December 31, 2019
2019 First Day Hike at Davis Mountains State Park This is Passport to Texas If one of your resolutions is to sit less and move more in the New Year, may I suggest a First Day Hike to start things right. First Day Hikes is a nationwide initiative that Texas State Parks has been participating in for the last several years. Thomas Wilhelm is with state parks. He says many Texas state parks host First Day Hike Events. First day hikes have become a positive way for Texans to begin the New Year on the right foot…and left foot. Essentially, it’s the concept of getting outside on January first, and doing something to kick the year off right. So, almost all of our parks have some sort of first day hike. A few of our parks take it a unique way. But many of our parks do have those first day hikes. And they’re, of course, guided hikes with a park ranger. And it’s just a way to start the year off right on the good foot. Literally. You don’t have to go on a guided hike …or hike at all. How about a first day sunset stroll, or bike ride or paddle on a paddling trail or a first day birding outing? Make the first day of January the start of your best year. Find a First Day Hike near you at While you’re there check out other opportunities like Dutch oven cooking, stargazing, hikes with shelter dogs and more. From everyone at Texas Parks and Wildlife and Passport to Texas—we wish you a Happy New Year! And remember: Life’s Better Outside. I’m Cecilia Nasti.
December 26, 2019
Javelina Happy Hour This is Passport to Texas Javelina, also called Collared Peccary, is a Texas native and lives in scrubby and arid regions of the state. Similar to hogs in appearance, they are not related. But mistaken identity doesn’t change their value in the ecosystem. Javelina play a great role in nature, because they are an additional prey species for some of the predators out there. Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist Froylan Hernandez explains why it’s important to keep track of the Javelina population. Having Javelina out on the landscape is a sign of a healthy ecosystem. When you see declining populations that could also be a sign of declining habitat or degrading habitat and so they play an important role not just as a prey species but also an indicator of a good healthy system. While Javelina act as an important indicator species, Froylan believes Javelina don’t always get the respect they deserve. I like to call them the forgotten species, because they are seen often times as a pest or a nuisance species. You know they deserve the same type of respect as lets say a big whitetail would or a big mule deer. Javelina have gained a stable population in Texas. Perhaps they’ll gain a little more respect as well. The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series and funds Javelina research in Texas For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
December 25, 2019
A moment of meditation at Lockhart State Park This is Passport to Texas An inspired Park Ranger at Lockhart State Park is introducing visitors to a Japanese practice called Shinrin yoku, or forest bathing. Forest bathing is bathing in the forest atmosphere. Lauren Hartwick first offered the program this past February. So, we’re going to be soaking in the leaves and the trees and the sunshine and doing activities centered on your five senses. We’ll explore the sights of the forest the touches and smells of the forest and, at each of the stops, we’re going to have an activity to get us in tune deeper with the woods around us. At each stop, a few minutes of guided meditation is followed by observation and quiet reflection without the noise, glare and distractions of modern life. More and more research comes out every day that there are tons of benefits to spending time in nature. That forest bathing can reduce your blood pressure, lower stress, lift depression, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera The practice has been gaining popularity around the world since the 1980’s. I’m hoping that it continues to catch on and people start really becoming aware of all of the health benefits. People need nature to be happy and you can be your best self by spending some time regularly in nature. Go to our website and check the calendar for this and dozens of interesting programs at state parks near you. For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.
December 24, 2019
Nature’s Playscape This is Passport to Texas Thoughtful design plays a key role in meeting the conservation goals of Texas Parks and Wildlife. We are an agency that says: “Life’s better outside.” So, how does that translate into how we make buildings and sites. Christy Seals is an Architect with Texas Parks and wildlife Building less, building simpler, this idea of a building as “shelter” instead of a hermetically sealed envelope … I had a professor at school that talked about climate control in a building as: “Well, you should start first by putting on your jumper” … and, then go to condition systems. Park structures must also be long-lasting, robust and low maintenance. I would say, sustainability and resiliency is really at the core of how we need to be thinking about our facilities. It starts with these passive solutions. What is the building made of? Is it sited appropriately? Do we use the wind and sun and rain to our advantage? There’s also an opportunity to educate. We also, I think, have a duty to interpret these things that we do for sustainability or resiliency so that we are showing the visitors something that they might do in their own lives or something we are doing for a reason of energy conservation. Astute choices can conserve resources, reduce utility costs and create more resilient facilities. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
December 19, 2019
Blue Metalmark: This beautiful blue butterfly is often spotted in the butterfly garden at Resaca de la Palma State Park, and is one of the butterflies that makes the site unique. This is Passport to Texas Butterflies…. They flit. They flutter. And, Resaca de la Palma State Park is one of the best places to witness their flight. The Rio Grande valley is one of the most ecologically diverse places in the world. Kelly Ann Cummins is a Park Ranger Interpreter at Resaca de la Palma State Park. She says, we’re fortunate as that level of diversity is what attracts and provides habitat for a lot of our interesting animals both insects, butterflies and wildlife. Kelly says the park will see about 150 butterfly species during the year. A total of 300 are either residential or will migrate through the Rio Grande valley annually. Coming here is a spoil of riches. Like some of the rarest butterfly types in north America you see them in parking lots, you see them in city parks, you see them in this park. A great way for folks to learn more, to be more engaged with what they are seeing is to come to a program. The best time to go on a butterfly walk, says Kelly, is generally the afternoon. The later in the afternoon, the better. It’s a mellow activity and gives visitors the chance to focus and enjoy the beauty of being surrounded by maybe a couple thousand butterflies. But, it’s an opportunity to check in with the natural world and bet to enjoy the riches from the Rio Grande valley. For more information, go to our website and search: Resaca de la Palma State Park. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
December 18, 2019
Golden-cheeked warbler This is Passport to Texas Hear that? That’s the Golden-cheeked warbler. The Golden-cheeked Warbler is only in about 33 counties of Texas. It breeds nowhere else on the planet. Texas Parks and Wildlife state ornithologist Cliff Shackelford says we can be very proud that this bird is endemic to Texas. But the Golden-cheeked Warbler remains on the federal endangered species list. It’s been on the list for quite some time. There’s been talk about revisiting that. The data we have suggests that it’s fairly stable but not on a huge incline. There’s still a lot of challenges. Challenges like the expanding human population into the Texas Hill Country. All too often the tall stands of Ashe-juniper and oak trees Golden-cheeked Warblers depend on are completely removed for development. But preserving native vegetation benefits both the species and the landowner. Property value is greater when you leave old trees. When we leave that habitat we’re also protecting those hillsides from erosion. You’ve got vegetation holding the soil together. And so you’re not just leaving the habitat for this bird, you’re also helping your property in general. Sounds like a win-win Cliff. The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series and funds Golden-cheeked Warbler research in Texas. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
December 17, 2019
Roseate spoonbills & Woodstorks This is Passport to Texas Colonial Waterbirds gather on tiny islands dotted along the Texas Coast. Their beauty and diversity is attractive, but their populations have struggled over the years. Colonial Waterbirds in the past experienced some pretty significant population declines. Trey Barron is a Wildlife Diversity Biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife. A lot of the populations were down to almost nothing. Mainly due to overhunting. You know their feathers are very attractive and they were using them in stuff like hats. Regulation changes and habitat improvements allowed many of the species to recover. But today there are new challenges like island erosion and exotic vegetation. Trey says one of the larger impacts, however, is human disturbance. Boaters, anglers and even photographers can get too close. And they are disturbing these birds off of their nesting sites. Anytime that the birds get up, the young or the eggs are susceptible to predators. And some of those predators are other birds. The more we can do to avoid disturbing these island habitats, the more successful Colonial Waterbirds can be. The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series and funds research for Colonial Waterbirds in Texas. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
December 12, 2019
Running the board for a station that runs on sun. [Image Courtesy of Sun Radio] This is Passport to Texas We all know that plants, wildlife and humans depend on energy from the sun to survive. TPWD even installed 25 solar photovoltaic systems at 17 of its own facilities. But have you ever known a radio station run by the sun? From the time the voice leaves the microphone until it gets to your listening device, it’s solar powered. Sure, sure…this is off topic for our show, but—c’mon—to partner with nature to make radio is super cool. Daryl O’Neal is the executive director of Sun Radio, the first and largest non-commercial radio network powered by the sun. We started looking around the landscape and noticed that all these small little non-commercial radio stations were off the air. We started trying to figure out okay well what if we could put them back on the air. Would it be a mission in doing that, bringing community radio back and what if we could also do it and be solar powered. They are doing it: sending their signal to eleven different stations in Central Texas… but it’s not easy. The real challenge we had is making sure that the solar power is consistent, because our equipment is very delicate. So, we had to put a lot of electric conditioning equipment in to make sure that DC feed that’s coming in is consistent. If you add up all of the kilowatts, it’s probably close to 75 to 80 thousand watts. Enough power on the ground to power the equipment in the air to send a signal out. A signal that spreads like sunshine across Central Texas. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
December 11, 2019
It’s getting easier to be green… This is Passport to Texas Texas Parks and Wildlife has been investigating renewable energy purchase options. Through the State Energy Conservation Office there’s a group pulling together government entities to do a bulk purchase of renewable energy. Andee Chamberlain is the Sustainability Program Manager at Texas Parks and Wildlife. It’s really amazing our energy market in Texas, with all of the wind that is being produced, has really brought the renewable cost down. In the last contract that we negotiated, we looked at the cost of traditional energy vs renewable energy and the cost difference; about one percent. So it was negligible for us to choose renewable energy because it meets our mission. The mission to “manage and conserve the resources of Texas for present and future generations” lends itself well to investment in renewable energy. It makes a lot of sense for us to do that. All of the energy that we buy on the deregulated side is renewable; so that half of our sites are provided 100% renewable energy. The bulk energy purchase contract will have a term of between ten and fifteen years. That helps us not only support renewable energy but that helps us lock in a rate. And that’s really nice for parks to budget. Consistency is really important when your planning a park. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
December 10, 2019
Turning on renewable energy with Green Mountain. This is Passport to Texas Since 2010 Texas Parks and Wildlife has been exploring renewable energy options such as solar and wind technologies The state Energy Conservation office offered grants to state agencies who applied to install solar. They would pay for 80% of the project and we would pay for 20%. Andee Chamberlain is the Sustainability Program Manager at Texas Parks and Wildlife. It was just the right timing that we were able to apply for four separate grants totaling almost four million dollars. From that, we installed solar at over 20 facilities. Their utility bills went down, and that money is going back into the parks. And, those systems just keep operating. Once they are paid off, they keep providing benefits. The agency has also investigated state-wide utility contacts serving sites in deregulated areas. In a deregulated market, the consumer chooses the retail provider. So, we took that out to bid and Green Mountain Energy stepped up. We applied for a grant and got a solar installation at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. Additional grants provided funding to install solar equipment at Sea Center Texas; one of the agencies largest energy users. What we’d rather do is spend money making parks more energy efficient so we use less operations dollars so we can redirect that money to offering a better experience for the park user. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
December 5, 2019
