|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2007-05-14                                    |
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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [LH]
May 14, 2007
2007 Budweiser Sharelunker Season Wrap-Up
ATHENS, Texas -- The 21st season of the Budweiser ShareLunker program ended April 30 with a total of 18 fish entered, slightly below the long-term average of 21.
Lack of fishing opportunity due to weather probably had more to do with the outcome than a paucity of fish. Almost every weekend during the peak months of March and April saw storms or cold fronts, including an April 7 winter blast that brought snow to much of northern Texas.
Seven fish were entered into the program in March and six in April. Lake Alan Henry, which gave up three Sharelunkers in March 2006 and six during April, managed to send only two big fish to Athens in April 2007. Anglers reported the big females began moving onto spawning beds only a couple of weeks before the season ended.
Budweiser ShareLunker program manager David Campbell, Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center director Allen Forshage, and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Inland Fisheries Division Director Phil Durocher discussed the possibility of extending the season into May, but decided not to because of concern for the welfare of the fish.
"It can take several weeks for fish to spawn after we bring them to Athens," Forshage said. "By the time we returned them to the lakes, the water would have warmed to the point it could endanger the lives of the fish. Our first concern is always to keep these big fish alive and return them to the lake where they were caught."
Fingerlings produced by the big females are also stocked into the lakes where ShareLunkers are caught, and warmer water temperatures can also result in higher mortality of the young fish.
Honors for Angler of the Year go to 9-year-old Jesse Roberson of Goldthwaite, who caught the biggest fish of the season, a 15.54-pounder, from a private water body, Lake Merritt. The fish was 27.125 inches long and 21.5 inches in girth and hit a small plastic crayfish in three to four feet of water on March 9. In addition to ShareLunker clothing, Roberson will receive a lifetime Texas resident fishing license for catching the biggest entry by a Texas angler.
The second-largest fish of the season was caught from Lake Fork by Michael Gray of Murphy. The 15.32-pound fish was 26.75 inches long and 22.5 inches in girth.
Lake Amistad produced the third-largest program entry, a 14.5-pounder caught by pro angler Rick Turner of Tyler. The lunker boosted Turner's four-day, 20-bass total to 90 pounds, 9 ounces and helped earn him $69,500 in winnings. The fish was the biggest ever weighed in at an FLW Outdoors tournament.
Evidence of the continuing improvement in largemouth bass growth due to the introduction of Florida largemouth genes came from Lake Cisco, a 1,050-acre lake near Abilene. The lake was impounded in 1923 and was first stocked with Florida largemouth bass in 1991, and again in 1994 and 1995. It produced its first Budweiser ShareLunker Jan. 27, when Richard Choate of Mineral Wells caught a 13.2-pound bass that was 26.25 inches long and 19.5 inches in girth.
Two fish were repeat entries. Dale Washington's 13.05-pound lunker caught April 10 from Lake Fork had been caught and entered into the ShareLunker program a year earlier by Robert Jones of Clute. The fish spawned just 13 days after being caught this spring and set a record for the number of eggs from a single ShareLunker spawn--50,697.
But the surprise of the year came from Lake Alan Henry on April 18, when guide Phillip Pool caught a fish that had been entered into the program each of the two years prior and returned to the lake each time. The three-time entry had been caught by Jimmy McMahon of Big Spring in April 2005 and was caught again by Curtis Norrod of Lubbock in April 2006. The fish is the only one to have been caught and entered into the Budweiser ShareLunker program three times.
Following is a chronological summary of the 2007 Budweiser ShareLunker season.
November 25, 2006. When Eddie Horn pulled Budweiser ShareLunker No. 424 from Lake Fork, he joined a select club of only eight anglers who've entered fish during the month of November.
Horn's fish was 26 inches long and 20.5 inches in girth and weighed 13.79 pounds. He caught it in 14 feet of water using a six-inch black Zoom lizard.
