TPWD News Release — Dec. 29, 2010
Though the nation’s worst offshore oil spill didn’t happen off the Texas coast, British Petroleum’s massive blowout of the Macondo well on April 20 sent tidal waves of environmental concerns throughout the Gulf Coast region that biologist fear will be felt for years. Shortly after the blowout and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon rig that killed 11 workers and sent an estimated 10 million to 20 million barrels of crude into the gulf, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologists joined with other state natural resource agencies to collect water samples at 21 spots along the Texas coast that can be used as a baseline record in case of any future impact from the spill.
The December 2010 issue of Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine publishes two in-depth articles that explore with various experts possible long-term impacts to marine life – both Gulf wildlife and deep-water ecosystems – resulting from the Deepwater Horizon blowout.
A two-week investigation by TPWD game wardens and Internal Affairs, following an Operation Game Thief tip received in November, led to the Dec. 7 arrest in a Lake Buchanan boating death that had foiled investigators for eight years. Travis Aaron Marburger, 36, of Bertram, was charged with manslaughter in the May 3, 2002 boating death of 18-year-old Justin Wayne Roberts, who died when a speed boat slammed into the boat he and two classmates had been fishing from. The hit-and-run boat was never found, but was believed to be the damaged speed boat dug up by game wardens on Marberger’s property in rural Burnet County.
A proposal for the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department to negotiate a land deal with a private Val Verde County landowner that would include exchanging the existing Devils River State Natural Area as a partial payment toward purchasing the rancher’s larger downriver property for a new state park or natural area brought an outcry from constituents concerned about the deal and how swift it was moving along. The item was pulled from the Nov. 4 Commission agenda and a special meeting was rescheduled for Dec. 20. Commissioners authorized the acquisition of nearly 18,000 acres of biologically diverse and culturally significant land in Val Verde County with 10 miles of frontage along the pristine Devil’s River by leveraging $4 million in public dollars with more than $10 million in private donations. The donations also will cover operating expenses for two-and-a-half years, as well as development of a master plan for joint public use of the ranch and Devils River Natural Area, 12.7 miles upstream.
Two land acquisitions — one for 177 acres that included the iconic bluff known as Old Baldy and the other for an adjacent 113-acre track of ranch land contiguous to the park’s southern boundary, resulted in the expansion of popular Garner State Park to more than 1,600 acres.
2010 saw a number of notable milestones reached by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department. Sea Center Texas recorded its 1 millionth visitor, Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center accepted the 500th Sharelunker, the Texas Outdoor Family program introduced the joys of camping to its 1,000th family and Texas hit $30 million in State Wildlife Grant Funding during the 10th year of the federal program.
More than $69 million in general obligation bonds were sold to fund more than $69 million in repairs and renovations to state park infrastructure that commenced in the spring. TPWD began spending the bulk of the voter-approved Proposition 4 bond monies ($44 million) for capital repair projects at more than 40 parks. The Legislature also approved the sale of $25 million to dry berth the Battleship Texas, a portion of which went to hiring an architectural-engineering firm in October to begin planning work on the project. MESA Design Group of Dallas was hired to lead a master planning and design team to guide redevelopment of hurricane-ravaged Galveston Island State Park, and public meetings held to receive public input. TPWD conducted legislative briefing tours during the fall at Bastrop State Park and three four state parks to showcase improvements taking to upgrade bathrooms, campsites, cabins, water and wastewater facilities, and make more facilities compliant with the American Disabilities Act.
State Parks Director Walt Dabney retired after guiding the division through rocky waters for 11 years and was replaced with state park veteran Brent Leisure, who took over command in August. Internal hires also filled empty director slots in the Inland Fisheries Division (Gary Saul) and Coastal Fisheries Division (Robin Reichers).
The long-awaited first phase of the state-of-the-art Texas Game Warden Training Academy, located on a 220-acre tract near Star in rural Hamilton County, was dedicated on May 12. And, in far western Kerr County, the 8,000 square-foot Lee and Ramona Bass Conference Center was unveiled three months later at the Kerr Wildlife Management Area.
TPWD decided to take its suspended annual Austin-based Texas Parks and Wildlife Expo and debut its new Life’s Better Outside® Experience as part of the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo in February. The new event, which introduces people of all ages to fishing, archery, birding, rock climbing, camping and other outdoor-type experiences, also hit the road to Houston, Corpus Christi and Longview.
A father and son in Hunt County who illegally transported white-tailed deer across state lines received 30- and 27-month sentences respectively, were forced to pay restitution and are serving their sentences in a federal prison. TPWD worked with three other agencies for four years to put together the case of transporting stolen property and wildlife trafficking against James Dwayne Anderton, 49, and Jimmie Wallace Anderton, 26, both of Quinlan. The illegally transported deer had to be euthanized in December to insure they did not carry the deadly Chronic Wasting Disease.
Two new paddling trail systems in and around Martin Dies Jr. State Park dedicated on Dec. 16 became the latest entries into the ever-expanding Texas Paddling Trails system. The Texas Paddling Trails program, which began in 1998, helps promote habitat conservation through sustainable economic development, while providing additional recreational opportunities to the public.
In November, TPWD learned that Big Bend Ranch State Park’s Fresno – Saucedo Loop Trail had been designated an “Epic” ride by the International Mountain Biking Association. The state park’s Epic ride trail, one of only two such trails in the southwestern Unites States and less than 50 Epics in the U.S. and Canada, puts the Fresno – Saucedo Trail in elite company and is sure to draw a host of mountain bikers to the far West Texas wilderness park.