Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Conservation Committee Meeting
May 21, 2008Commission 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 May 2008, 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:
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION:
- Mark E. Bivins, Amarillo, Texas, Committee Chair
- Peter M. Holt, San Antonio, Texas, Chairman
- J. Robert Brown, El Paso, Texas
- Ralph H. Duggins, Fort Worth, Texas
- Antonio Falcon, MD, Rio Grande City, Texas
- T. Dan Friedkin, Houston, Texas, Vice Chairman
- Karen J. Hixon, San Antonio, Texas
- Margaret Martin, Boerne, Texas
- John D. Parker, Lufkin, Texas
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT:
- Carter P. Smith, Executive Director, and other personnel of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
P R O C E E D I N G S
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Due to the hour, and the fact that we have several items to discuss in executive session, I will stray from the agenda and go ahead and 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, and deliberations of a prospective gift or donation under Section 551.073 of the Open Meetings Act. Thank you.
(Whereupon, at 12:00 p.m., the meeting was recessed to executive session, to reconvene at 2:40 p.m.)
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: I would like to now reconvene the Conservation Committee portion of the meeting, and as we changed the order of the agenda slightly, I would now like to go back to the printed agenda, and the first order of business is the approval of the previous committee meeting minutes, which have already been distributed.
Is there a motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER BROWN: So move.
COMMISSIONER HIXON: Second.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Moved by Brown, second by Hixon. Let's see, all in favor please say aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: All opposed, same sign.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Hearing none, motion carries.
Committee Item Number 1, Land and Water Plan Update, Mr. Smith.
MR. SMITH: Okay. Thank you, Chairman. Just a couple of things. One, I want to remind everybody that Texas is hosting the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Annual Meeting in Corpus Christi October 12th through the 15th. That is a great and golden opportunity for us to showcase all of the wonderful fish and wildlife, law enforcement work that we have going on throughout the state.
And the 12th through the 15th we expect probably 800 professionals or so from around the Southeast to come to Texas and certainly hope that some or all of you can be there for that meeting. So more to come, there.
Other two things I wanted to talk about are ones that we've talked quite a bit about ‑‑ yes?
COMMISSIONER PARKER: October what?
MR. SMITH: Twelfth through the 15th, in Corpus Christi. Theme is, "Our Land, Our Water: Partnerships, New Partnerships in Wildlife Management."
The next thing or two things I want to talk about have to do with all of the really good work that our Inland Fisheries team has been doing on hydrilla control. That's been a big issue for us there at Lake Conroe; I think many of you have heard quite a bit from constituent groups over the years. Our team put together a two-year plan to control hydrilla, working in concert with the San Jacinto River Authority. I've had some really good success recently in terms of reducing hydrilla coverage from a little over 2,000 surface acres down to just a couple of hundred acres in the lake.
So really proud of that team and all of the work that everybody that's been working on it has seen come to fruition.
Along those lines, we have also recently received a grant from the Fish and Wildlife Service for about $425,000 to help us with additional aquatic invasive species control, in lakes in East Texas. Again, big challenge that you're going to hear more about in a presentation coming up. But just want everybody to know the work that's going on with our fisheries team, our law enforcement team, communication, everybody's really been focusing on that on those aquatic bodies.
So that's it for me. Thanks, Chairman.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Thank you. The ‑‑ Committee Item Number 2, Feral Animal Control, Mr. Scott Boruff.
MR. BORUFF: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, for the record, my name is Scott Boruff, Deputy Executive Director of Operations. I'm here today to figure out how to operate the machine ‑‑ there it is ‑‑ here today to give you a briefing on the agency's policies and activities related to the management of exotic and feral animals.
Most of you are probably aware, and particularly for those Commissioners who are relatively new to the agency, that from time to time we get feedback from the community relative to some of our practices and last November we had an incident out in West Texas on Big Bend Ranch State Park, with some complaints coming in about our management of feral burros out there.
So this briefing was really prompted by that, but we thought it would be important to let you know what our issues are with not only burros ‑‑ I'll figure it out in a minute, but all feral and exotic animals.
Obviously exotic species are those that have been introduced into our properties, and by the way this is a briefing on how we manage on our properties, not on private property in Texas.
And then feral animals are those individual animals that have been domesticated at one point but have been released and have reverted to the wild state.
The most common problems we have around the state in terms of looking at the broad spectrum of properties that we have are with feral hogs. And I'm not going to spend a lot of time on that. I think it's important to know that feral hogs are pretty common around the state now; we do have hog problems in virtually every state park and wildlife management area that we work in. The further east and south you go, the more problem you have. There's not quite as much problem out in West Texas, but they're beginning to show up in West Texas too.
And we have feral goats scattered around the state that we have to try to manage, and we have aoudad sheep which are not feral but are an exotic species that have been introduced, primarily out in West Texas. And then of course the burros, which have been the subject of some feedback we've received lately.
I do want to do something I don't usually do here. I want to read real briefly the three goals in our strategic plan, and I'm talking about the operational strategic plan, the Land and Water Conservation and Recreation Plan that direct us to manage these feral and exotic species.
Goal Number 2 is ‑‑ it reads "to conserve, manage agency sites for recreational opportunities biodiversity and cultural heritage in Texas"; Goal Number 5 reads, "to enhance the quality of hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation, which includes restoring aquatic and terrestrial habitats where feasible, to sustain and enhance healthy ecosystems"; and Goal Number 7, which is, "to maintain and/or improve quality and quantity of water to support the fish, wildlife and recreation of Texans."
Those goals are all relative to the long-standing agency policy that has been established by the agency for a couple of decades now, to try to manage these feral and exotic animals in our properties to reach those particular goals.
The major impacts that these kind of feral animals have to the ecosystems that I've just described is that, many times they out-compete native species for limited resources, and that certainly has been the case, if you want to discuss the burros in particular in West Texas.
I'm going to take the time at the end of the presentation to share with you a brief, five-minute video that was produced by the Navy on some of their desert properties, to just demonstrate visually how impactful burros can be.
They very often contaminate riparian areas and particularly water sources that are very rare and unique in desert environments; they often damage cultural resources, because historically those cultural resources are found in close proximity to water for obvious reasons.
They're ‑‑ they promote soil erosion by overgrazing plant communities, particularly near the water sources, and they do spread diseases.
I will let you know that we do not have line item funding for feral or exotic animals. These are activities that are opportunistic on each one of our areas, so whether you're talking about a wildlife management area or a state park or even fish hatcheries on occasion, because they do also have problems with hogs, we don't have a line item that says, "Here's some money to go out and take care of these feral animals."
We expect the staff to do that in a reasonable fashion, and a professional fashion, but it's something that's done opportunistically when the opportunity arises.
We use tools all the way on one end of the spectrum from live trapping to the other end of the spectrum which is lethal removal. We do many times, for example, encourage public hunting opportunities, for example with hogs, most of our areas where you go out and you heard earlier about some of the hunting that goes on in state parks; we also have that hunting in wildlife management areas.
Many times when those folks go out there, we encourage them, when the opportunity arises, to take hogs. But the lethal removal has been something that we've taken some feedback from, and I'll share with you in a minute what the feedback revealed.
One of the things I want to share with you is that, since this came up in the state park, in Big Bend Ranch State Park relative to the burros last November is when this kind of came up again. The division, the state parks division has a very comprehensive set of policies and procedures relative to the way they remove these animals.
And for example you cannot just ‑‑ nobody, the staff has to be certified in the use of a particular firearm, before they can use that firearm to lethally remove exotic and feral animals on state parks.
And so those folks have to have gone through a course where they're certified to be accurate, and know how to use that weapon in order to minimize any potential for wounding and allowing that animal to suffer. So we're very conscientious about removing these animals in a humane fashion when we do so.
These are just some examples. We got problems with aoudads at Palo Duo, Devil's River and Big Bend Ranch which I've already described; hogs are pretty much widespread across the agency's lands but we have particular problems right now at Government Canyon and Somerville; out at Colorado Bend there's quite a big herd of feral goats; and then what prompted this briefing is the burro issue out at Big Bend Ranch State Park.
When the issue flared up in November about the removal of the burros in Big Bend Ranch State Park we thought it was a good idea at that point to temporarily suspend the lethal removal of those animals until we could have an opportunity to give the public some chance to give us feedback about alternative methods for removal.
We also then went through a thorough review of state parks procedures on the removal of these animals, and we've made sure that we thought those were appropriate, which by and large they were; we may do a couple of minor tweaks.
Probably most significantly, we partnered with an animal rescue, in fact a burro rescue group out of California that has some experience doing live trapping of burros around the country, and were not particularly optimistic that they would have significant impacts given the rugged terrain at Big Bend Ranch State Park, and in fact we checked with them just this morning: they've been out there about three or four months making efforts to live-trap burros, and they have captured zero burros in three or four months.
So we are going to continue with that program, and I don't want to suggest prematurely that it's unsuccessful, it's just a difficult activity in that rugged of a terrain, to try to capture animals that have become wild and are free-roaming out there.
Obviously, we don't have a lot of fences out there, so that adds to the problem. Those animals are free to move wherever they want to move, and they don't hang around when people are out there very much.
We've also hosted five and soon to be six statewide meetings, where we went out to San Antonio, Austin, Richardson, El Paso and Presidio, and we will be going to Houston I believe next week, just to give folks an opportunity to tell us what they think we might could be doing better or differently.
I'll let you know some of the examples: in San Antonio we had two people show up. One was slightly opposed and one had nothing better to do, so they came to the meeting.
MR. BORUFF: In Austin, five folks showed up; we had two of those folks were in favor of us using lethal methods, one was against and two were neutral. And Richardson, four people showed up, two were for and two were neutral; in El Paso, one person showed up, and they were against us using lethal. Presidio was the highest turnout; we had 25 people show up in Presidio. Twenty-three of those people were from Terlingua; there was an individual in Terlingua that kind of organized an effort to make sure that his and his peers, you know, perspectives were heard by us, and so they did show up, 25 of them, and most of those were against use of lethal methods.
