|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2008-09-04                                    |
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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 ] [SL]
Sept. 4, 2008
TPWD Conducts Dove Research to Test Shot Effectiveness
AUSTIN, Texas -- While Texas hunters were dusting off shotguns and stocking up on ammunition in advance of the Sept. 1 dove season opener in most of Texas, a research team was out two days prior to the season collecting bird specimens for a research study on the effectiveness of various shotshells, including non-lead shot.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department wildlife biologists are in the first year of a multi-year study to determine the effectiveness of different load types on wild mourning doves using trained observers and volunteer shooters. This study is the first of its kind for doves and is based on a similar lethality research project in Missouri and Louisiana on waterfowl in the 1980s.
"The main premise of this research is to clarify if there is a difference between perception and reality in wounding rates and killing efficiency of lead shot and non lead shot on mourning dove," said Jay Roberson, TPWD dove program leader and the study organizer. "TPWD does not have a position for or against non lead shot for doves, but we recognize the importance of this issue. Our objective is to replace perceptions with facts."
The study design calls for three consecutive sessions using the same shooters paired with the same observers to ensure consistency across three types of shotshell loads. The research objective is to obtain under a controlled study environment 500 mourning dove specimens killed with one shot in each of the next 2-3 years. Collections are being conducted by permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This year, 22 volunteer shooters participated in each of two collection sessions on Aug. 30 and produced about 400 specimens.
However, due to questions raised Aug. 30 about the department's decision to conduct collection efforts prior to the Sept. 1 dove season opener, TPWD suspended collection for Aug. 31. The department received complaints those activities would negatively impact hunter opportunity on adjacent property. Collection efforts resumed on Sept. 1 and the goal of 500 total specimens was reached.
Timing for the collection was critical to achieve the study objectives in an effective and efficient manner. August 30-31 were chosen for collections because of the need for typical representative feeding field shooting conditions and collecting efficiency.
"We needed the confluence of lots of doves with adequate number of shooters," explained Roberson.
According to Roberson, during last year's pilot phase of the study, dove specimen collection for the research project took place on opening weekend of the hunting season, Sat., Sept. 1 and Sun., Sept. 2. This year Sept. 1 fell on a Monday, so Aug. 30-31 were chosen for collections because of the need for typical representative feeding field shooting conditions and collecting efficiency. If the collection was delayed until opening day this year, project organizers foresaw several potential problems that would jeopardize the study's validity.
"We could have spread the collection effort over several weekends during the season," Roberson said. "Using results from last year's pilot, it would have required a minimum of 5 to 6 weekend efforts, which meant travel costs and weekend commitments from 24 trained observers.
"We also saw a problem getting 24 volunteer shooters to travel at their own expense to Central Texas to participate in a multi-day collection over the course of several weekends," he added. "It would be unrealistic for us to expect the same group of volunteers and observers to commit to that kind of protracted schedule."
And there other important reasons researchers concluded the collection needed to occur before opening day. They needed to collect doves that had not previously been struck and carrying pellets from other shot types. Waiting until after the opener would have risked collecting doves that had been hit, but not killed, by hunters that were not part of the research effort. Researchers also needed to most nearly estimate the wounding rates and killing efficiencies of Texas-produced doves that would occur on an opening weekend when the majority of doves are harvested.
Researchers were concerned about a perception that dove collection for the project might reduce hunting opportunity on adjacent property. For this reason, the research contract specified that the test be conducted as far away as possible from adjacent landowners, who were notified in advance and gave informed consent.
"Our intent was never to reduce hunting opportunity on adjacent landowner property," said Scott Boruff, TPWD deputy director of operations. "We understand the perception that our collection effort may have been poorly timed. We are listening to concerns and will factor them into future decisions regarding our research processes."
It's worth noting that these research project collections are very small in relation to total harvest, hunters and land area hunted annually in Texas. There are about 5 million doves taken in Texas each year. There are nearly 600,000 acres in Brown County. The research project contract was limited to 550 acres for Aug. 30-31 and carried out in an 80-acre pasture.
Tom Stephenson, Dallas-based outfitter, was awarded the contract with a winning bid of $32,390. For his role, Stephenson was required to provide fields, facilities and associated services. In particular, Stephenson had to provide at least five fields totaling 400 acres during Aug. 24-29 for training observers.
