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Home | Tag Archives: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Tag Archives: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest moved to November

AUSTIN – The Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest benefiting the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has been rescheduled for November 5-8 at Lake Fork in Quitman.

The tournament was originally scheduled for June 5-9 but was moved back amid the ongoing public health situation that forced the postponement of the spring competition.

Lake Fork near Emory, Texas, is hosting the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament, where the top bass anglers in the world will be competing for a total prize purse of $1 million.

This unique tournament showcases a “catch-weigh-immediate release” format that was designed to honor this lake’s special size limits and reduce handling stress on large bass.

TPWD will be on site at the Sabine River Authority from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. November 7-8 to highlight family-friendly fishing, hunting and camping opportunities in the state.

Proceeds from the tournament, donated by Gulf States Toyota, will benefit TPWD’s youth fishing and urban outreach programs.

Programs benefiting from this tournament include the Neighborhood Fishin’ Program, which brings fishing to families at 18 community park lakes in 10 urban areas, and the Texas Division of the Wildlife Forever State-Fish Art Contest, which seeks to interest youth in grades K-12 in fishing.

The official news release from Bassmaster with details about the revised tournament schedule, click here.

Texas CWD Testing shows scale of effort to contain Deadly Deer Disease

The latest numbers on Chronic Wasting Disease testing in Texas give some hope that efforts to contain the disease are working, according to state wildlife experts.

The CWD testing year that ended in February produced just shy of 13,000 CWD samples statewide by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department with the help of participating landowners and hunters.

This number includes all samples collected in Texas CWD Zones and far exceeds the target of 7,039 samples.

During this period, Texas recorded 26 new confirmed CWD positives, with six additional “suspect positives” awaiting confirmation. That includes CWD found in a new area, Val Verde County, in a free-ranging white-tailed deer last December, and a second found in close proximity about a month later. Plans to manage the disease in this area are ongoing.

All the remaining new free-ranging positives were within existing containment zones.

“Hunters can still plan for a good fall deer season and we encourage them to continue to have their deer tested to help TPWD biologists with statewide sampling efforts. Early detection is critical to managing and containing CWD to protect Texas deer,” said Clayton Wolf, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department wildlife division director. “It is important for everyone to be aware and informed about this disease, the zones of concern, the regulations and the common-sense precautions we’ve recommended for years.”

CWD was also detected in Kimble County for the first time in a deer breeding facility in early February. That facility and facilities that had supplied deer to or received deer from that facility during the previous five years are under quarantine, and herd plans for those facilities are being developed with the Texas Animal Health Commission as well as plans for increased surveillance in the immediate area.

Four of the five Texas deer breeding facilities that tested positive in 2015-2016 are no longer in operation.

In Texas, CWD was first discovered in 2012 in free-ranging mule deer along a remote area of the Hueco Mountains near the Texas-New Mexico border, and has since been detected in 176 white-tailed deer, red deer and mule deer in Dallam, El Paso, Hartley, Hudspeth, Kimble, Lavaca, Medina, Uvalde and Val Verde counties.

Of those, 129 are connected to deer breeding facilities and release sites.

CWD among cervids is a progressive, fatal neurological disease that commonly results in altered behavior as a result of microscopic changes made to the brain of affected animals.

An animal may carry the disease for years without outward indication, but in the latter stages, signs may include listlessness, lowering of the head, weight loss, repetitive walking in set patterns, and a lack of responsiveness.

To date there is no evidence that CWD poses a risk to humans or non-cervids. However, as a precaution, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization recommend not to consume meat from infected animals.

For more information, see the TPWD website.

El Paso, Canutillo ISDs awarded grant funds from TPWD Community Outdoor Outreach Program

AUSTIN – Texas families will have an opportunity to experience the outdoors thanks to $822,444 in 20 grants awarded this year through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Community Outdoor Outreach Program (CO-OP).

“These grants support community-based conservation and outdoor recreation programs and activities such as archery, fishing, camping, hiking, kayaking, nature education and more,” TPWD officials shared.

This year’s recipients include schools, non-profits and city programs across the state developing life-long conservation and outdoor skills and reach under-represented audiences.

Award winning projects include the expansion of outdoor education in schools, a year-long program of camping and paddling for blind and visually impaired youth, a city program reaching autistic youth with sensory-friendly recreational opportunities, and a program teaching fishing to special needs youth, disabled veterans and their families.

CO-OP grant recipients also help Texans develop leadership and career skills. An urban environmental education nonprofit hosts conservation camps and service projects and will hire 13 low-income youth for a seven-week paid internship providing conservation and natural resource job training.

CO-OP was established by TPWD in 1996 to help introduce under-represented audiences to environmental education, conservation and outdoor recreation programs. The program is authorized by the Texas Legislature through the department’s budget as a specialized component of the Texas Recreation and Parks Account Program.

Grants range from $5,000 to $50,000 and may be used to pay for supplies, travel, training, food, personnel costs and equipment for ongoing use.

CO-OP grant funding is available to tax-exempt organizations within the State of Texas. Over the last 24 years, these grants have awarded $21,555,934 around the state to assist in this effort.

The following local organizations will receive funding:

Canutillo ISD — $49,983 – Wild Eagles 2020 fosters lifetime physical activity to over 2,300 Canutillo ISD students by teaching fishing and archery in their physical education classes across multiple grade levels in all district schools. In addition, they offer air rifle to their 200 Early College students who may then compete for college scholarships in university rifle programs.

El Paso ISD — $50,000 – EPISD Archery in Schools Program instructs 21,000 students during a three-week unit in archery at all 20 elementary and 10 high schools. Twenty district physical education teachers certified in TPWD’s archery program train the students. This expands a successful pilot from several elementary schools to all campuses in the district.

Statewide organizations receiving funding:

Austin

Camp Fire Central Texas — $50,000  The Citizen Science and Stewardship Program visits five state parks and holds summer camp at local parks and centers, focusing on canoeing, archery, hiking, orienteering and nature photography. This project expands their afterschool, summer and backpacking clubs and reaches 150 female and minority participants through a variety of environmental education activities, outdoor skills and service projects for state parks.

Expedition School Fund — $50,000 – BVI Explore Outdoors! provides a year-long program of weekly and monthly outings for blind and visually impaired youth, including trips to 11 state parks, two natural areas and paddling trails across the state. These experiences build a variety of outdoor skills and include shore cleanups along Mustang Island State Park and Lady Bird Lake.

Brownsville

STEMS Alumni Association — $49,450 – STEMS Outdoor Outreach Program reaches minority and economically-disadvantaged youth through daytrips and multi-night camping trips at multiple state parks and a variety of outdoor activities in South, West and Central Texas. Youth gather data on wildlife species for a citizen scientist project and past participants have trained as mentors, learning outdoor skills and first aid.

Cleburne

Opportunity Resources Services — $40,092 – Restoring Native Texas, Building Leaders supports their Upward Bound program with environmental service trips for 150 underserved youth. After preparatory workshops, students provide several parks with customized service projects such as building bat habitats, installing pollinator gardens and assisting with oyster restoration at Galveston Island, with opportunities for outdoor recreation at the sites.

Conroe

Twelve Stones — $50,000 – Back to Basics Campouts host multiple skill-mastery camping trips to train twenty junior camp leaders to assist staff and then lead 100 inexperienced campers in outdoor activities at state parks. Youth and families with little to no experience will get a start on camping, fishing and other outdoor skills with the help of staff and the junior camp leaders.

Dallas

Groundwork Dallas — $50,000 – Expanding Green Team Recreation and Career Development Opportunities engages 250 Green Team youth ages 14-25 in weekly and monthly activities including service projects, outdoor recreation, and environmental education. Highlights include several weekend camping trips with TPWD’s Texas Outdoor Family and two week-long conservation camping trips to Big Bend Ranch State Park. Additionally, they hire 13 low-income and home-insecure youth for a 7-week paid experience providing conservation and natural resource job training.

Desoto

Faith Family Kids, Inc — $49,710 – Faith Family Academy EXPLORE 360: Big Bend takes 120 at-risk 8th grade students on a five-day capstone trip to Big Bend to study geology, flora, fauna, astronomy and includes hiking, guided canoeing and overnight camping.  As preparation for the trip, all 7th grade students study related natural history, science, literature as well as outdoor and leadership skills in physical education and core content classes.

Fort Worth

Camp Fire First Texas — $49,773 – Texas Outdoor Education Center leads day and overnight adventure camps for elementary and high school students in Fort Worth ISD, combining outdoor skills training and nature education. Selected high school students will be trained to help lead activities for the elementary students and participate in additional camping opportunities.

Houston

Buffalo Soldiers National Museum — $36,046 – Buffalo Soldiers Inner City Youth Outdoor Exploration Program guides 300 youth ages 10 through 17 in outdoor recreation, basic survival and equestrian skills in a year-long series of monthly trainings and travel to historic sites where Buffalo Soldiers lived and fought.  Participants help restore prairies and wetlands at Sheldon Lake State Park and put on a Texas wildlife exhibition at the museum.

Citizens’ Environmental Coalition — $37,199 – CEC Educator Program promotes environmental literacy by combining multiple days of teacher professional development with 27 follow-up school field trips for students to learn firsthand about watersheds and prairies, and then participate in service projects such as seed planting and invasive species removal. More than 1,100 students and 60 teachers are reached in this project. A Student Conservation Association intern is trained to assist in the program.

Nature and Eclectic Outdoors — $25.189 –Healthy Outdoor Communities partners with inner-city schools to offer field trips to parks, overnight family campouts in state parks and service projects on public lands. Creation of outdoor classrooms coupled with teacher training and career day events help 500 underserved youth gain natural science and outdoor skills.

Lewisville

City of Lewisville — $21,296 – Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area Field Day provides ten facilitated field days at a nature preserve and park for adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder who are residents of an assisted living and transitional facility to equip them with the skills needed to live a healthy and engaged life. The sensory-friendly recreational opportunities include fishing, nature journaling, camping, kayaking and hiking. A Chance to Hike is a monthly nature walk designed for members of the special needs community to safely engage with the outdoors.

Livingston

Livingston ISD — $39,715 – Livingston ISD Under the Stars at Creekside Elementary teaches outdoor skills to all its students during grade-specific instruction in fishing, archery, camping, canoeing, outdoor cooking, stargazing and camp storytelling. Family evening stargazing and campouts on campus are offered several times during the year. Planting wildflowers and creating a monarch butterfly waystation on campus reinforces learning about nature and monarch migration. School staff are trained by TPWD to teach archery and fishing skills.

Richardson

North Dallas Adventist Academy — $22,600 – Outdoor Education Project combines three components: leading 50 urban high school freshman biology students to Big Bend to learn about nature and wildlife while camping and hiking the area; an outdoor class and club practice outdoor skills and camp out at state parks for four weekends per school year; and a group of 75-100 high school students assists Groundwork Dallas with a river improvement service project.

San Marcos

San Marcos Consolidated ISD — $49,323 – Outdoor Education Program 2020 – 2021 provides extensive outdoor skill instruction at all elementary schools and in middle and high school outdoor adventure classes. More than 4,600 students learn archery, fishing, nature photography, camping, orienteering and mountain biking. Additionally, district staff trained by the Texas Outdoor Family program offer students and families free day and overnight workshops at nearby parks. San Marcos CISD expanded its successful high school outdoor education program to all elementary, middle and high schools in the district to provide these opportunities.

