AUSTIN – The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission (TPW) recognized several Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) staff and partners for contributions and efforts supporting the agency mission to conserve and manage the state’s natural and cultural resources.
Recognitions during today’s commission meeting include a donation from the Apache Corporation dedicated to the repair of the Balmorhea State Park pool, graduation of the third Texas Game Warden Citizens Academy, commissioning of a K-9 game warden, and award presentations from the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (SEAFWA) and the Shikar-Safari Club International.
Apache Corporation Donates $1 Million to Repair Balmorhea Pool
A $1 million contribution in support of Balmorhea State Park pool repairs was presented by Apache Corporation marking the culmination of a $2 million fundraising effort led by Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation (TPWF). The pool at Balmorhea State Park was closed in early 2018 following a structural collapse of a wall caused by years of erosion from the flow of water from the springs.
The fundraising effort was jump-started with a $1 million challenge grant announced by TPWF and Apache in August 2018. Apache pledged to match all donations dollar-for-dollar up to $1 million. Donations poured in, and by Jan. 17, more than $1 million had been raised.
TPWD Law Enforcement Division Graduates Third Texas Game Warden Citizens Academy
Nineteen people were recognized for their completion of the annual Texas Game Warden Citizens Academy.
The academy gives the citizens of Texas the opportunity to understand the role of game wardens and to provide an inside view of the many duties they carry out each day. The curriculum included an overview of program functions including game warden training, law, land and marine patrol techniques, outreach, accident investigations and reconstruction, criminal investigations, search and rescue, K-9 operations, officer safety, technology and recruiting.
The program consisted of four sessions, including classroom instruction and field trips, scheduled monthly which began Aug. 30. Attendees also had the opportunity to interact with and develop an in-depth knowledge of the complex duties of game wardens.
K-9 Game Warden Dexter Receives Badge
K-9 game warden Dexter was awarded his official badge and collar by his handler game warden Krystal Thompson. Dexter joined the K-9 team Jan. 2018 and attended Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training, where he became TPWD’s first K-9 certified in human remains detection.
Since his certification, Dexter has worked with the Texas Rangers, as well as multiple sheriff’s offices and police departments statewide on blood evidence searches, cold cases and missing person cases. He has also helped his fellow game wardens locate drowning victims.
Dexter and warden Thompson are stationed in Smithville.
Game Warden Captain Eric Collins Named SEAFWA Texas Officer of the Year
Game Warden Captain Eric Collins, stationed in the Lufkin area, was named the SEAFWA Texas Officer of the Year. This marks the 49th year the award has been presented to a Texas game warden.
Collins began his career with TPWD in 2003 and has been stationed in Delta and Cherokee Counties before becoming a captain last year. During his tenure, he has excelled in public outreach by presenting educational programs, such as youth-oriented hunting and fishing events, annually. For these events, he has worked with various organizations to secure supplies and provides hunter education training before the youth hunting events.
He also has been instrumental for recruiting as well. Game warden Brandon Thacker entered the TPWD law enforcement division as an intern and was unsure of whether he wanted to be a warden. He spent a tremendous amount of time with Collins, and after two internships and countless volunteered hours, he became a Texas game warden. Collins was recognized by Sam Houston State University for his efforts that were devoted to helping Thacker. Collins is currently mentoring another young man who has chosen this career path.
Wise County Game Warden David Pellizzari Named Shikar-Safari Club International Wildlife Officer of the Year
The Shikar-Safari Club International has recognized Wise County game warden David Pellizzari as the Wildlife Officer of the Year. Every year, the Shikar-Safari Club International recognizes game wardens from North America as Wildlife Officers of the Year. This marks the 39th year this award has been presented to a Texas game warden.
A member of the Swift Water Rescue team, Pellizzari is a swift water technician, boat operator and instructor. He has assisted in training game warden cadets in boat operations, sonar, firearms and swift water training over the past two years at Lake Bridgeport.
He is also now an executive board member of the Texas Game Warden Association and the Game Warden Peace Officer Association. In these roles, he advocates and promotes Texas game wardens for TPWD across the state. Pellizzari was also appointed as a board member to the Palo Pinto County Emergency Services District when this board was first created.
His achievements include Master Peace Officer, TCOLE instructor, firearms instructor, field training officer for new hires, and Glock and M4 armorer. He has received two Director’s Life Saving Awards in addition to the title of boat accident investigator.