|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2005-09-19                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than 11 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]
Sept. 19, 2005
Government Canyon State Natural Area Opens Oct. 15
SAN ANTONIO -- The much-anticipated opening of the newest member of the Texas State Parks family -- Government Canyon State Natural Area -- will take place Saturday, Oct. 15, on the northwestern fringes of the state's third most populous city.
Government Canyon SNA, which sits only 16 miles from downtown San Antonio, has been 12 years in the making. The 8,622-acre state natural area at the edge of the Edwards Plateau represents one of Texas' most significant conservation stories resulting from a public-private partnership involving municipal, state and federal government agencies, as well as a host of community and environmental organizations. Up until now, it has been accessible on a limited basis for volunteers and special guided tours.
What started out in 1993 as 4,717 acres of ecologically critical habitat overlaying San Antonio's sole source of drinking water has almost doubled since then as adjacent ranch lands were acquired. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, which manages the state natural area, has spent about $5.7 million for archeological surveys, design, construction, signs and other infrastructure to get the natural area open for day use.
Initially, visitors will be able to picnic, bird watch, shop for souvenirs, view exhibits explaining the natural area's unique geology and natural and cultural resources, and explore roughly 40 miles of trails available to hikers and cyclists. For now, Government Canyon will be open for day use only, but Superintendent Deirdre Hisler expects to be ready to accommodate overnight guests at primitive tent camping sites sometime next year.
"The community has been waiting -- and waiting patiently -- for a long time for Government Canyon to open," Hisler said. "We are a work in progress. Our primary concern as a state natural area is protecting valuable cultural and natural resources in the sensitive Edwards Aquifer recharge zone."
Government Canyon SNA sits at the confluence of three distinctly different eco-regions, where the blackland prairie and the mostly flat, mesquite-dominated savanna south of the Balcones Escarpment meets the rugged oak- and ashe juniper-covered hills and rugged canyonlands of the uplifted Edwards Plateau along the Balcones Fault Zone. Along this fault zone lies the primary recharge zone where water enters the Edward Aquifer that serves as the source of drinking water for millions of central Texas residents.
For the purpose of natural area management, Hisler explained, Government Canyon SNA has been divided into two sections: the "backcountry" and "frontcountry." The much larger environmentally sensitive "backcountry" is accessible to the public only by foot or bicycle. Multiuse trails for hikers, cyclists and equestrians are located off the recharge zone in the relatively flat "frontcountry" where natural area facilities for the visiting public are located.
Some 7,500 acres of the state natural area's backcountry make up one of the nation's largest and most unusual karst preserves where water "recharges," or enters the Edwards Aquifer through sinkholes, caves and fractures in the porous limestone surface that predominates in the more rugged part of Government Canyon. The Tim and Karen Hixon Visitor Center, which includes offices, a gift shop, interpretive exhibit hall, restrooms and two classrooms, is located in the minimally developed southern portion of the natural area where ranching operations once took place under prior ownership. Here too, is a group picnic pavilion with fireplace, 20 picnic sites, a maintenance facility and composting toilets.
The state natural area derives its name from the canyon used as the Joe Johnston Route, a westward route up and across the Edwards Plateau blazed in the 1850s by a U.S. military survey crew stationed at Fort Government Hill, known today as Fort Sam Houston. It is via this historic route that hikers and cyclists can readily access backcountry trails leading to scenic vistas and other points of interest.
Government Canyon SNA's diverse habitats harbor seven creatures which are on the federal endangered species list, including the six of Bexar County's nine protected karst invertebrates -- cave spiders and beetles -- as well as the golden-cheeked warbler. The warbler's critical habitat in the backcountry will be off limits to visitors during the breeding and nesting season from March 1 to Sept. 1.
The October opening of Government Canyon fulfills several major goals of TPWD's strategic 10-year initiative set forth in its Land and Water Resources Conservation and Recreation Plan in that it:
1) protects significant water and wildlife resources,
2) establishes a recreation area easily accessible by an urban population, and
3) embodies a partnership of state agencies, city government and other public entities, and the private sector.
Because 88 percent of the state natural area sits atop the Edward Aquifer recharge zone, the City of San Antonio, San Antonio Water System and Edwards Aquifer Authority are ensured that a crucial watershed remains undeveloped. Government Canyon also conserves a large parcel of the rapidly disappearing wild and scenic Texas Hill Country for recreational and educational pursuits.
