Providing Skilled Volunteers to Improve and Steward Texas Natural Resources and Natural Areas
Since 1997, the Texas Master Naturalist™ program has grown to include 46 chapters and more than 9,600 volunteers serving Texas communities throughout 76 percent of the state’s counties. The mission of the program 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 their communities for the state of Texas.
What makes the work of a Master Naturalist so important is that they are not only individuals who love nature and offer their time, but are also trained naturalists with specialized knowledge of different ecosystems, species, habitats, and environmental demands that is priceless when determining how to best manage natural resources.These skilled volunteers work with communities and organizations across the state to implement youth outreach programs; help operate parks, nature centers, and natural areas; and lead local natural resource conservation efforts. In addition, private landowners depend on the expertise of these volunteers to help them gain a broader scientific understanding of the ecology and management of their natural resources.
An individual gains the designation of Texas Master Naturalist after participating in an approved chapter training program with a minimum of 40 hours of combined field and classroom instruction, obtaining 8 hours of approved advanced training, and completing 40 hours of volunteer service. Following the initial training program, trainees have one year in which to complete their 40 hours of volunteer service and 8 hours of advanced training. To retain the Texas Master Naturalist title during each subsequent year, volunteers must complete 8 additional hours of advanced training and provide an additional 40 hours of volunteer service coordinated through their local chapter.Though that seems like a lot for a volunteer program, so many volunteers do even more; 52 volunteers have given over 5,000 service hours, and 9 volunteers have given over 10,000 service hours!
The program currently has trained 9,676 Texas Master Naturalist volunteers in 46 local chapters across the state. The program continually expands so if there is not a chapter near you contact the Texas Master Naturalist Coordinator or your local TPWD biologist or Texas A&M AgriLife county agent.
Whether it’s designing nature trails, conserving habitat, setting up birding stations, or planting wildflowers, TMN volunteers are creating a better environment for their fellow Texans. Since its establishment in 1997, Texas Master Naturalist volunteer efforts have provided over 2,833,064 hours of service valued at more than $65.16 million. This service has resulted in developing and maintaining more than 1,946 miles of trail; enhancing 218,762 plus acres of wildlife and native plant habitats; reaching more than 4.3 million youth, adults and private landowners. One member discovered a new plant species. The program has gained international, state, and local recognition with the Wildlife Management Institute’s Presidents’ 2000 Award, the National Audubon Society’s 2001 Habitat Hero’s Award, the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission’s 2001 Environmental Excellence Award, Texas A&M University’s 2001 Vice Chancellor’s Award of Excellence in Partnership and in 2005 the U. S. Department of Interior’s “Take Pride in America” award.
Funding for the Texas Master Naturalist program is provided by Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
In Texas, this partnership among the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and some 398 local partners has resulted in a unique master volunteer organization. At the state level, the organization is directed by an advisory committee providing training guidelines, program marketing and promotion, curriculum resources, and advanced training opportunities; and a volunteer representatives committee responsible for representing the varied interests of the chapters and providing a communication link to state committees and program leaders.
Past Annual Results: