|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2013-04-05                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than four 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]
April 5, 2013
Range-wide Lesser Prairie Chicken Plan Submitted to U.S Fish and Wildlife Service
Texas Among Five States Working To Conserve Bird, Avoid Need For Threatened Listing
AUSTIN - The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and other state wildlife agencies in New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado have submitted the 3rd draft of a range-wide plan to conserve the lesser prairie chicken to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is considering whether to list the bird as a threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.
The multi-state plan includes habitat management goals and voluntary conservation practices to be applied throughout the lesser prairie-chicken's range (http://kars.ku.edu/geodata/maps/sgpchat/), actions which could help preclude the need to list the bird.
"While we do not need a chicken on every acre, we do need to have the right acres in the right areas to conserve the species, and we are getting there in Texas through voluntary landowner agreements and related efforts," explained Ross Melinchuk, TPWD deputy executive director for natural resources.
"It is noteworthy that 44 landowners across the Texas Panhandle and Rolling Plains have enrolled 427,685 acres in voluntary conservation agreements to help conserve this species, a nearly four-fold increase since 2010," Melinchuk said.
Under the Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances, landowners voluntarily help conserve and restore habitat for the bird on private land in Texas and other states. In exchange for management practices such as prescribed grazing, brush management, and prescribed burning, landowners receive assurances that they will not be required to meet any new regulations should the bird be listed under the Endangered Species Act.
Funding for the multi-state plan came from a grant from the USFWS with support from the Great Plains Landscape Conservation Cooperative and the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) Grassland Initiative. WAFWA collaborated with the Lesser Prairie Chicken Interstate Working Group, made up of biologists from the five state wildlife agencies and other partners, to develop the range-wide conservation plan.
The lesser prairie chicken is a grassland grouse species native to parts of the five states. It has been a candidate for listing since 1998. The USFWS proposed to list it as threatened last December, and is expected to issue a final rule in September.
"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service commends the Lesser Prairie Chicken Interstate Working Group and WAFWA for their tireless efforts to develop a range-wide conservation plan for the lesser prairie-chicken," said Benjamin Tuggle, PhD, director for the service's southwest region. "In the next few weeks the service will reopen the comment period in order to provide the public the opportunity to provide additional comments on the lesser prairie chicken listing proposal and the range-wide conservation plan as it relates to the service's listing proposal."
Throughout the multi-state planning process, which started last April, the state wildlife agencies have reached out to the public, seeking feedback on two previous draft plans, and they've been encouraged to see support for a state-led effort to conserve the species.
"Historically, state conservation agencies saw drought conditions like the ones we are observing now back in the 1930s, and biologists thought the species had become extinct," said Bill Van Pelt, the WAFWA's grassland coordinator. "However, we believe that with habitat conservation efforts available through various Farm Bill programs, plus landowner enrollments in conservation agreements, we are seeing lesser prairie chickens maintained on the landscape and even expanding into new areas in some parts of their range."
Before finalizing the range-wide plan for submittal to USFWS in May, the five state wildlife agencies are again seeking public feedback on the latest draft. The Range-wide Conservation Plan for the Lesser Prairie Chicken can be seen on TPWD's lesser prairie-chicken web page at http://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/lesserprairiechicken/. Any interested parties may send comments about the range-wide plan to Jan Caulfield Consulting at janc@gci.net. Texas landowners or others with questions or comments about the plan may contact Sean Kyle, TPWD biologist in Lubbock, at sean.kyle@tpwd.texas.gov.

[ Note: This item is more than four 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: Larry Hodge, (903) 670-2255, larry.hodge@tpwd.texas.gov; Tom Lang, (940) 766-2383, tom.lang@tpwd.texas.gov ]
April 5, 2013
Best Little Bass Lake in Texas Planned for Wichita Falls
ATHENS--What's more fun than catching a big bass? For many people, it's catching a lot of bass.
That's the theory behind a new kind of urban fishing lake Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is developing in Wichita Falls with the help of the City of Wichita Falls and the local Academy store.
TPWD's Neighborhood Fishin' Program (NFP) partners with local governments to stock small neighborhood lakes with rainbow trout and channel catfish every two weeks throughout most of the year. This program enables many Texans living in urban areas to have enjoyable fishing experiences close to home that includes keeping some fish to eat. Wichita Falls residents have an NFP pond, South Weeks Pond, available for their fishing pleasure.
"Sitting back and relaxing, watching a bobber, waiting on catfish or trout to bite at South Weeks is great," Wichita Falls District Fisheries Supervisor Tom Lang said. "However, Maplewood Pond gives us the chance to offer a different type of fishing experience. Some folks don't like sitting around waiting for a fish to bite. They want to move around and cast lures or fly-fish. So we decided to make Maplewood into a largemouth bass fishery that should provide high catch rates of small to medium-sized bass. You're not going to catch a ShareLunker there, but you should catch a lot of fish."
TPWD partnered with the City of Wichita Falls, the local Academy Sports and Outdoors store, and the local chapter of Texas Master Naturalists and on March 22 officially opened Maplewood Pond, located on Maplewood Avenue between Lawrence Road and Kemp Boulevard.
