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|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2006-08-28                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than eight 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]
Aug. 28, 2006
Black Gap Land Donations, Easement To Benefit Wildlife
MARATHON, Texas -- Land donated by the Texas Bighorn Society and a conservation easement to protect adjacent private land will improve wildlife habitat management at Black Gap Wildlife Management Area and benefit multiple wildlife species in the Big Bend region, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologists.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission voted Aug. 24 to accept the land donations and the easement.
The Texas Bighorn Society in March voted to donate up to $100,000 to buy inholdings (smaller parcels of private land inside the state-owned WMA) in desert bighorn sheep habitat. Department biologists and land experts created maps of the inholdings, prioritized these tracts for their wildlife value and contacted owners to negotiate purchases. To date, contracts totaling 1,380 acres have been negotiated with willing sellers. Commission approval means the department can now move forward to accept the inholdings.
The Texas Bighorn Society was formed in 1981 to restore desert bighorn sheep to West Texas, and since then has invested close to $2 million in private donations. Desert bighorns were originally native to the region, but had disappeared in Texas by the 1960s due mainly to diseases transmitted by domestic sheep.
Through the years, bighorn society volunteers have contributed more than 30 projects to provide water for sheep, radio telemetry equipment for monitoring bighorns, and educational programs to generate public interest in Texas bighorns, such as a Web camera at Elephant Mountain Wildlife Management Area monitored by sportsmen, schools, zoos and others via the society Web site.
The society has continued to donate money, manpower and equipment to restore bighorns on private land and at public sites such as Black Gap with good sheep habitat.
Although the focus is sheep, land acquisition and habitat protection made possible by society donations provide habitat and travel corridors for many other wildlife, including black bear, mule deer, and a diverse bird community.
For many years, department employees have been working with private landowners, conservation groups and government on both sides of the border to increase large-scale conservation in the Big Bend region. This strategy includes acquiring inholdings at Big Bend Ranch State Park and Black Gap WMA and securing adjacent landowner cooperation.
The recently approved conservation easement covers 9,470 acres of rugged habitat adjacent to and south of Black Gap on the former Adams Ranch. CEMEX USA, a Texas-based, U.S. corporation affiliated with the CEMEX family of global cement manufacturing companies, recently bought the property.
The easement was donated to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, the department's official nonprofit partner. On Aug. 24, the TPW Commission approved transfer of the easement to the department. The easement permanently restricts development on the property to make sure the land fulfills habitat conservation goals, including bighorn sheep restoration and maintenance of travel corridors for wildlife moving back and forth across the Rio Grande.
CEMEX USA bought the former Adams Ranch as part of a broader bi-national effort to provide wildlife habitat and travel corridors on both sides of the river throughout the Big Bend region. Across the river from Black Gap and the Adams Ranch in Coahuila, Mexico is the federal Maderas del Carmen Flora and Fauna Protected Area of approximately 513,000 acres. Here, the Mexican government, environmental conservation groups, CEMEX and others are working to protect an important ecosystem with high biodiversity.
Within the Maderas del Carmen area is CEMEX's El Carmen conservation project, where the company and its partners have reintroduced desert bighorn sheep after a 60-year absence, monitored and managed the area's black bear population and founded a long-term management plan to restore an area that is home to more than 500 plant species, 400 birds, 70 mammals and 50 reptiles and amphibians.
Farther west, Mexico has also established the Canon de Santa Elena Flora and Fauna Protected Area across the river from Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park. Also, the area between El Carmen and Santa Elena is reported to be in the planning stage to be an expansion of the total area protected on the Mexico side. Unlike U.S. parks and wildlife areas, land inside these Mexican protected areas is privately owned.
This month's land and conservation easement donations follow a "land swap" last year between the department and the Texas General Land Office (GLO), one outcome of H.B. 770 passed by the Texas Legislature in 1997. The bill directed TPWD, the GLO and the School Land Board to negotiate land transactions to exchange inholdings and square up boundaries on properties held by each agency. The intent was to improve TPWD's ability to manage its land without diminishing the assets of the permanent school fund.
The bottom line is by November 2005 the land office had turned over 25,943 acres to the department in exchange for 14,933 acres of TPWD land and $458,658 in cash. The Black Gap component of the transfer thus resulted in a net increase of 10,241 acres to the wildlife management area.