Walt Dabney takes a stroll on his mountain bike. This is passport to Texas From 1999 until his retirement in 2010, Walt Dabney served as Texas State Park Director, leaving behind an improved state park system that observers say ranks among the nation’s best and most innovative. Walt lives in Moab Utah now, but visited Texas Parks and Wildlife Department recently. He told me that he will forever have a soft spot for the parks and people he left behind. As to why we need parks, Walt says they’re places where we can protect our natural resources, while at the same time benefitting the well-being of the citizens of Texas. Well, people want to recreate. I mean they want places to go be outside, to enjoy a variety of different activities. Whether it’s fishing or camping or hiking or biking or boating of some kind. In a place like Texas, other than the parks, if you don’t own a ranch, or have access to one you have no place to go do any of that. And I think a lot of those people understand that there’s more to life that just sitting int eh house or walking down the sidewalk. So parks provide a place for people to go do those fun kind of outdoor things which are good for them both mentally as well as physically. Texas state parks are for everyone. Find a park near you when you visit For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
December 4, 2019
Give a gift of the outdoors. [Big Bend Ranch State Park] This is Passport to Texas Holiday gift giving season is upon us, and if you have nature lovers on your list—the giving is easy—and twice as nice. A seventy-dollar Texas State Parks Pass is a thoughtful gift for your outdoor enthusiast. Pass holders enjoy twelve months of unlimited visits to more than ninety state parks and historic sites. They also get discounts on camping and recreational equipment rentals. Money spent on the pass supports your Texas state parks. For thirty dollars each, you can give the drivers on your list a conservation license plate. Twenty-two dollars from every sale goes directly to help fund conservation efforts in Texas. Give every outdoor lover on your list access to more than a million acres of public land—with the Limited Use Permit—for the ridiculously reasonable price of twelve dollars. Permit holders receive twelve months of access to Texas’ wildlife management areas, where they can fish, hike, bird watch, cycle, and camp. When you give one of these gifts, you delight the receiver, and help support state parks and conservation in Texas. Of course, you can always give the gift of yourself to those you love by spending time with them outdoors, away from the hustle and bustle of modern living—if only for a few hours. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
December 3, 2019
Barrington Farm Christmas This is Passport to Texas The holiday season is a special time to visit your state parks. Parks throughout Texas offer festive activities that could cause even old Scrooge, himself, to crack a smile. During the entire month of December enjoy History in Lights with a beautiful evening stroll through the grounds of Mission Espiritu Santo at Goliad State Park and Historic Site. Festivities begin at 6 p.m. each night. On December 7th Celebrate Christmas at Mr. Buck’s historic ranch home at South Llano River SP in Junction, and decorate trees, take pictures with Santa, and sing Christmas tunes on the front porch, and more! On December 13th it’s a Pineywoods Christmas Drive-thru at Tyler State Park. Drive through the Cedar Point, Lakeview and Big Pine Camping Loops; enjoy a Pineywoods Christmas in lights. Campers staying at the park for this event are encouraged to decorate their sites. On December 15th, head to Johnson City and join the Texas Hill Country community for the 50th Annual Christmas Tree Lighting at LBJ State park and Historic site, started by President and Mrs. Johnson. Enjoy carolers, a live nativity, Santa Claus, refreshments, and of course, the spectacular tree lighting. Check out the calendar section of the Texas parks and wildlife website for more holiday events at state parks. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti
November 28, 2019
Chef Jacques-Pepin, photo KQED This is Passport to Texas If you watch PBS television cooking shows, you’ve probably seen this man: My name is Jacques Pepin. 83-year-old Jacques Pepin is a classically trained French chef, author, and PBS cooking show host. He says in his youth, most of the meat he ate came from wild game. We follow the season, and the season in the fall in France we have the rabbit and the pheasant and the stuff. You go to market and see the game hanging. His cooking shows still air on PBS even though he’s stopped producing them. One show that viewers never got to see featured preparing a wild rabbit. The animal had already been field dressed before it reached the kitchen studio. But that didn’t stop network executives from pitching a fit when they saw the whole, skinned animal. They got berserk when they saw it. They said, “Oh my God!” Well, it’s good to get closer to Mother Nature and to realize where your food comes from. Hunting may not be your cup of tea, but the alternative, says Chef Pepin, is what we have now: nearly two generations of people who only recognize food if it’s in neatly cut pieces and wrapped in plastic. I mean, this is pretty scary when you think of it. Sign up for the Hunt Texas e-newsletter on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website and learn about hunting for your next meal. For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.
November 27, 2019
Wild turkey cooked and ready to enjoy. This is Passport to Texas Don’t give up on eating wild game and fish because you think it tastes funny. Most wild game and fish, if it’s off-tasting, is ruined between the kill and the kitchen, and not in the kitchen, itself. Susan Ebert is a hunter, angler, forager and cook; she wrote the book Field to Table, a guide to growing, procuring, and preparing seasonal foods—including wild proteins. As good as the recipe might be, unless people know how to care for that game from the time it’s harvested, to the time that they’re ready to cook with it, they’re going to be disappointed with the results. Starts with a clean kill, proper field dressing and getting everything on ice as soon as possible. Once you have the meat at home… Venison and wild duck—I will dry age those. Maybe 48 hours. Set them over a drip pan, on a rack. And let them just dry age in the refrigerator uncovered, with air circulating around them. Ebert recommends brining rabbit and feral hog; brine can be as simple as sugar and salt dissolved in water. Let that brine for a couple of days. Then, sear it over the grill and then either move it over indirect heat or put in it the smoker at a low temperature… Until it is succulent. Find a recipe from Susan Ebert’s book Field to Table at For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti. Redbud Blossom Jelly Yields 6 half-pints Ingredients About a gallon ZipLoc bag of rebud blossoms 5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, strained 5 teaspoons Pomona Pectin© calcium water 5 teaspoons Pomona Pectin© pectin powder 2 1/2 cups organic sugar Instructions Rinse and drain the redbud blossoms, and pick out any wooden stems and bugs. Pack loosely into a half-gallon container with a tightly fitting lid and cover completely with boiling water. Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate overnight. Strain through a fine mesh sieve or double cheesecloth in the morning, pressing lightly with a wooden spoon (don’t squeeze too hard, or you will get a bitter flavor). Add water, if necessary, to make 5 cups redbud juice. Pour into a large stockpot, and add the lemon juice and calcium water. Prepare your hot-water-bath canner, and wash 6 half-pint jars, lids, and bands in hot, soapy water. When the canner begins to boil, put the jars in it so they stay hot. Heat the lids and bands in a small saucepan; do not boil. Combine the sugar and pectin powder in a small bowl, and stir thoroughly to blend. Bring the juice to a full boil over high heat, then drift in the sugar/pectin mixture a bit at a time, stirring vigorously. Continue to stir until the mixture comes to a second boil. Pour into jars, release bubbles with a plastic spatula, affix lids, and finger-tighten bands. Process for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and let the jars remain in the canner for 5 minutes. Remove them to a folded towel, and let sit overnight to completely set up. Store for up to a year in a cool, dark place. Recipe from Susan Ebert, The Field to Table Cookbook
November 26, 2019
Christopher Kimball, host Milk Street on PBS This is Passport to Texas Christopher Kimball hosted America’s Test Kitchen, Cook’s Country and now Milk Street on PBS. He is a hunter in his home state of Vermont. Yet, wild game cookery isn’t something you’ve seen on his shows. Years ago, I had a photograph of me holding up two or three rabbits that I had shot – because I do a lot of rabbit hunting in the winter. America Public Television distributes our show [Cook’s Country], and I think they sent out a warning indicating the stations may want to gray out that particular photograph. So, most people are not prepared for that, probably. Some people are prepared, though – and ready to become hunters. You see more women hunting now than you did. And, I think in certain parts of the country there’s more of it. Kimball says if you plan to cook game, you must know the optimal cooking methods for each type of meat. The tough, dark meat you braise slowly – like the back legs of the rabbit. But, the very lean tenderloin – or backstrap – that gets cooked in about five minutes. Some of that meat you can barely cook – like the tenderloin of a deer. You don’t want to cook it much over medium rare. But, if you have other cuts of meat that are tougher and really need a long, slow cooking – you really have to think about the cuts that way, because game meat isn’t fatty. And actually, that’s why they larded it. And I’ve done it – larded venison –because it needed the fat. It’s not like a 300 pound pig that’s got a lot of fat in it. Find recipes for game on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
November 21, 2019
Least Bittern This is Passport to Texas Did you know there’s a secret gang of aviators hiding out on the Texas Coast? They’re not often seen. They’re more often heard. Trey Barron is a Wildlife Diversity Biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife. He’s talking about the secret life of Marsh Birds. Marsh birds are typically thought of as species like Rails. A lot of other species that inhabit the marsh that are secretive as well, like some of the Bitterns, and they’re one that are very hard to monitor for because they spend time in habitats that you just can’t walk to or drive to. You have to be in a boat or trompin’ through the marsh. The Marsh Bird population has steadily declined over the years primarily due to habitat loss. And while some species are doing good in Texas, their decreased population along other coastal regions may cause them to be federally protected. There’s some species that have been proposed at the federal level, the Black Rail, as threatened. It seems to be doing quite well in Texas, but the population has declined significantly on the Eastern coast and so the more we can find out about that species the better we can provide better habitat for the rail. Continuing to protect marsh habitats will be key to sustaining Marsh Bird populations in Texas. The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series and funds Marsh Bird research in Texas. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
November 20, 2019
By Tim Lenz from Ithaca – Buff-breasted Sandpiper Uploaded by Snowmanradio, CC BY 2.0 This is Passport to Texas The Buff-breasted Sandpiper is a small tan colored shorebird that stops to refuel in Texas during its long journey North. It’s a bird that is what we call a long-distance runner. Cliff Shackelford is a state ornithologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife. It’s a migrant that winters in Argentina and breeds up in Alaska and Canada. And does that every year for maybe 10 to 15 years of its life. It’ll make that round trip journey every year. But the distance traveled is not the only unique characteristic of the Buff-breasted Sandpiper. It’s preferred habitat in Texas may surprise you. A shore bird is those little birds you see when you go visit the beach that are running around in the surf. But this guy fills a different niche. He’s not on the edge of water or the surf. He’s out in short grass areas. The key is, big chunks of real estate, varying amounts of water and mud, and just what people would think there’s nothing living out there, but clearly there are lots of invertebrates these shorebirds are going out there and consuming, they’re feeding on those. Learn more about the birds of Texas on the Texas parks and Wildlife website. The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series and funds Buff-breasted Sandpiper research in Texas. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
November 19, 2019
Christmas Bird Count participants. Photo: Camilla Cerea/Audubon This is Passport to Texas For Texas birders it is sheer delight now that the annual Christmas Bird Count is nearly in sight. The Christmas Bird Count is a fantastic way for people to get involved in what we call citizen science. You can be a participant and help count birds during the Christmas season. Cliff Shackelford is a state ornithologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife. There’s a three week window that straddles Christmas where teams go out at specific times for 24 hours in a specific 15 mile radius circle and count birds. The Christmas Bird Count officially started in 1900. Even though it took a while for counts to get established in Texas, some bird counting circles in the state have been in existence for 60 years. So how can you participate? The first thing to do is find out if you live in or near a Christmas Count circle. The next step is to find the count compiler, that person who’s in charge of coordinating that circle and making sure that people are spread out and have a little piece of the pie and don’t double up on certain sites. Find your nearest Christmas count circle at For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
November 14, 2019
Sea Center Texas This is Passport to Texas Located in Lake Jackson, Sea Center Texas is a marine aquarium, fish hatchery and education center providing creative learning opportunities throughout the year. Right now, the main educational opportunity that we have are Summer Camps. This year were doing “Wonderful Wetlands,” where they’ll go to dip-net and learn all about the species that live out there. And then, we have “Aquaria-mania, where they will learn what it’s like to work at an aquarium and, they will get to take a behind-the-scenes tour. We spoke with Juliana Moore this past summer, before the camp started. She is an information specialist at the center. We have three public fishing events during the year. There’s one in June one in September and the other one is in February. And, those are youth fishing days so, anyone 17 and younger, accompanied by a parent can come out and fish. And you can have fun with the fishes this holiday season. We have a big Santa Clause show and Santa Claus actually scuba dives in the tank. So, one of our volunteers will dress up as Santa and gets in there with his elves and they put on a little Christmas show. Now that’s something you’ve got to see. you can find more Sea Center events on our website; just click on the Parks tab and select Sea Center. We record our series at The Block House in Austin, and Joel Block engineers our program. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
