2012 Conservation Award Hero Carter Smith

Carter has already built a distinguished record in land preservation—first as head of the Nature Conservancy of Texas and now as executive director of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.

Our honoree has overseen programs to conserve waterways, expand conservation easement donations, and create public-private collaborations. His ingenuity has taken these projects to new levels of accomplishment. A few highlights follow:

Nature Conservancy of Texas, 1998-2007
Acquired almost 25,000 acres on South Padre Island, most of which was added to the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, which is the largest protected area of natural habitat left in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

Purchased the 7,000-acre Fresno Ranch in far West Texas and transferred it to Texas Parks & Wildlife to expand Big Bend Ranch State Park.

Created the first conservation area in the High Plains for the Lesser Prairie Chicken with the purchase of the 6,000-acre Fitzgerald Ranch. The Yoakum Dunes Preserve lies southwest of Lubbock.

Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, 2008-current
In 2011 alone, the agency acquired property that opens almost 25,000 acres in West Texas, North Texas and the Hill Country to future conservation and recreation use. One critically important purchase was the near-18,000 acres of biologically diverse and culturally significant land in Val Verde County, including 10 miles of frontage along the pristine Devil’s River. The deal was engineered by leveraging $4 million in public dollars with more than $10 million in private donations.