TFRLCP Council Meeting


January 28, 2016



CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Good morning, everybody. This meeting is called to order January 28th, 2016, at 10:10 a.m.

Before proceeding with any business, I'd like Carter Smith to make a statement.

MR. SMITH: I will. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Public notice of this meeting containing all items on the proposed agenda has been filed in the Office of the Secretary of State as required by Chapter 551, referred to in Government Code as the Open Meetings Act.

Mr. Chairman, I would like for this fact to be noted in the official record of the meeting. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you, Carter.

Well, first, I'd just like to welcome everybody. Many of you know a lot more about this than I do. This my first meeting and first involvement; but I'm enthusiastic believer in conservation easements, and I look forward to seeing what we can get done.

Does everybody know everybody, or do we need to introduce ourselves? Do you want to just go around?

MR. SMITH: I think that would be good. You want to start with Dave over here?

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Yeah, go around the room and --

MR. SCOTT: Dave Scott from Richmond, Texas. It says "George," but that -- don't pay any attention.

MS. MCAFEE: Pam McAfee, I live in Driftwood, Texas.

MR. ISOM: Rex Isom, I live in Idalou, Texas, with the Soil and Water Conservation Board.

MS. KINSEL: Leslie Kinsel from Cotulla.

MR. KLEINSCHMIDT: Tim Kleinschmidt sitting in for Commissioner Miller from TDA.

MR. BRUUN: Bech Bruun, Texas Water Development Board.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Reed Morian with Parks and Wildlife.

MR. SMITH: Carter Smith with Parks and Wildlife.

MS. COBB KOEHLER: Natalie Cobb Koehler, Cranfills Gap, Texas. I'm the County attorney in Bosque County.

MR. PIERCE: Brian Pierce from the Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources.

MR. ROSS: Claude Ross, NRCS, from Temple, sitting in for Salvador Salinas.

MR. ZACEK: Hi, and I'm John Zacek from Victoria.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Again, welcome. Tom Kelsey was going to be here. He actually came up last night; but woke up this morning a little under the weather and decided not to attend this meeting, which was probably a good idea.

With that, I'll turn it over to Carter and --

MR. SMITH: You bet. Yeah. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Well, I'll just join Chairman Morian in welcoming everybody here to the inaugural meeting at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. We're absolutely thrilled to have this program housed here under the Department and are excited about working with you in this new capacity. I would be terribly remiss if I didn't start off by acknowledging and thanking Alan McWilliams and his team at the General Land Office who stewarded this program really since its inception when the Legislature created and had it housed at the Land Office since 2007, and I want to thank Alan and his team for working to help facilitate a very smooth transition over to the Department and for making that process as easy as possible on us and so a big thanks to Alan and his team.

I think a couple of reasons why we're so enthusiastic about having this program at the Department are, you know, first and foremost, I think as everybody around this table knows, we don't get any conservation done in our state at any kind of a meaningful scale without the active cooperation of farmers and ranchers and the private landowners. And the only way we're going to achieve that on the land and on the water and with wildlife and with habitat is through those voluntary partnerships with private landowners. And we have a very long and rich tradition of that inside the Agency.

To date, we have nearly 30 million acres under voluntary wildlife management plans in cooperation with private landowners, including many around this table that we're very, very proud of. And just as a point of note, that's about 20 percent of all of the state under some form of wildlife management plan; and that's a wonderful testament to the great traditions of stewardship in our state.

Secondly, we're also proud of the fact that the Texas Land Trust Council -- and you'll have a chance to hear from Lori Olson, their Executive Director, which serves as the umbrella organization for land trusts around the state -- had its start at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. And so we've had a long history, too, of working with the State's land trust community; and so we also feel, again, that this is a great fit as we work to support the Council's efforts with this program.

And then certainly last, but not least, you'll hear from Ted Hollingsworth, the Director of our Land Conservation Program and because of the nature of our work with private landowners and state parks and wildlife management areas, we're very active in the realm of land conservation and real estate transactions around conservation-related real estate. And so for those reasons, again, we think this is a great fit. We're excited about supporting all of you and your important work and looking forward to making your experience on the Council as meaningful and impactful as we can.

To that end, I want to introduce our team that will be supporting y'all going forward; and I'd be terribly remiss if I didn't start with the two most important people in the room over here. First, Dee Halliburton. Dee really helped put together all of the materials and information for this meeting and worked very, very hard on that front. To her left, Carla Beavers with our Land Conservation Program and y'all have already had some interaction with Carla in terms of coordination and logistics and I suspect she'll continue on in that role and anything you need from us administratively, please do not hesitate to call on her.

Ross Melinchuk, our Deputy Executive Director of Natural Resources. Ross oversees our Wildlife Division, Inland Fisheries, and Coastal Fisheries Division. He serves on the Texas Land Trust Council Board, and so very well-versed in this subject. And at the senior management level inside the Agency, will be on point to help advance strategic policy initiatives and guidance and direction that this Council gives the Agency in terms of helping to move forward to support your efforts.

Ted Hollingsworth is our Director of Land Conservation Program and Ted is the brains and brawn behind this and will be, in many ways, the point person that y'all will probably be having the most interaction with as we embark on our work together here.

Last, but not least, to his left is Bob Sweeney. Bob is an attorney with us, specializes as a transactional attorney. He has a long history in conservation-related real estate with land acquisition and conservation easements. So he brings an artisan well of knowledge to this subject, and I think will be a great resource for all of you from a legal perspective.

Last, but not least, Mr. Chairman, you know, obviously I'm looking forward to seeing the decisions come forward from this Council; but also direction that y'all have for us as we prepare for the next legislative session and make sure that we're able to make the work and funding of this Council a priority for the Agency and for the state and look forward to support you in any way we can in that regard. And so with that, welcome, and look forward to serving you. So thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you, Carter.

With that, we'll move to the Briefing Item No. 2: Presentation to the Council regarding importance of protecting the heritage of Texas farms and ranches. I believe that's Blair. Welcome.

MS. FITZSIMONS: Good morning. It's very exciting to be here, and it's a real honor to have been asked to address this inaugural meeting. I've been asked to talk about the importance of protecting the heritage of Texas farms and ranches. As Chairman Morian said, it's a great title and a really meaty topic; but I'm afraid I'm preaching to the choir here. Whether it's Leslie Kinsel who helps to manage a multigenerational family ranch near Cotulla or Tom Kelsey, who couldn't be here, whose family has been a fixture on the Katy prairie for generations or our Chairman here who has a conservation easement on his East Texas ranch, you all know more about the heritage of family farming and ranching, I think, than most people. And this Council is made up of people who instinctively understand the importance of protecting Texas' heritage of farming and ranching.

So what I hope today -- Ted asked me to talk for ten minutes, and I'll spare you and talk for about five minutes -- is to put it all in context. Ted's going to talk later about -- and share some of the economic impacts of fragmentation and loss of rural land. I'm going to talk in broader breaststrokes about what all this means and why the work that you-all are doing is so important.

As we all know, our farms and ranches are the backbone of Texas industry, history, and culture. These working lands connect us to our heritage, to that uniquely Texas legacy of rugged independence, unlimited opportunities, and wide open spaces. Indeed, with 142 million acres of privately owned farms, ranches, and timberlands, Texas has one of the largest percentages of privately owned working lands in the country. And with this, as Carter touched on in his remarks, comes a rich history and legacy of private land stewardship.

Indeed, some of Texas' farmers and ranchers are leading conservationists in this county. As a state -- again, as Carter mentioned in his remarks -- we cannot achieve our natural resource goals without considering the role and impact of agricultural lands. Farms and ranches surround our parks and wildlife refuges. These working lands border our bays and estuaries. They host our springs and rivers. They are home to threatened and endangered species, as well as native wildlife habitats.

Simply put, agricultural lands sustain life as we know it. They clean our air and water, provide food and fiber, house the wildlife that is critical to our global ecological balance, and offer open space for esthetic and recreational enjoyment. Equally as important, they support our rural communities, like Cotulla, and make them economically sustainable, which in turn sustains part of our culture and social fabric as a state and a country.

These are benefits that we all enjoy, whether we live in the country or the city. Yet, frankly, these are benefits that we rarely pay for. And if we don't find meaningful ways to pay for these benefits, to incentivize the continued stewardship of privately owned working lands, we're in for a heap of trouble. Consider this: About 85 percent of farms and ranches in the U.S. are family owned and over half of farm and ranch owners in the U.S. have a second job off property. Consider that the average market value of the U.S. farm or ranch doubled between 2002 and 2012, while the value of products sold stayed about the same.

These high land values create dilemmas for families considering their balance sheets and barriers for new farmers and ranchers to enter the market. This is particularly troubling when you consider that the average age of today's farmer and rancher is 58 years old, compared to 42 years for a schoolteacher or 48 for a stockbroker. Don't tell me how I found those figures. Thank goodness for Google.

Unlike the manufacturing world where economic productivity is measured in terms of money in, widgets out, farmers and ranchers have another dynamic to deal with. In order to be successful, they need healthy soils, healthy water cycles, and healthy other ecological functions. The biological health of their patch of ground is their natural capital. As important, if not more important, than any asset on the balance sheet.

For our working lands to be sustainable in the long run, landowners need financial incentives to keep stewarding those natural resources. Incentives that secure and encourage new and future working lands, incentives that will help keep families on the land, working the land, and stewarding the land. The Texas Farm and Ranch Lands Conservation Program, a grant program that funds the protection of working lands, is just such an incentive. Oops. Hang on. I lost my last page here.

What is unique about funding working lands conservation as compared with many of the other needs we are confronted with in our society, is that these lands have the ability to be economically sustainable, to care for themselves without the need for government acquisition or management. These lands manage themselves and invest in themselves so long as they and their owners remain working. In the end, we are protecting our most valuable natural resource, productive lands that feed us, nurture us, and sustain the values that we cherish.

