|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2008-06-09                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than nine 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]
June 9, 2008
Research Documents Child-Nature Disconnect, Shows "Life's Better Outside"
AUSTIN, Texas -- "We have this rock in our yard we call our thinking rock. We'll go out there and read, and if we see a bird, we look it up in my husband's bird book."
Dr. Kimberly Avila Edwards values time outside with her two kids. As a pediatrician with Austin Regional Clinic and chair of the Texas Pediatric Society obesity committee, she's one of a growing number of experts who believe today's kids are becoming disconnected from nature, and that reconnecting has important benefits.
For the Edwards family, unstructured nature play means playing tag, flying kites, having lunch on the grass or looking for ladybugs. They've made time in nature part of daily life.
Recent research shows that is not the case for many Americans today. Author Richard Louv explains this eloquently in his groundbreaking book "Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder."
A new edition is out this summer, updating the 2006 original with a new field guide for parents and grandparents, 100 actions people can take, nature activities for kids and families and suggestions for transforming communities. It carries a message of hope, but it also reviews a growing body of research that links the nature-deficit problem to issues like childhood obesity, educational and developmental challenges and other ills.
Louv's book has spawned a nationwide movement. The resulting Children and Nature Network is bringing politicians, pediatricians, educators, architects, environmentalists, wildlife scientists and an astounding diversity of others into an expanding circle of supporters. The group's Web site (www.childrenandnature.org) includes two sets of research studies.
One set of research reports by universities, medical institutions and others details the problem, with key findings summarized as follows:
--Children's use of space has changed from being primarily outdoors to indoors and supervised
--Children spend more of their diminishing free time in structured activities such as sports
--Children spend considerable time with electronic media and multiple forms of media
--Children know more about Pokémon than common wildlife
--Children are walking and bicycling to school less than they used to
--Parents identify safety as the biggest barrier to children's independent play
The good news is another set of research studies shows great value in reconnecting children with nature, with several key examples summarized as follows:
--Unstructured free play brings cognitive, social and health benefits
--Nature-smart kids get higher test scores
--Outdoor experience for teens has self-reported life-changing results
--Green school grounds foster achievement and responsibility
--Natural settings provide psychological benefits
--Access to nature nurtures self-discipline, reduces stress in children
--Parks bring social, community health and economic benefits
In Texas, the state with the sixth highest number of childhood obesity cases, Dr. Edwards is part of the state's Children and Nature coalition.
"If we don't address this issue today, then what we're facing is in the next generation children will have a much shorter life span than their parents," Edwards said, noting that the Texas Pediatric Society has developed a Childhood Obesity Toolkit for health care providers. The toolkit encourages limiting the time children spend on TV, video games, and computers and promoting physical activity, including a "healthy lifestyle prescription" that recommends one hour of outdoor play every day.
Other Texas efforts are encouraging urban parents to enjoy state parks and outdoor activities with their children. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department partnered with advertising agency GSD&M, which worked pro bono to create an initiative called Life's Better OutsideTM. Under the Life's Better Outside brand, TPWD promotes programs like Texas Outdoor Family weekend workshops where parents and kids learn to pitch tents, cook over campfires and reconnect with nature. This summer and fall, various state parks are starting a new series of Texas Outdoor Family weekends.
Visitors can see what to do and where to go at state parks across Texas on the TPWD Web site, or by picking up a Texas State Park Guide booklet at any state park or at many local tourism bureaus. Campers can make state park reservations online, or by phoning (512) 389-8900. State parks host a wide array of tours and events, all accessible through an online calendar.
This summer, TPWD is continuing the Free Fishing in State Parks program that waives fishing license requirements within more than 50 state parks, including scheduled events at some parks where participants can learn fishing skills, have a chance to hook a fish and perhaps win door prizes like rods and reels. The department also has a new e-newsletter, State Parks Getaways, featuring park profiles, articles about camping, wildlife and other topics and links to park videos and photos. Anyone can sign up to receive the free e-newsletter and other information via the TPWD E-mail Subscription Service.
On the Net:

[ Note: This item is more than nine 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]
June 9, 2008
State Parks Offer "Texas Outdoor Family" Weekend Workshops
Summer, Fall Weekends Set Near Austin, San Antonio, Houston
AUSTIN, Texas -- The Texas Outdoor Family program is expanding, offering a new series of weekend workshops in state parks this summer and fall. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department began the program two years ago, and is also hosting workshops in local parks through partnerships with cities, river authorities and others.
"Today's children are growing up in urban areas and becoming disconnected with the world of nature and the outdoors," said Walt Dabney, TPWD State Parks Division director. "Many parents are aware of this and are interested in getting back to nature, but they don't know how to get started. This program directly addresses that need, and we want it to become a centerpiece of our outreach and education efforts in state parks."
