Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
May 28, 2003Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 28th day of May, 2003, there came on to be heard matters under the regulatory authority of the Parks and Wildlife Commission of Texas, in the Commission Hearing Room of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex, beginning at 9:00 a.m. to wit:
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION:
Katharine Armstrong, Austin, Texas, Commission Chair
Joseph B.C. Fitzsimons, San Antonio, Texas
Ernest Angelo, Jr., Midland, Texas
Alvin L. Henry, Houston, Texas
Ned S. Holmes, Houston, Texas
Philip Montgomery, Dallas, Texas
Donato D. Ramos, Laredo, Texas
Kelly W. Rising, M.D., Beaumont, Texas (absent)
Mark E. Watson, Jr., San Antonio, Texas
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT:
Robert L. Cook, Executive Director, and other personnel of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Good morning, everyone. The meeting is called to order.
Before proceeding to business, I believe Mr. Cook has a statement to make.
MR. COOK: Madam Chairman and Commissioners, a public notice of this meeting containing all items from the proposed agenda has been filed in the Office of the Secretary of State, as required by Chapter 551 of the Government Code, referred to as the Open Meetings Law. I would like for this action to be noted in the official record of this meeting.
Thank you, Mr. Cook.
CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: We will begin with the Regulations Committee. Commissioner Fitzsimons is the Chairman.
Here's the gavel.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Madam Chair, thank you.
The Regulations Committee will come to order at 9:02. And our first order of business –
CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Joseph, I have just – I'm going to interrupt you here because I had forgotten to do something very important.
We have a new Commissioner today, and I want to introduce him to everyone: Mr. Ned Holmes from Houston, Texas. And he's going to be a great addition to the Commission.
He has a worthy resume that I'm not going to go into now, but he's going to be a credit to the agency, a credit to the governor and a credit to the state.
Thank you, Mr. Holmes.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Thank you, very much.
CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Proceed, Chairman Fitzsimons.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Madam Chair.
Welcome, Ned, to everybody's favorite committee, the Regulations Committee.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I think our first order of business is approval of the committee minutes from the previous meeting. If you've had an opportunity to review them, I'd entertain a motion to approve the minutes from the previous meeting.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Move.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Aye.
All opposed, same sign.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Motion carries approval of the minutes.
And the first order is the Chairman's Charges.
MR. COOK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I've got three items that I want to cover with you right quickly that are basically housekeeping clean-up items that we will be requesting – we are requesting your permission to go forward and publish in the Texas Register for comment. And we would bring these back to you at our August Commission meeting for action.
The first is an amendment to how we respond to petitions on rule making. When – we are subject to the Administrative Procedures Act to handle our business. When we get a petition from an individual or a group of people requesting us to take some action of some variety, under the Administrative Procedures Act, we must respond to that petition before the 60th day after we have received that.
To ensure compliance with that, the deadline that we ask our commissioners to respond if they want that item placed on the agenda – we currently have that in the books as 60 days. We need to move that to 45 or 30 days or something like that so that we have grounds for if we have your – if we do not have a response from you, say, by 45 days, then we know that you have no interest in putting that on the agenda, and we can go forward. So we need to make that adjustment.
Up at Lake Texoma, we are proposing to increase the fee up there – the license fee – from the $7.50 current to $12. The reason that we're doing that is because Oklahoma has already taken that action and the implementation of that is contingent upon Texas approving an increased fee. So we would like to submit that and bring that back to you again in August.
And we've had a request for a little bit of an adjustment in the lifetime resident hunting and fishing, or combination license, for an honorary Texan. The governor's office occasionally gives the honor of creating Honorary Texan to some distinguished citizen or hero of the nation to make them an honorary Texan. And in order to be able to give them – for example, to grant that person a resident combination hunting and fishing license – accepting that designation as an honorary Texan as a resident – and would make that possible.
So we want to make that adjustment. And that will get us to – give us the opportunity to give a very important person who made an important contribution one of these honors. And we'll be bringing those back – if that's okay with you all, we can bring those back to you in August.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right.
As to those housekeeping items, you need those published and –
MR. COOK: Yes. We will – with your permission, we'll just go forward and publish them and get comment and come back to you at the August meeting.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right.
If there's no further questions or discussion, without objection, I authorize staff to publish those items in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.
Next agenda item: Fish Guide Regulation, Paul Hammerschmidt.
MR. HAMMERSCHMIDT: Thank you.
While the technology is warming up here, I'd like to welcome Commissioner Holmes aboard.
I appreciate you coming here.
For the record, my name is Paul Hammerschmidt, with the Coastal Fisheries Division. And my presentation today is – I had better put my cheaters on or I'll be in trouble.
MR. HAMMERSCHMIDT: This morning, we'll cover the new Section 65.73 in the statewide hunting and fishing proclamation, which establishes certain documentation that will be required for individuals intending to purchase a saltwater fishing guide license. These proposed changes were published in the April 24 issue of the Texas Register for a 30-day public comment period.
As you remember, back in April at the April Commission meeting, the Commission adopted a fee increase for a commercial fishing guide license. An amendment was proposed to separate the two – fees between freshwater and saltwater, and the freshwater guides would be $125, and the saltwater guides would be $200. Currently the U.S. Coast Guard already requires operators – an operators license for all for-hire vessels in saltwater, but not for most of the freshwater areas.
Because the $200 license would be valid for both saltwater and freshwater and the $125 license would be good for only freshwater, we felt it was important that there be a good – a strong clarification of the rule – of the intent of the rule. So with the new 6573, the statement is that persons who guide by vessel in saltwater are required to show proof of possession of the U.S. Coast Guard operator's license in order to obtain a fishing guide license from Parks and Wildlife. This helps the person applying for the license, and it helps the license deputies understand what the rules are.
As of today, we have received no comments regarding this proposal. And our staff recommendation is that – we request that the Regulations Committee carry this proposal as published in the Texas Register to the full Commission for consideration for adoption. And I'll be happy to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any questions of Paul?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: You must have done a good job, Paul.
MR. HAMMERSCHMIDT: Thank you, very much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: If there are no further questions or discussion, without objection, I'll place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.
And next on the agenda: Scott Boruff and Clay Brewer on the mule deer MLDP.
MR. BORUFF: Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, my name is Scott Boruff, Deputy Executive Director of Operations and also Acting Division Director for the Wildlife Division.
Last summer, as you may know, some landowners from West Texas came forward and asked us to look at an MLDP mule deer program. The Chairman put together a task force out in west Texas, and that group came forward with some proposals some time back. Mr. Brewer is here to give you an update on where we are with that process.
MR. BREWER: Mr. Chairman and Regulations Committee members, my name is Clay Brewer, and I serve as the Wildlife Division Program Leader for mule deer, bighorn sheep and pronghorn antelope. The purpose of this presentation is to update the Regulations Committee on the results of public comments received concerning the proposal to expand the managed lands deer permit program to include mule deer.
To give you a little background on this or to refresh your memory a little bit, this program was requested by the landowners at the August Commission meeting, and the Wildlife Division staff were charged with developing a proposal for public consideration. The goals were to create a single program for all mule deer, including those in the Trans-Pecos, the Panhandle and western edge of the Edward's Plateau, and to keep the program simple by creating a single level.
I was then asked to work cooperatively with the Trans-Pecos Advisory Committee in developing a final proposal for public consideration; that was accomplished, and a decision to move forward with the proposal and accept public comment was agreed upon at the April Regulations Committee meeting. The proposal was published in the Texas Register, and public hearings were announced in local newspapers throughout the Trans-Pecos and Panhandle, the Livestock Weekly and the TPWD web page.
A total of 775 comments have been received regarding the proposed regulation change in the form of public hearing comments, petitions, telephone calls, e-mail messages and written correspondence. The comments indicate an overwhelming opposition to the proposal, by a margin of about seven to one. Of the comments received, 654 were opposed, 88 were in favor and 33 undecided.
Seven public hearings were conducted to seek public input on the proposal, including Morton, Turkey, Dumas, Alpine, Fort Stockton, Van Horn and Iraan. A total of 184 people commented on the proposal, and, of these, 99 were opposed, 53 were in favor, and 32 were undecided. In addition, the Brewster, Jeff Davis and Presidio Counties' commissioner's courts all voted unanimously against this proposal.
Based on strong opposition by the public, the TPWD Mule Deer Committee recommends that the current proposal not be adopted for mule deer in the state of Texas. And with that, I'll take any questions you might have.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Clay, as you know, I've been in this one since the beginning. There was a pretty clear – well, it was clear to me that the task force worked very hard on coming up – and that subcommittee, if I'm using the right terminology –
MR. BREWER: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: – came up – worked very hard in coming up with the proposal. Could you review that proposal that the subcommittee came up with and where they started up and where they ended up?
MR. BREWER: Yes, sir.
The – we started up – field staff from the Panhandle, Trans-Pecos and western edge of the Edward's Plateau – we developed a draft proposal. And I used that proposal to work with this MLD subcommittee.
And we kicked that thing around, and it took many different incarnations. It went all the way from no habitat and management requirements or no data requirements – it made a full circle, and it ended up being very close to what we had originally submitted with the exception of the season length.
And to refresh your memory a little bit on that, the proposal had three habitat management or improvements written in. It had for population data two years plus the previous year, so three years – two years' harvest data. And those were the main parts of the program. And then the final part that the committee recommended was that the – a mandatory review of that proposal take place after five years. And so that was –
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: A Sunset?
MR. BREWER: Right.
So that was added to it. And then the season length – field staff recommended two weeks before the general season, picked up the general season, and then two weeks after. And what the committee ended up with was one week before the season, the season, and then up through December 31. And the reason for that was that they picked up the Christmas holidays. That was the primary reason. So –
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And even after the – that subcommittee – which is made up primarily of landowners –
MR. BREWER: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: – in that area. Right?
MR. BREWER: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: – came up with that proposal, that's the proposal that we're seeing the overwhelming opposition to?
MR. BREWER: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Now, I read the resolutions by two of those counties. I didn't read Presidio's I don't think. I'd like to see that one and see if it's similar to Jeff Davis' and Brewster's. What concerns me is that those resolutions don't have any relation to the proposal.
MR. BREWER: That –
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: In other words, they talk about things that are not part of the proposal –
MR. BREWER: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: – over-harvest, shooting in the rut, and so on.
MR. BREWER: Yes, sir. There was much of that going on, and I might add that it was going on on both sides of the issue; regardless of which side of the fence you were standing on, there was some of it going on both ways.
When those things came out, I took the opportunity to visit with those county commissioners so they understood how the program works. I – the very first news release that came out, the title of the news release – they changed our title, and it said, State proposes changing the mule deer season to the same as white-tailed. And so that's how we started out, and, of course, we did lots of leg work and made sure that people understood that.
And in fact, I held that article up at every public hearing and said, That's not what we're here to discuss. And so we did our best to make sure that people did understand the issues. So –
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: But there's still quite a bit of education to do, I guess, on really what MLDs are?
MR. BREWER: There is, but I do believe that the bulk of those folks out there understand what the program is. I honestly believe they feel strongly about it, and I think some of the distortion and the different things going on there is – just demonstrates how strongly they feel about it. But I do – I honestly believe that most people, whichever side they're on, understand the program – the bulk of them.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any questions from the Commissioners?
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Is it our intention, though, to – in spite of that to continue to explore a compromise or, otherwise, further educate the people on what we're trying to accomplish?
MR. BREWER: We work with those landowners. I mean they're good folks; they care deeply about mule deer. They're great people. We will continue to work with them at every opportunity, we have. And I feel like we do pretty well with those folks, but our recommendation, based on the results of these hearings and comments received, is to not adopt the program at this time.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Keep working on it? All right.
Well, anyone else?
COMMISSIONER ANGELO: I think we got a near record response on this one.
MR. BREWER: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And mostly negative.
COMMISSIONER ANGELO: That's about as many as I can remember on any issue.
MR. COOK: Mr. Chairman, I'd like to just take the opportunity to –
I, like yourself and like the Chairman and Mr. Angelo and several of us, had a lot of comments on this one. And I'll make this observation from knowing those folks and having associated with those folks for many, many years: The percentage of people out there who would like this program and who support this program is increasing as people learn and hear. And when they're dealing with our staff folks like Mike Hobson, who is out there, and Clay Brewer and Mike Pittman and our guys who are out there – our law enforcement folks – all being very reasonable and steady and dependable, and – I think building that trust – this is as much an issue about trust in the Agency as it is about this particular proposal.
And building that trust and reestablishing ourselves out there is very important. And I think staff did a great job on this.
And I really appreciate, Clay, your efforts – and Mike Hobson's and the guys'.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Well, I would agree with that. There's a lot more at stake out there than just one issue. And I think if we're going to make our stated goals with the land and water conservation plan and MLDs and wildlife management plans and with more and more people signing up for them, that obviously means that we're going to have to do a little more ground work to get that done.
MR. BREWER: I might tell you just so you'll know, and it might help you in your decision making process. You're probably going to hear – if this goes forward tomorrow, you are going to hear from a few of those. Mike Hobson and I did everything but drive the shuttle bus here. So I anticipate some folks attending the meeting tomorrow, so – that will have comments.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Good.
CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Well, I just want to say that overriding all of this – first of all, I appreciate the really hard work I understand that the MLD subcommittee of the Trans-Pecos Advisory Board did. That – they really wrestled hard with this issue. It's my understanding that that committee was divided right – pretty much right down the middle.
