|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2004-02-17                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than 13 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [SL]
Feb. 17, 2004
TPWD Surveys Show Solid Stocks of Redfish, Trout
AUSTIN, Texas –The Coastal Fisheries Division of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has released the results of annual coastwide gill net surveys and the news is good for saltwater anglers.
"It was a great way to welcome me onboard," stated Larry McKinney, Ph.D., the newly named head of the division. "What caught my eye was the continued rise in redfish numbers, some of the highest since 1998," he continued, "and spotted seatrout numbers, which have been high, continue to hold at those levels."
The gill net surveys, while just one element of a comprehensive coastal fisheries monitoring program in Texas, nevertheless provide valuable insight into the health of Texas' important recreational fish stocks and several commercial fisheries, including blue crab and flounder.
McKinney said the news is positive for the two stars of Texas' saltwater: red drum and spotted seatrout. Often referred to as "specks," spotted seatrout have enjoyed an upward trend from the early 90s. While the numbers did not continue to increase this year, they seem to be holding steady at that high level. Redfish continue a steady upward trend, approaching numbers not seen since the mid-90s, all of which is good news for saltwater anglers, McKinney said.
For several of the commercial fisheries that can be tracked by gill net surveys the news is also good, but with a caution. Atlantic croaker, an important recreational baitfish, continues to hold steady at levels seen during the last several years, an improvement from more erratic trends of the past. The most positive finding confirms what many anglers have been seeing as they wade the shallow bay waters: blue crabs are on the increase. Crab numbers have jumped from an all time low in 2000 to levels not seen since 1992. The news for flounder is also encouraging, as the downward and alarming trend in population numbers seems to have bottomed out, even though flounder remain a concern to fisheries biologists.
"What it tells me," noted McKinney "is that the comprehensive shrimping regulations adopted by the Parks and Wildlife Commission in August of 2000 are working. Combined with limited entry programs for commercial fisheries, crab trap removal and continued efforts to assure freshwater inflows, good water quality and sufficient habitat, we are headed in the right direction," he concluded.
Barring any unforeseen event, TPWD biologists believe saltwater anglers can look forward to very promising fishing this coming spring and summer. That is also good news for the coastal economy as saltwater anglers, who number roughly 860,000, annually pump nearly $2 billion into coastal communities. The prospect for growth is bright, as the number of saltwater anglers has seen a steady increase during the last several years. "There are many ways to analyze this information and all of it is positive," concluded McKinney, "but the bottom line is simple for me and hopefully for other Texans as well – its time to go fishing."
For more information, visit the Web (http://tpwd.texas.gov/fishboat/).

[ Note: This item is more than 13 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [RM]
Feb. 17, 2004
New 'Texas State Parks Pass' Provides Free Entry, Many Extras
AUSTIN, Texas-- Visitors heading to Texas state parks this spring will be greeted upon arrival with posters and park employees sporting lapel buttons that read: "All the Parks. Extra Perks" designed to call attention to a new annual parks pass.
The new Texas State Parks Pass provides free entry to all 120 state parks and historic sites for members and their guests, camping discounts and other benefits for a year.
The new parks pass, which sells for $60, went on sale at state parks and historic sites Jan. 1. TPWD reports that more than 3,304 park passes were sold in January, generating more than $200,000 for state parks' coffers. Annual sales of the new parks pass are projected to contribute a minimum of $3 million to state park operations.
"The per-person, per-day cost of coming into parks varies from $2 to $5 a person, so it doesn't take you very long or very many trips to pay for the pass," said Walt Dabney, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department state parks director. "All of the money from sales goes to help operate the state parks and further conservation in Texas. It also helps us maintain our parks so that the safe, quality experience visitors have come to expect when they visit state parks is perpetuated."
Similar in appearance to a credit card, the new annual pass retails for $60 for one wallet-sized pass card. Families who often visit state parks and arrive at different times or in more than one vehicle may opt to make a same-day purchase of a two-card pass package for $75.
The new annual pass was designed to be easier to use and to provide greater value to park users than the previous annual parks pass. Some of the Texas State Parks Pass' "extra perks" include:
--Discounts for camping, state park store merchandise, recreational equipment rentals and more.
--The Getaway Planner, a quarterly e-newsletter customized to the cardholder's areas of interest, such as mountain biking, hiking and horseback riding.
--25 percent discount off the regular subscription price for Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine; (current subscribers received $10 off the new parks pass).
--Free copy of the Texas State Park Guide.
--An "I Belong in State Parks" decorative decal for pass members.
The new parks pass replaces the gold Texas Conservation Passport, the sales of which were discontinued on Dec. 31. TCPs will still be honored a year from purchase through Dec. 31, 2004. Current TCP holders retain all prior benefits, with the exception of the printed Texas Passport Journal, which has been discontinued. The approximately 48,000 TCP holders will receive a $10 discount off their first Texas State Parks Pass purchase and are eligible to register to receive the customized, e-newsletter.
Parks director Dabney says the new parks pass not only represents a great value for the money, but also addresses concerns expressed by TCP-holders, supports parks directly and builds customer loyalty. He noted that the new pass, unlike the TCP, allows pass members and their guests not only to get into historic sites for free, but also allows them to tour the sites' featured attractions at no cost. "The new Texas State Parks Pass is more user-friendly and a better all-around value for state park users."
The Texas State Parks Pass can be purchased at all 120 Texas state parks and historic sites and through TPWD's Customer Contact Center at (512) 389-8900.
Pass purchasers initially will receive a temporary wallet card that will be replaced within 30-45 days by a plastic card bearing the purchaser's name. Customized cards will be mailed in a special package that includes six discount coupons for camping, a Texas State Park Guide, a decorative decal and information on how to sign up for the "Getaway Planner" e-newsletter.
The new state parks pass is the result of more than a year of planning and development by working teams composed of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department staff and members of the private sector representing business, tourism and outdoor recreation interests. Seven Texas Parks and Wildlife commissioners, including Chairman Joseph Fitzsimons, were among the early purchasers of the new annual pass.
For more information, visit the TPWD Web site: (http://tpwd.texas.gov/parkpass/) or call (800) 792-1112.

[ Note: This item is more than 13 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [KE]
Feb. 17, 2004
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, TPWD Conduct Waterfowl Enforcement
AUSTIN, Texas -- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) special agents and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) game wardens worked cooperatively to address waterfowl hunting violations in Colorado, Wharton and Calhoun counties during the regular 2003 and 2004 waterfowl seasons.
Service agents and TPWD wardens documented 157 federal and state wildlife violations during the waterfowl season. The fines and restitution resulting from these cases totaled around $50,000. The types of violations included taking waterfowl over the daily limit, failure to properly tag waterfowl, possession of toxic (lead) shot shells while hunting waterfowl, hunting waterfowl without state licenses and/or federal waterfowl hunting stamps, unlawfully hunting waterfowl with electronic waterfowl calls, hunting waterfowl after legal hunting hours and, placing and hunting waterfowl over bait.
One significant investigation involved a commercial waterfowl guide service in Colorado County that was found to be in violation of Federal waterfowl baiting regulations. The investigation revealed that a member of the company intentionally planted and manipulated an agriculture crop for the purposes of luring waterfowl for hunting. Service agents and TPWD game wardens apprehended an employee and clients of the guide service hunting waterfowl on the baited field. The guide service paid $9,950 to the Federal Central Violations Bureau for violating baiting provisions of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Another significant investigation by TPWD game wardens and service agents involved six waterfowl hunters who were accused of taking a significant number of pintail and redhead ducks over their daily bag limits in Calhoun County. The justice court has accessed fines of $2,400 and hunters will face civil restitution to the State of Texas totaling $3,440.
Colorado and Wharton counties consistently have the highest waterfowl harvest rates in the State of Texas. These counties also have a significant number of commercial waterfowl guides operating in them. The State of Texas hosts approximately 500,000 migratory bird hunters annually.
The joint enforcement efforts of the Service and TPWD were successful in addressing waterfowl hunting violations during the 2003 and 2004 hunting seasons.
"This type of cooperation between the USFWS and TPWD law enforcement divisions will ensure that waterfowl enforcement is as effective as possible in protecting this valuable resource during the fall and winter migrations to our state, said Col. James Stinebaugh, the director of law enforcement at TPWD. "The cooperation between our two agencies is an invaluable asset to our efforts to preserve our nation's waterfowl."

[ Note: This item is more than 13 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [SA]
Feb. 17, 2004
TPWD Employee Recalls Lost History with 'Buffalo Soldiers'
AUSTIN, Texas – The gray warehouse is easily overlooked in between the industrial buildings just outside of downtown Austin. Only a tiny Texas Parks and Wildlife Department seal on the glass door hints at the library of artifacts inside.
Step inside, and you may relearn history.
"Up until 1990, I didn't know anything about Buffalo Soldiers," said Ken Pollard, TPWD outreach coordinator. "A lot of black history focused on slavery, picking cotton, slaughtering hogs. When you hear about the Buffalo Soldiers, a lot of folks get excited. It's a new story, and it's an uplifting story."
With work from volunteers and re-enactors like Pollard, Texans are remembering the African American regiments that helped shape the Texas frontier following the Civil War. American Indians reportedly dubbed these troops "Buffalo Soldiers" in reference to the resemblance of their curly hair to the hair of the buffalo, the sacred mane and their fighting spirit.
