Archive for February, 2016

Volunteer with Texas State Parks

Monday, February 22nd, 2016
Volunteering with Texas State Parks takes on many forms.

Volunteering with Texas State Parks takes on many forms.

This is Passport to Texas

Volunteers donate more than a half-million hours of service worth over $17-million dollars annually to all Texas Parks and Wildlife programs.

They get to work with really friendly and knowledgeable staff, and they have a great time just being outside and enjoying nature, themselves, as part of their giving back.

Audrey Muntz is the new volunteer coordinator for Texas state parks, and says anyone with an interest can find a volunteer opportunity in parks that suits them.

We have hundreds of opportunities throughout the state at state parks. Some of them are one time; some of them are short term. And, the majority of them are ongoing.

One of the most coveted long-term volunteer jobs is state park host. In exchange for their services, they receive a campground site.

Those individuals serve up to 24-30 hours a week in exchange for being able to keep their RV in the campground. And so they can help with a huge variety of things, from keeping the grounds clean, to fee collection. And they are the face of the park in many ways, and help campers get to know and learn the park and keep it as beautiful and clean as they can for all of our visitors.

Park host commitments range from two to six months; and, established volunteers often move from one park to another.

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

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

Celebrating Texas Independence

Friday, February 19th, 2016
Independence Hall Exhibit at Washinghton-on-the-Brazos, Photo credit: Rob McCorkle, © Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Independence Hall Exhibit at Washington-on-the-Brazos, Photo credit: Rob McCorkle, © Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

This is Passport to Texas

Texas Independence Day is March 2. And Washington on the Brazos is where it all started.

This town was chosen as the site of the general convention, which met on March 1, 1836, and adjourned on March 17.

Janice Campbell, former interpreter at Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site, said those seventeen days in 1836, paved the way for Texas future.

In those seventeen days, the elected delegates that came here, they declared their independence from Mexico; they wrote a constitution; and they elected some officers for a government. So, I guess you could say the groundwork of the government of the Republic of Texas was created right here in Washington.

Campbell said one cannot help but feel a deep connection to the past when visiting Washington-on-the-Brazos.

It’s pretty awesome to be able to walk out there, and walk along the main thoroughfare of the town and know that we are walking in the footsteps of history…right here in Washington.

Check out the Texas Parks and Wildlife Calendar of events to see when Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site plans to celebrate Texas’ Independence.

We record our series at the Block House in Austin and Joel Block engineers our program.

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

Prescription to Burn

Thursday, February 18th, 2016
Prescribed burn underway.

Prescribed burn underway.

This is Passport to Texas

Man mimics nature when he uses fire as a land management tool. One way to use fire is through controlled burning; another way is to use prescribed fire.

According to David Riskind, director of natural resources for state parks, there is a difference between the two.

Controlled burning is a term that people use that you start at part A, and you burn until you get to part B. Professional land managers use the term prescribed fire because you have specific objectives, you have specific outcomes, you burn under very specific conditions. And so a prescription is a planning document… you lay everything out ahead of time and you then implement it with very specific objectives in mind.

Riskind adds that those objectives usually have to do with land management.

There can be a whole series of objectives. From very simple things like fuel load reduction. You can have specific habitat objectives…to change the vegetation structure and composition to support waterfowl, or to support antelope, or lesser prairie chickens…or Houston toads for that matter.

Learn more about prescribed burns on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program supports our series and works to increase fishing, hunting, shooting and boating opportunities in Texas.

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

Benefits of Winter Beachcombing

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016
Spirula shells. Photo credit: Fritz Geller-Grimm

Spirula shells. Photo credit: Fritz Geller-Grimm

This is Passport to Texas

Before you sell seashells by the seashore, you first have to find them. Surprisingly, summer beachcombing may not yield the results you desire.

I feel the best time to go shelling is in the wintertime.

Paul Hammerschmidt is a lifelong shell collector and former coastal fisheries biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife. He says winter storms churn up the Gulf bottom, sending marine critters and their calciferous containments onto the beach. To improve your chances of finding a variety of intact shells, Hammerschmidt says stay clear of crowded beaches.

If you get a chance to go to some more isolated beaches, like down on Padres island, or something like that, where the population of humans is not quite so thick, you’ll have a much better chance of finding some really unusual shells.

Such as a pretty little shell called baby ears—which looks like…well…baby ears. Or, there’s another special shell worth searching for called spirula.

And it’s a coiled, snail-like shell. But it doesn’t belong to a snail—it belongs to a little squid. And it’s inside the squid, and when the squid dies, that little thing has a lot of chambers in it with gas, and it floats and washes up on the beach. Those are very pretty, bright white, and they’re very fragile, so you have to be careful with them.

This time of year, before it warms up, is a terrific time to go beach-combing.

That’s our show for today…remember: Life’s Better Outside.

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

Shell Collecting Tips

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016
Shells one might find on the Texas coast.

Shells one might find on the Texas coast.

This is Passport to Texas

Nobody thinks twice about collecting shells from the beach. But I started to wonder if it’s really okay since beaches are public land.

It’s okay to collect shells. The ones that are broken and come apart, they create the sand that’s out there, but there is no law against it [collecting].

Paul Hammerschmidt is a lifelong shell collector, and former coastal fisheries biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife. He says collect responsibly to avoid creating problems for the environment or marine animals.

I highly recommend that you only take shells that are from dead animals—not live animals.

How can you determine if something is still alive? In the case of the popular sand dollar, small spines cover the shells of living animals…so look for smooth, spineless shells. If, like me, you’ve never found a sand dollar on the beach—there’s good reason for it.

I think it’s because everybody wants to get a sand dollar. And, too, they’re another very fragile shell. And when the waves are strong, they’ll get broken up, and you’ll just see fragments of them. A lot of times, the best time to find a sand dollar, is after a storm—and then very early in the morning—before anybody else gets out on the beach.

When and where to go shelling on tomorrow’s show.

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