Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Outreach and Education Committee
Jan. 26, 2005Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 26th day of January, 2005, there came to be heard matters under the regulatory authority of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, in the Commission Hearing Room of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex, to wit:
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION:
- Alvin L. Henry, Houston, Texas, Committee Chairman
- Ned S. Holmes, Houston, Texas
- Joseph B.C. Fitzsimons, San Antonio, Texas
- J. Robert Brown, El Paso, Texas
- Peter M. Holt, San Antonio, Texas (Absent)
- Philip Montgomery, Dallas, Texas (Absent)
- John D. Parker, Lufkin, Texas
- Donato D. Ramos, Laredo, Texas
- Mark E. Watson, Jr., San Antonio, Texas
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT:
- Robert L. Cook, Executive Director, and other personnel of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
COMMISSIONER HENRY: I call to order the Outreach and Education Committee. I am going to ask for approval of the previous minutes.
COMMISSIONER WATSON: So moved.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Second.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: I have a motion by Commissioner Watson and a second by Commissioner Ramos. All in favor, aye.
(Chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Any opposed, nay?
COMMISSIONER HENRY: The ayes have it. The Chairman's Charges.
MR. COOK: Thank you, sir. A couple or three items here I want to touch on. The successful Sheldon Lake Environmental Education Center Open House was held on October 28, featuring several of the Commission members who are here today, elected officials, TPWD staff, and many busloads of school children, which we were all glad to have.
AP and local news coverage resulted in the opening of the nearly completed first phase, funded with about $5.8 million from various sources. The first phase of construction includes a new 4,600 square foot pond center building, with an outdoor pavilion to orient arriving students and for use on rainy days. And a 15,000 square foot pond plaza of outdoor landscape areas and four new pond learning stations that serve as outdoor aquatic classrooms.
And as all of you know, we can't say thanks enough to Commissioner Henry for his efforts in this project. And he certainly deserves all of our thanks and credit. The Outreach and Education Advisory Committee working with the ad agency, GSD&M developed several test marketing campaigns and conducted focus group research in mid-December to determine how specific outdoor and conservation messages resonate with target audiences, particularly unengaged audiences.
The focus groups were conducted in Dallas and Houston. Results have been shared with the Advisory Committee, who will in turn, make subsequent recommendations to you, the Commission. The Department' marketing, education and outreach branches have assisted the Committee in the GSD&M effort.
Outreach, education and interpretation program managers submitted new FY '05 project charters for approval and complete accomplishment reports for the previous year. The accomplishments report for the Department's 22 programs are being compiled and an overview will be provided to this Committee at the next regularly scheduled meeting. The overview presents a snapshot of what the Agency is accomplishing, and the charting and reporting processes ensure that the strategic plan is being implemented.
Just a couple of other things very quickly to touch on, and I know you are going to hear some more about this. But when you pulled in this morning, or if you arrived yesterday, you saw the Huff Wagon Train parked out here in our expo area. And that has been just a wonderful experience for all of us, from El Paso to they arrived here the day before yesterday evening. We had a nice ceremony down on the steps of the Capitol yesterday morning.
A real unusual group, and fortunately, we have had off and on, through the trips, since the first of January, we have had about 15 or 20 of our staff helping them along in various stages. Some of our staff have been with them since day one. I want to tell you, and like I say, we'll have a full report to you before summer on this, but the experience that our folks have had in this outreach effort and experience of the culture, the history of Texas.
The Buffalo Soldiers have stayed with this wagon train since it came to Texas, since it started the trip. And several of the folks in Lydia's shop have been very involved. And just good reports from all. So I think you are going to enjoy about this when we kind of get a little program put together on it. Also, we just received today, I got notice, the new State Park Guide. And again, I want to give credit to the Communications division, the State Parks folks. Good sponsorships from Toyota and our Parks and Wildlife Foundation.
Great product, a product that we have found to be very useful through the year, and that I think you will see is a quality product. And again, just one more time, a reminder that 6:30 tonight at the Bullock Center. I hope you will be there and enjoy that. We have got a good turnout coming. Thank you sir.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Thank you, Mr. Cook. Next on, item number two, water communication initiatives. Dr. McKinney, Ms. Saldaña.
