In this January 1998 segment for CNBC's The News with Brian Williams, Larry Weidman highlights efforts by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to safeguard the state's last remaining native wild bison. White settlers decimated the bison population during the late 1800s. At the urging of his wife Mary, iconic Texas rancher Charles Goodnight captured a few calves in 1878 and began raising his own bison herd on the JA Ranch. One of the only surviving herds to remain on its original range, genetic testing later determined the Goodnight bison to be among the last "pure" remnants of the southern plains herd. The JA donated the animals to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in 1996. The following year, the agency began the capture and relocation process. Over three months in the winter of 1997 and 1998, park rangers captured and transported the 36-bison herd—officially known as the Texas State Bison Herd—to a 320-acre enclosure at Caprock Canyons State Park. Texas Parks and Wildlife began the next step of its conservation project in 2003, bringing in three bulls from a New Mexico herd to inject genetic diversity and ensure the herd's ongoing survival.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department provides outdoor recreational opportunities by managing and protecting wildlife and wildlife habitat and acquiring and managing parklands and historic areas. It has inherited the functions of many state entities created to protect Texas' natural resources. In 1895 the legislature created the Fish and Oyster Commission to regulate fishing. The Game Department was added to the commission in 1907. The State Parks Board was created as a separate entity in 1923. In the 1930s, projects of the federal Civilian Conservation Corps added substantially to the state's parklands. In 1951, the term oyster was dropped from the wildlife agency's name, and in 1963, the State Parks Board and the Game and Fish Commission were merged to form the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department under the administration of Governor John B. Connally. The legislature placed authority for managing fish and wildlife resources in all Texas counties with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department when it passed the Wildlife Conservation Act in 1983. Previously, commissioners courts had set game and fish laws in many counties, and other counties had veto power over department regulations. Currently, TPWD operates 114 state parks and historical sites, 51 wildlife management areas, and eight fish hatcheries.