I’m pretty sure that I was born in love with the outdoors and would consider myself a naturalist as well as a horticulturist. If you too like learning about nature, perhaps you would like to sign up for the 2021 Texas Master Naturalist training co-sponsored by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
The non-profit Texas Master Naturalist Program’s mission is to develop a corps of well-informed volunteers to provide education, outreach, and service dedicated to the beneficial management of natural resources and natural areas within the State of Texas.
Growing from just one original chapter, today, 46 chapters statewide touch and enrich the lives of Texans every day. Master Naturalists build and maintain trails, act as docents at state parks and other venues, place injured and orphaned wildlife with local rehabilitators, plant Wildscape gardens, test water quality in area lakes and rivers, and act as a source of reliable information about environmental issues and natural resources in Texas.
A very active East Texas chapter has completed projects large and small. Volunteers have provided alternative housing for evicted bats residing in attics of historically important buildings, worked with the City of Tyler Parks and Recreation Department to clear trails and install signage to make city parks more user-friendly, and collected stuffed animals for baby beavers to hug when they are in rehab. Continuing education is vitally important to Master Naturalists and periodic chapter activity days offer ongoing opportunities to learn as well as ways to give back to the community.
The 2021 East Texas Master Naturalist classes begin January 26, 2021 from 6-9 PM at the Discovery Science Place annex located at 308 N. Broadway, Tyler, Texas 75702. The class includes more than 40 hours of classroom study and field trips. The classes are in archaeology, entomology, mammals, birds, botany, forest and wetland ecology, weather and more. Class size is limited and will be filled on a first come, first served basis.
Joining the Texas Master Naturalist community connects you with a close-knit group of naturalists, plus opportunities to meet thousands of volunteers from around the state at their annual meetings. Years ago, I went through the Texas Master Gardener training in Nacogdoches and when I eventually retire I plan to complete the Texas Master Naturalist program as well. Take advantage of one or both if you can.
There will be an orientation for potential students of the 2021 Smith County Master Gardener training Thursday November 19 (not Friday as originally published) from 1-3 pm at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Office classroom in the Cotton Belt Building on Front St. For more information on the Master Gardener program, call 903-590-2980 and ask for Allison.
Greg Grant is the Smith County horticulturist for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. He is author of Texas Fruit and Vegetable Gardening, Heirloom Gardening in the South, and The Rose Rustlers. You can read his “Greg’s Ramblings” blog at arborgate.com, read his “In Greg’s Garden” in each issue of Texas Gardener magazine (texasgardener.com), and follow him on Facebook at “Greg Grant Gardens.” More science-based lawn and gardening information from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service can be found at aggieturf.tamu.edu and aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu.