Conservation Committee

Wednesday, 9:00 a.m., August 26, 1998

Commission Hearing Room
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
Item
No.
Subject Public Hearing
Agenda Item No.
  Approval of the Committee Minutes from the previous meeting.  
  Summary of Minutes  
1. Chairman's Charges (Oral Presentation) Committee Only
2. Nomination for Oil and Gas Leases
- Brazos Bend State Park – Fort Bend County
- Fort Griffin State Historical Park – Shackelford County
Staff: Mike Herring
11
3. Land Sale – Wood County
Staff: Mike Herring
Committee Only
4. Other Business  

Summary of Minutes
Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Conservation Committee
June 3, 1998

BE IT REMEMBERED that heretofore on the 3rd day of June, 1998, there came to be heard matters under the regulatory authority of the Parks and Wildlife Commission of Texas, in the commission hearing room of the Parks and Wildlife Headquarters complex, Austin, Travis County, Texas, beginning at 3:05 p.m., to-wit:

I. COMMISSION ATTENDANCE

Mickey Burleson, Chair
Lee M. Bass
Nolan Ryan
Dick Heath
Ernest Angelo, Jr.
Carol E. Dinkins
Susan Howard-Chrane
II. APPROVAL OF MINUTES

Dick Heath moved to approve the minutes of the last committee meeting and Carol Dinkins seconded the motion.

III. THE FOLLOWING ITEMS WERE PRESENTED FOR COMMITTEE ACTION:

1. BRIEFING - CHAIRMAN'S CHARGES
Presenter: Andrew Sansom

Mr. Sansom noted that Dr. Dolman has been appointed the historic sites coordinator and the department is providing direct financial and staff support to the Historical Commission in answer to the key charge dealing with strategy for historic sites. He stated Mike Herring and Carolyn Scheffer will brief the committee on the charge regarding conservation and stewardship of resources on private and public lands and Bob Cook would do the same on the status of the 75th anniversary celebrations. Mr. Sansom mentioned he would look forward to working with the committee on the evolution of the philosophy for resource management on department lands. He then introduced Dr. Peter Witt for an update on the structure of the A&M study.

Dr. Witt reviewed the information he presented to the committee on April 15, 1998 and addressed some issues facing the study group during the process. One is to determine priorities for actions to be taken over the years as a result of this study; another one is determining what entities ought to be undertaking which actions. He reminded the committee about the projected increase in population and change in demographics, which will cause the demand pattern to change, current facilities to be over utilized and Hispanic and African American segments of the population not participating in outdoor activities at the same rate that Anglos do.

Dr. Witt suggested changing the way certain activities are offered--moving outdoor opportunities closer to urban centers with more efforts to introduce children and adults to the benefits of outdoor activities. He stated a major problem is lack of understanding of TPWD's role in management, conservation and stewardship, as well as increased competition, lack of funding, and infrastructure needing repairs. He suggested expanding TPWD's historic resources to better represent the themes of significance to the evolution of Texas, such as agriculture, oil and ethnic cultures, while determining if all present assets meet the criteria of statewide significance or if they could be better managed by someone else. Dr. Witt stated data for decision-making is not always readily available and Andy has requested specific recommendations for ongoing collection of data beyond the life of the study.

The mission of the state of Texas has a phrase about sustaining social and economic prosperity and Governor Bush's "Vision of Texas" objectives include natural resources, economic development, public safety and criminal justice, public health and education. TPWD has mainly dealt with natural resource issues, but the other four garner the most attention and the most money. Dr. Witt emphasized how the different programs TPWD manages relate to those four categories. Local parks boost the economy in their own communities, as do retiree and industry relocations. Open green space boosts property values. Grants from TPWD funding opportunities for children to learn outdoor activities, decrease crime in local communities by occupying children's time and teaching them positive values. Outdoor activities also contribute to increasing people's fitness and well-being, as well as decreasing stress. TPWD's role in education comes from cultural and historic facilities as a tool for teaching history. Also, when taught about the environment, conservation and stewardship, children apply those tools to subjects such as math, science and reading.

Some survey results were completed after the statewide survey of 3,000 Texans. There was generally agreement on priorities across traditional constituency lines (some people who did not have hunting or fishing licenses still placed high priority on those activities). High priority was given to environmental quality, law enforcement and state parks. The middle group of priorities was related to wildlife management and conservation areas, programs that educate about Texas' natural resources, new neighborhood parks, cultural and historic resources. These need some degree of state support since they cannot all be supported through fees. The lower priority items deal with core constituencies of the agency such as hunting and fishing--activities more at an individual level with user/pay fees being required.