That also indicates to me through this process that there are a significant minority of people that are interested in this or – and other programs that we offer working with Parks and Wildlife. And I would hope that these friends and neighbors out there can continue to work things out for themselves out there.
This is, after all, a voluntary program. And I would encourage the people that make that part of Texas their home or second home to continue to work together as friends respecting each other's genuine interest in this issue. And so I applaud your work, and I also applaud the work of the subcommittee, as well as the advisory board. Thank you, Clay.
MR. BREWER: You bet.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any other questions for Clay or Scott?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: With no further questions or discussion, without objection, I'll place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.
And next up are Larry Young and Robin Riechers, I believe, on the Oyster Dredge Regulation.
MR. YOUNG: Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, I'm Larry Young, Chief of Fisheries Enforcement for the Law Enforcement Division.
MR. RIECHERS: I'm Robin Riechers, Management Director of Coastal Fisheries.
MR. YOUNG: Here we're going to present some changes – proposed changes to the oyster – statewide oyster proclamation for publishing in the Texas Register. The oyster industry is a very valuable fishery in Texas. And in fiscal year 2000, the total landings were almost $14 million. That's a little bit above the average, which is about 11 million. The staff works very closely with a series of meetings with the oyster advisory board to identify ways to best protect the harvest of oysters.
Currently, the oyster industry is opposed to the use of multiple dredges for many reasons; however, in its current form, the regulation is difficult to enforce. With that in mind, the proposed changes we would make – the staff and the advisory board of the committee recommends that during the public open season, it would be unlawful to have on board more than one dredge unless spare dredges are secured to or on the wheelhouse or to the deck in such a manner as to not be readily accessible for use.
In addition, we'd add new language that would make it during the public open season to be unlawful to have on board more than one winch chain unless spare winch chains are secured below the deck, and, finally, during the public open season, it would be unlawful to have on board more than one lifting block unless spare blocks are secured below the deck.
I'd be happy to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any questions for Larry or Robin on oyster dredge?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Must have done a good job.
MR. YOUNG: Yes.
MR. DUROCHER: It makes a lot of sense.
CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Thank you, Robin.
MR. RIECHERS: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you.
Let's see. We're on Four. With no further or discussion, without objection, I authorize staff to publish this item in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.
And next: A briefing on the history of grass carp in Texas.
MR. DUROCHER: Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, my name is Phil Durocher, and I'm the Director of Inland Fisheries. And I have here with me Dr. Earl Chilton; he's a nationally known expert on grass carp and the invasive aquatic plant business in the country.
I'm going to spend a few minutes this morning briefing you and talking about an issue that's fairly controversial in the state of Texas – it has been since I've been here – and we're constantly getting pinged on no matter which way we – which approach we take in this business.
But first of all, let me say triploid grass carp use in both private and public water is an important tool in the fight against invasive exotic plants here in Texas, primarily hydrilla. It's – the grass carp are really selective – triploid grass carp are really selective to hydrilla. So it's an effective tool.
Now, grass carp were first brought in Texas in 1963; they were brought in from Malaysia. They were brought to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's fish farming experiment station in Stuttgart, Arkansas. And, again, the reason they were brought in – it was an issue about grass carp. They were brought in to the – for areas of the country that had a hydrilla issue. They were trying to find tools to allow people to control and manage hydrilla.
In '75 – now, let me say between '63 and '75, several states in the Midwest, particularly Arkansas, legalized the use of diploid grass carp. And there were a lot of grass carp being used in Arkansas. And, of course, the Mississippi River runs through Arkansas. And a lot of those grass carp escaped in the Mississippi River, and we found – grass carp larvae were found in the lower Mississippi River in 1975. That was a concern to us here in Texas.
Grass carp were illegal at that time in the state of Texas. So that's one of the things that we were concerned about: The potential for escapement of and reproduction of diploid grass carp.
Because of all the issues that were going on not only with invasive fish but a lot of plants, in – the 64th Texas Legislature legalized this Agency to regulate harmful and potentially harmful fish, shellfish and aquatic plants. And I want to say, at that time, the emphasis was on aquatic plants; there were a lot of new aquatic plants coming into the United States and into Texas, and that was where the big concern was.
In '75, several things happened that kind of brought this to the limelight. First of all, the first incidence of hydrilla in a large, major impoundment in Texas was in Lake Conroe. In 1975, 470 acres of hydrilla were identified in Lake Conroe. Immediately, some people began to look at grass carp as a solution to dealing with this hydrilla infestation. Now, we had some concerns.
Our concerns were not primarily with the idea that the grass carp would eat hydrilla; we knew they would eat the hydrilla. Our concerns were that these were not sterile fish – we were concerned about escapement and potential for reproduction. So they were coming to us with requests for permits to stock these fish, and we were denying them.
While this was going on, hydrilla continued to increase in Lake Conroe; it increased up to 1,200 acres between '76 and '78. The Lake Conroe Association was formed. It was a group of homeowners that were trying to find ways to fund and find solutions to this – what was getting to be a significant problem in Lake Conroe.
The problem we had was there wasn't that many options for the control of hydrilla in Lake Conroe. Of course, it was common – at that time, herbicides were being used all over the country to control hydrilla and other invasive plants, but it would have been extremely costly with the amount of hydrilla that we had on Lake Conroe. The estimated cost of treating with herbicides was anywhere from 6- to $10 million annually. And this would have been an ongoing cost to the people of Lake Conroe.
Mechanical harvesters? They didn't consider that an option; because of the huge amount of vegetation that was there, it was going to be, again, expensive to get harvesters to deal with that vegetation.
So they were looking at the biological control which – the only viable one at that time was the diploid grass carp. They came to us again for a permit, and we denied it because of our concerns about potential reproduction of that fish.
In 1981, the hydrilla coverage in Conroe had gotten up to 9,000 acres, which was – over 40 percent of the reservoir was covered with hydrilla. It was a significant problem ecologically and in terms of access to recreation. It – we were getting a monoculture of one plant that was going to take over that area. And the Texas legislature got involved at that time, and they directed us to issue a permit to the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, Texas A&M, to allow them to stock some grass carp in Conroe for research purposes.
In 1981 to 1982, 270,000 diploid grass carp were introduced in Lake Conroe. That was about 30 per vegetated acre of hydrilla, which was a pretty extensive stocking. And even though this was a less expensive treatment than herbicides, it still cost the people in the Lake Conroe Association about $600,000 to purchase and stock these fish.
Well, they worked. In 1983, all the vegetation was removed from Lake Conroe. Now, was this a success, or not? I guess it depends on who you ask, you know. If you're asking the landowners and you're asking the people that were concerned about the access, they consider it a complete success. We would have preferred to have a little more balance in the – in what happened here.
But, you know, obviously, the lake was changed. It was changed from a lake that was dominated by structure-oriented species like bass and sunfish to one that was dominated by more open-oriented species like white bass and catfish. The fishery was not destroyed; the fishery was changed from what people were used to.
