The Texas Master Naturalist (TMN) program has reached 4.4 million volunteer service hours valued at more than $100 million. This major milestone marks the 20th anniversary of the program, which began in Texas and has since given rise to a growing national movement.

The TMN program began in 1998 as a joint effort between the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service (formerly Texas Cooperative Extension Service) to provide education, outreach, and service dedicated to the beneficial management of natural resources and areas within communities throughout the state. The program provides an opportunity for concerned adults of all ages to learn about the natural environment and seek ways to better their communities.

To gain the title of “Texas Master Naturalist,” participants must complete a minimum of 40 hours of natural resource training, 40 hours of service and eight hours of advanced training offered through the program within their first year.

For example, Ridlon (Kip) Kiphart, a retired cardio-vascular surgeon in central Texas, this year became one of only two members to ever reach 20,000 hours of volunteer service. His interest began in 1997 after his son planted a variety of plants in his yard, and he became intrigued not only by the foliage, but by the butterflies attracted to the nectar.

More than 9,329 volunteers in 48 recognized local chapters throughout Texas achieved the 4.4 million hours of service. In the past 20 years, during which these service hours were achieved, Texas Master Naturalists were on hand to help with natural catastrophes such as hurricanes, floods and droughts. Volunteers were also ready to serve when the economy took a turn for the worse, making the value of their donated time even more precious.

The impact of the TMN volunteers has been seen in more than 226,200 acres of land across Texas.

Information about the TMN program, including the schedule of training courses and contact information for various local chapters across the state, is on the program Web site, www.txmn.org.

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