Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
April 8, 2004Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 8th day of April, 2004, 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:
- Joseph B.C. Fitzsimons, San Antonio, Texas, Chairman
- J. Robert Brown, El Paso, Texas
- Ned S. Holmes, Houston, Texas
- Alvin L. Henry, Houston, Texas
- Peter M. Holt, San Antonio, Texas
- Philip Montgomery, Dallas, Texas (absent)
- John D. Parker, Lufkin, Texas (absent)
- Donato D. Ramos, Laredo, Texas
- Mark E. Watson, Jr., San Antonio, Texas
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE
Robert L. Cook, Executive Director, and other personnel of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT COMMISSION
PUBLIC HEARING REGISTRATION-APRIL 8, 2004
Mr. Jack King, Sportsmen Conservationist of Texas, 807 Brazos, Suite 506, Austin, TX 78701, Item #5-Action-License Fee Restructure/Rule Review-Chapter 53-Finance-Customer Information Rule-Testify
Mr. John Oncken, Texas Sportsmans Association, Box 151, Barker, TX 77413. Item #6-Action-2004-2—5 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation (Experimental Angler 6 County Area)
Mr. Walt Glasscock, Texas Sportsman's Association, 1081 Shirley Oaks Dr., Columbus, TX 78934, Item #6 -Action-2004-2005 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation (Angler Restriction Experiment)
Mr. Jack King, Sportsmen Conservationist of Texas, 807 Brazos, Suite 506, Austin, TX 78701, Item #6 -Action-2004-2005 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation (Statewide)
Mr. Kirby Brown, Texas Wildlife Association, 401 Isom Rd., Ste. 237, San Antonio, TX 78216, Item #6 -Action-2004-2005 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation
Mr. David Hayward, Grimes County Wildlife Association and Texas Deer Association, 8300 Que Pasa Ranch Rd., Anderson, TX 77830, Item #6 -Action-2004-2005 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation (Eight additional counties for Doe Days)-Testify-Against
Mr. Norman Schultz, TOWMA, 1123 McCarmick Rd., Fayetteville, TX 78940, Item #7-Action-White-tailed Deer Regulations-Testify
Mr. Kirby Brown, Texas Wildlife Association, 401 Isom Rd., Ste. 237, San Antonio, TX 78216-Item #7-Action-White-tailed Deer Regulations-Testify-For
Mr. Karl Kinsel, Texas Deer Association, Item #7-Action-White-tailed Deer Regulations-Testify-For
Mr. Kirby Brown, Texas Wildlife Association, 401 Isom Rd., Ste. 237, San Antonio, TX 78216-Item #10-Action-Hunter Education Deferral-TAC Chapter 55- § J Mandatory Hunter Education Program-Testify-For
Donations of $500.00 or
Not Previously Approved by the Commission
April 2004 Commission Meeting
|1||Gary Grant Sales, Inc.||Cash||Palo Duro Sponsorship|
|2||Texas Hunter Education Instructors Assn.||Cash||Antler Associates sponsorship|
|3||The Dow Chemical Company||Cash||Sponsorship of Outdoor Kids|
|4||The Dow Chemical Company||Cash||Sponsorship of Chairman's Covey|
|5||Blue Bell Ice Cream||Cash||Antler Associates sponsorship|
|6||Parks & Wildlife Foundation||Cash||Sponsorship Chairman's Covey & Toyota|
|7||Boone & Crockett Club||Cash||Palo Duro Sponsorship|
|8||National Wildlife Refuges in Texas||Cash||Palo Duro Sponsorship|
|9||Ruben Pizzarro||In Kind Services||Spanish translation actives for Expo|
|10||Woods Fun Center (Polaris)||Cash||Palo Duro Sponsorship|
|11||Outback Steakhouse||Goods||Antler Associates sponsorship|
|12||McBride Foundation||Cash||Birding Classic sponsorship|
|13||Friends of the Starr Home||Goods||Maintenance & repair to bathrooms|
|14||March for Parks Commerce Texas||Goods||Materials & furnishing for Cooper Lake SP|
|15||Pat & Jan West (Individual)||Cash||Texas Horned Lizard research|
|16||Parks & Wildlife Foundation||Cash||Offset expenses incurred in the operation of Canoncita|
|17||Parks & Wildlife Foundation||Cash||Transfer funds for Attwater's Prairie Chicken restoration to zoos|
|18||Pope & Young Club||Cash||Sponsorship of 7th Governor's Symposium on North American Hunting Heritage|
|19||Lower Colorado River Authority||Cash||Antler Associates sponsorship|
|20||Charlene C. Burkett||Cash||Support Austin Headquarters project # 101551|
|21||All Weather Equipment (Polaris)||Cash||Palo Duro Sponsorship|
|22||Lawry's Food, Inc.||Cash||Antler Associates sponsorship|
|23||Safari Club International||Cash||Antler Associates sponsorship|
|24||Parks & Wildlife Foundation||Cash||Sponsorship of 7th Governor's Symposium on North American Hunting Heritage|
|25||Donna Larsen||Goods||Vessel to assist the Boater Education Program|
|26||Leroy Baeza||Goods||Bronze Statue of to be place in Indian Lodge lobby|
|27||Gulf of Mexico Foundation||Cash||Marsh restoration for Goose Island project # 101375|
|28||Academy Sports & Outdoors||Cash||Awards for Outdoor Kids Challenge|
|29||Parks & Wildlife Foundation||Cash||Sheldon Lake project #101198|
|30||Parks & Wildlife Foundation||Cash||Palo Duro/Canoncita House Project #101557|
|31||Margaret L. Armatta||Goods||1942 jeep|
|32||Saltwater fisheries Enhancement Association||Goods||Two Yellow Springs Instruments model 6920 deployable sondes|
|33||CCA||Goods||Respirometry equipment needed to evaluate metabolic performance of hatchery-reared fish|
|34||South Texas Friends of the NRA||Cash||Antler Associates sponsorship|
|35||Academy Sports & Outdoors||Cash||Lake Fork sponsorship|
|36||Academy Sports & Outdoors||In Kind Services||Lake Fork sponsorship|
|37||International Paper Company||Cash||Fin and Feather sponsorship|
|38||Marine Oultet||Cash||Antler Associates sponsorship|
|39||Exxon Mobile Foundation||Cash||Hunter Education Program sponsorship|
|40||Caeser Kleberg Foundation for Wildlife Conservation||Cash||Birding Classic sponsorship|
|41||Reliant Energy / Reliant Resources Foundation||Cash||Birding Classic sponsorship|
|42||Michael J. Shelly, P.C. Attorney at Law||Cash||Birding Classic sponsorship|
|43||Schlumberger||Cash||Birding Classic sponsorship|
|44||National Fish and Wildlife Foundation||Cash||Construction of Interpretive Trail at San Jacinto Battleground SHS|
|45||Parks & Wildlife Foundation||Cash||Provided support for care and feeding of the Big Tree|
|46||Texas Bighorn Society||Goods||Provided L.P. gas refrigerator for remote camp house|
|47||Texas Bighorn Society||Goods||Food for Grand Slam sheep hunter on 02/13/04- Elephant Mtn Wildlife Management Area|
|48||Anheuser-Busch (Parks & Wildlife Foundation)||Cash||Expo sponsorship for Chairman's Covey Plus sponsorship|
|49||Parks & Wildlife Foundation||Cash||Fund vehicles to be used in conducting the Texas Gulf Coast Roundup|
|50||Lester & Rhonda Gerson||Cash||To fund activities of Outdoor Woman Program|
|51||Corpus Christi CVB||Cash||Sponsorship of Great Texas Birding Classic|
|52||National Shooting Sports Foundation||Cash||Promote Youth Hunting|
|53||National Shooting Sports Foundation||Cash||Promote Youth Hunting|
|54||Weatherby Foundation International||Cash||Expo sponsorship for Palo Duro|
|55||Lyons Manufacturing Inc.||Goods||388 bags of concrete for maintenance of state parks trails|
|56||Friends of Garner State Park||Cash||Printing of the 30,000, Garner State Park hiking trail maps and 20,000 site maps|
|57||El Paso Community Foundation||Cash||Funding of Wildscape demonstration garden at Wyler at Wyler Tramway|
|58||Texas Hill Country River Region||Cash||Funding of Heart of Texas West Wildlife Trail|
|59||Conoco Phillips||Cash||Funding of Great Texas Birding Classic|
|60||Brazosport Convention & Visitors Council||Cash||Sponsorship of Great Texas Birding Classic|
|61||Harris County Pollution Control||Goods||Supplies for TDCJ Community Program (Trees & Shrubs )|
|62||Parks & Wildlife Foundation of Texas||Cash||Printing of the Garner State Park hiking and camp site map|
|63||Peter Vennema||Cash||Support bird conservation and birding|
|64||Parks & Wildlife Foundation of Texas||Cash||Support of park operations|
P R O C E E D I N G S
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: The meeting is called to order. Before proceeding with any business, I believe Mr. Cook has a statement to make.
MR. COOK: Mr. Chairman, thank you very much. Commissioners, good morning. A public notice of this meeting containing all items on the proposed agenda has been filed with the Office of 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. And I would like to go over some ground rules right quick as to how the meeting will be conducted, and how we'll go about this.
So that everyone will have a chance to address the Commission who would like to do so, in an orderly fashion, the following ground rules will be followed.
The Chairman is in charge of this meeting, and by law, it is his duty to preserve order, direct the order of the hearing, and recognize persons to be heard.
I will be assisting the Chairman today as sergeant-at-arms. We have sign-up cards out here at the desk in the hallway for everyone wishing to speak.
And the Chairman will call names from those cards one at a time. Each person will be allowed to speak from the podium here in the center one at a time.
When your name is called, please come to the podium, state your name and who you represent, if anyone other than yourself. The Chairman may also call, if there is a lengthy list of people, especially, the Chairman may also call the person who is kind of on deck to get up and be ready.
When you get to the podium, state your position on the agenda item under consideration, and add supporting facts that will help the Commission understand your concerns.
Please limit your remarks to the specific agenda item under consideration. Each person who wants to address the Commission will have three minutes to speak. I will keep track of the time on this handy-dandy little thing right here, and notify you when your three minutes are up.
When your time is up, please resume your seat so that others may speak.
Your time may be extended if a Commissioner asks you a question, or if they get into a discussion about an issue during your presentation. That time will not be counted against you.
Statements that are merely argumentative or critical of others will not be tolerated. There is a microphone at the podium, so it is not necessary to raise your voice.
I also ask that you show proper respect for the Commissioners, as well as other members of the audience. You will not be recognized out of turn by raising your hand or interrupting others.
If you would like to submit written materials to the Commissions, please give them to Carole Hemby or Michelle Klaus, who are seated here to my right. And they will pass those written materials to the Commissioners. Thank you, sir.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Cook. Next, is Approval of Minutes of the Previous Meeting, which have already been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: I so move.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Second.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Moved by Commissioner Holmes, second by Vice-Chairman Henry. All in favor, please say aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Opposed? Hearing none, the motion carries. Next is the acceptance of gifts, which has already been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER BROWN: So moved.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Second.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Everybody wants that. Is that Brown? Okay. Brown, a motion for approval. Second by Commissioner Holmes. Next, the service awards.
MR. COOK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. We have a number of service awards to be presented today. And these are some great folks who have done us a great job, and we want to recognize them properly.
We have one retirement certificate to hand out today, to Kyle Devillier. Kyle began his career with the department as a cadet in the Game Warden Academy on February 1, 1984. Upon graduation, he was stationed in Harris County, Humble, Texas. In September 1994, Kyle transferred to Grimes County, in Shiro, Texas. For his rescue efforts in assisting a woman from her submerged vehicle with injuries that rendered her helpless, the 100 Club of Houston named Kyle Hero Officer of the Year in 2002. With 20 years of service, Kyle Devillier.
MR. COOK: Thank you very much. Then our Service Awards — first of all we're going to recognize a gentleman that you all know, Paul Hammerschmidt.
Paul began his career with TPWD as a Technician on January 2, 1974 in Rockport, Texas. In 1976 he moved to Seadrift as an area biologist for the San Antonio Bay System.
Paul served as two-term chairman of the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Council, and the Crab Committee, and coordinated the move of Coastal Fisheries San Antonio Bay team to their current location at Port O'Connor.
In 1989, he became research director of the Perry R. Bass Marine Fisheries Research Station in Palacios, where he oversaw development of the Division's fisheries genetics program, age and growth studies and other research studies.
In November 1992, Paul moved to Austin, where he is currently Director of the Artificial Reef Program, and coordinates the Division responsibilities for regulations development and implementation, education and outreach and Expo.
In 1997, Paul won the Employee Recognition Award for Innovation because of his knack of communication complex information in an understandable form to target constituencies. He is currently working with the U.S. Navy, the Port of Brownsville, and the Governor's Office to develop a plan to have a steady supply of obsolete Navy ships cleaned and prepared in Brownsville for final reefing at several sites off Texas.
Paul has been known to put some wear and tear on personal and state vehicles when carrying paraphernalia to and from special events.
Few can approach the amount of equipment, educational materials, and exhibits that Paul can stuff inside and on top of a vehicle and still be more or less legal. With 30 years of service, a friend of all of ours, and a great employee, Paul Hammerschmidt.
MR. COOK: Your friends wrote all that stuff, Paul. From the State Parks Division, Roger Shelton began his career with TPWD in March of 1979 as a seasonal worker at the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site. In 1981, he was promoted to Park Ranger II. In 1982, Roger became the Lead Ranger at Varner-Hogg State Historic Site.
In December 1990, Roger again sought career advancement and assumed the role of Assistant Park Manager at Bastrop State Park.
When Bastrop State Park complexed with Buescher and the State Park Sign Shop, Roger assumed the role of Assistant Complex Manager at the newly-named Lost Pines Complex State Park, and then was selected as Complex Manager on March 1, 2004. With 25 years of service in the State Parks Division, Roger Shelton.
MR. COOK: Roger got all shined up today. Another gentleman that we all know and depend on very much from the Resource Protection Division, Bob Spain, Manager V here in Austin.
Bob Spain began his career at TPW in Huntsville, Texas as a Summer Wildlife Technician working for Bill Hudgins in the Wildlife Division. And my script doesn't say this, but knowing that he survived that, why, I commend him.
At the end of the summer, he returned to school, completed his education, then worked for the private sector. Returning to work for the department on June 21, 1979 in Austin, Bob joined the Resource Protection Branch of the Fisheries Division as an Assessment Biologist.
During the next 20-plus years, he has worn a number of different hats, including Biologist, Program Leader, Branch Chief, and in 1997 he became Assistant Director for the Resource Protection Division.
In March 2004, Bob moved to Coastal Fisheries Division as Director of Habitat Resources. Bob is one of the few people who has worked in all three of these resource divisions.
During his tenure with the department, he has worked on wetlands planning, permit review, mitigation evaluation, and river planning. But he is most-commonly known as the "paddler." Bob is past national president of the U.S. Canoe and Kayak Association, which oversees the U.S.A.'s Olympic efforts, and he is himself a nationally-ranked paddler.
No one at TPWD beats Bob in a canoe, or in dedication to conservation of our rivers and waterways. With 25 years of service, Bob Spain.
MR. COOK: From the State Parks Division, Brian Washington began his career at TPWD as a Park Ranger I at Lake Livingston State Park on March 7, 1979. He worked as a ranger for four years, and was promoted to Ranger II.
