Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Conservation Committee Meeting

Aug. 22, 2007

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

BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 22nd day of August, 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 BIVINS: I hope everybody is — we're all here. The first order of business for the Conservation Committee is approval of the previous committee minutes, which have been distributed. Entertain a motion?

COMMISSIONER PARKER: So move.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Second.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Moved by Parker, second by Friedkin. All those in favor, say aye.

(A chorus of ayes.)

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: All — are any opposed?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Hearing none, motion carries. Committee Item Number 1, Land and Water Plan Update.

Mr. Cook.

MR. COOK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I have a few notes here for you. Through the third quarter of this fiscal year, FY07, there were 5,506 active wildlife management plans, totaling 19.9 million acres. This represents an increase of about 200 plans, and an increase of 1.7 million acres from this same time last year.

So again our wildlife management planning process working with private lands continues to grow, continues to be a very popular program, I believe we are — addressing the needs as they arise, and we hope to continue that program.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: How many plans again, Bob? I missed that number.

MR. COOK: Total active plans, 5,506, on nearly 20 million acres.

(Simultaneous discussion.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes. Wow.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Terrific.

MR. BROWN: What — how many plans do we have now in West Texas, since we've —

MR. COOK: I don't know the breakdown. I saw Reuben a while ago back there —

MR. BERGER: I can get that number for you —

MR. COOK: Yes, we can get it. It's gone well.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: It's gone well, and accelerating, hopefully.

(Simultaneous discussion.)

MR. COOK: Once we kind of — once we made the decision to go, everybody got on board. You know? They didn't necessarily want that train to leave the station, but once it did, why they — why we got —

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Very positive comments on it.

MR. COOK: Lots of cooperation.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes.

MR. COOK: Another item, another $2.2 million has been allocated to Texas for the continued recovery from Hurricane Rita and Katrina, federal funds. These funds will be used to restore boat ramps, remove debris from navigation channels, and wetland restoration.

Earlier this week, at the request of the Governor's Office and in response to the, what appeared to be a — what was a major, major hurricane in Hurricane Dean, 250 Texas Game Wardens and 125 boats were deployed to South Texas, in preparation for Hurricane Dean. And I will tell you, the cooperation between the emergency offices and the organization that we have in place now, Pete and his staff have worked very closely with it, State Parks, the Wildlife Division, everybody's involved, everybody's kept informed — when the nod was given like I say early this week, they were there. They were on the road, ready to go, loaded with fuel, loaded with water, equipment, ready to go.

Fortunately, the hurricane retained its straight due west course, and made landfall and we were able to call those folks back out relatively quickly. But the response was ready, and was done properly.

On that same line, we have selected 40 applicants for our next Game Warden Academy, a very diverse group, I think you'll be pleased with this group, a very good group. And the 53rd Game Warden Academy class is scheduled to begin October 1, 2007. So again a big step for us, continuing that effort to train our wardens. This warden class may be the last class that is trained at our academy here in town. And we believe our next class will actually be out on the ground, in the brush on the Hamilton County site. So we're looking forward to that.

A note from our freshwater fish hatcheries, which produced over eight million large-mouthed bass in this fiscal year, which is a record number for us. So given all of the algae problems and some of those issues going on with us, a great year by Mr. Durocher and his staff, and their freshwater fisheries. Thank you, sir.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Thank you, Bob.

Committee Item Number 2, Rules Regarding Eligibility of Real Property for Inclusion in the State Parks System. Walt Dabney will give that presentation.

MR. DABNEY: Chairman and Commissioners, I'm Walt Dabney, State Parks Director. And House Bill 12 required that we establish or you establish rules related to accepting donated lands for inclusion into the State Park System.

We're looking at six categories of the types of lands that you would add to the park system, contiguous to existing park lands, and that certainly would include inholdings, and we have a number of situations where that would be very valuable to us. Its recreational value, its natural resource value, its historical value — and many of these lands would have components of all three of those usually anyway; its size, and ancillary values.

Contiguous obviously would augment existing parkland. One of the most important components of this is, that when you add lands to an existing park, you don't increase your cost very much; you just make the park better. Whether that's watershed, or wildlife habitat or recreational opportunities. And also this last one, preserving or enhancing natural boundaries, Government Canyon is a perfect example of every one of these parks within the future, if it's not already, is going to be an island. So if it's not big enough to sustain itself as an island, it's going to be of limited value in the future, or less value.

Its recreational value is pretty self-explanatory. Certainly water features are a major draw, wildlife trails, et cetera. Natural resource value, protecting environmentally sensitive areas, protection of endangered species certainly can be a component. Educational opportunities, to talk about history or natural science. And community partnerships, and what this is, a perfect example again using Government Canyon, was a real partnership with the City of San Antonio, the water districts and so forth, to focus around the protection of an aquifer, and also build you a wonderful park as well.

Historical value, pretty self-evident. We have gaps in the history of — telling the story of Texas in the park system, and if a piece of land would fill in one of those gaps that isn't already there — we probably don't need many more frontier forts, but we — there are some other pieces that we are missing.

Its size; small parcels under 500 acres certainly would be important to us if it were contiguous to an existing parks or an inholding; larger parcels over 500 acres, and then the Land and Water Plan, we talk about new parks being a minimum of 5,000 acres. And of course it would need to contribute to the goals established by you in the Land and Water Plan.

Ancillary value certainly would include wildlife habitat, viewshed, watershed and buffer between development and existing parks — park land.

This rule pertains only to land that would be donated for consideration of inclusion in the park system, and you have — and our recommendations have in the past included not accepting some lands that did not meet these kinds of criteria. And you certainly would be the final say in whether any piece of land is accepted or not accepted.

This regulation or rule was published in the Register in July '07, and our recommendation is that you would adopt this, if you so choose.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Any discussion by the Commission?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: If none, I will place this item on the Thursday Commission Meeting Agenda for public comment and action. Thank you, Walt.

MR. DABNEY: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Committee Item Number 3, Land Transfer in Calhoun County. Corky Kuhlmann.

MR. KUHLMANN: Good morning Commissioners. For the record, my name is Corky Kuhlmann with the Land Conservation Program, Parks and Wildlife. This is an item in Calhoun County, called Swan Point Boat Ramp. It's right south of Seadrift in San Antonio Bay.

Parks and Wildlife had approximately nine acres there, and the county even before we transferred the first part in 2004, the county pretty much took care of the boat ramp, kept it mowed, kept the litter picked up. So we transferred the boat ramp and parking lot and some of the acreage in 2004. They have since asked us to transfer another 4.6 acres. There will be a reversion clause; if it ever is used for anything other than a boat ramp, it would revert back to Parks and Wildlife.

This is a first reading of this. It will come to you again in November, so with your authorization, we'll publish public notice, hold a meeting — a public meeting locally, and bring it back to you at the November meeting. Answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Any other questions, comments?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: If not, I'll ask staff to begin the public notice and input process. Thank you, Corky.

Committee Item Number 4, Land Donation, El Paso County.

MR. KUHLMANN: Again, my name's Corky Kuhlmann. This is in Franklin Mountains, El Paso County, Texas. Just a little bit of history of the park. Franklin Mountains is the largest urban park in the nation at a little over 24,000 acres, all within the city limits of El Paso, Texas. It was opened at — for limited use in 1997, and today they offer hiking, mountain biking, mountain — rock climbing, some camping, primitive overnight camping, and some guided tours.

MR. COOK: Corky, I want to pause here just a second. One of these slides, yes ‑‑ your next one that you've got up there now, I especially — all of the Commissioners, if you've never been to Franklin Mountains, I want you to take a look at this picture. Franklin Mountains literally is a — I hate to even call it an urban park because it just doesn't fit that mode. It is a prime park piece of parkland that as you can see, juts — it is completely surrounded on three sides by the City of El Paso. And it is a site that we're really doing some things with, and working on to make it more attractive and easier to manage. Excuse me, go ahead.

MR. KUHLMANN: Yes, well — when Walt mentioned about some of our parks becoming an island, this picture kind of supports that. An island theory. The El Paso Electric Company has offered to donate some right of way that they own. You ‑‑ we see the blue line represents the boundary, the magenta line and the southern tip of the park, is a right of way that El Paso Electric actually owns. And they've offered to donate it, the right of way to Parks and Wildlife, but they're going to keep a standard utility easement.

And the benefit of that would be is, if they ever — the utility company ever sells, then we own the right-of-way, it doesn't sell to another company. There again, this is the first reading of this. We will publish public notice and bring it back to you in November for final approval.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Any further discussion?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: If not, I'll ask staff to begin the public notice and input process.

Item Number 5, Land Donation in Gonzales County.

MR. KUHLMANN: For the record, Corky Kuhlmann. This is the second reading of this item. You saw it at the last Commission meeting. It is a small donation at Palmetto State Park, 1.35 acres. The green represents the boundary of the park, the small red is the donation tract, so it is continuous to the park, adjacent to the park superintendent's residence.

This donation of 1.3 acres will be with the landowner reserving a life estate. And this is the motion that I'll present to you tomorrow.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Any discussion or comment?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: I will place this item on the Thursday Commission Meeting Agenda for public comment and action.

Committee Item Number 6, Land Acquisition in Jefferson County.

MR. KUHLMANN: For the record, my name is Corky Kuhlmann. This is the J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area headquarters complex in Jefferson County. This is another small inholding, 62-foot-by-92-foot, that is ‑‑ the area you see in green is the maintenance yard, and headquarters complex of the J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area. This is a lot we've been after for 20 years, it's surrounded by us on three sides, and highway in the front. This is the second reading, you saw this one at the last Commission meeting. So this is the motion that you will see before you tomorrow.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Any other discussion by the Commission?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: I will place this item on the Thursday Commission Meeting Agenda for public comment and action.

MR. KUHLMANN: Thanks.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Thank you, Corky.

