March 2, 2016 Transcript

March 2, 2016

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Commission Hearing Room
4200 Smith School Road, Austin, TX 78744
Council Meeting
CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  All right.  Let's go ahead and start the meeting here.  It looks like 10:04. Before proceeding with any business, I believe Ross has a statement to make.

MR. MELINCHUK:  Yes, Mr. Chairman.  Thank you.
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 Government Code referred to as the Open Meetings Act. I would like this -- like for this fact to be noted in the official record of this meeting.  Thank you.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  Okay.  Action Item No. 1, approval of the minutes from the previous Council meeting held January 28th, 2016, which were distributed.

I'm sure everybody read all 150 pages.  But do I have a motion to approve them?

MR. BRUUN:  So moved.

MR. LOPEZ:  So move -- or I'll second it.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  Second, all right.

Thank you very much.

Any opposed?  Hearing none, motion carries.

Action Item No. 2, consideration by Council of staff recommendations regarding applicant eligibility, project eligibility, and eligibility project costs in Texas Farm and Ranch Lands Conservation Program project proposals, Mr. Ted 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.

This item is essentially a housekeeping item.  In this recent cycle of grant applications, we became aware of the fact that there were some specifics that we had not sought specific Council feedback on and although the answers to some of these questions seem to be implicit in statute, they're not specified as such and so we thought it good to come to Council and ask for some clarification going forward.

Statute does define a qualified easement holder as a State agency, county, municipality, or Section 501(c)(3) organization organized for the purpose of preserving agriculture, open space, or natural resources and qualified to hold a conservation easement. Statute does not go on to say that any qualified easement holder is also a qualified applicant; and although we proceeded on that assumption, we thought it good to come to the Council and ask the Council to confirm that, going forward, they would like to have that field of applicants open to all qualified easement holders, including State agencies, counties, municipalities, or Section 501(c)(3) organizations.

Secondly, there was a definition of a qualified project, which is a project designed to conserve water quality or quantity, conserve natural wildlife species through protection of their habitat, conserve rare or sensitive plant species, or conserve large tracts of qualified open space land that are threatened with fragmentation or development; but there was not a -- there was not a way to determine when those criteria were met.

When the program was under the auspices of the GLO, the GLO did prepare some guidance that said essentially that any property that was under a 1-D-1 tax valuation for agriculture or wildlife or eligible for 1-D-1 tax valuation would be considered -- would be considered eligible for -- to apply for a grant under this program.

The other thing that's not spelled out in statute, although we did discuss this briefly in our first Council meeting, is whether or not the project would cover ancillary project costs and we consider those to be due diligence costs such as appraisals, surveys, Phase 1 environmental reports, title policies, monitoring endowments, related costs, and closing costs, which can include, of course, some attorneys' fees, recording fees, things like that.  Staff recommends that the Council do approve that those costs be eligible.  In some programs they are not eligible; but in many cases, especially where land trust NGOs are involved, the ability to seek funding to cover those costs can make the difference between a project being viable and not being viable.  In many cases, a landowner, for example, is willing to donate or contribute a bargain sale of a conservation easement; but somebody somewhere has to come up with the 20 or 30 or $40,000 to cover those appraisal costs, survey costs, and so forth.  And in many cases, the landowner is not in a position to assume that burden and neither is the NGO.  So staff does feel like being able to include those costs increases the versatility of this program.

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

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  Is there any discussion by the Council members?  No one has signed up to speak.

Any other comments?  Then I'll entertain a motion for approval?

MR. BRUUN:  There's the motion.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  There's the motion.

MR. SCOTT:  Second.

MR. BRUUN:  Would you like it read into the record?


MR. BRUUN:  Would you like it read into the record?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  Staff does recommend that the Council adopt the following motion:  The Council authorizes staff to accept and rank grant applications from any qualified easement holder for lands covered by Section 1-D-1 ad valorem tax valuations, that Council furthermore authorizes staff to consider and recommend to the Council projects, grants -- project grants that include payment of ancillary project costs.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  Now, I'll entertain a --

MR. BRUUN:  So moved.

MR. ROSS:  Second.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  Any opposed?  It carries.
Item No. 3, the overview of the Texas Farm and Ranch Lands Conservation Program grant ranking process.  Justin, welcome.

MR. DREIBELBIS:  Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Council members.  For the record, my name is Justin Dreibelbis. I'm the Private Lands and Public Hunting Program Director here at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

I'd like to take just a minute to give you an overview of the ranking process that took place with our ranking committee.  A little bit of background, as you know, we had a shorter application period this year for a number of reasons.  Opened January 29th and went through February 19th.  We had 12 complete applications that we received during this time period, and all these applications were evaluated by a five-member ranking committee here at Parks and Wildlife.

Here's the committee membership.  We have Tim Birdsong from Inland Fisheries, myself and Jeff Raasch from the Wildlife Division, and then Ted Hollingsworth and Corky Kuhlmann from Land Conservation Program.

Process:  We met on February 22nd in the Land Conservation Program offices.  We reviewed all 12 applications in alphabetical order.  They showed up on a large screen, and we reviewed them as a group.  Each member gave a numerical score for each one of the grading criteria that was approved by this body at your last meeting.  We did that independently and did not compare scores.  As we went through the projects, we talked about pros and cons of each project.  Different subject matter experts would chime in with input on priority watersheds, priority species, things of that nature.  We, as I said, independently scored each one of these projects and did not discuss those rankings or scores until the end after the results had been tabulated.

There's the group in action.  And at the end of the day, we were very pleased that all five members were unanimous in their numerical ranking of the top five projects.  Obviously, the numbers shifted a little bit here and there, depending on the score; but the top five projects surfaced, and we're happy to bring you those recommendations here shortly.

So at this time, I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have.  Thank you.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  No questions?

Then we'll move on to Action Item No. 4, consideration by Council of staff recommendations to award grants for conservation easement projects, Mr. Ted 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.

As Justin mentioned, we received 12 applications.  I want to say -- I want to reiterate that we were extremely pleased to see that many applicants, qualified applicants and applications.  Nine different governmental -- nongovernmental organizations represented, projects from ten different counties across the state; and these were all worthwhile projects.  Any of these projects would have warranted -- would have warranted funding and protection under conservation easements.

The projects range in size from 144 acres up to 9,992 acres.  Applications requested a total of a little over $4 million to complete projects valued at a little over $20 million.  So the average leverage was four to one for these applications, which we were extremely, extremely pleased.  And it would have placed conservation -- had we funded all 12, it would have placed conservation easements on 17,471 acres.

Projects covered a variety of working land, types of working lands, including cattle ranches, mixed use properties, rice farms, and crayfish farms. Habitats range from high desert grasslands in West Texas to Hill Country springs to tidal wetlands down on the coastal bend.  So a nice -- really a nice diversity of projects.  We were very pleased to see that diversity. This map shows -- has a star representing the location of each of those projects.  As you can see, a little bit of a concentration on the coast; but much of the state -- much of the state represented.

I just want to review very quickly the selection criteria.  Threat of development or other conversion of productive working lands scored potentially up to 20 points.  The value or cost effectiveness of the project, potentially up to 20 points.  Watershed value, watershed, flood abatement,
water quality issues, up to 20 points.  Fish and wildlife value, up to 20 points.  Contribution to a conservation landscape where there were already protected lands, up to 10 points.  And then the terms, the specific terms, how protective that conservation -- proposed conservation easement would be -- up to 10 points.

And with this, I want to go through the projects one by one, starting with the project that ranked No. 1; and then we'll go through -- we'll go through all 12, but we'll start with the project that ranked the highest.  This is a project called the West Bay Corridor Project.  A lot of people know it as the Hitchcock Prairie.  There are -- not long ago, were many, many, many thousands of acres of coastal tallgrass prairie outside of Hitchcock, Texas, located between West Galveston Bay and Highway 2004.  Much of that is in conservation now.  The Brazoria Wildlife Refuge --   National Wildlife Refuge managed to secure quite a bit of that; but there's still some large tracts remaining, and the most significant tract -- conservationists consider the most significant tract is the Hitchcock Prairie, which has been in the targets of the -- been in the bullseye of the conservation community along the coast for probably 20 years now.

