Presenter: Jack Bauer

Commission Agenda Item No. 23
Action
Land Sale – Presidio County
August 2005

I. Executive Summary: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) acquired approximately 222,000-acres making up Big Bend Ranch State Park (BBRSP) in 1988. While the property is representative of the arid Trans Pecos ecosystem, portions of the facility remain inaccessible to the public. TPWD has received a proposal from an adjacent landowner to acquire the lands making up the northern portion of the park. The purpose of this item is to provide the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission (Commission) the opportunity to consider the sale proposal.

II. Discussion: Initial acquisition of BBRSP began in 1988 with the purchase of approximately 222,000 acres. Subsequent land transactions have increased the facility size to over 300,000-acres. Public access to portions of the facility remains impossible because of privately held inholding tracts located along interior roads and park boundaries located far from major public roads. The northern portion of BBRSP includes portions of the Cienega Creek watershed, an important riparian spring aquatic system harboring state and federally listed endangered species and other sensitive habitats. Irregular property boundaries and lack of clearly defined access remain barriers to appropriate management and security for the area. Additionally, operational funding and staff limitations have hindered development of the area from a public access and resource management perspective. Because of limited and inadequate fencing of the property, and with open range jurisdiction within Presidio County, much of the area is subject to trespass by livestock. Staff has concluded that no practical method exists to manage the northern portion of BBRSP, let alone develop for public use. In the southern portion of BBRSP, public access is hampered by privately held inholdings and the purchase of these inholdings remains a staff priority.

An adjacent landowner has offered a purchase agreement that has three components: (1) the purchase of the northernmost 46,289.1 acres along a convenient straight line of full sections, (2) the granting to TPWD of a conservation easement on the property purchased from TPWD, and (3) implementation of a contractual agreement with TPWD to partner in the acquisition of private inholdings in the southern part of BBRSP using the revenue from the land sale. Under the purchase proposal, a significant portion of the land sold would remain in escrow until inholdings identified by TPWD staff were acquired with the land sale proceeds. The conservation easement is directed primarily at the protection and restoration of natural and cultural resources associated with Cienega Creek and Alamito Creek. As is the current case, the public would not have access to the property if sold. From a resource protection perspective, the land sale and granting of a conservation easement would provide a mechanism to protect, enhance and restore the resources existing on the property.

The estimated fair market value of the fee interest in the property is $80 per acre based upon a highest and best use of recreation and hunting land. The conservation easement that has been negotiated would restrict subdivision of the land, and residential and industrial development. Limited commercial development on 10 percent of the land area would be allowed with 90 percent of the land area remaining in a natural state. The easement would establish a Cienega Creek Riparian Protection Corridor (CCRPC) where all surface disturbance and development activities would have oversight/approval status by TPWD staff. Hunting and cattle grazing would be restricted for a term 5 and 10 years respectively for habitat quality improvements to occur and cattle would be restricted from the CCRPC. Associated floodplain habitats in Cienega Creek will be restored with native vegetation and protection and restoration of cultural resources undertaken. The fair market value of the property restricted by the conservation easement is $44.68 per acre.

The buyer has included lands he owns to the special protection required within the CCRPC and has committed to restoring riparian habitat and providing minimum stream flow to the CCRPC as a donation to the project.

It is the opinion of staff that the land in question is not accomplishing the conservation purposes for which it was acquired but that proposed sale and granting of a conservation easement would secure that purpose.

The buyer has included lands he owns to the special protection required within the CCRPC and has committed to restoring riparian habitat and providing minimum stream flow to the CCRPC as a donation to the project.

III. Recommendation: The staff recommends the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion:

"The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission finds that portions of Big Bend Ranch State Park are not being used and have not been used by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as a park, recreation area, scientific area, wildlife refuge, or historic site, and fee ownership of portions of Big Bend Ranch State Park is no longer in the best interest of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and authorizes the Executive Director to take all necessary steps to sell approximately 46,289.1 acres of the Big Bend Ranch State Park and accept a conservation easement on the same property."

Attachements - 1

  1. Exhibit A - Locator Map

Commission Agenda Item No. 22
Exhibit A

Subject Property Outlined in Yellow Body


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