Perhaps most important, we conserve the human talent that worked those lands. Skills that once lost are gone forever. As Aldo Leopold once observed, "Stewardship requires stewards." Many thanks to all of you for your work here to further the heritage of private land stewardship provided by Texas' farms and ranches. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you, Blair.

With that, we'll move on to Briefing Item No. 3: Presentation to Council regarding a brief history and scope of the land trust contribution to land and water conservation in Texas. Lori Olson, welcome.

MS. OLSON: Hi there. Thank you. Let's see, I have a presentation that they're trying to pull up right now. So I'm giving them a sec.

Yeah. So good morning. Thank you so much for allowing me to speak today. My name's Lori Olson, and I'm the Executive Director of the Texas Land Trust Council. So we're really excited about the potential for this program under TPWD's leadership and very happen to meet all of you today. So today I'm going to talk a little bit about the history, scope of land trust work, and what we've been able to achieve in Texas.

First, I want to give you a little background on my organization. As Carter mentioned, the Land Trust Council is the sort of Statewide association for all of the land trusts in Texas, and we were formed initially under TPWD's leadership as a program to advance the conservation efforts of the land trusts across the state. And then in 2003, the Council was launched out as an independent 501(c)(3) organization and we have continued in that role to today and we continue to engage our coalition of land trusts in a variety of activities that seek to make us all stronger together.

We have a focus on education. We produce a three-day conference each year; and a few of you in the room are actually coming to our conference, the Texas Land Conservation Conference, which is going to be in a few weeks and we'll be celebrating our 20th anniversary of that event. So the conservation community has been doing this stuff for a long time in Texas, and we're just thrilled to have this program.

We also engage in a variety of initiatives to increase awareness and support for land trust work across the state and facilitate partnerships in collaboration, and the Council also tries to coordinate advocacy at both the state and federal levels. So this slide just gives you a little sort of indication of the diversity of the 31-member organizations that the Council currently has. We have, you know, national groups. Names you will probably recognize like Ducks Unlimited, the Nature Conservancy; but also statewide groups like the Texas Ag Land Trust, the Texas Land Conservancy and others, down to really small community-level groups like the Wilbarger Creek Conservation Alliance or the Katy Prairie Conservancy. So it kind of runs the gamut of different organizations that are doing this work across the state.

So private lands conservation is an exceptionally important strategy in Texas, where as many of you already know in this room, we have 95 percent or so of our lands in private ownership. So conserving some of these private lands is going to be really critical to protecting our land and water resources that we have in our state, and doing this has a number of public benefits. So, you know, we're reducing fragmentation of our lands; but more importantly, we're enhancing the function of our watersheds and reducing -- I mean, increasing the recharge of our aquifers. Helping to keep those lands -- like Blair talked about -- in agricultural productivity and providing financial incentives that help keep our farmers and ranchers doing that and preserving habitat for wildlife and other natural resources, as well as just allowing us to maintain some of those precious Texas landscapes and those wide open spaces that make Texas Texas.

So the Farm and Ranch Lands Conservation Program is an essential component to help us conserve some of these important lands in partnership with private landowners. So I was asked to talk to you about land trusts. So essentially what land trusts are, are nonprofit organizations that engage in land conservation as some part of their mission. And we've been around in the United States since around the 1890s, starting up the New England area of the country; and the number of land trusts has steadily grown, with most of them forming in the last 25 years or so.

Conservation easements have become one of the most effective and most commonly used tools that land trusts use across the country; and essentially, easements are just voluntary conservation agreements that are negotiated between a landowner and an easement holder, which is either a land trust or can also be a government agency, government entity. And nationwide, land trusts have used easements to protect more than 9 million acres of land. So there's thousands of easements out there. And easements are just a really nice tool because as many of you in this room apparently know, they offer really great flexibility for the landowner to really craft something that works on their property for their land and they're also very cost effective, you know, from our perspective because they are essentially cheaper than acquiring fee-simple property; but also they're keeping those management and all of those operational costs in private hands, which is great, and then we're getting all those public benefits to boot.

So the land trusts are really -- their main role is the easement holders; and, of course, they're involved initially to work with the landowners to negotiate the terms of the easement. They also do baseline documentation and help to get the conservation resource values that are on the land down on paper so that future -- future land trust staff and future landowners know what we're trying to protect with these easements; but mainly they serve as the easement stewards, and they're responsible for making those annual visits out to the property to make sure that the terms of the easements are being upheld and they're -- they have a legal responsible -- responsibility to enforce those terms, if necessary, and that includes potentially going to court to do so.

So from the national perspective -- and these stats are from our 2010 National Land Trust Census, which is generated by the Land Trust Alliance, which is our sort of national association for land trusts; and we have a new one that's going to be coming out later this year actually, it will be the 2015 numbers. So these are all going to go up soon. But 1700 land trusts operating across the country, about 50 million acres of land preserved. So we have a lot of great things going on around the country and the Land Trust Alliance works on things at the national level that can basically assist all land trusts across the country.

And over the last decade or so, the land trust movement has really grown and matured in a number of ways. In 1989, the Alliance helped develop our first national standards and practices, which is a set of guidelines for the responsible operation and ethical management of a land trust. And all land trusts that were members of the Alliance were required to adopt these standards; and then over time, that evolved and led to the establishment of our accreditation program and the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, which was formed in 2006 as an independent program of the Alliance to provide the independent verification and oversight and accreditation of land trusts across the country.

So currently, we have 317 accredited land trusts in the United States. Nine of them are in Texas. And accredited land trusts hold 75 percent of the lands that are held by land trusts. And then most recently, in 2013, we -- as a community -- were able to launch Terrafirma, which is a national privately funded conservation easement defense insurance program. So all the -- allows all the land trusts in the country to essentially, you know, contribute and pool our funds to collectively defend our easements as a whole. So this was a really great achievement for the land trust community.

In addition at the federal level, there's a variety of tax incentives that are going to come into play that can interact with this program and help to leverage these funds. We have a tax deduction, an income tax deduction for conservation easements that was established in 2006; but just last month in December, Congress finally -- after almost a decade of asking -- made this conservation tax incentive permanent, part of the U.S. Tax Code. And what's so great about this is that it really significantly increases both the size of the donation, the amount of the deduction, and the number of years that deduction can be carried forward for a donor; and for working farmers and ranchers that derive a majority of their income, it increases that even more. So that's going to be a great tool for, I think, all of us going forward. And, of course, there's tremendous state tax benefits to donating an easement, as well, that can be achieved when that generational transfer occurs.

So Claude's here. So he's well-versed in all this stuff. But the federal level Farm Bill funds have been available to purchase conservation easements for many years now, and Texas has never had -- they provide up to 50 percent of the funding to acquire conservation easements on farm and ranch lands, but they require a match. They require a local match or a state match of at least 25 percent or more; and Texas has never had a reliable source, stable source for these matching funds. And since this easement program funding is sort of tied to the amount of dollars you're requesting and the amount that you're spending in preceding years, we have had -- our levels have been relatively low compared to other states.

But now with this new source of matching funds that we have with this program, we're very optimistic that we can do some more good with these dollars. So this is just to illustrate to you. You can see Texas numbers across the bottom of this chart, but -- so formally this -- in the previous Farm Bill, this was called the Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program. So it's sort of the same thing. They just changed the name. But -- so in the 2014 Farm Bill, there's a billion dollars over ten years for conservation easement purchase. This is a significant amount of funding that's available.

And you can see that Texas compared to these other states and given the size of our state, we're not really getting our fair share. We're obviously much bigger than Massachusetts, at -- who is 11,000 square miles and we're 269,000 square miles and they got $9 million in 2012 and we got 4 million. So we have a lot -- a lot of work that we could be doing; and now that we have these matching funds, I'm very optimistic that we're going to do a lot more.

So these are the more recent numbers, which are obviously, to me, very exciting. So you can see in the new Farm Bill 2014, 2015, and now 2016 applications, which the window for those just closed like a week or two ago. But we went up from four applications in 2015 to ten in 2016, which is great. So just having the existence of this program and having the land conservation community knowing that this was here to potentially fund that match, has boosted the activity in the number of the acres and the number of funds requested. So very exciting to see this growth and hope that's a trend that we'll continue to see grow in the future.

So some Texas specific statistics. You can see that really land trusts didn't start emerging in Texas until the 1960s and most of the growth occurring in the 80s and 90s and then kind of leveling out in the 2000s, so to the 30 to 35 groups that we have today. This shows you the accomplishments on the ground of Texas Land Trust. We've conserved over 1.6 million acres of land.

So if you look at the red line, that is going to be the use of conservation easements; and you can see that really took off in the late 90s to the -- you know, going forward. Whereas compared to the fee-simple ownership conservation, which is the blue line, that kind of started to level off a little bit, so. And these are all cumulative totals. The green line is just all of it together. So that's why that one goes up so far.

And then finally, I wanted to show you this map is our conservation lands inventory for Texas. The Council compiles data on an annual or every-other-year basis to basically document all the work that all of our land trusts are doing across the state, and we keep it in a GIS and tabular database; but this is our GIS database that shows you where the conservation has been happening, private lands conservation. Salud.

And you can see some hotspots in the Austin and San Antonio area. That's largely due to the fact that those communities have passed local bond and sales tax referendums to provide those matching funds and to do conservation in those communities and then obviously a little more work going on along the coast because there's a lot more funding available there, as well, and some hotspots out in West Texas and then in the East Texas, you can kind of see things happening along the rivers and those types of things. So a lot of great work has been done, and we are very excited about this program and looking forward to working with the Texas Farm and Ranch Lands Conservation Program to do more.

So happy to answer questions and please visit our website and if there's none, then I'll be done.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Any questions?

MS. OLSON: Yeah, sure.

MS. MCAFEE: This may be an obvious question; but the federal tax benefits that were just approved --


MS. MCAFEE: -- is that for new easements or is that --

MS. OLSON: Correct.

MS. MCAFEE: -- for all easements?

MS. OLSON: So it was for easements that closed any time in 2015 and then going forward.

MS. MCAFEE: So the ones that already have easements, it's not --

MS. OLSON: Correct. The -- that enhancement incentive was kind of on-again/off-again the books. Congress kind of would put it in for two years, and then it would lapse. Then they'd put it back in for a year or two or whatever, and it would lapse. And the last couple of years, it's lapsed pretty much the vast majority of the year; and they would kind of implement it in the December and say, "Oh, you're good for two weeks. You can, you know" -- and it's like, uh, this takes like a year to do this. So that's not helpful. So finally we've got it permanent. So it's very exciting.

MR. ROSS: Lori, I apologize. We have 11 applications now for around $10 million. We had one application come in in the wee hours of January the 15th.

MS. OLSON: Excellent. Even better. Even better. All right.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Any other questions?

Thank you, Lori.

MS. OLSON: Thank you very much.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: With that, we'll move on to Briefing Item No. 4: Review of training program provided to the Council by TPWD staff, Mr. Hollingsworth.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Members of the Council, good morning. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program here at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The House Bill 1925, which arranged for this program to come over to the Agency, has several requirements -- training requirements, informational requirements -- and so there's some information that we're required to share with you as we launch this program here.

Of course, we're excited to do that. Some of it is just background information. The legal stuff we're going to let Bob Sweeney review. I get to talk about the Agency and about the program coming over here. You were sent an information package that has all the information that you need. So I'm just going to touch on some highlights this morning.

As you know, the House Bill 1925, the primary thing it did is it moved that program from the General Land Office over to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. It did increase the number of Council members from 10 to 12. I think four of y'all were here at the last Council meeting back in 2014. And the other thing it did is it changed the emphasis on the selection criteria just a little bit; and when we get into that proposed selection criteria for y'all to consider this morning, you'll see what those changes are.

The goal of the program is conservation of working lands, obviously. And we're looking for high -- working lands that have high values for fish and water, fish and wildlife and water, for agricultural production. And under the statute, an emphasis is placed on lands that are at the highest risk for loss and development. The program supports our mission at Texas Parks and Wildlife by encouraging stewardship of private lands; and as you've already heard, most of Texas, as you know, the vast majority of the Texas is privately owned.

And as I'm fond of saying, if I'm a horned lizard or an indigo snake or a marsh hawk or a mottled duck, I don't care if this marsh I'm sitting on is on private land or public land. I just care that I have a marsh to sit on. And so it's very much in keeping with the mission of this Agency that we now have another tool in the toolbox to encourage good stewardship of traditional conservation lands and agricultural lands, working lands across the state.

The program is housed within the Land Conservation Program, which is housed within the Executive Office here at Texas Parks and Wildlife. I am the Director of that program. You got introduced to Carla Beavers, who is our staff services officer. You have not been introduced to Jeannie -- Jeannie are you -- to Jeannie Munoz. She is the Director of our Program Management Office, but has been instrumental in helping us with the logistics of getting y'all together this morning and getting this information out to you. And then Bob Sweeney again, who've you meet who is the attorney who's watching over my shoulder to make sure that everything we do is done legitimately.

The application form that you're going to see this morning and the selection criteria, were prepared by a team that Carter Smith helped me put together and it consists of folks from our Inland Fisheries Division, our Wildlife Division, and the Land Conservation Program. We wanted sort of a diverse cross-section of folks to look at the program, to look at conservation, and to look at how to best make the selection of these proposals fit the intent and the intent not just of the legislation, but the clear intent of the program, which is to encourage good stewardship of working lands in Texas.

The project budget, the program did come with an appropriation of $2 million. This is, you know, on the surface doesn't seem like a whole lot of money; but it's a huge step for the program. This is the first time that the Legislature has appropriated any state dollars to support the program and we hope it's just the priming of the pump and that as we go forward, we will be able to demonstrate to the Legislature that these are dollars very well spent that have a tremendous impact on the future of the standard of living and just -- and Texas and the importance of our heritage and preserving that going forward.

Of those dollars, 1.76 million were specifically earmarked for grant -- for grants. Although, we're going to be able to put more of that $2 million -- significantly more than that $2 million into grants going forward. The appropriation for the current fiscal year is 1.88 million; 112,000 was reserved for fiscal year '17, for a total of 2 million. Just in a nutshell, we're going to carve just enough of that out to cover some minor costs that we have in managing that program; and then the rest of that we intend to see go into those grant programs and supporting those important conservation projects.

That's my portion of this presentation, but I'd be happy to answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Any questions? All right.

MR. SWEENEY: Good morning, Council Members, Chairman. I'm Bob Sweeney, and I have the last little piece of Briefing Item No. 4 here. We're going to talk about the Open Meetings law, the Public Information law, the Administrative Procedure law, and other laws relating to public officials and applicable policies.

The training book that you received is the required statutory training program. We are -- I'm just reviewing that, and I'm going to take this opportunity to answer any questions. So it will only be a few minutes just to summarize what has been done with regard to the Council. Some of you -- those of you who are carryover from the Council when it was at GLO, should already have been sufficiently trained, except for the changes to the law that were made; and that's what Ted went over.

So first, we're going to talk about the requirements of the Open Meetings law. That's Texas Government Code Chapter 551. And to have this meeting today, it was necessary to comply with that statute. There's a video that you were informed of in a letter that was sent out, and that's a requirement for State officials -- which you are -- to watch. There are additional resources about the Open Meetings law on the Attorney General's website, and some of the key points to remember are that public posting of the meeting is required in advance and -- of a group of a quorum of Council members getting together. The Council's actions are limited to what's on the posted agenda, and if those -- that law is violated, there are some severe sanctions.

Moving on to the Public Information law, which is sometimes called the Open Records law; and that's Texas Government Code Chapter 552. There's a required video and a certificate that was the topic of an earlier letter that was sent out. There are other resources, just as with the Open Meetings law, that are on the Attorney General's website. Key points to remember are that a document within the meaning of this law includes any information captured in any form -- that including electronic, recorded, and paper -- and any written requests for documents invokes the Public Information Act. Documents are presumed to be public information. The burden is on the State agency to prove that there's a valid exemption from disclosure. A request to the Attorney General's Office has to made within ten business days of receiving the request if they're -- if the Agency wants to claim an exemption and these laws are enforceable by criminal and civil sanctions.

I was going to introduce briefly Elizabeth Cater, if I can ask Elizabeth to stand up. She is a lawyer with the Department. She's the Public Information Officer. So if you were to get a document -- a request, a letter, an e-mail that you think might be a Public Information Act request, then by all means you can call me; but the person who is likely to be dealing with that on behalf of the Agency is Elizabeth. So that's why she's here today so that you can meet her. It's quite possible you'll never get an Open Meetings -- an Open Records request or a Public Information Act request; but just in case you do, now you know about it.

So I'll stop for a second and see if y'all have any questions about either public meetings or Public Information Act.

MR. SCOTT: If you -- if you take that ten days, you have ten days to turn it over to the Attorney General's Office and then they have 45 days; is that correct?

MR. SWEENEY: That's basically right. The -- we have -- the Agency will have ten days to make a request for an exemption and then -- to actually make the request. And then it will be a little bit of additional time to actually submit to the Attorney General's the documents that are the subject of the request and the request for exemption so that the Attorney General can review that and then there are 45 days, yes, for the AG to respond to that.

MR. SCOTT: Can he get an extension for more than 45 days?

MR. SWEENEY: I don't believe so, but I'll defer to Elizabeth.

MS. CATER: So from the day that you receive the request, you have ten business days to --

MR. SWEENEY: Why don't you come on up?

MS. CATER: From the day that you receive the request, you have ten business days to seek a ruling from the Attorney General's Office regarding the confidentiality of the documents if you do want to withhold them and then you have another five business days to actually submit your confidentiality arguments and submit the documents that you want to withhold and then the Attorney General has 45 days to make a ruling and those are all hard deadlines. There's no way to get any extension on our end or on the Attorney General's end.

MR. SCOTT: Okay.

MS. CATER: Are there any other Open Records questions that I can answer while I'm up here? Thank you.

MR. SWEENEY: Thanks, Elizabeth. Appreciate it.

The next law we're going to talk about is the Administrative Procedure law. And all these laws have a lot to them and are very detailed and we're covering them each in just one slide, which is a -- that's got to be a new record for a summary. So the Administrative Procedure law has two major components and that's -- one is the part of it that deals with the contested case hearings where a State official -- a body of State officials will serve as a judicial body in a judicial capacity; and that won't happen for this Board, this Council. But we might do rulemaking. We have the authority -- this Council does have the authority to adopt rules. When the program was administered at the General Land Office, it did not adopt formal rules and there aren't any recommendations to do that at present; but that's a possibility.

There are resources available on the Attorney General's website, just like the Open Meetings and Public Information Act law. There's a rule adoption checklist that's in your materials that goes through the steps that you'd have to use to adopt a set of rules. If the rules are adopted, they're put into the Texas Administrative Code. And as I mentioned, the contested case hearing elements for the Administrative Procedure law are unlikely to be applicable to this Council.

So now we're going to talk about laws governing conduct by public officials. Before I go further, any questions about the Administrative Procedure Act -- Administrative Procedure law?

So let's talk for just a minute or two about laws governing conduct by a public official. Again, this was the subject of the training book and the letters that were sent prior to this meeting. There's a training program on the Texas Ethics Commission website, which is useful and handy. It's not a video. It's more of a self-paced program. The main ethics laws is in Government Code Chapter 572, and I'm going to touch on some of the key points that you'll need to be aware of as Council members.

As Council members, you'll need to do a personal financial statement by April 30th of each year; and there are details of that and how to do that on the website of the Texas Ethics Commission. So that's something you need to put on your list for 2016. Generally speaking, conflicts of interest are prohibited. Of course, what constitutes a conflict of interest is a source of a lot of detail that I won't go into right now. And the last point I wanted to touch on specifically was that a Council member must not vote on or otherwise participate in a matter in which they have an interest. So if that happens, then the Council member who is involved in that should note that on the record and publically recuse themselves. Publically say that they're not going to participate in that -- in the consideration of that matter.

I'll touch briefly on dealings with lobbyists. I think given the nature of this Council, it's unlikely that you'll be dealing with lobbyists in any significant way; but there are special rules when one is a State official who deals with lobbyists, and that's Government Code Chapter 305. Gifts that are otherwise permissible under bribery laws and ethics policy, might not be permissible from a registered lobbyist. There's a list of registered lobbyists available on the Texas Ethics Commission website and even if a gift from the lobbyist is permissible, if you can accept it, your name will appear on a lobbyist's activities report if certain thresholds are reached. So lobbyists are sort of a special category of interaction under the ethics laws.

Contracting, you know, this Council will be -- we expect -- handing out some grants to applicants. So those will take the form of -- those grants will be in the form of contracts, and then they'll have to be monitored and supervised to make sure that the contractual requirements are met. So the ethics provisions dealing with contracting are certainly applicable to the Department when it carries out this program and the Council should be aware of them. There is a video on the Comptroller's website; and that has been previously provided to you, that link.

There's additional guidance -- very detailed -- provided through the State of Texas Procurement Manual and Contract Management Guide. And these are things that the Department staff, in supporting the program, will take responsibility for complying with; but you should know that they're out there and that Department staff is going to do that. Ethics policies apply that we just talked about in a general way and there are lots and lots of specific statutes in the Texas Government Code about specific types of contracts and I won't go into those today, but I think you should be confident that Parks and Wildlife Department staff will be sure that we're compliant with the detailed requirements for State contracting.

I thought I -- for those -- particularly for those of you who are not State employees, touch on a few miscellaneous items that are covered in the training book. State property can only be used for state purposes. Reimbursement is not allowed for travel expenses on alcoholic beverages, even though this Commission is entitled to -- this Council has the ability to get reimbursement for travel expenses. State funds cannot be used to influence the passage or defeat of legislation. So these are just a few of the things that -- as State employees, these are things we know about and live with every day; but those of you who are not State employees may not be aware.

Not a lot to say on the policies. The Council, when it was administered by GLO, didn't adopt policies prior to January 1, 2016, that were actually policies of the Farm and Ranch Lands Conservation Council. I included in the training materials a couple of helpful Ethics Commission policies, including helpful hints for filing your personal financial statement and a document that's helpful about the thresholds for accepting gifts on a very -- meals, that sort of thing, from outside persons when you're doing your duties as a member of the Council.

That's all I have today, if there are any questions. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Okay. Thank you.


MR. BRUUN: Will you need some certification from Council members that we have completed the required training at any point?

MR. SWEENEY: Only the Open Meetings and PIA trainings. Those are required by statute to be -- to have a certificate on file. The others, no. There are certificates that they'll provide you; but they don't have to be provided to us, unlike the PIA and Open Meetings certificates that were provided by everyone prior to this meeting. So you can keep them for your own files to show that you did it, but we don't need them.

Okay. Thank you.


Mr. Hollingsworth, Briefing Item No. 6 -- I'm sorry, No. 5: Review and acceptance of the minutes.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Again, Ted Hollingsworth for the record. As I noted earlier, I believe four of you were here for the last meeting, which took place September 17th, 2014. Going forward, we'll have a more conventional, traditional process for review and approval of the minutes of these meetings; but because this meeting occurred a year and a half ago, the Chairman felt it best just to give you the opportunity to review those minutes and comment if there's any errors in those minutes.

You have those in your booklet, Item No. 5. I'm not going to read those. The vast bulk of that meeting was dedicated to a discussion of project proposals. The projects themselves and the accounting associated with those projects was not moved from the General Land Office to Texas Parks and Wildlife for the reason that all of those funds were CIAP funds, Coastal Impact Assistance Program funds that were granted to the General Land Office; and so the General Land Office is solely responsible for ensuring that those are distributed appropriately and administered appropriately. We cannot take on that responsibility for the GLO.

Our understanding is of those projects that the Council approved in 2012, '13, and '14, that there are still two outstanding projects that haven't closed and that the GLO hopes to have closed out in the next few weeks. And with that, I'm not sure I can answer any questions; but if you have any questions, feel free to ask them.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Okay. Any questions?

I don't think there's any action other than just to acknowledge receipt and incorporate them into the record, the minutes.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir. We'll incorporate those into the record.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Now, we'll move on to Item No. 6: Presentation to Council by TPWD staff regarding the mission and functions of TPWD and TPWD Land Conservation Program, Mr. Hollingsworth.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Thank you very much. We did want to take a little opportunity and brag about our Department, just give y'all a little more background information on what we do at Texas Parks and Wildlife and, again, why we think this program is such a good match for our mission here.

The mission statement of Texas Parks and Wildlife 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. Managing and conserving the natural and cultural resources of Texas, as you already know, 95 percent of those resources are on privately owned lands and as you'll see, some 85 percent, 84 percent of those are on what we call working lands. Lands that produce agricultural products of some kind -- timber products, fiber products, food products, ranching lands. And as an Agency, we don't see any boundaries. Our mission is to encourage good stewardship of those resources and that's why we feel like this program really does meet our mission well and we're excited about, again, having another tool in that conservation toolbox.

So a brief history, we traced the history of this Agency back to 1895 with the creation of the Texas Fish and Oyster Commission. In 1907, the Game Department was added to that. In 1923, the Texas State Parks Board was established independent of the Fish and Game Commission. And in 1963, those were all merged to form what we now know as the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

The Department currently consists of 11 different divisions, plus the Executive Office. Those divisions would include State Parks, Wildlife Division, Inland Fisheries, Coastal Fisheries, Law Enforcement, Human Resources, and so forth, plus again the Executive Office where the resource -- where the Land Conservation Program is housed. We currently -- the Agency currently manages about 1.4 million acres. As Carter alluded to, there's some 30 million acres in private land agreements, conservation easements of various kinds. So what we own and manage is really only a fraction of what we're involved in the management of.

Now, those lands are primarily state parks lands, a little half of that 1.4 million; wildlife management area is a little more than that 1.4 million; and those are critical. Those are very important. We take those very seriously, and we think they represent some of the best examples of those habitats and ecosystems that are the best of Texas; but they're just a tiny, tiny fraction of the state, and we can only accomplish so much conservation on those. So there are a range of efforts here at Texas Parks and Wildlife to encourage good stewardship of private lands. In addition to the program that Carter mentioned, we have several dozen private lands biologists across the state that are available to help private lands owners understand their lands and manage their lands. They're there to help development wildlife management plans. They help them to work on wildlife tax valuations. They're there to help them with game management. They're there to help them as needed, and I guarantee every single one of them stays very busy with private landowners that welcome that assistance.

We have a landowner incentive program, which is a cash program that provides grants to landowners to undertake actions on their properties that is enhance fish and wildlife values on their lands. We have a wildscape program, which is more targeted at urban and suburban properties. We know that even if somebody has a small front yard, that they can manage that front yard in such a way as to be an assistance to migratory songbirds and small mammals, small reptiles, Monarch butterflies which are in the news now. So we have a program targeting lands that are -- that we don't normally think of as landscape scale lands, but they're still a part -- an important part of that entire conservation landscape. And now, of course, we have the Texas Farm and Ranch Lands Conservation Program that y'all are a part of and we're just really excited about implementing to help with conservation.

As I mentioned, the program is housed within the Land Conservation Program, which is a part of the Executive Office. The Land Conservation Program provides land services, land conservation services to the entire Agency. The program is responsible for acquisition and disposition of lands. We're responsible for keeping track of our boundaries and in many cases, that means working with adjacent landowners on boundary agreements. In some cases, that involves resolving misunderstandings or disputes about those boundaries. We're responsible for managing third party uses of our lands -- easements, pipelines, overhead lines. There are laws that help us limit the impacts to our properties; but they do occur, and we're responsible for managing those.

There is oil-and-gas activity that takes place on some of our properties, and we keep track of all of those records. Eighty years of land acquisition and land management records are housed in our program. The staff includes myself, a senior project manager -- Corky Kuhlmann, I believe, is here. Corky -- Corky in the back row keeping a low profile. We've got a state park specialist who concentrates on those issues as they occur in state parks. We have an asset manager who does nothing but manage those 80 years of records and keeps them sorted out for us. And the staff services officer, Carla Beavers, who you met.

In terms of the management of this program -- the oversight, the decision-making -- is the purview of this Council, of y'all. The Council Chairman is assigned by the Chairman of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission by statute and we're excited, very excited that Commissioner Morian has agreed to chair this Council. As you all know, he has a lot of history with conservation in Texas. I'm the project staff level director. You've met Bob Sweeney, who is providing his legal services.

We have a team of several people. Jeannie, who you've met, and Carla and several others in the Agency have been instrumental in getting us to this point and are going to help us as we move forward. We've mentioned the project review committee. We are in the process or we are on the verge of putting together yet another group who will manage those grants, make sure that those grants are properly administered and negotiated with the grantees that you select and that everything is done legally and everything is auditable and that, again, those relationships with those landowners and that those conservation easements, those management plans, all the documentation that is required is in order and that those records are housed here so that we can make sure that those grants go to the purposes for which you've granted them.

With that, I'd be happy to answer any questions.

MS. MCAFEE: I have a question about a -- I read just recently in the paper they're trying to run a big transmission line to, I believe, Fredericksburg and it's supposedly going to be going -- part of the fight is it's supposed to be going through a conservation land with a conservation easement.


MS. MCAFEE: Is that something y'all work with the landowners or with LCRA or is that something Land Trust -- or do y'all get involved in that?

MR. SMITH: Maybe I could answer that, Ted, if you don't mind.

So when matters -- and in this case, the transmission line disputes over the CREZ line process, the Department does have a role in the contested case hearing process and we're really there to provide biological input and so what the implications or ramifications are to fish and wildlife with respect to the various routes that the public utility commission considers. Certainly in the comments that our biologists provide when evaluating potential lines going through different private lands, we look at a wide variety of factors -- you know, impacts to stream crossings, rare and sensitive wildlife habitat -- but also the presence and existence of conservation easements. And certainly there's been a lot of publicity lately about a line that is proposed to go through a ranch with a conservation easement and so -- and that matter obviously still being deliberated upon.

But, yes, we've got a role in that regard; but it's really to provide, again, what are the impacts from a fish-and-wildlife perspective.

MS. MCAFEE: So it doesn't really have to do with -- that's not something that's in the conservation easement that would affect that?

MR. SMITH: Well, so the -- not being completely familiar with the details of the conservation easement on that particular property, you know, I'm not sure how it spoke to the possibility of transmission lines and power lines and so forth. You know, at this juncture, my understanding is that there's the eminent domain that's going to be able to trump any ability in the easement to preclude that from happening, so. And that's a matter of concern to many in the conservation community.

MS. MCAFEE: Okay. Thank you.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: To speak directly to your question, we do get -- we do get inquiries from landowners regularly about the relationship of conservation easements and eminent domain. We can provide biological information. We really are not positioned to provide legal info -- legal advice to landowners on that matter. This is also a good point though -- a good place to point out that in the statute, in HB 1925, in the statute that brings this program here, there is a very special provision and that is that lands that are placed under conservation easement as a result of this program, carry a protection similar to what call Chapter 26 in the Texas Wildlife Code and that is that a third party use, a third party taking -- such as a transmission line or a pipeline -- cannot go through that property with that conservation easement on it unless it can be demonstrated that there is no prudent and reasonable alternative to that route.

So that's unique to this program. Normally, conservation easements simply don't have the authority to put those prohibitions in; but in this program, I'm very pleased that the Legislature felt like the lands protected under this program were that important.

MS. MCAFEE: Okay. Thank you.

MR. ZACEK: Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Yes, a question?

MR. ZACEK: I have somewhat of a related question. I'm not sure who to address it to. But I seem to recall several years ago, it was -- if I remember right, Atascosa/McMullen County -- Texas Supreme Court case that was a landowner and it was over eminent domain and pipeline right-of-ways and how it impacted the value of that land. That if you take a ranch that's in one piece and then because of some major transmission line is now in two pieces, how it impacts more than just the square footage under the right-of-way itself.

There wasn't any exclusions for that ruling on that case that would have in any way affected what these conservation easements are worth. We would be a part and could operate off of that same Court ruling, is that correct, when the value of the easement is determined in the appraisals?

MR. SMITH: John, that's a good question. Are you talking about the Donnell case down there on the --


MR. SMITH: -- pipeline issue?

Bob, can you speak to that from a legal perspective? Do you have any knowledge on that to address John's question?

MR. SWEENEY: A little bit. Thanks. I've read the case. I think that the question there where really comes to: Is it really a valuation question? There was no doubt that the land could be taken for the pipeline. The question was: How did you value it? Did you value it based on that little -- you know, the square footage of that little strip or did you say, "Hey, this property is no longer the ranch that I thought it was because it's got a giant pipeline in it now that I didn't want" and I think the Donnell case came out in support of the latter interpretation.

I'm not sure about the subsequent history of that. So how would you look at this in context? Well, you might say that the valuation would be enhanced because of the existence of the conservation easement, that it represents, you know, some public, you know, assessment of the value of that being greater than, again, than just a strip of -- you know, a little -- some square footage. So I think that would be a helpful case and then if it went all the way to the end where the land was nonetheless condemned, it would provide more revenue out of that to either mitigate that loss in some other ways because that's how you do -- that's what you have left is the ability to use the resources that are provided through the eminent domain proceeding in mitigating with the acquisition or protection of some other piece of property. That's -- if the public need is greater or higher to have the land used for a pipeline or a power line, then you're left with money to use on some other project. Fair enough?

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

MR. ZACEK: Yeah, that answered my question. I just wanted to make sure we weren't excluded in some way with our purpose and our goals here from that.

MR. SWEENEY: No, I wouldn't say so.

MR. ZACEK: Thank you.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: The effect -- and I think Bob touched on this -- is that the statute does, in fact, contemplate the possibility of third-party impacts to lands under conservation easements. And when a project reaches that point, the statute does require appraisal of the value and reimbursement of the program in proportion to the loss of that value. So case law at that point would certainly be taken to effect in establishing those values.

MR. ZACEK: Thanks for that clarity.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Good question. Thanks.

Any other questions?

We'll move on to Item 7: Presentation to Council by TPWD staff regarding working lands of Texas, their extent, productivity, economic value, and the threats they face and the role of land trusts and conservation easements in protecting working lands, Mr. Hollingsworth.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: At the risk of being redundant, I'm Ted Hollingsworth. And I'm going to go through this kind of briefly, only because Blair and Lori were actually the source of most of my information in here and they did such a good job of touching on these issues that I don't want to become too redundant here; but I do want to add just a little bit of emphasis to some of this.

There's 142 million acres of Texas that are considered working lands. For the most part, they're under tax valuations because they are producing timber. They're producing fiber. They're producing row crop -- row crop products. They're producing cattle. 142 million acres and as Lori's slide mentioned, Massachusetts is 11 million acres. So the value of working lands in Texas would be -- it would be difficult to overstate that.

And I don't need to tell anyone in this room that the demographics of this state are changing radically and dramatically. I'm born and raised here in Texas. You couldn't drag me kicking and screaming any other place and I've been here for 58 years and this state is changing and a lot of things are being lost and what's being lost when we lose our working lands is that we lose not only the productivity of those working lands, we not only use the ability to grow food and fiber and timber; but we lose something of our heritage. We lose those landscapes that we all think of as being Texas. We lose those vistas. We lose those heritages.

And, I mean, the Texas population -- you can see the numbers for yourself; but it grew from 19 million to 26 million just in the 15 years from 1997 to 2012. And we lead the nation by far in the rate of loss and conversion of those working lands. Four -- over 4 million acres were converted to -- just to urban uses, not to other industrial and commercial uses; but just to urban uses between 1982 and 2010, 4 million acres. And we're not going to stop that, but this program gives us the ability to help curb that, to help identify places where we have landowners who want to see their precious ranches and farms conserved and where the productivity and value of those justify us stepping in and helping to see that they get conserved.

Texas is the second largest agricultural producer in the nation. Agricultural production is the second largest resource based industry in Texas, generating about $100 billion a year. Texas accounts for about 7 percent of this nation's agricultural income. And as I mentioned before, working lands protect water. They protect wildlife habitat, viewsheds, and significant aspects of our cultural heritage.

It's a shame that Mr. Kelsey couldn't be here this morning. I think all of y'all know him. But he called me this morning and we had a very pleasant discussion and he wanted to speak just a little bit about the selection criteria, which we'll talk about, and he was concerned that the reference to water conservation would biased the program towards the Hill Country. And I said, well, Mr. Kelsey -- and I've known Tom for a number of years. I said, you know, when you take off 100 acres or 500 acres of the Katy prairie and you turn it into subdivisions, you have a tremendous impact on the quality of water entering those groundwater systems and those bayous and those rivers, just as much as you do anywhere in Texas.

And he said, "That's right."

And I said, "I don't believe that's going to bias anything except it's going to just underscore the fact that when we conserve working lands, we're protecting water." And as we all know, water is becoming a limiting factor. It's becoming a very critical resource in Texas and we're not going to solve the problem by building more reservoirs. We're going to solve the problem by protecting water where it hits the ground on these working lands.

The biggest threat to Texas working lands, as we all know, is fragmentation. And it's not just that thousand-acre ranches are turning into 500-acre ranches are turning into hundred-acre ranches are turning into 10-acre ranchettes. It's that as those parcels become smaller, it becomes more and more difficult -- if not impossible -- for those to work on a viable scale -- to raise cattle, to grow crops on a viable scale.

It also means that normally as those are broken up, they get more houses put on them, which means more yards, which means more feral animals, which means more fences, which just, again, leads to a net loss of those productive values of those lands. And many of those lands end up being converted from agriculture to other uses and as Lori alluded to and Blair alluded to, the economics are changing. As land values skyrocket in Texas, there is less and less incentive for the owners of working lands to keep making an income working those lands and market forces are making it such that the value of those products is making it difficult for people to make a living working their lands.

I'm a native of Southeast Texas, and I've seen rice farming just all but go away. The cost of producing rice is going up. The worldwide value of rice has stayed about the same, with imports from a number of other countries. Water, we've mentioned water. Water has been shut off to a lot of those operators because of its -- because it's not available and so rice farmers are losing the ability to rice farm -- to farm rice. And the same thing is happening with any number of other agricultural products in Texas.

So all of these forces are working against working lands in Texas. And as I tell people all the time, 20 years from now we are really going to wish we still had our working lands producing food and cattle and timber products in Texas. I'm going to thank Mr. Lopez' group for this map, but it's often seen and often shared because it's very graphic and it makes it very clear that we are rapidly losing working lands and it's easy to see that most of that loss is occurring around population centers.

What's not so obvious is that many of those population centers are where they are because of the topography and the soils and the quality of that land that attracted people there in the first place. And when we lose land around Houston, we are losing some of our most arable, some of our most productive soils in the state. You know, we've never systematically thought, "Well, where is it that we cannot grow crops or cattle? Let's put cities there." We tend to put them in places that are otherwise very productive, and so the loss is -- the loss is profound and it's going to compromise our quality of life and the quality of lives for our children and grandchildren. And so, again, that's why we're so excited at the opportunity to help curb some of that loss.

There are a variety of tools, as you know, to help keep working lands working. They require the participation of willing landowners and we all know that and landowners know that, but many landowners are not aware of all the programs that are available to them and it really is going to be up to agencies like Texas Parks and Wildlife, NRCS, it's going to be up to the NGOs that Lori mentioned, up to our private lands biologists to be able to speak to landowners about those tools that are available and help educate landowners about the tools that are available to help keep their working lands.

I get calls, heartbreaking calls every month from landowners who say, "You know, I'm in my 70s. I pieced this ranch together. My wife and I love this land. We would not do anything else, but we're getting older and we're worried about what's going to happen when we're no longer here to protect this ranch. The kids aren't interested in it," or "We don't have kids," or "We have too many kids and they can't decide," whatever the problem is and we just -- it breaks our heart the thought of this not remaining working lands. And so there are a lot of folks out there that are receptive to hearing about those tools to protect their working lands.

Conservation easements, as Lori said, probably are the single best tool for keeping working lands working. They provide financial incentives to the landowners. They reduce -- in some cases, reduce that tax burden and some of those overhead; and they're in perpetuity, which is, to me, is extremely important that those tools are in perpetuity. And they mean that the landowners can keep doing what they've been doing. They can keep loving and working their lands.

NGOs are in the best position to get out and negotiate those conservation easements and hold and monitor and enforce those conservation easements. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, for example, has about a dozen conservation easements. We hold about a dozen. They are adjacent to state parks and wildlife management areas and we only agree to manage those where the management of that property impacts what we do on our state parks and NGOs, which means we don't hold conservation easements over the vast bulk of the state. That's where NGOs are critical to be the holders and the managers of those easements.

To date, the Texas Land Trust -- as Lori told you -- have conserved over 1.6 million acres. That's more than all the state parks and wildlife management areas in Texas put together.

The goals of the program, real simple goal: We want to fund conservation easements on working lands with high values for water, fish and wildlife and agricultural production and per the statute, especially those that are at the greatest risk of being lost. To get to that point, our objectives are to generate as much interest and awareness among landowners and land trusts as possible and to leverage the state appropriation with other resources, again, to make it go as far as possible and to achieve as many conservation easement projects as we possibly can.

I do want to reiterate something that Lori said and that is that we really need to demonstrate -- and Carter mentioned it -- we need to demonstrate going into the next Legislative session that there is a tremendous unmet demand out there for these tools to conserve and preserve these working lands. So we're encouraging the land trust community, we're encouraging landowners to scope those projects, those conservation easements. Even if there's not enough money to go around this cycle, scope those, submit those, get those in, get those in under NRCS.

As Claude mentioned, they got 11 proposals for the 2016 cycle, which is a record for them. We need to be able to demonstrate that we have willing landowners out there who have worthwhile properties that need to be conserved and that there's a tremendous unmet need.

With that, I'd be happy to answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you, Ted.

Any questions so far?

All right. Then we'll move on to Briefing Item No. 8: Presentation regarding grant programs of the Natural Resource Conservation Service and other potential sources for matching funds with Texas Farm and Ranch Lands Conservation Program grants. And again, Mr. Hollingsworth.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: For the record, Ted Hollingsworth. We alluded in the last presentation to one of our primary objectives being to leverage these funds as much as we possibly can. For one thing, we want to get as much conservation accomplished as possible, but we also want to -- want to make it clear to the Legislature that every dollar they invest in this program, we're going to make it go as far as we possibly can.

The program that offers the greatest opportunity at this time to really leverage those funds -- excuse me -- it's the conservation easement programs that come out of the Farm Bill and are administered by the NRCS. The 84th Legislature, as we've already mentioned, appropriated $2 million for this program for the current biennium. Most of that is going to get allocated for grants. All of the funds have to be encumbered by August 31st, 2017.

We have been working with NRCS and, quite frankly, been working directly with Claude Ross almost since the day that we became aware that this program was going to be moved to Texas Parks and Wildlife, in an effort to coordinate the conservation easement programs of NRCS with this program. We were a little surprised when the due date for applications for NRCS was bumped up to January 15th of this year. Claude and his staff, his chain of command, have worked with us to make sure that we could still do some match. They are going to be spending the next couple of months evaluating those proposals that came in and Chairman Morian has agreed to call this group back together March the 2nd. At that time, staff will present to this group a recommendation for those projects that we think are most appropriate for funding.

We are aware of the fact that several of those NRCS applications indicated Texas Farm and Ranch Land Conservation Program funds as the potential match. I don't know the exact number; but I'm aware of at least three or four, and they're very worthwhile projects. So we're excited about the prospect of matching those, and typically those get matched three to one -- get matched three to one. So every dollar of Texas Farm and Ranch Land Program money that gets dedicated to a project, gets matched with $3. $2 out the NRCS Conservation Easement Program, and another dollar either from a local source or from that landowner in the form of a donation of a part of the value of that easement.

The goals for NRCS line up extremely well with the goals for this program. And as I started alluding to, we -- the Chairman as agreed to reconvene this group March the 2nd. In June -- well, and the following -- the week after that meeting, staff will prepare letters of intent for those projects that you have agreed to fund. We will forward those to Claude to be considered as the NRCS looks at the applications. By about June, NRCS will finalize their process and announce the grantees for that program.

I'm very optimistic that some of those are going to include grantees who have been with projects that have been matched with funds from this program. In September, the -- or by September, NRCS hopes to have those grant agreements, those official grant agreements in place with those grantees. We will schedule this program's process so that those projects that are receiving funding from both sources, so that the timing is right, that those agreements can be entered into at the same time. Those projects can -- those projects can proceed seamlessly with those two sources of funding, and the work on those projects will be able to begin immediately.

And we're hopeful that those projects that are selected by this Council for match funding to NRCS from Farm and Ranch Land Conservation Program funding, will close by the end of this year or soon thereafter.

Claude, is that a reasonable schedule from NRCS standpoint that those 2016 projects could close by the end of this year or early next year?

MR. ROSS: Probably early next year.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Early next year. Very good.

I would also just add that any funds that are not awarded on March the 2nd, would be added to those -- to that $122,000 that's available for 2017. And we would come back to this Council with a proposal for another grant cycle to award the rest of those available funds.

There are other opportunities out there. The selection criteria do take into effect -- do take into account the cost effectiveness of the proposals, other leveraging sources. There are landowners out there who are interested in donating conservation easements. There are landowners out there who are interested in bargain sales of conservation easements, and I don't want to underscore -- I don't want to understate the fact that there are landowners out there who really do need full value for their conservation easements, but are managing lands that are such high conservation value and such high agricultural value that they deserve consideration for full funding; but we do encourage -- we do encourage projects that are very, very cost effective and there are other sources of match funding out there from private sources and other government sources.

I'd be happy to answer any questions.

MR. ROSS: Ted.


MR. ROSS: The -- excuse me. The funds under the Texas Farm and Ranch Lands Conservation Program, are those available only for easement purchase themselves; or can some of those funds be used for acquisition costs that have been borne by the land trust?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: I was confident someone was going to ask that question.

MR. ROSS: Oh, sorry about that.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: No, no, no, no. I'm glad you asked that question. The fact is, there's nothing in the statute that prohibits the use of those funds to cover those ancillary closing costs. And, in fact, as Lori and Blair will attest, many times it's the ability to fund those ancillary costs -- the cost of a survey, the cost of an appraisal -- that makes or breaks a very valuable conservation easement project. So as far as I'm concerned, if a proposal includes the need for those costs and it's otherwise -- otherwise, is a high-ranking proposal, the funds are available to cover those costs.

MR. ROSS: Well, that's good just because the NRCS Farm Bill money cannot be used.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Cannot cover those costs. Yes, sir, I understand that.

MS. KINSEL: I have a question about the deadlines. So a deadline has passed, the NRCS application period; but we are having another application period, which will close in February?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: The application period that's closed is for the NRCS process.

MS. KINSEL: Right.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: For a project to receive match funding from the Farm and Ranch Land Conservation Program, it is necessary that the project be -- have been applied for under NRCS and indicate the potential match from program dollars from Texas Farm and Ranch Land Conservation program dollars. It is also necessary that project be submitted for consideration by this Council. Again, NRCS has worked very closely with us to make it possible for projects that you select March 2nd, to then be considered by NRCS as having a match, a match provided by this program. So we are going to propose -- and you'll see in another presentation, we're going to propose a February deadline for applications for project proposals under this program, under the Texas Farm and Ranch Land Conservation Program. Did that answer your question?

MS. KINSEL: Yes. What if there's a project that is not interested or didn't meet the deadline for the NRCS funding, is this something we would still look at; but they are going to have to --

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Absolutely. Absolutely.

MS. KINSEL: -- get their application in ASAP?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Absolutely. There is no provision anywhere in statute or otherwise that says a project needs an NRCS match or any other match. If it's a cost effective project and it ranks high, then we want to bring that forward.

And I'm glad you asked that question because staff would also like to encourage the land trust community working with landowners out there to continue to submit those applications beyond that February deadline for two reasons. One of which is we anticipate there are going to be other funds available. If nothing else, the $122,000 that's going to be made available in fiscal year 2017, which starts September 1 of 2016; but also we want to demonstrate that there's a need and a demand.

I told Lori before the meeting started that, you know, let your members know that even if they know there's no funding available, as long as they understand that, get those applications in anyway so that we can demonstrate that there's an unmet need for dollars to put on the ground, really worthwhile conservation projects and working lands in Texas.

MS. KINSEL: Thank you.

MR. ISOM: Quick question. When was the application and the criteria posted on the website?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Carla, do you know when that was posted?

MS. BEAVERS: It was probably finalized about three or four days ago, but the draft version has been up for a couple weeks now.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yeah, there's a draft version that's available on the website; and we've been pointing people to it. It clearly states that the selection criteria are subject to finalization by this Council, and it's clearly marked "draft." We hope that as a result of this meeting, we can go back to the website and then make it clear that we are accepting applications.

MR. ISOM: So outside of going through NRCS, the availability of that time period is about a month? Two to three weeks ago and two to three weeks timing where we're -- our -- the Council's deadline is going to be. So there's been an open period of approximately four weeks, correct?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: That's correct.