Santa Rosa

Santa Rosa ISD — $49,319 – Santa Rosa ISD Outdoor STEM Youth Leadership Project engages 150 at-risk minority students in a variety of outdoor activities including the Texas National Archery In Schools Program offered at all three elementary, middle school, and high school campuses. Also, students have a chance to participate in outdoor recreation day trips and overnight camping trips to multiple state parks, exposure to natural resource careers and weekend family archery academies.

South Padre Island

Fishing’s Future — $40,152 – New Adventures for All partners with local organizations serving special needs youth and disabled veterans to offer family fish camps for 500 participants and their families. Fishing skills and conservation are all part of the experience. In addition, they train 40 new volunteer instructors who continue to serve the community.

Tyler

City of Tyler — $12,597 – Outdoor Adventure Series workshops for area youth teach archery, fishing, orienteering, animal tracking, backpacking/hiking and birdwatching. The series culminates in a Texas Outdoor Family camping trip at Tyler State Park for participants who attend at least three workshops.

To find out more about the CO-OP program, visit the program’s website.

Last Legacy Lunker of 2020 lured in from O.H. Ivie

AUSTIN— O-M-G is right, O.H. Ivie, about an hour east of San Angelo, has produced the fourth and final Toyota ShareLunker “Legacy Class” entry over 13 pounds during the final weekend of the 2020 donation season March 29.

Angler James Maupin from Cypress had scheduled a trip to Lake Amistad with his dad, but it had to be cancelled. Instead the pair ventured to O.H. Ivie where Maupin caught ShareLunker 585 on a Texas rig in seven feet of water.

The Legacy Class ShareLunker weighed in at 13.15 pounds, 27 inches in length and 20 inches in girth.

“We go to Lake Amistad every year and spend 10 days fishing,” said Maupin. “We did pretty well the first day but when we got back to the boat ramp, we found out they shut down the lake because of COVID-19, so we packed up and headed to the nearest lake- O.H. Ivie.”

After a nearly four-hour drive, Maupin had arrived on the shores of O.H. Ivie for the first time ever. Maupin and his dad fished the lake for about three days and on the last day of his trip he reeled in the catch of a lifetime.

“I thought it could’ve been a ShareLunker so we weighed her, and she was a little over 13 pounds,” said Maupin. “I put her in the live well and called the marina immediately. They had an official scale, so we got her weighed and measured, and the ShareLunker guys came out to come get her.”

Kyle Brookshear, who manages the ShareLunker program for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department said the team were hoping another bass from O.H. Ivie would find its way back into the program.

“We have been patiently waiting for O.H. Ivie to produce another ShareLunker Legacy Class bass and are extremely excited to receive this fish to cap off the collection season,” said Brookshear. “The lake produced multiple bass weighing more than 13 pounds from 2010-2012. That was also the last time their selectively bred offspring were stocked into the reservoir. There is good probability that this fish is one of those offspring stocked 8-10 years ago.”

Genetic analysis is currently underway to determine if direct lineage to those lunkers exists.

“It takes a strong partnership between the anglers and the agency to help produce results like these in Texas public waters,” said Brookshear. “We are thankful to the anglers, like James, for loaning these world class size bass to our selective breeding program so that we can continue producing bigger, better bass to stock in Texas lakes.”

Sharelunker 585 is the fourth and final entry of the Toyota ShareLunker “Legacy Class” donation season that ended March 31. His fish will be a member of the TPWD selective breeding program and help spawn generations of bass for Texans.

“I think [the program] is fantastic,” said Maupin. “It’s my passion to be out there bass fishing. Without the ShareLunker program, I probably would have never caught her. I’ve got a 5-year-old daughter and she loves to fish too, so hopefully that offspring will be caught by her one of these days. That’s pretty cool.”

The other “Legacy Class” entries caught from public water in Texas this year include ShareLunker 584, a 13.28 pound bass caught by Blake Cockrell on Lake Alan Henry on March 1; ShareLunker 583, a 15.34 pound bass reeled in from Lake Nacogdoches Feb. 29; and ShareLunker 582, the second a 14.36 pound bass also caught by Blake Cockrell on Lake Alan Henry.

Every angler who loaned a 13 pound or larger “Legacy Class” bass to the Toyota ShareLunker program during the spawning period January 1 to March 31 will receive a Toyota ShareLunker Catch Kit containing branded merchandise and fishing tackle items, a 13lb+ Legacy Class decal, VIP access to awards programming at the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest, a replica of their fish, and an entry into the year-end ShareLunker Prize Drawing to win a $5,000 shopping spree and an annual fishing license.

These anglers will also be entered into the “Legacy Class” Prize Drawing for a $5,000 shopping spree and an annual fishing license at the end of the spawning period. TPWD will officially announce the drawing winner at the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest at Lake Fork June 5-9.

Although the “Legacy Class” donation season has ended, anglers can still enter catch data on their 8 pound, or 24″ or larger largemouth bass into the Toyota ShareLunker Program through December 31.

These anglers will receive recognition, a catch kit and will be eligible to win prizes. Anglers are encouraged to download the Toyota ShareLunker free mobile app before they go fishing to be ready to enter data as soon as they catch their lunker.  Entries can be made on the app or online.

Each angler who enters an 8 pound or 24 inches and larger lunker bass on the mobile app or website will receive a Toyota ShareLunker Catch Kit containing branded merchandise and fishing tackle items and an entry into the year-end ShareLunker Prize Drawing for a $5,000 shopping spree and an annual fishing license.

Anglers will also receive a vehicle decal to display their achievement – “Lunker” class for bass at least 8 pounds or 24 inches, “Elite” class for bass 10 to 12.99 pounds, and “Legend” class for bass at least 13 pounds.

The Toyota ShareLunker Program is made possible in part by the generous sponsorship of Toyota. Toyota is a longtime supporter of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, providing major funding for a wide variety of education, fish, parks and wildlife projects.

Prize donors Bass Pro Shops, Lake Fork Taxidermy, Stanley Jigs and American Fishing Tackle Co. also provide additional support for this program.

For updates on the Toyota ShareLunker Program and to view photos of all of the 13-pound-plus largemouth bass caught this season, visit the Toyota ShareLunker Program Facebook page or website.

Anglers reel in hundreds of record-setting fish in Texas in 2019

AUSTIN – Since 1971, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Angler Recognition Program has recognized fishing excellence by maintaining the fish record lists for all public and private water bodies across the state.

Participation in the program has continued to grow every year, and 2019 was no exception with anglers receiving more than 638 official awards for their big fish.

“With 47 new state fishing records and 434 new waterbody records set at lakes, rivers and bays across the state, it’s clear that 2019 was a great year for fishing in Texas,” said Ron Smith, TPWD Angler Recognition Program director. “In addition to providing bragging rights and a lifetime of memories for anglers, these achievements showcase the world-class fishing opportunities that can be found in every part of Texas.”

Anglers can submit their water body or state record-setting fish in a variety of categories, including freshwater and saltwater; all ages and junior; weight and length; and the method of catch, including rod and reel, fly rod, bow fishing, other methods, and catch and release.

Junior anglers under 17 set 14 state records and 108 water body records in 2019.

A few notable junior records include the junior state freshwater rod and reel record largemouth bass caught by Gavin Mikeska at Oak Creek Lake Apr. 20; the junior state freshwater rod and reel record blue catfish caught by Brayden Rogers at Lake Tawakoni March 16; and the junior state saltwater rod and reel record bull shark caught by Johnny Garner in the Gulf of Mexico Jan. 25.

“The increase in youth participation in the Angler Recognition Program is very exciting,” Smith said. “Not only are we seeing an increase in applications for youth state and waterbody records, we are also seeing an increase in youth applications for the First Fish Award and Outstanding Angler Award. We are thrilled to recognize young anglers for their time spent on the water pursuing their passion, and we hope having this award or certificate on their wall will inspire a lifetime of exploring and enjoying the state’s diverse fisheries resources.”

All-ages anglers set 33 state records and 326 water body records in 2019. Some notable all-ages records set in 2019 include the state freshwater fly fishing record Alabama bass caught by Smith Swinburn at Lake Alan Henry Apr. 5; the state freshwater fly fishing record bowfin caught by Stavros Cotsoradis at Lake Conroe Jun. 1; the state saltwater fly fishing record red drum caught by Candace Kern in Matagorda Bay on Aug. 14; the state saltwater rod and reel record silk snapper caught by Tyler Young in the Gulf of Mexico July 6; and the state saltwater rod and reel record scamp caught by Brice Sanchez in the Gulf of Mexico Jan. 6.

Even though not every fish qualifies as a waterbody or state record, anglers can still submit and receive special recognition for their catches.

In 2019, 48 anglers submitted their first catch to the program for the First Fish Award; 57 received the Outstanding Angler Award for their special catch; and 261 received a Big Fish Award for catching a fish that met the minimum length requirement for the species.

“Most anglers that turn in an application get something – whether that’s an award or an outstanding angler certificate,” Smith said. “We are happy to recognize great catches even when they may not have set a new record.”

To participate in the program, anglers should become familiar with the rules to ensure they submit a complete application. In addition to locating a certified scale, anglers should learn to properly measure a fish and take a camera along to snap the required photos.

Anglers should also keep in mind that all fish need to be legally caught in Texas waters and only one person may catch the fish (except for netting or gaffing the fish to bring it into the boat or onto shore).

To search current records, review the types of awards available and learn how to submit your catch, visit the Angler Recognition Program online.

To view and download photos of some of the record-setting fish caught in 2019, visit the TPWD Flickr page here.

TPWD: Hunting conditions forecast fruitful waterfowl season

AUSTIN— Hunters heading to the field this fall with hopes to fill their plates with delicious ducks are in luck as biologists predict a good waterfowl season.

“Overall habitat conditions are good for ducks and duck hunters for many parts of Texas,” said Kevin Kraai, waterfowl program coordinator for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “We just need some timely cold fonts and moisture this fall, and I believe many folks will get the opportunity to enjoy the young ducks the Dakotas produced this summer.”

Most of the Gulf Coast and East Texas remains drier than normal, Kraai added. Typically, when there is less water spread out across the landscape it concentrates birds in areas where hunters tend to be waiting and hunting success increases.

The general duck hunting season kicks off in the Texas Panhandle (High Plains Mallard Management Unit) Oct. 26-27 and resumes Nov. 1- Jan. 26, 2020. In the South Zone, duck season runs Nov. 2- Dec. 1 and resumes Dec. 14- Jan. 26, 2020.

Duck hunting in the North Zone opens Nov. 9- Dec. 1 and resumes Dec. 7-Jan. 26, 2020. Hunters are reminded that “dusky ducks” are off limits during the first five days of the season.

Before heading to the field, waterfowl hunters should note the regulatory change for northern pintails. The bag limit for pintails was reduced to one per day from two per day due to a decrease in population.

Goose hunting also kicks off Nov. 2 statewide and runs through Jan. 26, 2020 in the East Zone and Feb. 2, 2020 in the West Zone.

“Quite differently from the good duck production, timing of the goose hatch and vegetation green up in the Arctic has been a few weeks off of each other for several years in a row,” said Kraai.  “This mismatch once again has resulted in low gosling survival.  At best we can say there will be a few more young birds in the flock this year compared to the last couple of years.”

Continental goose populations, especially mid-continent snow geese, are declining for the first time in a long time due to four to five consecutive years of this poor gosling survival, Kraai said. The older and wise birds remaining in the flock tend to make for increased frustration with hunters and likely lower success.

White-fronted and small Canada geese tend to be doing much better than their snow goose cousins.  Hunters in the panhandle and rolling plains north of Abilene should see similar strong populations and success this winter.

