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|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2004-02-09                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than 10 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: Steve Lightfoot, 512-389-4701, steve.lightfoot@tpwd.texas.gov ] [SL]
Feb. 9, 2004
South Texas, Mid Coast Hunters Got the Ducks
AUSTIN, Texas – Just as Panhandle waterfowlers were blessed last year with prime hunting, this year's hotspots shifted to the other end of the state, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department reports.
Recently completed mid-winter aerial surveys of waterfowl populations conducted by TPWD confirmed what many hunters already knew – the birds flew south.
"South Texas duck numbers went through the roof this season," said TPWD waterfowl program leader Dave Morrison. "Survey estimates for the region were up more than 60 percent from last year and the Sand Plains in deep South Texas saw a 300 percent jump."
Despite a lull from Thanksgiving through most of December when moderate weather conditions slowed waterfowl migration throughout much of the Central and Mississippi Flyways, Texas actually received more birds this year, 3.8 million compared to 3.7 million last year, according to TPWD estimates.
"All in all I think the season was better than last year," Morrison offered. "The greenwings showed up this year and didn't last year. That's our bread and butter duck on the coast. Gadwalls were also an important component and saved a lot of hunts this year. That was the biggest difference this year; the coast actually got some birds."
"There was a lot of bragging on the early teal season," confirmed TPWD coastal waterfowl biologist David Lobpries. "Most of the guides were limiting out on the prairie and calling it one of the best seasons ever. The first couple of weeks into the regular season some were saying they'd killed more ducks than they had all of last year."
Areas along the middle coast, such as Peach Point and Mad Island Wildlife Management Areas, were reporting twice as many hunters as last year and they weren't coming away disappointed as strap counts averaged nearly two birds apiece.
Despite migration shifts in recent years from the Central to the Mississippi Flyway and mild winters that kept birds to the north, Lobpries also reported more geese showed up this season.
Other parts of the state were not as fortunate. In the Panhandle, biologists reported less than one percent of the playas had water. Those few spots where water was available, however, saw times of excellent hunting, according to TPWD waterfowl biologist Bill Johnson.
The lack of water was a factor in moving many Panhandle birds into the Blackland Prairies region, according to Morrison. Surveys from that area showed a jump from 595,000 birds a year ago to 815,000 birds this season.
Dry conditions also plagued the eastern half of the state for the second straight season, with East Texas and the upper coast being short-changed.
"During early November large numbers of ducks and geese moved down the Central Flyway almost en masse," said Carl Frentress, TPWD waterfowl biologist for East Texas. "Their coordinated arrival was obvious in East Texas. If these birds had found abundant water in the wetlands, they would have stayed. Duck hunters who initially were thrilled with the abundance of arriving migrants soon became disenchanted as the birds departed to more attractive habitats. This predicament characterized the East Texas season for the duration."
Frentress noted that hunting success was hit or miss for much of the season. "Great hunts would be had one weekend to be followed by a complete absence of ducks the next weekend," he said. "At the same time, nearby duck habitats would be producing opposite experiences. I have the feeling the birds were drifting about the wintering grounds seeking satisfactory habitat resources."
Even some of the traditional hotspots like the J.D. Murphree WMA were left holding an empty bag as high salinity levels along the upper coast provided little support for waterfowl.
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[ Note: This item is more than 10 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: Tom Harvey, 512-389-4453, tom.harvey@tpwd.texas.gov ] [TH]
Feb. 9, 2004
Land and Water Plan Shows Texas Conservation Priorities
AUSTIN, Texas – Imagine a plan that lays out where Texas needs to be in 10 years regarding land and water conservation and recreation--that means everything from providing great hunting, fishing and birding to protecting the resources that make those activities possible.
Now envision an organization of about 3,000 people that is gearing up to make sure this plan becomes reality, to make it a living document that is revised and fine-tuned to reflect changing situations, to make sure it isn't just another fat stack of pages sitting on a shelf.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is working to make its Land and Water Resources Conservation and Recreation Plan a tactical plan that guides day-to-day operations. The plan was published in 2002 and created by TPWD partly in response to direction from the Texas Legislature. The plan's seven fundamental goals affect all Texans who depend on the state's natural and cultural resources for livelihoods or life-affirming experiences.
"I take the plan seriously," said Joseph Fitzsimons, TPW Commission chairman, after commissioners were updated Jan. 28 about what TPWD is doing to implement the plan.
"If there's something in the plan that we're not going to do, we should change it. Those seven items are what we're testing our progress against. Every time I see an item come before us, I want to see it tested, 'Is it improving outdoor access, is it improving fishing,' and so on."