We did get some recommendations ranging anywhere from birth control pills for the burros to trapping, which of course we're trying to do, so we took it seriously, and I don't mean to minimize the seriousness with which the agency approached this; I mean we do serve lots of constituents out there, there are people that don't approve of us using lethal means to remove these feral animals, and we thought it was appropriate to listen to them and to try to come up with solutions that addressed their concerns, and that's what we will continue to try to do.
Before I take questions, I would like to show you this brief video. It's kind of an old video, it was done 15 or 20 years ago, by the Department of the Navy at China Lake in California which is out in the Mojave Desert; it was actually a range that they used for target practice and those kind of things. But they have had and continue to have serious problems with the burros out there, and ultimately because of some of the same kind of feedback they were getting back then, put together this film to demonstrate the kind of damage that a burro does in the desert. So I'd ask the folks to put that video up.
MR. BORUFF: In conclusion, Commissioners, I'd like to say two things just so you are fully informed, here. The original complaint back in November was that there was a cruelty to animal complaint that we were shooting animals and allowing them to wander off and die in bad circumstances.
And the second part of the complaint was that staff from Austin were going out there and hunting these animals. We took this complaint seriously, we take those kind of complaints seriously; that's one of the reasons we immediately put the stop to this activity until we could do further investigation.
We referred that immediately, in fact the very day that I got the call I consulted with Mr. McCarty and we made the recommendation to internal affairs, we stopped all those lethal removal activities out there, and internal affairs conducted a very thorough investigation; sent a couple of investigators out, I think the very next day, spent a couple of weeks, three weeks investigating thoroughly and found no substantiation to the complaint about animal cruelty, or to the complaint that they were being hunted for sport by the Austin staff.
The circumstances that led to that particular set of complaints had more to do, I think, with the fact that we were undergoing a very rigorous review of the new public use plan in Big Bend Ranch State Park; we did have some senior Austin staff out there at that time, trying to help get that plan implemented, working with the local politicians as well as the state parks, Big Bend Ranch Advisory Board that was out there at that time.
And so, you know, the opportunity presented itself, and there were some animals shot; there was no evidence those animals were treated inhumanely; there was no evidence that there was any effort to go hunting. It just so happened people were out there from Austin at the same time, and, yes, some people from Austin did participate in removing with lethal means some of those burros.
Bottom line, it was thoroughly investigated. You may continue to get some complaints from folks. We'd be glad to share any of that information that you'd like, but it was ‑‑ and I will remind you that internal affairs does not report to me, so this was not something that I had any control over; but we did take it seriously, about moving that into internal affairs and making sure that we didn't find any evidence of any cruelty to animals, or inappropriate hunting by any of our staff.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: What size herd do you estimate that we have on the park, and then, you know, what is our ultimate goal? Is it to remove all burros from the park?
MR. BORUFF: Commissioner Brown, we don't have a good number. Our best guesstimate at this point is about 400 animals. I will tell you that I just got information today that the Department of Public Safety is going to be going out to the ranch to look at in the wake of our implementation of the new public use plan, they're going to be out there to look at some sites where they might could land a helicopter in case somebody gets hurt in a back-country spot or something like that.
We've asked them to do a survey, while those helicopters are out there, at no additional expense to us or them, with our staff with them, to try to do a survey to get a better handle on the total number of animals out there. But it's probably several hundred, from 300 to 500 is what we're guessing.
But these are very wild animals in very remote locations, and so for us to get a hard number's been pretty difficult. We don't have any ‑‑ we don't hold out any hope that we would ever eradicate such a population of wild animals in such rugged terrain; we don't use words, at least we try not to use words like "eradicate" because we don't think that's realistic.
We do think it's important, not just at Big Bend Ranch but at all our facilities, to try to manage those animals the best we can. We do for example have a strong intention to expand our bighorn sheep restoration program, to the Big Bend Ranch State Park; it's probably the next major site that we have.
Burros in and of themselves don't present a threat to bighorn sheep, but as you saw in the slide and as you heard, they do compete, and many times out-compete native species, including bighorn sheep for limited resources, particularly water.
And so while I think it would be an overstatement to say, you have to get rid of the burros in order to reinstate the bighorn sheep, it's an important component. The aoudads are just as dangerous if not more dangerous to the bighorn sheep restoration program, and I'd say the same thing there. We will have to manage down the numbers of aoudads as well as the number of burros in that park before I think our bighorn sheep experts would be comfortable letting it become the next release site.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Any other comments from ‑‑
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Thank you very much, Scott ‑‑
MR. BORUFF: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: — for clarifying that issue, and I will say that feral species I think are going to be something that we're dealing with on an increasing number of times in the future, and I'll also say that although the numbers in West Texas aren't anywhere near what they are in South Texas, they're definitely on the increase, and they are becoming quite a nuisance. So ‑‑
MR. BORUFF: And as an invasive species, as you know, I didn't speak to the plant issue here. You're going to hear, right after me, I think, a presentation from our Wildlife and Fisheries Divisions about the invasive species that are on the plant side of the picture.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Sure. Thank you very much.
MR. BORUFF: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Let's see, Item Number 3, Nuisance Vegetation Update. Dr. Earl Chilton and Ms. Kelly Bender.
DR. CHILTON: Mr. Chairman, other members of the Commission, my name is Earl Chilton, for the record. This is Kelly Bender. What we'd like to do today is give you a brief update on invasive species issues and activities around the state, including some specific hot spots.
The first hot spot I'd like to talk about is Lake Conroe, Mr. Smith's already mentioned that. As you can see from this slide, this is what hydrilla looked like on Lake Conroe just a few years ago; about 20 years ago or a little over, in the early '80s, hydrilla covered almost half of Lake Conroe and it was a very serious issue. The stocking of 270,000 grass carp basically eliminated that problem at that time, and Lake Conroe remained hydrilla-free for the next 13, 14 years.
But it started to come back in the mid-'90s, and we kept it under control, as I said, the last briefing for the first nine years or so, with herbicides. But due to the fact that hydrilla is actually been measured to grow up to four inches a day, herbicides alone really weren't able to take care of the problem after a while, and we determined it was time to try to use grass carp again.
Well, before the use of grass carp had been such a divisive issue that we knew we couldn't just develop a plan and put grass carp in there. What we wanted to do is, meet with the constituents first; we met with angling groups that had opposed the use of grass carp before, and explained to them why we wanted to use them.
We met with the property owners and explained the kind of methodology we wanted to use, because in the past, this issue had actually led to legal action as well as legislative action before it was resolved.
As a result, we founded the Lake Conroe Advisory Board, and we meet with them on a regular basis. We developed a two-year management plan as Mr. Carter said, which began in ‑‑ I mean, Mr. Smith, which began in 2006. This plan was based upon the methodology we used in Lake Austin, which was incremental stockings of triploid or sterile grass carp, in conjunction with vegetation surveys, over a two-year period.
As you can see on this slide ‑‑
DR. CHILTON: — you can see on this slide, over the first two years we got a steady increase in hydrilla despite the fact that we were incrementally stocking grass carp; that is actually what we expected, that's what we saw in Lake Austin, and we felt that the hydrilla was going to drop out after about two years, and in fact it did, almost two years ‑‑ almost within two weeks of what we predicted it fell out.
We went from over 2,000 acres to just over 300 acres, in a period of about a month and a half. Currently, we have ‑‑ we probably have less than 300 acres in the lake ‑‑ we are going to conduct another survey later this month ‑‑ and obviously continue our efforts with the property owners, the angling groups, to keep this situation under control.
We've pledged $25,000 for habitat restoration should all the vegetation be eliminated from the lake, because we want to maintain good fishing habitat; Lake Conroe's become quite a fishery in that part of the state.
So you can see the areas that were primarily infested with hydrilla included these three coves, and unfortunately these two coves I'm telling you about there are also the coves that have the highest property values, that are the most developed; so that's really the issue on Lake Conroe.
Toledo Bend in 1998 was infested with a floating fern called Salvinia molesta. And Salvinia molesta has the ability to double in population size basically about once a week. And valued in 1998, we kept it under control with herbicides and with favorable lake fluctuations, Mother Nature helped us, but in the ‑‑ between 2003 and 2004, the giant salvinia population exploded from 150 acres to over 3,000 acres in one year.
Within the next year it expanded another 2,000 acres, and favorable lake fluctuations as well as herbicide treatments have kept it from exploding any more, but we still have excessive populations of giant salvinia on the lake that affect boater access, skiing, swimming, and so forth.
So we're going to keep that under control; we've put a giant salvinia weevil in the lake as well, it's a biocontrol that's proven to be effective basically everywhere it's been used around the world. But where it's been used is usually in tropical areas, and we're just a little bit above that, so we're still waiting to see exactly how effective that is going to be.
The Rio Grande is infested with quite a few invasive species. The one in your upper left-hand corner is a water hyacinth. In the late '90s and early 2000s, water hyacinth infested about 100 miles of the Rio Grande. And that's actually the main channel of the Rio Grande back then, and that same 100 miles was also infested with water lettuce, you see that in the lower left, and with hydrilla, we've seen images of that from Lake Conroe.
We were able to maintain control of these species in 2003, gained control with the use of herbicides, with Mother Nature again who gave us rain, and with mechanical harvesters, as well as triploid grass carp.
Those issues are, or seem to be under control for the time being. But right now, the problem that's causing us the most pain on the Rio Grande is the giant reed. It's the plant in the upper right-hand corner of your screen; it's exploded from about 10,000 acres a few years ago to close to 100,000 acres now.
Estimates are that it probably uses about three times as much water as native vegetation; the USDA is working on a number of biological controls for that. And ‑‑ but those have to be approved by both Canada and Mexico, they submit what's called a document to a technical advisory group composed of the United States, Mexico and Canada. I actually wrote the section on alternative methods of control for this plant, and we're hoping to get at least one of the bugs registered and approved this year.
Typically we use either biological controls, mechanical harvesters or herbicides to control invasive weeds in the aquatic environment. However, because mechanical harvesters and shredders are generally not as cost-effective as the other two methods, it usually comes down to either herbicides or biological controls, and therein lies the problem.
There's usually a conflict between the people that want to use the herbicides versus those that want to use biological controls. Basically herbicides tend to work quicker, the argument for herbicides, they work quicker, they're more reliable. That's the argument. You don't have to introduce any new organisms into the environment that could potentially get out of control; they're easy to use because most people understand how to use herbicides from around their homes; and you can put them exactly where you want them.