December 28, 2006. Seven-year-old Parker Chambers and his dad, Chris, of Plano collaborated on catching ShareLunker No. 425 from Lake Fork using the new rod and reel Parker got for Christmas. The 13.4-pound fish was 24.75 inches long and 20.5 inches in girth. The Chamberses pulled her from six feet of water using a Rapala X-rap.
January 5, 2007. Jaret Latta of Nacogdoches caught Budweiser ShareLunker No. 426 from Lake Nacogdoches. The 13.31-pound largemouth bass was 27 inches long and 20 inches in girth.
Latta was fishing in 20 feet of water when the big bass took a one-ounce jig.
Latta's fish is the third ShareLunker from Lake Nacogdoches and the first since 1999. The lake record largemouth, caught in 1986, weighed 14.02 pounds.
January 27, 2007. Richard Choate of Mineral Wells was just trying to keep out of the wind when he flipped a Paca Craw into the 44° water around a boat dock on Lake Cisco, then jiggled his rod tip. He forgot all about the cold when a 13.2-pound largemouth bass nabbed his lure.
Choate's fish was 26.25 inches long and 19.5 inches in girth. It became Budweiser ShareLunker No. 427 and is the first ShareLunker from Lake Cisco.
February 18, 2007. Following weeks of bitter weather during which no fish were entered into the Budweiser ShareLunker program, Austinite David Reinarz went looking for a hot spot where fish might find warmer water.
He settled on a concrete wing wall projecting from Tom Miller Dam on Lake Austin toward the Hula Hut, a popular restaurant near downtown Austin, and hauled in Budweiser ShareLunker No. 428, a 13-pound largemouth bass. At season's end the fish put Lake Austin into a four-way tie for fifth place among lakes producing ShareLunkers. Lakes Austin, Amistad, Bob Sandlin and Falcon have sent seven ShareLunkers each to Athens. Only Lakes Fork (236 fish), Alan Henry (25) Sam Rayburn (22) and Conroe (11) have produced more entries into the program.
Reinarz was using a ¼-ounce black jig with the weed guard trimmed back and a watermelon seed Brush Hog also cut down to keep the bait compact when he hooked the fish in 15 feet of 50-degree water.
March 3, 2007. March is the month when spawning largemouth bass attack anglers' lures with such ferocity that nearly half of all entries in the Budweiser ShareLunker program are caught during those 31 days.
Stephen Carey of Fords, New Jersey, added to the list when he landed a 13.23-pound Lake Fork bass that became entry No. 429 in the Budweiser ShareLunker program.
Carey caught his fish in five feet of 53-degree water using a half-ounce Rat-L-Trap. The fish was 25.5 inches long and 21 inches in girth.
Carey is the first angler from New Jersey to enter a fish into the Budweiser ShareLunker program. With his catch, anglers from 20 states outside Texas have now entered fish into the program.
March 9, 2007. Jesse Roberson of Goldthwaite continued the March action with a 15.54-pound fish caught from a private lake near Goldthwaite. Fishing with two adult family friends, the 9-year-old was using a plastic crayfish in three to four feet of water when he hooked his big bass. One of the adults had to help him land the fish, which was 27.125 inches long and 21.5 inches in girth.
The fish was the largest entry into the program for the season. Roberson is the youngest Angler of the Year in ShareLunker program history; the lifetime Texas resident fishing license he will receive normally costs $600.
March 10, 2007. While Budweiser ShareLunker program manager David Campbell was on his way back to Athens with Roberson's fish on Saturday morning, he got word that Dennis Weaver of Seguin had pulled a 14.478-pound fish from seven feet of water in Choke Canyon Reservoir. The fish was 26 inches long and 21.125 inches in girth. Lure type was not reported.