Government Canyon serves, too, as a model for future public land acquisition. The purchase and preservation of the various tracts comprising the natural area resulted from a unique collaboration of dozens of community organizations, government agencies, corporations and individuals. Their efforts preserved thousands of acres once slated for residential development, thus protecting the Edwards Aquifer from environmental degradation, conserving habitat for endangered songbirds and cave invertebrates, and preserving precious pieces of Texas' prehistoric and historic past.
Equally significant is Government Canyon's role as an outdoor classroom. Interpretive programs will help educate school groups and others about the importance of land conservation and stewardship, biodiversity, endangered species, sustainable building practices, alternative energy and the vulnerability of local aquifers to contamination in the face of Texas' unprecedented growth and resulting pressures on its natural resources.
Visitors also will be able to learn about the area's ranching heritage and prehistoric and historic importance. They will discover, for example, that Government Canyon SNA has 100-plus recorded archeological sites. Furthermore, history records that from 1860 to 1967, the ranch land that makes up the core of the state natural area belonged to only two families -- the Hoffmans and Lytles. It was during the Hoffman's tenure that Government Canyon's iconic Zizelmann House, dating from 1882, was built. It still stands in the backcountry.
In the 1970s, a development company bought the property with the intent of turning the former ranch into a mixed-use community for 80,000 people. But the property was foreclosed on during the Texas real estate bust and was acquired by the Resolution Trust Corporation, which put it up for auction. In a move to protect the important watershed, a grassroots community organization called the Government Canyon Coalition, now known as the Friends of Government Canyon, joined forces with the Trust for Public Land, SAWS and the Edwards Underground Water District (today, the Edwards Aquifer Authority), to facilitate the purchase of 4,717 acres by TPWD.
In the coming months, Hisler said, Government Canyon and its partners will be employing brush removal and prescribed fire to restore the front country to pre-agricultural conditions and emphasizing the "Leave No Trace" ethic that teaches visitors how to minimize their impact on the outdoors.
Government Canyon SNA is located 3.5 miles northwest of Loop 1604 on Culebra Road (also known as FM 471), then 1.6 miles north on Galm Road. The entry fee for persons age 13 and older is $6.
For more information about Government Canyon, call the park at (210) 688-9055.
On the Net:

[ Note: This item is more than 11 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]
Sept. 19, 2005
Agencies Preparing To Fight Hydrilla In Lake Conroe
AUSTIN, Texas -- In an effort to avoid repeating a scenario that occurred here more than 25 years ago, the San Jacinto River Authority and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department are making plans to control hydrilla and protect native vegetation in Lake Conroe.
Hydrilla in the lake has been increasing despite repeated efforts by the two agencies to control its spread with herbicides. "Hydrilla became a serious problem on the lake in the late 1970s, causing significant problems for boaters, skiers and swimmers," says Dave Terre, TPWD's Regional Director of Inland Fisheries in Tyler. "At that time it was controlled with grass carp, but the number of fish used was too large, resulting in damage to desirable native plants."
TPWD restored native vegetation in the lake, but the resurgence of hydrilla now threatens its existence. "We cannot let hydrilla get back to the levels it once was," says Terre. "If left unchecked, hydrilla can have negative impacts on recreational users as well as create areas of low dissolved oxygen that will be harmful to fish. It will also out-compete more desirable native aquatic plants that provide good habitat for fish"
TPWD and SJRA are developing an Integrated Pest Management plan that will emphasize the use of a variety of strategies to control hydrilla in its early stages. Possible control methods include the minimal use of herbicides, limited numbers of grass carp and perhaps other biological or mechanical methods. "TPWD has successfully used pest management in the past and will carefully monitor the lake, no matter what methods are used," Terre says.
Hydrilla, a plant from Asia thought to have been introduced to the United States by the aquarium industry, is considered to be one of the world's worst aquatic weeds. Unlike most native aquatic plants, hydrilla forms dense mats of vegetation at the water's surface in 15-20 feet of water. Hydrilla covered about 40 percent of Lake Conroe in 1981, some 8,400 acres. A recent survey found the plant infests about 868 acres; a substantial increase from 2002 when it occupied only three acres.
For more information about the hydrilla control effort, contact: Earl Chilton, (512) 389-4652 or earl.chilton@tpwd.texas.gov or mark.webb@tpwd.texas.gov, (979) 822-5067.

[ Note: This item is more than 11 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]
Sept. 19, 2005
Devils River Minnow Plan Will Protect Water Resources
DEL RIO, Texas -- Working to keep plenty of clean water flowing in Southwest Texas rivers, streams and springs will benefit people as well as a rare fish. This is according to a scientist who worked on the recovery plan for the Devils River minnow (Dionda diaboli), a plan recently approved by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
The species was listed as threatened in 1999 under the federal Endangered Species Act and is also listed as threatened by the State of Texas.