Prior to this transaction, Black Gap was severely "checker boarded" by GLO inholdings and the adjacent GLO tract was likewise fragmented. The swap thus not only meant more land for TPWD, but it provided land with higher conservation value for bighorn sheep and other wildlife, and adjacent GLO land is now contiguous.
Black Gap WMA currently contains 102,387 acres. It borders Big Bend National Park on the park's eastern boundary. The main purpose of the property is to provide a setting for wildlife research and habitat management demonstration projects, as well as public hunting and other recreational use. The Texas Game and Oyster Commission, the predecessor of TPWD, purchased the original 28,000 acres of what is today Black Gap WMA in 1948.
Maps for news media use showing the land donation and easement locations, plus a regional map showing conservation land holdings in the Big Bend, are on the TPWD Web site as .jpg files suitable for print publication.
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On the Net:
Black Gap WMA: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/hunt/wma/find_a_wma/list/?id=2
Black Gap maps: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/newsmedia/news_images/?g=black_gap_wma
Texas Bighorn Society: http://www.texasbighornsociety.org
El Carmen Project: http://www.celb.org/xp/CELB/news-events/press_releases/10012005.xml
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[ Media Contact: Steve Lightfoot, 512-389-4701, steve.lightfoot@tpwd.texas.gov ] [SL]
Aug. 28, 2006
Commission Endorses Hunter's Choice for Duck Season
AUSTIN, Texas -- The Hunter's Choice bag limit received endorsement from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission at its Aug. 24 public hearing and gives Texas waterfowlers more latitude during the entire season in exchange for a reduction to the daily bag limit from six to five birds.
Texas will join four other states in the Central Flyway with the Hunter's Choice bag limit starting with the 2006-07 season. As part of the Federal Framework adopted this summer, the Hunters Choice experiment option will be in effect for the next few years.
With many duck species having maintained or increased their numbers during the last decade, the Service has granted states in the Central Flyway a liberal package framework for determining hunting regulations. But, there have been caveats.
Over the past several waterfowl seasons concerns for certain species of ducks have led the Service to take steps to restrict harvest. Those precautionary measures have resulted in complex and confusing regulations, such as "seasons within the season" on some species important to Texas, like pintails.
TPWD officials say the Hunter's Choice alleviates the need for seasons within a season, while providing both protection of certain ducks and season length opportunity for hunters. Five states in the Central Flyway will continue to operate under the 39-day season within a season framework for pintails and canvasbacks
The Hunter's Choice allows hunters to shoot five ducks daily, but only one in the aggregate category of certain less abundant species that include either a pintail, or a canvasback, or a "dusky duck" (mottled, black duck or Mexican-like duck) or a hen mallard. As in past years, hunters may take two wood ducks, two redheads, or two scaup. Species such as mallard drakes, teal, gadwall, wigeon, and shoveler are not restricted within the 5-bird limit.
The Hunter's Choice will not affect the early teal season in Texas, set for Sept. 9-24 with a daily bag limit of four.
The general duck season length will be the same as last year and is as follows.
South Zone --Youth-only season is Oct. 28-29 and the regular season is Nov. 4-26 and Dec. 9--Jan. 28.
North Zone -- The season structure is identical to last year, simply adjusted for the calendar shift. Duck season dates are Nov. 4-26 and Dec. 9-Jan. 28. The youth-only season is Oct. 28-29.
High Plains Mallard Management Unit -- The HPMMU offers one of the longest duck hunting seasons in the nation. Youth-only season is set for Oct. 21-22 and Oct. 28-29 and Nov. 3-Jan. 28 for the regular season.
The daily bag limit for all ducks is five and may include no more than two redheads, two scaup, two wood ducks, and one aggregate duck. The aggregate category includes pintail, canvasback, "dusky duck" (mottled, black duck or Mexican-like duck) and hen mallard. Once a hunter has taken one duck from the aggregate category, all ducks in the aggregate category are off limits for that day.
As for geese, TPWD is proposing a season similar to last year.
Eastern Goose Zone -- White-fronted geese: Nov. 4-Jan. 14; Canada and Light Goose: Nov. 4-Jan. 28.The daily bag limit is three Canada, two white-fronted and 20 light geese.
Western Goose Zone -- Nov. 4-Feb. 6 with a daily bag limit of three Canada, one white-fronted and 20 light geese.
The possession limit is twice the daily bag limit for Canada and white-fronted geese and no possession limit for "light geese."
The Light Goose Conservation Order will start at the close of the regular goose seasons and run through March 25 in both zones. This allows relaxed regulations to hunt through various atypical means in order to control light goose overpopulation that has caused damage to Canadian habitat.
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[ Note: This item is more than eight 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]
Aug. 28, 2006
TPW Awards More Than $3 Million in Trail, Local Park Grants
AUSTIN, Texas -- The Texas Parks & Wildlife Commission today approved $3.28 million to fund 40 recreational trail projects and $750,000 for small community grants for 15 communities.
Thirty-two communities throughout the state and eight TPWD trail projects planned for Brazos Bend, Government Canyon, Hueco Tanks, Huntsville, Palmetto, Purtis Creek, South Llano and Wyler Aerial Tramway state parks received National Recreational Trails Grant monies. In all, 69 trail projects requesting more than $7.5 million in federal funds were submitted for consideration.Five motorized trail projects received funding approval from the commission. A federal requirement of the trail fund is that 30 percent of the funds be spent on motorized recreational trail projects and 30 percent on non-motorized trail projects, with the remaining 40 percent discretionary.
The City of Childress will receive $388,020 to acquire 583 acres to include ATV trails, parking and restroom facilities. Sam Houston National Forest's request for $200,000 to renovate a 20-mile trail was approved. Tom's Dirtwerks in Bexar County will receive $22,800 in trails funding to make improvements to Buffalo Valley MX. The Town of Trophy Club in Denton County will get $120,000 in grant funds to install a new three-mile trail, renovate an older trail and mark trailheads at Marshall Creek ORV Park. An $80,000 grant was approved for Lubbock County Water Improvement District #1 to built a new 16-mile trail, install signs, restrooms and a well at Buffalo Spring Lake Trails.
Eight Texas state parks receiving approval for trails funding were: Brazos Bend ($25,000), Government Canyon State Natural Area ($40,000), Hueco Tanks State Historic Site ($36,800), Huntsville ($100,000), Palmetto ($60,000), Purtis Creek ($100,000), South Llano ($35,000) and Wyler Aerial Tramway ($32,885).
Some of the parks will use funds to do renovation and erosion control on existing trails, while others will construct new trails, bridges and restrooms. In El Paso, Wyler Tramway will be making improvements to a trail to access the Franklin Mountains trail system.
Three Austin area communities received national grant funding for non-motorized trails: $46,023 for the East Austin Hike & Bike Trail; $8,035 for equestrian trails at Granger Lake; and $100,000 for additions and improvements to Reimers Ranch Trails. In addition, small community grants of $50,000 each were awarded to Belton for South Belton Park, Luling for Zedler Mill Community Park and to Taylor for Murphy Park III.
Seven Dallas/Fort Worth area communities received national trail grant funding for non-motorized trails: $90,734 for the City of Arlington's Audubon Nature Trail; $76,800 for the Possum Kingdom Lake Trail; $93,900 for The Gardens Park in Dalworthington Gardens; $88,600 for Dallas County's new Sycamore-Dixon Trail; $100,000 for the City of Mineola's Nature Preserve on the Sabine River; and $50,000 for the Walnut Grove Trail restoration project in Tarrant County. In addition, small community grants of $50,000 each were awarded to Sulphur Springs for Buford Park, West Tawakoni for the city park and Whitewright for the city park.
A number of recreation trail grant projects in the Houston area received funding for non-motorized trails: $10,606 for the Bay Area Rehabilitation Center's Patsey's Destiny ADA Nature Trail; $41,000 for the Bay City Trail in Matagorda County; $61,879 for the Baytown Nature Center Trails; $100,000 for the City of Houston's Lake Houston Park Trails; $100,000 for improvements to the Memorial Park Trail; and $100,000 Creekside Park Trails in The Woodlands. In addition, small community grants of $50,000 each were awarded to Bellaire for Town Park Square and Ambrose Park in the Mission Bend Municipal Utility District #1.
One San Antonio area community -- Lakewood Acres -- received national trails grant funding of $65,000 for its park trail system. In addition, small community grants of $50,000 were awarded to Boerne for City Lake Park and Windcrest for Takas/Windy Hollow Park.
The National Recreational Trails Fund (NRTF) comes from a portion of the federal gas tax generated by gasoline purchases for off-road recreational vehicles, such as off-road motorcycles and four-wheelers. NRFT provides funding for projects that create new and maintain existing motorized and non-motorized recreational trails.
The Federal Highway Administration administers the funds and distributes them to states via a formula that takes into account state population and sales of fuel for off-road recreational vehicles. Nationwide, the program was appropriated $70 million for the current federal fiscal year (FY2006); Texas' share of these funds is $3,008,007.
Each project awarded NRFT funds is reviewed by an eight-member Texas Trails Advisory Board and ranked based on the quality of the project, its cost effectiveness, its impact on recreational trail opportunities and geographic distribution of funds.
In March 2006, a 90-day call for proposals was issued. The 40 projects approved were selected from 69 submitted proposals requesting more than $7.5 million in funds.
In addition to recreational trail project funding for major metro areas mentioned above, the Commission also approved funding for the following counties:
--Duval -- $32,710 for San Diego Trails in the City of San Diego
--El Paso -- $97,060 for the Chihuahuan Desert Experience Trail at Keystone Heritage Park
--Fannin -- $98,000 for Powder Creek Park in Bonham
--Hidalgo -- $99,750 for trail renovations at the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge visitors center
--Hidalgo -- $41,000 for Weslaco City Park Trail
--Nueces -- $97,400 for the Port Aransas Nature Trail Preserve.
--Refugio -- $54,000 for the Woodsboro Healthy Community Trail
The Small Community Program provides grants reimbursing 50 percent of the cost, up to a maximum of $50,000, to political subdivisions responsible for providing public recreation services to their citizens. Small communities are classified as communities with a population of 20,000 or less.
The initiative is funded through the Texas Recreation and Parks Account grant program, established in 1993 by the Texas Legislature to direct a portion of the state sales tax collected on sporting goods for basic outdoor recreation.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department administers the Recreation and Parks Account program and uses a priority scoring system to determine which projects are eligible to receive matching grant funds for recreational projects. For more information on local park grants, call the Recreation Grants division of Texas Parks and Wildlife at (512) 912-7124 or e-mail rec.grants@tpwd.texas.gov.
Local governments such as cities, counties, municipal utility districts and water districts depend on these grants to develop public outdoor recreation facilities for playgrounds, sports, trails, hunting, fishing, aquatic activities, camping and beautification.
Other Texas projects receiving $50,000 small community grant funds were: City Lake Park in Byers (Clay County), Swenson Park II in Spur (Dickens County), Whitewright City Park (Grayson County), Penick Park II in White Oak (Gregg County), Enid Justin Community Park in Nocona (Montague County) and Bremond City Park (Robertson County).
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On the Net:
http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/
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[ Note: This item is more than eight 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]
Aug. 28, 2006
Lake Houston State Park Transfers to City of Houston
NEW CANEY, Texas -- Lake Houston State Park has become the latest Texas Parks and Wildlife Department property to be transferred out of the state park system. It is the 10th such state property to be transferred in the last six years.
The transition from state park to a Houston city park, and name change to Lake Houston Park, became official during an Aug. 25 ceremony at the park attended by TPWD officials, Houston Mayor Bill White and commissioners from Harris and Montgomery counties.
"The transfer represents a wonderful opportunity for both the City of Houston and surrounding counties to preserve green space and to increase tourism and economic development that will benefit the entire area," White said.
The 5,000-acre park straddles the Montgomery and Harris County lines near New Caney. The heavily wooded property is located just south of the confluence of Caney Creek and the east fork of the San Jacinto River. The state park opened for day use in 1992 and began taking overnight campers in 1995 after an adjacent Girl Scout camp containing lodges and other facilities was acquired by the state. Activities include camping, nature study, bird watching, hiking, biking and horseback riding.
Lake Houston joins such other former state parks as Jim Hogg, Old Fort Parker and Kerrville-Schreiner, which have fallen off the state parks roster as a result of a legislative directive and state park budget considerations.
In 1999, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 2108 that directed TPWD to contact governmental entities in jurisdictions with state parks to determine their interest in possibly taking over the state properties and authorized up to $2 million in grants per year to local entities that take over park ownership and operations.
State lawmakers were spurred to action, in part, by a 1998 Texas A&M study of the future of Texas' outdoor resources that found some state park system holdings might be redundant or more appropriately operated by other public entities.