November 13, 2019
Amy and Caleb Maxwell This is Passport to Texas Your backyard is a wild place filled with wild things. To see them, slow down, look and listen. My colleague Randall Maxwell’s children, 17-year-old Amy and 14-year-old Caleb shared their thoughts on backyard nature during a stroll with their dad on the family’s property in Dripping Springs. Here’s Amy. [Amy] What I like most about being outdoors is the fact that there are just so many creatures out here that are just being themselves—being peaceful. There’s just so much tranquility out there that we’re missing out on just because we don’t spend much time out in nature. Like the creeks nearby our home. I like to walk down to those sometimes and just take a look at all the creatures just flitting around; the little frogs nearby. The little water bugs on top of the creek. What I Find interesting about water it keeps on flowing down to wherever it decided to go. And it’s just really interesting to think about where it could be and what happens to it. [Caleb] When I’m walking on the trails in nature, I love to think about the origin: when everything got here, you know… That’s Caleb. [Caleb] Just seeing all the plants and the rocks and definitely the animals. It’s life…living in this area. That we’re walking on right now. See, we’re wandering here just like they were. They have their own ecosystem and their own community just like us. They just live in the wild while we live in the cities and farms. Kids say the smartest things…they know Life’s Better Outside. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
November 12, 2019
Surfing at South Padre This is Passport to Texas As a kid, Tony Smith loved knowing how things worked and creating with his hands; he also had a passion for water. We grew up in Houston and so we would go down and go fishing—my brothers, my parents. All the time. We just loved being around the water. Later in life, in college, I started surfing and really fell in love with that. Hence, wanting to build paddleboards and surfboards in the first place. Today Tony handcrafts paddleboards and surfboards in a warehouse using sustainably harvested wood, reclaimed lumber and recycled foam. He built boards for personal use in his free time while working a finance job he loved. His hobby became a business; he had a foot in each world I came here on my lunchbreak one day. Did a little bit of work, zipped back to the office, and my Admin said, ‘Dude—you have sawdust all over the back of your suit.’ And I knew then, it’s time to make that decision to go for it and haven’t looked back since. Now he spends his days handcrafting unique paddle and surf boards, under the name Jarvis Boards. Boards that, help people enjoy their time outdoors. It’s really taken me aback how much I’ve enjoyed connecting with the individuals that have purchased our boards. And literally seeing on Instagram somebody in California, or Michigan or Switzerland out paddling with their family and making those family memories. It’s really cool for me personally because I feel like I’m a small part of that. Learn Tony Smith’s story at For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.
November 7, 2019
The Lady Bird Lake Paddling Trail is approximately 11 miles long and features multiple public access sites and recreational opportunities. The Lady Bird Lake Paddling Trail provides an excellent venue for the novice and experienced paddler alike. This is Passport to Texas Nature tourism fostered the development of many trails statewide. On land and water. Parks and Wildlife has the Texas paddling trails program we kicked off in 2006 with our first inland trail. Shelly Plante is the Nature Tourism Manager at Texas Parks and Wildlife Here we are now in 2019 and we have 76 trails throughout the state of Texas. We have coastal trails, inland trails. Some are on rivers. Some are on ponds or bijous. Some are on bays. We give information about the local canoe and kayak rentals or who provide a shuttle if you have your own. So, we try to make it as easy as possible to get out on the water and enjoy nature from a different perspective. Canoeing and kayaking offer distinct benefits over traditional hike or bike trails. Paddling on a trail just gives you a different view of nature. You’re quieter, you’re able to sneak up on the animals a little bit so they don’t fly off as much or run away and you can see things in their natural habitat. The nature tourism movement has made a positive impact on both rural and urban communities throughout the state Paddling trails aren’t just at state parks. We have them all over. They require community partners so, they’re in stretches of river outside small towns like Seguin or lulling. Austin has one. San Antonio has one called the Mission Reach and it goes right through the cultural district around the missions. Find Texas paddling trails on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
November 6, 2019
Preparing for a star party, image Chris Oswalt, TPWD This is Passport to Texas The term “nature tourism” has evolved to include a diverse range of outdoor activities. Advancements in new tools and technologies enhance the outdoor experience. Nature tourism is any kind of tourism that allows people to connect with nature and provide economic impact to the local economies of rural communities especially but it can be big cities as well and this would include things as varied as camping, wildlife photography, wildlife viewing and birding, stargazing, any number of things that are a way to connect to nature. Shelly Plante is the Nature Tourism Manager at Texas Parks and Wildlife The things I think are possibly new to nature tourism beyond birding which everyone is fairly familiar with would include wildlife photography and butterflying. I think both of those have become really big. One thing with butterflying is, butterflies stay still, unlike birds. They do flit around but they stay in one area. You can have your field guide right in front of you. In addition, access to smart phones and apps like iNaturalist allow explorers to snap photos and get immediate help identifying their observations. Butterflying is easier than birding in many ways and it’s a great introduction to noticing the outside world. Start planning your next outdoor adventure with the Texas Parks and Wildlife website. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
November 5, 2019
Hawk Tower Bird Watching. This is Passport to Texas Texas Parks and Wildlife brought the nature tourism movement to Texas in the 1990’s. Madge Lindsay worked with a couple of other people and developed this idea of a birding trail. Shelly Plante is the Nature Tourism Manager. No one had ever linked together sites that were drivable distances from one another to say, here’s a marketing platform of ways that people can come to your area and enjoy nature. Wouldn’t it be great if we worked with local communities on this concept of nature tourism and developing the sites they already have and telling people about these wonderful birding sites because right now bird watchers know that they exist but people that just like nature may not realize it. Local knowledge wasn’t always reliably shared. So, let’s put them together in one big map and they can go from site to site to site and see a variety of habitat a variety of birds and have enhancements there that make it easy for them like boardwalks to viewing blinds, that sort of thing. So, there was a grant and they got it and the great Texas coastal birding trail was born out of that. We were the first state to do a birding trail. More than 40 states now have birding trails. It was really great timing and really great people at the right place at the right time made this amazing thing that’s been a boon for rural communities all over Texas. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti…reminding you that life’s better outside.
October 31, 2019
Centennial Artist, Clemente Guzman This is Passport to Texas I love nature. I love being outside. Artist Clemente Guzman has a genuine affection for the outdoors. He spent twenty-nine and a half years at Texas Parks and Wildlife depicting the natural beauty of the state. I create art because it inspires me, it moves me, and being out in nature does that to me. It has that magic. You know when you have it, because you can’t sleep. You know you get up. It’s like falling in love. You know, you’re just thinking of that all the time. Now Clemente has come out of retirement for a higher calling. He’s one of thirty-one centennial artists chosen to commemorate the one-hundredth anniversary of Texas State Parks. Government Canyon State Park is his first assignment. I went out there to Government Canyon and I did some of the trails, especially one of them that goes to the dinosaur tracks. And I took some pictures and got my mind thinking. I found this lizard that I though it would be a great idea to put him inside of a dinosaur track. It just fit beautifully, the angle of the lizard and the footprint. I’m going to paint that for Government Canyon. The centennial artists will cover sixty-two parks in all, and their work will be featured in a printed book to be published in the centennial year 2023. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
October 30, 2019
Texas State Parks. This is Passport to Texas The year 2023 is the centennial anniversary of Texas State Parks, and thirty-one Texas artists have been chosen to create illustrations for a printed book about the State Park System. The whole history of conservation in the United States, particularly in the national parks, it was aided and abetted by artists. Former Texas Parks and Wildlife executive director Andy Sansom is project organizer and co-author of the centennial book. They are all Texas artists. Each one of them will paint two paintings. There will be sixty-two parks in the book. And then the text will be written by me and my colleague Bill Reaves. And Bill will write mainly about the artists, and then my portion of the book will be about the State Park System. ‘Be a little bit of history, a little bit of personal reflection on my own experiences, a little bit about contemporary issues facing state parks, and celebration of the hundredth anniversary. The paintings will be offered for sale, and a portion of the proceeds will go to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation to benefit the State Park System. The book is scheduled to come out during the centennial year, along with an initial public exhibition of the paintings at the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
October 29, 2019
Endangered Ocelot This is Passport to Texas The endangered Ocelot once roamed many parts of Texas. But over the years, loss of their native thorn-scrub habitat has left only a handful of Ocelots in the Rio Grande Valley. We need to restore their habitat as quickly as possible because they’re just really in dire need. Dr. Sandra Rideout-Hanzak is a restoration ecologist at Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute. The thornscrub is really unique and it’s highly diverse. We’re talking about small trees or large shrubs. They’re multi-stemmed so they’ve got lots of branches coming out very low to the ground. To humans it looks like this impassable jungle, but to Ocelots it’s just perfect. Traditionally Ocelot habitat was left alone to restore itself. Now a new study is hoping to accelerate restoration efforts with woody plant seedlings. We’ve kind of figured out how to replant these species of trees that become thornscrub. We have 700 seedlings that we’ve planted ourselves to see what we can do to get them to that multi-stemmed habitat where they’re growing in the right shape as quickly as possible. The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series and funds Ocelot research in Texas. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
October 24, 2019
Lesser prairie-chicken. Image courtesy USFWS This is Passport to Texas The Lesser Prairie Chicken used to roam many parts of Texas. But over the years, the wide-open grassland prairies they depend on have been greatly reduced by development and land fragmentation. Lesser Prairie Chickens are important because they are an indicator species on the health of the grasslands. Brad Simpson is a Wildlife Diversity Biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife. When we look at Lesser Prairie Chicken numbers we look at two things. We look at numbers range-wide, because they occur in Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas. Probably range-wide they are increasing. But when we look at Texas they are probably more stable in the last five years than they ever have been. There are only two populations of the Lesser Prairie Chicken in Texas, but that’s not the only reason they’re hard to find. Most people probably have never seen a Lesser Prairie Chicken because they occur on private lands. They are a delicate species that requires a specific habitat, large expanse of grasslands, so maintaining those large tracks of grasslands is critical for their survival. The US Fish and Wildlife Service is currently performing a species review of the grouse. A status determination is expected in 2021. Until then, management of the Lesser Prairie Chicken will be up to landowner stewardship. The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series and funds Lesser Prairie Chicken research in Texas. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
October 23, 2019
Camp Wildflower, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Image courtesy of This is Passport to Texas This is called the Dino Creek. Or Dinosaur Creek… The Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center located in Austin is grooming the conservationists of tomorrow. Camp Wildflower is showing and demonstrating to children how they can appreciate nature at any given moment. Rosalie Kelley is Camp Director. Studies have shown that children who have three positive experiences in nature will grow up as adults to want to be in nature, to appreciate nature and be better stewards of our environment. Campers get their hands dirty learning about nature, from bugs and plants to streams and wildlife habitats. I use the binoculars to look at stuff up close. Six-year-old Lauren thinks the best thing about Camp Wildflower is having fun. She’s made a lot of friends, and oh yeah, she’s also learned how flowers are pollinated. So a bee or a butterfly might come. Whenever it drinks the nectar it can get pollen all over it and then whenever it goes to another flower it brings more pollen. The wonder and lasting impressions of nature. To learn more about Camp Wildflower visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center website at For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
