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TPWD to Sell Part of Newly-Acquired Ranch at Palo Duro Canyon
Acreage Deemed Not Vital For State Park, Will Be Protected By Conservation Easement
AUSTIN, Texas — In September 2008, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Trust For Public Land announced that the views from inside Palo Duro Canyon State Park will remain grand thanks to the addition of a 2,912-acre property known as Fortress Cliffs Ranch. Now, TPWD is following through on its originally stated plan to sell upland portions of the ranch and use the proceeds to buy other state park land, with a legally binding conservation easement to permanently protect the acreage sold.
The Fortress Cliffs Ranch (formerly Tub Springs Ranch) was put up for sale several years ago, raising concerns that the highly visible bluff could be impacted by houses or other development. John Watson, CEO of ranch broker Orvis/Cushman & Wakefield, wanted to find a stewardship buyer, so he contacted conservation groups, including Trust for Public Land. A TPL representative contacted TPWD, and the two agencies began exploring ways to acquire the land. TPL ultimately purchased the property and held it until it could be purchased by TPWD.
The primary concern at the time was protecting the ranch property’s seven miles of cliffs, where homes or other development could mar views from inside the state park. When department leaders briefed the TPW Commission about the proposed purchase in 2008, they made clear that the upland acreage, which includes the former ranch house, would eventually be sold in order to make the deal work.
"From the start, we made it clear that protecting the cliffs and the park’s dramatic viewshed were the agency’s highest priorities," said Carter Smith, TPWD executive director. "We also indicated that to make the best use of our limited funds, we would need to sell the residual part of the ranch. A perpetual conservation easement will ensure the land’s important wildlife conservation values are adequately protected. We will use the proceeds from this sale to acquire state park property elsewhere in Texas, where we have many high-priority needs. The beauty of this arrangement is that it meets the needs of the park, makes the ranch house and accompanying upland property available for a private conservation buyer, and still preserves the land through a conservation easement."
On Jan. 27 in Austin, the Conservation Committee of the TPW commission approved a staff proposal to go out for public comment on the proposed sale of the house and approximately 1,900 acres of land, primarily grassland with some cedar brush and a side canyon complex known as Tubbs Draw. The sale tract is configured to include a quarter mile of canyon rim to maximize its attractiveness to potential buyers. However, the entire sale tract will be permanently restricted by a conservation easement held by TPWD, which will provide that the property can only be subdivided into two tracts in the future and no development can occur near the rim. No action will be taken on the proposed sale until the TPW commission approves it at one of its regular meetings in the future.
The Fortress Cliffs property is located about 15 miles southeast of Amarillo in Randall and Armstrong Counties, sharing seven miles of boundary with the state park. After the acquisition, the park now comprises 29,187 acres.
The park is developing a plan to propose management and use of the new tract, integrating it into existing resource management and public use plans. The planning process will take months, and will involve input from the public and various stakeholders.
Palo Duro Canyon State Park is located about 12 miles east of Canyon on State Highway 217. Entry fees are $4 per day for adults, free for children under age 13. For more information, contact the park at (806) 488-2227
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