On the biological control side, once you introduce the organisms, they're in there, for ‑‑ probably for a few years, and if they're reproducing organisms they can stay there, so they're ultimately it may be cheaper, although the results are less certain, because in some cases biological controls may take years to work, and they still won't get rid of the plant.
In some cases they do, though, so it's ‑‑ it depends on the plant, it depends on the biological control. The other plus for biological controls is that no chemicals are introduced into the environment. But people do complain that their use is complicated because typically it's associated with some research and some monitoring to make sure that they're not eating anything else and haven't gotten out of control.
Well, in order to help us manage invasive species in both the aquatic environment and in the terrestrial environment, we've formed the Texas Invasive Species Coordinating Committee. It's to facilitate information exchange among state agencies, and really, to try to help us get federal funding as well.
The agencies that are involved are TPWD, the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board, the Texas Department of Agriculture, TCEQ, the Texas Forest Service, the Texas Department of Transportation, Texas AgriLife, which used to be the Extension Service, and the Texas Water Development Board.
Additionally, we have formed a new organization called the Texas IPC, or Invasive Plant Council; it's more of a nonprofit organization. Our department is also involved in three regional panels of the National Invasive Species Task Force; we're heavily involved in the Gulf and South Atlantic States Regional Panel, the Western Regional Panel, and the Mississippi River Basin Regional Panel.
I'll let Kelly update you now on the terrestrial side.
MS. BENDER: All right. Good afternoon, Commissioners. I'm Kelly Bender. I'm a Texas Parks and Wildlife urban wildlife biologist; it's good to be here.
Now, you've heard about the burros, you've heard about the aquatic plants and now you're going to hear about the terrestrial plants. I'm sure you understand by now that invasive exotic plant infestation or organism infestation is one of the most serious ecological threats, or threats to ecosystem health, as well as opportunities for outdoor recreation, present today.
So this presentation is going to be examining three examples of some of the exotic species, some of the worst of the worst that we have here in Texas, as examples of what potential ecological harm they can cause, as well as prevention of outdoor recreation.
We're also going to review quickly the legislative authority granted to agencies in Texas, who's responsible for these species and how do we deal with them; and look at our proactive actions, Texas Parks and Wildlife's actions in dealing with the invasive species problem, particularly terrestrial plants.
So let's start with those three worst of the worst species: saltcedar, a Tamarix species; there are several of them. They were introduced in the 1800s as an ornamental shade tree; they are also used as erosion control, and were used quite successfully for a number of years until we realized in about the 1920s that they pose a significant threat to ecosystem health.
What they do is, they put down an extraordinarily long taproot, about 150 feet long; they're able to submerse their roots into the underground water supply, unlike other species, and actually lower the water table. And in this way they're able to out-compete other native species like the willows and the cottonwoods, in riparian areas.
And so they eliminate their competition, and then come in and infest an area. To put this in perspective, a heavily infested area can actually use as much as twice the annual consumption of water for a moderately sized city. The numbers to that are 200 gallons a day, evapor-transporated from the ground to the air; to put that into further perspective a human being typically uses that amount of water in a month. So they're thirstier than we are.
It is statewide listed as a noxious species through Texas Department of Agriculture, it is controlled, and it is controlled in both biological methods as well as mechanical and herbicide methods. And one of the most promising is the saltcedar leaf beetle; these are native to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, which is where the, also where the saltcedar is native. The only known host plant for the saltcedar leaf beetle is the Tamarix set of species.
This is the one that just kills ‑‑that means the most to me; this is Chinese tallow. It was introduced in 1772 by Ben Franklin, bless his heart ‑‑
MS. BENDER: — as an ornamental species. It has beautiful fall foliage, and is well utilized by birds, and it is utilized in ‑‑ it is highly adaptable, so it does very well in just about any landscape.
Unfortunately, that's where the problem is. While it tends to like riparian areas best, it does well in just about any area, and out-competes, creating a monoculture, and that is, a single species stand of Chinese tallow.
Why is this a problem? In the Gulf states, and let's look at Galveston County in particular, since 1970, the area of monoculture in that one county has gone from five acres in 1970 to today, over 30,000 acres, in that one county. It's pretty widespread.
Why is it something that we worry about? Of course, we never as wildlife managers want to see a monoculture of any one species; it inhibits diversity. But in this particular case also, it changes the soil chemistry; as the leaves fall from the tree and begin to decay in the soil, it changes the soil chemistry such that other plants can't germinate. So it not only does it ‑‑ is it an aggressive spreader, but it also inhibits other species.
Not only other plant species, but as I was doing some research looking at how bad this guy really is, I found that it actually inhibits or it increases mortality of tadpoles. So you're not going to hear a whole lot of frogs in a Chinese tallow stand.
This is especially disconcerting because Chinese tallow tends to form monocultures in wet areas, which is also where frogs like to be.
How do you control it? If you're interested, it's hard. It keeps coming back. You can't plow it, because it re-sprouts. But if you do burn it a couple of times, you will get a pretty good handle on it. Also basal spraying of triclopyr or ‑‑
DR. CHILTON: Glyphosate?