The Buffalo Soldiers' living history program travels across Texas each year to historic fort sites, rodeos and schools. The educational mission has expanded beyond the Buffalo Soldiers story since TPWD started the program. Texas youth learn about their diverse history, from the all-black regiments, the life of hard-working frontier women, the American Indians and Mexicans in Texas and how the land impacted the people.
Now, the story of the military that helped shape Texas is becoming better known. The 76th Legislature designated July "Texas Buffalo Soldiers Heritage Month." Since its inception 12 years ago, the program has reached more than 1 million Texans. It wouldn't have been possible without the hours of work from more than 50 organizations, 600 volunteers, and a small but dedicated TPWD team led by Pollard.
Tucked back behind Buffalo Soldier memorabilia and artifacts, Pollard's office is easy to find, with country music straining from a radio and the posters, thank-you letters and certificates of appreciation from schools. Visitors will probably find Pollard talking on the phone to a principal or teacher, or scanning the bursting schedule of events he's planning for the upcoming year.
As he talks about the history of Texas, it's hard to imagine Pollard only found out about Buffalo Soldiers and other frontier residents a little more than a decade ago. It's the latest stop in his nearly 25-year career with TPWD.
Growing up in Lampasas in the 60s, Pollard watched animal shows like Flipper and Sea Hunt and Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. He wanted to be a park ranger, but didn't know there were any in Texas.
"If you did go to a park, you had a black section, and a white section," he says. His family never really visited state parks. When he was a cadet with the Waco Police Department, however, he learned about the TPWD game warden academy and applied. He says the management was eager to hire him as the first African American game warden in Texas, but there was just one problem with the prospective graduation date: his 21st birthday. "I still wouldn't have been able to carry a gun for a couple of months," he says.
Instead of going into law enforcement, he came to the parks division to become the ranger he dreamed of being as a kid. After a few years at Lake Whitney and Mother Neff state parks, he left to complete his degree in Industrial Maintenance at Texas State Technical Institute.
In the 80s, Pollard had the distinction of becoming the first African American regional supervisor for the TPWD state parks division. It was Pollard's post as maintenance supervisor in Abilene that would lead him to the Buffalo Soldiers. He met with the "Soldiers in Blue Committee," a volunteer group in Abilene dedicated to retelling the story of Buffalo Soldiers.
They started with nine uniforms of blue wool. Now the props and supplies to take children on camping trips or exploring reconstructed soldier campsites fill up a warehouse.
On a cold day between phone calls and packing for an upcoming event, Pollard walks around a room as big as a school gymnasium, pointing out camping gear, buffalo hides, cowhides, period costumes and more. He pulls a doll from a chest; the top is white fabric with a simple dress attached. He flips the skirt inside out to reveal a different pattern of fabric -- the bottom becomes another doll.
"You'd love to get this for Christmas because you'd be getting two for one," he says. Toys, dresses, musical instruments and even a row of stuffed wild animals fill the warehouse. The Buffalo Soldier program tries to be as authentic as possible, down to the surrounding snakes or raccoons.
"The military was camped out, just like you'd go camping today," Pollard says. "You'd have these critters around you." At reenactments and shows, the Buffalo Soldiers set out native Texas wildlife either bought independently or borrowed from area game wardens. The animals, confiscated from poachers, become educational exhibits for children.
"Just seeing an armadillo on his legs rather than legs up, that's unique," Pollard says. "The kids see a lot of these things on the Discovery Channel, but what opportunity do they have to see them up close? When we're saying living history, it becomes that."
Authenticity extends to the food as well. "We'd look pretty funny in an 1800s-period uniform with a McDonald's hamburger," Pollard says. With Dutch ovens and campfires the re-enactors cook dishes of cultural or regional value like egg rolls, menudo, steak, deer and frog legs.
Pollard and others have worked hard to create the strong program today. Because of recognition from the Legislature, he knows the Buffalo Soldiers will be a permanent fixture. "After we're gone, it will live on," he says.
But that doesn't mean he's ready to call it a day yet – there's still a lot of forgotten Texas history to be remembered. "I'm still having fun -- I'm in no rush."
Following are some upcoming events for the Buffalo Soldiers program.
--All throughout February, visitors can learn more about the Texas Buffalo Soldiers through Black History Month programs at the following venues: the Red River Valley Museum in Vernon; the National Cowboys of Color museum in Fort Worth; and Fort McKavett State Historic Site. Call the local site staff for dates and details.
