Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Conservation Committee

May 28, 2003

Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744

BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 28th day of May, 2003, there came on to be heard matters under the regulatory authority of the Parks and Wildlife Commission of Texas, in the Commission Hearing Room of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex, beginning at 11:15 a.m. to wit:

APPEARANCES:

THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION:

CONSERVATION COMMITTEE:

Katharine Armstrong, Austin, Texas, Commission Chair

Joseph B.C. Fitzsimons, San Antonio, Texas

Ernest Angelo, Jr., Midland, Texas

Alvin L. Henry, Houston, Texas

Ned S. Holmes, Houston, Texas

Philip Montgomery, Dallas, Texas

Donato D. Ramos, Laredo, Texas

Kelly W. Rising, M.D., Beaumont, Texas (absent)

Mark E. Watson, Jr., San Antonio, Texas

THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT:

Robert L. Cook, Executive Director, and other personnel of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: We are now going to take up the Conservation Committee.

Do we have any Chairman's charges, Bob?

(Pause.)

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Oh. We've got to first approve –

MR. COOK: First do the meeting minutes.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Okay.

First, we'll have approval of the minutes. Do we have any changes from last meeting's minutes?

(Pause.)

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: If not, do I have a motion to approve the minutes?

COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: So move.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Second.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Opposed?

(No response.)

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Bob?

MR. COOK: Thank you, Chairman.

I want to introduce Jack Bauer at this time to discuss with you – discuss and describe to you some land transactions that you're going to be – just the basics of some land transactions you're going to be addressing today that follow a – the study by GLO on underutilized properties and such.

Jack?

MR. BAUER: Thank you.

I'm Jack Bauer, Director of Land Conservation. The Commission is normally very actively involved in our – the approvals of our land transactions, both acquisitions and dispositions. We're coming into a time frame this summer where there will probably be some actions going on that will include two groups. One will be the General Land Office-identified lands as being underutilized that have been approved by the governor – and, also, Land and Water Plan transfer or sale recommendations that will involve long-term leases. These will be actions that the Commission will not have the opportunity to rule over.

So the first category, we have land and water – parcels that have been identified in the Land and Water Plan recommended for disposition or transfer. That – we will accomplish that through a long-term lease. We have six units of the Las Palomas that we are proposing to transfer to the Lower Rio Grande refuge system. These are small tracts that have high conservation value but, because of their position, being next to a refuge, would be probably in better hands managed by the federal refuge system.

And we also have Boca Chica State Park that is down there – and the Laguna Atascosa Refuge has pretty much grown up around it – and, again, is in a position where it would be better managed with the Service. That's under a lease-to-sell proposition. If – it's dependent upon the federal Fish and Wildlife Service getting acquisition funds.

And then, at Davis Hill, we have a recommendation to sell the Trinity River – sell to the Trinity refuge system the Davis Hill State Park. And I've got a little more detail on it.

In the Valley, we have Boca Chica and the Las Palomas units. And the six locations that are identified for lease will this summer be leased to the refuge system for 50 years.

And at Davis Hill, the – we have the Trinity Refuge System that has grown up on the Trinity. Davis Hill State Park is located really in and among the recommended boundary for the Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge. There's an interest in seeing that being conserved in that system, and we'll propose to have that happen. If it sells, of course, it will come to the Commission for final approval; if it is leased, then it will not.

And then the other category of transfers where we've had the General Land Office, through a procedure of rule, identify lands that we have of all state agencies that are underutilized or unused and those – and then that the governor did not disapprove and – of that group, we have these facilities. It's not the entire facility; it's just a component of the facility.

These little schematics you see at McKinney Falls, Dangerfield State Park and Pedernales Falls – the little components that are yellow is a component that has been identified as underutilized and has been recommended for sale and has not been disapproved by the governor. So they – that puts them into a rule where they will be sold.

And we have had, by the way, good input into the say of these actions. And there have actually been more facilities that have been on this list at various times and have been taken off.

COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Excuse me, Jack. Do the funds for that go into the general fund, or do they come back to Parks and Wildlife?

MR. BAUER: Under the system right now, these will come back to the Department.

That concludes my briefing if there aren't any other questions.

COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Actually, I had one other question. The transfers to the federal refuge – are those properties still going to be available for hunting if they're utilized for hunting now?

MR. BAUER: They – the ones that have – the reason they got on the list as a recommendation for transfer is because they do not have access for hunting.

COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Today?

MR. BAUER: Correct. So our wildlife division looked at those 15 or 20 facilities down there and looked at the ones that didn't fit our desire to have them hunted or didn't have access to get public access to them and were adjacent to an existing refuge. So they kind of fit the mark for – made sense to move to the refuge system.

COMMISSIONER ANGELO: So there won't be any change in their hunting access?

MR. BAUER: They may be available through the federal system, but we didn't have access through our property where we could effect a hunting program.

COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: So that anticipated my question. There's a possibility we could encourage the hunting access by them being part of the refuge system?

MR. BAUER: We can say for certain that it won't be worse.

COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: It won't be worse?

COMMISSIONER ANGELO: That's important.

(Laughter.)

COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Well, let me ask you. One of those, Ocotillo, is in Big Bend. Right? And –

MR. BAUER: Yes.

COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: – that wouldn't be part of the – it was on the list –

MR. BAUER: It was actually on the list as a recommendation for transfer, but that was one that we couldn't get the Feds to accept.

COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I didn't – I wondered how we could have made that fit. So that – we'll still have that?

MR. BAUER: Yes. And we're going to actually change the name of that to make it its own Wildlife-managed facility. So there will be – it's going to, hopefully, take an expanded role.

COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: You know, it's not on the way to anywhere. I've been there.

(Laughter.)

COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: A nice, quiet spot.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Do we have any other questions of Mr. Bauer?

(No response.)

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: The next two items are going to be discussed in executive session. But before we do that, I want to recognize David Smith, Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Department of the Interior, and Dale Hall, Regional Director in Albuquerque, who are here today to brief us for two or three minutes on a U. S. Fish and Wildlife program involving private landowners that I like to think we may have played a role in. And we'd like to have them come up and tell us about it right now.

MR. COOK: While David and Dale are coming forward, Commissioners, I want to say something about the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service and these two gentlemen. I can say without hesitation our connection, our coordination and our working relationship on a day-to-day basis on on-the-ground conservation has never been better with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Dale Hall, we appreciate you. We're glad you're here and are looking forward to continue working with you.

MR. HALL: Thank you.

And I feel exactly the same way about working with Director Cook and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission; it's a great partnership.

MR. SMITH: Well, thank you for letting us be here today. And this is the fun part of my job; being in D. C., it's all too little that I get to come down here and spend time in Texas. So it's great to be home and great to see all of you all.

And it's also good to come back home bearing good tidings. So one of the things that – when President Bush was elected and appointed Gale Norton as Secretary of the Interior, they really both saw the need to bring common-sense solutions to environmental policy and conservation policy because – I think we've all seen what has happened in Texas and other places when there's a policy of conflict. Landowners don't win, conservation groups don't win and conservation groups don't win and conservation habitats don't win.

One of the things that President Bush and Secretary Norton both came in with is the fact that if you change the argument, if you create a scenario in which you have a fish and wildlife service that works with the landowners cooperatively and does things together with landowners and conservation groups instead of to landowners and conservation groups, you set up a dynamic in which, in a private land state like Texas, you have the people who live on the land, love the land and make their living off the land and have their heritage on the land as the ones who do the conservation on the land.

And there's no group of folks that I know of who are able to do more with a little bit than Texas landowners and Texas conservationists.

What we're here today to announce is the awarding of the private stewardship grants here in Texas. And I will say that this is a prime example of the fact that there are several of the best ideas in this country that indeed do originate outside the Beltway, and this is one that was started and this was an idea that we took with us to Washington that was created by Texas Parks and Wildlife and the staff here working together with the governor's office.

And it's one thing that – actually, on the campaign trail in June of 2000, the President first said, This is a great idea; this is something we've done in Texas, and this is something I'm going to take to Washington and share with the other states, as well.

And the idea is really simple. If you provide incentives to landowners, a little bit of seed money to landowners, and let landowners bring a match, they're going to do good things for species on their lands. And instead of punishing for having rare and threatened species and species at risk on their land, let's reward them. And let's create incentives for them to not just have those species on their property, but conserve them and conserve their habitat.

I think Mike Berger was nice enough to make copies for all of you all of the press release, but what we're going to be announcing is seven grants for Texas that are totaling over $850,000. The total grants nationally – just so you'll know what kind of chunk Texas got, we're going to be announcing $9.4 million in grants nationally.

So Texas fared rather well, and there are some very, very impressive projects down here that we're going to be highlighting. I can go through them very briefly if you want. They go all the way from the Panhandle to the Texas Gulf Coast. The first is for the Texas Prairie Rivers Region, Incorporated. The application was made by Remelle Farrar. It affects Gray, Lipscomb, Roberts and Wheeler Counties, and it's a grant for almost actually $92,000 to help with prairie habitat and prairie species.

The second is a grant to Cook's Branch Conservancy. The application was by Raven Environmental Services, Incorporated, in Montgomery County, Texas, to help create nesting cavities for the red-cockaded woodpecker.

The third is to the Pines and Prairies Land Trust. The application was by Carrie Knox down in Bastrop, Texas. This is got to be one – it's a grant going to a school and a group for at-risk youths to build a breeding pond for Houston toads down in Bastrop County.

The fourth is to the Coastal Prairies Coalition of the GLCI, application by David S. Crow. It's – they're located in Bastrop County, but it goes down south through the lower Colorado River area to provide habitat for prairie wildlife species.

The fifth is a grant to the Texas Wildlife Association Foundation, application made by Mr. Steve Manning, for Kerr, Coryell and Bell Counties to work with brush eradication programs to benefit the golden-cheeked warbler and black-capped vireo.

The sixth is a grant to the Peregrine Fund for the northern aplomado falcon reintroduction, application by Jeff Cilek. That affects several counties too numerous to name in the south and western part of the state to help re-establish the already incredibly successful Northern Aplomado Falcon program.

And the seventh grant is to the Wild Turkey Center for Riparian Habitat Improvement, the application made by James Sparks, in Briscoe, Donley, Hemphill and Lipscomb Counties in Texas and then, also, neighboring counties along the Canadian River in New Mexico and Oklahoma.

Thank you all for really the idea and letting us take it to Washington. And thank you for your continued support.

You know, I was actually looking at the numbers on the Texas program, which was started in '98. And, you know, I was surprised that nearly $2 million in cost-sharing has been provided to Texas landowners, affecting more than 90,000 acres. So in the federal arena, we have some catching up to do but appreciate the partnership that has been formed here.

One of my personal goals in going up to Washington was making sure that we had good people on the ground to help us work cooperatively and collaboratively with the folks in Texas, because I know the kind of folks we have in Texas government and I know the kind of folks we have out conserving land and wildlife.

And so it's really a real pleasure for me to have a gentleman like Dale Hall in Albuquerque overseeing Region Two and a gentleman like Renne Lohoefener here in Austin. It makes my job a heck of a lot easier and a heck of a lot more pleasurable, and I am glad that you all feel the same way. So thank you for letting me be here.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Thank you all, very much.

Do we have any questions of these gentlemen?

COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Well, I want to thank David.

David, it's good to see you again.

MR. SMITH: Good to see you, Joe.

COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I think we should mention some of the people here at the Department that got this idea going. And I was at the time serving on the private lands advisory board. There's a lot of them sitting in the back there, like Kirby Brown, that helped the landowners incentive program get off – and, also, Bob Cook and Gary Graham, who has gone on to new challenges.

And I want to congratulate you. In looking through your list, I'm familiar with a few of these projects. You've kept the – our basic template of leveraging here. You're getting a lot done with a little, as you said, and that's a real success formula, I think, in working with the people on the ground that are actually doing this.

MR. SMITH: Well – and thank you for saying that. One of the things we're doing is – I think we have some great projects and that we can show Congress up in Washington that these types of programs do work and they are effective.

We've asked for an additional $10 million in 2004 and really hope to grow this program into a federal program. So really, you know, the nation owes, I think, Texas a debt of gratitude for a lot of the hard work and a lot of the innovative approaches that have been developed here that we've been able to carry up there with us.

So thank you all. And it's exciting to see something that was created and born here, so to speak, start taking off on a national level.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Thank you so much. And my greetings to your boss, Secretary Norton, who I recently spent – on two occasions recently, all of a sudden, I'm seeing her – and, also, to Fran Manilla [phonetic], who was down here recently – I had a lovely visit with her.

And, again, how much we appreciate the feeling of cooperation between our federal agency and our state agency. And I do believe that it is a new era where, if we're interested in getting things done and if results are what we're looking for, cooperation and working with private landowners is the way to go for the simple reason that it works. Thank you.

MR. HALL: And I want to thank you for allowing me to be on your agenda tomorrow to talk about just that and to reiterate the High Plains Partnership. And we'll be talking about that tomorrow. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Great. Thank you all.

MR. SMITH: Thank you again. And let us know if you need anything.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: We'll see you tonight.

MR. SMITH: Great.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Well, that concludes the business of the Conservation Committee.

I'd like to announce that pursuant to the requirements of Chapter 551 of the Government Code, referred to as the Open Meetings Law, an executive session will be held at this time for the purpose of consideration of Section 551.072 of the Texas Open Meetings Act regarding real estate matters and general counsel advice. So we stand in recess.

(Whereupon, at 11:40 a.m., this meeting was concluded.)

C E R T I F I C A T E

MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission

Conservation Committee

LOCATION: Austin, Texas

DATE: May 28, 2003

I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through , inclusive, are the true, accurate, and complete transcript prepared from the verbal recording made by electronic recording by Penny Bynum before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.

6/05/03

(Transcriber) (Date)

On the Record Reporting, Inc.

3307 Northland, Suite 315

Austin, Texas 78731


Back to Top
Back to Top