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|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2008-10-01                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than six 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]
Oct. 1, 2008
Biologists Assess Ike Impacts To Coastal Ecosystems
AUSTIN, Texas -- Hurricane Ike's big storm surge caused hundreds of localized oil and hazardous materials spills that pose threats to fish and wildlife, and it pushed saltwater into upper coast freshwater wetlands that support migrating waterfowl and estuarine life. But ecological damage to coastal habitats may not be as widespread or severe as some had initially feared.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologists and other experts have for days been assessing Ike impacts, starting with an aerial survey Sep. 15 when wildlife, coastal fisheries and state parks representatives made an airplane overflight of the upper coast. Since then, they've been assessing Ike's ecological effects in two main categories: pollution events and saltwater intrusion.
The week of Sep. 15, a Unified Command was set up in the Houston area to respond to the numerous spills caused by Hurricane Ike, comprised of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Coast Guard, Texas General Land Office and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. TPWD experts from the Natural Resource Trustee and Kills and Spills Programs worked to support the spill response effort by identifying threats to fish and wildlife and guiding cleanup activities.
So far, the spill Unified Command has assessed more than 230 pollution reports in affected coastal areas stretching from Houston-Galveston to Lake Charles, Louisiana. More than 100 of these sites are now being remediated, and the Unified Command has closed out another 121 of the total reported cases with no further action needed. The types of pollution involved include oil and diesel from boats and other sources, as well as a variety of industrial chemicals washed into waterways by flooding.
Most of the Ike-related spills turned out to be minor, according to Brandon Brewer, a Coast Guard public information officer with the Unified Command. "For those spills that are medium-sized, most have been contained," Brewer said. "Now the big thing is prioritizing the worst spots, and sending recovery teams out to start cleanup." He said the Unified Command would be continuing work for weeks at least.
Some of the worst spills caused by Ike are on the Bolivar Peninsula, where the brunt of the storm demolished houses and buildings, and game wardens worked search and rescue for days. Now, TPWD and other spill response team members are focused on sheens of oil coating the landscape in the High Island and Goat Island areas, where there is a significant concentration of oil and gas production facilities.
"We're evaluating multiple spills from two responsible parties in the High Island area," said Chip Wood, an assessment biologist with TPWD's Natural Resources Trustee Program. "About 3,000 acres there are affected by visible oil sheening and staining."
At High Island and other spill sites, authorities will first try to identify the "responsible party," the company or individual that operates the facility from which the spill came, and get them to pay for cleanup if possible. If that won't work, there are federal cleanup funding sources they can tap.
Wood said his team is coordinating with the TPWD Wildlife Division and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to respond to other spills at the department's J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area and the Bessie Heights Marsh (Nelda Stark Unit) of the Lower Neches WMA, and also to spills at Anahuac, McFaddin and Sabine National Wildlife Refuges.
He said close to 500 acres are affected by spills on the federal refuges, Bessie Heights is showing sheens and some oiling on about 2,000 acres, and about 1,200 acres are affected at Murphree WMA.
"We're getting concerned about these spills because migrating waterfowl will be arriving in late October," Wood said, referring to the millions of ducks and geese that return each fall from Canada to winter on the Texas coast. "We're working to monitor cleanup progress. If there's still black oil on the water as birds come in to roost, they can be oiled. Experience shows waterfowl will typically not avoid contaminated areas."
Authorities are advising people to call the National Response Center at (800) 424-8802 to report pollution or displaced hazardous materials. To report oiled or injured wildlife in areas affected by Ike, call the TPWD Law Enforcement communications dispatcher at (281) 842-8100.
But a more widespread problem than spills may face migrating waterbirds when they arrive in Southeast Texas. Saltwater from Ike's storm surge is threatening freshwater wetlands, one of Texas' most important wildlife habitats.
"In the Galveston Bay area, Ike's long-term impacts to coastal marshes appears fairly negligible," said Jamie Schubert, a Coastal Fisheries Division marsh ecologist who is team leader for upper coast ecosystem assessment. "That area has mostly salt marshes, which all drained fairly quickly."
