Conservation Committee

Wednesday, 9:00 a.m., Nov. 4, 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. Texas Historical Commission Assessment – Historic Sites
Staff: Wilson Dolman
Committee Only
3. Land Sale – Wood County
Staff: Mike Herring
11
4. Use of Metal Detectors on Department Lands
Staff: Karen Harry
Committee Only
5. Landowner Incentive Program
Staff: Peggy Horner
Committee Only
6. Other Business  

Summary of Minutes
Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Conservation Committee

August 26, 1998

BE IT REMEMBERED that heretofore on the 26th day of August, 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 11:26 a.m., to-wit:

I. COMMISSION ATTENDANCE:

Mickey Burleson, Chair
Lee M. Bass
Nolan Ryan
Ernest Angelo, Jr.
Susan Howard-Chrane
Carol E. Dinkins
Ray Clymer
John Avila, Jr.

II. APPROVAL OF MINUTES

Ray Clymer moved to approve the minutes of the last committee meeting and Susan Howard-Chrane seconded the motion.

III. THE FOLLOWING ITEMS WERE PRESENTED FOR COMMITTEE ACTION:

1. BRIEFING ­ CHAIRMAN'S CHARGES
Presenter: Andrew Sansom

Mr. Sansom introduced Larry Oaks, deputy director of the Historical Commission, to update the committee on the coordinated strategy of the historic sites assessment. Mr. Oaks discussed the positive relationships that are developing between the staff and the commissioners of the Texas Historical Commission and the TPW staff members and commissioners. He stated an update of the study may be presented at the November meeting, with the possibility of a final report by December. Five consultants were hired to visit the 41 sites and their reports will describe existing conditions, with specific recommendations for improvements in 1999, 2000 and 2001, keeping in mind that funds are limited. The consultants have conducted several public meetings involving local decision-makers and people involved with conservation and natural resources and historic preservation. They asked for suggestions on how to improve operations, address critical needs and market the sites. Mr. Oaks believes that with a few million dollars and small numbers of staff, the conditions could be enormously improved to provide a user experience that would become self-generating with funds coming in and people using the resources and becoming advocates for them.

Mr. Oaks stated the most important aspect of the study is the positive partnership between the Historical Commission and Parks and Wildlife Department. He hopes that the finished product will be a manual that could be used by anyone to develop a good operation at any historic site. Mr. Oaks mentioned that partnerships are necessary to accomplish common goals (such as the management plan for Hueco Tanks State Park) and he thought the department was heading in the right direction with the Governor Hogg Shrine proposal.

Mr. Sansom then introduced Dr. Peter Witt from Texas A&M University for a review and update of the study called "Texas Outdoors: A Vision for the Future." Dr. Witt discussed the principles the study was based on:

A coordinated system of outdoor recreation, tourism, cultural and natural resources is needed, involving the private sector and all levels of government; (2) Development of this system should focus on areas in and around major Texas cities, with TPWD facilitating efforts where possible (due to the fact that 80-something percent of people live within the largest metropolitan areas and the demographics are dramatically changing); (3) Partnerships and private sector involvement are crucial to this system and providing opportunities to Texans; (4) TPWD must continue to play a major role in acquiring, managing and protecting sites of statewide natural, cultural or historic significance (in order to bring this system together and make it work as a system); and (5) User demand for outdoor recreation must be balanced with protection and sustenance of natural resources (don't love them to death).

From the above, the study team identified five critical issues. (1) Recreation demand will increase--demographic changes and growing demands on people's time and money will mean more challenges for TPWD and other providers; (2) The inventory of natural, historic and cultural resources managed by TPWD is inadequate in some cases and redundant in others; (3) TPWD must increase public awareness and understanding of its management, conservation and stewardship roles (understanding the benefits of outdoor recreation in developing local economies, alleviating juvenile crime, reducing health costs and enhancing education; (4) Lack of basic information about who the users are limits the ability of TPWD and other providers to make optimum decisions; (5) Infrastructure deterioration in TPWD and local agency facilities is accelerating--money is needed to maintain the opportunity before new facilities are built.

