NEWSLETTER


Right here at home - in the Hill Country!

January, 2005


HAYS COUNTY MASTER NATURALISTS

President Dell Hood

Vice President Randy Moss

Secretary Betty Watkins

Treasurer Winifred Simon

Training Committee

Joe Piazza

Records Committee

Judy Telford

State Advisory Board

Walt Krudop

Editor Richard Barnett Richb6986@aol.com

Webmaster Dave Schwarz

Extension Agent Bryan Davis

PRESIDENTIAL MESSAGE

Fellow Naturalists,

Please join me in welcoming your incoming Executive Board on January 27 and in extending your support during the New Year. I look forward to their bright new ideas and helping to put them into action.

Naturally yours,

Dell Hood

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CALENDARR

January 27, HCMN Business Meeting & Installation of Officers for 2005. Hays County Extension Center. Potluck Dinner at 6:30pm, business meeting at 7:00pm.

February 3: 8:00 on PBS television stations. Texas: the State of Water; Finding a Balance, narrated by Walter Cronkite.

February 12, 2005, 10.00am. SMGA Blanco River Nature Walk at the Holt Property (also known as Blanco Shoals). This is a stretch of the Blanco from the bridge at IH-35 down river toward the Uhland low water crossing. It sits behind the apartments that are being constructed on the east side of the highway. A bluff overlooks the river bottom, which features plenty of interesting twists and turns, gigantic trees and riparian features. Information: tobe@austin.rr.com.

February 26, Native Plant Symposium: Those Other Native Texas Plants - Grasses, Ferns, Cacti, & Their Allies. Information: tel 512-292-4200 x112; fax 512-292-4627; http://www.wildflower.org; sbbrueggerhoff@wildlower.org.

March 4, 5th annual Statewide Water Conference, hosted by Environmental Defense Fund at LBJ Wildflower Center, Austin. Information: Alicia Isaac-Cura, 512-691-3435; http://www.texaswatermatters.org.

March 22, 2005. World Water Day

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JANUARY MEETING

January 27, Hays County Master Naturalists Business Meeting and Installation of Officers for 2005.

Potluck dinner begins at 6:30 pm in our regular meeting place, the Hays County Extension Center. The business session begins at 7:00 pm. It will include the installation of officers, the appointment of committee chairs, and planning schedules and activities for the new year.

The new officers of the Hays County Chapter for 2005 are as follows:

President: Randy Moss
Vice-president: Tom Watson
Secretary: Nancy Turner
Treasurer: Winifred Simon

Annual dues of $12.00 for 2005 are payable at the meeting. Please make your check to Hays County Master Naturalists. You may also mail your check directly to the Treasurer, Winifred Simon, 600 Red Hawk Road, Wimberley, TX 78676.

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Advanced Training

Bridging the Gap: Linking Science and Education

The Center for Ocean Science Education Excellence-Gulf of Mexico
(COSEE-GOM) invites informal educators to a workshop in Coastal Sciences:

Bridging the Gap: Linking Science and Education

The University of Texas Marine Science Institute, Port Aransas, January 11-12, 2005

The purpose of the workshop is to provide informal educators involved in outreach programs (those that work at museums, aquariums, nature centers, water management districts, county extension offices, etc.) with the latest research, and policy information on marine and coastal topics; opportunities to network with colleagues and scientists; and a forum for discussing ways to bridge the gap between scientists, policy makers and educational communities.

COSEE-GOM is one of a number of sites around the United States designated to develop ocean science education opportunities that connect scientists and educators. COSEE-GOM consists of five regional sites located in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.
COSEE-GOM is funded by the National Science Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Sea Grant College Program and National Oceanographic Partnership Program/Office of Naval Research.

A registration fee of $20 covers all materials, lodging at Plantation Suites and/or UTMSI dorms, dinner on January 11th, breakfast and lunch on January 12th, and the FAML and research vessel programs. Participants are responsible for their own transportation and expenses to and from the workshop site.

For more information on the workshop contact Rick Tinnin, Marine Education Services, 361-749-6764, tinnin@utmsi.utexas.edu

Joint Facilitator Training

Joint Facilitator Training for Project WILD, Project Learning Tree, and Food, Land and People.

Sponsored by The Nature Conservancy: Food, Land & People, Texas Forestry Association, Texas Forest Service, and TP&W.

