|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2012-01-25                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than seven years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ]
[ Additional Contacts: Perry Trial, TPWD Rockport Marine Lab, (361) 729-2328, perry.trial@tpwd.texas.gov; Tom Harvey, TPWD News, (512) 389-4453, tom.harvey@tpwd.texas.gov ]
Jan. 25, 2012
JFK Seagrass Proposal to Emphasize Public Education, Voluntary Protection
AUSTIN -- The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission today approved a staff recommendation to protect seagrass in the Laguna Madre near the John F. Kennedy Memorial Causeway in Nueces County through a voluntary education and outreach program.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department recently held six scoping meetings on an earlier concept to create a new state scientific area and prohibit seagrass uprooting in the JFK Causeway area. The area contains more than 14,000 acres of ecologically important seagrass, experiences heavy boat traffic and has shown evidence of significant boat propeller scarring. TPWD received more than 430 on-line, email, and phone comments, most of which opposed the concept. Attendees at the scoping meetings were significantly opposed to the regulatory approach to protecting seagrass.
"Based on what we heard, it's clear we have work to do to foster better understanding of the issue, and we propose to explore ways to show people how to protect seagrass on a voluntary basis," said Robin Riechers, TPWD coastal fisheries director. "We'll continue to monitor seagrass around the JFK Causeway to track what happens over time and help guide our efforts in the future."
The department proposes to begin collecting updated aerial imagery of seagrass beds around the JFK Causeway and to continue monitoring both biological and human-use factors of this area. TPWD staff will use this as baseline data to track seagrass changes over time and assess the effectiveness of voluntary protection.
The JFK causeway area was chosen because it has extensive shallow seagrass flats that would benefit from protection, plus heavy boat traffic with many access points. Also, the site offers beneficial "overlap" with the Redfish Bay State Scientific Area 10 miles away, where there have been previous outreach and conservation efforts, and existing partners are dedicated to helping the cause.
TPWD will go forward with a proposal to clarify rules to protect fish during prolonged freezing weather on the Texas coast. For example, last Feb. 2, the agency issued a temporary closure to saltwater fishing at specified areas, or thermal refuges, along the Texas coast. Texas has about two million acres of bays and estuaries susceptible to freeze. There were three major freezes during the 1980s, including one in 1989 when the temperature at Brownsville dropped to 16 degrees and an estimated 11 million fish died.
The existing rule specifies that no one can fish with a hook and line, pole and line, or throwline in an affected area during a freeze closure. There has been some confusion over the taking of fish with dipnets, even though a dipnet is not a legal device as described in another section of TPWD proclamation. The proposed rule change for 2012 makes it clear that no one may take or attempt to take any aquatic life by any means in an affected area during a freeze. The TPW Commission will vote on the freeze rule along with other statewide fishing and hunting regulation changes at its March 29 meeting in Austin.

[ Note: This item is more than seven years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [RM]
Jan. 25, 2012
TPWD Looking to Sell Part of Palo Duro Canyon's Fortress Cliff Ranch
AUSTIN -- The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department got the go-ahead today from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Commission to provide public notice of the pending sale of 2,014 acres of the state-owned Fortress Cliff Ranch overlooking Palo Duro Canyon.
A key part of the purchase agreement for the property is the inclusion of a conservation easement to be held in perpetuity by TPWD that prevents any development near the rim and limits subdividing the property in the future into only two tracts. The property to be sold includes a modern ranch house, roughly 1,000 acres of grassland and mixed brush, a side canyon and a quarter mile of the canyon rim.
TPWD, working with the Trust for Public Land, acquired the valuable ranchland overlooking the renowned 29,000-acre park in a dual transaction straddling 2008-2009. The acquisition was made primarily to protect the views from the park of seven miles of cliffs targeted for possible development that would have allowed small, canyon-front home lots.
"With the sale of much of the Fortress Cliff property, the agency is staying true to its original stated intent and plan to protect the cliffs and the park's view shed, and make the best use of our limited funds by selling the ranch house and uplands at some future date," said Carter Smith, TPWD executive director. "A perpetual conservation easement will ensure the land's important wildlife conservation values are permanently protected. We will use the proceeds from this sale to acquire state park property elsewhere in Texas, where we have many high-priority needs."
TPWD staff told the commission that a purchase offer has been presented with terms and conditions believed to be in the best interest of TPWD.
TPWD used computer modeling and site visits to map views from the park, evaluate recreational access and outline public use options to come up with the December 2010 property listing. After the sale, TPWD will retain ownership of roughly 850 acres of the original 2,912-acre Fortress Cliff Ranch lands as part of Palo Duro Canyon State Park that will be integrated into existing resource management and public use plans.
"A plan for public use has not been developed yet, but it is anticipated that the Fortress Cliffs property we retain will allow park visitors to be able some day to access the rim via a hiking trail to enjoy the spectacular views of the canyon below," Smith said.
The Fortress Cliffs property, formerly Tub Springs Ranch, is located about 15 miles southeast of Amarillo in Randall and Armstrong counties. Palo Duro Canyon State Park is located about 12 miles east of Canyon on State Highway 217. For more information, contact the park at (806) 488-2227.