Dr. Witt addressed the issue of how to finance TPWD services and assets--user/pay versus state-subsidized--really user/pay and/or designated sources of state funds, depending on priorities. He stated that basic services such as conservation and recreation, with large-scale economic, social, health and educational benefits, should be considered public goods and therefore be state-subsidized. The department is required to protect lands and opportunities for future generations, including acquisition, preservation and protection of natural and cultural areas, along with enforcement issues, without a direct source of revenue under a user/pay philosophy.

One additional source of revenue may be the quarter of the unclaimed motor boat fuel tax which is going for education, since TPWD has a large-scale education role and is already receiving three quarters. An estimated sixty percent of the sporting goods sales tax moneys are going to support the state and local parks fund, leading to economic development, public safety and health issues. Shouldn't more money go towards that program?

Dr. Witt stated he would be back by invitation with more study results, with the final report due by mid-October. Some questions ensued.

Mr. Sansom updated the committee regarding the 75th celebrations, stating 46 events had occurred so far with 75 more to go. There were 17 planned over the June 6th weekend. Over 50 friends groups were formed and the Lone Star Legacy was proceeding.

2. ACTION - GOVERNMENT CANYON STATE NATURAL AREA MASTER PLAN (FORMERLY ITEM 5)
Presenters: Dan Patton and Chris Beckcom

Dan Patton gave a brief history of the park's acquisition, the first purchase of 4,700 acres in 1993 with San Antonio Water System (SAWS) and the Edwards Aquifer Authority as financial partners. The second acquisition of 1,100 acres was a donation by HUD in 1996. The name was based on its use as a government supply route. Most of the land is over the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone and has been used primarily as ranch land. Mr. Patton described the partnership which includes the Edwards Aquifer Authority and SAWS as financial partners, Government Canyon Natural History Association helping with the conservation aspect, the City of San Antonio providing $400,000 in bond money for the development of the site, and Bexar County providing $25,000 for ADA access.

Mr. Patton stated the plan's primary objectives are to protect endangered species and the recharge zone, while focusing on cultural resources for the public's educational interpretive opportunities with nature-friendly recreation (minimal facilities). He then introduced Chris Beckcom to discuss the planning process, management responsibilities and recommendations.

Mr. Beckcom pointed out the three aspects of the process: Resource assessment evaluation, public input and programming of the plan. During the resource assessment evaluation our scientists, planners and engineers determine what is actually on the site, completing both natural and cultural resources inventories. These are assessed by our staff and partners, along with other research compiled. Two public meetings were conducted: June 1997 in San Antonio with 125-150 people; and January 1998 with 110-120 people. Comments were favorable at both meetings, although the second one was largely to address equestrian use. At the time of that meeting six miles of equestrian trail was recommended off the recharge zone. After the meeting nine miles of trail is proposed, with consensus from various trail organizations. Also, there have been over 12 meetings with our partners, both in offices and actually out in the field.

The programming phase defines the direction and objectives of how the property is to be managed, with themes and methods for interpretation and a recreational program designed to define which types of activities would be permitted. The design and intent of the facilities are described, although the architects actually do the design, and the engineering is completed for the utilities, solid waste, roads, etc. Key considerations were environmental and property deed restrictions through the partnership with Edwards and SAWS. On the initial tract they reserved approval rights for facilities constructed on the recharge zone, and review rights for the rest of the property. Also, Edwards Aquifer Authority reserved the right to construct a recharge or several recharge dams or facilities up and down the canyon. On the second tract, HUD consulted with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service who then mandated TPWD to identify that tract as a preserve for endangered species, with livestock prohibited. The tract will be closed during warbler season from April through August.

During the programming, protection of water quality due to the aquifer recharge zone was the top priority; next was protection of endangered species, archeological resources, flora and fauna . The possibility of flooding was considered, as well as the topography and how to make activities pleasant experiences. Management objectives were determined to maintain and restore natural communities and species, with establishment of educational interpretation opportunities.

