Attwater's Prairie Chickens (pictured above at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center) were released into the wild from captive breeding programs around the state. Biologists released 83 of the "most endangered birds in North America" at the wildlife refuge outside of Eagle Lake and another 10 on Nature Conservacy property on Galveston Bay. From populations estimated in the millions when settlers first arrived, only 42 survived in the wild in 1995.
Trail of Texas Giants envisioned by David Adickes, the sculptor of the 67-foot tall Sam Houston statue in Huntsville, will put a 60-foot concrete Davy Crockett in Crockett, Stephen F. Austin in Nacogdoches, Jim Bowie in La Grange, William B. Travis in Gonzales, Juan Seguin in Seguin, and Ben Milam in New Braunfels.
The speed limit was raised to 70mph on most highways beginning Dec. 8, 1995. Between December 1995 and August 1996, 2,622 people were killed in automobile accidents, a 20 percent increase over 1995. At the same time, the number of speeding tickets dropped by nearly 70,000. Officials say speeding, alcohol, and not wearing seatbelts are still the leading causes of deaths on the highways.
The Conservation Passport to state parks was raised to $50 from $25 in May 1996. The permit gave holders entry to most parks. They took a great idea and priced it out of most Texans' budgets.
La Salle's ship in Matagorda Bay was excavated using a cofferdam. The oval dam allowed state archaeologists to pump the 12 feet of water out to expose the wreckage of The Belle. The ship was the last of the French explorer's supply ships and sank in a storm in 1686. Artifacts from the ship will tour the state this year.
Lone Star Brewery in San Antonio was closed. The national beer of Texas is brewed by the Stroh Brewery in Longview and in China. The Lone Star museums on South Mission Street remain open.
Drought in Texas dried up most of the best swimming holes. From Waco to the Rio Grande, our streams, lakes, and rivers began drying up in the summer heat. In New Braunfels, the flow of the Guadalupe River, the most popular recreational river in the state, was reduced to less than 100 cubic feet per second (400cfs is considered ideal).
River outfitters to begin issuing life jackets to tubers on the Guadalupe River as part of an out-of-court settlement with the relatives of a woman who drowned there in 1992. The life jackets will be required for children when the river flow exceeds 500cfs and for adults at 750cfs. Outfitters will also be required to warn customers of the dangers on the river and show a video. The settlement included no monetary damages, only an agreement to tighten safety rules.
Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens opened in November to the public. The $18 million Texas Parks & Wildlife Department-operated center includes an 300,000 gallon aquarium, laboratory, and education center for the study of Texas fish.
"Don't Mess With Texas" turns 10 years old. The most effective anti-littering program in the world is aimed at young white males who drive pickup trucks. The advertising campaign made all of us more aware of trash on our highways.
Rains County Eagle Fest in Emory offers bus and barge tours at Lake Fork and Lake Tawakoni to view the bald eagles along with other activities, Jan. 17-19. 903/473-2901.