Below are the seven goals, plus examples of progress made on each.
"Improve access to the outdoors by opening a minimum of four, 5,000-acre or larger state parks near the major urban centers." Planners view this as a long-term goal, one that may take the full 10 years to complete. The reality is there is not enough money in state government right now to buy big chunks of land near urban areas. Nevertheless, progress is being made. One successful model is Government Canyon State Natural Area near San Antonio, where partnerships with local government, other agencies and nonprofits have added 1,162 acres in the last two years, boosting site acreage to 8,201.
"Manage and operate a complete system of state historic sites and address the highest needs for historical interpretation by developing up to three new historic sites." The Levi-Jordan Plantation project near Houston will be the first state historic site to focus mainly on the African American experience. The site was purchased in 2000 and planning is now ongoing, although additional funding is needed to finish the project.
"Increase support for water and wildlife conservation and increase public recreation opportunities on private land." With wildlife biologists who offer free guidance to landowners in every Texas county, the Wildlife Division has increased the landscape under wildlife management plans from 9.7 million acres in 2001 to 14.5 million acres in 2003 -- a 49 percent increase. More landowners involved in active habitat conservation usually means to increased public hunting and fishing opportunities. Other efforts are underway to open up new public opportunities, including a multi-million dollar series of wildlife driving trails that support landowners getting into nature tourism. Also, the Texas Land Trust Council supported by TPWD now coordinates the activities of 39 non-profit land trusts in Texas, protecting nearly 1.3 million acres.
"Maintain current levels of hunting and fishing license sales by recruiting new participants." The 7th Governor's Hunting Heritage Symposium, which was held in Houston last December brought state and national attention to this issue. Dozens of TPWD programs in multiple divisions are doing youth outreach events such as Texas Wildlife Expo and the Texas Youth Hunting Program.
"Improve fishing in inland and coastal waters by determining long-term maintenance requirements of all fish hatcheries." The Texas Legislature aided this effort by requiring a new $5 freshwater fishing stamp of all anglers starting this September. Money from the temporary, 10-year stamp would be earmarked specifically for fish hatchery renovations and repairs.
"Improve scientific data collection by undertaking a complete review of all TPWD science and conservation programs." Various efforts are meeting this goal, such as the Wildlife Division consulting with the Wildlife Management Institute, Coastal and Inland Fisheries dealing with the American Fisheries Society and the Resource Protection staff turning to the National Academy of Science for peer review and advice.
"Maintain sufficient water to support the needs of fish, wildlife and recreation by providing the best information available and working closely with other state agencies." It may be listed last, but this goal is by no means least, and all TPWD field divisions are gearing up to focus on water resources. Land and Water Plan implementation is aligning strategic planning along river basins for the first time. TPWD leaders are directly involved. Fitzsimons sits on a new legislative study commission which is charged with looking at water for environmental flows. TPWD Executive Director Robert Cook is on a state water conservation task force that recently proposed a $10 million public awareness effort.
"We want this plan to be relevant to our day-to-day work," said Scott Boruff, TPWD deputy executive director for operations, who is leading plan implementation efforts. "We want employees in Austin and in the field to use this as a guiding document as they make plans and budget decisions."
The department is planning 10 focus groups with employees and a larger meeting with outside constituent groups to get input about how the plan should be updated to reflect current events. By November, which will mark two years since the plan's creation, a revised plan will be presented to the TPW Commission for approval.
The current plan is on the Internet (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/plan/). Anyone with questions or comments may write to Land and Water Resources Conservation and Recreation Plan, 4200 Smith School Road, Austin, TX 78744.
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[ Note: This item is more than 10 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: Steve Lightfoot, 512-389-4701, steve.lightfoot@tpwd.texas.gov ]
Feb. 9, 2004
Mentoring Program Assists New Hunter Ed Instructors
AUSTIN, Texas – Texas has a national reputation for making access to hunter education convenient and plentiful with more than 4,400 courses offered across the state and at least one in all 254 counties each year.
Thanks to recent innovations, Texans now have several options available for fulfilling hunter education requirements, including the traditional classroom environment, a home study course and an online course. In addition to certifying about 33,000 students annually, about 400 new hunter education instructors receive certification each year.
The hunter education course is a minimum 10-hour class that teaches hunting safety, modern and primitive sporting arms, wildlife conservation, outdoor skills and responsibility. When the course is completed, the certification card is good for life and is honored by all states, Mexico, and all Canadian provinces that require hunter education. Proof of certification, which includes the card or the hunter education certification number printed on the hunting license, must be carried at all times while hunting.
While thousands of new certified hunters are taking this valuable knowledge to the field, education program officials have found that some new hunter education instructors are reluctant to start using their newfound skills.
"We know that a very small percentage of newly certified instructors are becoming active in teaching courses," said Terry Erwin, hunter education coordinator with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. "They have a hard time getting started. That's why we've developed a mentoring program for new hunter education instructors."
The new program, implemented just this year, gives new hunter education instructors an opportunity to team up with a seasoned instructor who will help organize classes and provide support.
"If you've never been exposed to teaching hunter education principles and practices or a classroom teaching environment, it can be pretty intimidating," added Steve Hall, TPWD education director. "Hopefully, this new program will help new instructors become better and more active teachers."
TPWD staff and area chief volunteer instructor trainers will be training new instructors at a series of upcoming workshops scheduled throughout the state. Applicants must be at least 21 years old, in reasonably good health and of high integrity. Instructors must graduate from a state-certified hunter education student course in addition to taking TPWD's 12-hour instructor training workshop.
To become a certified instructor, you must also pass a written examination and submit to an oral interview by a TPWD game warden. (A criminal background check will be conducted and those failing to meet certain standards may be denied certification).
Application forms and a schedule of upcoming instructor certification workshops are available online (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/edu/hunted/) or by contacting Erwin at (800) 792-1112, Ext. 63.
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[ Note: This item is more than 10 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: Steve Lightfoot, 512-389-4701, steve.lightfoot@tpwd.texas.gov ] [SL]
Feb. 9, 2004
Proposal Would Exempt New Hunters From Education
AUSTIN, Texas – If you've ever had to turn down an invite to go hunting because you didn't have time to take a hunter education course or if someone you've asked to go hunting has had to back out for the same reason, there may soon be a solution.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is proposing a temporary exemption from hunter education requirements.
"Although we offer about 4,400 hunter education courses a year, and at least one in every county in Texas, there may be occasions where a class isn't available in time," said Terry Erwin, TPWD hunter education coordinator. "We see this exemption as a way for people to enjoy an opportunity to go hunting."
The proposed exemption would allow an individual who purchases a Texas hunting license and is accompanied by a licensed hunter who is at least 17 years of age and already meets hunter education requirements to hunt for the remainder of the license year. The exemption would cost $10 and be offered one-time-only. The new hunter would also receive a $5 discount off the price of a hunter education course, which costs $10, but only if the course is taken prior to the end of the current license year.
The exemption would be available to out-of-state hunters as well as those in the military who are stationed in Texas or coming home on leave.
"Texas has the most flexible mandatory hunter education law in the nation and provides the most convenience in terms of alternative delivery methods," said Erwin. "It is consistently among the top three states in terms of certification and provides free, duplicate certificates upon request, dating back to 1972. This proposal gives Texas one more tool to attract persons into hunting and makes getting the training even more convenient."
Texas certifies more than 33,000 hunters annually through 4,400 hunter education courses offered across the state, with at least one offered in each of the 254 counties. The 10-hour program is offered in three formats: traditional classroom, home study and online.
"Although we offer the course throughout the year, there are times during the holidays when only a select number of courses may be available and that's typically the time of year when most people have an opportunity to go hunting," said Erwin. "This exemption will give folks time to enroll at a later date and still take advantage of an opportunity to go hunting."
The proposal is currently out for public comment, which may be made at any upcoming public hearing to be scheduled or online (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/). Comments may also be made to Erwin at: TPWD, 4200 Smith School Rd., Austin, TX 78744 or (512) 389-8140.
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[ Note: This item is more than 10 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: Rob McCorkle, 830-866-3533, robert.mccorkle@tpwd.texas.gov ] [RM]
Feb. 9, 2004
Heart of Texas-West Wildlife Trail Map Available
AUSTIN, Texas -- Nature tourists seeking the best spots in south and central Texas to see wildflowers, birds, bats, butterflies and other natural wonders this spring may want to pick up the companion Heart of Texas Wildlife Trail maps to guide them to prime viewing locations along the trail's eastern and western branches.
The two-branch driving trail encompasses 55 counties, starting at the Rio Grande, crossing the Edwards Plateau and culminating on the rolling plains near San Angelo and Abilene. In all, the Heart of Texas Wildlife Trail features a total of 239 wildlife-viewing sites along both main south and central Texas highways and scenic back roads.
