Bluebonnet License Plate Funded Projects

Show your support for state parks! Put a Bluebonnet plate on your vehicle, trailer or motorcycle and help preserve the unique beauty of more than 90 state parks across Texas. The bluebonnet is the state flower and symbolizes the natural beauty of Texas.

Greening State Parks with Fully Electric Vehicles

In 2010, Bluebonnet license plate buyers helped make State Parks more "green" than ever in before by providing funds to purchase nine fully electric vehicles for use in parks. These battery powered vehicles allow staff to perform campground patrol and maintenance duties quietly and without producing emissions. That’s good for park visitors AND the environment.

Additional Bluebonnet plate funds also allowed State Parks to acquire several heavy duty all-terrain vehicles that can be used for campground duties as well as going "off-road" for trail maintenance and back country work chores, while using less fuel than traditional vehicles.

Interpretive/Educational

A primary function of state parks is to inform and educate park visitors about the natural and cultural resources located at these sites. Thanks to funding provided by Bluebonnet license plate sales, visitors to Franklin Mountains, Falcon, Atlanta and Goliad state parks will see new exhibits installed detailing subjects such as the geology and history of the sites. Big Bend Ranch and Kickapoo Caverns will have new roadside exhibits installed as these sites prepare to become fully operational parks. Visitors to Caprock Canyons State Park will be able to learn about the state bison herd, while Caddo Lake State Park will have a new exhibit that will travel to schools and other venues to teach citizens about the unique resources of this northeast Texas site.

Buffalo Soldiers - Community Outreach Program

Leading the effort to educate the public of the important contributions to Texas history made by military unit staffed by African-Americans known as Buffalo Soldiers, as well as black and Hispanic cowboys, native Americans and other minorities that have often been overlooked, the Buffalo Soldiers program brings history alive to thousands of park visitors and school children each year. Portraying historical figures, TPWD staff and volunteers show the roots of the multi-cultural society that make Texas unique.

Cultural Resource Projects

State Parks are the repository of countless historic artifacts of Texas history. Bluebonnet plate funds will preserve artifacts found during recent investigations at the San Jacinto battleground. Locating and protecting archeological sites at Garner State Park will ensure that information about the park's prehistoric residents is gathered before it is lost forever. Other preservation projects include the conservation of original Civilian Conservation Corps planning documents and the historic Behrens cabin at Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site.

Natural Resource Projects

The use of fire is an important tool in maintaining the ecosystems in state parks. Safe and effective use of this tool requires the proper equipment for managing wildland fires and protecting employees working on fire lines. Bluebonnet license plate funds have been used to purchase a specialized fire engine to be used for wildfire suppression and implementation of prescribed fires on State Parks across the State.

The endangered Houston Toads of Bastrop State Park will also benefit from two projects funded by license plate sales. An intensive survey to identify the location of toad habitat will be conducted in order to safeguard these sites, and a large reforestation project that will plant thousands of trees on former agricultural land that has been recently added to the park will greatly aid this rare species.


Horned Lizard License Plate Funded Projects

Show your support for wildlife! Put a Horned Lizard plate on your vehicle, trailer or motorcycle and help conserve wildlife diversity by funding a vast array of projects that help protect native species such as the state's official reptile, the Horned Lizard. All projects funded by this plate are used to implement the Texas Wildlife Action Plan.

Proactive conservation: Developing a reintroduction program for Texas horned lizards while fostering stewardship with private landowners

Recipient: Fort Worth Zoo

Description: Texas Horned Lizards were once common throughout Texas. Now, they are difficult to find throughout the entire state. There is much interest by private landowners in reintroducing these lizards, but brood stock and reintroduction methods are poorly developed. This project will enable the Fort Worth Zoo to build pens in which they will breed, rear, and grow Texas Horned Lizards in a propagation program that can become a reintroduction program throughout the state. Funds will also be used to allow researchers to track and monitor released lizards, in the hope that they can identify the most successful release methods and protocols.

Field surveys and habitat assessments for endemic insects of Monahans Dune System

Recipient: Texas Tech University

Description: The Monahans Sand Dune System is a rare, discreet habitat in the western parts of the state that hosts many sensitive species, including a suite of 9 endemic insects inhabiting these habitats that are found globally only in this part of the state. Because these habitats are rare, discreet, and sensitive, it’s important to evaluate the habitat and the organisms that depend on them for a variety of conservation needs.

Survey to determine persistence of bumble bee species in North Texas

Recipient: University of North Texas

Description: The Texas Conservation Action Plan lists 3 bumble bee species as research and conservation priorities. Researchers have identified historical records of bumble bee prevalence and occurrence in Northeast Texas that are in need of re-evaluation to obtain present-day information about these sensitive species as compared to historic records. The Texas Bumblebee has declined over much of its range, but Texas remains one of the remaining strong holds of habitat. This projects will enable researchers to evaluate habitat quality, identify conservation threats, and will potentially enable better conservation throughout the historic range of these populations.

Wildlife Conservation Camp: An education experience for high school students

Recipient: Texas Chapter of The Wildlife Society

Description: The Wildlife Conservation Camp is a 7 day outdoor camp for high school students. Now in its 20th year, the Camp works to bring lessons of wildlife science, conservation, land ethics, and nature appreciation to highly motivated young people, while exposing them to a network of wildlife biologists, geologists, and ecologists. Grant money will be used to create much needed outreach materials, and to enable event organizers to more effectively reach students through social media and internet mediums.

Grassland restoration assistance: Brush management

Recipient: Phil Hardberger Park Conservancy

Description: Grassland habitats are disappearing quickly as development expands away from our cities. Rare pockets of grassland remnants still exist, and the Phil Hardberger Park aims to protect these important habitats. Grant funds will be used to create a public demonstration site where San Antonio visitors can learn about the importance of grasslands in ecology, and in water conservation.

Native seed collection and establishment of a landowner cooperative for native prairie restoration

Recipient: Katy Prairie Conservancy / The Nature Conservancy

Description: The Katy Prairie was once a vast expanse of grassland in southeast Texas. Now reduced to a fraction of its original size, many land managers do not have the resources they need to keep the Prairie in a natural, productive state. The Katy Prairie Conservancy, in tandem with The Nature Conservancy will create a landowner's cooperative that will help private landowners restore the Katy Prairie. Grant money will purchase heavy equipment that will be loaned to land managers to enable them to restore their prairie remnants.

Native pollinator Conservation in natural, agricultural, and urban Landscapes

Recipient: University of Texas at Austin

Description: The worldwide decline of pollinators means that we must also be concerned about native pollinators. The success of native pollinators will become even more critical in the conservation of declining plant species, the restoration of wildlife habitat, and in the production of agricultural goods. Native pollinators may provide some relief, but little is known about pollen sources, and what plants they visit, and when. This project will help us identify pollen sources of native pollinators and what plants they’re visiting and when. Information from this study will help us determine important resources on the landscape and how we can manage lands to support these species.

Population genetics of the threatened south Texas siren

Recipient: University of Texas at Brownsville

Description: A large, previously unknown amphibian has been discovered in Brownsville, TX. This siren is typically found in the resacas throughout the Lower Rio Grande Valley, and are vulnerable to development, habitat fragmentation, and urban expansion. Funds will enable researchers to learn more about the genetics of these animals, and to contribute towards longevity of this sensitive population.

Improvements at the Chaparral Wildlife Management Area

The Chaparral Wildlife Management Area (CWMA), a state-owned property managed by the Wildlife Division of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), consists of 15,200 acres of "brush country" typical to the South Texas Plains ecological region. Since TPWD purchased the CWMA, it has provided a site for conducting numerous long-term research studies involving, but not limited to, Texas horned lizard, Texas tortoise, diamond-backed rattlesnake, Texas indigo snake, American badger, white-tailed deer, feral hog, javelina, bobwhite quail, a variety of other non-game species and their habitats. Vegetative communities have been monitored intensively to assess the effects of various management practices. Baseline inventories are regularly conducted to determine the composition and population fluctuations of the Area's flora and fauna. Research on floral and faunal response to habitat treatments provides management information to private landowners.

The CWMA has become a favorite location for public hunts, school field trips, wildlife management field days, workshops, and nature tours. A new visitor's center, presently in the final planning stages, should increase public interest and opportunities at the CWMA. An 8.5 mile driving trail on paved road within the Chaparral WMA traverses diverse, healthy South Texas brush habitats and is an excellent place for nature observation. The Spring wildflowers, for example, are spectacular when rains cooperate and the birding is excellent throughout the year. The most popular attraction on the driving trail was an elevated wildlife observation tower. The observation tower provided a shaded place to watch wildlife attracted to an adjacent pond and nearby food plot. In March 2008, a severe wildfire, which ignited on adjoining private property, swept through the WMA and burned down the observation platform. These grant funds will be utilized to rebuild the observation tower, including the roof and wheelchair accessible ramp leading to it from the parking area. The reconstruction will include significant improvements, including bilingual interpretive exhibits. This should improve public interest and use of the CWMA facilities.

