April 25, 2016 Transcript

April 25, 2016

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Commission Hearing Room
4200 Smith School Road, Austin, TX 78744
Council Meeting
CHAIRMAN MORIAN: All right. Well, I guess we'll call the meeting to order, April 25th, 2016, at 9:03 a.m. But before making any -- proceeding with any business, Mr. Melinchuk has a statement to make.

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

And just a couple of other little housekeeping items I'll remind everybody of. First of all, silence or put on vibrate your cell phones. We don't want those interruptions. And then anyone who wishes to speak, I'm going to ask that you fill out a speaker registration form on the table immediately outside of this room. Chairman will call you up to the podium and ask that you state your name and who you represent, if other than yourself; and then you'll have three minutes to speak. We're not using a time clock or stoplights here this morning; but just be mindful of your time, if you would, please. If you have any handouts, please provide them to Dee, over here on my right; and she'll distribute them to the council members.

With that, Mr. Chairman, thank you.


All right. With that, we'll proceed. Action Item No. 1 is approval of the minutes from the previous council meeting held March 2nd, 2016, which have been distributed. Do I have a motion for approval?


MR. KELSEY: Second.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: By Koehler and Kelsey.

All in favor say aye?

(Chorus of ayes)

HAIRMAN MORIAN: Any opposed? Hearing none, motion carries.

Item 2 is update on status of projects approved for funding by the council at the March 2nd, 2016, meeting. Justin.

MR. DREIBELBIS: Yes, sir. 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 Parks and Wildlife and a member of the staff review committee for Farm and Ranch Land Conservation Program.

The purpose of the presentation this morning is just to provide a brief recap over the decisions that were made at the March 2nd meeting and give you an update on each one of the projects. March 2nd, decisions were made and five projects were approved for funding. These projects ranged in size from 144 acres to 9,992 acres, with funding awards ranging from nearly $76,000 to $500,000.

Since the last meeting, applicants have been notified of the decisions. Staff has begun working with our internal Legal and Contracting departments to go ahead and start the contracting process, and our staff members have actually been on site on every one of these approved projects to make sure that they were consistent with the spirit of the program. And so I'm going to briefly go through each one of the projects, provide a little bit of information about the site visits. If you have any specific questions, please let us know.

First project is the West Bay Corridor, also known as the Hitchcock Prairie, 3100-acre cattle ranch, and the award was $500,000. A few notes from the actual site visit is that it was an impressive piece of intact land, especially based on its location there on the coast. It transitions from upland prairies with freshwater depressions all the way down to coastal marsh. It's got an extremely high plant diversity on the property; and there have been over 410 documented species to date on the property, with eight of those being species of greatest conservation need. Six of those eight occurring only in Texas. So a very special piece of property and has high watershed value and flood abatement value, as well.

Second property is the Puryear Ranch. Puryear is a 425-acre mixed use cattle and wildlife property, and the council award was $131,850. A few of the notes from this site visit was that it was well-managed riparian areas along Rocky Creek and along several smaller tributaries, helping preserve water quality in the Barton Creek watershed. It has healthy creeks with seemingly intact fish communities and a great diversity of trees and grasses, with limited Ash Juniper compared to surrounding lands.

Third property is the Albritton. This is a 650-acre mixed use property -- 650 acres of the 1800-acre ranch. Council award was $325,000. A few of the notes from this site visit were just a great diversity of trees and grasses. Every one of these box canyons had water in it, and the property has a strong population of Golden-cheeked warblers. So from an endangered species management standpoint, this is a very important property to be involved with.

Next is the Pietila Ranch, 9,992-acre cattle ranch, Culberson County. The council award was $375,000. This easement will help protect important springs and other aquatic features on this property, which support wildlife in this desert ecosystem. The property serves as an important buffer to Guadalupe Mountains National Park and McKittrick Canyon. McKittrick Creek is a focal area for Parks and Wildlife's native fish conservation efforts, and these  are efforts to restore native fishes that once occurred in streams throughout the Davis and Guadalupe Mountains.

Last but not least is Lazy Bend Ranch. It's a 144-acre property that previously had cattle on it. Within the last few years has switched over to wildlife and does not have a cattle component at the moment. It's in Hays County and diverse native habitat, numerous healthy water resources on the place. There's been a significant amount of brush management on the property, with a lot of Ash Juniper removed over the years. Passionate landowners that were a part of the site visit, excited about managing for native species, and this is also --this is a donated easement. So it's definitely proof that there are folks that are interested in donating these resources.

That kind of rounds out the update on these particular projects. And in conclusion, I would just say that there were no red flags that were identified on any of these site visits; and staff believes at this point, from what we've seen, all the projects seem to be consistent with the spirit of the program. So with that, I'll take any questions you might have.

