|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2004-11-22                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than 12 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]
Nov. 22, 2004
Reminder: Active Duty National Guard Can Get Resident Hunting, Fishing Licenses
AUSTIN, Texas - In what's shaping up to be the largest troop deployment since Vietnam, many from the National Guard are being deployed and if you have been called up and you're not a resident of Texas, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department wants you to know that you and your dependents qualify for a resident hunting and or fishing license. Hunting season just began and if you need a break before shipping off, TPWD wants to help give you one.
"So go buy a resident hunting license from Wal-Mart or wherever, familiarize yourself with Texas hunting regulations and know that Texas is glad to have you," said Col. James Stinebaugh, director of law enforcement at TPWD.
In the Outdoor Annual, the definition of a resident states in part, "A resident is a person who has lived continuously in Texas for more than six months immediately before applying for a license or any members of the United States Armed Forces (and their dependents) on active duty anywhere." It then goes on to explain 'active duty.'
The Parks and Wildlife Code addresses this when it refers to "a member of the United States armed forces on active duty." The terms "armed forces" and "active duty" are not defined in the code, but these terms ARE defined in the federal laws. After analyzing this material, TPWD legal experts have come to the conclusion that it should be made clear that this includes the National Guard who are not Texas residents.
"We believe that a National Guard member who has received orders to report for full-time active duty and has had to leave his or her regular civilian job is at that point on "active duty" with the armed forces, and thus qualifies as a resident. We are not changing the law, just making an interpretation to answer a question that has come up," said Boyd Kennedy, Law Enforcement Attorney with TPWD.
"So if you live in, say, Kansas City, and are sent to Texas for training, you and your dependents can hunt with all the rights and privileges of residents," Stinebaugh said.
If any National Guard members LIVE in Texas but have not been called up to active duty, then they need to reside continuously in Texas for six months before qualifying as a resident.
The resident license is a general license for all game (except alligators) and is $23. The general non-resident license is $300 and allows the same privileges as the general resident. See the Outdoor Annual on page 51 for more specifics. Personnel need to show military identification at license vendors to qualify for the $23 resident license.
For more information, visit the Web (http://tpwd.texas.gov/).

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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [KE]
Nov. 22, 2004
Protected Whoopers Arriving in Texas
AUSTIN, Texas -- Wildlife authorities expect record numbers of endangered whooping cranes to arrive in Texas this fall, provided they make it through the hazards encountered along the way. Canadian biologists report that as many as 212 whoopers (including a record 41 young) may have left their nesting grounds beginning in September. Most (186 including 28 young) had already arrived at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) near Rockport, by Nov.16, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service counts.
This leaves 26 still unaccounted for. A few were known to still be in Colorado, Kansas, and Oklahoma a week ago. Most "stragglers" may not arrive until mid-December, and occasionally young get separated from their parents and remain with sandhill cranes away from ANWR throughout the winter. Wildlife authorities are again requesting that anyone who sights a whooping crane this fall call (800) 792-1112 extension 4505, so they can monitor the animal's progress and determine potential hazards. Migration hazards include utility and fence lines, early severe storms, eagle predation, and illegal shooting.
The cranes usually pass through a migration corridor that extends from the Texas panhandle eastward to Dallas-Fort Worth and southward to the wintering grounds on the central Texas coast. Sandhill crane hunting season is scheduled to open in north central Texas Nov. 27 and later along the coast on Dec. 18.
And hunters are cautioned to be aware of the possible presence of whooping cranes with the smaller gray sandhill cranes and avoid those areas. Whooping cranes are protected by federal and state endangered species laws. Standing at more than four feet, whooping cranes are the tallest birds in North America. They are solid white except for black wing-tips that are visible only in flight. They fly with necks and legs extended. During migration they often stop to roost in tanks and reservoirs or feed in agricultural fields, but seldom remain more than one night. They nearly always migrate in small groups of less than six birds, but they may be seen roosting and feeding with large flocks of the smaller gray sandhill crane. For whooper-sandhill crane identification materials, go to the Web.
This won't be the first year authorities expected winter numbers to surpass the 200-bird mark. Scientists began anticipating exceeding this milestone after the winter of 1999-2000 when 188 birds wintered at ANWR. But reproduction on the nesting grounds was low during following summers until 2003. A record number of nests during 2003, (28 chicks surviving to late summer) was also expected to help break the mark. However, only 194 whoopers (including 25 chicks) showed up at the peak in late December of 2003. As many as a quarter of young known to leave Canada never make it to Texas.
If most make the 2,400-mile migration to Texas, not only will the flock set a new population record since counts began in 1938, it will also begin a new chapter in the comeback story of an endangered species that once numbered only 21 birds. Texas' winter flock of whooping cranes (the flock summers and nests in northwestern Canada in Wood Buffalo National Park), represents the last remaining natural flock of whooping cranes in the wild. When the ANWR was created on the Texas coast in 1937 to conserve migratory waterfowl, it also preserved habitat for the last migratory flock of whooping cranes left on earth.
Habitat protection and protection from hunting facilitated a slow but steady recovery for the whooping crane. With a slow growth rate and low reproduction (whooping crane pairs usually raise only one chick), the Aransas flock did not reach 50 birds until 1968. It took an additional 28 years to pass the 100-bird mark.
Texas' whooping cranes are considered a national treasure, and people outside Texas and Canada are likely to celebrate when the species reaches 200 birds as well, according to Lee Ann Linam, biologist for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
"People all over the world value whooping cranes, and that brings benefit to communities and wildlife habitats in Texas. In addition, conservation of whooping cranes in Texas has helped to bring the species back in other parts of the country, because eggs collected from our flock have been used in captive breeding and reintroductions in Wisconsin and Florida," she said.
