by Scott Hudson, class of 2018
The team who puts the Texas Master Naturalist Annual Meeting together continues to outdo themselves. There are four highlights from the 2022 meeting in Houston that seem particularly worth noting: a call to act, participation, recognition, and an invitation.
Recovering America’s Wildlife Act – A Narrow Window
This item is a call to action from Conservation Outreach Program Leader Richard Heilbrun. You’ll probably recall that this federal legislation focuses on species’ conservation needs and creating conditions for native species to thrive. It would provide Texas some $53 million annually for wildlife restoration, nature education, and wildlife-associated recreation. RAWA is likely a once in a generation opportunity to address these significant needs.
Richard’s update on this important legislation detailed the progress to date as well as the current status: waiting to get it before the full Senate for a vote. The Act easily passed in the House and it has passed through the Senate committee process. While there is broad bipartisan support for the bill, there is no guarantee that it will be voted on. We have a narrow window as there are only a few weeks left in the current congressional session. If RAWA doesn’t pass in this congress, much of the work would have to be undertaken afresh.
The request from Richard was very simple: if you care about this bill, now is the time to reach out to your senators. The medium (electronic, mail, phone) isn’t so important; making contact is. If you have already contacted them but it’s been a while, it’s appropriate to reach out again (without making pests of ourselves). And last, Richard asked that we think through contacts we have and consider asking them also to contact our senators. Read more about RAWA here.
NTMN Participation – You just have to be impressed with how well NTMN was represented at the conference. We had 27 members in person and joining virtually, the second most of all the chapters in the state. NTMN members also contributed two fine educational sessions to the agenda. Rebecca Posten, Kristi Kerr Leonard, and Shelby Smith presented Supporting Full and Equal Access to a Community’s Natural Environment on the Ideal-Bonton and Buckeye Trail project. Amy Martin and Kristi Kerr Leonard presented Ned Fritz: Founder of Nature Preservation in Texas.
NTMN Recognition – The Texas Buckeye Trail/Bonton+Ideal Neighborhoods Project received the 2nd Place Exemplary Project Award! This award comes with a $500 project grant for the chapter’s use. Congratulations to Kristi Kerr Leonard, Shelby Smith, and Rebecca Posten for an outstanding project.
Congratulations also to our many members who were recognized for having achieved volunteer service milestones over the last year. And our Chapter Advisor Sam Kieschnick was honored with a special presentation for his first five years of service with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Thanks, Sam, for all your hard work.
What about 2023? – Road Trip! – Annular Solar Eclipse! You’re invited. Next year’s annual meeting will be in McAllen, providing excellent opportunities for field trips in a very different part of the state. A number of world-class wildlife refuges and natural areas are within easy striking distance, as is the annular solar eclipse path. Admittedly, McAllen is more than a stone’s throw away, so we’re already working on plans with other area chapters to charter a bus.
Concerned about the cost? Please know that scholarship funds are budgeted each year.
Mark your calendars for October 12-15, 2023.