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Use, Management of Devils River Outlined in Collaborative Report
AUSTIN – The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission was briefed today on recommended steps to provide public access to the Devils River in Val Verde County, while preserving the river’s precious natural and cultural resources and protecting adjacent landowners’ privacy.
The report by the Devils River Working Group, chartered last year after the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department acquired the roughly 18,000-acre Devils River Ranch, identified conservation challenges and issues of concern among river users and riverside landowners, and how they might be addressed to satisfy various stakeholders. Represented on the 25-member stakeholder group were landowners along the river, the paddling community, angling community and TPWD staff.
Working group chair Scott Boruff, TPWD’s deputy director of operations, provided the commission with an overview of the efforts to arrive at a consensus and how the group worked through specific issues during four meetings last year to come up with the 20-page report. He said the meetings allowed different perspectives to be voiced and resulted in “an increased understanding among the private landowners, conservationists and recreational users.”
Boruff said that while the report provides requested feedback to TPWD regarding protection of the Devils River and surrounding environments, the group believes its recommendations may be useful in the TPWD’s preparation of the General Management Plan due in September that will guide future use of the Devils River State Natural Area complex.
The complex includes the newly acquired ranchland and the existing 20,000-acre state natural area 13 miles upriver. TPWD will manage the two-unit complex, already protected by conservation easements, connected by the Devils River located in the wild, remote reaches of Val Verde County.
Included in the DRWG’s 12 recommendations to Texas Parks and Wildlife were:
- The appointment of a successor group to coordinate ongoing discussion regarding the protection of the Devils River’s natural and cultural resources, preservation of a wilderness experience and minimization of land fragmentation.
- The creation of a comprehensive Devils River Use Management Plan that should ensure the long-term sustainability of resources; protection of private property and public access rights; natural biodiversity-based aquatic and terrestrial habitat management; recreational management; and increased river-wide law enforcement oversight.
- Development of a permit system that educates and prepares Devils River users and encourages safe and responsible river behavior.
- Creation of a coordinated outreach and education campaign informing the public of appropriate river etiquette and legal issues regarding recreational use that might include such things as uniform signage and mandatory orientation for state park visitors intending to use the river.
- Reviewing all avenues to enhance law enforcement presence on the area’s rivers. (TPWD has eight game wardens assigned to Val Verde County and a full-time state park police officer at the Devils River SNA complex. Other law enforcement entities with a presence include the Val Verde Sheriff’s Office, National Park Service, Department of Public Safety, U.S. Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.)
- Development of a River Patrol Program utilizing volunteers to help monitor river use and river health.
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