Dr. Larry McKinney Leaves a Sterling Legacy at TPWD

It was with mixed emotions that I learned of Dr. Larry McKinney’s departure from the ranks of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department. I have worked with Dr. McKinney on a great many print and broadcast stories over the past two decades, and without exception, he exhibited a degree of candor and integrity that is the epitome of media professionalism.

Yes, I am sad to hear that my friend Larry McKinney is leaving TPWD. He has been a tremendous asset to the department, and fought a great many battles on our behalves. On the other hand, I am really happy for a first-class guy who has earned everything he has achieved through sheer hard work and determination.

I most recently spoke with Dr. McKinney at the Texas Outdoor Writers Association’s annual conference in College Station. Once again, I was impressed by his dogged determination to steadfastly represent the interests of the fishing community … and in that particular instance, those of us who are having to deal with a set of federally-mandated red snapper regulations that at their best can only be described as convoluted and ill-conceived.Dr. Larry McKinney

Congratulations on a job well-done, Dr. McKinney. And best wishes to you and yours as you move into place with the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

Something tells me that we are a long way from done in terms of working together. I certainly hope so.

Good sources are hard to find. Good sources who are also bona fide good guys are even rarer.

McKinney Leaves Environmental Legacy at TPWD
AUSTIN, Texas — Dr. Larry McKinney, known affectionately as “Dr. Doom” for his candid, outspoken approach to addressing environmental issues, is leaving the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department a legacy not built on despair, but on hope.
For more than 20 years with the department, McKinney has championed endangered and threatened species and served as a proponent for resource conservation, water resources in particular. McKinney, director of Coastal Fisheries and senior director of Aquatic Resources for TPWD, has been named executive director of the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. He assumes his new role in July.
“All of us at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will miss Dr. McKinney’s extraordinary leadership, scientific acumen, vision, and conservation ethic while serving as Director of Coastal Fisheries,” said Carter Smith, TPWD executive director.
“During his nearly 25 year tenure with the agency, he has been at the forefront of innovative conservation efforts to protect our seagrass meadows, to ensure adequate freshwater inflows into our bays and estuaries, to enhance our sport fisheries, and to conserve our unique fish and wildlife resources along the Texas coast,” Smith said. “His ability to work effectively and collaboratively with divergent and sometimes competing constituent groups on a wide range of coastal and water related issues has served this department and the state of Texas very well. Larry has been a friend, mentor, and trusted advisor to many of us in the conservation field, and we wish him all the best as he assumes this critically important leadership role at the Harte Institute.”
McKinney has been carrying water for fish and wildlife since day one. During his tenure at TPWD, he has been a major force behind research and recommendations to provide freshwater inflows to estuaries and in-stream flows for rivers and reservoirs; wetland conservation and restoration and other issues related to the ecological health of Texas aquatic ecosystems.
“When we started in 1985, environmental review of water permits and consideration for fish and wildlife did not exist,” said McKinney, who noted back then only two permits in the entire state included environmental provisions. “Today every water permit includes such consideration and the passage of SB-1, SB-2 and especially SB-3 will put into place the policy framework that if adopted by the legislature will assure water for fish and wildlife on a statewide basis.”
As director of the agency’s now defunct Resource Protection Division, McKinney advocated working with private landowners to provide conservation for threatened and endangered resources. He was able to influence significant revisions of the federal endangered species act to better work with private lands and through cooperative efforts.
He was also responsible for the development of a civil process and valuation system for fish and wildlife to recover the value of fish and wildlife resources lost to illegal activity (poaching, pollution, etc), which has meant millions of dollars to wildlife and habitat restoration.
As director of the agency’s Coastal Fisheries Division, McKinney lead the development of programs to address aquatic vegetation management, invasive species, shrimp aquaculture and disease management, vehicle traffic in riverbeds, paddling trails, and offshore aquaculture. He oversaw the development of the State Wetlands Plan and the Seagrass Conservation Plan and was able to accelerate and will soon bring to conclusion the shrimp license buyback program. This program has been the fundamental conservation tool in maintaining the health and productivity of our recreational fishery.
“Texas is the only state with a significant saltwater angler population that has seen positive increases in numbers over the last 5 years — a 25 percent gain,” McKinney noted. “Florida and California saw an 18 percent drop over that time and all other Gulf states declined sharply. Not only that but our anglers are fishing twice as much and the economic benefits to Texas include the creation of over 5,000 jobs during that time. The action we have taken like regional regulations and the continued emphasis on ecosystem management has put our fisheries in their best condition in the last 30 years.”
McKinney earned his Ph.D. from Texas A&M University in 1976 and is a recognized authority on the habitats of amphipod crustaceans in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. In 1976, McKinney was a Smithsonian Fellow and from 1977 to 1980 he was a research associate and instructor at Texas A&M University-Galveston. Prior to joining TPWD, McKinney was director of the Texas Environmental Engineering Field Laboratory in Galveston where he worked on water issues including the diversion of the Mississippi River.
The Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies is an endowed and developing research institute that supports and advances the long-term sustainable use and conservation of the Gulf of Mexico through a tri-national approach between the United States, Mexico and Cuba. The Institution was created in 2000 by a $46 million endowment from Edward H. Harte, philanthropist and former publisher of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.


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