But it's another story for the Sabine Lake system marshes near Beaumont-Port Arthur, which are mostly freshwater and unused to high salinity. In recent decades, freshwater flow to these wetlands has already been reduced by industrialization along the Sabine River and the Intracoastal Waterway. At the storm's height, the tide gauge at the Neches River saltwater barrier showed water flowing upriver 30 times faster than the river was flowing downstream before the storm surge. Now, levees and other infrastructure built around area wetlands are slowing Ike's saltwater surge from draining.
"This hurricane may really be a pivotal factor that moves these freshwater marshes over to more saline type marsh," Schubert said. "Most plants here are used to freshwater, and once they die, that could affect the soil and lead to marsh loss. Increased marsh loss can affect the entire food chain. And that could have long-term impacts for fisheries production, including commercial and recreational species that use these marshes, such as red drum, white shrimp, and blue crab."
Elsewhere in Southeast Texas, the storm surge has also flooded tens of thousands of acres of coastal prairie. That saltwater "burn" is top-killing grasses and other plants.
"What we really need is a good rain to flush out all the spill contaminants and saltwater," Schubert said. "The landscape is brown for miles around where storm surge has inundated all these plants that can't tolerate saltwater. Hopefully it will just top-kill plants and they'll come back from the roots, but that will depend on rainfall. If we get good rains this fall and winter, most of our southeastern coastal prairie ought to be able to come back strong."
For coastal habitats, there is at least one silver lining to Ike's storm clouds. The storm surge is also killing non-native plants that have invaded Texas and threatened native species in recent years, exotics like torpedo grass, water hyacinth, hydrilla, giant salvinia and common salvinia.
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[ Note: This item is more than six years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: Aaron Reed, 512-389-8046 ] [AR]
Oct. 1, 2008
Ike Impact on Coastal Fisheries Mixed, but Overall May be Beneficial
AUSTIN, Texas -- Hurricane Ike, which devastated communities and residents of the upper Texas Gulf coast Sept. 12-13 may ultimately prove beneficial to the marine organisms that also call the area home.
That's the preliminary conclusion of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Coastal Fisheries Division biologists.
"We may have some initial mortality due to black water," said Lance Robinson, TPWD's regional Coastal Fisheries Division director for the upper coast. "But that black water is also very nutrient rich. As it enters the bays it should result in a boom in primary productivity. We would expect to see good recruitment of game fish species in the next year or two."
So-called "black water" is the anoxic or oxygen-depleted soup of decaying matter that is often left behind after flood or storm surge events. Areas around the eastern periphery of Galveston Bay were reported to have experienced a 15-foot or more storm surge from Hurricane Ike, and foul-smelling, brackish water still stands in many inland areas of the mainland there.
Robinson pointed out that hurricanes are natural phenomena and highly mobile and adaptable estuarine organisms are well-equipped to deal with them.
In fact, the first week of the fall gill net sampling season showed there are good numbers of recreationally important fish still in the Galveston Bay system. The sampling, now in its 33rd year, started in Galveston Bay three days after Ike passed through. Biologists say the data from the long-term monitoring program will detect any significant impacts on adult finfish populations.
"It's early, but we've had some real productive gill net catches. We really haven't seen any problems with dissolved oxygen in the areas we've set," said TPWD's Galveston Bay Ecosystem Leader Bill Balboa. "The fish seem healthy, and we've seen lots of them, of all species."
Ike's Impact on Commercial Fisheries
Oysters, like the other animals that make their living in the highly variable conditions of Texas bays, are well-prepared to survive calamities like hurricanes. Oysters can even change their sex from year to year to increase production if the environment demands it.
What they can't do is get out of the way, and sedimentation over oyster reefs is a real concern.
"We have some side scan sonar data we've been collecting of oyster reefs," Robinson said. "We'll redo those on some transects to see if there was an impact on oyster reefs."
On the Texas coast, there are almost always enough oyster larvae, but sometimes not enough hard substrate for them to attach to and grow to maturity.
Water quality in Galveston Bay, with numerous small oil and fuel spills as well as organic contaminants from decomposing livestock and flooded septic systems is a concern, and is monitored by the Texas Department of State Health Services. Currently, the Texas Department of State Health Services has the bay closed indefinitely for molluscan shellfish harvest.
"The public oyster season doesn't open until November, and we would hope that water quality would improve between now and then," Robinson said.
Many bay shrimpers moved their boats before the storm, though some were sunk or destroyed during Hurricane Ike. Some areas that were known to be trawlable before Ike now may be filled with submerged debris.
