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MAGAZINE OF THE TEXAS WILDLIFE ASSOCIATION

july 2013

Rattlesnakes


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TEXAS WILDLIFE TEXAS WILDLIFE

president’s remarks

G L EN W E B B

TEXAS WILDLIFE ASSOCIATION 3660 Thousand Oaks Dr., Suite 126 San Antonio, TX 78247 www.texas-wildlife.org (210) 826-2904 FAX (210) 826-4933 (800) 839-9453 (TEX-WILD) OFFICERS

The Long Road The road is neither high nor low, neither wide nor narrow. Rather, the road is hard and long. Officially, my road to the Texas Wildlife Association began 10 years ago in Dallas, Texas, and it ends this month in San Antonio. In reality, my road began over 40 years ago on a small ranch in Throckmorton, Texas where I found a faith yearning for light and a cause worthy of fight. The long road led me away from the comfort of my young family, whom I love so much, and the financial promise of my legal career, upon which my family depends so much, to Abilene, Albany, Amarillo, Austin, Boerne, Brownwood, Comfort, Dallas, Falfurrias, Fort Worth, Fredericksburg, Georgetown, Harlingen, Hillsboro, Houston, Jacksboro, Johnson City, Junction, Kerrville, Killeen, Lubbock, McAllen, Mertzon, Robstown, San Angelo, San Antonio (ad infinitum), Throckmorton, Wichita Falls, and all points in between with no compensation and little reimbursement. The road traveled merited the cost, because I believed in the faith and the fight of the Members of the Texas Wildlife Association. Along the road, I met my friends, I met my heroes, and I met my adversaries. Every one of you made me better. In the final analysis, I hope you will allow that I made the Texas Wildlife Association better. My Presidency started with three goals, and I have not waivered in my strong belief they were the right decisions at the right time for the betterment of the Texas Wildlife Association: (1) Financial Stewardship. Insolvency in the name of expediency lacks leadership. Therefore, we took the following steps: outsourced the cost of TWA merchandise, decreased payroll liability, decreased the cost of the Texas Wildlife magazine, decreased internal debt obligations, decreased the cost of food and beverage at the annual convention, increased revenue from convention registration, increased advertising revenue, increased Membership revenue, and increased revenue from each and every TWA program-line by line. We did all of this and moved into a newer, larger, and more efficient office space. Today, our income statement is in the black, our balance sheet is transparent, and our Membership numbers have reached an all-time high. (2) Organizational Discipline. Any successful organization depends on a clear line of communication and management. As President, I made it clear that the Chief Executive Officer managed the entire staff on a daily basis. In turn, the CEO answers to the Officers and the Executive Committee. Ultimately, we all answer to the Members. This strategy requires discipline and thick skin. Potentates will always challenge you for their own egocentric reasons. Yet, as President you must make decisions for the best interest of the entire organization, not a select few, and that is exactly what I did. (3) Trust the Landowner. The greatest threat to our organization is the temptation to dictate our subjective ethics upon the yoke of every private landowner. The audacity that somehow we know better than the landowners practicing their covenant with the land. The private landowners of Texas, sometimes right sometimes wrong, provide the greatest opportunity for conservation and protection of freedom in the world. There is no better road to take. Always trust, and forever protect. Trust is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see, a reverence for the Creator, not the created, and a belief that in the heart of a true landowner you will find the best ethics. Now my road takes me back to what lit my passion in the beginning: protecting and preserving a small family ranch on the low fence plains of West Texas‌for one more day. I have learned so much from each of you, and I will be forever grateful to all of you, the Members of the Texas Wildlife Association. Thank you. God Bless you. I will see you along the road.

Mission Statement of the Texas Wildlife Association

Serving Texas wildlife and its habitat, while protecting property rights, hunting heritage, and the conservation efforts of those who value and steward wildlife resources.

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TEXAS WILDLIFE

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Glen Webb, President, Abilene Greg Simons, Vice President, San Angelo Marcus T. Barrett IV, Treasurer, San Antonio Vacant, Second Vice President for Programs For a complete list of TWA Directors, go to www.texas-wildlife.org

PROFESSIONAL STAFF/CONTRACT ASSOCIATES Administration & Operation Gary Joiner, Chief Executive Officer Quita Hill, Director of Finance and Operations Kari Hudspeth, Office Administrator

Outreach & Member Services David Brimager, Director of Marketing and Partner Relations Kendra Roller, Director of Member Relations Kathy Dalgleish, Membership Coordinator

Programs Helen Holdsworth, Conservation Legacy Program Director Koy Coffer, Education Program Specialist Kassi Scheffer, Education Program Specialist Courtney Brittain, Web Program Consultant Mary Pearl Meuth, Education Program Contractor Lynnsey Dohmen, Education Program Contractor Leslie Wittenburg, Education Program Contractor Elanor Dean, Education Program Contractor Toni Purnell, Education Program Contractor Amanda Crouch, Education Program Contractor Justin Dreibelbis, Hunting Heritage Program Director COL(R) Jerry B. Warden, Texas Youth Hunting Program Director COL(R) Chris Mitchell, TYHP Field Operations Coordinator Barbara Scheib, TYHP Administrative Assistant Kara Starr, Hunting Heritage Program Assistant

Advocacy Joey Park, Legislative Program Coordinator

MAGAZINE CORPS Gary Joiner, Executive Editor Kim Rothe, Consulting Publications Coordinator/Editor David Brimager, Consulting Editor Lorie Woodward Cantu, Special Projects Editor Cross Timbers Marketing.com, Design & Layout Publication Printers Corp., Printing, Denver, CO

COLUMNISTS/CONTRIBUTORS Ralph Winingham Henry Chappell Lorie Woodward Cantu Dale Rollins, Ph. D. Billy Higginbotham, Ph. D. Borderlands Research Institute for Natural Resource Management, Sul Ross State University-Alpine Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, Texas A&M University-Kingsville Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture, Stephen F. Austin State University-Nacogdoches Texas Wildlife is published monthly by Texas Wildlife Association, 3660 Thousand Oaks Dr., Suite 126, San Antonio, Texas 78247. E-mail address: twa@texas-wildlife.org POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Texas Wildlife Association, 3660 Thousand Oaks Dr., Suite 126, San Antonio, Texas 78247. The Texas Wildlife Association (TWA) was organized in 1985 for the purpose of serving as an advocate for the benefit of wildlife and for the rights of wildlife managers, landowners and hunters in educational, scientific, political, regulatory and legislative arenas. TEXAS WILDLIFE is the official TWA publication and has widespread circulation throughout Texas and the United States. All rights reserved. No parts of these magazines may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without express written permission from the publisher. Copyrighted 2013 Texas Wildlife Association. Views expressed by contributors are not necessarily those of the Texas Wildlife Association. Similarities between the name Texas Wildlife Association and those of advertisers or state agencies are coincidental, and do not indicate mutual affiliation, unless clearly noted. Members who move should send new address and current membership classification to headquarters. TWA reserves the right to refuse advertising.

For advertising information, contact David Brimager at (800) 839-9453 3660 Thousand Oaks Dr., Suite 126, San Antonio, TX 78247 or e-mail dbrimager@texas-wildlife.org.


TEXAS WILDLIFE

Mission Impacts

july

Justin,

Volume 29 H Number 3 H 2013

Just wanted to say “Thank You” for a great time Saturday night in Brenham. We really enjoyed the fellowship and great food, and you did an awesome job with the awards presentation. Also, the scholarships that were handed out just goes to show what we sportsman can accomplish.

8 Rattlesnakes by henry chappell

34 Wildlife of the High Plains by Russell a. Graves

40 Landowners Win

Landmark Case Against Pipeline; Set Precedent

Tim Webb Caddo Mills, Texas Editor’s Note: Thank you, Tim, for the very nice note to TWA Hunting Heritage Program Director Justin Dreibelbis. Congratulations on your recognition at the Texas Big Game Awards Sportsman’s Celebration in Brenham on May 18 (TBGA Regions 5, 6, and 7). We’re glad that you enjoyed the evening celebration and fellowship, and we hope your certificate is displayed proudly! (Photo above is Tim Webb, right, receiving a Scored Entry Certificate for his white-tailed deer harvested in Hunt County, with Tommy Kolwes of Capital Farm Credit).

by colleen schreiber

44 Voluntary Conservation

Practices by TPWD

48 Texas Timberdoodles

by daniel sullines and warren c. Conway

Hello Ms. Dean! I just wanted to send you message telling you how much the students and teachers enjoyed the Awesome Opossums video conference today. The video conference was very, very informative! Your presenter was excellent! She was one of the best I've seen! Kudos! Our teachers were very impressed and, alongside their students, learned a few new things about opossums, too! Thank you for hosting such a great video conference! We hope to register for more soon!

14

Issues and Advocacy

Many TWA Successes Highlight 83rd Legislature by Gary Joiner

16

hunting heritage

20

conservation legacy

Texas Big Game Awards – Landowner of the Year by Justin Dreibelbis

Reaching Across Texas with L.A.N.D.S. Outreach by Kassi Scheffer

24 Keep It Clean

by Ralph Winingham

26 The Houndsman:

Stephanie Young, Campus Technologist, Meadows Elementary School Ft. Hood, Texas

Henry McIntyre (1937-2012) by Henry Chappell

Editor’s Note: Thank you, Stephanie! Your note to TWA Education Program Contractor Elanor Dean is very much appreciated. Jack the opossum is the star of the popular Distance Learning program (see above photo). He and presenter Kameron Bean of San Antonio are wonderful in teaching classrooms across the state about opossums. For more information about TWA Distance Learning programs, go to http://www.texas-wildlife.org/program-areas/outreach-programs#Distance Learning.

28 Do You Know Your Water? by Dr. Billy Higginbotham

30 The Road to Recovery

by John Edwards, Masahiro Ohnishi, and Bonnie J. Warnock

MAGAZINE OF THE TEXAS WILDLIFE ASSOCIATION

Coming next month

On the Cover

The August issue features an update on the status of the West Texas Pronghorn Antelope. Mike Tewes of the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute provides a research report on bobcats. Steve Nelle writes “What is a Weed?” Plus, regular columns on native plants, quail and TWA program reports.

This super photo of a western diamondback was taken by photographer Laurie Hall, who lives with her husband on the Waggoner Ranch near Vernon in Wilbarger County. Hall said that the snake kept showing up on their porch, so they transported it in a snake bucket to a remote pasture on the ranch. It wasn’t happy about relocating and bowed up for the camera. Read all about rattlers in Henry Chappell’s article on page 8.

juLy 2013

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Rattlesnakes

www.texas-wildlife.org

5


TEXAS WILDLIFE

Meetings and events

For information on hunting seasons, call the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department at (800) 792-1112, consult the 2012-2013 Texas Parks and Wildlife Outdoor Annual, or visit the TPWD website at www.tpwd.state.tx.us.

July July 8-12 Bass Brigade, Santa Anna. For more information, contact Helen Holdsworth at hholdsworth@texas-wildlife.org or Kassi Scheffer at kscheffer@texas-wildlife.org.

July 18 Wildlife for Lunch Webinar, Water for Wildlife, presented by Steve Nelle. For more information, contact Helen Holdsworth at hholdsworth@texas-wildlife.org. July 21-25 Waterfowl Brigade, Tennessee Colony. For more information, contact Helen Holdsworth at hholdsworth@texas-wildlife.org or Kassi Scheffer at kscheffer@texas-wildlife.org. July 27 TBGA Sportsman’s Celebration, Region 4 & 8, Y.O. Ranch Hotel and Conference Center, Kerrville. For more information, contact Justin Dreibelbis at jdreibelbis@texas-wildlife.org.

July 11-14 WildLife 2013, TWA’s 28th Annual Convention, JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa. For more information, visit www.texas-wildlife. org or call TWA headquarters at (800) 839-9453. (See pages 38-41 of this issue for more details). July 14-18 North Texas Buckskin Brigade, San Angelo. For more information, contact Helen Holdsworth at hholdsworth@texas-wildlife.org or Kassi Scheffer at kscheffer@texas-wildlife.org.

July 31 - August 4 Ranch Brigade, Burnet. For more information, contact Helen Holdsworth at hholdsworth@texas-wildlife.org or Kassi Scheffer at kscheffer@texas-wildlife.org.

2013 SCHEDULE JULY 18

Water for Wildlife Steve Nelle

AUGUST 15

Brush Sculpting with Wildlife in Mind Ken Cearley

SEPTEMBER 19

Deer Antlers as a Management Tool David Hewitt

OCTOBER 17

Wild Turkey Management Jim Cathey

NOVEMBER 14

october october 5 Lone Star Water Forum, Brenham. For more information, contact Helen Holdsworth at hholdsworth@texas-wildlife.org.

corrections

Wild Pig Management Billy Higginbotham The Texas Wildlife Association and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension sponsor lunchtime webinars one Thursday of each month. If you are not able to attend the live webinar, each presentation is archived on the TWA website.

It’s Easy! This fantastic photo of a mountain lion appeared on page 13 of the May issue of Texas Wildlife magazine. However, credit for the photo was incorrect. The photo was taken in the Sierra Diablo Mountains almost three years ago by Mike Pittman with TPWD. Many thanks to Mike for allowing TWA to use the photo, and we apologize for the publication error.

On the day of the webinar, simply go to https://texas-wildlife.webex.com, and click on the title of the webinar you wish to attend. The webinar series provides sound, sciencebased wildlife management options delivered by experts to you in the comfort of your own home or office.

NO NEED TO TRAVEL! Each web-based seminar is fully interactive and allows you to engage the experts, make comments and ask questions during the course of the presentation.

QUESTIONS? In the June issue of Texas Wildlife, we reported that A.J. Downs’ opening morning whitetail scored 253 3/8. Since that time, two veteran Boone & Crockett (B&C) judging panels have scored the deer at 256 4/8. The Texas Big Game Awards (TBGA) will accept this new official B&C score which will make the Downs whitetail the highest scoring nontypical entered in the TBGA during the 2012-2013 season and the largest ever to come from a low fence property.

Don’t miss a thing! Follow us on:

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TEXAS WILDLIFE

july 2013

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Photo by Laurie Hall

R attlesnake S

Western diamondback

Article by Henry chappell

O

n a clear, crisp spring morning in 1984, while easing along a brushy slope in the Davis Mountains, I halted my stride; and, with surprising calm, regarded a rattlesnake coiled on a rock a few inches below the sole of my boot. I hopped backward on one leg. The snake never moved. Having recently moved from Kentucky, where I was born and raised, I didn’t recognize the species. But there’s no mistaking a rattlesnake. What I now suspected was a mottled rock rattlesnake, my host called a “pink rock rattler.” He did as I assumed he would – what I thought he should do – and killed it with a stick. He lifted the dead snake by its rattles. We estimated its length at a bit less than two feet. I recall now, after nearly 30 years, the lovely pink scales and rich mottling coiled on that flat rock. About a year later, on another cool morning just after the end of spring turkey season, a close friend and I walked along a game trail in the western Cross Timbers, near Eastland. My friend is a big man, and when he leapt sideways, he nearly knocked me down. Then, I saw why he jumped. The biggest western diamond-

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TEXAS WILDLIFE

july 2013

back I’ve ever seen lay coiled along the side of the trail. My friend had stepped well within striking range. Like the little rattler in the Trans-Pecos, this big fellow never moved. I killed the snake with a head shot from my .22. My friend, who is about 6’2”, held the snake up by its tail. Its head nearly touched the ground. The rest of the day and for some time afterward, we talked about that snake. Its size. The damage it could’ve done. We were both 24 years old, cocky, unreflective, and happy to have a good snake story. We never considered that a sixfoot rattler might’ve been nearly our age. Although I grew up in a culture in which venomous snakes were nearly always killed on sight, I wasn’t raised that way. My father, a mountaineer from southeastern Kentucky, held a sympathy for all snakes that rural folks in gentler country found shocking, if not appalling. Although people of the Southern Appalachians aren’t known for gentleness and philosophical tendencies, I’ve often noticed among even the roughest of them, intense interest in, and empathy toward, all kinds of wild things. If a garter snake took up resi-


Photo by Laurie Hall

Photo by Wyman Meinzer

dence in our pole beans, Dad would warn ity while killing and eating, strikes me us boys not to “bother my little snake.” as the purest reflection of an indifferent Or, if he saw one of us heading toward universe. the corncrib with a hoe, he’d say, “You’d Around the age of 30, I stopped killing better not kill my big, pretty blacksnake.” rattlesnakes, not because I developed an I confess that while my affection for affinity for them, but because I underfurred and feathered creatures approachstood that they fulfill an important ecoes childish sentimentality – a trait that logical role. confuses non-hunters – I have trouble At the risk of spinning a just-so story working up much empathy with snakes. – common in these days of pop evoluSure, I find some of the colorful nontionary theorizing – I’ll venture that near venomous species appealing, and I deuniversal revulsion toward slithering, light in the little rat snakes that hunt in venomous things is nothing more than my vegetable garden and sometimes land ancestral memory back to a time when in my wheelbarrow, along with a spadeful suffering and death often came from of compost. But a constrictor slowly sufthings unseen, like a young child’s natural focating prey, or any large snake swallowfear of the dark, when large predators stir. ing a mammal, strikes me as hideously For most of us, then, concern for rattlecruel, even though I know that “cruelty” snakes and their kin requires intellectual has no meaning in the wild. effort. Care requires mindfulness, which Male western diamondbacks spar over a female. Yet, knowing and feeling share only the begins with study. I need this exercise as thinnest connection. So a well-fed housemuch as anyone. cat toying with a screaming cottontail raises in me something akin Nine rattlesnake species inhabit Texas: three “primitive” forms, to hate, while a reptilian predator being nothing but itself elicits of the genus Sistrurus, and six “advanced” forms, of the genus horror and disgust. A snake’s unknowing, unblinking equanim- Crotalus. The western massasauga, found in the grasslands of the central Rolling Plains, and the desert massasauga, of the Trans-Pecos, western Panhandle, and the lower Rio Grande Valley, are called “primitive” because of nine enlarged scales on the top of the head. Western massasaugas are light gray, with rich brown, oval markings along the back and mottling along the sides. Adults average about two feet in length. “Advanced” rattlesnakes have many small scales on top of the head, most likely an adaptation that increases flexibility for swallowing large prey. The western diamondback is the best known – some would say most notorious – rattlesnake in Texas, as well as the most abundant and widespread, found in every part of the state, except deep East Texas. The average diamondback runs 3 ½ to 4 ½ feet, but old-timers can reach 7 feet. Consistent with its name, the western diamondback sports light-bordered brown diamonds along its back. Alternating white and black rings along the tail, just above the rattles, account for the common nickname, “coon-tail.” The thick-bodied timber rattlesnake, or “canebrake rattler,” inhabits the woodlands in the eastern third of the state. It’s most easily identified by its solid black tail. Adults average 4 1/2 feet. In Texas, the timber rattlesnake is classified as threatened and may not be legally killed. Another “primitive” East Texas pit viper, the secretive yet pugnacious pygmy rattlesnake, doesn’t assume the coiled, defensive posture of the larger rattlers. Gray, with black blotches and tan or pale orange vertebral stripe, this little rattler rarely exceeds 30 inches in length. Its tiny rattle can be heard from only a few feet away. The diminutive mottled rock rattlesnake lives in the mountains of the Trans-Pecos. Light pink, with mottling between dark crossbands, this beautiful rattlesnake rarely exceeds two feet in length. The patternless diamondback is a very A related subspecies, the banded rock rattlesnake is very similar rare snake, with less than a dozen of them documented – three in Haskell County, Texas. to the mottled rock rattlesnake, but darker. It inhabits the far western reaches of the state. www.texas-wildlife.org

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Photo by Wyman Meinzer

Canebrake rattlesnake, also known as timber rattlesnake, from far East Texas.

Rattlesnakes swallow prey head-first so that wings and limbs compress easily. Most rattlesnakes mate in the spring and/ or summer, and fall. While many snake species lay eggs, rattlesnakes give birth to live young. Litters average four to 10 babies. Why should we care about creatures capable of such gruesome damage? What ecological role do they play? “Rattlesnakes are extremely effective at keeping rodent populations under control,” says herpetologist Harry Greene of Cornell University. “One of the reasons they’re so effective is that they can go without eating through long periods of prey scarcity. We know from field studies that a rattlesnake population will sit out an entire season without eating, when prey isn’t available.” In Texas, king snakes and indigo snakes are important predators of adult rattlers. “We know that king snakes are immune to venom,” Greene says. “We don’t know whether or not indigo snakes are immune to pit viper venom, but they sure don’t have any trouble eating rattlesnakes.” Redtail and ferruginous hawks also kill rattlers, as do bobcats, ocelots, coyotes, foxes, and badgers. Raccoons, skunks, road runners, and jays eat baby rattlesnakes. Habitat destruction and other human activity are far greater threats than predators. “Highway mortality is huge,” Greene said. Rattlesnakes are especially vulnerable when congregated in dens during hibernation. In Rattlesnakes, folklorist J. Frank Dobie tells of a dynamited den in Oregon yielding 6,000-7,000 rattlers, and a more

Photo by Wyman Meinzer

The blacktail rattlesnake of Central and West Texas can be greenish, yellowish, or grayish, with irregular, light-bordered crossbands and black tails. Adults average 2 1/2 to 4 feet in length. The Mojave rattlesnake, of the upland desert of far West Texas, is similar in appearance to the western diamondback, though smaller and thinner. The slender, greenish or grayish prairie rattlesnake, of the West Texas grasslands, sports rounded blotches down the center of its back and can reach 5 feet in length. Contrary to popular myth, a rattlesnake’s age can’t be determined by the number of rattles. Although a rattle is added each time a snake sheds its skin, they can be torn or worn away, even though a rattlesnake keeps its tail off the ground while moving about. Like copperheads and water moccasins, rattlesnakes are pit vipers. Two heat-sens-

ing “pits” between the eyes and mouth detect the thermal signature of warm-blooded prey and predators. The rattlesnake’s eyes contain a large number of rod cells, making them well-adapted to nocturnal hunting. The presence of cone cells suggests that rattlesnakes see some color. Although they have no external ear openings, ground vibrations pass through the skeleton to a simple middle-ear. Rattlesnakes detect scent through the nostrils and flicking tongue that collects scent particles, which are carried back to the Jacobson’s organ, an auxiliary scent organ located on the roof of the mouth. Rattlesnake venom is stored in ducts located along the outer edge of the upper jaw. When the snake bites, muscles squeeze the venom into the fangs. When not in use, the fangs are folded against the palate. Adult snakes shed their fangs every six to ten weeks. At least three sets of replacement fangs behind the primary set ensure that a rattler is always ready for business. Rattlesnakes kill their prey with hemotoxic venom that destroys tissue and disrupts clotting. The venom also contains digestive enzymes that break down tissue in preparation for ingestion. The venom of the Mojave rattlesnake contains neurotoxic components that can cause severe respiratory distress due to paralysis. In general, the bigger the snake, the greater the volume of stored venom.

Western diamondback

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TEXAS WILDLIFE

Western Massasauga

july 2013


Photo by Wyman Meinzer

Photo by Wyman Meinzer

r attles n a k es

Mojave rattlesnake on Big Bend Ranch

believable account of 98 rattlers taken from a den near Coleman, Texas, in January 1923. Tellingly, he writes, “I have no objection to scientific facts; I expect to put down some of them; but I propose to include yarns and gossip about rattlesnakes heard from people who never looked inside a scientific book.” Greene has looked inside a few scientific books and has spent countless hours observing rattlers and tracking snakes carrying surgically implanted radio transmitters. His studies suggest that we’ve drastically underestimated the complexity of rattlesnake social interaction. I had assumed that rattlesnakes, like other reptiles and fish, produce large numbers of fully-functioning offspring and immediately abandon them to chance, unlike mammals, which produce fewer, helpless offspring that require parental investment. It’s not that simple. During a 1995 study of blacktail rattlenakes, Greene and his colleagues tracked a pregnant female. “We expected to come out one day and find our snake gone, having given birth and gone off looking for a meal. Instead, we found her one morning sitting in the sun, with this pile of babies on top of her. When we moved a little closer, the babies crawled into the burrow, and the mom backed into the burrow after

Photo by Laurie Hall

Photo by Wyman Meinzer

A rattlesnake den in winter, with several western diamondbacks sunning on the west side of a rocky ridge.

Rock rattlesnake

RATTLER RULES Venomous snakebites are extremely rare. According to the South Texas Poison Center, about 7,000 venomous snake bites occur in the United States annually. Of those, only five to six are fatal, usually because the victim didn’t receive prompt medical attention. Yet Harry Greene stresses that rattlesnakes are dangerous and should be treated with the utmost respect. “But these are not aggressive animals,” he says. “Even the feistiest western diamondback would like nothing better than for you to go away so that he doesn’t have to deal with you.”

Greene recommends snake-proof chaps for walking though rattlesnake country. Otherwise, avoiding snake bite is a matter of common sense. Don’t put your hands where you can’t see them, and look carefully before sitting down, stepping over logs, or clambering up rocky slopes. If bitten, head straight to the nearest hospital.

www.texas-wildlife.org

11


Photo by Wyman Meinzer

them, rattling. We’ve discovered that this is completely routine. The mom stays with her babies for about 10 days after they’re born. Then, the babies shed their skins for the first time, and it’s all over. They disperse, and the mom, who hasn’t eaten in months, heads for the nearest wood rat nest.” Other observations suggest that rattlers are more than pre-programmed killers. Greene watched a big rattler crawl into a shady ravine. “It stopped suddenly and flicked its tongue for 13 minutes. I later found a chipmunk runway there. After locating the chemical signal that indicated he might catch prey, he backed into an ambush point and sat there. Two minutes later, the snake made a crook in his neck as if fighting with another male for a female and pushed down a dead fern that would’ve been in the way had he struck at a chipmunk. So he was solving a problem that would arise hours or even days later, with a technique that he’d

Prairie rattlesnake

normally use to solve a social problem. I was astounded,” he said. Ultimately, though, concern for rattlesnakes reflects concern for ecological health and our natural heritage. Greene said, “When you find a big male western diamondback, it’s probably a 15-year-old to 20-year-old snake. That’s an old guy that has managed to stay out of trouble, eat his rabbits and cotton rats and find a female every year. I would like to promote a view of nature in which if an animal isn’t trying to kill you, and it’s in a place where you’d like to maintain some wilderness values, then a big old rattlesnake is something to be admired.”

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Photo by Wyman Meinzer

r attles n a k es

Black-tailed rattlesnake in the Davis Mountains

snake bite Article by Misty L. Sumner

It’s funny how one moment can change everything, literally everything. A single action taken in a single moment can have consequences that overshadow everything you’ve done and possibly everything you ever will do. That moment for me was when I stepped out into my front yard in August 2011. It probably is important to note that I happened to step out into my front yard, bare-footed, before the sun came up, without a flashlight, in West Texas, in one of the most active times of the year for rattlesnakes. Something I would encourage each and every one of you not to do. On the morning of August 30, 2011, I was bitten by a fourfoot western diamondback rattlesnake. After an extremely fast 50-mile drive to the Culberson County hospital in Van Horn and four vials of anti-venom, the Culberson County hospital quickly decided to hand me over to the trauma hospital in El Paso 120 miles farther west. After a not very fun ambulance ride, where I learned morphine was not my friend, I made it to the hospital in El Paso and soon learned that fentanyl, vicodin and a few other drugs were not my friends, either. I spent the next two days in the Intensive Care Unit and received another 20 vials of anti-venom, watching and feeling the swelling migrate up and across my body, only to finally stop six inches below my armpits and begin to subside. A probe placed in my calf took the guess work out of whether or not I should have the muscle groups cut apart to relieve the pressure building in my leg. I was extremely fortunate to not have to have the procedure, aptly named a “fasciotomy,” performed. I can’t describe the range of emotions and agony that I went through. Little did I know that this was only the beginning of the journey, and I haven’t seen the end, yet. After two days in ICU and two weeks in the trauma ward, I took yet another ambulance ride to a rehab hospital, where I spent the next 17 days. The nerves in my leg, and everywhere the venom had migrated, were hyper-sensitized. A slight, even feathery touch to any of the affected areas resulted in agonizing pain. I spent the days there working with physical therapists on my body that had been laying still for too long, and I learned to use a walker and wheelchair. One physical therapist worked strictly with desensitizing my leg. She was very good, but Lord did I hate going to those sessions. I have shared enough about the rehab, already, but I will share one of the toughest moments there, because it was that moment that made me realize and appreciate the support I had throughout my recovery. Apparently, I shared my pain with everyone in the room, as well as my friends and family, because when I turned around from one treatment that I came to call my “water torture,” there wasn’t a dry eye to be found. It seems that one can stifle the screams, but sometimes, it just isn’t possible to stop the tears from running down your face. I share this with you to offer and emphasize some unsolicited advice. When in snake country, do not let your guard down. Wear snake boots or snake leggings, whenever possible, and never, ever, ever walk out into the darkness without a flashlight. I did, and I have come to the conclusion that no matter what else I do in my life, I will forever be “that girl that was snake bit”. Misty L. Sumner is a Natural Resource Specialist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. She is a Texas Wildlife Association Director, a member of the Texas Wildlife Association Executive Committee, TWA Life Member and current President of the Southwest Section of The Wildlife Society. Misty is pictured with TWA Hunting Heritage Program Director Justin Dreibelbis in February 2012 at the TWA Board of Directors meeting in Fort Worth, approximately five months after her rattlesnake bite in August 2011.


issues and Advocacy

MAKING A DIFFERENCE

article by gary joiner

Many TWA Successes Highlight 83rd Legislature The Texas Wildlife Association identified a core list of policy issues as Legislative Priorities for the 83rd Legislature prior to the regular session’s start. Over 6000 filed bills later, and upon the regular session’s adjournment on May 27, 2013, TWA characterizes the session as being successful for not only those bills supported by TWA that were approved, but successful as a result of those bills opposed by TWA that were defeated. Not all of the legislative measures promoted by TWA were successful in the 140-day regular session, which is disappointing and more work remains, if specific policy positions are to be pursued again in 2015. At the same time, the Legislature did not approve any bills that TWA actively opposed during the session. TWA was

successful in nearly each legislative effort in which its principles and positions were clearly communicated and heard. Over 1400 bills were approved by the Legislature in the regular session. As of this writing, the 83rd Legislature was in a first called session by Governor Perry to consider the issues of redistricting, funding of transportation infrastructure projects, abortion and juvenile justice. A special “Thank You” to TWA Legislative Program Coordinator Joey Park for all of his outstanding work and representation in Austin. Special thanks to the TWA Legislative Committee and Chairman Mac Stringfelow and to all of the great TWA volunteer leaders, members, and supporters who effectively advocated on behalf of the organization this session.

