Nature In The Heart Of Texas
Bill Lindemann, Fredericksburg Standard/Radio Post, Kerrville Daily Times, April 2003, © 2003
When the Texas Department of Transportation and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department completed their Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail in 2000, a wonderful precedent was established to showcase nature, in this case birding, in our state. The maps of the three zones of the 400-mile Texas Gulf of Mexico coastline featured over 300 excellent birding sites on both public and private lands stretching across 43 counties. Other states scrambled to develop similar guides for their birding areas to match this very successful Texas venture.
Now these same two Texas agencies are ready to unveil a new set of maps to cover wildlife viewing across our state's expansive and diverse ecological regions. The first map will feature wildlife viewing in the Panhandle Plains and is expected to be released sometime in late April or early May. Following soon after will be a map of the Heart of Texas West beginning in the Del Rio area and winding its way to the San Angelo area. The third map will feature the Heart of Texas East, which begins in the Brownwood area and ends in the Laredo area.
Each of these wildlife trails will be divided into loops and within each loop will be a number of stops or sites for nature buffs to explore for wildlife. The Hill Country is mostly covered in the Heart of Texas West map; Fredericksburg area sites are part of the Peach Loop, while Kerrville sites are included in the Little Deutschland Loop. The featured sites will be given a number corresponding to the locations on the map and signposts located along the access highway. A text portion in the map will give directions to the site and list some of the wildlife that might be seen there.
Selected sites include state parks, city parks, nature centers, lakes, historic sites, nature oriented businesses, private ranches and bed and breakfast businesses. Some sites will be free, while others will have admission fees. The Heart of Texas West Wildlife Trail will have twelve loops and 115 sites. Each site will be responsible for providing any literature, checklists and other information pertinent to that stop. Each stop will be unique as it could provide historic and cultural insights in addition to the wildlife and scenery.
Eco-tourism is the driving force in bringing government agencies, businesses, conservation groups, private citizens and communities together to make such a venture possible. In the past ten to twenty years more and more tourist dollars are being spent each year by birders and other nature enthusiasts to pursue and enjoy their interests in the great outdoors. If you look in travel magazines today, many advertisements are aimed at the tourists with nature-oriented interests.
This scenario is a win-win situation for all concerned, but the biggest winners will be the wildlife residents. They will benefit from heightened awareness of their plights and the enhancement of the habitats in which they live. Nature enthusiasts benefit by having more areas opened for exploration and discovery, while businesses and communities are happy to see new opportunities for financial gain.