East Texas Woods and Waters Foundation is looking for a few men and women interested in helping protect our little part of the world, keep people involved and introduce young girls and boys to the outdoors.
Here is the deal. Texas is shrinking. At least wild Texas is. If you do not believe it, take a drive from Tyler to Fort Worth and tell me where the open spaces are. Even worse, go from Dallas to San Antonio and attempt to figure out where one city ends and another begins.
The same with lakes. They are not disappearing like the wildscape, but there has not been a new one built in years. And the competition on the water between the various user groups is greater than it has ever been.
Then there is 600-pound gorilla in the room. Today’s Texans do not have the connection to the land because most live in cities and few know anyone with acreage. They also seldom visit any of the state’s rivers or even lakes. Worse, if they wanted to, there is probably no one to teach them how to hunt or fish.
Why is that important? Many Texans probably do not have an appreciation for the outdoors, hunting, fishing, camping, hiking and equally what it takes for there to be wildlife in the woods, fish in the lakes and rivers, and what all that has to do with clean air and water.
East Texas Woods and Waters Foundation was founded in Tyler in 1994 by a group of volunteers wanting to help East Texans retain that connection.
Over the years the organization has partnered with cities, state agencies and others to protect at least a small portion of native Texas, provide opportunities to participate in outdoor activities and tie conservation with improving the life of Texans who are less fortunate.
Since its founding, ETWWF has raised $2 million for projects in East Texas. With matching contributions and grants, that total was bumped to $5 million, and without any paid staff members that money all went to the projects.
Those projects have been diverse and include things like helping TPWD create a freshwater vegetation nursery at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens, gear for East Texas game wardens, participating in TPWD’s turkey restoration program in East Texas, underwriting the Hunters for the Hungry program in Tyler in the past and providing volunteers to assist families on trout fishing days held at by TPWD at The Nature Center. Most recently, ETWWF teamed with the City of Tyler to build a fishing pier at Faulkner Park.
On an even larger scale the organization worked with the City of Chandler, a private landowner and Texas Department of Transportation to create a parking lot and access to the Neches River for white bass fishing each winter.
The organization worked with TPWD to develop The Nature Center just outside Tyler. The 82-acre facility was initially built by the state in the 1950s as a quail hatchery to restock the birds in East Texas. That project failed and over the years a portion of the site became the regional office for Wildlife, Inland Fisheries and State Park personnel.
ETWWF and TPWD worked together to develop hiking trails, a fishing pond along with indoor and outdoor education facilities that have been used by thousands from school groups of all ages to scouts, master gardeners, hunter education classes and others.
Outside Tyler, the group has partnered with Mineola for several projects at the 2,900-acre Mineola Nature Preserve.
And that is just the short list of things the organization has done over the years. Looking forward the organization is hoping to expand its reach and partner with more groups and organizations around the region.
The problem is that many of the founders of Woods and Waters are ready to take a step back, and as is the case for any organization, to survive it needs a new generation to step up and take the reins. Participation is not hard work, but the rewards are great and local.
“Members work together to develop projects and funding through our annual banquet that will benefit the East Texas community of outdoor enthusiasts, such as our youth, hunters, campers, and folks that like to fish. Basically, anyone that enjoys the natural resources that East Texas is blessed to have,” said ETWWF spokesman Carl Watson.
For more information on the organization go online to etwwf.org or contact Watson at 903-590-6555.