The afternoon of March 10 Lake Fork yielded two ShareLunkers. Michael Gray of Murphy was using a white tube jig in four feet of water when he landed a 15.32-pound lunker. David Reavis of Sand Springs, Oklahoma, was fishing on the bottom in 15 to 20 feet of water when he hooked his 13.24-pound bass.
March 20, 2007. Dave Maltsberger of Lewisville caught the 11th Budweiser ShareLunker of the current season from Lake Fork March 20, matching a feat his son Derrell accomplished in March 2005. Dave Maltsberger's 14.04-pound lunker was 25.75 inches long and 20.75 inches in girth. Bait used and location of the catch were not reported.
Derrell Maltsberger's catch on March 3, 2005 was the 10th of the season and weighed 13.19 pounds.
March 23, 2007. Pro angler Rick Turner of Tyler, fishing in the FLW Stren Series Texas Division tournament on Lake Amistad, landed a 14.5-pound largemouth bass that is the largest tournament fish ever caught during an FLW Outdoors competition.
April 10, 2007. Dale Washington of Godley, Texas, was fishing in 20 feet of water with a DD-22 when he caught a 13.05-pound largemouth bass that became Budweiser ShareLunker No. 436. That same fish had been caught April 5, 2006, by Robert Jones of Clute, Texas, entered into the program as ShareLunker No. 415 and returned to the lake. The fish was 25.5 inches long and 20.5 inches in girth.
Jeff Kirkwood of Royse City, Texas, had a memorable day on Lake Fork as well, reeling in a 13.07-pound lunker that became Budweiser ShareLunker No. 437. Kirkwood's fish was 25.5 inches long and 20 inches in girth.
April 13, 2007. Donny Collins of Canyon Lake, Texas, pulled a Friday the 13th fish from Falcon International Reservoir. The 13.03-pound fish was 25.5 inches long and 19.5 inches in girth.
The lake produced no Budweiser ShareLunkers between 1995, when three entries came from the lake, and 2004, when Jerry Campos of San Antonio caught a 14.28-pound fish. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has aggressively stocked the lake with Florida largemouth bass since 2001, and rising lake levels have rejuvenated the habitat.
Campos's ShareLunker was the largest entry into the ShareLunker program during the 2004-2005 season, and some 12,000 ShareLunker offspring were stocked into Falcon in 2005. Thanks to Collins, the lake will receive another stocking of ShareLunker offspring this year.
April 18, 2007. Phillip Pool of Lubbock made history when he reeled in a 13.2-pound bass from Lake Alan Henry. The fish stands alone in Budweiser ShareLunker annals as the only fish to have been caught and entered into the program three times. It is now officially Budweiser ShareLunker No. 389, 423 and 439.
Jimmy McMahon of Big Spring caught the fish April 14, 2005, and returned it to the lake later that year.
On April 24, 2006, Curtis Norrod of Lubbock also caught the fish and, like McMahon, returned it to the lake after the spawning season.
"The fish must really enjoy the ride to Athens," commented Pool. He named the fish Annie and said, "This fish is proof the Budweiser ShareLunker program works." Lake Alan Henry has now been stocked with 20,222 ShareLunker fingerlings and will receive more this year.
April 25, 2007. Choke Canyon Reservoir produced its second ShareLunker of the season when Larry Scharbrough of San Antonio caught a 13.33-pound fish that was 25.75 inches in length and 20 inches around.
April 29, 2007. The final ShareLunker of the season came from Lake Alan Henry. Nathan King of Lubbock caught the 13.0-pound fish, which was 25.5 inches long and 20.5 inches in girth.
The Budweiser ShareLunker program is made possible through support from Anheuser-Busch, Inc. Since 1991, Anheuser-Busch, in partnership with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, has contributed millions of dollars in funding to support conservation causes and fishing, hunting and outdoor recreation programs in Texas.

