Two Texas Parks and Wildlife Department employees were recognized at the January 21st TPW Commission meeting by executive director Carter Smith for receiving awards from the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.
Texas Game Warden Derek Spitzer won SEAFWA’s 2014 Texas Wildlife Officer of the Year award, marking the 45th year this award has been presented to a Texas game warden.
Spitzer has served with TPWD since 2000, when he began his career as a warden in Harris County. During Spitzer’s tenure, he has been involved with several high profile cases, including the “30 Deer Case,” in which 30 deer were killed illegally in a three-month span. As a result of Spitzer’s investigative work, 22 charges were brought forward. Sentences handed down included more than $41,000 in fines and 3000 hours of community service.
A founding member of the Texas Game Warden Dive Team, Spitzer also is involved with the youth in his community and serves as a field training officer for newly hired wardens. In the past year, he logged more than 465 hours of marine patrol and filed over 300 cases, leading the district in both categories.
The Commission also recognized Chuck Kowaleski, winner of SEAFWA’s 2014 Wildlife Biologist of the Year award.
Kowaleski began his career with TPWD in 1990 as a Coastal Fisheries technician in the Galveston Bay complex. In 1993 he was hired by the Inland Fisheries Division and later the Wildlife Division as one of the first urban fish and wildlife biologists for Houston, where he helped develop Sheldon Lake Environmental Education Center.
In 2001, Kowaleski rejoined the Wildlife Division as its farm bill coordinator and liaison with NRCS. During the past 12 years Kowaleski has focused on working with partners to implement farm bill programs that benefit wildlife. He was instrumental in creating special wildlife resource areas for lesser prairie chickens, bobwhite quail, pronghorn, black-capped vireos, ocelots, mottled ducks and red-cockaded woodpeckers using EQIP and WHIP funding. From 2003-2012, these wildlife resource areas provided $30.4 million in federal cost share to 931 landowners involved in habitat improvement focused on priority wildlife species on 1.325 million acres.
Kowaleski currently serves the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies as a member of the Ag Conservation Committee and EQIP Working Group Chair. He has been a working member of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee for many years and served as NBTC’s vice-chair, secretary and treasurer. Kowaleski currently serves as NBTC steering committee chair.