|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2005-10-03                                    |
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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 ] [TH]
Oct. 3, 2005
In Storm's Wake, Estuary Day Shows Value Of Wetlands
AUSTIN, Texas -- As Hurricane Rita was bearing down on the Texas coast, those who work to protect coastal estuaries had occasion to ponder the value of wetlands to absorb storm impacts and control flooding. As it happened, Sept. 24 was National Estuary Day.
"How much should a community pay to manage flooding from storm waters, protect it from devastating storm surges from the Gulf, and clean pollutants from runoff before the runoff enters the bay?" asked David Buzan, a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologist who specializes in coastal conservation.
"Wetlands in our bays perform all these important functions and more for free. One study suggests wetlands provide nearly $7,000 per acre of services each year."
An estuary occurs where freshwater from rivers meets saltwater from the sea. Larry McKinney, Ph.D., and TPWD coastal fisheries division director, once called estuaries, "solar powered ecological factories." This is because here plants use the sun's energy to sustain a huge diversity of marine life. These places with varying degrees of salt content or "salinity gradients" are the nursery areas that form the foundation of the coastal food chain.
Wetlands in or near Texas estuaries benefit people and wildlife. They capture and store storm runoff like a sponge and then release it back into the system slowly. This reduces flood peaks and maintains flows in rivers, creeks and streams. As highlighted in news coverage of Hurricane Katrina, large areas of coastal wetlands have been lost, but those that remain help absorb the brunt of incoming storms, dampening storm energy before storms reach homes.
"For every one to three miles of coastal wetland, storm surges are reduced by about a foot," Buzan said. "Wetlands can also remove chemical contamination from waters entering them. They trap sediments laden with pollutants and transform chemicals to less harmful forms through bacterial decomposition."
In addition to helping protect homes and businesses, Buzan says estuarine wetlands provide beauty, recreation and jobs. Wetlands are the nurseries for nearly all economically valuable commercial and recreational species of fish and shellfish. Crabs, red drum, and young shrimp depend on the food and protection the wetlands provide. In turn, recreational and commercial fishing along the coast contribute nearly $2 billion to the Texas economy each year. Bird watching, especially around coastal wetlands, is creating demand for new ecotourism businesses and is bringing dollars to local coastal communities.
Although a large percentage of wetlands have been lost, the good news is people are actively working to protect what's left and restore or create new wetlands.
In recent years, TPWD has worked with private, local, state and federal organizations to guide the conservation of more than 1,700 acres of wetlands at an average cost of nearly $5,000 per acre.
"When you compare that restoration cost figure of $5,000 per acre with the value to people of $7,000 per acre, that's a pretty good return on investment," Buzan said. "I realize people on the Texas coast had other things on their minds Sept. 24, but I hope that some of us will take a moment now to remember that wetlands and estuaries are important for our future, and they will continue to provide many services and opportunities if we will only conserve them properly."

[ 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]
Oct. 3, 2005
Redfish Bay Seagrass Protection Rules Proposed
ROCKPORT, Texas -- The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is proposing mandatory seagrass protection measures for the Redfish Bay State Scientific Area to protect ecologically important seagrass beds from motorboat propeller scarring.
This past January, the department acted to continue the Redfish Bay State Scientific Area through 2010 and sought input from anglers, fishing guides, conservation organizations and others on the best ways to protect shallow-water seagrasses.
On Aug. 25, the TPW Commission authorized department employees to publish for public comment a proposal to make it illegal to destroy seagrass in the scientific area. This would prohibit the uprooting of five seagrass species, Clover Grass (Halophila engelmanni), Manatee Grass (Syringodium filiformis), Shoalgrass (Halodule beaudettei), Turtle Grass (Thalassia testudinum), and Widgeon Grass (Ruppia maritima).
The commission also directed employees to include in the proposal mandatory "no prop zones" in three critical and well-defined locations within the state scientific area. These include the three voluntary "no prop zones" that have been in effect in the state scientific area since 2000. Violation of the proposed new rules would be a Class C Misdemeanor.