MR. ISOM: Okay.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir. It's a short window, but we've been working with Blair and Lori directly to try to get the word out. I think most of the trusts that are out there, most of the -- most of the perspective applicants that are out there are well aware that this program is available and that there's going to be a -- about a four-week window to get those applications completed and submitted. And we deliberately kept the application as simply -- as simple as we could to make sure people could get that filled out and get that submitted to us.

MR. ISOM: Thank you.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, Rex, certainly going forward, we don't want to have such a compressed timeline on this front and this clearly was an artifact of trying to see where possible we could leverage funds through the NRCS program and so they moved their deadline and that's not a criticism. It is what it is, but it did create awkwardness for standing at this Council and the Department and then trying to solicit applications within some kind of reasonable timeframe; but certainly going forward, we'll provide much more lead time.

MR. ZACEK: Is the grant -- the landowner agreement, assuming the partnering of the funds happens, is that one agreement? That's not two separate agreements that the landowner that's awarded would have to be operating under?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: That is a really, really excellent question. Claude and I have had this discussion. I've had that discussion with counsel here. There will be -- there will be two agreements with the land trust. One for NRCS funding, and one for Texas Farm and Ranch Land Conservation Program funding. We are hopeful that the landowner sees a single agreement.

We don't want to intimidate landowners, and we don't want landowners feeling like they're operating under two separate sets of operating instructions. So we hope that the landowner will see a single agreement. Certainly there will be a single conservation easement at the end of the day and a single management plan at the end of the day. We hope there's only going to be one legal agreement, but we're just now getting to the point where we can start thinking about working through that process.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Any other questions?

Then we'll move on to Action Item No. 9: Consideration by Council of the adoption of the scoring process for evaluating and awarding applications for grants by the TFRLCP required under Texas Parks and Wildlife Code Section 84.012 -- 010(2). And again, Mr. Hollingsworth.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Members of the Council, my name is Ted Hollingsworth. This is -- this is really kind of where the rubber meets the road today. Under House Bill 1925 -- and I'm just going to read this -- the Council shall give priority to applications that protect high -- highly productive agricultural lands that are susceptible to a development, including subdivision and fragmentation, and adopt a scoring process to be used in evaluating applications that considers the following: Maintenance of landscape and watershed integrity; protection of habitats for native plant and animal species; potential for leveraging State money, proximity of the subject property to other protected lands; the term, the length of the proposed easement; and the resource plan, management plan. How protective is that plan? How much is it going to accomplish in the long run?

And these are the criteria that were handed to us by the statute. I mentioned that we had assembled a project review committee that I worked with very closely to develop a new set of selection criteria. The criteria that were used by the GLO were specific to the previous statute and were also specific to the requirements of the CIAP Program. So we've come up with -- we've come up with a new set -- a draft set for your consideration today.

That same team will be involved in ranking those project applications when they come in, and that same team will be involved in making recommendations back to you on March 2nd and on any subsequent meetings where you consider granting funds for -- as a response of project applications. I do want to mention the team members. I showed this -- showed you earlier, but I want to mention them by name. Tim Birdsong, who's our Ecosystem Habitat Assessment Chief. Very, very, very actively engaged in getting landowners thinking about the effects of their land management practices on water quality. He's working in several watersheds, primarily in the Edwards Aquifer; but across the state that are considered critical watersheds for protecting water quality in Texas. Justin Dreibelbis -- is Justin here? He was here a little while ago. Yeah, Justin's here.

Tim's not here, is he? Oh, I'm sorry, Tim. Tim's here. Tim's here.

Justin's here, as well. Justin is our Private Lands and Public Hunting Program Director. So he is -- he is responsible for seeing that those private lands biologists are well equipped to talk to private lands owners about the various tools for conserving their lands.

Corky Kuhlmann, who we introduced earlier, is still sitting in the back row and just kind of the guru when it comes to helping landowners through transactions that involve their lands.

Jeff Raasch -- was Jeff able to join us this -- Jeff -- Jeff joined us. We got the whole team this morning. Jeff is our Statewide Wetland Habitat Program Leader. He works very, very closely with Ducks Unlimited, with joint management programs with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, all things having to do with wetlands, with migratory birds, with wetland values, water quality as well. Jeff is our guy. So we really do have the A-team working on this and helping us to develop these guideline -- these selection criteria.

You have those selection criteria in a little more detail in your booklets, but I just want to quickly go over those. The threat of development -- and again, this was sort of spelled out by statute -- but threat of development we're proposing bring 20 points to that hundred-point selection criteria. The value and, again, the cost effectiveness, how much conservation is going to be achieved for the amount of money being requested, 20 points. Watershed value, you know, what is the management of this property going to do for the long-range quality, quantity, seasonality of that water that flows off of that property and flows into the ground, into aquifers and ground -- groundwater systems. Fish and wildlife value, what is this going to do for the long-range conservation of fish and wildlife resources for Texas? Contribution to the landscape, again, 20 points there. Contribution to conservation landscape. Is this adjacent to? Does it connect? Does it add value to a conservation landscape that's already underway? Is it adjacent to a wildlife management area? Is it adjacent to other conservation easements? Is it part of a recognized larger landscape scale conservation plan?

And then the terms of the conservation easement. I think everyone in here understands that conservation easements, oftentimes, allow for a certain amount of development and they allow for building envelopes and they allow for additional residential or agriculture-related structures and they allow for roads, fences, and so forth. How protective is that conservation easement? With a little bit more points given for those that are particularly protective of those conservation values that are of greatest importance to the committee and hopefully to this Council. Ten points there.

That's a summary of those selection and criteria. I'd be happy to answer any questions or hear any comments that you might have about how those values are structured or things you might change on the selection criteria.

MR. ISOM: Mr. Chairman, do you prefer a motion and a second before we ask questions and discuss the action item?

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Let's have questions first. Then --

MR. ISOM: Okay. I have a quick --


MR. ISOM: Just point of information. The scoring criteria, obviously you've got the 20 and etcetera. The subcategories underneath, are those allocated evenly value-wise? How do you do that?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: No, sir. Those are -- those are qualitative. The selection team would take those into account collectively to determine if it's 20 points or 18 points or 15 points given in that category. It was not our intention. Now, we can take that direction from the Council. We can certainly allocate those evenly, but --

MR. ISOM: Just for my -- just point of clarification, threat of development near a population center. You have the ability to allot 20 points for that one category, or the 20 points will be divided out evenly among the four categories in that --

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: If the selection team were to find that that particular quality was of such high value and such high importance for the intent of this program and what we would perceive to be the intent of the Council, then 20 points could be awarded. Yes, sir.

MR. ISOM: Okay. So the preference -- preference of the staff is to leave that flexibility, correct?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: That's the recommendation of staff at this point. Yes, sir.

Mr. Smith, did you --

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: I had a question.

MR. SMITH: No, go ahead.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Terms of the conservation easement -- No. 2, easement holder is accredited and stable. Would these, the projects, be brought by easement holders; or will we have a project and go seek out the logical easement holder for that particular piece of property?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: The way the program is structured, the applicant would be the land trust and the land trust would already have a commitment.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: They would bring that complete -- they would bring that project to -- okay. So we will look at the land trust and their stability and viability; is that correct?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir. We have a very strong recommendation from the Texas Land Trust Council and from several of their members that we show preference -- I want to be careful how I phrase that -- but we show preference for accredited land trusts, land trusts that have a track record, that are already managing -- that are already successfully managing conservation easements.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: And that key -- all three of these items are worth ten points. Okay. That answers my question.

MS. KINSEL: I have a related question, very minor. But under there, you're using the word "accredited." Is that referring to what Lori described to us earlier about the accreditation that someone would seek formally?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Exactly. Yes, ma'am. That same program.

MS. KINSEL: And I -- there was a lot of data thrown out; but it sounded like it was a minority of the land trust organizations that have achieved accrediting so far. Something like only --

MS. OLSON: About a third.

MS. KINSEL: Yeah, a third. Nine of thirty; is that correct?

MS. OLSON: But there are several -- already two, I think, more that are in the pipeline to get accredited this coming year. So, I mean, it's -- it is a limited sort of process in terms of how many groups could get accredited this year; but eventually all the trusts can, in theory, get through it.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: And we very specifically -- we want to be able to take that into account, but if an applicant -- if a land trust that prepares and submits an application is not accredited, that certainly -- that's not a deal killer. I mean, it certainly doesn't prevent them from being a successful applicant.

MS. KINSEL: Not being informed of the various land trusts and their, you know, reliability, it seems to me it might be a bonus point; but might not should be a requirement for us.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: That's correct. It is not -- it is not a requirement. That's correct.


MR. SMITH: Leslie, I think you can think of that accreditation process as kind of the gold standard in terms of the review. The land trusts that have gone through that vetting, have gone through a very intensive and exhaustive process to meet certain threshold standards that the National Land Trust Alliance provides. And so I think it is one more important data point in terms of, you know, your confidence in a land trust and their fiduciary responsibilities, the extent and quality of their governance, their financial wherewithal, decision-making, etcetera, that they've gone through that. But I agree with you at this stage, given that we've got about a third of the land trusts in the state that have gone through it, more in the pipeline.

And, Lori, it takes about a year to go through that accreditation process?

MS. OLSON: Once you get approved, yeah.

MR. SMITH: Okay. So it's exhaustive. But, you know, something just for you to look at and then make a decision about, is this organization appropriately qualified to hold this easement and to administer the funds that you'll be granting to them, so.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: And everybody is probably aware of this; but by law, a conservation easement must be monitored by the holder of the conservation easement at least once a year. Many of our conservation easements are actually monitored twice a year so that they're monitored leaf on and leaf off, for example; or they're monitored at a time of the year when certain critical things are happening that are values that are important to that conservation easement.

And so, obviously, you want that easement holder -- you want some confidence that they're going to be able to do that monitoring year after year after year and if there's -- you know, heaven forbid, but if there's a need to enforce, if there's an infraction and a need to force -- enforce, that that easement holder has the capacity to do that.