MS. BONTEMPO: I'm not Lydia. Darcy Bontempo.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Ms. Bontempo.
MR. MCKINNEY: Mr. Chairman and members, I am Larry McKinney, Director of Coastal Fisheries and Darcy Bontempo is here with me, representing Lydia. Lydia is here, but she is, as any communication folks, she wants to make the best presentation possible, and she is not feeling too good at all. I appreciate her being here as a good trooper. She is not infectious, but she is not feeling good, so she has asked Darcy to fill in. She will do so ably.
I am going to do a little bit of introduction and we'll get started with it, though. While every Texan has a stake in the decisions we make about water, our constituents have an added incentive to make sure that not only do we have enough water for our cities, for industry and for agriculture, but also for fish and wildlife and recreation as well.
You know, it is not just an environmental issue, although the ecological health of the world that we live in and which sustains us all should be sufficient enough reason to make sure that we address this decision appropriately. Doing so has direct and significant impacts on the economic health of our state as well. Our targets for outreach efforts really fall into two categories.
One of those categories is those folks, that when they turn their tap on, and watch the water run out and down into their drain, they really don't associate that water with the water that is necessary to keep a river flowing or to provide habitat for water fowl or to make sure that redfish have something to eat. They just don't make that connection. They are not aware of how important that is. The other category are those folks that really know, but frankly, they are not quite sure what they know. And so those are the two categories of folks that we really need to address, and frankly, we are making some progress in doing so.
The communications education and outreach effort that Lydia's shop and her staff have initiated over the last several years, I think, has been very effective and made quite a bit of progress in moving us forward in that area. And some evidence to that effect comes really from some recent polls that you see on the graphics up on the chart there. Back in November of 2000, we ran some polls and talked to our constituents. I showed you that graphic there, where our folks understood that water is an important issue, but perhaps not just why.
And now we are beginning to see the evidence for those folks that we work with day to day understand why water is important, that water quantity and those specifics, and there is a greater appreciation of what we are doing and what we need to do. So I think we made a lot of progress, and our efforts here at Parks and Wildlife Department I think have been a main driver behind this, so I am quite proud of it.
So at this point, I really want to, I will turn this presentation over to Darcy, to give you an idea of what was behind that progress and where we have been. So, Darcy?
MS. BONTEMPO: Good afternoon Commissioners. My name is Darcy Bontempo, I am with the Communications Division. It is a pleasure to be here representing Lydia. And even though my husband is about to call me from the top of Mount Achengagua [phonetic] about 23,000 feet, hopefully I won't miss his call. But I am very happy to be here with all of you. Larry has set the stage very well for why this is so important to us here in Texas.
And while TPWD does not have a regulatory voice when it comes to managing water, our role is clearly to be at the table. For fish and for wildlife, and for all of us who value our natural resources and the outdoor activities it affords us. We are in a unique position as compared to other agencies, because of having our voice heard. Unlike many other agencies, we are very fortunate to have tools and expertise to reach the public, and we have through a wide variety of sources.
Texas, the state of water actually brings all of our communications tools and efforts together. And this multimedia communications effort actually began several years ago, and up on the screen here, you see the July 2002 issue of the magazine which was called the State of Water. And that was our first foray into that effort. It was 116 pages. It was actually the biggest issue of the magazine at that time ever produced.
And we had pulled together some of the top writers and photographers in Texas to actually contribute to that issue. The issue was widely distributed beyond our subscription base, so about 125,000 readers. And it really set the stage for our initiative. It has since been placed throughout Texas and public schools and the university libraries as I said, across the state. The magazine also received several industry awards.
That was followed in the fall of 2002 with the book, Texas Rivers, which I think most of you are familiar with, by John Graves was the author. And also, it was illustrated with photography by the Texas State Photographer, Wyman Meinzer. Actually, more than 8,000 copies of this book were sold. It's a $50 book, and it was one of the most popular titles that UT Press has ever put out, and we're very proud of it.
