Houston Environmental News Update December 4, 2019

Christmas Bird Counts, Gingberbread Build-Off, Lois Gibbs, Climate: COP 25, Youth Climate Strike, Die-off, and Leaders Panel, and more

Reddish Egret - Photo by US Fish & Wildlife Service at the San Bernard unit https://www.fws.gov/refuge/San_Bernard/multimedia/gallery.html#

According to a new study published this fall in the journal Science, populations of birds in North America have declined by over 25% since 1970, “resulting in the cumulative loss of billions of breeding individuals across a wide range of species and habitats.” The results of this study were made possible by records of observations made by many people over many years. The National Audubon Society warns that “two-thirds of North America’s birds are at risk of extinction due to climate change.” (See items below re: climate events.)

The data in these studies are based, in part, on records of observations. “Birds are conspicuous and easy to identify and count,” write the authors of the article in Science. Some of this data comes from Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count–which is, not surprisingly, coming up soon!

The 120th annual Christmas Bird Count is scheduled for December 14, 2019, through January 5, 2020. Organized by the National Audubon Society, this all-volunteer effort takes a snapshot of bird populations to monitor their status and distribution across the Western Hemisphere. The results are compiled into a database that is shared with federal, state, and private authorities. Counts are open to birders of all skill levels. Discover new areas to bird which may not be normally accessible and take advantage of this great opportunity to bird with some of our foremost birding experts. There is NO FEE to participate in Christmas Bird Counts. We encourage you to learn more about the counts–including a few dozen within a two-hour drive of downtown Houston–at HoustonAudubon.org.

As you might imagine, the CBC isn’t the only birding opportunity offered by Houston Audubon Society. You can also participate with monthly bird surveys, many of which are held in conjunction with other CEC member organizations, including Armand Bayou Nature Center (2nd Saturdays), Baytown Nature Center (3rd Thursdays Sep-May), Hermann Park (2nd Mondays), Houston Arboretum (3rd Saturdays), Willow Waterhole (3rd Saturdays), and Woodland Park. If you read this newsletter regularly, you know that many local organizations conduct activities related to birds. Some of the birdier groups among our members include:

Scroll down to read notes from our member organizations and the community, or view the emailed version of the newsletter, which includes a green job listing.


Green Films

Audience at the Wild & Scenic Film Festival at River Oaks Theatre.

The Green Film Series is taking a break in December. Join us at the Wild & Scenic Film Festival on Tour on Tuesday and Wednesday, January 28 and 29, 2020. Tickets now on sale! To become a sponsor, contact [email protected].

Earth Day Houston: Exhibitor Registration now available

Earth Day Houston, part of the 50th worldwide observance, will be held at Discovery Green on Sunday, April 19, 2020.

Scroll down to read notes from our member organizations and the community, or view the emailed version of the newsletter, which includes a green job listing.


We have endeavored to confirm the opportunities listed below. Please consider confirming directly with the hosts.

Rice Scientia presents “Environmental Diversity”

On Dec. 5, 2019, beginning at 4 p.m., as part of its “Panoply” series, the Scientia Institute at Rice University will present brief talks by three Rice professors on the complex environmental changes we are seeing today, the diversity of their impacts on society, and technological approaches to address this most pressing challenge facing humanity. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit events.rice.edu.

Houston Climate Strike, Die-In, and Youth Leaders Panel, and COP 25

Houston Sunrise Movement and 350.org are organizing a #ClimateStrike on Fri., Dec. 6, 2019, from 2:30 to 5:00 pm at Houston City Hall. The die-in portion will begin at 3:45 pm; consider wearing yellow and black if you plan to participate. This strike is especially important in light of COP 25, the United Nation’s Climate Conference, which is in session in Madrid through December 13. Young people around the world, including Greta Thurnberg, have been rising up to defend our future, and have been going on strike – every week, all over the planet – for months. In the September Climate Strikes alone, 7.6 million people took to the streets. Houston strike will feature powerful stories from youth on the frontlines of climate change and a die-in to symbolize the climate crisis’s threat to our health and future. Learn more on facebook and sign up on actionnetwork.org.

Youth Climate Leaders Panel: On Dec. 7, 2019, from 11 a.m.-1 p.m, the Sunrise Movement Houston will host a panel discussion among youth climate activists who will discuss their experiences and offer suggestions on how the greater Houston region can move forward with climate policy. The event will be held at The Montrose Center. To RSVP and submit questions in advance, see docs.google.com.

Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill & Ecosystem Conference early registration ends Dec. 6

The Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill & Ecosystem Conference, with the theme “2020: A Milestone in Gulf of Mexico Research,” will be held Feb. 3-6, 2020 in Tampa, Florida. The conference will mark the 10-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. This milestone provides the opportunity to assess and synthesize just how much has been learned about oil spill and the Gulf ecosystem, explore how this wealth of research can inform regional management and policy, and begin charting a course for future research needs in the Gulf. Early bird registration continues through Dec. 6, 2019. For more information and to register, visit cvent.com.

Take Care of Texas Video Contest

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality invites students in grades 6-12 to enter the annual Take Care of Texas Video Contest. Student videos should be 30 seconds long and portray positive ways Texans can help keep air and water clean, conserve water and energy, or reduce waste. The contest deadline is Dec. 6, 2019 and the public will have the opportunity to pick their favorite videos Jan. 15-29, 2020. The middle and high school students who win first place will be invited to travel to Austin, along with their teacher, parent, or guardian, to be recognized by the TCEQ and Waste Management of Texas, Inc., at the 2020 Environmental Trade Fair and Conference.

Embrace the Gulf Photo Competition

The Gulf of Mexico Alliance Education and Engagement Team invites you to participate in this year’s “Embrace the Gulf” photo competition. They are seeking photographs that relate to any of its five campaign themes: community, environment, education, economy, and tourism. The deadline for entries is Dec. 6, 2019. For more information, visit gulfofmexicoalliance.org.

Kingwood Electronics Recycling

On Dec. 7, 2019, from 9 a.m.-3 p.m., the City of Houston Solid Waste Department will be at the Kingwood Metro Park & Ride Lot, 3210 W Lake Houston Pkwy., to collect old and obsolete electronics. This service is offered by the City of Houston and is meant for residents only. Please visit the City’s website for more information regarding Electronics Recycling and what options residents have.

2019 Gingerbread Build-Off

On Dec. 7, 2019, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Architecture Center Houston will host the 11th Annual Gingerbread Build-Off at City Hall’s Hermann Square. Competing teams will create their masterpieces using 100% edible materials. More than 4,000 spectators are expected to attend and cheer on the teams, play in the kids’ construction zone, and visit Santa. All of that entertainment is free and open to the public. For more information, visit aiahouston.org.

Baytown Nature Nurture: Birding

On Dec. 7, 2019, from 10 a.m.-noon, the Baytown Nature Center will host its monthly Nature Nurture Series. BNC natualist Crissy Butcher will talk about the birds that call the Nature Center home, either permanently or seasonally. Participants will later be able to search for birds arriving for the winter season. For more information visit baytown.org

A Conversation on Health Effects from Air Pollution with Lois Gibbs

On Dec. 7, 2019, from 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m., the Center for Health, Environment & Justice and the Texas Health & Environment Alliance will host a public forum to discuss and help develop a plan to address health impacts from air pollution. The meeting is planned to review several policy ideas. The event will be held at the Sterling Municipal Library in Baytown. For more information and to register (spots are limited), visit actionnetwork.org.

Blackwood 2019 Farm-to-Table Dinner

On Dec. 7, 2019, from 5-9 p.m., the Blackwood Educational Land Institute will host its 2019 Farm-to-Table Dinner at the Blackwood Farm in Hempstead. This celebration of the winter season will feature a locally-sourced five-course meal prepared by Chef Cade Conlon of Longspoon Catering & Education. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit blackwoodland.org.

Ashton Gardens Restoration Day

On Dec. 8, 2018, from 9 a.m.-noon, the Bayou Land Conservancy will host a volunteer restoration event at the Ashton Gardens Preserve in north Houston. For more information and to register, visit Facebook event.

An Interfaith Response to the Climate Crisis

On Dec. 8, 2019, from 1:30-3:30 p.m., leaders from various faiths will hold “An Interfaith Response to the Climate Crisis” panel discussion at the First Unitarian Universalist Church in the Museum District. For more information and to RSVP, see eventbrite.com.

RESTORE Council funding priorities webinars

On December 9, 2019, the RESTORE Council staff will begin a 32-day public review and comment period on draft Funded Priorities List 3a, that will conclude at 11:59 pm MDT on January 10, 2020. On the first day of the public review and comment period, the draft FPL 3a will be available at restorethegulf.gov. The RESTORE Council will host and record two live public webinars on December 9. During each webinar, Council staff will present an overview of the Planning Framework draft, and respond to selected questions from webinar participants.  Click on the links to register for the 2-3:30 p.m. or the 6-7 p.m. webinars.

Oyster Creek Bacteria Reduction Meeting

On Dec. 10, 2019, from 1-3 p.m., the Houston-Galveston Area Council and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality invites area stakeholders to help create a plan to reduce high concentrations of bacteria found in Oyster Creek (Basin 11) at Angleton Public Library, 401 E. Cedar, Angleton. During the meeting, participants will review and discuss  a draft plan to address the bacteria in the impacted watershed. For more information, contact Steven Johnston at 832-681-2579.

