Meeting Notes – Del Rio Public
Meeting on the Proposed Devils River Land Transaction
(October 20, 2010) – Tyson Broad, Sierra
About 60-70 people attended the public meeting
held by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD)
on the proposed land transaction involving acquisition
of the privately owned Devils River Ranch by TPWD
in exchange for the Devils River State Natural
Area and approximately $8 million in cash.
Scott Boruff, Deputy Executive Director for Operations,
(TPWD), led the meeting. He introduced other TPWD
staff (including Ted Hollingsworth) and the ranger
and manager of Devils River State Natural Area
(SNA). Several game wardens were in attendance.
Boruff discussed the meetings held with some
conservation organization leaders (including Sierra
Club) on October 4 and a meeting held last Saturday
w/landowners along the Devils River, including
The Nature Conservancy (TNC).
A lot of questions were asked at the Del Rio
public meeting before the formal TPWD presentation
was given. One question related to the fact that
a contract with the private landowner of Devils
River Ranch had already been signed. Borfuff mentioned
that this is normal procedure and is contingent
on Commission approval and funding availability.
He noted that this is not a done deal and that
the November 4 meeting of the Texas Parks and Wildlife
Commission will only be a decision by the Commission
to move forward or not. If they do move forward,
then an evaluation of the site related to the presence
of such things as toxic materials must be conducted
and funding must be secured.
Boruff presented the comparison of the Devils
River Ranch and the Devils River SNA properties,
as is shown on the TPWD website. Boruff said that
both properties have the same number of rock art
sites and both have conservation easements that
preclude development and subdivision.
The Devils River Ranch property was purchased
by TNC years ago then sold to the current owner
Rod Sanders with a conservation easement.
Boruff noted that regardless of what happens
with this process, a task force is to be created
to deal with the boater / landowner issue on the
Boruff did note that the same person prepared
the appraisals and that TPWD would make their appraisal
public. Realtor James King, who is representing
the private landowner of the Ranch in the selling
of that property, said he felt they would do the
same on the appraisal prepared for the Ranch.
Part of the funding for the cash payment of approximately
$8 million is to come from $2m in the federal Land
and Water Conservation Fund that may only be used
to acquire park land, $2m in state appropriation
funds, and $2m from an anonymous donor.
The floor was opened for comments, and they were
mostly against the swap. There was one landowner,
Rusty Wallace, who was for it. Most folks seemed
to be against it or neutral at this point. [Boruff
commented to me later that most of the email TPWD
is getting is in favor of the land swap.]
Tom Goynes from Protect Texas Rivers Association
spoke at the meeting. He is advocating a permit
system for the river and hoped that at least a
portion of the Devils River SNA would remain available
Many of the folks at the meeting who opposed
the land transaction were landowners nearby the
proposed park who are afraid that there would be
trespass problems because of the new access to
the lower portion of the river.
There were also concerns expressed regarding
the protection of the rock art sites nearby.
A lot of the folks at the meeting were perturbed
that TPWD didn’t have a management plan for
the proposed new park which made it very hard to
predict potential impact. Was the agency really
going to buy the land and then decide whether it
was to be a park or a natural area? That really
bothered folks. Boruff did say that it was not
going to be a Garner State Park type of situation,
but he didn’t offer any specifics.
One of the more interesting perspectives came
from Katy Smith who a student w/Texas A&M’s
Institute of Renewable Natural Resources. She has
done research at the Devils River SNA and discussed
the presence of Black Capped Vireos. She questioned
whether there was habitat for the Vireos at the
proposed site. She also cited some of the language
from the Parks and Wildlife Department rules found
in the Texas Administrative Code (TAC) regarding
state natural areas and commented how the state
natural areas are to be operated for protection
of resources, regardless of revenue generation.
She also cited more of the TAC regarding the process
for TPWD to acquire new parks and noted that Section
D may preclude the park from being purchased: State
natural areas which duplicate the primary significance
of a site presently preserved in public ownership
will receive a lower priority for acquisition than
those types of areas currently unrepresented in
the public domain. Here is the relevant link
to the portions of the TAC that Katy Smith referenced: