Conservation Committee

Wednesday, 9:00 am, May 23, 2007

Commission Hearing Room
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744

Approval of Previous Meeting Minutes

  1. Land and Water Plan Update
    Staff: Robert Cook
  2. Private Lands Advisory Board Report
    Staff: Linda Campbell, Steve Lewis
  3. Lease Exchange with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Cameron, Hidalgo and Starr Counties (Action Item No. 14)
    Staff: Ted Hollingsworth
  4. Land Sale - Travis County - Austin Game Warden Academy Property (Action Item No. 15)
    Staff: Ted Hollingsworth
  5. Transfer of Property - Wood County - Governor Hogg Shrine State Historic Site (Action Item No. 16)
    Staff: Ted Hollingsworth
  6. Easement Donation - Van Zandt County - Purtis Creek State Park (Action Item No. 17)
    Staff: Corky Kuhlmann
  7. Land Donation - Gonzales County - Palmetto State Park - Permission to Begin the Public Notice and Input Process
    Staff: Corky Kuhlmann
  8. Land Acquisition through Mitigation with Local Authorities (Executive Session Only)
    Staff: Ted Hollingsworth
  9. Land Acquisition - Jefferson County - J. D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area (Executive Session Only)
    Staff: Corky Kuhlmann
  10. Conservation Easement on Park Road 4 - Burnet County (Executive Session Only)
    Staff: Corky Kuhlmann
  11. Pipeline Easement - Jefferson County - Golden Pass Pipeline Across J. D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area (Executive Session Only)
    Staff: Ted Hollingsworth

Committee Agenda Item No. 1
Presenter: Robert L. Cook

Conservation Committee
Land and Water Plan Update
May 23, 2007

I. Executive Summary: Executive Director Robert L. Cook will briefly update the Commission on the status of the agency's efforts to implement the Land and Water Resources Conservation and Recreation Plan (the Plan).

II. Discussion: In 2001, the 77th Texas Legislature directed that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) develop a Land and Water Resources Conservation and Recreation Plan (Tex. Park & Wild. Code §11.104). In November 2002, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission (the Commission) adopted the first Plan. A revised Plan was adopted by the Commission in January 2005. The Plan is available on the TPWD web site. Executive Director Robert L. Cook will update the Conservation Committee on TPWD's recent progress in achieving the Plan's Goals and Objectives as they relate to the Conservation Committee.

The Plan consists of 8 Goals and a total of 56 Objectives. The Goals stated in the Plan are as follows:


Committee Agenda Item No. 2
Presenter: Linda Campbell
Steve Lewis

Conservation Committee
Private Lands Advisory Board Report
May 23, 2007

I. Executive Summary: Linda Campbell, Program Director for Private Lands and Public Hunting and Steve Lewis, Chairman of the Private Lands Advisory Board (PLAB), will brief the committee on recommendations made to the Department and Commission regarding Chairman Fitzsimons charge to develop guidance on how to keep the managed lands program credible and effective.

II. Discussion: In August 2006, Chairman Joseph Fitzsimons met with the PLAB to discuss his task for the Board concerning how to develop ways to provide adequate follow-up and compliance on Managed Lands Deer Permits, effective follow-up with landowners on voluntary wildlife management plans, and ways to increase staff time in providing services to new landowners and those needing follow-up assistance with plan implementation. The Chairman discussed various ideas with the Board and answered questions.

