|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2010-07-28                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than seven 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: Rob McCorkle, TPWD, (830) 866-3533 or robert.mccorkle@tpwd.texas.gov; Robert Comstock, TPWD, (281) 456-2800 or robert.comstock@tpwd.texas.gov ]
July 28, 2010
Observation Tower Going Up at Houston's Sheldon Lake State Park
HOUSTON - Imagine being a red-tailed hawk soaring through the air and looking down upon an expanse of wetlands, ponds and a coastal tallgrass prairie inhabited by fish, alligators, songbirds and small mammals just 15 miles from downtown Houston.
Starting early next year, visitors to Sheldon Lake State Park will be able to experience a bird's-eye view of the reservoir and surrounding countryside from the decks of a new observation tower to be erected in the park's 40-acre Environmental Learning Center unit. Construction of the $1.3 million tower is slated to begin by the end of the summer and be completed sometime early next year.
In keeping with Sheldon Lake State Park's reputation as the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's leading example of an environmentally-friendly and conservation-minded facility, the 75-foot tower will use photovoltaic cells to provide solar power to run an elevator and light the stairways and two observation decks. The tower was designed by PDG Architects of Houston.
"We'll have enough solar arrays attached to the tower to generate more than enough energy so that it won't cost any additional money to run it," says park superintendent Robert Comstock. "You'll be up there with the hawks and other raptors, and be able to look down onto the prairie and see things not easily seen at ground level."
Comstock says interpretive panels will be located at the tower's base, as well as on the observation decks at the 30- and 60-foot levels. There will be enough room to accommodate a class of 25 students along the railing of the two decks at one time.
The interpretive panels will educate the public about the park's history and role as an outdoor classroom and nature preserve, and touch on such themes as the threat of invasive species, urban encroachment on Texas' shrinking natural resources and the importance of prairie restoration and recycling.
Partial funding for the observation tower project is coming through federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act dollars targeted to renewable energy projects. The federal funds are distributed through the State Energy Conservation Office (SECO).
The observation tower will overlook the state park's waterfowl-rich wetlands and 250 acres of coastal tallgrass prairie that will encompass more than 400 acres when restoration is completed this fall, Comstock notes.
The longtime park superintendent, who has run the former state fishery and wildlife management area facility since it became a state park in 1984, says the tower is part of the park's master plan written years ago. "The idea behind the tower," he says, "is to get people up in the air to bridge views between the lake and the prairie that's being restored."
Comstock refers to the state park as a "biological island" in an urban environment that provides one of the few inland, freshwater marshes along the upper Texas coast that is home to 250 species of nesting and migratory waterfowl and other birds. More than 20 wooded islands in the 1,200-acre reservoir provide nesting sites for heron and egret rookeries.
For decades, Houstonians have visited Sheldon Lake to fish the shallow waters of the reservoir that was created by the federal government in 1942 to service war industries along the Houston Ship Channel. But it's the park's Environmental Learning Center that today plays a vital role of introducing non-traditional users, many of them youngsters from inner city and suburban schools, to the outdoors, where they learn the importance of preserving natural resources, conserving energy and appreciating wildlife. Approximately 4,000 students a year, from second graders to high school students, visit the park to learn how to fish, observe nature and attend half-day programs on pond ecology, conservation, nature study, composting and recycling.
Phase 1 of the Sheldon Lake ELC was completed in 2006 and included construction of five alternative energy demonstration systems and the conversion of a dilapidated structure of the former fish hatchery into a 4,600-square-foot Pond Center building and pavilion utilizing green-building techniques, sustainably harvested wood and surplus oilfield pipe. It contains restrooms and serves as an orientation site for arriving students and a large classroom on rainy days. Future plans call for the construction of a 14,000-square-foot Nature/Visitors Center to serve as the orientation center, and to house administrative offices, classrooms and more.
The Pond Center building was the first TPWD structure to receive a prestigious Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified rating from the U.S. Green Building Council. The LEED rating means the Environmental Learning Center has met national standards for sustainable site development, water conservation, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.
For more information about Sheldon Lake State Park, visit the park web page or call (281) 456-2800.
Images for media: For architectural renderings of the park's observation tower, visit: http://tpwd.texas.gov/newsmedia/news_images/?g=sheldon_lake_sp_tower

[ Note: This item is more than seven 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]
July 28, 2010
Deadlines Nearing for Texas Public Hunt Drawings
AUSTIN -- Hunters hoping to take advantage of economical quality hunts on state-managed lands are reminded of upcoming application deadlines. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will be offering adult and youth only hunts by special drawing for a wide variety of species as part of its Public Hunting Program.
