Life's Better Outside: Spring Edition 2013

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In This Issue: 



Join the Celebration As TPWD Turns 50

Black/white pic: kids swimming by row boat

Throughout 2013 we will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, which came into being on August 23,1963 when the Texas Game and Fish Commission and the State Parks Board merged. We want you to celebrate with us because you're part of our story.

Did you get engaged to or meet your future Valentine in a state park? Or maybe you fell in love with nature because someone took you fishing, hunting or camping in Texas? Whether you’re a hiker, a hunter or a sunset watcher, chances are you’ve spent some time with Texas Parks and Wildlife. Tell us about it.

Share your stories and photos of memorable moments that remind you that life is better outside in Texas. We’ll be posting many of your stories on our web page. A few may become videos on our YouTube channel.

Visit our web portal in March when visitors can become an ambassador by pledging to take one or more actions such as introducing a child to fishing or hunting, visiting a state park, or volunteering. Ambassadors will receive a free “Life’s Better Outside” window decal as a thank you for their pledge.

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Save Water for Wildlife

lone duck on a pondTexas is growing and so is our demand for water. The sources of water for human use – rivers, streams, lakes and springs – are the same sources used by fish, birds and other wildlife that can’t ask for water or implement conservation measures. Only we can save enough water for wildlife. Watch this video to learn how.

Everyone has a role to play in keeping our waterways drinkable, fishable and swimmable.  Learn more about what you can do to help the state of water on this website.

Facts to ponder and share:

  • Loss of wildlife impacts sport and commercial fishing, eco-tourism, hunting, local economies and, of course, our quality of life.
  • Nearly one fourth of major Texas springs have dried up.
  • Texas has already lost over half of its wetland resources.
  • On average in Texas, only 10% of rainfall makes it into a stream or river, and only 1% makes it to an aquifer.
  • Urban runoff pollutes half of the reservoirs, rivers, and streams in Texas
  • The Texas population is projected to double by 2060, increasing the demand for this limited, critical resource.

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Kids Don't Know What They're Missing Outdoors

young girl reading in grass

Some things never change. Kids belong outside, and pristine wilderness is not required. An adult nature lover is likely to say that a favorite childhood memory involves a backyard tree house or fishing in an irrigation canal. Children need personal contact with nature and other living things – to feel the wind, smell leaves and wildflowers, take a close look at a bug, run their fingers over rocks.

But children ages 8-to-18 now spend an average of 7.5 hours a day, over 50 hours per week, connected to a television, computer, video games and other electronic media. This doesn't bode well for our kids or for the future of our natural environment! There's hope. Read more about the Texas Resource/Natural Environment Literacy Plan.

Help bring a kid to the outdoors. Treat yourself to a trip down Memory Lane in “Fifty Ways to Get Kids Hooked on the Outdoors” from Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine and find simple ideas to get kids engaged in the outdoors. Make the most of outdoor opportunities with six easy ways to instill love of the outdoors from “Dirty Nails and Goat Slobber,” another great article from Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine.

Need a little more structure to get started? Try these great programs in state parks:

  • Texas Outdoor Family  - We provide the know-how. You bring the kids, food, bedding, and a sense of adventure. We provide the tent, cooking gear and everything else.
  • Free Fishing - You never need a license to fish in state parks and some parks even loan out fishing equipment like a library loans books.
  • Geocaching - Old-fashioned treasure hunting meets GPS technology to help you find hidden "caches" placed in state parks. Join the newest Geocache Challenge now and get the details here.
  • Check the calendar for walks, talks, hikes and more ways to spend time with outdoor experts.

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Outdoor Activities: Photography, Birding, Picnicking

park ranger, 2 kids,1 adult scouting birds

Photography. Birding. Picnicking. Make plans now to try these three great spring activities in Texas State Parks
• March — Take your camera and your kids to a Texas State Park. Whether you focus on wildlife, family life or local plant life, you’re sure to bring home some treasured photographs — and memories. Enter your best photo(s) in the Texas State Parks Photo Contest from March 1 – April 30, 2013. You could win a prize. Learn about this event and more.