This small fish is currently known to occur in three streams in Val Verde and Kinney counties, all tributaries to the Rio Grande: Devils River, San Felipe Creek and Pinto Creek. The current status of the species in Sycamore Creek, and in the Rio Salado drainage in Chihuahua, Mexico is not known. The species was once found in the lower portions of the Devils River (now Amistad Reservoir in Val Verde County), Las Moras Creek (Brackettville in Kinney County), and from the Rio San Carlos (Mexico) but is no longer believed to be there.
"This is one of the premier examples of an indicator species," said Gary Garrett, Ph.D., a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department inland fisheries scientist who has been researching and implementing fish conservation efforts in West Texas for decades. "As we've shown in our studies in artificial steams, as well as what we've found in nature, this minnow does well and it's a hardy survivor when stream habitat quality is good, but it really suffers when the habitat declines. This fish needs clean flowing water, and that's good for the people of Kinney and Val Verde counties as well."
The Devils River minnow depends on the constant clean flow of spring waters and is at extreme risk from habitat loss and degradation caused by spring flow declines, water pollution and impacts from introduced, non-native species.
The recovery plan identifies specific, voluntary actions that will help recover the fish so it may eventually be removed from the list of threatened and endangered species.
Proposed recovery actions include: (1) maintain and enhance Devils River minnow populations and habitats range-wide; (2) control the invasion of non-native species; (3) establish additional Devils River minnow populations within the historic range and (4) maintain genetic reserves of Devils River minnow through captive propagation until no longer needed.
Work on several of these steps has already begun.
"We have just completed a five-year, detailed study on Devils River minnow populations in the river, with the support and coordination of private landowners and the Nature Conservancy of Texas," Garrett said. "Two landowners allowed us access and let us stay on their property to study the fish. And there is an ongoing study of the minnow in Pinto Creek in Kinney County north of Brackettville."
Regarding enhancing minnow populations and habitat and controlling invasive exotic species, Garrett said management plans developed by the City of Del Rio and the San Felipe Country Club with TPWD help are aiding that cause.
"There are a series of things they're doing along San Felipe Creek in Del Rio," Garrett said, "including reducing pollution and enhancing streamside habitat. In some areas they have just stopped mowing along the creek and the native plants that are better for native species then come back. Sylvestre Sorola, TPWD wildlife biologist in Del Rio, is helping to coordinate removal of some non-native exotic plants along the creek, including giant river cane, and that's an ongoing project.
"We do have introduced armored catfish in San Felipe Creek that eat the same food as the minnow -- we're still considering how to approach that problem," Garrett said. He also said the federal fish hatchery in San Marcos is maintaining a captive breeding population of several hundred minnows, providing a repository to restock the fish if needed, although right now "if we wanted to restock we would just go to nature because the wild populations are doing pretty well."
TPWD has also just concluded a multi-year study at Heart of the Hills Fisheries Science Center on competition and interaction between this fish and other fish it lives with.
The recovery plan underwent a public review period earlier in 2005 and was peer-reviewed by five outside experts to ensure the plan was based on the best available scientific information.
Regarding the recovery plan, one private landowner commented that recent improvement in the status of the fish in the Devils River is "proof that cooperation between U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife and landowners can work to accomplish goals."
The USFWS uses a priority system for recovery of listed species with a range of one to 18, with one ranking as the highest. The Devils River minnow has a recovery priority of two, which indicates that Devils River minnow is a species with a high degree of threat yet has high recovery potential.
Copies of the recovery plan can be downloaded from online or requested from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Austin Ecological Services Field Office, 10711 Burnet Road, Suite 200, Austin, Texas, 78758.
On the Net:
Devils River minnow recovery plan: http://ifw2es.fws.gov/Documents/R2ES/Devils_River_Minnow_FINAL_Recovery_Plan.pdf
Recovery plan FAQ: http://ifw2es.fws.gov/Documents/R2ES/Devils_River_Minnow_FINAL_Recovery_Plan_Q&As.pdf

[ Note: This item is more than 11 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]
Sept. 19, 2005
Texas Youth Hunting Program Website Launches
AUSTIN, Texas -- The Texas Youth Hunting Program, which provides children between the ages of 9 and 17 with safe, affordable and educational group hunting trips, has just launched a Web site making information about and registration for hunts more accessible.
A schedule of the hunting trips, which vary by game animal, location and other factors, is posted on the site. The list is updated frequently to reflect new and filled hunts.
