|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2005-12-05                                    |
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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]
Dec. 5, 2005
Host of Holiday Events Set at Texas State Parks
AUSTIN, Texas -- Few aspects of Christmas season bring joy to so many as do holiday lights, whether they decorate a Christmas tree, adorn gingerbread-trimmed Victorian homes or illuminate courthouses in many Texas communities.
The Texas State Park system does its part to bring holiday cheer by lighting up everything from the Battleship TEXAS and Goliad's Mission Espiritu Santo to farmhouses and landmark homes at historic sites throughout the state with candles, lanterns and thousands of miniature electric lights. There's nothing like the warm glow of candlelight to impart the feel of an old-fashioned Texas frontier Christmas at such places as the Starr Family Home in Marshall, Fort Richardson State Park and Historic Site and the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm in Stonewall.
One of the most popular holiday state park events takes place at Lake Mineral Wells State Park, where local businesses, organizations and individuals go all out to decorate campsites in the Plateau camping loop with Christmas lights and displays. Last year, more than 800 people attended the Cross Timbers Cowboy Campfire Christmas, donating money to the Lone Star Legacy Fund and canned good to a local food bank in lieu of paying a park entry fee. This year's event, which takes place the first two weekends in December, will again feature a Saturday night music review with caroling, cowboy Christmas songs and stories, and refreshments.
In the East Texas pineywoods, hundreds will climb aboard a Victorian Christmas Train at Texas State Railroad State Park on Dec. 3, 10 and 17 to enjoy Old World goodies, strolling carolers and a visit from Santa and his elves. This is the eighth year that TSRR has run a Victorian train during the Christmas season to transport riders into a bygone era when trains served as a major mode of transportation. Regular excursion runs also will be conducted out of the Rusk Depot only during the first three weekends of December.
And for the 36th year, Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site will host the annual Tree Lighting ceremony begun by the late President and First Lady to provide a special celebration for the Texas Hill Country community of Stonewall and Johnson City. The free event on Dec. 18 provides park visitors with a chance to experience an early 1900s Christmas at a German-American farm illuminated by candles and lanterns, visit with Santa and see a live nativity.
Dates of special Texas State Park holiday events are:
December 2005 -- Battleship Texas SHS -- Yuletide Texas -- Christmas was a very special time for the sailors and officers who served aboard Battleship TEXAS, and now you can get a glimpse at that history. Visit throughout the month of December to see the Battleship TEXAS in LaPorte adorned with lights, ornaments and decorations in the spirit of the season, just the way the crew members who served aboard her did while serving their country. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; fees free for Texas State Parks Pass members, $7 non-members, $4 senior citizens, free for children 12 and under (281) 479-2431.
December 2005 -- Goliad SP -- Christmas Lighted History Trail -- Bring your family, friends and neighbors for a wonderful evening of visual stimulation at Mission Espiritu Santo. See the history of the mission in lighted cutout displays as you stroll through the trail. Dark-10 p.m. daily; call for more information (361) 645-3405.
Dec. 1-17, 2005 -- Starr Family Home SHS -- Christmas Candlelight Dinner Tour -- Enjoy the ultimate Victorian experience as our dinner guest at the Blake Home in Marshall. Costumed staff serves you a sumptuous dinner in the romantic atmosphere of this beautiful home built in the 1890s. Included with dinner are musical selections by accomplished singers. Following dinner, tour the magnificent Maplecroft, built in 1870, home of James Franklin Starr. Fee $28 per person; reservations required; call for more information (903) 935-3044.
Dec. 9-11, 2005 -- Lake Mineral Wells SP & Trailway -- Cross Timbers Cowboy Campfire Christmas -- Bring the whole family to the park for a weekend of holiday fun. Saturday night join us at the Lone Star Amphitheater for a campfire program of cowboy music, poetry and sing-along with a Christmas theme. Friday-Sunday drive through the park and enjoy a Cowboy Christmas light display. Campfire program 6-8 p.m., drive through light display dusk-10 p.m. (940) 328-1171.
Dec. 10, 16, 17, 2005 -- Monument Hill & Kreische Brewery SHS -- Trail of Lights -- Get into the season's spirit with us! 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 1850s-era German home of H.L. Kreische, bedecked in Christmas splendor, in a Texas-German style. Hear a variety of Christmas music. 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, who sponsor the event. 6-8 p.m.; fees $3 adults, $1 children 12 and under (979) 968-5658.
Dec. 10, 17, 2005 -- Texas State Railroad SP -- Victorian Christmas Train -- A wonderfully warm experience full of Christmas cheer and great fun for the young and young at heart. While riding the train, enjoy good food, song, stories and of course Santa Claus and his elves. Meet at the Palestine station. 4-6 p.m.; fees $25 adults, $10 children 5-13, free for children under 5; dates subject to change; reservations required, (800) 659-3484. (800) 442-8951.
Dec. 10, 2005 -- Barrington Living History Farm-Washington-on-the-Brazos SHS -- Candlelight Christmas 2005 -- Barrington Living History Farm invites young and old to experience a 19th Century Texas Christmas. Enjoy all the same surprises of the holiday season that our Texas ancestors did as they celebrated Christmas with music, dancing, food and special Christmas crafts. 1-8 p.m. (936) 878-2213.
Dec. 10, 2005 -- Fulton Mansion SHS -- Christmas Caroling at the Mansion -- Bring the family for a real old-fashioned Christmas caroling on the grounds in Fulton. Afterwards, enjoy gingerbread and cider. For a reduced fee, see the beautiful Christmas decorations on the first floor. 6:30-8 p.m. (361) 729-0386.
Dec. 10, 2005 -- Stephen F. Austin SP -- Hayride and Christmas Caroling -- Enjoy caroling through the San Felipe park on a hayride, then share cookies and hot chocolate afterwards. 6-8 p.m.; admission is one canned good per person (979) 885-3613.
Dec. 10, 2005 -- Stephen F. Austin SP -- Pancake Breakfast with Santa -- Have a breakfast of homemade pancakes with homemade syrup, sausage, juice and coffee and tell Santa all your Christmas wishes. 8-10:30 a.m.; fee $3 per person (979) 885-3613.
Dec. 15-31, 2005 -- Big Spring SP -- Poinsettias in the Park -- View six large metal poinsettias (each one is 20 feet wide and 8 feet tall) and a 10-foot tall star wrapped in Christmas lights. These lights will be placed on the edge of the 200-foot bluff in the park (at the northern limit of the Edwards Plateau). This is in conjunction with the Festival of Lights at the neighboring Comanche Trail Park with more than 500,000 Christmas lights. Dark-10 p.m. (432) 263-4931.
Dec. 17, 2005 -- Lake Texana SP -- Christmas Crafts -- Bring the kids to the park just outside Edna and prepare for the holidays by making Christmas crafts to decorate your home. For times and more information contact Cindy McLemore at cindy.mclemore@twpd.state.tx.us or call (361) 782-5718.
Dec. 17-19, 22--23, 2005 -- Wyler Aerial Tramway SP -- Santa at Ranger Peak -- Santa will be at the top of Ranger Peak in El Paso waiting for children to deliver their letters in person and to take their picture with him. Noon-5 p.m.; fees $7 adults, $4 children 4-12, children 3 and under free (915) 562-9899.
Dec. 18, 2005 -- Lyndon B. Johnson SP&HS -- 36th Annual Tree Lighting -- Come to the Texas Hill Country and enjoy a community-wide event, with carolers, a live nativity, Santa Claus, candlelight and lamp-lit 1900s Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm and a special nighttime holiday tour of the LBJ National Historical Park and Texas White House. Light refreshments will be served following the tree lighting ceremony. 6 p.m.-till; donations appreciated (830) 644-2252.
Dec. 22, 2005 -- Barton Warnock Environmental Education Center -- Christmas on the Border -- Come see cactus and Christmas lights, caroling cowboys and cowgirls, folklorico dancers, the Community Choir and Papa Noel at the West Texas Borderlands Celebration in Lajitas. The Barton Warnock Environmental Education Center staff invite you to attend this special Wednesday event from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Entry fees are waived for the special event, but donations are welcomed. (432) 424-3327.
Jan. 1, 2006 -- Goliad SP -- Christmas Lighted History Trail -- Bring your family, friends and neighbors for a wonderful evening of visual stimulation at Mission Espiritu Santo. See the history of the mission in lighted cutout displays as you stroll through the trail. Dark-10 p.m.; call for more information (361) 645-3405.
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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [SL]
Dec. 5, 2005
Quail Provide Impetus for Landscape Conservation Efforts
AUSTIN, Texas -- Quail are considered by wildlife officials to be a keystone indicator species of the health of grassland ecosystems. When their numbers fall, other species that inhabit those ecosystems follow in a domino effect. A diverse cooperative, working under the umbrella of the Texas Quail Conservation Initiative, is making landscape level conservation progress to help ensure the dominos won't topple.
During the past three years, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has developed a proactive strategy to address quail declines in Texas. The agency's approach has been one of partnership. Several state, federal, and private entities including private landowners have come together to form the Texas Quail Conservation Initiative (TQCI). By bringing all stakeholders to the table, the initiative can focus on landscape level conservation that minimizes duplicative effort and maximizes resources.