We've been trying to figure out how to get this property into conservation.  Very diverse.  A lot of wet prairie.  Some upland prairies.  A lot of Spartina prairies, some Pothole wetlands, and a lot of frontage on marshes and bays that are part of West Bay -- or Galveston Bay.  It's not contiguous with Brazoria Refuge, but it's very close.  $500,000 was requested, which represents about 12 percent of the project value or about $161 per acre.

There is a caveat on this one, and that is that there is a -- either a CWPPRA or NAWCA.  And I apologize.  I forget.  I believe it was a CWPPRA grant pending that provides a million dollars of this project money, and that money will go away at the end of this fiscal year.  So staff would recommend if we -- if you decide to fund this project, that it be contingent on being able to close in this fiscal year.  And if not, then that that $500,000 would be returned to the fund and be available for other projects.

You can see from the pictures, a lot of wetlands, a lot of emergent marshes, a lot of low prairie, and not a lot of Chinese tallow, not a lot of encroachment by exotic species here.  Just a really, really wonderful biological asset and in a place that's, of course, in Galveston County, subject to being broken up and subdivided and developed in the future.

If anyone has any questions about any one of these specific projects as I go through them, please just speak up and ask.  Otherwise, I'm going to proceed.

Yes, sir.

MR. KELSEY:  Let's see, I've got to push this thing?

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  No.  It's on all the time.

MR. KELSEY:  Ted, I was just wondering.

There's that separate tract up, I guess, north and a little bit east of the main tract.  What --


MR. KELSEY:  How does that work?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  That's part of the 3100 acres that the owner holds, and it would also go under conservation easement.

MR. ZACEK:  Do we know about the size of that piece of the total?


MR. ZACEK:  It doesn't appear to be much.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  No.  We just have to estimate that looks like maybe a couple hundred acres.

MS. MASON:  Can I answer the question?

That's about 70 -- I'm Lalise with Scenic Galveston.

It's about 75 acres, I think.  It's relatively small.

It does have legal access to it.  So it's okay to put it under the easement.

MR. BRUUN:  Mr. Hollingsworth, a quick question or more of a comment.  And this information was provided to Council members, which I appreciate; but as you go through each item, could you reference who the applicant is?  In this case, Scenic Galveston.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  Absolutely.  Yes, sir.  Be happy to do that.

MR. BRUUN:  On the slides, it did not -- it gives the name of the project, but did not specify who put in the application.  I think that would be helpful.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  Very good.  I will add that information.  In this case, it is Scenic Galveston, Inc.

The project that scored second is the Puryear Ranch Project, 425 acres in west Travis County. Mature Oak-Juniper woodlands and savannahs.  The headwaters of Rocky Creek, which is a major tributary of Barton Creek.  It is adjacent to the Shield Ranch, which is a 6700-acre ranch protected by a conservation easement.  $131,850 was requested, which is 2.3 percent of the project value or $310 per acre.  Very, very, very highly leveraged project.

The applicant is Hill Country Conservancy.  As you can see, it's in southwest Travis County.  And I apologize, the quality of the maps vary some from presentation to presentation.  We had a limited time to get all this together for today's meeting; but as you can see, it is very close to the
Hays County line.  And if you can read the topo map, you can see that Rocky Creek basically starts along the southern boundary of that tract and then it leaves that tract and enters Barton Creek.

Again, mature habitat, habitat for Golden-cheeked warbler, high fish and wildlife value; and this one scored second by the team.  I'd be happy to answer any questions about the Puryear Ranch.

MR. ZACEK:  Any significant improvements on this property?  Lots of houses or I mean –

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  There's a single -- there's a single home.  In fact, you can see it sort of on the topo map.  In the south -- in the southeast corner of that property there is a residence.

MR. RAY:  Do they hold the easement as well on the Shield Ranch?  Do you know?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  That, I do not know.

MR. FRANCELL:  The Nature Conservancy holds the easement adjacent.

MR. RAY:  Thank you.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  Let me just ask a question.  I'm -- in this case, it's the Hill Country Conservancy and there was an appraisal.  That appraisal, was that done by the Conservancy to arrive at the value of the -- the total value of the easement?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  In most cases, the actual formal appraisal has not been done, just because of the cost; and I don't recall from memory on all 12 of these which have a formal easement.  In every case though, these trusts are very responsible to seek out a local broker who can provide a good market estimate of that value.  So it could be that the actual value will change when an appraisal is done, if an appraisal has not been done.  And like I say, I don't remember from project to project which ones have completed those appraisals.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  I'm just trying to work through the process.  So this -- at this -- this could be an estimate of I came up $13,310 an acre for the total project value.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  Yes, sir, that could be an estimate.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  Okay.  So when it gets approved, if it doesn't have an estimate, then the trust -- land trust will go out and get a qualified appraisal that gives a hard dollar value on the project value?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  That's correct.  And before we can enter into a contract -- under the protocol we have in place, we can enter into a contract; but no funds would be dispersed until we have that completed appraisal.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  Okay.  Thank you.

MR. KELSEY:  On the Puryear Ranch, is this value the before value when you consider before versus after the easement?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  This is the after value.  This is the actual value of the conservation easement.

MR. KELSEY:  Okay.  Okay.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  Yes, sir.  In every case, we provided -- the value that we show in each of these slides is the value of the conservation easement.

In many cases, we're not even provided with the estimated value of the fee simple estate.

And as you can see, it's scenic rolling hill country; and it is a very pretty creek.  A live water creek, again, that feeds into Barton Creek, which is a critical component of the watershed, so.

MR. ZACEK:  Let me kind of re-ask my question that I asked earlier, maybe in a little different way.  The home that's on it, this -- is this like -- this isn't -- just I'm going to pick -- just throw a number.  This isn't a $5 million house or something like that where we've got a significant -- where we're putting a -- potentially putting an easement on a recreational property for someone?  And part of what's prompting my question is just the sheer size of the tract itself.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  It is -- it's an 1800 square foot home.

MR. ZACEK:  Pretty modest.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  And I believe -- and, again, I can look this up.  I have all the information here.  I believe in their answers regarding the conservation easement itself, they are requesting the right to build one additional home on the property.

Yes, to build one additional home on the property.

MR. KELSEY:  Ted, what is the program that Travis County has that they're contributing 2.5 million?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  I'm going -- if you don't mind, I'm going to ask Jeff Francell if he can address that.  I'm not -- I'm not really up on the various -- Travis County?

MR. DAVIS:  I'll speak to that.  I'm Frank Davis with Hill Country Conservancy.  Travis County --

MS. HALLIBURTON:  Excuse me.  Can you come up to the mic, please?

MR. DAVIS:  Yeah, that would be fine.

Thank you all for consideration of this project and for volunteering for this.  Travis County has a conservation easement program.  I believe there were $8 million funded through the program.  So we've been confirmed for an award for 2.5 million.

To speak to the homes, I think it's important to note that the landowners have requested the right to four additional homes; but within a 5-acre building envelope in proximity to the existing home.  So it will be a very contained envelope; and outside of that, there won't be any significant development of any sort.  There will be an agricultural envelope, as well; but that's strictly for agricultural purposes.

MS. KINSEL:  What is the size of agricultural envelope?

MR. DAVIS:  We're discussing a 2-acre envelope, is the current plan.  The largest that I could ever see it being would be 5 acres.  We usually consider 2 acres to be sufficient, but it depends on the site. And those are always away from sensitive areas, such as creeks, slopes, endangered species' habitat, caves, things like that.

MS. KINSEL:  And what type of ag operation is going to occur in 2 to 5 acres?

MR. DAVIS:  Well, that's for the -- for barns and infrastructure and the like.  So, you know, if they want to have sheds for hay and anything like that, then those types of buildings will be within that agricultural envelope.  Thank you.


Now, Ted, that brings up, I think, another question for me and that is:  What are the terms of these easements?  Are they all perpetual, or do we have some that are 15 years?  Have you --

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  The statute requires that the easement be a minimum of 30 years.  In this case, all 12 applicants were for perpetual -- all 12 applications were for perpetual easements.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  But you sound like you're still -- or the land trust is still negotiating some of the issues on the terms of these easements?  Is that what I heard?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  Yes, Chairman, and that really is standard operating procedure.  The negotiation of the conservation easement, the details in the conservation easement can be fairly -- can be fairly time consuming and so what we see is the basic parameters of that easement.  No subdivision of the property.  In this case, a five-building envelope with up to four additional homes on it and a 2-acre building envelope for agricultural buildings.

