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|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2008-05-23                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than five 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]
May 23, 2008
Donations, Angler Dollars Help Achieve Shrimp Buyback Goals
AUSTIN, Texas -- It's taken more than a decade and close to $12 million, but an effort to purchase and retire commercial shrimp licenses and improve the ecological health of Texas bays has achieved its goals, thanks to support from recreational anglers, shrimpers and conservation-minded financial supporters.
Bay shrimpers have voluntarily sold more than 1,800 licenses to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and retired from the business since the buyback program began in the 1990s. As a result, peak bay shrimping effort has decreased by 91 percent since 1994.
During the same period, shrimper bycatch, or accidental catch of other marine life besides shrimp, has decreased by 84 percent. Abundance of bycatch species such as croaker, sand trout and anchovies has increased by 61 percent. Croaker abundance in Texas bays has almost doubled since 1994, and 2007 marked a record high catch in TPWD bay trawls. Anglers can expect to see the return of the fall croaker run.
"Our goal was to return bay shrimping effort to the levels of the 1970s, and we've achieved that," said Larry McKinney, Ph.D., TPWD Coastal Fisheries Division director. "Our red drum and trout fisheries are in their best conditions in 30 years, with populations increasing. And reducing the impact of near-shore shrimping has been significant in getting us to where we are today. Our objectives continue to be higher catch rates for shrimpers, reduced bycatch and healthy ecosystems."
Private donors played a key role in the buyback effort. On May 22, a check for $1.2 million was presented to the TPW Commission by Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation Executive Director Dick Davis.
"This success story involves a diverse group of conservation philanthropists who all deserve recognition," Davis said.
The campaign began 18 months ago when former TPW Commission Chairman Joseph Fitzsimons recommended that the foundation establish a fund in honor of the late William Negley, a long-time advocate of Texas coastal conservation. Charter contributors to the campaign via the Bill Negley Fund include Fitzsimons, Ed Harte, Will Harte, the Harte Charitable Foundation, Commission Chairman Peter Holt and Commissioner Dan Friedkin, who together provided $400,000.
"We've finally reached the goal Bill Negley set decades ago," Fitzsimons said. "I was sitting at Negley's breakfast table 20 years ago, when he told me this had to happen. His vision was that anglers and other conservationists would bear the cost of this, not through regulation but through purchase of licenses to help fund efforts to reduce bycatch. Later, the Harte family asked me what single effort would make the most difference for coastal conservation, and they made a $250,000 challenge grant to get things rolling. All Texans will benefit from the resulting improved health of our coastal ecosystems."
The Foundation, led by board members Mimi Zoch, Karen Hixon (now a TPW Commissioner) and Pat Murray, raised the remaining $800,000. Contributing partners included the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, the Robert J. and Helen C. Kleberg Foundation, the Meadows Foundation, the Amon Carter Foundation and Texas Coastal Conservation Association. Several other foundations and individuals also contributed.
For bay shrimpers, the buyback program has provided an exit strategy for an industry plagued by declining shrimp prices and skyrocketing fuel prices. Those who remain have benefited-although total landings have decreased, the shrimp catch-per-hour has doubled since 1994, meaning the bay shrimp fleet is now smaller but more efficient.
"We've offered a way for people to make a graceful exit from a business in decline, providing some funds to get retrained or go into other businesses," McKinney said. "That was also an original purpose of the program authorized by the legislature."
For the first five years, state funding for the license buyback came almost exclusively from a surcharge on commercial bay and bait shrimping licenses, which still generates funds dedicated only for shrimp buyback.
That changed in 2000, when the TPW Commission approved a $3 surcharge on saltwater fishing stamps required of almost all recreational anglers fishing Texas coastal waters. That surcharge was set to expire in 2005, but the commission later approved an indefinite extension.
"Our anglers have been tremendously supportive of our conservation efforts and their investment has paid off in healthy populations of trout and red drum," stated McKinney, "we will be working closely with them and the Commission to look at options to continue to generate similar benefits in other areas of the fishery."*
A portion of bay and bait shrimping license revenue remains dedicated for shrimp license buyback, so TPWD will likely continue to purchase smaller numbers of licenses in coming years, although the program's main goals have been achieved. More than 1,000 bay and bait licenses remain in the fishery, so if the industry turns around and more shrimpers return to the bays, license buyback could still be important to reduce effort and protect bay ecosystems.
* Correction, June 3, 2008: The original version of this news release has been edited. (Return to corrected item.)
