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The history of Texas Master Naturalist Program...and how to join them
By Bluestem Chapter of Texas Master Naturalist
May 18, 2019
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In June of 1996, it began.

It had become apparent to the San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department and the Department of Texas Parks and Wildlife that a group of volunteers was needed to support their various initiatives. Based on the Master Gardener Program, nineteen volunteers created a new program that focused on nature-the Alamo Area Master Naturalist Chapter. From this small group of volunteers, there grew a program that now is a cooperative effort between Texas Parks and Wildlife and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. There are now 48 chapters across Texas, and many other states have used the TMN template to start their own programs.

The mission of the Texas Master Naturalist Program is to “develop a corps of well-informed volunteers who provide education, outreach, and service dedicated to the beneficial management of natural resources and natural areas within our community for the state of Texas.” Our goals are to improve public understanding of natural resource ecology and management by developing a pool of local knowledge about natural resource ecology that can be used to enhance land management and education efforts within local communities.


In the fall of 2012, ten people from Grayson County undertook the required training necessary to become a Texas Master Naturalist. This group, who had a love of all things in nature, formed the Bluestem Chapter of Texas Master Naturalist. Our chapter is now six years old and our membership has grown to almost 50 members.

To become a member, you must undergo 40 hours of training, which is provided by the Chapter. Class sessions include just about every topic pertaining to nature—archaeology, geology, ornithology, entomology, ichthyology, herpetology, mammalogy, and wetland ecology. Other topics include the ecological regions of Texas, ecological concepts, weather and climate, water resources, plants and prairies, and aquatic systems. These classes provide a broad view of what is happening in Texas and then zero in to focus on Grayson County. They are taught by local professors from Austin College, Grayson College and Southeastern Oklahoma State University, and by other qualified experts.

We partner closely with three different entities: Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge and Eisenhower State Park. In coordination with AgriLife, BMN presents seminars for public education. Topics have included Wildflowers of the Blackland Prairie, Water Conservation, Global Climate Change, a Prairie and Pollinator Workshop, and a Butterfly Symposium. Our work at Eisenhower State Park includes the restoration of a prairie pocket, as well as helping with programs for children. Most of our work is at Hagerman NWR where we help maintain trails, monitor Monarch butterflies, conduct tram tours for visitors, monitor bluebird nests, lead tours of the Butterfly Garden, perform weekly bird counts, and help guide programs for school-age children.

Since its inception in 1996, the Texas Master Naturalist program has enrolled over 11,700 volunteers, who have donated over 4,000,00 service hours. This group has accumulated 530,581 advanced training hours and 73,000 initial training hours. Their time and effort have been worth over $92,000,000 to the state of Texas.
 
In the six years since our inception, Bluestem Master Naturalists have contributed 13,500 service hours, 2,500 advanced training hours and 1,700 Service Training hours. Our time and effort have been worth over $310,500 to the state.

If you enjoy nature and would like to help others learn about our earth and why we need to work toward preserving our planet, why you just might be a Master Naturalist! We have our new training program coming up in August. The cost of $100 includes all training classes, the TMN curriculum book and 2019 dues. For more information, just email me at friendsofhagerman@gmail.com. We hope you will join us in August.