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Dragonfly, water, sky

Last year, we sat down with TPWF’s Engagement Manager Katie Spurgin to talk about their program, Stewards of the Wild, and her continued mission of sustaining a thriving natural Texas.

Tecovas: Tell us a little about yourself and what you focus on for Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation. What is your day-to-day like?

Katie Spurgin: A native Texan, I was born and raised in Dallas, Texas and now live in Austin. I grew up fishing, camping, hiking, bird watching, and hunting, so being outside and immersing myself in the natural world is just a part of who I am and what I love to do. As Engagement Manager for Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, I oversee our Stewards of the Wild Program, manage brand partnerships, and fundraise for the Lone Star Land Steward Awards. My day-to-day life really varies. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of travel to help with SOTW chapter events. So recently I’ve been traveling a few days out of the week and in the office or working remotely. I am constantly managing all aspects of the SOTW program – strategy, membership, financials, events, mentored hunting and fishing initiatives, etc., etc. Each day, I am assisting the leadership of our chapters in Abilene, Austin, Bryan-College Station, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Midland, and San Antonio. I do a lot of event planning and try to get our brand partners plugged into those events. My days are sometimes unpredictable, and I have to be ready to pivot quickly.

Texas Parks & wildlife, woman with a gun

TT: Were you always interested in conservation work? Tell us a little bit about the road that led you to be working with TPWF.

KS: I think in some way deep down, yes, I was always interested in conservation work, but it was never clear cut. I was always interested in the wonders of the natural world, and I wanted to share those wonders and the beauty with everyone I met. I was always interested in protecting the beautiful wild things and wild places we have in Texas and beyond, but I didn’t comprehend that I could do that professionally. My background is in public relations and communications and that’s the route I initially took after earning my degree. After deciding the corporate world wasn’t for me, I decided to take up teaching. While teaching, I wanted to get more involved in conservation organizations. I had always been aware of TPWF and the great work they were doing, but I wasn’t aware of SOTW. After doing some research and talking with a friend who was a part of the group, I joined the Dallas chapter. Long story short, teaching is difficult. Our education system is failing our youth and our teachers. After a few years, I left the profession and ended up working as a business analyst for a strategic advisory firm. While I was teaching and working as an analyst, I served on the Dallas chapter’s advisory council. We often met at Rusty Taco for our advisory council meetings and one day I heard about this position with TPWF through the grapevine. I’ve never felt so passionately certain that a job was right for me, so I pounced on the opportunity.

TT: What is the best perk of your job? Have you been able to see or do anything special that has impacted you?

KS: The best perks of my job are witnessing other people connect with the outdoors and working outdoors. It is incredibly fulfilling to watch someone who has never truly connected with the natural world discover their love for the outdoors. Even if it’s something small, like seeing the milky way or a deer in the wild for the first time, it means so much to me. On a mentored fishing trip this October, I witnessed multiple people catch their first red drum fish. If you’ve ever caught a redfish, you know the adrenaline rush you get from the fight to reel it in. It was so rewarding to watch the excitement on the mentees’ faces when they saw and held the fish they had caught. I want everyone to love our wild things and wild places as much as I do.

night stars and milkyway

TT: What is your favorite wild place in the State of Texas and why?

KS: This is a difficult question to answer. Texas is so diverse and beautiful in different ways across the landscape. If I had to choose, I’d say the Chisos Mountains and Big Bend National Park. Other than the existence of mountains and bears there, I love it because of the night sky. There is truly a dark sky there. My brother who passed away in 2020 was obsessed with space and stars. Being there and watching the milky way makes me feel like he’s out there somewhere, watching the stars with me.

TT: Some folks may not be aware of Stewards of the Wild, so explain what that is and how you are involved in it.

KS: I oversee the Stewards of the Wild, a program of Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation. SOTW is a young professionals program supporting the mission of TPWF by equipping Texans aged 21 to 45 to actively participate in the conservation of wild things and wild places by providing education, networking, and outdoor experiences. SOTW has both chapters in cities across the state and a statewide chapter. SOTW provides outdoor experiences such as fishing, hiking, camping, hunting, and bird watching while also providing social opportunities to network with like-minded people and conservation experts from across the state. SOTW also provides mentored fishing and hunting opportunities, which have been a huge hit.

large group of people

TT: While there is a full story in Volume 10 of Modern Huntsman about your annual dove hunt, tell us a little bit about some of the types of events you have throughout the year.

KS: Stewards of the Wild offers a variety of events throughout the year at both statewide and local levels. We hold happy hours and dinners, and outdoor adventures. For example, we’ll have a statewide duck hunt this winter and a Devil’s River trip in the spring. Local chapters hold events such as chapter happy hours, conservation dinners, dove hunts, fishing trips, birding hikes, and service events/projects. We try to host events that appeal to everyone, no matter their level of outdoor or conservation experience. Hopefully some of the folks reading this will come join us at future events!

TT: This is the first conservation initiative that Tecovas has been a part of, what does it mean to have brands support your mission?

KS: It means the world to us to have brands like Tecovas supporting the TPWF and SOTW mission. We are incredibly grateful and want to involve as many brands as possible that share in our sentiment and mission. Tecovas has been nothing but wonderful, offering to give more and partner with not only SOTW, but the Foundation as well.

two hats on a table

TT: What do you think the future of these events and partnerships could be like?

KS: I think these partnerships will continue to blossom and grow if we continue to water them. I foresee partnered events that include Stewards of the Wild members from across the state, brand audiences, and conservation experts. I want someone to leave a SOTW event thinking about how they can get more involved in conservation. Not only are these events entertaining and fun, but they will also make more of a point to further the TPWF mission to support the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to ensure that all Texans, today and in the future, can enjoy the wild things and wild places of Texas.

TT: How can folks get more involved with TPWF or SOTW? Is it for everyone?

KS: TPWD is for all Texans and SOTW is for all young professionals in Texas. If you are a young professional, you should join us at a SOTW event and see for yourself why you should become a member. Members are friendly and welcoming, and you will likely come away from the event having learned or experienced something new. SOTW offers service opportunities, opportunities to experience the outdoors with your family, and access to incredible private lands where we can learn more about the outdoors and conservation. If you are outside of the 21-45 window, you can donate and become a member of the Foundation to get more involved and stay up to date with our initiatives. Follow SOTW and TPWF on social media to keep up with our initiatives and events.

Learn more about how you can support Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation through donations and volunteer opportunities.

a small vehicle with a tecovas sign

@spurandginphoto  / @stewardsofthewildtx