Plant Native Trees Before Spring

February 9th, 2016
by Tree planting photo by woodleywonderworks via Flickr, Creative Commons

by Tree planting photo by woodleywonderworks via Flickr, Creative Commons


This is Passport to Texas

Now is an ideal time to plant trees throughout most of Texas…and you might wonder why.

Two reasons: the two most important constituents in tree planting—the people planting the trees and the trees. It’s just much easier on them.

Scott Harris is a certified arborist in Austin. Tree planting season in Texas started in October and continues through March.

Getting the trees in the ground in the fall [and winter], they have the entire cool season, dormant season, to spread roots out before the big demands on roots and water start in the spring.

Just because a tree will grow in Texas, doesn’t mean it should grow here. Harris advises that we all exercise caution about what we plant in our yards.

The biggest thing to avoid is non-natives. Our natives have all of the features you would want, but they’ve spent thousands and thousands of years getting used to being here, and with all of the wildlife used to having them, too. It’s all a web, and you can’t tell which string you can pull out without upsetting things.

Tomorrow we’ll have a few tree planting tips to help you and your newly planted tree enjoy a long and happy life together

That’s our show…For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

On the Hunt for Snipe

February 8th, 2016
Wilson's Snipe (Common Snipe or Jacksnipe)

Wilson’s Snipe (Common Snipe or Jacksnipe) Photo credit: USFWS


This is Passport to Texas

An invitation to participate in a snipe hunt fills young hearts with anticipation and anxiety. In my youth, snipe hunts were cloaked in mystery; and that’s what made them deliciously terrifying.

Taken at night to a wooded area and outfitted with a burlap bag…a flashlight with weak batteries…and a whistle to call for help… hunters enter the woods alone in search of dreaded snipes. And how would they recognize them? They would know them when they saw them.

Before long, panicked whistles and screams from deep within the woods pierced the silence, as vivid imaginations got the best of the young snipe hunters. Eventually everyone, including the hunter, had a good laugh.

Today we know snipe are small, long billed, brownish shorebirds in the sandpiper family. Their habitat includes freshwater marshes, ponds and flooded fields. They breed across much of North America, but like to spend their winters in the southern states, including Texas.

Snipe are game birds here, and the season to hunt snipe ends on February 14th. So if you want to go snipe hunting, and not be left holding the bag, time is running out.

Learn more about snipe and see an image of this not so terrifying creature when you log onto our web site: passporttotexas.org.

That’s our show for today… Funding provided in part by Ram Trucks. Guts. Glory.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

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More about Snipe:

Snipe winter throughout Texas and huntable numbers can be found in suitable habitat. Generally hunting of snipe is in association with waterfowl hunting, but it has the potential of providing more recreational sport hunting days. Most hunters are unaware of the quality hunts provided by this species. Federal harvest surveys estimate a total statewide harvest of 5,000 birds annually.

Can You Eat Snipe?

Of course you can. But, be prepared for how small they are.  Hank Shaw, who curates the blog Hunter*Angler*Gardener*Cook and is author of three game focused cookbooks, including “Duck, Duck, Goose” says: “[Snipe] is a bird with a flavor all out of proportion to its size. As small as it is, one bird makes a great appetizer, and four a hearty meal. They taste like a combination of squab and duck, with something else. Maybe its the wormy things they eat?”

Hank says the smaller the bird, the higher the heat for cooking. His preparation of snipe is simple: He says he sets his oven to the highest setting (most go to 500° F),  greases up the birds with lard or butter, sprinkles them inside and out with salt, and places them in an oven proof pan with a little bit of water  in the bottom of the pan to help keep the snipe moist.

He says he puts the pan with the snip into the oven for about 5 minutes; after which time he removes the birds from the oven and bastes them with more butter or lard, before putting them back in the heat for another 5 to 7 minutes. He removes the birds from the oven, and lets them rest a few minutes before plating them. He says right before serving, give them a good dusting with black pepper and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

Water for Humans and Endangered Species

February 5th, 2016
San Marcos Salamander and Fountain Darter

San Marcos Salamander and Fountain Darter


This is Passport to Texas

The Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan permits what’s necessary to ensure the survival of rare, threatened and endangered species that depend on the Aquifer and the San Marcos and Comal Rivers while allowing continued use of the resource by the rest of us.

There’s federal law requiring this, but it’s the right thing to do in terms of protecting the resource for all of us into the future.

Cindy Loeffler is water resources branch chief at Texas Parks and Wildlife and one of the architects of the protection plan. Convincing people to do the right thing – like modifying their water usage based on the needs of rare species – can be a hard sell.

The plan includes ongoing water conservation—especially during times of drought—removing invasive species, and declaring a portion of the San Marcos River a state scientific area that would make it illegal to uproot endangered Texas Wild Rice.

But Loeffler says these protected species are indicators of a healthy ecosystem – which benefits everyone.

By providing these protections for these species, that helps ensure the San Marcos river, the Comal River will keep flowing. Keeping these springs flowing is really at the heart and soul of the work done by the recovery implementation program. And so that benefits the species, of course, but also benefits people as well.

The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program…supports our series and funds diverse conservation projects throughout Texas…

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan

February 4th, 2016
Edwards Aquifer map. Photo credit: National Academies Press

Edwards Aquifer map. Photo credit: National Academies Press


This is passport to Texas

Two million people – from Central to Southwest Texas – depend on the Edwards Aquifer for their drinking water.

It also supplies important water sources for industry, agriculture, recreation…a number of things.

Cindy Loeffler, water resources branch chief at Texas Parks and Wildlife, says eight federally listed endangered species call the aquifer home; some of them exist in this location only. The Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan intends to protect them, and allow Texans’ continued use of the shared resource by implementing a mixture of strategies.

Water conservation is a key part of it…but also [part of it is] looking at different ways to manage water. For example, we do currently have different levels of conservation that kick in to action as drought increases, and also many measures to help make the ecosystems more resilient. Things like removing non-native species, [and] helping to restore habitat that’s been compromised. One notable thing, especially for folks who recreate on the San Marcos River that’s been done, is to create a state scientific area that makes it unlawful to uproot Texas Wild Rice, a federally protected plant.

It is easy to be dismissive of a plan to protect species which exist in very small numbers or that we do not often see. Tomorrow we talk about the value of these species.

The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program…supports our series and funds diverse conservation projects throughout Texas…

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Southern Edwards Aquifer

February 3rd, 2016
Texas Wild Rice

Texas Wild Rice


This is Passport to Texas

An ecosystem is a complex set of interrelationships among plants, animals, microorganisms, land, and water. And Texas Parks and Wildlife is a collaborator on a conservation plan to protect a special ecosystem: the Southern Edwards Aquifer.

The Edwards aquifer is home to many, many rare species, including eight federally listed threatened and endangered species.

Cindy Loeffler is water resources branch chief at Texas Parks and Wildlife.

Some of the most visible endangered species associated with the Edwards Aquifer are Texas Wild Rice – it’s only found in the upper two miles of the San Marcos River. Also, fountain daters, small fish that are found in the San Marcos River and the Comal River, and a number of cave-dwelling species you might not see just recreating in the rivers – but they’re there.

Loeffler worked on the Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan. Some of the species she mentioned are unique to the Edwards Aquifer Ecosystem.

It’s important to protect these species for that reason, but also, this is a major water supply for many of us here in Texas, so finding a way to share that resource –finding the proper balance – that’s what the Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation Program has been about.

What’s in the plan to help protect endangered species? We look at that tomorrow.

The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program…supports our series and funds diverse conservation projects throughout Texas…

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.