Map of the month: wildlife management land use acres

While ag tax evaluations traditionally involve practices such as haying, cropping, grazing and livestock, the state added a wildlife management use component in 1995. This non-traditional approach to preserving open space lands and their values has gained momentum in the past two decades, as the total number of acres enrolled has risen from 93K in 1997 to 3.2M in 2012. So how do you qualify and what is the process to switch from a traditional ag use property to wildlife management use? 

Meet the Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute

The saying goes that a picture is worth a thousand words. I believe the same could be said about an organization’s name. We should understand an organization’s work and mission by its name.

That is one of the reasons why we recently changed our name from the Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources to the Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute.

Soil and Water Stewardship Week highlights importance of land conservation

To highlight the importance of voluntary land stewardship in Texas, the Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI) and the Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute (NRI) are partnering with the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board (TSSWCB), Association of Texas Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Texas Agricultural Land Trust, Texas Wildlife Association, and Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. The statewide campaign, “No Land No Water ™,” is the theme of this year’s Soil and Water Stewardship Week, April 30 through May 7.

Protecting military readiness and the gopher tortoise at the same time

A first-in-the-nation conservation plan, crafted by the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and wildlife agencies in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, protects at-risk gopher tortoises while helping military bases to continue training and testing missions across the tortoise’s Southern turf.

Research scientist receives Outstanding Graduate Award

We congratulate NRI's Dr. Ashley Long, a graduate of Emporia State University (ESU; M.S. 2009 in College of Liberal Arts and Sciences), who was selected as this year’s Outstanding Recent Graduate Award of 2017. The Outstanding Recent Graduate Award is a prestigious award that recognizes former students who graduated from ESU within 10 years (12 years at most) and have accomplished significant achievements.

As deadly screwworms reduce Key deer herd, IRNR and Texas A&M help multi-agency effort

After being eradicated from the United States for more than 30 years, New World screwworm flies reappeared in the lower Florida Keys this year. Screwworms have infested the endangered Florida Key deer population, which is spread across 11 islands. Approximately 130 deer, mostly males, have been killed by or euthanized due to the infestation, according to researchers.

Can you water your landscape less and still have thriving plants?

What if there was a way to irrigate less but still have good-looking landscapes?

Thanks to research results recently published by the Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources (IRNR) and the Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI), homeowners and landscapers can now learn exactly how little water is needed by popular Central Texas ornamental plants to not only survive but thrive.

Fire science, management topics of Great Plains summit in December in Kansas

The Fire Summit 2016: Changing Fire Regimes, a regional conference on fire science in the Great Plains, is set for Dec. 7-9 at the Hilton Garden Inn Conference Center in Manhattan, Kansas.

“This meeting is for all landowners, fire managers, firefighters and agency personnel who work with fire in the Great Plains,” said Brian Hays, an associate director for the Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources. “Fire is an inherent component of grassland systems of the Great Plains, so there is a need to share current fire science and management with these individuals as well as with rural fire districts and emergency managers”

IRNR plays integral role in national conservation partnership

Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources (IRNR) military land sustainability (MLS) program is playing an integral role in the Sentinel Landscapes Partnership, an initiative between the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and the U.S. Department of the Interior, according to Bruce Beard, associate director for IRNR’s MLS program.   

Scientists search for rare snake in East Texas longleaf pine forests

While many people try to avoid snakes, a group of researchers are doing everything they can to find snakes, specifically the rare Louisiana pine snake.

The nonvenomous, 6-foot-long snake lives in gopher burrows, coming out only to go from one burrow to another or to mate. Its only habitat is the longleaf pine savannahs in eastern Texas and western Louisiana. But today, that habitat is almost gone, said Dr. Toby Hibbitts, a researcher at the Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources (IRNR) and curator of amphibians and reptiles at the Biodiversity Research and Teaching Collections at Texas A&M.

Hibbitts is working with Dr. Wade Ryberg, another IRNR research scientist, and colleagues from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service on the project.

“With the loss of habitat, populations are crashing in Texas and Louisiana,” Hibbitts said.

The snake’s numbers have never been that abundant, Hibbitts said. In fact, the snake was undiscovered until the 1920s.

IRNR researchers survey bat populations in Texas, anticipating white-nose syndrome

First documented in bats in New York state in 2006, white-nose syndrome (WNS) has steadily spread throughout the eastern half of the country and is expected to arrive in Texas in the near future.

WNS is a deadly fungal disease affecting hibernating bats and has been confirmed in 29 states, five Canadian provinces and, in one lone case, as far west as Washington state. Since January, researchers from the Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources (IRNR) Bat and Hibernacula Project have been surveying sites across Texas to monitor winter bats and roosts and assess hibernacula, or hibernating environments, prior to the probable arrival of WNS. The project has received help from the Bat Conservation International (BCI) and is funded by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD).

“So far WNS has spread as close to Texas as Oklahoma, so we want to make sure we have baseline data,” said Melissa Meierhofer, IRNR research associate. “We want to know where the bats and hibernacula are prior to when the fungus comes here, so we can continuously monitor them.”