TWA Legislative Priorities Eminent Domain “We have made great strides in assuring the laws of this state protect private property owners from government intrusion and unfair takings. We will continue to monitor these efforts to ensure that nothing occurs to amend or lessen the reform accomplishments and protections that have been achieved, and if additional opportunities become available to further strengthen these laws, TWA will support passage and ensure that our member’s needs are addressed in the legislative effort.” accomplished The biggest legislative battleground on eminent domain reform involved efforts relating to the common carrier permit application process for private pipeline companies at the Texas Railroad Commission. The issue became a legislative stalemate. Neither the bill supported by TWA (HB 3547 by State Rep. Renee Oliveira) nor the bill opposed by TWA (HB 2748 by State Rep. Tryon Lewis) were approved by lawmakers. These applications are submitted by private pipeline companies. If these application permits are approved, then private companies are automatically granted the power of eminent domain to condemn private property to construct a pipeline. The intent of HB 3547 (supported by TWA) was to create a meaningful process for review and approval of these applications. Without these requirements, private property rights will be compromised and

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the interests of Texas landowners not adequately protected. The issue of common carrier pipeline applications may very well be a topic of an interim study by the Legislature. Funding for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Fund 9 appropriations “We have watched in recent sessions as the department’s budget has been cut due to statewide budget shortfalls. Programs and personnel have been reduced, even though hunting and fishing license sales have provided more revenue than has been appropriated. Fund estimates are as high as $75 million in un-appropriated revenue from these funds. There will be efforts to reduce these fund balances and restrict the Legislature from certifying the budget with these unexpended balances. TWA will support these efforts and ensure that the money paid by sportsmen and sportswomen are available to TPWD for the programs and personnel in which the funds are intended.” accomplished The Legislature restored many of the cuts to TPWD's budget in recent years with increases in appropriations for the coming biennium, including the utilization of account balances in dedicated funds to which sportsman’s dollars had been deposited. TPWD’s major priorities were funded either in full or in part. Emergency items were addressed. TPWD’s Legislative Appropriations Re-

quest (LAR) included a base budget request of $507 million and a request for additional funding totaling $103 million in six exceptional items. In addition, TPWD had two key emergency items that needed additional funding to support – recovery efforts at Bastrop State Park and replacement of a helicopter that is absolutely essential to performing mission critical activities such as law enforcement surveillance, emergency response, and wildlife surveys. The Legislature approved almost all of TPWD’s exceptional item requests for additional funding in Article XI of the state budget. The exceptional items that were approved include, in two-year biennial amounts: • For item one requesting about $18.9 million for state parks, the Legislature approved close to $17.9 million. • For item two requesting $11.9 million to restore capital budget reductions, the Legislature approved $10.4 million. • For item three requesting $40 million for capital repairs and construction, the Legislature recommended funding $8 million for Fund 9/fisheries and wildlife facility capital construction and $11 million in bonds for repairs at any existing TPWD facility. • The Legislature approved all of item four, providing $13 million to restore fish and wildlife funding. Water “Finding a source of revenue to fund the


many twa successes highlight 83rd legislature

State Water Plan will be prominent in many of the water discussions this session. There may also be additional issues pertaining to the State Water Plan, as well as possible changes to issues related to groundwater management and groundwater conservation district rules. TWA will evaluate each of these proposals to ensure that our member’s interests are addressed and protected. TWA will also ensure that there is nothing done that will reverse or weaken the positive changes made in SB 332 last session (vested water rights for landowners in this state). Surface water management will also be an issue, as lakes continue to dry up. Agriculture water rights have been altered in recent years to protect surface water levels in certain parts of the state.” accomplished Governor Perry has signed HB 4 by State Rep. Allan Ritter that creates the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) – a water infrastructure bank that operates as a revolving fund for financing projects included in the State Water Plan. HB 1025 by State Rep. Jim Pitts and SJR 1 by State Sen. Tommy Williams have also been signed by the Governor. The 83rd Texas Legislature set up a historic revolving loan program available to governmental entities sponsoring local water projects, provided Texas voters the opportunity to approve a fiscally responsible investment in our water future, and dedicated $2 billion to finance the loan program, if voters approve the proposition on November 12, 2013. TWA supports the constitutional amendment established by SJR 1.

as the "Due Process" bill for deer breeders. TWA supported the Committee Substitute for SB 820 and is pleased the bill has been signed by the Governor. The new law contains agreed-to language coordinated by State Rep. Ryan Guillen, Chairman of the House Committee on Culture, Recreation, and Tourism. TWA, Texas Deer Association, and the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department supported the language of the committee substitute. TWA appreciates the leadership efforts of Chairman Guillen and his staff in crafting language that could be supported by all stakeholder entities. Specifically, the new law provides a more objective appeal system for permit holders. It allows for a thorough and fair review by a district judge. The new law requires TPWD to provide written notice in the event the department seeks to depopulate some or all of a breeder's deer herd. This gives the breeder the opportunity to seek legal counsel prior to the depopulation. The new law also allows for one-, threeand five-year deer breeder permits, instead of the current annual permit. TPWD still retains the authority to revoke breeder permits due to violations, but more defined and detailed processes are created.

ISSUES AND ADVOCACY

Other bills of interest that were approved: SB 174 by State Sen. Craig Estes was signed into law by Governor Perry on May 10, and the law becomes effective immediately. TWA supported SB 174, which added bison to the current Estray Law. The bill was brought forward by the Texas Bison Association. Under previous law, when a bison roamed from its owner's land onto another person's property, the property owner was not required to provide notice to the owner of the bison, as was the case with roaming cattle under the Estray Law. The property owner could dispose of the animal, as he saw fit. The new law strikes a balance between the private property rights of bison owners and the real property rights of neighboring landowners by adding bison to the current Estray Law. HB 677 by State Rep. Charlie Geren of Fort Worth (TWA Life Member) provides permanent exemption from unreasonable Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) rules and the agency's overreach against owners of dams where total capacity is 500 acre feet or less and in counties with a population of less than 350,000.

Deer and Wildlife Issues “We will continue to advocate for TWA positions on Hunting Heritage and fair and safe management of our state’s wildlife resources. TWA will promote its “Public Values of Wildlife on Private Lands” statement as a model for the Legislature and decision makers to guide any changes that may occur. This issue might also involve animal welfare protection efforts by the anti-hunting and HSUS groups. TWA will ensure that no changes are made that would negatively affect hunting or hunting rights for the people of this state.” accomplished The Committee Substitute for SB 820 by Sen. Tommy Williams has been signed by the Governor. The new law relates to the management, breeding, and destruction of deer and to procedures regarding certain deer permits. It was commonly referred to

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H u n t i n g H e r i ta g e

MAKING A DIFFERENCE presented by

Texas Big Game Awards landowner of the year by justin dreibelbis

T

he Texas Big Game Awards (TBGA) Landowner of the Year award was created in 2012 to recognize TBGA landowners for excellence in wildlife conservation on their lands through not only habitat management, but the promotion of hunting and conservation education, as well. By recognizing these land stewards for their extraordinary efforts, we hope to illustrate the important role of Texas' private landowners in the future of our natural resources and proud hunting heritage.

King Ranch – Statewide

Originally founded in 1853 by Captain Richard King as a cattle ranch, King Ranch is considered by many to be the birthplace of wildlife conservation in Texas. Today, the ranch is made up of 825,000 acres dedicated to stewarding livestock, wildlife, land and water.

This past year, the King Ranch hosted 161 youth hunters, including this happy young man pictured with TWA Director and King Ranch Area Manager of Commercial Wildlife Operations Justin Feild.

Originally founded in 1853 by Captain Richard King as a cattle ranch, King Ranch is considered by many to be the birthplace of wildlife conservation in Texas.

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There are currently over 50 research projects being conducted on the ranch, studying everything from cattle grazing systems to wild turkey management and everything in between. The King Ranch serves as a fantastic hands-on laboratory for a number of different universities, including its hometown Texas A&M University-Kingsville. Commercial hunting is an important

economic contributor for the ranch, but ownership feels that it is important to share the ranch with the next generation of hunters as well. This past year, the King Ranch hosted 161 youth hunters from various programs, including the Texas Youth Hunting Program. It also hosted 34 Wounded Warriors on hunting trips. On a conservative harvest year, the King Ranch had 41 TBGA entries, including three deer


landowner of the year

over 200 B&C inches. At such large acreage, King Ranch is operating on a different scale than most. That being said, it is using its resources to do more than its part to manage our state’s valuable natural resources and pass on our hunting heritage to the next generation of wildlife conservationists. For these reasons, the King Ranch is the 2013 Statewide TBGA Landowner of the Year.

RRR Ranch – Region 3

Warren and Dori Blesh bought the 396acre RRR Ranch in Mills County in 1996. The ranch is named in honor of Warren’s late grandfather, Robert R. Rickard, who is

Wounded Warriors, Youth Ministry groups and numerous youth hunters. The folks at the RRR Ranch consider themselves a Small Ranch with a Big Heart and take great pride in providing as much or more access to the outdoors as the bigger guys. Their 30 TBGA Youth and First Harvest entries over the last eight years would suggest that they are doing a great job!

Flagler Ranch – Region 4

Flagler Ranch is located in Kerr County and has been owned by George Matthews since 1992. Like the owner, manager Lewis Scherer is dedicated to sound habitat management for game and non-game species, while offering this special ranch for

Bubba (center front) and Trey Henderson (center back) accept the Region 6 Landowner of the Year Award for the Pine Island Hunting and Fishing Club at the Region 5,6,7 TBGA Sportsman’s Celebration in Brenham. Presenting the award is Capital Farm Credit Regional President Tommy Kolwes (L) and TWA Hunting Heritage Program Director Justin Dreibelbis.

responsible for Warren’s deep passion for hunting and the outdoors. Warren (or "Bull," as his friends call him) says, “When riding around the RRR Ranch, we used to want to see lots of deer. Now, we want to look down to see lots of plants, grasses and forbs. We have learned that more habitat means more diversity for wildlife, thus increasing the user days each year we can share our resources.” Everything the Blesh’s do on their property ties back to getting more people a chance to experience the outdoors, and they are passionate about sharing what they have with others. They have opened their gates to many different organizations, including

hunting opportunities and natural resource education. Next hunting season will mark the 10year anniversary of the Flagler’s involvement with the Texas Youth Hunting Program. Over that time, countless numbers of families have passed through the gates to experience their first hunting experience, and the ranch estimates it has provided over 200 days of hunting opportunity to Texas youth. The Flagler Ranch also works with other organizations such as Honored American Veterans Afield (HAVA) to provide hunting experiences for our valued American military veterans. The Flagler Ranch has an extremely

HUNTING HERITAGE

active prescribed burning program and has been able to maintain a grassland savannah habitat over much of the property. One species that has benefited greatly from this management practice is the endangered Black-capped Vireo. This migratory songbird winters in Mexico and makes its way north into central and western Texas for breeding season each spring and summer. The early successional habitat that Scherer and his staff have created, combined with their active brown-headed cowbird trapping program, is exactly what the Vireos need to be successful.

Pine Island – Region 6

Pine Island, named for the 1800 acre island that was formed when the Neches River had a historic change in flow, has been in the Henderson family since 1919 and has been a sustainable source of quality timber ever since. The Henderson family has found a way to manage their pine and hardwood timber resources, while also successfully managing their wildlife resources. Many of their thinning and burning activities not only help their target species (deer, turkey, quail) but the practices also help a myriad of other east Texas wildlife. The folks at Pine Island understand they have a special place and are willing to share it with others. They have an active research component on the ranch in which they regularly collaborate with Stephen F. Austin State University, College of Forestry. They also open their gates to youth programs such as Texas Brigades, NWTF Jakes, Texas Youth Hunting Program, Boy Scouts, and many others.

Lavaca-Navidad River Authority – Region 7

In 2001, LNRA became the sole owner of the Lake Texana Palmetto Bend Project in Jackson County, after purchasing it from the United States Bureau of Reclamation. Since ownership, LNRA has been dedicated to improving the quality of deer and the quantity and diversity of wildlife on the property. LNRA has been a Texas Youth Hunting Program participant since 2007 and has provided 55 youth the opportunity to hunt deer and hogs. Hunter education programs are also conducted each year on the property. LNRA continues to go above and beyond to manage wildlife habitat and provide youth with quality hunting

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HUNTING HERITAGE

landowner of the year

experiences.

Hixon Ranch – Region 8

The Hixon family began putting their LaSalle County ranch together back in 1964 for cattle production and hunting opportunity. As time progressed, introduced invasive grasses began to take over the native plant communities and negatively affect populations of important species like bobwhite and scaled quail, Texas Tortoise and horned lizards that had once thrived on the property. White-tailed deer populations began to skyrocket at the

same time. In 2007, the family decided to shift priorities to concentrate heavily on native wildlife habitat management and hired wildlife biologist Mike Hehman as manager. The ranch uses a number of practices to manage habitat, including cattle, prescribed fire and mechanical and herbicide treatments for brush encroachment. Along with these, one of the major tools used to better the property is harvest management through the hunting of white-tailed deer. Through hunting, the Hixons have been able to lower deer numbers to a more

appropriate density, and consequently, boost deer body weights, fawn production and survival, and buck antler size. The Hixons consistently open their gates to the Texas Youth Hunting Program. Since 2007, over 100 youth hunters have harvested white-tailed deer, javelina and feral hogs across the ranch. They have given back to our veterans by hosting 24 Wounded Warriors in the past four years and consistently donate their time and resources to a number of conservation organizations and research institutions.

In Memoriam: Jacob Andrew Krebs article by Doug DuBois Jr.,

Chair, Texas Youth Hunting Program Advisory Committee

That is right…18 years old. That is much too young for a parent to lose a child, a sister to lose her brother, or friends to lose a buddy. Jacob Krebs was an extraordinary young man. For those of us lucky enough to know him, we were amazed to learn of ALL that he was involved in.

For me, I knew of his involvement with the Texas Youth Hunting Program, always ready with his deer tracking dog, Smoky, to help retrieve a wounded and seemingly lost deer. He was a valued member of the processing team at the Cave Creek Super Hunt for the past two years, helping log-in the harvested animals as they arrived and encouraging the young hunters who arrived back at camp without a harvest, telling them their time would come. In addition to his involvement with TYHP, Jacob was also a leader in another TWA-supported program – Texas Brigades. Jacob participated in the South Texas Bobwhite Brigade in 2008, the South Texas Buckskin Brigade in 2009 and Bass Brigade in 2011. He promoted the Brigades and spread the message of conservation and was invited to serve as an Assistant Leader for the South Texas Bobwhite Brigade. Jacob, and his family, were strong supporters of the Brigades mission. It was a true testament to Jacob’s full life when the pall bearers at his funeral were selected to represent the many important activities of his life. In no particular order, they were: Eagle Scout, member of the marching band, cross country runner, 4-H/FFA member, Junior ROTC Member and fellow Delayed Entry Enlistee, and combat zone WW II re-enactor with the Nimitz Museum of the Pacific. The tragedy leading to the untimely end of this vibrant life occurred as he was practicing for the Navy SEAL physical stamina test. In an attempt to lengthen his underwater endurance, he remained under the water too long, and he lost consciousness,

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thus depriving his brain of needed oxygen. As Jacob’s family and friends prayed for his recovery, God’s plan for Jacob was revealed to his parents, Mary and William Krebs. His lungs, heart, and other vital organs, as well as his bone marrow, corneas and skin tissue, could be provided to others, multiplying Jacob’s impact on the survivors he came to the aid of; one of his goals in life – to help others. In honor of Jacob’s love of the military, transplant priority was given to retired or activeduty military personnel, and on Monday evening, April 1, just hours after his brain was no longer functioning, his lungs were providing needed breath to their recipient. The town of Harper and a good portion of Gillespie and Kerr counties turned out for the funeral mass on Wednesday, April 10. It was followed by a memorial service at Harper High School on Friday, a fitting tribute to a young man who so many looked up to.


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c o n s e r vat i o n l e g a c y

MAKING A DIFFERENCE

Reaching Across Texas with L.A.N.D.S. Outreach Article by Kassi Scheffer

photos courtesy of L.A.N.D.S. Outreach

T

he L.A.N.D.S. (Learning Across New Dimensions in Science) Outreach Division of Conservation Legacy is experiencing an all-time high in each of its program areas. This growth is a result of the continued support of education-conscious foundations and donors who believe in natural resource education and the Texas educators who understand its importance. Currently, there are eight L.A.N.D.S. Outreach educators across the state, bringing wildlife and conservation education to the youth and teachers across Texas. While L.A.N.D.S. Outreach Programs differ from the amplitude of the L.A.N.D.S. Intensive Programs and curriculum, they offer educators and students with a high-quality glimpse into the world of natural resources, conservation, and private land stewardship. A 45-minute Distance Learning program may inspire a second grader to research the decline in Monarch butterfly numbers, while a skull inside a Discovery Trunk sparks the interest of a sixth-grader to learn about the profession of wildlife biology. wildlife by design

Wildlife by Design programs are interactive and hands-on wildlife and conservation-based presentations and demonstrations, led by TWA Educators in the classroom. Customizable presentations are designed to be grade specific (geared towards Kindergarten through 6th grade) and meet necessary T.E.K.S. (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) standards. Presentations fit within a classroom-length period of time (30-60 minutes) for a suggested class

A sample of hands-on materials in the Bats-a-Billion Discovery Trunk.

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size of 20-45 students. Since the inception of the Wildlife by Design concept, these presentations continue to be available to educators at no cost. Thanks to donor generosity, the Outreach Division is increasing the number of TWA Educators across the state, resulting in increased program topics, hands-on materials, and number of statewide presentations, every year. Over the past three years, the number of Wildlife by Design presentations has increased from 20 to 181 a year, from 20 schools to 117 schools a year, and from 4,713 to 22,961 students a year. Currently, program topics include Skins and Skulls CSI, Where is our Water? and Let’s Talk Turkey. Future presentations will focus on animal life cycles, reptiles and amphibians, and soil science. Discovery Trunks

Discovery Trunks are available to all educators in Texas for a reservation period of two weeks. During their two weeks with a trunk, educators are encouraged to share the hands-on materials, lessons, and resources with not only their students, but with other educators in their school and community. All Discovery Trunks are T.E.K.S. aligned and geared for grades Kindergarten through sixth grade. Just like the Wildlife by Design presentations, there is no cost to reserve a Discovery Trunk. Conservation Legacy’s Discovery Trunks are available statewide, with 60 trunks in distribution. Currently there are four trunk topics in circulation: Animal Adaptations, More Than a Drop: Aquifers Uncovered, Let’s Talk Turkey, and Texas Critters. Regional Outreach Educators distribute Discovery Trunks to Tarrant and surrounding counties, Harris and surrounding counties, and the Rio Grande Valley (Cameron, Hidalgo, and Willacy counties). For interested educators not in those specific areas, they have the opportunity to reserve a TWA Discovery Trunk from the Region 20 Education Service Center or directly from the TWA office, both in San Antonio. Outreach Educators handle all scheduling and shipping services, allowing teachers to focus their energy on education, rather than logistics. Exciting changes are on the horizon for the Discovery Trunk Program, due to a continuous high demand. Beginning in Fall 2013, educators across the state


Reaching Across Texas

CONSERVATION LEGACY

Just in time for the great Monarch migration, volunteer Cathy Downs presents The Magic of Monarchs.

will reserve their trunk using a new, customized, online reservation system. The reservation system will provide teachers with information about each Discovery Trunk, along with the current availability schedule of each trunk in their area. Teachers will be able to review the trunks’ materials, lesson topics, and T.E.K.S., and immediately schedule and confirm their Discovery Trunk reservation, months in advance. The technology of an online reservation system will significantly decrease the time spent in front of the computer and increase the teacher’s and Outreach Educator’s time educating students. In addition, by Fall 2013, three new Discovery Trunk topics will enter into circulation: Bats-a-Billion, Butterflies Flutter By, and Bird is the Word, increasing the Discovery Trunk total to 81 trunks statewide.