We see those fundamental premises of the conservation easement, but the real details get fleshed out once an award is made.  Most land trusts and most landowners don't want to go to that time and trouble -- and there's often attorneys involved and costs involved -- unless they're fairly confident they have funding coming.  Parks and Wildlife will have a team assembled that will review those conservation easements very carefully to make sure that they are consistent with what was in the application and consistent with the intent of the program to protect working lands and maximize the long-term fish and wildlife value of those lands.
CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  Okay, thanks.

Everybody comfortable with that?

Okay, proceed.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  The Albritton Ranch is 650 acres.  It's in Bandera County, west central Bandera County.  It's right in the heart of the Bandera Canyon lands, and it is pretty much all mature Oak-Juniper forest.  Very, very dramatic topography.

There are some canyons with Bigtooth -- stands of Bigtooth maples.  Those are those maples that we all know from the state park, from Lost Maples State Park -- Lost Maples State Park -- that turn bright red in the fall.  Those are remnant populations of those maples and occupied habitat for both Golden-cheeked warbler and Black-capped vireo on this property.  It is near Lost Maples State Park and Love Creek Preserve.

There is effort underway to conserve as much of that Bandera Canyon land country as possible. There are a number of endemic species, including some federally listed species.  A lot of that -- a lot of that country, including the Albritton Ranch, have important springs and creeks on them.  Again, that's just -- that's sort of a focal area for conservation effort for the State of Texas because of the number of endemic species that occur there.

The request is for $325,000, which is 33 percent of the project value.  It comes to $500 an acre.  And the Albritton Ranch -- and the applicant here is the Nature Conservancy and they did get in a request to NRCS for NRCS funding for the current cycle.  So this is brought to the Council predicated on the assumption that there would be a $650,000 match in NRCS funds.

In this slide you can see the proximity to the Love Creek Preserve and the Lost Maples State Park.  The entire tract is actually larger.  The landowners are proposing to put a conservation easement on the eastern third of the ranch or 650 acres.  You can see from the topo map that it's rugged country, that there's a significant canyon there, again, with live springs, perineal springs on that property, that it's completely vegetated and it is habitat for endangered and State listed species.

MR. BRUUN:  By when would the NRCS match have to be made for this to move forward?  You said it was contingent on an NRCS match.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  If the Council -- if the Council instructs staff to proceed with a grant for the Albritton Ranch, just before the end of this week we'll prepare a letter and forward it to NRCS stating that the Council has made that commitment.  NRCS, I believe within a couple of weeks, will confirm that they have approved that grant to make that match; and then we would proceed to -- there will be a contract between NRCS and the applicant and a contract between the Council or the program and the applicant.  So we'll know in very short order that that's confirmed.

MR. BRUUN:  And if for some reason if it were not -- the match did not occur, the money would go back to the program and be made available for future applicants?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  That's correct.  Yes, sir.

MR. KELSEY:  So, Ted, is this a -- this is not a donated easement then?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  That's correct.  Yes, sir.

MR. KELSEY:  Okay.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  And you can see from the pictures that the -- I don't know that that's a named creek; but the creek in that canyon is a pretty, clear water creek and you can get an idea of that -- again, that classic Hill Country topography.

I'm sorry.  Are there any other comments or questions?

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  The Albrittons are donating -- I don't know if it's a donated sale -- I assume it is -- $325,000 towards this; is that correct?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  The request is for 325,000, yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  And that's from the landowner?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  That would be matched with 325 -- with a bargain sale, 325 off of the appraised value from the landowner --


MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  -- and 650,000 from the NRCS.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  Okay.  So the landowner is --

MR. KELSEY:  Kicking in.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  So it's a 25 percent --

MR. KELSEY:  Bargain sale.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  25 percent bargain sale.  Yes, sir.  Yes, sir.  And each of the NRCS applied projects that we'll see today, include a 25 percent bargain sale from the landowner.


MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  The Pietilla Ranch --

MR. FRANCELL:  Pietilla.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  Pietilla.  The Pietilla Ranch.  I've been wanting to ask you that all week.

The Pietilla Ranch in Culberson County is 9,992 acres.  It's high desert grasslands.  The elevation range is between five and 6,000 feet. Headwaters from McKittrick Creek and anyone that's been out to the Guadalupe Mountains National Park has probably taken that hike up to McKittrick Creek and a very, very, very significant perennial source of water for that otherwise very dry desert country.  Six miles of boundary in common between the Pietilla Ranch and Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

$375,000 is requested.  Total project value 1.125 million.  This would be matched with $650,000 in NRCS.

And is the balance of that landowner contribution?


MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  The balance of that is landowner contribution.  So it is a significant bargain sale of the conservation easement.  The request comes to $38 per acre.  You can see from this map that all of the sections involved are not contiguous.  There is a significant block of contiguous tracts adjacent to the Guadalupe Mountains, and then there are some tracts that are not contiguous.

The committee determined that all of these tracts have high fish and wildlife value.  Again, they range between about five and 6,000 feet in elevation and have very significant value, not just for McKittrick Creek; but for a range of species that occupy those high grasslands in West Texas that are endemic or at least unique to those high grasslands of New Mexico and West Texas.

MR. ROSS:  And each tract does have legal access roads?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  Jeff, does each track have legal access?


MR. RAY:  Who owns that tracts that are -- excuse me, I'm sorry.

MS. KINSEL:  Same question.

MR. RAY:  Go ahead.

MS. KINSEL:  Is this also Nature Conservancy, the applicant?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  Yeah, the applicant is Nature Conservancy.  I'm sorry.

MR. RAY:  Who owns the tracts that are outside that are not included?

MR. FRANCELL:  Various private landowners.

MR. RAY:  Okay.  And is there -- are we concerned about development in this area where someone's going to purchase this property and develop it?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  The risk is relatively low.  In fact, this project scored very well in spite of the fact.  It scored essentially nothing for risk.  This is some beautiful country, and there are some ranches.  Access, in general, is not very good. Very little development occurring in Culberson County. And although the risk is low, the opportunities to conserve fish and wildlife values were very high, which is the reason this project ranked as well as it did.

MR. KELSEY:  Ted, what is the mineral status?  Who owns the minerals under this tract?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  Jeff, do you have that off the top of your head or...

MR. FRANCELL:  The current owner has some -- Jeff Francell with the Nature Conservancy.  The current owner has some minerals, but not all the property.  In fact, not the majority.

But I would address the development threat.  If you've driven into McKittrick Canyon, the road into the national park goes through this properties, the sections that are there butted up against the park.  So I think there is the potential that someone could buy that property at some point and subdivide it based on the public, paved road that goes to the national park.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  Any other questions?

Okay.  Ted, go on.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  The next project in the -- according to the ranking, the next project is the Lazy Bend Ranch, which is 144 acres in Hays County. This particular tract is subject to intense development pressure.  It would be -- would be a very likely candidate for a subdivision.  It's Edwards Plateau Savannah and Oak-Juniper woodlands, including occupied Golden-cheek warbler habitat.  It's not adjacent, but it's very near -- really just, as I recall, a few hundred yards from the 3,950-acre Storm Ranch conservation easement.

The applicant on this one is the Hill Country Conservancy; and they do have a concerted effort underway to try to combine or try to connect these conservation easement areas in that area of Hays County for the benefit of the warbler and, of course, a number of other species that are unique to that Edwards Plateau Savannah and Oak-Juniper woodlands.

$75,925 is requested, which is seven percent of the project value.  $527 per acre.  This is a bargain sale.  So the project is very highly leveraged. And in this map you can see, in general, where it is. The bright green blob just -- it's the red -- it's the red spot, but the bright green blob just to the east of that is the Storm Ranch.  You can also see from all of the streets and roads in this area that undeveloped tracts of that size are getting quite -- becoming quite uncommon in Hays County and the habitat on this particular tract is mature and healthy and the team -- the team felt it would be a worthwhile piece of property to preserve under conservation easement.

MR. KELSEY:  Are there any improvements on this tract?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  There is a 1500-square-foot barn on the tract.

MR. ZACEK:  Request for provisions to build additional?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  These fillable forms write very, very, very tiny if you put too many letters in them.  There's a request for a small building envelope for a guest house.

MS. KINSEL:  Is this a smaller part of a larger tract owned by this landowner then?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  I don't believe.  Let me see.

MR. DAVIS:  If I may, I'll be happy to fill in again.  Frank Davis, Hill Country Conservancy. So this is the only tract that the owners own.  They've owned this tract for about 25 years.  They bought the tract and have done nothing but care for the fish and wildlife on the property since obtaining it.

I think it's worth mentioning that it's a donated conservation easement.  They're not going to receive any cash for the value of the conservation easement.  So it's a very charitable project.  The -- there's one home on the property that's a thousand square feet maybe.  It's very modest.  They'd like to reserve the right to a guest home within a same envelope of 2 acres.  There's one barn that contains solar array and carries rainwater, collects rainwater.  Those are all the improvements on the property.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  Thank you.  Any other questions on this project?

Okay.  Let's move on.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  So those are the top five ranked projects; and we're pausing at this point only to say that if the Council were to decide to fund projects in the order in which the team ranked them, these would be the five that could be fully funded by the available funding.  They would protect 14,311 acres. The total combined requests for funds from the program would be $1.407 million.  The total combined project value -- again, estimated value -- a little over 13 million.

If the Council were to decide to fund those and fund those only, there would be a fund balance of roughly $480,000, less operating costs; and operating costs for the program are minimal.  That includes -- that includes the pads and the packages, the information of stuff.  So a modest amount would come out of that to cover those costs.

And combined with 112,000 that becomes available to the program September 1, that would leave roughly $590,000 that could be granted in a future grant cycle under the program; but again, that's only if the Council decides to fund these five projects and these five projects only.

You can see from this map where those projects are located, those first five projects.  Those are the yellow stars.  You'll see the sixth project, which is the blue star; and then the other seven projects are the red stars on this map.

Hughson Lakes Ranch ranked number six. It's 908 acres.  It's in Calhoun County.  It is very low.  It's wet prairie.  Extensive tidal wetlands, including emergent tidal marsh.  The request is for 715,000.  It was the largest single request that we received.  Roughly half of the project value.  $787 per acre.  There's a pending North American Wetlands Conservation Act grant, a NAWCA grant, that has been applied for but not awarded yet.  So this application is predicated on the assumption that the North American Wetlands Conservation Act grant would be approved.  This is a -- sort of a band of property that surrounds a tidal lake and some tidal marshes with frontage on Matagorda Bay, the bay -- that's Carancahua Bay to the east -- I'm sorry, to the west.  But the bay to the south is Matagorda bay.

That lake does -- is tidally connected to the bay through a bayou.  And the owners actually own that adjacent, undeveloped land; but are proposing to put a conservation easement only on a band of land that would protect that lake and those marshes.

MR. ZACEK:  Who's the applicant, Ted?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  I'm sorry.  The applicant on that on is the Colorado River Land Trust.

MR. KELSEY:  Is that the same as the LCRA Land Trust?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  Yes, that's -- that is the nonprofit organization that supports their projects.

MR. KELSEY:  Are these Whooping cranes in the picture here?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  No.  Those are Wood storks.  Wood storks.

MR. KELSEY:  Wood storks?


MR. KELSEY:  Okay.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  Any questions about the Hughson Ranch? The project that ranked number seven is Austin Bayou Farms.  The applicant is the Galveston Bay Foundation.  This is a 600-acre tract in Brazoria County.  Has 3 miles of frontage on Austin Bayou with a narrow riparian corridor along that bayou and then the remainder of the property is in native and improved pastures.  It is adjacent to the Savannah Oaks and Lone Pine Farm conservation easement.  So it is part of an effort to conserve some of that pasture country and in that Austin Bayou corridor.  $400,000 is requested, which is half of the project value.  $667 an acre.

As of this point, the project match has not been identified by the Galveston Bay Foundation.  If they were to receive funding through this project, they would have to go out and seek the match for it.  That's the polygon in red at the bottom of that map, and then the other -- the sort of beige-colored properties are the Savannah Oaks and Lake Pine properties, which are already under conservation easement.

Again, you can see where that is just a mile or so from the Brazoria County Wildlife Refuge in Brazoria County.  Any questions?

The next project ranked number eight by the team is the Dreamcatcher Ranch.  211 acres in Hays County.  Tremendous potential for development.  A great deal of risk to this ranch.  It's a classic, sort of Rolling Hill Country, Hays County Rolling Hill Country. Largely native pasture and some improved pasture. There's a pivot irrigation system on a portion of it. There are patches of native Oak-Juniper woodlands on the property.  There are karst features on the property.  So it does have recharge value.  Located 100 yards from the San Marcos city limits and one and a half miles northwest of Spring Lake in the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone.  $378,000 is requested, which is 11 percent of the project value.  This is -- this would be a very highly leveraged project.

There is -- they have applied for NRCS match to complete the funding.  There is a couple million dollars in other funding that has also been made available through other sources, and I believe we have somebody here that can speak to that if you'd like.  I apologize for the contrast on this map, but the Dreamcatcher Ranch is outlined in yellow.  Spring Lake is that sort of T-shaped lake that's, like I said, a mile -- a little more than a mile south of the Dreamcatcher Ranch.  And you can see San Marcos is sprawling rapidly towards the Dreamcatcher Ranch.

Are there any questions?

Yes, ma'am.

MS. MCAFEE:  With a significant potential for development, why did this one rank so much lower than the others?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  I'm sorry.  The reason this one did not rank any more highly than it did is because the committee had a difficult time on the basis of the application establishing the watershed value of that.  Although the application stated the watershed it was in, there are roads on all sides.  We could not really determine the water quality and the watershed values of the project, and it was also unclear from the application the fish and wildlife value.

And I think this application -- again, the window for application was very short.  We did not have a good map of the ranch and were unable to determine how much of the ranch was in pasture and how much of it was in Oak-Juniper woodlands and for that  reason, it was difficult for us to score it.  Had we had more information -- I'm just -- just to be candid with the Council, had we more information at the time, I suspect the project would have gotten more points both for watershed value and for fish and wildlife value.

MS. MCAFEE:  Thank you.

MR. KELSEY:  And who is the applicant?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  The applicant for this one is the Guadalupe-Blanco River Trust.  And I would just add for the benefit of the Council, that at $378,000 requested, the Council could grant the first five projects in toto and fund this project, as well. And I believe -- and again, there are people here today that can speak to this; but I believe all of the match -- all of the match is accounted for for this project.

MR. ZACEK:  Including the NRCS?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  This would be contingent upon NRCS, yes, sir.  Yes, sir.

MR. ROSS:  Ted, just for clarification, this application, they have been approved.  They are --

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  They are approved, okay.  The NRCS match is approved.

So again, this one very highly leveraged, a very high-risk property, and funding would be available should the Council choose to do so to fund this one.

The Javelina Ranch is 280 acres in Hidalgo County.  Significant potential for development. As anyone who's been to the Valley recently knows, all those remaining undeveloped brush tracts, there are not a lot of them; and those that do remain are all subject to development.  It is -- it is -- the entire tract is mature thornscrub habitat, with a few -- with a few small pothole wetlands on it.

Numerous of species of concern on this tract, including the Texas horned lizard, the indigo snake, reticulated collared lizard, Texas tortoise. Those are all State listed species.  669 -- almost $670,000 is requested, which is basically the entire
project value is requested from the Council.  You can see from this map that it's adjacent to some other undeveloped properties; but you can see that immediately to the south and immediately to the east, there are significant developments taking place.

MS. KINSEL:  Who's the applicant?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  I'm so sorry.  The applicant on -- for this one is the Valley Land Fund.

Are there any questions?