Through the late summer and early fall, Texas saw almost zero cool fronts moving though the breeding grounds to the north, making for a frustrating teal season with a very slow and stretched out migration.

“At the end of teal season there were still significant concentrations of blue-winged teal remaining in the Dakotas and Nebraska,” said Kraai. “We will need a change in weather patterns soon to trigger a more pronounced migration before the regular season starts.  The birds are there, they just need a good push of cold weather to get them moving soon.”

For more information about migratory game bird hunting regulations, methods and seasons, consult the 2019-2020 Outdoor Annual online or through the mobile app.

Hunters who want the convenience of purchasing a license online can do so securely from the official Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s license site. Access it directly from the department’s website, or text TPWD LICENSE to 468-311 to receive a link.

Hunters can also purchase a license in person at sporting goods stores and other retailers or by calling the TPWD License Section at 1-800-895-4248

City, County get $400K Grant, Will fund new OHV Trails at Fabens’ San Felipe Park

AUSTIN— El Paso County – and Fabens – through a Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission approved grant, will get $400,000 for new Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) trail at the popular desert park.

TPW officials announced the project as part of a statewide $3.81 million dollar grant to fund 22 motorized and non-motorized recreational trail-related projects across the state.

The $400,000 grant for the San Felipe Park OHV Trails, located halfway between Cattleman’s Steakhouse and I-10, just north of Fabens, will fund the first major upgrades to the park in several years.

The project includes ten new miles of five-foot-wide OHV trail, youth rider’s .25 mile trail, new ADA-compliant restrooms, picnic shelters, signage and fencing.

The National Recreational Trails Fund (NRTF) funds recreational trail construction, renovation and acquisition.

The grants are funded from a portion of the federal gas tax generated by gasoline purchases for off-road motorcycles and four-wheelers. 30% of the total NRTF grants must be earmarked for motorized recreational trails, while another 30 percent must be spent on non-motorized trail projects. The remaining 40 percent is discretionary.

Several projects funded in previous years were completed under budget and four were cancelled, creating an additional $700,000 available for re-allocation this year. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has been utilizing the re-allocated funds for trail improvement projects in state parks.

The result is a total of $4.67 million dollars in federal funding available to fund eligible trail construction projects.

The other, statewide projects awarded funding are listed in alphabetical order by county below:

The Pines and Prairies Land Trust in Bastrop County are the recipients of a $17,776 grant for the Trail Restoration at the Colorado River Refuge (CRR). The project includes the reroute of 240 feet of trail near the trailhead with erosion controls, fencing, trash cans and kiosk maps.

The city of Port Lavaca in Calhoun County is the recipient of a $200,000 grant for the Bayfront Park Trail. The project includes a new 1 mile walking trail with solar lighting, benches, a water fountain, bike rack amenities and connection to existing amenities.

The Trinity Trail Preservation Association in Collin County received $48,400 to go towards the Trinity Trail Culvert Remediation. The project includes the clearing of silt from 11 culverts with upstream and downstream drainage remediation, and replacement of two pairs of culverts with a low-water crossing articulated concrete mat.

The Texas Motorized Trails Coalition, Inc. in Crockett County received $399,000 to go towards the Escondido Draw Recreation Area. The project includes four miles of new OHV trails, resurfacing of trailhead roads with asphalt, endangered species resource survey, trail rider educational program, bathrooms, fencing and project management.

The Trophy Club in Denton County received $160,000 to go towards the Trophy Club Park. The project includes renovation of .9-miles of asphalt road surface and replacement of three pavilions.

The Memorial Park Conservancy in Harris County received a $66,200 grant for the Memorial Park North West Trail Rehabilitation FY19. The project includes renovation of 1.1 miles of natural surface trail, including the elevation and crowning of multi-use trails, footbridge replacement and improvements to stormwater management.

The Rio Bravo Adventure Park in Harris County are the recipients of a $397,500 grant for the Rio Bravo Adventure Park Improvements- Phase 1. The project includes the renovation of 8 miles of trail, drainage culverts, a bridge, fencing, transformer for electrical service, lighting and rental of trail maintenance equipment.

The city of Kyle in Hays County received a $200,000 grant for the Spring Branch Segment of Plum Creek Trail. The project includes a new 1.25 mile segment of an 8-foot wide multi-use concrete trail.

The city of Levelland in Hockley County are the recipients of a $61,200 grant for the Lobo Lake Trail. The project includes the renovations and expansion of a .3 mile multi-use concrete trail with benches and trash receptacles.

Chaparral Rails to Trails, Inc. in Hunt County received $200,000 to go towards the Northeast Texas Trail-Wolfe City Section. The project includes a new 1.06 rails-to-trails conversion including clearing, grading, embankment work, asphalt overlay, safety bollards and road crossings.

The National Park Service’s Lake Meredith National Recreation Area in Hutchinson County are the recipients of a $112,500 grant for the Harbor Bay Trail Improvement and Maintenance Project, which includes the renovation of a 5.25 mile natural surface multi-use trail.

The city of Jacksboro in Jack County received $218,600 to go towards the Twin Lakes Moto Trail. The project includes construction of a new 5 mile trail for motorized use with controlled entry gate, parking lot and equipment rental.

The Northeast Texas Trail Coalition in Lamar County are the recipients of a $200,000 grant for the Northeast Texas Trail- Clarksville to Highway 82. The project includes a new 1.9 mile rails-to-trails conversion including clearing, grading, bridge repair and railings, safety bollards and road crossings.

The Texas Trails Education and Motorized Management- TXTEAMM in Medina County are the recipients of a $63,900 grant for the Texas OHV Safety Education Program. The project includes OHV safety education program, instructors travel and associated expenses.

The city of Annona in Red River County are the recipients of a $200,000 grant for the Northeast Texas Trail- Annona Section. The project includes a new 3.8 mile rails-to-trails conversion including clearing, grading, safety bollards and road crossings.