Infrastructure Hit Hard
Perhaps the biggest challenge Hurricane Ike brings commercial and recreational anglers alike is the storm's impact on infrastructure. Judging from initial surveys of marinas, canal subdivisions and debris fields, hundreds of boats were severely damaged or destroyed by the storm.
In a survey of 92 boat ramps around the Galveston Bay system last week, Balboa noted that just 29 were accessible. He said he found no functioning bait houses (in fact, many were destroyed), and the availability of fuel, ice and power at dockside is severely limited or nonexistent.
"From a fisherman's standpoint, it will be fine. It will just be an inconvenience for recreational anglers for a while because it will be a challenge finding bait and places to launch," said Robinson. "I think it will result in a shift in fishing pressure. We'll probably see a shift in fishing pressure to Matagorda Bay and some of the other bays, so we'll be watching for that."
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[ Media Contact: Rob McCorkle, 830-866-3533, robert.mccorkle@tpwd.texas.gov ] [RM]
Oct. 1, 2008
Most Texas State Parks Recovering from Hurricane Ike
AUSTIN, Texas -- Most of the Texas state parks in the path of Hurricane Ike have been cleaned up, have electricity again and are open for business. Galveston Island and Sea Rim state parks on the Gulf Coast, however, suffered catastrophic damage, and will be closed for some time.
Of the 32 state parks closed at the height of Ike's rampage through east Texas, only a few state parks remain closed two weeks after the Category 2 storm struck the coast Sept. 13, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife State Parks Division Director Walt Dabney. However, he said, Brazos Bend, Lake Livingston, Martin Dies Jr. and Village Creek state parks are expected to be welcoming visitors by early next month, if not sooner. The current list of state parks closed due to Ike is online.
"Crews from other parks have done heroic work getting trees cut out and parks cleaned up," said Dabney, who noted that 110 state park employees were assigned to Ike-related tasks. "Several of these parks will be back in operation soon."
TPWD estimators are busy reviewing photos, measurements taken and other information gathered by agency architects and engineers who last week visited affected state parks in southeast Texas damaged by hurricane winds and flooding, said Scott Stover, interim director of the Infrastructure Division. Detailed estimates of remaining repairs needed, and a determination of how they will be funded, he said, are expected soon.
"Some repairs have already been done by our crews," Stover said. "Damage to buildings insured after Hurricane Rita may be covered by insurance, with FEMA covering any amount that exceeds the policy coverage. Some structures and site work will have to be funded through other means."
San Jacinto Battlegrounds Historic Site in La Porte southeast of Houston and Mission Tejas State Park near Grapeland suffered the most structural damage. Most affected state parks, however, primarily saw downed limbs that in many cases knocked out power lines and had debris cluttering park roads and campgrounds.
Justin Rhodes, the regional parks director headquartered at San Jacinto, reported that hurricane-force winds ripped off some roof shingles and the electrical loop attached to the exterior of the TPWD headquarters building, and toppled a fee booth adjacent to the Battleship Texas, which came out unscathed in the storm. TPWD is awaiting the release of $25 million in bonds approved by Texas voters to dry berth and repair the aging battleship. Floodwaters from Ike also inundated the state park store and restrooms adjacent to the battleship. San Jacinto Monument remains closed, as well.
Mission Tejas State Park's headquarters building suffered significant damage from fire caused by the malfunction of a portable generator. Arrangements are being made to secure a temporary structure to house park operations. Timber salvage operations are under way at Village Creek and Lake Livingston state parks. Brazos Bend State Park southwest of Houston is being cleared of storm debris and still has no power.
"The damage this time around doesn't look as bad as Rita. But the biggest difference between Rita and Ike has been our response to the damage," Rhodes noted. "Park employees have been showing up from around the state and are working their tails off to get parks back open."
Most of the almost 6,000 Hurricane Ike evacuees who sought shelter at 63 parks outside the storm's path are reported to have headed back home. Of the 1,650 evacuees who waited out the storm at Garner State Park, only eight families remained 10 days later.
"We have had a good experience in spite of a bad situation," said Garner State Park superintendent Rick Meyers. "Although the evacuees are tired and ready to go home, they have been grateful and want to return to Garner on vacation."