Okay.  The next project was the Spoonbill's Ranch Project.  The applicant is Texas Rice Industry Coalition for the Environment, known as Texas Rice.  This one is in Matagorda County.  192 acres of mature Live Oak forest.  The balance is in hay fields, constructed wetlands, rice, sorghum, corn, soybeans in rotation.  It's a fairly typical Matagorda County rice rotation operation.  17 miles west of Bay City.  It's adjacent to a tract, a 175-acre tract, that's already under conservation easement.

It was funded by CIAP through this program, through the Texas Farm and Ranch Land Conservation Program when the project -- when the program was under the GLO.  134,500 is requested, which is 67 percent of the project value or $442 an acre.  It        is a bargain sale.  And you can see from this slide where it is relative to Bay City, where it is in the county; and you can get an idea for how much of that is in conventional farming operation and how much of it is in Live Oak forest.

The Oyster Bayou Project is 480 acres in Chambers County.  It's rotational rice farming except for a narrow corridor of riparian habitat along Oyster Bayou.  It's very near the entrance to Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge.  $320,000 is requested, which is 50 percent of the project value.  The project match has not been identified.

The applicant for this one is the Galveston Bay Foundation.  If it were awarded fund, then the Galveston Bay Foundation would begin to seek the matching $320,000 to complete the project.  You can see from this picture there's a very, very, very narrow riparian corridor; and, otherwise, it's in traditional rotational rice farming there in Chambers County.

MR. SCOTT:  Is that Oyster Bayou one of the boundaries?  Is that the east boundary?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  Yes, sir, that's correct.

The last project -- and when I say "last," I don't mean it's an unworthy project.  It's just that we had very, very, very competitive project applications and very good projects.  And the project that ranked number 12 is the Blue Ring -- Bluewing Farms Project, 377 acres in Brazoria County.  The entire property, basically, is shallow ponds.  I believe they started out as rice ponds, but they are now used for crayfish farming.

There's a small area, not in ponds, that is used for hay production.  Some of the levees between these ponds have trees on them that provide rookeries for birds, habitat for birds in the area.  It's located within the Texas Mid Coast Initiative, which is just a large area where there's some interest from conservation groups, including Ducks Unlimited, to try and conserve some of these wetland properties, including rice farms, for migratory waterfowl and for shore and wading birds.

It's four and a half miles from the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge.  $63,000 is requested, which is 20 percent of the project value; and the balance of that would be in the form of a bargain sale.  Again, you can see from this picture that the
majority of that property is in traditional leveed ponds for, in this case, crayfish farming.

And that wraps up my presentation of the 12 applications that were received.  I'd be happy to entertain any additional questions.

MR. KELSEY:  Ted, what -- how did you handle mineral ownership on all of these?  I'm just curious as to -- from a conservation easement issue and surface use, etcetera, how was that considered in the application?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  Yes, sir.  It -- although we have some information about mineral ownership, very few of these properties, the landowners retained any mineral ownership.  And so our approach is similar to the approach we have on Department lands,
which is that there's always the potential for oil and gas exploration and development.  Because of the presence of the conservation easement and because of the presence of a land trust that's working closely with the landowner, we have to assume that a surface use agreement is going to be negotiated that's going to provide as much protection as possible.

A typical conventional oil and gas pad these days is three to four acres.  A frack pad, conventional frack pad is seven to eight acres.  And out of a thousand-acre property, if you have a couple of pads, that is an impact; but it's not so profound an impact as to significantly diminish those fish and wildlife values.  So we didn't really have a way to take that into account.

None of these projects, it turns out, are in areas that are currently undergoing rapid exploration and development for oil and gas.  So although I don't have a crystal ball, we assume that the risk of oil and gas development is approximately equal across all of these.  So we didn't have a scoring criteria for oil and gas, as such.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  But the appraiser will take into consideration if there's designated pads versus no designated pads, I would assume.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  In the development of a conservation easement, if a landowner were to have executive rights or to have all of the mineral interests, it's assumed that there will be no surface occupancy for oil and gas. If there is, that would    certainly be taken into account.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  Assuming he has the executive rights.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  Yeah, assuming he has.  And I'm not -- at this point, I'm not aware that any of the applicants have executive rights of all of the minerals on these properties.

MR. ROSS:  Ted, I have two questions actually.  The first one is the top ranking application, the Hitchcock Prairie was $500,000 contingent upon closing this fiscal year, whether it be October or September, that's -- this early, aggressive timeline to close, just from my experience, if that project does not close, you said those funds come back to the Council?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  That's correct.

MR. ROSS:  Would those funds be available to go further down the list this year, or would they be held for next year's cycle?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  Well, they would be available to -- that's at the discretion of the Council. The council could direct staff to fund the next available project if funds become available.

Just to jump ahead a little bit, staff is going to recommend that we reopen the application period going forward and try to award -- go through another grant cycle and make more awards before the end of this year, just to give applicants as much time as possible. The issue with the Hitchcock Prairie is that this project has been underway for a couple of years now, and Scenic Galveston is confident that they're close to closing.  So they make this request, again, predicated on the assumption that they're going to be able to close in the next few months.

MR. ROSS:  Second question is:  Is there any -- has there been any discussion or thought for Parks and Wildlife staff to make site visits to these properties that Council recommends to fund?

I know from our side, from NRCS' Program side, you know, we actually confirm the application and the evaluation based on site visit from staff.  Is that something that the staff here has discussed?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  Absolutely.  And quite frankly, had we a longer period -- had the application period been open for eight weeks and had we had a month to prepare this coming before the Council, we would have visited the top ranking projects.  That was something we had intended to do going into the project.  And based on your comment, I would certainly think it appropriate that any of these that the Council recommends for funding, we do have a staff visit just to make sure that we don't get on the ground and find any red flags --

MR. ROSS:  Right.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  -- that were not evident from the application.


Any other questions?

MS. KINSEL:  And if you should find a red flag, what would be the procedure then?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  The procedure would be to communicate that back to the Chairman and the Chairman could determine whether to contact the Council members and from a legal standpoint, Mr. Sweeney may have a legally correct answer.  But if the staff were to find something that was of concern, we would certainly notify the Chairman and ask for guidance from the Chairman.

MR. SWEENEY:  Thanks, Ted.

I guess my response to that would be these grant awards are all contingent on reaching an appropriate contract that's sufficiently protective of the investment that the State would be making and if we found out in the course of it that we couldn't do that, then we would not complete the award process through the grant or complete the payment.  It may be something that could be worked around in the contract.  It may not be. We would have to see.  It would depend on the nature of the issue.


MR. ZACEK:  Mr. Chairman, just a question back to some comments that you had made regarding some -- maybe somebody that could elaborate on specifically the Dreamcatcher Ranch that might have some additional information about it and really where I'm  headed with that is that fact that it was out of the -- potentially could get funded.  I kind of heard signs that maybe the application may be due to the short timeline that we had, some of that which couldn't be helped in a lot of ways.  But that being said, if we gave it more time to be talked through, is it something that we might want to consider?

Because when I look at the applications -- and, in particular, that one -- and I compare it back to the other property that's fairly small in acreage size, you know, at the end of the day, my question is which one has potentially, you know, better usage of our funds from an encroachment of San Marcos because we're sitting right there on the edge of it or a Texas Hill Country property that's subject to development for houses down the road and all the things that go on in that area, on projects that are otherwise not real different on paper except for the sheer size of the projects in terms of the dollar value.  Any comments?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  I think that's a very fair assessment.  The short -- the short application period made things a little bit awkward for the selection team.  The Dreamcatcher Ranch, probably of all the applications, suffered from that short turnaround period, just to be very candid.  And I believe we have one or two people here today to represent that project who have signed up to speak, and the Council certainly has the discretion to move that one up and fund it if the Council should choose to do so.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  Okay.  We'll talk about it.

MR. ZACEK:  Can we at least hear a little more about the property?

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  I think we've got a speaker here --

MR. ZACEK:  I'm sorry.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  -- who's going to talk about it.

MR. ZACEK:  Okay.

MR. LOPEZ:  I guess you suggest perhaps opening the process back up for applications.  If that were the case, couldn't you encourage the folks that didn't rank to resubmit?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  Absolutely. Absolutely.  In fact, we have let everyone know who submitted an application that -- assuming we have another cycle this year -- their applications are submitted.  They will be considered unless they withdraw them, but they would have that time to add information to improve the quality of the application to provide more information.  Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  All right.  Any other questions?