The city of Avery in Red River County received $174,400 for the Northeast Texas Trail- Avery Section. The project includes a new 4.01 mile rails-to-trails conversion including clearing, grading, bridge repair and railings, safety bollards and road crossings.

The city of Clarksville in Red River County received $200,000 to go towards the Northeast Texas Trail Clarksville. The project includes a new 5.8 mile rails-to-trails conversion, bridge repair and signage.

Red River County is the recipient of a $200,000 grant for the Northeast Texas Trail- Red River County Section. The project includes a new 3.63 mile rails-to-trails conversion including the clearing, grading, bridge repair and railings, safety bollards, signage and road crossings.

The Houston Audubon Society in San Jacinto County received $48,600 for the Winters Bayou Bird Sanctuary Loop Trail. The project includes a new 900 foot trail, renovation of 1 mile of trail, 500 feet of boardwalk and trail markers.

The Hill Country Conservancy in Travis County received $200,000 to go towards the Violet Crown Trail-Phase 3. The project includes a new 3 mile multi-use natural surface trail.

The Turnback Canyon Trail Conservancy in Travis County received $49,300 to go towards the Turnback Canyon Trail-Phase 1A. The project includes 2 miles of natural surface multi-use trail, trail bridges, benches, pet waste stations and trail markers.

Parks and Recreation to celebrate National Kids to Parks Day

Officials with both the Parks and Recreation Department and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department invite the community to take part in the annual National Kids to Parks Day on Saturday.

The event will be held at Chuck Heinrich Park, located at 10899 Officer Andrew Barcena Drive, in Northeast El Paso; from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

National Kids to Parks Day is a free event designed to encourage children and families to visit a city, state, or national park to improve their health and fitness while connecting to nature through outdoor activities.

During the eight annual event, children can do some hiking, archery, fly-casting and other activities.

The national celebration allows children to explore parks and public lands while learning about park stewardship, outdoor recreation and the importance of physical activity.

For more information on National Kids to Parks Day, call the El Paso Parks and Recreation Department at (915) 212-0092 or visit the department’s website.

El Paso’s Inaugural Animal Advocacy Day is February 24

The El Paso Animal Collaborative, an initiative of the El Paso Community Foundation, is partnering with the Texas Humane Legislative Network (THLN) to host the first El Paso Animal Advocacy Day this weekend.

Organizers say the event will run from 1- 4 p.m. Sunday, February 24 in the El Paso Community Foundation Room, located at 333 North Oregon Street.

State Representative Joe Moody will share insights on how citizen advocates can best coalesce their voices for animals. Moody, the first Speaker pro tem from El Paso, has been endorsed by THLN.

Via a news release, officials shared that the public can “Learn what animal protection issues are at stake in the 2019 legislative session and how you can get political for animals. Exciting legislation has already been filed to advance the humane treatment of animals this session – critical protections for tied-out dogs, banning the predatory practice of “pet leasing,” enabling the adoption of retired research animals, to allowing good Samaritans to free dogs in hot cars.”

Laura Donahue Halloran, Executive Director for Texas Humane Legislative Network, will break down the critical elements of these bills and explain how to help both spread the word and make change in Austin.

This event is free and open to the public, however organizers are asking potential attendees to RSVP so they can ensure seats for all.

The El Paso Animal Collaborative was formed in 2018 by the El Paso Community Foundation. The group, which meets quarterly, addresses the issues faced by the animal community in our region.

Participating organizations include: Animal Rescue League of El Paso, Animal Shelter Advisory Committee (ASAC), Cat Rescue Corporation, El Paso Animal Services Shelter, El Paso County Sheriff Animal Control Unit, El Paso Veterinary Medical Association, El Paso Zoo, Enchanted Pass Animal Rescue, From The Heart Rescue, Horses Unlimited Rescue and Education Center Inc., Humane Society of El Paso, Paws for Love, Second Chance Wildlife Rescue, Stick House Sanctuary, Sun City Cats, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Therapy Dogs International.

State Lawmakers Aim to Lock in Funding for Texas Parks, Historic Sites

For nearly a decade, the Texas parks department has hoped to turn a 4,400-acre swath of pristine forest in North Texas into what some hope could be the “metroplex’s playground.”

About 80 miles west of downtown Fort Worth, the already-named Palo Pinto Mountains State Park — with a scenic ridge overlooking a lake and more-than-ample space for camping — promises to be a huge recreational draw.

But the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has struggled to secure funding from the state Legislature to install the infrastructure that would make the park fit for public use.

As park visitation skyrockets statewide, Palo Pinto is just one victim of what parks advocates say is a chronically underfunded state parks department that has struggled not only to develop new natural areas but also to maintain existing ones.

That trend could change soon, however.

State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, and Rep John P. Cyrier, R-Lockhart, have filed legislation that would ensure that the state parks department always gets the maximum amount of money it is authorized to receive from a tax on the sale of sporting goods to maintain parks and build new ones — but only if voters approve it.

In 1993, state lawmakers passed legislation allowing up to 94 percent of the Sporting Goods Sales Tax to go to parks, with the other 6 percent earmarked for the Texas Historical Commission, which maintains the state’s 22 historic sites. But over the next two decades, they allocated just 40 percent of the tax to the parks system.

Kolkhorst and Cyrier’s legislation aims to amend the Texas Constitution to ensure that the state parks department and historical commission always receive the entirety of sporting goods tax collections. If passed by the Legislature — joint resolutions require approval from two-thirds of both the House and Senate — the proposed amendment would be placed on the November general election ballot.

“We want to ensure that every Texan can take advantage of our state’s great outdoors, and the state has a responsibility to provide for our state parks and historic sites,” Kolkhorst said at a news conference on Wednesday. “This is truth in taxation, and it gives these agencies the ability to plan.”

