The Kennard FFA recently attended the 86th annual Texas FFA convention held in Ft Worth. Members served as voting delegates as well as attended business sessions and visited various sites while in Fort Worth. Members who attended the convention are Shelley Curry, Keith Griffin, Lyndsey Cole, Kolton Thibodeaux, Kelsie Tatom, Daniel Cook and Austin Gladden.
Kennard teens Colby Adair, Damien Stowe, Ethan Champagne and O’Keefe Peterson are spending part of their summer working in the Davy Crockett National Forest as part of the Youth Conservation Corps. (Photo Courtesy of USFS)
By Ernie Murray U. S. Forest Service
Instead of sitting in front of a TV screen playing video games all summer, four Kennard teens are getting some hands-on experience that no video game can match.
As part of the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC), Colby Adair, 16; O'Keefe Peterson, 17; Ethan Champagne, 15 and Damien Stowe, 16, are joining with 10 members of the American YouthWorks to do some much needed maintenance on trails and camping areas at Ratcliff Recreation Area in the Davy Crockett National Forest.
"These folks hit the ground running from the first day," said Linda Reynolds, recreation technician for the U.S. Forest Service. "This is a good bunch of folks and they all have great personalities that work well together."
One of the main projects the group tackled was replacing and reinforcing a foot bridge that had been washed off its footing along the 4C Trail. Adair, Peterson, Champagne and Stowe helped carry a large timber from the supply truck to the bridge a quarter-mile away then hiked back to get another one.
For Davy Crockett National Forest District Ranger J. R. Lawrence, the YCC and American YouthWorks crews provide a valuable service.
"Ratcliff (recreation area) has had more than its share of bad luck, starting back in 2008 when winds from Hurricane Ike came through. Then in April 2011, a tornado struck the lake area and just as we were ready to reopen in January 2012, the devastating effects of the drought became apparent and hundreds of pines and hardwoods died," Lawrence said.
"The American YouthWorks crew is basically refurbishing the entire 4C Trail by brushing out overgrown trail segments, repairing bridges and retagging the path to make it easier for users to stay on the trail. They are doing outstanding work," he said.
The four Kennard teens all have slightly differing reasons for joining YCC, but all agree that it's a great way to stay in shape for athletics when school starts in the fall.
Peterson jumped at the chance to be outside this summer and says his sister was in YCC a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it.
Champagne says he loves working outside, but never thought it would be so hard.
Stowe plans to be a game warden and says this is good way to get some on the ground experience.
Adair, the only girl in the Kennard group, says she has enjoyed cutting the brush along the overflow area of the lake and likes that she is just six minutes from home.
Helping to guide the youth is their crew leader, Zachary McCrimmon, from New Braunfels. "We work rain or shine, sun up to sun down." he said. "We all work together and learn from each other. It's like we have a community of knowledge," McCrimmon said.
As a member of American YouthWorks, McCrimmon has spent most of his time on a disaster reserve team and working in state parks. Other crew leaders are Priscilla Tanger, Hanover and Ricky Reedy.
Other crew members working in the Davy Crockett National Forest include Taylor Wolter, Adam Barnett, Katrina Himmelreich, Sascha Wunderlin, Michelle Sheldon, Elena Smart and Kellan Fisher.
The YCC program began in 1974 for high school youth that combined hands on conservation work on public lands with environmental education. American YouthWorks began in 1981 and is an education and green jobs training organization, headquartered in Austin.
AUSTIN—The Railroad Commission of Texas has launched its new website to make online resources for the regulation of the oil and gas industry and other Commission-regulated industries more user friendly. You can view the new website at http://www.rrc.texas.gov.
Chairman Barry Smitherman said, "The new website is the final product of the commission taking input last September from stakeholders on three different proposed designs. This final design is a blend of the different characteristics most favored by those who filled out surveys on the three options provided."
Commissioner David Porter said, "The new website is part of Phase 1 of our IT modernization that we hope will ultimately result in stakeholders and the public having greater ease and access to our agency's data, which includes everything from Texas oil and gas production statistics to drilling permits."
Commissioner Christi Craddick said, "While we are the oldest regulatory agency in the state, we must keep pace with advancements within the industry we regulate, and the Commission's website redesign will help us to do just that. In the second phase of our IT overhaul, we will be migrating content from the old website to the new site, and ask that everyone be patient until the new site is fully up and running."
Features Of The New Website Include: • An index of pages organized by industry: "Oil & Gas," "Gas Services," "Pipeline Safety," "Mining & Exploration," and "Alternative Fuels"; • Audience-specific web pages for consumers, land and mineral owners and media; • A "Resource Center" web page under "About Us" that allows users to find the most commonly used commission resources and services, including online research queries, GIS map viewer and frequently asked questions; • A "Calendar of Events" on the home page listing all events, training and certifications hosted by the Commission; and • A responsive design that allows users to view the Commission's website on smartphones and tablets.
