Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Conservation Committee Meeting
April 4, 2007Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 4th day of April, 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:
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION:
- Philip Montgomery, Dallas, Texas, Committee Chair
- Joseph B.C. Fitzsimons, San Antonio, Texas, Chairman
- Mark E. Bivins, Amarillo, Texas
- J. Robert Brown, El Paso, Texas
- Peter M. Holt, San Antonio, Texas
- John D. Parker, Lufkin, Texas
- Donato D. Ramos, Laredo, Texas, Vice-Chairman
- T. Dan Friedkin, Houston, Texas
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT:
- Robert L. Cook, Executive Director, and other personnel of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
P R O C E E D I N G S
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: I'll accept it. Okay, the first order of business is the approval of the previous meeting minutes. I need a motion for approval.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: So moved.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Second.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: All in favor, aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Item Number 1 is Land and Water Plan Update. Mr. Cook.
MR. COOK: Thank you, Mr. Montgomery. TPWD and the Wildlife Division now have 5,205 approved wildlife management plans, with over 19.3 million acres in the program. That program continues to move along, continues to do well.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Bob, excuse me, but the goal was 21 million in the Land and Water Plan? We're really —
MR. COOK: I believe they set us a goal of 25 million.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: So we're making serious progress towards that goal.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: That includes everything, the mule deer, everything A to Z?
MR. COOK: Yes, uh-huh.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: And that number stunned people when we came out with it.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Right, and when did it actually start? How many years has it been?
MR. COOK: Well, the program was started, you know, 15 years ago —
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay.
MR. COOK: — but we really set a goal in the Land and Water Plan about four or five years ago, you know, and started talking about, let's put a goal there to shoot for. And we did a great job; it's a good program, and there's a tremendous amount of support state-wide.
On another program, since the Abandoned Crab Trap Removal Program began in 2002, 22,746 crab traps — and Doc keeps count of those, marked on his wall in there — 22,746 crab traps have been removed from Texas inshore waters, with the assistance of 1804 volunteers, so again, great program, lots of support and doing lots of good.
The capital campaign for the new Texas Game Warden training center in Hamilton County on the property up there that was donated to us, has raised at this point, as of today, has raised about $3.7 million in cash for the improvements to be done up there. We recently got a sizeable donation through the Foundation, the Parks and Wildlife Foundation from TXU that will help with one of the buildings there.
And I want to point out right here that this effort is being led by your Chairman Emeritus Lee Bass. He's worked it — I believe he's working it every day and has been a great help, working very, very closely with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, with Dick Davis, who has also got this absolutely right on the point of the spear at every opportunity and with the Texas Game Warden Association. Those are the folks who are running this campaign and, like I say, there is $3.7 million in cash at this point.
The old academy on 50th Street is on the market now, and we're beginning to get in bids. The current appraised value for that property is $1.2 million. We think we'll do a little bit better than that, but all of that, as again, approved by the Texas Legislature, will be directed towards the new facility up in Hamilton County.
Our infrastructure master planning group is overseeing the planning effort, and the initial planning is scheduled for completion in April. The completed campus will contain administration and education buildings, dining hall, gymnasium, armory, six cadet cabins, guest housing for TPWD and instructors, emergency vehicle operations course, water rescue training pool, and a firing range.
So that project is moving along; we've got a long way to go; we've got a lot of work to do, but again, we're confident that we're going to have — end up with the absolute best game warden, conservation officer training facility in the nation. It will be a good one.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: What is your total goal? Do you know?
MR. COOK: Our total goal of finished product is up around $14-, $15 million, I believe. Pete, isn't that correct? And, you know, we can go into operation basically, now, but to have everything like we want it, long term, we're looking at a $14-, $15 million project, and so we went into it knowing that, and it may be five years before we get that finished product, it may be 10 years, but we'll get there.
There's a tremendous amount of support, state-wide; hearing back from organizations like the Texas Wildlife Association, Trophy Hunters Association, Cattle Raisers Association, that these folks that are running the campaign and are in contact with, so we're going to make that one, too. Thank you, sir.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Great report.