Well, between 1983 and 1989, there was a lot of work being done on developing the technology to produce sterile triploid grass carp. And they were refining those techniques.
Now, the benefits of the triploid? We were looking at those because there was definitely some benefits to them. First of all, they would not reproduce. Because of the process they go through, I think, the chance of reproduction of a triploid grass carp with a diploid fish is about one in 2.5 million. So really, there's very little chance of reproduction of these, and it gets even worse if you talk about a triploid with a triploid; it basically can't happen.
And their preference for hydrilla was something that we really liked. And once they were put in the lake, the chances were that they were going to stay there and do their job they were doing; they're not easily fished or netted.
Now, because of the work done with triploids, in 1989, the Texas legislature again got involved in this issue, and they allocated to Parks and Wildlife $750,000 to do research on the triploid grass carp in two lakes, Lake Texana and Lake Weatherford. We did that work. We stocked those fish. The fish was stocked in both places, and the research was conducted.
And in 1991 to '92, based on these research findings and the current literature, the staff recommended legalizing triploid grass carp by permit for private and public water. And the Commission approved that in 1992.
Now, let me just say one of the concerns we had and one of the reasons that we recommended this – to the Commission that we be allowed to issue these permits for triploids. We were finding grass carp in our samplings around the state, and they were diploids. Even though they were legal, there was a fairly substantial black market, and there was a lot of the fish coming into the state because they were effective and they were relatively cheap compared to herbicides.
So we figured if we could give the people of Texas a legal way and that there would be less possibility of damage to the environment, they would go with it. And apparently, they have. And that – I want you to know that's one of the reasons – the grass carp were here, and they were coming in this state. And we just wanted to make sure that a less harmful version of them would be here, so we'd give people a legal option to do that.
Now, since 1992, once we started issuing these permits, there's a perception out there that Parks and Wildlife is stocking or – issuing permits to stock grass carp all over the state in public water. And since 1992, approximately a thousand permits are issued per year for private water. That comes to about 20,000 – between 20- and 25,000 fish a year go in private water.
We're pretty diligent about checking for potential for escapement, but we know some of these fish are escaping. And they will not reproduce. So I don't think – there's no potential there for any long-term impact. And since the program began in '92, we've only issued five permits for stocking in public water. We have 69 reservoirs in the state of Texas that have hydrilla in them. So the idea that we're issuing permits to put them in a lot of public water is simply not true; we've only issued five permits in that 10- or 12-year period.
In 1999, the legislature directed us to develop a statewide aquatic vegetation management plan based on the principles of integrated pest management. And this requires us to look at what a reservoir is used for. Before – you know, when we consider what kind of treatment needs to be done, we've got to look at what it's used for. If it's a water supply lake, you don't want to put herbicides in it, you know. An issue – if there's a potential of escapement, you don't want to put grass carp. So it requires us to look at that.
But one of the things is that, you know, there hasn't been very much change in the – in what we can use to control these aquatic plants since the 1970s, when the hydrilla issue occurred at Lake Conroe. I mean we still have biological controls with triploid grass carp. We still have herbicides. There's a lot of opposition to the use of herbicides and to putting anything in our waters.
We still have drawdowns, and we still have mechanical harvesters. There's no new things that have come on the horizon since then. So we're still dealing with the same issues.
What this aquatic vegetation management plan requires us to do? All of these techniques have risk. There's going to be a risk associated with all of these. The risk associated with grass carp is there's the potential for escapement and the potential for them eating things that you don't want them to eat. There's a potential for risk with herbicides. There's a potential risk with mechanical harvesters.
What this plan does is require us to try to minimize the risks across the board, and that's what we've tried to do. We've tried to use a combination of these methods that minimizes the risk of each of them. And that's the kind of plan that I think we have in place here with Lake Austin to deal with that.
And finally, let me say triploid grass carp remain a vital tool in the fight to control hydrilla. Triploid grass carp are typically used in public waters only when other less-invasive methods are ineffective. It's a last resort for us to use the grass carp in public water, and grass carp are currently used only as part of an integrated pest management approach that includes other control methods and minimizes the number of fish required.
That's basically our policy on the use of these fish. And with that, I'd be glad to – Dr. Chilton and I would be glad to answer any questions you may have regarding this program.
CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Mr. Chairman, I have a question.
Are there any risks involved with drawdowns?
MR. DUROCHER: Not really. Drawdowns are not really effective on hydrilla; in fact, it can make the situation worse because hydrilla has other ways of reproducing besides just the plant. But, you know, water people consider every day the first day of a drought. It doesn't make any difference what part of the state they're in. So to ask them to allow us to let some water loose to draw some water – to have a drawdown is a pretty hard sell here in Texas. It's not something that's used a lot.
COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Mr. Chairman?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Go ahead.
COMMISSIONER ANGELO: What is the average life span of the triploids?
DR. CHILTON: The – well, the diploid can live about 20 years. But the triploid – with the triploid, the process of making them sterile makes their life span a little bit more variable. So some – there's some evidence that some of the triploids can live about as long as the diploids, up to 20 years. There is also some evidence that some of them live a lot shorter lives, somewhere between two and six years, sometimes.
COMMISSIONER ANGELO: The diploid carp that are in the waters now – how big a problem are they? Have they – I mean that's obviously not anything we can do about at this point. But –
MR. DUROCHER: Well, let me just say the concerns we had when the grass carp were first brought in to this country were legitimate. I mean they were brought in and, in the Mississippi, they – for a time there in the '80s, it was the dominant fish found in the Mississippi River. And there were concerns about what it was going to do to Louisiana, you know, with all that vegetation and all that system depending on the vegetation.
There has been no environmental disaster from grass carp. I'm not saying it can't happen. But they've been here 30 or 40 years, and they're reproducing in some areas. They're reproducing in the Trinity River below Lake Livingston from those fish that were initially put in at Conroe. There has been no environmental disaster caused by these fish.
COMMISSIONER ANGELO: What has happened at Lake Conroe? I'm not familiar with that.
MR. DUROCHER: The hydrilla hasn't come back. There was some concern –
COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Has anything else?
MR. DUROCHER: – that some – and we don't want it to come back –
COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Yes.
MR. DUROCHER: – to be honest with you. There are some fishermen who would like it back, but I don't want to go through that issue again. That was a pretty contentious issue.
We are in the process – as part of the – some of the research we're doing, we're trying to introduce native plants back into that system. And we're being somewhat successful, so – anything that can alleviate that hydrilla returning to that system.
You know, when you get a system that gets covered up with hydrilla like Conroe was, that's usually a symptom of another problem. You know, there's a lot of nutrients loading in that river system, and something's going to use them up, and I'd rather it be natives than hydrilla.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Phil, you and I worked on an issue on the carp not long ago – and I really haven't followed it since then – with Lake Austin. And there's controversy about the introduction and use of the carp there, where they have a real – developed kind of a safety problem, I guess –
MR. DUROCHER: Right.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: – in some areas.