MR. KELSEY: I was wondering about the -- there were some conditions on the Hitchcock Prairie deal. Do you know? What's the status of those conditions?

MR. DREIBELBIS: Right. Ted, is that -- I'd like to call Ted Hollingsworth up here and give some specifics on that. Ted.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman and council members, good morning. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program here at Texas Parks and Wildlife. The conditions that you referenced are the fact that there are matching funds available for that which are set to expire later this year. So staff is working particularly close with the sponsors of that project. They received the appraisal for the project just in the last couple of weeks. It came back a little bit lower than the landowners had expected and so the project sponsor is working with the landowners very closely. We are anticipating signatures on contracts here in the next couple of weeks to get that one -- to get that one rolling. We're also, of course, working on this side to have a contract in place between the program and the project sponsor. So we anticipate that one closing late this summer.

MR. KELSEY: And, Ted, who is the other -- who are the other funder? Is it CWPPRA or -- at the last meeting, it wasn't clear as to who the other funder is going to be.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir. I believe that's a -- I -- and I went to some trouble to figure out -- to find out -- to find out what that match is and at this point, I think it's a CMP -- CMP grant. And a CMP and then the bulk of it is a NFWF grant, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant, about 3 million dollars out of the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund. That's the lion's share of that. That one -- that one is not scheduled to go away. That one doesn't have a time -- doesn't have a time clock on it. It's the other match, about a million dollars, that would go away this year if we don't get that project closed.

MR. KELSEY: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Any other questions?

MR. DREIBELBIS: All right. Thank you.


Action Item No. 3, consideration by council of staff recommendations to award grants for conservation easement projects. Mr. Ted Hollingsworth, please make your presentation.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, council members, good morning. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. In this presentation, we're going to talk about the applications that were reviewed by the project review team in this last cycle.

As you know, we had 12 applicants in the first cycle. This council elected to award grants to five of those. The other seven were considered in a second round. Several of those applicants upgraded their applications; and in addition, we had three more applications that came in for a total of ten. One of those was subsequently withdrawn, and so the staff ranked nine projects representing six different NGO applicants, projects from nine different counties. The projects ranged in size from 211 to 1,738 acres. Property uses ranged from cattle ranching to rice, wheat, row crop farming, crayfish production and a couple of those properties are primarily managed for wildlife habitat and recreation. Those ranged from, oh, the -- I guess the north central Edwards Plateau all the way down to the coast of Texas.

There was a total request for just over $3 million of Texas Farm and Ranch Land Conservation Program funds, representing a total project value of close to $11 million. The applications themselves covered a little over 6,000 acres. For this cycle, the council has available $586,604 that can be awarded for grants. Of that total, $474,000 and some change is in the current fiscal year cycle. As of September 1, another $112,335 becomes available.

Staff recommendation is that the council go ahead and, if it so chooses, award all of those funds. The timing will work out well since there's usually, you know, three or four months of due diligence and other steps that have to be taken before any of these projects would be in a position to actually close; and so awarding those funds now would not cause a delay in those projects.

You can see the distribution of the projects to date. All these stars represent the applications that have come in this year. The yellow stars represent those projects that you awarded funding to in the first cycle. The red stars represent those projects that remain from the first cycle, and the two green stars right in the heart of the state represent the two new projects that were ranked in this cycle.

Just a quick reminder, the selection criteria, they come directly out of statute and are based on the threat of development or conversion to those working lands, the value of those working lands or cost effectiveness, watershed values, fish and wildlife values, the contribution of those projects to a larger landscape initiative, and then the terms of the conservation easement, whether it's perpetual or a term agreement, and just how protective it is and some of those, of course, vary in their terms.

I'm going to go right into those projects in the order in which they were ranked, in the order which they scored. The project that scored highest -- and you do have in your packet the actual scores associated with each of those projects. So you can see how they compared one to another. But the project that scored highest was the Dreamcatcher Ranch. You may remember some things about the Dreamcatcher Ranch from our last meeting. It is in Hays County. It's 211 acres. It is under extreme threat for development. It's adjacent to the city limits of San Marcos. Two hundred -- $378,089 is requested, representing about 11 percent of that project value. Well over $3 million -- or close to $3 million in match from a variety of other sources for that project.

It is a working cattle ranch, divided into native pastures, improved pastures, and some areas that have been left, more or less, intact. Oak Juniper woodlands. It is in -- it is right in the heart of the San Marcos watershed initiative, about a half a mile from Spring Lake Preserve and another tract, very close by tract, called the Geiger tract that's under conservation easement. The easement itself would prohibit any subdivision and would allow for 1-acre building envelope in addition to the current homestead, which is concentrated in a small building envelope in the center of that tract.

