Conservation Committee

Wednesday, 9:00 a.m., August 25, 1999

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. Other Business  

Summary of Minutes
Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Conservation Committee
June 2, 1999

BE IT REMEMBERED that heretofore on the 2nd day of June, 1999, 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 2:40 p.m., to-wit:

I. COMMISSION ATTENDANCE:

Carol E. Dinkins, Chair
Lee M. Bass
Ernest Angelo, Jr. (Absent)
John Avila, Jr.
Dick Heath
Alvin L. Henry
Katharine Armstrong Idsal
Nolan Ryan
Mark E. Watson, Jr.

II. APPROVAL OF MINUTES

Alvin L. Henry moved to approve the minutes of the last committee meeting and Katharine Armstrong Idsal seconded the motion, which carried.

III. THE FOLLOWING ITEMS WERE PRESENTED FOR COMMITTEE ACTION:

1. BRIEFING ­ CHAIRMAN'S CHARGES

Presenter: Andrew Sansom Mr. Sansom stated that staff is working on the statement of philosophy in relation to land management and it should be ready by the August 25, 1999 meeting.

2. BRIEFING ­ FOUNDATION CAPITAL CAMPAIGN

Presenter: Andrew Sansom

Mr. Sansom briefed the Commission on the final action the Foundation Board plans to take in July to approve a $55 million campaign to create two things: (1) A series of capital conservation projects in partnership with Texas Parks and Wildlife; and (2) Continue to build endowments for each one of the Department's sites. The Foundation is contemplating raising $22 million toward that total; local partners are anticipated to contribute $32 million; the Department's portion would be $9 million.

Mr. Sansom reviewed the information from the Foundation describing the partnership projects proposed. Funds for the Texas state bison herd in the high plains would continue the research and intensive breeding program necessary for restoration of the herd, create visitor facilities and ultimately find a place for them to be a free-ranging herd. The Texas Rivers Center in San Marcos, in partnership with Southwest Texas State University, would be an aquatic education center and bring protection to Aquarena Springs. Mr. Sansom stated the World Birding Center had been discussed earlier in the day but one of the most exciting components is the proposed private funding for the purchase of the original bird art from the Peterson field guides of Texas and Mexico, which would be permanently housed somewhere in the World Birding Center system. He described Outdoor Kids as an endowment to be set up to provide outreach programs and educational training in order to introduce children to the out-of-doors; Lone Star Legacy is a series of site endowments, currently at 75, which includes state parks, wildlife management areas and hatcheries. Mr. Sansom mentioned the largest endowment so far is a gift by former Chairman and Mrs. Edwin L. Cox, Jr., in the amount of $300,000 for the Athens Freshwater Fishery Center. He also mentioned the dedication of the George Bush Gallery taking place on June 4, 1999 at the Admiral Nimitz Museum in Fredericksburg, which has been funded entirely from private sources and currently has $1 million in endowment funds.

Mr. Sansom introduced Paula Peters and Anne Helbing, both of whom work for the Parks and Wildlife Foundation of Texas.

3. BRIEFING ­ PRIVATE LAND CONSERVATION

Presenter: Andrew Sansom

Mr. Sansom explained the purpose of the briefing was to reestablish the parameters considered for land conservation activities, along with the justification and rationale, in order to get some input from the Commission for the budget process culminating in August. He mentioned the two studies completed in the past year, which were "Texas Outdoors, A Vision for the Future" done by Texas A&M, and the recent polling data collected by The Trust for Public Land.

Mr. Sansom reported the A&M study summarized that the Texas Park System is part of a system of land conservation in Texas which includes city and county park systems, as well as the National Park Service, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Corps of Engineers. The study also characterized the Department's park system as one that grew the past 30 years or so without great strategy, thereby containing some redundancies. The A&M Study determined the most critical need for land conservation in this state is to provide access and open space in the areas of great sprawl. Mr. Sansom stated the interesting data from The Trust for Public Land's poll was that Texans now consider conservation of land to be among their top five priorities (along with public education, jobs, etc.).