MR. DUROCHER: We just did the survey on Lake – we developed a plan – I remember I brought this to the Commission several meetings ago. We had a plan we developed in coordination with the City of Austin and with the LCRA and all the interested parties here. And the plan – the stocking of the carp was dependent on what we found in our surveys.
Well, we did a survey in March after the first carp was stocked, and we found 75 – 74 acres of hydrilla, which – we're real happy. I mean that's a lot less than we had there last summer. Well, we just did a survey last week, and we found 124 acres. So there has been about a 60 percent increase since March. That's going to require us to approve another treatment plan to stock some more fish into Lake Austin. We're expecting that request to come from the city very shortly.
But, still, it's – even with the fish we put in the first time and with the stocking that's going to be required this time, we're still at less than half of what they originally requested. We're trying to be prudent and not put any more in than we have to. So the plan – it's underway.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: There was a concern – some concern about the carp getting over the dam. Earl or Phil –
MR. DUROCHER: We – yes, go ahead, Earl.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: You tracked that, didn't you?
DR. CHILTON: Yes. We – the City of Austin funded Southwest Texas State University to conduct that study. And there wasn't any evidence of downstream migration. There was one tag that was unaccounted for out of 24 –
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Sure.
DR. CHILTON: – which may or may not have gone downstream – but the other 23 were found in the lake.
MR. DUROCHER: And we're going to talk to the City of Austin about marking some more fish from this release, because, if they're not working, I want to know why they're not working. If they're not there, well, then they're not going to work. And we need to know that to cover ourselves. So we're going to probably try to get some more fish tagged.
CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Well, Commissioner Fitzsimons, I was amazed that after those significant rains that we had last year, where we were all holding our breath that they wouldn't go over the dam and I assumed that, Well, there went the grass carp, all but one was accounted for.
DR. CHILTON: We were amazed, too.
CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Yes.
MR. DUROCHER: Well, we ran out of options, ma'am. We denied the permit the first time because – you know, they were projecting what the hydrilla was going to do, that it was going to continue to expand, and we said, We can't go along with those projections, because it doesn't always work that way; sometimes hydrilla shows up and disappears, and we don't know why.
Well, the hydrilla continued to expand. We denied it the second time because of the concerns about escapement. So they did the study. And they didn't escape. So we issued the permit.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: That's different than the experience we had at McQueeney. Right?
MR. DUROCHER: Right. That's true.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: They flushed right out.
MR. DUROCHER: It's a different system there at Lake Austin and where the water's released. And it – obviously, it made a difference.
DR. CHILTON: Well, one major difference is: In the cases of Lake McQueeney and Lake Dunlap, when the fish left, there wasn't any hydrilla left in the system. So it may be that they're more willing to stay if there's still food in the system.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: So you have to stock it low enough to where they don't deplete it completely.
Any other questions on that briefing item?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, gentlemen.
MR. DUROCHER: Thank you.
DR. CHILTON: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: The next briefing item: Scott Boruff on the surplus deer issue.
MR. BORUFF: Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, my name is Scott Boruff, Deputy Executive Director of Operations, also the Acting Division Director for Wildlife. We're here today to brief you on our surplus deer issues.
As you'll recall, we were asked to look at the issue of surplus deer in Texas primarily for two purposes. One is to help suburban areas deal with the surplus deer issues. As I think you're all aware of, we have several communities in the state that are seeking ways to try to deal with extra deer in their communities, which presents some danger to health and human safety. And we also have a group of landowners who are interested in looking at additional ways to control excess deer on their property.
Obviously, the purpose of the request to the staff was to come back to the Commission with options for consideration as to how we might deal with some of those issues and to seek guidance from this committee on where to go.
Currently, this Agency has several management tools available to landowners and some options available to suburban areas or urban areas in the state. Now, those include, of course, our preferred method, which is recreational hunting.
We also have managed land deer permits, antlerless and spiked-buck deer control permits and Triple-T as well as depredation permits. I'm not going to go into a lot of what those are right now, but we certainly will be able, if you have questions about the specifics of those, to tell you what those programs are in detail.
We did have some specific guidelines which we followed when we looked at these options. The first and probably most significant is that we required the options to have no negative impact on habitat. Secondarily, it had to be enforceable; our law enforcement folks had to be able to go out there and make sure that this was happening the right way. And we wanted the options to be within your current authority to implement.
I might say that we went out to several different stakeholders' groups. You can see some of those there. We obviously worked closely with the wildlife and law enforcement staff here. We went out to the – at the time the Triple-T MLD task force and asked them to look at this issue. We also presented this issue to the Private Lands Advisory Board and others; we had conversations around the state with other stakeholder groups.
I'm going to read a brief sentence here for the record from the Private Lands Advisory Board just to give you their comments. This is a letter dated to Chairman Armstrong back on April 8 following the meeting we had in March.
The board says, "Foremost, the Board agrees that any actions authorized and implemented must be to protect and enhance habitats and must be enforceable" – so I think they concurred with our recommendations – "The Board is not opposed to the trapping and movement of surplus deer to new ranges; however, the receiving habitats must be below carrying capacity so that the habitats will not be adversely affected and overpopulation will not be the result."
The options that we looked at for suburban areas were primarily two options, one of which is a depredation permit. But as we looked at the current depredation permit, our belief is that that is a tool that will be effective for the communities. And in fact, we have two communities who have applied for and received a depredation permit out in the Hill Country, Lakeway being one of those communities, and they are in the process of harvesting those deer and providing those deer for consumption to the needy.
So we support that. The advisory board – the Triple-T MLD board also supported that permitting process.
The other option that we looked at was to renew the authority to relocate deer to Mexico. That has not been very fruitful. We've not found much receptivity in Mexico to sending those deer down there, so we are not bringing that proposal forward.
The options that we looked at for private landowners in the state? We're essentially looking at the current ADCP, the Antlerless Deer Control Permit.
There were really three proposals that we looked at pretty closely. The first was to add two months to the existing season. That would be September 1 through the end of February under the new proposal. The second was to authorize harvest from a helicopter, and the third was to authorize management bucks, which could be defined by this Commission.
The feedback that we got were pretty much what you might expect in terms of the suburban efforts. I think everybody we talked to was supportive of trying to come up with solutions for suburban or urban areas that are experiencing this.
We do think that – given the depredation permit currently available and the pending legislation which would give this Commission authority to allow deer to be trapped and transported to the state prison system for food, we think that legislation will move forward, which will give us another solution for those communities: To be able to take those deers, process them and give them to TDCJ to feed the prison population.