Committee Item Number 7, Land Acquisition in Grimes County. Ted Hollingsworth will give that presentation.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Good morning, Chairman, Commissioners. My name is Ted Hollingsworth, I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This item pertains to a proposed acquisition of land that would expand Fanthorp Inn State Historic Site. I want to start by saying that Fanthorp Inn is not one of those that has been transferred to the Texas Historical Commission. It is still one we own and operate.

I'd also like to say that it is a truly historic site. When you walk around in that particular house, you step on lumber that was walked across by Sam Houston and Zachary Taylor, and Anson Jones. It is a truly historic site.

The problem with it, this is where it's located in Anderson, Texas — is that the site's only 1.4 acres, which causes management and operation issues, serious interpretive issues, and the site does not include a lot of the archeological deposits associated with the house.

This is one we've been ‑‑ has been a high priority for us for 20 years. The staff has stayed in touch with the family, and the family has finally reached a point where they are willing to sell at appraised value.

It would — like I say, increase the size of the park from 1.4 acres to 6 acres, include a lot of the archeological deposits that we know from previous testing are there, and would give us a lot more room for public interpretive educational activities.

This is the first reading. We're proposing at this point to seek public input, and then to come back to the Commission at a future meeting with a recommendation. I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Any comment by the Commission?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: If none, I will ask the staff to begin the public notice and input process.

Committee Item Number 8, Land Sale in Donley County. Ted?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. This item is the second reading of an item that you saw in a previous Commission meeting. Taylor Lakes Unit is one of three units that make up the Playa Lakes WMA. This unit is in Donley County. It's a good WMA. The problem is that State Highway 287 lops off a three-and-a-half acre tract, that has — does not contribute to the conservation values of the WMA, and is very difficult for the staff to manage. We went through a process we described to you back in January, of getting a market assessment from local realtors, offering the property to the adjacent landowners. The landowner with the greatest boundary in common did not want the property. The other adjacent landowner did want the property at the price ‑‑ at the asking price. We have a contract, and ‑‑

This is the second reading, so with your concurrence we will bring the motion to you tomorrow to proceed to close on the sale of that 3.4 acre tract. I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: If there are no further questions or comments, I will place this item on the Thursday Commission Meeting Agenda for public comment and action.

Committee Item Number 9. Land Sale in Travis County. Once again, Ted.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman and Commissioners, my name is still Ted Hollingsworth. This is an item you've seen three time already. I think there's no question that we want to liquidate the Game Warden Academy, use those funds to develop the Hamilton County facility.

In the past, we came to you and asked permission to sell 4.26 acres. In doing the title work, we discovered that we actually own the entire tract on 51st Street. A pleasant surprise to us, and so — it was advertised as a 6.66-acre tract, we thought that another agency was going to get some of the proceeds, as it turns out, we own the entire tract, and so just as a technicality we're coming back and requesting authorization to sell the balance of that property, the other 2.4 acres.

It's under contract currently. The buyer is exercising their due diligence period. We would anticipate a sale — a closing probably in October at the rate we're going. Be happy to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: If there are no questions or comments, I will place this item on the Thursday Commission Meeting Agenda for public comment and action.

Committee Item Number 10, Land Acquisition in Brazoria County. And I think Ted Hollingsworth has this.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: I wouldn't be surprised.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: I'm not.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: This particular item, Nannie M. Stringfellow Wildlife Management Area, we thought we ‑‑ we thought that we owned; we thought the entire property was in state ownership. We got a call from a sweet little old lady from Iowa several months ago saying, I think I own 20 acres of your wildlife management area.

And upon looking at her documentation and doing some homework, we discovered that she was in fact correct. Fortunately, she owes a couple years of back taxes on the property, not much at all but she has no interest in it, and told us, if we would get the county to send her a notice saying that her back taxes were paid, that she would deed the property over to us.

We've entered into a contract to that effect, and staff recommends that we proceed to do so. This would be the first reading. We would — I'm sorry, this would be the only reading. And with your blessing we'll bring this one to you tomorrow for authorization to proceed to close. I'd be happy to answer any questions you have.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Any other comments or questions about this item? If there are none, I will place this item on the Thursday Commission Meeting Agenda for public comment and action.

Now, in my notes there is no Item 11, but on the computer there is. We're going to —

COMMISSIONER HOLT: I don't believe there is —

(Simultaneous discussion.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Not on mine.

(Simultaneous discussion.)

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: We will now recess for Executive Session. Therefore, I would like to announce that pursuant to the requirements of Chapter 551, 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 purpose of seeking legal advice from the general counsel under Section 551.071, of the Open Meetings Act; and the purpose of deliberation of a prospective gift or donation under Section 551.073 of the Open Meetings Act. Thank you.

MR. COOK: Just a point of kind of operation here. I believe the room is going to be re-set. So I would request that you take your gear with you, for our public hearing, which will start at 2:00 p.m.

(Whereupon, at 11:24 a.m. a recess was taken, to reconvene at 1:10 p.m. this same day, Wednesday, August 22, 2007.)

C E R T I F I C A T E

MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Conservation Committee
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: August 22, 2007

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

08/31/07
(Transcriber) (Date)
On the Record Reporting, Inc.
3307 Northland, Suite 315
Austin, Texas 78731


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