Spring is here and Houstonians know that in a blink of an eye it will be Summer – so now’s the time to grab your family and get out and enjoy the great outdoors and all of the wonderful resources we have in and around the Houston area for hiking, biking and just generally enjoying nature.
While it is true that Houston is home to things that we might not be so excited to see crawling across our fences – like the Virginia opposum – we are also the home to some amazing and endangered creatures. The Houston Museum of Natural Science has partnered with Houston Wilderness to help develop and distribute a Houston Wilderness passport that families and school groups can use as a tool to facilitate journeys into the area’s nine different “ecoregions” as defined in the passport.
The Museum distributes the Houston Wilderness passport to the HISD 4th graders as well as to many Houston area educators who attend our teacher workshops and express interest in getting their students involved in the program. The goal of the Houston Wilderness Passport is for students and their families to experience the nature right in their own backyard and become stewards of our wonderful resources in the future.
I started participating as a member of the Houston Wilderness passport committee a few years back when the passport pilot program was just starting up and it has been really amazing to see how it has changed. Now each passport is printed in both English and Spanish to further increase the audience, all of the passport information can be downloaded from the Houston Wilderness website and I know that there are a lot of folks just like me who have lived in Houston all of their lives and never considered the vast natural diversity in and around the city itself.
The Houston Wilderness website is a great resource for hiking and biking trails, places to see and go fishing. The idea of a passport for adults to visit Houston’s ecoregions has even come up – I’ll definitely post about that if it is something that comes up – but in the meantime if you’d like a passport for yourself or for kids please ask for your own copy at the HMNS Museum services desk or at any of the other participating Houston Wilderness sites – we’re always happy to give them out and get folks started!
As you begin planning your adventures, a few things you might be on the lookout for are endangered birds such as the red cockaded woodpecker (as seen at the W. Goodrich Jones State Forest, just north of the city) and the attwater prairie chicken (as seen at the Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge just west of the city) and some species that are more recently suffering decline such as the Texas horned lizard (HMNS blogger David took this photo) and the Texas black-tailed prarie dog. Texas Parks and Wildlife is actually conducting wildlife watches where any citizen can participate in their Nature Trackers program!
For those of you who want to start enjoying the nature a little bit closer to home, just go for a walk under the beautiful canopy of oak trees in the Museum District or near Rice University – you’d be surprised how pleasant a walk in the heart of the city can be!