Conservation Matters August 2013

The Texas Land, Water and Wildlife Connection

  • Latest issue of txH2O covers water and technology
    Latest issue of <em>txH2O</em> covers water and technology

    The Summer issue of txH2O, the Texas Water Resources Institute’s magazine, spotlights 21st century technologies that are improving and affecting water resources not only in Texas, but throughout the world. Many of the stories highlight research developed and enhanced by The Texas A&M University System researchers.

    For example, Texas A&M AgriLife Research plant breeders are using next-generation DNA sequencing to make the connection between genes and plants’ resistance to drought, disease and insects. With that information, they can develop plant lines more quickly and efficiently. An AgriLife Research center is focusing on commercializing electron beam technology to the wastewater industry to make wastewater more sustainable.

  • Expert advises landowners on conservation and Endangered Species Act
    Expert advises landowners on conservation and Endangered Species Act

    To some Texans, the term endangered species may sound like a mundane detail of wildlife management, but the protections for plants and animals listed under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) can have wide impacts not only on species and ecosystems, but also on communities, properties and industries, according to a Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources (IRNR) expert.   

    “Texans need to know what’s on the horizon regarding ESA listings and how the listings could affect them,” said Brian Hays, an IRNR associate director. Texas currently has 65 animal and 28 plant species listed under the ESA, 21 candidate species and 118 recently petitioned species under status review.

  • IRNR has integral role in national conservation program

    The Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources (IRNR) is playing an integral role in a new nationwide federal, local and private collaboration dedicated to natural resource sustainability for areas surrounding military installations. 

    IRNR is assisting the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of the Interior in developing a viable framework and executing the Sentinel Landscapes Partnership, according to Bruce Beard, associate director for IRNR’s military sustainability program.

  • Learn about urban landscape water use with new publications
    Learn about urban landscape water use with new publications

    Urban-municipal use is the second largest category of water use in Texas, and landscape irrigation is its largest component. A new article in the Texas Water Journal and an accompanying Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI) brochure provide an evaluation of urban landscape acreage in Texas, associated water use and strategies for improved water conservation in the sector.

    “Addressing the current knowledge gaps and developing practices that significantly enhance water-use efficiency in urban activities, particularly landscape irrigation, is necessary to the Texas economy,” said Dr. Kevin Wagner, TWRI associate director.

    Authored by Wagner, Dr. Raul Cabrera, associate professor at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Uvalde, and Dr. Benjamin Wherley, assistant professor in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences at Texas A&M University, the Texas Water Journal article is available at texaswaterjournal.org. The Urban Landscape Water Use in Texas brochure complements another TWRI publication, Status and Trends of Irrigated Agriculture in Texas. Both are available at twri.tamu.edu/publications.

  • Freshwater mussels may be saved during drought by relocating
    Freshwater mussels may be saved during drought by relocating

    Researchers with the Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources have found that relocating freshwater mussels may be an effective strategy for saving mussels populations impacted by drought or bridge construction activities in Texas.

    In a pilot project studying for the first time the effectiveness of mussel relocation in Texas, Eric Tsakiris, research assistant, and Dr. Charles Randklev, a research scientist, relocated three species of mussels from a site in the lower San Saba River in Central Texas to a site upstream with similar species and habitat.

    To-date, of the mussels recovered, 100 percent survived and grew, Tsakiris said.

    “Short-term relocation is successful,” he said, “but long-term, we still don’t know. Most studies suggest monitoring the mussels after relocation for a minimum of one to two years to get an idea of how they are performing.”

  • Save the date: Riesel historic designation ceremony Sept. 23
    Save the date: Riesel historic designation ceremony Sept. 23

    The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) experimental watershed facility, commonly called the Riesel Watersheds, recently received national recognition as “a Historic Landmark of Agricultural and Biological Engineering” by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE). A designation ceremony and open house is set for Sept. 23 from 2–6:30 p.m. at the facility, 1702 Blackland Road, Riesel. Texas Farm Bureau and other sponsors will provide refreshments. 

    Established in 1937–1938 and the last remaining original experimental watershed, the Riesel site is one of 58 historic landmarks recognized nationally by the society. 

  • Two riparian and stream ecosystem workshops coming in September
    Two riparian and stream ecosystem workshops coming in September

    The next stops for Texas Riparian and Stream Ecosystem Education Program workshops include the Leon River watershed Sept. 12 near Moody and the Geronimo and Alligator creeks watershed Sept. 17 in Seguin.

    The free educational programs cover how streams function and the role of riparian vegetation in stream-system function, said Nikki Dictson, Texas Water Resources Institute Extension program specialist and program coordinator.

  • Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch hosting field day Sept. 27

    The Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch will conduct its 6th annual field day from 9 a.m.–3 p.m. Sept. 27 at its ranch near Roby. The program will theme is Best Management Practices for Quail.

    “The quail situation looks better this year than any year since 2007,” said Dr. Dale Rollins, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service wildlife specialist and Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch director. ”With the adoption of good management practices, hopefully we can capture this momentum and get back to huntable levels across west Texas.”

  • North Texas water district launches WaterMyYard.org
    North Texas water district launches WaterMyYard.org

    A new pilot project by the North Texas Municipal Water District has the potential to save millions of gallons of water every summer on over-watered landscapes, according to Dr. Guy Fipps, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service irrigation engineer.

    The WaterMyYard project incorporates automated weather stations situated throughout the district that feed data to a website, WaterMyYard.org, which uses evapotranspiration — usually termed “ET” — rates to calculate weekly irrigation recommendations specific to areas within the district, Fipps said.

  • New Texas Coastal Citizen Planner program to start Sept. 25

    Starting in September, coastal community officials can turn to a new training program for local planning and development issues.The Texas Coastal Citizen Planner is an eight-course program that covers trends and best practices concerning community planning and development, designed specifically for local and appointed officials, according to Steven Mikulencak, coordinator for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service’s Coastal Watershed Program.

    The evening courses will be held Sept. 25 through early December in the Houston-Galveston and the Corpus Christi areas, Mikulencak said. The registration fee is $100 until Sept. 18 and then is $125. Information, registration and a course calendar are available at CitizenPlanner.tamu.edu.

  • Desalination conference coming to Austin Sept. 12–13

    Co-sponsored by the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) and organized by the Texas Desalination Association, Texas Desal 2013 will be held in Austin Sept. 12–13. According to organizers, the event will include industry experts, policymakers, regulators and researchers who are leading the way for desalination and water reuse in Texas.

    Conference presenters will explore opportunities for and obstacles to desalination in Texas, address policy and legislative matters, discuss new technologies and financing options, and present case studies.  

    Carlos Rubinstein, TWDB chairman,will make the keynote address at the luncheon on Sept. 13, and Dr. Robert E. Mace, TWDB interim executive administrator, will provide information on financing options for implementing desalination. State Representatives Lyle Larson and Bill Callegari will address desalination from policy and legislative perspectives.

    Full details of the conference are available at www.TexasDesal.org.

  • Lone Star Healthy Streams workshop in Lampasas set for Sept. 18
    Lone Star Healthy Streams workshop in Lampasas set for Sept. 18

    A Lone Star Healthy Streams workshop will be held Sept. 18 at the Farm Bureau building at 1793 N. U.S. Highway 281 in Lampasas.

    The Lone Star Healthy Streams program aims to educate Texas livestock producers and land managers on how to best protect Texas waterways from bacterial contributions associated with livestock production and feral hogs, said Jennifer Peterson, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service program specialist.

  • Austin Blind and Jollyville Plateau salamanders listed under Endangered Species Act

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced on Aug. 20 the listing of the Austin blind and Jollyville Plateau salamanders under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the designation of 4,451 acres of critical habitat for both species in portions of Travis and Williamson counties in central Texas.

    FWS is also publishing a 6-month extension of the final determinations for the Georgetown and Salado salamanders and is reopening the public comment period for those species for 30 days.

  • Texas Tech researchers to study wind farm wakes
    Texas Tech researchers to study wind farm wakes

    Wind farms may be operating at less than their potential, according to researchers at Texas Tech University’s National Wind Institute (NWI). In a two-fold study, Dr. Brian Hirth, Texas Tech research professor, and Dr. John Schroeder, NWI director, will use a National Science Foundation grant to work with wind farm operators in the Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and southwest Kansas region to study wind flows through various wind farms.

    In addition to power, turbines also produce wake. The disturbance, while invisible to the naked eye, interferes with the atmosphere downstream. These turbine-to-turbine interactions along with other wind farm complex wind flows are poorly documented, according to researchers

  • Cypress Creek watershed well owners invited to Sept. 12 Wimberley training

    Anyone interested in private water-well management in the Cypress Creek watershed is invited to a free Texas Well Owner Network training from 8:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m. Sept. 12 at the Wimberley Community Center, 14068 Ranch Road 12 in Wimberley.

    “The Texas Well Owner Network program is for Texas residents who depend on household wells for their water needs,” said Drew Gholson, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service program specialist and network coordinator. “Well owners who want to become familiar with Texas’ groundwater resources, septic system maintenance, well maintenance and construction, water quality and water treatment will benefit from this training.”

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