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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [TH]
May 14, 2007
Boaters Reminded 'Nobody's Waterproof,' Safety Encouraged
AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas had 47 boating fatalities in 2006, surpassing 40 for the first time since 2002, when the state led the nation with 61. Most of those tragedies were preventable, since on average 85 percent of boating fatality drowning victims who drowned were not wearing a life jacket when recovered.
With those sobering facts in mind, and the spring/summer boating season gearing up, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and its partners are launching a fresh public education and water safety initiative. The new approach enlists country music star Kevin Fowler, who's come on board to help connect with a key target audience.
"Nobody's Waterproof™" is a fun, interactive social marketing campaign targeting 18-to-34-year-old boaters, especially young men, whom statistics show are most at risk. It is sponsored by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA). The campaign was developed in 2006 by LCRA and EnviroMedia Social Marketing, Inc. and has won state, regional and national awards. This year, through an agreement with LCRA, TPWD is working to expand the initiative outside the Colorado River watershed to other Texas metropolitan areas.
"Texas Parks and Wildlife sees this as a chance to really take the message to the people on the water, with fun activities and educational items that will continue to remind boaters and swimmers that "Nobody's Waterproof -- Play it Safe," said Brandi Bradford, TPWD boater education coordinator. "We will be taking a wonderful new education program on Texas waters this summer -- including a great boat with a fun, engaging outreach team, who will be handing out safety items and information at some of the most well known locations around the state. Look for us on the water and shoreline at a lake, river, or bay near you!"
"LCRA is excited to be working with Texas Parks and Wildlife to take the Nobody's Waterproof campaign statewide in 2007," said Jennifer Scharlach, LCRA boating and water safety coordinator. "Last year, we found that the campaign really works in getting people's attention. The campaign's fun games, one-on-one conversations and nonjudgmental approach appeal to men ages 18 to 34, who are at the greatest risk of drowning. People who experienced the campaign last year told us that Nobody's Waterproof really did raise their awareness of water safety and change their behaviors."
The "Nobody's Waterproof" party boat, donated to TPWD by the Britteny Sage Lindt Fund, will be out for special events on Lake Texoma near Denton, Lake Lewisville near Dallas, Clear Lake and Lake Conroe near Houston, Canyon Lake and Guadalupe River near San Antonio, and Lake Travis near Austin. (By Memorial Day weekend, the "Nobody's Waterproof" Web site will have event details.) Some events will feature shoreline activities co-hosted by partners, including LCRA, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, South Texas Water Safety Coalition and others. LCRA will use a dual-engine, jet-drive boat on loan from Yamaha Motor Corporation for campaign events at lakes Travis and LBJ.
Nobody's Waterproof outreach events will emphasize these safety messages:
--Always wear a life jacket in the water and on a boat.
--Be responsible if you drink and designate a sober boat operator.
--Always swim with a friend and ask friends and family to watch each other.
--Drink lots of water to stay hydrated -- especially if you are also drink­ing alcohol.
--Follow boating and water safety rules and obey signs, markers and buoys.
--Have a VHF-FM marine radio or cell phone, GPS or map, proper safety equipment, and appropriate clothing on board or with you on the water.
--Know where you are on the water or shoreline.
--Take a boater education course, either online or in person.
"If boaters remember nothing else while they're playing on Texas waters this summer, we hope they'll remember "Nobody's Waterproof -- Play it Safe!" Bradford said. "Wear a lifejacket -- they even come in smaller, inflatable models that won't ruin your tan or be hot and uncomfortable. If you're going to drink, do so responsibly and designate a driver for your boat and the ride home.
"Boat with class boating safety courses are available online and in person through the TPWD Web site. Pay attention to your party. Keep an eye on family and friends while on the water or enjoying the shoreline, and make sure everyone gets home safely."
In keeping with the "Nobody's Waterproof" theme targeting the younger, fun crowd, country rocker Kevin Fowler has come on board as a celebrity spokesperson for the expanding statewide initiative. An avid hunter, angler and outdoorsman born in Amarillo, Fowler was "fed a steady diet of Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, and all the outlaws of country music." Known for songs about rowdy good times, Fowler is encouraging his fans via radio Public Service Announcements and other venues to come home safe from a day on the water.