We found more – even more support for lengthening the ADCP season, adding a month before and after. And once again, I'm going to read a brief comment from the Private Lands Advisory Board: "The Board endorses the lengthening of the period when antlerless and spiked-antler deer could be harvested under an ADCP permit to include the months of September and February."
The suggestion of harvesting from a helicopter was not in general supported. I will say there was some support primarily from larger landowners that saw this as a way to more effectively manage their herd. On the other hand, most of the commentary was negative relative to using helicopters to harvest. We had more mixed support – and I might also say that the board concurred there. It said, "The Board does not encourage relaxation to include trapping from helicopters."
There was mixed support for the management buck idea. There again, the board said, "It is ambivalent concerning the harvest of forked-antler deer under an ADCP, but cautions that allowing such harvest would not be widely understood or accepted by hunters." I also would be remiss if I didn't let you know that the staff was also opposed to this component of the proposal.
The staff recommendation then in the suburban areas is to continue the support of the depredation permit and, assuming that the legislation passes, continue to work closely with TDCJ to get that meat transferred to the prison system. And so we are not recommending any Commission action relative to those two proposals.
Relative to the proposals that would support private landowners, the staff recommendation is for the Commission to consider extending the ADCP season from September 1 through February 28. This would require amending the statewide hunting and fishing proclamation.
Assuming you want to move forward with this, we would suggest that we publish draft regulations to lengthen the ADCP season in the Texas Register by opening the statewide hunting and fishing proclamation, go out and accept public comment and come back to the Commission in August for action.
And with that, I'd be glad to answer questions. I've got Mr. Clayton Wolf up here with me to answer some of your technical questions.
COMMISSIONER ANGELO: I have a question. With respect to the suburban problem, we really weren't able to come up with anything new other than what we've got. Is that right?
MR. BORUFF: Well, the – moving the deer for use in the prison system –
COMMISSIONER ANGELO: In the prison, do you think –
MR. BORUFF: – is new.
COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Has that got some significant potential, do you think?
MR. BORUFF: I think it does. In fact, my understanding is that the prison system already processes some 8 million pounds of beef a year. And so I don't – I think they have the capacity. My understanding is they were willing to pay quite a large number. And that seems to be moving well behind the scenes. The bureaucratic work has gone pretty good. And assuming the law – the bill passes and becomes law, I think we can make this happen.
COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Is that the item that you're going to tell us about later that's up?
MR. COOK: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Yes.
The bill that was up to allow them just to trap them and take them anywhere – that didn't go anywhere, I guess. Is that correct?
MR. BORUFF: I assume you're referring to House Bill 3, which was a bill that was – that started out as a high fence bill and was later amended. It is – it did not pass. It has not gone forward. However, there has been a resolution – joint House and Senate resolution which would direct the Agency, vis-a-vis, the White-tailed Deer Advisory Board that was recently formed, to look at the issue of habitat and habitat management in the state relative to that issue.
COMMISSIONER ANGELO: One other question that comes to mind every time – to me at least every time we talk about, you know, looking at ways to reduce the populations on – landowners to be able to reduce their populations – I know there has been some thought given to it. But does – has anyone come up with any way or how much effort has been made to come up with some way that we could expand hunting opportunities for all the people that are out there that would like to hunt deer who, for one reason or another, can't afford a place or can't find a place when we've got these other properties that have way too many deer and want to reduce their populations?
I know some states have done a lot with respect to finding private properties for bird hunting, for instance. Has anyone got any brilliant ideas about how to get – to make this an opportunity for more people to hunt?
MR. BORUFF: Well, Commissioner, I – first of all, you know, it has been a real pleasure working with the wildlife group. And they've got a lot of good ideas. And in fact, I would say that the staff regularly debates how we could improve hunting opportunity in the state as a real tool for managing the surplus deer.
So I don't think there's any lack of commitment or any lack of brain power going in to the issue. I think the real issue out there is that the places that want deer don't have the habitat to support the deer. The places that have the habitat have too many deer.
So the answer is yes. And I don't mean to sound like there isn't a solution. We continue to look and continue to try to dream up new ideas that would allow us to do just what you said.
COMMISSIONER ANGELO: And I don't have any ideas myself. So I mean I – but I – it just seems to me that it's a shame that we've got these places that have so many deer that they want to get rid of and, on the other hand, we've got people that would like to hunt but can't. And I know that you've got the difficulty that the landowner has in just saying, Okay, come on in and shoot my surplus deer. That's not going to work. But it seems that there ought to be a way to figure that out.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Ernie, you know, it breaks into – I've been working on this since the TWA days with the youth hunting program. It really breaks into several groups. The suburban groups don't want any hunting. That's just my knowledge.
COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Yes. I understand. I –
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Then you have the landowners who don't want the extra hunting season.
COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Right.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And then you have those that do. And really, the TWA and the youth hunting program is there. They have a liability cap.
COMMISSIONER ANGELO: It's a great program; it's just too small.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And I guess that's the one area where we can expand. But how –
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Scott, would you expand a bit on the situation with Lakeway and what you are – see happening there and how that – how you would think that would develop.
MR. BORUFF: Of course, Lakeway's a community just west of town here. And they have been working with us for at least a year-and-a-half that I'm aware of and, I think, really longer than that, Commissioner, to come up with a solution for their problem.
We had originally denied a depredation permit to them sometime back based no the fact that part of what a depredation permit requires is some effort to solve the problem rather than just move the deer and have more deer come in and continue to have a recurring problem. So we had worked with them and made recommendations to them that they fence their city.
Now, that may sound a little odd to some folks out there, but a city like that that's not going to be growing much and that's pretty much surrounded by other cities – there's only one way really from what I hear geographically for the deer to really access the property easily. Our recommendation was, Fence the property off, and then we'll give you the depredation permit. And in fact, we had issued a permit at one time under that condition which the city for their own reasons decided not to do.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: It was too expensive, primarily, for them to do that.
MR. BORUFF: I think that was some of the thinking: That it was expensive. And I don't – I think the –
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Is this a follow-up to the delegation that came in here last year to talk to us about this –
MR. BORUFF: Partially, yes.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: – and Triple-T?
MR. BORUFF: Yes, sir. We've had a lot of folks – landowners and folks from the cities coming and asking us, Give us some help, and help us do this.
Anyway, what we ended up doing is going ahead and issuing the depredation permit. Our belief is that if we work with folks closely like that and give them some support, they will see the right way to go. I mean it would ultimately be less expensive probably, for example, for Lakeway to spend the money to build a fence than it will to year after year after year continue to harvest those deer.
MR. COOK: Let me give the Commission an idea of kind of the spread of ideas, in response to Mr. Angelo's question and some of the concerns that I know we all have.
We have contacted many, many landowners across the state that have these kinds of issues that they bring to us – "I've got too many deer, and I need a way to get rid of them" – to see, for example – I mean the first kind of natural reaction on our part would be, Would you be willing to put this property in some sort of public funding program; we can pay you some fairly reasonable amount for does and spikes and those kinds of things. And, again, typically, they do not wish to do that because of – for a lot of reasons, but, oftentimes, they refer to the liability issues, which are concerns even if we "carry the liability." Plus, you know, they typically are in programs to produce – to manage habitat to produce very high-quality buck deer, and they fear that hunters on their property, large numbers of hunters which – I can tell you that even with heavy deer population, with a three- or four-day hunt, about the best hunters are going to do is about two to three deer per hunter on a three- or four-day hunt of does and spikes.
But they fear that those hunters will inadvertently or intentionally kill some of those big deer. So they do not want to go there. And that's a real issue with almost all of them.
We carried it all the way to the discussion – a serious discussion during this process – of basically Triple-T'ing those deer, catching them off of the main ranch, you might say, and transporting them to a section or to sections of land, a nice, big-sized pasture, high-fenced to where they can't get out on the neighbors', because the neighbors don't want them either, but – placing them in an area like that, say, a section or two of land, and then allowing us to run a public hunting operation in that section or two.
That's one that we're still looking at. I've got to tell you that I think it might be worth trying. The down side to that one is: Depending upon how that's done and the size of the tract and the quality of the habitat, you're going to hammer that habitat in that two sections for a short period of time.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: It has to be for a point in time.
MR. COOK: But – so you've got to get in there and get it done. And it – and I think you've got to be careful about something perceived as – we want to totally avoid the issue of a canned hunt or something like that. And again, I think you can resolve that by a large area and good cover and those kinds of things.
You know, the helicopter idea – I appreciated Scott not mentioning that – some of the people who were proponents of that idea. But, you know, we allowed the harvest and have for decades now allowed the harvest of feral hogs and coyotes and exotics from the air, and – very effective. I will tell you that. But the perception – the public perception of using some of those techniques always comes into play. And I sincerely appreciate staff's sensitivity to that. I think it is an issue that is well served, that they be sensitive to those things and bring those to your attention and thought. And we try to find ways to address this issue.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Commissioner Ramos?
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Yes.
I see the surplus deer situation as being an opportunity for us to let the youth of the state, again, access the outdoors and harvest animals that otherwise need to be harvested. And in light of what Bob was saying, I personally like the idea of – if we're relocating animals to the prison system, why can't we identify areas of the state where we might be able to relocate them and have them shot primarily by the youth – I'm not saying exclusively, but give the youth a preference to, and then take that meat and either ship it to the prison system or, two, give it an orphanage or some charitable purpose.
But I think we need to search and see if there's landowners out there that may be willing to open up their ranches with the right habitats for those options.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I would agree with Commissioner Ramos' opinion and Vice Chairman Angelo's approach. I'm constantly frustrated by this point on liability. We fixed it. And in the Texas youth – the youth hunting program and the TWA program, there is not a liability problem. So I don't know if there's an education issue there or what it is, but those people who participate in that program don't have a liability issue. I mean the legislature took care of that.
But I would suggest that we look at all these options because I don't think there is any one that solves the problem. I mean I've been watching this for some time and how the Triple-T – we've essentially become a victim of our own success. We don't have a place to take these deer where there is – as you say, every place with adequate, appropriate habitat either has deer or too many deer.
So I think that solution isn't available to us any more. And I mentioned to you one that I thought of as sort of a hybrid if this state prison concept works, and it would work with Commissioner Ramos' idea, and that is: To expand that throughout the state, the state hospitals or state prison. I mean that's a lot of protein, and it's a lot of meat, and that's – just to expand that animal damage control.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Another real quick thought, Scott. Since we're talking about perhaps extending the doe season to September, we might be able to, again, have an incentive to have the landowners have the youth access maybe, say, the first two weeks or the first month or something to where we may again encourage landowners to bring youth to harvest these types of animals, as compared to – just a thought.
I'm trying to come up with creative ways of trying to get the youth of this state to access the outdoors and experience the outdoors. And to the extent that we can put an incentive out there for a landowner to bring in the youth, let's look at it.
MR. BORUFF: We will do that.
COMMISSIONER ANGELO: I just – the same thought had crossed my mind. That – we try to use incentives all the time. And people are asking for regulations to help them do something or special rules or regulations to help them accomplish something. I don't know if we shouldn't be considering trying to make as a condition of getting those special considerations that they do allow some youth hunting or something. I mean more than just saying, "We'd like for you to do it," maybe consider it being a condition of allowing these types of permits.
COMMISSIONER WATSON: Scott, in your, you know, perceived relationship with the prisons, do they get this meat for – without any cost?
MR. BORUFF: Other than our own processing costs, yes. I mean the deer – the transport of the deer and the capture is paid for by the community.
COMMISSIONER WATSON: I mean that's a hell of a deal for them. I mean the beef they're getting they're not getting free.
MR. BORUFF: I don't – I suspect you're accurate on that, sir.
COMMISSIONER WATSON: I mean I don't understand – I mean it seems like to me that it would be appropriate for them to, you know, pay something.
MR. WOLF: I – for the record, my name's Clayton Wolf. One of the issues that Lakeway has, I guess, complained about is the cost. And it costs them right now about $50 per animal to have those processed.
So I guess when the prison system approached us and said, "We'll take those animals and process them and use them," we viewed it from the standpoint of them taking $50 off of that cost which seems to be a burden for the people that have all those excess deer. So I mean you do have a valid point, but we, I guess, view that as possibly a way of cutting the cost of helping out the landowners that have too many deer.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: May I ask just one more?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Al?
COMMISSIONER HENRY: To follow up on my previous question, the complaint – some of the complaints that we received from the delegation that came to us from Lakeway last year had to do with a certain – they bordered on the question of public safety.
MR. BORUFF: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: How – have we addressed that? And would you tell us how –
MR. BORUFF: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: – and what's happening in that regard?
MR. BORUFF: Well, the way we addressed it is: We relaxed our requirement for the city of, in this case, Lakeway to do anything other than remove those deer, because it was a health and human safety issue. In fact, I went down and testified in front of the panel downtown on this very issue. I mean our thinking is we did not want to stand in the way of those folks being able to get those deer out of that community and alleviate the health and human safety issue; we see that as primary.
On the other hand, we also think there's an incentive built in by allowing them to go that way because, we think, after a few years, they'll realize that their expenses are not getting any lower because those deer will be recruited from surrounding areas. We think – so we have. We, I think, to their satisfaction by and large said, Other than the cost.
But the fact is: Now they can harvest as many deer as they need to harvest. We've done at least our best to try to save them at least $50 a head on the processing cost, and they seem to be relatively happy with that option.
COMMISSIONER WATSON: Well, Scott, at one time, Lakeway had a reasonably large population of melanistic deer. Are we making – do they still have them? I mean that's what –
MR. WOLF: I'm not privy to that issue. So I –
COMMISSIONER WATSON: Okay.