Okay, Committee Item Number 1; Number 2, Land Donation, Black Gap Wildlife Management Area, Ted Hollingsworth.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good morning. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This item pertains to another terrific transaction that's coming out of our partnership with Texas Bighorn Society. As you know, they have been acquiring in holdings at Black Gap Wildlife Management Area on our behalf and donating those to Texas Parks and Wildlife in an effort to improve our ability to manage that 100,000-acre area.
Since we last came to you with a list of inholdings last August, two more owners, each with 48-acre inholdings have contacted us and are willing sellers. TBS has set aside the funding to complete those transactions, and with your concurrence, we will bring this motion before you tomorrow to allow us to accept the donation of those two 40-acre holdings.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Any questions or discussions?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Great work.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Will you let TBS know we appreciate their work?
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Every chance I get.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Texas Bighorn Society is one of the great heroes of conservation in this state.
MR. MONTGOMERY: If no further discussion, I'll place this item on Thursday's Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.
Item Number 3, Land Donation, Bastrop County, Bastrop State Park, Corky Kuhlmann.
MR. KUHLMANN: Good morning. For the record my name is Corky Kuhlmann with the Land Conservation Program, Parks and Wildlife. This is another in the line of donations at Bastrop State Park. We saw this item in January; this is the second appearance. It's a 36-plus-acre donation, and the donation track is the triangle you see in red on your computers, and this is the motion you'll see before you tomorrow.
MR. MONTGOMERY: Any questions or discussions? If not, I'll place this item on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action. Thanks.
Okay, Item Number 4, Grant of Access Easement at M.D. Anderson Science Park, Bastrop County, Buescher State Park, Ann Bright.
MS. BRIGHT: Good morning, Commissioners. I'm Ann Bright, general counsel. Buescher State Park is located in Bastrop County. In 1967, the legislature transferred about 700 acres to M.D. Anderson for use as a science park research facility. As a result, Buescher is now about a thousand acres.
M.D. Anderson now has a Smithville Science Park on that property where they do cancer research, and this shows you, there's Buescher Lake and then Smithville Science Park and you can see on the right, shows in red the property that is owned by M.D. Anderson, the property that was transferred by the legislature. The yellow is Buescher on the bottom. The upper is Bastrop; Buescher and Bastrop are both part of a single complex of state parks, and this is also part of the Lost Pines Region, and is part of the critical Houston Toad Habitat.
M.D. Anderson has requested a second easement, which is needed primarily for safety reasons, and an emergency exit and a current roadway. We have been working with them for a long time on this, to try to make sure that we're all comfortable with —
MR. COOK: — emphasis on long.
MS. BRIGHT: — long, yes. It predates most of us. Our main concern has been the watershed, and I showed you earlier a picture of Buescher Lake, and the blue shows you the watershed, and we want to make sure that the water that's going in there is good water. One of the things we've agreed to is that — you see the track 3? That's their development area, and what they've agreed to do is if they're going to develop in that area, they will provide us copies of the plans and let us comment on those, and if our recommendations are technically and financially feasible, they're going to implement those.
In addition, they're going to also agree to some construction restrictions. The access easements are going to come off of Park Road 1, and that's a scenic drive. I don't know if you've ever been there; it's just a real beautiful drive, and we want to make sure it stays that way. So they've agreed to, that they'll not have any buildings within 150 feet of Park Road 1; no buildings over four stories; they'll maintain a tree buffer to protect the scenic integrity. They're going to avoid light pollution in accordance with the International Dark Sky Association guidelines, and that's what they use out at the McDonald Observatory.
The easement roads are going to be constructed so as to protect the view shed from Park Road 1, and then they're also going to contribute to road maintenance of Park Road 1, since a lot of the traffic on that is going to be going to the Science Park. And this is the recommendation we'll be presenting to you tomorrow, and I'd be happy to answer any questions.
