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Ribbon-cuttings, Site Tours Mark West Texas Wildlife Trail Opening
AUSTIN – Local dignitaries, conservationists and wildlife-watchers will gather at three sites on the new Far West Texas Wildlife Trail the first week in June to celebrate the opening of the ninth and final wildlife-viewing trail in the statewide wildlife trail system that was launched 15 years ago to bolster Texas nature tourism.
Official dedications –- featuring ribbon-cuttings, expert wildlife presentations and naturalist-guided tours of some of the trail’s prime wildlife-viewing spots – are scheduled for June 2 at Davis Mountains State Park in Fort Davis, June 3 at Monahans Sandhills State Park and June 4 at Keystone Heritage Park in El Paso. Trail launch events coincide with National Trails Day, Saturday, June 4.
The final addition to the Great Texas Wildlife Trail system spans the vast reaches of West Texas – from El Paso to the Permian Basin to the Big Bend – and features 10 driving loops and 57 sites. Sites located along the 940-mile circuitous route highlight the region’s tallest mountains, grandest rivers, starriest skies, vast sand dunes, sprawling desert and an encyclopedic roster of much of the state’s most noteworthy flora and fauna.
The Great Texas Wildlife Trails system, which encompasses 953 sites along the state’s highways and byways, stands alone as the nation’s grandfather of wildlife trails. The Central Coast section of the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail, developed in 1995, was the state’s and nation’s first wildlife trail. Following Texas’ lead, more than 40 states now have wildlife trails.
Nature tourism in Texas is big business. Wildlife viewing in Texas attracts more than 4 million participants, generates $2.9 billion in expenditures and has an economic impact of $5.1 billion, according to a 2006 U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service national survey of fishing, hunting, and wildlife-associated recreation.
For the Far West Texas Wildlife Trail, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department joined with the non-profit Texas Mountain Trail and Texas Pecos Trail regions, both part of the Texas Historical Commission’s Texas Heritage Trails Program, to solicit nominations from West Texas cities and towns for wildlife-viewing and birding locations and to help fund the trail map, roadside signs and other ancillary products.
“West Texas is a huge area still somewhat unfamiliar to many travelers who don’t know where to go to see the best of what the region offers,” says TPWD nature tourism manager Shelly Plante. “The trail map puts all of West Texas’ cultural and natural resources at your fingertips.”
The 27 x 36-inch color map points the way to such West Texas landmarks as the Franklin and Guadalupe mountains, Big Bend National Park, Indian Lodge, the McDonald Observatory, Hueco Tanks State Park, Wyler Aerial Tramway and Chinati Hot Springs. Each Far West Texas Wildlife Trail roadside site is marked by the trail’s brown sign sporting the outline of a scaled quail.
Travelers can refer to the map to find out which sites charge a fee and which are open daily and allow camping, are day-use only or require calling ahead of time to visit. Each site listing provides a synopsis of best spots to view indigenous and migratory bird species, as well as West Texas critters such as horned lizards, roadrunners, bighorn sheep, mule deer, bobcat and the occasional mountain lion.
To celebrate the completion of Texas’ final wildlife trail’s completion, all state parks and Texas Department of Transportation travel information centers are offering to visitors free full-color trail maps of their region while supplies last. For more information, visit the Great Texas Wildlife Trails website.
Details of the June Far West Texas Wildlife Trail launch events follow:
WHO: Texas Mountain Trail Region and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
WHERE: Fort Davis, Indian Lodge, Davis Mountains State Park
WHEN: Thursday, June 2, 8 a.m. bird walk (led by Carol Edwards and members of the Tierra Grande Chapter of Texas Master Naturalists) followed by a 10 a.m. party and ribbon-cutting to launch the Far West Texas Wildlife Trail
WHAT: The 10 a.m. program will include Far West Texas Wildlife Trail and National Trails Day giveaways, presentation of two Texas Mountain Trail "Hospitality Heroes" award winners — Barrett Durst and the staff of Big Bend Ranch State Park for their care of park visitors during record cold temperatures this winter — and the Marfa Public Radio staff for their life-saving coverage of recent wildfires. Light breakfast snacks will be served. Park admission fees will be waived for all participants and free maps will be given to all attendees. There will be information tables for attendees to get more information about the wildlife trail sites and sponsors. Event assistance will be provided by Friends of Davis Mountains State Park and Tierra Grande Chapter of Texas Master Naturalists.
WHO: Texas Pecos Trail Region and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
WHERE: Monahans, Monahans Sandhills State Park (Dunagan Visitor Center)
WHEN: June 3, 9:30 a.m. event, followed by 10 a.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony
WHAT: The program will begin with a light breakfast at 9:30 a.m, followed by a 10 a.m. welcoming and ribbon-cutting to launch the Far West Texas Wildlife Trail map. David Dotter of the Monahans Sandhills State Park will give a short presentation. The nature trail, located adjacent to the visitor center, will be open for guests, birdwatchers and media to tour immediately following the ceremonies. TPWD biologist Mark Lockwood will be leading an interpretive nature hike for attendees. Far West Texas Wildlife Trail and National Trails Day giveaways, as well as free Far West Texas Wildlife Trail maps, will be distributed. There will be information tables for attendees to get more information about the wildlife trail sites and sponsors. There is no admission fee to attend the event and park admission is being waived for event attendees. Refreshments and ribbon-cutting are sponsored by the Monahans Chamber of Commerce.
WHO: Texas Mountain Trail Region and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
WHERE: El Paso, Keystone Heritage Park, 4220 Doniphan, El Paso, TX 79922
WHEN: June 4, 9:45 a.m. event begins
WHAT: The program begins at 10 a.m. and will include Far West Texas Wildlife Trail and National Trails Day giveaways, ribbon-cutting and presentations. Light trail snacks will be served. Park admission fees will be waived for all participants, and free Far West Texas Wildlife Trail maps will be given to all attendees. There will be information tables for attendees to get more information about the wildlife trail sites and sponsors. Event assistance will be provided by El Paso/Trans-Pecos Audubon Society members who will be staffing the viewing stand for birding activities before and during the event.
Note to Media: For more information about any of these three events, please contact one of the three trail partners: Shelly Plante, TPWD Nature Tourism manager at 512-241-9163 or firstname.lastname@example.org; Beth Nobles, Texas Mountain Trail executive director at 432-284-0002 or email@example.com; or Scott Jordan, Texas Pecos Trail executive director at 325.387.3900 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo Editors: For j-peg images of the new West Texas graphics, scenics and maps of the trail, please visit: http://tpwd.texas.gov/newsmedia/news_images/?g=far_west_texas_wildlife_trail
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