Here you can see the Dreamcatcher Ranch in relationship to the city of San Marcos and the Spring Lake itself. I don't have a floodplain map here; but if you could see that, you would realize that this -- during flood events, the water from the Dreamcatcher Ranch does go into the creek there that you can see and into Spring Rake. In this close-up, you can see where that existing ranch house complex is and you can see sort of the balance between improved pastures, native pastures, and then some of those intact forest areas.

Here are some ground level pictures that were taken during our site visit.

The project that scored second, scored second by the ranking team is the Hughson Lakes Ranch Project. This is one that you saw in the last meeting. The applicant is the Colorado River Land Trust. It's in Calhoun County, with frontage on Matagorda Bay. The total project area is 717 acres, including about 400 acres of a tidal lake. 453,000 -- almost $444,000 was requested from the program.

The project can be scaled, depending upon the available funding and we'll talk about that when we get to the end of the presentation. The Hughson Ranch is a working cattle ranch. The 17 -- the 717 acres for which the conservation easement funding is requested is only about a third of that ranch area. The really salient conservation feature is that tidal lake, again, close to 400 acres with fringing emergent coastal wetlands, tidal wetlands, and transitional habitats to upland coastal grasslands.

Located in the heart of the Matagorda Bay conservation focal area, it's 13 miles from Powderhorn Ranch, Matagorda Island Wildlife Management Area, and the Mad Island Wildlife Management Area. The easement would prohibit any subdivision or any construction within the conservation easement area.

Here is the -- this vicinity shows the property on the Matagorda Bay and the close-up where you can see that lake that would be protected by the establishment of this conservation easement.

MR. ISOM: May I ask a quick question, just for information? Is the match, where it's indicated, star by NRCS, is that saying that that's 100 percent of the match is coming from NRCS? On our form where we've got the star indicates NRCS match, is that indicating the total match is from NRCS for that project?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: In the case of this project, yes, sir. I don't believe there are any other match sources.

MR. ISOM: Any other projects that are starred by NRCS, is that their total match?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: No, sir. In the case of --

MR. ISOM: Do we -- do we have information that shows where the different match is coming from, other than NRCS?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: No, I don't have that. In some cases, the applications were not even very clear. They indicated that there was NRCS match. They indicated if there was additional match. In the case of the Dreamcatcher Ranch, for example, there's NRCS match; but there's also additional sources of match funding. Where I have that information, I'll try to provide it.

MR. ISOM: Thank you.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: I would also point out that this ranch is adjacent to Texas Parks and Wildlife facility, which is the Perry R. Bass Marine Fisheries Research Center. You can see on this map it's proximity. Again, some ground level images. High use by wildlife, including the Sandhill cranes. The project that ranked third, was ranked third by the team was the Santa Anna Ranch Lower Tract. And you'll see in the presentation that the Santa Anna Ranch itself was divided into two separate tracts. The lower tract is adjacent to the Colorado River with about a half a mile frontage on the river. The upper tract does not have river frontage. The applicant is the Texas Agricultural Land Trust. The project is in Coleman County. It was those green stars that you saw on the map very near the center of the state. The lower tract is 1,738 acres. $228,258 was requested from the program, which represents about a 26 of the project -- percent of the project value. There's an $835,000 match for this one.

The team really did like the mix of land uses here. It's an active and well-managed cattle ranch. In addition, there are some significant tracts that are managed for dryland wheat farming and then there's some areas that are not arable because of the course limestone outbreaks and those limestone breaks do provide habitat for several species of greatest conservation need.

The ranch is an area -- and the team was interested in this -- is an area where there isn't really not -- are not any ranches represented in conservation currently and we felt this would be a significant start for conservation in that region of the state and for these species that rely on these limestone breaks, in particular.

MS. KINSEL: Question: What are some of those species?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Is Meredith with us this morning?

We added a member to our team, Meredith Longoria, who is our SGN or Species of Greatest Conservation Need expert; but I believe -- Justin, are you -- would you have some knowledge of those species?


MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: I believe there's some lizards that rely on those limestone outcroppings. And I wish I was an expert in everything, but --

MS. KINSEL: You're not?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: I think there's some lizards. The Concho River water snake is actually found in that reach of the Colorado River, and it is a species of particular interest to the Agency. There are actually some bats that are on that list that use those crags and those limestone breaks. But when we do this again, I will actually put a list of those species in the presentation.

MS. KINSEL: I guess more importantly, if there was a significant species, say like a Sand Dune lizard or something like that, you would let us know, right?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: If there was a candidate species or a federally listed species, we would point that out. Yes, ma'am.


MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: We'll sure do that.

MS. KINSEL: Thank you.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: I might even know if there was a listed species present. Again, here we are on the Colorado River near the center of the state, a little southwest of Brownwood. This is just an outline, but you can tell from the outline those -- you can tell those areas that are not cultivated and you can actually see where the limestone breaks are in this map. You can see the Colorado River running along the south boundary of that; and then you can see these pastures that are rotated between hay production, cattle grazing, and wheat production.

