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2009-12-03 digital edition

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2009-12-03 / Community News

The Texas Master Naturalist Program

The Texas Master Naturalist Program is a volunteer driven and state directed program to help the citizens of Texas get involved in the outdoors. Originally the program was slated to help train large metropolitan citizens to get back in touch with the natural world. Since the early 40’s, a shift occurred in Texas where more people are living in the urban areas of Texas and less in the rural. Now with over 82% of the Texas populace living in urban areas, contact with the natural world is becoming more of an idea than a reality.

To tackle the ever changing dynamics of Texas, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department alongside Texas Cooperative Extension and some 300 local partners continue to promote and expand the Master Naturalist Program.

An individual gains the designation of Texas Master Naturalist™ after participating in an approved chapter training program with a minimum of 40 hours of combined field and classroom instruction, obtaining 8 hours of approved advanced training, and completing 40 hours of volunteer service. Following the initial training program, trainees have one year in which to complete their 40 hours of volunteer service and 8 hours of advanced training. To retain the Texas Master Naturalist title during each subsequent year, volunteers must complete 8 additional hours of advanced training and provide an additional 40 hours of volunteer service coordinated through their local chapter.

Master Naturalist Volunteers get the training in a wide degree of outdoor and environmental management techniques and are able to help with projects supported by local partners and the state agencies. The program benefits the individual by enabling them to help work with and manage Texas’ natural resources in the present and for the future, and members gain achievement awards annually for completing their hours of service. In 2005, two Texas Master Naturalist volunteers were recognized for completing over 5,000 hours of volunteer service. They were awarded with a polished gold and diamond dragonfly pin (the symbol of the program), an official President’s Volunteer Service Award Pin, a personalized certificate of achievement, and a note of congratulations from the President of the United States.

The program began in March of 1997 in San Antonio and currently supports an estimated 2,950 Texas Master Naturalist volunteers in 41 local chapters. The Texas Master Naturalist program continually expands so if there is not a chapter near you,

contact the Texas Master Naturalist Coordinator or your local TPWD biologist or TCE county agent.

Since 1998, Texas Master Naturalist volunteer efforts

have provided over

635,000 hours of service valued at more than $10.1 Million. This service has resulted in enhancing 75,000 acres of wildlife and native plant habitats, reaching more than 1.2 million youth, adults and private landowners. One member discovered a new plant species. The program has gained international, state, and local recognition with the Wildlife Management Institute’s Presidents’ 2000 Award, the National Audubon Society’s 2001 Habitat Hero’s Award, the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission’s 2001 Environmental Excellence Award, Texas A&M University’s 2001 Vice Chancellor’s Award of Excellence in Partnership, and in 2005 the U. S. Department of Interior’s “Take Pride in America” award. Most recently (October 2007), The Texas Master Naturalist Program was awarded the Educator of the Year award presented by the Texas Environmental Education Association.

Funding for the Texas Master Naturalist program is provided by Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and Texas Cooperative Extension. To find out more about the Texas Master Naturalist Program, please visit http://masternaturalist.tamu.edu/ for information about the program and to search for local chapters in your area.

If you would like to contact your local biologist, go to www.tpwd.state.tx.us/wildlifebiologist.

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