|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2012-04-30                                    |
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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 ] [SL]
April 30, 2012
Regional Lone Star Land Stewards Persevere Through Drought, Down Economy
AUSTIN - The ability to manage land in difficult times, through extended dry periods and economic downturns, is the hallmark of a good land steward. This year's recipients of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's Lone Star Land Steward Awards are prime examples.
On May 22 at the Hyatt Regency in Austin, TPWD will recognize land stewards representing private ranches in various ecological regions, plus awards recognizing achievements of a wildlife management association, and leaders of the Lost Pines Habitat Conservation Plan and Recovery Team. Also, the Leopold Conservation Award for Texas will be presented to the 2012 statewide land steward, yet to be announced, by the Sand County Foundation.
The annual Lone Star Land Steward Awards honor private landowners for their accomplishments in habitat management and wildlife conservation. The program is designed to educate landowners and the public and to encourage participation in habitat conservation. TPWD's primary partner in the awards is the Sand County Foundation, with current sponsors that include Gulf States Toyota, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, Capital Farm Credit, Texas Wildlife Association, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Texas Agricultural Land Trust, Texas Farm Bureau, Bamberger Ranch Preserve, Llano Springs Ranch, Ltd., and Gardner Appraisal Group..
Begun in 1996 by the TPWD Private Lands Advisory Committee, the Lone Star Land Steward Awards program objectives are to recognize private landowners for excellence in habitat management and wildlife conservation on their lands, publicize the best examples of sound natural resource management practices, encourage youth education and participation in promoting responsible habitat management and improved ecosystem health, promote long-term conservation of unique natural and cultural resources, promote ecosystem awareness and acknowledge the best conservation practices in the state's ecological regions, enhance relationships between private landowners and Texas natural resource agencies and illustrate the important role of private landowners in the future of Texas natural resources.
This year's recipients characterize the unique cultural and natural heritage of Texas. Landowners restoring degraded habitats while conserving flora and fauna are a common thread. Following are summaries of stewardship highlights for each of the ecoregion and category recipients.
Cross Timbers and Prairies
Colonel Burns Ranch, Brown County; Toni and Paul Burns, owners/operators
Purchased by Dr. Paul Burns' grandfather 138 years ago, the Colonel Burns Ranch mission is to restore native habitat and preserve family history. A true student of the land, Dr. Burns has spent years researching land management topics and seeking professional advice in implementing management decisions. Holistic decision-making is supported by meticulous records of habitat management practices, rainfall, and plant and animal response. Rest rotation grazing, selective brush removal, and reseeding have restored plant diversity and improved range condition. Habitat restoration has resulted in increased spring flow, and numerous watering facilities, including trough overflows, have been installed at new and existing well sites. The family has restored most historical sites on the ranch, including three homes, a barn and eight water troughs. The owners have hosted field tours and offer the ranch as an outdoor classroom for university students. Bordering the Muse Wildlife Management Area, the ranch actively seeks cooperative efforts with TPWD to expand research and landowner outreach opportunities.
Gulf Coast Prairies and Marshes
Wexford Ranches, Goliad, Victoria, Refugio Counties; Louise S. O'Connor, owner, Kai Buckert, manager
This 30,000-acre ranch complex has been managed by the O'Connor family for 136 years, with one constant goal: to enhance and maintain the land, wildlife and livestock for the benefit of future generations. Through adaptation and commitment over many years, the family has preserved one of last and largest remaining tracts of coastal prairie habitat in Texas. The family has achieved this by conservative stocking rates and rigorous brush management systems using chemical and mechanical treatments along with prescribed fire. The ranch has partnered with several agencies and organizations to restore and enhance habitat for the endangered Atwater's prairie chicken. Inventors of the Wexford Corral Hog Trap, the ranch has hosted numerous field days on feral hog control, prescribed burning, brush management, and archery and firearm safety. Youth hunting opportunities are also provided.
Rolling Plains
Gibson Ranches LLC, Cottle and King Counties; Mike and Shonda Gibson, owners/operators
For 40 years, Mike and Shonda Gibson have focused on range restoration using conservative stocking, prescribed burning and brush management done in a way that leaves adequate cover and quality plants. The result is diverse habitats for bobwhite quail, turkey, and white-tailed deer, with breathtaking vistas of prairie and waterways where a commercial cattle operation exists in harmony with abundant and healthy wildlife. One of the surprising benefits of restoration has been the return of several flowing springs and the return of beavers, which are building small wetlands at no charge. The Gibsons host frequent photography workshops and educational outings for local schools. Visitors to the ranch observe outstanding land stewardship inspired by a lifetime of wildlife appreciation combined with a practical and innovative approach to beef production. Innovation also includes "patch burning," which uses prescribed fire to move cattle away from favored areas to graze re-growth in underutilized portions of the pasture, mimicking the historical movements of bison.
Trans Pecos
Double H Ranch, El Paso County; Charles, Barbara, David and Anne Horak, owners/op.
With a philosophy that they are only temporary land stewards with a responsibility to leave the land better for future generations, the Horak family's careful management has steadily improved range conditions for both livestock and wildlife. Working with NRCS, the ranch has transformed creosote/tarbush flats into productive grasslands through aerial application of herbicide. Miles of wildlife-friendly fence has been built and water lines and troughs placed for better water distribution. Mule deer are managed through annual census and harvest recommendations, with the ranch serving as a host for the Big Time Texas Hunts Grand Slam mule deer hunt. Watersheds have been improved and soil erosion minimized through use of diversions on ranch roads and good grazing management. The Horaks don't just show up at every educational opportunity, they take the knowledge and use it on the ranch. They also share with others, hosting Boy Scouts, church and community groups, college classes, and TPWD biologists, taking every opportunity to educate and involve people in conservation.
Wildlife Management Association
Arroyo Veleno Wildlife Management COOP, Zapata County; David Dodier, David Volpe, Ernesto Uribe, and Jose Lopez families
Since 2001, the families of the Arroyo VeleƱo Wildlife Management COOP have been working together to manage habitat, conduct wildlife surveys, attain harvest recommendations, control exotic animals, provide hunting opportunity, and maintain a diversity of native wildlife. Practices such as rotational grazing, disking, native grass restoration, and feral hog control have helped to increase bobwhite and scaled quail abundance. Although deer and quail management are important, COOP members are just as dedicated to protection of nongame and rare species. Both the Lopez and Dodier families have signed long term agreements to voluntarily protect Johnston's frankenia, a federally-listed endangered plant. They are also embracing technology, from Internet marketing to the use of remote cameras and night vision equipment to enhance wildlife census data. Leaders in their community, awards and service include the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board and the Zapata SWCD.
Special Recognition
Roxanne Hernandez, Lost Pines Habitat Conservation Plan Administrator and Coordinator of the Lost Pines Recovery Team, Bastrop County
Affectionately known by Bastrop County residents as "the toad lady," Roxanne Hernandez has earned the admiration and trust of local landowners and worked tirelessly on their behalf for wildlife habitat conservation and recovery of the endangered Houston toad. Hernandez has been instrumental in helping the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and TPWD staff reache out to landowners willing to undertake habitat enhancements within the nine-county range of the Houston toad. Following the catastrophic wildfires of September 2011, Hernandez emerged as a leader for natural resource experts in the county. As manager of the Lost Pines Habitat Conservation Plan, she works with 138 landowners managing more than 5,800 acres of land enrolled in the voluntary Habitat Conservation Plan for Houston toad conservation. With 27 percent of enrolled lands impacted by the wildfire, her work continues as coordinator of the Lost Pines Recovery Team, a coalition of agencies providing guidance and resources for landowners.

[ 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: Raphael Brock, (817) 732-0761; raphael.brock@tpwd.texas.gov; Dave Terre, (512) 389-4855; dave.terre@tpwd.texas.gov ]
April 30, 2012
Local Partners Boost Tarrant County Fishing
Additional partners sought for similar projects statewide
ATHENS--Thanks to the Sportmen's Club of Fort Worth and the Nell V. Bailey Charitable Trust, fishing will be better than ever in Tarrant County this year.
The two organizations recently became partners with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) in the Neighborhood Fishin' Program, which stocks fish into small urban lakes located in residential areas.
"Neighborhood Fishin' aims to give Texas families a good place to fish close to where they live," said Dave Terre, TPWD's director of research and management for Inland Fisheries. "We estimate that more than 50,000 people a year participate in the program, and more than half of those are children. Connecting kids to the outdoors through fishing makes them happier and healthier, and they do better in school. Outdoor lifestyles also strengthen families."
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) began stocking channel catfish the week of April 23 into several DFW-area lakes that are part of the Neighborhood Fishin' program.
Stocking is a key component of Neighborhood Fishin', which encourages people to harvest fish and take them home to eat. Channel catfish are stocked from April through October, and rainbow trout are stocked in winter months.
"The financial support from the Sportsmen's Club of Fort Worth and the Nell V. Bailey Charitable Trust, combined with funds from the Texas Bass Classic Foundation and from local cities and counties, allows us to supplement fish raised at TPWD hatcheries with fish from commercial suppliers," said Terre. "Having local partners makes the program stronger and larger and allows us to bring more people into fishing."
"The Neighborhood Fishin' Program is vital to introducing people to fishing in the DFW area," said Rafe Brock, TPWD's Inland Fisheries biologist for the area. "Since DFW is the largest metropolitan area in the state, this program has the potential to create thousands of new anglers who might not otherwise have had the opportunity to have a successful fishing experience. This may spark a curiosity about fishing that will lead them to explore the other great fishing opportunities in the DFW area and throughout the state. Thanks to the generous support of the Sportsmen's Club of Fort Worth and the Nell V. Bailey Charitable Trust, the Neighborhood Fishin' Program will continue to create these successful fishing experiences."
DFW has five Neighborhood Fishin' sites: South Lakes Park in Denton, City Lake Park in Mesquite, Greenbriar Park in Fort Worth, Chisholm Park in Hurst, and Lakeside Park in Duncanville.
Anyone 17 years or older needs a fishing license to fish at the Neighborhood Fishin' locations, and anglers can use no more than two poles while fishing. The bag limit for channel catfish is five fish per day with no minimum length limit. Exact dates for stocking may vary and are not announced in advance in order to spread fishing pressure over the entire week.
"We are grateful to the Sportsmen's Club of Fort Worth and the Nell V. Bailey Charitable Trust for helping us to provide quality fishing opportunities to the millions of people who live in the DFW area," said Terre. "We would welcome similar partnerships in other areas of the state served by the Neighborhood Fishin' Program--Austin, San Antonio, Houston, Amarillo, Bryan-College Station, Waco and Wichita Falls."
Any organization interested in partnering with TPWD on the Neighborhood Fishin' Program should contact Terre at (512) 389-4855.
The Sportsmen's Club of Fort Worth is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to outdoor and wildlife charitable and educational activities with an emphasis on serving area youth. For more information visit http://www.sportsmensclub.org/.
The Nell V. Bailey Charitable Trust is a private foundation that concentrates its giving on Fort Worth area youth programs for arts, sports and music.