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[ Media Contact: Tom Harvey, 512-389-4453, tom.harvey@tpwd.texas.gov ] [TH]
May 23, 2008
Llano Springs Ranch Shines As Conservation Beacon Amid Changing Texas
AUSTIN, Texas -- The famed wide-open spaces of Texas are under siege, threatened by ever-expanding suburban development and fragmenting into ever-smaller pieces as people in cities buy up land in the country. The good news is conservation-minded landowners stand as bastions against these trends, places like Llano Springs Ranch south of Junction, which on May 21 received the Leopold Conservation Award for Texas from Sand County Foundation and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, part of the department's Lone Star Land Steward Awards program.
Every year, TPWD and Sand County Foundation recognize private land stewards in 10 ecological regions across the state, as well as the Leopold Conservation Award winner. For the fourth year, the Lone Star Land Steward Awards benefit from an association with Sand County Foundation, an international non-profit organization devoted to private landowner conservation. Ecoregion award recipients and the wildlife management association recipient receive $1,000 from the foundation, while the Leopold Conservation Award recipient receives $10,000 and the Leopold crystal. The purpose is to recognize outstanding examples of voluntary stewardship.
"I'm proud that we've taken a ranch that had been neglected for many years and turned it into something to be proud of, and we've done it ourselves," said Tom M. Vandivier, part of the five-generation farm and ranch family which owns the 5,100-acre spread in Edwards County. He works the first part of the week as an attorney near Austin, then on Thursdays heads to the ranch and works all weekend.
"Whoever dreamed up this idea for land steward awards is right on target with what's going on in ranching these days," Vandivier said. "It's a great motivator. When we learned about this, it got us motivated to do more. We're thrilled to have won."
The ranch contains the headwaters of the South Llano River, which flows into the Colorado. Years of work to remove water-sucking cedar and restore water-friendly native grasses are benefiting everything downriver, including thirsty cities like Austin. Land with restored grasses instead of cedar and rocks holds rainwater like a giant sponge, releasing it slowly and providing natural filtration. This helps aquifer recharge and prevents erosion, sending cleaner water downstream.
The ranch's land and water restoration work sustains public recreation that helps raise money for conservation. In the fall they host hunters, in the spring birding groups come, and in the summer paddlers and swimmers cool-off in the clear-running South Llano. For reasonable fees, anglers can fly fish for trophy bass, birding tour groups can see endangered black-capped vireos, and paddlers can canoe, kayak, or float an inner tube.
"Aldo Leopold managed land effectively with five tools: axe, cow, plow, fire, and gun," said Brent Haglund, Ph.D., Sand County Foundation president. "The Vandiviers clearly utilize these tools to continue the Leopold tradition of responsible land management."
"It's all interconnected," Vandivier said. "It's all part of good stewardship of the land. If you remove the cedar, plant life diversity increases, water resources improve, wildlife improves. It's all a stair-step to better and better things. The changes over the years have been slow to occur, but they're very noticeable to us."
Others are noticing too. Natural history and environmental education classes from both the University of Texas and Franklin College in Indiana have used Llano Springs Ranch as an outdoor classroom. Boy Scout and Cub Scout troops have camped along the river. Cave explorers have been granted access to probe sinks and cave formations. The ranch has hosted annual youth hunts through the Texas Youth Hunting Program. Most recently, Llano Springs Ranch volunteered to become a Texas State University study site for groundbreaking research to aid the state fish of Texas, the Guadalupe bass, one of the last pure strains of which is located in the South Llano River.
For the Vandiviers, conservation stewardship reaches beyond their ranch boundaries. "The Woods" is a family-owned woodland near Indianapolis, Indiana which has been passed from generation to generation for more than 100 years. The land remains in its natural state except for limited timber harvesting to provide sustainable revenue. Tom and his sister Ann spent childhood summers there with their dad. Later, for about 30 years, the family developed and ran Navidad River Pecan Farm in Lavaca County, Texas.
Today, the entire Vandivier family participates in on-going management at Llano Springs Ranch. Minimal ranch work is done by hired contractors, requiring each family member to participate. This hands-on style has created a strong land ethic begun by Dr. Tom G. Vandivier and his wife Laurie, and carried out by daughter Ann Vandivier Brodnax and her husband John W. Brodnax, as well as son Tom M. Vandivier and his wife Sonja, and their families.