Workshops in state parks cost $55 per family (up to eight people), and include individual car camping sites for each family, restrooms with hot showers, professional Park Ranger-led programs and instruction, overnight state park police officer public safety and security, a curriculum developed specifically for use and enjoyment of a state park, and state park Junior Ranger certification programs. The entire approach is 'Leave No Trace' Certified so it's environmentally friendly.
"There's no experience necessary for these workshops," said Chris Holmes, a state park regional interpreter who is organizing the new workshop series. "We recognize that many people in today's increasingly urban culture don't have the same skills or backgrounds as earlier generations of Texans. These weekend workshops offer a supportive environment where families can get started in safe and comfortable settings."
For example, the schedule for one upcoming state park weekend includes pitching tents, fire starting and outdoor cooking, and morning and night-time guided talks or tours with park rangers. Most workshops also include activities such as introductions to fishing, kayaking and trail adventure and exploration through GPS and geocaching.
For workshops in state parks, families are expected to bring their own food for the two-day workshops, and a suggested shopping and packing lists for meals and personal items will be provided.
Fees for workshops held in local parks vary, but typically the fee per family of four is $150. This includes all meals, so families do not need to bring food.
Toyota has come on board as a sponsor of Texas Outdoor Family, helping provide funding for equipment to make the weekend workshops possible, and more sponsors are being sought who want to help introduce families to nature and the outdoors.
Visit tpwd.texas.gov/outdoorfamily for more information. Families can register by calling (512) 389-8903 and speaking to a Texas Outdoor Family representative Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-to-6 p.m. After registration, a confirmation packet with directions and details will be sent.
The schedule of upcoming Texas Outdoor Family workshops is as follows. The first two workshops in August are on weekdays-the thinking here is to see if families with children out of school for the summer might enjoy a less crowded midweek experience. All other dates below are Saturday-Sunday. Check the Texas Outdoor Family web pages regularly, as new workshops continue to be added to the schedule.
--Aug. 4-5 -- Galveston State Park
--Aug. 13-14 -- Bastrop State Park
--Sept. 13-14 -- Huntsville State Park
--Sept. 20-21 -- Galveston State Park
--Sept. 20-21 -- Odessa city park
--Sept. 20-21 -- Waco city park
--Sept. 27-28 -- Georgetown city park (north of Austin)
--Sept. 27-28 -- Kyle city park (South of Austin)
--Sept. 27-28 -- Buescher State Park
--Sat., Oct. 4-5 -- Brazos Bend State Park
--Sat., Oct. 11-12 -- Buescher State Park
--Oct. 11-12 -- Rockwall city park (Near Dallas)
--Oct. 18-19 -- Georgetown city park
--Oct. 18-19 -- Huntsville State Park
--Oct. 25-26 -- Brazos Bend State Park
--Oct. 25-26 -- McKinney Falls State Park
--Nov. 1-2 -- Palmetto State Park
--Nov. 8-9 -- Brazos Bend State Park
--Fall 2008 TBA -- San Antonio River Authority park
On the Net:

[ Note: This item is more than nine 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]
June 9, 2008
Great Texas Birding Classic Teams Award Conservation Grants
AUSTIN, Texas -- Winning teams in the 2008 Great Texas Birding Classic have awarded their conservation prize money to fund seven habitat projects totaling $73,000 along the Texas coast. Touted as the world's longest birding competition, the Birding Classic has funded a total of $651,000 for avian habitat conservation since it began 12 years ago.
Each year, winning teams allocate prize money to fund wildlife habitat conservation and restoration projects approved by the Birding Classic staff. This year's event ran April 27-May 4. The competition is jointly hosted by Gulf Coast Bird Observatory and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Conservation prize money comes from corporate sponsors, team entry fees, community and individual donations, a Wildlife Diversity Conservation Grant from Horned Lizard Conservation License Plate funds and a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Coastal Program.
"A number of conservation prize projects this year will help restore or improve land that's already protected by local or statewide organizations," said Carol Jones, Gulf Coast Bird Observatory education program manager. "A common thread among several of the 2008 projects is to remove invasive, nonnative plants and replace them with native flora that better support birds and wildlife."
This year, the $20,000 top prize was funded entirely by revenue from the sale of specialty vehicle license plates bearing the Texas horned lizard image. Money from horned lizard license plate sales supports nongame and endangered animals and their habitats statewide, as outlined in the recently completed Texas Wildlife Action Plan. The Borrow Ditch Wetland Restoration Project at the Texas City Prairie Preserve is located within the high priority habitat of the plan's Gulf Coast Prairies and Marshes region and directly benefits bird species listed as priorities in the action plan.