Why make a pond with a lot of little bass in it instead of trying to make big bass?
"A pond can only support so many pounds of fish in it," Lang explained. "You can have a few big fish or a lot of smaller fish. We want to increase the chances that a lot of people can catch something. A kid or an angler new to fishing doesn't need to catch a 10-pound bass to have fun, but it sure is nice if they can catch something, and even a 12-inch bass puts up a pretty good fight. So we decided to try and manage this pond to provide a lot of people a good chance to catch something, regardless of their fishing skill level."
At first glance the three-acre Maplewood Pond doesn't seem like much. However, the city-owned retention pond has great access, since it is completely encircled by a concrete walking path. Even in the grip of an extreme drought, Maplewood is still nearly full of water, and testing shows good water quality as well. Its location with a neighborhood on one side and the local Academy store on the other seems ideal for a fishin' hole.
Partnerships are what make the project work, according to Lang. "We are very grateful for our partners on this project. Without their support we wouldn't have been able to offer this great opportunity to the community," Lang said. "The pond is owned by the City of Wichita Falls, and the Academy staff keeps the area free of litter. Habitat work was carried out by the Texas Master Naturalists, and the fishery is managed by TPWD. Maplewood is a testament to the power of partnerships."
Many urban anglers are used to harvesting the fish they catch. Unlike catfish and trout, catchable largemouth bass aren't readily available from hatcheries. That means for Maplewood to continue being able to provide the fast-action fishing of largemouth slamming lures, anglers must practice catch and release. Nearly all of the largemouth bass in Maplewood are less than 14 inches in length, the minimum length limit required to legally keep one.
"We simply don't have the resources to continually stock catchable largemouth bass the way we do channel catfish and rainbow trout in our NFP program," Lang noted. "But this management strategy can work if anglers simply follow the regulations and remember that every fish they put back is a fish they have a chance to catch on their next visit."
TPWD plans to conduct a thorough evaluation that includes monitoring usage, catch rates, angler satisfaction and demographics. "We want to know for sure if Maplewood is doing what we think it can," Lang said. "What we learn at Maplewood will help us make it better, of course, but I think it also has the potential to help fisheries biologists across the country."
Lang hopes the idea of high catch-rate urban bass lakes will catch on. "In offering an additional type of fishing opportunity that wasn't here before, we think we'll better meet the wants and needs of potential anglers," he said. "We're tickled to see the number of men, women, youth and families enjoying Maplewood. Fishing provides a great many social, recreational, economic and conservation benefits to our society and of course, as we all know, Life's Better Outside."
For additional information on the Neighborhood Fishin' Program or to find an NFP lake close to you, visit www.NeighborhoodFishin.org.
For additional information on Maplewood Pond call the TPWD Inland Fisheries Office in Wichita Falls at (940) 766-2383 or find them on Facebook by searching for "Texas Parks and Wildlife Wichita Falls."
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[ Note: This item is more than four years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ]
April 5, 2013
State Game Wardens Seize Nearly $4 Million Worth of Marijuana on Lower Border
AUSTIN - Texas Parks and Wildlife Department game wardens have seized more than two tons of marijuana worth nearly $4 million.
"This is one of if not the largest drug seizure by Texas game wardens in the history of our agency," said TPWD Law Enforcement Director Craig Hunter. "Obviously, we are very proud of the wardens involved in this case. Beyond that, we are tremendously pleased to have played a part in preventing such a large cache of marijuana from reaching our streets,"
The drug seizure occurred about 7 p.m. on Wednesday in Starr County near the U.S.-Mexican border in South Texas. Retail value of the marijuana was estimated at $3,775,440.
"A game warden received information that marijuana was being stashed at a residence in the Salineno area. Game wardens then requested assistance from the U.S. Border Patrol," said TPWD Maj. Alan Teague.
When the warden and Border Patrol agents approached the residence, the federal officers saw three men running from the rear of the structure. The officers shouted for the men to stop, but they kept running. After a foot pursuit, two of the three men were apprehended.
While escorting the two individuals back to the residence, the officers observed a large pile of bundles which appeared to be packaged marijuana. A closer inspection along with a Border Patrol canine confirmed the bundles were in fact marijuana. Officers also discovered an underground bunker located near the pile of marijuana bundles which contained more marijuana.
A total of 409 bundles of marijuana weighing 4,719 pounds were recovered from the back yard area. It took six trucks to carry the marijuana to a federal storage facility.
"Texas game wardens routinely come across illegal drug smuggling operations, especially in rural areas and along the border region," said Chief of Special Operations Grahame Jones, "but this seizure was particularly significant."
The two suspects were released to the Border Patrol, along with the seized marijuana.
"We certainly appreciate the assistance of the Border Patrol in this case," said Lt. Col. Danny Shaw. "TPWD has a close working relationship with the Border Patrol and other law enforcement agencies along the border, and this is a perfect example of how that pays off for the citizens of Texas."