Each dot on the map represents a town impacted by a L.A.N.D.S. Program.

L.A.N.D.S Outreach & Intensive 2012 learning across new dimensions in science

Distance Learning

Current Distance Learning programs broadcast via videoconferencing technology to schools across Texas, and occasionally, schools across the nation. Each 45-minute live presentation is geared for and is T.E.K.S. aligned for students in grades one through six. Presenters are able to interact with several sites per presentation, while up to 50 sites follow along. Distance Learning, like all Outreach programs, is now provided to educators free of charge. Eliminating a viewing charge, along with bringing in presenters from partner organizations over the last several years, has resulted in a tremendous increase of student participants. Recent presentations include The Magic of Monarchs, Skunks and Armadillos, Awesome Opossums, Urban Occupants, Creatures of the Night, Texas Critters, ASI: Animal Skull Investigation, Let’s Talk Turkey, and BATS: LIVE on the BIG Screen! Between 2010 and 2012, the number of student participants increased six-fold!

During the Summer of 2013, current videoconferencing presentations will undergo reconstruction and become webinar programs, as well. Webinars will be available online and accessible 24/7. Prerecorded webinars will allow teachers and their students to watch a presentation when their schedule allows, whether it be as a class, or

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Reaching Across Texas

CONSERVATION LEGACY

individually in the computer lab. Live webinars, similar to videoconference programs, will allow teachers to interact with the presenter on behalf of their students, providing an interactive experience. Videoconference equipment is statewide, but many times it is not school or even district-wide, therefore, expanding to online-based programming will exponentially increase the number of potential participants. Teacher Workshops

While L.A.N.D.S. Outreach Programs are designed as self-contained programs that do not require prior knowledge or training, the Harris County area Outreach Educators are providing local educators with professional development and Continuing Education Credits, using Outreach lessons and materials to provide over 15 Teachers Workshops each year. During an Outreach Workshop, educators learn about the programs of the Texas Wildlife Association and its mission of private land stewardship, while gaining an appreciation for science in the wildlife sense, which, for some, is a completely new venture. Upon departure of a Teacher Workshop, the educators leave with a digital binder full of T.E.K.S. aligned lessons, the knowl-

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edge to incorporate the lessons into their classroom, and an understanding of why natural resource education is equally as important as all other school subjects. Between 2010 and 2012, over 1,070 schools have participated in the L.A.N.D.S. Outreach Program, for a three-year total of 193,114 students. Of these schools, 127 The number of L.A.N.D.S. Outreach youth participants in 2010, 2011, and 2012.

have participated in two or more Outreach Programs. For more information about L.A.N.D.S. Outreach Programs and how you can integrate programs into your local schools, call the TWA Headquarters at (800) 839-9453.


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TEXAS WILDLIFE

G u n s & S h oot i n g

Keep it Clean Article and Photos by

Ralph Winingham

A

s the hot summer months drag ful, you can get away with using by hour after tedious hour, it is hard a moly-coated rod and nylon for most rifle shooters to focus on brush without a bore guide. But, anything other than enjoying a cool drink while why would you want to take relaxing under an air-conditioning vent. that chance?’’ he asked. Cleaning their firearms and getting them ready In addition, a good gun vice for the fall hunting season is probably not even a that will hold a firearm in place passing thought in their minds. during the cleaning process is a Lex Webernick of Rifles Inc., in Pleasanton, very helpful item. shudders as he recalls some of the things he has Concerning the proper cleanseen brought in by his customers who have not ing schedule for a typical hunter Inserting a bore guide into the chamber of one of his followed any off-season cleaning practice. and rifle shooter, Webernick rifles, Lex Webernick of Rifles Inc., in Pleasanton, “A lot of guys will come home at the end of the custom said in addition to cleaning a prepares to clean the firearm using the technique he has season, put their rifles in a gun safe and won’t developed after years of making sure his rifles are as firearm right after the old seatake them out until the season starts again. A lot accurate as possible. son and right before a new one, of things can happen, mostly bad things, when a good rule of thumb is to give someone does that,’’ he said. any centerfire rifle a cleaning afEverything from rusted chambers to mud ter about 20-50 shots. dauber wasp nests in a rifle barrel has taught We“A fouled barrel will affect acbernick that off-season firearm maintenance is a curacy,” he said. “Some bullets good idea. foul a barrel more than others, But, even maintenance-minded shooters can go as well as some cartridges, espeto the extreme. cially ones with higher veloci“I had one guy who used a very abrasive cleaner ties, which will foul faster.” made for removing moly-coating in a heavilyOn the other side of the cleanfouled barrel and a stainless steel cleaning rod ing process, Webernick said a and brush. He cleaned the barrel so much that newly-cleaned rifle should be Using a nylon brush, rather than copper or stainless it removed all the riflings – he ended up with a steel, is one of the keys to making sure a shooter does fired once or twice to foul the not damage a rifle during the regular cleaning process smooth bore,’’ Webernick said. barrel before a sight-in group is He explained that stainless steel is quite a bit recommended to keep the firearm hitting the right spot. attempted. harder than the throat and crown of a rifle barrel “I have rarely seen a freshlyand can cause serious damage when used in the cleaning process. A cleaned barrel that will hit where it should. Normally, it only takes nick or scratch in the throat (in front of the chamber) or the crown one or two shots for it to settle in,’’ he said, adding that six or eight (the end of the barrel); or even slight damage to the riflings, will rounds through a clean barrel should produce the desired group have an impact on the accuracy of a rifle. on the target. “I recommend a nylon brush and a moly-coated cleaning rod, “If you leave a rifle in a gun safe for six months, the dry air, temand I always use a bore guide,” Webernick said. perature change, humidity, and with a wood stock that will expand A relatively inexpensive tool, the plastic bore guide is inserted and contract in the heat – all of that can affect accuracy,’’ he said. into the chamber of a rifle and keeps the cleaning rod in the center Such common sense practices as making sure all of the trigger of the rifle barrel to help prevent any possible damage to the ri- guard screws are tight – snug, but not overly tight – and that the flings, throat and crown of the barrel. scope mounts and rings are also secure are part of the process of “The bore guide is a tool everybody should use, but it is often keeping a shooting tool in proper condition. the one most people don’t use,” Webernick said. “If you are careAnother area of concern is preventing cleaning solvents or oil

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4.

5.

6.

Applying just the right amount of cleaning fluid, rather than risk fouling the action of a rifle with excess oil and grit, keeps Lex Webernick on the right track when cleaning one of his custom firearms.

from collecting in the trigger assembly of a rifle during the cleaning process. The oil-based products will produce a gummy, sticky residue that can collect dust and lock up the action. “I don’t know how many times I have seen frozen triggers, because people have allowed cleaning solvents to drizzle into the assembly,’ he said. Caution should also be taken when using the cleaning solvents that can cause damage or discolor a stock and metal finish. Manufacturers of the chemicals recommend that they be used in a well-ventilated area so the rifle cleaner can avoid inhaling the fumes. One of the exceptions to the cleaning solvent problems is available in the Hoppe’s Elite Rifle Cleaning Kit that utilizes an odorless, non-toxic and bio-degradeable gun cleaner. The kit also features nylon brushes and an aluminum cleaning rod to help prevent possible damage to riflings, throat and crown, plus detailed instructions on how to properly clean a rifle. After years of experience and to insure his customers continue to maintain a high degree of accuracy with his rifles, Webernick offers the following procedure recommendatoins to properly and safely clean a rifle: 1. Remove bolt, and insert bore guide to prevent damage to throat and to keep cleaning solvents out of the trigger assembly. 2. Use a nylon bristled brush with proper bore diameter. 3. Wrap a cotton patch around the brush

7.

8.

9.

and saturate patch with Remington Bore Cleaner. If the brush/patch is too large to push through the bore, cut the patch in half diagonally. Push brush and patch through the bore with a back and forth motion to muzzle 10 times, being careful not to damage the crown of the muzzle with brush or rod. Repeat step four with new patch saturated in Remington Bore Cleaner. May need to be repeated one to three more times. Place clean patch on nylon brush and saturate with Hoppes Bench Rest Solvent – run through bore about four times. Put new patch on nylon brush and run through bore. Repeat until patch is dry. Usually this will take two to three patches. For prolonged storage, you might choose to leave a light coat of Hoppes Bench Rest Solvent in bore, but the rifle will need to be dry patched before shooting. If the metal finish is Black Teflon, there is no need to oil the outside of the barrel or receiver parts. If the metal finish is

G u n s & S h oot i n g

A gun vise that holds the rifle in place, without causing any damage to the finish or barrel, is one of the must-have tools that Lex Webernick puts to good use when cleaning a rifle.

Matte Stainless, we recommend a light spraying of Birchwood-Casey’s Sheath Rust Preventative and wiping down. Note: Lex Webernick, who has built, cleaned and fired thousands of rifles since opening Rifles Inc., a custom lightweight rifle shop, in 1987, can be reached at www.riflesinc. com or by calling (830) 569-2055 for further information about maintaining an accurate shooting tool.

www.texas-wildlife.org

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TEXAS WILDLIFE

S p o r t i n g D ogs

THE HOUNDSMAN: Henry McIntyre (1937 – 2012)

Article by henry chappell | Photos by wyman meinzer West Texas lion hunter Henry McIntyre and his dogs.

Valentine, Texas Henry McIntyre sat in his kitchen, swatting flies, and described a sure-enough mountain lion dog. “You want a dog with a big heart and hard feet,” he said. “You don’t want no paper-footed son of a bitch.” I took his advice to heart. As of that April morning, in 2007, Henry and his hounds had caught 327 mountain lions in some of the roughest country in North America. He handles predator control on 14 huge ranches in the desert mountains in far West Texas.

Henry McIntyre ranched on the Rio Grande and roughnecked all over the country, including Alaska's North slope.

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Excellent outdoorsmen spend their entire lives in good mountain lion country and never see one. This interview had been a long time coming. Like most of his kind, Henry kept to himself. Writers were not to be trusted, because they wouldn’t understand him and his way of life, and Lord only knew what they’d say about him. Wyman Meinzer spoke to him on my behalf. When Henry learned that I’m a dog man from Kentucky – the ancestral home of the Walker hound – he gave in. “I want a hardworking, cold trailing dog that runs to catch,” he said. “A lot of hounds just like to smell that track and won’t move up. But a good dog, he smells it, moves on and up. None of that bogging down. I’ve got this old white dog out there, Ol’ Easy, that when that track gets good, that sucker will really move it. And, he’ll cold trail too. He’s got a sorry mouth on him, but when he barks, those other dogs, will cover him, just come running. Anything that slows the race is not helping catch that cat.” The phone rang. He picked it up. “I’m interviewing this boy,” he said to his wife, Terry Faye. He hung up. “What kind of dogs you run?” “Bird dogs and a mountain cur.” He considered my reply. To my great re-

lief, he said, “I’ve thought about getting me a cur-dog.” I confess that I have mixed feelings about predator control. On the one hand, I have no problem with the hunting of abundant large predators, so long as fair chase methods are employed. And, trust me, following a pack of hounds in the Trans-Pecos falls into the fair chase category. It’s not for the soft-footed or soft-headed. Likewise, I consider well-targeted predator control sound and responsible wildlife management. On the other hand, I don’t support relentless and ruthless predator hunting for the purpose of maximizing deer populations. Furthermore, I have no desire to shoot a lion that has been treed or otherwise brought to bay, although I would, for the purpose of legitimate wildlife management. I just don’t relish the thought. However, I dream of running and treeing a mountain lion (or black bear) with a fine pack of dogs. Having read J. Frank Dobie’s The Ben Lilly Legend half a dozen times, I’m a ridiculous romantic when it comes to the lore of old time houndsmen who lived their lives in the wildest places and counted on their dogs for a living. I didn’t get into the philosophy and ethics of predator hunting with Henry McIntyre. Henry ran redticks, blueticks and a style


s p o r t i n g dogs

of fast-trailing Walker or “running dog.” “I like to mix them, breed them half and half, cold trailing dogs and running dogs,” he said. Most of Henry’s dogs were out of the lines of legendary cat hunter Riley Miller, of Justiceburg, Texas. “Riley has given me a bunch of dogs over the years. People will give a rich man like Riley a lot of good dogs for breeding, and I’m glad because sooner or later, I end up with them.” Henry liked to run eight dogs at a time – five or six experienced dogs and two or three pups. He preferred smaller hounds bred for Texas conditions. “I’ve had dogs out of Colorado, and they can’t work here,” he said. They can’t take this country. When it gets 100 degrees where you are up on the horse, it’s 10 degrees hotter on the ground. And big dogs’ feet just won’t stand up in this country. Every time you put a foot down, there’s a sharp rock or sticker.” Henry hunted three to five days a week, year-round. Because it’s impractical to carry enough water for a pack of hounds, he relied on his knowledge of the mountains to lead his dogs to water holes – often nothing more than seeps or tinajas – natural water-bearing holes in the mountain rock. At times, he found himself in horrific heat, far from water. “I’ve had them go to wobbling in the summertime,” Henry said. “I’ll take them under a big cedar and sit with them until evening comes. You can’t move them across that hot ground. It’ll pull their pads right off of their feet.” He told me of a friend and fellow lion hunter who lost an entire pack to dehydration and heat exhaustion. “He was really tore up. He said, ‘I could’ve saved them if I’d just had a few pints of water.’” There were beloved dogs that died fighting lions up in rocky heights. “Just lost track of where their feet were and fell,” Henry said. One fell 200 feet. Henry made that long walk that all serious houndsmen eventually make, and he found his dog

lying still. When Henry touched him, the hound gasped. “I wet my handkerchief and wiped his mouth out, and then he took a little drink. The only thing I could figure is there was a big hackberry tree at the base of the cliff, and it broke his fall. Directly, he tried to stand up, so I picked him up and started back to the truck. About a half a mile to go, I had to put him down to rest. Well, he decided he’d just walk the rest of the way. He beat me to the truck. Laid around the kennel about a week and then went back to catching lions.” There was the young prospect out of an excellent bloodline on the verge of not making the cut. “He had a good nose and a good mouth, but you could tell he wasn’t really running to catch. I was about to give up on him.” Then, one day, the dogs had a lion bayed up in the rocks, and a young hound got too close. “That old lion just grabbed him by the ears and pulled him in and ate him up,” Henry said. “I want you to know that bastard was a firstclass lion dog from that day forward.” Though he preferred old-style dogs, Henry wasn’t averse to technology. Like most modern houndsmen, he used tracking collars to keep up with hounds. “I think they’re the greatest invention that ever was,” he said. As for innovation and adaptability, Henry likes to quote Ben Lilly. “If you follow a pack of hounds for a day and don’t learn something, you need to go back to plowing.” We walked out to his kennel. He opened the gate, and a four-month-old Walker pup bounded out to meet us, all feet, ears, tongue and nose. “I believe he’ll make a lion dog,” Henry said. The adult dogs – powerful long-eared, bugle-voiced hounds that bespoke another age – whined, wagged their tails and sidled up to be petted. They’d fight a lion but would lick a child’s face. I couldn’t help but notice Henry’s limp. There will never be another Ben Lilly, but I’m blessed to have met one of his heirs.

Henry McIntyre bonding with a fine pair of Walker puppies. "A lion dog needs a big heart and hard feet," he said.

