|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2006-10-16                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than 10 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. 16, 2006
Record Numbers of Whooping Cranes Expected This Fall
AUSTIN, Texas -- Record numbers of the endangered whooping crane, arguably the state's most famous "winter Texan," are expected to arrive in South Texas this winter. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports record production this summer with the North American population exceeding 500 for the first time in 100 years.
If migration goes well, 230 whooping cranes, including 40 chicks, should reach the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge compared with 220 last winter. About 10 birds were lost during migration last fall. Everyone is encouraged to report sightings of these large white birds with dark wing tips to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department or the USFWS.
This is the second year TPWD is offering a new tool for sportsmen to help protect whooping cranes and other similar birds. "Be Sure Before You Shoot" is a video training tool designed to help goose and sandhill crane hunters make correct identification in the field and avoid take of non-game birds.
Shooting deaths of whooping cranes are rare (seven whoopers from the Texas flock are known to have been shot since 1968), due in large part to efforts by state and federal agencies to make sportsmen and other citizens aware of the protected status of the whooping crane. While brochures and web sites have been used to educate hunters and the public in the past, "Be Sure Before You Shoot" is the first product to offer side-by-side identification tips for sportsmen in a video format.
The Aransas-Wood Buffalo flock of whooping cranes, which nests in the Northwest Territories of Canada and winters on the mid-Texas coast in the Rockport-Seadrift area, once numbered as low as 15 birds in 1941.
According to Lee Ann Linam, TPWD biologist, "The success story for this endangered species is truly remarkable and is due to cooperative efforts over many years by federal agencies, states, private conservation organizations, private landowners, and sportsmen. However, due to a variety of hazards, migration is the most vulnerable period for whooping cranes. We hope that this video will help increase the safety margin just a bit as whoopers make that 2,500 mile trip south from Canada."
Hunters and bird watchers should be on the lookout for whooping cranes migrating through Texas from mid-October through mid-December. Their migratory path can range from the eastern half of the Texas Panhandle, through the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, and south through Austin and Central Texas.
Whooping cranes are the tallest birds in North America, standing nearly five feet tall. They are solid white in color except for black wing-tips that are visible only in flight. They fly with necks and legs outstretched. During migration they often pause overnight to use wetlands for roosting and agricultural fields for feeding, according to Linam, but seldom remain more than one night. She said the birds 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.
Anyone sighting a whooping crane is asked to report it to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department at (800) 792-1112 x4644. Sightings can also be reported via e-mail to mark.klym@tpwd.texas.gov. Copies of the 17-minute "Be Sure Before You Shoot" DVD are available for $10 (including shipping) from: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, 3000 So. IH-35, Suite 100, Austin, TX 78704. Checks should be made payable to TPWD Nongame Fund. For more information on the video contact Lee Ann Linam at 512-847-9480 or leeann.linam@tpwd.texas.gov.

[ Note: This item is more than 10 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]
Oct. 16, 2006
Operation Game Thief Nets Poachers, Big Fines
AUSTIN, Texas -- Phone calls to Operation Game Thief by concerned citizens this summer resulted in the conviction of two individuals on 38 misdemeanor fishing-related charges and fines totaling more than $13,000 when the cases were adjudicated in September.
In one case, a Nueces County game warden received a phone call about a vessel tied-up to an offshore production platform in state waters south of Corpus Christi. The caller said the individuals on board were keeping everything they caught.
The game warden alerted colleagues and launched a boat in record time, entering the Gulf of Mexico through the newly opened Packery Channel. Another phone call from the complainant provided the warden with the general heading and a description of the boat, which had left the first location.
When game wardens boarded the boat, within four miles of shore, the captain produced a Federal Reef Permit and claimed all of his fish were caught outside of state waters. The game warden left the area but circled around to observe the vessel at its next stop and boarded the boat again when crew members were observed catching fish.
After the vessel was docked in Port Aransas and offloaded, the final count was 2,212 pounds of fish (sold to the highest bidder), including 2,094 pounds of Red snapper. More than two dozen citations were issued to the vessel owner.
In processing the individuals aboard the boat, it was found that the seven crewmembers shared 62 prior violations with TPWD. One individual had 45 pending cases, and the vessel owner had six prior citations.
The owner entered a plea agreement, reducing court-ordered fines from $500 per violation to $365, resulting in a total of $9,490 in fines and an additional $9,612.82 in civil restitution.
Another call to Operation Game Thief this summer sent a second Nueces County game warden to a local pier where an angler had been observed keeping over-limit, under-size and over-size fish. The call came in at about midnight, and the game warden quickly set up surveillance on the pier and observed the individual catching and keeping fish, then making repeated trips to his vehicle with a white, 5-gallon bucket. After six hours, the subject decided it was time to leave and when he returned to his vehicle with his bucket and fishing gear, the game warden was there to greet him.