The primary focus of this project is to provide a venue for outreach and education to inspire a community-based conservation initiative regarding the restoration and management of native Southern Texas Plains habitats. Our goal is to build awareness and appreciation for conservation targets including native South Texas Plains habitats, the Nueces River Basin, and associated threatened and endangered species native to these habitats. This project should raise public awareness of conservation issues relevant to this region and inspire engagement in natural resource stewardship. Visitors should be better prepared to manage their own properties for natural diversity and motivated to do so. In addition, a community support group will be established and maintained that will be a resource for volunteers and conservation advocates.

Project Partner: Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Cotulla Unit

Pastures for Upland Birds Program

Background: Native grasslands once covered roughly two thirds of the lone star state. Historically, these native prairies were teaming with life, from bison to leks of booming chickens. These rich ecosystems improved water quality, recharged groundwater, controlled erosion, provided forage, and stored carbon.

Today, a majority of the original grasslands in Texas have been converted to other land uses. This is particularly true for the native tallgrass prairies within the Post Oak Savanna and Blackland Prairie Ecoregions. In fact, less than 3% of native blackland prairie exists today. One factor behind this loss was the conversion of tens of millions of acres to introduced grasses, such as Bermudagrass, that were planted in monocultures. Bermudagrass, old world bluestems, and many other introduced grasses do not provide suitable habitat for Texas wildlife. Iconic Texas figures, including eastern meadowlark, Texas horned lizard, wild turkey, and bobwhite quail have declined precipitously with the loss of their native habitat. Other native prairie dependent species have followed suit. Besides negatively impacting wildlife, the majority of introduced grasses utilized for forage production require annual fertilization to maintain productivity, while properly managed native grasses do not. Also, highly palatable native grasses (i.e., Yellow Indiangrass, Little Bluestem, Big Bluestem, Switchgrass, and Eastern Gammagrass) provide high protein levels required for livestock. These attributes make native grasses a sustainable option for Texas’ rangeland and wildlife.

Private lands compose 89% of Texas, so programs that engage and empower Texans to restore native prairies are required to help turn the tide on the loss of our native seas of grass. The Pastures for Upland Birds program does just that by working with private landowners to restore native grasslands.

The Objective: Provide technical guidance and financial incentives to Texas landowners in order to convert Bermudagrass and other non-native grass (i.e. Johnsongrass, Bahiagrass, Dallisgrass, and Old World bluestems) pastures and hayfields to native tallgrasses and forbs to benefit wildlife and the ecosystem services we depend on.

Results: The Pastures for Upland Birds program succeeded in planting over 800 acres to native prairie in 2010 and has seeded nearly 2,000 acres over the life of the program. While this program is not a silver bullet for native prairie loss, it fills a niche for landowners whose goals include wildlife habitat, wildlife tax valuation, sustainable forage production, and/or preserving Texas' native prairie legacy. The broader public benefits from native prairie restoration through improved water resources, carbon sequestration, erosion control, outdoor education, and recreational opportunities.

Program Partners: Texas' private landowners, Native Prairies Association of Texas, US Fish & Wildlife Service, National Wild Turkey Federation, & Texas Parks & Wildlife Department


White-tailed Deer License Plate Funded Projects

Show off your rack! Put a White-tailed Deer plate on your vehicle, trailer or motorcycle and help fund wildlife management and research.

Desert Bighorn Sheep Survey

Bighorn

Background

Desert bighorn sheep were extirpated from Texas in the early 1960s. Early restoration efforts introduced desert bighorns into a few of the historical ranges with limited success, while other mountain ranges remained unoccupied. A few introduced bighorns persisted in those mountains for several years, but the numbers steadily declined. In mountain ranges where bighorns were able to establish viable populations, those ranges have been monitored through time to obtain herd data.

Wildlife managers have recognized the need for systematic surveys to determine desert sheep numbers and trends for many years. During the 1950s many techniques were introduced to derive bighorn sheep population estimates, but most survey methods were unreliable.

Desert bighorn sheep surveys improved through time as technology advanced. Research conducted by state game agencies in Arizona and Nevada indicated that late summer helicopter surveys were the best method for obtaining bighorn sheep population data. August/September helicopter surveys consistently produced greater total observations, reliable sex and age ratios, and better correlation of fall lambs to annual recruitment, when compared to other stable populations. Systematic desert bighorn sheep aerial population surveys did not occur in Texas prior to 1990. Annual helicopter surveys were initiated in West Texas during August 1990.