Henry and Terry Faye McIntyre at home.

www.texas-wildlife.org

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TEXAS WILDLIFE

fish & fishing

Do You Know Your Water? Article and Photos by

Dr. Billy Higginbotham, Professor and Extension Wildlife and Fisheries Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

W

ell…do you? Your first response is probably to wonder: “What kind of question is that?” The simple response is that the more you know about your pond and its fish populations, the better you are able to manage those resources and recognize potential problems before they get out of hand. Let’s take a look at some important examples. Pond Size/Volume Every pond owner should know the surface area in acres and average depth in feet of their pond resources. Fish stocking rates, carrying capacity, fertilization, lime and some herbicides are applied on a surface area basis. Surface area in acres (43,560 square feet equals one acre) and average depth in feet are multiplied together to give you the volume of water your pond holds in acre-feet of water – what some pond owners refer to as “water acres.” One acre-foot of water is equivalent to one surface acre one foot deep (43,560 cubic feet equals one acre foot) and represents about 326,000 gallons of water. Most herbicides are applied on an acrefoot basis. Measurement of surface area can be accomplished by range finder, Internet mapping or the old tried and true “pacing it off ” method. Depth can only be measured by physical soundings taken via boat along at least two transects (think of an “X” pattern), either with a depth sounder or using a calibrated rope/anchor or pole. What if your pond no longer holds water at the same level as previous years, even after plentiful runoff rains? Although not all that common, this could be an indication that a leak has developed in the pond bottom, the dam or the interface between the two. A dropping water level while other area ponds remain fairly stable may be such

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an indicator. Carefully examine the back of the dam for wet areas that may indicate a leak. Water flowing downward out of the pond bottom will be much more difficult to detect. Water Color Does your pond typically remain clear throughout the year? Or, perhaps the water takes on the classic green tint during the The presence of beavers can mean the loss of valuable growing season, indicative of a shoreline trees or even damage to the pond dam or spillway. phytoplankton bloom and the basis for a healthy food chain. Knowing what’s a “normal” color for your pond during various seasons can be valuable information should that water color suddenly change. If your bass lake suddenly muddied up to the color of peanut butter and does not clear on its own, then the lack of visIf other ponds in the immediate area remain full while one ibility necessary for sunlight pond’s water level recedes, a leak in the pond dam or bottom penetration causes the food may be the culprit. chain to break down, and the entire lake will become less productive. A should closely observe the pond for signs quick check of the pond’s watershed (the of oxygen depletion. Hot foot it down to area that drains into the pond during rain the pond at daylight when oxygen it is at events) may reveal the need to correct some its daily lowest level, and observe for signs erosion that led to the muddy condition. If of fish “piping” – swimming lethargically at the pond that turned muddy is primarily the surface. If the pond takes on a gold or managed for catfish that are being supple- yellowish color, that might be indicative of mentally fed, there is no cause for alarm, as a golden alga bloom that could be toxic to the impacts of the lack of visibility are neu- fish, but in many cases, that color change tralized since it is not necessary for a food occurs in the latter stages of a fish die-off already in progress. chain to develop. What if the pond was clear or light green in color and suddenly turned brown or Fish Populations Knowing your water also means knowcoffee-colored overnight? That may be an ing something about your fish. If you have indication that the phytoplankton populaa catfish pond, and the fish are supplemention or “bloom” died, and the pond owner


fish & fishing

tally fed, they should respond similarly to your offering each day – unless unusual weather conditions occur. If there have been no recent weather changes (cold front, heavy rainfall) and the fish suddenly go “off feed,” then give some thought about the possibility of water quality problem (low oxygen) or perhaps a disease issue beginning to emerge. The same applies to fish that surface to feed with unusual growths or discolorations visually apparent. Close observations of other species caught by hook and line can also reveal something about the health of the pond. Sick fish seldom bite, and almost all fish harbor some degree of parasite loads. However, any unusual growths or abnormalities on numerous individual fish may be indicative of a problem that should be addressed by consulting a fisheries biologist. Have your largemouth bass or channel catfish become unusually “skinny?” That observation could well mean a nutrition issue of either lack of supplemental feed, in the case of catfish, or inadequate forage fish availability for your bass. Aquatic Weeds Were aquatic weeds a problem last year? Has a new weed species appeared and is growing and spreading across the pond at an alarming rate? Aquatic weeds left unchecked can cause problems for the pond owner. Excess vegetation may simply limit pond access or otherwise hamper recre-

ational activities such as boating, swimming or fishing. However, in severe cases, the pond’s use as an irrigation or livestock watering source is reduced. From a fish population standpoint, aquatic vegetation covering no more than about one-third of the surface area may be Catfish that suddenly go “off feed” for no apparent reason may be providing additional cover indicative of a water quality or disease issue. and/or habitat that harbor beneficial food organisms. But, once that coverage becomes more extensive, then the the shoreline may indicate a fish die-off has largemouth’s ability to access forage fish occurred or, perhaps, a predatory populamay be reduced, and bass growth and con- tion of river otters has taken up residence. Trash and other signs of recent fishing acdition may suffer in the near future. tivity may be a clue indicating the presence of “two-legged predators” that may or may Miscellaneous Issues For many landowners, ponds in the not have permission to angle for your fish. Knowing your water requires careful ob“Back 40” may be visited infrequently, at best. Take the time to walk the shoreline, in servation on your part. It may take a little order to take mental notes on what is hap- time and effort, but how can gazing out pening at that point in time. What if beavers over one of the most valuable resources on have taken up residence on the pond, cut- your property not be considered time and ting down trees and, perhaps, blocking the effort well spent? emergency spillway? Fish skeletons littering

Owning land provides endless planting opportunities. Whether you plant nourishing food plots, sheltering grasses, environmentally friendly trees or nutritious crops, you are also sowing the seeds of an investment that will grow over time. You are rooting the foundation where a lifetime of memories with family and friends can be harvested. From the beginning, you can count on Whitetail Properties to cultivate your land ownership goals. At Whitetail Properties, we know land, we understand our customers and most of all, we grow dreams.

A seechi disk is an ideal method for determining and quantifying water clarity.

WHITETAILPROPERTIES.COM Whitetail Properties Real Estate, LLC | DBA Whitetail Properties | 118 Elm St. | Boerne, TX 78006 | Joey Bellington, Texas Broker - 830.428.0096 | Licensed in the state of Texas

www.texas-wildlife.org

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TEXAS WILDLIFE

Bo r d e r l a n ds n e w s Borderlands Research Institute for Natural Resource Management

The Road to Recovery:

Soils and Vegetation of the Marfa Grasslands, 18 months after the Rockhouse Fire Article and photos by John Edwards, Masahiro Ohnishi, and Bonnie J. Warnock

Marfa grass lands showing partial recovery in 2012. Forbs have become the dominant growth form. Dead grass is evident in the mounds of dead root crowns.

T

he year 2011 will be remembered in Texas as a year of extreme weather events. Most of Texas, including the TransPecos region, experienced one of the driest years on record, and it was ravaged by some of the largest fires in its history. On April 9, the Rockhouse Fire began near the town of Marfa and burned across the plateau grassland and into the canyon and mountain country of the Davis Mountains. The fire continued to burn for 34 days, covering a total of 314,444 acres, making it the largest grass fire ever recorded in Texas. The first ranch to be burned by the Rockhouse Fire was the Mimms Ranch, owned by the Dixon Water Foundation. Approxi-

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mately 90 percent of the ranch was burned in the fire. The Borderlands Research Institute (BRI), in partnership with the Dixon Water Foundation, had been conducting research on the Mimms Ranch prior to the fire, which included long-term vegetation and soil erosion monitoring. Timing and amounts of precipitation in years prior to and following the wildfire had a dramatic effect on the ecosystem. Average or above average precipitation from 2007-2010 led to an increased fuel load on the landscape. This, coupled with nearly six months of no recordable precipitation immediately preceding the fire, led to a heightened fire potential. Less than

five inches of rainfall occurred within 12 months post-fire. The 2012 monsoon season began in mid-summer, and precipitation was average for 2012. The BRI research project expanded in 2012 to look at the impacts of drought and fire on ecosystem recovery. Vegetation measurements continued following the fire and included the plant species, as well as the size of each plant. Soil erosion monitoring was also continued. Fire generally has a strong influence on soil’s biological, physical and chemical properties near the surface, so measurements of soil microbial communities, microbial diversity, and soil nutrients were added to the study. Soils are


b o r d e r l a n ds n e w s

the basis for all life, and recovery of an ecosystem begins in the soil with soil microbes. Soil microbes are important in providing nutrients such as nitrogen to plants and in creating complex soil structure that increases water infiltration. Fire can damage microbes near the surface of the soil. Fewer microbes could cause a decline in water and nutrients available for plant growth and slow ecosystem recovery. The landscape of the Marfa Plateau was significantly changed from a grassland dominated by blue grama to one dominated by forbs and bare soil. Six months after the fire, grass cover was 80 percent less than pre-fire, and 18 months later, was still 60 percent less. Annual forbs, on the other hand, increased dramatically in the fall and spring seasons following the fire, responding to very small amounts of rainfall. Once the monsoon rains began in 2012, the study site began to recover with a flush of grass and forb growth. Following the fire, there was a shift in species composition of grasses across the landscape. Blue grama, which dominated the Mimms Ranch just after the Rockhouse Fire looking back toward Marfa. This open flat landscape pre-fire, was one of the first species to return photo shows the severity of the fire and the lack of any unburned patches within the vegetation. following the fire. Although this species had a quick comeback response from the disturbances, total number of plants decreased, and plants were much smaller. Three-awn, a grass with low forage gen) cycles. Microbial functions are very important in providing and wildlife value, and Hall’s panicum, a grass with high forage nutrients for plant growth, which strongly relates to a rangeland’s and wildlife value, increased significantly post-fire, and with the health. We collected microbe data from the flats, which was the increase in forbs, filled much of the void left by the decrease in blue most prominent ecosystem on the Mimms Ranch. We compared grama cover. microbial communities and soil nutrients in three areas 1) burned, A more dramatic shift occurred on the rolling rocky igneous 2) unburned, and 3) grazed and unburned. hills where a black grama monoculture existed prior to the fire. No Measurements were taken in early summer 2012, prior to any recovery of black grama had occurred 18 months following the fire. rainfall, and in late summer 2012 after the monsoon rains. Feathered pappusgrass, not recorded in pre-fire measurements, Measurements of soil properties indicated that soil pH became was one of the few grasses to grow on the igneous hills post-fire. Based on our data, grassland recovery was much slower on the rolling hills, as opposed to the flats. Erosion is highly variable within the Marfa grasslands, but a distinct increase in soil movement was seen after the fire and during the monsoon season of 2012. This led to an increase in clay particles in some areas and a decrease in clay particles in others, since they are the smallest and easiest to move. Clays function in holding water and nutrients in the soil, so this movement impacts local productivity of rangelands and impacted microbial populations. Forb cover helped decrease the amount of erosion overall until grass recovery began with the rainfall in 2012. Thankfully, it does not seem that a large amount of soil was lost from the grasslands, so recovery to a grama grassland should occur. The study of soil microbial communities focused on their important Marfa grasslands prior to the Rockhouse Fire. Blue Grama is the dominant grass, and bare ground and forbs roles in nutrient (particularly nitroare not very prevalent.

www.texas-wildlife.org

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b o r d e r l a n ds n e w s

more alkaline after the fire, because the ash left from the fire was high in calcium. The overall amount of nitrogen and carbon was lower in burned areas. Microbial activities responded to the change in the soil after the fire, and populations were almost half of what they were in unburned and grazed and unburned areas. Microbes are vital to the nitrogen cycle. They are responsible for getting nitrogen gas into nitrate, a form that plants can use. In the nitrogen cycle, nitrogen gas is changed to ammonium, then to nitrite, then to nitrate. A different group of microbes is responsible for each step. Without a good population of microbes of each group, plants do not get nitrogen, growth rates slow down, and plant protein contents drop. During the soil recovery process, the amounts of ammonium increased and then decreased, and the nitrates increased, as the microbes recovered from the drought and fire and began to work within the nitrogen cycle. The amounts of nitrate then decreased dramatically once plants started

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growing and using the nitrogen. It appears that the microbial community recovered more quickly than the plant community, and so was able to provide the nitrogen to the plants during the monsoon season. This study also suggested that individual microbial groups had different paces of population recovery after the wildfire and drought. The population of microbes responsible for changing nitrogen gas to ammonium was much lower in burned areas, which clearly suggested that their recovery speed from fire was slower than other groups of microbes and slower than in areas impacted by just drought. In general, bacteria that were involved in the nitrogen cycle had the highest abundance in the grazed and unburned area both before and after the rains in 2012. This difference in recovery is not well-understood, but it does show that management decisions, such as grazing, can have positive impacts on microbial recovery following drought. Nitrogen content in plants, measured as protein, is very important for both livestock and wildlife production. This is dependent on

the health of the soil microbial community. Fire has been shown to be a natural part of maintaining grassland health in the TransPecos. Both the increase in plant diversity following the fire, and the quick response and increase of many species reflects this fire tolerance. Precipitation, both in timing and amount, was found to be the most limiting factor in recovery of the vegetation and microbial community. With the late summer monsoonal system of the TransPecos, recovery is limited and prolonged, due to lack of moisture during a large part of the growing season. Together, this shows that a natural fire regime would be based on late summer fires that are coupled with monsoon precipitation, enhancing recovery time, but still requiring multiple years for recovery, based on the low total precipitation amounts. Overall, the Rockhouse Fire had a dramatic impact on the landscape, shifting both vegetative and microbial communities. Recovery has been delayed by extreme drought, and the full recovery of the landscape may take five or more years.


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Wildlife of the High Plains article and photos By Russell A. Graves

W

hen the sun comes up here, it comes up early. The gi- grow chiefly wheat, cotton, milo, corn, and sunflowers. From the ant swath of Texas that lies north of the 33rd parallel and air, many of the farms appear as big green circles – their shape is east of the 100th meridian is wide open, and the sun shines across testament to the predominant agrarian practice of using center the land the minute it breeches the horizon. Trees don’t impair the pivot irrigation systems. These irrigation systems rotate around a sun’s rays out here. center axis and sip from Ogallala Aquifer, a monstrous “ocean” of As soon as the light bled across the sage and little bluestem flat, underground water that stretches from Texas north to Nebraska. the first bird appeared. It is a plump lesser prairie-chicken, and he came to dance. For 30 minutes, I set in a makeshift blind and watch half a dozen or so male prairie chickens do their ancient, foot stomping dance to the varied delight of some hens that have made their way onto the lek. The Lesser prairie-chicken is unique to the Texas High Plains. In fact, it is just one of several species of plants and wildlife that are chiefly found at the top of Texas. The High Plains is a distinctive ecosystem. It is a land that shaped by the forces of wind, sun, and sometimes violent weather like severe thunderstorms, tornadoes and blizzards. It’s vast, treeless expanse is a landscape that’s historically attracted cowboys, Numerous duck species, like pintails, use playa lakes to hop scotch their way down the plains farmers, artists and, even, Hollywood during their annual migration. filmmakers. The region is home to vast ranches made up of huge swaths of land that is relatively unchanged by time A Thumbnail History and human development. It’s a place that’s sparsely populated and The Texas High Plains, commonly known as the Llano Estacado is peppered with small towns and farmsteads and people who are (roughly translated means Staked Plains), is a region of the Southhardworking, faithful, and love the expanse of the prairie. ern High Plains that spreads across Northwestern Texas and eastFrom the ground, the land is deceptively flat, appearing to be ern New Mexico. For centuries, Native Americans made the plains their home. unchanging sameness in every direction. Its elevation ranges from around 1,000 feet in the east to 3,000 feet in the west. From the air, Artifacts at the Lubbock Lake archeological site show evidence of ancient cultures spanning back more than 12,000 years ago. Over however, you can see how diverse that land’s patchwork becomes. The High Plains is the breadbasket of Texas. Breaking up the time, the plains saw several cultures inhabit the region – each taklarge patches of shortgrass prairie are the numerous farms that ing advantage of the plentiful game in the area. Most recently,