State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, discusses funding for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department during a press conference at the Capitol. Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / The Texas Tribune

From 1993 to 2017, Texas collected nearly $2.5 billion in revenue from the sporting goods sales tax, according to Kolkhorst’s office. But lawmakers have allocated only about $1 billion of that to parks.

The first time they allocated the maximum 94 percent was in 2015, followed by an 89-percent allocation in 2017 — but with a tight-fisted Legislature, parks advocates say funding in perpetuity is never guaranteed.

Recent success in securing more of the sales tax for parks has come amid a strong push by parks advocates like George Bristol, who founded the Texas Coalition for Conservation. Since the passage of the 1993 legislation, Bristol said it’s become common for the Legislature to use sporting-good tax dollars to balance the state budget — a constitutional requirement — or for other programs.

“It became clear to the collective ‘us’ that we had to go to a constitutional amendment to guarantee the funds go to the parks account,” said Bristol, a former chairman of the Texas State Parks Advisory Committee.

The committee has been pushing for a constitutional amendment since at least 2014.

If allocated, the sporting good sales tax — along with entry and use fees charged to state park visitors — is funneled into to the State Parks Account, the second-largest funding source for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The department’s primary revenue source is the Game, Fish and Water Safety Account, which is fed by revenue from fishing and hunting permits.

Texas state parks have an estimated $781 million in deferred maintenance needs, with increasing strain put on facilities like roads, bridges, bathrooms and trails. Parks officials told the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday that parks consistently have to close and turn away visitors.

In the 2017 fiscal year, nearly 10 million people — a 20 percent increase over 2012 — visited the 95 state parks and historic sites operated by the parks department.

A 2014 poll conducted for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation found that 84 percent of Texans surveyed see parks as “essential” to a healthy, active lifestyle and support the protection of natural areas.

Joseph Fitzsimons, the head of the Texas Coalition for State Parks, a group of outdoor, environmental and sporting organizations that formed in November to advocate for the constitutional amendment, said he expects state parks to become increasingly popular as the majority of Texas’ booming population growth is concentrated in cities. That means there will be more and more urban dwellers looking to escape to natural areas, he said.

“We need to meet the current and future demands of our growing state with a consistent and reliable stream of funding,” said Fitzsimons, a former chairman of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission. “A constitutional dedication of the sporting goods sales tax will achieve that.”

Disclosure: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

Author:  CARLOS ANCHONDO – The Texas Tribune

The 86th Legislature runs from Jan. 8 to May 27. From the state budget to health care to education policy — and the politics behind it all — we focus on what Texans need to know about the biennial legislative session.

MORE IN THIS SERIES 

Recent Rains Provide Boost for Deer, New Challenges for Bowhunters

AUSTIN – Bowhunters might need to adjust their game plan for Saturday’s archery-only white-tailed deer season due to recent rains, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The advance scouting report could be out the window.

“Hunting might be a little tough with the exceptional rainfall in September that has created a giant food plot of native forage across the state,” said Alan Cain, TPWD whitetail deer program leader. “Deer may be visiting the feeders less frequently with the abundant forage, so hunters might rely on information gathered recently on their trail cameras to help narrow down windows of opportunity as to when deer are visiting feeder and blind locations.”

Texas boasts a robust white-tailed deer population of about 4.6 million and the influx of new groceries on the ground should provide a boost of nutrition heading into the fall. It should also give wildlife managers some relief after range conditions across much of the state heading out of the summer doldrums began to decline.

“Range conditions had diminished somewhat with the long stretches of 100 degree weather and wind,” Cain noted. “The majority of the state had reasonable forb production and good brush green-up this past spring, which provided a good foundation of native forage to get deer off to a good start in terms of antler growth and fawn production. By late August, we were seeing preferred forbs becoming less available for deer. The rains came at an opportune time.”

While the archery-only season kicks off this weekend and runs through Nov. 2, the general gun season opener is still more than a month away on Nov. 3. A special youth-only weekend season is set for Oct. 27-29. The general season runs through Jan. 6, 2019 in North Texas and Jan. 20, 2019 in South Texas.

A late youth-only season is also slated for Jan. 7-20, 2019. For additional late season deer hunting opportunities and county specific regulations, consult the 2018-19 Outdoor Annual of hunting and fishing regulations.

Hunters are also reminded to review the TPWD chronic wasting disease regulations for information about CWD testing requirements and carcass movement restrictions for the 2018-19 season.

Also as a reminder, Texas hunters harvesting deer, elk, moose, or other susceptible species in other CWD-positive states must also comply with carcass movement restrictions when bringing those harvested animals back into Texas.

Additionally, the Texas Animal Health Commission has mandatory testing requirements that apply to elk, red deer, sika, moose, and reindeer

TPW Commission Adopts Rules Permitting Pneumatic Weapons for Hunting

AUSTIN – Beginning this fall, hunters in Texas will be able to use air guns and arrow guns that meet criteria established under new rules adopted by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.

The regulations create a new category of legal means for hunting in Texas defined as pre-charged pneumatic devices.

Unlike pellet guns and traditional air rifles that can be charged manually or with an attached CO2 cartridge, pre-charged pneumatic air guns and arrow guns are those weapons for which an unignited compressed gas propellant is supplied or introduced from a detached source.

The TPW Commission decision follows months of scrutiny to avoid creating undue risks of wounding of wildlife from pneumatic weaponry. These devices must meet minimum standards of ballistic efficacy.

Minimum ballistic specifications of pre-charged pneumatics approved by the Commission for hunting alligators, big game and turkeys are: .30 caliber bullets weighing at least 150 grains powered by an unignited compressed gas propellant charge capable of attaining a muzzle velocity of at least 800 feet per second (fps) OR any bullet weight and muzzle velocity combination that produces at least 215 foot pounds of energy.

For furbearers, pre-charged pneumatics must be at least .30 caliber.  For squirrels, chachalaca, quail and pheasant an air rifle does not need to be a pre-charged pneumatic, but it must be able to propel a minimum .177 caliber projectile at least 600 fps.