Remember, whooping cranes are protected by federal and state endangered species laws and Texans can help safeguard this national treasure by helping to prevent harm or harassment to whooping cranes. Anyone sighting a whooping crane is asked to report it to TPWD at (800) 792-1112, Ext. 4505. Sightings can also be reported via e-mail to lalinam@wimberley-tx.com. Some whooping cranes are marked with colored leg bands and information about those bands, including on which leg they were found, would also be useful.
On the Net:


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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [RM]
Nov. 22, 2004
Rainbow Trout To Star in Texas State Parks' Family Fishing Celebration
AUSTIN, Texas -- You won't need a fishing license this winter to try your luck at hooking one of the thousands of rainbow trout being stocked in lakes and rivers at more than a dozen Texas state parks.
The Family Fishing Celebration, a special promotion to encourage families to enjoy fishing in Texas state parks, waives the fishing license and stamp requirements for adults at about 70 state parks. And winter trout season is an opportune time to take advantage of this special promotion.
Fifteen Texas state parks will benefit from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's trout stocking taking place December through February. Four parks, (Fort Boggy, Fort Richardson, Fort Parker, and Lake Tawakoni), are conducting special trout fishing events as part of the Family Fishing Celebration.
On Dec. 11, Fort Richardson State Park in Jacksboro will hold its annual Kids Fishing Day. From 10 a.m. to noon, children 12 and younger can fish for trout at Quarry Lake, which will be stocked with 1,000 of the 8-12 inch fish. Prizes will be awarded for the first and largest fish caught. The agency's Inland Fisheries Division will furnish a limited number of rods and reels.
An additional 1,000 rainbows will be stocked at Fort Richardson in preparation for Family Fishing Day on Jan. 15. Anglers of all ages will be able to participate at the Saturday event held at Quarry Lake. Call the park at (940) 567-3506 for more information about the fishing events.
Fort Boggy State Park near Centerville will host Trout Fishing Day from 8 a.m. to noon on Jan. 22. The free fishing event is open to children ages 4-16 and they must be accompanied by an adult. The fee for adults is $2. For additional information, call the park at (903) 344-1116.
Pair-a-Trees Pond at Lake Tawakoni State Park just east of Dallas will be stocked with 500 trout in advance of a Junior Angler Education program and Kids Fishing Day to be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Feb. 19. Participants in the TPWD-sponsored education program will have the first shot at fishing the park pond. The pond will be open to anglers of all ages the following day. Hot dogs and hamburgers will be provided by Wills Point Kiwanis Club. Call (903) 560-1795 for details.
At Fort Parker State Park, the Mexia Bass Club will be sponsoring a trout fishing clinic providing children with an opportunity to come out and fish Lake Springfield, which will be stocked with 1,200 rainbows. The clinic will be held Jan. 29 and 30. For more information, call (254) 562-5751.
The following state parks will offer trout fishing (starting dates noted) this winter:
--Abilene State Park (Jan. 11)
--Blanco State Park (Dec. 9, Jan. 5, Jan. 20, Feb. 17)
--Bob Sandlin State Park (Dec. 27, Jan. 30)
--Buescher State Park (Dec. 16)
--Copper Breaks State Park (Feb. 8)
--Fort Boggy State Park (Jan. 30)
--Fort Parker State Park (Jan. 22)
--Fort Richardson State Park (Dec. 11, Jan. 15)
--Landmark Inn State Historic Site (Jan. 16)
--Meridian State Park (Jan. 9)
--Lake Tawakoni State Park (Feb. 19)
--Palmetto State Park (Jan. 30)
--Rusk State Park (Dec. 16)
--South Llano River State Park (Dec. 18, Feb. 3)
--Tyler State Park (Dec. 3, Jan. 7)
TPWD launched the Family Fishing Celebration on Labor Day Weekend in 2003 and decided its success warranted its continuation for at least an additional year. The promotion has been extended through Aug. 31, 2005. Academy Sports & Outdoors also has come on board as the exclusive sponsor for fiscal year 2005.
TPWD has the authority to grant the license waivers for such events under Texas Parks and Wildlife Code. The waiver will save Texas residents fishing in state parks the $28 cost of a freshwater fishing license package and non-residents $55. Park admission fees, as well as fish catch and size limits, still apply during the yearlong event. Any fish requiring a tag, such as oversize red drum and tarpon, must still be tagged. As of Sept. 1, a special rainbow trout stamp is no longer required in Texas.
During the Family Fishing Celebration, license-free angling will be restricted to bank and pier fishing, and to fishing in bodies of water totally contained within the boundaries of a state park, such as Lake Raven in Huntsville, according to Bryan Frazier, FFC coordinator for Texas State Parks. If anglers launch boats from state park property to access an adjacent lake or other water body, he said, they will still need a fishing license and requisite stamps because the waiver will not apply outside state park boundaries.
Frazier said that the Family Fishing Celebration's no-license policy also applies to piers operated by the state, such as Copano Bay Fishing Pier, and to wade-fishing where applicable within the boundaries of a state park. The license waiver does not apply to the state's 50 Wildlife Management Areas.
To enhance the fishing experience, many state parks have lighted piers, fish-cleaning stations, boat ramps, lakeside campsites and other facilities. If you don't have a boat, some parks will rent you watercrafts, such as kayaks and canoes.
A complete list of state parks offering fishing opportunities and dates of upcoming special fishing events and seminars is available on the TPWD Web site (http://tpwd.texas.gov/familyfish/), or by calling (800) 792-1112.

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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [RM]
Nov. 22, 2004
Texas State Parks Plan Host of Holiday Festivities
AUSTIN, Texas -- The limestone walls of the Indian Council Room deep within the bowels of historic Longhorn Cavern near Burnet will ring with the sounds of the holiday season at three special Caroling in the Cave performances. The Longhorn Cavern State Park event is just one of a number of holiday events taking place at Texas state parks and historic sites this season.
This is the third year that the acoustically blessed Longhorn Cavern has hosted the underground Christmas concerts that have proven extremely popular. The Westwood Honors Show Choir from Round Rock will give a performance a cappella from 4:15- 6:15 p.m. Dec. 15. Victoria B & Friends will perform on Dec. 18 (2:15-4:15 p.m.) and Dec. 22 (4:15-6:15 p.m.) Reservations are required and can be made by calling (877) 441-2283.
The holiday season in Texas State Parks kicks off early, Nov. 26-Dec. 20, with a Candlelight Christmas Dinner at the Starr Family Home State Historic Site in Marshall, a town known for its lighting festival. Experience a sumptuous Victorian Christmas dinner from a long ago era in the 1890s Blake Home as accomplished singers serenade you. Call (903) 935-3044 to make dinner reservations.
Throughout December, state parks will host a variety of events, including Christmas on the Border at Barton Warnock Environmental Education Center in Lajitas on the Texas-Mexico border. The festive event will include folklorico dancers, school choirs, Christmas treats and refreshments, and a special visit by Santa. The program will start at 6 p.m. on Dec. 12. For information, call (432) 424-3327.
Holiday events in the parks wrap up on Dec. 19 at 6 p.m. with the 35th annual Tree Lighting at Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site in Stonewall. Join the Johnson family for festivities that include performances by carolers, a living nativity, Santa Claus, and a special nighttime tour of the LBJ Ranch and lamp-lit tour of Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm. For more information, call (830) 644-2252.
Other Texas State Parks hosting special holiday tours and other events (most of which charge a fee) this year are as follows:
Big Bend Country
--Fort Leaton State Historic Site Posada del Fortin - Dec. 16. Park staff and Presidio High School student docents will conduct a traditional Texas borderlands Christmas celebration at the old fort. Posada starts at 6 p.m. followed by free refreshments and entertainment by mariachis and folklorico dancers; donations accepted. Located in Presidio County, four miles southeast of Presidio on the River Road to F.M. 170. Call (432) 229-3613.
--Magoffin Home State Historic Site Holiday Victorian Tea - Dec. 5. Begin the Christmas season by joining in an annual holiday tea party. The whole home will be festively decorated with a Christmas tree in each room. There will be two seatings, 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.; fee is $12 per person and includes home tour. Advance ticket purchase is required; no tickets sold day of tea. (Note: this popular event sells out quickly, so contact the park as soon as possible.) Located in El Paso County, in the city of El Paso, east on I.H. 10, exit on Cotton Street; turn right on Myrtle Street, left on Octavia Street, left on Magoffin Street, home is on the right. Call (915) 533-5147.
--Wyler Aerial Tramway State Park Santa at the Tramway - Dec. 16-20, 23-24. Santa will be at the top of Ranger Peak waiting for children to deliver their letters in person and to take their pictures with Ol' Saint Nick. Noon to 5 p.m.; fees $7 adults, $4 children 4-12. Located in El Paso north of Interstate 10 and west of U.S. 54 North. Exit U.S. 54 North on Fred Wilson; take a left on Fred Wilson, which turns into Alabama Street, follow, Alabama to McKinley Avenue and take a right; McKinley ends at the base of the tramway. Call (915) 562-9899.
Gulf Coast
--Battleship TEXAS State Historic Site, Yuletide Texas - Dec. 1-31. Christmas was a special time for the sailors and officers who served aboard Battleship TEXAS, and now you can get a glimpse at that history. See the dreadnought adorned with lights, ornaments and decorations in the spirit of the season to replicate what crewmembers did while serving their country. Hours are 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.; fees are $5 adults, $4 senior citizens, $3 children ages 6-18, and children five and younger are free. The site is located 22 miles east of downtown Houston via Texas 225 and Texas 134. Call (281) 479-2431.
--Brazos Bend State Park A Simple Christmas - Dec. 4. Bring the family for an afternoon and evening of Christmas fun, including face-painting, historical interpretation, piƱatas, hayrides, storytelling and Santa Claus. It's from 3 p.m.-8 p.m. and is in Fort Bend County, 20 miles southeast of Richmond on FM 762 or south of Houston on Texas 288 to Rosharon. Call (979) 553-5101.
--Fulton Mansion State Historic Site 21st Annual Candlelight Christmas Carol - Dec. 11. Celebrate the Christmas spirit and sing along with a medley of carols on the front steps. Light refreshments will be served afterwards at this historic home that has been featured on Home and Garden TV's "Christmas Castles." Hours are 6:30-8 p.m. and it's located in Aransas County three miles north of Rockport off State Highway 35. Call (361) 729-0386
--Varner-Hogg Plantation State Historic Site Lone Star Legacy Candlelight Christmas - Dec. 4. Enjoy an open-house featuring free tours of the plantation house adorned in its seasonal finery. Refreshments will be served. It's from 6-8 p.m., and donations taken for the park's Lone Star Legacy endowment fund. It's located two miles north of West Columbia on FM 2852. From Houston, take State Highway 288 south to State Highway 35. Turn south on State Highway 35 and travel 12 miles to West Columbia. Outside West Columbia take FM 2852 to Park Road 51 (1702 N. 13th St.). Call (800) 792-1112.
Panhandle Plains
--Abilene State Park Christmas Lane -- Dec. 7-Dec. 24. Abilene State Park joins with Abilene State School to sponsor the event. Local organizations and businesses set up holiday displays for school residents and the general public. The Lane also provides an opportunity for individuals with disabilities to participate in holiday activities. More than 100 business and organizations are scheduled to participate this year. The display will be at Abilene State School, 2501 Maple St. The event is free. Donations for the state school and Volunteer Services Council will be accepted. Call (325) 795-3370.
--Big Spring State Park Holiday Lights Display - Thanksgiving Weekend and Dec. 15-31. The park features a lights display in conjunction with the Festival of Lights, featuring three large poinsettas (eight feet high and 20 feet wide) covered in lights. There will also be an illuminated 10-foot star as part of the display on the edge of the park's 200-foot bluff that marks the northern limit of the Edward's Plateau. It's located in Howard County within the city limits of Big Spring just off FM 700. Call (432) 263-4931.
