|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2004-08-02                                    |
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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]
Aug. 2, 2004
Time To Apply for Drawings on Public Hunting Lands
AUSTIN, Texas -- For a quality, affordable hunting experience, few opportunities can beat the special drawings for hunts offered through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's public hunting program.
During the upcoming hunting seasons, more than 6,000 hunters will be selected through random computer drawings allowing access to some of the state's high-quality managed wildlife habitat.
Through an application process, hunters can select from among 23 different hunt categories and choose a preferred hunt date and location from 68 hunt areas stretching across the state. There's even a provision for hunting buddies to apply as a group-- in some cases four hunters can apply together on one application.
There are also some unique guided hunt opportunities on Mason Mountain Wildlife Management Area, including a 4-day hunt to coincide with the peak of the rut.
Youth-only hunt categories are available to hunters who are between the ages of 8-16 at the time of application. All hunt positions are randomly selected in a computer drawing from all correctly completed entries received by the specified deadline.
New this year, the standby hunter drawings that are held at the areas on the first day prior to the start of the hunt have been changed. Standby drawings will be held at 11 a.m. to help give the drawn standby hunters more time to set up camp prior to starting the hunt.
Matagorda Island Wildlife Management Area will hold its drawing at 8 a.m. on the mainland instead of on the island to make it easier and more convenient for the prospective hunters.
Also new this year, hunters who have been drawn in the special permit hunts will no longer be required to use a tag off their hunting license on white-tailed or mule deer that are taken. The hunters will be issued the free TPWD Legal Deer Tag at the area when they bring their harvested animal to the check station. This will allow the public hunters additional opportunity to use their license tags. The Bonus Tag that has been used in the past will no longer be sold.
Applicants are reminded that the fee for adult applicants in the public hunt drawings is $3 per adult person on the application.
The application deadline for pronghorn antelope hunts on the Rita Blanca National Grasslands north of Dalhart is Aug. 13. Bow hunters have until Aug. 20 to apply for special drawn public archery hunts. Entries for the general (gun) season deer hunts must be completed by Sept. 10.
Last year TPWD received 75,226 applications for the 6,274 positions offered in special drawn hunt categories.
Application booklets are currently being mailed to hunters who applied for hunts by Special Permit last year. The booklets will also available in August at TPWD law enforcement offices. Information about drawings for hunts by special permit as well as the Annual Public Hunting Permit with more than 200 areas and 1.2 million acres of public hunting land, and the Big Time Texas Hunts, can be found on-line at (http://tpwd.texas.gov/hunt/public_hunting/) or by calling toll free (800) 792-1112.
Since 1987, the Annual Public Hunting (APH) Permit system has provided hunters access to almost 1.2 million acres of land for hunting, fishing, camping, and other outdoor related activities on TPWD owned or leased lands. Many areas are open year-round for authorized activities. These lands also include the popular dove and small game leases. Youth younger than age 17 may access and use these lands free when accompanied by a permitted adult. The $48 Annual Public Hunting Permit is available wherever hunting and fishing licenses are sold. Permit holders receive a Public Hunting Lands Map Booklet and supplement of Public Dove and Other Small Games leases listing available areas, facilities, rules, and activity schedules.
In addition to the special drawings and hunts by APH permit, hunters have several options available from TPWD's public hunting program, including applying for several types of high-end guided hunt packages through the Big Time Texas Hunts program.
The BTTH program offers some of the finest guided hunts in the state. Proceeds from BTTH, which offers $10 applications for special drawings for the premier hunting trips, pay for additional public hunting opportunities and wildlife conservation work in Texas. Last year TPWD received 82,619 entries in the BTTH drawings.
This year's BTTH drawings offer the following hunt packages:
--Texas Grand Slam -- one winner experiences a series of four separate hunts for desert bighorn sheep, white-tailed deer, mule deer, and pronghorn antelope.
--Texas Exotic Safari -- two winners get to hunt a choice of African plains antelope species.
--Texas Whitetail Bonanza -- 10 winners receive a high-quality 3-5 day white-tailed deer hunt.
--Texas Premium Buck Hunt -- one winner gets the chance to hunt trophy white-tailed deer.
--Texas Waterfowl Adventure -- one winner receives a series of Panhandle and Coastal Prairie goose hunts and East Texas and Coastal duck hunts.
--Texas Big Time Bird Hunt -- quality quail, pheasant, dove and turkey hunts in some of the best places Texas has to offer.
--Texas Gator Hunt -- a rare experience for a 3-day alligator hunt on a State Wildlife Management Area.