The study group made 100 recommendations and Dr. Witt talked about some of the critical ones. (1) Look at other reservation systems and consider outsourcing, due to the fact that people form their opinions of the system from that contact; (2) Urban strategy such as community outreach programs was emphasized, responding to the needs of underserved constituents in urban environments; (3) TPWD should take the lead in facilitating the development of new, large, regionally significant, intensive-use parks on the outskirts of cities; (4) TPWD should use financial incentives to promote joint ventures, encouraging the private sector and nonprofit agencies to fully function as part of this system; (5) The Sunset process in 1999 should study what needs to be added to the inventory and how to rationalize things that shouldn't be there; (6) The new strategic plan for the department discusses how the agency contributes to more than just natural resource conservation kinds of issues-these benefits should be publicized regarding individual, community and state levels; (7) TPWD and its partners must work with the legislature to identify a designated funding source to stem the incremental deterioration at the state and local levels; (8) TPWD must improve information-management and database capabilities between various outdoor recreational opportunities and tourist attractions, thereby accomplishing joint advertising and joint information collection; and (9) There has to be more effort to develop a citizen and industry base for support--citizen advocacy.

Dr. Witt discussed funding the priorities; some require little or no cost and others might be accomplished by shifting funds from current things that are being done within the agency. He suggested that the basic information needs and some of the joint venturing and marketing of the system could be done by changing priorities within the current funding. However, the report concludes that there does need to be new money in the system in order to have comprehensive intensive-use regional parks, to upgrade the amount of money going to the co-op program, to continue repairing the infrastructure, and to supply grant money to spur both the private sector and the voluntary sector. When fees are raised you lose a certain number of people and may not get them all back later, which is critical. Clearly, something has to happen with the sales tax attributable to sporting goods. About $32 million is coming to the department and the study group estimated there's at least $80 million to $100 million that should be available due to the fact that multiple-sales stores report a total for sales tax and estimate how much was for sporting goods. Another possible source is the other 25 percent of the unclaimed motor boat fuel tax refunds. The study concludes there should be more designated general fund money for the system to allow the state to protect and conserve land for future generations.

Dr. Witt discussed staffing and recommended in the areas of interpretation and outreach the department needs to move into more of a marketing business skills area, particularly due to a change of philosophy, and staff needs to be where they are most effective. Finally, the department workforce needs to be more diverse, reflecting the changing demographics of the state. The bottom line is the future will be one of creative approaches to financing and staffing, involving the local recreation and park departments, other governmental providers and the private sector. The system needs to be responsive in terms of resources, services and programs.

Dr. Witt was asked to clarify his statement that the study did not define what kind of natural or cultural resource would be of statewide significance. He stated two reasons: First, the Historical Commission is doing an extensive study of the historic sites and second the Sunset process will start in 1999 and should tackle that issue in-depth.

2. ACTION ­ NOMINATION FOR OIL AND GAS LEASES ­ BRAZOS BEND STATE PARK AND FORT GRIFFIN STATE HISTORICAL PARK
Presenters: Mike Herring and Kathy Boydston

Mr. Herring stated the department owns the mineral rights for the tracts of land requested for oil and gas leasing: 1650 acres at Brazos Bend State Park and 506 acres at Fort Griffin State Historical Park. Staff recommends that the Commission authorize the nominations as requested, with the condition that there be no surface entry and with the usual charges of $150 per acre bonus, $10 per acre for a three-year lease and a 25 percent royalty. Mr. Herring said this would be a good item for the consent agenda. Ernest Angelo, Jr. moved to approve staff recommendations and the motion carried.

3. BRIEFING ­ LAND SALE ­ WOOD COUNTY
Presenters: Mike Herring and John Yarbrough

Mr. Cook introduced John Yarbrough, regional director in Tyler, who has worked with the city of Quitman on their proposal to take over management of Governor Hogg Shrine State Historical Park. Mike Herring briefed the Committee on how this partnership would work, if the Commission approved. The Commission would declare the site no longer suitable for the purpose for which it was acquired, as authorized by Parks and Wildlife Code 13.009, sell the site to the city of Quitman for $10 and other good and valuable consideration, save and except the two historic structures there, while retaining oversight of all the historic furnishings. The department would also be responsible for the major repair to the two historic structures. In order to allow the city to manage all of the facilities, even those the department would still own, a cooperative management agreement would be entered into with the city. The assets and resources there are very unique and valuable and staff has worked closely with the Texas Historical Commission.

There was discussion regarding the staffing oversight required by our department, which Mr. Yarbrough explained would be simply training the on-site managers and volunteers that the city would use so that they could manage and preserve the collection. He stated the historic site manager in Paris, Texas, could provide on-site training and monitor their performance and activities. The city plans to hire hourly personnel to work two days a week, with volunteers from the local friends group and the Wood County Historical Society filling in. Mr. Yarbrough was asked about the current visitation and he explained it is somewhat skewed because a car counter tracks the day-users and picnickers, but visitation is about 160,000 a year. Revenue runs about $1600 per year, which includes tours and rentals of pavilions and picnic areas. There was some discussion about the desirability of retaining oversight of the buildings and historical collections. Mr. Yarbrough explained there is a need to train the city on how to deal with the valuable historical collections on a day-to-day basis and that all the facilities except for the two historical homes will be upgraded in the next fiscal year. Repair to the honeymoon cottage and the museum will cost around $100,000 and repair to the Stinson Home will cost $50,000. Both of those are in the scheduled capital program, although they have not been funded for FY1999. Once the repairs are completed in approximately two years, the department would be saving roughly $70,000 per year with the city of Quitman managing the site. The cost of training, supervising and monitoring city personnel in the care of the collections would be indirect, since department staff already in place would accomplish it.

4. Other Business

Mr. Sansom requested that Bob Cook brief the Committee on what's happening at Hueco Tanks. Mr. Cook introduced Lisa Fitzgerald of the state parks program and Delton Daugherty, regional director for the Trans-Pecos area.

Lisa Fitzgerald reviewed the park history, starting with acquisition in 1969 from El Paso County at which time visitors were allowed to drive in the back country and picnic with ground fires anywhere in the park. Since that time there have been steps to try to balance public use of the site with protection of the resources. In 1992 the park was closed for two weeks following a rash of vandalism and intensive discussions began regarding the long-range management strategy for the site. Since that time there have been increased usage and increased damages to the resource. A draft public-use plan was released about a year ago, following extensive efforts involving Austin and field staff. There was a long public review and comment period and a public meeting in El Paso in February, with a tour of the park by department and state leadership to assess the situation firsthand.

In early June staff announced a revised public-use concept with more decisive actions to protect the resources after analyzing the public input. This past summer there were a series of working sessions held in El Paso involving user groups, friends groups and state leadership, in order to determine how to implement the plan. The final product was the plan that will be implemented September 1, 1998, containing two management zones within the park. Two-thirds of the park will be accessed by guide only, whether it's a staff guide, commercial guide or a volunteer guide. North Mountain, near the headquarters, will be accessed without a guide for approved activities. The plan calls for mandatory orientation for all visitors, places limits on the numbers of visitors in the park at any one time, and increases the department's educational and interpretive efforts at the site. The trail system is a key component of that. The hours of operation will be extended and a permitting system for commercial and volunteer guides will be developed, with a special-use permit system to accommodate the needs of Native American groups and special events. Implementation on September 1st will be phased-in using staff for tours until the training and certification programs for guides are in place.

The plan will be monitored for effectiveness over the next year and beyond by observing the condition of the resource and the patterns of use. It's possible the next direction could be more restrictive or less, depending on the success of protecting the resources. Currently staff is focused on getting the trails plan moving and the orientation and guide-training programs developed, as well as increasing education and volunteer efforts. Legislative interest continues to be high with Representative Chavez and Senator Robert Duncan expressing interest in holding a fund-raiser at the park this fall.

The Committee had questions about the cost and methods to remove graffiti. Mr. Daugherty stated the department spent $24,000 last year on cleaning up the rock art panels. Also, some of the graffiti is historical, dating back to the 19th century when the area was on the stage line. Staff hopes to eliminate more of this happening through stricter control. The fee will be $4 per person and the TCP will not be honored as a vehicle pass. The rock climbers have a designated area where they are still unguided; the remainder of the park will be accessible through a guided process, either with a commercial guide, a staff guide or a volunteer guide. Mr. Daugherty stated visitation last year was around 70,000 people, with rock climbers making up about 65 percent of that. He guessed the rock-climbing community numbers around 30,000.