"Like lots of 100 percent Texans, I love having a good time on the water!" Fowler says in the radio PSA. "But remember, 'Nobody's Waterproof.' Play it safe, wear a life jacket and designate a driver for the boat and for a safe ride home. Follow these tips and there'll be a lot more days for you to play in this great state of Texas."
In addition to the campaign, TPWD game wardens are preparing to enforce boating laws and provide proactive safety guidance, working with lake rangers, sheriff's deputies, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, U.S. Power Squadron, regional water safety coalitions, and many other local boating enforcement agencies and public interest groups.
TPWD and local partners will also be hosting news media announcements and opportunities for news crews to ride with game wardens and local officers on patrol at high-profile lakes near major metropolitan areas. These include events on May 19 on Lake Lewisville, May 24 on Canyon Lake and May 25 on Clear Lake. News ride-alongs and boating safety interviews with game wardens may also be coordinated at other times at statewide water bodies upon request with advance planning.
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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ]
[ Additional Contacts: Rob McCorkle, (830) 866-3533 or robert.mccorkle@tpwd.texas.gov; Tom Harvey, (512) 389-4453 or tom.harvey@tpwd.texas.gov ]
May 14, 2007
Texas' World Birding Center Taking Wing
MISSION, Texas -- Ten years after planning began to launch the World Birding Center in Texas' Lower Rio Grande Valley, the ambitious project to restore wildlife habitat and promote birding and nature tourism has taken off and is gaining altitude.
Comprised of nine sites strung along 120 miles of the Rio Grande corridor from Roma to South Padre Island, the WBC encompasses everything from saltwater flats and riparian woodlands to thick Tamaulipan thornscrub and palm-fringed resacas that attract an incomparable diversity of bird species.
As the WBC Web site notes: "The Rio Grande Valley hosts one of the most spectacular convergences of birds on earth. More than 500 species have been documented in this unique place."
And, some of the best places to see specialty birds of the Valley, such as the green jay, great kiskadee and Altamira oriole, are the two state parks run by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department that are currently open and six locally operated WBC sites.
Only TPWD's Resaca de la Palma State Park near Brownsville has yet to open, but is expected to welcome visitors sometime this fall as the final link in the WBC chain. Resaca de la Palma will feature 1,700 semitropical acres etched by ancient curves of the Rio Grande that will nicely complement the other WBC sites, according to Russell Fishbeck, the South Texas region's state parks director.
"The managers of the various World Birding Center sites have worked pretty well together when they've needed to share staff and other resources," Fishbeck said. "It's hard to pinpoint the visitation numbers throughout the network, but the sites are really starting to connect with the local customer base through school programs and family nature events."
TPWD's executive director, Robert L. Cook believes, too, in the WBC's educational mission and the Valley's unique natural heritage.
"The World Birding Center," he explained, "is important for wildlife conservation and sustainable economic development, but its lasting impact may come through youth involvement and education.
"The Lower Rio Grande Valley is one of the most biologically diverse ecological regions in North America and a critical migratory stopover point for birds that move between the Americas. Yet, more than three-quarters of the region's original wildlife habitat has been replaced by human development. The WBC showcases ways to restore and protect habitat while providing a tourism destination that puts people directly in touch with nature and wildlife."
TPWD operates both the headquarters of the far-flung World Birding Center at Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park near Mission and the recently opened Estero Llano Grande State Park in Weslaco. Estero Llano Grande features almost 200 acres of reclaimed wetlands that teem with birds and other wildlife. Six other WBC sites have been built and are operated by local communities in Edinburg, Harlingen, Hidalgo, McAllen, Roma, and South Padre Island.