MR. WOLF: – couldn't answer that.
COMMISSIONER WATSON: All right.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Commissioner Angelo – excuse me – had addressed the question with them, I believe, about shooting –
COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Well, my point was that I wasn't going to be too concerned about their problem until they got serious about doing something about it themselves. I mean as long as they considered every deer to be Bambi and they didn't want to hurt the deer –
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Yes.
COMMISSIONER ANGELO: – and they wanted to take them somewhere else and create a problem for someone else, I wasn't too concerned about us trying to help them. But I think they've overcome that. But some –
MR. BORUFF: To some extent. I mean they have a real political issue there.
COMMISSIONER ANGELO: It's not overcome totally, but, at least, they've come a long way. And so I think we've made a lot of progress in that area.
MR. BORUFF: And we do anticipate, by the way, more communities to take advantage of our new stance on depredation permits, which is to loosen our requirements in terms of their compliance with the habitat issues and those things.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: You mentioned there were two communities that had been issued these permits. Which is the other?
MR. BORUFF: Heart of the Hills, which is a small community that continues –
Isn't that the name of it, Heart of the Hills?
MR. BORUFF: No?
I'll get that for you, Commissioner. I'm blanking on it right now.
MR. COOK: Almost every community on the border of San Antonio, San Marcos, New Braunfels and Austin.
MR. BORUFF: These are both right just west of town. But we are getting feelers from other communities, so we anticipate this activity to pick up.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: But, in summary, Scott, you're trying to get a broad menu, I guess, of options for both the suburbs and the other folks as a good approach, because there's not a single solution –
MR. BORUFF: And I can assure you our focus is on increasing hunting opportunities and protecting the habitat.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I think, with that recommendation, we can – do you require any public – you're not ready for any –
MR. BORUFF: We're –
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: – publication?
MR. BORUFF: – seeking your guidance on whether to go forward with the proposal to expand the ADCP season by a month in front and a month after. If you want us to do that, we will go out to public hearings, and we will come back to you in August.
COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Is it too late or would you – to be able to examine some possible condition upon that, that they allow some type of youth hunting or something, in order to get that? I mean is that out of – is that a reasonable thing to consider, or is it –
MR. BORUFF: It probably would –
COMMISSIONER ANGELO: – too short-term to do that?
MR. BORUFF: It probably would push us beyond this hunting season, I suspect, but we certainly at your request will make every effort to do so if that's what you'd like us to do.
MR. COOK: We'll continue to look for every option.
MR. BORUFF: Yes.
MR. COOK: You bet.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: I agree with Commissioner Angelo. I think that we ought to somehow if we can, if we – if our time line permits it, consider a condition or a preference or some incentive for the youth of the state.
CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: If the time line is not there and if that doesn't work, I think the Commission would, at the very least, want some kind of report back to us on – at the end of some period as to, What are our options in terms of tying youth hunting to permitting that might work.
MR. BORUFF: Okay. Yes, ma'am.
CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: And if it takes a little more time, fine, but I think I agree with all the sentiments here, that we've got to keep pushing on this. And I think it's a natural tie, but I don't want to go make it impossible for the landowner to get a permit because of the particular circumstances they find themselves in where this sort of program would not be appropriate. But I think it deserves some good – a lot of thought before we go down that road.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I agree with the Chairman. The ADCP – there are people out there who need the ADCP now, both suburbs and some others, without that string attached. There's a lot of opportunity to – I don't think we've pushed that youth hunting program as far as it can go.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: And in line with Commissioner Fitzsimons comments, we need to educate the landowners of the limited liability when you have a youth hunt under the program. I think that's important. It – and I think the perception is that, I don't want the youth, because there's going to be a liability issue. And we need to educate the landowners on that.
MR. BORUFF: I'm a little unclear on the direction.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Do we need publication? Bob says we don't need publication –
Do we – on the ADCP, we do –
MR. COOK: Yes.
MR. BORUFF: Yes.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: – in order to move forward.
MR. BORUFF: Yes.
COMMISSIONER ANGELO: I agree with the Chairman's comment. I mean you can't hold up the process –
MR. BORUFF: Okay.
COMMISSIONER ANGELO: – but I would hope that you would do everything you could to come up with some way down the road to add a requirement that simply might be a part of that.
MR. BORUFF: Yes, sir. Now I'm clear. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. So you –
MR. BORUFF: We will require – we will go forward with the proposal to expand the ADCP season by a month in front and back, and we will work aggressively to look at youth hunting opportunities that would be attached to such a motion.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And now my question is: Do you need to publish on the ADCP? You do need to publish –
MR. BORUFF: Yes.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: – on the ADCP?
MR. BORUFF: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: If there are no further questions or discussion, without objection, I authorize staff to publish that item in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.
And the next –
Thank you, gentlemen.
– is relatively short regulations.
Scott, you're back.
And Doug Humphreys.
CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: I think this is the first time we've talked about otters in four years.
MR. BORUFF: Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, my name is Scott Boruff, Deputy Executive Director of Operations and currently the Acting Division Director for the Wildlife Division.
Worldwide, several species of otter are listed by the Convention on International Trade and Endangered Species and threatened with extinction. Although the only species of otter native to Texas is not listed, its similarities to listed species has necessitated a federal requirement that all otter pelts leaving Texas be tagged in order to distinguish them from the endangered species otters.
I'm going to, with that statement, turn this over to Mr. Doug Humphreys.
MR. HUMPHREYS: For the record, I am Doug Humphreys, the Big Game Assistant. I do have this issue. The United States Department of the Interior has authorized Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to issue CITES tags for all legally taken river otter pelts in the state.
This is just to show you a picture of the river otter.
The statewide fur-bearing animal proclamation will require a change to provide for the tagging of river otter pelts. This would also provide an opportunity for some housekeeping and clarification within the proclamation. There's a real need for providing some definitions and making the proclamation more user friendly.
In addition to the material presented, staff needs to include reporting requirements. Staff will collect comments and present information – will collect public comment and present information to you for consideration during the August Commission meeting. If you have any questions, I'd be happy to entertain them.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any, Commissioners?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: If there are no further questions or discussion, without objection, I authorize staff to publish this item in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.
Thank you, Scott and Doug.
MR. BORUFF: Thank you.
MR. HUMPHREYS: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any other business to come before the Regulations Committee?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I would entertain a motion to adjourn.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: So move.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Second.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you.
And at 10:15, we conclude this meeting of the Regulations Committee.
(Whereupon, at 10:15 a.m., this meeting was concluded.)
C E R T I F I C A T E
MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: May 28, 2003
I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through , inclusive, are the true, accurate, and complete transcript prepared from the verbal recording made by electronic recording by Penny Bynum before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.
On the Record Reporting, Inc.
3307 Northland, Suite 315
Austin, Texas 78731