Desert sheep population information obtained from helicopter surveys during 1990-2013 has been used to assess population trends, distribution, sex/age composition and to make annual harvest recommendations. Aerial helicopter surveys have provided adequate data sets for making management decisions concerning desert bighorn sheep. Helicopter surveys conducted in August/September have been effective and continue in all mountain ranges supporting populations of free-ranging desert sheep.

Need

Bighorn

The Trans-Pecos region of Texas currently supports 9 free-ranging populations of desert bighorn sheep, which occur within the Baylor, Beach, Sierra Diablo, 9 Point Mesa, Eagle and Van Horn mountains, and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's (TPWD) Black Gap and Elephant Mountain Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) and Big Bend Ranch State Park (Bofecillos Mountains).

In the last 5-7 years, numerous sightings of desert bighorn sheep have been reported in currently unoccupied bighorn habitat, suggesting natural expansion. The investigation of these sightings is critical to ensure proper attention beneficial to desert bighorns is dedicated to those mountain ranges in the future.

A few mountain ranges that have not been surveyed in the last several years include the Quitman Mountains, Sierra Vieja Mountains, and other smaller individual ranges within the Trans-Pecos. Bighorn sighting reports prompted the survey of the Carrizo Mountains in Culberson and Hudspeth Counties in August 2013. A small herd of bighorns was observed. Consequently, the Carrizo Mountains will now be included in future surveys, which will require additional resources (e.g. funding, manpower, helicopter flight time, etc.).

In addition to surveying currently occupied ranges, as populations thrive and either naturally expand to other mountain ranges, or are restored to unoccupied habitat, the need to survey new areas will increase. As new technologies are developed and/or improved (e.g. CyberTracker, rugged laptop data collectors, etc.) they will be incorporated into helicopter surveys to supplement survey efforts and support population estimates.

Pronghorn Antelope Aerial Survey

This program improves science and the consistency of aerial pronghorn surveys in the Panhandle.

Summary

Annual State pronghorn surveys are conducted in the Panhandle by fixed-wing aircraft in the months of June and July. The pronghorn habitat in the Panhandle is separated into 46 herd units that comprise more than 8.2 million acres. The District 2 staff is annually surveying approximately 24% of the total herd unit acreage.

Because flight hours are limited, field staff surveys only portions of most, but not all, herd units annually. Due to the vast expanse of pronghorn range in the Panhandle and limited flight hours, survey methodology is inconsistent with other regions (Trans Pecos and western Edwards Plateau/Permian Basin). Survey methodology in other regions involves complete counts of most herd units annually, while rotationally surveying a minority of herd units (alternate-year or third-year rotation) that are less critical (i.e., very low pronghorn numbers or low permit issuance rate). In the Panhandle, survey methodology incorporates the use of permanent survey “blocks” established in the 1970s or after that generally comprise a minority of each herd unit (sometimes as little as 10-15% of the herd unit). These traditional survey blocks are intended to serve as a trend or index for the remainder of the herd unit. Occasionally, the survey block is similar to the remainder of the herd unit, but in most herd units the survey block is very different and often encompasses superior habitat than that existing in the remainder of the herd unit. As a result, pronghorn numbers and trends often are not representative of numbers/trends in the herd unit as a whole.

Procedure

Ideally, survey of all or almost all herd units annually, as is done in the other 2 regions, would provide superior data for population estimates and permit issuance. Given limited funds and time, this is not possible. The next best approach involves surveying approximately 50% of herd units on a rotational basis, such that all herd units are surveyed every 2 years. Herd unit population estimates during non-survey years would be based upon previous year survey results, combined with the current-year trend in adjacent or nearby herd units that demonstrate similar population trends.

Funding from license plate sales will allow us to initiate the process of converting survey methodology in the Panhandle to complete survey of herd units on a rotational basis. Complete herd unit coverage (vs. partial coverage) will improve the science behind estimates of pronghorn populations and permit issuance. Furthermore, this methodology better satisfies the TPWD charge of implementing consistency in survey techniques among regions.