In addition, Stephenson was required to provide a minimum of 150 acres well-populated with mourning doves providing a high probability that 24 volunteer shooters will accumulate at least 300, one-shot killed specimens over six separate morning and afternoon shooting sessions on Aug. 30-31.
Stephenson also provided on site lodging and facilities and resources for observers and support staff throughout the training phase.
Stephenson was also responsible for recruiting 24 volunteer shooters representing a diverse demographic. There was no stipulation in the contract prohibiting Stephenson from assessing a fee to ensure or enhance participation.
Tom Roster, an international ballistics consultant and recognized as the world's foremost authority on migratory game bird wounding mortality and shotshell performance, trained and certified 22 observers during that six-day period. Roster serves as a consultant with the Cooperative North American Shotgunning Education Program (CONSEP), whose lab will handle x-ray and necropsies on the dove specimens collecting during the study. CONSEP has been paid $35,000 for necropsies and x-rays of 100 carcasses collected during the pilot phase last year and $5,295 for tests of anomalous wad opening on patterns. They will be paid an additional $15,000 this year for training of observers. *
"This is the first year in a multi-year study," said Boruff. "Texas has the largest contingent of dove hunters in the nation and this scientific information will be invaluable in the future when our leadership is faced with making decisions about dove management."
TPWD is conducting a number of studies related to dove hunting in addition to the shot lethality research. These studies are ongoing and no conclusions are anticipated in the near future. In addition to the dove shot lethality study, research efforts include:
--A lead toxicity prevalence study to identify the proportion of doves with toxic levels of lead in bone and tissues across the state.
--A dove banding and recovery study to provide estimates of survival rates before and after implementation on non-lead shot in experimental areas.
--A human dimensions study to gauge dove hunter attitudes toward non-lead shot.
No proposal for hunting regulation rule change regarding the use of different types of shot for mourning dove is anticipated in the near future. Any TPWD proposals for rule-making will be based upon good science with ample opportunity and time for public review and comment, said Roberson.
"It will probably be several years before we have sufficient information to provide answers to questions agency leadership and stakeholders may ask regarding dove shot effectiveness," Roberson said.
* Correction, September 5, 2008: The original version of this news release incorrectly stated the connection between Tom Roster, CONSEP and the TPWD dove study funding allocation. (Return to corrected item.)

[ 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 ]
[ Additional Contacts: Tom Harvey, TPWD, (512) 389-4453, tom.harvey@tpwd.texas.gov; Ryan Orendorf, TPL, (512) 344-2028, rorendorf@tateaustinhahn.com ]
Sept. 4, 2008
Fortress Cliffs Ranch Added to Palo Duro Canyon State Park
Multi-Partner Effort Protects "Grand Canyon of Texas" Viewshed
AUSTIN, Texas -- The views from inside Palo Duro Canyon State Park will remain grand thanks to the addition of a 2,912-acre property known as Fortress Cliffs Ranch. The tract has been purchased by a coalition that includes The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), protecting almost six miles of scenic cliffs along the park's northeastern edge.
The Fortress Cliffs Ranch (formerly Tub Springs Ranch) was put up for sale more than a year ago, raising concerns that the highly visible bluff could be impacted by houses or other development. John Watson, CEO of ranch broker Orvis/Cushman & Wakefield, wanted to find a stewardship buyer, so he contacted conservation groups, including TPL. A TPL representative contacted TPWD, and the two agencies began exploring ways to acquire the land. TPL ultimately purchased the property and transferred it to TPWD.
A recent independent appraisal valued the property at $5.22 million, which the partners were able to pay by tapping various sources. TPWD provided $1.86 million from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, which was matched by a private donation from an anonymous donor to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation. Another $1.5 million was appropriated by the Texas Legislature in a rider specifying the funds should be used to add land to Palo Duro Canyon State Park.
"The rare chance to protect six miles of cliffs overlooking the 'Grand Canyon of Texas,' to keep that bluff looking the way the first Texans saw it-this is unparalleled," said Carter Smith, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department executive director. "Palo Duro Canyon may not be near our state's biggest cities, but I know all Texans can appreciate the significance of this acquisition for our park system. It's for everyone alive today, and for generations to come."