This is a close-up of the south end of that site, just so you can see the location of those ranch roads and the ranch headquarter complex. And, again, you can see the frontage on the Colorado River. Here are some ground level photos. It's actually a rather pretty reach of the Colorado River through here; and you can see it is, again, a well-managed cattle operation.

 The project that ranked next by the team is the Javelina Ranch, which is down in Hidalgo County in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. The applicant is the Valley Land Fund. The ranch is 280 acres. Approximately, 670 acres was requested from the program. Virtually all of the fund needed -- that would be needed to make this -- to bring this conservation about were requested from the program. The ranch is not currently used for cattle. It's managed for wildlife. It is dense, native South Texas brush, Tamaulipan thorn scrub; and as I'm sure all of you know, there's only a couple percent of that original habitat remains in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. It's not adjacent to any conservation units; but it is close to units of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge and the Las Palomas Wildlife Management Area.

 The property is currently subdivided into three tracts, totally 200 acres -- 200 -- I'm sorry, totaling 380 acres. The landowner wants to retain one 50 building -- 50-acre building envelope. The landowner has in mind an education center, a nature center, and feels like if they realize that, they might need as much as 50 acres to landscape some grounds and put in some demonstration gardens and the associated buildings and parking and so forth; but that 50-acre would come out of the 280-acre total ranch area. You can see where this is located just west of Edinburg and Mission, in an area experiencing rapid development and rapid growth. You can see from this close-up photo where the existing building is. The building envelope would include that current building. And you can see immediately south of the property that the -- you know, the sprawling suburbs there are encroaching already on what remains of that brush country. Here's a couple of ground level photos of the Javelina Ranch.

 The project that ranked next is called Spoonbill's Ranch. The applicant is the Texas Rice Industry Coalition for the Environment. The project is located in Matagorda County. It's 304 acres. 134,000 acres was requested, which is about 76 percent of the project value. I'm not sure of the match source, but the applicant did indicate that there is a 67,000 acre match. I believe that's a contribution from the landowner.

 Organic grains, organic soybean and rice are grown. A small part of the ranch is -- or the farm is used for hay production. Wildlife is emphasized. There is a mosaic of improved pastures, croplands, freshwater wetlands, and live oak forest on the property. The tract is adjacent to Baldpate Farms, which received an NRCS grant and is under conservation easement currently. The easement would allow no subdivision and one building envelope, the details of which have not been worked out.

Here's the location of that ranch in western Matagorda County. And, again, you can see from this photo that there's a nice mosaic of native Live Oak Savannah and rice farms, rice fields, rice paddies that have been converted to rotating organic grain growth and you can see some small fields that are used for hay and you can see where the building envelope is in that southeast corner of the property. Here's a ground level photo again, again, when that abandoned rice -- I say abandoned. When that rice farming area has water in it, during the migration of waterfowl and water birds, it's a popular stopover for those species.

The next project in the ranking list is The Austin Bayou Farm. The applicant is Galveston Bay Foundation. The project is in Brazoria County, 600 acres. It's 600 acres. I don't believe it includes a tidal lake. I believe this is an accidental cut and paste. But it's a 600-acre ranch. $400,000 is requested from the program. The match for that has not been identified by Galveston Bay Foundation at this time.

Most of that property is in rotating rice and hay production. There is some cattle grazing that takes place. It protects a mile of corridor along Austin Bayou. Seasonally, it has value for migrating waterfowl, shore and wading birds. Located about a mile north of the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge, and it is adjacent to additional tracts that protect additional frontage on Austin Bayou Farm. So this project would enhance the value of those other projects for protecting Austin Bayou.

You can see where it is just north of the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge. And in this picture you can see, again, there's that long, narrow riparian corridor along Austin Bayou and then the rest of that ranch is in fields that are being rotated for crop production and hay production. Ground level picture, it's a very pretty bayou in that reach; but you can see it's extensively managed for rice and other grain production and cattle are rotated on it.

The next project is the Oyster Bayou Project. The applicant, again, is Galveston Bay Foundation. This one is in Chambers County, 480 acres. Again, I don't believe it includes a tidal lake. I apologize for the oversight. $320,000 were requested from the program. Galveston Bay Foundation, at this time, has not identified the source of the match for that project.

Similar to the other project, rotational rice farming and those rice fields are left fallow or rotated with other crops. There are two tanks on the property with high wildlife value, about a mile of frontage on Oyster Bayou. Project is not adjacent to any other conservation lands, but is right in the heart of the Chenier Plain National Wildlife Refuge complex authorized boundary. So hopefully as that refuge grows, all of these tracts that are within that boundary will become increasingly part of a conservation landscape.

The easement would prohibit subdivision or any construction. Again, here you can see it is just north of the Moody Unit of the National Wildlife Refuge. And in this close-up, you can see that aside from that narrow corridor along Oyster Bayou and a tributary to Oyster Bayou, the entire property is in rotation for rice and other production. And this is a ground level photo, again, showing that it's a very flat piece of property and most of it is divided into paddies for rice production and crop rotation.

The next project as it scored by the project scoring team was the Santa Anna Ranch Upper Tract. This tract is adjacent to and immediately west of the tract that we looked at that was called the "Lower Tract." The applicant is the Agriculture -- Texas Agricultural Land Trust. Again, in Coleman County. This portion of the ranch is 918 acres. It's divided -- it's separated from the other tract by a farm-to-market road, which makes a convenient break in those two properties. Five hundred -- I'm sorry, $159,000 is requested from the program.

This one has an NRCS match. I believe that's the -- I believe that and the landowner contribution are the sole matches for this project at this time. Again, a well-managed cattle ranch and dry farming wheat farm and, again, has some of those undeveloped limestone breaks on it that are habitat for several species of greatest conservation need. And, again, the ranch is in a region that's not currently represented -- not well represented by conservation properties.

No subdivision would be allowed. One 10-acre building envelope, which would include residential and ranch related infrastructure. Again, in this photograph you can -- in this aerial image, you can see that there are large pastures that are rotated for wheat and hay production. You can see more of those limestone breaks. And, again, the lower -- the lower reach is immediately to the east of this one and you can see -- you can orient yourself by the river in that lower left-hand corner of this map. Again, here's some ground level photos showing a pasture being prepared for wheat production, showing one of the stock tanks and some of the cattle on the ranch.

The next project as we ranked those is the Bluewing Farms. The applicant is the Texas Rice Farms Coalition for the Environment. The project is in Brazoria County. It's a 377-acre tract. Again, it does not include a tidal lake. I apologize. $63,000 was requested from the program and there would be a $250,000 match, for a total project value of $278,000.

This property is currently largely a crayfish farming operation. There's some small tracts that produce grass that are not in crayfish production. The levees have been allowed to cover with brush and small trees, and that actually provides very good habitat for certain shore birds that use those brush-covered levees for nesting. It is located, again, in the Mid-Coast Initiative.

A number of tracts in that vicinity are under conservation and primarily, primarily those are rice operations that are now under conservation to preserve those wetland values rather than have those -- rather than have those drained and converted to other agricultural purposes. Conservation easements are on those because they are -- they've replaced the historic prairie potholes and have become that habitat that's required by -- especially by migratory waterfowl and shorebirds.

The easement would prohibit any subdivision and would allow one building envelope. In this aerial image, you can see very clearly that the majority of that land base is in those small paddies that are now managed for crayfish production. You can also see from these photos that during the right time of the year, those water-filled fields are very popular for migratory shore and wading birds.

Before we get into a discussion of the available funding, does anyone have any specific questions about any of those projects that we covered?

MR. KELSEY: Ted, just as a general question, when you refer to the building envelopes on each of these particular tracts, where are we in terms of negotiating what the terms of that building envelope are? I mean, I know you mentioned this 50-acre building envelope on the Javelina tract; but on the others, how close are we to actually having a conservation easement which would actually define what the building envelopes are?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: It varies quite a bit. I would say that in most cases, the applicants wait until they see if there's funding before they really spend that time and energy negotiating those details with the landowners. In most cases, we simply know that the landowner wants to retain a building envelope or a building envelope of a couple of acres and, of course, the staff -- program staff doesn't do any of that negotiation directly. The project applicant, the NGO that's applied for the funding is actually that interface with the family; and in some cases, especially where there's an NRCS application or there's an identified match source, those have been identified, they've been located on the ground, and perhaps even the exact dimensions and location have been negotiated.

In most cases, they have not been. We -- I guess we operate a little bit on faith that the NGO has the best interest of those conservation and agricultural values in mind and if we're taking two acres out of a 400-acre ranch, it's a very small area and that the NGO is going to work closely with that landowner to try and locate that in such a way as to minimize those impacts to the values that we're all trying to protect.

MR. KELSEY: Thank you.

MR. SALINAS: So on that particular example, they're talking about a 50-acre building envelope. Is that included as part of the project request? I mean, why include a whole 50-acre tract, if it's going to be --

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: And that's an excellent question, and the staff is constrained to present these projects the way they are scoped in the applications. Just candidly, the team would much have preferred that we had received an application for a conservation easement on 230 acres with no building envelope, rather than be requested to fund a conservation easement on 280 acres with a 50-acre building envelope.

In this case, we're simply bringing to the council what was presented to us in the application. And in the scoring process, it probably hurt that application just a little bit, the fact that that building location -- that building envelope location was not identified and that the request was that that be taken out of the 280-acre project area.

MR. ISOM: Ted, back to my concern about the match.


MR. ISOM: Or at least for information reasons. When y'all recommend or you rank and you indicate there is match available, one, is it all cash match or is it in-kind match? What serves as match?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: And that's an excellent question. It varies quite a bit. In the case of an NRCS match, there's a required landowner contribution, as well. On one of these projects, as Justin mentioned, the conservation easement was donated outright and the council was only asked to cover ancillary, due diligence, and project closing costs.

What I will do in future cycles, is I will include in the presentation each of those sources and the amount of that match. And one of the things we've already determined that we need to do is in that application form -- in fact, we've already changed the application form so that all future applications, those sources will be listed and itemized and the value itemized and it will be indicated whether or not those are in hand or not.

MR. ISOM: Follow-up question then.


MR. ISOM: When we -- when we're considering what you recommend or the staff recommends and it indicates match --


MR. ISOM: -- then do we take at face value that that match -- you've researched that and you know the match is going to be like it states with the numbers? So if we're making -- the Board's making a decision on a project and that match is indicated, we should be confident that match will be there as indicated?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. And in some cases -- just to go back to an example, Oyster Bayou, for example, Galveston Bay Foundation. As I indicated to you, that $320,000 match, the Galveston Bay Foundation hasn't begun seeking that match. That match does not exist, and that affected the scoring of the project because that match doesn't exist. They're asking for $320,000 from the program. If they get funded, then they're going to go start looking for a match.

All of the projects that we've recommended, those indicated matches. Those projects that ranked highest, those indicated matches, according to the application have already been secured.

MR. ISOM: Okay. Thank you.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: I will -- I can elaborate just a little bit further and that is that I believe on the Santa Anna Ranch, that is a 20 -- for example, that is a 2016 NRCS application. I don't speak for the NRCS, but the NRCS staff has worked closely with us and has indicated to us any of these projects that we might bring forward for which they don't expect to -- I mean, they can't tell me, "It's a done deal. This one's funded." But they've been good to tell me if I should take one forward and if it's not likely to receive that
NRCS fund.

Salinas, is that a fair representation?


MS. KINSEL: So in that example, just to clarify for me -- sorry -- is the $448,000 match, is that all NRCS on this particular project or we may not know that?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: We may not -- that may also include the landowner contribution.


MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: And like I say -- and we've all -- I think we've all discussed this. In future cycles, we hope to have a little more time between when the applications come in and when the council meets so that we can ferret that kind of information out and where it hasn't been provided, we can go back to the applicant and ask for it so that we make sure that you have a complete, 100 percent picture of that project.

MR. ISOM: And I think that's important because when we -- looking at this at face value, we would assume or I would assume that NRCS is good for the $448,000 match on this project, 100 percent.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir, I understand that. I understand that. And it's -- and as we knew going into the very first meeting, this has been an awkward cycle because of the timing --

MR. ISOM: Sure.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: -- and Councilman Salinas' staff has been very good to work very closely with us and to share as much information as they legitimately could share to make sure we don't bring you a project that isn't very likely to be funded.

MR. KELSEY: Ted, one other comment on building envelopes, which is one of my favorite subjects. I would suggest that on the application, that we request more detail on what can be -- how the building envelope can be used. Like on this 50-acre building envelope, it seems to me it -- you know, okay, you can have your envelope; but what are the permitted uses within the envelope?

Just, I mean, we don't want to have a Walmart on the 50 acres. So if you just put some parameters in the application or find out what the building envelope is going to be used for, whether it's residential or a school or whatever, just so we would know.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir. And we asked for that information in the application and where that information is not provided, we assume that that building envelope will have absolutely no conservation value. We assume it could have a wind turbine on it.

We assume the worst, unless the applicant has indicated that they've already negotiated what can go in that building envelope with the landowner.

In some cases, they simply haven't. But if they haven't, we assume the worst because you're right. A 4-acre footprint in the middle of a 1,000-acre ranch could still be a hideous impact to that operation or to those conservation values. And what we can do, what we can certainly do in future cycles is indicate in that application form that a failure to provide that information will hurt the scoring of the project.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Any other questions?

I just have -- just give me a little idea. The scores are low compared to the first round. Is that indicative of a lack of conservation, or is it just tough scoring?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: I think there's two things. I think the first thing is -- and all these are good projects. All of these are worthwhile projects. We had some projects in that first round that were just truly standout projects, I think is part of it. I also thing we added a member and I think that as we got on the ground and looked at projects and became more and more familiar with what we felt like the council wanted to see in these projects, I think probably we came a little bit -- became a little more conservative in our scoring.

I am happy to report that the team was extremely consistent. We had six people scoring projects and the ranking of those projects, which project ranked highest or the next highest, was very, very consistent across all six members of the team. So I feel like the scoring is good. I feel like the ranking is good; and I just feel like we have very conservative team members that don't score, you know, 100 percent of the available points unless a project just is truly, truly unique in that particular respect.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Okay. Thank you.

