TPW Commission Recognizes Employee Achievement

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AUSTIN — Several Texas Parks and Wildlife Department employees were recognized at Thursday’s TPW Commission meeting by executive director Carter Smith for their outstanding work in various fields.

National Wild Turkey Federation Joe Kurz Excellence in Wildlife Management Award – Dana Wright

During her tenure in the Panhandle Wildlife District, Dana Wright has worked with numerous landowners and written wildlife management plans on close to 1 million acres, meeting the National Wild Turkey Federation’s goals of upholding hunting traditions and conserving more than 9.6 million acres of wildlife habitat. She has been on the front lines for identifying trapping locations for research and restoration efforts, trapping hundreds of turkeys for both in-state and out-of-state restoration efforts. No current biologists or technicians working for TPWD have trapped or handled as many wild turkeys. In addition, Wright provides training to TPWD staff within and outside of her district, to graduate students and to other resource agencies.

Wright has been one of only a few voices calling for the protection and restoration of degraded riparian and roosting habitat in the Rolling Plains of Texas. Her insight has helped direct research and management efforts examining roosting habitat in the Texas Panhandle and other areas of the state.

National Wild Turkey Federation 2014 Texas Wildlife Officer of the Year – Chris Swift

The “Texas Wildlife Officer of the Year” for 2014 is Chris Swift. Since 2000, the National Wild Turkey Federation has recognized game wardens from North America each year for enforcement activities related to wild turkeys. This marks the 15th year this award has been presented to a deserving Texas Game Warden.

Warden Swift graduated from the 54th Texas Game Warden Training Academy in 2009. He is currently stationed in Flint, Smith County. In the past year, Warden Swift has logged over 300 hours of marine patrol and filed over 300 cases. In addition, drawing from his 15 years as a professional goose and duck guide, warden Swift teaches waterfowl I.D. annually at our training academy. Swift is also actively involved with the NWTF, and he is a committee member for NWTF for Smith County. He also works with other games wardens to lead an annual NWTF Houston Chapter youth turkey hunt in Goliad County for underprivileged youth.

TCEQ Texas Environmental Excellence Award – Michelle Haggerty

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Texas Environmental Excellence Award honors the state’s most outstanding environmental, waste reduction and pollution prevention projects and celebrates the efforts of citizens, communities, businesses and organizations that preserve and protect the Texas environment through these projects every day. The Texas Master Naturalist Program was honored as a 2014 TEEA winner in the Civic/Community category. Accepting the award is Texas Master Naturalist Program Coordinator Michelle Haggerty, who has headed the program for the past 16 years.

Since 1997, the Texas Master Naturalist program has grown to include 44 chapters and more than 9,000 volunteers serving Texas communities throughout 75 percent of the state’s counties. To date, Master Naturalists have developed or maintained more than 1,850 miles of trail, enhanced more than 207,000 acres, and dedicated more than 2.7 million hours valued at more than $61 million.

Best Paper Award from the Southern Division of the American Fisheries Society

Three TPWD Inland Fisheries employees received the John F. Dequine Best Paper Award from the Southern Division of the American Fisheries Society for their paper, Population Dynamics of Alligator Gar in Choke Canyon Reservoir, Texas: Implication for Management, published in the proceedings of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies 2014 Conference. The authors are Greg Binion (primary author; IF Management Biologist, Mathis); Dan Daugherty (IF Research Scientist, Heart of the Hills Fisheries Science Center, Ingram); and Kristopher Bodine (IF Research Scientist, Heart of the Hills Fisheries Science Center, Ingram).

2014 Sport Fish Restoration Outstanding Project Award

The Sport Fish Restoration Program is a partnership among anglers, boaters, the fishing and boating industry, state agencies and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service that uses revenue from taxing equipment such as fishing equipment, electric motors, sonar and motorboat fuel to fund activities that directly benefit anglers and ensure the tremendous sport fishing opportunities offered in the State of Texas are available for years to come. Since the program’s inception in 1952, Texas has received almost $399 million.

This year, the Outstanding Project Award goes to TPWD Inland Fisheries Division staff. Dan Bennett, Dan Daugherty, John Tibbs, Dakus Geeslin and John Botros accepted the award for their work in a 2014 study that addressed Texas’ rapid population growth and demand for water. This study demonstrated how developing technologies can be used to improve and expedite habitat assessments and demonstrated that fisheries, habitat, and recreational access differ from reservoir to reservoir and water management plans need to be specifically tailored for each reservoir.