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[ Note: This item is more than a year old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ]
Jan. 19, 2017
Texas Master Naturalist Program Recognized as 2017 Harvard Ash Center Bright Idea in Government
AUSTIN - The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, recognized the Texas Master Naturalist Program today as part of the 2017 Bright Ideas in Government initiative.
The Texas Master Naturalist (TMN) program is part of a cohort that includes programs from all levels of government -- school districts, county, city, state, federal agencies and tribal nations, as well as public-private partnerships -- that represent the next horizon in government work to improve services, solve problems, and work on behalf of citizens.
The TMN program was initiated statewide by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Texas A&M University AgriLife Extension Service. The program develops corps of 'master volunteers' who provide education, outreach, and service dedicated toward the beneficial management of natural resources and natural areas within their communities for the State of Texas.
With over 400 local, state and national partners, the TMN program continues to result in a unique master volunteer organization. Volunteers gain the Texas Master Naturalist designation after completing a 40-hour training series of combined field and classroom instruction, engaging in eight hours of approved advanced training, and providing at least 40 hours of volunteer service in their local communities.
Volunteers maintain their certification by completing an additional 40 hours of service and eight hours of advanced training annually. The most common volunteer activities include: public education programs, wildscape development and demonstrations, citizen science, species inventories, habitat management projects, and assistance in agency research studies.
Since 1998, the program has grown from four chapters and 150 volunteers to 46 chapters and more than 10,400 volunteers serving a multitude of diverse Texas communities with additional expansion taking place continually. Program volunteers have provided over 3.2 million hours of service valued at more than $75 million given back to the state since its inception.
This service has resulted in enhanced wildlife and native plant habitats on 221,200 acres, conservation education programs reaching over 2.5 million youth, adults and private landowners, and restored wildlife and habitat conservation initiatives.
"These programs demonstrate that there are no prerequisites for doing the good work of governing, small towns and massive cities, huge federal agencies and local school districts, large budgets or no budgets at all," said Stephen Goldsmith, director of the Innovations in American Government Program at the Ash Center. "What makes government work best is the drive to do better and this group proves that drive can be found anywhere."
This is the fifth cohort recognized through the Bright Ideas program, an initiative of the broader Innovations in American Government Awards program. For consideration as a Bright Idea, programs must currently be in operation or in the process of launching, have sufficient operational resources, and must be administered by one or more governmental entities; nonprofit, private sector, and union initiatives are eligible if operating in partnership with a governmental organization. Bright Ideas are showcased on the Ash Center's Government Innovators Network, an online platform for practitioners and policymakers to share innovative public policy solutions.
Please visit the Government Innovators Network at http://innovations.harvard.edu for the full list of Bright Ideas programs, and for more information regarding the Innovations in American Government Awards.

[ Note: This item is more than a year old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ]
Jan. 19, 2017
New Texas State Parks Centennial Plan Lays Blueprint for Brighter Future
AUSTIN-- While many Texans are making plans to prepare for the New Year, Texas State Parks have prepared a plan for a new century.
The Texas State Parks Centennial Plan details actions needed to create a well-maintained, modernized park system able to serve a more diverse, urban and growing population by the year 2023, when Texas state parks will mark 100 years of recreation and conservation service. The plan builds on the foundation provided when the Texas Legislature dedicated 94 percent of state sporting goods sales tax revenue to parks in 2015. It identifies six areas of investment and action for state parks.
"For generations, state parks have brought families together on the land and around the water, helping Texans experience the natural and cultural history of our great state," said Carter Smith, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department executive director. "This plan projects those values into the 21st century, fulfilling a commitment to elected leaders and parks supporters that we will craft a long-term strategy to use dedicated state dollars for parks thoughtfully, creatively and efficiently."
Improvements to park facilities and infrastructure are a key focus of the plan, with nearly two-thirds of state park sites slated to receive upgrades and improvements in coming years.
In addition, the plan calls for developing five new state parks at sites where land is already in the park system but money is needed for planning and construction. This would serve surging public demand, which has gone from just under 7.5 million state park visits per year in 2009 to almost 9 million visits per year now. The five new state parks planned are Palo Pinto Mountains near Dallas-Fort Worth, Albert and Bessie Kronkosky near Austin-San Antonio, Powderhorn on the coastal bend, Chinati Mountains in far West Texas, and Davis Hill near Houston.
"Ten years ago, the park system was struggling to survive after decades of inadequate resources. Now with reliable, dedicated funding Texas can have a park system that serves the needs of park visitors and reflects the incredible history and natural diversity of our state," said Brian Trusty, chair of the Texas State Parks Advisory Committee, which provided input for the plan, representing diverse supporters such as businesses, local communities, university experts and others.
The centennial plan builds on landmark legislation passed in 2015, which dedicated 94 percent of sporting goods sales tax revenue to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. This invests a portion of the existing state sales tax attributed to sporting goods sales, as calculated by the state comptroller.
In addition to facility improvements, the plan recommends a major emphasis on increasing awareness of park recreation and learning opportunities among all Texans. This includes developing and maintaining effective communication and outreach efforts that are culturally relevant to broad audiences across the state, and identifying barriers to park use by underserved or nontraditional customers.
"The State Park centennial will mark one hundred years of creating memories for generations of Texans, protecting and managing healthy habitats for wildlife and people, and creating experiences in a park system that engenders pride in our heritage and responsible use of our natural resources," said Brent Leisure, Texas State Parks director. "This plan provides a blueprint for excellence in a second century of Texas state parks."
The Texas State Parks Centennial Plan, plus a detailed list of current and planned facility repair and improvement projects, are available online at www.texasstateparks.org/brighterfuture.