Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Conservation Committee Meeting

Jan. 24, 2007

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

BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 24th day of January, 2007, there came to be heard matters under the regulatory authority of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission in the Commission Hearing Room of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex, to wit:

APPEARANCES:

THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION:

THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT:

P R O C E E D I N G S

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Okay. I open the Conservation Committee. The first order of business is the approval of the Committee minutes ‑‑

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Here is the gavel.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: — which have already been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: So moved.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Second.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Okay. Ramos and Bivins. All in favor, aye.

(Chorus of ayes.)

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Any opposed?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Okay. Let's see, Item 1. Land and Water Plan update, Mr. Cook.

MR. COOK: Thank you, sir. Design work on the East Texas Fish Hatchery is about 75 percent complete. 200 acres of that property has been transferred from Jasper County to TPWD ‑‑ to the Foundation, excuse me, and will be transferred to the Department soon. Construction is expected to begin this summer. Coastal Fisheries leased a total of over 467,000 seatrout and over 25 million red drums statewide in 2006. Enhancement and genetic studies are underway to determine the feasibility of a flounder stocking program. The First Annual Texas Bass Classic will be held on Lake Fork from April 12 through April 15, 2007. This event will offer a $1 million purse and will be the first major professional bass tournament of its kind held on an intentionally managed lake in Texas. And in conjunction with that, the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center Education Building, the Education Conservation Center, is approximately today about 40 percent complete. I sent you gentlemen a picture that Mr. Forshage provided us the other day through Mr. Durocher; looking good. And the dedication of that facility will take place on the evening of Saturday April 14. So those two events, the dedication of that building, and the Texas Bass Classic are tied together. I have also provided you with an email from Philip about the hotel and the timing and the reservations. We hope that everyone of you who possibly can, can come over and enjoy and participate in that event. It is going to be a good one.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: What was the date again?

MR. COOK: April 12th through 15th. Philip, correct me if I am wrong, but kind of the weigh-in day, Saturday and Sunday there.

MR. DUROCHER: The weigh-in day is Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but the final is on Sunday. And there are concerts Saturday evening and Sunday evening, Sunday afternoon and Saturday afternoon.

MR. COOK: So it is going to be a fun event, and we are looking forward to it. Looking forward to the opening of the Conservation Center. It is looking great. And we appreciate your help, sir.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Okay. Any questions for Mr. Cook?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: We have number 2, land sale, Donley County, Playa Lakes, WMA, Ted Hollingsworth.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, my name is Ted Hollingsworth. I am with the Land Conservation Program. This item pertains to a proposal to sell a very small tract of land in the Playa Lakes WMA. The Taylor Lakes Unit is in Donley County. It is one of three units of the Playa Lakes WMA. This particular unit is roughly square, but U.S. Highway 287 lops off a small wedge at five acres. Staff finds that that little wedge is not practical to manage, it does not contribute to the mission of that unit of the WMA. And we are asking permission to determine a value for that tract, identify an appropriate buyer for it, put out a public notice, solicit public comment and come back to you at a future meeting with a contract and a proposal to close on that sale. Are there any questions?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Okay. No questions, no discussion. I will ask the staff to begin the public notice and input process. Thank you, Ted. Okay. Why don't we jump to Item No. ‑‑ well, after Item No. 7. We will recess for the Executive Session. We will come back and pick up with Item No. 3 when we come back. So we will now recess for executive session. Therefore, I would like to announce that pursuant to the requirements of Chapter 551 of the Government Code, referred to as the Open Meetings Act, an executive session will be held at this time for the purpose of deliberation of real estate matters under Section 551.072 of the Texas Open Meetings Act and the purposes of discussing pending litigation under Section 551.071 of the Open Meetings Act and the purpose of seeking legal advice from our General Counsel under Section 551.071, the Open Meetings Act. So we are adjourned for executive session.

(Whereupon, the Commission adjourned to executive session.)

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Okay. We will now resume the regular Conservation Committee. If there is no objection, I will ask staff to begin the public notice and input process regarding the following; the acquisition of 40 acres of Big Bend Ranch State Park in Presidio County, the acquisition of outstanding property interests in the San Angelo Fish Hatchery in Tom Green County, the acquisition of 12 acres at the Perry R. Bass Marine Fisheries Station at Matagorda County. Also, if there is no objection, I will place the items regarding public dedication of Smith School Road and the acquisition of a conservation easement in Travis County on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action. Is there any other business to be brought before this Committee? Mr. Cook?

MR. COOK: No, sir.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Anything else for this Committee?

(Simultaneous discussion.)

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: All right. We are back on Agenda No. Item 3, acceptance of land donation, Bastrop County. Bastrop State Park. Corky Kuhlmann.

MR. KUHLMANN: Good afternoon, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Corky Kuhlmann. This item is in relation to Bastrop State Park in Bastrop County. It is another land donation there of 36.245 acres. The donation property is seen in the red. It is the triangle at the northwest corner of the main part of the park. And for now, staff would like your permission to publish public notice and hopefully anticipate Commission at the April meeting. Questions?

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Any questions for the staff?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Okay. I will ask staff to begin the public notice and input process. And we have got a Committee on number 4. Lease exchange with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Cameron, Hidalgo and Starr Counties. Ted Hollingsworth.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Good afternoon, Chairman, Commissioners. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I am with the Land Conservation Program. We have been working for several years now on a cooperative effort with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to exchange and consolidate some small tracts of land associated with Las Palomas Wildlife Management Area. These were acquired with whitewing stamp monies. They are spread out over a hundred-mile area. As you probably know, whitewings have done quite well, and some of these tracts are as small as two acres. And the manpower and resources associated with managing those has gotten rather prohibitive. So we have worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and they are proposing an exchange of leases on properties, whereby they would get eight of the management, eight of the units within Las Palomas Wildlife Management Area. One state park, Boca Chica State Park, two tracts which are adjacent to World Birding Center sites would come to us in the exchange. We would be looking at 50-year leases on those, and a ten-year mutual right-to-purchase options. If you come up with funding to acquire those that make more sense for the refuge, or if we should come up with funds to buy those adjacent to the world birding centers, we would have that option for ten years. In this map, you can see the three State Park sites involved. Boca Chica right on the Gulf, which is surrounded by Laguna Atascosa Refuge, a little over 1,000 acres. And they are well positioned to manage that, whereas we are not. And then properties adjacent to it, well, 200 acres adjacent to it were Resaca de la Palma World Birding Center, and 37 acres adjacent to Weslaco World Birding Center.

The Wildlife Management or the wildife sites would be involved, spread from both Shallow all the way over to Prieta. An area like I say, about 100 miles, ranging from 164 acres down to two acres. And again, these fit into the refuge system. They are trying to acquire, trying to establish a corridor along as much of the Lower Rio Grande River as they possibly can. And it makes sense for them to be managing those sites. We are requesting authority to finalize. We have been exchanging lease agreements. We are down to the final draft of that language. We would like to finalize that, publish public notice, solicit public comment. We actually have a public meeting locally, and then come back to you probably in April or May with a recommendation to proceed to consummate that lease exchange. I would be happy to entertain any questions you might have.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Any questions for Ted?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: If there is no further question or discussions, I will ask staff to begin the public notice and input process. Okay, Item 5, Land Sale, Travis County. Austin Game Warden Academy Property, Ted Hollingsworth.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Good afternoon, Chairman and Commissioners. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I am with the Land Conservation Program. This is an item that you saw in the last meeting. It is the 4.2 acres of the Game Warden Academy here in Austin. As you know, we have a facility which is much better suited for training Game Wardens in Hamilton County. Funding for development of that site will come from private donations and from the sale of the old Game Warden Academy. The only difference in this item, is that we feel like we have exhausted the options for selling this to a public figure, and are proposing to list this with a broker. We would expect, based on the latest appraisal, to net something over a million dollars in that sale. We are currently authorized to spend 700,000 of that in the development of the new Game Warden academy. Anything, we realize in excess of that, we would ask for authority to spend also in development of the Game Warden Academy. And once again, we are requesting authority to negotiate a contract based on the best proposal. And by that I mean, it may not be the highest dollar proposal. It may be the proposal is the best combination of cash money and a leaseback agreement to us that would facilitate that period where we need to continue using the existing facility while we prepare the new facility for game warden classes. And then return to you with a recommendation.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Why would we not wait until we are ready to vacate, to get the best price? Why would we not wait until we are ready to vacate to get the best price for the settled amount.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Because we have a class starting in October. The property is unzoned, which means anyone who proffers an offer on the property is going to want a 60-day feasibility period while they get that property zoned. We have a class starting in October. We are not prepared to start that class at the Hamilton County site. So if somebody puts $3 million on the table for the property and says, we would like to enter into a contract now, so that we can begin our planning, and engineering and architectural work and so forth. And we have to have that property for the next nine months to complete a game warden academy. We need the flexibility to work out an agreement that accomplishes that.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Well, I understand why we need it. I guess it sounded like we might be taking a substantial price discount. You are talking about a moderate price.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Oh, not substantial. No, sir. Money talks. And I am assured by law enforcement that if it is the right offer, we will figure out how to get out of the academy.

(Simultaneous discussion.)

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir. All I am saying is that we are going to look at those proposals, and you know, if we are talking about the difference of a few dollars, an acre, but one that gives us the flexibility to do what we need to do. We want to look at the whole proposal, is all I am saying.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Well, I understand that. Okay. But you are not talking about a big ‑‑

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Ted.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Donato.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: What is our optimistic date for moving into the new academy? Our most aggressive date.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: The most aggressive date would be for the October '08 class.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: '08.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: '08 class. Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Okay. Thank you.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: The exact schedule we have proposed is to put this on the market, to solicit proposals for probably 45 days. That would have us entering into a contract in April or May. The feasibility period would expire. We would anticipate closing in June or July so that we would know going into this class, that it is the last class. And that would give us 15, 16, 17 months to spend that money, to do the development that we need to do in the Hamilton County site, to have it ready for the class of '08.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Okay. Thank you. Any further questions?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Okay. If there is no further questions or discussion, I will ask staff to being the public notice and input process. Committee Item No. 6, Grant of Access easement for M.D. Anderson Science Park, Bastrop County. Interstate park and Corky Kuhlmann.

MR. KUHLMANN: Okay. I am Ann Bright, General Counsel. Corky is in the back if I get into a tight spot. This item concerns Buescher State Park. You can see it. It is off of Highway 71 outside of Austin. The park itself is about 1,000 acres. Back in 1967, before 1967, the park was bigger. In '67, the Texas Legislature transferred about 717 acres from Parks and Wildlife to M.D. Anderson to use as a science park and research facility. And they built their Smithville Science Park there, and they do cancer research on that property. You can see the M.D. Anderson property is in red. Buescher State Park and Bastrop State Park are in yellow, and they are connected by Scenic Park Road 1. They are part of the complex. The top picture here is of Buescher State Park, and the bottom one is the Smithville Science Park out at the facility. M.D. Anderson has requested easements from Parks and Wildlife for a second entrance, an emergency entrance, and to confirm a current roadway. We have got a tentative agreement with M.D. Anderson under which they ‑‑ we will have the right to review recommendations regarding development in the watershed, and then they will implement our recommendations to the extent that they are technically and financially feasible. In addition, M.D. Anderson is agreeing to certain construction restrictions. For example, no buildings over four feet. They are willing to protect the route, the easement, so that they protect the viewshed. They are willing to light restrictions, so that we avoid light pollution. Park Road 1 is an extremely scenic road and one of our main concerns is protecting that. Our other main concern has been protecting the watershed. You can see in the pink line, that is the development area for M.D. Anderson. That is sort of the area that is within their current plans. But there is always a possibility that they are going to expand beyond that. And we want to make sure that we are able to protect what flows into Buescher Lake.

The agreement would also, in addition to being approved by the Parks and Wildlife Commission would also be subject to approval by the Board of Regents for the University of Texas. What we are requesting today is to begin the public notice and input process about granting these three access easements to M.D. Anderson. I would be happy to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Questions or discussion?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Okay. If there are none, I will ask staff to begin the public notice and input process. Item No. 7, acceptance of Land Donation, Brewster County, Black Gap Wildlife Management Area. Ted Hollingsworth again.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, my name is Ted Hollingsworth. I am with the Land Conservation Program. This item is part of an ongoing effort to maximize the biological value of Black Gap Wildlife Management Area for re-establishment of the native desert bighorn sheep. And to that end, we have been working with the Texas Bighorn Society to acquire inholdings and adjacent tracts that have very high value for the sheep. This will show the location of the Wildlife Management Area in Brewster County, south of Alpine, adjacent to the Big Bend National Park. I apologize for the quality of the map, but I wanted you to be able to see the topography. It is that rough terrain that has very high value for sheep. It is what they seek out to avoid predators. And it also contains those high altitude grassland habitats that provide forage for them. This tract is currently owned by the GLO. They are willing to sell it for an addition to the park. It is a very high quality habitat. The Bighorn Society would like to acquire that on our behalf, in an addition to the Wildlife Management Area. Again, this is part of an ongoing relationship with them, where they have been buying these tracts to maximize the value of the park for the sheep. I would be happy to answer any questions you might have. At this point, because we have brought this to you in the past with a map showing where that habitat is, we are requesting authority to proceed with public notice and closing on the acquisition.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Okay. Any discussion?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Okay. If there is no further discussion, I will place the item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action. Anything else? Do I need to repeat my posting on that? That is it for the Conservation Committee, unless anybody has got anything else. Okay.

(Whereupon, the 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: January 24, 2007

I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 17, 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.

2/01/07

(Transcriber) (Date)
On the Record Reporting, Inc.
3307 Northland, Suite 315
Austin, Texas 78731


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