Mr. Sansom reviewed the Department's philosophy for land conservation, which is to conserve natural and cultural resources in order that animals and plant species are protected, and to conserve places of historical significance. Land conservation is a way to provide affordable access to the out-of-doors for an increasingly urban population, and it has become a means of watershed protection. It's a way of establishing landowner incentive programs for the protection of endangered species and cooperative programs among groups of adjacent landowners. Conservation also means recognition programs such as the Lone Star Land Stewart, and promoting the idea and the use of conservation easements and land trusts in Texas.

Mr. Sansom stated that staff has focused on conservation of private lands, at the Commission's direction, in order to provide private citizens with the means, the tools and the flexibility to manage resources on their own property. If, in the future, the Department is able to purchase land, only acquisition of property with statewide significance to every person who lives in Texas, now and in the future, would be considered. At Mr. Heath's direction, acquisitions in the past decade were accomplished with little revenue and no increase in operating costs, while minimizing property tax impacts to affected areas. Mr. Sansom pointed out that in the last few years, for the first time, the Department was able to acquire assets to be set aside for future use, at such time when capital and operational money would be available.

Mr. Sansom reviewed current and recent conservation efforts. Currently staff is working on acquisition for Austin's Woods, the most critically endangered woodlands in Texas today. Dow Chemical Company and the Texas Department of Transportation are not only paying 100 percent of the acquisition costs, they will also pay the Department to manage them in order to mitigate all the remaining wetlands inside Dow's main plants at Brazosport and all of the highway projects envisioned for the Houston area for the next 20 years.

Mr. Sansom pointed out that Mason Mountain was acquired by gift and currently the activities taking place on it are bringing in a profit over the operational costs. A private foundation donated the Chinati Mountains to the Department and staff established an endowment to cover the property taxes in Presidio County. Government Canyon, within the San Antonio metropolitan area, was purchased in partnership with The Trust for Public Land, the Edwards Aquifer Authority and the San Antonio Water System.

Mr. Sansom discussed future conservation priorities. He stated that fragmentation of private lands will continue to cause habitat loss for wildlife; public access will be a major issue; and Texans say water quality will be the number one conservation problem. Private land conservation will be the central aspect of the Department's land conservation program and as a part of the budget process in August, there will be a presentation of a refocused strategic land conservation strategy. The focus of acquisition will be with partners and private landowners near urban areas and the most important wildlife and fishery habitats and examples of natural and cultural heritage. Staff will be studying the current infrastructure and operational strategies in an effort to cut expenses, as well as determining from the current inventory if there's a site that could be sold or traded in order to ensure that all sites meet the criteria determined. Lastly, Senate Bill 1 gives the Department a tool to designate new water projects in Texas and to protect important riparian areas along rivers and streams. Mr. Sansom stated he hoped the Commission would assist staff with refocusing and redesigning the program so that there would be a more strategic effort for land conservation in Texas as we enter the next century.

Ms. Dinkins discussed the possibility of federal legislation appropriating money to Texas through proceeds from developments on the outer continental shelf and requested a brief summary at the August committee meeting on The Trust for Public Land's survey.

4. ACTION ­ PIPELINE EASEMENT ­ CANDY ABSHIER WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA ­ CHAMBERS COUNTY

Presenters: Mike Herring and Kathy Boydston

Mr. Herring said Galveston Bay Pipeline Company requested an easement to lay a 440.78 ft. long ten-inch pipeline across Candy Abshier Wildlife Management Area. The route would cross a section that has been previously disturbed by oil and gas operations, with limited vegetation, and tie into an existing easement on the east side, requiring a 20 foot by 30 foot valve station. Staff recommends the easement be granted subject to the conditions shown in Exhibit A in lieu of the per rod charge for the first term of the easement. The company would perform Item One and complete Items Two to Four at a cost not to exceed $20,000. Dick Heath moved to approve staff recommendations and place the item on the consent agenda for full Commission consideration on June 3, 1999. The motion carried.

5. OTHER BUSINESS - There was no other business. Meeting adjourned at 3:20 p.m.


Committee Agenda Item No. 1
Presenter: Andrew Sansom

Conservation Committee
Briefing
Chairman's Charges
August 1999

(This item will be an oral presentation.)


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