"The Commission is committed to conservation of seagrass habitat and is concerned that whatever they adopt is enforceable and as effective as possible," said Larry McKinney, Ph.D., and TPWD coastal fisheries director. "They wish to hear from our constituents regarding both mandatory no prop zones and broad area prohibition of seagrass destruction." The "no prop" areas would replace the voluntary "no prop" areas in place currently and the compliance with the latter approach would depend on an individual's boat operation skills, knowledge of the area and type of equipment. The commission wishes to hear from constituents and give the proposal more careful review.
The new mandatory no prop zone rules would be accompanied by a concerted education campaign and extensive efforts to identify and mark access points into the area in order to minimize seagrass loss "We feel we can design the proposed no prop zones in a fishing friendly way to make access into and out of the zones easy," stated McKinney. "We will confer with local guides and fishermen in doing so and I am sure we can accomplish our conservation goals without significantly impacting how the areas are already being fished," he said.
McKinney said the voluntary propeller up or "no prop" zones and public education approach that TPWD has attempted for years have not been effective. Propeller scarring has continued in the area and research shows it is persistent and accumulating over time and cannot readily be corrected or restored.
Shallow-water seagrasses in Texas bays provide vital nursery areas for diverse marine life, food and cover for game fish, bottom stabilization, and better water quality. Seagrass has declined in many areas on the Texas coast. In Galveston Bay, 95 percent of all seagrass has disappeared. In the Redfish Bay area, the total acreage of seagrass has declined by 13 percent since 1958. The area marks the northernmost extent of one important species commonly known as turtlegrass. This species is particularly susceptible to propeller damage because of the long recovery time when damaged.
The commission is expected to make a final decision on the proposal at its Nov. 3 meeting in Austin.
The department will hold three public meetings this fall to get input about the proposal:
--7-9 pm, Oct. 19 -- Texas A&M University Corpus Christi, Natural Resources Center, Room 1003, 6300 Ocean Drive, Corpus Christi
--7-9 pm, Oct. 20 -- Aransas County District Courtroom, 301 N. Live Oak, Rockport
--7-9 pm, Oct.19 -- Lion's Field Adult Center, 2809 Broadway, San Antonio
In addition to these hearings, anyone may comment about the proposed new mandatory rules for Redfish Bay by calling, writing or e-mailing Jerry Cooke, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, 4200 Smith School Road, Austin, TX 78744, (512) 389-4492, or jerry.cooke@tpwd.texas.gov.
On the Net:
On-line Public Comment: http://tpwd.texas.gov/business/feedback/public_comment/proposals/200511_seagrass.phtml

[ 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]
Oct. 3, 2005
Hunter Education Courses Filling Up, Deferral an Option
AUSTIN, Texas -- Despite offering 4,400 hunter education courses throughout the year, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department understands there are some who will still wait until the last minute before hunting season to get certified. This fall, those procrastinators need not panic.
"There are still more than 150 structured courses scheduled across the state between now and Nov. 4, the last day before the opening of deer season," said Terry Erwin, hunter education coordinator for TPWD. "And there are over 55 home-study courses available, but all of these courses are subject to change as they fill up daily. It may be tough getting into a course before deer season."
That's where TPWD's hunter education deferral option can help. The deferral option, which was introduced last year, allows people 17 years of age or older, a one-time only extension to complete the state's hunter education requirements. The individual must purchase a hunting license and then may purchase the "Deferral Option # 166, and must be accompanied by someone 17 years old or older who is also licensed to hunt in Texas. The accompanying individual must have completed hunter education or be exempt from the requirements (born before Sept. 2, 1971). The extension is good until Aug. 31 of the current license year, by which time the person with the deferred option needs to complete a hunter education course.
This option will not be available to those who have ever received a conviction or deferred adjudication for lack of hunter education certification. They still must take the course before going afield.