MR. COOK: I don't know if any of you gentlemen have ever been to this site. The M.D. Anderson facility is an extension facility, and they're good neighbors. You know, some of these easement issues and access issues we've been working them a good, long while. They are good partners; they recognize it's a beautiful location, great site. Their employees — I forget how many employees they have there, several hundred — and a couple, three hundred, and, you know, it's a great place for them to work, in a location that they very much enjoy and appreciate, but it's quite a process. Any time you get attorneys working together, you know, they find lots of issues to work on, and of course, we all appreciate that very much, and I appreciate Ann's help with it. She's been absolutely — done an outstanding job getting us to this point, and this is something we need to complete and move on.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Any questions or discussions? If not, we'll place this on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.
Item Number 5, Land Purchase, Presidio County, Big Bend Ranch State Park, Corky Kuhlmann.
MR. KUHLMANN: Corky Kuhlmann, Land Conservation Program. This item is another one that we saw in January, the second reading. It is Big Bend Ranch State Park, Presidio County. It represents a 40-acre inholding and this 40 acres is in one of our high priority acquisition areas. The star on the screen in the middle ‑‑ it's about centrally located in the park, and this is the motion you will see before you tomorrow. Any questions?
MR. MONTGOMERY: Any questions or discussions: If not, I'll place this item on Thursday's Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.
Number 6, Acquisition of Outstanding Property, Tom Green County, San Angelo Fish Hatchery, Ann Bright.
MS. BRIGHT: Good morning, again. I'm Ann Bright, general counsel, and my last item started in 1967. This one actually started in 1928. This has to do with the acquisition of some outstanding interests at the San Angelo Fish Hatchery property, and I use that term loosely. It is not a fish hatchery. You can see it's in Tom Green County, and there's a map there that kind of shows you where the property is located.
Back in 1928, we believe as an economic development initiative, 11 individuals transferred about 60 acres in Tom Green County to what was then the Game, Fish, and Oyster Commission, which is now Parks and Wildlife. There were some deed restrictions that said the property was to be used for a fish hatchery and, that if we abandoned the fish hatchery for more than a year, it would revert to the grantors. Well, in 1987, as a result of lack of sufficient water and adequate water, we stopped using the property to raise fish.
Since that time, we've had contracts with the school district to do some aquatic work there, but we've never really used it as a fish hatchery since '87. And this sort of shows you — there's actually two pieces of property. There's 52.39 acres, and that's the property where the ponds used to be, and then the — actually the better property is the 7.61 acres, and we have offices on that property, and I should go back — we have regional staff from several divisions that are located on that property and one of the reasons we're wanting to get this title cleared up is that those properties are in need of improvement, and before we do that, we want to make sure that we have clear title to the property.
Some more background: beginning in 1990, we've undertaken efforts to try to locate some of these heirs. We've acquired by donation portions of the interests of three heirs of the grantors, so we do own an undivided interest in the property. We've located most of the heirs. There are two grantors that we're still having difficulty with. In 2004, we actually went out and met with a group of the heirs, and they all indicated an interest to just sell their interest in the property to us. As I mentioned, we've got offices located on that property. We need to make some road and construction improvements; we want to clear the title. The property had an appraised value of $247,000 in June. The estimated value, based on that appraisal, of the outstanding interests, the ones that we do not own is $180,000.
We provided public notice of our — the fact that we're bringing this to the Commission. It was published in the Texas Register on March 2nd. It's on our website, and in a local newspaper, and this is the recommendation that we will be presenting to you tomorrow, basically permission to move forward with acquisition of these outstanding interests. I'd be happy to answer any questions.
MR. MONTGOMERY: Any questions? Okay, if no questions, I'll place this item on Thursday's Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.
Let's see, Number 7, Granting of Easement, Nueces County, Mustang Island State Park, Ted Hollingsworth.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good morning. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. In accordance with our easement policy, any easement which is granted for an operation on department lands by the General Land Office is brought to you for comment and concurrence. In this case, there is a major overhead transmission line that runs the full length of Mustang Island State Park. The line is out of date; it needs to be replaced by a much more substantial power line. The existing line runs right down the middle of the prairie in the park, an environmentally very sensitive habitat. It's a high impact operation.
Under a clause in the existing easement, the line will be relocated to run adjacent to the highway, which we think is in the long term best interests of the habitat of the park. You can see what the line looks line now. As I say, it runs right down the middle of the prairie. Replacing line and maintenance and operation of the line with high flotation, heavy vehicles, it is a very high impact.
The perpetual impact — we're now working with the staff at AEP to try to determine the methodologies that will minimize the impacts in the park, and essentially what we're asking you to do is authorize the Executive Director to negotiate terms and conditions that we think are appropriate with AEP. GLO is very good about waiting until we have completed those terms and conditions before issuing those easements across Parks and Wildlife lands, and the motion that you'll see tomorrow essentially will authorize the Executive Director to complete those negotiations and then communicate those to the General Land Office.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Are there any questions?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Are they going to bury the lines?
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Those 64,000 volt — 69,000 volt lines, high amperage lines, the amount of heat generated by the lines makes burial just prohibitive.
MR. COOK: We always look for that opportunity. The crux of this one is we've got a major power line running across the habitat of the park now, the range and park. The new line — doing this will get that out to the highway right-of-way, which we believe is a better location, and we'll work with them to minimize the impact even there.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Right, the future need to access the line for maintenance, replacement, and so forth, adding lines will result in much less impact at that time. We think the aesthetic impacts to the park are going to be reduced by having it right there in the same corridor with the highway.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: On the drawing or the photographic pictures, it's jogging back off the highway; assume that's on the north end. Is there any particular reason? Is that out of the park and beyond our control?
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: That's out of the park.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: It's out of the park? Okay.
MR. MONTGOMERY: Any questions or discussions? If not, I'll place this item on Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.
Ted, you also have Item Number 8, the Transfer of Property, Wood County, Governor Hogg Shrine State Historic Site.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: My name is Ted Hollingsworth, Land Conservation Program. This item pertains to the transfer of two buildings at the Governor Hogg Shrine State Historic Site. The actual land property, the actual 30-acre park, was transferred to the City of Quitman in 1998. The park does not complement our mission, per our Land and Water Conservation Plan. The two buildings are not particularly historic. One was relocated to the park; the other one is a reproduction.
We were interested enough in finding someone else to own and operate that site, that in 1998, we conveyed the 30 acres and retained the obligation to maintain those two buildings. The Regional Director there has maintained good relations with the City, the local Heritage Societies, in hopes of some day, somebody stepping up to the plate and saying, we'll take over responsibility for managing those buildings. That has happened; the Heritage Society has said they have enough funding to actually do some work to the buildings, open them back up to the public, maintain them.
The City of Quitman that owns the land base now is in favor of us transferring to them, so that that can be done, and staff recommends that we proceed to transfer those two buildings. There you can see what they look like. Right now, they're just — they're nothing but a funding liability for us. This will be a two-meeting process. With your concurrence, we will proceed with that process to solicit public input, hold a local meeting, and come back to you, presumably in May, with a recommendation to proceed to finalize that transfer.
Are there any questions?
MR. MONTGOMERY: If there's no questions, we have authority to proceed. We'll ask the staff to begin the public notice and input process under authority from Commissioner Parker. We can do that. Thank you.
Now, my guess is we don't want to recess for Executive Session. I should turn the gavel over to whoever the next Committee Chair is, Infrastructure.
(Whereupon, the Conservation Committee recessed to the Infrastructure Committee.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Because Regulations is after lunch. Let's pass the gavel back to Conservation to read his ‑‑
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: I'd like to reopen the Conservation Committee, and would now propose that we recess for Executive Session. Therefore, I would like to announce that pursuant to requirements of Chapter 551, Government Code, referred to as the Open Meetings Act, the Executive Session will be held at this time for the purpose of deliberation of real estate matters under Section 551.072, the Texas Open Meetings Act. And, Gene, anything else? That's it.
(Whereupon, the committee recessed to Executive Session.)
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: We are now reconvening the public session. Okay. At this time we will reconvene the session of the Conservation Committee. Any business to be brought before this committee, Mr. Cook. Anything further?
MR. COOK: No, sir.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: This committee has completed its business; we will move on to Regulations.
(Whereupon, the committee completed its business.)
C E R T I F I C A T E
MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, Conservation Committee
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: April 4, 2007
I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 19, 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.
On the Record Reporting, Inc.
3307 Northland, Suite 315
Austin, Texas 78731