I guess we'll go to -- Andy, you -- you're signed up to speak.  I assume it's on Dreamcatcher?

MR. SANSOM:  Yes, sir.  Mr. Chairman and members of the Council, my name is Andrew Sansom.  I work at Texas State University.  I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you very briefly today.  I also must tell you how much I appreciate what you're doing. In my mind, the biggest, single terrestrial environmental problem that we face in Texas is the continued breakup of family working lands.  And so to the extent that you are contributing to that to slow that inexorable fragmentation, all Texans are grateful.

My purpose here today is to speak in favor of the Dreamcatcher Ranch.  And I apologize on behalf of the Guadalupe-Blanco River Land Trust, which is the applicant, that we apparently did not get you all the information you needed.  I -- no one respects the staff of this Agency more than I and I appreciate the fact that we did get feedback and I believe that many of the questions that came up were answered, but it was after your agenda was posted.  My summary is this is a working cattle ranch within 100 yards of the City of San Marcos, which is the fastest growing middle sized city in the United States.  It is directly in the floodplain that was responsible for the tremendous floods on the San Marcos River that we had in October.  It is subject to this entire area, which is along Sink Creek, which it brings the floodwater down to the headwaters of the San Marcos River.

It will be developed unless actions like the one you're contemplating are taken.  With respect to wildlife, there are eight federally listed, endangered, or threatened species in Spring Lake.  So it is one of the most important wildlife area -- fish and wildlife areas in the state with respect to wildlife diversity and threat.

So I commend the staff on projects that were sort of above the line, but I would also urge you strongly to -- because this project is approved and it has also attracted additional philanthropic funding and so it would be matched about nine to one.  So if you could find your way to reach down and make it possible, it would be a tremendous benefit not only to the agricultural operations that are taking place there, but to the endangered species and the citizens of San Marcos.  I'll be happy to answer any questions.  Thank you all very much.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  Thank you, Andy.

Raises some questions.  If we do reach down, that -- and none of the other projects develop any hitches, then we will be -- we've basically spent all our money.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  We will have spent within about $100,000 of the 16 funds.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  So I guess I want to hear what the Council's -- what their feeling is.  It looks like we either approve the first five, reopen the process, let the Dreamcatcher Ranch submit any additional information that's needed and see where it ranks, along with any of the other new projects that may show up.  This was a little bit of a rush process, which I think everybody voiced a little concern about; but I'll look for guidance from the Council.

MR. MILLER:  Ted, I've got -- I've got a question for you.  And I didn't make the last meeting. So there may be some things I missed.  But if we've got a certain pile of money allocated to do these projects, why would we not rank those all the way down through six, seven, or whatever it is -- six, I guess, in this case -- and expend those funds for the purpose intended?

Why do we shut it off at five and not pick up six?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  That's exactly what we've done.  If you fund until you run out of money --

MR. MILLER:  Right.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  -- you'll fund the first five projects.

MR. MILLER:  But you just said we had money to do six.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  That's correct.  But Project No. 6 was a request for 715,000 and there would only be 400,000 remaining.

MR. MILLER:  Okay.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  So it would be possible to contact the applicant for that project and see if they could close the project with 350 or 400,000 or would it be possible to skip that project and fund another project in full, that's at the discretion of the Council.  But the reason for -- the reason for the first five is because there's not enough money to fund No. 6.

MR. MILLER:  Right, okay.  But there would be to pick up the Dreamcatcher.


MR. MILLER:  We could actually get six projects going.



MS. MCAFEE:  Is there any staff here that could speak to any of the additional information that the Dreamcatcher gave them that might --

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  Yes, ma'am.  I can do that.  We had -- we had requests from several of our applicants to submit additional documentation after the close of the application period.  I told all of them the same thing, which was that we could not consider that. We can't -- couldn't go back and rechange the score or we couldn't reconvene the committee; but that if anybody provided information, I would read it so that I could provide the most accurate, most factual information to the Council this morning.

And I'm confident that, at least from my scoring, the Dreamcatcher Ranch would have scored more highly had I the additional information that was provided, again, about the watershed issues, the watershed values.  Andy mentioned a couple things that  were not evident in the contract -- in the application. For example, the fact that during extreme floods, that property is part of Spring Lake during extreme flood events.  It does drain into Spring Lake.  There are karst features that are part of the recharge of the Edwards Aquifer on that property; and because we didn't have a map, we did not realize that close to half of that property still has -- now, a lot of the cedar has been cleared; but it still has oaks and cedars and there's still some patches of property that are clearly -- that clearly have native wildlife value on the property.

We could not determine that from the original application material.  So I have read everything that was submitted from my -- this is just Ted speaking.  I believe the project -- I would have probably scored the project higher had I -- had we had   that information last Monday when we went through these projects.

MS. MCAFEE:  And an idea where it might have ranked had you --

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  No, ma'am.  I did not try to put points to that, no.

MS. MCAFEE:  Thank you.

MR. RAY:  Did you receive any additional information from the Austin Bayou Farm that might have changed their scoring --


MR. RAY:  -- in all fairness, looking -- you know, looking at the way you scored it off, did you have any additional information come in from the Austin Bayou Farm?


MR. RAY:  Okay.  Thank you.

MR. ROSS:  Mr. Chairman, just for consideration, if this Council approved the first five as they are ranked here, would it be possible to open up a new funding cycle and allow the other applicants to either leave their application in as is or allow them time to -- you know, to revise it and perhaps set up a second window?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  Well, I certainly -- in the next action item, we will propose that we do that.  If nothing else, we're going to have $112,000 that becomes available September 1.

MR. BRUUN:  Not to skip ahead to the next item, but I think it might be relevant to this conversation if we were to take the recommendation and fund the top five and then move on to the next item and you'll discuss a schedule moving forward for when we would be considering future projects, what was that timeline going to be or what do you -- what would you anticipate that timeline being if we were to do that?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  Well, those additional funds become available September 1.  Staff would recommend that we have the next application cycle, that we receive those, that we close the cycle, that we rank those, and that we come back to the Council prior to September 1 or very close to September 1 so that we can award those funds as soon as they're available to make sure that there's a year -- make sure there's as much time as possible because as Claude can certainly tell you, it can take a while to negotiate the fine details in that conservation easement, to get the survey back, to get the appraisal back, to get all the due diligence done and close a project.  So we would recommend, you know, not much later than September 1, awarding all the rest of the -- whatever funds are available.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  Do we -- we don't have to wait until the additional hundred thousand, but that's what you're proposing; is that right?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  That's correct.  We would not have to.  We could -- if there were a few hundred thousand dollars leftover from this cycle, we could immediately have another cycle.  It's at the complete discretion of the Council.

MR. BRUUN:  And how much -- how much do you estimate that to be?  If we were not to wait for the hundred or so, is it around 400,000?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  It would be about 475,000.

MR. BRUUN:  So if we did want to provide an opportunity for all the applicants to provide more information, but wanted -- but intend to do it in short order so that we can go ahead and get that 400,000 expended sooner than later, we have the -- you believe we have the flexibility to do so?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  The Council could certainly do that.  Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  Is there a time constraint on the Dreamcatcher and all the additional funding they've received?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  With your permission, I'll let Mr. Sansom address that.

MS. KASNICKA:  Good morning.  My name is Carrie Kasnicka, and I am the Conservation Director for the Guadalupe-Blanco River Trust.  Thank you so much for your time today.  I want to say thank you and I want to apologize because I wrote the application for GBRT for Dreamcatcher Ranch and, obviously, I didn't do a fantastic job.

Part of it is we had gone through the NRCS program and because we're approved, I added a lot of supplemental information that would lean upon that information that was already determined.  So there's some beautiful maps in there.  So although it wasn't a part of the application, it was added as a supplement and I apologize if I put it in the wrong place; but I do appreciate very much your consideration of this.

Our deadline is August 31st of this year. And we have worked really hard with a number of partners that are here today; and this is literally the last piece, the last piece of the puzzle to help this come together.  So I very much appreciate your time in trying to consider it because we feel as though this would really benefit so many different parties and so many different partners.  So it would protect a responsible, hard-working ranch.  It would also protect the aquifer and the recharge zone, and then also protects wildlife habitat.  You're literally checking every box.  So thank you very much; but, yes, we are on a pretty tight timeline.


MS. KASNICKA:  Thank you.

MS. WASSENICH:  May I speak to the same issue?  My name is Dianne Wassenich.  I'm with the San Marcos River Foundation.  And in a way, we are one of the funders that are involved in the Dreamcatcher Ranch because it's so critical for Spring Lake, the 2,000 acres of watershed flows directly into Spring Lake through this ranch.

We have a grant from a foundation that gave us a deadline of April the 10th to prove that we had the rest of the funding and so our -- that portion of the funding, which is $250,000 grant, applied to the very large NRCS percentage of the funds, is soon to expire.  We'll, of course, reapply if we have to; but we don't know if we'll get it next time.  Thank you.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  Okay.  I'm very sympathetic, but my -- maybe somebody else has a solution.  My problem is if we open it up for somebody to give us supplemental information, we need to give everybody that opportunity.  But I would like to see a way where we get all the information, we give everybody else the opportunity if they were missing anything, and see where it scores and if September 1st is -- or August 31st is the deadline, let's have another review. Does -- I'm just talking out loud here.  Does anybody --

MR. BRUUN:  Well, Mr. Hollingsworth, how quickly -- if the Council were to ask you to reopen a window, but limit it to these applicants, these applications that we have, and ask them to provide additional information, how -- what -- if we wanted it to happen as quickly as possible, but for you still to be able to do your review and get the information that we might be looking for or the opportunity for these folks to improve, what do you think is a reasonable but expedited timeline for you and your staff to be able to do that?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  Well, I would certainly think that if we let all the applicants know that there's a window of opportunity to provide more information, that we could expect to get that information in, say, two to three weeks and then give staff a week to take that into account, re-score or re-rank the projects.  Certainly in a month's time we could have that turned around, if that's the will of the Council.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  Ted, there were a number of projects that were in the works; but didn't meet the deadline though, weren't there?  Or at least one?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  I'm aware of one. Yes, sir.



CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  Which makes me wonder if we shouldn't just open it up for another -- with some sort of tight -- I don't want to say tight deadline -- but open it up to just another cycle with the goal of completing it by end of August or sooner, I guess, if --

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  Yeah.  Well, we have two projects that would have to be closed by the end of August; and that would be the West Galveston Bay Project and then the Dreamcatcher Ranch from what I --

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  No.  I'm assuming we're going to approve the first five, which will leave us 500 and something thousand dollars, which would allow us to cover all but Javelina Ranch if they -- whichever one scores the highest.

MR. KELSEY:  I need to get clear on what -- if we fund the first five projects, how much money is left over?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  We actually have a slide coming up.  Let me see if I don't have that information handy.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  Do you want to -- do you want to read the motion, get that slide up and at least get that into the record?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  The motion is -- and this is -- this is -- staff just drafted this motion as a placeholder with a clear understanding that the Council can modify it any way the Council pleases.  But the draft motion from staff was that the Council awards Texas Farm and Ranch Lands Conservation program funds in the amounts requested by applications to the top five projects as ranked by staff.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  Okay.  That's the business before us, and I think we ought to deal with it.  So unless there's some more questions, let's -- I'm asking for a motion and a second on this.

MS. MCAFEE:  Well, I guess my question back to you was if you had this additional information on Dreamcatcher or any of the others and had that ranked, we have no way of knowing if Dreamcatcher might have jumped one of these other five; is that correct?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  And we have no way of knowing if any of the projects would have jumped had we had -- had we had more information.  It's the same with any grant process.  The grant ranking team is kind of constrained by what is in the application.

MS. MCAFEE:  And so I'm curious when she said she put that somewhere else, that it came with the application?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  There was some information that was received later.  Now, and again, I had at least one other applicant ask if they could provide additional information and I told them that they could provide it.  It could not be taken into account in the ranking because that had already occurred.

MS. MCAFEE:  I guess I misunderstood. Did you say it was actually provided with the application, but it was just placed somewhere -- I'm not following that.  I'm sorry.

MS. KASNICKA:  Sure.  Yes, ma'am.  And I'm sorry if I wasn't clear.  Because we had gone through the NRCS process, we have an approved easement. We have an approved management plan.  We have a number of soil maps and topographic maps and that is a fairly large, sizable document.  So I just attached that.  It's part of the application process.

The majority of the projects here -- although very worthy -- haven't gone through that process.  They're either not in the NRCS project or program or they haven't been approved and gone through those steps.  We happen to have gone through all those steps.  So we have a lot of information for best practices and mapping and how the land is going to be used.  So we do have a lot of information that is attached as another document that is part of the application, just not the first 12 questions.

MS. MCAFEE:  But it was provided to us with the application?

MS. KASNICKA:  Yes, ma'am.

MS. MCAFEE:  So the staff had access to it at the time they were looking at the application? That's been my question.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  Yes.  But the goals of the NRCS program are a little different.  They are geared towards the agricultural value and use of the property and as Carrie and Andy alluded to, it's a working cattle ranch, which is important to NRCS.

Our criteria were the agricultural value was much less significant under this process and the value to fish and wildlife -- and not cattle -- was more important and the value to watershed issues as opposed to agriculture, ranked -- received a higher ranking in our process than it did in the NRCS process.  So the fact that the data that was provided to NRCS was also provided to us, didn't get us there for our ranking process.

MS. MCAFEE:  Okay.  That's where my confusion was.  Thank you.


MS. MCAFEE:  Thank you.

MS. KASNICKA:  Thank you.

MR. MILLER:  Mr. Chairman?


MR. MILLER:  I would like to make a motion.  I move that the Council award Texas Farm and Ranch Lands conservation program funds in the amounts requested by applicants to the top five projects as ranked by the staff.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  Do I have a second?

MS. KOEHLER:  I'll second.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  All in favor say aye?

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  Any opposed?  It passes.

Now, I think we need to deal with -- is that under Item 6, what that covers?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  Yes, sir.  That addresses what to do --

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  I'm sorry, five.  I meant five.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  Yes, sir.  That will address what to do with the balance of the funding available.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  Shall we move on to five and deal with the balance and how we're going to process the next batch?  Is that agreeable to everybody?

Okay.  Then let's move on to Action Item No. 5.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  Some of this is just summary background; but as everyone knows, the Legislature did appropriate $2 million for this program for this biennium.  1.88 million in this current fiscal year and 112,000 in the fiscal year beginning September 1.

Consistent with the motion that was just passed, there is 479,000 -- roughly 480,000 remaining. Staff needs to earmark a small amount of that.  A few -- we've estimated $12,000 to cover the operating costs of the program.  Leaving close to $470,000 that is currently available.  And then effective September 1, another 112,335 becomes available.

Staff would recommend that we, in the near future, open -- reopen the application period, consider those applications that are already submitted, and allow folks the opportunity to submit new projects,    as well.  Allow applicants the opportunity to upgrade or improve or add information to their existing applications and that at some point -- ideally, before September the 1st -- this Council would meet and award the remaining funds so that the maximum amount of time would be available for applicants to close those projects that were funded by the Council.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  Could we change that September 1 to --

MR. LOPEZ:  April?

MS. KOEHLER:  I was thinking April 1st.

MR. BRUUN:  Can I ask a question just to clarify what -- this recommendation is to start a new cycle entirely.  In theory, we could -- the seven projects that have not been funded yet could re-apply; but also an applicant that has not -- we don't know about yet, could apply for a second cycle.  Is that what you are proposing here?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  Well, the seven that are in are already in and additional -- any additional applications could be submitted, and you are correct. We don't have to wait until September 1st. September 1st another $112,000 becomes available; but we could quickly re-open the process, solicit additional information, additional applications, rank and score those and bring those back to the Council any time the Council would like to meet.  It could be -- it could be April, May, June, and award at least $470,000 at that time.