--Fort Richardson State Park and State Historic Site Children's Visit with Victorian Santa - Dec. 11. View the parlor decorated for this festive holiday celebration just as the officers' children did at the fort in the 1870s. Santa is there from 2-4:30 p.m. and the event is located in Jack County, one mile southeast of Jacksboro on U.S. 281. Call (940) 567-3506.
--Texas State Railroad State Park Victorian Christmas Train - Dec. 4, 11, and 18. This is an annual event hosted by the state park and Palestine Convention and Visitors Bureau. Vintage steam trains will offer a quieter, simpler celebration. The trip will feature ladies in early 1900s Christmas dresses, as well as wassail and an assortment of fruitcakes and nut breads from world-famous Eilenberger's Bakery. Strolling carolers will add to the charm. The hours are 4-6 p.m.; fees are $25 for adults, $10 for children ages 5-13 and younger; and reservations are required. The park is located in Anderson County, two miles east of Palestine on U.S. 84 to Park Road 70. Call (800) 659-3484 or (903) 723-3014.
Prairies and Lakes
--Cedar Hill State Park Caroling Through Penn Farm - Dec. 4. See Penn Farm by candlelight on a lantern-lit tour. Then participate in a Christmas carol sing-along and enjoy hot chocolate and cookies around a campfire; 6-7:30 p.m. Please call to confirm. Located 10 miles southwest of Dallas, four miles southeast of Grand Prairie, and three miles west of Cedar Hill and is accessible via FM 1382. From US Highway 67 exit FM 1382, 2.5 miles north on the left. From Interstate 20 exit FM 1382, four miles south on the right (on the Joe Pool Reservoir). The park is skirted by FM 1382 and Mansfield Road. Call (972) 291-5940 and (972) 291-3900.
--Lake Mineral Wells State Park and Trailway Cross Timbers Cowboy Campfire Christmas - Dec. 10-12. Bring the entire family for a weekend of holiday fun. Friday and Saturday nights will feature a Christmas-theme campfire program at the Lone Star Amphitheater with cowboy music, poetry and a sing-along from 6-8 p.m. From dusk to 10 p.m., Friday through Sunday, take a drive through the park to see the light display. The park is located in Park County, four miles east of Mineral Wells on U.S. 180 or 15 miles west of Weatherford on U.S. 180. Call (940) 328-1171.
--Monument Hill and Kreische Brewery State Historic Site Trail of Lights - Dec. 10-11, 17-18. Enjoy a fantastic quarter-mile trail illuminated with thousands of lights that decorate the park. Walk a trail overlooking the town of La Grange. Experience the more traditionally decorated, 1850's-era home of H. L. Kreische, bedecked in holiday splendor and reflecting a Texas-German style. Bring your children to tell secrets to Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus and enjoy the genuine seasonal hospitality of the Friends of Monument Hill and Kreische Brewery, sponsor of the event. Hours are from 6-8 p.m. and fees are $3 for adults and $1 children ages 3-12. It's located in Fayette County, a mile south of La Grange off U.S. Highway 77 to spur 92. Call (979) 968-5658.
--Sam Bell House Maxey State Historic Site Old-Fashioned Christmas for Kids - Dec. 11. Children and their families are invited to make old-fashioned Victorian Christmas decorations. Children in grades 2-4 are scheduled at 9:30 a.m.; children in grades 5-7 are scheduled at 1:30 p.m. and reservations are required. It's located at 812 S. Church St. in the heart of Paris. Call (903) 785-5716.
--Sebastopol House State Historic Site Tour of Homes - Dec. 11-12. Sebastopol House will be showcased on the Seguin Conservation Society's 2004 Annual Tour of Homes. The tour includes some of Seguin's oldest and finest homes, decked out in holiday splendor. Tickets are available at Gifts & Gourmet (830) 379-1242. It's located in Guadalupe County, in the city of Seguin. Turn south at State Highway 46 and go one mile to U.S. Highway 90A (Court Street); turn east and go one mile to the park entrance. Call (830) 379-4833.
--Stephen F. Austin State Park -- Pancake Breakfast With Santa - Dec. 11. Have a breakfast of homemade pancakes with homemade syrup, sausage, juice and coffee and let Santa know your dreams and wishes for this Christmas. It's from 8-10a.m. and the fee is $3 per person. Or go on a caroling hayride Dec. 11 from 6-8 p.m. through the park and enjoy cookies and hot chocolate afterwards. Located in Austin County, three miles east of Sealy off I.H.10, take exit F.M. 1458, go north two miles, turn left on Park Road 38 to entrance. Call (979) 885-3613.
--Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site/Barrington Living History Farm Candlelight Christmas - Dec. 10-11. Come share a traditional Christmas with the Anson Jones Family at their annual gathering of friends and neighbors. Enjoy a festive atmosphere filled with 1850's music and dancing. Wassail and cookies will be served. It's from 6-8 p.m. and fees are $6 adults, and $4 for children 12 and younger. It's located in Washington County, eight miles southwest of Navasota off Texas 105 and FM 1155. Call (936) 878-2213.
--Eisenhower Birthplace State Historic Site - Old Fashioned Christmas at Ike's House, Dec. 4 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Come experience an old time Christmas in the park with arts and crafts vendors, entertainment featuring Bell Ringers, Varsity Choir, and Symphonic Band. The Birthplace is decorated in festive 1890's style. Santa will also be making an appearance! Tours are available and the event is free. The park is off US Hwy 75, exit Morton St (FM 120 E) to US Hwy 69 (Austin Ave) and go right to Main Street. Call (800) 792-1112.
South Texas Plains
--Goliad State Park -- History in Lights - Nov. 25-Dec. 31. Accentuated by a unique lighting display, the history of Mission Espiritu Santo comes to life to celebrate the holiday season. It's from 5-10 p.m. daily and there is a Christmas Concert on Dec. 4 from 8-9 p.m. It's located in Goliad County, 1/4 mile south of Goliad on U.S. Highway 183/77A, to park entrance. Call (361) 645-3405.
Visit the Web (http://tpwd.texas.gov/) or call (512) 389-8900 for more information about events and campsite or lodging accommodations.

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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [KE]
Nov. 22, 2004
Conservation 'Groups of a Feather Flock Together' for '05 Birding Classic
AUSTIN, Texas - Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has partnered with the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory (GCBO) to host the 2005 'Great Texas Birding Classic, with each group bringing complementary resources to the world's longest birding competition.
During the past eight years, TPWD has produced the Great Texas Birding Classic (GTBC), which raises money and awareness to protect critical habitat needed by millions of birds that migrate between the Americas. The event typically draws hundreds of birding competitors from across North America (one year it drew competitors from Europe). Thousands of birding tourists also come to Texas each April to companion events along the coast.
However, the observatory's location, which is in Lake Jackson, as well as its outreach capabilities and sponsorship pool, are expected to bring new resources to help support the upcoming Classic (April 16-24).
"This new partnership is exciting and will bring a new dimension to the tournament planning, since several GTBC birding classic participants are actively involved at the observatory," said Shelly Scroggs, who has coordinated the tournament at TPWD for the last six years. "Here we have two groups with similar missions and we decided to pool our resources for the greater good of conservation goals. I am thrilled that the observatory is jumping in on this project with us."
Organizers say the week-long tournament is the longest competitive birding event in the United States, with an impact that reaches far beyond Texas. This is because the Texas coast is important stopover habitat for birds that continue up the Central, Mississippi and Atlantic flyways. Species include many neotropical migratory songbirds, among the nation's most colorful and popular species, which migrate huge distances between South and Central America (the neotropics) and North America.
Carol Jones, who will handle the tournament coordination at the GCBO, said "Having the GTBC tournament co-hosted will help us reach even more people with our conservation message. The numbers of neotropical migrants continues to decline and we want to do everything we can to turn this trend around. Conserving migratory bird habitat positively impacts habitat for all our native flora and fauna along the Texas coast."
Since TPWD started the Birding Classic in 1997, winning teams have directed more than $400,000 in prize money to buy, restore or improve Texas coastal bird habitat. See (tpwd.texas.gov/gtbc/prizes/) for details about the 23 habitat projects funded so far. This year, winning teams will direct a total of $51,000 to habitat conservation projects they choose. Teams are also eligible for a variety of prizes, such as binoculars, cameras and field guides, resources that are donated by event sponsors.
Classic prizes and tournament categories are set up to accommodate birders of all age groups and skill levels. The tourneys' first blind birding category was introduced last year. The main Birding Classic for adult and senior participants takes place on three separate days and for 2005, it will be starting with the lower coast then onto central coast and ending in the upper coast. All other competition categories and other aspects of the tournament will be almost the same in 2005 as they were in 2004.
The awards brunch for the upcoming tournament will be in Lake Jackson on Sunday April 24.
For more information about the Birding Classic, call (512) 389-4500, or visit the TPWD website (http://tpwd.texas.gov/gtbc/).

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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [TH]
Nov. 22, 2004
Public Meetings Set About East Texas Black Bear Plan
TYLER, Texas - A series of public meetings have been set for this month and next to explain the draft East Texas Black Bear Conservation and Management Plan.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department employees and a team of more than 30 partners have been meeting and sharing information to develop the draft plan for more than a year. Wildlife biologists and others say that a plan is needed for several reasons.
"The black bear is a part of Texas' natural heritage and forest ecology, the Louisiana black bear is on the federal threatened species list and is thus the focus of an ongoing restoration effort in Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma, and black bears appear to be poised for a slow return in East Texas," said Nathan Garner, TPWD wildlife division regional director in Tyler. "Having a proactive plan to manage the situation is good natural resource management."
Black bears are already in East Texas to a limited extent, mainly solitary males wandering in from adjacent states. TPWD has documented 47 reliable bear sightings in East Texas since 1977, about two-thirds of those between 1991-2004. There is occupied bear habitat adjacent to East Texas in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana, where wildlife agencies are experimenting with reintroducing bears in some areas.
The East Texas Black Bear Conservation and Management Plan is now in final draft form and is ready for public release. A team of private landowners, government agencies, timber companies, university researchers, conservation groups and others have been working on the plan since 2002. The plan is supported by more than 30 diverse groups from the public and private sector.
Two sub-species of black bear are found in Texas. The American black bear (Ursus americanus americanus), occurs mainly in the western and central parts of the state. The Louisiana black bear (Ursus americanus luteolus), is the sub-species found historically in East Texas. The distinction is significant because the Louisiana black bear is on the federal threatened species list, while the American black bear in Texas is not. A casual observer would not be able to tell the two apart. Scientific analysis, such as DNA testing, is needed for sub-species verification. The Louisiana sub-species is the focus of the East Texas bear plan.
The management plan calls for various strategies to achieve specific goals. These include educating the public about black bears to minimize bear-people conflict potentials and allow reasonable human control of nuisance bears, and encouraging farm and forest management that provides bear habitat as part of a naturally diverse habitat system, to cite a few examples.
One suggestion in the plan is to conduct research to determine the survivability and reproductive capacity of re-introduced black bears in East Texas. The plan recommends first determining if there is public support for this research. If support exists, the plan recommends relocating several adult females with cubs in winter from out-of-state to a large, controlled forest acreage in deep East Texas. Bears in the study group would be fitted with radio transmitters to monitor their movements.
The public is invited to the following public meetings in southeast Texas to learn more about the draft East Texas Black Bear Conservation and Management Plan and to have the opportunity to ask questions and comment about the draft plan. The public may also request a copy of the plan or send comments in writing by e-mail to nathan.garner@tpwd.texas.gov or by regular mail to Nathan Garner, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, 11942 FM 848, Tyler, TX 75707.
All meetings start at 7 p.m.
--Nov. 30 - Beaumont, Jefferson County, Jefferson County Courthouse, Ted Walker Jury and Panels Room, 1001 Pearl St.
--Dec. 2 - Lufkin, Angelina County, Angelina County Court House, Annex Meeting Room, 215 East Lufkin Ave.
--Dec. 9- Woodville, Tyler County, Tyler County Courthouse, District Courtroom, 100 W. Bluff, Room 202
--Dec. 14 - Jasper, Jasper County, Jasper County Courthouse, County Courtroom, 121 N. Austin, Room 108
--Dec. 16- Kountze, Hardin County, Kountze Middle School Auditorium, 150 Vaughn St. (U.S. Highway 69 and Vaughn Street)

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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [MM]
Nov. 22, 2004
Environmental Task Force 'Heads Up' To 'Crack Down'
AUSTIN, Texas - Captain and Chief Pilot Lee Finch flew choppers for the military in Vietnam and Bosnia, but as Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's chief pilot, he's not looking for just a thrill ride anymore. Though some of his work involves chasing bad guys like poachers along the Gulf of Mexico, he says his most rewarding flight has been a wildlife survey in which a team counted bighorn sheep in the Sierra Diablo Mountains.
On the survey, they counted more bighorn sheep than ever before, which in turn allowed for more hunts. At 600 feet, the group got to poke in and out of the mountains observing the animals.
Finch has been a pilot for 36 years, and with TPWD for the last 10. He is an airline transport pilot and multi-engine flight instructor, as well as an instrument instructor in both airplanes and helicopters.
Finch and a task force combined from several state agencies patrol Texas making sure our animals, land and water are not violated by environmental crimes.
"We want to make it safe and pleasurable state for everyone in Texas enjoying the great outdoors," said Finch.
Last Wednesday Finch flew members of the Texas Environmental Crimes task force in a survey of three sites suspected of storing or dumping hazardous waste materials. Sgt. Game Warden Jonathan Gray from TPWD Environmental Special Investigations and Dan McReynolds, an investigator from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality are in charge of the investigation.
"How covert do we need to be?" asked Finch as we neared the first house in question and we hooked a sharp left for McReynolds to get photographs.
Law enforcement for TPWD is not a typical 40-hour workweek. The TPWD pilots, including two others besides Finch, are on call all the time. And like most law enforcement, those calls to duty are with short notice. Environmental crimes investigators such as Gray respond to calls from neighbors, disgruntled employees or concerned citizens about strange chemical smells or suspicious activity.
"I love the investigative nature of the work, though I don't want to play down being a uniformed game warden. That was the best seven years of my life," said Gray. "But it's different because there's no quick satisfaction."
Gray explained that many of the environmental investigations can take one to two years to reach final disposition. Though this is a significant expenditure of man hours, it contributes to the same effort as that of the uniformed game warden--protecting wildlife and the habitat they thrive in.
"The helicopter is just one of the assets that TPWD contributes to the task force resources," he added.
The helicopter is a Bell Jet Ranger, an army surplus model OH-58. The O and H stand for "observation helicopter," as distinguished from utility or attack helicopters.
TPWD law enforcement pilots fly the OH-58 over Texas searching for hazardous waste violations and other types of crimes such as poaching.
There are probably more illegal dumping problems in Texas than the two small investigative units can deal with, said Gray. His unit contains only seven people and McReynold's contains nine. This group of specially-trained investigators is responsible for the entire state.
"We make a good team because of our different backgrounds," said McReynolds, whose training is science-related and technical, while Gray and Finch are trained in law enforcement, and, of course, flight.
As the copter glided over the oak-lined hills of Austin, the wardens discussed fishing and hunting and the accuracy of global positioning systems. At all three sites, drums of suspect waste were spotted and photographed.
"It changes every day," said Gray. "And in the scheme of things, I like to think I'm making an impact. Our goal is ultimately to protect our habitat for wildlife and for our quality of life."
Just as there are two ways to drive a car, said Finch, there are two ways to fly a helicopter--reckless or safe. The thrill for these men, it seems, comes from flying safe and keeping Texas clean.

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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [TH]
Nov. 22, 2004
School Wagon Train To Retrace Gold Rush History
EL PASO, Texas - In January, dozens of students from Texas and California will board horse-drawn wagons to retrace the route of gold rush adventurer William P. Huff, whose 300,000-word diary shares the most detailed account available of the less-known southern gold rush trail, recounting Huff's mid-1800's trip from near Houston to near Fresno, California.
The three-week wagon train could be the adventure of a lifetime for the students, who will share their experiences afterward by publishing a book. The educational project is a partnership venture of Madera Unified School District, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Texas Historical Commission, various county historical societies, schools and private ranchers.
On Jan. 4, 14 California sixth graders from the San Joaquin Valley will begin their journey at the Spanish Colonial Socorro Mission in El Paso and start retracing Huff's trail in reverse back toward his point of origin. Groups of 14 students from various Texas schools will also each join the wagon train temporarily at several points.
On Jan. 23, the students will visit Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site in Central Texas. On Jan. 25 at the Texas capitol building, they will present a book about their experience to government officials in a ceremony on the south steps.*
"We want to provide students with the opportunity to 'do' history--not just study about it," said Bill Coate, the California schoolteacher who is leading the project. "We want to establish historical empathy among the students, allowing them to answer for themselves the question, 'What was life really like for Texas gold seekers?'" Finally, we want to allow the students to add to the body of historical knowledge by resurrecting the memory of a relatively unknown Texas pioneer, thus giving the Texas Argonauts [gold rush pioneers] their rightful place in history."
