|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2009-09-08                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than eight 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: Bryan Frazier (512) 826-8703, bryan.frazier@tpwd.texas.gov ]
Sept. 8, 2009
Franklin Mountains State Park to Host Chihuahuan Desert Fiesta
Park Event Kicks off Annual Celebration of Our Mountains Festival in El Paso
EL PASO -- Franklin Mountains State Park will be the host site for the fifth annual Chihuahuan Desert Fiesta, a day-long interpretive program highlighting the unique plant and animal life of the southwest desert ecosystem and the Rio Grande region, from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 19 at the park's Tom Mays Unit, located at the western base of Transmountain Road.
The Fiesta will also serve as the inaugural event for the popular, six-week Celebration of Our Mountains festival, now in its 16th year. The festival features numerous educational programs, hikes, field trips, driving tours, nature walks, and other activities around town showcasing the city's natural beauty and significance of its environmental resources.
Chihuahuan Desert Fiesta will offer various presentations by state park staff throughout the day on topics such as helping protect the threatened Texas horned lizard, the numerous bird species of the region, and the restoration of vegetation along the Rio Grande. The event is sponsored by the Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition (CDEC), a conglomerate alliance of state agencies, nonprofit, education and other organizations in far West Texas and Southern New Mexico that are concerned with conservation of the area's rich environment and ecology.
Climbers of Hueco Tanks Coalition also will be on hand giving free climbing tutorials, and a chili cook-off--sanctioned by the Chili Appreciation Society International and complete with tasting open to the public--will also be a part of the day's activities.
"The main focus of the Fiesta is to increase awareness of the Chihuahuan desert," said Rick LoBello, education curator of the El Paso Zoo, which is a member of CDEC. "The desert has been identified as a real hot spot for conservation, particularly in light of urban sprawl. It's important that we help people understand what the desert is all about, so they can help protect it."
"Most of Franklin Mountains State Park is high elevation, but the Tom Mays Unit has the greatest number of low elevation trails, so it's the best example of the desert ecosystem," continued LoBello. "I can't think of a better location (for the Fiesta) in the Chihuahuan desert environment that's close and accessible to where people live."
The park's customary $4 per-person adult entrance fee will be waived for the day, but donations to the park's Lone Star Legacy endowment fund will be accepted. Food will not be served to the public, but facilities will be available for picnicking and outdoor barbeques.
"There are so many people who have lived here their whole lives, or who have maybe just moved here, who cruise past this area on the highway but don't understand what this desert ecosystem is about," said Rink Somerday, president of CDEC. "The Chihuahuan Desert is the largest desert in North America, and if people will get out and experience it, they can start to understand all of the wonderful plants and animals that make up this ecosystem."
For more information about the Chihuahuan Desert Fiesta, call Franklin Mountains State Park at (915) 566-6441, or visit www.chihuahuandesert.org, or for more information about the Celebration of Our Mountains festival, visit www.celebrationofourmountains.org.

[ Note: This item is more than eight 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]
Sept. 8, 2009
First Ever Texas Native Plant Week Set for Oct. 19-25
New Texas Wildscapes DVD Available To Aid Fall Gardening
AUSTIN, Texas -- Sprawling fields of Texas bluebonnets and vibrant orange Texas paintbrushes highlight fields and highways across the state. Travelers stop to take pictures or simply admire these native wildflowers, though many may not realize the many economic, environmental and aesthetic benefits of Texas native plants.
That could change this October, when native plants and flowers will receive the homage they deserve.
Starting this fall, the first ever, official Texas Native Plant Week will be celebrated annually the third week in October. The new designation comes at the best time of year to start a native plant garden, and this year there's a new Texas Wildscapes DVD to help Texans realize their dream gardens.
State Rep. Donna Howard of Austin and Sen. Glenn Hegar of Katy, authored a bill recognizing the state's native plants during this year's legislative session. Gov. Rick Perry signed the bill into law June 16. The week-long event that focuses on native plants is new, although Texas has had an annual Wildflower Day each April 26 since 1980.
Faye Tessnow of the Native Plant Society of Texas urged Howard to author the legislation because she felt the official state recognition could serve to emphasize the role of native plants in conservation efforts, support efforts to teach school children about native plants, and make the public aware that native-plant species are threatened by loss of habitat and invasive, exotic species.
The week seems appropriate in October because fall is the best time to start a garden using native plants. Natives are more economical, hardy and drought resistant than exotic species, which are not adapted to Texas weather extremes and pests. Additionally, native Texas plants are better able to provide food and shelter to beneficial wildlife, such as songbirds and butterflies.
To help gardeners plan their native landscapes, the new DVD "Texas Wildscapes, Gardening for Wildlife: An Interactive Guide to Creating Vibrant and Beautiful Wildlife Habitat" offers a new multi-media resource for small-acreage landowners. This DVD combines short videos and color photos with a searchable plant database, virtual tours of demonstration gardens, customized plant shopping lists and more.
"Now is a great time to use the Texas Wildscapes DVD, since fall is the best time to plant a wildlife-friendly garden," said Kelly Conrad Bender, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department urban wildlife biologist for Central Texas.
"Fall is the best time to plant your perennials, since it will give them plenty of time to dig their roots in and take advantage of fall, winter and spring rains before the harsh heat of summer hits," Bender said. "Deep roots make plants more drought-tolerant and give them the energy they need to bloom beautifully in the spring and better survive the summer."
With the new DVD, small-acreage property owners can:
--Search for native plants and wildlife found in any region, view hundreds of Texas native plant images, and read all about their growing needs, ornamental value and wildlife value
--Create and print customized plant shopping lists based on local soils, water, sun, desired wildlife and more
--Create and print fact sheets for favorite plants
--Take a "Virtual Tour" of demonstration Wildscapes in Texas
--Watch a Wildscaping episode from the PBS TV series Texas Parks & Wildlife
--Read the award-winning book "Texas Wildscapes: Gardening for Wildlife" (Damude and Bender 1999) in its entirety
--Create and print a wildlife management plan with our exclusive Interactive Habitat Planning Guide for five-to-5,000 acres
--Plan for Agriculture Tax Valuation, Wildlife option (1-d-1) (subject to current tax codes)
The DVD project was funded in part through the federal State Wildlife Grants Program. It was created by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in partnership with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the Texas Master Naturalists (Capital Area Chapter).
For a free DVD, anyone can visit the Texas Wildscapes pages on the TPWD Web site and follow the instructions to order a DVD.
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