Projects funded with prize money from the 2008 Great Texas Birding Classic include the following:
$20,000 Weeklong Tournament
Texas City Prairie Preserve, Borrow Ditch Wetland Restoration Project, Galveston County
Restore habitat to create coastal marsh and mud flats, providing shelter and forage for migratory birds at this Nature Conservancy of Texas site.
Chosen by: Reliant Energy Environmental Partners
Team Members: Bill Baker -- Captain, Lalise Mason, Greg Mason, Tom Roberts
Sponsored by Reliant Energy
$10,000 Runner-up Weeklong Tournament
--Texas Ornithological Society, Sabine Woods Oak Motte Enhancement, Jefferson County
--Restore critical stopover habitat by planting live oak and mulberry trees to provide additional food and cover for migratory birds.
--Chosen by: ConocoPhillips Cranes
--Team Members: Tony Frank -- Captain, Lynn Barber, Sheridan Coffey, David Sarkozi
--Sponsored by ConocoPhillips
$10,000 Energy Saver -- Coast wide
--Frontera Audubon Society, Wetlands Restoration Project, Hidalgo County
--Restore wetland habitat by controlling invasive plants and planting native species beneficial to birds, wildlife and water quality.
--Chosen by: Weslaco Slice of Good Lifers
--Team Members: Wayne Bartholomew -- Captain, Jim Booker, JD Cortez, Martin Hagne, Dan Jones
--Sponsored by Weslaco Chamber of Commerce
$10,000 Upper Texas Coast
--Texas Ornithological Society, Hooks Woods Motte Enhancement, Galveston County
--Restore critical stopover habitat by planting live oak, bald cypress, hackberry and mulberry trees to provide food and cover for migratory birds.
--Chosen by: Texas A&M University Galveston WildBirders
--Team Members: Susan Knock -- Captain, Chris Roberts, Katie St. Clair, Emily Watson, Logan West
--Sponsored by WildBird
$10,000 Central Texas Coast
--Nueces County
--Restore habitat through Brazilian pepper tree removal and tree plantings at two Port Aransas sites-Joan and Scott Holt Paradise Pond and Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center.
--Chosen by: Zeiss LSU Tiger-Herons
--Team Members: Richard Gibbons -- Captain; Phred Benham, Erik Johnson
--Sponsored by Zeiss Sports Optics
$10,000 Lower Texas Coast
--Gabriel Tree of Life Foundation, Warbler Rest Stop South Padre Island, Cameron County
--Restore native trees and shrubs to create more habitat for migratory birds in an area that is rapidly being lost to human development.
--Chosen by: Swarovski Roadside Hawks Two
--Team Members: Joel Simon -- Captain, Nick Block, Father Tom Pincelli
--Sponsored by Swarovski Optik
$3,000 Lone Star Bird Award
--Friends of the Anahuac Wildlife Refuge, Coastal Prairie Invasive Species Control, Chambers County
--Restore habitat by controlling invasive plants like Chinese tallow on 350 acres of coastal prairie to benefit grassland birds.
--Chosen by: Vopak Vultures
--Team Members: Don Verser -- Captain, Mary Ann Beauchemin, Betsy Black, Marcy Brown, Flo Hannah, Pam Smolen, Bo Verser
--Sponsored by Vopak North America
More information about the Great Texas Birding Classic is online.
On the Net:

[ Note: This item is more than nine 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]
June 9, 2008
Game Warden Field Notes
The following are excerpts from recent Texas Parks and Wildlife Department law enforcement reports.
Train Gets Pulled To Siding: On May 25, while working Lake Amistad, Val Verde County game wardens observed a boat operator waving at everybody and making a noise like a train. The game wardens stopped the boat to conduct an equipment check and determined that the operator had been drinking. The San Angelo resident failed a standard field sobriety test and a breath test, which showed a blood alcohol content of 0.112.
Never too Late for a First Fish: A Camp County game warden held a fishing event for a Mt. Pleasant assisted living group. The game warden assisted one 93-year-old resident and a 78-year-old woman in catching their first fish. There were a total of about 15 elderly anglers who caught fish all day long.
It was Cheap for a Reason: Rockwall and Dallas County game wardens were working Lake Ray Hubbard May 18 when one of the wardens stopped a personal water craft. Immediately the wardens noticed that the registration displayed on the vessel was wrong, with a state designated "CF." One of the game wardens ran the Hull Identification Number through Austin Communications, and the vessel came back as stolen out of Plano. The vessel was taken back to the boat ramp where it was seized by the wardens. The operator said that he had purchased it the previous Saturday at a flea market for "a really good price."
Designated Drivers Work: Over Memorial Day weekend, Erath and Hill County game wardens patrolled the Brazos River and Lake Whitney for water safety violations. Many citations were issued, but many boaters were in compliance by having designated boat operator where alcohol was present on board.