Each morning on the trail, the students will conduct readings from Huff's diary covering the upcoming day's travel. They will discuss diary segments in terms of content and vocabulary. But the readings will also prepare the students to closely compare what they are about to see with what Huff wrote more than 150 years ago.
The students will help harness the mules and look to the wagons, learn to drive the mules, help pitch camp every night and generally experience as much of authentic 1800's pioneer life as possible. Students will take notes along the way, and each day will record their thoughts on a tape recorder.
During the trail ride, students in California and Texas will be able to follow the journey online and will be invited to pose questions to the kids on the trail via the TPWD Web site (http://tpwd.texas.gov/expltx/eft/huff/).
At the end of the trail, students will return to their classes and collaborate via e-mail to compose a book about their experiences titled "Following the Steps of William P. Huff," which will be published in hardcover and online.
William P. Huff was one of Stephen F. Austin's Old Three Hundred original settlers who came to San Felipe, Texas in 1824, where he and his father opened a general store.
Huff lived through the Texas Revolution and became good friends with many of the luminaries of Texas history. He was connected not only with Austin but also with William B. Travis, Jim Bowie, and Sam Houston.
When Houston ordered San Felipe burned during the Runaway Scrape, Huff set fire to his own store and rode off to do his part in the struggle against the invading Mexican army.
After Texas declared independence, Huff became a newspaper editor in Richmond and was on the job when he learned that gold had been discovered in California.
Huff decided to join the mad rush for the land of Ophir and headed overland for California. After months of trials and tribulations on the trail, Huff made it to Mariposa (near the border of today's Yosemite National Park), where he mined for gold for three years.
Huff never struck gold, and he was penniless when he returned home in 1853. The only thing he had to show for his efforts were two worn, leather bound ledger books in which he had kept a daily account of his trip.
During the Civil War, Huff did not join the Confederate Army. For this reason he was permitted to become a judge in Fort Bend County during Reconstruction.
In 1886, Huff died and was buried in Houston. His only legacy was his gold rush journal, which was passed down from generation to generation. It is currently the property of Huff's great-great grandson, David Ewing Stewart of Van Vleck.
Stewart loaned the diary to Coate, who has turned the aging manuscript into an interstate history project. Coate first learned of the diary in 1986 while in Matagorda County at a historical education event, where Stewart approached Coate and showed him the diary. Since then, Coate has been researching the diary and using parts of it for history class projects. In 1993, he began staging student wagon trains along the diary route. The Texas project is his most ambitious yet.
"Texas Argonauts have been sadly neglected in the historiography of the California gold rush due to the paucity of diaries coming from the southern trails," Coate explained. "While overland accounts of travel over the Oregon/California Trail are abundant, fewer than 60 journals from the southern trails exist. Thus, most accounts of the California gold rush, including those in textbooks, focus on travel from Missouri along the Platte River to Sutter's Fort," he said.
State parks and historic sites on the wagon train route include Fort McKavett State Historic Site, Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site **
and Hueco Tanks State Historic Site near El Paso, where Huff lost his mules in a nighttime raid by Native American Indians, according to his diary notes.
Several private ranches are opening their gates to the wagon train, partly through the efforts of TPWD, whose biologists and game wardens are well known by most ranchers in rural Texas.
The El Paso County Historical Commission, Crane County Historical Commission, Menard County Historical Commission and similar groups are also aiding the wagon train project, with coordinating support from the Texas Historical Commission, the state agency for historic preservation.
* Correction, Jan. 3, 2005: The original version of this paragraph has been edited to reflect the latest itinerary. (Return to corrected item.)
* Correction, Jan. 3, 2005: The original version of this news release incorrectly listed Enchanted Rock State Natural Area among the state parks and historic sites along the route. The correct site is Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site. (Return to corrected item.)
On the Net:
Follow the progress of the wagon train: http://tpwd.texas.gov/expltx/eft/huff/
Another news release: http://tpwd.texas.gov/news/news/050103a.phtml

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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [LH]
Nov. 22, 2004
Art Show and Sale Upcoming at Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center
ATHENS, Texas--Terry Jones of Jewett turns trash into treasure--metal sculptures that look like prehistoric fish despite being made of old saw blades, meat grinders, car parts and anything else that strikes his fancy.
"A piece is only as good as the quality of the junk that's in it," Jones said. But instead of the finished pieces looking like the junk they're made of, they resemble something from a fishy horror movie--gaping jaws, saw-toothed fins and scissor-like tails.
Jones' whimsical folk art will be featured at an art show and sale Dec. 4-11 at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center here. Jones said most of his customers so far have come from the Austin area.
In contrast to the metal sculptures, the show will also feature botanical art by Bruce Lyndon Cunningham of Nacogdoches and outdoor-themed paintings by several Athens-area artists. Artists will donate a portion of each sale to the building fund for a new education center at TFFC. Jones and other artists will be at TFFC for the opening of the show on Dec. 4.
Jones credits his antique business to an eye for good junk and to friends for supplying him with quality raw materials. "I find a lot of stuff at auctions and estate sales," he said. "I try to use as many antique tools as possible in my sculptures. Once I get an idea for a piece, I go looking for the parts to make it. One small piece I made recently took four weeks to build because I did not have what I wanted. So I just let it sit until I found the eyes--as soon as I saw them, I knew where they needed to go, and I finished the piece."
That sculpture, which features gears from an automobile transmission for the eyes and a section of a large sawmill blade as the dorsal fin, will be part of the December show.
Jones' fishy figures attract a lot of attention at the antique shop and bait store he and wife Carla operate in downtown Jewett. "The look on people's faces when they see a piece is the real reward," he said. "They are trying to figure out what all the pieces are and where they came from."