After sorting and counting the fish, the warden issued 12 citations for over-limt and under-size spotted seatrout and red drum.
When the charges were adjudicated, the judge agreed to a plea agreement in which the defendant is to pay $300 in fines per violation, for a total of $3,600, plus $672.57 in civil restitution.
Operation Game Thief is Texas' privately-funded wildlife "crime-stoppers" program. Rewards of up to $1,000 may be paid to tipsters (who may remain anonymous).
Since its inception in 1981, Operation Game Thief has fielded more than 28,000 tips, filed more than 9,000 cases - with a 98 percent conviction rate -- and netted more than $1 million in fines. The program has paid-out rewards totaling more than $200,000.
"Any law enforcement program must have two things to be successful: public support and court-applied penalties sufficient to be a deterrent," said Lawson "Buddy" Turner, OGT program director. "Operation Game Thief is the crucial link in the partnership between the sporting public and game wardens in terms of catching poachers. One timely, two-minute phone call to OGT can - and often does - result in an apprehension that has significant impact, both in resource conservation and deterrence."
In 1995, the legislature authorized OGT to make grants to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to purchase sophisticated law enforcement tools such as night-vision equipment and side-scan sonar. To date, those grants total more than $117,000.
To report illegal hunting, fishing or boating activity, call Operation Game Thief 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week, at 1-800-792-GAME.
Game wardens recommend making the call immediately when illegal activity is observed, and say it is helpful to have a description of the activity, location of the violation, physical descriptions of alleged violators, description of any vehicles or boats and the direction of travel.
On the Net:

[ Note: This item is more than 10 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. 16, 2006
Agreement Reached To Keep Eisenhower State Park Open
The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) have reached an agreement for Eisenhower State Park to continue to operate as a unit of the Texas State Park system. After months of lease negotiations, an agreement was reached in early October for both agencies to continue their long-standing partnership to provide recreational opportunities at Lake Texoma.
TPWD and the Corps worked for several months to resolve issues about the roles and responsibilities of each agency. This had hampered renewal of the lease agreement, which expired more than a year ago. (TPWD operates the state park through a lease with the Corps, which owns the land.) This summer, state park system leaders notified the Corps that unless a new agreement could be reached, TPWD would no longer be able to operate the site as a state park after Sep. 30.
TPWD and Corps representatives say that the resolution of this matter is in large measure due to the diligent support and involvement of elected leaders, including Congressman Ralph Hall, State Rep. Larry Phillips, State Sen. Craig Estes, and State Sen. Chris Harris. These leaders and their staffs attended meetings and spent many hours working to reach a positive resolution.
"We are pleased with the positive outcome of the lease negotiations," said Walt Dabney, TPWD state parks director. "Rep. Phillips and other elected leaders have said they believe this new agreement will benefit the citizens of Texas and Oklahoma for many years to come, and we agree."
Eisenhower State Park, with 423.1 acres, is located in Grayson County northwest of Denison on the shores of Lake Texoma. The park was opened to the public in 1958. It is named for the 34th U.S. president, Dwight David Eisenhower, who was born nearby.
A variety of facilities, trails, and a Texas State Park Store are available at the park. Popular activities include picnicking, hiking, biking, nature study, fishing, boating and boat rentals, water skiing, swimming, wildlife observation, and camping. Nature and environmental educational programs are frequently scheduled throughout the year and upon special request. There is a small amphitheater available for group use.
Eisenhower Yacht Club, a full-service marina, is also located within the park. The marina is operated by a private company under a concession agreement with TPWD.
The park is open seven days a week year round. Office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Current conditions and fire bans can vary from day to day. For more information, see the park Web page or contact the park by email at espc@texoma.net or phone the park at (903) 465-1956.
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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [TH]
Oct. 16, 2006
1944 Texas Clipper To Become Gulf of Mexico Artificial Reef
BEAUMONT, Texas -- The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has completed contractual negotiations for the Texas Clipper to become the first major addition to the department's Ships-to-Reefs program in more than 30 years. In early spring 2007, the clipper will be sunk 17 nautical miles off the southern coast of Texas to become an artificial reef.
The department's Texas Artificial Reef Program has worked for more than 10 years with the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) to secure title to the Texas Clipper, a former WWII troop transport ship, cruise liner and training vessel for the Texas A&M University Maritime Academy.
"We are very pleased to announce that as of today, the Texas Clipper project is officially underway," said Dale Shively, TPWD artificial reef program coordinator, on Oct. 11.
Shively said a Notice-to-Proceed has been issued to Resolve Marine Services, Inc. of Port Everglades, Florida to begin preparations to tow the ship from the MARAD Reserve Fleet dock in Beaumont to Brownsville for cleaning and final preparations. The transfer of the title from MARAD to the State of Texas is set to occur once towing commences from Beaumont.
Hazardous materials remediation (cleaning) and hull modifications will be performed by ESCO Marine of Brownsville, a subcontractor for Resolve Marine Services. The process of preparing the ship for reefing could take four to six months.
Towing will begin in late October or early November and the Texas Clipper will move slowly and deliberately out of Sabine Pass, through the Gulf of Mexico and into the Brazos Santiago pass. She will be moored at ESCO Marine's facility in Brownsville, cleaned of all environmental hazards and structurally modified to promote safe diving.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved the TPWD cleanup plan for the ship, but approval for sinking will be made after a final inspection by EPA.
In early 2007, she will be towed to a permitted reef site 17 nautical miles off the southern coast of Texas near South Padre Island to become an artificial reef.
The U.S.T.S. Texas Clipper is a 473-foot decommissioned Texas Maritime Training Academy ship that served students and sea cadets at Texas A&M University at Galveston from 1965-1996. She traveled the world's oceans and students spent countless weeks on her decks and in her many cabins.
The Texas Clipper was originally commissioned in 1944 as the U.S.S. Queens, a troop transport ship that served in World War II. She ferried fresh troops into battle and shuttled the wounded from Iwo Jima and was part of the American occupation at Sasebo, Japan. She was decommissioned in 1946.
From 1948 to 1958, she was commissioned the S.S. Excambion and served as one of the post-war four aces for American Export Lines. As a cruise liner, she sailed to ports in the Mediterranean after her many Atlantic crossings.
The TPWD Ships-to-Reefs program uses the sinking of large obsolete ships to create artificial reefs, adding a unique dimension to the Texas Artificial Reef Program. Ships-to-Reefs efforts began in the mid 1970s through the efforts of the Texas Coastal and Marine Council with the reefing of 12 Liberty Ships at six sites along the Texas coast.
These were some of the ships that survived enemy sinking attempts during World War II. Since that time, many large ships have been scrapped with relatively few becoming artificial reefs.
Recently, the U.S. Maritime Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have drafted guidelines for coastal states to follow in the preparation of obsolete ships for their respective artificial reef programs. Texas will continue to look for opportunities to acquire suitable ships for its offshore waters.
For more information about Ships-to-Reefs or the Texas Artificial Reef Program, see the TPWD Web site.
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[ Note: This item is more than 10 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]
[ Additional Contacts: Lori Valadez, NRCS Public Affairs Specialist, lori.valadez@tx.usda.gov, (254) 742-9811; Norman Bade, NRCS Asst. State Conservationist for Programs, norman.bade@tx.usda.gov, (254) 742-9881 ]
Oct. 16, 2006
Dec. 15 Is Deadline Set for 2007 Environmental Quality Incentives Program
TEMPLE, Texas -- The USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Texas has set a Dec. 15, 2006, sign-up deadline for the 2007 Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). These federal grants help farmers and ranchers improve natural resources on private land in Texas, and they have become increasingly important for a range of wildlife species, from game animals like quail to endangered species like the red-cockaded woodpecker.
The grant process includes local work groups who identify the most important natural resource issues in their area. Through EQIP, NRCS also funds projects that address special statewide resource concerns recommended by the Texas State Technical Committee. The 2007 statewide resource concerns are animal waste, invasive species, plant condition, water quality, water quantity, and wildlife emphasis areas.
EQIP grants in Texas have funded range and pasture management and reforestation of areas impacted by Hurricane Rita, improved irrigation systems, brush removal, and invasive species control primarily focused on Chinese tallow and salt cedar.
Since 2003, 185 EQIP wildlife contracts have been written in Texas worth more than $7.1 million for a variety of wildlife projects involving declining species in five focus areas. These include projects to help the lesser prairie chicken and blacktailed prairie dog in the Panhandle, quail and grassland birds in the Rolling Plains, quail and Attwater's greater prairie chicken in South Texas, red-cockaded woodpecker and quail in Longleaf Pine ecosystems and, new for 2006, black-capped vireo projects in Central Texas.
Immediately following the end of the current sign-up period, all applications will be ranked. Producers with an approved application will work with an NRCS conservation planner to develop a contract and a plan and will begin implementing conservation practices next spring.
Local NRCS field offices have complete details for their county and the applicable state concerns. Additional information, including ranking criteria, eligible practices, and cost-share rates for all programs, can also be found on the Texas NRCS Web Site.