At stops along the trails, travelers can observe migrating Monarch butterflies and hundreds of bird species, keep an eye out for stealthy bobcats and javelina, relax in a nature lodge, view bison and longhorns, and even watch Angora goats being sheared. Among some of the more remarkable destinations along the Heart of Texas trails are the state's oldest Spanish mission, its largest bat populations, magnificent caverns, prehistoric rock art, one of the state's last suspension bridges and the worlds' largest surviving herd of scimitar-horned oryx.
The Heart of Texas-East (HOTE) map was the first of the two trail maps to be published. The HOTE map, featuring 14 separate loops and 124 sites, hit the shelves last fall. It marks key natural and cultural sites along the Interstate 35 and U.S. 183 corridors from Laredo to Brownwood.
The just-released Heart of Texas-West (HOTW) map denotes 12 separate loops with a total of 115 wildlife-viewing sites showcasing some of the best spots to enjoy Texas' world-class wildlife and unique cultural heritage locations on both public and private lands. Public sites along the western trail include several city parks, Lake Amistad National Recreation Area, five Texas state parks and historic sites, six state natural areas and three state wildlife management areas. In addition, the trail highlights dozens of private ranches, campgrounds, bed and breakfast inns and other nature-oriented business establishments.
A limited quantity of wildlife trail maps can be picked up for free at the state's 12 Travel Information Centers, including the Capitol Visitors Center in Austin. The maps also may be purchased for $3 each through the Texas Cooperative Extension Bookstore on-line (http://tcebookstore.org/) or by calling (888) 900-2577.
The western leg begins in the brushy borderlands north of Laredo, roughly following U.S. 83 through Uvalde and skirting northward along the western portion of the Edwards Plateau to Junction and San Angelo. A side chute of the trail -- the Rio Bravo Loop – heads west on U.S. 277 along the Texas-Mexico border, through Del Rio to Langtry and up to the Devil's River region.
"What makes the Heart of Texas trail especially noteworthy is its diversity," said Linda Campbell, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's nature tourism coordinator. "Even seasoned Hill Country travelers will be surprised to find new 'hidden treasures' along the trail."
Campbell gives much of the credit for the trail's completion to local communities that contributed funding for the project and brought together diverse elements in a joint effort to promote economic development and conserve habitat vital to wildlife.
For example, the new trail includes 17 sites on two loops within Kerr County and will greatly expand the county's nature tourism efforts that have focused primarily on birding and fishing, said Sudie Burditt, executive director of the Kerrville Convention and Visitors Bureau. She noted how the owner of one Hill Country ranch even paid to install a gate that provides access to his property, providing motorists with a safe spot to pull off a narrow farm road to scan nearby cliffs for nesting bald and golden eagles.
The Kerrville tourism official is especially excited about two canoe trails that represent "places that typically have not been used for tourism and recreation." Site No. 75 -- East Kerr County Canoe Trail – for instance, directs canoeists to put-in and take-out spots to easily access the nature-rich Guadalupe River for a 3.5-mile float.
The opening of the Heart of Texas Wildlife Trail comes on the heels of the Panhandle Plains Wildlife Trail that kicked off in August. A third wildlife trail, the Prairie and Pineywoods Trail, is on the drawing boards. TPWD and local communities developed the Heart of Texas and Panhandle Plains trails using almost $1 million in federal transportation funds funneled through the Texas Transportation Commission, and $237,120 in matching funds from corporations, foundations, local communities and conservation groups.
The wildlife trail maps, which list wildlife-viewing sites that correspond to numbered brown roadside signs illustrated with the trails' roadrunner logo, help lift the veil on a number of "hidden jewels" where wildflowers, artesian springs, rivers, bats, birds and butterflies abound. The Texas Department of Transportation will be erecting trail signs in coming months.
The colorful trail maps detail what outstanding natural and cultural highlights exist at each locale and provide directions to the sites organized by color-coded trail segments, or loops, such as the Balcones Loop, Nueces Loop and Pedernales Valley Loop. Geometric symbols denote whether a particular viewing site opens seasonally or daily, charges a fee, offers overnight accommodations, allows day use only or requires prior consent for property access. In some cases, phone numbers are provided for obtaining directions and other information.
The Great Texas Wildlife Trails are patterned after the nation's first wildlife-viewing trail, the $1.4 million Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail, which designated 310 marked bird and wildlife-viewing hotspots along 700 miles of roadway in 41 coastal counties. For more information about the Great Texas Wildlife Trails, call (512) 389-4396, or visit the Web site (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/birdingtrails/).