--Feb. 28, the Bob Bullock State History Museum will host Ken Pollard with the Buffalo Soldiers in a historical talk in conjunction with the new Texas Flags exhibit. From 1-3 p.m., visitors can learn about the Civil War, African American regiments and life aboard the Battleship Texas during World War II. At 2 p.m., Pollard will read from Clinton Cox's book, The Forgotten Heroes: the Story of the Buffalo Soldiers.
--March 26–27, students and visitors to Fort McKavett State Historic Site's West Texas Heritage Day will be able to watch re-enactments including period baseball, cannon firings and cavalry drills.
For more information about the Buffalo Soldiers program, history, and more upcoming events, contact Ken Pollard at (512) 389-8569 or visit the Web site at (http://tpwd.texas.gov/learning/community_outreach_programs/buffalo_soldiers/).

[ Note: This item is more than 13 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [RM]
Feb. 17, 2004
Free Two-day Celebration at Washington-on-the-Brazos
WASHINGTON, Texas -- The 168th anniversary of the signing of the Texas Declaration of Independence will be celebrated Feb. 28-29 at Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site during the annual Texas Independence Day Celebration.
Attended by thousands each year, this free two-day celebration brings to life the Republic era of Texas, 1836-1846. The festival is held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days inside the state park.
Visitors will be immersed in the Republic of Texas period through an expanded number of historic re-enactors, period craft demonstrators, musical performers and a black powder gun salute by the Texas Army. An audience-participatory play, "The Convention of 1836," will premiere at Independence Hall, detailing the events of the signing of the Texas Declaration of Independence.
The original handwritten Texas Declaration of Independence on loan from the Texas State Archives and sponsored by First National Bank of Bryan, will be on display at the Star of the Republic Museum. Texas Heroes, a renowned dramatic group, will bring to life notable Texas characters. "Gone to Texas," a foot-stomping musical will be performed in the Star of the Republic Museum's theater. The museum will also unveil a new video production "Once a Nation."
At 2 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 29, Houston TV personality Ron Stone will be the master of ceremonies in a program honoring the heroic Texas pioneers who drafted and signed the Texas Declaration of Independence on March 2, 1836. The keynote speaker will be U.S. Rep. John Carter (R-Round Rock).
A special dramatic presentation featuring 'Sam Houston' will be presented as part of the Sunday ceremonies. The Texas A&M Century Singers, the award winning Blinn College band and the No Foolin' String Band will provide musical entertainment. Musician KR Woods will also be performing. The celebration will include a Texas-sized birthday cake for all to enjoy.
Visitors to Washington-on-the-Brazos can tour Independence Hall, explore the Star of the Republic Museum, and experience life on an 1850's farm while visiting Barrington Living History Farm. A variety of regional food vendors will be on site. All admission fees are waived for the event.
Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site is located halfway between Brenham and Navasota on State Hwy. 105, approximately one hour northwest of Houston. Directions and more information are available online (http://www.BirthplaceofTexas.com) or by calling (936)-878-2214 ext. 237 or ext. 224.

[ Note: This item is more than 13 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [KE]
Feb. 17, 2004
Stay Tuned
Information from Texas Parks and Wildlife is available on radio and television, as well as the newsstand.
Passport to Texas, TPWD's radio series of weekday, 90-second stories is broadcast on about 100 Texas stations. Airing the week of Feb. 16-20, going fishing is a whole lot easier with a free program designed to provide you with all of the supplies you need to cast a line. Plus, a major facelift is happening at one state historic site.
For more information, visit the Web (http://www.passporttotexas.org/).
Video News
TPWD provides video news reports that run in newscasts on numerous Texas stations, as well as on cable and satellite outlets around the nation. This month's stories include: the story of the Buffalo Soldiers, African Americans who helped tame the American west, is now being told in schools across Texas; romantic destinations at state parks and historic sites for Valentine's Day or any other day; TPWD's game warden academy is seeking Spanish-speaking cadets; and this March 2, celebrate Texas Independence Day by taking a trip down the Texas Independence Trail.
"Texas Parks & Wildlife" is a weekly half-hour television series seen on PBS affiliates around the state. Stories airing the week of Feb. 15-22, Houston's vital and vibrant urban parkland; Seminole Canyon; finding fishing regulations; the Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle; and a Guadalupe River morning.
For more information about this week's programs and where they can be viewed, visit the Web (http://tpwd.texas.gov/tv).
In the February issue of Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine, Lee Leschper takes readers spring turkey hunting in the Panhandle and John Jefferson recalls fishing the white bass run in East Texas, past and present. Also read about how landowners and researchers are working together to save the bobwhite quail, and how a prescribed burn restored habitat at Lake Tawakoni State Park.
Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine is always available on newsstands throughout the state and by subscription for $19.95 a year. To subscribe, call (800) 937-9393 or order online at (http://www.tpwmagazine.com/).