Following the example set by their elders, Vandivier grandchilden John T. Brodnax, Laura Vandivier Sherrod and Jessica Vandivier also help with day-to-day ranch activities and conservation outreach. As a teenager, Ann's son John Brodnax completed his Eagle Scout Project by creating a hiking trail at Pace Bend Park on Lake Travis. Tom's eldest daughter Laura Vandivier Sherrod earned a wildlife biology degree from Texas State University in 2007, then began work with her husband Greg Sherrod at a private environmental consulting firm doing endangered species surveys and wetland mitigation.
Located in an area of Texas historically overstocked with cattle, sheep, and goats for more than 100 years, the Vandivier family initiated efforts to improve the ranch immediately after they bought it in 1994. Livestock were removed and the land was allowed to recover. Additionally, an extensive clearing effort began, targeting regrowth ashe juniper or cedar, which was invading the landscape.
To date, more than 2,700 acres of ashe juniper have been removed from Llano Springs Ranch -- approximately half its total surface area. Much of this has been completed through cost-share programs of the U.S.D.A. Natural Resource Conservation Service, including the EQIP program for a period of 6-7 years. Clearing efforts have notably increased the volume of desirable native grasses and woody browse. Native bunchgrasses such as little bluestem and sideoats grama abound, providing habitat for quail and many other birds and wildlife. The diversity and availability of woody browse has also improved through a deer management program designed to control numbers and improve herd age and sex structure.
From a water quality standpoint, the South Llano River ecosystem has benefited significantly as a result of invasive ashe juniper control. Spring flow has increased significantly since cedar-clearing efforts began, including the river headwaters spring and several new springs which recently began flowing.
To increase numbers of endangered songbirds, the ranch began a program to trap cowbirds in 2007. Cowbirds lay eggs in the nests of other birds, who then raise the cowbird chicks as their own. The aggressive cowbird chicks often crowd out chicks of the host bird, so that the host chicks die.
But it hasn't been an easy road.
"It was a big, scary thing to take on something of this caliber," Vandivier said. "It was scary financially; it was a real stretch for us to buy it in the first place. We made a commitment from the start that we would make this ranch support itself, and we've done that. It took years of hard work and some lean times, but now with the livestock, hunting operation and ecotourism and help with governmental programs for cedar clearing, this place is viable financially and ecologically."
This year's 13th annual Lone Star Land Steward Awards recognize and honor private landowners for their accomplishments in habitat management and wildlife conservation. The program is designed to educate landowners and the public and to encourage participation in habitat conservation. TPWD's primary partner in the awards is Sand County Foundation, with sponsors that include Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, H. Yturria Land and Cattle Company, Texas Wildlife Association, Lower Colorado River Authority, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Texas Farm Bureau and Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.
The Leopold Conservation Award honors the legacy of Aldo Leopold (1887-1948), considered the father of wildlife ecology. It is a competitive award that recognizes landowner achievement in voluntary conservation. In 2008, Sand County Foundation will present Leopold Conservation Awards in Wisconsin, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Texas, Utah and California. The awards are presented to accomplish three objectives: First, they recognize extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation on the land of exemplary private landowners. Second, they inspire countless other landowners in their own communities through these examples. Finally, they provide a visible forum where leaders from the agriculture community are recognized as conservation leaders to groups outside of agriculture.
More information, including how to nominate property owners for awards, is online. Nominations are accepted June 1 through Nov. 30 each year for the following year's awards program.
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On the Net:
http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/landsteward
http://www.leopoldconservationaward.org
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[ Note: This item is more than five 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]
May 23, 2008
Mentored Hunts to Provide Opportunities for Newcomers
AUSTIN, Texas -- A new public hunting opportunity for newcomers, the Mentored Hunting Permit (MHP), will launch this fall. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission approved the new hunter recruitment initiative at its May 22 public meeting.
The program provides limited opportunities for people interested in participating in a multi-day hunter recruitment workshop on a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department wildlife management area (WMA). Participation will be by reservation, on a first-come, first-served basis, and the fee for the Mentored Hunting Permit will be $25.
The mentored hunting workshop will focus on teaching hunting skills, safety, ethics, game processing and preparation, elements of habitat management, and provide guidance and advice for hunting activities in the future. As part of the workshop, participants would be offered the opportunity to take part in a mentored hunt accompanied by an experienced hunter on the WMA. At this time, mentored hunts for dove, squirrel, and other small game, waterfowl, and feral hog are being considered for the workshops.