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the nomadic Comanche Indians roamed the plains and lived off the bison that once numbered in the millions, as late as the 1870s. In 1541, Spanish conquistador Francisco Coronado first crossed the region while on a quest to find Quivira, the fabled city made from gold. He named the plains El Llano Estacado – a name that’s stuck for half a millennia. Coronado described the plains: “I reached some plains so vast, that I did not find their limit anywhere I went, although I traveled over them for more than 300 leagues…with no more land marks than if we had An import to the Texas Panhandle from Africa, the aoudad has adapted exceptionally well. been swallowed up by the sea… there was not a stone, nor bit of rising ground, nor a tree, nor a shrub, nor anything to go by.” Even after Coronado documented the area, it remained largely unsettled, until after the Civil War. In 1872, the United States government sanctioned buffalo hunters to trickle into Texas and commence the wholesale extermination of the plains mammal. Even though the hunting was in direct violation of the Treaty of Medicine Lodge, hide hunters nearly exterminated every bison from Texas in a span of less than five years. The United States government’s plan was simple: by destroying the Plains Indian’s commissary, they would be easily defeated, and the plains would open for settlement. The government was correct. Soon after the Comanches surrendered to reservations in what is now southwestern Oklahoma, ranches sprang up. Ushered in by legendary cattleman Charles Goodnight, Texas Panhandle ranching – even today – is probably the epitome of what non-Texans think of when they think of ranching: vast rolling prairies, with cowboys adorned in leather chaps and wide brimmed cowboy hats tending to cattle. After the ranches were settled, towns began springing up as An icon of dry, arid grasslands, the pronghorn antelope thrives in parts of the Texas plains. railroad lines were established during the late 1800s, and farms soon followed. Farming such an arid region has always been a tricky proposition, but unscrupulous land developers convinced With rainfall and improved conservation farming practices, the tenants that “rain followed the plow.” Convinced that plowing the ground would make the rain come, millions of acres of great plains healed itself. While still suffering from the boom and bust plains ground - from Texas north through the Dakotas – were cycles of rainfall, conservation of the land is the key to making the area productive for both man and nature. plowed under in the span of just a few decades. The Land Farming in the Texas Panhandle in the early 20th century was, at first, prosperous. Wheat prices following World War I were at An arid climate, the High Plains weather is dominated by the an all-time high, and a decade of abundant rain yielded harvests Rocky Mountain range to the west, which wrings moisture from that pushed the United States into the lead as a worldwide ex- the sky as the weather systems pass over the high elevations. As porter of wheat. The fat years, however, wouldn’t foretell the lean such, the western edge of the Texas High Plains is drier ,with some times that lied ahead. parts receiving as little as 14 inches annually. Heading east, annual Throughout the 1930s, drought gripped the plains. While the rainfall amounts increase, and nearly twice as much rain falls on shortgrass prairie evolved to survive the drought cycle, the farm the eastern Panhandle. ground could not. With most of the native prairie grass denuded Overall, the area is racked by annual temperature swings that and the bare ground exposed because of failed crops season after include many days over 100 degrees in the summer and single digit season, the soil was in danger of erosion. When the wind began to and sub-zero temperatures, on occasion, through the winter. It’s a blow in earnest, it ushered in one of the most severe man-made tough climate, but nature is well adapted to the extremes. ecological disasters in United States history – the Dust Bowl. While outsiders see just flat, expansive plains, the High Plains

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has multiple habitats in which various animals and plant communities thrive. They are subtle, but are present, nonetheless. The Plains

From west to east, the High Plains starts as a shortgrass prairie with gramas and buffalograss being among the chief components of the grassland community. Historically, the grasslands were once part of the ecosystem that supported vast herds of bison and other plains mammals, like the pronghorn antelope. Shaped by seasonal burning and rainfall, the grasslands are among the most diverse ecosystems in the state. The plains support not only mammals, but a host of bird species, like the lesser prairie chicken, a large number of migrant grassland birds who pass through the region each fall, and non-migratory birds, like the scaled quail and ring-necked pheasant. A native to China, the ring-necked pheasant has fared well in the panhandle patchwork of cropland and grasslands. Like other gallinaceous birds, ringneck numbers are largely influenced by annual rainfall, but overall, the popular game bird holds its own in regards to population year after year. The introduction of the federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) in the 1980s has generally benefitted the ground nesting birds by changing marginal cropland into suitable nesting habitat. While pheasants are concentrated on the areas of the plains where there is more intensive cultivation, some animals thrive better in the areas that consist of native rangelands. Two unique species thrive on the shortgrass prairies: pronghorn antelopes and black tailed prairie dogs. Pronghorns are a biological enigma. While they are popularly called “goats” or antelopes, in reality, the species is unique and has no direct relatives in the animal kingdom. In fact, it is not even a true antelope. Instead, the species maintains its own ecological niche by being the only surviving North American member of its family, Antilocapridae. About three feet high at the shoulders and 90 pounds to 150 pounds in weight, the pronghorn is also North America’s fastest land animal. They can sustain speeds of more than 50 miles per hour in short bursts and can cruise for miles at a time at half that speed – a fast enough pace to leave predating coyotes and bobcats behind. Interspersed throughout the pronghorn’s

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Black-tailed prairie dogs are especially suited to the openness of the High Plains shortgrass prairies. In order to see predators, an unimpeded view is important.

range is an animal that has spurred its share variety of wildlife, from rattlesnakes, swift of controversy throughout the plains – the fox, horned lizards and burrowing owls, to prairie dog predators such as the coyote and black tailed prairie dog. Over the past century, prairie dogs were ferruginous hawk. By some counts, a large exterminated throughout their range be- prairie dog town helps support approxicause of their perceived damage to range- mately 120 vertebrate species and numerlands and the productivity of grazing lands. ous invertebrates. For healthy plains ecolWhen the French explorer Louis Ver- ogy, the prairie dog is an important piece of endrye first dubbed the rodent petit chien the puzzle. (little dog) in the Dakotas in 1742, prairie dogs inhabited about 111 million acres. In the ensuing two and a half centuries, the total acreage has been reduced to a paltry estimated 677,000 acres of occupied habitat – a 99 percent reduction. In Texas, early 20th-century estimates place the prairie dog in the western and northern fringes of the Edwards Plateau, the plains areas of the Trans-Pecos and the High and Rolling Plains. At that time, as many as 800 million individuals were thought to have occupied more than 57 million acres in the western half of the state, although there is little hard data to confirm these numbers. By 1977, only 90,000 acres of prairie dog habitat remained, and as of the early 1990s, that number had been reduced to 22,650 acres. However, the black-tailed prairie dog is considered to be a keystone species. Because of the ecological Historically, bobwhite quail have niche it occupies, the prairie dog thrived in the Rolling Plains east of the – and the burrows it produces and Caprock Escarpment. vegetation it stimulates – supports a


wildlife of the high p lai n s

Besides waterfowl, playa lakes benefit a number of shorebird species like the killdeer.

The Wetlands

Although dry, the plains are dotted with small, shallow basins that hold water during the wet years. Called playa lakes, the circular basins create habitat for wildlife across the region. The term playa is Spanish in origin and literally means beach. Perhaps Francisco Coronado coined the term when he crossed the plains in search of the fabled Quivira. Pedro de Castañeda traveled with Coronado on the expedition and made note of the playas in the mid-1500s. “Occasionally there were found some ponds, round like plates, a stone’s throw wider or larger,” he wrote. “Some contained fresh water, others salt.” Throughout recorded history, the playas, which are the main water source on the plains, drew American Indians and 19thcentury settlers. Comanche, and later hide hunters, knew that bison drank from the playas and often hunted them at the water holes. In fact, one of the theories that attempt to explain the origins of the playas suggests that bison wallowing in the mud over time caused the depressions. Still known as “buffalo wallows” by many contemporary plains residents, playas were actually formed by decaying organic matter that formed carbonic acid and dissolved the caliche soil layer. Once the caliche layer dissolved, various materials such as rock and organic matter permeated the soil and eventually formed a layer of clay in the bottom of the lakes that, when wet, is impermeable.

When the playas are wet, ducks, geese, and cranes by the thousands hop scotch the plains as they migrate up and down the central flyway. Non-game birds such as avocets, sandpipers, yellowlegs, and ibisutilize the playas. However, waterfowl and shorebirds aren’t the only avian species that use playas. The Panhandle’s premier game bird, the ring-necked pheasant, is inexorably tied to the shallow water lakes. According to Texas Tech University researchers, pheasants spend as much as 90 Iconic plains species like the Lesser prairie-chicken require percent of their time around playa a precise habitat mix of prairie grasses and sagebrush in lakes during the non-breeding order to survive. That mix is only found in the High Plains. season. Without playas, pheasant numbers and, ultimately, the local hunting economies, would suffer. Towns fall. Excess sedimentation affects the playa’s like Hart and Nazareth host huge groups of ability to soak up water and reduces the pheasant hunters annually, and their pres- amount of recharge to the aquifer that lies ence is essential to maintaining a vigor- beneath. The Canyons ous local hunting economy, even when the broader agricultural economy is marginal. On the eastern edge of the Texas High As important as playas are to the plants Plains, the land cleaves to the incessant forcand animals above ground, they are abso- es of rainfall and running water. “On top,” as lutely essential as sources of recharge for locals call it, excess rainfall runs into draws. the vast underground Ogallala Aquifer. For These draws take water east, until they reach every gallon of water the lakes hold on top the caprock escarpment, where they carve, of the plains, countless millions of gallons in dramatic fashion, large canyons that form of precious water lie just beneath the sur- the headwaters of several Texas rivers like face in the aquifer. One of the big dangers the Colorado, the Brazos, the White River, that threaten to degrade the wetlands is the Pease River, and the Red River. sedimentation. Soil loosened by plowing The caprock escarpment is the geographic and intense livestock traffic around a playa’s boundary between the Llano Estacado and margin can wash into the lakes with rain- the surrounding rolling plains. In some plac-

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es, the transition is subtle. In other spots like around Post or Quitaque, Texas, the transition is significant, as the high plains rise dramatically from the Rolling Plains. From a distance, the escarpment looks like a high, lateral mesa that rises a few hundred feet from the surrounding landscape. Along the transition zone, the canyons create a micro-habitat where water influences the growth of huge cottonwoods, cattails, foxtail, wild grapes and other plant life that thrives in a wetter environment. The habitat was once home to endemic species like black bear. Now, however, you’ll find canyonland critters that are often familiar in other parts of Texas. White-tailed deer thrive here and along the river drainages throughout the Panhandle. Mule deer also do well. The high canyonlands and rough terrain are perfect for the far-ranging desert mule deer. Along the escarpment, mule deer often congregate in large herds and feed on winter wheat, while bedding in the rougher draws and crags of the canyons. Aoudad sheep also thrive in the canyons. Released in the 1950s as an alternative game species, the aoudad sheep have adapted

Rio Grande turkeys are common in the canyonland waterways just below the Caprock Escarpment.

well to the climate and terrain that is similar to their home terrain in the Atlas Mountains of Northern Africa. While concerns exist that the aoudad competes directly for food and space with the mule deer, the rough terrain in which they live and their wary ways make them hard to hunt. In the canyon bottoms, Rio Grande turkeys roost in the big trees and forage for bugs and seeds throughout the day. In parts of the Panhandle, two species of skunks (the striped and hog-nosed) rummage the canyon floors, and among the crags and caves, Mexican free-tailed bats huddle together and sleep inverted and take flight at dusk and spend the evenings gorging on bugs. The Texas High Plains is a unique part of Texas with a landscape and culture that is defined by a big land and bigger sky. As one of the most-recently settled areas of Texas, it is rich in recent history that’s tinged with Wild West flair. The story of the High Plains, its people, and the wildlife therein is ultimately couched in the context of survival in a wild, unforgiving land.

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Landowners Win Landmark Case Against Pipeline; Set Precedent This article by Colleen Schreiber appeared in the February 28, 2013 issue of Livestock Weekly, and it is reprinted here with permission from Livestock Weekly.

T

he Supreme Court of Texas recently ruled in favor of the landowner when it denied a petition for review in a pipeline easement litigation case. Already LaSalle Pipeline v. Donnell Lands is being dubbed a landmark, precedent-setting case. That’s because the Supreme Court hasn’t often sided with the landowner in oil and gas-related matters. Perhaps more important, by denying the petition for review, the Supreme Court upheld the lower courts’ rulings with respect to damages for diminution in value to the remainder of the tracts subject to the permanent easement. Rarely, if ever, have damages to the remainder been paid to landowners. J. Byron “Trace” Burton III, Uhl, Fitzsimons & Jewett PLLC, San Antonio, has been closely following the case. “The Supreme Court of Texas made the right decision by denying LaSalle Pipeline’s petition for review,” said Burton. “There was no conflict in the various lower Texas appellate courts on any of the issues in the case, nor was there any new point of Texas law that warranted the Supreme Court’s attention. As long as the damages awarded are within the range of values in evidence, the Fourth Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of Texas made it clear that deference will be given to a jury’s decision on damages in a condemnation proceeding.” Burton went on to say that his landowner clients are not only happy to see the petition denied, but also thankful that the Donnell family decided to take a stand in this matter. Even before the Supreme Court denied LaSalle’s petition for review, landowners facing condemnation in the Eagle Ford were citing the appellate decision with regard to remainder damages. Donnell’s expert witness testified that the portion of the Donnell property impacted by the pipeline amounted to 4100 acres of the total 8000-some acres. And the pipeline, he testified, decreased the value of those 4100 acres by 10 percent. He also testified that on the smaller tract, the value of the remainder was decreased by 25 percent. Not surprisingly, LaSalle’s expert testified that the pipeline had no effect on the value of Donnell’s property. In their petition for review to the Supreme Court, LaSalle argued that, “Under the Fourth Court of Appeals’ reasoning, there can be no certainty or predictability in the budgeting for land costs associated with such projects, because under the Court of Appeals’ opinion, landowners may impermissibly reap substantial remainder damages based solely upon speculation and conjecture.” That argument apparently carried little weight with the Supreme Court, and it is this issue in particular that has pipeline companies not only in the Eagle Ford but throughout the state rather stirred up.

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Just days before the ruling, the case was the featured presentation at an eminent domain conference sponsored by CLE-International. Attorneys representing both parties presented their versions of the case to those in attendance. Thomas Alan Zabel, with Zabel Freeman, Houston, represented LaSalle Pipeline; Nissa Dunn, of Houston Dunn, San Antonio, represented the Donnell family when the case was appealed by LaSalle to the Fourth Court of Appeals in San Antonio. The case was first tried in McMullen County about three years ago, just as the Eagle Ford play in South Texas was beginning to heat up and long before the play really changed the face of South Texas. In his opening remarks to those attending the eminent domain conference, Zabel opined that the playing field in the Eagle Ford was much different then compared to today. He described McMullen County as a “very interesting place.” Only about 700 residents reside in the entire county. “It has a jury pool of about 90 people who come to every jury summons — the same 90 people,” Zabel quipped. “They’re a very tight-knit group; they’ve lived there for generations. There are not a lot of outsiders. Some of them refer to their county as the ‘free-state of McMullen.’” The Donnell family is a seventh generation ranching family. “I found that they were liked by everyone in the county without exception, at least on the jury panel, for sure,” commented Zabel. LaSalle Pipeline, a gas utility with the right of eminent domain, constructed a 52-mile gas pipeline to carry natural gas between the Tilden gas plant and a new plant in Pearsall. The pipeline was to cross two different parcels of the Donnell ranch. One parcel was a roughly 8,000-acre tract and another was a 43-acre tract. LaSalle sought about a 17-acre permanent right-of-way and easement, and a 28-acre temporary construction easement across the ranch. In May 2009 LaSalle filed its petition for condemnation. The two parties could not agree on the dollar amount related to the taking. In Texas when this occurs, the landowner is entitled to a hearing in which three special commissioners, citizens within the county appointed by the court, determine the amount to be awarded to the landowner. The following month the special commissioners awarded Donnell Lands $226,000 for the amount of the taking. The Donnells appealed the award. Thus the case went to the 36th Judicial District Court in McMullen County, where it was tried before a jury in early October 2009. The two parties were not that far apart on the dollar amount for the permit of the easement, which amounted to $34,533. Rather, their arguments focused primarily on the value the court awarded for the temporary workspace easement and in particular the remainder damages.


Reprinted with permission RRC

Reprinted with permission from Texas Railroad Commission

The McMullen County jury found that Donnell Lands was enTexas Railroad Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman titled to damages in the amount of $658,689. Of that total, $19,205 Offers Positive Report On Oil and Gas Industry was for the temporary workspace easements and $34,533 was for God Blessed Texas! the permanent easement. The majority of the reward, $604,950, was for the diminution in value to the remainder of the tracts. Attorney fees were not included in the figures, as the Donnell family paid its own expenses. In January 2010, the court denied LaSalle’s motion to disregard the jury’s findings. LaSalle’s motion for a new trial was overruled in March. From there, the case went to the Fourth District Court of Appeals in San Antonio. On December 15, 2010, the Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s ruling for $604,950 in remainder damages and $34,533 for the fair market value of the easement itself. However, Current and Historical they reduced the damages awarded for the temporary workspace. Oil and Gas Wells “We conclude the evidence is legally and factually sufficient to Oil support some, but not all, of the jury’s damage award for the temGas porary workspace easements,” the opinion read. “We conclude the evidence is legally and factually sufficient to support the jury’s damage award for the diminution in value to the remainder. We Reprinted with permission from Texas Railroad Commission There are over 140,000 active wells in the state, These wells are producing about also conclude the trial court did not err in overruling LaSalle’s chal1.5 million barrels of oil per day and about 20 billion cubic feet of natural gas. These lenges for cause. Accordingly, we modify the judgment to reduce numbers, particularly the oil number, are expected to continue upwards, thanks in the damages awarded for the temporary workspace easements, and large part to new drilling techniques, in particular, horizontal drilling and hydraulic affirm the judgment as modified.” fracturing. In March 2011, LaSalle filed a petition for review with the SuAccording to Smitherman about five years ago the state was producing about preme Court of Texas. On February 15, 2013, that petition was sub900,000 barrels of crude per day. Today that figure stands at 1.5 to 1.6 million sequently denied. barrels per day – the number changes daily. To support what the property was worth before the take, Don“We’re probably on pace to double this number to be close to three million nell Land’s expert witness, Phil McCormick, a real estate appraiser, barrels by 2016, and I predict by 2020 we can be at four million barrels, To put that used four properties in McMullen County. Three of the properties in perspective, that is more than the U.S. currently imports from Saudi Arabia, Russia and Venezuela, combined.” had a pipeline easement; one did not. McCormick estimated the value of the property pre-taking to be $2000 per acre. On damages, McCormick relied on a paired sale in Webb County, the county adjoining McMullen County, and the three McMullen County sales. McCormick testified that because the pipeline on the larger tract ran only through the northern half of the tract, damage was restricted to this portion of the property. Therefore, he estimated the diminution in value of the larger tract to be 10 percent. As for the smaller tract, he testified that a pipeline across a smaller tract by its very nature would have a relatively greater impact on the land, and therefore he estimated a 25 percent decrease in the value of the smaller tract. Pipeline Commodity LaSalle tried to discredit that testimony by arguing it lacked Natural Gas foundation because the sales in Webb County were not comparable Crude Oil and because McCormick had not done an actual pipeline study to Product see whether in fact there was diminution in value as a result of a Other pipeline. pipeline operators In their petition to the Supreme Court, LaSalle also argued •thatOver 1,200 Texas also has a lot of pipelines – more than 366,000 miles. In fact, according to McCormick’s unsupported valuation was based on a flawed meth• MoreSmitherman than 366,274 miles of pipe pipeline Texas all 254 counties have some and much, in much more is yet to be built. odology and therefore the measure of damages was legally insufAdmittedly, pipelines are often viewed much less favorably by landowners. • NaturalThegas pipelines run through all 254 counties in Texas ficient. In their briefs to the court, LaSalle, along with other parties oil and gas severance tax estimates are collectively estimated to be over $7 who submitted amicus briefs, also noted that McCormick testified billion for the next biennium, up dramatically from aRRC few years ago. Comptroller reprinted with permission Combs has repeatedly revised these numbers upwards because the production to the pre-taking value of the entire property and to a diminution continues to go up. in the value of the entire property. However, he did not testify to “We’re going to continue to see a lot of money flowing into the state’s coffers. My the pre or post-taking values of the remainder. estimation is as we go forward with future legislative sessions, we will not deal with They also pointed out that while McCormick’s conclusion was the politics of scarcity in money; we’ll deal with the politics of surplus money.” that properties burdened by pipelines were reduced in value by

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20 percent, he could not attribute that 20 percent decrease to the pipeline alone. Furthermore, LaSalle contended that McCormick “picked a number out of thin air,” 10 percent for the larger tract and 25 percent for the smaller tract, and failed to provide any support for such determinations. Donnell argued before the Court of Appeals and in their brief to the Supreme Court that there is no requirement in Texas that comparable sales be in the same county as long as they meet the test of similarity. Donnell’s attorney also pointed out that the Supreme Court has recognized for many years that determining market value in condemnation cases is something of a hypothetical exercise. Dunn noted as well that the paired sales analysis, the methodology McCormick used, was the same methodology used by LaSalle’s expert. “The only difference between the methodology applied by the two experts was that LaSalle’s expert actually went out and asked one party to each of his comparable sales whether the existence or absence of a pipeline affected the price that they paid for the property,” Dunn told listeners. “Our argument and position before the Court of Appeals was that even though that might be nice and a good piece of information to know, nothing about Texas law or standard appraisal methodology requires that an appraiser go out and ask either party to a sale his or her subjective opinion about the effect of an easement. “The Supreme Court has said that the best guide to market value of a property is the price that willing buyers and sellers actually negotiate in the market,” she continued. “And when Mr. McCormick looked at the comparable sales, he found that, on average, properties burdened with pipelines sold for 20 percent less than properties that were not burdened with pipelines.” She also pointed out that the prices of the comparables that LaSalle’s expert looked at were, in fact, on average, similarly lower per acre for properties that were burdened by pipeline easements. However, LaSalle’s expert disregarded that. “He said it doesn’t matter, because he went out and talked to one party to each of the sales, and one party to the sale said that it didn’t impact the price paid and that there were other reasons for the change in value, like a surging market and differences in the property.” Dunn also opined that requiring apprais-

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ers to get the opinion from those involved in a sale as to the impact a pipeline might or might not have on the value of the remainder raises another set of challenges, additional uncertainty and subjectivity in an area that’s already fairly subjective. “What happens if the buyer and the seller disagree about the impact? In this case there was evidence from the same party presented by both sides, but each expert in their testimony cited a different version of what that party said as to the impact of the property.” Jamie Donnell also testified on behalf of the Donnell family. Donnell testified that the value of the tract before the taking was $2500 per acre, and that in his opinion, damages amounted to somewhere around $900,000. In the pipeline company’s petition for review to the Supreme Court, LaSalle contended that Donnell’s testimony was speculative and insufficient, and because Donnell was not a real estate appraiser, he lacked sufficient knowledge to value land and damages even though he was raised on the family ranch in McMullen County and had participated in numerous land transactions. The Texas Pipeline Association submitted an amicus to the Supreme Court on behalf of LaSalle. They acknowledged that while as a landowner Donnell did not have to qualify as an “expert” to testify on his own behalf as to the market value of his property, they argued that the “Property Owner Rule” does not, however, render a landowner’s opinion on damage to his property competent. “To do so he must at very least establish a logical basis for his opinion.” Texas Pipeline Association contended that Donnell did not. In denying LaSalle’s petition for review, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the Fourth Court of Appeals’ opinion. Specifically with regard to the remainder damages, the Fourth Court in its opinion wrote: “When, as here, a condemnor takes only a portion of a landowner’s property, the landowner is entitled to compensation in the amount of the market value of the part taken, plus the damage to the remainder caused by the condemnation.” In their argument, LaSalle cited the Callejo case, which is often referred to as the “before and after” measure of damages. However, in its opinion, the Fourth Court pointed out that there are several approaches for determining market value, but

the one long favored is the comparable sales approach. With respect to Donnell’s use of comparable sales in Webb County, the court in its opinion noted that “comparable sales must be voluntary, and should take place at or near in time to the condemnation, occur in the vicinity of the condemned property, and involve land with similar characteristics. Comparable sales need not be in the immediate vicinity of the subject land, so long as they meet the test of similarity.” As to the reliability of the testimony offered by Donnell’s expert, Phil McCormick, the court wrote, “We take into consideration the nature of appraisal evidence. As the Texas Supreme Court has recognized, all appraisal opinion is at best something of a speculation, and the question of market value is peculiarly one for the fact-finding body.” As for LaSalle’s argument that McCormick’s methodology was flawed, the court said this: “First, there is nothing in the record indicating that standard appraisal methodology requires an appraiser to first consider sales within the subject property’s county before considering sales outside the subject property’s county. Second, the record shows McCormick used comparable sales from both McMullen County and Webb County in reaching his conclusions about the effect of a pipeline easement on market value. Finally, the case law indicates there is no requirement that comparable sales be in the same county as the subject property.” Referring specifically to LaSalle’s argument that McCormick did not get an opinion from involved parties of a sale as to whether or not a pipeline impacted the value of the property, the court wrote: “LaSalle cites no legal authority to support its contention that an appraisal expert must determine if the parties to comparable sales subjectively believed the existence or absence of a pipeline easement affected the sales price. We conclude McCormick’s testimony was based on a sufficiently reliable foundation to have been considered by the jury.” With regard to LaSalle’s lack of foundation charge with respect to the percentage applied for figuring remainder damages, the court said: “According to LaSalle, McCormick’s failure to explain the percentages he applied amounted to an impermissible analytical gap between the data and his


la n dow n e r s wi n la n dma r k case

opinion. We disagree. Expert testimony is unreliable if there is too great an analytical gap between the data and the opinion proffered. Here, however, we are not convinced there is too great an analytical gap between the data and the opinion proffered.” The opinion went on, “Moreover, even if there was a ‘gap’ in McCormick’s estimate of the damage to the remainder of tract two, we fail to see how it was harmful in this case. McCormick’s total estimate of the damage to the remainder was $843,490.00, of which only $23,490.00 was attributed to tract two. The jury’s finding of $604,905.00 in diminution in value to the remainder was substantially below McCormick’s total damage estimate. “We conclude that any ‘gap’ between the comparable sales data and the conclusions drawn from it goes to the weight of McCormick’s testimony, rather than its reliability.” Specific to the jury’s damages award, the court said, “Generally, the jury has broad discretion to award damages within the range of evidence presented at trial.” Furthermore, the opinion said, “The jury’s findings may not be set aside because its reasoning in arriving at the amount of damages is unclear. When the trial evidence supports a range of damages awards,

rather than two distinct options, an award within the range is an appropriate exercise of the jury’s discretion, and the reviewing court is not permitted to speculate how the jury actually arrived at its award.” As for LaSalle’s argument that the jury had only two options in awarding damages — either the jury could have awarded the damages estimated by McCormick, which was $843,490, or it could have awarded the damages estimated by LaSalle’s expert, which was zero, the court also disagreed. “The jury was entitled to set the value of the remainder at any amount between the lowest and highest values the expert witnesses put in evidence.” The opinion went on to say, “The jury’s finding of $604,950.00, falls within the range of the evidence presented at trial and is supported by the evidence. In addition, here the evidence included not only expert testimony, but also comparable sales data from both McMullen and Webb counties. The record before us shows there was ample evidence on which a rational jury could have based its finding.” LaSalle also argued that the jury made “an impermissible leap” outside of the evidence admitted at trial, and in so doing cited the Callejo case.

In Callejo, separate findings as to the land’s pre-taking and post-taking were made. It was a complicated case, but in the end the Supreme Court ruled that essentially the jurors are not bound to accept the parties’ expert testimony …” However, the Supreme Court also admonished that future condemnation cases should be submitted broadly in terms of the difference in market value of the land before and after the taking. Thus, also citing Callejo, the Fourth Court in its opinion pointed out that in the LaSalle case, the issue of damages to the remainder was submitted broadly by Donnell’s expert. “This is not a situation in which the record shows the jury impermissibly blended evidence of pre-taking and post-taking values. LaSalle’s evidence indicated the diminution in value to the remainder was zero; Donnell Land’s evidence indicated the diminution in value to the remainder was $843,490.00. Although the jury’s finding was below McCormick’s estimate, there is nothing in this record showing the jury arrived at this finding by impermissibly blending evidence or leaping outside of the evidence presented at trial.” Finally, to the meat of the matter, the Fourth Court of Appeals wrote, “LaSalle argues it conclusively established through Bethel’s testimony that there was no diminution in value to the remainder. We disagree. In making this argument, LaSalle contends the only competent evidence on diminution in value to the remainder was provided by Bethel. The jury, however, was free to disbelieve Bethel’s testimony.” In addition, as previously discussed, “McCormick provided competent evidence of the diminution in value to the remainder. “Crediting all favorable evidence that reasonable jurors could believe and disregarding all contrary evidence except that which the jury could not ignore, we conclude the evidence is legally sufficient to support the jury’s finding that the diminution in value to the remainder was $604,950.00. Moreover, after reviewing all of the evidence, we cannot say that the evidence is so weak that the jury’s finding is clearly wrong and unjust. We, therefore, conclude the evidence is factually sufficient to support the jury’s finding that the diminution in value to the remainder was $604,950.00.” The Supreme Court has asked Donnell Lands, LP to respond to LaSalle Pipeline, LP’s motion for rehearing.

www.texas-wildlife.org

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The Texas Wildlife Association is pleased to publish the following information developed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Private Lands Advisory Committee.

VOLUNTARY CONSERVATION PRACTICES Balancing Wildlife Conservation and Oil and Gas Development in the Eagle Ford Shale Region of South Texas

TWA believes the information will be helpful to private landowners who are considering options to balance oil and gas development and wildlife conservation in the Eagle Ford Shale region of South Texas. The TPWD Private Lands Advisory Committee features many TWA members and a TWA professional staff member among the advisory group, all of whom provided input and expertise in the development of the document.


THE VALUE OF HABITAT Oil and gas development in the Eagle Ford Shale region has been an economic boon for many south Texas communities, businesses, and private landowners. The continued exploration and development of these underground resources will play a key role in how the region grows and prospers in the years to come. Proper planning can ensure that this development doesn’t compromise another valuable natural asset in south Texas — the rich and varied wildlife resources of an area that has been called The Last Great Habitat. This term was coined a decade ago when scientists at Texas A&M University-Kingsville ‘s Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute realized that while many biologists, hunters and landowners knew and embraced the region’s importance to wildlife, few outside this area fully understood its intrinsic value as one of the most biologically diverse places in the United States. In fact, in no small part due to the active stewardship by the region’s landowners. South Texas harbors more species of plants and animals than any other region in Texas. This amazing diversity of natural resources has tremendous value to hundreds of species of birds, reptiles, mammals and plant life and is a source of great pride and value to the landowners who own and manage land within the region.

The Reason for this Bulletin The development of emerging shale plays has had a profound influence on domestic oil and gas supplies, as well as our local, state and national economies. New and improved technologies enabling oil and gas operators to extract resources from shale and shale-like formations like the Eagle Ford have created immense opportunities in mineral rich areas that previously were deemed to be inaccessible or un-economic to develop. In places such as the Eagle Ford, many would also agree that the extraction of these important below ground resources may be pursued in ways, when practicable, that are compatible with the area’s vibrant wildlife and diverse wildlife habitats. Numerous examples exist of efforts made by oil and gas companies in concert with private landowners, state and federal agencies, and other entities to accomplish that aim. An essential element in achieving that goal is to ensure that appropriate information is made available to those parties interested in balancing oil and gas development with wildlife conservation on their lands. The following voluntary conservation practices have been developed to offer guidance regarding wildlife compatible oil and gas extraction in the Eagle Ford Shale. Recognizing that all lands and scenarios for development are not the same, this document does not include the entire spectrum of regulatory or management practices that can be used to eliminate or minimize adverse impacts to all species of wildlife. These practices do, however, provide a basic foundation for landowners and operators to consider when attempting to balance the necessary development of oil and gas related infrastructure with a property’s unique or sensitive wildlife habitats. Undertaking these voluntary practices underscores a commitment to strategic and thorough planning as well as responsible follow-through that will reduce immediate and

long-term impacts to your land and all of Texas, including The Last Great Habitat of South Texas.

Before the Drilling and Development Begins

Planning is the most important step landowners can take to minimize the impacts of oil and gas development on natural resources. It is critical that one prioritizes what is most important for one’s property and then makes sure that all planning, development, operations and reclamation reflect those priorities. Landowners should envision what they want their land to look like during the operation and after final reclamation. Since most oil and gas development is not permanent, sound long-range planning really matters. The placing of infrastructure such as well pads and roads is essential in minimizing the negative impact to wildlife. Infrastructure placement is of critical importance when developing a plan in coordination with the operator. Communication and planning are the key elements in a productive relationship with an operator. To the extent practical, every location, road, and water feature should be planned. Before any exploration or extraction occurs, make sure the plan is in place and agreed to by all parties. If a landowner doesn’t feel that he has the expertise or time to be involved in the process, then an experienced professional should be retained to assist in all phases from start to finish. Most operators and companies have a deep appreciation and respect for the wildlife and natural resources of Texas. A robust planning process, accompanied by a well-developed surface use agreement and a commitment to active communication are important ingredients to accomplishing that on one’s property. The following voluntary practices represent ideas for landowners to consider when their property is being developed.


General Guidance for Minimizing Impacts to Natural Resources: • Minimize habitat fragmentation by using existing roads and corridors whenever possible.

and the landowner. Put procedures in place to ensure the SUA and development plans are followed.

• Avoid or protect sensitive areas, seek qualified help identifying these areas, and limit development and disturbance to agreed-upon development corridors.

• Ask that operators include expenditures for habitat reclamation on the original Authorization for Expenditures (AFEs) for each well.