The Texas Quail Council and the Quail Technical Support Committee are the main facilitating bodies of this initiative. The Council, appointed by the Chairman of the Parks and Wildlife Commission as an official advisory group, has provided advice and guidance in developing the initiative and helps identify and overcome roadblocks to recovery; while the Technical Committee assures the plan is based on good science.
"The work that's been accomplished in three short years through this initiative has been impressive and is a benchmark for other states to follow," said Robert Perez, TPWD quail program biologist. "By bringing together all the quail minds at the same table, we've now got a clearinghouse in Texas for upland bird recovery and conservation."
Quail Council members have interacted with national conservation policy makers to provide valuable input regarding the criteria for various cost incentive programs on private lands that would benefit quail and grassland birds. Resulting programs, like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program Emphasis Areas, have distributed millions of dollars to Texas landowners over the past couple of year resulting in more upland game bird habitat on the ground.
"We have to be able to use incentive programs like the Farm Bill, EQIP and our Landowner Incentive Program to demonstrate how converting pastures back to native vegetation and providing usable habitat for wildlife can pay dividends directly to the landowner," said Steve DeMaso, upland game bird program leader for TPWD. "We also have to get the support of sportsmen by educating them to the fact that conservation programs for other species are also beneficial for quail and other game species."
Examples of these education and outreach efforts can be found in two prominent quail conservation posters. One poster can be found displayed in Natural Resource Conservation Service offices around the country, thanks to proactive efforts by the Quail Council and another, dedicated to native habitat restoration initiatives promoted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, carries First Lady Laura Bush's signature and a personal message to encourage cooperative conservation and habitat restoration.
Then Council has been proactive in encouraging TPWD program staff to work with the Railroad Commission, TXU and ALCOA to help improve restoration practices on Texas mined lands for early succession species. The director of the state mining association was appointed by the TPW Commission Chairman to the Council and a biologist from the mining industry serves on the Technical Committee.
"Mined lands serve as repositories of locally adapted quail which can be used in future translocation projects where local quail are not available," said DeMaso. "Mined lands in other states may also be able to use this model to create habitat."
The Council provided valuable input and guidance in the development of the Texas Quail Conservation Strategic Plan, and the publication of the popular version of the document "Where Have All The Quail Gone?" to promote quail conservation across the state. These plans are being distributed throughout the state via numerous venues to facilitate reaching interested landowners and managers.
According to Vernon Bevill, small game and habitat assessment program director with TPWD, another example of public and private partnerships involved Texas Governor Rick Perry autographing 200 Jack Cowan quail prints that were donated to the initiative for fundraising efforts. These prints are being sold through the Texas Wildlife Association, Collector's Covey, Texas Quail Unlimited and by Council members. The TWA Foundation volunteered services as the ordering point as well as serve as the holder of these funds in a separate dedicated account on behalf of the Texas Quail Initiative.
As part of the Texas Quail Plan, the Council has encouraged development of Quail Demonstration Areas on public and private lands and portions of both the Chaparral and Matador Wildlife Management Areas are being developed for this purpose. Funds from the initiative have helped purchase farm implement equipment to facilitate this work.
In addition, Audubon Texas, also a member of the Council, hired a full time biologist to help implement the TQCI by acting as a catalyst to form quail management cooperatives across the state.
Following initiation of the Texas Quail Council, the TQC model has been emulated by other states as an effective means of developing their own quail recovery and implementation plans.
In recognition for its efforts, the Council received the First Annual Group Achievement Award from Quail Unlimited National in March of 2005.

[ 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]
Dec. 5, 2005
Texas Duck Stamp Program a Conservation Success Story
AUSTIN, Texas -- For 25 years, Texas hunters have played a major role in successful waterfowl conservation efforts through the Texas Duck Stamp program.
Through the purchase of about 2 million state duck stamps, hunters and collectors have helped fund the lion's share of waterfowl habitat management, research and acquisition since 1981.
The Texas Duck Stamp has from its inception been a favorite of stamp and wildlife art collectors. In 1981, the Texas Duck Stamp Print was the largest single signed and numbered print of any kind ever in history, including the federal duck stamp print. That year, the state's royalties generated from the program exceeded the annual licensing income for the waterfowl stamp.
Much of the credit for the success of the stamp art program goes to Collectors Covey, who was instrumental in the creation of the Texas Duck Stamp. After the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department stopped issuing actual stamps a decade ago with the advent of the electronic licensing system, Collectors Covey continued to facilitate and promote the stamp art program and make the annual stamp available to collectors.
Of the $15 million-plus raised through the Texas Duck Stamp program, more than $5 million has been derived from sales of the stamps and art. These funds have helped major conservation initiatives in Texas, including:
--The acquisition of all or part of 11 state wildlife management areas covering more than 18,000 acres using $5.4 million in waterfowl stamp funds. Most of these WMAs continue to provide quality economical public waterfowl hunting opportunities.