The $7 million WBC headquarters includes an exhibit hall, lecture hall, gift shop, coffee bar and administrative offices on a former 60-acre farm field that has been replanted with native South Texas vegetation. Other elements include the hawk viewing tower, two bird viewing blinds with water features to attract birds, a flooded habitat courtyard that draws butterflies and birds, tram service to transport visitors within the park, and miles of hiking trails. More than 300 bird and almost 200 butterfly species have been documented at the 760-acre sanctuary only minutes from fast-growing Valley communities.
The advent of the WBC has been an economic boon to the Valley economy, which has suffered agricultural setbacks in recent years. Wildlife watchers from outside the region are estimated to generate more than $100 million annually in new tourism dollars for the Lower Rio Grande Valley.
Economic development motives, as well as the drive to conserve rapidly disappearing habitat, help explain the involvement of six major Rio Grande Valley municipalities in the World Birding Center.
Edinburg Scenic Wetlands provides an oasis for birds and other wildlife in an urban landscape that draws visitors to 40 acres of shallow ponds to view waterbirds, shorebirds, butterflies, dragonflies and other critters from waterside observation platforms and trails. An interpretive center features educational exhibits on fish and aquatic life, and state-of-the-art interactive computer programs highlighting birds and butterflies.
Harlingen's Arroyo Colorado and hike-and-bike trails connect the Texas ebony woodlands of 55-acre Hugh Ramsey Park on Harlingen's east side to a 40-acre upland thorn forest on the west side. Harlingen's wing of the WBC provides breeding grounds for numerous "Valley specialties" and the endangered red-crowned parrot.
The Old Hidalgo Pumphouse combines preservation of a key part of the Valley's agricultural history with nature conservation through the creation of butterfly and hummingbird gardens, hike and bike paths and birding trails. The site's museum depicts how steam-driven irrigation pumps turned Hidalgo County into a year-round farming Mecca.
Quinta Mazatlán, a Spanish-style, 1930s adobe home just across from McAllen's international airport, serves as headquarters for the bustling city's wing of the WBC that opened in spring 2006. The 6,700-square-foot showplace anchors an eight-acre estate filled with more than 100 species of exotic and native trees, shrubs and flowers that attract scores of birds and other wildlife. Since it opened, more than 20,000 people have visited, many of them attending weddings and other special functions.
Roma Bluffs, the westernmost WBC location, occupies the old plaza of a once-thriving steamboat port sitting above the Rio Grande. The site includes a narrow band of river woodlands dominated by black willow, Texas sugarberry and stands of Texas ebony. An interpretive overlook offers a great view of the river, island and woodlands below, as well as views of the Mexican border town of Miguel Aleman.
South Padre Island and Nature Center bookends the string of WBC sites at the southern tip of the world's longest barrier island. A boardwalk nature trail adjacent to the city's convention center spans a marsh all the way to wildlife-rich Laguna Madre. Interpretive panels and bird blinds enhance the experience. A 10,000-square-foot visitor center, lengthening of the boardwalk and addition of two more bird blinds are on the drawing board.
For details on the World Birding Center, see the Web site or phone (956) 584-9156. Photos, maps and graphics are available for news media use on the TPWD Web site.
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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [LH]
May 14, 2007
State Fish-Art Contest Winners Announced
ATHENS, Texas--Winners in the Texas division of the 2007 State-Fish Art Contest have been announced by Wildlife Forever and the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center, the sponsoring organizations.
First place in the grades 4-6 category went to Stanislav Nedzelskyi of Keller, Texas, a home-schooled sixth grader. His acrylic drawing of two Guadalupe bass is titled "The Underwater Meeting."
Nikita Samarin of Victoria won the grades 7-9 category with "Down in the Blue," a black-and-white pencil drawing of a catfish. Samarin attends Profit Magnet High School in Victoria. His art teacher is Melanie Burns.
