Texas Master Naturalist Program Recognized as 2017 Harvard Ash Center Bright Idea in Government

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AUSTIN – The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, recognized the Texas Master Naturalist Program today as part of the 2017 Bright Ideas in Government initiative.

The Texas Master Naturalist (TMN) program is part of a cohort that includes programs from all levels of government — school districts, county, city, state, federal agencies and tribal nations, as well as public-private partnerships — that represent the next horizon in government work to improve services, solve problems, and work on behalf of citizens.

The TMN program was initiated statewide by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Texas A&M University AgriLife Extension Service. The program develops corps of ‘master volunteers’ who provide education, outreach, and service dedicated toward the beneficial management of natural resources and natural areas within their communities for the State of Texas.

With over 400 local, state and national partners, the TMN program continues to result in a unique master volunteer organization. Volunteers gain the Texas Master Naturalist designation after completing a 40-hour training series of combined field and classroom instruction, engaging in eight hours of approved advanced training, and providing at least 40 hours of volunteer service in their local communities.

Volunteers maintain their certification by completing an additional 40 hours of service and eight hours of advanced training annually. The most common volunteer activities include: public education programs, wildscape development and demonstrations, citizen science, species inventories, habitat management projects, and assistance in agency research studies.

Since 1998, the program has grown from four chapters and 150 volunteers to 46 chapters and more than 10,400 volunteers serving a multitude of diverse Texas communities with additional expansion taking place continually. Program volunteers have provided over 3.2 million hours of service valued at more than $75 million given back to the state since its inception.

This service has resulted in enhanced wildlife and native plant habitats on 221,200 acres, conservation education programs reaching over 2.5 million youth, adults and private landowners, and restored wildlife and habitat conservation initiatives.

“These programs demonstrate that there are no prerequisites for doing the good work of governing, small towns and massive cities, huge federal agencies and local school districts, large budgets or no budgets at all,” said Stephen Goldsmith, director of the Innovations in American Government Program at the Ash Center. “What makes government work best is the drive to do better and this group proves that drive can be found anywhere.”

This is the fifth cohort recognized through the Bright Ideas program, an initiative of the broader Innovations in American Government Awards program. For consideration as a Bright Idea, programs must currently be in operation or in the process of launching, have sufficient operational resources, and must be administered by one or more governmental entities; nonprofit, private sector, and union initiatives are eligible if operating in partnership with a governmental organization. Bright Ideas are showcased on the Ash Center’s Government Innovators Network, an online platform for practitioners and policymakers to share innovative public policy solutions.

Please visit the Government Innovators Network at http://innovations.harvard.edu  for the full list of Bright Ideas programs, and for more information regarding the Innovations in American Government Awards.