|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2007-04-02                                    |
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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]
April 2, 2007
Fallen Game Warden a Model of New Breed
AUSTIN, Texas -- From the time he was a teenager guiding goose hunters on the Texas coastal prairies, probably even before then, Justin Hurst was subconsciously preparing himself to make a difference in natural resource conservation. Those who knew him say he seemed to approach life with that goal in mind.
Although his journey was cut short when he lost his life in the line of duty on his 34th birthday, March 17, 2007, Hurst had already made his mark on the Texas landscape. And, the impacts he had on the state's wildlife resources, as well as on his family, friends, coworkers, and even adversaries, serve as his legacy.
"Game Warden Justin Hurst personified all of what Texas Parks and Wildlife represents," Col. Peter Flores, TPWD Law Enforcement Division Director, says. "He cared for wildlife, he was a pillar of his community, and he cared deeply for his family and was a faithful public servant. His death is a great loss to the people of Texas."
Hurst started his career with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as a biologist in August 1995 specializing in waterfowl management along the mid-coast. Fellow wildlife biologist Matt Nelson remembers joining TPWD at the same time as Hurst.
"He went to Peach Point (Wildlife Management Area) and I went to Mad Island (WMA), both of us worked on the central coast wetlands project," Nelson recalls. "We had numerous research projects going on at the same time and spent most weeks together; fish sampling, working up alligators and mottled ducks. A lot of late nights together running around the marsh in air boats. Justin was very enthusiastic, dedicated towards the resource and approached everything full-bore."
At Peach Point WMA, Hurst was able to submerse himself in his passion for waterfowl and the marsh habitat. For six years, he built a reputation as a wildlife biologist who understood the resource and conservation.
"He got it," offers Dave Morrison, TPWD waterfowl program leader. "He understood the importance of resource management and conservation and could relate that to others. He was a heckuva biologist."
That's why it came as such a surprise when he announced plans to become a game warden.
"No one within the project saw that coming," says Nelson. "He never mentioned anything to us, and then out of the blue he said he planned on going to the game warden academy. He'll always be a biologist to us. The thing about Justin, whatever he put his mind to, he'd do it well. We lost a good biologist."
Hurst became a part of the 48th Texas Game Warden Academy and graduated in August of 2002. While at the academy, Hurst shared his knowledge about waterfowl with fellow cadets and actually taught duck identification techniques. Some of his classmates referred to Hurst as the "Super Cadet" because of his diligence and drive.
After graduation, Hurst served about a year in Brazos County when a game warden slot became open in Wharton County. Hurst met with then TPWD Law Enforcement Division Director Col. James Stinebaugh personally to make his case for a transfer.
Stinebaugh says the decision to transfer Hurst was a no-brainer, but admits it did cause a rumbling in the ranks at the time.
"Typically, we required at least two years experience before letting a warden put in for a transfer, but it just made perfect sense to put Justin back down there because we needed someone who knew waterfowl in that position," Stinebaugh says. "I took some heat for that move, but it was the right move."
Hurst's supervisor, Capt. Rex Mayes, says he knew well ahead of time he would eventually see Justin Hurst working in his district some day and is glad the colonel broke from tradition. "I remember meeting him for the first time when he was still in the academy," Mayes recalls. "He said he wanted to come to my district because we had the bay that he loved so much. I remember when he left my office that first time; it was a rude awakening for me because I was seeing for the first time a new breed of game wardens, the whiz kids."
Game wardens who worked in the field with Hurst remember him most for his preparedness, dedication and respect for others; even those individuals he issued citations to for game law violations.
Hurst is survived by his wife, Amanda, and son, Kyle Hunter, age 4 months, his parents, Allen and Pat Hurst of Bryan, a brother, Greg Hurst of Denver, Colorado, and in-laws, Larry and Jeanie Wilcox of Denton, Texas.
Memorial fund donations may be made to Operation Game Thief, c/o Justin Hurst Memorial Fund, 4200 Smith School Road, Austin, TX, 78744. The Houston 100 Club is also accepting donations for the family at: 100 Club Survivor's Fund 1233 West Loop South, Suite 1250, Houston, TX 77027-9107.

[ 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 ]
[ Media Contacts: Tom Harvey, TPWD, (512) 389-4453; Victoria Fox, USFWS, (505) 248-6455; Ben Sherman, NOAA, (301) 713-3066; Richard Seiler, TCEQ, (512) 239-2523; Laurel Cahill, Alcoa, (361) 987-6500; Jim Suydam, GLO, (512) 417-5382 ]
April 2, 2007
Lavaca Bay Restoration Credited to Government-Industry Partnership
AUSTIN, Texas -- Federal, state, local community and industry leaders on March 28 celebrated a successful cooperative effort to clean up and restore the Point Comfort/Lavaca Bay Superfund site, located midway between Houston and Corpus Christi.
Mercury contamination released from Alcoa Inc.'s Point Comfort manufacturing facility in the late 1960's contaminated areas of Lavaca Bay near the facility and caused ecological injury. A discrete portion of Lavaca Bay was closed to the taking of finfish and crabs for consumption in April 1988 (Fishing Closure) after mercury levels in these resources were found to exceed levels considered safe for human consumption. The size of the closed area was reduced in 2000.
March 28, federal and state leaders presented Alcoa with an award for its active and cooperative role in resolving the site's contamination problems and in restoring Lavaca Bay.
"This is a great example of government and a responsible company working together to investigate and plan for clean up and restoration of the environment simultaneously," said William Corso, deputy assistant administrator for NOAA's National Ocean Service. "We consider this to be a national model for achieving full and efficient restoration of our nation's coastal resources."
"Over the last decade, developing and implementing sound environmental solutions for Lavaca Bay has been the focus for many in Calhoun County," said Ron Weddell, Alcoa remediation manager. "Through cooperative relationships, Alcoa employees, local citizens, state and federal agencies and scientists have worked together to determine the best cleanup solutions and recreational uses for the bay."
Alcoa has spent approximately $110 million to undertake a suite of projects in and around the bay to affect clean-up and compensate for natural resource losses resulting from the site contamination. The implementation of these projects represent the culmination of 15 years of cooperative work, under the auspices of several agreements, focused on cleaning up the site as well as restoring resources and enhancing recreational fishing opportunities to offset the impacts of the contamination in the Bay.
Alcoa's agreement to implement the restoration projects is embodied in a settlement of its natural resource damages liability for the site approved in 2005. Alcoa also paid costs incurred by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Texas General Land Office, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in evaluating the site and in determining appropriate restoration actions.
"It's important to seize every opportunity to restore and enhance fish and wildlife habitat whenever and wherever we get the chance, since so much of it has been lost or damaged in Texas, and parties on all sides have worked hard to see that the settlement did the best possible job on that score," said Larry McKinney, Ph.D., TPWD coastal fisheries director. "In this case, we were able to provide new recreational facilities and opportunities for anglers and boaters in Lavaca Bay, as well as restored marshes and oyster reefs that are important for fish, shellfish, birds and other wildlife."
To restore ecological losses, Alcoa will transfer 729 acres of land to be preserved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, created 70 acres of inter-tidal salt marsh within the Refuge, and created 11 acres of new oyster reef habitat in Lavaca Bay. To offset recreational fishing losses, Alcoa constructed new fishing piers at Six Mile Park, Point Comfort Park and the bay-front peninsula in Port Lavaca. It also replaced an existing auxiliary boat ramp, built docks and modified an existing jetty to improve access to and enhance recreational fishing opportunities in the bay. Although the bulk of restoration activities are completed, there are still continuing efforts to restore the bay.
"The benefits of collaborating parties are most apparent and have resulted in the creation and restoration of saltwater marsh habitats that are important to all of the resident species at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. Everyone involved worked diligently towards a common goal insuring a successful resolution of the ecological impacts. As a result, Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, its wild inhabitants and the public have all benefited. I commend everyone involved for their efforts to derive a solution that will benefit wildlife and people," said Benjamin N. Tuggle, Ph.D., USFWS southwest regional director.
For several years spanning the late 1960s to early 1970s Alcoa operated a chlorine-alkali processing unit at its Point Comfort plant that resulted in discharges of mercury into Lavaca Bay via pathways such as wastewater streams, groundwater and runoff. Other areas around the facility were contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons as a result of processing coal tar at the facility.