January 21-23, 2005 at Texas Parks & Wildlife Headquarters, 4200 Smith School Road, Austin, TX 78744. Cost o $105 includes food and lodging. Participants earn 18 hours of TEEAC and SBEC certification credit, curriculum materials, facilitator manuals, training in environmental education theory and practice, certification as facilitator/trainer in all 3 projects, and resource materials.

Information: Cheryl Stanco, 936-632-8733, cstanco@texasforestry.org

Project WET

Project WET (Water Education for Teachers) Workshop
Saturday, January 22, 2005
Witte Museum, 3801 Broadway, San Antonio, Texas

Bringing a decade of experience in materials development to water resources education, Project WET is an international, nonprofit water education program for educators and young people. The goal of Project WET is to facilitate and promote awareness, appreciation, knowledge, and stewardship of water resources. In this highly energetic, FREE course, you will receive a 500 page Project WET instructional book and then have
an opportunity to "get WET" with several of the activities.
Recommended for Science, Math, Language Arts and Social Studies educators, K-5th grades.
To register for this FREE program, please call 210-357-1910 by Thursday, January 20th, 2005.

Project Learning Tree

PROJECT LEARNING TREE, PRE-K THROUGH 8th GRADE, EDUCATOR TRAINING WORKSHOP FOR TEACHERS, YOUTH GROUP LEADERS, & NATURE EDUCATORS

SPONSORED BY THE WACO WETLAND EDUCATION CENTER, TEXAS FORESTRY ASSOCIATION AND THE TEXAS FOREST SERVICE.

THURSDAY, JANUARY 27, 2005, 9:30am to 4:30pm at the WACO WETLANDS RESEARCH AND EDUCATION CENTER

Project Learning Tree (PLT) is an interdisciplinary, supplementary environmental education curriculum with activities grouped by theme, story line and subject matter. The program emphasizes hands-on indoor and outdoor activities. Participants receive the Pre-K through 8th grade curriculum guide with over 96 activities, and are eligible for the following professional development credit: 6 hours each of SBEC and TEEAC credit.

Cost is $20 per participant ($15 registration + $5 to cover supplies).
Dress for the weather and be prepared for possible outdoor/wet activities. Bring a sack lunch. Drinks will be provided. Insect repellant, rubber footwear, and binoculars may be helpful.

Registration and information: Jeanene Betros, PO Box 20306, Waco, TX 76702. E-mail: butterflydragon@juno.com Phone: 254-752-6345.
Please include your Name, Address, Phone and E-mail & check payable to Jeanene Betros. Confirmation will be by E-mail.

REGISTRATION & PAYMENT DUE BY THAN JANUARY 18TH, 2005.
7-DAY CANCELLATION NOTICE REQUIRED.

Project WILD

Texas Project Wild Workshop, sponsored by The Friends of the Fredericksburg
Nature Center, Sat. February 12, 2005, 8:30 am --- 4:00 pm., Tatsch House, Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park, Fredericksburg.

Project Wild is a Kindergarten - 12th.grade environmental and conservation education program emphasizing awareness, appreciation, and understanding of wildlife. Project Wild teaches young people how to think about wildlife not what to think.
Project Wild is a Texas Parks and Wildlife program for Teachers, Youth Leaders (Scouts, 4-H, Nature Centers), and Master Naturalists. This workshop is free.


To register or for more information phone Jane Crone (830) 669-2639, or Bill Lindemann (830) 997-8917

Seeds of Environmental Education

March 11-13, 2005, at the Outdoor Education Center at Camp Olympia, on the shores of Lake Livingston in the beautiful Piney Woods of East Texas, approximately twenty miles Northeast of Huntsville, Texas. Presented by Houston ISD Outdoor Education Centers and Texas Association for Environmental Education.

Keynote presenter Dr. Pete Gunter is a University of North Texas Professor and the author of several books, including Texas Land Ethics (with Max Oelschlaeger), The Big Thicket: A Challenge for Conservation, and The Big Thicket: An Ecological Reevaluation. He will speak on environmental education and the land ethics of Aldo Leopold in relation to the Big Thicket. He will also offer a related workshop and a session on ecological songs and stories. Keynote speaker Walt Dabney is Director of Parks for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and he speaks on "The Parks as Classrooms." Other workshops feature expert presenters on topics such as local wildlife and natural history. Recreational opportunities may include birding, canoeing, astronomy, and night hiking, and you will have a chance to share your favorite children's book at the Children's Literature Fair.

Early registration of $100 includes all workshops, keynote presentations, and entertainment, plus five meals and lodging for two nights in bunk-style group housing. Check in Friday evening and Saturday morning. Sessions begin Saturday morning and conclude by noon on Sunday. TEEAC and SBEC credit will be given. Directions and additional information will be sent to you upon receipt of registration. Questions? Contact Mary Gedelian at 1-800-729-6291 or mgedelia@houstonisd.org.

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Chapter News

DECEMBER MEETING

The only business transacted at our December 16 joint party with the Master Gardeners was the presentation of Certification Awards for 2004.

The members who met the certification requirements for 2004 include Ann Allen, Linda Anderson, Richard Barnett, Delbert Bassett, Steve Boles, Ray Franklin, Kathy Johnson, David Jones, James Kinscherff, Walter Krudop, Winifred Simon, Johanna Smith, Judy Telford, Lydia Washam-Morgan, Betty Watkins, and KayBeth Williams.

If you find that your name is missing from this list, please be sure to submit your reports of volunteer hours and advanced training to Judy Telford at 2303 E McCarty Lane, San Marcos, TX 78666, jt01@txstate.edu. The reporting deadline is January 15. No report, no credit.

Introduction to Prescribed Fire

Bastrop State Park, Dec. 6, 2004

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department developed this one-day program for its employees and other interested persons. This initial class, with others to be offered later, provided a basic introduction to the ecological benefits of prescribed fire, components of the fire environment, safety considerations, common techniques, and equipment.

The statistic that is seared on my mind (pardon the pun) was that last year more people were killed in prescribed burns than in wildfires. Safety was emphasized!


After six hours of class, we went into the field to practice our new knowledge. However, after several inches of rain previously and drizzle during the day, our prescribed burns fizzled. I came home with an appreciation of prescribed burns, a respect for their dangers, and smelling like a bar-b-q pit.

-- Winifred Simon

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Volunteer Opportunities

Cypress Creek Nature Preserve

HCMN Project #409

The volunteers recruited to help develop the 7.2 acre Cypress Creek Nature Preserve have begun work at the Preserve. Master Naturalists can earn volunteer hours for their work on this project. The volunteers meet every Saturday morning at 10:00 a.m. at the Preserve, located less than 100 yards east of the Wimberley Square on Old Kyle Road.

Volunteers help with cleaning up the site and developing the trail. Malcolm Harris, a member of the Wimberley Parks and Recreation Board, leads the work. Architect Oscar Wilson designed the improvements, and Jack Waldschmidt's water garden is under construction. A trail now extends all the way from the Wimberley Square to the Blue Hole property that Wimberley is in the process of acquiring. The next phase of work is covering the trail with wood chips and removing litter.

If you want to spend a Saturday morning in Wimberley, come volunteer in the Nature Preserve and watch it develop as you work. For further information, call Dell Hood at 512-847-1231, or e-mail: hood@alumni.utexas.net.

Trail Building and Maintenance

HCMN Project # 424

DATE: On-going projects

ACTIVITY: Volunteers will selectively remove brush, trees, rocks in new trail corridors, create new trails, and maintain existing trails They will be instructed on site by a crew manager.

SPONSORS: Corps of Engineers Canyon Lake Park; Camino Real Cycling Club (CRCC); Austin Ridge Riders Mountain Bike Club; San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance (SMGA); Hays County Parks Depts .

SPONSOR CONTACTS: James Buratti (CRCC), 512-245-3641, jb63@txstate.edu ; Todd Derkacz (SMGA), 512-754-9321, tobe@austin.rr.com ; Jerry Pinnix (Hays Co), 512-393-2212, jlp2002@earthlink.net

HCMN CONTACT: Judy Telford, 512-353-8143, 2303 E McCarty Lane, San Marcos, TX 78666, jt01@txstate.edu.

PROJECT DESCRIPTION:

Volunteers can expect to cut and remove trees, brush and rocks in new trail corridors, create new trails, and groom existing trails. They are welcome to work as much or as little as they feel up to. We just want everyone to enjoy the process of creating new hiking and biking trails. Some are narrow, natural surface trails that are built by hand without motorized equipment.

There are opportunities for volunteers of all ages and experience. A crew manager will instruct volunteers in methods and safety on site. Safety is the first priority. Careful attention is paid to erosion prevention, proper pruning techniques, natural aesthetics and preservation of valuable natural elements.