Applications for several hunt categories, including all archery only and crossbow hunts, pronghorn, and TPWD private lands hunts are due by 5 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 12. All gun deer and youth deer hunt category applications must be received by 5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 2.
During the upcoming hunting seasons, almost 5,500 hunters will be selected through random computer drawings allowing access to some of the state's high-quality managed wildlife habitat. Wildlife management areas, state parks and leased private property will be available for these quality supervised hunts for white-tailed deer, mule deer, pronghorn, javelina, alligator, exotics, feral hog and spring turkey.
Through an application process, hunters can select from among 29 different hunt categories, including eight specifically for youth only, and choose a preferred hunt date and location from hunt areas stretching across the state. There's even a provision for hunting buddies to apply as a group -- in some cases up to four hunters can apply together on one application.
New for this year, TPWD is offering crossbow deer hunts concurrent with archery deer hunts on several WMAs, including the Chaparral WMA in South Texas and the Gus Engeling WMA in East Texas. Department biologists will be conducting a three-year study comparing hunter success among archers and crossbow hunters during these drawn hunts.
Also this year, hunters can apply for special drawn hunts on eight private ranches, one of which offers an opportunity to harvest a mule deer and a white-tailed deer, plus unlimited feral hogs, rabbits and coyotes.
Eight free youth-only hunt categories are available to hunters who are between the ages of 8-16 at the time of application. All hunt positions are randomly selected in a computer drawing from all correctly completed entries received by the specified deadline.
In addition to exceptional hunting opportunities for big game, such as pronghorn antelope, white-tailed deer and mule deer, TPWD's special drawing hunts will offer some unique opportunities. A guided bighorn sheep hunt at a West Texas wildlife management area will again be offered this year depending on the availability of a bighorn sheep permit.
There are also some unique guided hunt opportunities on Mason Mountain Wildlife Management Area, including hunts for white-tailed deer, scimitar-horned oryx and gemsbok.
Hunters drawn in the special permit hunts are not required to use a tag off their hunting license on white-tailed or mule deer that are taken during the hunt. The hunters will be issued a free TPWD legal deer tag at the area when they bring their harvested animal to the check station. This will allow the public hunters additional opportunity to use their license tags.
Non-refundable application fees for drawn hunts range between $3-10 for each adult applicant 17 years of age or older. Selected hunters pay an additional permit fee of $80 for regular hunts and $130 for extended hunts. There are no application fees or drawn hunt permit fees for youth age 8 to 16.
Special Permit fees do not apply to drawn hunts for pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, guided hunts at Mason Mountain Wildlife Management Area, and drawn hunts on private land. Application fees for the guided hunt packages and private land hunts cost $10 per adult applicant.
Last year TPWD received 44,594 applications for the 5,145 positions offered in special drawn hunt categories.
Information and applications for Special Permit hunts are available on the Public Hunting Web site. Application booklets have been mailed to hunters who applied for special permit drawn hunts last year. The booklets are also available at TPWD law enforcement offices. Information about Special Permit drawn hunts can be found on-line or by calling toll free (800) 792-1112.
On the Net:

[ Note: This item is more than seven 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]
July 28, 2010
TPWD Optimistic about Dove Season Prospects
AUSTIN-- Texas hunters can anticipate good numbers of dove as ample rainfall across most of the state has set the stage for the upcoming Sept. 1 season opener, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Timely rainfall usually equates to above average dove production, and by all field accounts from TPWD wildlife biologists, this year is shaping up to produce a boom crop of birds.
"Above-average rainfall across most of the state has created ideal habitat conditions for doves," said Corey Mason, TPWD dove program leader. "I expect above-average production this year and hunt success should be high provided doves are not dispersed."
Mason explained that the abundant seed production, predominately sunflower and croton will help recently fledged birds to rapidly put on weight. But, quality range conditions could also cause doves to disperse as native food sources become readily available and make managed fields less attractive early in the season.
"What it means for us is we're going to have food available throughout the summer and early fall, body conditions will be better and all in all it's just a good thing," Mason pointed out. "There may be more surface water available which could distribute birds more in afternoon hunts. Those who focus more on limited water sources in the past may not see as much shooting as during dry years."
Mason said although birds may not be as concentrated this year, the traditional hotspots should remain active. "Those birds go to the traditional hotspots for a reason, so I wouldn't discount them," he said.
Texas dove season in the North and Central Dove Zones will run from Wednesday, Sept. 1 through Sunday, Oct. 24 and reopen Saturday, Dec. 25 through Sunday, Jan. 9, with a 15-bird daily bag and not more than two white-tipped doves.
The South Zone dove season will run Friday, Sept. 17 through Sunday, Oct. 31, reopening Saturday, Dec. 25 through Tuesday, Jan. 18 with a 15-bird daily bag and not more than two white-tipped doves.
The possession limit is twice the daily bag.
The Special White-winged Dove Area will open to white-winged dove afternoon-only (noon to sunset) hunting the first two full weekends in September running from Sept. 4-5 and 11-12 and reopen when the regular South Zone season begins on Friday, Sept. 17 through Sunday, Oct. 31 and again from Saturday, Dec. 25 through Friday, Jan. 14. The Special White-winged Dove Area season takes four of the allowable 70 days, so when the regular season opens, this area must close four days earlier than the rest of the South Zone. During the early two weekends, the daily bag limit is 15 birds, to include not more than four mourning doves and 2 white-tipped doves. Once the general season opens, the aggregate bag limit will be 15, with not more than two white-tipped dove.
Texas boasts fall dove populations in excess of 40 million birds and its 300,000 dove hunters harvest about 6 million birds annually or roughly 30 percent of all doves taken in the United States. Dove hunting also has a major economic impact, annually contributing more than $300 million to the state economy.
Dove hunting provides an entry into the sport of hunting because it is relatively economical and accessible. Through its Public Hunting Program, TPWD offers affordable access to quality hunting experiences with the purchase of a $48 Annual Public Hunting Permit.
This year, TPWD has leased nearly 50,000 acres of public dove hunting fields in 46 counties; more than 70 percent are located near major urban areas.
"Since the public dove lease program began in 1994, one of our top priorities has been to offer urban Texans affordable access to hunting within close proximity to home," said Linda Campbell, TPWD public hunting program director. "By setting up dove fields for youth and adult only, we hope families will take advantage of the opportunity to get outdoors and take part in our state's dove hunting tradition."
Hunters are reminded that in addition to a valid Texas hunting license, certification in the Harvest Information Program (HIP) is required. HIP certification is offered when you buy your license and involves responding to a few simple questions about your migratory game bird harvest during the previous season. Hunting licenses expire annually on Aug. 31 and licenses for the 2010-2011 year go on sale Aug. 15.
TPWD is also conducting ongoing dove banding research and asks hunters to please report leg bands recovered on harvested birds by calling 1-800-327-BAND or www.reportband.gov. TPWD bands about 20,000 dove a year across the state.

[ Note: This item is more than seven 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, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, (512) 565-3679, tom.harvey@tpwd.texas.gov; Larry Bell, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, (907) 223-2173, Larry_Bell@fws.gov ]
July 28, 2010
Rehabilitated Birds from BP Oil Spill Released at Goose Island State Park
AUSTIN - Twenty wild brown pelicans rehabilitated after exposure to the BP oil spill were transported from Louisiana by plane and released at Goose Island State Park near Rockport around 12:30 p.m. today, the first release of spill-rehabbed birds at a Texas state park.
There were three previous bird releases in June at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge near Rockport, including June 20 involving 38 pelicans and one Royal tern, June 23 involving 62 pelicans and one northern gannet, and June 27 involving 72 pelicans.
Birds rescued after being oiled in the Gulf Coast region are rehabilitated and released in Gulf states after wildlife veterinarians determine they are sufficiently prepared to re-enter their natural habitats.
Today's bird release included 16 brown pelicans from Louisiana and four from Mississippi. The release was a joint effort involving the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Coast Guard, wildlife veterinarians and rehabilitation specialists, and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
The pelicans were released one at a time on a shell beach on the north end of Goose Island, a small section of barrier island just off the mainland. As each bird flew out from its transportation carrier, they congregated in the bay a few hundred feet offshore, where they appeared to preen and clean their feathers in a group for several minutes before eventually flying away.
Goose Island State Park has a resident flock of brown pelicans, so authorities know the area provides suitable habitat for the birds. Last November, the brown pelican was removed from the federal endangered species list, nearly 40 years after it was brought to the brink of extinction by DDT. Although more numerous today than when originally listed, bird numbers are still low, and officials say the available habitat on the Texas coast has plenty of carrying capacity to sustain the released birds.