From: Scott Boruff <Scott.Boruff@tpwd.state.tx.us>
Date: July 15, 2012 7:20:35 PM CDT
To: Risher Gilbert <RGilbert@gilbertlf.com>
Cc: Deirdre Hisler <Deirdre.Hisler@tpwd.state.tx.us>, Corky Kuhlmann <Corky.Kuhlmann@tpwd.state.tx.us>, Ted Hollingworth <Ted.Hollingsworth@tpwd.state.tx.us>, Jeannie Munoz <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Review of TPWD land transaction list
To Whom It May Concern
Thanks for the opportunity to review the land transactions referenced in the document titled "The 837-acre West Transmountain Scenic Corridor Land: Why a Conservation Easement Is Necessary". All land transactions move through the Executive Office, and are subject to intensive review and analysis to insure that each transaction is consistent with the agency's mission " to manage and conserve the natural resources of Texas and to provide hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation opportunities for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations".
This list does reflect 57 land transactions completed by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department over the past 17 years. Each of these transactions resulted in a net gain for conservation, except for those very few that resulted from previous deed provisions or legislative direction. Examples include the transfer of 12 acres to the Union Pacific Railroad (an old abandoned rail track at Lake Mineral Wells State Park), pursuant to a deed provision that allowed the railroad to reclaim the track at any time. The Texas State Railroad was transferred by the Legislature to a newly created Railroad Authority.
The overwhelming majority of these transactions represent overall improvements for both conservation and recreation, and result in ongoing protection from development. Although rare, in those instances where TPWD transfers land to private ownership, strict protections are put in place to preclude development and other impacts to natural resources and view sheds. TPWD does not sell land that is contiguous to a park, and on those occasions where it makes sense to trade parcels to increase conservation and recreation value, once again, the trade envisions protections that preclude development. Most of the transactions on this list represent transfers and sales to other public or NGO entities that insure continued protection of the land, usually via reversion clauses or other deed mechanisms. At least a few represent extremely significant additions to the State Park system, such as the Big Bend addition of the 7,000 acre McCormick parcel. To suggest the 180 acre parcel transferred as a deed without warranty is a sale of parkland is just one example of using this data out of context.
In short, the agency's mission and strategic plan are very clear about the handling of our land inventory. We have a robust and thorough process to insure that we protect any land in perpetuity that we have owned and then transfer to improve conservation. On those rare occasions when we sell or transfer land out of the public domain, we do so with strict restrictions on development that comport with our mission to protect the State's natural resources.
Any suggestion that TPWD sells State Park land to use the money to support operations is not supported by the agency's long track record of stewardship and land protection. We are quite proud of these transactions, and would gladly provide more specifics. The fact is that any thoughtful and thorough review would dispel any perception that the agency sells parklands for development or to support operations.
Deputy Executive Director
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Monday, July 16, 2012
Breaking News on Conservation Fronts
Three pieces of breaking news:
City staff will present a "springing conservation easement" proposal to City Council tomorrow.
The PSB's recommendation for an alternate entrance to the State Park will also be presented and acted on.
The Mayor's Blue Ribbon Committee may have handed the development community a green light to build, build, build no matter how limited our water resources are.
Do see the attachment to City Council Agenda 10A-1. It is the presentation that staff will give with the above recommendation. Without a doubt, the new recommendation is very good news.
Add to this good news the following: There has been some question about the reliability of Texas Parks and Wildlife not to keep the land - to sell it instead. In an email dated July 15, 2012 to Risher Gilbert from Scott Boruff, the Deputy Executive Director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, assurances are given about TPWD to preserve land in perpetuity to fulfill the mission of the department. Concerns that there have been previous examples of sell-offs are addressed. Here's the email:
Finally, Carlos Gallinar told me today that the City has learned that the State Legislature does not have to approve the transfer - the Commission overseeing TPWD has that sole authority. With the strong recommendation of Dr. Cesar Mendez of the Franklin Mountains State Park, this recommendation is pretty much assured.
In addition to the above, Item 10A-2 is discussion and action on an alternative route into the park. Again, read the attachment. Staff will recommend the PSB's Alternate 1 as this blog has previously reported. This route has some added advantages of securing "saved" money for a workable animal corridor where the current culverts exist east of the current park entrance and a deer fence that will help direct animals (particularly Mule Deer) to the corridor and away from Transmountain Road.
Bottom line: good things are taking shape.
One piece of news that may lead to some pretty grim results is that the Mayor's Blue Ribbon Committee on the City's relationship with the PSB over land management voted this morning to recommend a 5 member committee to determine whether land was inexpedient. This committee will consist of the Mayor as Chair, two City Council members (supposedly chosen by the Mayor with the blessing of City Council) and the Chairman of the PSB and one other PSB member. The decision seemed to spring from a desire not so much for better communication between the City and the PSB, but from an attempt to further the expansion and growth of the City no matter how limited our water resources are. Based on the 5% average annual growth of the City, water supply estimates are only 30 to 50 years. 30 to 50 years!!! Yet one Council member present exclaimed that she didn't care what resources aren't there, "if a billion dollar industry wants to come to El Paso, we will make it happen." There are going to be many thirsty people in 30 to 50 years. The motion for the new committee was made by Ted "TxDOT" Houghton (whose "soul" incentive is growth, growth, growth, money, money, money) and sadly seconded by Open Space Advisory Board Chairman, Charlie Wakeem.
The excuse for this committee has been the lack of communication between the City and the PSB. I agree that something needed to be done. But the committee also recommended that the City's CFO and Deputy City Manager participate in PSB budget and strategic planning sessions. Communication is fixed by communication. Favoring development and developers with no concern for the rare (and getting rarer) resource of water is furthered by weakening the PSB, if they would only begin to be driven by the need to conserve the supply of water before being driven by maximizing land value (which they would do if they conserved more land and not fight conservationists as their CEO did with the NW Master Plan. The PSB and Archuleta should have been allies. Hopefully they will become more so and hopefully (though I doubt it) City Council will reject the Blue Ribbon Committee's recommendation for a new land management committee.
The best approach to the land management issue would have been the conservative one: maintain the status quo. The only thing needing fixing immediately was the piece about communication. That's solved by talking and by employing less autocratic leadership models.
Bye, bye bathwater. Bye, bye baby.