Life's Better Outside: Summer Edition 2013

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In This Issue:



Best of Texas: Top 20 Picks from Our Partners

one person on cliff edge, seeing a vista

What’s on your Top 20 List of Texas’ great places and opportunities?

For two years, Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine has asked staff members to make their “Best of Texas” selections. This year, we’ve asked some of our near-and-dear partners to join in the fun. These are folks who’ve helped save some of our best wild places, so they each have a personal view of this assignment. Read the resulting list in “Best of Texas 2013.”

For more natural food for thought, check out the magazine’s previous “Best Of Texas” choices:

2012 - “Best of Texas Naturally (2012)”

2011 - “Best of Texas Naturally”

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Love Your Garden and Get Water Smart … Fast

Water Smart logo - Texas shapeAbout one in three gallons of residential water use occurs outside of the home. That's a lot of water in a state blanketed by a worsening drought. Our water habits have to change rapidly.
Successful and conscientious gardeners are wisely adopting practices that conserve water resources and also sustain attractive landscaping including grasses and flowering plants.

To help keep gardening hopes and plants alive, and to protect community water supplies, adopt these water-wise strategies:
  • Use a layer of mulch on the surface of your planting beds to minimize evaporation of moisture and suppress weed growth that competes with water.
  • Water only when plants look like they need it. Most plants die from over-watering, not under-watering.
  • Water your plants deeply, but less frequently, to encourage deep root growth and drought tolerance.
  • Use watering cans, whenever possible, especially when watering just a few patio plants.
  • Choose water-smart plants adapted to your area.

See more water-smart tips for landscaping and daily living at

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Lone Star Land Stewards: Conservationists Honored

view from rocks down to clear stream

At a time when punishing drought underscores the importance of managing our land and water to help Texas weather the worst, two landowners, two organizations and a mining company are being recognized by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Lone Star Land Steward program for their efforts in rejuvenating native habitat and wildlife across the state.

This year’s five regional land stewards show a striking diversity of activity across the state, but in almost every case, their work on the land connects with water. Read more about the recipients. 

  • Blackland Prairies – Daphne Prairie, Franklin County
  • Cross Timbers and Prairies – Thomsen Foundation, Montague County
  • Rolling Plains – JA Ranch, Armstrong and Donley Counties
  • Wildlife Management or Landowner Association – South Llano River Watershed Alliance, Edwards and Kimble Counties
  • Corporate/Non-Government Organization – Jewett Mine, Texas Westmoreland Coal Co.

TPWD is partnering with the Sand County Foundation, Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation and Taking Care of Texas to present the 18th annual Lone Star Land Steward Awards program. Sponsors include Toyota, Chevron, Superior Energy Services, Karen and Tim Hixon, Plains Capital Bank, and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish & Wildlife Program.

Later this month the Sand County Foundation, an international non-profit organization devoted to private land conservation, will announce the Leopold Conservation Award for Texas, the state's highest award for private land conservation, which is conferred each year in partnership with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as part of its Lone Star Land Steward Awards. The Leopold Conservation Award is sponsored in part by Bradley Fund for the Environment.

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Become a TPWD Ambassador

vintage photo of boatersIn the late summer of 1963,
  • A gallon of gas cost 29 cents.
  •  The most popular show on television was “The Beverly Hillbillies."
  • The University of Texas Longhorns were headed toward their first national football championship.
  • “My Boyfriend’s Back” was the top hit on AM radio.
  • And Texas had a new state agency called the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

As TPWD marks its 50th anniversary - using technology not even imagined in 1963 - we invite you to check out our birthday video. Then sign up online to become a Texas Parks and Wildlife Ambassador and pledge to do things like visit state parks, take a kid hunting or fishing, or share a story or photo showcasing what makes life better outside in Texas.

For a trip in our time machine, visit this playlist of vintage videos from TPWD.

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Archery Scores Big with Kids

two students, teacher at targets

The bow and arrow, an ancient tool of cultures worldwide, has re-emerged in popular fantasy entertainment and in real life. Archery now hits the mark with 21st century Texas school kids, perhaps boosted by its place in Avengers and Brave. Teachers report that archery students are more engaged in school, show improved classroom performance and are less likely to drop out.