More recently, budget shortfalls in the TPWD's State Parks Division have led to several difficult cost-saving measures, including the transfer of several sites, reductions in operations at other parks and staff layoffs. No state parks have been closed, but transfers of Bright Leaf State Natural Area, Copano Bay Fishing Pier and the Nimitz Museum, as well as the reassignment of Matagorda Island State Park as a wildlife management area, have taken place.
The Lake Houston transfer agreement calls for the continued safeguard of the park's natural and cultural resources and provides public recreation as is consistent with TPWD's mission.
"We are grateful for and encouraged by the enthusiasm our city and county partners have expressed about assuming responsibility for what will be known as Lake Houston Park," said Robert L. Cook, TPWD executive director. "We have a clear understanding that they will continue the park's current recreational character and safeguard its natural resource and historical characteristics. It took careful consideration and lengthy discussion with our partners, but it was clear in this case that transferring this site to local control was the right thing to do for the park and people who will enjoy it in future years."
The Houston Parks and Recreation Department will manage the park facility for the city. The park offers a variety of overnight facilities and an extensive trail system that skirts Peach Creek and winds through dense woodlands of pines and hardwoods teeming with wildlife only 30 miles from Houston's soaring skyline.
TPWD's state park reservation center in Austin will continue to handle reservations for the park for the present time. For reservations, call (512) 389-8900.
To reach Lake Houston Park from Houston, take U.S. Highway 59 north to the New Caney exit (FM 1485) and take Baptist Encampment Road to the main park entrance. For more park information, call (281) 354-6881.*
* Correction, Sept. 22, 2006: The original version of this news release had an incorrect phone number. The number listed now is correct. (Return to corrected item.)
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On the Net:
http://www.houstonparks.org
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[ Media Contact: Rob McCorkle, 830-866-3533, robert.mccorkle@tpwd.texas.gov ] [RM]
Aug. 28, 2006
South Padre's World Birding Center Receives $1 Million
AUSTIN -- Christmas came early for the City of South Padre Island, which received the go-ahead today from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission to receive a $1 million grant to develop the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center.
The commission directed the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to allocate the $1 million in matching funds to develop the South Padre Island site of the World Birding Center, one of nine sites stretching from the northern end of South Padre Island, through the Rio Grande Valley to the westernmost WBC site in Roma.
The total estimated cost of the South Padre Island project is $6 million. The city is providing a local match consisting of local bond funds, Economic Development Board funds, donations, Coastal Management Program grants funds and pledges, according to Tim Hogsett, director of the TPWD's parks grant program.
"Through this $1,000,000, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission continues to positively recognize the tremendous impact nature tourism is having on our state," said Dan Quandt, director of the South Padre Island Convention & Visitors Bureau. "The South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center will attract experts and novices alike, educating all on the tremendous variety of natural opportunities found on South Padre Island and throughout South Texas."
The City of South Padre Island proposes to construct a 4,500 square foot Visitors Center on Laguna Madre Bay on a 7.5-acre tract of the island's World Birding Center. The building would serve as an interpretive center and nature education facility. The facility will connect with the existing Laguna Madre Nature Trail, increasing the boardwalks by roughly 3,600 feet and adding five bird blinds. The boardwalks will provide access to the wetlands and shoreline for up-close wildlife viewing.
The center will include a wave tank, bay aquarium and exhibits showing a stratified cross-section of the island and explaining the history of South Padre Island, the Gulf of Mexico and migration habits of turtles and birds. Exhibits also will feature the geology, anthropology and natural history of the area, as well as the island's many indigenous marine, terrestrial and avian wildlife. There also will be a 60-foot-tall wildlife observation tower offering 360-degree views of Laguna Madre and the Gulf of Mexico.
The 79th Legislature, in a rider, to the department's general appropriation, directed TPWD to allocate up $1 million in matching funds for the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center.
Such funding is authorized by the 1993 Texas Recreation and Parks Account Program to assist local political subdivisions of the state in providing basic public recreation facilities. TRPA revenue is generated from a portion of the state sales tax on sporting goods.
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[ Media Contact: Steve Lightfoot, 512-389-4701, steve.lightfoot@tpwd.texas.gov ] [SL]
Aug. 28, 2006
Five Boat Ramp Projects Receive TPWD Grants
AUSTIN, Texas -- Three coastal and two lake boating access projects will share more than $1.5 million in federal boating access grants. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission approved the five construction and renovation projects at its Thursday, Aug. 24 public meeting.
While the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department administers the grants, funding for the projects comes from the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration program. The Sport Fish Restoration program is funded by revenues collected from the manufacturers of fishing rods, reels, creels, lures, flies and artificial baits, who pay an excise tax on these items to the U.S. Treasury. A portion of gasoline tax (small engine fuel tax) also is credited to this program.
The boating access program provides these funds for the purchase, construction, renovation and maintenance of boat ramps, access roads and other related facilities to improve public recreational boating access to public waters. Construction for approved projects is supported on a 75 percent (federal), 25 percent (local) basis.
Following are summaries of the projects receiving boating access grant matching funds:
Braunig Lake Boat Ramp Renovation -- The San Antonio River Authority received $347,625 for renovation of a two lane boat ramp and the addition of a third lane. The popular boat ramp was constructed in the late 1960s and is in need of repair. The grant will also help pay for construction of an access road, parking area, bulkhead, lighting, courtesy dock and signs.
Double Bayou Boat Ramp -- Chambers County is getting $487,500 for construction of a two lane boat ramp, courtesy dock, restroom, fish cleaning station, pavilion, bulkheads, parking and signs. This will provide much-needed boat access on the east side of Galveston Bay on Double Bayou, which links to East Galveston Bay and Trinity Bay.
Bayfront Peninsula Park Boat Ramp -- A new three lane boat ramp facility will provide relief for heavily used public boat ramps in the area. The City of Port Lavaca is receiving $500,000 for construction of the ramp, courtesy dock, restroom, walkways, lighting, bulkheads, parking and signs. The facility will provide public boating access to Lavaca Bay.
Lake Granbury Boat Ramp -- The Brazos River Authority is getting $45,000 for renovation of a two lane boat ramp that is currently closed to the public for safety concerns because it is undercut and partially collapsed. The Brazos River Authority will also be adding lighting, bulkheads, and signs.
Baffin Bay Kaufer Hubert Memorial Park -- Kleberg County is receiving $133,518 for renovation of a heavily used boat ramp, lighting, walkway and signs and dredging of a second ramp. The facility provides public boating access to Baffin Bay and the Gulf of Mexico and is the only public boat ramp on the Gulf of Mexico between Corpus Christi and Port Mansfield.
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[ Media Contact: Steve Lightfoot, 512-389-4701, steve.lightfoot@tpwd.texas.gov ] [SL]
Aug. 28, 2006
Five Target Range Projects Receive Funding Support
AUSTIN, Texas -- Five target shooting facility projects, including a new indoor range and hunter education classroom on the Brenham High School campus, will be sharing $420,000 in matching grants for construction and renovation, pending availability of federal assistance funds earmarked for the state's hunter education program.
During its Aug. 24 public meeting, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission approved an action item to allow the department's executive director to execute contracts with the grant applicants.
More than 19 million Americans safely participate in target shooting, according to National Shooting Sports Foundation statistics, and some states, including Texas, are seeing resurgence in competitive and recreational shooting sports among youth.
"Texas has the largest 4-H shooting sports program in the nation," said Steve Hall, education director with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. "Shooting clay targets with a shotgun is a growing sport at high schools and elementary schools across the country. More than 7,000 students from fifth through 12th grade now take part in trap, skeet and sporting clay activities and competitions in 35 states."
The Brenham High School facility exemplifies the kind of resources in high demand and short supply, said Hall.
"In many urban areas, there aren't places nearby where hunter education students can go to take the live fire component of the course," he noted. "There's also a need for target shooting facilities for law enforcement training and use by the general public."
The Brenham Independent School District is supporting the project to improve upon and relocate their existing range facilities to use for hunter education, ROTC, 4-H, law enforcement and the general public at various times throughout the year.
Matching grant funding of $240,000 was approved for the project's Phase II. Brenham received a $120,000 matching grant in April the last fiscal year for Phase I of their project.
The grants consist of a 75/25 funding match through the Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration federal aid program for hunter safety. TPWD's hunter education branch staff administers the grants.
"A project such as this is a major undertaking by the school district and we applaud their commitment," said Hall. "An indoor range facility has stringent requirements for air quality and safety."
In addition, the commission approved funding $30,000 for a new archery range facility on Lake Ray Roberts near Denton. The Lone Star 3-D Archery Range is the first of its kind in Texas and will provide Denton ISD students participating in the National Archery in Schools Program with a nearby place to shoot after school.
