Sunday, August 26, 2007

General Land Office Selling Land Donated by Conservation Group

The General Land Office is at it again. After the controversy over its proposed sale of land at Eagle Mountain Lake, the office agreed to the development of a park only after it became a political football in the last election. Now the office is proposing another controversial sale. It has taken bids for 9,269 acres of land in the Christmas Mountains adjacent to Big Bend National Park.

According to the Conservation Fund, who gifted the land to the state, the state was bound by deed restrictions and could not sell the land without the approval of the fund.

"It was the hope...that this land would be made available to the general public for hunting and other recreational uses," Richard Erdman, executive vice president of the Virginia-based Conservation Fund, wrote in [an] Aug. 8 letter.

Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson stated that the deed restrictions were probably unenforceable.

One of the bidders is Houston businessman John Poindexter, of J.B. Poindexter & Co. Inc. and owner of nearby Cibolo Creek Ranch Resort. Poindexter has been trying to buy land in and around the area for some time now. He previously made news when he initiated the sale of 45,000 acres in Big Bend State Park. After a public outcry, that deal fell through.

Poindexter's statements imply he is only interested in conservation of the Christmas Mountains land.

"The restrictions are so significant, that fundamentally, all you can do is look at the land."

Apparently, that's an argument we've heard before. Of the Big Bend sale, Poindexter had this to say.

The 46,000 acres that the state considered selling him wasn't being sought to expand his resort facilities, as some critics asserted, he added.

"The development potential — as was so frequently cited in the hearing — for this property is as close to zero as anything could reasonably be in the state," he said.

What he failed to mention was that an easement on the 46,000 acre sale allowed development of 4600 acres.

Regarding the Christmas Mountains land, the original donor, the Richard King Mellon Foundation, was disturbed enough about the pending sale of its land to issue this warning.

If the land sale goes through "the state of Texas (should) not look to the R.K. Mellon Foundation for any future help."

That sentiment was echoed by Carolyn Vogel of the Texas Land Trust Council.

"If the foundation intended for conservation to be the major outcome and it got developed instead, it could have an effect" on future donations to the state.

Hat tip South Texas Chisme and B & B.

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