by Mary Pearl Meuth
Many communities and organizations rely on such citizen volunteers for implementing youth education programs; for operating parks, nature centers, and natural areas; and for providing leadership in local natural resource conservation efforts. In fact, a short supply of dedicated and well-informed volunteers is often cited as a limiting factor for community-based conservation efforts. The Texas Master Naturalist Program, sponsored by Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, was established to help fill this void and is aimed 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. 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!
More information about the Texas Master Naturalist Program and to find your local chapter, visit our website: http://www.txmn.org.