MR. MELINCHUK: Are you ready to talk about --

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yeah. If there are no other questions about specific projects, what I'd like to do is talk about the available funding. And I'm going to apologize. Again, somehow the PowerPoint presentation that has been brought up this morning is not the latest version of the PowerPoint that we prepared for the council. I will take full responsibility for that; but somehow the folks that loaded the project down here, didn't pull the proper -- didn't pull the correct -- didn't pull the correct version of the PowerPoint presentation.

But the bottom line is that there's $378,000 has been requested by the Dreamcatcher Ranch, which was the project that ranked highest, that scored highest. If the council chooses to award that $378,000 to the Dreamcatcher Ranch Project, there will be roughly $208,000 remaining. Knowing that that was not going to be enough to fund the Hughson Ranch Project, which was the second scoring project -- and bear with me while I scroll back to that project -- staff did go back to the applicant -- in this case, the Colorado River Land Trust -- and we asked them if they would be able to close this project if they were awarded roughly half their request.

So they circled back around with the landowner and the landowner agreed that they would enter into a conservation easement for less than the amount requested. However, they would only enter into a conservation easement for an area to be conserved commensurate with the amount of money available, which essentially meant -- looking at this map of Hughson Lakes -- we could have protected the west shoreline of the lake or we could have protected the east shoreline of the lake.

And knowing that, we met with Ross and Ross asked the team to anticipate the council's question as to whether this would affect the scoring of the project and we rescored the Hughson Lake -- the Hughson Ranch Project on the -- predicated on the basis that we would only be protecting half of that shoreline.

It turns out that the ability to protect that entire lake from impacts was a significant part of what made this project of value in the eyes of the selection team and in accordance with the scoring criteria. With the conservation easement you see here, you couldn't bulkhead the lake anywhere. You couldn't put a boat ramp in. All those seagrasses, all those emergent marshes, all those nursery beds for shrimp and flounder and other fish in that lake would be protected.

If you leave any of that shoreline unprotected, you could have a boat ramp. You could have bulkheads. You could have piers. You could have docks. You could have all sorts of disturbances that would compromise that value.

You have in your packet the results of rescoring that project. If the full award is not made available for the Hughson Ranch Project, it falls significantly in ranking; and the project that then ranks the next highest, the second highest, is the Santa Anna Ranch. They've requested 288,000. If you fund the Dreamcatcher Ranch Project in full, there's $208,000 available. So, again, in anticipation of questions from the council, we went back to Texas Agricultural Land Trust. They went back to the landowner and they came back to us and indicated that the landowner was still willing and would simply remove acreage from the north end of that ranch project.

So what you would lose is some of those limestone breaks and one of those pastures. You would also lose the area that the family had targeted for a building envelope. So you would -- as you can see from this picture, you would continue to have wheat operations. You would continue to have grazing and cattle operations. You would continue to have limestone breaks. You would continue to have a half of mile of frontage on the river.

In polling the team, the team did not feel that this compromise would change the scoring or the ranking of this particular project because we've lost none of those primary conservation or production values for this ranch. As a result, if the council decides to grant that 208,000 to the next project, the next highest ranking project that could take those funds and close a project, the staff would suggest the Santa Anna Ranch Lower Tract Project.

MR. ISOM: Ted, do you know what the ranking -- where the ranking went with the Hughson after you --

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir. It became Project No. 8. I believe you have it in your score sheet.

MR. ISOM: Okay. I'm with you.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: And, again, we made a concerted effort to score those blind. In other words, just to start over again and make no assumptions about the project and to just see how it would rank if it were a request to fund a conservation easement on one shoreline or the other of that tidal lake.

And, again, awe have changed the motion and have left a blank in the motion so that the Chairman could move that the 378,000 in Texas Farm and Ranch Land Conservation Program funds go to the Dreamcatcher Ranch and that the remaining balance go to the next ranch project and --

MS. MCAFEE: So why would you jump the Spoonbill Ranch?


MS. MCAFEE: Why was the Spoonbill -- because that's a similarly requested amount than the Santa Anna?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Well, the Santa Anna was the next highest ranking project.

MS. MCAFEE: Am I reading that right? Spoonbill -- oh, I thought you were talking about the Santa Anna Upper. I'm sorry.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: The Santa Anna Upper was originally ranked No. 3 and in the -- and the lack of funding to fully fund the Hughson Ranch Project, it fell to No. 8 and the Santa Anna Lower became No. 2.

MS. MCAFEE: Thank you.

MS. KINSEL: Is there still a building envelope on the Santa Anna Lower around the ranch headquarters?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: You know, this has all taken place over the period of this last week; but I'm told there is not. Blair Fitzsimons, I've been working directly with her and she's been working with the landowner and the family had already identified where they wanted that building envelope and it is in one of those pastures that would come out. And so as we understand it, there would be no building envelope in addition to the existing ranch headquarters.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Is that all the questions? Any other questions? Then I think let's -- I'd like a motion to approve this recommendation.

MR. ISOM: So moved.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Isom. Do I have a second?

MS. KINSEL: Second.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Kinsel. Thank you very much. All right. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Any opposed? Passes.

Action Item No. 4, consideration by council of staff recommendations regarding any unspent balance in the Texas Farm and Ranch Land Conservation funds, Mr. Hollingsworth.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, members of the council, my name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program here at Texas Parks and Wildlife. The staff involved in this program have been doing this collectively for many decades, and we know there's always the possibility that a project will not close.

A variety of things can occur during the course of trying to close a project. Due diligence can turn up something that was unexpected. There can be changes in the family. I mean, somebody can die or just any number of things can occur in those family dynamics. Sometimes the NGO and the family went into this process in good faith and simply failed to come to terms in that conservation easement. Somebody in the family will decide that they just really don't want the restrictions on the ranch. Things change. And in one case that we discussed earlier, it's possible that another funding source can expire and, again, things can happen and sometimes projects don't close.

In the event we have a project that you have agreed to fund fail to close, if the application is withdrawn or staff is able to determine that the project can't close within the timeframe and that means that it has to be under contract and approaching closing by August 31st of 2017 and would have to close within a couple months thereafter so that those funds don't go back to the State's general revenue, if staff becomes aware that a project is going to fail -- let me change -- if a project is not going to close within the timeframe that's allotted, what staff would do is advise the council via e-mail of that.

What we propose to do is e-mail the council, explain the reasons that staff has concluded the project -- it's either been withdrawn by the applicant or that staff has concluded that it can't close or is very unlikely to close within the time period available -- we would go back to the ranking applications. We would work with the applicants of those. We would figure out what the next highest ranking project is that we believe could close within that timeframe with the available funds and then we would advise the council of that project or projects and our proposal to proceed with reallocating those funds to the next highest ranking project. And then upon notification from the Chairman that we could proceed, we would negotiate a contract with that next -- with the applicant for that highest ranking project and try to get it closed in time.

The reasons for doing it this way are that we assume that time is going to be getting tight and this saves having to reconvene the council and go through that delay and, quite frankly, look at the projects you've already looked at and look at the rankings you've already looked it, it just saves some steps in us being able to hopefully use those funds advantageously before the window closes. And with that, I'd be happy to answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Any questions?

This looks like the only really feasible way to proceed because I'll be surprised -- I hope I'm -- if something doesn't pop up where somebody changes their mind about something on these projects, but I hope I'm wrong; but usually when they final -- get the final numbers, it can change people's opinion. So this looks like a good way to proceed if everybody is in agreement.

With that, I need a motion.

MR. KELSEY: So moved.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Mr. Kelsey. Do I have a second?

MR. ISOM: Second.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Mr. Isom, thank you very much.

All in favor say aye?

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Any opposed? Motion carries.

And we have no one signed up for public comments, which -- anybody have any other comments? Any suggestions? Hopefully, we'll be doing this again with more money.


MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: I would like to say that the staff that has worked on these projects is just really, really delighted at the response from the council, the enthusiasm that this council has shown. We've gotten phone calls. We've gotten comments back. We've gotten feedback. The Chairman has provided some very excellent comments.

Hopefully, the presentations are getting better and will continue to get better; but we really do appreciate your support. And I've talked to other people in the conservation community. I talk to people in conservation community all the time, of course. And folks around Texas are just amazed at what the program has accomplished with a little less than $2 million and we're extremely -- we are looking forward to the prospect of funding in future cycles and this is just a terrific, terrific tool and it's reaching -- and it's reaching ranches and properties that don't fall under other, you know, sources of conservation funding. And we're just real excited and, again, really, really appreciate the very positive feedback that we've gotten from every member of this council. Thank you very much.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Well, thank you and thank the staff. I think this is a great program and it ought to have everybody excited and hopefully we'll see it grow.

And I believe that concludes our business.

MR. MELINCHUK: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Do you want to add any --

MR. MELINCHUK: I would just -- I guess the biggest disappointment is we don't have more money. We've got some great projects. Thank you all for your time and input. I want to reiterate what Ted said in terms of input from the council and, you know, coming to this meeting. Hopefully, you have the information you need. We'll continue to supplement that based on feedback we've gotten today and last meeting, and I think we're in good shape moving forward. We'll keep you posted on any projects that happen to fall out along the way, and then we'll take appropriate action in accordance with the last motion that just passed. So with that...

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: All right. Well, thank you for your service.

(Meeting adjourns)

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

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