Mr. Beckcom discussed developing nonconsumptive recreational use. The facilities proposed are to support recreational use secondary to preserving the resources, with development being only 1 percent of the property (50 acres out of 5,800 acres). The interpretive center is the central and only structure to be built; there is a day-use area to support that, a camping area for overnight use, and an extensive trail system. There will also be a research center and volunteer offices for the friends group. Everything is off the recharge zone. There will be a new road as well as the existing road, and we will be reusing an existing barn structure. Bexar County will buy one-third of an acre from the department to improve Galm Road and enhance the safety and access to the park. The interpretive building will have an exhibit room, classroom space and administrative offices, as well as the park headquarters. There's also a small pavilion and a small picnic area with 10 sites, with the major trailhead nearby. People can use that as a staging area, going into the canyon or the hills, or returning to the flat. Another day-use area has only 30 sites, keeping it light on facility counts. The equestrian trailhead has five sites to support it, with ten parking spaces; therefore, there would potentially be a maximum of 40 horses at any given time, which is what the trail can handle without an adverse impact.

Camping is located in the most remote area, away from the hustle and bustle, and it's 40 walk-in tent sites as well as two group walk-in areas that would support up to 20 people each. There's also primitive camping up in the canyon.

There are 41 miles of trail system--13 miles for hiking (pedestrian access only) in the flat, 19 miles of hike-and-bike trails and then nine miles for multi-use in the non-recharge zone for hiking, biking and equestrian. One mile of trail is ADA accessible with two trail loops, and there are some access challenge trails programmed to appeal to a broad spectrum of people.

There was some discussion on the origin of the name. Mr. Beckcom pointed out that Martha Freeman did a report on the history of the property in 1994. Joe Johnston blazed the trail in the 1850's that became the government supply route; the road goes up through the heart of the canyon and will become part of the trail system in the park. There were questions regarding the area to be closed for the warbler and Mr. Beckcom stated it contained 1,121 acres and would be restricted to scientific research during April to August, but open in the fall and spring which is the key visitation period. Restoration of native plants was also discussed; Mr. Beckcom pointed out 700 acres that would keep our resource people busy for a long time.

Carol Dinkins moved to approve the master plan and the motion carried.

3. BRIEFING - TERRESTRIAL DATABASE (FORMERLY ITEM 2)
Presenters: Ms. Vivian Ackerson and Jerry Cooke

Dr. Cooke introduced Vivian Ackerson, who pointed out that it's not just a database anymore. They are proposing to change the name to "Texas Wildlife Information System," or TWIS, and make it available to the public via the Internet. The mission is to develop a comprehensive interagency and intra-agency information system available to the public for wildlife conservation, scientific and educational purposes. The goals are to demonstrate the importance of habitat management, to organize historical data, to continue to collect new data, monitor resource trends, evaluate management and compare data at different scales, and to facilitate information transfer to users via the Internet. Ms. Ackerson pointed out the recent accomplishments: Headquarters and field staff refined the goals and objectives, evaluated software needs, and are currently developing an information system with standardized data entry forms incorporating extensive quality control, hot key queries, GIS analysis capabilities and links to the Internet. They have organized over 140,000 records into a relational database while incorporating spatial data and collateral data and are developing a data dictionary to provide consistency and depth in data collection and maintenance procedures, as well as Metadata to meet federal standards.

Ms. Ackerson discussed the knowledge pyramid, made up of three levels: Data, analysis and output. She pointed out that data is the foundation and the most important aspect (how data are collected, organized and stored). It consists of field and survey data, geographic data, photographs and imagery. Analysis includes modeling, trend analysis and statistical analysis. Output includes records, maps, and charts. All these combined produce management recommendations. She listed an inventory of data incorporated into TWIS and future data needs. There were questions regarding the baseline inventories and how they were funded. Ron George pointed out that this was accomplished through supplemental budget requests over the last couple of years--generally a hundred thousand or so per year. The management plans for the state parks and wildlife management areas call for baseline inventories to be completed and this year's supplemental budget request is for about $250,000.

Ms. Ackerson described some of the different queries that could be conducted such as estimated deer population by county. She also described hot key queries which are push buttons for common queries. She explained how GIS will be integrated with data within TWIS so that users will not have to get into other software packages. TWIS will also incorporate Internet links, such as online editions of Mammals of Texas, which Texas Tech University is developing, which can be used as an integrated field guide via the Internet.

Dr. Cooke and Ron George answered questions regarding the length of the program: Staff has been discussing the concept for three and a half to four years; this is the third year of data entry; Vivian was hired about two years ago and has made a lot of progress.

