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Media Contact: Tom Harvey, 512-389-4453, tom.harvey@tpwd.texas.gov [TH]

TPWD Website: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us

TPWD News Release — Nov. 21, 2005

Photo Tour Encourages Private Land Wildlife Conservation

AUSTIN, Texas — The inaugural 2006 Pro-Tour of Nature Photography next April 1-30 will bring together professional nature photographers and Texas hill country landowners, with 20 photographer-landowner teams competing for $200,000 in prize money. Organizers say it is the world’s first all-professional tournament for nature photography.

Each team will submit a 75-image portfolio containing photos in each of six categories–birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, insects and arachnids, and plants and landscapes. By showcasing wildlife diversity on private land and stimulating nature photography tourism as a source of revenue for private land conservation, the contest aims to improve and protect habitat for people and wildlife.

“The ultimate goal is to create a sustainable form of conservation,” said Bob Petersen, vice-chair of the board of directors of Images for Conservation Fund, a participating landowner and a donor.

Images for Conservation seeks to create a nature photography industry in the hill country similar to that established in south Texas by the Valley Land Fund’s annual wildlife photo contest which has been running since 1994.

Private land conservation is especially important in Texas, since more than 95 percent of the landscape is privately owned.

“By creating value for wildlife, and an income stream generated from the wildlife, the landowners will have motivation and financial means to maintain, protect and further enhance their habitat for the benefit of wildlife,” Petersen said.

The 20 landowners were chosen in September from a larger than anticipated pool of 94 applicants. Photographers were announced in July of last year.

On March 18, a trade show and nature photography symposium with landowner and photographer tracks will be held at Texas Military Institute in San Antonio. Later that evening, teams will be randomly assigned and announced at a dinner at Gallagher Headquarters Ranch near Helotes.

During the month of April, the photographer and landowner teams will work together to produce their portfolios.

Traveling exhibits and a coffee table book with highlights of the contest’s best work are also planned for later next year.

The judges will be Rosamund Kidman Cox (former editor of BBC Wildlife Magazine), Stephen B. Freligh (founder of Nature’s Best, which promotes nature stewardship through photography) and Art Wolfe (renowned nature photographer).

Participating landowners are: Bob Ayres, Shield Ranch (Real/Travis County);David and Margaret Bamberger, the Selah Bamberger Ranch Preserve (Blanco County); Dayna Boren Cartwright, Mockingbird Canyon Ranch (Real County);David and Cynthia Castleberry, Peaceful Springs Nature Preserve (Burnet County);Kittie Nelson Ferguson, KKW Game & Cattle, LLC (Bexar, Medina and Bandera Counties); Kenneth Hicks, Flying A Ranch (Bandera and Medina Counties); Robert L. Hixon, Estrella Ranch (Uvalde County); Robert Earl and Kathleen Keen (Bandera County); Chuck and Sharon Knibbe, Knibbe Ranch (Comal County); John H. Kothmann (Kimble County); Gary and Gwen Krause (Real County); David K. Langford, Block Creek Natural Area (Kendall County); Michael A. Murphy, Los Madrones (Travis County); Kate Northrup, Northrup Ranch (Bandera, Kendall and Kerr Counties); Bob Petersen, Petersen Ranch (Kendall County); James and Colleen Reeves, Red Corral Ranch (Hays County); Richard and Josephine Smith, Stowers Ranch (Kerr County); Richard Welch, Headwaters Ranch (Gillespie and Kendall Counties); Kathryn McQuown Wendlandt, Annandale Ranch (Uvalde County); and Joye Wuest, Wuest Ranch (Comal County).

The photographers are:Tom Bean of Flagstaff, Arizona;Daniel J. Cox of Bozeman, Montana; Sean Fitzgerald of Dallas, Texas;Michael Francis of Billings, Montana;John Hendrickson of Clipper Mills, California;Cathy Illg of Lakewood, Colorado;Wolfgang Kaehler of Bellevue, Washington;Tom Leeson of Vancouver, Washington; George Lepp of Los Osos, California; Rolf Nussbaumer of Live Oak, Texas; Lynda Richardson of Richmond, Virginia; Bob Rozinski of Denver, Colorado; Florian Schulz of Wilhelmsdorf, Germany; Wendy Shattil of Denver, Colorado; Jozsef Szentpeteri of Debrecen, Hungary; Gary Vestal of Milwaukie, Oregon; Tom Walker of Denali Park, Alaska; Dave Welling of Canoga Park, California; Jeremy Woodhouse of McKinney, Texas; and Christian Ziegler of Vancouver, Canada.

The 19 central Texas counties (Bandera, Bexar, Blanco, Burnet, Comal, Edwards, Gillespie, Hays, Kendall, Kerr, Kimble, Kinney, Llano, Mason, Medina, Real, Travis, Uvalde and Williamson) of the Hill Country region were chosen for this first event because it is “widely considered one of the gems of Texas,” Petersen said.

“The Hill Country’s diverse scenery, water and wildlife create an excellent backdrop for such a contest,” Petersen added. “In addition, many of the communities are engaged in nature tourism and have the infrastructure to support this [nature photography] industry.”

Organizers say that after the Hill Country event, the Pro-Tour will move to other regions in the state and ultimately spread across the nation. The competition is run by the nonprofit Images for Conservation Fund. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has endorsed the event and is serving as a technical advisor. The tour has also been endorsed by The Conservation Fund, Conservation International, Environmental Defense, Nature Conservancy, North American Nature Photography Association, Texas Travel Industry Association and Wildlife Habitat Council.

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