• April — With over 630 species of birds, Texas is one of the top birding destinations in the world! State parks offer great birding. Check out all the great state park birding events.

 • May — It’s not too early to start planning a May picnic. (Mother's Day is a great day to enjoy nature.) Bring a basket or cook on a grill. Enjoy your picnic by a lake, in a canyon, beachside, or on a hill top.  Taking a crowd with you? Reserve a group dining hall or open-air pavilion.

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Artificial Reefs: Recycling Texas Style

underwater: diver watches fish in foregroundYou won’t believe what’s down there! On the flat, mostly featureless Gulf floor, de-commissioned drilling jackets (rigs), military vessels, and about a zillion tons of concrete in various forms create shelter and habitat for hundreds of marine species.

The Artificial Reef Program uses environmentally-safe, durable materials to create underwater “planned communities” that benefit marine life, recreational and commercial fishing, and tourism in Texas’ coastal communities. Sites and materials are state and federally permitted (unauthorized ocean dumping is a prosecutable crime) and are located in water depths of 50-300 feet.

Watch this new video "Office in the Ocean" to see what life is like for the program staff who study and explore the reefs they help create.

On a new web area, watch the USTS Texas Clipper begin its life as a reef, see how a rig gets reefed, and even ID some marine residents. Looking for red snapper? Try the interactive map of reef locations to find great fishing and diving spots.

Got a military vessel or a few hundred tons of concrete you want to donate? This site also helps corporations and communities get started in a partnership with Texas Parks and Wildlife. The program is entirely self-funded through corporate partnerships.

“Like” the Artificial Reefs Facebook page to see videos and updates from program staff and scientific partners.

Go ahead. Dive in.

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Great Texas Birding Classic Goes Statewide

one orange and black bird on a branchThe world’s biggest, longest and wildest bird-watching tournament is going statewide this year! Once limited to a few days on the Texas coast, the Great Texas Birding Classic is fluffing up its feathers and expanding its territory to offer a statewide format and nine regional tournaments for birders who wish to compare their skills locally. This video will get you in the spirit.

Here are some highlights:

  • Event takes place from April 15 to May 15  (a new month-long format) and teams can choose on the fly what day(s) they wish to participate based on weather, personal schedules, work, school, other obligations, etc.
  • Nine regional tournaments are based on the Great Texas Wildlife Trail regions of the state.
  • Teams match their skills against teams in a similar geographic region.
  • Every bird lover can find a category (42 categories!) regardless of bird-watching experience, age, ability, location, length of time you prefer to bird, etc.
  • Two new tournaments are the State Park Tournament (team stays within a park boundary for the tournament day) and the Sunrise to Noon Tournament. 

Find more detailed information about how to participate, tournament categories, registration fees, tips from past participants, birding ethics and tournament rules online.

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Carnivores Hunt, Gather, Cook

man, woman at dining tableHunting for food is as old as human history. Hunters know that wild game, the original low-carb, low-fat, all natural food, is a healthy choice the whole family can enjoy. Whether you shop at a Farmers' Market, or go to wild game cooking classes, learning how to hunt and cook for your family is becoming more popular. In this video author Hank Shaw talks about the why of hunting your own food and Austin foodie Marshall Wright describes how he became a hunter

With some planning, you can try it too: Take a hunting safety course, learn to shoot, buy a hunting license and find someone to take you hunting. 

P.S. – We’ve beefed up our Wild Game cooking pages with more recipes and a video playlist of cooking demonstrations with game and fish. Interested in becoming a hunter? Find some tips on how to get started hunting.

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Texas Fishing 2013 – Magazine’s Digital Extra

wading saltwater angler holding black drum fishCalling all anglers… Don’t miss "Texas Fishing 2013," the digital extra  from Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine. Whether you wet your line from a riverbank, a boat on a lake or a kayak on the bay, you'll find something of interest in this free resource:

Read on to catch stories on expanded river access, a surprising list of the hottest bass lakes, a new fish hatchery and more.

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