Every SMGA session begins with a safety briefing. People who volunteer and who have zero experience with natural surface trails may be required to read a short text or receive a briefing on some basic trail techniques before they touch a tool.

Tools will be provided. Volunteers should bring work gloves, sturdy shoes, eye protection, and water.

All trail building is on public land such as Canyon Lake Park, Lake Georgetown Park, Hughson Park, Schulle Canyon, and other city and county parks as they are identified. Volunteers are usually required to sign a volunteer release from liability.

Volunteers who really enjoy the experience can attend a trail building school, usually held once a year.

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State News

WHOOPING CRANE POPULATION HITS RECORD HIGH

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service authorities say a record number (213), of the endangered cranes have arrived in Texas! After its 2,400-mile migration to Texas, the flock set a new population record since counts began in 1938. It will also begin a new chapter in the comeback story of an endangered species that once numbered only 21 birds. Texas' winter flock of whooping cranes (the flock summers and nests in northwestern Canada's Wood Buffalo National Park) represents the last remaining natural flock of whooping cranes in the wild.

When the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge was created on the Texas coast in 1937 to conserve migratory waterfowl, it also preserved habitat for the last migratory flock of whooping cranes left on earth. Habitat protection and protection from hunting permitted a slow but steady recovery for the whooping crane. With a slow growth rate and low reproduction (whooping crane pairs usually raise only one chick), the Aransas flock did not reach 50 birds until 1968. It took an additional 28 years to pass the 100-bird mark. Texas' whooping cranes are considered a national treasure, and people outside Texas and Canada are likely to celebrate now that the species has topped 200 birds.

-- Texas Parks & Wildlife Communications Division, 11-29-2004.

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Local News

"All eyes on the eagles"

The Austin American-Statesman reports that three adult bald eagles have returned to last year's nest overlooking the Llano River and barely a hundred yards from Texas 29 in Llano County. You can find their photos online at http://www.statesman.com/multimedia.

Friends, Should we naturalists have to wait to read news like this in the newspaper?

Let's make this column a place for posting your sightings of rarities or first arrivals. Do the whooping cranes ever pass through Hays County? Will the bald eagles ever return to Eagle Rock Ranch? When do the geese and Monarch butterflies pass through on their flight north? I haven't seen any American Robins in Woodcreek yet this winter, and I would like to know if this is going to be a winter without robins. Please send your editor a note by email or USnail Mail. Photos in jpeg format are as welcome as the flowers in spring.

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ARTICLE

The State Transition Model: a new strategy for site evaluation

In the past, we have used the Range Model as the template when advising Hays County property owners about their land. This model has been our benchmark for assessing range health and species composition. It has served us well when we have visited property to offer our advice.

The Range Model is based on the ecological concept of equilibrium. The thought behind the concept is that plant communities left to themselves will return to their pristine state - their point of equilibrium (See Figure 1.). That is why the range guide for a particular area listed all the grasses, forbs, and woody species that would have existed there when it was in its pristine state. All judgments as to range health are derived by comparing existing community percentages with that of the pristine state. The comparison then indicates if the range is in excellent, good, fair, or poor range health. There are two problems with this model. The concept of equilibrium is no longer the accepted theory for ecological systems. We know from experience that if left alone systems seldom return to a pristine state. In Hays County, they usually turn into an Ashe juniper woodland. However, the biggest drawback to the Range Model is the lack of managerial prescription. A rangeland manager could not derive from the model what would occur from over-grazing, not using prescribed fire, or lack of brush management. Likewise the model did not relate the effects of good grazing, use of fire, and/or a good brush management program.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Society for Range Management, Texas Cooperative Extension, and other state and national organizations have now switched to another model. It is called the State Transition (ST) model. This model is based on a non-equilibrium concept. The premise of the non-equilibrium concept is that a disturbance can move the ecosystem from one state to another.(Smeins 2004) The movement from one state to another is called a transition. In some cases, actions can be taken that will return the ecosystem to its original state. However, in other cases the disturbance may move the ecosystem to a state from which it cannot transition back to a prior state (See Figure 2.).

The ST model offers several advantages over the Range Model. First the non-equilibrium concept is more in keeping with what we observe transpiring in rangelands all across the nation and world. Second it allows management actions to be tied to the various states in which the rangeland can reside.