"The mentored hunting program is intended to explore possible ways to increase hunter recruitment," said Linda Campbell, director of public hunting with TPWD. "By offering these educational workshops and mentored hunting opportunities, we hope to provide an effective vehicle for people who are not from traditional hunting backgrounds to learn about and get started in hunting."
In addition, the commission approved changes to the TPWD Public Lands Proclamation waiving access fees for spectators at hunting dog field trials on WMAs.
The commission also approved a framework for providing hunting opportunities on 41 state parks during the 2008-09 hunting seasons, offering 1,795 drawn hunt positions on state parks for the upcoming hunting season.
Applications for those hunting opportunities will be available this summer in the annual TPWD Applications for Drawings on Public Hunting Lands booklet. Individuals are drawn to receive a Special Permit by random selection done by computer from a qualified pool of applicants. Current and former applicants can receive information on preference points, status of a submitted application, and drawing results, by calling (512) 389-8221 to access the Public Hunting Program's automated information system. The Public Hunting Program provides low-cost, high-quality public hunting opportunities on over one million acres of TPWD-owned, leased and licensed lands in Texas.
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On the Net:
http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/hunt/public/
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[ Note: This item is more than five 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]
May 23, 2008
LAMPS Antlerless Deer Permit Applications Available
AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is now accepting applications for Landowner Assisted Management Permitting System (LAMPS) antlerless deer permits for the 2008-2009 hunting season. The LAMPS program was initiated in 1993 to offer East Texas landowners and hunters additional opportunities for harvesting antlerless deer.
Many counties in East Texas allow the harvest of antlerless deer "by permit only," or during a few select "doe days." However, LAMPS permits allow antlerless deer to be hunted the entire general gun season with minimal reporting requirements.
Persons interested in enrolling a property in the LAMPS program should recognize there are minimum qualification requirements. Permission from the landowner must be obtained before applying for permits if the person applying is not the landowner. The property must occur in one of the more than 50 East Texas counties in the program. And, the property must meet the minimum acreage requirement for the county. The minimum acreage requirement varies form county to county, but ranges from 50 to 200 acres.
To guarantee receipt of permits by the opening day of the general firearms season, applications must be received by September 1. For information on the minimum acreage requirements and applications call the LAMPS office at (409) 489-0823 or log on to the Texas Parks and Wildlife web site
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On the Net:
http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/lamps
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[ Note: This item is more than five years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: Aaron Reed, 512-389-8046 ] [AR]
May 23, 2008
TPWD: 2008 Coastal Fishing Forecast Outstanding
AUSTIN, Texas -- The Texas coastal fishing forecast for 2008 looks much improved compared to last year. In 2007, one of the wettest summers on record played havoc with fishing success, as finding fish and identifying fishing patterns were a challenge to even the best anglers. On a positive note, biologists say, all the freshwater that came flushing into the bays carried nutrients and sediments that can really boost productivity. Coupled with a mild and dry winter, this year all of Texas' bays are poised to really take off and provide some of the best fishing in years, biologists say.
"We are about to get a real-life demonstration of just how important freshwater inflows into our bays and estuaries really are," said Larry McKinney, Ph.D., TPWD coastal fisheries director. "It was such an extraordinary event that I am sure it will sustain productivity for some time and the end result will be some very strong year classes of fish, especially along the upper coast."
That prediction is echoed by Mark Fisher, Ph.D., TPWD coastal fisheries science director. Fisher has sorted through the mountain of data compiled by one of the most extensive data monitoring programs of its kind in the world, projecting that analysis into the upcoming fishing season.
"The long term data we have available for analysis provides a powerful basis for projecting population trends, so I have a lot of confidence making projections," said Fisher. "How successful an angler is in catching those fish is something else altogether, and all we can say there is good luck!"
Spotted Seatrout, Red Drum and Southern Flounder
One of the most sought-after game fish in coastal waters, spotted seatrout, or "speckled trout," is a case in point regarding angler success. Although landings decreased by 5 percent overall last year, the catch rate -- an indicator of individual angler success -- did increase by 8 percent. TPWD considers gill net surveys the best means available to estimate populations of adult fish. Spotted seatrout populations coastwide were at near-record numbers last year, with the spring 2007 gill net catches the highest in six years.
Red drum, or redfish, is the other fish most often sought by Texas recreational anglers, but they were not as easy to find last year as usual. Landings decreased by 24 percent and angler catch rates declined by 13 percent in 2007. This basically means catch rates returned to more "normal" levels. The unusually high tides made it more difficult for shallow-water anglers to find redfish. The good news for anglers is that gill net surveys show red drum populations remaining at near-record numbers, with fall 2007 catches the second-highest on record.
Southern flounder landings and abundance are at record low levels when considering the entire coast, so they remain a concern. TPWD's coastal fisheries staff is looking carefully at this issue and expects to bring options for next year's state fishing regulations to the TPW Commission to try to begin to turn this fishery around.
Here are highlights for individual bay systems:
Sabine Lake -- Spotted seatrout abundance is at a near-record high, and 2007 gill net catch rates were also at near-record levels, well above this system's 22-year average. Red drum anglers should expect successful trips since last year's recreational landings of red drum were a near-record high and TPWD's fall season gill net catch rate was the highest seen since the 2002 season.
Galveston Bay -- Galveston Bay spring gill nets produced the highest spotted seatrout catches in 23 years. Recreational angler data collected during the same period of time indicates that both red drum and spotted seatrout catch rates have remained steady. This suggests that anglers should experience average or better-than-average trout and red drum catches for the remainder of 2008. Gray (mangrove) snapper and striped bass added additional variety to angler catches in 2007.
Matagorda Bay -- Spotted seatrout catches in spring 2007 gill nets were the highest ever recorded over the past 24 years of sampling Matagorda Bay. These impressive numbers suggest that spotted seatrout populations in this system are doing very well and potentially translate into exceptional fishing for the upcoming summer months. Look, too, for the return of a fall croaker run bolstered by good numbers of surprisingly large Atlantic and spotted croaker.
San Antonio Bay -- Spring gill net catch rates for seatrout were down in 2007, continuing a recent trend, and dramatically off the 1998 high. The fresher bay conditions in 2007 also resulted in reduced fishing effort over the system as angler success rates dropped for spotted seatrout for the first time since 2003. The climbing salinities this year should present improved trout angling opportunities if current conditions continue through the summer. The 2007 red drum gill net catch rate fell off the record high of 2006. Despite this, the trend is still upward. Angler catch rates for red drum were also off in 2007. If the 2007 wet conditions persist, finding fish can be a challenge, so here is a hint: Hynes Bay. Netting surveys indicate that large numbers of red drum frequent this bay during warmer months. Anglers can launch their boats at Austwell in Hynes Bay and avoid a long run to fishing spots.
Aransas -- Spotted seatrout abundance exhibited a sharp increase in last spring's gill net surveys from a low in 2006 and anglers should be able to reap the benefits with increased catches this spring and summer. Red drum abundance remains well above the coastwide average and even increased during last fall's gill net surveys. Angler landings of red drum this summer and into the fall season should rebound from the declines noted in 2007. Salinity levels in all areas of Aransas Bay are within normal historical ranges, and with continued routine rainfall events, habitat conditions should enable excellent recruitment for most species.
Corpus Christi -- Angler catches of spotted seatrout should remain stable, with catches likely to improve for red drum. Spotted seatrout populations have decreased slightly, although the red drum population has increased to the third highest level ever recorded. Abundance of sheepshead in Corpus Christi Bay are typically higher than the coastwide average, and they can provide a great family fishing opportunity.
Upper Laguna Madre -- Spotted seatrout abundance in spring 2007 was the lowest recorded in the last four years. There are still a lot of big fish, as 18 percent of spotted seatrout caught in last spring's gill nets (about the same percentage as last year) are 24 inches in length or greater. Landings in 2006 were lower than 2005 but were still above the long-term mean. Upper Laguna Madre fall gill net catch rates for red drum were the second-highest recorded since 1984. Black drum are often overlooked by upper Laguna Madre anglers, but are extremely abundant in the upper Laguna Madre and show gill net catch rates 4-5 times higher than red drum and spotted seatrout.
Lower Laguna Madre -- Private boat landings for spotted seatrout last year were at their lowest since 1990. However, with the new bag limits in place anglers should expect catches to improve and good numbers of smaller spotted seatrout (15 -- 17 inches) can still be caught. While harvest data showed that red drum catch rates for anglers were down slightly in 2007, TPWD gill net catch rates were at near-record highs. Anglers targeting red drum should expect excellent catches in 2008. Area fishing guides reported excellent catches of snook, tarpon and mangrove snapper last year and, following a mild winter, 2008 should continue that trend.
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On the Net:
http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/landwater/land/maps/gis/ris/catch_rate/
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[ General Media Contact: Business Hours, 512-389-4406 ]
[ Additional Contacts: Lydia Saldaņa, (512) 389-4557, lydia.saldana@tpwd.texas.gov ]
May 23, 2008
State Parks to Host Houston Meeting Regarding Feral, Exotic Species
AUSTIN, Texas -- The State Parks Division of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will host a public meeting on Thursday, June 12 at 7:00 PM at the Bellaire City Hall Auditorium, 7008 South Rice Avenue in Bellaire. The meeting will focus on natural and cultural resource management activities on state park properties, with a particular focus on management challenges at Big Bend Ranch State Park.
Following a short informational presentation, the public will be invited to comment on current management strategies for removal of feral animals such as burros and exotic species such as aoudad sheep from the park and may offer alternative solutions and suggestions.
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[ Media Contact: Tom Harvey, 512-389-4453, tom.harvey@tpwd.texas.gov ] [TH]
May 23, 2008
Biggerstaff Named Southern States Boating Officer of the Year
AUSTIN, Texas -- Game Warden Alan Biggerstaff of Conroe has been named the 2008 Southern States Boating Officer of the Year for Texas.
Biggerstaff graduated from the Texas Game Warden Academy in 1988. His current patrol area includes Lake Conroe and the San Jacinto River, where his efforts have made area waters safer. One of his responsibilities is to organize and coordinate boating safety saturation patrols. His proactive efforts to detect alcohol use led the way in taking 22 intoxicated boat operators off area lakes. He has also worked with teachers to bring boating safety programs to five area schools.
His search and rescue efforts recently led to the recovery of two fishermen whose boat was found unoccupied and running in circles.
Biggerstaff received the award from the Southern States Boating Law Administrators' Association. The group was created to promote boating safety and is comprised of 17 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
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[ Media Contact: Rob McCorkle, 830-866-3533, robert.mccorkle@tpwd.texas.gov ] [RM]
May 23, 2008
Eisenhower State Park Celebrates 50 Years of Public Access to Outdoors
Park Hailed as a Symbol of Outdoor Legacy, Testament to Private-Public Partnership
DENISON, Texas -- Numerous park patrons, local business people, past and present state park staff and area public officials gathered on a seemingly made-to-order, 75-degree sunny morning to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the opening of Eisenhower State Park on Saturday.
What began in 1958 as a 400-plus acre lease with the U.S. Department of the Army and as part of a burgeoning Texas state park system, Eisenhower State Park has endured today as a popular destination for campers, boaters, picnickers and countless others just south of the Red River border along sprawling Lake Texoma.
"We do have a legacy here at Eisenhower State Park," said Paul Kisel, park superintendent. "And it's for the people to enjoy. 'Ike' didn't spend much time in Texas, actually only about 18 months after his birth, but he was sure glad to call himself a Texan."
The state park is named for Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th U.S. president, who was born in Denison in 1890 in a house located not far from the park. The original park opening in May of 1958 came during the second term of then-President Eisenhower, who was unable to attend. But the grand opening ceremonies were attended by his brother, Earl Eisenhower.
Saturday's 50th anniversary celebration included a full agenda of activities and children's games, including horseshoes, sack races, star gazing, fly-fishing seminars and fly-tying demonstrations, as well as an original 1958 runabout boat set adjacent to a modern 40-plus foot racing boat on display-showcasing how the park's working marina has changed during the past half century.
"Back when the park system began, only one in four Texans lived in the city; today, four out of five live in an urban area," said State Rep Larry Phillips of Sherman during his address to park visitors. "For many people, Texas state parks represent some of the few public places where they can enjoy the outdoors and the cultural diversity of Texas. And this park is a huge economic engine for us in Grayson County, and we appreciate the State of Texas investing here. I remember coming to Eisenhower as a kid and enjoying this park even before my family moved here."
Another unique feature about Eisenhower State Park is that a full-service marina and store, which are operated by private individuals as contract concessionaires, is located on-site within the park. The marina opened to the public prior to the state park, and from the beginning has shown a willing entrepreneurial spirit of area citizens to value the park as a resource, both for its natural beauty and its economic potential.
"There was a marina actually four years before the state park opened, and I've been here at the marina for 38 years," said Lacy Harber, owner of the Eisenhower Yacht Club, which operates several hundred boat slips. "We have thoroughly enjoyed our relationship with Texas Parks and Wildlife over the years."
For more information about Eisenhower State Park, call (903) 465-1956, or visit the TPWD web site.
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On the Net:
http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/parks/eisenhower
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