New wild life management facility opens

September 7, 2010

The Kerrville Daily Times, Kerrville, Texas - Sunday, August 29, 2010

WEST KERR - Continuing its mission to be a leader in wildlife and range management for Central Texas, the Kerr Wildlife Management Area in West Kerr County took a step forward Friday, unveiling the Lee and Ramona Bass Conference Center, a $1.8 million, 8,413-square-foot facility that will host seminars and group meetings for wildlife management, conservation and the study of natural resources.

More than 100 people, including Lee and Ramona Bass, and Texas Parks and Wildlife executive director Carter Smith, attended for lunch and a site dedication Friday.

"I'm absolutely excited about this new facility," Smith said. "We have a long history with the Kerr WMA, and a big focus of this, and all WMAs, is to help share what we have learned about wildlife and range management with local landowners. This new building will help serve landowners and managers who want to learn about the best practices in the Hill Country for land management."

Lee Bass donated $1 million for the construction of the center.

"I've been involved with TPWD since 1989," said Bass, who owns property near Hunt. "So my interest goes way back. The impetus behind helping with this building is to help folks here have a better venue to help landowners."

Comprising 6,493 acres of cedar breaks, oak thickets and live water, the Kerr WMA was purchased in 1950 by the Texas Game and Fish Commission under the Pittman Roberts Act, providing an area to conduct wildlife and range management, according to Donnie Frels, project leader of the Kerr WMA. Since 1977, more than 2,000 tours and seminars have been presented to nearly 55,000 people at the site.

"This essentially is an experiment station to conduct research projects under controlled environments," Frels said. "We take what we learn out here and give it to private landowners. It's sites like this that give us the opportunity to do that."

Frels said the new building was a major upgrade over the existing facilities on the property, which consisted of one small classroom.

"We have to have a comfortable place to conduct seminars and classes," he said. "We also want to make this building available to the local community for any group focused on conservation issues."

Frels said the Kerr WMA would not charge a fee for the building's use, and especially would like to see youth groups interested in conservation utilize the facility. He also said the Kerr WMA is one of the most popular bird watching areas in the state.

"The facility is needed to provide information on the effects of habitat management for endangered songbirds," Frels added. "It's also one of the premier research facilities for white-tailed deer, and the new facility is needed to present information about this research."

The building features a large conference room able to seat up to 150 people, a full-service kitchen and an outdoor patio overlooking the ranch.

J&S Construction out of Tennessee completed the project.

"This whole project went very smoothly," said Jack Stites, owner of J&S Construction. "We had a great team to work with at TPWD and here at the Kerr WMA. This is a great facility with very low maintenance."

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