Mule Deer Aerial Surveys

Background and Funding Need

For the past 3 decades, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) annually conducted mule deer surveys with fixed-wing aircraft, as well as night-time spotlight surveys during fall.  In 2006 TPWD began conducting aerial mule deer surveys by helicopter to improve estimates of deer numbers and herd composition.  In January and February each year, random transects of varied lengths are flown in monitoring units of High, Medium, and Low deer density.  Total mule deer range comprises 24.3 million acres in the Trans Pecos and 13.7 million acres in the Panhandle.  Survey transects in 2007 constituted less than 1% (0.54%) of the total mule deer range.  Wide confidence intervals of monitoring unit estimates (+ 54% for Low; + 41% for Moderate; + 23% for High) were largely a result of low sample size, diversity of deer habitat and distribution, and improper herd unit delineation (because of incomplete knowledge of deer populations).  However, confidence in estimates can be greatly increased with improved delineation of monitoring unit boundaries (by decreasing variability among transects).  This process was initiated in the Trans Pecos in 2006 and initiated in the Panhandle in 2007.  An increased number of transects during 2007-08 surveys helped to improve knowledge of deer distribution and density, and ultimately improved monitoring unit delineation.  These added transects are needed each year in both ecoregions to increase statistical validity of population estimates and knowledge of our Texas mule deer herd.

Recent findings from our mule deer sightability research  provide biologists a better estimate of true population size compared to raw count trend data.  Conclusions from the research indicate using a certain sightability model that includes data taken during each individual mule deer observation such as sex, age, and group size of deer, vegetation, deer activity, light, terrain, and distance from helicopter are key in providing more accurate and precise population estimates, and advancing mule deer management in western Texas.

Additionally, a buck-only mule deer season was proposed in Sherman, Hansford, Gaines, Martin, and eastern Andrews counties for the 2008-09 season and in Dawson and Wheeler counties during the 2009-10 season.  Deer numbers are generally low in these counties, and survey data is limited.  The hunting season proposals were based upon occasional deer sightings, landowner reports, general knowledge of deer presence, and limited survey data.  Current-year aerial survey transects in these counties helped to quantify general knowledge and assumptions, as well as provided some baseline information on deer numbers and herd composition prior to establishment of hunting seasons.

Project Benefits

Since 2008, aerial survey efforts have increased by 12-13% (10 additional random transects in Trans-Pecos monitoring units and 5 additional transects in the Panhandle) to help improve statistical confidence in estimates and delineation of monitoring unit boundaries.  Monitoring unit boundaries have been revised as a direct result of the new information obtained from these additional transects.

Because of the need to collect significantly more information during mule deer surveys to apply the sightability model, better survey equipment for data collection must be purchased.  Using touch screen laptops that are docked and mounted in the helicopters and are blue-toothed to aviation headsets worn by observers, biologists will be able to document essential data by recording their voice on the computer.  GPS locations will also be taken by the computer once the observer taps the screen to start recording their voice file.  Biologists will return to the office and playback their voice recordings while entering data in the same computer software.  This data collection system is suburb for our mule deer surveys.  It allows biologists to collect needed information at the same time still searching for deer during surveys (because the data recorder essentially never takes their eyes away from the survey area) and is efficient for post survey population estimate analyses.

Aerial survey transects conducted in Sherman and Hansford counties (3 transects) and in Gaines, eastern Andrews, and Martin counties (6 transects) improved knowledge and data (deer density and buck:doe ratios).  In addition, transects flown in Dawson and Wheeler counties (3 transects) during 2009-10 increased our understanding of the mule deer herd in those areas.  Surveying these transects provided support of mule deer seasons and valuable baseline information for these previously un-hunted counties.

Comparison of Deer Survey Techniques for Small Acreages

Determining white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) abundance and population characteristics on a tract of land is beneficial to good deer management, especially on small high-fenced acreages where deer populations may be more susceptible to slight perturbations. A continuing decrease in average landholding size and an increasing interest in deer-management has emphasized a need for a reliable population-estimation method for small acreages.

Our objective was to determine the accuracy and precision of abundance and sex/age ratio estimates derived from various population-survey methods, using known populations of white-tailed deer over a 3-year period. This research was being conducted within a 211-ha high-fenced enclosure on Mason Mountain Wildlife Management Area, located in Mason County, Texas. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department personnel captured white-tailed deer on private and public properties in central Texas each January – March and stock the study site with a herd of known population size and composition. After the population surveys are conducted during August and September of each year, all deer in the enclosure are harvested to determine the known number of deer. The enclosure was then observed from the air by helicopter (using Forward Looking Infrared or FLIR) to ensure that all deer had been removed. Population estimates derived from various survey procedures are compared to the actual known population. Survey methods evaluated include spotlight surveys (traditional and distance sampling), daylight mobile surveys, Hahn-line surveys, infrared-triggered camera counts, and stand counts.