October 22, 2019
Gulf of Mexico This is Passport to Texas Every year the Gulf of Mexico endures Dead Zones. Areas of low-oxygenated water where animals suffocate and die. The condition is called hypoxia, and scientists estimate this year’s dead zone could be one of the largest ever, already at nearly 8,000 square miles just off the coast of Louisiana and Texas. An abnormal number of spring rains and floods saturated the Midwest, leaving farmland unsuitable for planting. The nitrogen and phosphorus-rich fertilizer with which farmers had prepped the land washed directly into the Mississippi river. This bumper amount of fertilizer along with urban runoff created an explosion of phytoplankton growth at the coast. And while Phytoplankton are the foundation of the aquatic food chain, too much phytoplankton decomposing at once can completely devoid the water of oxygen. The impact is deadly on any aquatic life that cannot easily swim away such as shrimp, crabs, clams and oysters. Those that do survive can be toxic table fare for humans. Task forces at the state and federal level are continually working to monitor and reduce the number of nutrients entering the Gulf. Scientists are hopeful on-going research will help shape environmental policy, that in turn can reduce the size of dead zones. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
October 17, 2019
Whooping crane pair at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge This is Passport to Texas The majestic Whooping Crane is the tallest bird in North America and has a wingspan of seven and a half feet. But even with its impressive size, the Whooping Crane nearly became extinct, and in 1970 the bird was listed as an endangered species. They are still federally listed as endangered. The population will be classified as such until they get around a thousand. Trey Barron is a Wildlife Diversity Biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife. Once we get to that thousand population number the US Fish and Wildlife Service will readdress the status of the bird and potentially delist it. And that’s the ultimate goal is protect enough habitat and have enough birds that we can keep them off the list. That habitat is the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Texas Gulf Coast and Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada. Due to massive conservation efforts over several years, the Whooping Crane population once in the teens, now number the hundreds. The outlook for the Whooping Crane is very positive. Just through years of successful reproduction, good wintering habitat down here, they’re on their way to total recovery. That’s good news, and validation that conversation and management of Whooping Cranes will ensure survival of the species. Whooping cranes began their fall migration south to Texas in mid-September. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
October 16, 2019
Steve Hall teaching a Hunter Education Class This is Passport to Texas For many, hunting is learned as a family tradition, passed down from elders to future generations. But if hunting wasn’t shared among your friends and family, and you want to hunt, how do you learn? To start hunting you really have to find a mentor. Steve Hall is the Hunter Education Coordinator at Texas Parks and Wildlife. We’re actually starting some mentor hunts and those are probably the best way to learn about hunting, especially if you’re an adult. Another good first step is taking a hunter education course. Hunters 17 years of age or older can take an online-only course at the Texas Parks and Wildlife website. The hunter education course will teach you the basics on safety, responsibility. Everything from transportation to field considerations. But also things like hunter ethics, wildlife conservation and the hunter’s role in wildlife management. Hunters under 17 years of age can take instructor-led courses to learn how to hunt safely, legally, and ethically, then sign up for a Texas Youth Hunting Program youth hunt. To find out more visit We record our series at The Block House in Austin. Joel Block engineers our show. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
October 15, 2019
Hunter Education Class: TPWD employee Joshua Ndegwa takes shooting instructions form Hunter Education Coordinator Steve Hall. This is Passport to Texas Deer season is fast approaching, and hunter readiness is key to experiencing a safe and successful hunt. Preparation, Practice and Planning for that upcoming hunt. Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Hunter Education Coordinator Steve Hall. The practice is the big one. I think that in our busy world we just don’t seem to carve out that time. But you can join clubs, you can join shoots like archery shoots or clubs like long-distance rifle shooting to kind of keep your skills honed. Another way for veteran hunters to sharpen their skills is to become hunter education instructors, giving their knowledge and skills to young hunters. The number one citation written during hunting season is not having a hunter education course, required for anyone born on or before September 2, 1971. Educated hunters understand safety is paramount. Even so, Steve says hunters should be mindful of the most common mishaps. Even though hunting is safe and getting safer, remember the three top hunting incidents. One is careless handling in and around vehicles. Number two is swinging on game outside of a safe zone of fire, and number three is being sure of your target, what is font of and beyond it. Have a successful and safe hunting season and remember to share your knowledge with new hunters. That’s how we keep the tradition alive. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
October 10, 2019
Wild Hog Adventure winner , his hunting buddies and their harvest. This is Passport to Texas Feral Hogs are an interesting predicament we have here in Texas. Justin Dreibelbis is the Private Lands and Public Hunting Program Director at Texas Parks and Wildlife. They cause a lot of agricultural damage for people trying to run ranches and farms. However, on the other hand, they are entertaining to hunt and they are good table fare. We run the wildlife phone bank here at Parks and Wildlife headquarters in Austin, and one of the biggest calls is out of state hunters wanting to come to Texas to hunt hogs. There is interest from hunters both in Texas and out of state. Here comes the Big Time Texas Hunts’ Wild Hog Adventure. You and three friends could win a chance to hunt free-range wild boar on a ranch in the South Texas Brush Country. You get to hunt on private land that’s covered in feral hogs. You get high quality lodging, high quality food, and a guide. A lot of people hunt feral hogs because of the food value. It’s organic, it’s lean and it’s good on the grill. Each online entry for the Wild Hog Adventure is only $9. There’s a $5 online administration fee, but you can enter as many times as you want in a single transaction. Just search for Big Time Texas Hunts on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website. Monies raised from the Big Time Texas Hunts program go directly to wildlife conservation and public hunting opportunities in Texas. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
October 9, 2019
2017 winner, Drew Lillie (on left), and friends after a successful hunt. This is Passport to Texas Would you like to go duck hunting on the Texas Gulf Coast? Or in the flooded-timber of East Texas? Well you don’t have to choose just one. You can do both hunts if you win the Big Time Texas Hunts Waterfowl Adventure. Here’s Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Private Lands and Public Hunting Program Director Justin Dreibelbis to tell you more. One hunt is on the coastal prairies where you’re going to be hunting ducks and geese. The other area that you’ll be duck hunting will be in flooded-timber in East Texas. Here you’re going to be focusing on some different species like Wood Ducks and Mallards. You’re hunting with trained guides, trained dogs. Meals, lodging, all taken care of. Both of these hunts are really high quality waterfowl hunts that any duck hunting enthusiast is going to be excited about. You and up to three guests can enjoy this excellent waterfowl adventure with hunting providers Central Flyway Outfitters and BigWoods on the Trinity. We hear every year that hunters from Big Time Texas Hunts are returning to hunt with these outfitters again and again. Don’t miss your opportunity to win. Enter online today at the Texas Parks and Wildlife website. Just search for Big Time Texas Hunts. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
October 8, 2019
2018 Nilgai Antelope Safari winner, Craig McCallum, with his bounty. This is Passport to Texas Often times if you’re not careful, they see you or hear you long before you see them. Justin Dreibelbis is the Private Lands and Public Hunting Program Director at Texas Parks and Wildlife. He’s talking about Nilgai Antelope, an exotic game species in South Texas that’s included in one of ten premium Big Time Texas Hunts. The Nilgai Antelope Safari is a really cool opportunity. You’re hunting on a historic South Texas Ranch. You’re staying at a really cool camp, really delicious food. You’ve got an experienced guide that’s there to help you through every step of the process, from finding the animal, taking a great shot, and then helping you with game care after the fact and that’s a really important point for Nilgai because they’re really big animals. Animals that can top 700 pounds. Now that’s some big game. You could win the Nilgai Antelope Safari by entering online for $9. There’s a $5 online administration fee, but you can enter as many times as you want in a single transaction. Big Time Texas Hunts is a conservation fundraiser. It’s a fun opportunity every year for people to put in and have a chance at something really, really special, to make money for wildlife conservation and public hunting opportunities. To enter online, search for Big Time Texas Hunts on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
October 3, 2019
2018 Grand Slam winner, Greg May ,at right, with his stepson Cauy and their professional guide, Greg Horak. Greg harvested a very nice 6½ year old 11-point mule deer that gross scored 171. This is Passport to Texas It’s time to step up to the plate and see if you can win the Texas Grand Slam. Of all our Big Time Texas Hunt packages, the granddaddy of them all is the Grand Slam package. Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Private Lands and Public Hunting Program Director Justin Dreibelbis. This is where you hunt four iconic big game species all around the state in one calendar year. That’s desert bighorn sheep, desert mule deer, pronghorn antelope and white-tailed deer. This is your opportunity to hunt with professional guides on some of the best wildlife management areas and private ranches in the state. Plus, you’ll get full lodging, meals and taxidermy with each hunt provided by Woodbury Taxidermy. Enter online for only $9. There’s a $5 online administration fee, but you can enter as many times as you want in a single transaction. Just search for Big Time Texas Hunts on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website. You don’t want to miss this chance of a lifetime. Take it from Greg May, the 2018 Texas Grand Slam winner. To me it was the biggest dream come true in the world. I would tell everybody put your chances in, you might be the lucky guy or lady that wins it. If I can win it, anybody can. The deadline to enter is October 15, so don’t stay on the bench. Hit a grand slam with Big Time Texas Hunts. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
October 2, 2019
American Alligator This is Passport to Texas It’s hard to find a hunt that will make your eyes wider and your heart beat faster than looking for alligators in the swamps of East Texas. American Alligators are a really a conservation success story. Justin Dreibelbis [Dry-bul-bis] is the Private Lands and Public Hunting Program Director at Texas Parks and Wildlife. Their populations were very low not very long ago. We now have huntable populations in a number of different places and especially in the Eastern part of our state. Managing those populations is necessary, and now you have a chance to participate in this conservation effort by entering the Big Time Texas Gator Hunt. One lucky winner and their guest will enjoy three days pursuing legendary alligators at the premier J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area. With the Big Time Gator Hunt, the winner and a hunting guest will be able to enjoy a lot of time out on the airboat with the WMA staff. Be able to get assistance cleaning their gators and also get the opportunity to squeeze in an early Teal hunt, which is a cool opportunity there on the coast. Like all Big Time Texas Hunts, food and lodging is provided along with on-site transportation and expert guides. To enter online, just go to the Texas Parks and Wildlife website and search for Big Time Texas Hunts. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
October 1, 2019
Let’s Hunt BIG! This is Passport to Texas For just 9 dollars you can enter to win a Big Time Texas Hunts package and support wildlife conservation at the same time. Big Time Texas Hunts is a conservation fundraiser. Justin Dreibelbis is the Private Lands and Public Hunting Program Director at Texas Parks and Wildlife. Since 1996 we have brought in 14 million dollars plus of gross revenue to go directly to wildlife conservation and public hunting opportunity. We started with one single grand slam package then and its now evolved into ten different high-quality hunting packages. Including: Nilgai Antelope, Desert Bighorn Sheep, Muledeer, Pronghorn, White-tailed deer, alligators, wild hog, waterfowl and others. Each hunting package includes meals and lodging, on-site transportation and professional guides. Enter one of them or all of them online for only $9 each. There is a $5 online administration fee, but for that, you can enter as many times as you want in a single transaction. Just go to the Texas Parks and Wildlife website and search for Big Time Texas Hunts. The deadline to enter is October 15th. Don’t miss your chance to win the hunt of a lifetime and support wildlife conservation in Texas. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
September 26, 2019