The PLAB began work on the charge and developed many of their recommendations at a meeting on November 16. Recommendations were finalized and submitted to Chairman Fitzsimons in February 2007. Recommendations include:

  1. No fee for permits issued under the Managed Lands Program unless TPWD could assure landowners that these funds would in fact be used for technical guidance within the Managed Lands Program.
  2. Measurement of the following benchmarks for landowners enrolled in the Managed Lands Programs:
    • Review of landowner's stated goals and planned actions as identified in their Wildlife Management Plan,
    • Percent/extent of the planned action (to reach landowners goal) achieved for habitat improvement including fire, brush management, planned grazing, etc. (reasons why not achieved),
    • Percent of recommended harvest achieved,
    • Landowner self-assessment of progress toward their goals, including efforts to provide hunting opportunity (youth, underserved populations) and educational/outreach/community programs, and
    • TPWD biologist assessment of good faith efforts by the landowner to implement and maintain management practices toward achievement of stated goals.
  3. Develop an integrated wildlife information and management database system designed to provide an efficient tool for gathering and processing data needed to ensure success of the Managed Lands Programs, as well as all other activities of the Wildlife Division.
  4. Actions designed to put "more boots on the ground" and provide ways to more efficiently meet growing demand for technical guidance services.
  5. Managed Lands Programs must be able to demonstrate public benefit for the state in terms of habitat improvement and land stewardship. This demonstrated public benefit should be communicated to the people of Texas. Develop outreach messages and materials for targeted audiences (public, decision makers) to communicate the habitat, economic, and societal benefits to Texans provided by Managed Lands Programs.

Attachments – 1

  1. Exhibit A – PLAB Response to Chairman Joseph B.C. Fitzsimons

Committee Agenda Item No. 2
Exhibit A

Private Lands Advisory Board Response to Chairman Joseph C. Fitzsimmons
February 15, 2007

In August of 2006, Chairman Joseph Fitzsimons charged the Private Lands Advisory Board with the following charge:

The Private Lands Advisory Board’s charge is to develop guidance on how to keep the Managed Lands Program credible and effective.

The Private Lands Advisory Board, hereinafter referred to as PLAB, states the following findings.