Since March 2006, three populations have been introduced, surveyed, and removed from the study site. Data for all three years are currently being analyzed. We look forward to this project improving the knowledge of deer managers in Texas and the efficiency of management under small high fenced acreages by determining reliable population-estimation methods for deer populations.

White-tailed Deer Surveys and Texas Wildlife Information Management Services (TWIMS)

Since the mid 1970’s, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has been monitoring white-tailed deer populations and harvest throughout the state.

TPWD currently monitors white-tailed deer populations in 30 of 35 Resource Management Units (RMUs). Data collected during these efforts allow TPWD biologists to evaluate the effects of various harvest strategies on white-tailed deer populations, and identify populations where an increase or decrease in deer harvest is necessary. The methods used to obtain white-tailed deer population data were improved significantly in 2005, resulting in more reliable population estimates.

Current methodology relies on technological advancements including accurate laser range-finding binoculars and GPS receivers, which have been acquired with funds generated by the sales of the White-tailed Deer license plate. Furthermore, funds generated from the Deer license plate will be used to make deer population and harvest data readily available to the public through the Texas Wildlife Information Management System (TWIMS). When this internet database application is available, the public will be able to access graphs, charts, and tabular data regarding deer population density, sex ratio, fawn crop, age structure, hunter success, and more, for each of the RMUs monitored. You will be able to witness the effects of various hunting regulations, such as antler restrictions, on deer populations throughout the state. Although much work is required to complete this application, TPWD will publicize how to access this application once it is available.


Largemouth Bass License Plate Funded Projects

Show off your bass! Put a Largemouth Bass plate on your vehicle, trailer or motorcycle and help keep bass fishing BIG in Texas.

Neighborhood Fishin' Program

85% of Texans live in urban areas – some 18 million people – and most don't fish. Neighborhood Fishin' aims to give Texans a good place to fish close to where they live.

Neighborhood Fishin' is a new program that provides year round recreational fishing opportunities in major urban areas, emphasizing youth and family participation. Success of the program relies on effective partnerships between Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), businesses, local governments, volunteers and users. The program is expected to increase participation in fishing and outdoor recreation while attracting more urban youth and families to public parks.

Through this program, selected lakes in urban parks receive frequent stockings of catfish throughout the summer and rainbow trout throughout the winter. Management of bass, sunfish or other existing species provide further fishing opportunities throughout the year. Information on stocked fish and how to catch them is available at each lake; at some sites, prospective anglers have access to basic fishing equipment at little or no charge. Businesses, organizations, and volunteers are encouraged to sponsor and conduct fishing clinics for local youth and families, promote the program in the community, provide fishing instruction and aquatic education, and establish and maintain tackle loaner programs.

Currently the program operates on 15 urban lakes. Our goal is to eventually move into all urban centers with populations above 100,000.

This program seeks to attract families with children, especially those who have never (or rarely) been fishing. Urban households within a 15-20 minute drive of Neighborhood Fishin’ lakes are the primary target. In Texas, minority groups are often found in these neighborhoods. In 2010, we estimate that some 50,000 people participated in the program. About half are children and adults who don’t typically fish. About 2/3 live within 5 miles of the lake. More than half tell us this is the only place they fish.

More Information: www.neighborhoodfishin.org

Operation World Record

Do fish descended from Toyota ShareLunkers grow bigger, faster, than fish without this trophy heritage? Will they reach a larger maximum size and result in a new state and/or world record?

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Inland Fisheries biologists are currently conducting research to answer these and other questions as part of Operation World Record. Operation World Record (OWR) is an attempt to produce the next world record largemouth bass through a program of selective breeding using Toyota ShareLunkers with pure Florida largemouth genes. Research to evaluate the growth rates of these selectively bred fish is ongoing.

This new research program is the first study of its kind and is being carried out on a scale never attempted before. Between 2006 and 2010, approximately 77,000 six inch largemouth bass were tagged and then stocked into six public lakes: Lake Raven in Huntsville State Park, Purtis Creek State Park, Meridian State Park, Mill Creek Lake in Canton, Lake Pinkston in Center, and Marine Creek Lake in Fort Worth. Fish were collected by electroshocking each year and the growth rate of OWR fish was compared to that of wild fish.