The target is much larger than plain old fun, though there is plenty of that. One student in Argyle won a college scholarship every year of high school, earning $6,000 total "archery money" towards her college education. Archery is a lifetime sport accessible to all. About 31,122 Texas students in grades 4 - 12 (representing 817 schools) participate in archery during the school day through physical education, and some schools integrate archery into core content including math, science, and history.

It all happens through the Texas-National Archery in Schools Program which began just eight years ago. Consider these impressive facts:

  • $68,000 total in college scholarships has been awarded.
  • The program has trained 2,782 Basic Archery Instructors, including 1,633 classroom teachers.

Instructors and Trainers represent 161 counties (63%) across the state.

The National Archery in Schools Program (NASP) curriculum is taught by physical education teachers with a focus on international-style target archery, teaching a lifetime skill in a controlled, safe environment.

Interested in starting a program in your area? Contact Burnie Kessner at or call (979) 862-7341. Visit the Texas National Archery in Schools Facebook page to see photos from the 2013 Texas NASP Tournament held at the Bell County Expo Center in Belton.

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Wildlife in Spring: Frequently Asked Questions

female hummingbird at flame acanthus

Like Texas bluebonnets, some questions arise every spring among those who watch and care about wildlife. Here are four perennial Q and As to help you help nature.

I found a baby bird on the ground. What should I do? Watch baby birds from a safe distance. Baby birds will often leave the nest (fledge) before they have all their feathers and before they are strong flyers. Keep pets inside to allow the fledgling to find safety off the ground. Read more.  If you find one that is truly orphaned or injured, contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. (See next question.)

This critter looks hurt. Who can I call? Bookmark this list of wildlife rehabilitators. Since rehabbers are mostly volunteers with day jobs and limited facilities, they may not be available immediately. Read more.

What can I plant to benefit wildlife?
Wildscaping can turn your city lawn or rural front yard into a beautiful home for wildlife. Get some tips about planting for wildlife in “Growing Native” from Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine. Watch this video about  urban, suburban and rural wildscaping. A whopping 32 million acres of land (a lawn larger than the state of Mississippi) is devoted to the growth of manicured, watered and fertilized grass across the nation. You can make a difference - one yard at a time.

What can I do to attract hummingbirds to my house?
Like all species, hummingbirds need habitat. A lone feeder in the middle of a yard with no plants around simply is not going to do the trick, regardless of what the feeder sales person says. Food is just one element of the habitat puzzle. Learn what else these little charmers need.

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Boaters, Check This List of Spring Reminders

Clean, Drain, Dry Your BoatAhoy all boaters. Whether you’re propelled by motor, wind or a paddle, spring brings visions of days on the water – fishing, skiing, wildlife watching or just putt-putting over to a picnic spot. Please keep these tips in mind:

Protect shoreline wildlife – Bird species that depend on a saltwater shoreline are in the midst of raising their young at the same time boaters are heading into the Gulf. When birds are frightened from their nests by human presence, the eggs or nestlings can quickly die. This brief video, "Guarding the Nest," explains why it's best to keep your distance.

Wear it! Promise yourself that a personal flotation device is onboard and in use for each person in your boat. That’s the best way to celebrate National Boating Safety Week which begins May 18. Take boater education. It's required for anyone born on or after September 1, 1993. Boat smart, boat safe!

Prevent the spread of invasive species – Destructive, invasive plants and animals like zebra mussels and giant salvinia are lurking in some of Texas’ lakes, rivers and bays waiting to hitch a ride on your boat to other bodies of water. These species harm aquatic life, hinder water recreation and even threaten our water supply. It’s also against the law to transport them. Don’t be a carrier - Clean, drain and dry your boat, trailer and gear every time you leave a body of water!

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June 1 – Go Fishing and/or Take a Hike

National Trails Day logo

Saturday, June 1 is an especially great day to go fishing in Texas because it’s Free Fishing Day.  While fishing is always free in Texas State Parks, on the first Saturday in June you can fish without a fishing license in any public water body in Texas. Find out more about where and how to fish.

If you don't like to fish, you can just take a hike. June 1 is also National Trails DayFind a National Trails Day event at a state park near you, and get outdoors to enjoy trail activities ranging from hikes, trail running, bike rides, and horseback rides, to backpacking, history tours, trail maintenance, and wildlife viewing.

But why choose? On a Texas Paddling Trail  you can fish and enjoy a great trail!

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Thanks to the following sponsors and partners:

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Nature Rocks