4. BRIEFING - KIDFISH COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT GRANT PROGRAM (FORMERLY ITEM 3)
Presenter: Phil Durocher

Mr. Durocher described a new program in Inland Fisheries called KIDFISH Community Development Grant Program. There was $50,000 approved in the 1998 budget year to develop the program for creating or enhancing fishing opportunities for kids. The program is in support of the successful outreach KIDFISH program started by the Parks and Wildlife Foundation in 1994. That program had two goals: Introduce as many kids to the sport of fishing as possible, and develop a private source of funding for development of the infrastructure needed for a year-round program. Since 1994 KIDFISH has held 224 events throughout the state of Texas, with nearly 180,000 kids and parents participating, and raised about $1.7 million in cash and in-kind contributions. Their focus was on the first goal, to introduce kids to fishing.

The new grant program's emphasis will be on the second goal, developing the infrastructure for a community fishing program. Staff developed criteria for grants in September 1997 and advertised. A maximum of $10,000 was set for each grant, due to the limited funds. Pending federal approval (because money was allocated from the sport fishing restoration federal aid program), five communities have been selected to receive grants this year: College Station, San Antonio, La Grange, Denison and Wichita Falls. The sixth and last application received from the City of Bonham was not selected, but staff are working with the city to enhance their chances of receiving a grant next year. Mr. Durocher answered questions about the criteria for the grants, explaining that he worked with Tim Hogsett and used a point system similar to that for local park grants. The following breakdown of individual cities was given:

San Antonio will construct a new fishing pier on Woodlawn Lake casting pond; College Station will renovate an existing fishing pier at one of their parks and extend the pier; Wichita Falls will construct a concrete retaining wall along the shoreline of one of their lakes and install educational signs; La Grange will construct a new pier on the Colorado River at North Side Park; and Denison will extend an existing fishing pier on Waterloo Lake to provide access to deeper water. Bonham's request was to construct a new fishing pier on Lake Bonham.

Mr. Durocher explained his program is primarily about access so the kids have a place to go year-round. The Foundation-run KIDFISH program has been stocking fish in lakes, covering operational costs and helping its program grow. One requirement in the grant program is that the community, county or facility sponsor and hold a KIDFISH event.

5. BRIEFING - CONSERVATION EASEMENTS AND LAND TRUSTS (FORMERLY ITEM 4)
Staff: Mike Herring and Carolyn Scheffer

Mike Herring reported there were two committee charges relating to conservation easements and land trusts--the first from the 1996-97 biennium and the current charge--as well as two primary reasons for the creation, enhancement and growth of the conservation easement/land trust program. The first one is the shortage of acquisition funds, whereby the department is unable to accomplish the land conservation needs for the state; secondly, 97% of the state is in private ownership so it will be necessary to obtain long-term permanent conservation of habitat and open space on private lands. Our technical guidance biologists work with landowners now in the management and conservation of habitat; however, those efforts are short-term, only for as long as that landowner owns the land. The Land Conservation Program is working to develop permanent conservation programs and conservation solutions for private land. Conservation easements are one tool and to utilize this tool, non-profit land trusts must be developed to respond to landowner needs and local land preservation. Therefore, Mr. Herring stated, the development of land trusts is critical to the future of conservation easements and the use of them on private land. The Commission currently has adopted the position TPWD act as a facilitator rather than a holder of easements. He then introduced Carolyn Scheffer, the primary staff for this program.

Ms. Scheffer pointed out the person responsible for the inception of this program was former commissioner Terry Hershey, aided by Mickey Burleson. A conservation easement conference was held in 1996; Chairman Bass discussed TPWD's education, training and facilitation efforts and the role of the department in land conservation. To that end, a number of publications have been developed: The Directory of Land Trust Organizations in Texas; a pamphlet establishing methods for local organizations or individuals to get started (The Bare Bones of Starting a Land Trust); and The Conservation Easement Guide for Texas Landowners.

The Program has produced a magazine article about land conservation easements and how they protect habitat, as well as news releases and a newsletter. About 2,000 folders have been mailed out to interested individuals which includes technical assistance materials, the directory and publications just mentioned. More landowners are finding out about this tool. After the conservation easement conference in 1996 there was a land trust development conference in 1997 at the Wildflower Center in Austin, and in April of this year the conference went on the road to McAllen. It combined the conservation management tools that landowners are seeking and helped the land trusts with their organizational needs. Ms. Scheffer, along with technical guidance biologists and other members of the program, gives presentations at workshops and groups around the state. Technical assistance to private landowners and organizations and land trust organizational development are part of the facilitation role.

There are organizations beginning to form and make a commitment to long-term land stewardship, such as: Hill Country Land Preservation Trust; Bexar County Land Trust; the Big Thicket Natural Heritage Trust; Legacy Land Trust, a 13-county regional land trust in Houston; Coastal Bend Bays Foundation in Corpus Christi; Barton Creek Watershed Initiative of The Nature Conservancy in Travis County; Cactus Lake in the Panhandle; as well as a steering committee to form a Texas Land Trust Council which would be an umbrella organization for these land trusts with the mission of helping new ones.

Ms. Scheffer discussed the strategic plan for the program: The fourth annual land conservation conference; staff training; developing a list of the professional advisement community with a directory of experts in the state; producing a brochure listing the different landowner assistance programs the department has; and working with The Valley Land Fund and other organizations regarding local needs. There was discussion regarding the Fayette Prairie and a study done by Smeins and David Diamond which contained a list of small prairie owners. It was suggested that we might be able to contact the landowners and A&M may wish to do a follow-up study.

Ms. Scheffer pointed out some department-local partnerships such as San Jacinto Battleground, Goliad and wildlife cooperatives. She pointed out the fact that often there's not an organization available to which we can refer landowners in a particular geographical area of the state. Therefore, it's important to work with other governmental agencies such as the Texas Department of Agriculture and nongovernmental organizations such as the Texas Farm Bureau and the Texas Wildlife Association, as well as national organizations such as the Land Trust Alliance in Washington, D.C., The Trust for Public Land, the Native Prairies Association and the American Farmland Trust, which lately reported that Texas leads the country in the loss of agricultural lands through subdivision. California and Texas were reported to be the top two states, with the focus in Texas being the Valley and the Blackland Prairie Area .

In reply to a question about coastal land trust activities, Ms. Scheffer stated she is working with the Coastal Bend Bays Foundation in Corpus Christi. The Legacy Land Trust is forming from the Bayou Preservation Association and will work with the department to address issues on the upper coast. Also, the Valley Land Fund in the Rio Grande Valley holds one easement on South Padre Island.

It was suggested that Andy Sansom continue to make presentations regarding the real problems in Texas--the loss of habitat and open space. If it's publicized, there's more chance for partnerships and cooperation such as the developer who purchased a tract of land adjacent to Government Canyon and made a significant gift of a conservation easement over some of his prime property, while he received a nice tax write-off, also. Mr. Herring mentioned there would be a summer intern helping with research on suburban/urban areas of conservation of open space and the economic benefits to the community and to the individual. There was general discussion about the importance of reaching more people and the possibility of having a concise one-day conference instead of a weekend meeting and moving it around to different areas of the state. Ms. Scheffer indicated that was one of the capacities the Texas Land Trust Council could fulfill.

IV. ADJOURNMENT - 5:03 p.m.


Committee Agenda Item No. 1
Presenter: Andrew Sansom

Conservation Committee
Briefing
Chairman's Charges
August 1998

(This item will be an oral presentation.)


Committee Agenda Item No. 2
Presenter: Mike Herring

Conservation Committee
Action
Nominations for Oil and Gas Lease
Brazos Bend State Park – Fort Bend County
Fort Griffin State Historical Park – Shackelford County
August 1998

(This is Public Hearing Agenda Item No. 11.)


Committee Agenda Item No. 3
Presenter: Mike Herring

Conservation Committee
Briefing
Land Sale – Wood County
August 1998

I. Discussion: Governor Hogg Shrine State Historical Park, located in the City of Quitman, in Wood County, was acquired by the State Parks Board in 1949, by legislative action. It commemorates James Stephen Hogg, the first native Texan to be governor. The park contains 26.7 acres, and includes the following improvements:

The City of Quitman approached the Department with a desire to manage the site as a local park. Since the park is somewhat duplicative of two other park units ( Jim Hogg State Park in Rusk, and Varner- Hogg Plantation in West Columbia) and is primarily of local interest, the staff feels a transfer on jurisdiction is appropriate.

Two of the buildings are historic in nature and contain original furnishings provided by Ms. Ima Hogg. The museum also contains some original furnishings. Therefore, it is appropriate to retain some interest in these areas.

The proposed method of transfer of jurisdiction is as follows:


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