Cutting edge genetic analysis of the ShareLunker and OWR fish is also being conducted. A tissue sample is taken from each ShareLunker and sent to Dijar Lutz-Carrillo, a genetic scientist at the A.E. Wood Fish Hatchery in San Marcos, for analysis. Lutz-Carrillo has identified a number of genetic markers common to big bass. It is believed this is the first time this has been done. It is hoped that this information can be used in the future to identify fish with superior growth potential. This advanced genetic analysis will also be able to determine if any future Toyota ShareLunkers are OWR fish. It will also be able to determine which ShareLunker parents produced the biggest offspring!

The early results are promising – on average, the OWR fish are nearly a half pound heavier by age 4 than are wild fish of the same age. Time will tell just how big the OWR offspring can get. Maybe the future state or even world record will come from this selective breeding program. Stay tuned!

Zebra Mussel Initiatives

Zebra mussels are a small exotic and invasive mussel native to the Black and Caspian Sea drainages of Europe and Asia. They were first discovered in North America in 1988 in Lake St. Claire in the Great Lakes region. Since their introduction into the United States, many millions of dollars have been spent by state, federal and private entities trying to stop their spread and dealing with their devastating impacts. In April 2009 the first live zebra mussel was found in Lake Texoma, and then in August 2009 live zebra mussels were also found in Sister Grove Creek in Grayson and Collins counties.

Zebra mussels can have devastating economic impacts on municipal water supplies, power plants and industrial facilities. They are also responsible for fouling boat hulls and plugging water intake systems used in boat motors, air conditioners and heads. Their destructive power lies in their sheer numbers and their ability to attach to any hard surface in the water. They clog water intake systems and increase operation and maintenance costs. They will colonize boat docks, fishing piers, navigational bouys and bridges. Even swimming beaches can become fouled with the shells of dead zebra mussels to the point where they are unusable. Their filter feeding activity reduces the biomass of plankton in a water body which in turn affects its productivity because plankton are basically the beginning of the aquatic food chain. This filtering activity can increase water clarity which may promote growth of aquatic vegetation resulting in habitat changes or it can increase the risk of problematic vegetation such as hydrilla becoming established. Changes in fish populations have been documented to occur over time due to competition for available food sources. Zebra mussels pose significant threat to native mussels because they will colonize on their shells and smother them.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has taken a lot of steps aimed at trying to stop and slow the spread of this harmful species in the state. This includes:

  • Monitoring for the spread of zebra mussels by sampling lakes in the north Texas area.
  • Incorporating zebra mussels into part of a Statewide Invasive Species Campaign by developing "Clean, Drain and Dry videos" and posting them on YouTube, printing and disseminating zebra mussel brochures, handouts and putting up signs at boat ramps.
  • Developing a new website (www.texasinvasives.org) were the public can learn more about zebra mussels and can even report possible sighting of zebra mussels and other invasive species to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
  • TPWD and the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE) organized training for staff and marina owners on zebra mussel decontamination and boat inspection procedures.
  • Inspecting boats and informing the public about the threat of zebra mussels during the Aquapalooza event on Lake Travis in July 2010.
  • Staff have visited with local marina owners and operators to ensure they are aware of the threat and advised them to keep a watchful eye out for boats with zebra mussels attached.
  • TPWD has attempted twice to eradicate the small zebra mussel population in Sister Grove Creek using potassium chloride (KCl) but both attempts were unsuccessful.

Native Aquatic Plant Habitat Projects and Nursery Operations

Over the past fifteen years TPWD Inland Fisheries staff in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has developed the techniques to create beneficial native aquatic plant communities. These plant communities can provide excellent fish habitat without causing access and ecological problems common to populations of invasive exotic species like hydrilla, water hyacinth, and giant salvinia. Using these techniques, TPWD and various partners are planting as many as 23 beneficial native aquatic plant species (totaling thousands of plants) in reservoirs across Texas. As these partnerships move forward, one of our biggest challenges to establishing quality fish habitat in over 1,000 public reservoirs of Texas is the need for sources of native plants. To meet this challenge, two native aquatic plant nurseries have already been created and a third has been proposed.

