Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Conservation Committee Meeting

Jan. 21, 2009

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

BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 21st day of January, 2009, 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 HOLT: We are moving on to Conservation so I'm handing this over to Chairman Bivins.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Do you want the gavel?

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: (No response.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: He likes that gavel.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Thank you. Let it be known that I do have the gavel.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The first order of business for the Conservation Committee is the approval of the previous committee meeting minutes, which have been distributed. I'll entertain a motion.

COMMISSIONER MARTIN: So moved.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Martin. A second?

COMMISSIONER HIXON: Second.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Hixon, thank you very much. All in favor, please say aye.

(A chorus of ayes.)

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Any opposed?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Hearing none, the motion carries.

Before we proceed with the briefings, I want to mention that Committee Item Number 6, the land exchange in San Saba and Lampasas counties at Colorado Bend State Park, and Committee Item Number 7, new environmental review MOU between Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and TxDOT, have been withdrawn at this time.

Going on to Committee Item Number 1, update on TPW progress in implementing the TPW land and water resources conservation and recreation plan, Carter?

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Just a couple things that I want to mention. Last time, as you will recall, Robert Goodrich gave a very comprehensive proposal of some of the work that Law Enforcement in particular is doing in concert with Inland Fisheries and others to combat the spread of these aquatic invasive species. Commissioner Duggins, I believe you and others suggested that we could better utilize our contacts through boat registration to help get the word out about the concern about zebra mussels and quagga mussels coming into the state.

We wanted to let you know, we've done that, working with the Communications Team and Fisheries and Law Enforcement. They've developed a couple of brochures to help address this. It's now going out in the mailings to everybody that is registering their boats. You know, they have to do that every two years. So it was a very, very good suggestion that I wanted to let you know we're following up on that, and it's reaching a half a million folks. So I think that will be enormously helpful.

Back in December, we opened a new state park. It's not every day we get to do that in Texas. So we're very, very proud of that. That is the third and last of the Parks and Wildlife's Official World Birding Center properties down in the Valley. I see Walt and Scott; they ought to take a lot of pride in that. This was a great accomplishment at Resaca de la Palma, a 2,000-acre park down in the Rio Grande Valley. We're already seeing a lot of family use of that place. When you get down to Brownsville or the Rio Grande Valley, I hope you will go visit it. They've just done a remarkable job down there and we're very, very proud of it.

We talked a lot. Scott gave a very comprehensive presentation about the impacts that the agency and the resource felt as a function of Hurricane Ike. We did want to let you know that we did get some emergency money from NOAA, about $7 million to help invest in rebuilding seagrass meadows, oyster beds, and public boat ramps, and particularly to help facilitate more commercial access. As you will recall, Scott pointed out a lot of boat ramps, particularly in Galveston Bay, were damaged. So we'll put those dollars to good use.

Coming up later this month, in February, the American Fisheries Society is going to be meeting in Fort Worth. Our team is going to be helping to sponsor a symposium as part of that on golden algae research. That became a major problem for us when we discovered it at the Dundee Fish Hatchery in Electra. That's popped up at other fish hatcheries. You have a little bit of naturally occurring golden algae in some river basins around the state, such as the Pecos River Inland Fisheries team are bringing together all of the scientists to help synthesize what they know about golden algae now and how we can incorporate that into our management effort. So the dates for that conference are the 27th through the 31st at the Radisson Fort Worth Fossil Creek Hotel, for any of you who are going to be up that way at that time.

The last thing I'll mention. We had a very generous, anonymous donation that came through the Foundation to help us look at kind of a wildlife species response to the wildfire last March at the Chap. And so, our biologists down there have helped put together a proposal to look particularly at small mammal and avian response to the wildfire. We're working with Cesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute to get that instituted, but a very generous $100,000 gift to help facilitate it and help us learn from it.

So that's my report on that, Mr. Chairman.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Thank you. I would like to ask Scott, how many years has it been since we began the World Birding Center project?

COMMISSIONER HOLT: That's right. You got to be involved at the start, didn't you?.

MR. BORUFF: I thought I was off the hook for this meeting. For the record, Commissioners, my name is Scott Boruff, Deputy Executive Director for Operations. The World Birding Center began, in concept, I believe, in the late 1980s. So it precedes me by quite a bit. So I wouldn't try to tag the exact date to it. I will tell you that we have been working on this very diligently since the mid-90s to get this project up and going.

I think there was a lot of pre-operational debate about some of the political issues about where the headquarters would be and how many sites there would be. We certainly have been working very diligently for the last 12 or 14 years to get this project to completion.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: I want to thank you for all your efforts on that. I mean, it's been a big project, but I think the results are admirable and they're certainly impressive.

MR. BORUFF: I'll accept the compliment on behalf of State Parks. Those folks have put in a lot of time down there. We've had good regional directorship from Russell Fishbeck down there. We have great site managers. This has been a project that Parks should be very proud of.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Thank you.

MR. BORUFF: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Committee Item Number 2, Dove Research Briefing, Clay Brewer.

MR. BREWER: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, I'm Clay Brewer, the Interim Director of the Wildlife Division. I've asked Corey Mason to present the briefing concerning dove research. I'd like to take this moment to introduce Corey. This is his very first Commission presentation.

Corey is the newest member of the Small Game and Habitat Assessment Program. He received his bachelor's and master's in wildlife management from Stephen F. Austin University. Corey has worked for us since 2001 as a Wildlife Management Area Biologist, East Texas Waterfowl Biologist, and has recently been promoted to the Webless Migratory Game Bird Program Leader. So Corey is one of our best and brightest. We're proud of him and proud that he is serving in this new role. So I'll turn it over to Corey.

MR. MASON: Thank you. For purposes of the record, I'm Corey Mason, Webless Migratory Game Bird Program Leader. I'm here to brief the Commission today on dove research in Texas and how the information gained is used to guide us in our management decisions.

Looking at a few of the benefits here, dove are beneficial to Texas for recreational and economic reasons both. The mourning dove, specifically, to start with, is the most abundant game bird in North America and additionally are just one of the most abundant birds in North America, period. An estimated 5 million are harvested annually in Texas by 326,000 hunters, which constitutes over a quarter of our nation's harvest.

White-winged dove now occur in over 80 percent of our counties and we harvest about 1,500,000 of these birds annually.

Dove hunting has an economic benefit to Texas of around $316 million. Additionally, about a little over 3,000 jobs are related to the dove-hunting industry.

Research is a very important component to Parks and Wildlife. We believe that research is important to management and our management decisions need to be based on sound biological data. Along these same lines, the Parks and Wildlife for the state of Texas is a member of the Central Management Unit. The Central Management Unit is comprised of 14 states and their associated conservation agencies in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The purpose of this group is to work cooperatively to ensure management of dove resources in the Central United States and it's for their management, longevity, and, you know, maintaining the resource.

Now, Parks and Wildlife has been lead a lot of these critical research projects identified by the Central Management Unit. Since 1993, we've completed 30

dove-related studies aimed at management issues and published 50 scientific articles in peer review journals, and currently have five in the review process. Now, we certainly don't have time to look at 30 research projects. So I've summarized a few of the key research projects that had some of the most significance to management-related decisions.

The first project here is looking at landscape changes along our call count survey routes, a band reporting rate study conducted with Dr. Dave Otis of the United States Geological Survey. The study is aimed at survival and harvest rates from banding on mourning dove and white-winged dove and a recruitment rate study, looking at trying to determine the cause and effect relationships of juveniles coming into the population, and the importance of that.

Look at some of the use of these results. Looking at our call count surveys and the habitats associated with them, we were able to detect a bias in the indices associated with these surveys and lines. So we were able to improve our survey techniques, now using distance samples. Now, we use distance sampling in our call count surveys for mourning dove as well as our point count surveys for white-winged dove.

We've been able to provide estimates of survival, harvest, and age ratios, all very important factors in managing migratory game birds. We've been able to derive breeding population abundance estimates for mourning dove, estimated around 20 to 25 million birds. We've been able to gain valuable insights on white-winged dove populations and factors influencing those; studies related to things such as breeding ecology, nesting success, disease, parasites, life history, and possible range expansion.

Some of the current research projects that we have going on, we have an attitude survey looking at hunters attitudes and perceptions about lead and non-lead shot. We're currently working on a lethality study of lead and non-lead shot. As some of you are probably aware, this study received a little controversy last year. We've gained a tremendous amount of insight from that, learned from those experiences, and are planning to move forward on that.

This is a very sound project based on some studies done in the early '80s, looking at waterfowl out of Missouri and Louisiana. The rigor of these studies have been proven in peer review journals and will provide us some very valuable information on developing lethality tables specific to a dove-sized bird. These tables exist for ducks and geese, but they simply do not exist for doves; looking at the prevalence of lead in the environment, as well as lead in embedded, ingested free-ranging wild flying dove, and looking at trying to determine dove population densities using our distance sampling techniques.

Current research projects aimed specifically at white wings are trying to identify wintering areas using radio isotopes in DNA. The pros of this is it enables us to do it in a much more efficient manner, not having to mark recaptured birds. We're trying to model populations and nesting ecology and the factors that influence them. We're developing aging criteria specifically for hatching your birds, which is extremely difficult to do, and continuing to monitor survival, harvest, and recruitment of white wings. We're trying to analyze historic data for management objectives to let us know where we've been so we can analyze and see where we're going in the future.

Now, the way that we plan to use some of this research the hunter attitude survey is trying to determine perceptions and preferences regarding lead and non-lead shot. Like I mentioned earlier, the lethality study is trying to determine the efficiency of these loads, lead and non-lead loads. We're trying to identify some specific white-wing nesting areas in Central and South America, be able to better understand some of the ecological factors affecting white wing populations.

Kind of the cumulative effect of a lot of these projects will allow us to better understand and develop a harvest management strategy for white wings. White wings are a really interesting bird. It's one of the few birds that's expanding its range. You hear so much about birds that are declining and declining, and white wings are one of the few birds that are moving out and out and out. We're working to continually try and modify our surveys to improve the sensitivity of our results so that, hopefully, someday we're able to detect the differences in populations and be able to attribute those to a population level effect due to habitat changes, regulation changes, or hunting pressures.

In concluding, our research has been important at the state level for conservation planning and will continue to be. We utilize university staff and graduate students whenever possible and it results in increased opportunity for our hunters. A quick example of that is in the Valley, in our white wing areas, the increased bag limit of mourning dove from two to five. Additionally, us having this information, particularly on white wings and mourning dove both, will serve for protection for our hunters against potential unwarranted regulation changes. The driving force in our management and research is trying to replace perceptions with facts.

I'd be happy to take any questions you might have.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: I had one question.

MR. MASON: Yes, sir?

COMMISSIONER PARKER: With the, my one thought as you make this presentation, Corey and I'm really not speaking to you, I'm speaking to Carter this is a wonderful presentation. You know, with the huge debacle that we had last August, the two last days in August, I would have loved to have had this presentation, by you or anybody else, prior to those last two days of August.

I think what happened the last two days of August, it was worse than a right cross from Mohammed Ali when it came to the Parks and Wildlife Department quicker than Ali's right cross. It's like a firecracker exploding in our midst, and, you know, I realize that Mr. Smith didn't know anything about it, Mr. Boruff didn't know anything about it, and none of the Commission, I think, knew anything about it, and it was an embarrassing situation for Parks and Wildlife. I just hope that we have learned something about this and let the message go out that that sort of situation never again finds a place within this wonderful agency that provides so many wonderful experiences for so many Texans and out of state people, too.

Carter, do you want to respond?

MR. SMITH: Well, I guess I want to respond. I appreciate those comments. I think everybody in this room, and certainly on staff, we, too, agree that the circumstances that unfolded were obviously regrettable. Have we learned from it? We, absolutely, have.

I do want to clarify a point, just in fairness to our team that have been working on this research, because the team did brief myself and Scott about the whole range of lethality tests that were being considered and evaluated. To be fair, too, we supported that. I mean, as you saw there, Texas is the 800-pound gorilla in dove, and dove management, and dove hunting, and dove research.

As this issue about how do we handle the concerns about lead shot continue to escalate, we should reflect back on the conversation we had this morning about gar. That is that we need to be in a position scientifically to be able to provide answers, and information, and data, both biologically, but also socially. And so, that was the genesis for this suite of dove research topics.

I think the point that you're making very clearly to us, Commissioner, is could we have done a better job communicating in advance the purposes of the research, what we were trying to accomplish, why we were doing it, why we felt it was important to all of the relevant stakeholders. The lesson learned from that is, yes, absolutely. I don't think any of us disagree, and we are doing better. I feel very good about where the division is now in terms of putting in place communication plans to sort of assess those kind of threshold of concerns, and risk, and reputation that you're getting at.

And so, I think there is a very deep and genuine interest by all of our biologists that are very, very committed to that. And so, I'm proud to see the results of it and appreciate your comments very much, that if we don't learn from this experience, then that will be a failure of the department. I appreciate that sentiment.

MR. BREWER: I'd like to add to that. I appreciate your comments very much. I'm proud of our folks. I'm proud of the job that they do, the work ethic, the science. I'm proud to be part of this group. Now, we didn't do everything perfect, probably won't every time, but we have implemented some changes like Carter said. We're looking at our regulatory processes, all of them, not just when it comes to dove or dove research. We're taking a hard look at all of them.

I think we have some pretty successful models. The big game model works pretty well. We're going to look at some of these other programs and figure out a process, a cycle, that we can give you guys that you understand how all this works. You can pull up that calendar and you know what's coming. It's been a tough thing.

I don't know if, stepping into this Carter calls it purgatory it's a little bit different view and there's lots of things happening at once. We have some really good things going right now and I think we will continue to improve. I do appreciate your comments, point well taken.

MR. MASON: I'd just like to say, Thanks for your comments as well. We are working towards addressing some needs.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Commissioner Duggins?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I have a question. What do you mean by a call count survey route?

MR. MASON: Excellent. A call count survey route is an indices in which we perform our surveys in late May. It's a mechanism by which we're trying to determine the number of dove we have. It's done across the entire United States. What we do is we have our biologists it's the method in which we use to survey doves they drive to a specific point and listen for a specific interval for cooing males, for calling males. It's an indices in which we can track over time the number of male dove through time. So it's a survey thing for us. These are routes that are driven year after year after year.

So we are looking in our research right now to determine if differences that we're finding in dove population are a reflection of habitat changes associated with that route or are they a reflection of dove numbers, period. As you're aware, the landscape of Texas is changing tremendously. And so, associated with these historic routes, the habitat is changing tremendously as well.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Do you use the same location year to year?

MR. MASON: We do.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So you're comparing apples to apples?

MR. MASON: You've got it, but we've changed our method for detection of birds, using the old and the new, trying to test for differences to see which is the most accurate and precise.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: I have one question. Are you all doing any research yet on the collared dove?

MR. MASON: We have done some research on collar dove. We have looked at, actually, the collar dove and the possible effect to mourning dove and white-wing specifically, specifically trying to determine the overlap or potential problems. We've done some initial research on that. We have some that we're considering now, but we have looked at the interface there.

At this point in time, we haven't seen any negative effect as far as displacement of those two birds. Now, as we have white wings moving more into urban areas in the north, the potential there for some interface is certainly greater. Well, that's some that could appear more in the future.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Will white-winged dove displace mourning dove?

MR. MASON: They're a little bit different animals there.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Right.

MR. MASON: So where you typically don't have as many mourning dove nesting in a town and things like you do white-winged doves, and white-winged dove are more colonial nesters.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Right.

MR. MASON: And so, you have a difference in a few individuals versus a colony of birds. And so, it's a little bit different thing there

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Okay.

MR. MASON: the way those birds respond to habitat, and nesting structure, and substrate.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Thank you both very much, excellent presentation.

COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Thank you. It was very interesting; appreciate your work.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: I'm going to move to the Item Number 8, where we'll recess for Executive Session. Conservation Committee Item Number 8 will be discussed in Executive Session. We will now recess for that Executive Session.

Therefore, I'd 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 seeking legal advice from the General Counsel under Section 551.071 of the Open Meetings Act. We will now recess to Executive Session. Thank you.

(Whereupon, at 1:00 p.m., the meeting was recessed, to reconvene this same day, Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 2:20 p.m.)

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: At this time, I would like to reconvene the Conservation Committee and go back to Committee Item Number 3, the acceptance of land donation Palo Pinto County Possum Kingdom State Park, Mr. Ted Hollingsworth.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, well, the Chairman is somewhere I guess. Commissioners, good afternoon, my name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This item is the first reading of a proposal to accept the transfer of land from the Brazos River Authority to Possum Kingdom State Park located in Palo Pinto County, actually just right on the lake, Possum Kingdom Lake, and about 60 miles, 70 miles, west of Fort Worth.

There are actually two tracts that Brazos River Authority and Texas Parks and Wildlife are looking at, each about 350 acres. Brazos River Authority would like to do those in two separate transactions. It turns out we have some submerged land on the lake that is an artifact of the way the land was surveyed and conveyed to us in 1939. The land is actually more of a liability than an asset to us. It's below the pool elevation of the reservoir. The Brazos River Authority would like that back and we'd like for them to have it.

You can see in this map, the northern section of land in yellow would be the land conveyed back to us. It was actually conveyed to us in 1939 with the park. In the mid-1960s, Brazos River Authority proposed to take that land and put some low density recreational facilities on it. We had not developed it at that time so we transferred it back to them. In the meantime, they have not accomplished that and I think we all agree that Parks and Wildlife would be likelier to complete a trail system and perhaps some waterfront facilities on that tract if it were part of the state park.

So the proposal is to convey that submerged land to the Brazos River Authority. They are now paying a small amount of money on a pipeline easement in the southern part of the park. We would just give them a permanent easement in place of the current term easement. And then, that 350 acres would be transferred to the Texas Parks and Wildlife.

This is the first reading. We are requesting permission to seek public input on that proposal. I'd be happy to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Any questions? Commissioner Duggins?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: You're saying that it's this top?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir. The 355 acres in yellow is the portion that would be conveyed first.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And then, eventually, the next 355 acres?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: We have requested that and they have expressed a willingness to proceed with that transfer after the first one is completed, yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I mean, is it part of the deal or it's just a possibility that it would be nice to do it?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: We're operating on good faith at this point for that second transaction, yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Am I correct that the BRA leases the shore frontage that's depicted there to the east?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir, that's correct.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Would we get those leasehold rights in case of homeowners that break the lease or the lease expires?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: We have not requested those and that's not currently in discussion. Most of those are very small tracts and the BRA is in the process of divesting interests in property on the lake. I think the proposal they are currently considering is to actually sell those to the leaseholders. I don't think we really want a bunch of one-acre lots with cabins on them. We have not requested that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, wouldn't it be a source of money if we were to have the lessors rights and be able to sell them to the homeowner or if we decided we wanted to try to get the property back eventually? Wouldn't that be of some value to us, particularly where we own the land around it?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: That's an operations issue. The State Parks Division has specifically not asked me to request those leases. I don't know if Walt Dabney is here or not, but I think the consensus is probably that that would be more of an operational problem to manage those. Again, I think the intent currently is to sell those into private ownership of the folks that have actually built those homes and leased those properties all these years. We could certainly request a right of refusal going into the negotiation for that piece of property, but I would do that at the direction of my chain of command or the Commission.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I don't know why we wouldn't want at least have the rights. If we decide we don't want them, we can always release them or sell them. That's the most important part of that second tract, is to have that shore frontage. Maybe you all disagree. I think we'd want that.

Carter, am I missing something?

MR. SMITH: Well, I don't know. I don't know enough about those leasehold interests. I guess, why don't you let us explore that with BRA as part of this discussion and let us look into it? And so, we'll do that. And then, we'll come back and report to you on that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, I just wouldn't walk away from them as if it had no value. I would at least consider it.

MR. SMITH: Yes, good counsel. We'll look into that.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: We have a very good working relationship with BRA at this point and it would be very easy to visit the site, to discuss with them the logistics for the transfer as they see it, and to come back with that information at the next meeting.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Thank you. Is there any other discussion, comments from the Commission?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Hearing none, I will ask staff to begin public notice and input process. Thank you, Ted.

Committee Item Number 4, land exchange, Harrison County, Caddo Lake State Park, once again, Ted.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Commissioners, my name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This item is the first reading of a proposal to exchange small tracts, actually subdivision lots, adjacent to Caddo Lake State Park in East Texas. The state park is contiguous, or adjacent, to the wildlife management area on the southern side. At this point, the park narrows down. These lots in question front on what is essentially a river. It's a narrow part of the lake.

The lot on the east that you can see in this map on the east, we were donated ten-elevenths of that lot about a decade ago and in the last year we've been able to locate the other interest owner and get that donated. We now own the lot outright.

The intervening property owner owns also the tract adjacent to the boat ramp. Just candidly, she's had problems with people trespassing. The fence is right up against the boat ramp. Children and adults have a bad habit of either wandering the shoreline or just jumping the fence to get away from the parking lot there. And so, she has approached us and requested that we exchange lots with her. Staff recommends that very highly for operational reasons because the lot we would exchange is not really contiguous with the park. And so, we're approaching the Commission and requesting permission to seek public input on a proposal to exchange those two lots.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Any discussion or comments from the Commission?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That lot to the right is the lot we own currently?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir, that's correct.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: In her view, that's worth a whole lot more than the lot she owns on the left side?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: She considers it to be less of a liability. Again, just to be very frank, the fence separating her property and the state park is a stone's throw from the boat ramp, and guys are bad about jumping the fence, and there's no men's room right there handy, and she would really prefer to have another 150 or 200 feet between her home or between her property line and the boat ramp.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I can understand why we'd like to have it, but it seems to me that our property has more value than hers. No?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Well, some additional information, that lot that we own has a home on it constructed in 1960. It is perched precariously on the edge of a pretty steep bluff. It is collapsed. The floors are soft. Somebody is going to get if that home isn't razed and removed from that property soon, somebody is going to go through a floor it's a two-story home and hurt themselves. It is quite a liability.

Again, staff very strongly feels like and the other thing to note is that part of this process, by law, is we would have to have a market analysis done on those two lots to make sure that the lot we receive has at least as great a fair market value as the lot we're giving up.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Would this proposal include her taking on the responsibility of that house and

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Absolutely.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: we wouldn't have any obligations to destroy it or remove it?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Absolutely. It's sort of as is, where is, and she would assume all responsibility for that structure.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Any other questions or discussion?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Hearing none, I'll ask staff to begin the public notice and input process.

Committee Item Number 5, acceptance of land donation, Bexar County, Government Canyon State Natural Area, Ted, once again.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Commissioners, good afternoon, my name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This item is the first reading of a proposal to accept a transfer of approximately 3,000 acres of land from the city of San Antonio. The property would be added to the Government Canyon State Natural Area in San Antonio, on the western/northwestern edge of San Antonio.

The lands actually are in several tracts shown in red. These are lands that were acquired with crop monies for protection of the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone. My understanding is that there was some public expectation that there would be access, potentially public access, a low impact recreational access to these tracts. The city of San Antonio has not been able to provide that and we believe, and the city believes, that in our ownership that appropriate public access could occur.

It doesn't show real clearly in this map, but these really are just about the last vacant lands in this area and probably the last opportunity we would ever have to significantly add to Government Canyon State Natural Area.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: Ted?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir?

COMMISSIONER PARKER: I think I understand the red lines. The red lines are the pieces of property that are being conveyed to us?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: What is the little red line down at the bottom left-hand corner?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: It's a right of way. It's an access right of way.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: An access right of way?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: Coming off of a road?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: How wide?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: I'd have to get into the deed and look at that.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: Okay, but it's not a road now?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: It's not I couldn't answer that question. My guess is that it's simply a reserved right of way. There's probably a gravel road or a caliche road. I doubt it's a public road, but, again, I would have to check the deed to find out.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Mark, I had a question.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Yes, Commissioner?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Is it proposed that Parks and Wildlife would get surface only or surface and minerals?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: The proposal is to convey everything owned by the city and I do not know how much mineral interest is included in the estate. They probably don't know. As you well know, it can be difficult, without spending some money, to do deed research to track out where those interests are.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But do we want to take on property where we know that the mineral owner can come in and abuse the surface?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: In this case, this is all occupied endangered species habitat. So between our authority and the Federal Takings Authority, we could very much control the impact of oil and gas exploration on the surface.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: When you say control, do you mean prohibit or do you mean control?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: No, sir, I mean we could limit the impact by working out the locations from which drilling could occur. It's the similar situation on about three-fourths of our lands, where we don't own the minerals and yet the minerals do get leased for oil and gas exploration, and we do have more authority than a private land owner would have to cite that impact in such a way as to minimize the damage done to the surface.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Do we typically try to assess the state of the mineral title before we accept land donation or not? I think we should. I'm just curious.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir, we should. What we do is we examine the title policy very carefully and determine what's owned and what's not owned. In the case of minerals that are owned, we don't have a budget to go try and acquire those.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I understand that. I'm just suggesting we ought to know before we accept this if the minerals or some portion of the minerals go with it. I would think we'd want to know that.

MR. SMITH: We will definitely know that. I mean, that will be part of the title commitment in terms of what the city ultimately ends up conveying to us. It will be simple interest.

I will tell you that I'm pretty familiar with this area. There is not any mineral exploration activity of any real shape or form that's going on in this area. Now, what the probability of that is in the future is anybody's guess. This is by no means in an active field that is being explored or really a historic field. So I think the probability of it is probably fairly limited looking ahead, but we absolutely will know what we're getting once they end up giving us a title commitment on this.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Will we know that before we're bound to accept it?

MR. SMITH: Yes.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: We will know that before we bring this back to the Commission for a second reading.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That's all I want to know.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: That's a good point.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Any other discussion on this particular item?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: If there is none, I'll ask staff to begin public notice and input process.

As you will recall, Committee Items Numbers 6 and 7 have been withdrawn from the agenda. Moving on to Item Number 8, this item was discussed in Executive Session and there is no further action required.

Mr. Vice Chairman, this concludes the business of the Conservation Committee.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you, Commissioner.

(Whereupon, at 2:35 p.m., the meeting was adjourned.)

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 21, 2009

I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 33, 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.

02/04/09

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


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