The program is a new venture of TPWD and its partners and is designed to provide Olympic-style target archery training for fourth through 12th grade physical education classes.
"Lone Star 3-D staff is working with the city of Denton by taking a public parking area that has experienced some vandalism and litter problems and turning it into a public recreation site with this renovation project," said Hall. "It's also next to a state park, which will provide visitors with an additional outdoor recreation opportunity."
Other target range projects funded include:
Elm Fork Shooting Park -- This Dallas County facility will receive $60,000 in grant funding for range safety evaluation and enhancements to its rifle ranges. The facility is adjacent and named similarly to the Elm Fork Clay Sports facility that has received several prior grants from the department. Together, both ranges reach the greatest volume of shooters in North Texas.
American Shooting Centers, Inc. -- A sporting clays range improvement project will be getting $30,000 in funding. American Shooting Centers, the largest public range facility in Texas and past recipient of target range grant funds, will be improving its world-class sporting clays facilities in West Houston.
Central Texas Rifle and Pistol Club -- This facility near Waco will be receiving $60,000 toward range improvements and a classroom to better serve youth and hunter education instructors in the area.
Grants are available to qualifying applicants from both private and governmental sectors that provide public use and hunter education at their facilities. For more information on Target Range grants, contact Steve Hall at TPWD at 512-389-4568 or steve.hall@tpwd.texas.gov .
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[ Media Contact: Aaron Reed, 512-389-8046 ] [AR]
Aug. 28, 2006
Discussions To Continue on Regional Spotted Seatrout Management Options for Lower Laguna Madre
AUSTIN, Texas -- Anglers in the Lower Laguna Madre could see spotted seatrout bag and size limits that are different from those in effect in other bay systems as early as September 2007.
A regional management plan for the Lower Laguna Madre is one solution being considered by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department coastal fisheries biologists to address a downward trend in both the number and size of the popular game fish being landed in Texas' southernmost bay system.
In a briefing to TPW commissioners Aug. 23, Randy Blankinship, TPWD's ecosystem leader for the Lower Laguna Madre, said that the department's data shows that good numbers of spotted seatrout are being recruited to the fishery. Still, Blankinship said, fewer fish over 20 inches are being landed, even though fishing pressure has remained constant or even slightly increased in recent years.
"Because coast-wide trends are positive and the Lower Laguna Madre is the only bay system exhibiting negative trends in spotted seatrout, a regional management approach appears to be one option to accomplish the goal of maintaining a world-class fishery," Blankinship told commissioners.
Spotted seatrout still flourish in the large, hyper-saline bay, which boasts more than 185 square miles of seagrass meadows. Catch rates for speckled trout, as they are commonly called, are measured in number of fish caught per hour or "catch per unit of effort."
Coast-wide CPUE has continued to rise. In the Lower Laguna Madre -- from the Land Cut down to South Bay -- the CPUE has been declining. The catch rates in the lower Laguna Madre are still high as compared to other bay systems, but clearly are not being maintained at historical highs.
"This is not a fishery in crisis," Blankinship said in an interview. "There is no danger of spotted seatrout stocks collapsing; it's more a question of reversing these trends and getting a high quality fishery back to the very high quality fishery we have historically known."
Blankinship acknowledged that two fish-killing freezes during the 1990s, the drought of record for South Texas and reduced freshwater inflows may all be factors in the fishery trends.
"Ours is basically a two-pronged approach of dealing with long-term environmental issues like habitat and water quality in conjunction with fisheries regulations," said TPWD Coastal Fisheries Director Larry McKinney, Ph.D. "While we can often influence management of environmental factors we do not control them. We do control fishing regulations and action there can have more immediate and positive results."
McKinney said any proposed regional management plan would be submitted to the Commission as part of the standard statewide hunting and fishing regulatory process.
The commission will be updated in November on these considerations and then the formal process typically begins with a briefing of the proposed rules in January before the commission.
A regional approach to coastal fisheries species management would be a change in a philosophy where coast-wide management (equivalent bag and size limits) have been the norm.
In considering regional management approaches, fisheries managers would be considering the biological implications of the rules as well as shifting fishing pressure which may impact adjacent areas and other species; the ability of game wardens to enforce different regulations and the ease with which anglers can comply with different regulations; and the socio-economic impacts to local communities.
Coastal Fisheries will be holding a series of additional scoping meetings prior to the November commission meeting to discuss specific management options.
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