  • The Lake Conroe native plant nursery was developed in 2008 by the Seven Coves Bass Club using a grant from B.A.S.S. along with support and funds from TPWD, the San Jacinto River Authority, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Located below the Lake Conroe Dam on San Jacinto River Authority property, the Lake Conroe nursery has the capacity to produce 1,600 individually potted plants per year of 18 different species. Over 2,000 potted plants from this nursery have been transplanted into Lake Conroe so far.
  • A second nursery was developed in 2010 with funding provided by the East Texas Woods and Waters Foundation on TPWD property at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center (TFFC) in Athens. The current capacity of the TFFC nursery is similar to the Lake Conroe nursery but includes room for expansion as demand increases. In addition to providing native aquatic plants for numerous partnerships across Texas, this nursery is a featured part of the TFFC hatchery tours. This provides the opportunity for approximately 60,000 visitors each year to learn how we produce native aquatic plants and their benefits to fish and wildlife habitat, water quality, and as shoreline erosion control.
  • A third nursery partnership has been proposed with City of Waco Utility Services. The purpose of this nursery is to provide native plants for the Lake Waco Wetlands which will be used to improve water quality in the Bosque river watershed and Lake Waco. Even though the primary purpose of this nursery is to provide plants to decrease nutrients and sediment in a drinking water reservoir, fish and wildlife will also greatly benefit from the establishment of this wetland.

Ducks Unlimited

The Ducks Unlimited plates directly support wetland habitat conservation efforts in Texas. The plate is available to anyone, regardless of their affiliation with DU.

Completed Project Sites

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Public Lands Habitat Projects

La Gloria Wetlands – Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Cameron County

The La Gloria Wetland Unit is a 49-acre site that is part of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), which is owned and managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). USFWS wished to restore the historic wetland function of the site, and increase habitat values for a host of wintering, migrant, and resident wildlife species with an emphasis on priority species such as migratory birds and sensitive species. More than 30 acres of the site will be managed for moist soil plant production. A three-acre excavated borrow area more than 4 feet deep will provide a semi-permanent to permanent wetland for brood-rearing, among other benefits. The project was completed in June 2009.

Wild Cow Bayou Water Control Structure – McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge, Jefferson County

Over the past 50 years, the Texas Gulf Coast has experienced significant wetland loss due to encroaching development pressures, changes in local agricultural practices, degraded hydrology, and increased salt-water intrusion. The purpose of this project was to enhance approximately 850 acres of intermediate/brackish marsh by installing a new water control structure. The new water control structure will give refuge managers the ability to manipulate water levels, regulate marsh salinity, control noxious vegetation, and restore important wetland values and functions to a critical region of the Central Flyway. The project enhanced 850 acres of wetlands.


Laguna Atascosa NWR– Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Cameron County

With nearly 30,000 acres of protected coastal wetlands, Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is home to ten endangered and threatened species, provides critical staging and wintering habitat for waterfowl, and is identified as a Western Shorebird Reserve Network site. In fact, this area supports over 400 different bird species throughout the year. Ducks Unlimited was a NAWCA grant recipient for funding to install a new control structure in the upper end of Laguna Atascosa Lake, enhancing management capabilities on approximately 1,200 acres. This Lake is a shallow (< 4 ft deep), freshwater impoundment located approx. 8-9 km west of the hypersaline Lower Laguna Madre. This area is a major staging and wintering area for hundreds of thousands of migratory birds each year. In fact, refuge managers surveyed over 100,000 Redhead ducks (Aythya americana) rafted on the Lake at one time during the winter of 2006.

Brazos Bend State Park, Fort Bend County

This project will involve the installation of a water control structure that will improve water level management capabilities within Pilant Lake.

A site topographical survey has been completed. Preliminary design plans have been completed. Permitting has been initiated. Construction should commence in late summer or early fall 2009.


Sheldon Lake State Park, Harris County

Sheldon Lake Reservoir is a 1,100-acre impoundment constructed during World War II to supply water to war industries in Houston. It is now owned and managed as a State Park by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). Sheldon Lake hosts a large colonial waterbird rookery and thousands of wintering geese and ducks utilize the area. Sheldon Lake State Park provides outdoor, recreational, and educational opportunities for thousands of people, many of whom seldom experience wildlife or natural processes.

This project will involve the excavation of wetland features within the prairie landscape to restore hydrology to conditions that existed prior to a rice farming operation that occurred in the site. The project will restore shallow depressional wetlands (35 total acres) through excavation. Depression depths will not exceed 18 inches below grade, and will average 4” for each unit. TPWD will delineate depression boundaries and depths. Through this project we will restore 44 acres of prairie wetlands in a matrix of restored prairie (prairie restoration not included in this project), that will provide excellent winter and migration habitat for migratory waterfowl and other waterbirds, year-round habitat for resident mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds, and quality nesting habitat for mottled ducks.

A site topographical survey has been completed. Preliminary design plans have been completed. Permitting has been initiated. Construction should commence in late summer or early or fall 2009.