Devils River Hot Topic

| December 7, 2010

TPWD News Release

TPW Commission To Meet Dec. 20 in Austin

Devils River, TFFC Land Acquisitions on Special Meeting Agenda

AUSTIN – The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission will hold a special meeting at 9 a.m. Dec. 20 at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Austin headquarters to consider two land acquisitions, one on the Devils River in Val Verde County and another near the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens.

TPWD is now proposing to acquire the 17,638-acre Devils River Ranch in Val Verde County and manage it as part of the existing Devils River State Natural Area. Previously, the agency had proposed exchanging the natural area as partial payment for the ranch about 13 miles downriver.

The agency will host a local constituent briefing in Del Rio to explain the new Devils River proposal. Anyone is welcome to attend that meeting, which will take place from 6-8 p.m. Dec. 9 at the Del Rio Civic Center, Kennedy Room, 1915 Veterans Blvd.

This is what all the talk is about. The Devils River in Southwest Texas.

The Devils River Ranch owner has agreed to sell the ranch to TPWD for $13 million, significantly below the $15,875,000 fair market value calculated earlier this year by a certified appraiser. To fund the purchase, TPWD would use $2.7 million in state funds allocated for park land acquisition. This would be matched with $1.3 million in federal Land and Water Conservation Fund dollars. But the bulk of the purchase would be made with $9 million in private donations.

A proposal to exchange the natural area for the ranch was pulled from the Nov. 4 commission agenda after TPWD heard concerns from paddlers, some environmentalists and others. Kayak and canoe clubs expressed concern that loss of the state natural area would disrupt opportunities to paddle the upper river. The new proposal maintains that opportunity while opening the way for the department to work collaboratively with landowners and paddlers to resolve longstanding disputes surrounding the river’s use, as well as improve the existing state natural area.

If the acquisition is approved by the commission, the two sites would likely be operated under one superintendent as a state natural area complex. Public access to the new site would come after creation of a master plan as well as a public use plan for both units of the natural area, a process estimated to take about two years. Private donations would fund the first 2.5 years of operating expenses for the new site.

TPWD also plans to bring together a working group to include landowners, paddlers, businesses, elected officials, non-profit partners and others to work together and seek solutions to address the recreational interests of Devils River users as well as the property rights of adjacent landowners.

The department has compiled maps, photos, questions and answers, conservation easement documents and other resources in a Devils River Land Acquisition News Roundup on its website.

At the Dec. 20 meeting, commissioners will consider one other item, a proposal to acquire about 14 acres of private land just north of the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens. The tract would be used to build a small reservoir to provide water for fish hatchery ponds.

Public testimony on both items may be made at the Dec. 20 commission meeting. Questions or comments about the Devils River proposal can be sent by email to [email protected] or by regular mail to Ted Hollingsworth, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, 4200 Smith School Road, Austin, TX 78744.

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Category: Science and Environmental

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Comments (5)

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  1. shannon says:

    I think your best bet is to google up all the references based on your specific needs? What do you want to know?

  2. Hollie Leger says:

    Can you send me some more in for about this place please?

  3. shannon says:

    You have probably hit that nail on the head. I too am afraid that a new “ease of use” will mean loss of rugged status. Is it only a matter of time until we see inner tubes for rent? Is this a case of “be careful what you wish for, you might just get it?” I want to do it the right way too – we lost the best weather – Fall, so now maybe this spring?

  4. mmendez1 says:

    I was wondering why the Parks department couldn’t make this happen when they started discussing the swap. I really want to get down and do this area the right way (multiple days kayaking/fishing/camping) but I was turned off by the landowner issues. Hopefully this plan will work for all involved and make the area more viable for visitors. On the other hand, I hope that the area doesn’t lose all of it’s rugged nature through over development.

  5. shannon says:

    Can you say too good to be true? I am still rubbing my eyes and scratching my head about this one. Sounds like the landowner needs instant Texas Nature Hall of Fame induction.

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