The sculptures go together in Jones' head first. Then he welds them together in the parking lot of the store. "Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with pieces going together in my head," he said. "The hard part is finding the mouth. That's the focal point of a fish. You have to start with the mouth and build from there, because the mouth determines how big the rest of the fish will be." The pieces are sanded clean, welded together and coated with lacquer to make them weatherproof.
Jones, 45, has no formal art training but has always liked to draw. He acquired his welding skills working as an ironworker. He says using one person's junk to create another person's treasure requires no special training: "It just boils down to having a good imagination," he said.
For more information call (903) 676-2277.

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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [KE]
Nov. 22, 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 Nov. 22-26, looking for a unique holiday gift this season? Give the gift of state parks! Plus, pack up your Thanksgiving leftovers and enjoy the music at one North Texas state park.
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.
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/).

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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [TH]
Nov. 22, 2004
Texas Big Time Hunts Winners Announced
AUSTIN, Texas--For some of them, it could be the hunt of a lifetime.
That would appear to be the case for Ron Marsh, a Fort Worth-area aircraft maintenance support engineer, who was at first puzzled when a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department employee called to say he had won a contest. Puzzlement turned to astonishment as the employee explained to Marsh that he had won the Texas Grand Slam, one of the seven hunts offered the Texas Big Time Hunts program that raises money for wildlife research and conservation.
"This is unreal," Marsh said. "I can't believe my stroke of luck and what it all entails. I thought I put in just for the white-tailed hunt, but after I figured out what it was and read through the stuff it just floored me."
Marsh was selected from among 20,588 applicants to win the Texas Grand Slam, a series of four separate guided hunts for all four big game animals in Texas-white-tailed deer, mule deer, pronghorn antelope and bighorn sheep.
Marsh paid $10 to apply for the grand slam drawing. The bighorn sheep hunt alone is priceless, something only a handful of people ever get a chance to experience. For his four hunts, Marsh just needs to bring hunting gear and a valid hunting license. Guide service, food, lodging, and on-site transportation for himself and a non-hunting companion are all provided.
Here are the winners and hometowns for all seven Big Time Texas Hunts categories:
--Texas Grand Slam -- Ron Marsh of Lakeside.
--Texas Whitetail Bonanza -- Gary V. Alvis of Lucas, Ronald L. Cooper of Tomball, James M. Deckelman of Lubbock, Brad C. Hardin of Fredericksburg, Gary L. Miller of Ennis, Weldon R. Owen of San Antonio, Michael R. Pilley of Marble Falls, Thomas K. Roughton of Austin, Gregory R. Schaller of Deer Park, and Glenn A. Uecker of Boerne
--Texas Exotic Safari -- John W. Phipps of Arlington and William E. Neslage of Fredericksburg.
--Texas Premium Buck Hunt -- Reginald G. Cornelius of Marshall
--Texas Waterfowl Adventure -- Charles A. Gray of Plano
--Texas Big Time Bird Hunt -- Tommy G. Hallford of Mount Pleasant
--Texas Gator Hunt -- Robert F. Sliva of Wharton
All told, hunters bought 80,599 Big Time Texas Hunt entries during this year's sales period from Aug. 15 through the Nov. 6 deadline. This generated $805,990 in gross revenue to support wildlife research, habitat management and public hunting.
TPWD first offered the Texas Grand Slam in 1996 and expanded the concept to create Big Time Texas Hunts in 1999. Since then, revenue from the program has benefited a range of projects, including the following:
--Aerial surveys of desert bighorn sheep in the Trans-Pecos region.
--Landscape evaluation of pronghorn antelope and mule deer habitats in the Trans-Pecos.
--Habitat preferences and movement of pronghorn in the lower Rolling Plains region.
--Ecological studies on Gambel's quail and Montezuma quail.
--Texas' portion of a national mourning dove banding study.
--Rainwater collection system (guzzler) use by wildlife on the Black Gap Wildlife Management Area.
--White-tailed deer food habits in the Rolling Plains.
--Effects of disking on bobwhite quail habitat.
--Lesser prairie chicken habitat use and survival in fragmented and unfragmented habitats.

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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [LH]
Nov. 22, 2004
Fishy Chicken Bones to be Sold on eBay
ATHENS, Texas--The Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center has a collection of slightly used chicken bones, the remains of chicken leg quarters fed to Splash, the 121.5-pound world record blue catfish at the center.
The Friends of TFFC need to raise $2 million to build a new education building at the center.
Being a firm believer in education and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's foremost spokesfish for catch and release, Splash wants to help.
So the giant fish has given her blessing (a flip of her tail, actually) to a plan to auction off some of the chicken bones she has deposited on the bottom of her 26,000-gallon aquarium.
Two chicken leg bones in an oak display case will be auctioned on eBay beginning December 4, just in time for Christmas. "This is the perfect Christmas gift for the person who really does have everything," said TFFC director Allen Forshage.
Along with the bones, which have been oven-dried and tastefully spray-painted gold, the winning bidder will receive a certificate of authenticity, copies of TPWD press releases telling the Splash story, color photographs of the fish, and copies of magazines featuring stories about the fish.
Splash was caught January 16, 2004, by Cody Mullennix of Howe, Texas, while fishing on the Texas side of Lake Texoma, which lies between Texas and Oklahoma north of Dallas. Mullennix donated the fish to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center, where she remains on display.
The Friends of TFFC is a nonprofit 501(c)3 corporation; donations to the building fund are tax deductable.
TFFC is at 5550 F.M. 2495, four miles east of Athens, which is 75 miles southeast of Dallas. Fish in the dive tank may be viewed any time the center is open. Hours are 9 to 4 Tuesday through Saturday and 1 to 4 on Sunday. Splash is fed during dive shows at 11 o'clock on weekdays, 11 and 2 on Saturdays, and 2 o'clock on Sundays. For more information visit the Web (http://tpwd.texas.gov/fish/infish/hatchery/tffc/) or call (903) 676-2277.