"We had more than 10,000 hunters take advantage of the option last year," said Erwin. "Data indicates the majority of those who get the option are new or relatively new to hunting and this gives them an opportunity to try it out with a mentoring hunter before making the commitment to take hunter education. It's not an alternative to taking the course, you still have to get certified if you want to hunt in subsequent years."
More than 250 individuals have already taken the hunter education course prior to the end of the last license year, however those not taking advantage will not receive the $5 discount. Purchases this year have already exceeded 900 during the first two weeks licenses were on sale.
The deferred option costs $10 and may be offered one-time only. The new hunter also receives a $5 discount off the price of a hunter education course, which costs $10, but only if the course is taken prior to the end of the current license year. The option is surrendered at the time the course is taken and replaced with a hunter education "temporary card" until the actual certification card arrives from Austin.
The deferred option will also be available to out-of-state hunters, as well as those in the military who are stationed in Texas or who are home on leave. However, the deferral is only good in Texas, and will not be honored outside the state.
"People who are off in college out of state are helped by this program," said Erwin. "I talked to one mom who was concerned her son would not have time to take the course when he came home from college during the holidays and wouldn't be able to go hunting with his dad. She got the deferred option as insurance."
According to TPWD game warden records, the most common citation written is for hunter education certification violations.
Texas certifies more than 33,000 hunters annually through 4,400 hunter education courses offered across the state, with at least one offered in each of the 254 counties. Hunter Education courses are a minimum of 10 hours of classroom and hands-on activities. The classroom portion can alternatively be taken through home study or online, followed by a hands-on, outdoor session taught by volunteer instructors.
"Although we offer the course throughout the year, there are times during the holidays when only a select number of courses may be available and that's typically the time of year when most people have an opportunity to go hunting," said Erwin. "This deferred option will give folks time and convenience to enroll at a later date and still take advantage of an opportunity to go hunting."
During the last four decades, hunting-related accidents have declined by more than half and the credit goes to mandatory hunter education.
For more information about hunter education and the new deferred option, call TPWD toll free (800) 792-1112 or visit the Web site (http://tpwd.texas.gov/).

[ 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 ]
Oct. 3, 2005
TPWD Game Warden Field Notes
The following are excerpts from recent Texas Parks and Wildlife Department law enforcement reports.
Know What You're Shooting -- A man from Kerns shot an immature bald eagle recently, stating he thought it was a hawk. The violator searched for the bird and it was found still alive 1-2 hours after the initial shot. Realizing it was a bald eagle, the violator then expressed some sympathy towards the animal and took it to the local rehab facility. The facility then contacted a Game Warden and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The shooter ended up retracted his story about finding the bird injured on his property to actually shooting the bird on his property. The eagle died two days later. Texas Parks and Wildlife was awarded restitution of $6,000 for the value of the bird.
Special Unit Round-Up -- The Marine Theft Unit completed FY05 with 32 PWCs, 36 boats, 47 trailers, and 32 motors being seized and worked more than 140 cases this year. The Covert Unit worked 12 ongoing cases, completing six of those, with three more that have charges pending. Cases ranged from felony hunting violations and sale of fish shocking devices, to sale of protected fish. The Wildlife Unit worked 26 cases ranging from breeder violations, illegal sale of black bear and alligators to hunting lease fraud. Game Wardens across the state assisted in concluding the largest case in Special Operations history. In that case, which involved the darting and selling of wild deer, fines totaled more than $100,000.
Bait and Pay -- A Bell County Warden located piles of milo in a field after an anonymous caller alleged it was being dove hunted. Hunters showed up, and they proceeded to take birds over the area. The game warden made contact after observing their hunt for awhile. Seven citations were issued for hunting over the baited area and 25 birds were seized. The hunters admitted that it had been baited for more than a month and that approximately 1,500 to 2,000 pounds had been spread out during that time.

[ 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 ] [KE]
Oct. 3, 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.
"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.
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/