Oppe Elementary School, Galveston, is a magnet campus of Coastal Studies. Here, 24 fourth-graders, guided by science teacher Katie Blaser decided to embark upon a quest to name the Kemp's ridley sea turtle the official sea turtle of the State of Texas. The "Green Team," an after-school environmental group generally involved itself with community recycling drives and beach cleanup projects. Now, they decided that the endangered sea turtle needed their attention.
Working with the Gulf Office Director of the Sea Turtle Restoration Project (STRP), Carole Allen, the fourth-grade students dug into the project, building a plan to accomplish their goal. The students researched the natural and environmental history of the Kemp's ridley sea turtle in preparation for the legislative process that lay ahead.
State Representative Craig Eiland, of Galveston, visited the Oppe Elementary fourth-graders and offered a primer on how to craft a bill and how to submit it to the Texas Legislature.
On January 23, 2013, Rep. Eiland filed House Concurrent Resolution No. 31 on behalf of the "Green Team."
On March 20, members of the Green Team traveled to the state capitol in Austin. There, they presented their case, for adoption of the Kemp's ridley sea turtle as the official state sea turtle of Texas, to the House’s Committee on Culture, Recreation and Tourism.
Though nervous, the Green Team members Blaine Heffernan, Violet Schubert, Nicholas Smecca, and Isabella Walser, were well prepared and, upon recommendation from the committee, HCR31 passed unanimously when put to a vote of the full House.
Next, HCR31 was presented to the Senate, where it was referred to the Senate Committee on Administration. It had been smooth sailing through the House and Rep. Eiland reported that Senate sponsor Larry Taylor, Friendswood, did not foresee any obstacles to passage in the Senate as well. Indeed, it passed unanimously in the Senate on May 2, 2013.
H.C.R. No. 31
HOUSE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION
WHEREAS, The State of Texas traditionally has recognized a variety of official symbols as tangible representations of the proud character and colorful heritage of the Lone Star State; and
WHEREAS, Select members of the animal kingdom, including the longhorn, the armadillo, and the Texas horned lizard, are among the species that have been formally recognized, and their designation has served to draw attention to the great biological diversity of the state's landscape and to highlight creatures who are unique to or closely identified with the state; and
WHEREAS, An especially rich natural environment is found along the Texas Gulf Coast, and of the many distinctive species found in that region, the Kemp's ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii) is particularly deserving of recognition; and
WHEREAS, Identifiable by its nearly circular upper shell, the Kemp's ridley makes its home primarily in the Gulf of Mexico, though it is also found in the Atlantic Ocean; after hatching, the male turtles spend their entire lives at sea; the females come ashore only to lay eggs, and they do so in large, synchronized groups, an extraordinary phenomenon known in Spanish as arribada, meaning "arrival"; while they are the smallest of the eight types of sea turtles in the world, they can still weigh up to 100 pounds and grow to 2.5 feet in length; and
WHEREAS, This remarkable creature is part of an inspiring conservation success story; following an alarming population decline that began in the 1940s, the Kemp's ridley teetered on the brink of extinction and was placed on the Endangered Species List in 1970; it has made a heroic recovery, however, as a result of a collaborative protection program begun in 1978 by the United States and Mexico; this initiative has helped implement the use of turtle excluder devices by the commercial shrimp fleet, which allow sea turtles to escape the trawling nets that were causing large numbers of deaths; another important development has been the establishment of a secondary nesting colony at Padre Island National Seashore in Texas, which supplements the main nesting site in Mexico; as of 2012, more than 100 turtle nests were identified at the national seashore, with another 100 in other Texas coastal areas; and
WHEREAS, A number of organizations and universities in the state have taken part in the campaign to safeguard the turtles, with Texas A&M University at Galveston, The University of Texas Marine Science Institute, and the National Marine Fisheries Service being central players in the initiative; and
WHEREAS, Once the most imperiled of all sea turtles, the Kemp's ridley is today becoming a more common resident of the Gulf Coast waters; its comeback is a testament to its resilience and to the admirable work of those Texans who have aided its recovery, and this noble animal is indeed a fitting symbol of the Lone Star State; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, That the 83rd Legislature of the State of Texas hereby designate the Kemp's ridley sea turtle as the official State Sea Turtle of Texas.
The Green Team was victorious.
Kemp's ridley sea turtle became the official state sea turtle of Texas when Governor James Richard "Rick" Perry signed House Concurrent Resolution No. 31 on May 10, 2013
Ferguson, John Wayne. "Students’ bill passes state House, goes to Senate to see if reptile may join others as official fauna." The Daily News. The Galveston County Daily News, 02 May 2013. Web. 11 May 2013.
"The Kemp's Ridley Should Be The Official Sea Turtle of Texas!." Sea Turtle Restoration Project. Sea Turtle Restoration Project. Web. 11 May 2013.
Eiland, Craig. "83(R) History for HCR 31." Texas Legislature Online. State of Texas, 10 May 2013. Web. 11 May 2013.
Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle (Lepidochelys kempii): Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.
Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle (Lepidochelys kempii): U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Fact Sheet.
Atlantic Ridley (Lepidochelys kempii): Lepidochelys kempii from conservewildlifenj.org
Kemp's Ridley Turtle (Lepidochelys kempii): National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of Protected Resources.
Lepidochelys kempii (Atlantic Ridley, Kemp's Ridley Seaturtle): The University of Michigan Museum of Zoology: Animal Diversity Web.
Lepidochelys kempii (Atlantic Ridley, Kemp's Ridley Seaturtle): Encyclopedia of Life.
Lepidochelys kempii - (Garman, 1880), Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle: A network connecting science with conservation - NatureServe Explorer: An Online Encyclopedia of Life.
Lepidochelys kempii (Garman, 1880): Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) Here you will find authoritative taxonomic information on plants, animals, fungi, and microbes of North America and the world.
Marine Turtle Recovery Planning: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of Protected Resources.
Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle Recovery Plan: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtles: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service - Aransas National Wildlife Refuge | Texas.
State reptiles: Complete list of official state reptiles from NETSTATE.COM
More symbols & emblems: Complete list of official Texas state symbols from NETSTATE.COM.