In addition, a sponsored photography exhibit toured the state, following the book's release. During the same time period, production was underway on our very first hour-long documentary at the time, and that was Texas, the State of Water. We actually teamed with KERA in Dallas to produce this original documentary and it aired on all 13 PBS stations in May 2003. And actually also, of interest, this was one of the first high-definition programs produced in Texas and after its initial airing in May 2003, it has since been re-broadcast 18 times at least. So it continues to communicate and educate and spread the message, if you will, across the state.
Right now, the tally is over 1.5 million viewers who have actually been able to see this program, so it is a very good investment, we believe, in our communications initiative. Also, this program garnered many awards, regional Emmy awards for outstanding achievement in high-def programming along with a first place award from the National Association of Government Communicators. In addition, I might add that we also take segments from this documentary and we aired them in our TV show, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department television show.
So that is another way that we refurbish what we have done, so that we can get the message out. July 2003 brings us to the second magazine special issue, which was called, State of Bays. It was a 96 page issue, and it provided an in-depth look at the state of bays. And also very widely distributed, well received, and it is in libraries and universities across the state as well. For the second year in a row, the international regional magazine association honored Texas Parks and Wildlife with an award for this issue.
2004, as we move through time, The State of Rivers, which was this past July, was the third special issue in the series. And again, without going through all of the details, similarly, this has been well received and the magazine staff is now getting the lineup for another star lineup of writers and photographers for our new issue, which will be coming out in July of 2005, and that will focus on the State of Springs in Texas, and it covers groundwater issues. So that will be our fifth special issue.
But we do want to stress that this communications initiative is more than just a media effort that we are doing. This is also an education and outreach effort. And since the initiative began, our conservation education folks have really continued to look hard at how we can get these messages out into the schools, to the teachers, to the children. Project Wild is our primary conservation tool, and that reaches hundreds of teachers and thousands of students each year.
Last year, we focused attention on Project Wild' aquatic curriculum and trained about 800 teachers, in terms of how to use that program, that curriculum. And the teachers are now actively using the curriculum in their classrooms across the state, and we are very excited about that. This year, we are focusing out attention on customizing information on water issues in each region of the state. And in fact, beginning next month, our education folks will be working with regional staff to identify local wildlife and water issues for the state' ecoregions.
The result will be CD-ROMs that will have relevant local information for teachers to use in their classrooms. And we predict and we certainly hope that there will be high demand for it in the classrooms. We are also looking, I might mention, for some funding from grants in hopes to try to be able to further leverage that effort.
Webcasts are another tool in our arsenal. We have produced and aired two webcasts on water issues. And as you can see there, November 2003 from Sea to Shining Sea, in April, Making the Connections. Actually, November '03, we did this with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Alaska Fish and Game and the Sea Center, and it reached 22,000 students, 1,200 teachers. So, a very effective medium for us. April 2004, we actually produced a program that was targeting a little different group of teachers than we normally target; it was liberal arts teachers and students.
And we focused on how to communicate water issues throughout the state. And both of those are on our website and continue to be accessed by teachers and educators. Wildlife Expo, that we all are so well familiar also continues to play a role in communicating water messages.
And each year when we meet and strategize as a communications team, we discuss this issue as well. How can we continue to get water on the forefront integrated into our current exhibits, and/or develop new ways to communicate that. And in fact, the staff in Inland and Coastal Fisheries have been very creative in coming up with ways to present water related information as you see here, including some aquatic adventures, the water game and most recently, the wetlands and wildlife area. Passport to Texas radio series is also placing an emphasis on water issues.
As I think most of you know, but just as a quick reminder, Passport to Texas airs on more than 100 stations throughout the state, and it reaches, if you can believe this, three quarters of a million people every week. And you ought to believe it, because this is an independent audit, so it is very impressive.
This isn't just something that we are making up. This is an independent audit by MQ&C Advertising. And we feel like this is a terrific way for us to get out the message. So there will be segments on water issues throughout the year. And now, coming to the big reason why we are here today, in terms of the event tonight, is the water documentary that airs on February 3. Texas, the State of Water; Finding a Balance. We'll explore what is at stake in the struggle to provide enough clean water for all of our state's needs. Focus of course, will be on wildlife.