Winner of the grades 10-12 category was Clayton Bowen of Eagle Lake. He attends Rice High School in Altair, where his art instructor is Debbie Christ. Bowen's watercolor shows a Guadalupe bass diving into the water and is titled "Splashin' Bass."
The Texas division of the national contest is headquartered at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center (TFFC) in Athens. Initial judging takes place at TFFC, and winning entries are sent to Wildlife Forever headquarters in Brooklyn Center, Minn, for judging at the national level. Results of the national contest will be announced at the State-Fish Art Expo July 21-22 at the Mall of America, where all winning artwork will be on display.
National awards to be announced at the July expo include Best of Show for the top three pieces of artwork in each grade category and the Art of Conservation Stamp Award. Winner of the Art of Conservation Stamp Award will be reproduced as a stamp for sale to collectors; proceeds will be used to fund conservation education and aquatic restoration projects across America.
"Wildlife Forever is pleased to honor the talented young artists, educators and parents who make the State-Fish Art Contest a memorable event," said Douglas H. Grann, president and CEO of Wildlife Forever. "Together, we are using art to empower a new generation of conservationists. By sharing their fish art with family, friends and the general public, our young people are becoming ambassadors for the good stewardship of fish and wildlife habitat."
Second place in the grades 4-6 category went to Jessica Zhuge of Pearland. Third place was won by Rama Imad of Houston. Earning honorable mentions were Elizabeth Donaldson, Athens; Stephanie Nguyen, Ft. Worth; Craig McCain, Kerrville; Mitchell Byrum, Spring; Mario Fernandez, Clint; Peter Young, Keller; and Ethan West, Fredericksburg.
In grades 7-9, the second-place winner was Amalie Arambula of Mabank. Third place went to Jesus Gudino of Pasadena. Honorable mentions were awarded to Keelye Smith, Waco; Matthew McMahon, Payne Springs; Taylor Walker, Sherman; Kristen Stock, Cuero; Billy Dyson, Winnsboro; Francisco Treviño, Pasadena; and Bobby Aschenbach, Pasadena.
In grades 10-12, Kenneth McDaniel of Angleton took second place, and Tiana Hargrave of Athens won third. Honorable mentions included Dean Quach, Houston; Miranda Hargrave, Athens; Laela Armstrong, Athens; Mario Reyna, Pasadena; Kaitlin Andress, Athens; William Brock, Bremond; and Kevin Hopper, Athens.
Educators and students in Texas have embraced the State-Fish Art Contest so enthusiastically that the number of entries from Texas alone, 570, amounts to about one-fourth of the entries for the entire country.
To enter the contest, students create an illustration of an officially recognized state fish and write a composition about its behavior, habitat and efforts to conserve it. The Texas state fish is the Guadalupe bass, but contestants may depict any state fish of their choice. Entries are due at TFFC March 31 of each year. For contest details visit the TFFC web site.
Wildlife Forever is a non-profit multi-species conservation organization dedicated to conserving America's wildlife heritage. Wildlife Forever has funded conservation projects in all 50 states. It supports habitat restoration and enhancement, land acquisition, research and management of fish and wildlife populations.
Sponsors for the Wildlife Forever State-Fish Art Contest include Cheap Joe's Art Stuff, The Art Institutes International Minnesota, Mall of America, Minnesota Twins, North American Fishing Club, Rapala, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the U.S. Forest Service Eastern Region.
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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [SB]
May 14, 2007
Minor Planet Named for Texas State Park
NEEDVILLE, Texas -- Brazos Bend has always been a Texas state park offering plenty to see and do. Now, it's also a minor planet orbiting within our solar system.
"Brazos Bend" is the official name recently accepted by the International Astronomical Union to designate a minor planet discovered through telescopes located inside Brazos Bend State Park at The George Observatory, a satellite facility of the Houston Museum of Natural Science.
Joseph Dellinger, Max Eastman and Bill Dillon are a team of volunteer researchers at the George Observatory who spent four years observing the minor-planet Brazos Bend before it was eligible to receive its name.