In addition to minimum standards for pre-charged pneumatic devices, the Commission adopted provisions that hunter education certification requirements be met in order to hunt any wildlife resource.

At least 10 other states permit the use of pneumatic devices for hunting big game, and all but three states allow their use for hunting certain other wildlife species. Their use in Texas previously was limited to hunting anything other than game animals (except squirrels), game birds, alligators, and furbearers.

The new rules will take effect Sept. 29, 2018. Additional information on the use of air guns and arrow guns is available online.

Residents Invited to Walk Into 2018 on a ‘First Day Hike’

Officials with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department are inviting residents to, walk into 2018 where the wild things are by participating in a guided stroll through Texas State Parks as part of the national First Day Hikes initiative.

First Day Hikes at Texas’ state parks and natural areas will help visitors commit to their new year’s resolutions to get healthy and lose weight.

 “First Day Hikes are an ideal way for people to begin the New Year with a more active lifestyle, and Texas State Parks are a perfect place to achieve that goal and enjoy nature simultaneously,” said Brent Leisure, director of Texas State Parks.

Here in El Paso, both the Wyler Aerial Tramway and Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site will be hosting the First Day Hikes. But those parks are not alone, as parks statewide will be hosting events both on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

The First Day Hikes events range from brisk strolls on scenic trails, polar plunges, bike rides, short treks with four-legged family members and meditation walks to more strenuous hikes for experienced visitors.

Texas State Parks Finally Flaunting Fall Foliage

AUSTIN— Thanks to recent cold fronts, enchanting shades of red, orange and yellow leaves are bursting to life at Texas State Parks statewide.

“This is the perfect opportunity to witness the truly remarkable show Mother Nature puts on in the fall,” said Ky Harkey, director of interpretation for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “Texas State Parks statewide are filled with color right now giving visitors a unique chance to take fall family photos.”

With this week’s cold snap, several state parks offer opportunities to capture the fall foliage in all its glory.

Just north of Houston, Lake Livingston State Park,  Huntsville State Park, and Martin Dies Jr. State Park have some color beginning to show with the recent weather change, making for prime foliage viewing. In Lake Livingston State Park, the sumac, sweet gum and oak trees have begun to turn, sprinkling shades of yellow and red throughout the pine and hardwood forest of the park.

In the Panhandle plains and mountains of West Texas, the cottonwoods are turning bright yellow, illuminating the landscape at Caprock Canyons State Park and Davis Mountains State Park. The western soapberry and cottonwood trees have been displaying some of the best fall foliage in Caprock Canyons State Park. Less showy, but still eye catching is the Osage orange trees found in the park.

With this weekend’s cold front forecast, Central Texas parks are predicted to have their foliage change in the next several days. Pedernales Falls State Park has an array of tree species turning including post oaks and red oaks which have been exhibiting a vibrant crimson hue. The cedar elm trees are also flaunting their golden leaves.

Lost Maples State Natural Area is known for sporting dazzling displays of fall color and that is the case this year with the leaves increasingly changing each week. The next seven to 10 days will be the showiest before the leaves begin to fall. Most of the maples are in mid color and the canyon walls are aflame with deep reds, oranges and rusts.

Old Faithful has also turned auburn and the flameleaf sumacs have burst into red. Many of the Texas oaks and chinkapin oaks have turned to red or brown, while other native trees are turning yellow. Visit the Lost Maples website to view this season’s foliage reports from the park.

Visit a park soon or look for fall foliage photos at your favorite state park’s Facebook page to catch this season’s great fall color.

To see more of Texas State Park’s fall foliage images, visit our Pinterest page.

 

Hueco Tanks State Park Closes 29 Areas to Preserve New Pictograph Findings

Last March, a survey for additional Native American rock paintings, also known as pictographs, began at Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site. One year later, previously unknown pictographs in 29 locations at the site have been discovered using D-Stretch image enhancement technology.

Using the results of the new D-Stretch images, Hueco Tanks has issued a closing order for the 29 areas where previously unknown pictographs were discovered. These areas will remain closed to recreational activities in order to protect these resources from potential impacts.

 “We are pleased to be in a position to utilize advances in technology to enhance our stewardship of the special resources at Hueco Tanks,” said Brent Leisure, director of Texas State Parks. “This project helped us identify and understand areas of unique sensitivity needing special protection. Safeguarding the irreplaceable cultural resources of Hueco Tanks is a shared desire among stakeholders at this site.”

The action is designed to protect these fragile resources from potential impacts from recreational use and affects a small fraction of the numerous climbing areas. A list of closed climbs has been provided to the guides and to visitors on the North Mountain.

“Climbers come from every corner of the world to experience and connect to the recreational, cultural and natural resources that Hueco Tanks provides,” said Ian Cappelle, chairman of the Climbers of Hueco Tanks Coalition (CHTC). “The new survey and use of the D-Stretch technology provides a definitive accounting of any previously unidentified rock art in conjunction with climbing routes in the park which can be used to educate climbers as to where they are able to climb without harming the cultural resources of the site.”

The majority of the pictographs found are in the Jornada style, named for the prehistoric Jornada Mogollon culture of western Texas, southern New Mexico and northern Mexico. These Native Americans were the first farmers in the region and it is believed that they created these paintings about 550 to 1,000 years ago for use in prayers for rain.

Hueco Tanks is an important asset to the El Paso area as a place to recreate and is a significant cultural resource that reflects at least 10,000 years of area and regional history. Due to its importance to the local community, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has devoted considerable efforts toward the documentation of cultural resources at Hueco Tanks.

Some studies include a comprehensive ground survey for archeological deposits around the base of the mountains and a large rock imagery inventory project. The results of these investigations help state parks staff determine where recreational activities can occur at the site without impacting identified rock imagery.

For more information about Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site, visit the TPWD website.

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