The Kraken doing its job as an artificial reef. This is Passport to Texas Early in 2017, Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Artificial Reef Program created a new underwater oasis for marine life by using a 371-foot cargo ship called The Kraken; sunk about 65 miles off the coast of Galveston. Seven months after sending the Kraken to the gulf sea floor, biologists returned to investigate what has become one of the state’s largest artificial reefs. What we’re going to see, we don’t know until we get down there. Dale Shively oversees the artificial reef program for Texas Parks and Wildlife. It only takes them a few months to get a significant amount of marine growth. [Chris Ledford] There’s a lot of fish on that ship. Texas Parks and Wildlife artificial reef specialist Chris Ledford says prior to reefing the Kraken, biologists witnessed a couple of sharks in the area, but no reef species. And now it’s teeming with marine life. I wasn’t expecting it to proliferate that much, that quickly after sinking. Considering the ship has only been down here for 6 months, it’s got a lot a lot of productivity going on. We’re really happy with the way its progressing. I don’t think it really could have gone any better than what it’s showing up to be. It looks great. It’s really cool. See the reefing of The Kraken, and the results, on the Texas Parks and Wildlife TV series on PBS the week of October 6. The new season of this award-winning series begins the week of October 13. Check your local listings. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
September 25, 2019
Mountain Biking at Big Bend Ranch State Park This is Passport to Texas Texas Parks and Wildlife’s recreational trails program develops new pathways in the state through a competitive grant program. Trails allow visitors to enjoy scenic vistas, pursue recreational sports, escape find solace and explore areas that might otherwise be inaccessible. We fund everything from natural surface single-track mountain bike trails to twelve-foot-wide concrete trails that are accessible to everyone. Erick Hetzel is the State Park Trails Coordinator for Texas Parks and Wildlife That’s a really important aspect of the program. We want to serve a broad spectrum of the population of Texas. Trails provide access to natural environments in an increasingly urban landscape. They’re providing recreational trail experiences for people who need them. And the population of Texas needs them. We don’t have a lot of public land and we’re able to drop these little recreational trail experiences into these sometimes small communities that really need a trail around the local woods. Trails also provide connection. They can have experiences with nature and experiences with the outdoors right in their own community. And, that’s one of the biggest positives about our program. There are over 1,100 miles of state park trails waiting for you to explore. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti
September 24, 2019
Takings a perky pup for a walk with the family in a state park. This is Passport to Texas Hiking opportunities at Texas state parks are varied. There are 1100 miles of trails and dozens of daily organized treks. Some of them have added elements to intrigue and delight. Show up at the Davis Mountain State Park Interpretive Center on Thursday mornings and hike with a homeless dog. Help these hopeful rescues enjoy the trail as they await a forever home; you’ll get some puppy love and exercise. Exercise caution before nibbling native plants. Although many are edible, a lot are not. Find out which native plants are nibble-worthy on ranger-led hikes, available in some of our state parks. Does tippling interest you more than nibbling? Dinosaur Valley State Park provides the perfect place to explore how early Texans distilled, hid and sold moonshine during the Prohibition-Era. If exploring is your thing: become a Galveston Bay explorer. Scout the salt marsh wetlands with naturalist guides and investigate the critters, fish and birds that inhabit Galveston Bay. The hike includes a hands-on-seining opportunity. Visitors to Estero Llano Grande State Park have an opportunity to take part in their Friday butterfly and dragonfly walks. Some of these beautiful insects are found nowhere else but South Texas. For a comprehensive list of all state park hiking opportunities go to our website, click the calendar tab and then choose Hikes and Nature Walks. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
September 19, 2019
Mason Mountain WMA–location of the Big Time Texas Hunts Exotic Safari. This is Passport to Texas Have you ever dreamed of hunting the kind of game only found on other continents? Then Big Time Texas Hunts Exotic Safari may be for you. Janis Johnson. The winner of the Exotic Safari Package gets to hunt two animals, he gets to choose between a gemsbok, a scimitar-horned oryx, an axis deer or new this year a common waterbuck. You get to bring a hunting companion along and he or she also gets to harvest an animal. Johnson oversees marketing for Big Time Texas Hunts . The safari takes place at Mason Mountain Wildlife Management Area. What’s new this year, the winner will also take home a Ruger American rifle, and that’s a 300-win mag. We’re also including a Vortex Diamondback scope. So this is going to be an awesome hunt for the winner. It’s a real premium hunt, and the addition of the Ruger rifle and scope makes it even more special. Those items courtesy of McBrides Guns of Austin. The hunt package also includes food and lodging, expert guide services by Texas Parks and Wildlife biologists, and if you harvest animals: up to two shoulder mounts to preserve the experience. Add to that an opportunity to fish, harvest unlimited feral hogs, and to bring along a third guest as a non-hunting companion. Deadline to enter Exotic Safari, and all Big Time Texas Hunts hunt packages is October 15; entries are $9 each on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website, with a $5 administrative fee for online transactions. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
September 18, 2019
Nesting chimney swift. This is Passport to Texas Chaetura [KAY-tura] Canyon… is a chimney swift sanctuary of sorts, found in the growing city of Lakeway…just west of Austin. Their numbers are declining dramatically, they’re down by probably fifty, sixty percent since the sixties here in the United States. And [in] Canada they are on the threatened and endangered list; they’ve lost ninety percent of their chimney swift population. Paul and Georgeann Kyle, who oversee KAY-tura, say chimney swifts are unable to perch or stand upright, and so they rely on a type of habitat that’s been disappearing. Historically they roosted in large hollow trees, and those are not allowed to stand anymore. They then moved into the brick chimney’s, but now most of those are aging and many are being capped or torn down. In an upcoming segment of the Texas Parks and Wildlife TV series we meet the Kyles, and learn how they’re helping to save these small, endearing black birds by building them towers for roosting and raising young. The perfect home for Chimney swifts, it’s a nice rough surface, little grooves for them to hold on to, attach their nest. Ya basically anybody that can use a few power tools and read a tape measure can build one of these chimney swift towers and just one structure can make a real big difference in the breeding success of the birds. Learn more about the Kyle’s work with chimney swifts the week of September 29 on the Texas Parks and Wildlife TV series on PBS. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
September 17, 2019
Kayak fishing at Gum Slough, part of the Hen House Ridge Unit at Martin Dies SP This is Passport to Texas Have you always wanted to learn to kayak? Then we have some great news! Ten state parks teach the basics of this paddling sport to interested park visitors. Getting out on the water is something a lot of people haven’t tried because they don’t have the equipment. Ben Horstmann is with Texas Parks and wildlife. He says each park that offers these classes provide attendees with a kayak, paddle and life jacket for the duration of the lesson. So, this is an opportunity for us to give them the equipment and show them how much fun it can be. If you go, you’ll learn the basics in a safe, ranger-led environment. At state parks, for the most part, you pay your entry fee when you go into the park and the program is free. Each park is different and so each offers a unique experience. Yet, all offer instruction in safety and basic paddling techniques as well as tours with rangers. A lot of them, when they get out, are saying … Hey, how can I do this again. And that’s really the goal of this, to introduce them to a great way to use the park. You’re going to see things that would never see hiking. Paddling out to some of the islands you can see that they are just filled with life. The best part of kayaking is giving people a look at those resources that they would just never see before. Find paddling opportunities in the calendar section of the Texas Parks and Wildlife website. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
September 12, 2019
Alligator gar: What a lovely smile. This is Passport to Texas Here’s a fish story about alligator gar, a curious biologist and thermonuclear weapons testing. We’ve done a lot of work recently on the alligator gar. Being able to accurately age these fish is important. Because it tells us not only how long they live, but how they grow and in what years they were produced. Dan Daugherty is a biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife. Fish have structures called otoliths that are like the bones in our inner ear – they accrue a layer of calcium carbonate each year of the fish’s life. If you remove the otolith and section it, you can see growth bands like the rings on a tree stump. Count the rings and estimate of the age of the fish. We estimate that some Alligator Gar caught in recent years at over 60 years old. But counting that many rings on a small structure is difficult. So, to verify our ages, we turned to radiocarbon. You may know it as Carbon-14. But how is it used to age this fish? Radiocarbon, or carbon-14, is a rare carbon isotope, naturally occurring at about 1 part per trillion. However, thermonuclear weapons testing in the 1950’s released massive amounts of this isotope into the environment, which was absorbed by all organisms at that time. Given that some of these fish were estimated to be over 60 years old, they would have hatched around that time. And, if the fish were truly that old, then we should measure high levels of radiocarbon in their otoliths. When we analyzed the radiocarbon concentrations in the otoliths, they matched the levels found in the environment in the 1950s, confirming the accuracy of these Alligator Gars’ age. Now that’s a fish story for the ages. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
September 11, 2019
Texas Longhorn This is Passport to Texas The longhorn is a true Texas icon. This distinctive breed has played a role in Texas’ heritage. In the early 20’s Frank Dobie and a couple of other ranchers decided that the longhorn was so important that the state needed a herd. Jim Cisneros is park superintendent at San Angelo State Park where a portion of the herd lives. They took about 10 or 12 years and they went around all over Texas – down into old Mexico until they put together a good enough herd of historically correct animals as they could. And they gave the herd to Texas Parks and Wildlife. In 1969, the Texas Legislature officially recognized the State of Texas Longhorn Herd. Currently the herd numbers about 200 animals. Groups of them are located at various state parks and historic sites. We work real hard on getting the right bulls to keep them historically correct. Bill Guffey is the herd manager at San Angelo SP. The state herd is managed just like anybody else would. We breed them, vaccinate them, brand them and cull them just like any other place. Get to know the Official State of Texas Longhorn Herd at San Angelo State park. We provide a tour. We call the cattle up to the gates and we talk a little about the cattle where they come from, the history, their importance, and how they shaped Texas. Learn more about Texas Longhorns on the TPW website. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
September 10, 2019
Albino Garter Snake This is Passport to Texas What should you do if you see a snake around your home? You can run into a snake anywhere. I’ve seen snakes in downtown Houston. Like all animals, snakes need food and shelter, so if you’re attracting these unwanted guests, you may need to make a few changes to your immediate environment. Paul Crump is a natural resources specialist for Texas Parks and Wildlife. We recommend that you modify your yard to minimize the attractiveness of your yard to snakes. You can do things like remove any brush piles, old fence posts, or a shed that’s falling apart. Remove the objects that snakes are seeking cove under. Snakes often settle near an abundant food source. For many snakes, that means small rodents. Minimize close encounters of the snake kind by making areas around your home unappealing to mice and rats: cover open trash bins, clean up debris piles and keep your lawn trimmed. We encourage people to take a look at their environment and see what they can do. [Eliminate] things like bird food or deer corn, any of that kind of stuff that could be attracting rodents or other things. Avoid the urge to kill any snakes that you may see. Snakes play a key role in the balance of nature. If you give a snake some space, more than likely you won’t see it again. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
September 5, 2019
In a deer blind on a mentored hunt for adults. This is Passport to Texas During fall hunting season we join with friends and family in the field. Skill and luck ensure that we bring home quality protein for the table. But not everyone has someone to teach them, which is why TPW offers mentored hunting programs. We have lots of youth hunting programs around the state. But there just aren’t many opportunities for adults. Until now, says Justin Dreibelbis, who oversees private lands and public hunting at Texas Parks and Wildlife. So this is an opportunity for them to come out, take part in a hunt, learn from experienced hunters and be able to take those skills back to their friends and families so they can go hunting. In an upcoming segment of the Texas Parks and Wildlife TV series we follow a group of adult-onset hunters, including first-time hunter Kristen Rodgers. It was great; unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a deer on my side but had an amazing mentor. It was quite an experience. It was something if anybody else out there really wanted to do, I would highly recommend it. It took the scary away from hunting, and for me it kind of gave me that knowledge to make me a little more comfortable I guess. The mentored hunt segment is on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Television series the week of September 8 on PBS. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