"Texans expect us to work together and get things done, and that's just what we did here in Lavaca Bay," said Jerry Patterson, commissioner of the Texas GLO. "The results of this effort speak for themselves."
The restoration projects undertaken by Alcoa were identified through a natural resource damage assessment (NRDA) process for the site that was undertaken cooperatively with Alcoa. That cooperative assessment process permitted comprehensive coverage of all NRDA issues associated with the site and led to good working relationships between federal/state partners, Alcoa, and the local community.
On the Net:
Fact Sheet and Map: http://tpwd.texas.gov/newsmedia/releases/news_roundup/lavaca_bay_restoration/
NOAA: http://www.noaa.gov/
TPWD: http://tpwd.texas.gov/
USFWS: http://www.fws.gov/
TCEQ: http://www.tceq.state.tx.us/
GLO: http://www.glo.state.tx.us/

[ 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 ]
[ Additional Contacts: Sarah Bibbs 512-389-4577, sarah.bibbs@tpwd.texas.gov or Tom Harvey 512-389-4453, tom.harve@tpwd.texas.gov ]
April 2, 2007
Rare Avian Treasures on Display in Small-Town Museum
MT VERNON, Texas -- Families and nature enthusiasts seeking a weekend outing with educational value can become oologists for a day at the Franklin County Historical Association's Fire Station museum in Mt. Vernon, Texas.
Oology is the study of eggs, especially those of birds, and the Fire Station Museum in Mt. Vernon offers Texas' best display. The Oological exhibit showcases more than 150 bird eggs alongside pertinent information about each species. An egg from the extinct Carolina parakeet and one from the extinct Passenger pigeon are the rarest in the collection.
"The opportunity to see these eggs is very unique," said Cliff Shackelford, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department ornithologist. "To my knowledge, there is not another museum in the world that has the Carolina parakeet or Passenger pigeon egg on public display."
In addition to the eggs' rarity, they also offer visitors a glimpse into history. Prior to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, collecting bird eggs was a popular hobby. Mt. Vernon's collection can trace its roots back to a taxidermist in Ohio who collected the majority of the eggs in the late 1800s. The eggs eventually found their way into a Texas collector A.W. Nations' possession.
"He was a lepidopterist, one who studies butterflies, and had had a well preserved collection of more than sixty Texas butterflies," said B.F. Hicks, Franklin County Historical Association Board of Directors member. "Mr. Nations had his butterflies and the egg collection, as well as a mammoth bone, and some mounted heads. It seemed he had plans of having his own private mini-natural history museum."
Eventually, the Texan collector passed away, and over the years his museum ambitions became little more than a pile of cardboard boxes stacked in a garage. Hicks and Shackelford would help to change all that, and now the entire collection is on public display in Mt. Vernon.
"We spent more than two years and $50,000 on the project. It's really a beautiful display," said Hicks.
Located in a renovated fire station from the 1940s, the oological display was constructed according to state-of-the-art Smithsonian standards with fiber optic lighting and a specialized air filtration system. Visitors can also view the century-old butterfly collection, as well as other pieces of the museum's collection. Computerized additions to the bird-egg display are scheduled for installation when funding permits.
Hicks said all of the museum's items on display are in some way connected to Texas, making this opportunity a unique way to learn about the state's wildlife.
Mt. Vernon is also a great location to get outdoors and see some of the avian species first-hand.
"They have more birding and wildlife viewing sites listed on our state's wildlife viewing trail system than any other community its size," said Shackelford. "There are more than a dozen bird watching sites within a thirty-minute drive from downtown."
According to Shackelford, this small town is a place worth traveling to.
"Mt. Vernon offers people a chance to see some very rare eggs, great birding trails and just enjoy a unique local experience. From Dallas to Houston, to Shreveport and beyond, you can't go see something like this in the big city," he said.
More information on the Mt. Vernon Fire Station Museum can be found on the Franklin County Historical Association Webpage or by calling 903-537-4760. Birding and wildlife trail maps can be located through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Website.
On the Net: