Conservation Committee

Wednesday, 9:00 a.m., Nov. 7, 2001

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. Update Riverbed Use
Staff: Larry McKinney
Committee Only
3. Land Acquisition - Brazoria County
Staff: Jack Bauer
10
4. Land Exchange - Uvalde County
Staff: Jack Bauer
11
5. Land Exchange – Travis County
Staff: Jack Bauer
12
6. Land Acquisition – Brazoria County, Big Bend Ranch
Staff: Jeff Francell
13
7. Land Acquisition – Higalgo County
Staff: Jeff Francell
14
8. Land Acquisition – Nueces County
Staff: Jeff Francell
15
9. Other Business

Summary of Minutes
Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Conservation Committee

August 29, 2001

BE IT REMEMBERED that heretofore on the 29th day of August, 2001, 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 11:45 a.m., to-wit:

I. COMMISSION ATTENDANCE:

Carol E. Dinkins, Chair
Ernest Angelo, Jr.
John Avila, Jr. (absent)
Joseph Fitzsimons
Alvin L. Henry
Katharine Armstrong Idsal
Philip Montgomery
Donato D. Ramos
Mark E. Watson, Jr.
II. APPROVAL OF MINUTES: The minutes of the last committee meeting were approved.

III. THE FOLLOWING ITEMS WERE PRESENTED FOR COMMITTEE ACTION:

1. BRIEFING – CHAIRMAN’S CHARGES

Presenter: Andrew Sansom

Mr. Sansom stated the mission of the Conservation Committee is to promote the natural and cultural resources of Texas, using private land conservation and education initiatives, conservation easements and trusts, and strategic land acquisitions. Several charges involve implementation of Senate Bill 305, including support for local governments with aquatic vegetation management and control as part of their aquatic vegetation plans. Another charge concerns development of a statewide land and water resources conservation and recreation plan, which would include inventory of trail resources. The last charge Mr. Sansom mentioned was to plan and coordinate the development of historical sites and to negotiate with the Texas Department of Transportation for the use of obsolete bridges, tunnels and causeways for the artificial reef program.

Mr. Sansom also stated the 77th Legislature in Senate Bill 2 required Texas Parks and Wildlife to participate in the Texas Water Advisory Council, a new statewide water planning institution. Through that effort the department will continue to advocate fish and wildlife resource needs, to complete all bay and estuary studies, to emphasize the importance of protected stream segments and regional water planning, and to assure that regional plans and associated water development strategies consider the impact of those strategies on fish and wildlife resources in order to minimize adverse impacts.

2. NOMINATION FOR OIL AND GAS LEASE -- GUS ENGELING WMA

Presenter: Kathy Boydston

Ms. Boydston detailed the request for oil and gas nomination on a 10,000-acre tract in Gus Engeling Wildlife Management Area, Anderson County. The department owns 50 percent of the mineral interest in this tract and the proposal follows Commission policy of requiring a minimum bonus bid of $150 per acre with a 25 percent fixed royalty and a $10 per acre delay fee in rental for a term of three years. Exhibit A is a list of restrictions proposed, with the first one requiring that the oil and gas operator locate on an existing drilling pad and use the existing access road and existing pipeline easements. The second restriction covers any concerns the department has that are not included in the normal oil and gas leases.

The Commissioners discussed the $150 acre minimum bonus; Ms. Boydston explained that the General Land Office does research to determine what is applicable for the area, to be sure the department is competitive.

3. LESS-THAN-FEE CONSERVATION ALTERNATIVES FOR PRIVATE LANDOWNERS

Presenters: Bob Cook, Jeff Francell and Carolyn Vogel

Mr. Cook explained that this item was to brief the Commissioners for their consideration and information. Less-than-fee conservation alternatives for private landowners provide a permanent conservation benefit while allowing lands to remain in private hands. There are various applications of this conservation tool and the department's role could be a facilitator and/or a potential holder of easements and/or development rights. Each of these situations will be handled on a case-by-case basis, to be discussed and reviewed individually.

Mr. Cook reminded the Committee that Chairman Lee Bass spoke to a conference in Austin in April, 1996 about the direction of TPW being one to educate and facilitate--helping landowners understand and learn about the various conservation alternatives--as well as facilitating coordination with the Texas land trust groups around at that time. In April 1999 TPW created the Texas Land Trust Council program which Carolyn Vogel heads up, to provide services to the state's 35 nonprofit land trusts. In October 2000 the Governor's Conservation Task Force recommended that Texas create a statewide purchase of development rights program; reform tax laws to support conservation; and expand incentives for habitat management and outdoor recreation on private land.

Jeff Francell proceeded to talk about definitions, as well as conservation benefits, for the different kinds of agreements; landowner benefits; and the responsibilities of an entity holding an easement or purchasing a development right. He explained that a conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement that a landowner places on his property to protect natural, cultural or historic features. Purchase of development rights is when a landowner is actually paid for the limiting of future development or subdivision of their property. An easement holder is a legally empowered agency, government agency or nonprofit private land trust holding the conservation easement and who is responsible for monitoring and enforcing the conservation easement.

Mr. Francell pointed out that the top land uses restricted or limited with these kinds of agreements involve commercial, industrial, residential development or subdivision. There are a number of benefits, including reducing fragmentation and habitat loss. These agreements also give the entity that holds the easement the ability to influence resource management on private property, similar to what TPW does with its wildlife management plans. The agreements can preserve open space and protect scenic views, protect and enhance water quality, and protect historical or cultural sites.

The landowner benefits from these agreements by meeting their goals, since they are voluntarily placed. There are also tax deductions and/or Federal IRS tax advantages to doing conservation easements or purchase of development rights. The agreements can be helpful in estate planning. Also, landowners can be paid for limiting future development.

Mr. Francell also discussed the responsibilities of the easement holders. Monitoring the conservation easement or purchase of development rights is required, once per year or sometimes more often. If there is a violation, the easement holder is responsible for making sure the landowner comes back into compliance.

Carolyn Vogel briefed the Committee regarding her role in the facilitation and education role of the long-term approaches to conservation. She has been the administrator of the Texas Land Trust Council since it was initiated in 1999. The Council promotes and sustains conservation efforts of the 35 nonprofit land trusts in Texas today. Ms. Vogel and a 15-member board work directly with the land trusts throughout the state, aiding them in meeting their organizational and stewardship development objectives. Carter Smith of The Nature Conservancy is the current president and there are board members representing different land trusts and the professional advisement community.

Ms. Vogel described her work with TPW biologists and technical guidance people, who work directly with landowners, regarding short-term and long-term protection of their properties. She also works directly with landowners that are seeking information about the different approaches to conservation in order to protect habitat, or are concerned about fragmentation issues. There have been a number of statewide conferences and regional workshops on the various conservation approaches and organizational development, as well as training for staff of land trusts, board members and volunteers. Continuing Education Units were also offered for the professional community--the attorneys, appraisers and accountants who are advising the landowners.

Mr. Cook discussed how this program is meeting the needs and goals of the private landowners and that they trust TPW staff. It is the role of TPW to help the land trust organizations in the state get together with the landowners. The question was asked, "How many conservation easements does the department hold or manage?" Ms. Vogel replied about eight. There are several at San Jacinto Battleground State Park; several at Caddo Lake State Park; and a playa lake in the Panhandle, all donated. Some discussion was held regarding how purchased development rights in Texas are mainly for watershed protection. Mr. Sansom stated TPW's policy on acceptance of conservation easements is that it is viewed not only as an opportunity, but as a liability as well, because there is a direct cost that is part of the consideration. After more discussion the Commissioners agreed that the practice currently is to encourage local land trusts to be the holders; the department will only accept easements when there is a special reason.

Chairman Idsal asked Mr. Sansom to read the Chairman's Charges for Infrastructure, Education and Outreach Committees.

IV. Meeting adjourned at 12:10 p.m.


Committee Agenda Item No. 1

Conservation Committee
Chairman's Charges
November 2001

(This item will be an oral presentation.)


Committee Agenda Item No. 2
Presenter: Larry McKinney

Conservation Committee
Update Riverbed Use
November 2001

Discussion: Staff will update the Commission about the exploratory meetings held with stakeholder groups regarding ongoing user conflicts in the bed of the upper Nueces River, especially in Uvalde and Zavala Counties, and will provide information staff has learned since the August 2001 Commission meeting.

Topics will include:

"Protection of the Natural Condition of Beds and Banks Of the State-owned Watercourses" (Presentation) media download(0 B)


Committee Agenda Item No. 3
Presenter: Jack Bauer

Conservation Committee
Land Acquisition – Brazoria County
November 2001

(This is Public Hearing Agenda Item No. 10.)


Committee Agenda Item No. 4
Presenter: Jack Bauer

Conservation Committee
Land Exchange – Uvalde County
November 2001

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


Committee Agenda Item No. 5
Presenter: Jack Bauer

Conservation Committee
Land Exchange – Travis County
November 2001

(This is Public Hearing Agenda Item No. 12.)


Committee Agenda Item No. 6
Presenter: Jeff Francell

Conservation Committee
Land Acquisition – Brazoria County – Big Bend Ranch
November 2001

(This is Public Hearing Agenda Item No. 13.)


Committee Agenda Item No. 7
Presenter: Jeff Francell

Conservation Committee
Land Acquisition – Hidalgo County
November 2001

(This is Public Hearing Agenda Item No. 14.)


Committee Agenda Item No. 8
Presenter: Jeff Francell

Conservation Committee
Land Exchange – Nueces County
November 2001

(This is Public Hearing Agenda Item No. 15.)


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