September 4, 2019
Texas Hunter Education certificate. Never go hunting without it. This is Passport to Texas What’s the most frequent violation Texas Game Warden encounter in the field? That’s hunter education and it’s a preventable one. Aaron Sims is a Texas game warden. That’s something that’s been mandatory for a long time now. The 70th Texas Legislature made hunter education a requirement in 1987. Hunters born on or after Sept. 2, 1971 must successfully complete the course. “I know how to use guns. I’ve been shooting them all my life. Why do I have to go through another class?” And I’ll tell them that’s a very small portion of the hunter education class. The other part is why it’s important. Why we have these laws. Conservation, ethics; something that might not be unlawful may be unethical. We have to have respect for the animals when it comes to hunting or fishing. The Hunter Education program strives to produce safe, responsible, knowledgeable and involved hunters. All we want is for them to get compliant. Take the class, learn the good information and pass it along to your children. If an adult is already certified and they have a young son or daughter that wants to go through it. We always encourage them. If you would like to go sit through the class with them and learn with them and maybe they can ask you questions because its more comfortable. We definitely encourage parents to attend classes with their children Find hunter education information on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
September 3, 2019
Overnight tent camping at Lost Maples State Natural Area. This is Passport to Texas Does the thought of tent camping at a state park give you anxiety? An article in the October issue of Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine may help quell your fears. Writer and avid tent camper, Wendel Withrow, addresses ten of the most common anxieties people have when it comes to overnight tent camping and how to overcome them. Anxiety about the unknown is something a we all face. Address it by getting to know the park. Start with one that’s close to home, and spend the day, exploring—particularly the camping loops. Get a feel for where you and fellow campers will pitch your tents and spend the night. Willingly trading in your pillow-top mattress for a sleeping bag on the floor of a tent may seem mad. Tent camping doesn’t have to be unpleasant. Gear like ultra-plush sleeping pads and bags stuffed with soft down or synthetic insulation will keep you off the ground and comfy. If you’re concerned you won’t sleep because of worry about wildlife roaming the park in the dead of night, know that they’re not interested in you. Although, keeping your provisions and waste away from your tents and securely stowed will ensure they’ll give you a wide berth. Although, mosquitoes are another story. The Oct. issue of Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine with the article on overcoming tent camping fear is on newsstands now. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
August 29, 2019
Manmade habitat for freshwater fish. This is Passport to Texas The Lone Star State is revered for its exceptional sport fishing opportunities. To preserve and enhance these destinations, a recent project at Lake Sulfur Springs experiments with nontraditional materials and designs to create artificial habitat. Fish need habitat and structure in general. Tim Bister is a District Fisheries Biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife Even in reservoirs that left timber standing, over time, that timber in the water breaks down and the habitat for the fish declines. We’ve done work with Christmas trees in the past but the PVC that we’re using in the structures we’re building today are going to last for many, many years One design for artificial habitat involves using simple, materials like PVC pipe and corrugated plastic drainpipe. Biologists and volunteers use the PVC to build a four-foot cube-shaped framework, and then weave and secure the drainpipe to it; it’s not much to look at, but it creates a nest-like structure. Kody Corrin is the state director for Bass Unlimited and a restoration project volunteer Somebody that doesn’t really know would think that we’re just piecing recycled garbage together, and we’re really not. We’re actually providing good habitat for the fish. The Sport Fish Restoration Program supports our series. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
August 28, 2019
Is this the size fish Lake Bois d’ Arc can look forward to producing? This is Passport to Texas Lake Bois d’ Arc, a new reservoir project 70 miles northeast of Dallas, may be the future hot spot for trophy largemouth bass One of the main things we are doing is establishing some nursery ponds that we can come into and introduce some genetically superior largemouth bass strains that have the potential for growth into that trophy status over eight pounds or so. Dan Bennett is a natural resources specialist with Parks and Wildlife Those are Florida strain Largemouth bass and we are hoping that this is going to be the first opportunity to come into a new reservoir with some of those ShareLunker offspring that are produced at our Freshwater Center in Athens. The ShareLunker are fish over 13 pounds and larger that have been donated to our selective breeding program. ShareLunkers are fish with proven genetic potential to reach a trophy size. So we are hoping that those fish we stocked in those nursery ponds come through that program. If that’s the case, we should be able to track those fish long term. Once this reservoir has existed for eight or ten years, we may be seeing some large fish caught by anglers over there that we can then genetically trace them back to a particular lineage that may have originated from that hatchery down in Athens. The Sport Fish Restoration program supports our series. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
August 27, 2019
Image courtesy This is Passport to Texas Lake Bois d’ Arc is a 16,000-acre reservoir under construction in northeast Fannin County, scheduled for completion in 2022. From a fisheries biologist perspective, it’s particularly exciting to get in on the ground floor of establishing a fishery in a new lake like this; not something that many of our biologist have had the opportunity to do. Dan Bennett is a natural resources specialist with parks and Wildlife. Anglers may look forward to a lake with variety of sportfish; Bennett’s work will make sure of it. The north Texas municipal water district has helped us identify four ponds that will eventually be flooded by the reservoir to come in and establish some small-scale fisheries or nursery ponds to be able to introduce both forage fish and ultimately genetically superior largemouth bass; and [then] pre-stock those ponds, which we’re planning on doing this year. [This will give] those fish a little bit of an edge or a boost before the lake fills so they’ll be year or two old and more or less adult fish that are ready to spawn. Once the reservoir opens to the public, anglers will have another productive Texas fishery to enjoy. Our goal is to do everything in our power to establish fish populations in those lakes and try our best to make them the best they possibly can be. The Sport Fish Restoration Program supports our series. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
August 22, 2019
Male Black-capped vireo. This is Passport to Texas Not long ago the tiny masked bird known as the Black-capped Vireo nearly became extinct. The US Fish and Wildlife Service listed the species as endangered in 1987. But rigorous habitat recovery efforts have finally changed that listing. Good news for the Black-capped Vireo is that it was recently delisted. Cliff Shackelford is a state ornithologist at Texas Parks and Wildlife. Now we’re in a phase of what we call the post-delisting monitoring. So Parks and Wildlife is involved in continuing the count of Black-capped vireos to make sure that the numbers are still steady and increasing but not decreasing. Cliff believes we’ve become better at understanding what makes a healthy Hill Country ecosystem. I think the one thing our agency has learned is better deer management. We’ve relayed that to a lot of our landowners that we work with, and you can drive around the Hill Country and see who’s doin’ it right. But I think that’s the big thing is finding that balance of where you can have your agriculture, your deer, and your Black-capped Vireos and everybody lives in harmony, and we’ve found that sweet spot and it’s really working. Now it’s up to us to hand down our lessons learned to the next generation so that the Black-capped Vireo is never endangered again. The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
August 21, 2019
Bobcats serve an ecosystem function. This is Passport to Texas According to the US Census Bureau, the Dallas-Ft. Worth metro area leads the nation in population growth. But this growth has fragmented wildlife habitat, and as a result wildlife have become more visible. Now sightings of one particular species has citizens concerned. There have been some neighborhoods in the DFW area that have seen a lot of bobcats. Richard Heilbrun is the urban wildlife program leader at Texas Parks and Wildlife. If you’re in an urban area and you happen to see a bobcat, the most important thing you can do is to stop and enjoy the moment. Keep your distance. Take a photo, but don’t approach it. The bobcat will probably run away. To answer growing public inquiry, Texas Parks and Wildlife partnered with Utah State University to capture and study urban bobcats. We caught 12 bobcats in the middle of the metroplex and we radio-collared 10 of them. And we followed them for a year. We found out that bobcats are good at living in the city. They use greenbelts and golf courses, cemeteries, river corridors, and when you stitch all those habitats together they actually form a functioning ecosystem for a wide variety of wildlife. Understanding urban bobcats is an important first step in achieving a conflict-free coexistence with humans. The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series and funds bobcat research in Texas. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
August 20, 2019
James Montgomery practicing with his rifle before dove season. This is Passport to Texas You know I grew up playing soccer and football. I missed out on Boy Scouts. Never got involved in the outdoors. Didn’t find hunting until my mid-20s or so. Austinite James Montgomery is a business and family man…he’s also a coach and a dove hunter. We meet him the week of August 25th on the Texas Parks and Wildlife TV series on PBS. Getting away from the everyday hustle and bustle of going to work. Leaving the job behind. It feels good to get away and just experience nature. Shaun Oldenburger is upland game bird program manager for parks and wildlife. The great thing about dove hunting is you don’t need to grow up in it. As far as having a place to go, there’s a lot of public opportunities available for dove hunting that Texas Parks and Wildlife provide. For the most part, you just need some shells and a shotgun and a hunting license. You can be good to go and have a great opportunity to get in the outdoors and get an experience and get the introduction to hunting in Texas. The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
August 15, 2019
Sea Trout Meuniere; photo by Ken Haenel This is Passport to Texas Anglers who catch and keep their fish can fill their freezers with nearly free food. That’s what chef and angler Cindy Haenel does. We don’t let them go unless they’re undersized…we just have so much in the freezer, so we do limit ourselves on how much we keep. But, yeah, we just love them. They’re so tasty. So, we don’t want to throw them back. (laughs). I met Cindy when she was a chef instructor at Central Market. She’s since retired. But not from fishing or home cooking. I stopped by her place at lunchtime awhile back, just as she was preparing Seatrout… Meunière style, which is basically lemon and butter with some parsley at the end. Seasoned trout fillets, dusted with flour, went into a hot non-stick skillet coated with melted butter. After three minutes per side, she transferred the cooked fillets to warm plate which she placed in the oven to keep warm, and then made a quick and delicious sauce with lemon juice, lemon zest, white wine, parsley…and more butter. Okay. So, now I’m going to taste. Mm…a good amount of lemon. Slide it on off of the fire, and then whisk in that last pat of butter just to thicken up the sauce. Okay. Dump in the parsley. So, taste again—just use a different finger each time for tasting. Oh yeah. Okay that’s it. We’re ready to plate and serve. Hear the full cooking experience on our podcast Under the Texas Sky, and find a copy of Cindy’s recipe for Seatrout meunière at For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti. __________________________________________________ Trout Meuniere Recipe A flavorful reimagining of the classic French Sole Meunière that’s simple to prepare and yet decadently rich. Ingredients • Spotted Sea Trout fillets (flounder or sand dabs also work well) – 4 fillets • Salt and pepper • All-purpose flour (for dusting) *may use gluten free flour • Cultured unsalted butter – 3 tablespoons *may use more as needed • Shallot (minced about 1 tablespoon) – 0.5 small • Dry white wine (such as sauvignon blanc) – 2 tablespoons • Lemon zest – 1/2 teaspoon • Lemon juice, freshly squeezed – 1 tablespoon • Flat-leaf parsley (for garnish) Steps 1. Turn on oven to lowest setting. 2. Pat the fish dry with paper towels. Generously salt and pepper both sides of the fillet and then lightly dust all surfaces of the fish with flour. 3. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter to a non-stick skillet and heat over medium heat until the pan is hot, and the butter has melted. 4. Add the fillets and fry on one side until cooked about half way through (the cooked part will appear opaque if you look at the side of the fillet). Carefully flip using two spatulas and fry until cooked through. Transfer the cooked fish to an oven-safe plate and place in warm oven while you make the sauce. 5. To make the Meunière sauce, add the shallots to the butter in the skillet. Fry until the shallots are tender and just starting to brown. 6. Add the white wine and simmer until most of the liquid is gone. Finish the sauce by whisking in the lemon juice and zest along with the last tablespoon of butter. 7. Pour the Meunière sauce over the fish. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately.
August 14, 2019
Sunrise on a jetty, ready to catch dinner. This is Passport to Texas Regulation changes to spotted sea trout, like bag and size limits, is an important tool in our tool box for managing saltwater fish species. A robust a hatchery program is another. Spotted seatrout is this most popular recreational sportfish out there. So, there’s a lot of pressure on these fish. Ashley Fincannon is hatchery manager at the Marine Development Center in Corpus Christi; it’s there where they, raise spotted seatrout for stocking…specifically to the Lower Laguna Madre. That bay system also has a five-fish daily bag limit. The Lower Laguna Madre was the first bay system to go under the five-fish limit and that was when we really ramped up our contribution down there. Earlier this year, Texas Parks and Wildlife proposed a new regulation to change the bag limit in Galveston Bay and Sabine Lake on the upper coast from 10 fish a day to five—as it is in all other bay systems. That’s a good thing. Anecdotally I know I’ve heard from the fishermen when you go stock that they are catching larger trout now and that the trout fishing is better than ever in the Lower Laguna Madre. The new bag limits go into effect September first. Learn how we regulate and raise spotted sea trout and also find a tasty recipe for it on our podcast Under the Texas Sky; find it wherever you get your podcasts. The Sport Fish Restoration Program supports our Series. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
August 13, 2019
This is why we fish. This is Passport to Texas Their abundance, eagerness to hit natural and artificial baits, and their flavor when cooked make the spotted sea trout popular with coastal anglers like Charles O’Neal. I am just a guy married to a good woman who allows me to fish 150 plus days a year. We caught up with Charles in February of this year at a public meeting about changes to fishing regulations for spotted seatrout. I am a passionate spotted seatrout guy. I fish from Brownsville to Alabama. Texas Parks and Wildlife proposed a new regulation to change the bag limit in Galveston Bay and Sabine Lake on the upper coast from 10 fish a day to five—as it is in all other bay systems. During that meeting Charles and other anglers made their feelings known to TPW and to the commissioners who made the final decision. I think after many, many hours of research that this data does not support the reduction. After careful review, the commission thought differently. But, Charles O’Neal remains a fan. More recreational anglers need to come to meetings, stand-up, participate in surveys. And go to the public meeting and get involved with TPWD. They’re not bad people. They give me every piece of information I ask for. Learn how we regulate and raise spotted sea trout and get a great recipe for it on our podcast Under the Texas Sky; wherever you get your podcasts. The Sport Fish Restoration Program supports our Series. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
August 8, 2019
Writer Pam LeBlanc happily waiting for teal. This is Passport to Texas Fall hunting season kicks off on September first with dove. Teal is next with a sixteen-day season that runs from September 14th through the 29th. Last year writer Pam LeBlanc took advantage of an invitation to go teal hunting with former TPW Executive Director, Andy Sansom. She wrote about it for the current issue of Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine. In the article, Pam admits that she is not a hunter, and never imagined she’d find herself slogging through a wetland, wearing rubber waders and shooting at teal. But she did and writes vividly about the experience. A funny bit is about a “sticky-footed” frog that spent the night in her waders which she’d left on the porch of the Bucksnag Hunting Club in Garwood, where the hunting party stayed. She discovered the little fellow when they were in the truck, headed to into the field. She writes: [The frog] shot out of my pants and onto the windshield, then ricocheted across the interior of the truck like a tiny, spring-loaded pogo stick, jolting me awake. That would wake me up, too. Find Pam LeBlanc’s article about her teal hunt in the August-September issue of Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine. You’ll also find a recipe by Chef Jesse Morris for Smoked Teal in Miso Garlic Butter Sauce. Our series receives support in part from RAM Trucks: built to serve. For Texas Parks and Wildlife… I’m Cecilia Nasti.
August 7, 2019
Learning is even more meaningful when it happens at a state park. This is Passport to Texas Nature and nurture join forces when home-schooled children use state parks as their classrooms. I started doing home schooling because I like to keep my job challenging. Amy Kocurek is an Interpretative ranger for Texas Parks and Wildlife. Children aren’t the only ones who enjoy class. After doing the second home school class, I just started noticing how rewarding it was. I felt just so incredibly, I guess, thankful that I was doing these classes. And, I felt like I was making a really positive impact on these children. Who knows if they would have learned the importance of conservation and preservation in addition to all of these other topics that I’m teaching them. And, it reminds me that’s the point of being an interpretative park ranger is that your making these impacts on people every time that you talk to them. You don’t always think about and sometimes you forget about it if you’ve been doing the job for a long time. Then you have these moments and you see the light kind of ignite. When students use the parks and the ranger’s expertise in learning, bonds develop between staff and students. For me, for the home-schooled class, I can see this light in their eyes and I just know I’m making them think about things that maybe they would never have thought about before, I know that I’m making a difference, an impact. And, it’s just incredibly rewarding. Life…and learning…is better outside. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
August 6, 2019
A homeschool student enjoying his outdoor classroom. This is Passport to Texas Imagine a classroom without walls; one that, instead, is in the middle of nature. You don’t have to imagine. State parks welcome a growing number of home-schooled children annually. I try to do at least one or two home school programs a month Amy Kocurek is an Interpretative ranger at Martin Dies Jr. State Park. She says students who come to her park do more than sit, listen and memorize. [We are] a little more hand on. That’s how I think students really learn. When they do something themselves or they experience it in nature. That’s what I try to facilitate – having that one on one experience. Rangers like Kocurek create learning opportunities where students work on their own and with classmates to explore and understand the complexities of the natural world. A lot of programs I do for them are programs that I do on the weekend. But, with the home schoolers, you can add a little bit more of an educational sort of classroom component and you can take a lot longer with them. Classes range from one to three hours and, when possible, make use of the park’s unique features. Topics are wide-ranging and may include reptile studies, Monarch butterflies and fall leaf chemistry. It’s a little different from regular park visitation or field trips. The home schoolers keep coming back. You build bonds with these kids. Life… and learning… is better outside. We receive support in part from RAM Trucks: Built to Serve. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
August 1, 2019
Ralston Dorn [background] on mentored hunt. This is Passport to Texas Interested in hunting but don’t have hunters as friends or family to guide you? Some state parks and wildlife management areas conduct mentored hunting workshops for first-time adult hunters. The program is designed to educate and introduce beginners to the hunting experience. For the last twenty-one years, no one in my immediate family has ever hunted. Ralston Dorn is a Dallas paramedic and enthusiastic new hunter I want to break that cycle. So, I found this through Parks and Wildlife and signed up for it. Justin Dreibelbis is Ralston’s mentor for the day. This is an opportunity to come out and, take part in a hunt, learn from experienced hunters and, take skills back to their friends and families so they can go hunting. [ Ralston] Before taking the shot my adrenaline started pumping. I told Justin, my heart is racing. And, he goes alright slow down.  [Justin] She’s broadside. When you’ve got a good shot, take it [Rifle shot / Justin] Good shot, man. Great shot. [Ralston] Had I gone hunting with my uncle, I’m sure I could have gotten a deer but, I don’t think I would have learned nearly as much after the shot, or before the shot, as I did here it. Learn more about mentored hunting workshops on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website. The Wildlife restoration program supports our series. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
July 31, 2019
Illustrating a safe zone of fire. This is Passport to Texas Before you discharge a firearm, ask yourself: what is my safe zone of fire? Not knowing can have devastating consequences. But how do you determine your safe zone? It’s easy to find your safe zone of fire. Heidi Rao is a Hunter Education Specialist for Texas Parks and Wildlife. Start by focusing on an object ahead of you like a tree, hold your thumbs up and slowly bring them to the side of your body until your thumbs disappear from your vision. This is about a 45-degree angle and the area where you can safely take a shot. This is your safe zone of fire. If you’re hunting with other people, never swing outside of your 45-degree safe zone of fire. Another thing to think about is to be aware of is target fixation. When a bird flushes, you could easily forget about your surroundings and your safe zone of fire. If you’re excited and only focusing on your target, you can quickly lose track of your safe shooting zone. You can even lose sight of buildings and roadways. This is very dangerous. Remember: firearm safety is your responsibility. So, always be aware of your safe zone of fire, even when you’re excited. View our hunter education video on Safe Zone of Fire, on the Texas Parks and Wildlife YouTube channel; just search Safe Zone of Fire. Our show receives support from the Wildlife Restoration Program. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
July 30, 2019
Heidi Rao, demonstrating firearm muzzle control. This is Passport to Texas Developing and reinforcing hunter safety skills must be a lifelong pursuit for every hunter. The first principle when hunting with a firearm: always point the muzzle in a safe direction. This is basic safety. Heidi Rao is a Hunter Education Specialist with Texas Parks and Wildlife. She says even when alone in the field, hunters must remain aware of muzzle direction. There could be other hunters or even a building near where you’re hunting. And you never want your firearm pointed at anything other than your intended target. Until you’re ready to shoot, keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction with the safety on, and your finger resting outside the trigger guard. When you are hunting with two or more hunters you need to be aware of where the other hunters are at all times. You really must talk and let the others know where you are. The way you carry your gun matters. You always want to carry your gun in a way that there is no way possibility for the muzzle to be pointed at any other hunter. One of the safest ways to carry your firearm is known as the two-handed carry or the ready position. This carry also provides the most control over your firearm and it gives you a quick setup for a shot. Find hunter education videos on the Texas Parks and Wildlife YouTube channel. The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our show. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
June 27, 2019
Sampling Gulf Oysters This is Passport to Texas Texas has been one of the country’s top oyster producing states since the late 1800’s. Oysterman, Mauricio Blanco has worked the Port Lavaca region for over 30 years. It’s been a pretty good place over the years. We got so much salt in our blood. That’s what I love to do But, declining limits on commercial harvests have been signaling a problem for years. Most oyster reefs are operating on the border of sustainability. Everyone realizes that something needs to be done. Bill Rodney is a costal ecologist They’ve been suffering from a number of stressors including drought and hurricanes. On top of that, there’s a lot of fishing pressure being put on. A historic restoration plan is now in place to rebuild the reefs. A new law requires oyster dealers to recycle their old shell or pay a restoration fee. The key to restoring the habitat is putting fresh cultch out there. Cultch can be any material that oysters can grow on. Crushed limestone and recycled oyster shells make an excellent substrate for oyster larva to attach to and grow into spat, which are baby oysters The site will be closed to commercial harvest for two years, allowing the baby oysters time to grow to adulthood. By the fall, there should be millions of baby oysters growing on this rock out here. The sport fish restoration program supports our series. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