---
On the Net:
General state park information: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/
State parks closed due to Ike: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/parkinfo/hurricane/
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[ Note: This item is more than six 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]
Oct. 1, 2008
Time Running Out to Enter Big Time Texas Hunts
AUSTIN, Texas -The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is reminding Texas hunters to enter this year's Big Time Texas Hunts by the October 15th deadline. Winners will be called before the end of October to give them time to make their hunting trip preparations.
The Big Time Texas Hunts offer hunters a chance to experience the best hunting packages in the Lone Star State with an opportunity to win one or more top guided hunts with food and lodging provided, as well as taxidermy in some cases.
The crown jewel of the program is the Texas Grand Slam hunt package, which includes four separate hunts for Texas' most prized big game animals -- the desert bighorn sheep, white-tailed deer, mule deer and pronghorn antelope. There are several quality whitetail hunt packages available, as well as opportunities to pursue alligator, exotic big game, waterfowl and upland game birds.
Last year, Tommy H. Bridgers from Duncanville was selected the Big Time Texas Hunts winner in the Texas Grand Slam category.
"They advertise this as a hunt of a lifetime and I would agree," exclaimed Bridgers upon returning from three days of hunting desert bighorn sheep in the rugged mountains of West Texas. "This was probably the most physically demanding hunt I've ever been on, but it was also the most rewarding. I would never have the resources to buy a desert bighorn hunt, so I got mine the lucky way!"
Entries are available online at www.tpwd.state.tx.us/bigtime for $9 an entry or for $10 at retail locations where licenses are sold or by phone at (800) 895-4248.
There is no limit to the number of entries an individual may purchase, and entries may be purchased as gifts for others. Purchasers must be 17 years of age or older. The deadline to apply for this year's Big Time Texas Hunts is Oct. 15 to give the winners more time to prepare for their trips.
The Big Time Texas Hunts generates hundreds of thousands of dollars each year, with proceeds dedicated to providing more public hunting opportunity and to funding wildlife conservation and research programs in Texas.
"This is something I've participated in over the last five years, but I never gave it a thought that I'd win," said Bridgers. "It has really added a new aspect to my hunting and just goes to show sometimes good things happen."
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On the Net:
http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/hunt/public/btth/
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[ Note: This item is more than six 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]
Oct. 1, 2008
Texas Bighorn Sheep Numbers Continue to Climb
AUSTIN, Texas -The last wild desert bighorn sheep in Texas was seen in a remote area of far West Texas a half century ago, in October 1958. That might have been the last chapter for the majestic animal in the Lone Star State, but today, thanks to ongoing efforts to restore this majestic game animal in far West Texas, there are more sheep than you can shake a stick at with numbers unseen since the late 1800s.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologists recently completed annual desert bighorn sheep counts and report a record 1,193 desert bighorn sheep observed, up from 991 sheep last year.
"We rocked along for years with very low numbers, and that makes it hard for a population to gain momentum," said Mike Pittman, TPWD Trans-Pecos Wildlife Management Area project leader. "You've heard of safety in numbers? With sheep that's very true. With larger herd groups, there are more eyes to help avoid predators. Also, increased social activity means ewes going to lambing areas are able to produce more sheep."
By conducting annual helicopter survey counts, TPWD biologists can ascertain not only how many animals are present, but also if there are surplus bighorn rams.
The number of harvestable rams seen on the survey makes possible a record number of sheep hunting permits to be issued during the 2008-09 season. The Department will issue 15 permits, 11 of which will be given to private landowners who have been instrumental in sheep restoration through habitat management, and four permits which will be used by the department.
Of those four permits, one will be auctioned by the Wild Sheep Foundation, with proceeds returned to fund the department's bighorn program, and the remaining three will be included in TPWD's public hunting program.
One lucky applicant in the Big Time Texas Hunts Grand Slam category will be selected to hunt a desert bighorn ram. Entries are $9 online at www.tpwd.state.tx.us/bigtime or for $10 at retail locations where licenses are sold or by phone at (800) 895-4248. There is no limit to the number of Big Time Texas Hunts entries an individual may purchase, and entries may be purchased as gifts for others. Purchasers must be 17 years of age or older. The deadline to apply for this year's Big Time Texas Hunts is Oct. 15 to give the winners more time to prepare for their trips.