Hunt types include deer, turkey, feral hogs, javelina, exotics, dove, small game, upland game birds, waterfowl, varmints and other species. Some hunts involve camping. There are currently five hunts for experienced bow users only. A "girls only" hunting trip will take place Oct. 28-30. Additional themed trips as well as hunts to accommodate the physically challenged will be scheduled throughout the year.
Once children and parents review the schedule and decide which hunts they are interested in, they can use the form on the Web site to apply for their choices. Deadline to apply for a hunt is typically about six weeks before a scheduled hunt. Last minute applications to fill spots due to cancellations or openings are also available online. Routinely checking hunt availability and applying last-minute can be an effective way to be selected for a hunt.
In order to apply for a hunt, participants must have a valid hunting license and proof of completion of hunter education. All youth must be accompanied on the hunt by a parent or guardian. A release of liability form and a $75 reservation fee are required. This fee is refundable but the program requests that the reservation fee be donated to help offset food and insurance costs.
A marksmanship certification must be completed to assure that the youth practiced within 14 days of the hunt and possesses basic proficiency.
Adults can volunteer online to plan and run hunts. Specifically, volunteers are needed to run firearm ranges, assist with hunter education, serve as hunting guides, cook on trips, and more. Landowners can also volunteer their land as a much needed hunting site. The landowners section of Web site addresses safety concerns, how youth hunters can assist in achieving wildlife management goals and other frequently asked questions.
The Texas Youth Hunting Program is a joint effort of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Wildlife Association. For more information, contact Jerry Warden or Mary McKinzie, (800) 460-5494 or mmckinzie@texas-wildlfe.org.
On the Net:

[ Note: This item is more than 11 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ]
Sept. 19, 2005
TPWD Game Warden Field Notes
The following are excerpts from recent Texas Parks and Wildlife Department law enforcement reports.
Great Catch -- Recently, Harris County Game Wardens caught a shrimp boat captain with an illegal by-catch reduction device in his net. All together, 1,781 pounds of shrimp were confiscated and sold. Cases are pending.
All's Well that Ends Well -- Game Wardens received some welcome news from the Milam County Judge's office. A suspect on whom the wardens had filed deceptive business practices and theft charges for the illegal activities involved in his hunting lease operation pleaded guilty to the charges and accepted a plea agreement. This agreement amounted to more than $1,000 in fines, two years of probated jail time, an agreement to not engage in the hunting lease business for 18 months, 200 hours of community service, and $5,290 in restitution to the hunters. This was the culmination of more than a year's worth of effort by the wardens. This effort serves to protect hunters from fraudulent outfitters in Milam County.
To Make Matters Worse -- Aransas County Game Wardens responded to a commercial Gulf shrimp boat operating in federal waters with Turtle Excluder Devices that were sewn shut. The game wardens assisted with the count and unloading of approximately 16,000 pounds of shrimp and 150 pounds of red snapper fillets. They also assisted with the transport and booking of the captain (who was arrested) and one deck hand who was charged with assaulting a federal officer.
Teamwork -- On opening day in Hardeman County, game wardens apprehended three hunters who were 130 doves over the limit. A little later that evening, they caught six more hunters who had 78 doves too many. Earlier in the evening, one of the game wardens had found four hunters with 40 doves over the limit in Wilbarger County. The rest of the weekend they found three more hunters double-bagging and a game warden also caught two men hunting on a baited field.
Hefty Fines -- Game Wardens worked a baited area during the opening day of dove season in Red River County. Thirty people were filed on for hunting over a baited area and fined $150 each. They had killed 151 birds before 7 a.m. The owner of the property who placed the bait and leased the property is facing charges in federal court in Texarkana. Possible fine for the birds will exceed $4,800.

[ Note: This item is more than 11 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ]
Sept. 19, 2005
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. For more information, visit the Web.
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.
For more information, go to the Web.
"Texas Parks & Wildlife" is a weekly half-hour television series seen on PBS affiliates around the state. This week on PBS: like father, like son? Arthur McCall is a Texas game warden stationed in Pleasanton. His son Michael is a game warden in the Fort Worth area. Not only do these two share the same line of work, they even have the same hobby; painting what they see in the Texas outdoors. Follow us to Houston to learn about the long history of the Battleship Texas with curator Barry Ward. Urban Biologist Kelly Bender helps kids and teachers create wildscapes at their Hutto elementary school. This week's postcard features Lesser Prairie Chickens as they boom and strut.
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.
On the Net:
Passport to Texas: http://www.passporttotexas.org/
TPWD on PBS: http://tpwd.texas.gov/newsmedia/tv/
TPW Magazine: http://www.tpwmagazine.com/