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Texas Red Tide Rangers receive Gulf Guardian Award

Release Date: 12/05/2006
Contact Information: Dave Bary or Tressa Tillman at 214-665-2200 or r6press@epa.gov

STENNIS SPACE CENTER, Miss. – The Gulf of Mexico Program recently announced that the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department of Austin, Texas, will receive a 3rd place Gulf Guardian Award for 2006 in the Partnership Category for their “2005 South Padre Island Red Tide Response”. The awards will be presented during the 3rd National Conference on Coastal and Estuarine Habitat Restoration on December 13, 2006 at the Hilton Riverside Hotel in New Orleans, Louisiana, beginning at 6 p.m.

From September to November 2005, the lower Texas coast experienced a major red tide bloom. Biologists from Texas Cooperative Extension (TCE), University of Texas Pan-American (UTPA) and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) trained a South Padre Island volunteer group, the Texas Red Tide Rangers, to collect water samples, prepare slides, and identify red tide cells under a microscope. Volunteers were needed because the area does not have enough biologists available to do the sampling. The Rangers’ data was incorporated into daily red tide updates posted on the web and recorded on the toll-free red tide information line. These volunteers’ efforts provided Texans with accurate and timely information on the extent of the bloom. The Rangers also recorded weather observations and reported any red tide-induced irritation. The Rangers continued their daily routine for two months, the entire duration of the bloom, and operations ended on November 7, after weeks of declining cell counts. They had collected and analyzed approximately 376 samples.

The Gulf of Mexico Program initiated the Gulf Guardian awards in 2000 as a way to recognize and honor the businesses, community groups, individuals, and agencies that are taking positive steps to keep the Gulf healthy, beautiful and productive. The Gulf of Mexico Program began in 1988 to protect, restore, and maintain the health and productivity of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem in economically sustainable ways. Award entries were received from Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. A first, second, and third place award are given each year in seven categories – individual, business, youth and education, nonprofit organizations, government, partnership and bi-national efforts.

"The issues affecting the Gulf Coast are among the most dynamic and variable that the nation faces, and the collaborating partners who address these issues daily exhibit the diverse range of skills needed to advance environmental protection in the region," EPA Regional Administrator Richard E. Greene said. "I applaud this year's winners of the Gulf Guardian Awards for their leadership and their ability to join together and achieve extraordinary goals."

Gulf of Mexico Program Office Director Bryon O. Griffith said, “This year’s Gulf Guardian Award winners exemplify the bond that engaged citizens, communities, governments, and businesses share for protecting the ecological engine that drives the economy of the Region and much of the Nation, the Gulf of Mexico, “America’s Sea.” The 2006 award winners illustrate the limitless results that can be attained when we effectively share and focus our resources and strengths to address complex environmental problems.”

For a list of all the Gulf Guardian Award winners for 2006, visit the Gulf of Mexico Program web site at http://www.epa.gov/gmpo and click on the Gulf Guardian Award button.

The Gulf of Mexico Program is underwritten by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is a non-regulatory, inclusive consortium of state and federal government agencies and representatives of the business and agricultural community, fishing industry, scientists, environmentalists, and community leaders from all five Gulf States. The Gulf Program seeks to improve the environmental health of the Gulf in concert with economic development.

Editor’s Note: For more information about the Gulf Guardian Awards and the Gulf of Mexico Program, call the Gulf of Mexico Program Office at 228-688-3726 or visit our web site at http://www.epa.gov/gmpo. For more information about the“2005 South Padre Island Red Tide Response” contact Meredith Byrd at the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department at (512) 912-7068.

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