Conservation Committee

Wednesday, 9:00am, April 6, 2005

Commission Hearing Room
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
Subject Public Hearing
Agenda Item No.
  Approval of Previous Meeting Minutes  
1. Chairman's Charges (Oral Presentation) Committee Only
2. Science Review
Staff: Larry McKinney
Committee Only
3. Resolution - Designation of Representative to the Biological Advisory Team and the Citizens Advisory Committee of the Williamson County Habitat Conservation Plan
Staff: Ann Bright
4. Land Acquisition Selection Criteria
Staff: Jack Bauer
Committee Only
5. Land Acquisition - Armstrong County
Staff: Jack Bauer
Executive Session
6. Land Sale - Kerr County
Staff: Jack Bauer
Executive Session
7. Other Business  

Committee Agenda Item No. 2
Presenter: Larry McKinney

Conservation Committee
Science Review
April 2005

I. Executive Summary: Staff will provide an update on the recently complete science review of the Inland and Coastal Fisheries Divisions.

The mission of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is "To manage and conserve the natural and cultural resources of Texas and to provide hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation opportunities for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations." To achieve this mission TPWD has historically collected data on the terrestrial and aquatic resources of the state through the efforts of field staff in the Wildlife, Resource Protection, Coastal Fisheries and Inland Fisheries divisions. Three resource management emphases are fundamental to TPWD's conservation mission: wildlife management (Wildlife/State Parks Divisions); fisheries management (Inland and Coastal Fisheries Divisions); and, ecosystem management (Inland and Coastal Fisheries Divisions). Conservation responsibilities are not the exclusive responsibility of the identified division. All divisions have responsibilities in ecosystem management (habitat, etc.) and Law Enforcement Division activities are a fundamental support to all management actions.

TPWD staff routinely review and provide recommendations on activities (404 permits and water permits, etc.) that may adversely affect fish and wildlife. Often special studies are initiated to answer questions important to the conservation of species and the habitats upon which they depend. Management and regulatory decisions depend upon comprehensive and ongoing monitoring effects to detect status and trends in species populations and/or ecosystem health. Extensive databases have been developed to support these analytical needs.

Policy, regulatory and management decisions affecting fish and wildlife resources must be based on sound science to achieve conservation goals. An effective conservation model consists of three elements: good science - studies and monitoring necessary to build knowledge base and identify ecologically significant trends; sound management practices to use scientific knowledge in effective and common sense applications; and, a comprehensive strategic plan which incorporates those tools in a coordinated manner to achieve identified goals. The fundamental element of that model is the scientific base, and it is important to assure that it is sound and has the highest quality and most appropriate application of means and methods. The best way of doing so is via peer review and assessment of our science base.

Making use of State Wildlife Grant funds the Department initiated independent reviews of all science-based programs. The Wildlife Management Institute (Wildlife and State Parks Divisions), the American Fisheries Society (Coastal and Inland Fisheries Divisions) and the National Academy of Sciences (Resource Protection - now part of both fisheries divisions) were engaged to perform independent peer reviews of the Department's science base. This effort represents an unprecedented commitment by a state or federal natural resource agency to assure decision-makers and constituents that the bases of their management recommendations are scientifically sound.

The reviews are now final and agency staff is in the process of responding to recommendations about how to improve TPWD's science base. The briefing will: summarize the findings of the peer reviews; provide an overview of staff responses; and, preview next steps to be taken.

Committee Agenda Item No. 4
Presenter: Jack Bauer

Conservation Committee
Land Acquisition Selection Criteria
April 2005

I. Executive Summary: The 2002 TPWD Land and Water Resources Conservation and Recreation Plan (Plan) established goals for Department expansion of new facilities in the next decade. Under the direction of the Commission Conservation Committee, staff is identifying potential new sites for consideration and funding. This briefing discusses selection criteria attributes for considering new facilities.

II. Discussion: Specific objectives stated in the Plan includes opening for pubic use a minimum of four, 5,000-acre or larger state parks near major urban centers and to provide wildlife management areas in the Cross Timbers and the High Plains ecological areas. Land Conservation Program staff under the direction of the Chairman of the Conservation Committee has initiated activities to identify potential sites and address potential funding. Under the current agency philosophy for land conservation, harnessing the federal requirements for mitigation compensation has been effective in seeking land conservation. This briefing discusses attributes that help identify "What needs to be conserved" as well as dealing with the land conservation realities of non-use of eminent domain authority.