All Big Time Texas Hunts packages include food, lodging and a hunting guide. Some packages, such as the Texas Grand Slam and Texas Exotic Safari provide taxidermy of harvested game. Applications for the BTTH hunts are $10 each and are available wherever hunting licenses are sold or by phone with a major credit card at (800) 895-4248. Persons must be age 18 or older to enter and may apply as many times as they like. The deadline to apply in the BTTH drawings for 2004-05 is Saturday, Nov. 6.

[ 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 ] [TH]
Aug. 2, 2004
Construction Starts on New State Park Near Weslaco
WESLACO, Texas -- Views across the restored wetlands of the World Birding Center at Estero Llano Grande State Park will be a special treat for visitors here soon. Construction began July 28 on a new 2,800-square-foot visitor center, trails, an observation deck and other amenities.
The new state park is one of three sites in the Lower Rio Grande Valley to be built and operated by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as part of the World Birding Center regional complex of facilities. The state park is made up of 148 acres, with additional conservation and recreation acreage in adjacent federal property.
A waterside observation deck offering glimpses of ducks, stilts and other water birds is a key feature of the new complex, said State Park Manager Martha Martinez.
City, state and World Birding Center officials gathered July 28 to officially break ground on the long-awaited project, which promises to add yet another attraction to a community already known for its many natural assets.
Restoring native habitat is a key element for all WBC sites, and park workers have planted 3,000 Montezuma bald cypress, sugar hackberry, Sabal palm and other native plants this year, with another 3,000 seedlings set to go in this fall around what was once a sorghum field and dry lake bed. Workers also have staked out miles of new trails, including portions that are wheelchair-accessible, to help future visitors explore.
The site is expected to be open for the public in 2005.
"This project is well worth the wait," says Martha Noell, president and CEO of the Weslaco Chamber of Commerce and a member of the WBC Community Council. "Weslaco is very supportive of nature tourism, and this is a wonderful addition to our city. Our people know that, now and in the long run, nature tourism and this project in particular are going to be really good for our town, our economy and our quality of life."
Weslaco is one of nine communities united under the World Birding Center banner. A partnership between those communities and TPWD, the WBC aims to promote its unique network of birding attractions while also working to preserve and restore habitat and educate the public about the Valley's natural assets.
Weslaco's wing of the WBC focuses on Estero Llano Grande and the unique water birds that call it home. The ribbon of lake is part of the Rio Grande floodway system, and it includes shallow wetland habitat created from former agricultural fields. Alligator Lake in the park's primitive area, named for its distinctive shape as well as its lone scaly resident, has been refilled and will soon include a viewing platform.
Park acreage includes a former 65-acre state wildlife management area already covered with typical thorn forest habitat, and it lies adjacent to a national wildlife refuge that will also be opened next year to the public via walking trails. Compatible properties around the park, including federal citrus orchards and a church camp, provide a buffer from urban activity.
"Our focus here is a wetland park," explained Martinez, who says the site features water birds not typically seen in South Texas thorny brush country or in wooded riparian areas along the Rio Grande. "The really neat thing is we've got a variety of aquatic habitats here, so we attract all different kinds of birds. We're looking forward to providing new educational opportunities for visitors and school groups."
Wildlife experts agree the park enjoys a year-round "spectacle of birds." Shorebirds, waders and waterfowl appreciate the foraging and resting habitat found here, and marsh species like bitterns, rails and songbirds use the wetland's fringe vegetation. At the end of summer, when water levels are low and temperatures high around the Valley, the park regularly attracts thousands of birds, including the threatened Wood Stork. Several coastal species, such as the Roseate Spoonbill and White Ibis, add to the colorful display.
Wooded portions of the park provide breeding habitat for an array of Valley species, including the Green Jay, Altamira Oriole, Vermilion Flycatcher, Olive Sparrow, Groove-billed Ani and Long-billed Thrasher. State lands that now are included in the park have long been managed for White-winged Dove nesting.
Estero Llano Grande also boasts the WBC's only regular presence of Red-crowned Parrots and Green Parakeets, which have colonized the Lower Rio Grande Valley from their range in northeastern Mexico.
The new metal-roofed visitor's center was designed by award-winning Lake/Flato Architects, with construction performed by SpawGlass Contractors. Visitors will approach along a raised boardwalk, shaded by a wood and steel arbor. The two-building complex, clad in clay block and cypress, will include classroom and office space, a well-stocked gift shop, and parking areas just off FM 1015 -- all set off by native plantings designed to attract birds and butterflies. Special tanks will harvest rainwater to keep these plantings healthy and green.
The covered observation deck, likewise crafted of sustainably harvested wood, will provide a tranquil spot for observation and reflection.
Noell said Weslaco, which boasts three sites on the Great Texas Birding Trail, is thrilled to expand its menu of attractions for nature tourists. The new World Birding Center site at Estero Llano Grande will give visitors yet another reason to linger in what she calls "a real green spot in the Valley."
"We can keep people busy here for several days, with not just one site, but many," says Noell. "From my point of view, it's another reason for people to stay in Weslaco at our hotels and eat in our restaurants -- because they have so much to do here."
For more information about Estero Llano Grande State Park and upcoming WBC activities, visit the WBC website (http://www.worldbirdingcenter.org/).

[ 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]
Aug. 2, 2004
Texas State Railroad Offers Kids Free Rides Through Sept. 5
RUSK, Texas -- From now through Labor Day weekend, youngsters accompanied by a paying adult can ride the historic Texas State Railroad through the Piney Woods for free.
The "Kids Ride Free" promotion that began May 29 has enjoyed a robust ridership during the summer. So far this summer, close to 8,000 youngsters have ridden free, many of them brought by grandparents seeking a fun way to entertain their grandkids.
"We had a great time," said Lynn Phillips of Temple who took her 7 and 10-year-old grandsons to ride the historic East Texas steam train. "I hadn't heard of the Texas State Railroad before and was so happy to read in the newspaper about kids getting to ride free."
The "Kids Ride Free" summer promotion, the first of its kind for the "Official Railroad of Texas," kicked off May 29 and lasts through Sept. 5. During the promotion, paying adults can treat children 12 years old and younger (as many as 5 kids per adult) to a free ride on the 123-year-old railroad operated as a state park by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Passengers board steam trains at vintage train depots in Rusk and Palestine state parks for the 50-mile, round-trip journey over 24 bridges through the hardwood creek bottoms. The trip takes 90 minutes to reach the opposite station, where visitors disembark to eat, browse the depot train stores and relax amid nature's splendor. Riders then re-board for the return trip.
Gift shops in the Rusk and Palestine Train Stations prove popular with train enthusiasts who can choose from nostalgic items such as pocket watches and engineer caps to more modern collectibles like locomotive mugs and custom magnets. Adults can keep the kids' hunger pangs at bay during the stopover with sandwiches, drinks and baked goods by Palestine's famous Eilenberger's German bakery. Soft drinks, snacks and Blue Bell ice cream are available on the train as well.
Trains run Saturdays and Sundays through Labor Day weekend and on to the end of the season, Nov. 21. Trains depart both depots at 11 a.m., arriving back at the station at 3:30 p.m.
For the second summer in a row, the railroad is operating a climate-controlled passenger coach on both the eastbound and westbound trains, according to Mark Price, the railroad's assistant superintendent. Concession operations, too, have been improved and expanded for the railroad whose annual ridership, Price said, topped 42,000 in 2003.
The TSRR is the only steam railroad in the nation that runs two steam trains simultaneously each day of operation. One train, however, is being pulled by a 1947 diesel engine because of steam locomotive refurbishment projects currently under way.
Regular seating ticket prices for adults (persons 13 and older) are $11 one way and $16 round trip. Tickets for climate-controlled cars are $15 one way and $22 round trip for adults. Ticket offices open at 9 a.m. Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling (800) 442-8951 (Texas only) or (903) 683-2561.
Steam Engine Restoration Shop tours, murder mysteries, starlight excursions and other special events are held periodically throughout the year at the Texas State Railroad. Currently, the railroad's largest and smallest vintage steam engines are undergoing refurbishing at the shop in Rusk.
Convict labor built the original railroad in 1881 to serve the state-owned East Texas Penitentiary smelter in Rusk that produced cast iron for the state's 19th century needs and helps to maintain the 32 miles of track right of way. TPWD acquired the railroad in 1972 after the rail line was abandoned by a private company, reinstating passenger service in 1976.

[ 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 ] [NT]
Aug. 2, 2004
Admiral Nimitz State Historic Site Remains Open Despite Hotel Renovations
FREDERICKSBURG, Texas -- The Nimitz Hotel museum at the Admiral Nimitz State Historic Site-National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg will be closed for renovations beginning July 31. However, all other facilities located on the campus will remain open to the public.
The main campus includes the National Museum of the Pacific War-George Bush Gallery, the Japanese Garden of Peace, the Pacific Combat Zone, the Plaza of the Presidents, the Surface Warfare Plaza, the Memorial Wall, the Veterans Walk of Honor and the Center for Pacific War Studies.
The state historic site is the only institution in the continental United States dedicated exclusively to telling the story of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz and World War II in the Asiatic -- Pacific Theater.
In addition to 30,000 square feet of indoor exhibit space, the museum boasts an impressive display of Allied and Japanese aircraft, tanks, guns and military equipment used during the Pacific War campaigns.
Exterior renovations of the hotel, originally built in the 1850s, include replacing the roof and extending the staircase to the third floor. The renovation project is expected to be completed in 18-24 months.
All exhibits inside the hotel will be replaced with more current exhibits all focusing on the life and military career of Admiral Nimitz, a Fredericksburg native. The second floor will be converted into an education center. The ballroom will be updated to host receptions and other events, and will return to its 19th century ambiance. Other renovations to the historic property will include a meeting room with seating for 55 and new audiovisual equipment.
During the renovation, the historic site's Main Street entrance will be closed and entry will be through the George Bush Gallery on Austin Street. Entrance fees are $5 for adults, $3 for students, and free for children 12 and younger. Visitors who have a Texas State Parks Pass can get in free. The buildings are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. The grounds are open from 8:15 a.m. to 5 p.m.
About 100,000 people visit this historic site each year. Visitors come from all over the world in including Europe, Japan and China.
For more information please call (830) 997-4379 or check online at (http://tpwd.texas.gov/park/nimitz/).

[ 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]
Aug. 2, 2004
Wildlife Management 2004 Symposium Set for Kerrville
KERRVILLE, Texas -- The Texas Organization of Wildlife Management Associations (TOWMA) will be holding its biannual conference here at the Y.O. Ranch Resort Hotel and Conference Center on Aug. 12-14.
The focal point of the conference is the two-day Wildlife Management 2004 symposium.
"This symposium is arguably the best in Texas with a wide range of topics of interest to landowners and land managers," said Gary Homerstad, a technical guidance biologist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. "Everyone interested in wildlife management is invited to attend."
The symposium will kick-off with a mixer/social on Thursday evening. The symposium program begins on Friday morning with keynote speaker Robert L. Cook, TPWD executive director.
Sen. Ken L. Armbrister, Chair of the Texas Senate Committee on Natural Resources, will also be on hand to talk about water issues.
The morning session includes six more topics with several notable speakers. There will be a noon luncheon with special guest speaker Bob Turner, a rural issues consultant. The afternoon session will focus on quail, dove, turkey, songbirds, and waterfowl. Other topics will include prescribed burning and a panel discussion of wildlife management co-op issues. There will be an evening banquet with entertainment by country singer/storyteller Donnie Blanz.
The symposium continues on Saturday morning with the focus shifting to deer. Clayton Wolf, TPWD big game program director, will be the lead speaker.
Several renowned deer authorities will be sharing their knowledge and skills, including: Bob Ramsey, an 85-year-young rancher and author, who will talk about rattling up bucks. Al Brothers, a nationally recognized wildlife biologist and author, will talk about observing and evaluating whitetails.
The session will include five other deer-related topics and will end with an introduction to the Kerr Wildlife Management Area. The symposium will conclude with an optional tour and barbeque at the Kerr WMA.
Registration for the conference is $100 ($150 with spouse) and includes the mixer/social, luncheon, and banquet. Additional banquet tickets can be purchased for $25. The optional Kerr tour and barbeque is $20 per adult and $10 for children younger than age 12. Credit cards are accepted. For more information, contact Norman Schultz at (979) 249-3958 or visit the TOWMA Website at (http://www.towma.org/). The optional tour or meals at the luncheon and banquet cannot be guaranteed if you register at the door.
The Y.O. Ranch Resort Hotel has blocked a limited number of rooms at a group rate of $70 (plus tax) single or double. Children younger than age 18 stay free in same room with parents (ages 18 and older are $10 extra). Be sure to say that you are attending the TOWMA conference. Call toll free (877) 967-3767 to make reservations.

[ 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]
Aug. 2, 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 more than 100 Texas stations. Airing the week of Aug. 2-6, learn about a Texas mammal that's called a dog but is really a squirrel. Plus, we'll tell you about a natural resource that's for the birds...and the bugs...and the fish.
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.
"Texas Parks & Wildlife" is a weekly half-hour television series seen on PBS affiliates around the state. The episode that airs the week of Aug. 1-8 includes: the fishing rod art of T. Bud Thomas; Monahans Sandhills State Park, fly picking; game wardens working along the border; and heatwaves.
For more information about this week's programs and where they can be viewed, visit the Web (http://tpwd.texas.gov/tv).
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 (http://www.tpwmagazine.com/).