"There's typically a delay between when you discover a minor planet and when you get to name it," said Dellinger.
The asteroid, originally designated as HC67, was first discovered in April 2001. According to Dellinger, it's not an easy task to find an asteroid that hasn't already been mapped. To acquire the naming rights for a minor planet, a great deal of time and observation is required.
"You don't get credit for just spotting an asteroid one night," said Dellinger. "You usually have to get another observation recorded within the next couple of days, and this is usually when most asteroids are lost."
Fortunately HC67 was not lost, and Dellinger and his team tracked the asteroid further.
"You have to keep following it for a month or two if you want to be able to spot it again the next year. Then, you have to cover it from year to year until you have the orbit so well nailed down that one observation in a century will be enough. This usually takes about four years of observation," he said.
At the point that a minor planet's orbit is determined well enough, the asteroid is given a permanent number. HC67 was designated 63387, meaning it is the 63,387th asteroid to receive a permanent number since the first time an asteroid was numbered in 1801.
After years of tracking asteroid number 63387, Dellinger and his team offered the honor of naming this piece of the sky to Brazos Bend State Park, since the park has been home to the observatory for many years.
"I thought it would be a nice gesture to the park," said Dellinger. "It's one of our better discoveries."
Brazos Bend State Park Superintendent Steve Killian thought giving the minor planet the namesake of Brazos Bend was only fitting.
"The [park] staff and I thought it was a great way to showcase our great park, home of the George Observatory," said Killian. "We really have a hand-in-glove relationship with the observatory. We're partners, and it is really a wonderful opportunity to have the observatory inside the park. It allows our neighbors from the Houston metropolitan area to really see a night sky. The stars are big and bright in Texas, and here especially, you can see that."
Brazos Bend, however, is not so easy to spot. The minor planet's intensity of brightness is measured at a magnitude of 15. Stars of the big dipper are a magnitude 3. The greater the magnitude number, the dimmer the star appears. The dimmest star visible to the naked eye is a magnitude 6.
"The brightest [asteroids] were all taken before we even got started," said Dellinger. "We're always discovering things at the outer limits of our capabilities. If it was easy to find, someone already discovered it."
Still, the night sky over Brazos Bend's 5,000 acres offers an unobstructed view of the stars unlike any other in the Houston area.
Twenty-one years ago, when Brazos Bend was still a fairly new state park, Halley's Comet returned to the night sky. Droves of Texans flocked to Brazos Bend to get a better look.
"Thousands of people visited the park in 1986, and the idea of an observatory inside Brazos Bend became quite popular," said Barbara Wilson, director of the George Observatory. "In 1989, we opened the observatory."
Today, the George Observatory offers a number of educational opportunities. On Saturday evenings, it is open to the public for a small fee. An available 36-inch Gueymard Research Telescope is one of the largest telescopes in the nation open to public use.
In addition to stargazing at the observatory, Brazos Bend State Park has plenty of other outdoor opportunities.
"The park has ecological habitats of tall grass coastal prairies, live oak slope forests, bottomland hardwood forests, ponds, lakes, creeks and the Brazos River. This diversity is what makes Brazos Bend a special place to view abundant wildlife," said Killian. "Our best known viewable resident is the American Alligator. We have more than three hundred that are greater than six feet in length."
In addition to wildlife viewing, the park has fishing, picnicking and camping opportunities and more than 34 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails.
"It's a great place to get out and experience a natural part of Texas." Killian said.
Now, with a minor planet orbiting above, "out-of-this-world" is not only a figurative description for Brazos Bend, but a literal one as well.
Brazos Bend State Park is located approximately an hour's drive southwest of Houston. The park is open all week, year-round, from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
More information on Brazos Bend State Park can be found on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Web site, and additional information on The George Observatory can be found through the Houston Museum of Natural Science Web site.
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