Two applicants in TPWD's drawn hunts will be selected for a guided bighorn sheep hunt package. Application fee is $10 and the deadline for applying is Nov. 4. For more information, including an application, visit the public hunting section of the TPWD Web site.
The desert bighorn sheep was once prominent in the remote mountains of West Texas, with populations of more than 1,500 animals in the late 1800s. Largely because of unregulated hunting, bighorn numbers dwindled to about 500, according to the survey conducted by Vernon Bailey in 1903.
Protective measures for bighorn sheep began as early as 1903 with the enactment of a hunting prohibition; however, numbers continued to decline to an estimated 35 sheep by 1945. The last reported sighting of a native bighorn sheep in 1958 came from what would later become the first wildlife management area in Texas, the Sierra Diablo WMA. Biologists believe the last native Texas bighorns were gone by the early 1960s.
Efforts to restore bighorns in Texas began in 1954 with the development of a cooperative agreement among state and federal wildlife agencies and private conservation groups. Through landowner and Texas Bighorn Society support, remote mountains in the Trans-Pecos have been enhanced to meet the basic needs of the desert bighorn, including construction of numerous man-made water guzzlers. These capture the area's limited rainfall to provide more reliable water sources for bighorn sheep and other wildlife.
"Although the restoration efforts to date have been a tremendous success, desert bighorn restoration in Texas is not complete," reminded Calvin Richardson, TPWD desert bighorn sheep program leader. "Our immediate focus is on Big Bend Ranch State Park and the surrounding area, which have substantial quality habitat for desert sheep, particularly when including the rugged mountain ranges in Caņon de Santa Elena Protected Area immediately to the south in Mexico."
Richardson noted that, with the help of partners in Mexico, including Cemex Corp., and Texas partners like the Texas Bighorn Society, Dallas Safari Club, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services, and private landowners, TPWD will be working to address some challenges over the next few years and prepare Big Bend Ranch State Park for eventual restoration of desert bighorns to this historic range.
Other historic ranges are still unoccupied, including the Chisos Mountains of Big Bend National Park, the Chinati Mountains, and the Guadalupe Mountains.
"Natural expansion is occurring to some degree and bighorns will continue to colonize suitable habitat, provided the unoccupied mountain range is not too distant and there are few existing barriers like fences and major highways," said Richardson.
Some of those barriers can be overcome through trapping and relocation of bighorns and Richardson said the restoration tool of restocking historic range through translocation will continue to be used when suitable mountain ranges are isolated from other bighorn populations, preventing re-establishment through natural movements.
Additionally, translocations may be used to augment small populations that typically require many years to "get past" the multiple sources of mortality that threaten herd viability when bighorn numbers are few.
"Despite the dramatic success with the desert bighorn program in West Texas, particularly in recent years, TPWD and our partners must be persistent in management," said Richardson.
Among the challenges facing bighorn restoration efforts are: control of exotics, control of predators in some situations, water development and maintenance and vigilance regarding one of the greatest threats to bighorn sheep -- disease.
Because bighorns are highly susceptible to some diseases, contact with domestic sheep, goats or certain exotics, like aoudads, can potentially wipe-out an entire population. From the perspective of a bighorn sheep, West Texas is a very different environment than it was 300-400 years ago, with more barriers, more disturbance, and sources of disease that historically were absent.
"And, with an increasing human population hungry for petroleum products, wind energy, and minerals hidden in the mountains, I don't anticipate a decline in the threats to desert bighorn survival," Richardson predicted. "Regarding the desert bighorn program in Texas, we're not done . . . and it will require a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to maintain what we've achieved."
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[ Note: This item is more than six 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]
Oct. 1, 2008
Science/Ecosystem Focus Is Aim of New TPWD Deputy Director Position
AUSTIN, Texas -- A new position called deputy executive director for natural resources at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will bring more scientific and policy expertise to help lead several agency divisions facing large-scale conservation challenges, such as water resources for people and wildlife, changing demographics of private landownership, invasive species, climate change, declining and fragmented fish and wildlife habitats, and evolving outdoor recreation trends.
Executive Director Carter Smith announced the decision to create the new leadership position, which will oversee the department's Wildlife, Coastal and Inland Fisheries Divisions. Smith said a national executive search will begin to fill the new post as soon as possible, but which he said realistically could take months.
"At no time in our agency's history have we faced challenges as momentous as those we're now encountering on the natural resources and conservation funding fronts," Smith said. "Our leadership team collectively realized we need a new role to bring scientific, natural resource management and policy experiences that will help us address the future needs of fish and wildlife, as well as those of our stakeholders who use and value those resources. Those needs increasingly require operating on a landscape scale involving entire watersheds or ecological regions."
Deputy Executive Director for Operations Scott Boruff's duties will change to oversee the Law Enforcement, State Parks, and Infrastructure Divisions, as well as the agency's land conservation branch and international liaison affairs with Mexico. Boruff will maintain a major leadership role in department conservation endeavors and will continue to lead updates of TPWD's strategic Land and Water Conservation and Recreation Plan, Smith said.
Deputy Executive Director for Administration Gene McCarty will continue to oversee the Communications, Administrative Resources, Human Resources and Information Technology Divisions.
A search to fill the currently vacant coastal fisheries division director position will be temporarily suspended. An executive search for that job and the also soon-to-be-vacant wildlife division director position will both begin once the new deputy executive director is hired. Clay Brewer was recently named acting wildlife division director, since outgoing Director Mike Berger is preparing to retire Oct. 31 and is overseeing the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies conference Oct. 11-15 in Corpus Christi.
"With two division director positions vacant on the natural resource side of our agency, we have an opportunity to augment our team to help meet the ambitious goals laid out in our Land and Water strategic plan," Smith said. "For this new role, we intend to make sure we find someone who also understands our state's strong private lands traditions and major recreational issues involving fishing, hunting and other outdoor pursuits."
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On the Net:
http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/publications/pwdpubs/pwd_pl_e0100_0867
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[ Note: This item is more than six 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]
Oct. 1, 2008
Outdoor Family Weekend Workshops Added Near D-FW, San Antonio
AUSTIN, Texas -- The Texas Outdoor Family program is adding new weekend workshop dates in the Dallas-Fort Worth and Hill Country/San Antonio regions for the upcoming winter and spring months, after expanding into state parks around Austin and Houston this past summer and fall.
Workshops in state parks cost $55 per family (up to six people), and include individual car camping sites for each family, restrooms with hot showers, professional Park Ranger-led programs and instruction, overnight state park police officer public safety and security, a curriculum developed specifically for use and enjoyment of a state park, and state park Junior Ranger certification programs. The entire approach is 'Leave No Trace' Certified so it's environmentally friendly.
"There's no experience or equipment necessary for these workshops," said Chris Holmes, a state park regional interpreter who is organizing the new workshop series. "We recognize that many people in today's increasingly urban culture don't have the same skills or backgrounds as earlier generations of Texans. These weekend workshops offer a supportive environment where families can get started in safe and comfortable settings."
For example, the schedule for one upcoming state park weekend includes pitching tents, fire starting and outdoor cooking, and morning and night-time guided talks or tours with park rangers. Most workshops also include activities such as introductions to fishing, kayaking and trail adventure and exploration through GPS and geocaching.
In addition to the basic camping skills workshops, several sites will host special themed events. An introduction to backpacking workshop will be hosted at Enchanted Rock State Natural area. At Lake Casa Blanca State Park near Laredo, an interpreter for Spanish speaking campers will be available. Other special activities, such as river kayaking, sea kayaking, caving, and Dutch oven cooking, are offered as well.
For workshops in state parks, families are expected to bring their own food for the two-day workshops, and a suggested shopping and packing lists for meals and personal items will be provided.
These Texas Outdoor Family workshops are also offered at partner sites such as city and county parks. Fees for these workshops vary, but include all meals and typically the fee for a family of four is $150.
Toyota has come on board as a sponsor of Texas Outdoor Family, helping provide funding for equipment to make the weekend workshops possible, and more sponsors are being sought who want to help introduce families to nature and the outdoors.
Visit the Texas Outdoor Family Web page for more information, including the complete schedule of weekend workshops. Check the web pages regularly, as new workshops continue to be added to the schedule.
Families can register by calling (512) 389-8903 and speaking to a Texas Outdoor Family representative Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-to-6 p.m., or send e-mail to tofsp@tpwd.texas.gov anytime. After registration, a confirmation packet with directions and details will be sent.
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On the Net:
http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/outdoorfamily/
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[ Media Contact: Steve Lightfoot, 512-389-4701, steve.lightfoot@tpwd.texas.gov ] [SL]
Oct. 1, 2008
Young Hunters to Get First Shot During Special Hunting Seasons
AUSTIN, Texas -- Young hunters will be taking the first shots of the 2008-09 Texas hunting seasons during upcoming special youth-only seasons and state wildlife officials say range conditions and wildlife populations are ripe for success in the field.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has set aside the weekend of Oct. 25-26, as special youth-only seasons for white-tailed deer, Rio Grande turkey and waterfowl in the North and South Duck Zones, to encourage adults to share the hunting experience with the next generation of hunters. Young duck hunters in the Panhandle will get the weekend of Oct. 18-19.
"These special weekends provide an opportunity for families to devote some time afield with the kids and pass on Texas' hunting heritage to the next generation," said TPWD wildlife division director Mike Berger. "We're seeing an abundance of wildlife across the state this year and there's never been a better time to get a youngster involved in hunting."
During the statewide special youth-only hunting weekend, licensed youth 16 years of age or younger will be allowed to harvest white-tailed deer and Rio Grande turkey.
A Special Youth Hunting License ($6) is required and may be purchased wherever hunting licenses are sold, as well as online and by phone at 1-800-TX-LIC-4U for an additional convenience fee.
During the special youth-only weekend for white-tailed deer, the bag limit, taking of antlerless deer and special requirements for the following counties will be the same as the period Nov. 27-30 for youth hunters in Bowie, Brazos, Camp, Cherokee, Delta, Fannin, Franklin, Grayson, Gregg, Grimes, Hopkins, Houston, Lamar, Madison, Morris, Red River, Robertson, Rusk, Titus, Upshur, and Wood counties.
For youth hunting in the remainder of the state, bag limits are the same as during the first two days of the general hunting season in the county.
Hunting for ducks, mergansers and coots during the youth-only season will be limited to youngsters 15 years of age or younger and no state or federal waterfowl endorsements (stamps) are required. Bag limits under the Hunter's Choice program apply. Popular wildlife management areas for waterfowl hunting along the coast will be open for the special youth-only season.
TPWD has made an extra effort to open as much public hunting land as possible to youth hunting. Information about youth hunting opportunities in Texas, including a listing of available public hunting locations during the special youth-only weekends, is available on the TPWD Web site.
In addition to the special youth-only weekend season opportunities, quail season also opens Oct. 25 statewide.
TPWD also offers adults accompanied by young hunters the chance to take the first shots on one of the state's premier wildlife management areas. The Chaparral WMA holds an adult/youth dove and quail hunt on Oct. 18-19. For more information call 830-676-3413.
Youth who are hunting on TPWD lands must be accompanied by a supervising adult 18 years of age or older who possesses the required Annual Public Hunting permit, a valid hunting license and any required stamps and permits and meets hunter education requirements.
The Annual Public Hunting Permit is a $48 permit, valid from Sept. 1 through Aug. 31 of the following year. The permit allows an adult access to designated public hunting lands in the TPWD public hunting lands program. Hunting is allowed for small game, turkey, white-tailed deer, exotics, predators, furbearers, and fishing without having to pay daily permit fees and in most instances, without having to be selected in a drawing.
Along with the appropriate Texas hunting licenses and stamps, permit holders may take youth under age 17 hunting free of charge on these public hunting lands.
Hunter education certification is strongly recommended for young hunters, but if not certified they must be accompanied by someone who is at least 17, who is certified or exempt. In Texas, the minimum age that a young hunter may be certified is 9. All hunters 17 and older born after Sept. 1, 1971, are required to have successfully completed a certified hunter education course in order to legally hunt in Texas. A list of upcoming hunter education classes and options for certification is available on the TPWD Web site.
Regardless of their hunting experience, parents interested in introducing their kids to hunting can find mentoring opportunities through the Texas Youth Hunting Program. The program is a partnership between TPWD and the Texas Wildlife Association to provide youth hunting opportunities on private lands. More information about the program, including a schedule of upcoming youth hunts and applications are available online or by calling 800-460-5494.
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On the Net:
http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/hunt/youth_hunting/
http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/learning/hunter_education/
http://www.tyhp.org/index.html
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