The past year has been a busy one for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TWPD). So much so that it has put together a top 10 list of the most eventful Parks and Wildlife stories of 2008.
10. Outreach to Draw Urban Texans to Outdoors
Several new programs were implemented or expanded to give families with young kids chances to explore the great outdoors and learn skills like camping, fishing and hunting.
9. Bear, Bighorn Comebacks
The desert bighorn sheep is now being observed in the highest numbers seen since the late 1880s. Black bears, which largely disappeared from Texas by the 1930's due to habitat loss and unregulated hunting, now have resident and reproducing populations found in far West Texas, with increasingly frequent sightings of bears in the East Texas Pineywoods and in South Texas.
8. Wetlands Restoration Completed
A coalition of conservation organizations and local businesses finished restoring 1.7 miles of North Deer Island shoreline this year. It is the most productive bird nesting island on the Texas Gulf Coast, with up to 30,000 pairs of nesting birds resident each year.
7. Biological Deer Management
TPWD wildlife biologists this year proposed a number of deer hunting regulation changes that reflect a broader move away from managing deer according to political boundaries such as county lines. Instead, biologists have identified 33 resource management units across the state, part of a continuing effort to base Texas wildlife conservation on the best available science.
6. Man Convicted in Game Warden Killing
James Garrett Freeman, 27, was convicted of capital murder in the March, 2007 shooting death of Texas Game Warden Justin Hurst.
5. Crackdown on Illegal Deer Hunting
Texas game wardens, often working undercover, conducted a series of high-profile arrests sending a strong warning to those who may want to profit illegally from public wildlife resources.
4. New State Fish Hatchery
Ground was broken on a $27 million freshwater fish hatchery in East Texas this November. Once completed in 2010, it will double the state's freshwater fish production and will replace the 70-year-old hatchery at Jasper.
3. World Birding Center State Park
The Resaca de la Palma State Park was completed. It is the second new state park opened in the Valley this decade and the largest of nine sites that comprise the World Birding Center in the lower Rio Grande Valley.
2. Hurricane Ike
During this devastating natural disaster, state parks hosted more than 6,000 evacuees .
1. New Land Acquisitions
In September, TPWD acquired the approximately 2,900-acre Fortress Cliffs Ranch, protecting some six miles of the Palo Duro Canyon rim. In November, the Nature Conservancy of Texas acquired the 7,000-acre Fresno Ranch with plans to transfer it to TPWD to become part of Big Bend Ranch State Park.