IV. Meeting adjourned at 1:45 p.m.


Committee Agenda Item No. 1
Presenter: Andrew Sansom

Conservation Committee
Briefing
Chairman's Charges
November 1998

(This item will be an oral presentation.)


Committee Agenda Item No. 2
Presenter: Wilson Dolman

Conservation Committee
Briefing
Texas Historical Commission Assessment
Historic Sites
November 1998

I. DISCUSSION: The Texas Historical Commission (THC) has been working on an assessment of the condition and operation of the forty designated historic sites in the Texas State Park System and the Sam Rayburn House operated by THC. Authorization for this study is provided by Rider No. 20 of the appropriation for THC in H.B. 1, Seventy-fifth Legislature, which states, "The Texas Historical Commission shall submit to the Parks and Wildlife Department written recommendations regarding the management of the historic sites under the Parks and Wildlife Department’s control."

Following this legislative mandate, the Department and THC agreed to work cooperatively in the preparation of the assessment. By agreement between the two agencies, the assessment would focus on five major areas:

With the exception of the marketing consultant, each specialist has visited each site in the study, obtained requested documentary information, and interviewed staff. Progress meetings attended by THC and Department staff and other interested parties were held at three locations: Washington-on-the-Brazos, Fort McKavett, and the Starr Family Home. THC submitted draft findings from the specialists prior to a joint meeting held in Austin on October 15, 1998. The purpose of the meeting was to consolidate recommendations in preparation for a final draft. Major recommendations from the meeting include:

The staff will work closely with THC staff and consultants to complete a final draft of the assessment for the Seventy-sixth session of the Texas Legislature. THC is prepared to support a request for funding to implement the recommendations of the assessment.


Committee Agenda Item No. 3
Presenter: Mike Herring

Conservation Committee
Action
Land Sale – Wood County
November 1998

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


Committee Agenda Item No. 4
Presenter: Karen Harry

Conservation Committee
Action
Use of Metal Detectors on State Park Lands
November 1998

I. DISCUSSION: The department has received a petition from the Texas Council of Treasure Clubs requesting that current regulations prohibiting the use of metal detectors on state park lands be amended to permit their use in ‘current use’ areas such as playgrounds, swimming areas, and picnic areas. Staff has determined that the current regulation is a valid exercise of the department’s legal authority, and is necessary to execute the department’s statutory obligation to protect and conserve the cultural, historic, geologic, and natural resources on department properties. In addition, unless specifically permitted by the Texas Historical Commission, metal detecting activities risk being in violation of the Antiquities Code of Texas. Prior to authorizing metal detecting activities, the Texas Historical Commission is likely to require the completion of impact-level archeological surveys. Completion of these surveys is likely to be expensive. Management difficulties associated with monitoring metal detecting activities make it unlikely that TPW could protect cultural resources if such activities were allowed.

II. RECOMMENDATION: Staff recommends the Conservation Committee deny the petition for rulemaking.

Attachment - 1

Exhibit A - Petition for Rulemaking


Committee Agenda Item No. 5
Presenter: Peggy Horner

Conservation Committee
Briefing
Landowner Incentive Program
November 1998

I. DISCUSSION: The Landowner Incentive Program (LIP) is the first government program in the nation that focuses exclusively on paying landowners to help conserve rare plants and animals on their property. The program is in its third year and targets landowners who are willing to be creative in ways that they can protect and even increase rare species on their land while still engaging in traditional land management practices such as farming and ranching. The goal of the program is to demonstrate incentives and voluntary stewardship as a means of achieving rare species conservation on rural private lands rather than the regulatory approach to endangered species conservation. Funds for this project ($100,000/yr for 5 years) are granted to TPWD through Section 6 of the Endangered Species Act. Of the 14 contracts that have been signed, a total of 6471 acres (ranging from 5-2900 acres) are being protected or restored for rare species. Six federally-listed species are targeted, along with 1 federal petitioned species, 12 state listed species, and 8 species of concern. The LIP has granted $198,884 for rare species management, and the cooperators have agreed to a total cost share of $92,320 (46%).


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