September 1, 2006
Texas has been hot and dry for months, and a recent drought assessment by Texas Forest Service confirms what most farmers, ranchers and firefighters have already seen.
Thanks to persistent hot, dry weather, the average Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) for the state has now climbed into the top 3 percent of the historical average drought readings, according to Tom Spencer, fire risk assessment coordinator with Texas Forest Service.
"This situation does not bode well for agricultural interests or firefighters in the state," declared Spencer. "In recent history, there have been only two other years that the average state KBDI index reached this same level: 1998 and 2000. In both of these years, Texas experienced severe summer fire sieges."
Wildfire responses in the state since June support the growing concern among firefighters. From June 1 through August 20, Texas Forest Service fire personnel battled 578 wildfires that burned an estimated 101,774 acres across the state. Fire departments using the Texas Forest Service online fire reporting system to record their fire responses reported 2,884 fires that burned an estimated 70,587 acres over this same period.
The average drought index value for the state has continued to climb, even though recent rains have lowered the KBDI drought index for counties in the Texas Panhandle and Trans-Pecos regions.
The continued climb of the drought index shows how extremely dry the rest of the state is getting, said Spencer.
Information about fuel (vegetation) dryness across the state is available on the Internet at http://webgis.tamu.edu/tfs/rawsd/dryness.png. KBDI drought averages for counties can be accessed at http://webgis.tamu.edu/tfs/kbdi_daily/kbdicounty.png. A 30-day precipitation deficit map available at http://www.tamu.edu/ticc/precip_def_map.jpg also helps visually portray why and where drought conditions are most severe in the state.
As hot and dry as it is, it doesn't take much of a spark to start a wildfire, and it doesn't take much wind to increase the risk of home losses and the danger to firefighters and residents alike, said Gary Lacox, wildfire prevention chief for Texas Forest Service.
Lacox urged strict compliance with outdoor burning bans and proper disposal of smoking materials. He also said that use of welding and grinding equipment around dry vegetation should be avoided if possible and closely monitored for accidental fire starts. Even driving through tall, dry grass and weeds should be avoided, as hot catalytic converters could ignite wildfires.
Nominations are now open for the 2007 Texas Environmental Excellence Awards (TEEA), the state's highest environmental achievement. Administered by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), the awards annually pay tribute to projects across the state that significantly reduce waste, prevent pollution, and conserve natural resources. The TEEA recognizes proven initiative and innovation in environmental programs conducted by individuals and communities as well as companies and organizations. Past recipients submitted winning projects that have significantly reduced water consumption, energy use, or waste, and/or contributed to improved air quality in Texas through measurable efforts that outperform and do more than merely achieve regulatory compliance.
The deadline to submit applications is Nov. 3, 2006. For more information on criteria or to apply online, visit www.teea.org, or contact Dana Macomb, TEEA awards coordinator, at 512/239-4745.
"The TEDC, the Temple Reinvestment Zone No. 1 Board, and the City of Temple have shown great initiative in helping to move along our plans for the development of a fuel ethanol plant in Temple. Because of the support and leadership shown by those groups, we believe that Blackland's future in Temple is bright. With Temple's rich railroad history, the prominent role the railroads continue to play in the success of this city, and Temple's centralized location with respect to the farmers of Central Texas who produce corn and milo, we could not think of a better location for the plant."
District 11 Congressman Mike Conaway posed with Texas Farm Bureau State Directors Lewis Lehman (left) and Gary McGehee (right) at a recent meeting at the Lowake Steak House. The Congressman met with over 40 Farm Bureau leaders and discussed issues ranging from immigration to disaster aid for farmers to the upcoming farm bill.
Michael Norman, spokesperson for Blackland Ethanol Corp., in an annoucement that Blackland and Primergy International, LLC, have agreed in terms of a strategic relationship, to build a minimum 50 million gallon per year fuel plant in Temple.