Conservation Committee

Wednesday, 9:00 a.m., May 26, 2004

Commission Hearing Room
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
Subject Public Hearing
Agenda Item No.
  Approve previous Committee Meeting minutes.  
1. Chairman's Charges (Oral Presentation) Committee Only
2. Land and Water Plan Update
Staff: Scott Boruff
Committee Only
3. Archeology at San Jacinto Battleground/Monument S.H.S.
Staff: Walt Dabney
Committee Only
4. Texas Prairie Dog Management Plan
Staff: John Herron
Committee Only
5. Land and Water Plan - Acquisition Strategy
Staff: Jack Bauer
Executive Session
6. Land Acquisition - Harris County
Staff: Ted Hollingsworth
Executive Session
12 (Handout)
7. Land Transfer - Williamson County
Staff: Jack Bauer
Executive Session
13 (Handout)
8. Land Sale - Bastrop County
Staff: Jack Bauer
Executive Session
13 (Handout)
9. Pending Land Litigation - Anderson County
Staff: Ann Bright/Jack Bauer

Executive Session
14 (Handout)

10. Other Business  

Committee Agenda Item No. 2
Presenter: Scott Boruff

Conservation Committee
Land and Water Plan Update
May 2004

I. Executive Summary: Staff has been reviewing the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Land and Water Resources Conservation and Recreation Plan (LWRCRP) for the purpose of developing updates. Several focus group meetings were held with staff in Regions 1-10 during the months of February, March and April 2004 in different locations throughout the state to formulate recommendations to the Commission regarding potential changes or updates to the plan. A Natural Leaders group is developing a protocol for updating the plan in the future.

II. Discussion: The LWRCRP endorses many longstanding conservation efforts undertaken by the agency and set the stage for a renewed focus on water. The agency has decided to enhance operations by developing an aquatic model that would result in closer working relationships between the resource divisions, with an emphasis on improving conservation efforts on the ground. The science teams have devised a regional aquatic model that effectively divides the state into 10 aquatic ecosystems, arranged by river basins or combinations of such. We will have a clearly defined process for keeping the LWRCRP relevant and current, so that future leaders in the agency will be better able to ensure consistency and a common vision for all agency staff. The first round of focus group meetings has been completed. These meetings resulted in an extensive review of the Goals of the LWRCRP, a review of the Objectives of those Goals and began formulizing a Business Principles and Work Ethics statement for the agency. A compilation of those discussions will be presented in the final analysis by the Natural Leaders Group.

Committee Agenda Item No. 3
Presenters: Walt Dabney
Michael Strutt

Conservation Committee
Archeology at San Jacinto Battleground/Monument SHS
May 2004

I. Executive Summary: Over the last year TPWD has worked with several archeological contractors and volunteer groups to conduct archeological research into the physical remains of the battle of San Jacinto. Until now there has been no concerted effort to document the exact location of the Mexican encampment, the Mexican breastworks, the exact line of attack by the Texas forces, and the location of pursuit after the most intense fighting. Historical documents related to the battle led historians to believe that there was little to find archeologically of such a short lived battle.

Contrary to this opinion physical evidence of the battle and its runaway aftermath have been located using metal detectors and archeological field techniques to locate and record individual objects related to the battle which ended the Texas Revolution, thereby guaranteeing independence from Mexico. Through written letter agreements TPWD is securing permission to survey on lands adjacent to the park. These agreements give TPWD ownership of any artifacts collected to preserve and interpret for posterity. Port of Houston Authority property adjacent to Peggy Lake is covered under such an agreement, and staff is working with Centerpoint Energy and Occidental Chemical Company to secure similar rights for research in the power line corridor and plant property adjacent to Peggy Lake and the park.

To date the teams of archeologists and volunteer metal detectorists have located numerous artifacts directly related to the battle including musket balls, gun parts, uniform insignia, Spanish and Mexican coins. While only a small area has been surveyed along the shores of Peggy Lake, numerous artifacts were found indicating that the runaway portion of the battle is intact on lands adjacent to the Battleground. This initial work proves that further investigations will likely yield information important to the onsite interpretation of the battleground.

On the battleground itself recent work in the suspected area of the Mexican breastworks has uncovered numerous musketballs and several musket ramrods indicating Mexican soldiers likely dropped them in their haste to load and retreat at the same time. The work continues on the Battleground narrowing-in on the areas of the most intense fighting to locate the Mexican encampment. After the systematic metal detector survey is completed in this area selective archeological excavations will be conducted to identify features and non-metallic artifacts associated with the Mexican encampment.

Committee Agenda Item No. 4
Presenter: John Herron

Conservation Committee
Texas Prairie Dog Management Plan
May 2004

I. Executive Summary: This item apprises the Committee of the background and status of the multi-state/federal effort to develop a strategy for the conservation and management of the black-tailed prairie dog.

II. Discussion: In 1999, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were petitioned to list the black-tailed prairie dog as a federally threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In recognition of the declining abundance of black-tailed prairie dog colonies and various threats to this species, state wildlife agencies within the species’ historic range drafted a black-tailed prairie dog “Conservation Assessment and Strategy” document (October 1999) to guide conservation and management of this species. Texas, as a cooperating interstate member, also agreed to initiate the process of preparing its own black-tailed prairie dog management plan as part of the coordinated interstate conservation assessment and strategy to manage the species.

The Texas Black-tailed Prairie Dog Working Group, made up of citizens and representatives of agricultural, community and conservation groups, has completed a draft management plan and is prepared to release the draft for public comment. The group feels that implementation of the plan will benefit and secure the species in the state, while still allowing landowners the freedom to control prairie dogs as needed. Most importantly, the management plan, combined with the cooperation of state, federal and tribal agencies, should allow the black-tailed prairie dog to be removed from the candidate list.

Staff will discuss elements of the plan and the timetable for public comment and completion of the plan. This plan contains biological information and management recommendations necessary for conservation and management of the black-tailed prairie dog – a sensitive and declining species in the State of Texas. It includes a review of the species over its historic range, and specific strategies designed to promote its conservation and long-term population sustainability. Components of the plan include scientific assessment of current conditions, science-based recommendations for conservation and recovery of the species, and identification of realistic management strategies that will result in desired outcomes for all stakeholders. This plan is designed to be flexible to respond to changing conditions in the status of prairie dog populations in or within the social and economic environment, and to preclude the need for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). Annual review of this plan will provide opportunities to make adjustments in management needs of the black-tailed prairie dog, its associated species, its short grass prairie habitat, and the changing needs, demands and expectations of the public and various agencies responsible for conservation of natural resources in the State of Texas.

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