Conservation Committee

Wednesday, 9:00 a.m., Nov. 6, 2002

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. Land Sale - Tarrant County
Staff: Jack Bauer
11
3. Land Acquisition - Cameron County
Staff: Jack Bauer
12
4. Land Acquisition - Somervell County
Staff: Ronnie Ray
12
5. Other Business

Summary of Minutes
Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Conservation Committee

August 28, 2002

BE IT REMEMBERED that heretofore on the 28th day of August 2002, 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 11:05 a.m., to-wit:

I. COMMISSION ATTTENDANCE:
Katharine Armstrong Idsal, Chairman
Ernest Angelo, Jr.
John Avila, Jr.
Joseph Fitzsimons
Alvin L. Henry
Philip Montgomery, III
Donato D. Ramos
Kelly W. Rising, M.D.
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 CONSIDERATION:

1. BRIEFING – CHAIRMAN’S CHARGES

Presenters: Robert L. Cook, Chris Beckcom, Jeff Francell & Emily Armitano

Mr. Cook stated that Chris, Jeff and Emily would present the draft Land and Water Resources Conservation and Recreation Plan for review, with adoption proposed on August 29, 2002. Ms. Armstrong thanked members of the ad hoc committee and the historical sites advisory group for working closely with staff and completing the monumental effort.

Chris Beckcom, head of the Master Planning Program in the Infrastructure Division, gave an overview of the inventory he compiled over a period of 14 months as a support database for the plan. He explained that this is the most comprehensive park and public conservation lands inventory that has been undertaken in the state and would be available for the agency on the intranet. The group contacted every federal agency, Council of Governments, River Authority and city directly with a population of over 25,000 to obtain data. There are 222 TPWD properties in the system; fact sheets were created through a partnership with the Natural Leaders Program. Approximately 80 federal properties are mapped, showing the property that is actually owned inside their boundaries. Mr. Beckcom went on to describe information from organizations such as the Texas Forest Service, the General Land Office, counties, river authorities, and non-profits such as Texas Nature Conservancy, Audubon Society, Katy Prairie and many others. He stated that city parks and preserves took a lot of time and the database includes almost 6,000 individual parks in the State of Texas for the city layer. This information includes attributes, ownership, where they are located, size and designation inside the city, as well as identifying greenbelts, recreation centers, ball fields etc., and the way they are managed.

Mr. Beckcom went on to describe how the natural regions and sub-regions of the state are mapped, as well as the ecological regions, with stream segments and all the lakes and bays of Texas.

Jeff Francell described how he and Emily Armitano acted as the coordinators and editors of the Plan and pointed out the draft being presented is the second to last step in the process. The Plan will be presented to the full Commission on August 29, 2002 for adoption. Mr. Francell reviewed the process that started with the Sunset bill requiring an inventory of resources and the development of a ten-year strategic plan to be adopted prior to October 15, 2002. This plan will be used in guiding TPWD decisions on all kinds of issues such as land acquisition, partnerships with private landowners, etc.

Mr. Francell presented a slide showing where the ecological region priorities ended up after combining data on threats to land resources, information on biodiversity, wildlife management plans and conservation land. He then discussed recreation needs for the state, showing that 75 percent of the population lives around the major interstate highways and trends show that visitors to state parks and wildlife management areas are spending less time traveling to the sites and staying for a shorter period of time. He mentioned the evaluation conducted on the historic sites in Texas and showed the results, with sites such as Action, Confederate Reunion Grounds, Lipantitlan, and Starr Family Home ending up on the bottom of the list, although most historic sites ranked very highly. Mr. Francell pointed out that the plan recommends a goal of acquiring a minimum of four large recreation areas over the next 10 years, along with two wildlife management areas in order to have wildlife management research and demonstration facilities in all 10 ecological regions of the state. There is a process in the plan to work with the Historic Commission and others to identify the gaps in historic sites operated by TPWD and how to proceed to fill those. Furthermore, there is a goal to double lands under wildlife management plans over the next ten years to 28 million acres, and a component on water needs for bays and estuaries. The plan sets a goal of completing studies in the 15 major river basins in Texas by 2012, working with regulatory agencies to implement their recommendations and including water recommendations in all wildlife management plans. Another goal is to maintain fishing and hunting license sales by recruiting new anglers and new hunters. The fishermen have been TPWD’s best advocates on water issues over the state and we need to be sure their numbers are maintained. Another goal mentioned was the need to reduce over-fishing by the coastal fishing industry.

Ms. Armitano then reviewed public involvement throughout the process. The initial outline was placed on the Internet and there were two constituent meetings in April to receive input prior to the first draft. The first draft was put on our web site on June 20, 2002, after which Ms. Armitano and Jeff Francell conducted eight public meetings around the state (Plano, Nacogdoches, Harlingen, El Paso, Abilene, Amarillo, Houston and Austin), with nearly 400 people attending. Throughout the whole process they received about 1200 e-mails, 200 letters, and 688 petitions as of August 28th. Specifically, the comments referred to making the draft plan bolder, such as adopting a 55-acre per 1,000 persons standard for state parks; adopting a 25-acre per 1,000 persons standard for local parks; making recommendations to acquire water rights; and making the language on purchase of development rights stronger.

In addition, there were 179 e-mails, 41 letters, numerous phone calls and numerous public comments at meetings in opposition to divestiture of historic sites and state parks, mainly Acton, McKinney Falls, Confederate Reunion Grounds, Lockhart, Starr Mansion, Eagle Mountain Lake, and Big Spring State Parks.

There were 50 technical comments about input on the plan – how to make it better overall from constituent groups, experts in the field and TPWD advisory committees.

The Strategic Land and Water Planning Committee met again to discuss the public input. Commissioner Montgomery helped guide the response and incorporate those comments into the final draft. Specifically the plan was made bolder by including measurable goals as a section by itself and including strengthened strategies regarding partnerships with private organizations and others. Also, it was decided to update the plan prior to every other legislative session and to review it yearly.

The Committee discussed the planning effort generally and the fact that it was an impossible assignment. They commended staff and the Strategic Land and Water Planning Committee for their hard work. Commissioner Montgomery stated it presented a real financial challenge in that it’s not funded, and therefore it calls upon leadership to be creative and skillful in helping to fund and find alternative sources of funding for the goals that are consistent with TPWD’s mission. He added that the private sector, nonprofit sector, collaborative and other public entities could help with that. Chairman Armstrong then discussed the fact that some people might look at the plan and say it is not ambitious enough, and others may say it is too ambitious; however, she believes it is achievable and defensible. There is only so much the Commission and/or the staff can do. She said it is up to Texans, if they find the goals in this plan worthy, to express their desires through the legislative process and through the ballot box. TPWD will do everything possible to be creative in nurturing partnerships to realize some of these goals, but in the end there are not enough tax dollars currently available to fund the goals in the plan.

3. NOMINATION FOR OIL AND GAS LEASE, HARRIS COUNTY

Presenters: Ronnie Ray and Jack Bauer

Mr. Ray discussed nominating for oil and gas lease to the Board for Lease for Parks and Wildlife Lands, four tracts of property in the southern end of the Sheldon Lake State Park, consisting of 1303.31 mineral acres, at $150.00 per acre with a 25 percent royalty, $10.00 per acre rental, and a 3-year term, with no on-site drilling allowed. He stated the revenues would go towards the state park accounts. There was discussion regarding the nomination for oil and gas lease for Sheldon Lake State Park, which was presented at a previous meeting, during which time it was decided to dedicate some of the revenues specifically to the development of Sheldon Lake State Park. There were no bids received on that particular nomination, however.

Chairman Armstrong requested clarification regarding this matter. Scott Boruff stated he had checked the requirements and statutory limitations, and found that dedication of the funds received is possible. The Committee recessed to examine the minutes from the previous meeting.

After lunch, Chairman Armstrong directed Mr. Ray to add the following wording to the motion to be adopted on August 29, 2002: “The income from the bonus bid and delay rental will be dedicated to Sheldon Lake State Park. This action will not be considered a precedent.”

IV. ADJOURNMENT: The meeting recessed and then adjourned at 2:20 p.m.


Committee Agenda Item No. 1

Conservation Committee
Chairman's Charges
November 2002

(This item will be an oral presentation.)

 


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