Brian worked as a Ranger II for 15 years, receiving four merit raises and a 15-year safety award. He continued to work at Lake Livingston State Park for another four years. Opting for a change in scenery, he transferred to Martin Dies, Jr. State Park. With 25 years of service, Brian Washington.
MR. COOK: From the Inland Fisheries Division, Loraine Fries began her career with the department as a Fish and Wildlife Technician at the Lewisville State Fish Hatchery in 1984.
In 1985, Loraine transferred to the A.E. Wood Fish Hatchery in San Marcos, the first completely modern hatchery operated by the department, where she worked in the laboratory developing techniques used for species identification and wildlife forensics.
In 1989, Loraine was promoted to Hatchery Biologist, and was responsible for various aspects of hatchery production. Since 1996, Loraine has served as the Lab Director for Inland Fisheries Health and Fish Genetics Laboratory, where she manages a variety of programs, including those related to fish genetics, fish health and water quality.
Loraine has received recognition in a variety of forms, including being names Hatchery Technician of the Year by her peers in 1986, and Outstanding Fisheries Worker of the Year by the Texas Chapter of the American Fisheries Society in 1999.
Loraine is the recipient of two Employee Recognition Awards, in 1999 for Innovation, and in 2002 for her work with the Golden Algae Task Force.
Additionally, Loraine received a Certificate of Recognition from the Governor's Commission for Women in 2000 for Outstanding Professional Development, and is a 2003 graduate of the department's Natural Leader Program. With 20 years of service, Loraine Thomas Fries.
MR. COOK: From the Law Enforcement Division, Jay Guthrie is a Major Game Warden at Brownwood, Texas. Jay began his career with TPW on February 1, 1984 as a cadet at the 38th Game Warden Academy.
Upon graduation, he was assigned to Bayside in Refugio County. In December 1992, Jay transferred to Rock Springs, Edwards County, Texas, which I think he will tell is called home.
With a firm commitment and a desire to move up the ladder, Jay was promoted to District Supervisor in Region 9, District II in La Grange, Texas. Then on November 1, 2004, he was promoted to Regional Major in Region VII in Brownwood, Texas. With 20 years of service, Jay Guthrie.
MR. COOK: Used to be a cabin, I don't even know if it's still there, Jay, called Guthrie Camp on the head of the South Llano River on the edge of Edwards County that Jay and his family made home for many of us.
From the Executive Office, Craig Hunter began his career at TPWD in 1984 as a cadet in the 38th Game Warden Academy. Upon graduation, he was stationed in Conroe, Montgomery County, for six years. In 1990, Craig was promoted to Lieutenant Game Warden, and was assigned the Law Enforcement Regional Office in Mount Pleasant.
In 1991, he was promoted to Captain Game Warden, and assigned to the Internal Affairs Unit at Austin Headquarters. And in 1995, Craig was promoted to Director of Internal Affairs, where he continues to serve us today.
Craig also supervises the Executive Protection Team, and serves on Governor Perry's State Agencies Operations Group for Homeland Security.
His most notable accomplishments, according to this text, include an Executive Director's Commendation for his actions involving rescue and recovery efforts at the scene of the Jarrell tornado, which killed 27 people in 1997.
In 1998, Craig Hunter became the first Texas Game Warden to graduate from the FBI National Academy in Virginia, after being selected to attend by the U.S. Department of Justice. Now, I can't let Craig just walk up here and receive a round of applause.
We started yesterday trying to come up with a story or two that we could tell on Craig. But we concluded that of all of the stories that all of us knew, none of them were tellable. Now, I want to introduce his wife and son, who are here. Bernadette and little Craig, as we call him — y'all stand up — because these are some of the finest people you're bound to ever meet.
Well, I'm told that little Craig works in a sweatshop in their garage, tying gray maribou fishing lure flies for his dad, who is known as Mr. Gray Maribou. With 20 years of service, Craig Hunter.
MR. COOK: And I'm not even going to tell the Jonathan Gray/Drew Thigpen story.
MR. COOK: Okay, Craig, you can sit down now. Thank you very much. From Administrative Resources, Sofie Johnson began her career at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in 1984 as an Accounting Clerk at Pedernales Falls State Park in Johnson City.
She transferred to the Austin Headquarters and worked as a Section Clerk in the Park Operations and Maintenance Branch, during which time she had the opportunity to visit many of our beautiful state parks.
In 1990, Sofie began working the Contracting and Purchasing Section as a Contract Specialist. With 20 years of service and a person we could not do without, Sofie Johnson.
MR. COOK: From the Law Enforcement Division, Albert Lynch began his career with TPWD in February 1984 as a cadet in the 38th Game Warden Training Academy.
Upon graduation, he was assigned to Freestone County, where he worked for two years, transferring in August 1986 to Tomball, in Harris County, Texas, where he served until December 1990.
In January 1991, Albert accepted a special covert assignment in which he worked in conjunction with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the State of Oklahoma Game and Fish Division for 14 months.
In 1992, for his work involving the special assignment, covert operation Albert received the Southeastern Officer Award of the Year. Upon completion of this assignment, he transferred back to Spring in Harris County. In October 2002, Albert was promoted to Captain Game Warden, District II, Region IV in Beaumont.
Currently, Albert is assigned to Houston, Harris County, Texas, District III, Region IV. With 20 years of service, Captain Albert Lynch.
MR. COOK: Also from the Law Enforcement Division, Leo Orona began his career with TPWD in February 1984 as a cadet in the 38th Game Warden Training Academy. Upon graduation, he was assigned to Humble, Harris County, Texas, District III, where he serves today. With 20 years of service, Leo Orona.
MR. COOK: Also from the Law Enforcement Division, Gary Robinson began his career with TPWD in 1984, in that same 38th Game Warden Training Academy. He was stationed at Fort Bolivar in Galveston County, where he served for two-and-a-half years. Gary transferred to Fairfield in Freestone County, Texas, in January 1987 where he serves today. With 20 years of service, Game Warden Gary Robinson.
MR. COOK: Another of that class. Amando Sauceda began his career with TPWD on January 2, 1984. He was stationed in Galveston County until February 1987, when he transferred to McMullen County, where he was stationed until July 2002. Currently Amando is stationed in Starr County. With 20 years of service, Game Warden Amando Sauceda.
MR. COOK: Last but not least, from the Law Enforcement Division, Steve Whiteaker began his career with TPWD on February 1, 1984 as a cadet in the Game Warden Training Academy. Upon graduation from the Academy, he was assigned to Hudspeth County, where he served for 18 years.
On September 10, 2002, Steve was promoted to Captain Game Warden, and stationed in Alpine, Texas. On October 17, 2003, he was promoted to Major Game Warden in Region I, San Angelo, Texas where he currently serves. With 20 years of service, Major Game Warden Steve Whiteaker.
MR. COOK: That concludes these service awards. Thank you.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: At this time I would like to inform the audience that everyone is welcome to stay for the remainder of the meeting. However, if anyone wishes to leave, now would be a good time to do so. And please be reminded to move away from the doorways as you're leaving so that — let everyone through the doorway. Thanks.
MR. COOK: Mr. Chairman, I note that we've got another one of those Doug Slack's Texas AG class here, and we're glad to have them here today.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Welcome.
MR. COOK: Welcome. I just thought I'd throw that in.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: They're here to learn how the process works or doesn't work?
MR. COOK: They're here to learn how the process works.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Okay. Good. Next are the Certificates of Appreciation. Mr. Cook, would you please make your — make the presentation. Done that. Sorry.
MR. COOK: I believe we're on —
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: First order of business, approval of the agenda which we have before us. Is there a motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER WATSON: So moved.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Second.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: That is moved by Watson, second by Ramos. All in favor, please say aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Any opposed? Hearing none, motion carries. Next on the agenda is Item Number Two, an Action Item, Local Boat Ramp Grant Funding. Tim Hogsett. MR. HOGSETT: Thank you. Good morning, Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission. I'm Tim Hogsett, Director of the Recreational Grants Program in the State Parks Division.
Item Number Two is a request for funding from the Boat Ramp Assistance Program from the City of Aransas Pass. This program is a federally-funded program. We pass through federal aid from a program called the Sport Fish Restoration Act to local governments for a 75 percent matching grants for acquisition and construction of boat ramp facilities. And we ask that upon completion of those construction projects, that the local governments agree to operate and maintain the ramps.
We received, as I said, an application from the city of Aransas Pass. Essentially they are requesting $95,100 to renovate and improve an existing boat ramp facility in Harbor Park on Conn Brown Harbor.
And our proposed recommendation to you is funding for a new construction project in the amount of $95,100 is approved for boating access facilities to be renovated and developed in Aransas Pass, Texas. I'd be glad to answer any questions.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Any questions? Any comments from the Commission? Any motion on this item?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: So moved.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Second.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Motion by Commissioner Holmes, second by Commissioner Holt. All in favor, please say aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Any opposed? Hearing none, motion carries. Thank you, Tim. And Tim, you're up again on Agenda Item Number Three, Outdoor Recreation Grant Funding.
MR. HOGSETT: Mr. Chairman, this is a mandated funding item, mandated by the Texas Legislature, Rider 26 of our Appropriations Bill for fiscal years 2004 and 2005, requires us to make this expenditure.
The City of Houston is requesting $750,000 in matching funds for the development of a ballfield complex in West Little York Park, to be known as Acres Homes Baseball Complex.
And accordingly, the staff recommendation is funding for the Houston Acre Homes Baseball Complex in West Little York Park, in the amount of $750,000 in matching funds is approved.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Any questions for Mr. Hogsett from the Commission? Any comments from the staff? Any motion on this item?
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Also moved.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Second.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Motion by Commissioner Brown, second by Commissioner Ramos. All in favor, please say aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Any opposed? Hearing none, the motion carries.
MR. HOGSETT: Thank you.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Tim. Agenda Item Number Four, a briefing, Coastal Fisheries. Larry McKinney.
MR. MCKINNEY: Mr. Chairman, members, for the record I'm Larry McKinney, Director of Coastal Fisheries. What I want to do today is provide you an overview of Coastal Fisheries resources, as we'll take a look at them.
First, let me start with kind of describing what we have to manage here at Parks and Wildlife. Our management responsibilities include an area of about four million acres of marine waters out to the nine nautical miles. And beyond that, we manage those waters in conjunction with the other states through various counsels.
The tools that we use in fisheries managements are varied. And there is a list of them here. What I want to do is focus on a few of them as we go through this overview and pick up some of the highlights. But it's a complex job, but it's a lot of fun.
I will tell you that our anglers on the Texas coast have an opportunity in any of our bays to catch a trophy fish. And the fishing in our areas is basically the best it's ever been in 30 years of our monitoring program.
Now, Mr. Cook has told me that I haven't been in this job long enough to take credit for that. But that he has. And I — so I bow to the authorities on it. But in reality, though, both of us recognize that tremendous staff that we have in Coastal Fisheries that have worked so hard over the years to make this possible.
And that's really what I want to report on you today, to give you an idea of the outcome of that work, because in this case, it's not an idle boast. As I said, we have the data and the information to prove that. And I'm going to show that to you in this overview.
First of all, taking a look at our anglers, we have, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services surveys, over 860,000 anglers in Texas. And they fish some seven-and-a-half million days a year.
That effort produces a bonanza for the State of Texas and economic benefits, as you can see on the graph there, for everything from sales tax paid to jobs that are directly related to recreational fishing in the State of Texas. It is a — it is big business and important to us.
When you look at where we have been and where we're going, as — in angling, I'm happy to report to you that over the last seven years we've seen an increase of some 168,000 saltwater anglers. That translates out to about an increase of some 2,000 new anglers a month over that period of time coming to the coast of Texas to fish.
And we have other evidence of that. When we take a look at fishing licenses nationwide, we know that those are actually a drop nationwide. And when you look at our two biggest rivals, the two leading — two other leading fishing states, they have also dropped.
But when you look at Texas over this period of time, we've actually seen an increase in the number of anglers, which represents, I think — it reflects well on the capacity for what we're doing here in Texas, and our management abilities.
We look at other evidence, we see a continual shift in growth in boats that access these shallow waters, and flats boats, and those types of things.
We look at the tackle industry — the one area in the tackle industry that continues to grow and expand in sales is light saltwater tackle. Those sales are still up there. And when you look at kayaks, which is the new — relatively new tool of accessing saltwater, particularly set on top kayaks — and that's — set on top kayaks — these are the types that are typically used in fishing, those sales are growing as well.
So all of this reflecting where we are in Texas. We look at the coastwide pressure by sport anglers. We see that, again, reflects the growth in it that continues to increase. We're seeing more and more pressure on our resources.
When we take a look at our catch per year and effort data, and there you can see that also reflects it in two ways. One, when you look at this kind of interesting data, we see that our catch per year and effort of the normal anglers, myself included, has not really changed much over the years.
In other words, we're still out there trying, no matter how many new doodads we get, we're still kind of holding in there. But it also reflects really the entrance of these new folks coming into the business, because when you look at guides, the guides are out there every day, the professionals, they are improving their catch rates.
And that is really reflected in our two main sport fish, spotted sea trout and the red fish. When you look at the numbers, they have seen a steady increase in from our gill not surveys over these years to support all the activities which we can be proud of.
And even though they may not be any more effective, our satisfaction from our boaters when we do our surveys for boating, they continue to increase as well, and show that they're happy with what's happening.
Of course, the challenge that we have with even more pressure on our coasts, more people coming to our coasts, is can we maintain all of those benefits through that increased pressure? And we're doing a number of things to address that. And I want to touch on a few of those.
And let's first take a look at kind of where we are with our management in Coastal Fisheries and — I mean,
in Commercial Fisheries, and take a look at our buy-back programs. I'll give you a summary of where we are on those.
When we started the buy-back program, we had some 3,231 licenses. Since then, and up — and current to date, we have retired some 34 percent of those licenses, over 1,083. About 50/50 between Bay and bait licenses, is what we bought back over that period of time.
When we first started, we paid a little over $3,000 for a license, and now we're in round 13, as you can see, the prices have gone up, as you might expect them to do, as there are fewer and fewer licenses. We're now paying an average of $7,400 for those licenses in those rounds.
The funding for those resources or for that activity come from a number of sources. One is a surcharge on those commercial licenses, which brings in about $600,000 a year. We had a Federal grant that we've been using for several years, $1.4 million to assist there.
We do have an active private group. Several groups are raising money and buying back licenses to the tune of $135,000 so far. And of course, our mainstay has been the add-ons to our Saltwater Fishing Stamp for $3 a year, which sunsets in '05. So — and we'll be talking more about that as we go.
It has had an impact. When you take a look at where we are on Brown Shrimp, for example, our main shrimp fishery, the impact of the fisheries management, shrimp management regulations that you all passed a few years ago, plus the buyback, you can see, I think we're beginning to turn that around and stabilize that fishery, which is good for all of us.
We're getting some side benefits. For example, in our croakers, which are an important part of our recreational fishery, and are subject to buy/catch of that shrimp industry — they've been heavily hit. But we can see, because of those regulations and our buyback, we're beginning to see those — that species begin to come back and stabilize, which is good news as well.
I want to switch over and take a look at our enhancement programs, our hatcheries. We are — in 2003, we stocked fish into nine of our bay systems, some 35 million red drum, and over four million spotted sea trout. And I think that is as good, and the system is working effectively. We know what we're doing in that area, but we are going through a process right now.
We'll be talking more to you about it later, of taking a look at just how best we can make use of these hatchery systems. And one of our goals is can we make our hatchery systems more flexible to respond to different needs.
For example, when you take a look at flounder, and we have — that's one of the species that we have remaining concerns about, is the status of flounder. But again, one of the results of the shrimping regulations and the buyback programs, we at least have seen the flounder begin to stabilize out here at a low level.
But in our hatchery system, we want to be able to, if we need to, to look at stocking issues with flounder and other species. And so our group is right now working on those areas, and it's not — it's a difficult task, but we're making some progress.
And just recently, I heard from our guys that they've actually had some success out on the ponds, of making it past several of the stages that we haven't been able to in the past. So we're going to — we're looking at the flexibility and increasing that in our hatcheries system, to respond to those types of issues.
The last topic I want to bring you up to date on as to where we are, and that is our crab trap removal program, which just completed. This year we removed some — over 3,500 traps we had collected.
We used — had 300 volunteers, which was, of course we couldn't do it without our volunteers from CCA to private groups all up and down the coast have come out and helped us. And that's been wonderful.
It's interesting to see what they bring back. For example, the oldest trap they found has been fishing since 1992. I don't know what status it's in, but the tag on it was from 1992 it's been in the water.
And one of our traps we brought back contained seven toadfish, nine sheephead, six gray snapper, four black drum, three sprayed fish, plus oysters and barnacles. Like a whole seafood dinner sitting there in one dip. But then which is the fun part of it.
But the concern is, that's what these things can do. And getting them out of the water is a big deal, and it has been a very successful program, which is now being imitated throughout the Gulf states, and we're proud of that.
And it's important, and you can see the result of not only that, again, the crab trap removal and our shrimping regulations, that the concerns we've had over blue crab are still there, but we're beginning to turn those around, and crabs are coming back. And many of you all have been wading, or fishing out in the bays. You can — you have seen them, and seen them coming back. And that's good news for all of us.
The — all together, our volunteers over the years have removed some 15,000 of these traps. And I will tell you now, just to give you advanced notice if you're interested in it, we'd certainly like to see you participate.
We've already set the closures and the times for our next year in the crab trap removal. That will be February 18 through the 27th, with our main event on February 19, and we'd certainly invite any of you to come down and participate.
It's — you get dirty. And sometimes the weather is a little off. But it's a good event and a good process. With that, Mr. Chairman, and members, I'll conclude this briefing and be glad to answer any questions if you have any.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Larry, thank you. Any questions or comments from the Commissioners? Commissioner Watson, I know you were interested in the saltwater stamp renewal.
COMMISSIONER WATSON: Well, you know, Larry, I'd just like to reiterate what Chairman Fitzsimons said. I mean, I think it's a great effort that you're making, and you know, we've got a great start, but we're not home yet.
And you know, I think it's nice to say that, you know, we've got the best — you know, best resources we've had in 30 years. But I don't think, you know, quite honestly, I think we need to have the resources we had, you know, 50 or 60 years ago. And — because the pressure that we're seeing on the Gulf Coast is just, you know, reflected as your slides showed — I mean, I think it's an amazing statistic if you think there is 2,000 more fishermen going to the Gulf Coast every month.
And I don't think that's going to slow down, because it's one of the only resources we have that Texans can access basically, you know, for no charge. So you know, I really applaud your effort. I think it's important that we continue the $3 surcharge on the saltwater stamp. I think that's worked very effectively.
And you know, I look forward to working with you on some other ideas that we had that I think will be very positive in the efforts that we're all trying to make.
MR. MCKINNEY: I appreciate those comments, Commissioner. And I couldn't agree with you more. We can't rest on our laurels, which I think there are plenty of, because you're exactly right. You know, it's — when you have a good thing, a lot of people know it and see it, and the pressure is just going to increase.
And so we're going to have look at it very carefully of how we can sustain what we have right now in the future, because the challenge will be a huge one with twice as many Texans coming to the state as we now have.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Mr. Chairman.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: I think you guys do a great job with the hatcheries. Could you explain to me what the flounder — is this something that we're currently doing in all the hatcheries? Or is this just in one particular hatchery that we're attempting to do it, to raise the flounder?
MR. MCKINNEY: It's purely research at this point, because we don't know if we can do it. And we want to be ready in case we are — as a management decision we decide that that's something we need to do at some point. Right now, it's all experimental at Sea Center, that area. And it's strictly a research type project, not a production.
We cannot do them like we do trout or redfish at this point. We cannot —
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Do you want — do you have actual brood fish, then? I mean, is it somewhat similar concept, or —
MR. MCKINNEY: Exactly the same. Yes. And we have fish from different estuarine systems that we're holding. And we're following some protocols that they're doing up on the East Coast, where they've had some success in some of the East Coast hatcheries. We're trying to learn from them and adapt those down here. So —
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Thank you.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Commissioner Holmes.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Larry, I'll also commend your efforts. And I agree with Commissioner Watson that we're making progress, but let's keep after it.
I have just a couple of questions. I notice that we bought back about a third of the shrimping licenses, sir.
MR. MCKINNEY: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: About a thousand out of 3,000 and something. Assuming that we have the adequate funding to continue that, do you have a point where you feel like that is — you've reached your goal? Do you have a goal in terms of how many you buy back?
MR. MCKINNEY: We originally — and it was difficult to say when we started this program how that presented when we first set up the buyback program and had the Commission adopt that, almost, well, four years ago, basically.
And our goal there is at least to try to return that effort back to the '70s, of the level of effort. And we're still trying to take a look at where that is and seeing some improvement. So I'm hedging around here. I don't have an answer for you, particularly.
We need to go — we certainly need to go further than where we will in '05, when this program stops. We will not be close there. We're just beginning to see the turnaround in croaker and crab and flounder. We don't want to stop there. We want to turn that curve back around to the top.
So we're still kind of looking at it. My best response to you now is that we do need to take a look more in the future. We're not where we need to be.
I think we were looking at least more than — at least half those licenses, if more is what our tentative goal was set at that time, if that helps.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Do you recall the number of licenses that were issued or effective in the '70s?
MR. MCKINNEY: No, but I'll get that for you.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Now, one other question. I believe I noticed on one of your slides that there was a fairly dramatic decline in brown shrimp population in '99/2000.
MR. MCKINNEY: Right.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Do you have any notion of what would have caused that?
MR. MCKINNEY: Drought.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Just straight drought?
MR. MCKINNEY: That was a big contribution to it. But in combination with the overfishing, the fact that during that time, the — that peeler industry really began to take off in Mississippi, the ability to take the really small shrimp and run it through a process and they call them peelers, to make popcorn shrimp, which [Unintelligible]. And it's a big one over in Mississippi.
So that took off. But even more pressing, you actually had a market for shrimp before that you didn't even have. So that put even more pressure on it. So a combination of drought and increased pressure in the bays continue to drive it.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Which would lead you to believe that buying back more licenses, particularly Bay licenses, might be appropriate.
MR. MCKINNEY: Well, yes. It's a combination of those types of things, because what happens is if you don't combine it, not only that, if you don't combine them with regulatory approaches too, you just increase the effort of the ones that are left.
And you have to look at both Bay and bait type license, because most of the remaining fishermen have both of those licenses. So they may sell you back one and keep the other and continue to operate, and just increase their effort.
Because that's the problem with where we are in the Bay industry right now, is that they're so overcapitalized, they have so much invested in what they have, they can't stop fishing. And they can't let the other guy get it before they get it. So you just have to keep hammering, no matter what the fuel prices are, although fuel prices are certainly skyrocketing.
So no matter what the restrictions are, if they're going to try to make a run out or get out of the business, they've just got to work harder and harder and harder. And that shows up in that effort business.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: I think that's an interesting point to reiterate there, is that just because we reduce the licenses by a third, we have not necessarily reduced the impact.
MR. MCKINNEY: I know in fact, it's gone up. The effort has gone up. And so they're dragging more, and that type of thing.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: I couldn't help notice also in your draft, the correlation between freshwater inflows and the improved regulation and I think it showed — I think it's a pretty direct correlation in that drought period of '96 and '99, and starting to improve — I'm sorry, to 2000, it won't do any good to reduce that impact if we don't have those freshwater inflows also, will it?
MR. MCKINNEY: I appreciate that. The question is —
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: You knew I would set up the water question.
MR. MCKINNEY: Yes, sir. How could I not? And I agree. And that's exactly it. All of these are linked. All of these. And that's one — we can't do one without the other. It's that very base, both habitat and inflows is a fundamental issue. We can't do any of these things unless we have the habitat there and we have to work with.
That is ultimately the big constraint that we have to deal with to make progress on. Absolutely.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Larry.
Our next agenda item, Number Five, is an action item, License Fee Restructure and Rule Review. Julie Horsley, first up.
MS. HORSLEY: Good morning. My name is Julie Horsley. I'm a program specialist in the Budget and Planning Section of the Administrative Resources Division. I'm here this morning to discuss the rule review of Chapter 53 Finance.
Provisions in the Government code require each agency to conduct a review of agency regulations not less than every four years, and to readopt, amend or repeal each rule.
The provisions also require agencies to assess whether the reasons for initially adopting the rule continue to exist. As a result of the review of Chapter 53, we did identify a number of changes, which were published in the Texas Register for public comment in the March 5 issue.
The majority of the changes are housekeeping-type changes, and ensuring consistency, consolidating information, and clarifying language. For example, as part of the general cleanup, we have proposed moving fee-related items that are included in other chapters into Chapter 53.
There are also changes aimed at better organizing information, and relocating information into Chapter 51, Executive. The provisions being relocated include those related to vendor protest procedures, investment of the Lifetime License Endowment Fund, and customer information.
There are some other changes as well. First, there are several fee changes. The Saltwater Trotline Tag would increase from three to $4, and various business license transfer fees would increase from ten to $25.
These two items were approved by the Commission at the time of the last fee increase, but were inadvertently omitted from the information submitted to the Texas Register. To ensure compliance with the Administrative Procedures Act, we're bringing these to the table again.
Another proposed fee change is elimination of the $3 Marine Safety Enforcement Training Instruction Charge. There are also changes that include the addition of language that delineates specific ranges for use and entrance fees at various department facilities.
This would affect Sea Center, Texas, the Freshwater Fisheries Center, Perry Haynes Youth Ranch, and Mason Mountain and Old Tunnel WMAs. Oops, I didn't mean to do that.
The proposed changes also incorporate changes necessary to implement the provisions of House Bill 1989. This includes addition of the Freshwater Fishing stamp, and elimination of the Muzzleloader and Freshwater Trout stamps.
It also includes the various licensing options developed as part of the license restructuring effort.
The final change is changes to the customer information policy. As I mentioned before, in addition to moving these provisions related to customer information into Chapter 51, there are substantial modifications being made to the customer information rules.
Both the customer information rule and the license restructuring effort will be discussed in further detail during separate presentations this morning.
As I mentioned earlier, the changes were submitted to the Texas Register, and published in the March 5 issue for public comment. We did receive a large number of comments on the license restructuring provisions. However, we did not receive any comments related to any of the other changes proposed as part of the Chapter 53 review.
And before concluding, one thing I would like to point out is that we will need to make some minor modifications to the vendor protest procedures as they were originally published in the Texas Register. The changes are to — necessary to update the reference to the position title responsible for handling protests.
And that concludes my presentation. And I'd be happy to answer any questions.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Any questions for Julie? Thank you, Julie. Gene McCarty, you're next up.
MR. MCCARTY: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, my name is Gene McCarty. I'm Chief of Staff for the Agency. The item I have before you today is a proposal that incorporates the newly-created Freshwater Fishing Stamp into our license structure, and restructures our temporary licenses.
Legislation passed in the 78th Legislature made several changes to our license structure. These include the creation the Freshwater Fishing stamp, the elimination of the muzzleloader stamp, the elimination of the freshwater trout stamp, and a request to evaluate the issuance of a year-to-date fishing license.
At our January Commission meeting, you authorized department to publish in the Texas Register proposed changes to our license structure, keeping in mind four guiding principles. Maximize revenue, maximize customer convenience, minimize customer confusion, and minimize impacts on our point of sale system.
Let's start with the super combo. By definition, a supercombo is intended to be an all-inclusive license. To continue with that theme, we propose that we should include the freshwater stamp as part of the super combo, and that the fee should be $64, with the Senior Supercombo priced at $30.
Next is the combo license. We would recommend continuing the combo license with the stamp as part of the license package, with three options. Freshwater combo, the saltwater combo, and an all-water combo.
That would be — with — priced as you see here on the slide, with a regular fishing license and senior fishing license options.
Next, we look at the basic fishing license. To minimize confusion, it is recommended that we package as the fishing license and the stamp together to provide three options, freshwater fishing, saltwater fishing, and an all-water fishing. Priced as you see here with a resident and non-resident option.
To address constituent concerns with the temporary license structure, we recommend discontinuing the three-day resident temporary, the five-day resident temporary, and the 14-day resident temporary, and creating a single-day license with option — both resident and non-resident, with options for additional days to be added.
The cost of the stamp is included in the first license day, and additional days are not required to purchase additional licenses or additional stamps.
This particular item which I handed out a handout to you — we submitted this to the Texas Register with a range. And hoping to solicit some comment on a reasonable option within the range.
We really didn't receive anything. However, we did a great deal of revenue analysis to determine which — what component of this range would be, I guess, estimated to be most revenue-neutral. And what I am proposing here is that element that would be most revenue-neutral, which is basically a freshwater license at the freshwater one-day license, first day at eleven, the saltwater at 16, with additional days at $4 per day, and a non-resident at freshwater at 17, saltwater at 22, with additional days for $8 per day.
In addition, we recommended the creation of a summer fishing license, which is good for the months of July and August, with a proposed — with three options, freshwater, saltwater, and all-water, as priced here.
Finally, to address legislative interest, we propose the creation of a year-to-date license, which is an all-water license, only in one option, in all water, at — with a proposed fee of $45.
Public comment — in — at the public meetings was generally very light. However, all told, we have received 407 comments via telephone, email, letters, and public hearings. And the most comments we received is on an on-line survey. In general, the majority of the comments were in opposition to the added fee. However, that opposition — general opposition, about 71 percent opposed, is not out of line with any proposed fee increase that we've done in recent times.
Most of the comments on the license structure, that is, the year-to-date and/or the single-day, were generally evenly split, about 50/50. However, most of those comments that were in opposition of that license structure were in opposition of the fee.
For example, the concern that the year-to-date license fee was too high, since it had an added cost to it above the all-water — just general all-water license. And that added fee was proposed to cover our increased administrative costs of handling that license.
That concludes my presentation, if you have any questions.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Is that summer package — is that resident only? Or is that resident and non?
MR. MCCARTY: That's resident only.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Okay. So it doesn't take long before you're better off buying that, than what? $30 for the two days with the all-water?
MR. MCCARTY: Yes, sir. Yes, sir.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Any other questions?
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Gene, I think you've answered my question. The year-to-date license — the reason the fee is as high as it is, is because it's going to place an additional burden on us to manage that particular license?
MR. MCCARTY: Well, first of all, we need — we have to pay for reprogramming costs of our point of sale system. That's going to be fairly expensive. And then of course, our administration, of having that — those lap fees and looking at revenue projections and revenue management is going to increase.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: But that's only afforded to — it's only a resident, not a non-resident that can —
MR. MCCARTY: Yes, sir. That's only a resident. It's a resident year-to-date license, good for 365 days from the date of purchase.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Thank you.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Any others? Thank you, Gene.