Memorial Day Critters: One TPWD game warden started his Memorial Day early with a call-out concerning a bear up a tree in a neighborhood in south Alpine. While waiting for a wildlife biologist to arrive with a trap and tranquilizer gun, the bear escaped into the night. The next night, while looking around for the bear, the game warden spotted an erratic driver that turned into a DWI arrest.
Crappie Bust: Williamson and Travis County game wardens completed an undercover operation in which one of the game wardens posed as a buyer of fish from a local resident outside of Georgetown who was selling crappie he caught from Lake Granger. The transaction was completed and caught on tape and several cases were filed for the sale of protected finfish as well as no retail fish dealer's license.
Multi-agency Task Force Tackles Sabine: On May 17 game wardens from the Beaumont District office teamed up with Louisiana game wardens for Operation TexLa on the Sabine River and Sabine Lake out to the jetties. The operation put a warden from each state in patrol vessels to check for fish and water safety violations. The U.S. Coast Guard, Beaumont Police Department and Jefferson County Sheriff's Office also participated this year. Game wardens issued about 35 citations and 25 warnings on Sabine waters over Memorial Day weekend.
Shrimper Scofflaws Stopped: A Galveston County game warden inspected a commercial gulf shrimp boat and discovered 150 pounds of red drum fillets. Additional game wardens were called to assist, and when the inspection was complete the fillets, an assortment of headed and tailed fish, undersized flounder and lightning whelks were confiscated. Cases pending.
Gator Call: On May 14, an Aransas County game warden and motor vehicle technician were called to assist in relocating an 8-foot alligator. The alligator was in the front yard of a residence just outside of Fulton, and was safely relocated to a more suitable environment.
Means and Methods: During the second week of May, East Texas game wardens from Houston and Angelina County issued citations for taking catfish illegally on the Neches River and Lake Sam Rayburn respectively. On May 10, game wardens apprehended two local residents for shocking fish on the river. The zapper -- mounted inside a small Nokia speaker box, -- eight flathead catfish and one blue catfish were confiscated. On May 14, game wardens apprehended two subjects on Lake Sam Rayburn for grabbling catfish at a local boat ramp.
That's one per person, day-in, day-out: On May 10, Wichita and Clay County game wardens issued a citation to the operator of a boat on Lake Arrowhead for having no life jackets for the two people on board. The next day, the boat was again checked by one of the game wardens. This time there were three people on the boat. The two from the day before proudly displayed their life jackets. The third person did not have one. Cases pending.
Some strong beers: On May 10, a Bandera County game warden arrested an individual on Lake Medina for BWI. The subject submitted a breath sample at the lake of .235. Almost two hours later at the jail, the subject's breath sample was still more than twice the legal level. The subject told the game warden he "had a couple of beers."
Happy ending: On May 8, a Walker County game warden met an eagle rehabilitator south of Madisonville and helped release an eagle. The eagle was captured by the game warden several months before after being injured, most likely in a collision with a vehicle. Fully rehabilitated, the eagle was ready to return to the wild.
You never know what the day might bring in El Paso County: Two El Paso County game wardens had an event-filled patrol day May 3. The tour of duty started with a call concerning some subjects acting-up at the Wyler Aerial Tramway State Park. Park staff contacted the game wardens concerning some individuals who had tampered with a small containment wall on of the trails. The game wardens made contact and issued citations for park violations. After checking anglers at Ascarate Lake, the wardens happened onto an intoxicated driver on the Border Highway adjacent to the Rio Grande River. While patrolling the desert areas east of El Paso, the wardens checked several rabbit hunters and arrested one individual for outstanding El Paso Police Department traffic warrants. Citations also were issued for no valid hunting license and no hunter safety.
Fallen Game Wardens Honored: In May, the TPWD Game Warden color guard traveled to Washington, D.C., to participate in the National Peace Officer Memorial to honor Game Wardens Justin Hurst and Ty Patterson, whose names were added to the National Peace Officers Memorial Wall. Both game wardens died in the line of duty in March, 2007.
Baiting hooks: At the beginning of May, a Harris County game warden assisted the Boy Scouts with a Kidfish event for children with disabilities at Mary Jo Peckham Park in Katy. The game warden baited hooks and answered questions for more than 500 kids in attendance.
Stumble-upon Results in Conviction a Year Later: In October 2006 a Lampasas County game warden located an illegal dumpsite while responding to a poaching call. Later that month, game wardens in a TPWD helicopter took photographs showing the magnitude of the dumpsite during a GPS mapping tour of deer camps. The game warden contacted the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and an investigation was launched. A search warrant was executed in April 2007, and soil samples along with other evidence were gathered at the property. A grand jury indicted the suspect on a third degree felony relating to the handling of used oil and a state jail felony charge of illegal dumping. A jury deliberated last month just 10 minutes before returning convictions.