state park cuts imposed two years ago will be restored.

However, one item that remains unfunded is a popular grant program that provides state assistance for local parks, including many in the Metroplex. The $31 million grant program, said Duggins, has been “very well received and appreciated” by recipient cities, some of which face local park cutbacks without the grants.

“We’d love to see that restored,” he said.

Duggins grew up in Jefferson City, Mo., and moved to Fort Worth in 1978. His civic duties and board memberships include the Fort Worth Stock Show, the Lena Pope Foundation and Lena Pope Home, and Cook Children’s Healthcare System and Cook Children’s Health Foundation.

Duggins, who has been a supporter of the governor since Perry served as state agriculture commissioner, said he sought the post on the Parks and Wildlife Commission and was appointed to the job after going through the standard routine of filling out an application.

“I love it,” he said. “It’ a very rewarding job.”

Dave Montgomery is the Star-Telegram’s Austin Bureau chief. 512-739-4471 Twitter: @daveymontgomery

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