And while our last production last year was done jointly with KERA, this one has been done solely by the Parks and Wildlife Department staff. Lee Smith was also here in attendance, Lee, you might stand up for a moment. Lee Smith is the producer on the program, and Richard Roberts, who is sitting next to him is the executive producer on the show. This hour-long documentary will air next Thursday at 8 p.m. on 13 PBS stations across the state.
Walter Cronkite was kind enough, and we were fortunate to have him donate his services to us. As you might know, he grew up in Texas. He is very interested in water issues facing the state, and we sincerely appreciate the time he gave to this project. In fact, he was just down the hall here, recording it, back in November with Richard. We also are doing what we can with sponsor dollars, actually, to promote the program.
We want people to watch the program, so we are advertising it in print and in radio. There is an ad that will appear in the February issues of Texas Monthly Magazine. In fact, that many of you may receive advance issues, it is already in the issue. We got nice forward placement. And the Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine as well.
In addition, we are going to be having an ad in the Austin American Statesman on Thursday, letting people know to watch the documentary. We also have a very expansive radio effort, which we are going to be airing in all the major urban areas, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, San Antonio. We'll be running ads on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, going up to the show's airing, 60 second spots.
We also have buck slips going out to state employees. 50,000 buck slips; when employees get their paychecks on February 1, they will be finding out about this program. Statewide media efforts, of course, have also been supporting this, and we have been targeting not only our traditional outdoor writers, and environmental media, but also radio and TV programs where we are planning on having quite a few interviews, so that we can further promote the show, and talk about the issues that we are concerned about.
And in closing, I just want to take a moment to add that a major part of this funding has been brought to us by sponsors and I am just going to quickly run through them. The Boone Pickens Foundations, The Communities Foundation of Texas Fund is our underwriting sponsor, providing generous support for this effort, actually. That is followed by Brazos Mutual Funds. They have been with us since the very beginning, Brazos Mutual Funds, since 2002 and they are continuing here to provide support as a patron sponsor.
We are very also pleased to have three supporting sponsors, the Brazos River Authority, the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority and the San Antonio River Authority. And with that, I just want to personally invite all of you to join us tonight as Bob said, at 6:30 at the Bob Bullock Museum. We are expecting well over 100 people in attendance.
We have actually more RSVP that we had thought, including legislators, as well as executives from the Texas Water Development Board, TCEQ and hopefully many of you, and all of you. And with that, I would like to roll the promo for this spot.
(Video: Walter Cronkite's voice narrates.)
MR. MCKINNEY: With that, Mr. Chairman and members, I would be glad to answer any questions, otherwise, we look forward to seeing you tonight.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Good job. Lee and Richard, I saw how hard you all worked on that. It is a great end product. You did a great job.
MR. SMITH: Thank you.
MR. ROBERTS: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Are there any other question or comments?
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: My only comments is that I applaud you for your efforts in getting this type of information to the youth of the state and getting it out to libraries and stuff.
MS. BONTEMPO: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Because those are the groups that are, of course, our future. And to the extent that you can get it to the youth of the state, I think that is tremendous.
MS. BONTEMPO: We are increasing our focus on that, and I appreciate that.
MR. MCKINNEY: And I think that is a wonderful point. And just to reemphasize that, we pay a lot of attention to the magazine and the videos. And I think those are wonderful. And we don't sometimes pay the attention that we should to the education groups that we were talking about. The Project Wild and the webcast. When you think about reaching thousands of students and teachers, that is the most fun mental thing we can do, and that is what those programs do, and they are very important to our long term future.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: And to the extent that we can put those magazines or special issues in the libraries at the junior high level and high school level, there is no telling how many people we will reach.
MS. BONTEMPO: Exactly. We are working on grants that actually incorporate existing materials into a whole teaching packet, so that is great. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Thank you for your presentation. No action is required by the Committee. Mr. Chairman, I'll turn it back to you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Chairman Henry. And the gavel goes to Infrastructure Committee Chair, Commissioner Parker.
(Whereupon, the meeting was concluded.)
MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, Outreach and Education Committee
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: January 26, 2005
I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 19, inclusive, are the true, accurate, and complete transcript prepared from the verbal recording made by electronic recording by Penny Bynum before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.
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