MR. MCCARTY: Yes, sir.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Ann Bright, the next up.
MS. BRIGHT: Good morning. I'm Ann Bright, General Counsel. And I'm here to discuss the Customer Information Rule.
Section 11.030 of the Parks and Wildlife Code addresses customer information, and there are two main provisions.
First of all, it exempts our Customer Information from the Public Information Act, and this is quite unique for a state agency. Most governmental bodies — all of their information is subject to the Public Information Act, regardless of whether it's public or not.
The Parks and Wildlife Code also requires that the Commission adopt a policy by rule regarding the handling of customer information. The previous rule, as duly noted, is currently located in — I guess the current rule is located in Chapter 53.
It was adopted in 1996. There were some minor amendments since then. And the major issue that we've had with this rule is that it does not really recognize the fact that we currently use the DPS database, the Department of Public Safety's Drivers License Database to populate our hunting and fishing licensing system.
Under Federal law and state law, most of that information is confidential. So we have not, for several years, been selling lists — mailing lists of hunting and fishing licensing information.
The proposed new rule is, based on the rule review, we're going to completely repeal the previous rule, replace it with the new rule. We're going to put the new rule in Chapter 51. And it primarily addresses customer information.
What we're talking about is — are essentially mailing lists. Name, address, telephone number of our customers.
It also, in an effort to clarify what information is and is not confidential, we categorize the information maintained by the Parks and Wildlife Department. The information that we will disclose under the proposed new rule is primarily magazine customer information and commercial customer information.
Magazine customer information — that's information, name, address, telephone number, regarding customer subscribers to the Parks and Wildlife magazine. The reason for this is that that's pretty consistent with the standard in the industry.
The industry will generally trade sales or rents, which is just a one-time use of magazine customer information. Also, commercial customer information involves people who purchase commercial licenses. As a general rule, the privacy concerns that individuals have do not really apply to commercial entities or commercial licenses.
It also allows magazine and commercial customers to opt out of disclosure. And this is consistent with the requirement in the Parks and Wildlife Code. In other words, if they want their name off the list, we'll put it off the list — take it off the list.
Information regarding recreational customers — I'll skip that. Recreational customers will not be disclosed under the current rule. Also personal information. This is the information that people tend to be most concerned about — Social Security number, drivers license, bank account and charge card numbers.
Information that's confidential by law — and I consider this sort of a belt-and-suspenders approach. If there is other law that's going to make the information confidential, of course we're not going to disclose it.
There may be instances in which someone whose information would normally be withheld may want it released, and we will — they can consent to disclosure. We'll disclose the information if it's required by law or subpoena. Also if another governmental body requesting information and they can maintain the confidentiality of the information, and disclosure to the governmental bodies not otherwise prohibited by law, we would disclose it to the governmental body.
The rule also delegates to the Executive Director the authority to categorize which types of information fall into which categories, and establishing procedures and costs for obtaining the information.
Just a couple of things I want to point out is one is the proposed rules specifically will not apply to landowner information or to boat information. We have a whole separate rule on boat information and landowner information under — I believe it's 12.0251 of the Parks and Wildlife Code. It's extremely confidential. And so that will be handled as confidential information.
The other thing is that over time we probably will end up having to tweak this rule as we collect different types of information, or if it appears that information does not neatly fall in one of the categories we've established.
We received no public comment on this rule, and this is the motion that we're recommending. And this includes items from all three of our presentations. I'd be happy to answer any questions.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Ann, does this have any effect — this rule review, on the Wildlife Management Plan confidentiality provision?
MS. BRIGHT: No, sir. In fact, we specifically in the rules state that this rule does not apply to that one way or the other, because there is a whole statute that makes that information, and information obtained in connection with the Wildlife Management Plan — information basically obtained from private landowners, confidential.
And that will stay. That will be the same.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: So there is no cross-pollination —
MS. BRIGHT: No. We specifically excluded that from this rule.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Ann, who makes the determination as to whether or not information is given to another governmental agency, and spot that guarantee, again, with regard to the dissemination of that information?
MS. BRIGHT: That's a very good question. Currently, under our just our normal open records procedures, which you know, even though this is not technically subject to the Open Records Act, this will be part of those procedures.
Usually, it's the person that's handling the Open Records request. It tends to get elevated. Usually it goes to an attorney if we're talking about something that's confidential. And as a general rule, just as a rule of practice, I tend to see those.
It has not come up very often. Occasionally there will be some law enforcement agency that will need information, or somebody else. This was also sort of the standard among governmental agencies. There were a number of Attorney Generals's opinions that talk about agencies sharing confidential information without destroying the confidentiality of it.
But you know, I mean, it's just like anything. I guess it's — we — sometimes we'll use an agreement. But you — there is some element of trust.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: And would you very briefly again describe the opt-out procedure?
MS. BRIGHT: The opt-out procedure basically would just allow a person who is a subscriber to the Parks and Wildlife magazine, or a purchaser of a commercial license to basically say, I don't want my name on the list. Don't disclose my information.
I frankly — we have not developed the procedures that — we'll be working with the magazine staff and with our licensing staff to make sure that that happens. It would probably — I think that we can handle that pretty — without a lot of difficulty.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Thank you.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Commissioner Holmes?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Ann, do I understand you correctly to say that we are not currently selling mailing lists?
MS. BRIGHT: We are not selling mailing lists consisting of hunting and fishing license holders. We are currently selling mailing lists for the magazine. I believe there may be some boat information that we're disclosing right now. I think those are the main ones.
And I should also point out that under the proposed rule, we will verify information. For example, if someone calls and says, you know, does John Doe of such and such city have a hunting license, we will say yes or no. Because in that instance, we're not actually releasing their name, address and telephone number.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: And the opt-out provision, when you develop that, will be clear and apparent to the people that would be able to opt out?
MS. BRIGHT: I think it needs to be clear and apparent. Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: In front of the magazine.
MS. BRIGHT: And this is the recommended motion, basically to adopt the rule review, the license structure — license fee changes, as well as the customer information rule. And there were, you know, as I noted, no comments on the customer information rule.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Thank you. We have, I believe, one person signed up to speak on this item, Jack King, Sportsmen Conservationists of Texas. Jack? Here he comes.
MR. KING: Mr. Chairman, Mr. Vice Chairman, Commissioners, Mr. Cook, my name is Jack King with the Sportsmen Conservationists of Texas. Thank you for this opportunity to be here and speak this morning.
I think a lot of accolades are due staff if they've gone through this license restructuring program in implementing the freshwater fishing stamp, to create a system that allows people to specialize their fishing interests without having to purchase stamps that they don't need, or at least wait until such time as they get a special invitation to go the other way, and then buy just the stamp.
And they are to be applauded for those efforts. And part of the purpose, as laid out in the presentation for this, was to always try to simplify, clarify, and reduce regulations when possible.
And as I look through this regulation, I've looked, there is almost 30 different fishing packages to be able to fish in Texas now. That's a lot of packages for the public to consume, for the clerks in the stores to consume, as they make sure the person is getting the right one.
But it's still a good system. But in reading it, I think I saw a couple of places where, at your discretion, you have an opportunity to maybe reduce those numbers a few times. And the first one that stuck out to me was the July/August license.
If you look at the price of that, and Gene threw my math off with his finally settling in on the range for the day-plus license, but for the value of a July/August license, you can buy a one-day license, and roughly get anywhere from six to eight additional days of fishing.
And my point is, is that most people who could fish six to eight days during those two months are pretty avid fishermen, and probably have some other type of annual license.
So I'm not sure how often this particular license would get utilized. And it's an opportunity — it would remove three licenses — package licenses.
The other one that caught my attention was the year-round license. As Mr. McCarty stated, the agency is going to have to incur a lot of costs to reprogram the MCI system to accommodate this, and that's going to create issues with revenue stream, that — and when you buy licenses on a year-round basis.
The agency has done this before, some years back. And what history showed us was is that if the initial perception is that this is a great idea. But people are creatures of habit. They are used to renewing licenses every September 1. And what history showed us was is that license sales after the initial year went down, because people simply forgot what day they bought their license on.
Then when that happened, the correlation to that is is that citations for no-fishing license went up. So it created a system that in the long run was not good for constituents or the agency, either one.
So as you all deal with that issue of year-round licenses and the negative consequences, and I know there is politicians that think it's a good thing, but in the long run, a lot of their constituents may get citations for not having a fishing license, simply because they forgot to renew.
The other issue in this that I'd like to address is the red drum tag, which wasn't mentioned specifically in the presentation. And I'd like to applaud staff for making that a single document item, meaning you can come in and just get one.
The reason for that is is that for years now, as long as that program has been in existence, people who are exempt from fishing license, those being children under 17, those being seniors over 65, born prior to 9/1/30, and those individuals in the past who took advantage of the three-day/five-day and 14-day temporary license — if any of those individuals wanted a red drum tag, they had to go buy a fishing license they didn't need to get it.
This change fixes that. They no longer have to buy a fishing license. This is for exempt. My concern is that it's a proposed $3 fee. You know, whether the public perception was that that was a free tag, and a lot of the staff and people around the state have proposed that it was free, and now for the kids that we're trying to bring in, we're going to make them come, and they don't have to buy a license anymore, but they do have to pay $3.
And we issue sandhill crane and disabled and prairie chicken permits for [Unintelligible] fees. I'd like to see the Commission at least look at that red drum tag and that $3 fee. Thank you.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Jack. You've obviously studied it closely. Gene, do you have any comments regarding that?
MR. MCCARTY: I think my only comment would be in regards to the red drum tag. I guess I would disagree in the perception that the red drum tag has been free. It's always been a component of the license. You know, we — you had to buy a license to get a red drum tag. We're trying to resolve a — that problem for those individuals who are exempt from the license, but want the added — this is added opportunity to harvest a trophy red drum.
And so I'm not sure that, you know, that added opportunity has ever been considered a free opportunity. And we have administrative costs associated with issuing that tag. Every time that tag goes out, we're going to have to pay our vendor 75 cents, and we'll have to pay a percentage to our POS operator.
So there are administrative costs to us that we're trying to recover. And on most of our programs, the administrative costs — you know, our base administrative cost has been $3.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Commissioner Ramos?
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Gene, I was just wondering on your July/August proposed license — is there a reason why June, which is one of the three summer months, was excluded?
MR. MCCARTY: Yes, sir. What we were looking at was that time in which the sale of the annual license dropped off. We still sell a pretty good number of annual fishing licenses in June. And so we — to avoid revenue loss and so forth in there, we backed off to the area where those annual licenses dropped off significantly.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Okay. Thank you.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Any other questions or comments regarding this action item? Well, Gene, thank you. I think you've done excellent work. And obviously, I think it was pointed out at one time by Commissioner Watson, we have a lot of constituents — fishermen that are fishing without a license. And that there is no excuse not to find something on the menu to suit your needs now with that long list of options.
MR. MCCARTY: Thank you.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Thank you. Any other comments from the Commission? The motion on the —
MR. COOK: Mr. Chairman, I would make the comment on the annual license, as I think that Mr. McCarty's presented, we will watch that closely and see if there are problems developed with enforcement, if it's an inconvenience to people, we'll readdress it and talk to folks downtown who are going to be following it also. So we'll keep a close eye on that one.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Consistent with the objective of maximizing revenue we saw.
MR. COOK: Absolutely.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: So good. Any other questions, comments on this item? Is there a motion on this item?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: So moved.
COMMISSIONER WATSON: Second.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Moved by Commissioner Holmes, second by Watson. In favor, please say aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Any opposed? Hearing none, the motion carries. Thank you. Next item, Action Item, the Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation. Ken?
MR. KURZAWSKI: Good morning, Commissioners. My name is Ken Kurzawski with the Inland Fisheries Division. This morning I'd like to go over our regulation proposals that have come through the public hearing process and appraise you of the comments we've received on those proposals.
The first proposal is on San Augustine City Lake. The proposal there is change limit on large-mouth bass from the current 18-inch minimum length limit to a 14 to 18-inch slot.
While there is an abundance of small bass in there, we want to give the anglers an opportunity to take some of those fish and improve the growth of the remaining bass in the population.
And most of the comments that we received were in favor of this proposal. And I might note that all the comments that were received on all our proposals came through our web survey. We didn't receive any comments on these in the public hearings or by phone or regular mail.
Next proposal is on Lake of the Pines and Pat Mayse Reservoir. We had a special regulation — experimental regulation in place on those two reservoirs that wasn't providing any positive benefit, so we proposed to change that special regulation back to the statewide limits for white bass and hybrid striped bass. And those are ten-inch minimum for the white bass, and an 18-inch minimum for the hybrids. And most of the comments received on that one were in favor of that proposal.
Next is on Lake Murvaul up in Panola County. We have a special regulation on there for largemouth bass, and we're going to create a reservoir definition to encompass the downstream tail race area, and that will allow the enforcement of that special regulation for largemouth bass, which is a 14 to 21-inch slot in that area. And that will help eliminate some angler confusion and enforcement concern. All the comments we received in that were in favor of that proposal.
On Lake Pflugerville in Travis County, which is a new reservoir scheduled to open in 2005, we are proposing to implement an 18-inch minimum length limit for largemouth bass, and also restrict angling in there to pole and line only. And our goal there is to protect those initial year classes from overharvest when the reservoir is first opened. And almost all the comments received on that were in favor of that proposal.
The last proposal concerns our community fishing lakes. And this — these community fishing lakes are statewide. Our current regulation on channel and blue catfish is the 12-inch minimum length limit with a five fish daily bag. And we're proposing to remove the length limit on channels and blues and maintain the five-fish bag limit.
We did receive some comments against that proposal. Among persons making specific comments on it, we received seven for and seven against. Persons for were approving of our proposal that they feel would improve our fishing opportunities for youngsters in some of these smaller reservoirs.
The ones that commented against it were concerned about protecting the populations by removing the minimum length limit. We feel that maintaining the five-fish bag limit will maintain those populations from any overharvest or depletion.
Those are all of our proposals that we went through the public hearing, and comments. If you have any questions, I'd be happy to answer them for you.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Any questions of Ken? Next? Paul?
MR. HAMMERSCHMIDT: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, my name is Paul Hammerschmidt with the Coastal Fisheries Division. I'm here to present the proposals for the saltwater aspects of Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation.
We had three major proposals. The first was to require degradable panels in perch traps that are used in saltwater. These are similar requirements that are used in crab traps right now. We had 45 public comments received, and much like Ken said, the majority of our comments came through our web server.
Forty-five comments on this proposal — 42 were in favor, three were against. Two of the comments indicated that they did not want the perch traps to be used other than recreationally. And then two other individuals did not seem to believe the ghost fishing mortality issues regarding traps.
The second proposal that we had was to allow minnow traps in saltwater. Apparently, they are already being used. We just wanted to make this a legal gear in saltwater. We had 42 public comments. Thirty-seven were for, five were against. Again, we received a couple of comments saying that the ghost fishing issue was irrelevant and with our crab trap surveys and all, we know that's different.
As you saw, what Dr. McKinney said, considerable number of animals can be left in a trap that has been lost and abandoned. Two comments were made that the minnow traps should be only for recreational purposes. And then we did receive a couple of comments, one from the organization SCOT.
They supported the use of minnow traps, but they were also interested in applying a tagging requirement, which is required on perch traps and crab traps, and to incorporate some kind of degradable issue panel, so if they were lost, they would be rendered ineffective.