MR. ZACEK: Ted or Lori, do we have any -- such as the bank that I work for has a trust department. Do you have any trust departments that, obviously, have fiduciary responsibilities, do you have any of them out of your 90 or -- accredited or is that just not a group that is wanting to be easement holders in the past?

MS. OLSON: Through the land trust capacity?

MR. ZACEK: Yeah.



MS. OLSON: I mean, that's...

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Lori alluded to the Terrafirma?

MS. OLSON: Yeah.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: The Terrafirma, which is -- which was formed specifically because very, very, very, very few trusts had the capacity to carry their own insurance. Very few land trusts had the capacity to pick up the cost of enforcement if there was a need. And again, you don't ever want to see that. You want to work with landowners. You want to structure agreements such that you never get into a legal contest; but very, very few land trusts have the capacity to undertake those costs. And so Terrafirma was formed. It's a pool -- it's a pool insurance program. It's a group insurance. A group co-op, that's what it is. And so these -- for a nominal cost, each of these land -- these land trusts -- and they don't have to be accredited. They can take out insurance so if that need arises, they don't bear the cost of that legal -- they don't bear that legal cost of enforcement out of their own operating funds. They are insured to cover that. That is the reason for the Terrafirma program.

MS. OLSON: Just in addition, so each land trust also maintains their own stewardship endowment fund and that typically is part of each conservation and then transaction that a donation or contribution is made to that fund for that particular easement. So the land trust maintains their own fund to do those stewardship obligation duties in perpetuity; but then they have insurance typically through Terrafirma where they're paying per easement, you know, premium into this pool and that allows them for, you know, several hundred thousand dollars of access to those types of funds for legal defense if and when they're needed, so.

MR. ZACEK: Okay.

MR. ROSS: Just one more point --

MS. MCAFEE: No, go ahead.

MR. ROSS: These six selection criteria just walk side by side with NRCS's ACEP ALE Program. So, you know, a high ranking project for this program is more likely going to be a high ranking project for NRCS, as well. So we're walking down the road.


MS. MCAFEE: Something you alluded to earlier was, you were talking about families that maybe the owners are in their 70s and may not have children or other family members that want to keep ranching and then they're interested in putting their land possibly into a trust.

So when y'all are looking at the criteria, do you give more emphasis on a ranch that might have family members that want to keep carrying this on versus someone who may die and then who manages it or is that a consideration at all? Is there even a way to determine that?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yeah, that is not taken into consideration here. I have to trust that the land trust is looking at those dynamics --

MS. MCAFEE: So I guess that's --

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: -- as they scope a project and --

MS. MCAFEE: The question is probably more applicable to them, but I was wondering if that is taken into consideration.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: I'm sure that the land trust are looking at the long-term dynamics and whether or not -- you know, nobody wants to set themselves up to have problems with the next generation or the next -- I mean, the land trust work really hard and I've worked for private nonprofits -- work really, really hard to make sure that not only are they working with families that want this, but that they're structuring agreements in such a way as to minimize the possibility of having problems in the future.

MS. MCAFEE: And so if someone, say, were to pass away and they don't have family members, is there anything in place to take over the management of that trust or --

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: The language in the trust always provides for succession. The trust runs with the land.

MS. MCAFEE: Right.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Okay? So if the owner dies, there's no heirs, and as the affairs of the estate are settled, that land is sold. The conservation easements is still binding.

MS. MCAFEE: I guess my question would be more if it went to heirs, and they didn't want to manage it.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: The terms of the conservation easement are still binding. That creates very awkward situations for land trusts and, you know, land trusts hope that that doesn't happen; but that's what the conservation easement is there for, is to make sure that -- and there are cases where families inherit those. The conservation easement restricts their ability to sell it to make subdivisions out of; and as a result, they sell the property.

There are now, you may know, brokers in Texas who specialize in conservation land sales.


MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Finding people who are willing to buy properties that have those restrictions on them and don't care. In fact, maybe even compliment their desired uses for those lands.

MR. ZACEK: Ted, one final question from me, I promise. For generational passing on estate planning, I assume that the LLPs, LLCs, family limited partnerships are eligible for these in terms of so that the -- there can be multiple family members owning a property and keeping everything intact, obviously, to avoid the fragmentation issues, etcetera. So you've got a GP that's running it; but you've got 20, 50, 100 family heirs that might be a part of that property. Those types of families wouldn't be discounted in any way, would they --

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: That's correct.

MR. ZACEK: -- if the property -- if the effort -- if it's seen that the effort is to hold this thing together and hold it intact?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: That's correct. The party that has authority to make decisions for the land, can work with the land trust to apply. And, in fact, that's really becoming more and more common that, you know, there's 15 family members. They all own this ranch. They all want to see it intact for their kids and their grandkids and their great-grandkids, and one way to do that is to make everybody enter into a conservation easement. So we see that happening more and more. Yes, sir.

MR. ZACEK: Thank you.

MR. ISOM: Mr. Chairman, will you entertain a motion?

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: I'll entertain a motion if there are no more questions.

MR. ISOM: I will make a motion to adopt the scoring criteria attached in Exhibit A and authorize their use for all purposes related to the ranking of applications for the 2016 grant cycle.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Do we have --

MR. BRUUN: Second.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: We have a second. Thank you. All in favor say aye?

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Any opposed? We have -- for the record, we have no one signed up to speak on Action Item No. 9.

Action Item No. 10: Consideration by Council of the adoption of a schedule for evaluation of TFRLCP applications, including the deadlines for grant application submission and the expected dates of Council decisions on grant awards, Mr. Hollingsworth.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Members of the Council, this is a very simple presentation, very simple consideration by the Council. And in a nutshell, we propose to open the period for accepting grant applications tomorrow. We will post those. Take the draft -- the draft notices off and change the language associated with those on the website to indicate that we are accepting applications tomorrow.

We would close that application period three weeks from tomorrow on February the 19th. That would give staff approximately two weeks to rank those and to -- and to then take the projects that we think are the highest ranking projects, prepare summaries and PowerPoints of those to bring back to you on March the 2nd. We propose to bring back more than enough projects, if there are that many qualified projects, and bring back more than enough projects for your consideration. So that if you look at those and want to readjust the priorities for staff, that you have that prerogative; and we'd come back to you on March 2nd with a slate of projects that we'd recommend your consideration.

And based on your selection of projects, we would propose the following week to get letters of intent to the NRCS so that as -- they can consider those 11 projects that were submitted by the deadline, they can consider the commitments for match funding from this program.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Any discussion?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: And you do have this schedule in your handbook. Chairman?

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Right. If there's no discussion, then -- for the record, no one has signed up to speak. So I'm looking for a motion for approval.

MR. SCOTT: So moved.

MR. ISOM: Second.

MR. ZACEK: I'll second the motion.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you very much. All in favor say aye?

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Any opposed? Passes.

Action Item No. 11, which is the public comment session. We have one speaker signed up with the Nature Conservancy. Jeff Francell; is that correct?

MR. FRANCELL: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you. Welcome.

MR. FRANCELL: I know I'm between you-all and lunch. So I will make these comments very brief. But Jeff Francell. I do work for the Nature Conservancy on the Our Land Conservation Program and I couldn't let this opportunity go by without saying thank you and thank you to the State of Texas for coming up with funding for this program.

I, in the mid 1990s, did my master's thesis on property rights movement in far West Texas and conservation efforts at that time. And one of the conclusions I made in my thesis was that conservation easements could be a solution to that problem. I think in far West Texas, the jury may still be out on that front; but there have been some positive movement in the last couple of decades.

Shortly after that, I was hired by the Department to work on a handbook of conservation easements, do research into where easements were held in Texas. And at that time, I could locate about 20 or 30 conservation easements in Texas. So that was in the mid 90s, and now there are literally hundreds. And so the growth has been exponential, and I think that the establishment of this program is just the next step in moving that along and seeing more conservation get put on the ground.

Heretofore, most of the easements that the Conservancy has been able to work with are people that can afford to donate. Many people are not in that position. So we are really excited that there are some other incentives and hope that in the next Legislative session, we're successful in at least maintaining this level of funding, if not expanding it. So thank you very much.


Housekeeping item, we're meeting March 2nd. Would it inconvenience anybody to start at 9:00? I know some of you come in -- I see -- no?

MS. KINSEL: It will be fine.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: I don't know how much work we're -- put it this way, if it looks like we're going to be here all day, we'll start at 9:00. If not, we'll start at 10:00 again. How's that? Does that work?

Mr. Smith, this Council has completed its business; and I declare us adjourned at 12:05.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Council.

(Meeting adjourned)

In official recognition of the adoption of this resolution in a lawfully called public meeting of the Texas Farm and Ranch Lands Conservation Council, we hereby affix our signatures this _______ day of ___________________, 2016.

 S. Reed Morian, Chairman
 Bech Bruun, Member
 Rex Isom, Member
 Thomas R. Kelsey, Member
 Leslie L.W. Kinsel, Member
 Natalie Cobb Koehler, Member
 Roel Lopez, Member (Brian Pierce)
 Pam McAfee, Member
 Sid Miller, Member (Tim Kleinschmidt)
 Salvador Salinas, Member (Claude Ross)
 George D. Scott, Member
 John Zacek, Member

 C E R T I F I C A T E STATE OF TEXAS ) COUNTY OF TRAVIS ) I, Paige S. Watts, Certified Shorthand Reporter in and for the State of Texas, do hereby certify that the above-mentioned matter occurred as hereinbefore set out. I FURTHER CERTIFY THAT the proceedings of such were reported by me or under my supervision, later reduced to typewritten form under my supervision and control and that the foregoing pages are a full, true, and correct transcription of the original notes. IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and seal this Turn in date _____ day of ________________, ________.

 Paige S. Watts, CSR
 CSR No.: 8311
 Expiration: December 31, 2016
 7010 Cool Canyon Cove
 Round Rock, Texas 78681