--The restoration and/or protection of more than 112,000 acres of critical wetland habitat in Texas. During the last 200 years, more than half of the state's historic wetlands have been lost to land use changes, fragmentation and urban growth. Considering wetlands along the Texas coast are being lost at an annual rate of about 5,700 acres, efforts to protect and restore what's left is critical to the future health of waterfowl and other wildlife species that depend on wetlands.
--More than 35 MARSH projects with Ducks Unlimited, Inc. and other partners on state-owned WMAs using in excess of $2.5 million in waterfowl stamp funds.
--Over $1.3 million contributed toward the North American Waterfowl Management Plan coordinated through Ducks Unlimited.
--During the last decade, Texas has sent more than $850,000 for work in prime breeding and nesting areas of Canada that historically send ducks down the Central Flyway. The funds are leveraged, in many cases, more than fourfold by the time they reach the ground in Canada, with U.S. federal dollars under the North American Wetlands Conservation Grant program.
--Since 1985, Texas' partnership with Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 200,000 acres of wetlands and waterfowl habitat in Saskatchewan. This province provides many of the ducks that winter in Texas.
Texas is one of 11 states to receive the prestigious Gold State Grant Award from Ducks Unlimited for contribution of Waterfowl Stamp Funds to Habitat Projects.
Wildlife art and stamp collectors may purchase Texas Duck Stamp prints and stamps through Collector's Covey Wildlife and Sporting Art at (800) 521-2403.

[ 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 ] [AR]
Dec. 5, 2005
New Beetle Species Discovered at State Park
AUSTIN, Texas -- Sometimes even the most well-trod ground can yield surprises. That was the case in May when a graduate student identified a species of stag beetle that is new to science while visiting Monahans Sandhills State Park.
The beetle, Nicagus occultus, is the first new species of the family Lucanidae to be described from the United States in more than six decades. Only two other species previously were known from the same genus -- one found in the eastern and central United States and southern Canada -- and one in Japan.
The Latin name occultus alludes to the fact the beetle remained undiscovered for so long, and also to its life history, presumed by scientists to play-out largely under the shifting sands in this remote region.
Aaron Smith, who holds a State Park Scientific Study Permit from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, noticed the insects at the top of a dune one evening while tagging along on a University of Texas undergraduate field trip.
"I wasn't sure what they were until I put them under a 'scope," said Smith, now a Ph.D. student in entomology at Texas A&M University.
Smith collected all of the beetles he saw and took them back to Nebraska, where he was then studying. His lab mate, Matt Paulson, specializes in stag beetles and immediately recognized the insects for what they were not: anything previously known to science.
The discovery prompted an 850-mile road trip the very next day, and after Paulson returned with still more specimens, he and Smith published a paper describing their find in the scientific journal Zootaxa. The article appeared in the Sept. 16 issue of the publication.
Smith said new beetles are being described all the time -- more than 7,000 different species have been recorded in Texas to date -- but to discover a new species in an avidly collected family, and in an area that has been intensely studied for decades, was something special.
"This is a popular group of beetles among beetle enthusiasts," said Mike Quinn, a TPWD invertebrate biologist. "To find a new U.S. record among a popular group that many amateurs seek out is more unusual than finding an obscure beetle that very few people are interested in."
Unlike the highly ornamented and often outrageously proportioned insects that typify stag beetles, the now-three species in the genus Nicagus are rather plain, the entomologists said.
"This is not a typical stag beetle," said Ed Riley, an associate curator of the Texas A&M University insect collection who has frequently studied the Monahans area. "It's an ugly, drab little beetle. But it's a very special ugly, drab little beetle."
Riley said Paulson and Smith exemplify the impact that even amateur entomologists can have when it comes to collecting and identifying rare insects. It's rarely the lab-bound professor who makes such discoveries, he noted.
"I think it also reflects the problems you can have in doing a complete survey for a group as diverse as beetles," Riley said. "I would say the Monahans Sandhills are probably getting to the point where we'd say it's pretty well-known. There's a continual need to sample in a lot of areas we think are well-sampled."
Monahans Sandhills State Park comprises more than 3,800 acres in the heart of a 200-square mile dune field that stretches into southeastern New Mexico. The park, near Interstate Highway 20 west of Odessa, receives about 100,000 visitors a year, many of whom come to "sand surf" on the 70-foot-tall dunes or view wildlife.
Quinn, the TPWD entomologist, said that while this particular find was unusual, it's not a huge surprise that it came from a state park.
"State parks, wildlife refuges and even military reservations often contain and protect hotspots of biological diversity and thus frequently are a source of undescribed species," he said.
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