The final proposal was to legalize the use of a folding panel trap. My definition — we couldn't come up with a better one. They're sold in the market as a star trap. And there are other configurations.
They are being used. They work similarly to the small hoop nets that are being used, or snoods that are being used off of piers. We had 37 public comments. Six opposed, three of those opposed who actually did make comments other than we don't like it. Said there were too many crab traps out there. And I'm not sure they understood the way this actual device worked.
I'd be happy to answer any questions.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Any questions of Paul? Next up, Mike. Mike Berger.
MR. BERGER: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. I'm Mike Berger, Director of the Wildlife Division. And we're here this morning to talk to you about the wildlife proposal for the Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation.
The first of these with regard to pheasant season in the Panhandle. Last year, you established a 30-day season, beginning on the first Saturday in December. Due to an error in the — a printing error in the hunting annual, the dates — you agreed to change those dates to coincide with what was printed in the annual. And we appreciate that.
This proposal would move the dates back to what you originally proposed, which would be a season starting the first Saturday in December, and running for the next 30 consecutive days. Public comment on this issue was 83 in favor and two opposed.
The next issue has to do with a definition change with regard to pronghorns. This would add a definition for a tract of land. Historically, the permits have been issued for various parcels of land, and they are issued in herd units.
So if a single landowner had two or more parcels of land within a herd unit, he was issued permits for each one of those parcels, and he could not use the permits from one parcel on another parcel, even in the same herd unit.
And this proposal rectifies that situation, and would allow a landowner that had several parcels within a herd unit to use permits on any parcel within that herd unit that he owned. And this public comment on this was 81 in favor and two opposed.
The next proposal has to do with adding additional counties for the Eastern Spring Turkey season. As you know, the Turkey Restoration Effort has been — in East Texas has been very successful, and we are glad to be able to recommend the addition of the southern half of Montgomery and Tyler Counties. The northern part is already open.
And in addition, we would add Hardin and Liberty Counties to that. The proposal for all spring turkeys, and I have another proposal here to lengthen the season from 14 days to 30 days, again, because the resource can withstand that additional harvest. It's been a very successful program.
Both of these proposals for the additional counties and the additional days would be effective next year. The public comment on that is 98 in favor and six opposed. And three of those comments came only yesterday from Hardin County, that they recommended against opening the season in Hardin County, saying they didn't think — believe the resource could stand that harvest.
The next proposal has to do with Rio Grande turkeys. There are a few places in the state where habitat extends across a county line into what had been a closed county. And the turkeys there is the same population that extends on both sides of the county line, and this would provide additional fall hunting opportunity for two such counties, those being Johnson and Denton Counties.
And this would make a fall season available in those two counties. We had 92 comments in agreement and seven in disagreement. And two of the seven who disagreed felt that the bag limit of four was too large.
With regard to white-tailed deer, we are proposing to add eight new counties with doe days with four doe days. Currently these counties, doe harvest is available by permit only. And our staff has determined that these counties can sustain a four-day limited either sex hunting opportunity.
So these are Brazos, Cherokee, Gregg, Grimes, Houston, Madison, Robertson and Rusk Counties. The four doe days would start on Thanksgiving Day and extend through that weekend. There were 136 comments in favor, and 13 in disagreement.
With regard to a late youth-only deer season for white-tailed deer, there were a number of conflicts right now that made the late season for youth difficult to understand and confusing. This proposal simplifies that process so that the early youth season and the late youth season are identical. They kind of match whatever the general season regulations are in those counties.
So that the — in the counties — blue on the map, there would be a either sex harvest during their early season or the late season, because those counties have an either-sex harvest at some time during the season, or all of the season.
And if there is an MLD or a LAMPS permit, the landowner has a LAMPS or an MLD permit, they would still be required in those counties. The counties in red are where there are antlerless harvests by permit only, and that would continue whether early season or late season. You would still have to have the permit for those deer.
The yellow counties are the ones where it's divided by road or some other feature, and they have — they are either in the blue or the red zone, depending on how they were divided by that road.
So our recommendation is to adopt these proposals. And I will be happy to answer any questions you might have.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Any questions for Mike? Commissioner Brown?
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Yes. I was just wondering, in looking at the counties that are open for turkey hunting, it looked like Cameron County was excluded. Could —
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Now, what's Cameron?
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Maybe Cameron and Zapata. Can you comment on why they were excluded?
MR. BERGER: They're very urban areas.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Well, one looks like Zapata, though, doesn't' it?
MR. BERGER: That's Zapata. Can't tell you, other than they're just very urban counties. We've never — we'll be happy to take a look at that.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Mr. Chairman. Mike, you mentioned receiving negative comments on — just on yesterday from Hardin County. Would you care to respond to it?
MR. BERGER: Well, our — staff feels like they're — that there are sufficient populations of wild turkeys to support a recreational harvest in all the counties recommended, all the areas recommended. Now these, I believe, were landowners in the county. And they felt like they — you know, I guess additional time was required before we opened a season there.
Staff would still recommend that the populations are there and can withstand that harvest.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: What is the process for considering or reconsidering these objections as we move throughout the seasons and all the — does staff actively reconsider objections that had been made and restudy those objections or bring back more recent information?
MR. BERGER: Well, we annually survey all the areas with population surveys. And if we determine from those surveys that populations have declined for whatever reason, whether it was from the harvest or poor conditions, and they would not — no longer sustain a recreational harvest of the amount proposed, then we would come back with a proposal that would alter that, and either close that county or restrict the season there.
These are ongoing surveys that we conduct every year, and new counties that we add in we pay particular attention to.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: I'm happy that you do that, but I'm wondering about specific objections that citizens make to regulations that we publish. Do we have any process whereby we go back and specifically look at those objections and bring them forward? Do we have any information we have forward to address them specifically outside of the general surveying?
MR. BERGER: You know, that is clearly something that we — is possible for us to do. In the time between when this objection arrived yesterday and this morning, it's certainly not possible to reassess.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Yes. I'm not talking specifically about this objection, but objections generally. Do we address them in such a fashion as to satisfy ourselves as well as necessary to answer the citizens' complaint —
MR. BERGER: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: — that we have actively studied the matter?
MR. BERGER: If we have not been doing that, it will be done.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: I think that's an excellent idea.
MR. BERGER: I believe we have been doing that to some extent. And I will be certain it is done in this case.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Thank you.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Just to clarify Vice Chairman Henry's point. In this case you have two or three landowners whose observation — whose anecdotal observation is contrary to our survey.
MR. BERGER: I understand that three —
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: And if you share that with them, presumably —
MR. BERGER: Right.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: — that would clear it up?
MR. BERGER: These three came yesterday afternoon, I believe, in rapid succession, and all objected to opening the season in Hardin County, and said they were landowners. At least two said they were landowners in Hardin County.
So we will be back with them to understand their objections.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: And you'll share that survey data with them?
MR. BERGER: With them. Yes.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Okay. Commissioner Holmes?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: It looks like the Eastern Turkey restocking program has been really successful.
MR. BERGER: Extremely. Yes.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: How long has that been going on? Can you share that?
MR. BERGER: I believe we started that intensively in about 1985, and that brought in a number of turkeys, some from Texas, that had been established and had been relocated and most of the seed stock, though, came from other states where we get eastern turkeys.
And I don't recall the numbers offhand. I'd be happy to provide you with those numbers. But I think it's something on the order of 7,000 birds that have been brought in over the years and put in various areas of habitat that's become good, or been restored. And the birds have done extremely well.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Do we have any estimate as to what the total Eastern Turkey population is now?
MR. BERGER: I don't have that on the top of my head. I'd be happy to provide that for you.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Thank you.
MR. COOK: Commissioner Holmes, it's kind of interesting, and I think Mike's right in — and I'm kind of don't remember the numbers exactly either. But I know we increased the stocking effort dramatically after the implementation of the turkey staff. We had some funds available to buy wild trapped birds from other states. I think 7,000, something like that's about right, coming in.
I think what essentially started, and Clayton Wolf is here and can nod his head or throw up his hands in panic, but I think we've harvested something over 2,000 birds, 2,500 birds since we've started hunting eastern birds a few years ago.
And interestingly enough, one of those birds had been tagged.
MR. BERGER: Yes. One.
MR. COOK: All of these birds and — also in response to Mr. Henry's question, and to the landowners. And then when we sit down with folks like that, the guys back out in the field, we'd go over that kind of information and the fact that we have hunter — required hunter check stations where every bird harvested comes through the check station.
We look at the age. We determine whether or not that bird was tagged. You know, or is a production bird — a bird that was produced there in that area. So those kind of indications, you know, where you harvest over 2,000 birds, and one of them being tagged indicates good reproduction, good survival.
Spring turkey hunting — and I know that many of you and many of the folks in the audience have given it a try. And you know, spring turkey hunting, managed as we have done, does not hinder a population from growing and expanding.
The timing of it is after the hens have been bred. The gobblers that are harvested — the few that are harvested are the ones that are available — certainly that does not hinder the population.
There are landowners — I think it's worthwhile to note that there are landowners ten years from now who are going to say, you know, I still don't have turkeys. I wish we weren't hunting them. And that may be habitat-related, or it may be, you know, other issues.
But we will certainly, absolutely, work with these folks. And it's an important program to us, and one that even though it has been successful, is one that's very important and we're watching very closely.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Commissioner Henry.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Mr. Chairman, following your constant directives of looking at the land and water conservation plan, I would implore Mike and staff to look at that in real detail, particularly with regard to the urban areas. I noticed that Harris was excluded, and Smith — the counties also excluded from those programs. I'm thinking in particular about our youth hunting programs and the availability of hunting space for youth near major urban areas.
And it would seem that turkey hunts and other shotgun-style hunts would be more beneficial to the kids in the urban areas than some other kinds of hunts. So I'd just like to see us take those matters into consideration as well.
MR. BERGER: We are always looking for additional opportunities for youth, and working with everyone we can think of to provide those opportunities. And certainly, you are correct that there are — and there are good opportunities for youth, whether they be for Eastern Turkeys or for Rio Grande Turkeys.
We have good populations, and we are always looking for opportunities as close as we can to urban areas. And we will certainly continue to focus on those.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Well, to — excuse me, to the extent I think you've addressed it by including southern Montgomery County and Liberty, which are certainly within the scheme. But I think if we would keep that in mind in the future, that this is the directive that we've been given, I think we would serve the citizenry very well.
MR. BERGER: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: I recommend you to do that.
MR. BERGER: Yes, sir.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Any other —
MR. COOK: Well, point well taken, Commissioner Henry. And just to comment. I think it's interesting that the slide on the screen right now is kind of one of those same kind of issues. You're looking at a couple of counties on either side of the Dallas/Fort Worth area there that because those populations in recent years, last four or five years, have increased to the point where we do have some dependable populations, the staff is — and again, here is proposing that we open those areas.
There becomes a point, and the Commissioner's question about Cameron County — I don't know that we have those kind of populations in Cameron County. I'll check on Zapata about that, but where we can, we will —
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: There is some habitat I'd — it surprises me that it's kind of isolated there, but —
MR. COOK: We'll check on that one.
MR. BERGER: We will.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: One more question. Back on the Eastern Turkey season, I noticed that the proposed for 2005, Hardin, Liberty, South Montgomery and Tyler — were birds stocked in those areas, or did they migrate into them?
MR. BERGER: They were stocked throughout that country, wherever habitat was available for stocking, and the money was available for stocking. So they have been there, but they were not fully stocked, as it were.
They were — seed stock was put in a location, and then the birds have adapted well, and done their breeding over the last few years, and have expanded their populations into available habitat. So they were stocked in those areas, but they were not necessarily stocked to the full extent. That gets to be cost-prohibitive. But —
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: All right. Thank you, sir.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Any other questions for Mike? It's refreshing to talk about something other than deer? We can talk about turkeys too. For the benefit of the Texas A&M students, it's interesting to look at the history of the spring turkey season. It's really created habitat, not just for turkeys, but for non-game species.
A lot of landowners who before didn't have the opportunity to sell that new product really, the spring turkey season, have now changed their management practices to take advantage of that. I know in south Texas it's created a lot of repairing habitat. It's a good example of using recreation to drive conservation. Good work, Mike.
MR. BERGER: True. Thank you.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Thanks. Any other questions? Do we have anyone signed up on this item 6? Forgive me if I mispronounce your name. John Oncken, Texas Sportsmen Association.
MR. ONCKEN: Yes, sir.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: And on deck, Mr. Glasscock.
MR. ONCKEN: Gentlemen, the document being passed out to you in that folder, there is one document that starts off there are areas within the six-county experimental region.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Please identify yourself and spell your last name.
MR. ONCKEN: Thank you. My name is John Oncken, last name is spelled O-N-C-K-E-N. Been here a few times before you, and been real happy with some of your actions as a result.
The one sheet that's included in that folder starts off, and I'll read it just for everybody's edification, "There are areas —" and this is a resolution that was passed by the Texas Sportsman's Association last month, by the membership of that group.
It reads, "There are areas within the six-county experimental region," and this was the antler regulation, "that have a very low deer count, and where a significant number of antlerless deer currently taken each year, outside the bounds of a basic rifle season. And whereas, the Texas Sportsman's Association believes that deer hunt management specifically in this experimental six-county region can better be accomplished by the proper, prudent issuance of antlerless permits during all open deer hunting periods, be that youth, archery, muzzleloader, what have you.
"Therefore, be it resolved that the Texas Sportsman's Association would like to go on record to request that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department would specifically require that all antlerless deer taken within the experimental six-county region shall be by permit only, and issued under the direction and judgment of the local Parks and Wildlife biologist."
And that was approved last month by the membership of the group. I'll give you just a brief little justification or description of why we've come forward with that. There has been a growing interest among landowners and hunters in trying to manage the herd and deer number is a little better, especially since the antler restriction activities started.
And what we have seen is antlerless permits are being issued for some regions, especially for the co-ops. And we have some folks that are co-op members, or may not be co-op members, who have bow hunters on their property during October. And what these members, some of which are co-op members, that get doe permits are doing is they hunt that October period, and then when they're issued their doe permits, they continue hunting and they use those doe permits.
But the does that they have taken off their property during October, they've not included in that quota that they're being allotted for based upon the deer density that we're trying to work under.
So essentially, by adding the statement that antlerless by permit only, which does apply for the rifle season in that area, extending that to the archery season or muzzleloader or youth, which I think it is — also know — also requires a permit, by extending that to the archery season, it would just create a level playing field for everybody involved.
The only real issue I think here — everybody tends to agree, Well, yes, the number of does that are killed during archery season is a relatively small number.
But as people get better and better equipment, it's not all that difficult like it used to be, I know, because I've bow hunted off and on myself, but I think what we have is people out there in the general public and landowners and hunters that say, you know, we're trying real hard to work our numbers, and this is one loophole in the system that could be corrected.
Nobody is saying don't let the bow hunters hunt and take antlerless during October. That's not at all what this is about. It's simply let's make that quota part of the program. And so that's all this particular resolution is asking for. And thank you.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Oncken. Questions for Mr. Oncken? Commissioner Brown?
COMMISSIONER BROWN: What is the six-county area? It's not defined here.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: That is a question that has a much larger answer than we —
MR. ONCKEN: I can answer that.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: One moment, please. Mike, were you — can you respond to Commissioner — or Clayton? Clayton?
