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|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2017-05-19                                    |
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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ]
May 19, 2017
National Safe Boating Week Reminds Texans to Stay Safe on the Water
AUSTIN -- In 2016, there were more than 35 boating fatalities and hundreds of boat accidents and injuries on Texas waters. As part of National Safe Boating Week May 20-26, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department boater education and law enforcement staff are reminding Texans to be safe Memorial Day weekend and all summer long by following the law and taking basic safety precautions while on the water.
One of the main concerns during Memorial Day weekend and throughout the boating season is the dangerous and illegal consumption of alcohol by drivers on the road and on the water. Last year, Texas game wardens arrested 155 people who were operating a boat with a blood alcohol concentration above 0.08 percent, an offense that can lead to fines and the loss of license, not to mention the increased risk of accidents or fatalities on the water.
"Drinking and boating do not mix," said Cody Jones, TPWD Assistant Commander for Marine Enforcement. "Not only is it the law, refraining from drinking alcohol while operating a vessel could save your life and the life of your loved ones."
While boating accidents can be caused by a variety of circumstances, including drinking while boating, surviving an accident on the water boils down to one important precaution: wearing a lifejacket. U.S. Coast Guard statistics show that drowning was the reported cause of death in three- fourths of recreational boating fatalities in 2015, and that 85 percent of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets.
"Life jackets are important and they save lives - bottom line," said Tim Spice, TPWD Boater Education Manager. "If you are uncomfortable around the water you should have a life jacket on, and if you're under 13 it's required by law."
State law requires that a personal floatation device is available for each occupant of the boat, but only children under 13 years of age are mandated by the law to wear one while the boat or paddle craft is underway or drifting. Despite this law, last year in Texas more than 560 citations were issued for children not wearing a life jacket.
Basic boating safety precautions like avoiding alcohol and wearing a lifejacket extend to the smallest of vessels, too. As participation grows among paddlesports like kayaking, canoeing and stand-up-paddleboarding; accidents, fatalities and injuries involving them are growing as well. In 2016, Texas had 11 paddle craft fatalities, making up 31.4 percent of all boating fatalities for the year.
"It's so easy to get in a paddle craft now - people are going out and having fun but they don't know a lot about the boat they are operating," Spice said. "We recommend any new paddlers take a safety class before hitting the water, and to never paddle alone."
Paddlers can find a free online safety course on the TPWD website, and for larger vessels, anyone born on or after Sept. 1, 1993, must complete a boater education course to operate a personal watercraft or a boat with a 15 horsepower rating or more. Boater education courses are regularly offered in many locations around the state, or boaters can find a selection of online boater courses that can be taken anytime.
In addition to avoiding alcohol, wearing a lifejacket and taking a safety course, Spice said all boaters can be safer on the water by checking the weather, using an ignition safety switch and learning to swim. Most personal water craft and powerboats are equipped with an ignition safety switch, and the American Red Cross offers swimming lessons by certified instructors across the state.
Additional Resources
Safety requirements for operating a boat can be found here.
Click here for information on taking a boater's education course.
Video is also available online at TPWD's water safety page. "Never Happens" features the true stories of water tragedies told by teen witnesses and survivors, and "Beautiful but Gone" tells the story of boating and swimming-related accidents from the parents of teens featured in "Never Happens."
For information about Texas boating laws and requirements, visit TPWD's boating laws Web page.
Download the USCG's boating safety mobile app here.
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[ Editors: Images associated with this news release are available on the TPWD Web site (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/newsmedia/news_images/). ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ]
May 19, 2017
Texas Game Wardens Crack Down on Illegal Internet Wildlife Trade in Houston Area
HOUSTON - Trading on the internet can be a wild experience with deals on practically anything and everything one can imagine just a click away. Some online sellers in the Houston area learned this week that illegal sales of wildlife products can become high ticket items.
Texas game wardens made multiple criminal cases this week against individuals attempting to sell online various threatened and protected wildlife species, as well as state and federally regulated natural resources. Navigating through internet forums and online marketplaces where trade in both live wildlife and wildlife parts are known to occur, wardens were able to negotiate undercover transactions with willing sellers to purchase things like a 100-pound alligator snapping turtle and a timber rattlesnake, both threatened species in Texas, as well as live alligators, illegal Gulf shrimp and raptor parts.
"Our focus was on identifying subjects attempting to sell or trade protected, prohibited, invasive, threatened or endangered species and setting up undercover buys as the enforcement strategy," said Game Warden Maj. Chris Davis, whose Criminal Investigation Division coordinated the covert operation with Houston area wardens. "The illegal sale and exploitation of wildlife resources is a global problem that has a direct negative effect on the State of Texas and could lead to the loss of Texas native species, either through the harvest of native species or introduction of non-indigenous invasive species."
During the four day operation, game wardens made multiple cases, including seizures of illegally obtained and possessed wildlife. Appropriate citations were issued and live native species were released back into their natural habitat. Citations included charges for sale and possession of threatened species, sale of migratory duck parts, sale of live American alligators, Illegal sale of aquatic product (Gulf shrimp), no retail / truck dealer's license, and failure to possess non-game dealer permit. All citations issued were class C misdemeanor violations punishable by fine from $25 -- $500.
Federal laws regulating the sale of wildlife include the Migratory Bird Treaty Act; the Endangered Species Act (which bans the interstate or international sell of listed species and most products made from them); and the Marine Mammal Protection Act (which limits the sale of most marine mammal parts and products, other than those crafted by Native Alaskans).
Additional covert wild web operations are being considered elsewhere around the state, however, the public is urged to help augment game warden efforts by notifying Operation Game Thief at 800-792-GAME about possible illegal online wildlife trade activity or contact your local game warden office. A list of game warden offices can be found on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department web site.
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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ]
May 19, 2017
Dixon Water Foundation Receives 2017 Leopold Conservation AwardŽ for Texas
AUSTIN - The state's top land conservation award typically goes to a private ranch, but this year the honoree is a North Texas-based nonprofit which manages not one, but six different ranches, all of them devoted to demonstrating how good land management using cattle grazing can lead to more and better water for people and wildlife.
Founded in 1994 by the late Roger Dixon, the Dixon Water Foundation promotes healthy watersheds and sequestration of carbon through regenerative land management to ensure that present and future generations of Texans have the water resources they need. In 2005, the foundation acquired the Bear Creek Ranch in Parker County west of Fort Worth. In 2008, they went west to try their approach in drier soils, acquiring the Mimms Ranch near Marfa. Today the foundation operates six ranches totaling 21,960 acres. Each one utilizes a high intensity/low duration holistic grazing system which mimics the natural effect of large herds of bison which used to migrate through Texas.
On May 18, the foundation received $10,000 along with a Leopold Conservation Award crystal at the 22ndLone Star Land Steward Awards dinner in Austin. This award is given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, and conferred each year by Sand County Foundation, a nonprofit organization devoted to private land conservation, in partnership with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. In Texas, the Leopold Conservation Award program is sponsored by the Lee and Ramona Bass Foundation.
Since 1996, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has hosted the Lone Star Land Steward Awards to recognize private landowners for habitat management and wildlife conservation. In addition to the statewide Leopold award, multiple eco-region recipients are acknowledged in various parts of the state.
A primary purpose of the award is to elevate outstanding landowners who can serve as a positive example to other ranchers and landowners, and to demonstrate how good land management practices can be both profitable and ecologically sustainable.
"Even though they're a nonprofit, the Dixon Water Foundation always makes management decisions with the bottom line in mind," said Justin Dreibelbis, who leads TPWD's private lands conservation efforts. "If their ranches don't pay for themselves, the demonstration won't apply to other landowners."
And the foundation has demonstrated decades of results, using only one tool: cattle.
"The only tool that we use is cattle, because that's the tool that's on the landscape; that's what most landowners across Texas are using," said Robert Potts, foundation president. "If you're ranching for the long-term, this is the way to build the wealth in the land. This is going to be a much more profitable way, we believe, to run a ranch. Because you're not mining the soil, you're building the soil. That makes it more resilient during drought, and makes it more productive when you do get rain."
Alongside its cattle enterprise, the foundation is committed to education, outreach and community service, and its list of these credits goes on and on for pages in the award nomination form. For example, Mimms Ranch serves as an outdoor classroom for K-8 students at Marfa International School. Students study sustainable land management, water quality, soil health, desert plants and animals, and other topics through hands-on activities at the ranch. Similarly, more than 1,200 students from Aledo I.S.D. west of Fort Worth complete field labs at Bear Creek Ranch. From studying how wildlife rebound after drought to pronghorn restoration, the foundation also hosts research projects on its properties in partnership with multiple colleges and universities.
Ultimately, it all comes back to water, which the foundation views as the single most important resource for Texas' future.
"Lots of people worry about how much rain falls," Potts said, "but what really matters is how much rain gets in the ground. That's the rain you can use. The rain that runs off, that creates flash floods, that erodes creek banks, that silts up reservoirs -- that doesn't do you any good."
"What's easy to happen in these drier environments is that you lose the ground cover, and when that happens you end up with bare ground, and when you have bare ground it's like not having skin on the earth," Potts explained. "So we've been really pleased that we've been able to bring back a lot of the native cover with low grasses like curly mesquite interspersed with bunch grasses like blue gramma."
"By owning these ranches and being able to raise and sell cattle and support the economics of the enterprise, we're also able to build wealth in the soil. We're able to build micro-life in the soil, sequester carbon in the soil, create healthier forage, and then that pays dividends over a long period of time."
High resolution PHOTOS of the Dixon Water Foundation and all other award recipients receiving award plaques at the May 18 awards ceremony can be viewed and downloaded on TPWD's Flickr photostream. This page also includes a folder with field photography of Dixon Water Foundation ranches.
High definition VIDEOS of Dixon Water Foundation ranches and all other award recipient ranches is on the department's official YouTube Channel.
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