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[ Note: This item is more than 10 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: Kristen Everett, 512-389-8046, tpwd.news@tpwd.texas.gov ] [KE]
Feb. 9, 2004
2004 Texas Big Game Awards College Scholarships Now Available
SAN ANTONIO - Applications for the 4th annual Texas Big Game Awards (TBGA) Wildlife Conservation College Scholarship Program are now available. The $500 scholarships sponsored by Carter's Country Outdoor Stores will be available for the 2004-05 school year. Any entering college freshman (graduating high school senior), or entering college sophomore or entering college junior pursuing any field of study is eligible to apply for one of the more than 30 available scholarships.
In addition, the partners are offering one $1,000 overall scholarship that will be awarded at the TBGA's Statewide Awards Banquet, held in conjunction with the Texas Wildlife Association's (TWA) 19th Annual Convention. The 2004 Statewide Banquet is scheduled for June 26 at the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort here.
The scholarship applications will be reviewed and ranked by a statewide scoring committee using set criteria. Although students do not have to participate in the TBGA to be eligible for the scholarships, those who have entered the TBGA will receive a preference point during the scoring process.
In order to receive a TBGA scholarship, recipients must be able to attend the Regional TBGA Banquet in their home region. To determine when and where each Regional Banquet is being held, as well as to download the application, please visit the Web (http://www.TexasBigGameAwards.com/).
Applications are available on the TBGA website or by calling the Texas Wildlife Association at (800) 839-9453. Applications will soon be available through certain college agriculture and wildlife departments, and high school agriculture departments. All applications must be postmarked by March 1.
For more than 12 years, the TBGA program, a partnership of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Wildlife Association, has been recognizing the contributions that landowners, land managers and responsible hunters make to managing and conserving wildlife and wildlife habitat on Texas' private lands. The program is designed to help citizens realize that "Hunting Equals Habitat."
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[ Note: This item is more than 10 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ General Media Contact: Business Hours, 512-389-4406 ]
Feb. 9, 2004
TPWD Game Warden Field Notes
The following are excerpts from recent Texas Parks and Wildlife Department law enforcement reports.
Game Warden to the Rescue -- San Patricio County Game Warden Albert Flores recently used some of his training at a local Luby's Cafeteria. He performed the Heimlich maneuver on a woman who was choking. The maneuver was successful, and everyone went back to eating lunch.
Not Playing Games -- A Hill County game warden assisted Texas Department of Public Safety Special Crimes, Texas Rangers, the FBI, and Bosque County Sheriff's Department with serving multiple search and arrest warrants at gambling rooms within Bosque County. There were nine establishments targeted. Six felony arrests were made and more than $26,000 seized in the operation.
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[ General Media Contact: Business Hours, 512-389-4406 ] [KE]
Feb. 9, 2004
Stay Tuned
Information from Texas Parks and Wildlife is available on radio and television, as well as the newsstand.
Radio
Passport to Texas, TPWD's radio series of weekday, 90-second stories is broadcast on about 100 Texas stations. Airing the week of Feb. 9-13: An outdoor classroom is teaching fourth-graders about wide-open spaces in one of the largest cities in Texas. Plus, no matter if you are an Aggie, a Red Raider, or even a Sooner, you are welcome to see the 'longhorns' at one state park.
For more information, visit the Web (http://www.passporttotexas.org/).
Video News
TPWD provides video news reports that run in newscasts on numerous Texas stations, as well as on cable and satellite outlets around the nation. This month's stories include: the story of the Buffalo Soldiers, African Americans who helped tame the American west, is now being told in schools across Texas; romantic destinations at state parks and historic sites for Valentine's Day or any other day; TPWD's game warden academy is seeking Spanish-speaking cadets; and this March 2, celebrate Texas Independence Day by taking a trip down the Texas Independence Trail.
Television
"Texas Parks & Wildlife" is a weekly half-hour television series seen on PBS affiliates around the state. Stories airing the week of Feb. 8-15: A day in the life of a West Texas biologist; Guadalupe River State Park; rummaging raccoons; conserving water with Xeriscaping; and above the clouds in the Big Bend area.
For more information about this week's programs and where they can be viewed, visit the Web (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/tv/).
Magazine
In the February issue of Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine, Lee Leschper takes readers spring turkey hunting in the Panhandle and John Jefferson recalls fishing the white bass run in East Texas, past and present. Also read about how landowners and researchers are working together to save the bobwhite quail, and how a prescribed burn restored habitat at Lake Tawakoni State Park.
Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine is always available on newsstands throughout the state and by subscription for $19.95 a year. To subscribe, call (800) 937-9393 or order online (http://www.tpwmagazine.com/).
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