MR. WOLF: I'll try to remember all of them. Austin, Baylor, Colorado, Lee, Lavaca and Washington.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Is it — Clayton could tell Commissioner Brown the experimental six-county —
MR. WOLF: Yes, sir. For the record, my name is Clayton Wolf. I'm the big-game program director. The six counties listed, there are antler restrictions for buck deer, illegal buck deer. The primary consideration is a 13-inch minimum spread on the antler. Also this includes bucks that have one unbranched antler, which would be a spike buck, typically, or one that has six on a side.
In reference to the comments on the antlerless deer permits, though, the only antlerless deer permits that are issued in those counties are managed lands deer permits. And I can't speak as how it's happening in practice, but if a property receives managed lands deer permits of any level, and deer are taken prior to that issuance, they still have to count toward that harvest quota.
So if deer are taken during the archery season on any of these properties that have management plans, if they receive their MLD in time, they put it on the deer. If they harvested it prior to that, then it has to be subtracted from their quota.
So in fact, those deer taken during archery seasons on these properties are counted in the quota.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Any other questions? Thank you, Clayton. I'm sorry, Mr. Glasscock, to interrupt you there. You're next up.
MR. GLASSCOCK: Thank you. And Mr. Oncken assures me that in all cases, not — in some cases, those does are not being counted as indicated. We don't want to start a fight with anybody.
I'm Walt Glasscock with the Texas Sportsman's Association. We want to thank you again sincerely for the antler restriction program. It's working tremendously well.
The data from field reports indicates to even the most skeptical, that these restrictions have enhanced the numbers of white-tailed bucks throughout the experimental region.
And inasmuch as there is just one year left in this experiment, the Texas Sportsman's Association went on record requesting the Commissioners in Parks and Wildlife that at the end of the third year, that the antler restrictions not just be an experiment, but the regular, normal regulation from here on in.
It's worked that well. We're pleased. We're grateful. And we would hope that as you begin looking ahead, that would be considered as the norm, and not the exception, or merely an experiment. Thank you.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Glasscock. Any questions for Mr. Glasscock? Next up, Jack King. Jack? And on deck, Kirby Brown.
MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Vice Chairman, Commissioners, Mr. Cook. My name is Jack King with Sportsmen Conservationists of Texas. And we'd like to go on record as being supportive of the proposals for the Statewide Hunting and Fishing as they've been laid out today.
And would like to make just a few comments on the minnow trap proposal. And I apologize for missing the discussion yesterday. I was down discussing it with a group of Rotarians in Corpus Christi.
As you saw in Dr. McKinney's briefing, and as Mr. Hammerschmidt laid out, ghost fishing is a reality in coastal waters, or traps that are placed out there. And the department staff and — as you also saw by the presentation, have worked very, very hard to implement a program that provides for the removal of abandoned traps.
And what SCOT would like to propose is that one of two things. Either prior to implementing this one rule, or immediately thereafter at the next meeting, bring the minnow trap into consistent regulations with the crab trap and the perch trap, of requiring it to have a gear tag which provides name and address and a date.
And that after that date expires, it becomes abandoned and subject to being removed from the saltwaters, because as the rule currently stands, that trap can be out there indefinitely, and a warden go by and see if there is no way to determine that it's legally abandoned, and thus subject.
So our request would be that you look at that a little bit closer and bring it into compliance with the other traps so that we — at the same time we're trying to reduce ghost fishing with other devices, we don't put one out there that allows it. Thank you, sir.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Jack. Paul, do you have any response to that?
MR. HAMMERSCHMIDT: Thank you, sir. Paul Hammerschmidt, Coastal Fisheries. On the gear tag issue, we cannot address it at this meeting, because it's an additional restriction. If we do address it in the next — at the next meeting in May, it will not be adopted in time to be published in the outdoor annual.
That doesn't mean we can't, it's just more difficult to make it happen.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: And as to Mr. King's point about the risk of abandonment?
MR. HAMMERSCHMIDT: It's the same with any other trap in the water. Yes, sir.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Okay. Any questions for Paul? Thank you. Next, Kirby Brown?
MR. BROWN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. It's good to be here today. We support the staff proposal. By the way, Kirby Brown with Texas Wildlife Association. We do support the staff proposal in full.
We're very pleased to see the continued simplification, the expanded opportunity, and the youth emphasis coming forward. And we think that's great. Thank you, sir.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Kirby. Next up, David Hayward, Texas Deer Association. David?
MR. HAYWARD: I'm David Hayward with the Texas Deer Association. Thank you, Chairman Fitzsimons and Commissioners for the opportunity to speak on this issue.
I'm turning in a petition from the residents of Grimes County against doe days to be implemented within Grimes County.
I remember a quote by Mr. David Langford a few years ago when he said he was a man who wore many hats. Well, I too am now a man who wears many hats, as a wildlife manager and consultant, the President of the Texas Deer Association, a member of the White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee appointed by Chairman Fitzsimons, and the Chairman of the Grimes County Wildlife Committee.
The committee formed by and working with the Grimes County Extension Agent to provide the citizens of Grimes County with educational opportunities regarding wildlife management.
As the rumor mill began to churn and word spread of doe days returning to Grimes County, many citizens began to voice their opinion in opposition of doe days.
Still vivid in their minds are hunting seasons of empty fields, which occurred following the last attempt to reduce population numbers in Grimes County with the use of doe days. Unfortunately, reduction in population occurred where it was not needed, and did not occur where it was needed.
We received approximately 140 signatures by Grimes County residents in less than five days from only seven locations. On behalf of Grimes County residents opposing the doe days, the Grimes County Wildlife Committee, with the full support of the Texas Deer Association, asks that you remove Grimes County from the list of eight counties being considered for the four doe days of the 2003/2004 — excuse me, 2004/2005 hunting season.
In order to better organize public comment in the future, the previous-mentioned groups and individuals request Texas Parks and Wildlife Department implement a better notification process informing the people of Grimes County of changes which would occur to hunting and fishing regulations affecting their county.
I myself found out by email of the public comment meeting less than 48 hours before it occurred. I spoke personally with over 40 people who signed the petition, none of which had heard of a public comment meeting regarding changes to Texas hunting and fishing regulations.
Again, I thank you for the opportunity, and I'll be happy to answer any questions.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Thank you, David. Any questions for David? Mike? Do you — follow Mr. Hayward's comments? And — go ahead.
MR. BERGER: Well, in regard to public hearings, we do announce the time and location of those public hearings to the media as we can. They're on our website, and they're sent to the local papers in the area. So that's how those meetings are announced. There was —
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: And where was it on the website? Because I noticed it some weeks ago, the list of public hearings. But when do we post that on the website?
MR. BERGER: We try to get them as early as we can. But all I can say is finding the location and finalizing those with — I mean, it's not months ahead of time, it's weeks ahead of time.
And I can find the date for you when it was on there, but I don't have that on the top of my head either. But the turnout at most all of those hearings in those counties was very low.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Would you discuss the biological basis for the doe days, please?
MR. BERGER: Yes. The — our information in that area is that at current levels, there were — or current time there are about one doe per every thousand acres, to as many as 1,500 acres of land harvested in those counties where we're suggesting the additional doe days.
History would show us from the previous time when we had the doe days that Mr. Hayward mentioned, that we might double that harvest, so that there would be one doe harvested for every 500 or 750 acres. I would also point out that when we had the doe days before, I think it was a full season — open season, and not restricted to only four days.
So our information is that these doe days, that the does are there, that they are available, and that the removal of one doe for every 500 acres of — or even 750 acres over the entire area would certainly be allowable and not detrimental to those populations.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: I'm sorry, Brown?
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Did you say that it's only for four days?
MR. BERGER: For four days. That is correct.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Okay.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Any other questions for Mike or to expand Mr. Hayward's comments? Well, Mike, so I understand how we can respond and monitor the concerns of these folks in Grimes County, is if you explain the harvest data that we'll be reviewing, and of course, monitoring to see if our assumptions are correct.
MR. BERGER: Right. But we look at the numbers harvested by surveys and by visiting locker plants in the area to determine the levels of harvest. Of course, at the present time, the does are by permit only. So we know the numbers of permits, and we get reports on the number of harvest. And we can do similar this year, after this is in place, to see what impact it has had.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Any other — Commissioner Henry?
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Yes, just a general concern, and to address the specific complaints that are coming from Grimes County. I'm wondering to what extent, after we surveyed, do we do any on-site — not necessarily on-site, but through telephone or email or other communication, with persons in those areas that we know are leading efforts in conservation in one form or another to get some personal perspective from the people on the ground?
MR. BERGER: Our biologists have contacts with landowners throughout these counties, and work as closely in conjunction with them as they can. Specifically would they go out to all these people and ask questions? I don't think so. But we do driving surveys.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: I don't need to know all of it. We know that, for example, the president of the Texas Deer Association lives in an area, that the President of the Texas Wildlife Association lives in a specific area. Do we talk to those people just to see, you know, what it is you're — what do you think your membership will want or not want, or respond to favorably or unfavorably? Is that part of the equation?
MR. BERGER: Well, that's not — I mean, that's not part of any written plan that we go and do. But we do — as I said, we're just trying to —
COMMISSIONER HENRY: I mean informally. I'm not standing on ceremony here.
MR. BERGER: Yes. I just honestly can't tell you whether we did make that contact or not, sir.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: I just think it would be a good thing for us to do, just for a general satisfaction of the citizenry.
MR. BERGER: I honestly believe that our biologists are in touch and communication with the wildlife associations in those counties.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Thank you.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Do I have Commissioner Holmes? Please.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Mike, you know, when I've looked at the three objections to — that came out of Hardin County in respect of the Eastern Turkey season, it seemed that it was reasonable to expect that that was kind of an anecdotal observation maybe out of the kitchen window, not seeing turkeys.
MR. BERGER: Uh-huh.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: But there are people from all over Grimes County that have signed this petition. And it would seem that if it's just anecdotal, it's coming from all around that county.
Did we look at leaving Grimes County out of this recommendation?
MR. BERGER: Do you want to address that?
MR. WOLF: Once again, I'm Clayton Wolf, Director of Big-Game Program. We did visit with David Hayward. David let us know about the petition a couple of days ago, and we went back to the biologist in the county.
We did another reevaluation of the data. Of course, the biologist that submitted the proposal had already — had the data together. But we looked at it again, and we pulled up some more harvest survey data for Grimes County, specifically, and as a group, and discussed it.
But as Director Berger had indicated, with the best information we have, we don't — we do not think that the harvest is going to be significant, based on the models we have from other areas where we offered zero to four doe days. So yes, we did look at the data and we did consider it. We did consult with the local biologist, who has the best on-the-ground feeling for what's going on.
You know, the concerns in Grimes County are not much different than many other counties when you have either-sex hunting. That does not — in other words, a landowner can abuse that privilege if they so choose.
But our observations from our data are that the actual abuse is not near at the level the perception is. If it did occur, it would show up in our harvest surveys. And so with the best information we have, and visiting and consultation with Mr. Hayward, you know, we visited with him and said, you know, we felt like we would probably stay with our proposal, because biologically we think it's sound. Not — but obviously understanding that there are many people in the area that disagree with us.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Would the option be to leave it by permit?
MR. WOLF: That's currently what exists, so yes, sir, if this Commission chose, and I would ask Robert MacDonald to help me or tell me if I'm saying something wrong. But I believe this Commission has latitude, right? This Commission has the latitude not to include Grimes County if you choose, and then it would remain by permit only.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: By permit only, it would be by permit during the entire season? Is that correct?
MR. WOLF: Yes, sir. That is correct. If — a property that gets doe days, they have to offer the permits or the doe days. So properties that are currently receiving MLDs this actually wouldn't impact at all. Properties that are receiving LAMPs permits — this would not impact at all.
This is going to be all those other tracts that are not in one of our programs that would opt for the doe day harvest at Thanksgiving.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Thanks, Clayton.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Clayton, you're not off yet. So we understand the benefit — the opportunities for the benefit of the new Commissioners, because I don't know myself what it is, how long does it take to really confirm this — your biological data?
Because we're always in this balancing act of pursuing our objective of increasing hunter opportunity — hunter days based on the best biology available to — in other words, if we were to keep this in, how long would it take us to confirm or deny that biological assumption?
MR. WOLF: We would be able to detect change within a year, actually, through our big-game harvest survey. But the problem exists when you get down to the county level, because there is so few people that are in the survey, the confidence intervals are pretty wide.
So statistically, we'd have a number for Grimes County after one year, but it would probably take several years for us to make sure that that wasn't some kind of an anomaly. If we grouped it with the other counties around there, we could make a lot better judgment even after year one, because the confidence intervals are a lot tighter even at the one-year level.
And to be honest with you, our best data in this country is our big-game harvest survey. We've been doing that for many years through these counties. That's the data we looked at.
We do have spotlight counts in the country, but there are some inherent problems with spotlight counts, especially as you get east. We do not have a wide distribution. And as Mr. Hayward indicated to me, you know, the lines we have are in some of the high deer density areas.
So I in fact, do not put a lot of — do not put much faith in that as opposed to the big-game harvest survey, because it's a lot more randomly, and it's been done consistent throughout the years. And that's what — that would be the primary data we would look at.
After the hunters got their — after the end of the season next year, the hunters would get surveys. Those that reported hunting in Grimes County would report what they killed, and we would extrapolate that to the estimated number of hunters in the County to see what the increase in harvest was.
We use data from the Piney Woods counties — northeast Piney Woods, where we went from zero to four days, albeit we understand it's different country. And we saw that the harvest doubled. And so we're using that as our best-guess estimate that we speculate that with the best information we have, that our harvest would double. And it's relatively low right now.
We're — the harvest surveys indicate about 2,200 bucks killed annually. The seven-year average is about 700 does. And I think as Mr. Berger had indicated yesterday, you know, they are basically born at approximately the same ratio. So the does ought to be putting the same number of female deer in the population as male deer.
And so if it can sustain a 2,200 male harvest, it ought to be able to sustain a minimum of 1,500 female harvest.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: And were those numbers for Grimes County?
MR. WOLF: Those — no, those numbers were for reporting unit 13, which includes Grimes County.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: And that is a unit of how many counties?
MR. WOLF: That is four counties. One of those is not in this proposal, and that's Burleson County. And like I said, we did look at the Grimes County level, the harvest estimates are pretty close to that on the average, but they do — they're a lot more erratic because the sample size is very low. You can't look at just one year.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Do we think that the buck/doe ratio is unfavorable in Grimes County?
MR. WOLF: It is, out of whack, so to speak, right now, at approximately five to one. I believe that's right, isn't it Billy?
VOICE: Yes, five to one.
MR. WOLF: Over five bucks per doe.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: I think you satisfied my concern.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: May I ask a question? You said you can opt — you opt for a permit or the four days.
MR. WOLF: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Correct? So if you take the four days, then you don't get permits?
MR. WOLF: That is correct.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: If you go for permits, you don't get the four days?
MR. WOLF: That is correct.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Outside the — and managed?
MR. WOLF: Yes. Now —
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. So they're — okay.
MR. WOLF: Theoretically, if someone came to us late and wanted to get on a wildlife management plan, and they had utilized the four doe days, we would subtract that from their harvest. But typically, that's so late in the season, we won't be signing up new individuals at that point.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: So you're talking about a lot of control.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Commissioner Ramos?
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Yes. And actually, in looking at our agenda book here, the buck to doe ratio is 5.6 at this point for the last three years. So it's — there is an increase in the doe populations compared to the bucks under the data that we have, direct. So I mean, it's — and ideally we'd want to have it much lower than that.