During 2015, the commission plans additional improvements to the new website including: offering information through mapping interfaces (GIS); consolidating many queries related to oil and gas production data and drilling permit information available on the Online Research Queries web page; releasing an improved RRC Online application for users to submit required regulatory filings online; and making available additional online filings through RRC Online.
The commission's previous website will be available to the public at http://www.old.rrc.state.tx.us until July 1. Please note that this website's web content will not be updated.
Well, the "Beef Tax" votes have been counted. Statewide the vote was 4,718 for and 2,762 votes against. In East Texas the votes were a landslide "NO" in most counties - with Houston County voting 29 for and 85 against. That tallies to 75% of the vote in Houston County a resounding "NO".
In Anderson County again a loss for the tax advocates - 61 against and 5 for - 92% against! Henderson County was 30 for and 50 against. The Cherokee County vote was 39 against and 17 for. And in Trinity County, there were only 6 "yes" votes and 38 "no" votes. HoustonNacogdoches County voters marched to a different drummer with 39 for and 9 votes against.
Even though the vote went against opponents of the added $1 a head check off statewide, the total vote was an egg-in-the-face for Texas Farm Bureau and the Texas Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. With far more Farm Bureau members than there are farmers and ranchers in Texas, Farm Bureau could not muster but a handful of votes from their members in many counties. And TSCRA with over 15,000 members turned out a small number of their membership to vote.
One thing is disturbing. Representatives of the Texas Department of Agriculture had told several news media questioners, before the final tally was released, that about 3,500 total votes were cast at county Extension offices - plus another 600 possible votes from cattle owners that requested a ballot by mail. Once the vote counting was completed by TDA, total votes came to 7,080. Anyway you cut it, Texas cattle producers will "contribute" an additional eleven million dollars a year to the beef check off. This is in addition to the present $1 a head tax that raises another eleven million dollars. That's $22,000,000 that our cattle owners will be paying every year. As for the new $1 tax, we are told it is "refundable" by writing TDA for a refund application - and then submitting a copy of a sales ticket to verify the refund. Sounds like a lot of effort to get a refund of the extra dollar but at our ranch we darn sure will request our money back! Meantime, before the new tax goes into effect on Oct. 1, several cattle producers are discussing a lawsuit to declare the vote and the way it was conducted invalid. Time will tell whether legal action will be successful.
Where will our next crop of brave men and women come from to serve in our military?
Our military leaders are reporting that 71 percent of our 17- to 24-year-old service age men and women don't qualify for entrance into the armed services. An alarming 28 percent can't pass a medical exam while 8% can't pass a drug test. Another 35% are disqualified for a variety of reasons. Those include aptitude, conduct, excessive tattoos, felony convictions and lack of a high school education and preferably some college credits. Food for thought - that only 29 percent of our young men and women of service age can actually wear the uniform of the U.S. Armed Services!
Why not "truck farming"? We have the soils, the markets and plenty of advisors who can make raising fruits and vegetables profitable. Not that long ago, many of our parents and grandparents made a living from the family farm. What could not be sold at home was shipped to farmers markets in Dallas and Houston. There buyers lined up to buy farm-fresh peas, beans, tomatoes, peaches, plums, potatoes, melons, sweet corn and many other products of our East Texas. Produce sheds were all over our part of Texas—and were used to sort, cull and ship train loads of quality products to far off markets.
Our county extension agents have tried long and hard to get our folks - younger ones especially - to put seed and plants in the ground, nurture the crop and sell locally. We have plenty of opportunities to sell farm-fresh produce here at home. With larger farmers markets nearby in Lufkin, Tyler and Longview housewives line up when those markets are open. Right down the road, we have markets in Houston and Anderson - and nearby counties - to sell our produce.
What is the holdup? One good friend says too many of our able-bodied citizens are getting freebies without doing any work that would raise a sweat. She says she sees the biggest problems as being food stamps, government-paid housing, free cell phones and all the other "assistance programs". She added that many people aren't hungry enough to work at raising food.
Then there are those who have a love for raising their own fruits and vegetables. These are the backyard farmers who need to step out, increase the size of their gardens and merchandise the excess at a profit. With a roto-tiller - or small tractor - a water source for irrigation in dry weather and some manual labor, there are lots of dollars to be made even from a small truck patch.
One East Texan says that government programs provide billions of dollars to support the grain and cotton industry - along with ethanol and wind farms. Why not use some of this taxpayer money to help small farmers build a profitable truck farming business. Our Extension agents are ready to help build a truck farming industry in East Texas - now it's up to our "green thumb" gardeners to start to work! That's –30 - this week.