Findings
  1. In the first quarter 2007, there are 19,782,915 acres of land currently enrolled representing 5,134 TPWD approved Wildlife Management Plans. About half of all the Wildlife Management Plans developed with TPWD assistance are associated with the Managed Lands Deer Permit program.
  2. Several incentive-based permits offered by TPWD require the landowner to have a TPWD-approved Wildlife Management Plan. The number of these permits issued during the 2006 permit year was:
    1. MLDP (Managed Lands Deer Permits) — 160,953 on about 10 million ac.
    2. TTT (Trap/Transport/Transplant) Permits — 75
    3. ADCP (Antlerless/Spike Deer Control) Permits — 25
  3. In 2005, the TPWD 10 year long-range plan states in Goal 3.4 that TPWD’s long-range goal is to grow the amount of acreage under wildlife management plans to 20 million acres by 2008.
  4. Technical Guidance Biologists are primarily responsible for providing technical assistance to landowners by recommending management practices to assist private landowners in meeting their wildlife management goals.
  5. Currently there are 10 Technical Guidance biologist positions and 10 Private Lands biologist positions in the state of Texas. The primary job responsibility of these biologists is to assist private landowners in accomplishing their management goals. Generally, the Private Lands Biologists are younger with less time in service compared with the Technical Guidance Biologists. In 2005, 70-90 percent of Technical Guidance and Private Lands Biologists time was spent providing technical assistance to landowners.
  6. In addition to Technical Guidance and Private Lands Biologists, significant technical guidance assistance is provided by Regulatory Biologists and Fish and Wildlife Technicians. In FY 2005, 39 percent of all Wildlife Division staff time was spent on providing information and technical assistance to landowners.
Challenges
  1. PLAB feels the Department will meet or exceed its goal of 20 million acres by 2008. We feel the inclusion of MLDP for Mule Deer will increase the demand for MLDP’s in West Texas. Mule Deer and an increasing number of new landowners who are purchasing land for recreational purposes will dramatically grow the number of acres in the Managed Lands Program. Many landowners enjoy the program and are using it. Continued rapid growth is on the way. TPWD must be ready for the additional demands of delivering the technical guidance associated with the Managed Lands Permit.
  2. How does TPWD keep enough “boots on the ground”?
  3. How does TPWD fund the growing technical guidance?
  4. How does TPWD keep the Managed Lands Program credible and effective?
Process
  1. Management Plans are developed and written stating the landowner’s goals.
  2. Submitted to TPWD staff for approval
  3. Permit issued
  4. Permit compliance evaluated
  5. Report of compliance/success submitted to TPWD staff with recommendations
  6. Feedback to permit holder.
Solutions
  1. NO FEE: PLAB discussed at length the advisability of charging a fee for a permit issued in the Managed Lands Program. About half of the lands with Wildlife Management Plans are under MLDP. Under current statute, it is not legal to charge a fee for technical guidance, but it is legal to charge a fee for a permit issued under a managed lands program. After much discussion, the PLAB voted unanimously against recommending a fee for the issuance of a permit at this time. While many cooperating landowners would gladly pay such a fee, some would not. Given the fact that much of Fund 9 dollars are already not delivered in timely fashion to their dedicated use, we feel it is not wise at this time to recommend a fee be charged for permits issued under Managed Lands Program. Neither PLAB nor the Department could assure the landowners that these funds would in fact be used for technical guidance within the Managed Lands Program. Until there is full appropriation of Fund 9 dollars to TPWD, PLAB cannot recommend an additional fee for technical guidance.
  2. MEASUREMENT: PLAB believes that one part of the solution is measurement of the Managed Lands Program based on well-defined benchmarks. We believe annual measurement is critical to ensure the credibility of the program. Annual measurement of the following is advised:
    1. Review of landowner’s stated goals and planned actions as identified in their Wildlife Management Plan,
    2. Percent/extent of the planned action (to reach landowners goal) achieved for habitat improvement including fire, brush management, planned grazing, etc. (reasons why not achieved),
    3. Percent of recommended harvest achieved,
    4. Landowner self-assessment of progress toward their goals, including efforts to provide hunting opportunity (youth, underserved populations) and educational/outreach/community programs, and
    5. TPWD biologist assessment of good faith efforts by the landowner to implement and maintain management practices toward achievement of stated goals.
    These benchmark measurements of the Managed Lands Program can and should qualify and quantify whether the landowner’s WMP goals are being met. This will improve habitat in Texas. The Department can and should measure that improvement. In addition to the Biological Impacts on wildlife populations and therefore habitat, the Managed Lands Program can also have economic and societal impacts that are beneficial to Texas. The Department can and should measure and communicate those as well. That is why PLAB is in favor of providing a section in this measurement process that allows the landowner to toot his own horn. We believe TPWD will find that cooperating landowners through a Managed Lands Program are strong ambassadors of conservation both from within their fence lines and outside of their farms or ranches through involvement with conservation associations, youth hunting, wildlife conservation education, and more.
    One of the goals of this measurement process is to use the findings as a proactive tool to counter those who perceive the system is not currently credible and that those who participate in Managed Lands Programs do so only for the extra privileges they provide. Properly designed and deployed, this measurement process will allow the Department to have an ongoing evaluation that documents the landowner’s habitat management efforts; recognizes habitat improvement through various quantifiable management practices; and recognizes the extra efforts of the permit holders. It becomes the Department’s offense. TPWD does not have to play defense on this program.
  3. USE INTEGRATED DATA MANAGEMENT SYSTEM TO PUT IT ALL TOGETHER: PLAB was completely impressed by the potential capabilities of the proposed integrated wildlife information and management database system. PLAB recommends the Department to fund such a database system briskly to quickly rollout its abilities and functionality. An integrated database can provide the tool to gather and process the needed data to measure the Managed Lands Program as well as all other activities of the Wildlife Division. It has the ability to streamline Technical Guidance so that field, program and management staff has instant access to the data needed to evaluate and communicate the benefits of the technical guidance and managed lands programs. When functional, this database will have the ability to measure everything in paragraph #2 above and allow selective access to the data to maintain privacy for cooperating landowners. We believe an integrated database system of this type is a good investment for the Department and is long overdue.
  4. PUT MORE BOOTS ON THE GROUND: The Managed Lands Program is growing. Get ready for more demand. PLAB recommends the following:
    1. Create 8 to 12 (based on workload need) Technical Guidance (TG) Leader Positions based and distributed on workload and technical guidance efficiency and productivity. Technical Guidance staffing should match the demand of the regions. In other words, technical guidance staff should be clustered to match the demand for these services.
    2. Under each Technical Guidance Leader, allow for four to five biologists hired to do private lands assistance work. Within these four to five, allow for different levels so you have rookies, intermediates, and veterans who do not want to go to Austin for a raise in salary. Each TG Leader would be provided an administrative assistant. This structure would allow for a career ladder opportunity for biologists hired to provide technical assistance to landowners.
    3. In addition to this TG force, require Regulatory Biologists to continue to provide landowner guidance
    4. Issue deer permits online through an integrated database system to be printed off with a unique password provided by TG biologist to the landowner’s who are to receive them. Password is printed on permit. Law Enforcement knows the password to each permit holder.
    5. Provide generous travel budget for all biologists providing technical guidance.
    6. Provide modern and functioning wireless satellite-uplink laptop computers and integrated GPS devices with database programming to all biologists providing technical guidance. Data is entered on the ranch and instantly it is available to the Department and the landowner/permit holder. Information can be web accessed with confidential password and immediately summarized. No more paper and pad and Xerox machines. Load the information, make it accessible to those who need to look at it and go down the road to another landowner in need of help.

In conclusion, the Managed Lands Program has been an unqualified success. It has had a major positive impact on white-tailed deer management and has expanded to cover other species, the most recent being mule deer. In fact, the program has been so successful that the Department has reached its 20 million acre goal ahead of projections. First and foremost, the number of field biologists needs to be dramatically increased, preferably through new hires, but also through reassignment of existing TPWD personnel during key months when the permit applications are being evaluated. Second, PLAB recommends that TPWD utilize an integrated database system to facilitate the information flow between field biologists and landowners. Third, TPWD should designate administrative personnel to gather and maintain data on the benefits of the program, including not only the benefits of effective habitat and game management, but also on the economic value to rural communities resulting from increased recreational opportunity provided by the program.

The Managed Lands Program is driven by technical guidance personnel. This guidance is key to implementing habitat enhancement throughout Texas. This type of work requires a certain skill set based in understanding and motivating people. Thus, it is critical that TPWD retain and develop those individuals with exceptional skill in these areas. The Department should find a way to allow technical guidance staff to rise to the top of a well-established career ladder created specifically to train and promote biologists who specialize in this important work. If it takes legislative action to create this career path, we believe there are groups in the Texas conservation arena that would support this action.

Finally, let no one forget that the Managed Lands Program is a habitat based incentive program that benefits all species of wildlife, both game and non-game species in all regions of the state.


Committee Agenda Item No. 3
Presenter: Ted Hollingsworth

Conservation Committee
Lease Exchange with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Cameron, Hidalgo and Starr Counties
May 23, 2007

Please Refer to Action Item No. 14


Committee Agenda Item No. 4
Presenter: Ted Hollingsworth

Conservation Committee
Land Sale - Travis County - Austin Game Warden Academy Property
May 23, 2007

Please Refer to Action Item No. 15


Committee Agenda Item No. 5
Presenter: Ted Hollingsworth

Conservation Committee
Transfer of Property - Wood County - Governor Hogg Shrine State Historic Site
May 23, 2007

Please Refer to Action Item No. 16


Committee Agenda Item No. 6
Presenter: Corky Kuhlmann

Conservation Committee
Easement Donation - Van Zandt County - Purtis Creek State Park
May 23, 2007

Please Refer to Action Item No. 17


Committee Agenda Item No. 7
Presenter: Corky Kuhlmann

Conservation Committee
Land Donation – Gonzales County
Palmetto State Park
Permission to Begin the Public Notice and Input Process
May 23, 2007

I. Executive Summary: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has been offered a donation of a 1.35-acre tract of land adjacent to Palmetto State Park.

II. Discussion: Palmetto State Park, 270.3 acres, named for the tropical Dwarf Palmetto plant found there, is located in Gonzales County, northwest of Gonzales and southeast of Luling. The park abuts the San Marcos River and also has a 4-acre oxbow lake. The land was acquired by deeds from private owners and the City of Gonzales in 1934 - 1936 and was opened in 1936. The stone buildings in the park were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the 1930s.

An adjacent landowner has offered to donate a 1.35-acre tract reserving a life estate. Located on this tract is the landowner's place of residence as well as remnants of the CCC camp that was used during construction of the park.

Staff would like to begin the process of providing public notice and obtaining public input regarding a proposed donation of 1.35 acres of land to TPWD from an adjacent landowner.

Attachments – 1

  1. Exhibit A – Location Map

Committee Agenda Item No. 7
Exhibit A

Location Map

Location of donation tract in relation to Palmetto State Park

For help in interpreting this map, please contact Corky Kuhlmann.


Committee Agenda Item No. 8
Presenter: Ted Hollingsworth

Conservation Committee
(Executive Session Only)
Land Acquisition Through Mitigation with Local Authorities
May 23, 2007

I. Executive Summary: Staff will brief the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission on efforts to increase conservation in Texas through mitigation of impacts to state fish and wildlife resources by public works projects. Staff will cover negotiations with project sponsors and strategies for real property acquisition through mitigation.


Committee Agenda Item No. 9
Presenter: Corky Kuhlmann

Conservation Committee (Executive Session Only)
Land Acquisition – Jefferson County
J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area
May 23, 2007

I. Executive Summary: Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept. (TPWD) staff is in negotiations with a willing seller for the purchase of a 62' X 92' tract of land representing an inholding at the headquarters complex of the J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area (WM). Staff will brief the Commission on the status of those negotiations.

Staff would like to begin the process of providing public notice and obtaining public input regarding a proposed acquisition of this inholding tract at the headquarters complex of the J. D. Murphree WMA.

Attachments – 1

  1. Exhibit A – Location Map

Committee Agenda Item No. 9
Exhibit A

Location Map

Location of proposed acquisition site in relation to J.D. Murphree WMA Headquarters Complex

For help in interpreting this map, please contact Ted Hollingsworth.


Committee Agenda Item No. 10
Presenter: Corky Kuhlmann

Conservation Committee (Executive Session Only)
Conservation Easement on Park Road 4 – Burnet County
May 23, 2007

I. Executive Summary: Staff proposes exchange of a driveway permit for a conservation easement on Park Road 4 connecting Longhorn Cavern and Inks Lake State Parks.

II. Discussion: Staff seeks authorization to solicit public input and recommend an action item regarding this proposed driveway permit and conservation easement at a future Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission meeting.

Attachments – 1

  1. Exhibit A – Location Map

Committee Agenda Item No. 10
Exhibit A

Location Map

Location of proposed conservation easement in relation to Longhorn Cavern State Park and Inks Lake State Park

For help in interpreting this map, please contact Corky Kuhlmann.


Committee Agenda Item No. 11
Presenter: Ted Hollingsworth

Conservation Committee
(Executive Session Only)
Pipeline Easement – Jefferson County
Golden Pass Pipeline Across J.D. Murphree WMA
May 23, 2007

I. Executive Summary: Staff will brief the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission on the status of negotiations regarding a proposed 42" diameter pipeline across more than 14 miles of the J.D. Murpree Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Jefferson County, and the processes involved in quantifying environmental impacts and assessing damages.


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