June 26, 2019
CCA Incubation Room. Image courtesy of Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine. The CCA Marine Development Center in Corpus Christi produces juvenile red drum and spotted sea trout for release into Texas bays. They do it by tricking wild brood stock. We put them through a 150-day light and temperature cycle to condense their year down and get them to spawn when we want them to. Ashley Fincannon is Hatchery Manager It’s volitional spawning so they are just freely spawning freely in the tanks at night. When the eggs are fertilized, they are buoyant, and they end up at the top of the tanks and end up going in to our egg collectors. We take those eggs into our incubator room where we hatch them out. They are pretty rapidly developing fish so if we had fish that spawned last night, by this afternoon around six, those fish would be hatching out, they would be feeding on their yolk sack, by three days, they have consumed their yolk sack, their eyes are formed, their mouth is formed, their gut is formed and they are ready to go out and eat. On the third day, we stock them to our outdoor rearing ponds where we grow them out about 35-40 days where they reach that targeted 35-40-millimeter mark for size at release. Go to the Texas Parks and Wildlife website to learn more about the hatchery or to plan a visit; search for CCA Marine Development Center. The Sport Fish Restoration Program supports our series. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
June 25, 2019
Cliff Shackelford This is Passport to Texas You are listening to Red River Radio. Stay tuned “Bird Calls” is coming up in just a few moments right here on your public radio station. On the second Tuesday of the month, 10,000 loyal listeners tune in to hear the bird man of East Texas. I’ve never heard a show on the radio that people can call in and ask questions about birds Cliff Shackelford is the State Ornithologist for the Texas Parks and Wildlife [DJ] And we have lines open right now. We’re going to Clair from Shreveport, Claire you’re on line. What’s your question? [Claire] Hi Cliff, such a big fan. [Cliff] Hey, great. What’s up? A lot of people that like watching reality TV ought to turn off the TV and go outside because there’s a reality there that’s so pure, so real, so interesting. The show took flight after Cliff helped with the station’s annual fund drive. He does this voluntarily. Kermit Poling is the General Manager for Red River Radio. It’s a lot of work for him and there’s travel back and fourth [Cliff] This is a great partnership for Parks and Wildlife. They just send me over to preach the good word about birds through a radio station that’s already established …I can reach a lot of people in one hour. For more about the show, “Bird Calls” with Cliff Shackelford, go to For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
June 21, 2019
Guadalupe Bass (Micropterus treculii) This is Passport to Texas. Anglers like Courtney and Brandon Robinson are chasing Guadalupe bass, the state fish of Texas. Fish on! This is why I love catching Guads. They’re little fish but they use the river to fight. Guadalupe bass once seemed headed for extinction. In the 1970s, state biologists stocked non-native smallmouth bass in Texas rivers. They didn’t expect the smallmouths would cross-breed with native fish. But they did, producing hybrid offspring that were no longer pure Guadalupes. From 1990s through roughly 2010 almost a million Guadalupe bass were stocked in the river and it drove down the hybridization rates dramatically. Tim Birdsong once played pro baseball for the Cincinnati Reds. Today he leads Texas Parks and Wildlife efforts to restore river watersheds.  [The] Guadalupe bass is representative of that whole set of species and some of those are considered imperiled; they may only occur in one river and nowhere else in the world. And it’s a little bit more difficult to get enthusiasm around conserving a minnow or conserving an imperiled freshwater mussel, but what’s good for Guadalupe bass is generally good for those other species. Learn more about the Guadalupe Bass in July on our podcast Under the Texas Sky. Find it on Spotify, iTunes and other places where you get your podcasts. The Sport Fish Restoration Program supports our series. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
June 19, 2019
Guadalupe Bass (Micropterus treculii) This is Passport to Texas Dang it! Was that a fish? Yes, He was right in that foam line! Anglers like Courtney and Brandon Robinson love to fish for Guadalupe bass, named for the Guadalupe River. Fish on! This is why I love catching Guads, they’re little fish, but they use the river to fight! The Guadalupe is a stronghold stream for this lone star native, which the legislature dubbed the state fish of Texas in 1989. Decades ago, this little fish seemed destined for extinction. But today it’s coming back. I want my kids to catch Guadalupe bass. And I want them to be able to do it in the same places that I do. Chris Johnson leads guided fly-fishing trips. The beautiful rivers the bass live in have a growing army of passionate advocates working to keep these waters clean.  At end of the day, lovers will always work harder than workers. And if you love what you’re doing, and you love what you’re about, you love your fish, you love your water, you love your state, you love the ground that it flows through, then you’re going to fight to protect it. Learn more about efforts to restore the Guadalupe Bass and preserve our rivers on our podcast Under the Texas Sky this July. Find it at, and wherever you get your podcasts. The Sport Fish Restoration Program supports our series. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
June 18, 2019
Project Wild This is Passport to Texas On any given Saturday, someone in Texas is probably getting trained in Project Wild. Kiki Corey oversees the program for Texas Parks and Wildlife. Project WILD is professional development for educators to help them teach about wildlife and wildlife issues. Susan Campbell, Education Coordinator for the San Antonio Natural area, says Project WILD isn’t jut about learning the science of nature. [Susan] You can also teach literacy, you can teach mathematics, you can teach social studies. [Kiki] The Project WILD activities are experience-based. Regardless of the level of your students, everyone in the class will have shared the same experience with the content and then the teacher has something to work from. See Project WILD in action on the TPW TV series. The bear went over the mountain. The bear went over the mountain. The bear went over the mountain. He ate the fish on the mountain, as much as he could eat. Watch Educating the Educators, the week of June 23, on the Texas Parks and Wildlife TV series on PBS. Check your local listings. Out series receives support in part from RAM Trucks: Built to Serve. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
June 13, 2019
Billy Hassell’s Powderhorn Ranch This is Passport to Texas Billy Hassell lives in the urban world of Fort Worth; yet, he’s always been drawn to the natural world. Reconnecting with nature in a small way, in a very urban environment… it calms the soul somehow if you can slow down. We live fast-paced lives and we’re kind of conditioned, I think, to believe we have to live in rush all the time. He doesn’t rush, but he does brush. Billy’s a full-time artist who focuses on nature. My work has always been inspired by nature. I grew up in a time when there were still some open spaces and creeks and I got to experience a little bit of nature even though I grew up in a pretty urban environment. I guess my love of nature was born from those experiences, and I’ve been kind of searching for that throughout the rest of my life. I’ve been seeking out opportunities to be out in nature and find places to inspire my work. And inspiration is all around. He recently found it at Powderhorn Ranch. I find a lot of inspiration as an artist in a place like this, and as I learn more and more about it, I’m fascinated by the complexities of it and how practically every plant and every little creature plays a role in the overall balance of a place. See Billy Hassell and his art in a segment of the Texas Parks and Wildlife TV series on PBS the week of June 16. Check your local listings. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
June 12, 2019
Whitetail deer conservation license plate This is Passport to Texas Established in 2000, Texas Parks & Wildlife’s conservation license plate program has raised millions of dollars for wildlife conservation. Grossing more than $1.2 million dollars since it launched back in 2002, the White-tailed Deer plate benefits big game management and hunting programs in Texas. This past April, a Desert Bighorn Sheep plate joined the lineup. 15- The revenue generated from those two license plates goes directly towards the research and management of big game species in Texas. Which means the research and management of white-tailed deer, mule deer, pronghorn, desert bighorn sheep and javelina. Mitch Lockwood is the Big Game Program Director for Texas Parks and Wildlife We’re very fortunate to have this revenue that we can use to leverage more federal Pittman Robertson funds. We’re basically able to quadruple the revenue generated from this license plate. The Texas desert bighorn sheep restoration program has been one of the most successful wildlife restoration programs of its kind. The population was extirpated from the trans Pecos region back in the sixties and we acquired some animals from western states. Those two populations have responded very well to those early reintroduction efforts. So, now were taking those surplus animals and we’re starting to put sheep into mountain ranges that haven’t seen sheep in decades Learn how to obtain your conservation license plate at For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
June 11, 2019
Conservation Plate, Desert Bighorn Sheep This is Passport to Texas Thousands of Texas motorists have contributed to wildlife conservation efforts with a simple purchase. Thirty dollars for a Texas Parks & Wildlife conservation license plate. We’re really excited to announce that we’re launching a new desert bighorn sheep conservation license plate. Janis Johnson is with the Conservation License Plate program at Texas Parks and Wildlife. This is a real beauty. The first time that we’ve used a photograph on a license plate. It’s a really clear view of this majestic looking bighorn with an enviable set of horns. This popular fund-raising program started with the horned lizard plate, first offered in 2000. It’s been quite amazing to watch the program grow. We now have nine plates and within this period of time we’ve raised nearly 9 million dollars. Each conservation license plate costs just $30 in addition to the vehicle registration fee. $22 goes directly to help fund conservation efforts in Texas. Motorists can order a plate anytime for their vehicle, motorcycle or trailer; it’s not necessary to wait for a renewal notice. Go to any county tax office or for your plates. If you have a deer plate already or one of our other plates, I’m sure that there’s another vehicle around that could use a handsome looking desert bighorn sheep on it. Our show receives support from RAM Trucks: Built to Serve. For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.
June 6, 2019
Cooking fluffy biscuits in a Dutch Oven. This is Passport to Texas Cleburne State Park, about 30 miles southwest of Fort Worth, has a spring-fed lake and shady trails. It also hosts a local group that’s passionate about their avocation. We fell in love with the park and the people. Dennis Clute is chapter advisor for the Chisolm Trail Chaparral Dutch Oven Society We cook on the third Saturday of each month except for June, July and August; it’s just too hot. We get there about mid-morning on Saturday, we have the pots on the table by 12:30, we all gather in a big circle, we say grace, we invite everyone there to eat with us and have a good time The Chaps say they can prepare nearly anything that can be cooked in a home oven in a Dutch oven. I think my favorite was this rich chocolate cake that they made. It was delicious Annie Hepp is a regional interpretive specialist with Texas Parks and Wildlife. They really enjoy the opportunity to be with one another. They get to cook for people, they get to share their passion with others and that passion and enjoyment is pretty infectious. Just being around them and seeing what they’re cooking up really inspires you to try it yourself. Go to the calendar section of the Texas Parks and Wildlife website and click on “cooking” to find Dutch Oven demos in parks. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti
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