• Monitor surface and subsurface water quality.

• Monitor reclamation and surface use activities to determine success, ensure compliance with the SUA, and identify necessary corrective actions.

• Prevent erosion and contamination of topsoil. • Maintain soil structure and productivity by providing financial incentives for operators to install all needed flowlines simultaneously to minimize the mixing of soils. Structure financial incentives in the surface use agreement (SUA) to dissuade multiple disturbances to a single right-of-way.

• Plan and monitor seismic operations to minimize impacts to natural resources and ranch structures. • Make sure abandoned wells and well sites are properly closed, plugged and reclaimed. • Develop provisions that address impacts such as noise, air and water quality, particularly with regard to sensitive areas and residences.

• Prevent the introduction or spread of invasive and exotic plants. • Use only locally adapted native seed when possible to reclaim and re-vegetate sites. • Conduct interim or temporary reclamation at all stages of development where practical.

• Ensure flow-back water from fracking and produced water is either recycled or removed from the site and properly disposed as required by law.

• Plan operations to minimize impacts to traditional land uses during development. • Use experienced professional natural resource and legal guidance to develop a SUA that clearly addresses the concerns and expectations of both the operator

Protect streams and riparian areas.

Start with Planning • Know the landscape, wildlife and habitat characteristics of your property so you can avoid and protect sensitive areas. • Identify the most important areas for wildlife and avoid or minimize impacts to these areas. The negative impacts of oil and gas development are directly related to the location of infrastructure in the vicinity of important habitat features. • Specify preferred placement of pads, roads, pipelines, powerlines and water ponds. Request that operators minimize the size and density of those facilities. Use designs and locations that minimize negative impacts to the surface, existing vegetation, and the natural landscape while also facilitating prompt, successful reclamation.

• Choose methods used for clearing vegetation carefully as this can be critical in determining the success of future reclamation (seedbed preparation, planting and plant establishment). • Consider how development and reclamation will be monitored over the project life and determine how compliance issues will be handled. • Seek knowledgeable professional advice and know your legal rights. • Establish a single point of contact for the landowner and the operator to ensure good communication of concerns and expectations. The operator point of contact should represent the leaseholder, and supersede all contractors.

• Protect the soil whenever it is going to be disturbed by insuring that topsoil and subsoil are removed from the site, placed in different locations, labeled, and replaced in the proper order during reclamation operations. • Practice interim reclamation (restore as you go) and use locally adapted native seed for restoration. • Control invasive plant species.

Avoid sensitive areas.

About this Bulletin: This pamphlet was developed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Private Lands Advisory Committee to offer additional information to consider when balancing oil and gas development and wildlife conservation in the important Eagle Ford Shale region of south Texas. Both the Committee and the Department would like to specifically thank representatives of the oil and gas industry, Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, Texas Wildlife Association, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, Taking Care of Texas, and numerous private landowners who provided valuable comments and critical reviews to make this document useful.

www.tpwd.state.tx.us/voluntary-conservation


Operations • Locate fracking ponds in a way that takes advantage of natural features, minimizes soil erosion, and provides lasting benefits to wildlife while also protecting sensitive habitats such as high quality riparian areas. • Protect sensitive areas such as streams and unique plant communities by avoiding disturbance within or near these features, and when possible during pipeline construction or maintenance, bore under the feature. • Control soil erosion at all stages of construction and development. Consider natural contours during construction and require procedures to maintain natural contours and drainages. Monitor these processes.

(meandering roads, paint infrastructure with natural colors, noise abatement strategies). • Take critical steps to control the introduction of exotic/invasive plant species. Use the fundamentals of early detection and rapid control response if exotic/invasive plants are introduced. • Minimize disturbances to your agricultural operations. Limit during times of the year when these activities would negatively affect traditional uses of the property, such as hunting, farming and livestock production. • Request the operator to provide a gate guard to control access, minimize traffic, and provide security during high traffic operations.

• Construct and operate with short-term, long-term and final reclamation goals in mind.

• Use single-lane roads with turnouts/bypasses to minimize the footprint of roads. Use “invisible” roads where applicable.

• Consider aesthetics during construction whenever possible

• Employ dust control techniques to minimize impacts to air quality.

Reclamation • Remove development infrastructure from the surface. • Request re-contour of the site to pre-construction specifications to facilitate the return of the natural landscape.

• Control exotic and invasive plant species and monitor for desired results. • Prepare a firm seed bed and use planting equipment appropriate for the type of seed being planted.

• Specify reclamation techniques desired. • Control erosion, including removing, storing and labeling topsoil for future reclamation and vegetation re-establishment.

• Use annual cover crops for temporary erosion control.

• Test the soil before attempting reclamation to ensure successful plant establishment is possible.

• Measure reclamation success by plant establishment and survival, erosion control, and water quality.

• Request interim reclamation of areas in and around roads, pads, pipelines and other infrastructure throughout development and production phases. • Reseed with mixes of locally adapted native species. Order native plant seed mixes one year in advance to ensure availability.

• Defer livestock grazing to permit adequate plant establishment. Seed native grasses using adapted native seed.

• Ensure abandoned wells are properly plugged and pads reclaimed as required by law.

Monitoring •

Conduct baseline and follow-up surveys to assess impacts.

Identify monitoring procedures for adherence to the SUA, construction activities, reclamation results, and potential problems with invasive plants or hazards to wildlife.

Ensure that monitoring procedures and resulting data are used within an adaptive management context to allow landowners and operators to refine plans to adapt to changing conditions.

Use remote monitoring where applicable to gauge production and reduce traffic.

© 2013 Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

• Create a simple, consistent, and predictable monitoring plan with clear guidelines on “what, who, when and how” for use by both the landowner and the operator. Stay engaged and keep communicating.

Monitor restoration results.

• Establish a simple reporting system for compliance with the SUA and reclamation plan. Request quarterly or yearly reports.

PWD BR W7000-2706 (3/13)

XX%

In accordance with Texas State Depository Law, this publication is available at the Texas State Publications Clearinghouse and/or Texas Depository Libraries. TPWD receives federal assistance from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other federal agencies. TPWD is therefore subject to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, in addition to state anti-discrimination laws. TPWD will comply with state and federal laws prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, national origin, age, sex or disability. If you believe that you have been discriminated against in any TPWD program, activity or event, you may contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Federal Assistance, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Mail Stop: MBSP-4020, Arlington, VA 22203, Attention: Civil Rights Coordinator for Public Access.

Cert no. XXX-XXX-000


arthur temple college of forestry and agriculture

SFA news

stephen f. austin state university

Texas Timberdoodles – Where Do They Come From? Article by

Daniel Sullins, M.S. Graduate Research Assistant and Warren C. Conway, Professor of Wildlife Management, Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture, Stephen F. Austin State University Rumsey Research and Development Fund

E

very species is odd in its own way, taking advantage of a unique ecological niche. However, the American Woodcock seems exceedingly odd – an upside down brain, short legs, ears in front of its eyes, and gargantuan rear-placed eyes that allow the bird to bury its prehensile bill deep in the soil, while still keeping watch for predators. Even its wing molt is different, being the only North American shorebird to not exhibit evolutionary loss of a fifth secondary feather. Far different from other shorebirds that are typically wetland-dependent specialists, inhabiting open marshes, mudflats, and other lightly vegetated habitats, the American Woodcock prefers forested habitats. With early successional brush and heavy cover, it has been best defined as being a “forest dwelling shorebird.” Further, the natural history of the species is even more confusing. The woodcock is widely known for its foraging specialization on earthworms. However, most of its known breeding range covers a geographic region in which there are no known native earthworms. Prior to European settlement, the recently glaciated northern breeding range of the American Woodcock was considered to be completely devoid of any earthworms. Only after the introduction of Old World earthworms has this food source been regionally available. So how did woodcocks become so tightly associated with earthworms? How did their migration system evolve? These questions remain largely unanswered, and ultimate drivers of migration are unclear. Woodcocks begin to arrive in eastern Texas in late October, waves of more facultative migrants push down with cold fronts, where woodcocks reach peak wintering populations in late December and January. Most woodcocks depart East Texas by the end of February. During winter, they remain hidden in the dense thickets by day and may use open field habitats at night for feeding and their famous courtship display, highlighted and brought to life by Leopold in A Sand County Almanac. Male woodcocks in East Texas typically begin undertaking “sky dance” displays in early January, and it is not uncommon for woodcocks to nest in East Texas in February when adequate conditions are met.

Sponsored by

48

TEXAS WILDLIFE

Continentally, central Louisiana and eastern Texas are one of three areas that winter the greatest number of woodcocks, as indicated by Christmas Bird Count Data, which also include the Delmarva Peninsula and the coastal plain of South Carolina. The area surrounding the Atchafalaya basin in Louisiana winters some of the greatest densities of American Woodcocks, but widespread loss of bottomland hardwood forest habitat (80 percent) along the Mississippi River has greatly reduced the amount regionally available habitat. In East Texas, forested habitat abounds across the landscape in the form of loblolly pine plantations on industrial and non-industrial timberlands, as well as in U.S. National Forests. Active logging practices on pine plantations create dense thickets of early successional habitats, and the more open mature pine stands found on National Forest property provide dense understory thickets of beautyberry, yaupon holly, wax myrtle, Chinese privet, and cane along riparian edges. All of these habitats may be readily used by woodcocks, if favorable soil conditions are met that allow access to earthworm prey, as habitat selection in the western extent of its wintering range is largely driven by soil moisture. On the slopes of numerous small stream riparian drainages and depressions throughout the region, optimal soil moisture can be attained across periods of varying precipitation. Although populations are not as dense as may be found in portions the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley, the larger expanses of forested habitat across the landscape in the Pineywoods of East Texas and western Louisiana likely winter a substantial portion of the population. American Woodcocks are a very popular webless migratory gamebird, and they have a tremendously devoted following by hunters throughout the eastern portion of the U.S. However, hunting effort is regionalized, with most effort occurring in the Great Lake States, New England, and Louisiana. During the 2011-2012 season, more than 500,000 hunter days were spent harvesting more than 300,000 woodcocks; both considerable for a species with a three-bird bag and 45-day season. Unlike waterfowl, banding efforts are less concentrated, and numbers of banded woodcocks are dramatically less than waterfowl annually. Between 1959-2011, 27

Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture, Stephen F. Austin State University and Rumsey Research and Development Fund

july 2013


Photo by Dan Sullins

Photo by Kent Fricke

This underscores the curious nature of woodcock migration behavior. To truly understand migration, all available tools must be used, and the development of Stable Isotope Analyses has proven fruitful in this regard for a number of migratory birds. Considering that large sample sizes can be obtained from parts collection surveys for woodcocks, linkages can be inferred using stable isotopes at a rangewide level. Harvested American Woodcock in East Texas. They are a Stable isotope analyses are popular gamebird throughout its geographic range. used to develop connectivity estimates between breeding and wintering ranges, as ratios of stable isotopes vary among landscapes, due to precipitation patterns, anthropogenic factors, and photosynthetic pathways used by plants. Migratory bird feathers carry isotopic signatures indicative of molt origin to spatiotemporally distinct locations. For example, stable isotopes of hydrogen are commonAn English setter on point during a woodcock ly used in bird migration hunt in East Texas. studies because the amount of deuterium in precipitabands were recovered from woodcocks mi- tion follows a latitudinal gradient across grating to or from Texas. Of these, two were North America, wherein δD, standardbanded in Texas, both of which were later ized stable hydrogen isotope ratio, values recovered in Texas, and of the 25 banded mostly decrease from the Southeast to outside of Texas, 13 were banded in Wis- the Northwest. consin, two in Minnesota, five in MichiCurrent research at Stephen F. Austin gan, two in Maine, two in Louisiana, and State University is attempting to define one from Indiana. Although sample sizes these linkages and indirectly estimate are small, there appears to be some con- frequency of southern breeding using nectivity for Texas wintering woodcocks sub-adult woodcock feathers obtained to breeding areas directly north, but also from local hunters in Texas and Louirangewide. Recently, researchers from the siana, as well as from wings collected Arkansas Cooperative Wildlife Research from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Unit tracked woodcocks during fall mi- Canadian Wildlife Service Parts Colgration and documented specific migra- lection Surveys. Understanding contitory routes using an airplane and 13 ra- nental population sources of American dio-marked woodcocks. Two birds were Woodcock is important, as woodcocks found in Illinois and Missouri, 21 days occasionally nest in the southern United and 16 days after departure; five birds States, and nesting grounds may also be were located in southern Arkansas, 15- moving north outside of the principle 48 days after departure, and one Wood- breeding region surveyed by Singing cock migrated more than 1,400 km from Ground Surveys. The extent of southern Wisconsin to northeastern Texas in less breeding is not well understood and is than 16 days. highly variable among years, but contri-

TWA

corporate partners program TWA has partnered with these quality companies to offer our members quality products and/or discounts, with a portion of the proceeds to support TWA’s mission efforts!

exmark

TWA members receive 5 percent off any new Exmark mower. TWA receives 2 percent of each member’s purchase to support its mission. All purchases must be made through a Texas dealer, which can be found at www.exmark.com. A complete list of conditions and exclusions available by visiting www.exmark.com/partners.

willie’s t’s embroidery

TWA’s new official merchandise supplier, Willie’s T’s is the place for all things TWA logo apparel and gift related. An annual contribution is made by Willie’s T’s on each item sold. For more information visit www.texaswildlife.gostorego.com.

Texas Wildlife Association texas-wildlife.org

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49


texas tim b e r doodles

butions from southern breeding grounds should be quantified. To date, more than 500 feather samples have been analyzed. Comparable with other recent migratory research, the American Woodcock likely shows considerable within species variance in migratory behavior and should not be categorized holistically. Natal origins of Woodcock harvested throughout the continent to be from the northernmost portion of the range and to have a large Canadian born component. However, natal origin assignments spanned the entire breeding range, even with a few individuals having origins in the southernmost portions of Texas and Louisiana. The more uniform assignment distribution of Eastern winter harvest subsample indicate better habitat in the mid latitudinal portion of Eastern region than in the Central region, where there is minimal to no available forest habitat, and likely produce fewer woodcocks than would be expected in the more extensively mid-range portions found in the Eastern region. Moreover, there is some evidence that woodcocks employ a “leap-frog� migration strategy, where the northernmost breeding birds winter

Typical wintering woodcock habitat in East Texas.

Woodcock are an unusual forest dwelling shorebird, but a popular webless migratory game bird.

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TEXAS WILDLIFE

july 2013

A woodcock pausing during a foraging event during winter in East Texas.

in the southernmost areas, while there a portion of the population migrates (potentially) more facultatively. How they developed these migration patterns remain unknown, and final analyses are not complete, but woodcocks remain an unusual forest-dwelling shorebird that continues to baffle ecologists.

For more information, please contact Dan Sullins, Graduate Research Assistant or Dr. Warren Conway, Professor of Wildlife Management, Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture, Stephen F. Austin State University at wconway@sfasu.edu.


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community bankers in support of twa

Interested in joining these banks in support of TWA and seeing your logo featured monthly in Texas Wildlife Magazine? Contact TWA Director of Member Relations Kendra Roller at (210) 826-2904 or kroller@texas-wildlife.org. Photo by D. K. Langford


TEXAS WILDLIFE

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ICF –Your Images, Their Future

Saving W ildlife One Image at a Time

I C F S napshot of the month

by John McCaine This award-winning photo of two Harris's Hawks fighting over carrion was taken by John McCaine with South African photographer, author, and ICF coach Grant Atkinson at Martin Refuge during a recent ICF Pro-Am Tour of Nature Photography competition. TWA is proud to partner with the Images for Conservation Fund in an effort to present some of the outstanding images captured during its nature photography competitions held on private lands in Texas. Images for Conservation Fund is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization created in 2003 for the purpose of conserving wildlife habitat and generating a sustainable income stream within rural economies through the establishment and prosperity of the Private Lands' Nature-Photography Industry (PLNPI). Images for Conservation encourages private landowners to restore, preserve, conserve, and enhance wildlife habitat through the business of nature photography. ICF has established and will continue creating a strong Private Lands Nature Photography Industry (PLNPI) that provides economic incentives for private landowners to conserve and enhance wildlife habitat. ICF does this primarily through its photography tournaments. It also engages in community outreach and education efforts and help landowners with marketing and land preparation support. For more information on ICF, visit www.imagesforconservation.org.

54

TEXAS WILDLIFE

july 2013


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Profile for Texas Wildlife Association

"Texas Wildlife" - July 2013  

"Texas Wildlife" is the official publication of the Texas Wildlife Association.

"Texas Wildlife" - July 2013  

"Texas Wildlife" is the official publication of the Texas Wildlife Association.