MS. BENDER: — glyphosate, thank you, is about 90 to 99 percent effective if used repeatedly. All right.
The old world bluestems were introduced in the 1930s as an improved or a grass for improved pastureland, improved, if I still did air quotes, I'd do "improved" pastureland because it has a tendency to aggressively spread.
It's a warm season perennial, and instead of forming a bunch grass system, which is what's native here, those little blue stems and sideouts grama and Indian grass, which is native here, it forms a turf, which is a very densely vegetated area that doesn't allow grassland nesting birds or other wildlife to move through it and among it.
So it drastically changes the ecosystem. A lot of people see it and they think, you know, one grass is as good as another for a dickcissel or a quail or a Houston Toad. But it turns out that they ‑‑ it is a very significant change to the environment, such that if you look at ‑‑ if you compare an old CRP with native species in it, and an old world bluestem pasture, you'd see significantly fewer not only grassland-nesting birds, but also arthropods, which are the crickets and the grasshoppers that they're feeding on.
So not only does it not provide them a nesting ‑‑ a place to nest, it also doesn't provide them food on the table.
Okay, so it's gotten about as bad is it can get. Right? So who's responsible? Just to review, there's a shared legislative authority between Texas Parks and Wildlife and Texas Department of Agriculture. Texas Parks and Wildlife prohibits or regulates fish, shellfish and aquatic plants as Earl has been speaking about earlier.
Texas Department of Agriculture has legislative authority over the sale and transport of noxious weeds and invasive species, and prohibits those.
However, there's a list of ‑‑ 13, do you remember? Fourteen?
DR. CHILTON: Non-invasive, permitted plants?
MS. BENDER: I'm sorry, yes. Okay. Somewhere around 13 or 14 invasive species, whereas we actually know that there are known, 25,000 species across the U.S. that have escaped cultivation. So they are dealing with the worst of the worst; there are a lot more out there.
So what is Parks and Wildlife doing about it? In 2005, staff from Coastal Fisheries, Inland Fisheries and Wildlife came together to form an ad hoc working group or committee to define, well, what exactly is it that we're dealing with, what species are ‑‑ do we have in Texas that we should be looking at.
So we defined about 400 different species that were known to have escaped cultivation here in Texas, and then we categorized them by whether they were known to be noxious, whether they were known not to be invasive, or whether they were simply, we didn't know enough about them to categorize them one way or the other.
In doing so, we hoped to inform future Texas Parks and Wildlife activities as well as our partner agencies' activities in planning eradication or control efforts in the future.
As Earl mentioned earlier, we've also become involved, and Earl's been instrumental in developing the Texas Invasive Species Coordinating Committee, it's developed with eight state agencies through an MOA, and continues to be a great source of information exchange, as well as an opportunity to explore funding opportunities federally.
Finally, we've just recently provided additional funding for a citizen science effort called the Texas Invaders. It's through the Pulling Together Initiative, and you can find more about it at texasinvasives.org, and it is a citizen science program where we empower and provide training and recruitment and materials for citizens throughout the State of Texas, to collect data on invasive species that they are ‑‑ they know of in their own area.
And this way we can collect much more data than would ordinarily have been possible with our own staff. Also, they download their data onto a ‑‑ or upload their data onto an online resource where we're able to validate it, use the data for analysis and also map the data as well.
This was ‑‑ I should mention this was funded through a generous grant through the Wildlife Diversity Conservation Grant, which is the horned lizard money that was recently released.
So that's it. The invasive species continue to be a particular problem in Texas and throughout the United States; we hope to be able to utilize these actions to continue to plan, eradicate and control invasive species for the benefit of terrestrial ecosystems as well as aquatic ecosystems. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Kelly ‑‑
MS. BENDER: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: — is there any means to disseminate this information that you're gathering other than the website that you ‑‑ or the link that you included, that ‑‑ for private landowners to be able to benefit from the progress in our control of these species? I mean, these ‑‑ especially on the aquatic side, a lot of the impounded lakes on private lands are suffering from the same ‑‑
MS. BENDER: Absolutely.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: — infestations, and so, you know, to be able to share this information with the private sector I think is important.
MS. BENDER: Absolutely.
Do you want to address that with the IPC? Okay.
DR. CHILTON: We have developed a number of brochures, including brochures that explain how to identify some species; there's quite a bit of literature out there. The problem is just disseminating it, and ‑‑
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: And are these chemicals ones that, if you did want to apply them privately, I mean, would you need a license to purchase them ‑‑
DR. CHILTON: There's only one that you need to have a license for; it's ‑‑ you're talking about an aquatic environment?
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Right.
DR. CHILTON: 2-4D is the only one that you really need to have a license for.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Okay.
DR. CHILTON: And you can get 2-4D that's diluted at Wal-Mart, but it's not the same ‑‑
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Sure.
DR. CHILTON: — so. But if you want to do it in an aquatic system, you have to be a certified pesticide applicator. Glad to say, the other ones you don't have to.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Thank you. Any other ‑‑
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Mr. Chairman?
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Yes.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Dr. Chilton, for instance on the Toledo, what sort of cooperation are we getting out of the State of Louisiana? Are they helping with the giant salvinia effort?
DR. CHILTON: They are trying. They ‑‑ recently they've, my understanding is, recently they are, the state agency, was it, Louisiana Fish and Game has been allocated extra money for giant salvinia, but they have infestations that are much worse elsewhere in the state, most of that money is going somewhere else.
The Louisiana side of the Sabine River Authority is putting up money; they're doing spraying on their side of the river, at least that's what the Texas people are telling me, and so the Texas Sabine River Authority and the Louisiana Sabine River Authority are working together.
The Texas side is actually ‑‑ gives us about $100,000 a year for work on Toledo Bend. We are actually also working with Louisiana on Caddo Lake as well, with the salvinia infestation there.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I didn't understand whether or not the information that you say is in brochures to help folks identify the various species, is that available on the Parks and Wildlife website as well?
DR. CHILTON: Most of that information is, yes. They can download it, it's PDF files, they can ‑‑
MS. BENDER: Right.
DR. CHILTON: — download it and print it out if they want.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Is there also information on how you can treat it, what you can use to address it or where you might go for ‑‑
DR. CHILTON: Yes, one of the brochures I wrote myself, that's got information about how to treat ‑‑
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Is that information on the website ‑‑
DR. CHILTON: Yes, it is.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: — yes.
MS. BENDER: I should say also, there are publications through the Wildlife Diversity Program on terrestrial invasive species as well. And we focus on providing alternatives, especially for folks in urban areas, when they're choosing their landscaping, because many of these, about 85 percent of these terrestrial species were actually imported as ornamental species.
So we're trying to discourage it at the source.
DR. CHILTON: Aside from the, we should mention, aside from the brochures, we have a guidance document that's also on our website, and there's information, biological information about a number of the aquatic species, and not only the herbicides but the pros and the cons of using the different herbicides. So there's quite a bit of information on our website about that.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Any other comments? Discussion?
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: If none, thank you both for your presentations ‑‑
DR. CHILTON: Thank you.
MS. BENDER: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Committee Item Number 4 has been addressed in executive session. Committee Item Number 5, Land Donation, Williamson County, 6.18 Acres at Twin Lakes County Park. Mr. Corky Kuhlmann.
MR. KUHLMANN: For the record, Corky Kuhlmann with the Land Conservation Program. This item is one we saw last session. It's in Williamson County, Twin Lakes County Park. This park is right south of Cedar Park, between Cedar Park and Jollyville.
It involves 50 acres that was given to us by legislative mandate during the 70th Legislature to be deeded or leased to Williamson County, as a county park. Now TxDOT has 6.18 acres more that they wish to become part of that park, but want to deed it to us, the easiest transfer to them to be leased to Williamson County as part of the same park.
As you can see in the hatch line it is an inholding within the 50 acres, that is already leased from Parks and Wildlife to Williamson County. This is the request that if you put it on tomorrow's agenda for public comment and action, and I'll be glad to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Any questions?
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Hearing none, I'll place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action. Thank you, Corky.
Committee Item Number 6, Land Acquisition, Walker County, approximately four acres at Huntsville State Park. Once again?
MR. KUHLMANN: Again for the record, Corky Kuhlmann. This is an item in Huntsville State Park, Parker County, Texas. This park is south of Huntsville on I-45 between Huntsville and Conroe. This item is ‑‑ regards an acquisition of four to five acres of land. The land that we're talking about is a strip of land running from the state park to a sewer lift station, and a near subdivision. It's a 40-foot strip that we need to purchase to hook Huntsville State Park up to municipal services. It's ‑‑ runs through a piece of property managed by Timbervest Management Property, a company and corporation out of Atlanta, Georgia. We had gone to the national or the state ‑‑ well, if you see north or northeast of that line, of the acquisition line, is Sam Houston National Forest, we've visited with those folks about getting an easement there.
They have specifically written in their management plan prohibiting any wastewater lines running through national forest. We had tried to buy an easement; the timber management company was more willing to sell us the land than to sell us an easement. You can see the relationship of the line and the proposed acquisition to the entire park; we'll buy a 40-foot strip approximately 4500 feet long; it will be between four and five acres of land.
This will enable us to hook to Huntsville municipal water and wastewater. I did get one email this morning from a citizen in Huntsville stating, and I might want to back up a second, stating that he approved of us hooking and the city working with this city to hook up to municipal water and wastewater service, and his recommendation was that we use this corridor also as a trail system through the state park, through the subdivision back to the national park, which is feasible, and we've already spoken with the Huntsville city officials about using this utility corridor as a trail system also. I'd be happy to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Any questions, from ‑‑
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Hearing none, I will place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.
MR. KUHLMANN: Thanks.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Thank you.
Committee Item Number 7, Pipeline Easement, Orange County, Tony Houseman Wildlife Management Area, Ted.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good afternoon. My name is Ted Hollingsworth, I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This item pertains to the granting of an easement for the installation of a 24-inch carbon dioxide pipeline across the Tony Houseman Wildlife Management area, also known as Blue Elbow Swamp.
It's on I-10, just north of the City of Orange as you can see in this map. You can see in this map that it does cross swamp; you can see there are closed canopy forest areas, as well as some wetland areas. There is an existing pipeline right-of-way, at this location; the new pipeline would require widening that existing easement by approximately 15 feet. Staff is currently negotiating terms and conditions both for initial impact assessment and for the long term easement compensation to Parks and Wildlife for that.
We would ask GLO to actually issue the easement because it is such a large pipeline, and they have a very good system in place for recording those, tracking those and notifying us when they cycle and are due for renewal.
Approximately 325 rods in length, currently our standard rate for such pipeline is $30 per rod per year; that would be in addition to the initial impact assessment.
The impacts would be temporary, most of that pipeline or right-of-way easement is allowed to re-vegetate naturally. I'd be happy to answer any questions. Staff recommends that this item be read tomorrow as an action item to proceed with issuance of the lease, of the easement. Yes?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: What's the basis of the $30 per rod fee?
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: It's about half again what the market will bear. It's just ‑‑ we have looked at the fees charged by the General Land Office for their lands, University of Texas charge on their lands, charged on private lands, and we have approximately doubled that; and what we've found through negotiating pipelines and easements across a number of wildlife management areas and state parks is that, we believe that is about as much as we can possibly ‑‑ I don't mean to be crass, but that's about as much as we can possibly squeeze out of these easement negotiations.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So what are we talking about?
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: It would be a total of $9,000 ‑‑
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Seven hundred ‑‑
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Nine, yes ‑‑
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: $9,750.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: ‑‑ dollars per year. I would also say that we also reserve the option in these easements, to negotiate compensation in terms of goods and services, in this particular case we are looking at some adjacent conservation lands, you saw in the map that there are adjacent undeveloped lands.
In this case, the pipeline company is being quite cooperative and may actually purchase, use that projected revenue to purchase additional land for addition to the wildlife management area; we explore options other than cash, in these cases.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And does the pipeline have the right to abandon the pipeline?
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: There are provisions in the easement language. Language has not been written; usually we reserve the right to require that if the pipeline is abandoned it be removed; we don't normally do that because that's normally more destructive of habitat than leaving it in place, but we normally reserve that option in case we have concerns about contamination or corrosion or other issues; erosion associated with the pipeline and so forth.
We normally reserve that right.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Is that planned for this particular right-of-way agreement?
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: We are not to that point; the language has not been drafted. I think we may have someone in Wildlife from that region that could address that, though.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: No, sir. I guess we don't.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Is there any reason not to at least have the option to require ‑‑
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: We normally reserve that option. Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Any other comments?
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Hearing none, I will place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.
Regarding Committee Item Number 4, Right-of-Way San Saba and Lampasas Counties, Colorado Bend State Park, this item was dealt with in executive session and I will authorize staff to begin the public notice and input process.
Committee Item Number 8, Land Acquisition, Brewster County, 20 acres at Big Bend Ranch State Park. Again, Ted.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, my name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This item is a recommendation from staff to acquire by purchase a 20-acre inholding, inside Big Bend Ranch State Park. It is a tract that is in a section accessible by road; staff finds that failure to acquire this tract could result in development of the tract in the future.
Staff has negotiated a contract at fair market value, and ‑‑ from a willing seller, and the recommendation is the item be placed on tomorrow's agenda for consideration as an action item. I'd be happy to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Any questions or discussion?
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Hearing none, I'll place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action. I'd invite you, Ted to relax with us at the table while I take care of these others.
Agenda Item Number 9, Land Exchange, Harris County, LaPorte Regional Office. I will authorize staff to begin the public notice and input process.
Agenda Item Number 10, Land Exchange, Aransas County, the Big Tree at Goose Island State Park, I will authorize staff to begin the public notice and input process.
Agenda Item Number 11, Grant of Easement, Aransas County, Goose Island State Park. I will authorize staff to begin public notice and input process.
Agenda Item Number 12, Land Exchange, Bandera and Medina Counties, Hill Country State Natural Area. I will authorize staff to begin public notice and input process.
Agenda Item Number 13, Palo Duro Property Acquisition in Randall County, I'll authorize staff to begin public notice and input process.
Agenda Item Number 14, Land Acquisition in Brewster County, 610 Acres at Big Bend Ranch State Park.
Once again, Ted.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, my name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This particular item also pertains to acquisition of an inholding in Big Bend Ranch State Park. The tract is privately owned but is complete surrounded by property owned by Texas Parks and Wildlife, and managed as Big Bend Ranch State Park.
This particular tract has a county road running through it, is particularly susceptible to development for uses not compatible with the public use of the park; it has been listed by a local broker; staff has negotiated a contract of sale with the owner, and staff recommends that the Commission authorize the item be placed on tomorrow's agenda for consideration and action. I'd be happy to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Any questions or comments?
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Hearing none, I'll place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.
Mr. Chairman, this committee I believe has completed its business.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you, Commissioner Bivins. We'll move on to the Ad Hoc Infrastructure Committee, Commissioner Parker.
(Whereupon, at 3:44 p.m., the meeting was adjourned.)
C E R T I F I C A T E
MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: May 21, 2008
I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 45, 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.
On the Record Reporting
3307 Northland, Suite 315
Austin, Texas 78731