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"Lone Star Law" on Animal Planet features Texas Game Wardens - SPI Insights

By J Lyn Carl

Spend some time exploring a floating cabin in the Gulf of Mexico that is “home” to men and women – and often their K9 partners – searching for those who violate Texas laws. Ride along as a handful of often unheralded heroes rescue victims from deadly floodwaters in Texas.

They’re the men and women who wear the badge of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and are part of an elite group of highly-skilled, trained law enforcement officers – the state’s approximately 550 Texas game wardens. And, thanks to the Animal Planet television network, their story is being told nationwide.

Rugged Justice, North Woods Law…they may sound like names of semi-pro football teams, but they’re actually the names of popular law enforcement reality TV shows on Animal Planet. And now comes the newest edition of this reality genre – straight from Texas – Lone Star Law.

The weekly program (it airs at 9 p.m. CST on Thursdays) shines a spotlight on the state’s game wardens. It is equal parts entertainment and education and shows these law enforcement officers at their best – working to protect Texas fish and wildlife as well as Texans and their property.

“Every day, Texas game wardens encounter dangerous situations affecting both citizens and animals,” said TWPD Executive Director Carter Smith. “Lone Star Law showcases the dedication these men and women demonstrate 24/7 to serving the citizens of Texas by providing professional law enforcement, water safety and search and rescue, while working to conserve and protect Texas’ natural resources.”

A production company, Engel Entertainment, approached TPWD officials about a Texas-centric reality show, according to TPWD Director of Communications Josh Havens. They were so successful with their production of North Woods Law, a reality show that follows the activities of the Maine Warden Service, that they were interested in pursuing a similar endeavor with hundreds of game wardens in one of the nation’s largest states.

The production company’s commitment to being respectful of the state agency and its game wardens and ensuring the integrity of those officers and the work they do led to an agreement between TPWD and Engel. Nothing was scripted by the production company. “We were hoping the show itself would not just tell our story to Texas, but to the nation,” said Havens. Subject matter for the dozen episodes that have been approved will never be a problem, because as Havens notes, “The diversity of this job is immense.”

Executive Director Smith agreed “At a moment’s notice, they (game wardens) must rush to investigate large-scale poaching cases, save victims from flash floods, disrupt illegal smuggling operations along the Gulf of Mexico and enforce game laws.”

The “stars” of the program’s inaugural season all volunteered, and the first season’s episodes include wardens from Central Texas, the Gulf Coast area and the Dallas and Northeast Texas areas. A system-wide and department-wide call went out to game wardens in TPWD to see who might be interested in participating in the filming. The list of respondents was then given to the production company, with its officials interviewing the interested volunteers and choosing from that list the wardens who will appear in the shows.

A clip from the first episode of Lone Star Law was “premiered” for Texas game wardens from throughout the state at the historic Paramount Theatre in Austin. Also attending were TPWD agency brass and agency employees, media representatives and family and friends of Texas game wardens and TPWD. A panel of TPWD game wardens and Engel Entertainment representatives held a question and answer session as part of the preview of the show.

“Everyone has been incredibly excited about the success of the program so far,” said Havens. He said the situations shown on the program are things “we know we do,” but that might not be known to viewers in Texas and in other parts of the country. Viewers nationwide call, email and post reactions on the Lone Star Law Facebook page. Havens recalls one “fan” who called and said, “I just wanted to call and say, ‘Y’all are awesome!”

Production crews ride along with the Texas game wardens as they attend to real daily calls – whether checking for fishing licenses and measuring the fish in a fisherman’s catch to ensure they are of legal size or interrupting drug smuggling attempts. The show is not likely to ever be short of topics and there will be no scripting or setting up of scenarios for filming.

“Texas is a big state,” said Havens. “There’s rarely a day when our game wardens aren’t busy.”

While all 550 Texas Game Wardens won’t see air time on Lone Star Law, those who do make it in front of the cameras and onto TV screens nationwide are representative of this select group of men and women who wear their badges proudly and are dedicated to serving the citizens of Texas. For more than 100 years, Texas game wardens have been the faces of law enforcement and natural resou protection in the state. They are dedicated public servants who approach their jobs with passion and compassion. They are Lone Star law.


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