Caney Creek Bacteria Reduction Meeting

On Dec. 10, 2019, from 5:30-7:30 p.m., the Houston-Galveston Area Council invites area stakeholders to help create a plan to reduce high concentrations of bacteria found in the Caney Creek Watershed at Van Vleck High School Cafeteria, 133 S. Fourth Street, Van Vleck. During the meeting, participants will review and discuss  a draft plan to address the bacteria in the impacted watershed. For more information, contact Steven Johnson at 832-681-2579.

2019 Texas Ag Summit: State of Southeast Texas Agriculture

On Dec. 11, 2019, from 9 a.m.-2 p.m., the Harris County AgriLife Extension Service will share updated, research based information at the 2019 Ag Summit: State of Agriculture for Southeast Texas at NRG Center. Representatives from the industry and AgriLife Extension will have vendor tables set up showcasing programs and services as well as a variety of local ag producers promoting their local products. For more information and to register, visit eventbrite.com.

Mercer Lunch Bunch: A Winter Wonder Garden

On Dec. 11, 2019, from noon-1 p.m., the Mercer Botanic Gardens will host a brown-bag lunch discussion with Education Director Jennifer Garrison, who will talk about which plants add life to a winter garden and the proper care for these plants, followed by a garden tour. For more information, visit the Facebook event.

Hurricane Harvey Mitigation Funds Public Hearing

The Texas General Land Office is seeking public input on the state’s draft action plan detailing the distribution of eligible uses of $4.3 million in Community Development Block Grant Mitigation funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to assist Texas communities with mitigation projects. These projects will address risks within the areas impacted by Hurricane Harvey as well as the 2015 and 2016 floods. A public hearing will be held on Dec. 11, 2019, beginning at 6 p.m., at Texas Southern University’s EDU Auditorium, 3100 Cleburne St.

TCEQ seeks comments on Water Quality Management Plan through Dec. 12

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) requests comments from the public on the draft October 2019 Water Quality Management Plan Update for the State of Texas. Once the commission certifies a WQMP update, it is submitted to the United States Environmental Protection Agency for approval. The comment period is underway and ends on Dec. 12, 2019. Information on submitting comments can be found at tceq.texas.gov.

Brews & Bayou Holiday Celebration

On Dec. 12, 2019, from 5:30-8 p.m., the Bayou Land Conservancy will hold its Brews & Bayous Holiday Celebration and Ambassadors Graduation at the Southern Yankee Beer Company. To purchase tickets, visit bayoulandconservancy.org.

State of the Bay Symposium early registration ends Dec. 13

The Galveston Bay Estuary Program will host the 11th State of the Bay Symposium on January 22-23, 2020 at the Moody Gardens Hotel and Convention Center in Galveston. The Symposium an opportunity for stakeholders to interact and share environmental policy and management successes, report the latest monitoring and research findings, and illuminate the challenges facing Galveston Bay. Early registration continues through Dec. 13, 2019. For more information and to register, visit gbep.texas.gov.

Free Farm Tours: Explore Your Food

On Dec. 14, 2019, Finca Tres Robles will offer free tours of the urban farm. This is a chance to see what’s growing on the farm and meet who is growing it. Tours are free and start every hour on the half hour. For more information, visit the Facebook event.

Holiday with the Cranes

On Dec. 14-15, 2019, the Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council will present “Holiday with the Cranes,” celebrating the return of the island’s wintering Sandhill Cranes. The weekend includes indoor and outdoor nature activities combined with the ambience of historic Galveston Island. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit galvestonnaturetourism.org.

TV: Texas Parks & Wildlife

Broadcast on KUHT Channel 8 at 3 p.m. each Saturday and on municipal access cable channels in Baytown, Deer Park, Houston, Texas City, Galveston, Nassau Bay, Pasadena, Seabrook, Sugar Land, and on HCC TV. More info on the TPWD website (* indicates a segment about the Houston area). For a preview, visit TPWD’s YouTube Page.

  • Ever wonder what that brilliantly blue bird is in your backyard or how to make hummingbird food? Just ask state ornithologist Cliff Shackelford on his call-in radio show, “Bird Calls”
  • Exploring the depths of Texas’ artificial reefs, documenting species of fish and coral, and monitoring the health of our reefs — are all in a day’s work for Dr. Brooke Shipley and Chris Ledford of the TPWD Artificial Reef Program
  • One of Rick Torres’ passions is leading families on night hikes at Ray Roberts Lake State Park where he is able to reach visitors who would not otherwise be exposed to the natural, nocturnal world

Additional Upcoming Events