MR. BRUUN:  I guess, in my mind, there's -- I'm saying there's two different scenarios. One, we -- it's not opening up an entirely new cycle; but the Council could direct staff to offer to the seven        applicants that have already done the work to get this information to us that have now, some short but additional period of time to supplement with new information for us to -- and still Cycle No. 1 -- be
able to consider how we might want to spend the $470,000 that's left right now.  That -- I view that as being separate from what I think that you are planning to propose, which is to completely open up a new cycle altogether and let -- effectively, let new people come into play.

I think if we do that, you know, it could be to the disadvantage of the seven that we already have that have already done this work that didn't have the time on the front end.  That had the short, you know, period of time on the front end to get this together. If you were to open -- you know, start a new cycle and let anyone come in at that point.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  Yes, sir.  The Council could certainly so direct the staff re-open the period for the seven projects to submit additional information and instruct staff to re-evaluate and re-rank those seven remaining projects and return to the Council with that information.  Yes, sir.

MR. MELINCHUK:  Mr. Chairman, and just to remind Council, there is another project that came in after the deadline, which would -- at this point, would also be considered?  That's a question, not a statement.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  It's at the direction of Council.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  You just had one come in after the deadline?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  Yes, sir.  We closed the application period on a Friday.  We received an e-mail from one of the applicants Friday morning saying they would have the application to us by the end of day on Friday.  That application showed up the following Monday.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  Any other questions or comments?

MS. MCAFEE:  Do you know what the size of the request was of that one?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  I know who the applicant was.  I don't know any of the details of that project.

MR. ZACEK:  Mr. Chairman?


MR. ZACEK:  I guess the question I would have is there's some applications in here -- specifically, I think the next one in the ranking -- that wouldn't fall into the funding level, considering the total funds that we're talking about here.  My question is:  Are they allowed to -- the seven -- to resubmit and/or amend these applicants that we have to make them fit?  If we're opening it up, they don't have to hold to what they have.  They're going to be allowed to add additional information and/or change their request amount if they so desire?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  I think from a staff standpoint, that would make a lot of sense.  If we have an applicant at $715,000 that knows there's only 470 and they want to find additional match and come back and make a request for less money, that -- if we're going to reopen this and give these seven applicants the opportunity to modify their applications, that that would be included.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  And it may be -- there may be another project that when people learn there's another cycle, there may be something very attractive that we don't know about that might come in.  So I don't want to put too quick a trigger on it, and I don't want to limit it to just the people on this list plus the one that came in late.  I think we ought to just open it up for another cycle.  So --

MR. ZACEK:  Mr. Chairman, I really like that idea.  The only thing that I would suggest in addition to what you said, is that we do keep that opened timeline fairly short with -- and predicate and explain that we're doing this because the application period was so short to begin with.  That we don't -- we don't -- we don't push everybody up against that September date.  In particular, you and the staff and the people that need funding commitments.  That we still try to keep it relatively short, but -- and that the reason we're doing that is because the application period was short to begin with and we recognize that.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  All right.  Let's -- Ted, how long would you -- what would the staff need time wise?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  If we were to open that period back up immediately, again, I think another three weeks is probably reasonable, three to four weeks a reasonable amount of time to solicit additional information.  We turned the applications around, you know, in ten days.  That was kind of tight; but if you give the staff two weeks, we'll get those scored and ranked and put into a PowerPoint and made available and will be ready to present back to this Council.  So we're at the beginning of March.  So any time after mid April I would say we could come back this Council with another set of ranked projects.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  How about the end of -- the last week of April?  Everybody check their schedules, and is that a good -- that's almost two months.  So we --

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  Staff could meet that deadline if that's what the Council desires.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  Any comments on that? Does that work for everybody?  And I'd entertain a motion to convene again at the last week in April, subject to everybody's calendar.  Make a motion?

MR. KELSEY:  (Nods head affirmatively).

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  All right.  Second, Commissioner Miller.  All right, thank you.

With that, we'll move on to the last item I believe, which is Action Item No. 6, public comment; and no one has signed up to speak.  So I guess we're doing our job.

Any other comments?  Suggestions?  Please don't hesitate.  If you have any ideas or questions, contact Ted or me.  I encourage that.

MS. KINSEL:  I have a comment.


MS. KINSEL:  And not a criticism at all by any means because this was rushed on all parts -- applicants, staff, and new Council members who are also getting educated.  But I would just remind each of us the obvious on the screen there, Farm and Ranch Lands. And we -- I heard language here that we're all about -- we ranked fish and wildlife over a working ranch. That's not what was intended, but I would -- I'm sure that comment was off-the-cuff; but I think we need to be careful with our scoring that we are upholding the intent of this program.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH:  Yes, ma'am.  I appreciate that.  The selection criteria are dictated in the statute and while it does reference the productivity of working lands, it emphasizes threats and it emphasizes fish and wildlife.  It emphasizes water.  But that's a point well taken is that this is a program to conserve working lands.  Yes, ma'am.

MS. KINSEL:  Thank you.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  All right.  Any other issues, comments, suggestions?

I have a question -- a hand in the back. Please would you come up to the microphone?

MS. MASON:  I'm Lalise Mason with Scenic Galveston and on behalf of the Hitchcock Prairie Project, I thank you a lot.  I think we're going to finally get this done after about a decade of working on it.  I hope.  So thanks.


With that --

MR. MILLER:  Mr. Chairman?


MR. MILLER:  Before we close, I would like to appeal to every patriotic Texan in the room and wish them all a happy Independence Day.

(Round of applause)

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  With that, the Council has completed its business; and I declare us adjourned.

Oh, sorry.

MS. MCAFEE:  Do we have to make a motion to reopen that, or can we just --

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  I think we did.  I thought we did.

MR. MILLER:  We did, yeah.


MS. MCAFEE:  Reopen and submit --

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  With an April -- the last week in April deadline.

MS. MCAFEE:  Do we need to set a date today since we're all having to look at calendars or not?

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  Do you want to pick a date today?

MS. MCAFEE:  If y'all -- I just have several things that week.  So it's selfish on my part.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  I can make any day but Tuesday and Wednesday, but I can make Tuesday work if that's the preference.

MS. MCAFEE:  Could we do Monday?

MS. KOEHLER:  April 26th?


MS. MCAFEE:  Can we do Monday the 25th, or is that too hard on you coming from Houston?

MR. RAASCH:  Ross, this room is not available April 26th.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  On the -- on what day?

MR. MELINCHUK:  Oh, this room is -- that's right.  This room is scheduled for a conference that day, but --

MS. MCAFEE:  Can we do the 25th?

MR. MELINCHUK:  Pardon me?


MR. MELINCHUK:  The 25th and sixth, right?

MR. RAASCH:  25th and sixth.


MR. ZACEK:  How about Thursday? Anything?

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  28th work?

MR. MILLER:  We can have it at the Texas Department of Agriculture.  I've got a room if you want to do it that day.  It's not a problem.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  I can do either the 28th -- I mean, the 25th or the 28th, so.

MR. MILLER:  I can't do the 28th.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  All right.  The 25th looking better?

MS. MCAFEE:  25th is -- keep me from having to move things, but I can if that's a better date for everybody else.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  Does the 25th work? We'll take you up on your generous offer.

MR. MILLER:  I'll reserve the conference room.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  All right.  Send us directions.

MR. MILLER:  Stephen F. Austin Building, 1700 North Congress, 11th floor.

MR. BRUUN:  Will we expect it to be the same time?

MS. KOEHLER:  10:00?

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  If that works, if 10:00 works for everybody.

MR. MILLER:  Think you can find that, Bech?

MR. BRUUN:  I think I know where I can find you, Commissioner.  Straight upstairs, right?

MR. MILLER:  Yeah, just get in the elevator.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  All right.  28th it is.


CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  I mean, the 25th. Excuse me.

MR. MELINCHUK:  Everybody got that? April 25th, 10:00 a.m., Department of Ag Building. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN:  Motion to adjourned at 11:45.

                         (Meeting adjourns at 11:45 a.m.)

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 (Rusty Ray)

Thomas R. Kelsey, Member

Leslie L.W. Kinsel, Member

Natalie Cobb Koehler, Member

Roel Lopez, Member

Pam McAfee, Member

Sid Miller, Member

Salvador Salinas, Member  (Claude Ross)

George D. Scott, Member

John Zacek, Member

                            C E R T I F I C A T E



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