The Fortress Cliffs property is located about 15 miles southeast of Amarillo in Randall and Armstrong Counties, sharing seven miles of boundary with the state park. The acquisition will protect ecologically significant break, cliff face and rim rock habitat, as well as High Plains shortgrass prairie, and transitional brush and slope habitats, all of which are important for the wildlife and ecology of the region. After the acquisition, the park will comprise 29,187 acres, with the new tract making up almost 10 percent of the total.
"The Palo Duro Canyon embodies Texas' sense of place and spirit like few other areas in the state," said Nan McRaven, Texas State director for The Trust for Public Land. "We're honored to help protect the unique views here and preserve an iconic symbol of the American west for the public to continue to enjoy."
The previous owners of Fortress Cliffs Ranch, Kim and Brenda Gaynor, spent many hours and invested a substantial sum of money on the ranch to clear brush species, stimulate grass and forbs production and enhance the wildlife habitat. The range condition has improved dramatically through a less intensive cattle grazing management program and an extremely wet year in 2007.
When TPW Commissioner Mark Bivins of Amarillo and other local leaders became aware of the possibility that the ranch would be developed they visited the ranch to meet with the Gaynors, accompanied by various partner representatives.
"We had known the ranch was on the market for some time and we were informed that the potential of it being sold to a developer was getting stronger and stronger," Bivins said. "My hat's off to The Trust for Public Land, the Parks and Wildlife staff, and to the brokerage Orvis/Cushman & Wakefield-they managed to pull off a daunting and complicated conservation achievement."
"This acquisition helps prevent development from disturbing the natural beauty in and around the canyon," said Wales H. Madden, Jr., longtime Amarillo civic leader and past president of the Texas Panhandle Heritage Foundation. "Neighboring development is compromising views of certain parts of the rim. We're resting easier knowing that this portion of the viewshed is safe."
As a result of the Gaynor's stewardship, wildlife diversity and abundance on the ranch are excellent, including populations of blue quail, bobwhite quail, Rio Grande turkey, bobcat, mule deer, white-tailed deer, coyote, roadrunners, skunks, rabbits and songbirds.
The property includes a three-acre lake on the tract's east side, recently deepened for livestock watering and stocked with bass. Tub Springs is an intermittent natural spring located in the canyon rim, draining to the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River.
The steep margins of the Fortress Cliffs consist of bright, banded layers of orange, red, brown, yellow, and white rocks that represent four geologic periods in a time span of more than 240 million years. Fossils of long-extinct animals and plants have been found embedded in the rock layers. Adding to the site's scenic grandeur are numerous pinnacles, buttes, and mesas.
A thorough cultural resource review needs to be completed on the property. A significant number of archeological sites have been recorded in and around Palo Duro Canyon, including the remains of human habitations throughout the past 12,000 years. Five general culture periods are recognized for the region, all with distinctive human cultural aspects, such as large game kill sites, butchering locales and caches.
The property will eventually be accessible to the public for recreational use such as hiking, although it's too early to say what might be possible and when. The park staff will develop a plan proposing management and use of the tract, integrating it into existing resource management and public use plans. The planning process will take months, and will involve input from the public and various stakeholders.
About Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (http://tpwd.texas.gov/)
Texas Parks and Wildlife works to manage and conserve the natural and cultural resources of Texas and to provide hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation opportunities for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. This includes managing 93 state parks and 51 wildlife management areas. In addition, fisheries and wildlife biologists offer technical assistance to private landowners, and game wardens enforce laws to protect wildlife and the environment and safeguard people and property.
About The Trust for Public Land (http://www.tpl.org/)
The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit dedicated to conserving land for people to enjoy as parks and open space. Since 1972, TPL has conserved more than 2.5 million acres of land nationwide. In Texas, TPL has protected more than 32,000 acres for communities, including areas in and around Arlington, Austin, Dallas, Denton, Houston, Corpus Christi and San Antonio. TPL depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations and businesses to achieve its land for people mission.
Palo Duro Canyon State Park is located about 12 miles east of Canyon on State Highway 217. Entry fees are $4 per day for adults, free for children under age 13. For more information, contact the park at (806) 488-2227