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Texas Zoos To Host Meetings on State Wildlife Plan
AUSTIN, Texas — Eight zoos in cities across Texas will host meetings in July to get public input about a proposed Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy, a new plan tied to millions of dollars in federal funding to conserve wildlife and habitat in Texas.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department must submit a final plan to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by Oct. 1 in order to continue to receive funds from the State Wildlife Grants program.
Last year, the federal grants program provided about $3 million dollars for Texas sea turtle conservation, coastal seagrass mapping projects, wildlife data collection and mapping, a freshwater mussel survey, and staff salaries and research to aid various nongame wildlife species and habitats such as the lesser prairie chicken and swift fox on the shortgrass prairies of the Panhandle and Rolling Plains.
“This source of funds is historic in that, while it does benefit game animals by conserving habitats, it substantially focuses on nongame wildlife species that have not had traditional conservation funding sources,” said Steve Bender of the TPWD Wildlife Division, who is coordinating the Texas planning process. “This money has been appropriated to ‘keep common species common’ by maintaining diversity and slowing the stream of threatened and endangered species.”
For the first time as part of the CWCS planning process, Texas Zoos are hosting a series of public meetings to focus on native Texas wildlife conservation.
The planning effort began last August when Texas State University in San Marcos hosted a Wildlife Diversity Conference to bring together top professional biologists and decision makers from across the state. State and federal agencies, non-governmental organizations, university professors and others discussed the state of Texas ecological regions and habitats as well as species-specific issues such as exotic species encroachment and Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle restoration. Species-based working groups grew out of the conference and began drafting the state CWCS plan.
“These [working group] people know that without the help of conservation agencies and organizations like theirs that many of these species are in danger of slipping closer to needing protection under the Endangered Species Act,” Bender said.
“While the ESA helps protect species, it is always better to help these animals before they need listing. Imperilment can cause people to act but by then it’s often too late. A proactive strategy helps a species before it becomes rare and threatened. The other important concept is that a habitat or landscape approach is best because it helps many species.”
Bender said the state conservation plan will connect with and build on the Land and Water Resources Conservation and Recreation Plan, the action plan that guides TPWD on an ongoing basis. It will list wildlife species of concern, the location and condition of key habitats, threats or problems to species or habitat, needed conservation actions and recommended species and habitat monitoring.
Anyone can comment on the draft plan at one of the meetings listed below, make comments online via the TPWD Web site, phone (800) 792-1112, ext 4427 or send mail to Steve Bender, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, 4200 Smith School Road, Austin, TX 78744.
All Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy public input meetings listed below will take place from 7-9 p.m. unless otherwise noted. All zoos, except the Dallas Zoo, will NOT have normal exhibits open for the public, since meetings are after hours.
- Austin: July 11, Texas Parks and Wildlife Headquarters, 4200 Smith School Road, (512) 389-4800, tpwd.texas.gov
- Houston: July 13, Houston Zoo, 1513 N. MacGregor, (713) 533-6500, www.houstonzoo.org
- Dallas: 1-4 p.m., July 14, Dallas Zoo, 650 South R.L. Thornton Freeway (I35-E), (214) 670-5656, www.dallas-zoo.org/home/home.asp
- Waco: July 14, Cameron Park Zoo, 1701 North 4th Street, (254) 750-8400, www.cameronparkzoo.com
- Lufkin: July 18, Ellen Trout Zoo, 402 Zoo Circle, Lufkin, Texas 75904, (936) 633-0399, www.ellentroutzoo.com
- Abilene: July 19, Abilene Zoological Gardens, 2070 Zoo Lane, Nelson Park, (325) 676-6085, www.abilenetx.com/zoo
- Lubbock: July 20, Science Spectrum, 2579 S. Loop 289 (806) 745-1216, www.sciencespectrum.com
- El Paso: July 21, Magoffin Home State Historic Site, tpwd.texas.gov/park/magoffin
- San Antonio: July 25, San Antonio Zoological Gardens and Aquarium, 3903 North St. Mary's Street, (210) 734-7184, www.sazoo-aq.org
- Brownsville: July 26, Gladys Porter Zoo, 500 Ringgold Street, (956) 546-7187, www.gpz.org
- Corpus Christi: July 27, Texas State Aquarium, 2710 North Shoreline, (800) 477-4853, www.texasstateaquarium.org
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