I realize that the brain cells may be starting to ache as you try to translate the stated concepts into something useful for site visits. In the following paragraphs, I will try to walk through the basic steps of the ST model. This will be considerably easier for those who have access to the internet, as this is where the ST models are located. The URL is http://esis.sc.egov.usda.gov/. On this page select the middle item, 'Ecological Site Description', (Figure 3.). That will take you to a typewritten page where you select 'Approved reports' in the upper left. On the next page, select Texas in the "state" dropdown menu and from the MLRA dropdown select 081C (scroll down to find it) then click-on 'submit'. Four columns appear next. Looking in the third column, scroll down until you see 081C. There should be ten entries for 081C. These are the ten different ecological site conditions that exist in Hays County. The sites are: Adobe, Clay loam, Deep Redland, Low stony hill, Redland, Steep adobe, Steep rocky, Loamy bottomland, Shallow, and Clayey bottomland.(Peacock 2003) I will not go into a description of the different ecological sites as that should have been covered in the basic 40-hour training course. To get to specific site information, click on the corresponding blue number in the first column. Now you have the option to select which parts of the ecological site report you want. At first I recommend you select the complete report.

Let's look at the first ecological site report - Adobe, R081CY355TX. There is a lot of information in this report. For now, scroll down through the following features: Physiographic, Climatic, Influencing water, and Representative soils. When you reach the section titled 'Plant Communities', a paragraph or so into the section, you will find a diagram. The diagram is often referred to as the ST stick diagram. This diagram contains the essence of the report in a concise visual style. Let's examine the diagram. The larger box represents an ecological state. Transitioning from one state to another occurs when there has been a significant change in vegetation. In Figure 2, it is the same as moving from 1 to 2. Within the larger box are smaller boxes labeled 'community'. Communities have changed their composition but not as extensively as between states.

The action part of the diagram is the arrows. With each arrow is a set of letters that are defined in the legend. The Open Grassland/Oak Hillside State has two inner boxes representing two possible communities within the one state. First is the historic climax community for an Adobe ecological site - Open Grassland/Oak Hillside community. Box 2., Oak/Juniper Hillside Community, reflects what would occur if the landowner performed the actions listed beside the down-arrow, i.e. HCG, heavy continuous grazing, NF, no fire, and INV, allowed brush invasion.(Peacock 2003) To return to community 1, the landowner must expend energy ($) as indicated by the up-arrow. The owner must initiate a brush management program (implied is that the owner remove the existing Ashe junipers), do prescribed burning at scheduled intervals, and properly graze the land if livestock are to be present.

Box 3 reflects the conditions that would come to be if the landowner continued to overgraze and took no preventive actions. The site is no longer a grassland with 10% oaks but is a woodland of oaks and Ashe juniper with very little grass. It is depicted in a separate box because the site is in a different state, i.e. grassland to woodland.(Peacock 2003)


The bottom box, Open Grassland State, is after the site has become infested with Ashe junipers and the landowner wants a grassland. Brush management on the down-arrow should be translated as brush removal and then the land replanted with grasses. Obviously this will be an expensive undertaking for the landowner.

The information provided in these reports should make site visitations easier. The reports provide a lot of information about vegetation, soil, hydrology, and plant preferences for some animal species. I strongly encourage you to read the full report. Armed with the background material and knowledge of the ST model diagrams, you should be able to give more quantified assistance to visited landowners.

Delbert Bassett ©2005

Referenced Material

Peacock, G. (2003). Ecological Site Description, Foundation for Resource Management Decisions, Grazing Land Technology Institute, USDA-NRCS. 2003.

Smeins, F. E. (2004). Plant and Range Ecology RLEM 609 Field Trip Notes, Texas A&M University.

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Links to Chapter Sponsors and Partners

Sponsors

Texas Master Naturalist - State Website - masternaturalist.tamu.edu
Texas Cooperative Extension - agextension.tamu.edu/
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department - www.tpwd.state.tx.us/

Partners

LBJ Wildflower Center -- www.wildflower.org Native Plant Society of Texas - www.npsot.org/
Texas Cooperative Extension - Sea Grant Program - texas-sea-grant.tamu.edu/
Texas Forest Service - txforestservice.tamu.edu/
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - www.usace.army.mil/
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - www.fws.gov/
U.S.D.A. Natural Resource Conservation Service - .nrcs.usda.gov/

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© 2005 Hays County Master Naturalists