Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Conservation Committee Meeting

May 26, 2010

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

BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 26th day of May 2010, 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: Yes, thank you, Chairman Friedkin. We'll move to Conservation. Chairman Bivins is not able to make it. I think he has a child graduating from high school or something. Anyway ‑‑ so, Commissioner Duggins, I think, has agreed to chair the Conservation Committee and I'll pass it to you, in just a second, while we do Conservation Committee. We don't have anything in Executive Committee. Do Conservation Committee and then we'll do lunch after that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. May I have a motion to approve the minutes of the previous meeting?

COMMISSIONER HIXON: So move.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Motion by Commissioner Hixon. COMMISSIONER FALCON: Second.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Second by Commissioner Falcon. Any opposed? Okay, the minutes are approved. Committee Item One, An Update on the progress in implementing the Land and Water Resources Conservation and Recreation Plan. Mr. Smith.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. A couple of things I want to report on. First, two Land and Water Action Items from the Plan, both relating to a prescribed fire that you all had asked us to consider. I know you know how important prescribed fire is as a tool. You know, we steward upwards of a 1,400,000 acres inside this agency. Not all of that is fire-dependent but it is important that we're leading by example with the use of that tool on our own properties; Parks and Wildlife management areas.

We had set a goal in the Plan to burn 25,000 acres or more before December of 2010. Through the second quarter, just to report on the progress, we're at about 5400 acres. Now, that does not include 42,000 acres over in East Texas that our team worked with the Sam Houston National Forest on the WMA there that our team worked with. So, just want you to know that the numbers probably are a lot lower than what they really are in terms of what's happening on the ground.

And, also, another goal that we have set within the context of the Plan, is to set up these prescribed fire cooperatives. These are these basically landowner-driven cooperatives to help one another implement prescribed fires, sharing people and resources in all 12 ecoregions. As of the second quarter, we've got nine of those fire cooperatives set up in the state. Now, we've got two in South Texas and two in the Edwards Plateau so, basically, we've got seven out of the 12 ecoregions covered right now, with respect to fire cooperatives.

By the way, tonight at the Lone Star Land Steward Award events, we're going to recognize really the first prescribed fire cooperative in the state, the Edwards Plateau one that was set up by the Extension Service and Butch Taylor has just been extraordinary so I want to call attention to that but I think we are making good progress on both of these measures and I wanted to let you know that. A couple of other things that I want to share with you. One, just quickly, an area of interest on the research side with Inland Fisheries. The Inland Fisheries team has been concerned about barotrauma, which is like bends in diving from bass that are pulled up from deep waters.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: What did you call it?

MR. SMITH: Barotrauma. And I ‑‑ you know, you've probably seen this in red snapper that are pulled up out of the depths with distended eyes and mouth. The concern is with ‑‑ for example, in tournament fishing, largemouth bass that are pulled up from deep water and then put in live wells in boats and kept there for a weigh-in. There's not opportunity for that pressure to normalize. There are techniques for defusing that gas and our Inland Fisheries team are working on that, punching the swim bladder, et cetera and so, our fisheries biologists are involved in studies right now in concert with fisherman and a variety of fish organizations to try to alleviate that issue in tournament-caught bass. So very interesting and important application.

I think our team is seeing, you know, maybe as many as half of the bass caught at a tournament could succumb to this, and so, obviously we want to try to alleviate that ‑‑ so, very, very practical research and I look forward to our team reporting more on that later to you.

Also, just want to thank the law enforcement team. In May, when the sea turtles started coming to shore to nest ‑‑ April, May ‑‑ we started to see some more mortalities in the Gulf and obviously concerned about that and our law enforcement team made a special effort to ensure that we were having sufficient compliance with the turtle excluder devices in shrimping boats, to make sure that folks were not inadvertently catching those rare resources. So appreciate the team's work on that, Pete.

Last but not least, an issue that Commissioner Duggins has asked you all to consider. This has to do with the San Jacinto Battleground. I think as all of you know, we have two very significant and important capital development projects that are underway there. The creation of a Visitor's Center, very important, identified in the Master Plan and also, of course, the dry berthing of the Battleship Texas. The approval process for the Visitor's Center has been going on and on and on. The Texas Department of Transportation, which is managing that process, has asked Federal Highways to make a determination as to whether or not a full EIS will be required or the environmental assessment that's underway now.

Again, there's some very stringent laws that are in place with the National Environmental Protection Act and the National Historic Preservation Act, to ensure that we comply with all efforts to protect the unique archeological sites. Commissioner Duggins has requested that the Commission send a letter to the two U.S. Senators from Texas, asking them to encourage the Federal Highways Administration to make a decision about the Visitor's Center and an effort to proceed with due haste and so he has a letter that I believe he'd like to submit. And would you like to add anything to that, Commissioner?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: No, I think you've covered it well. I do have the letter and would ask and would encourage each of us to sign it to Senators Cornyn and Hutchison ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes. Get it off.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: ‑‑ to encourage the FHA to move forward as promptly as possible ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Uh-huh.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: ‑‑ on consideration of that issue. Thank you. Any questions? That concludes my report, Mr. Chairman. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Are you going to pass it around and get people to sign it? I mean, how do you want to do it?

MR. SMITH: I have it right here and I'll pass it around right now.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. And we'll get ‑‑ we've got two Commissioners on here.

MR. SMITH: Yes. And we'll make sure that the Commissioners that are not here are given the opportunity to sign it. Yes.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: They can pass it tomorrow or something.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Item Number Two, Land Acquisition — Uvalde County — 110 Acres at Garner State Park — Permission to Begin the Public Notice and Input Process. Mr. Corky Kuhlmann.

MR. KUHLMANN: Good morning. For the record, Corky Kuhlmann with the Land Conservation Program. This is at Garner State Park, Uvalde County. You all are fairly familiar since we purchased a piece of property there not long ago, west of San Antonio. This is an acquisition at Garner and, as you well know, Garner is one of the most popular or the most popular park that we have in our system.

If you look on the map where it says Uvalde Addition, that's what you approved and we purchased and it closed in our system a few months ago. That purchase kind of created an irregular shape along our southern boundary so we went and visited with the two brothers that own the property to the west and that's what we're talking about today. It has about 2200 feet of Highway 83 frontage, about a half mile common boundary with the park. We do have it under contract for appraised value. We're negotiating for a right of first refusal. They still own about 400 more acres there and whatever mineral interests they own, we will acquire through the acquisition.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Where is this 440 then? Is it farther south? I mean, I don't know where we're looking.

MR. KUHLMANN: It is further south ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay.

MR. KUHLMANN: ‑‑ along 83 and just going south.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: But contiguous to this proposed.

MR. KUHLMANN: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Any questions or comments?

Okay. Good job, Corky. I will authorize staff to begin the public notice and input process.

Item Number Three is an Easement in Parker County for .2 acres at Lake Mineral Wells Trailway. Corky.

MR. KUHLMANN: For the record, Corky Kuhlmann. This is ‑‑ I'll talk till I get the PowerPoint up. We've ‑‑ Parker County is putting a loop road around Weatherford and they have requested an easement for us along a portion of the trailway. Lake Mineral Wells Trailways is right west of Fort Worth. The trailway is approximately 20 miles long and 100 foot wide, runs from Mineral Wells through the park and on to Weatherford and provides great opportunity for hikers, bicyclists and equestrian use. Parker County, like I said, is building a loop road around Weatherford. They plan to build a bridge over the trailway but also, along the trailway, there's an existing, in-use railroad track so they have to build a bridge over the existing in-use railroad track.

They had approached us about buying a portion of the trailway. Instead, we negotiated it down to an easement to where they're just going to extend the bridge and get completely over it except for a row of bridge columns that they're going to put on the trailway. Here's a little closer picture. The end of the trail is as shown there and connects to a city park and all our infrastructure is in place at that station and we don't have any future plans to extend the trail past that. But, if indeed we did, the easement just says 100-foot-by-450-foot long. That's a little misleading in that all they requested was 13 foot-by-450 foot.

And then the question came up, Well, if they're going to build a bridge over it anyway, we will grant them the total 100 foot of easement but they can only construct columns on the northern 13 foot, running along the length of the easement. Does that make sense to you? At any time in the future, if we ever decide to extend that trail, there's plenty of room.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: This is an old abandoned rail line, isn't it? That went over to Mineral Wells?

MR. KUHLMANN: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: It's abandoned. I mean, they're not using it now.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Right. That's how we got it

COMMISSIONER HOLT: They [inaudible] sell out?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yes. Any questions or comments? This is the motion you'll see before you tomorrow. Okay. If there are no further questions or comments, I'll place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Item Four, Purchase of a Utility Easement in Bastrop County, a tenth of an acre at Buescher State Park. Corky?

MR. KUHLMANN: For the record, Corky Kuhlmann. This is at Buescher State Park, right down the road, adjacent to ‑‑ a neighbor of Bastrop State Park. It is a utility easement. In our effort to hook all the parks that we can to municipal wastewater plants, we're going to require the acquisition of an easement at Buescher. The location of the easement will be for approximately 50 by 125 foot and, once again, it is to connect to Smithville Municipal Wastewater System. There was a ‑‑ the end of the arrow on the west side of the boundary shows you the approximate location of where the easement will be.

It's going to be ‑‑ the neighbor is less than friendly with the park so it might be a difficult negotiation. He has said that he would grant us one. It's in our best interest and from what I understand from the infrastructure project manager, it will save us hundreds of thousands of dollars to hook into that. So, what it's going to cost us right now is an unknown.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: If the neighbor is unreasonable in his or her or its demands, do we have the ability to use the condemnation process to set a fair price for the easement, or not?

MR. KUHLMANN: We, as an agency, don't go there.

That's my understanding. I have a feeling ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT: That's not our norm. I mean, not for something like this, particularly.

MR. KUHLMANN: I have a feeling that the gentleman ‑‑

(Simultaneous discussion.)

MR. KUHLMANN: I have a feeling he'll work with us but ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT: He might want to get a new chairman before we do all that. But we'll make sure that everybody has your address.

(Laughter.)

MR. KUHLMANN: I am confident we can work out a deal that would be beneficial to us and satisfy him because he doesn't need the money. But, I am confident we will work a deal with him that will work for us.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Any comments or questions? All right, I'll place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Number Five, Acceptance of Land Donation in Hidalgo County, one acre at the Taormina ‑‑ is that how you pronounce that?

MR. KUHLMANN: I was hoping you'd tell me how.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: ‑‑ and Chapote Units of the Las Palomas Wildlife Management Area. Corky.

MR. KUHLMANN: This is down in Hidalgo County and has to do with a couple of units of the Las Palomas Wildlife Management Area in the Valley, as you see there. This ‑‑ it's an approximate one-acre donation. If you see the little triangle, that's how the donation tract lies in relationship to the other units ‑‑ the units of Las Palomas. Here's a little close-up.

What it is is that we have had an agreement with the previous landowner forever to ‑‑ do you see the road on the pasture to the west or the left of the tract that runs through that triangle into the other field and dove hunters use that. The person ‑‑ the gentleman that bought the tract that runs from that yellow triangle south bought it. He's in the ‑‑ sand and gravel operator and he collects sand off the southern part of that. He didn't really have any use for it when we asked for permission to use that road. He said he'd give us the acre ‑‑ or give us enough land to cover that road. Essentially, I guess, to get it off the tax roll, because he has no use for it.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Any questions or comments? All right. I'll place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment.

Chairman Holt, this Committee has completed its duties.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: You're much faster than Bivins.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I know that.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay, as I said, there's no Executive Session scheduled for today. We'll recess for lunch at this time and give us time to eat, it's right about noon and then, after lunch, we will convene the Finance Committee.

(Whereupon, the Conservation Committee was adjourned at 11:55 a.m.)

C E R T I F I C A T E

MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Conservation Committee
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: May 26, 2010

I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 15, 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.

06/08/10
(Transcriber) (Date)
On the Record Reporting, Inc.
3307 Northland, Suite 315
Austin, Texas 78731


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