(letter written on TPWD letterhead)
June 24, 1998
Peggy Horner, LIP Coordinator
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
3000 IH 35 South Suite 100
Austin, Texas 78704
This letter serves to bring you up to date on the fiasco created by TPWD parks employee and others that she contacted regarding the LIP I have in the Davis Mountains concerning black hawk (Buteogallus anthracinus)
habitat restoration. I visited the site with the landowner on May 29, and approved everything he had conducted so far. The project is going very well and I am extremely pleased with Mr. Sproul's work on the project and the interest he has taken in the black hawks.
On June 1, I received a call from Mr. Sproul saying that he had received a call from the Corps. of Engineers at El Paso asking what he was doing on his property along Limpia Creek. Mr. Sproul explained to the representative from the Corps. about the black hawk restoration project and that he was working with TPWD on the project.
In the last couple of weeks Linda Hedges, TPWD took it on herself to complain to TPWD that the rancher was tearing up Limpia Creek, she or someone else also notified Scott Royder with the Sierra Club and Ro Wauer as well as Greg Lasley were notified. The rumors escalated to greater proportion, all untrue I might add.
I called Linda yesterday morning at your request and visited with her on this matter, she said she was greatly relieved that Mr. Sproul wasn't tearing up Limpia Creek to put up an RV park and then asked many questions about the LIP project. I had to answer some of her questions to prevent further rumors. Such as "Will the rancher fence the cattle out of the area? Does the rancher know that the black hawks nest there?"
I also traveled to Fort Davis yesterday afternoon and met with Mr. Sproul and the Corps. of Engineers representative that had been sent from his El Paso office to see the "miles of Limpia Creek that had been torn
up with a bulldozer". The Corps. of Engineer stayed all of five minutes on the property with us, he said that
"everything that had been done conformed to standards set by the Corps. Of Engineers and he couldn't believe that he was sent down there to check that." In fact, a landowner may work in a creek bed as long as is is not
over 3 acres of work. Dan estimated that the work that was done along the creek bed (moving gravel and a log
jam out of the way so the creek could flow) was actually around 3/10 of one acre. He also said that if Mr. Sproul wanted to do anymore work next year to call him and he would work with us.
This meeting turned out well, but personally I am appalled at the rumors started by a TPWD employee, when all she had to do was to pick up the phone and call the landowner and ask diplomatically if he was aware that the black hawks nested on his property. Instead we have complaints about the rancher again. As you are aware the Davis Mountains landowners are very sensitive about their property rights, we get a very high profile project going and then we have to contend with rumors that escalate to great proportions about the rancher.
First, the confidentially of the LIP is frankly shot to hell, secondly I had to give information out to another employee about the project. Linda told me yesterday that she would call those people that had concerns about the black hawk and tell them that it was a restoration project. So now half of Ft. Davis knows exactly what the LIP is and I am not happy about this.
You suggested that in the future if we had another LIP in the Davis Mountains that concerned birds to notify Kelly Bryan and Linda Hedges of this. I am not very comfortable with this, how far are we going to breech our confidentiality policy to the landowner to pacify park employees? I think we need to give this matter some serious concern. I am sending Linda a memo at your request advising her that I met with the Corps. of Engineers and that everything Mr. Sproul is doing on Limpia Creek has been approved and if in the future she has any questions about the project to call me.
This knee-jerk reaction by a TPWD employee cost two different agencies a full day of travel and time to smooth over the fiasco that should never have happened. We are right back to the old scenario again "everytime a rancher does something, it is bound to be wrong and I better call someone and let them know that Mr. Rancher is tearing up his property, if a rancher is doing it, it has to be wrong…" Is it any wonder that landowners are wary of letter TPWD in on their property to work.
This project is creating more habitat for the black hawks, of which we have very few in the Trans-Pecos and Mr. Sproul's work along Limpia Creek has provided 3 pools full of prey minnows, crayfish and other reptiles and amphibians that constitute the diet of the black hawk. The trees he is planting will replace the old dead
and dying cottonwoods and the trail and observation blinds he is building so that people can come in and view the black hawks from a distance and learn about the ecology of these raptors is great PR for TPWD, yet one knee-jerk reaction could have cost us this project as well as destroyed the landowner confidence we are trying to
Also contrary to the rumor that the black hawks were disturbed and left the area, that is erroneous also, the hawks fledged young from the nest in mid June. Both adults were visible yesterday and the yound were probably perched nearby, we heard at least one young food calling to the adults. Mr. Srpoul also observed the adults feeding in the newly created pools of minnows.
I suggest we give some serious consideration to our confidentiality policy within the LIP, this project is no longer confidential and we are just very lucky that Mac Sproul was understanding about the Corps. of Engineers having to visit his property and that the project is no longer confidential.
Bonnie. R. McKinney, LIP-Trans-Pecos
cc: Gary Graham