MR. WOLF: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Okay.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: To clearly, to sustain the harvest, and we feel like it — you can monitor that for two to three years, you'll have a pretty good indication.
MR. WOLF: Yes, sir. The difference is, the landscape is different, so we're — you know, we don't have a real good clear picture. We would have to watch what's happening and make adjustments, if our estimates were off.
But we think it's a pretty conservative estimate. Four doe days is the lowest number of doe days that we have in the state right now. So we took the most conservative either-sex package we had that we proposed for these counties.
And the counties are — historically, there were only two other years that Grimes County and these counties had either-sex hunting. It was '88 and '89 seasons. They were full season, either sex, the most liberal.
So I'm sure that the perspectives of individuals that lived through that time frame, their perspective is based on something that's a lot more liberal than we're proposing.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Does this — as conservative an option as you can choose —
MR. WOLF: Yes, sir.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: — pursuant our objective for increased hunter opportunity.
MR. WOLF: Yes, sir. And the harvest survey indicates a precipitous decline in hunting participation in those counties over the last ten years by permit only. CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Well, that's an important point. My Hayward, I'll give you the opportunity to respond if you'd like.
MR. HAYWARD: I should have been taking some notes on it. I guess I'd have to start with our county biologist, who I think up until yesterday didn't even know that there was a Grimes County Wildlife Committee. So you know, that shows right there that Parks and Wildlife is out of touch with the people in the county.
As far as the spotlight census they talk about, those occurred along the Navasota River bottom, which is the western borderline of Grimes County. And those properties are 500 to 5,000-acre properties, versus the rest of the county, where these people are signing the petition are 50 to 500-acre properties.
So there is a big concern. I think somebody said it was 5.1 bucks per doe. It's actually 5.1 does per buck. Anyway, along the river bottom I have no qualms with harvesting animals — harvesting does. I have no qualms with taking does to make a healthier population.
But in these areas where you have a 50-acre landowner and six brother-in-laws hunting, and the people around them are not hunting, they still are impacted extremely, you know, by those few.
So is there any other question?
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: I think you made a good point, and I'm sure after today that you'll have a new relationship with the biologist. You'll learn who he is. And presumably he'll know who you are.
MR. HAYWARD: I know Mr. Lambert, and I'm not trying to get on Mr. Lambert. But that's just — and it's not just that county. If you look into the other counties around there, I've been contacted by every one of those counties in this, someone by those counties, to try and get a petition going.
I've got enough on my plate as it is, and couldn't take care of them. I think if you had to table this motion and gave us more time, we could get more. But I'd really rather settle it today. But I can speak upon Grimes County and their citizens, and let you know that they're, you know, entirely opposed.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Thank you. If nothing else, I think we've certainly started the dialogue between your group and the department there. And I would encourage you, Mr. Hayward, to keep that going, because if we do this, the important thing is that we keep the dialogue going and get the important monitoring data.
Any other questions on this, Commissioner Ramos?
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: No.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: No. Okay. Is that — Mr. Hayward was our last on that item. Any other comments from the Commission? Is there a motion on this item?
COMMISSIONER WATSON: I so move.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Motion by Commissioner Watson. Second by?
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Second.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: By Commissioner Brown. All in favor, please say aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Any opposed? Hearing none, the motion carries. Next agenda item is an Action Item, White-tailed Deer Regulation. Clayton, back up.
MR. WOLF: Mr. Chairman —
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: I'm sorry to interrupt you. We have, before we leave the last issue, we have some — it looks like original petitions here. Some of them might have original signatures on them. I believe you've got the full set of originals. Mr. Hayward has copies.
We'll make sure we get those delivered for the record, properly, if everybody would pass them down, I guess this way, towards Bob. I don't want any originals getting stuck in somebody's briefcase. Sorry. A little housekeeping here. Go ahead, Clayton.
MR. WOLF: Once again, my name is Clayton Wolf. I am the Director of the Big-Game Program in the Wildlife Division. This morning, I'm going to present to you proposals that have come from the department's White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee.
The first proposal is a proposal to eliminate double tagging. Double tagging is a term that we use to refer to placing more than one piece of paper on a deer that's been harvested, as required by law, or filling out a license long.
You know that you hunt in Texas on property that receives LAMPs permits or MLD permits, that not only in addition to the permit that's put on the deer, you also have to fill out a license tag, with much of the same information. Then you have to fill out the back of your license log with much of the same information.
So there is quite a bit of redundancy in the paperwork. And anybody that's harvested deer and has to fill all of this out knows that.
Therefore, the White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee proposed to eliminate the requirements to complete the license log and utilization of a license tag for deer taken under authority of the permits you see listed on the screen.
Additionally, there are some complexities to keeping up with the deer bag limit. If you harvested a deer with the MLD permit currently and utilize the bonus tag, you do not have to fill out your license log. So there is no record of that on your license.
However, you may opt to harvest a deer with an MLD and not use up your — a bonus tag. And you must fill out the license log. But for example, you could harvest a buck in a one-buck county with an MLD permit and fill it out on your license log. But in fact, you'd be able to shoot another buck in a one-buck county. And this has caused some confusion among our constituents and even our staff.
Therefore, as a part of this proposal, the White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee proposed that deer taken under authority of these permits would not apply to the statewide deer bag limit.
In essence, if you did not — if you hunted on property that did not receive these permits, you would be restricted to the statewide bag limit of five deer, utilize the license tag, and fill out your license log.
If you hunted on a property that utilized some of these permits, you would place that piece of paper on the deer, and that would be all that you would have to complete. And there would be no limit to the number of animals. The control mechanism would be the wildlife management plan, or the mechanism that determines the number of permits that are issued for that tract or that parcel.
And finally, as I said, we utilize bonus tags in conjunction with these permits. But if these previous rules are adopted, this would eliminate the need for bonus tags. The proposal includes that as well.
Public comment on this is a 119 for, actually, that's 16 against. I received one more email yesterday evening. To typify the responses against, in most cases, those that articulated their opposition didn't seem to understand that there actually are control mechanisms for the number of LAMPs or MLD permits that are issued on a property.
The White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee also proposes to extend the period of validity for Level two and Level three MLDPs. Currently, Level two and three MLDPs are valid through the last Sunday in January, or any open season.
For instance, a late antlerless and spike season in South Texas. So we have one level of complexity here, depending on what county you're in in Texas. Additionally, antlerless deer control permits are valid through the last day in February. And we have many properties that receive antlerless deer control permits and MLDs.
So all these properties that can use their MLDs for a certain period of time, and that time — the period of validity changes, depending on the county. Then when the period of validity for MLDs expires, then they must use ADCPs. But those are only valid on antlerless and spiked deer.
So you can see it's pretty complicated. The proposal to remedy this is to extend the period of validity for Level two and three MLDPs through the last day in February. In essence, we speculate if this is adopted, many of our ADCP cooperators would no longer need the use of ADCPs and could simply use MLDs, one piece of paper, the period of validity extends to the same time as ADCPs.
We had nine people speak in favor of this proposal and eight against. Those that spoke against it, there were a couple of comments. There was some concern about the harvest of shed-antler bucks, especially in February. And especially as you move north through the state and antler shed occurs earlier.
In addition, there were some comments that if people were on management plans and does need to be harvested, that should be at the front end of the season as opposed to the back end of the season so that the impacts to the range are minimized.
We have several proposals that deal with our MLDP provisions within our Triple-T proclamation. That is the Trap, Transport and Transplant Proclamation. These rules are fairly complex, so I want to take a moment to kind of give you an overview of what currently exists.
Level Three MLDP cooperators may be approved for Trap, Transport and Transplant release without a site inspection, provided they meet certain criteria.
In Texas, if someone wants to receive Triple T deer, the norm is that they receive a site inspection, so that we maintain our habitat-based policy and the addition of animals on the range does not have a negative impact on the plant community.
There are two exceptions in Texas. One is the inconsequential release. And the other one applies to these MLDP properties. One of the criteria that the tract had been receiving Level Three permits for three years.
In essence, what we're talking about is not necessarily a site inspection right before the release, but there is knowledge of the property. The biologist has been working with the landowner. They have been providing significant amounts of data. And so the biologist can make that call from their desk.
So if the biologist doesn't have to get in the truck and go to the tract, but they do know what's going on in the landscape. So there is a level of knowledge, and sort of a de facto site inspection.
Release of deer cannot cause a population to exceed the level prescribed in the wildlife management plan. It simply keeps everything habitat-based, and protects the integrity of the plant community.
The release cannot include bucks. I'll elaborate on that a little bit when I hit the proposal. And probably the most complex component that I attempted to describe yesterday is that the removal of deer, prior to importing new deer, cannot cause a population to be reduced more than 50 percent of recruitment below the target population level.
That's a mouthful. Bottom line is, as I explained yesterday, if the wildlife management plan indicates that your post-season population is 100, and you recruited 20 fawns, you can only push that population ten animals below your target, down to 90, if you opt to receive more deer at the end of the season.
Of course, to reiterate, the most important aspect of all of this is that the release of deer does not exceed the population prescribed in the wildlife management plan. The proposals, currently, as I said — the tract has to be receiving Level Three MLDPs for three years.
The proposal from the White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee is that Level Two and Three cooperators can be receiving permits, and only in that recent year. So basically we've gone from three years participation in the program only for Level Three cooperators to one year participation by a Level Two or Three cooperator.
They must provide the data, which is three years of survey data, and two years of harvest data. So there is still some knowledge — there is some data. And if someone enrolls in the program, our biologist has made a minimum of one trip out to that ranch. So in fact, there has been a — there is an initial site inspection.
We've had six people speak in favor of, and five against. Of those comments against, basically for the most part indicate that they would like to see site inspections for all Triple-T releases in Texas.
Our proposal to include buck deer in these provisions — as I stated earlier, the release of deer under these provisions can only include doe deer. The most important fact is the number of deer.
This is habitat-based. So whether you're bringing in ten does, or it's nine does and one buck, the impact to the range is approximately the same. That's why we highlighted the total population in there. So the proposal is the release of deer under MLDP.
Triple-T provisions can include buck deer. The most important aspect is not the sex of the deer, but the number of deer that are coming on the property. We've had six people comment for and one against.
We have a proposal to remove the harvest limitation. That's the complex rule I was attempting to explain to you. I'm not going to reiterate that. I'm not sure I was successful the first time.
But bottom line is, that the proposal is to repeal this rule so that there will be no limit on how many deer may be removed prior to the importation of new deer. That is Triple-T deer. The key factor is not to exceed the population level prescribed in the plan. We've had five speak in favor of this and seven against.
We have a proposal to remove antlers from all Triple-T bucks prior to shipment. Currently, bucks that are moved during the hunting seasons have to have their antlers removed. So our rule say that after February 10 and through March 31, you don't have to saw the antlers off, or if they are moved to a different location on the same property.
If the seasons are extended, then a season would be open during the movement of deer. So the proposal would be to remove the antlers from all Triple-T bucks prior to shipping. We had eleven people speak in favor of this, and none against.
Currently, if an MLDP cooperator exceeds the harvest prescribed in the wildlife management plan, the biologist chooses not to issue permits, they cannot receive permits for three consecutive years.
The White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee thought that this was a bit strict, and proposes a one-year suspension as opposed to a three-year suspension for reasons of overharvest. We've had eleven people speak in favor of this, and none against.
As a matter of record, yesterday I presented a proposal to alter the inconsequential release provisions. And based on the direction from this committee this proposal will not be included in the adoption of recommendation.
We will take that back to the White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee to study some issues that were brought up relative to public comment. Mr. Henry, or Commissioner Henry, for — as a matter of fact, I asked the same question about how we deal with public comment on this.
It is a learning process for me, as I'm new in this job. In fact, in the Texas Register, when we do the adoption, Robert MacDonald has to respond to all these comments.
So when we receive these comments, we — I asked Robert what do we do and how do we treat these comments? What happens if we find some merit in the comments that we see? And in fact, this is one of those proposals where we see some potential merit in the comments. And so we recommend that to the Commission.
All the others were addressed in the adoption in the Texas Register. And that was the comment eight for, six against.
Therefore, there — you see the recommendation on the screen there, and just for the record, I want to reiterate one more time that the phrase, With changes, does include the amendment not to include the inconsequential Triple-Ts in this motion. And I will take any questions now.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Any questions for Clayton? Maybe Robert would be the one to answer my questions. Maybe you can. And that is on the issue of inconsequential release, which was discussed in the Regulations Committee yesterday, and the problems with that.
Say the recommendation — it goes back — it also goes back to the White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee to address those issues about habitat and stocking policy.
MR. WOLF: I believe I will — I'm not going to try to fake that one. I think I'm going to have Robert called up here and answer that one.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: All right. Thanks.
MR. MacDONALD: For the record, Mr. Chairman, I'm Robert MacDonald, the regulations coordinator for the agency. And this is just a simple adoption of the proposal with a change. And the change is decided on here with regards to the inconsequential release.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: All right. So our motion needs to reflect that?
MR. MacDONALD: Yes, sir. And Clayton's argument.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Thank you. Commissioner Holmes for Robert.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: I had one. I'm not sure whether this is for Robert or maybe Ann or Clayton. You recommended a change in the rule for a violation from a three-year suspension for an application and receiving a permit to one year. Is that a retroactive? And do we have people that have been suspended and that are currently in the process of meeting their three years?
MR. WOLF: No, sir. In fact, the reason this was brought up — if we had our first instances last season where a biologist opted not to issue permits because of some problems. So there has only been one season that has a lapse of those particular people who were actually had been working with us and wanting to stay with us will have the option of getting back in the program this up and coming season.
So this past season was the first year. I hope I addressed that.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Well, the follow-up on that — I think the point is is it's a year, isn't it, to reapply, where you're not ever entitled to a permit because of the basic habitat issue.
MR. WOLF: That is correct. But there are data requirements. And for these people that we chose not to issue permits to because of some previous problems, we kept them on the wildlife management plan. They're continuing to collect data. And we're continuing to give them harvest recommendations. They just don't have the permits.
So that when their penalty period is up, they can get right back in at the level that they were at because they meet the data requirements.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: They would simply be eligible to —
MR. WOLF: That is correct.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: — still have to complete the —
MR. WOLF: They still have to meet all the requirements. That is correct.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Right.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Good clarification.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: One clarification, Mr. Chairman. Do I understand correctly that the regulation as amended will now go back to the Texas Register?
MR. MacDONALD: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: And go back to us —
MR. MacDONALD: It will not come back to us. We'll file a notice of adoption with the Texas Register in compliance with the Administrative Procedure Act.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Okay.
MR. MacDONALD: And that will require the agency to address and respond to each public comment received relative to the proposals. And beyond that, we'll just —
MR. WOLF: Yes. And the one amendment that was not adopted — we will take that back to the White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee and look for another recommendation from the committee in the future.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: So this would become effective when?
MR. MacDONALD: Twenty days from the date that the notice of adoption is filed with the Secretary of State.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Okay.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Robert, while we have you up here, to address the question that was brought up earlier about notification on our website of public hearings on items that have been published.
MR. MacDONALD: Yes, sir. We — it's kind of a convoluted explanation. We sort of rotate that duty between four different divisions. And this year we got a little bit late start on finding out where all the hearings sites were going to be.
Typically, the minute the Executive Director has approved the candidate hearing sites, it goes up on the web that same day or the day after.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: And that would typically be how many days before the meeting?
MR. MacDONALD: Typically, we try to get that done just as early as we can, and we're shooting for usually sometime in late February, if the meetings are to be held any time in March. So ten days to two weeks is what we're shooting for ideally.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: All right. Is there any way to lengthen that process? Because I certainly sympathize with Mr. Hayward's —
MR. MacDONALD: Yes, sir. There is —
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: — finding out about something late.
MR. MacDONALD: There is. And that will be the case in the future.
MR. COOK: I would say 30 days would be a nice number to shoot for.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: I think 30 days is reasonable for everybody's schedule these days. And in light of that, I'm sure we're going to be watching the Grimes numbers closely. Thank you. Any other comments? Let's see here. To speak on this issue, we have first up Norman Schultz, and then Kirby Brown.
MR. SCHULTZ: Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, my name is Norman Schultz, and I'm here representing the Texas Organization of Wildlife Management Associates, often referred to as TOMA.
TOMA's mission is to enhance the operation and effectiveness of wildlife management associations through education, coordination and pursuit of issues resulting in enhanced land stewardship in Texas.
We currently have 64-member wildlife associations representing an aggregate of 4,172 landowners who manage 1.8 million acres for wildlife in Texas.
Before commenting on specific proposed white-tailed deer regulation changes, I want to express our extreme concern about the procedure used to announce this proposed regulation emanating from the White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee.
These changes were listed in the Texas Register only one work day before public comment meetings commenced. And they were not publicized in a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department news release until March 22, almost a month after public comment meetings started.
Since they were not part of the main public comment presentation, it is unclear whether Parks and Wildlife biologists endorsed them. We think the public should have adequate opportunity to study such important regulations prior to taking public comment.
As to the regulations, we vigorously oppose the authorizing of inconsequential releases of deer every three years. In fact, it appears that this regulation may be in direct conflict with the Commission's stocking policy with regards to suitable habitat.
We oppose allowing Level Two MLDP properties with at least three years of population data and two years of harvest data to conduct releases without site inspections. This looks like another attempt to bypass TPWD site inspections, which may be in direct conflict with the Commission's stocking policy.
We oppose the elimination of the provision requiring a site inspection for proposed releases that will result in a population reduction of greater than 50 percent of the recruitment below the total population specified for property in the wildlife management plan. Again, another attempt to circumvent Texas Parks and Wildlife Department site inspections.
We are also concerned with the perception created with the public when Texas Parks and Wildlife Department approves killing out a deer herd on a ranch for genetic purposes. On the other hand, we do support the remainder of the proposed regulation changes. Thank you.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Thank you. Any questions for Mr. Schultz? And Mr. Schultz, I would point out the Commission had similar questions and problems with the inconsequential release recommendation. And that is going back. The others that you mentioned, that Mike or Clayton can help me, they are still tied to habitat issues. And I think that that was clear from, if I can quote, "Does not cause population to exceed the level prescribed in the wildlife management plan."
So with the exception of the one that we've all agreed needs to go back for more work, that habitat protection is still there. If I'm not correct?
MR. BERGER: Correct.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Mike, Clay?
MR. BERGER: You are correct, sir. The — in that capacity, the numbers that can be added to a population may not make that population exceed the recommended level in the wildlife management plan.
If I understood his comment, it was a concern that the population could be reduced below what is now allowed in regulation.
MR. WOLF: And as a point of clarification, the changes are basically deal with the volume of data and the time frame that someone has worked with this MLDP cooperator.
With the current rules, a person would have to have five years of harvest — of survey data and three years of harvest data — I'm sorry, four years of harvest data, and have been working with the biologist for three years.
With the proposal, they've worked with them starting as early as late that summer and fall, and three years of survey data, two years of harvest data. So it's really the magnitude of data and the period of time that that biologist has been working with the cooperator.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: And to address Mr. Schultz's point, is it may be Level Two, but you've got a Level Three standard of data. Is that —
MR. WOLF: That is correct. It's a level three standard of data. And the population level is going to be the same whether they are Level Two or Level Three.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Right.
MR. WOLF: The only difference is that the amount of information that the biologist has is reduced some in making that call.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: All right. Very good. We've got — that's — next up, Kirby Brown. And Karl Kinsel on deck.
MR. BROWN: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, my name is Kirby Brown, Executive Vice President of TWA. Our organization is landowners, hunters and conservationists around Texas. And our members own or control over 30 million acres of private lands in Texas.
I'm pleased to serve on your White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee, and I appreciate the appointment. And I just want to say something about the committee itself. Chairman Lee Bass has been terrific. He has done a great job. He listens carefully. And he has been able to pull together a broad array — this committee is composed of a broad array of folks with different philosophies and understandings. And all of them with a lot of deer management background and experience.
So — but they come from a broad group. And it takes a lot to listen and coalesce things. I know in my experience it's very difficult if you have more than one biologist or deer manager in a room to get agreement.
And that's just the way it is. And the fact that this committee has actually come to agreement and consensus on these proposals has been very impressive to see that happen. A lot of that congratulations goes to Mr. Bass and also to the staff, Scott Boruff, Mike Berger, Clayton Wolf, and of course, Mr. Cook have done an excellent job in that.
And I think our goals at TWA continue to be to simplify and clarify what is going on in the rules, because that's so important to both hunters and managers that exist out there, as well as to continue to expand opportunity. And we appreciate the committee's role in doing that. Thank you very much.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Any questions for Kirby? Karl?
MR. KINSEL: I'm Karl Kinsel, Executive Director of the Texas Deer Association. And in summary, pretty easily I can second a lot what Kirby said. But I'd like to go a little further and say to those of you on the Commission that I've known for some time, I cordially greet you. And some of those that I haven't had the opportunity to become that familiar with, I welcome and appreciate you.
On behalf of TDA, I've got three things that I'd like to stress. And one is that we do applaud, as Kirby said, the efforts of the White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee, especially the recent meetings.
I do voice a concern, though, on the direction of the TTH. And especially I'd like to see that we continue to stress as a whole the Commission and the White-tailed Deer Advisory combined, and we continue our focus on the previous preferential issues like CWD and other issues, without diverting out attention on TTH at this time.
Lastly, I commend Clayton Wolf and the staff on the language that came out in the proposed white-tailed deer regulations. Not just on our efforts of collusion, but on the language that was drafted. I think it was good. I think it's now obvious to all that the previous complication and confusion was tremendous, and we're now really working hard, and are accomplishing simplification of regulations. That's very beneficial.
We're 80 percent of the way there. And I look forward to the remaining 20 percent. Thank you.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Any questions for Karl? Thank you, Karl, and thanks for your work on that committee, and working the Texas Deer Association.
I have one question, I guess, for staff. Clayton, you're the staff person on that White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee. TOMA is represented there? Are there TOMA members on that?
MR. WOLF: Yes, sir. Larry Wiggham, who is in the room here today, is on that committee.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Good. Good.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Clayton, can I ask one question? Sorry. And this is a clarification question relative to executive summary that indicated — and maybe I — you probably talked about it and I didn't catch it, removal of limits on the number of deer that can be removed from a Level Two or Level Three MLDP property prior to the importation of additional deer.
But does that fall under that complicated rule we were talking about, you know, where if you have 100 deer, you have 20 —
MR. WOLF: No, sir. That — basically that would strike all that language in there, everything, that long paragraph —
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Right.
MR. WOLF: — would be gone from the rule, and in essence, if someone had 100 — their post-season population was supposed to be 100 deer, and for whatever reason they decide they want to import 50 or 75 deer, they could remove 50 or 75 deer prior to the importation of those other animals.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: That helps me. Okay.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: And excuse me. The removal could either be by shooting the animals, and/or transporting them?
MR. WOLF: That is correct.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Either one?
MR. WOLF: That is correct.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Okay.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Any other questions for Clayton? Clayton, thank you.
MR. WOLF: Thank you.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Thank you very much. Any other comments from the Commission for this action, Item Number Seven? Is there a motion on this item with the amendment regarding the inconsequential rule?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Move.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Commissioner Holmes — motion by Commissioner Holmes. Second?
COMMISSIONER WATSON: Second.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Second by Commissioner Watson. In favor, please say aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Any opposed? Hearing none, motion carries. We're on to Agenda Item Number Eight, Oyster Fishery Proclamation. Robin Riechers.
MR. RIECHERS: Chairman Fitzsimons and Commissioners, for the record, my name is Robin Riechers of Coastal Fisheries Division.
This item proposes final adoption of the proposed changes to Chapter 58, Subchapter A, the Oyster Fishery Proclamation, and readoption of all other sections unchanged, as proposed under the rule review process.
The proposed changes primarily affect the business practices in dealing with the Oyster Lease Program and the clarification of penalties within that program.
The Oyster Lease Program is only one portion of the Oyster Fishery, or the complete Oyster Fishery. There is also a public reef fishery aspect of that fishery. The lease program makes up about one third of the landings and value of the fishery, and it's comprised entirely in the Galveston Bay complex, which accounts for 90 percent of the total landings in the fishery.
The lease program itself accounts for about $3 million in dockside value each year. There are approximately — there are 43 separate leases, and they are designed to allow oysters to be removed from polluted areas, moved into unpolluted areas, allow for those oysters to cleanse themselves or depurate, and then to go — then to be harvested and go into the market channel.
In the business practice category, we are proposing to reduce the time from five to two days that an application is due prior to the beginning of the transplant season. This is basically just reducing the amount of time that we require, so that we can process those permits.
Secondly, we are explicitly adding the ability to add the number, and what vessel will be used for any transplant permit. Within this section, we do propose one change to — as it was published. And we would suggest that in 58.408(a), we actually change that language. We use the word transport there, and we would prefer to use the word transplant, so that it applies to all aspects of the transplant operation, not just when it is in transport.
Lastly, we are lengthening the time of reporting of information to our office after transplanting, and specifically requiring a proclamation — a reporting requirement when those oysters are harvested.
In the clarification of penalties category, we propose to specify that when transplanting or harvesting, the permit must be on board the vessel, and that any violation of this can result in the five-day suspension. And this is in kind of alliance with all of the other minor suspensions of that permit.
Lastly, we are allowing harvest by non-mechanical means in the recreational and the commercial oyster fishery. We have not received any public comments on this proposal, or any of these proposals at this time. They are in alliance with the Oyster Fishery Management Plan, the management tenets laid out there, and we did carry this before our Oyster Advisory Committee before first bringing it to you to be proposed.
The staff recommendation is before you in the form of the motion, and of course it adopts those items as published in the Texas Register, with the one modification that I just mentioned to you. And it also adopts or readopts all the other sections of Chapter 58 unchanged in accordance with the rule review process.
That concludes my presentation. I'd be happy to answer any questions.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Robin, thank you. Any Commissioners have any questions for Robin? I believe Mr. Watson, your recommendation yesterday was to have him investigate the other states that pursue a royalty or more of a production value. We'll get a report on that?
COMMISSIONER WATSON: Well, you know, it just looks like to me, Robin, that — I mean, this is — from a financial standpoint, you know, very inconsequential to Parks and Wildlife at the lease rate that you have.
And if it's a $3 million business, you know, a $12,000 fee seems, you know, out of proportion. And I'd just like to see what other people around the country do, and you know, I'd — I mean, it just seems like to me that we probably are spending more money in administrating this than we're getting in in fees.
So I think that it — there seems to be a wide discrepancy between our $12,000 and the $3 million dockside value.
MR. RIECHERS: As we discussed yesterday, we'll certainly look into that, bring back before you some other options that other states are using, and explore what things we can do to increase the value coming to the department. And —
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Look forward to that. Any other comments, questions from Commissioners? Motion on this item?
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: So moved.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Second.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Motion by Commissioner Ramos, seconded by Vice Chairman Henry. All in favor, please say aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Any opposed? Hearing none, motion carries. Onto Agenda Item Number Nine, Briefing Item, Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center. Allen. Good to see you again.
MR. FORSHAGE: Good morning to you. For the record, I'm Allen Forshage. I'm the Director of the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center. And this will be a break from the deer messages.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Thank you.
MR. FORSHAGE: I'm going to give you all an update of the Freshwater Fisheries Center. And to start that off, we have to give you the history.
It was opened in November '96 with then-Governor George W. Bush doing the ribbon-cutting ceremony. And in going through the photos for preparation of this, I thought this was an interesting shot, because in the background, you see a lot of cars parked on the hillside. And today, that's a fish hatchery.
You see the little pine trees in the foreground, and today, they look like that. So there has been a lot of changes to the fisheries center since we opened our gates.
The fisheries center is located near Athens, Texas. It's situated on 107 acres of land. And the first thing that we opened at the center was the visitors center. The idea was to get people to the center and learn about the Texas aquatic ecosystems.
When you come to the center, you get to see not only the aquariums and the fish life below the surface, but you also get to see what occurs on the surface of the displays.
We take them through a Hill Country stream, and the fish that are displayed in these exhibits are fish that are indigenous to the Hill Country streams.
The whole idea behind this center was to get people, primarily youth, interested in fishing and the environment. And so we try every way we can to get the kids involved. This particular display was quite a success. We've got a large number of channel catfish that the kids are allowed to feed. And you can see by these photos that they really get involved.
These are our two wildlife features. That's Huey and Dewey, our little mergansers. They actually made the front cover of the Dallas Entertainment Section. But they are what's floating on the surface in the farm pond area.
We have an alligator exhibit, which gets a lot of attention from our guests. And as you go through the center, it's kind of unique, because our aquarium are on the outside of the building. And it makes it a lot harder for us to maintain, because we have to deal with sunlight, rain, predators, all kinds of different problems.
But it also offers a very unique setting, because you can see what we look like a natural situation. This is a lower exhibit. The water level is about six feet above your head. And you're looking into what would be a Texas reservoir.
After you've gone through the outside displays, the — we then take them into the display areas. It starts off in the antique lure section, and there is a discussion of old and new technology in fishing.
The boat in the middle there is the first — one of the first skeeter boats ever developed in Texas. We also have a lot of information about the angler recognition programs, and the other large fish that occur in Texas.
We have a lot of interactive displays. And again, we're trying to engage the kids. We want them to learn all they can possibly learn when they come through the center.
As part of the displays, we also have the Texas Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame. And each year we nominate people to be members of this. In fact, we have one in the audience today. Leonard Ranne — he's left. He was here. That was inducted several years ago. And this has been a really important part of the visitor experience.
One of the most highly ranked items when our guests come to the center has been the dive show. The dive show is really unique, because it's a 27,000-gallon aquaria. We started off with a 19-pound bass in this exhibit, which is attraction by itself. This fish has since passed away.
But the neat part about this display is that it's interactive for the kids. The kids can ask the diver a question, who hears the question, and can respond to the specific question. And so it's something that the kids really enjoy when they come to the center.
And the price of admission — everyone is allowed to go fish in our two-acre casting pond. The pond is managed with rainbow trout in the wintertime, and channel catfish in the summer. And I was working on last year's Federal Aid reports. And to me this number that's on this screen — 30,000 people fished in that pond last year. That is incredible, guys, to fish in a two-acre pond, that many people.
And our goal is to have every kid at least catch a fish. They all don't. But that's our goal.
One of the problems we had early on with the center is that they wanted to see the entire fish hatchery. And so we put together a program, and we actually got some funding and built this tram. It's called the Fishline Tram Company.
And what we do with that is we take people on tours of the hatchery. Since it's been online for the last two-and-a-half years, we've hauled almost 60,000 people, three times the population of Athens, around that hatchery.
Another important part of the center — it's important because it represents the whole agency — and that's the Game Warden Memorial.
We have a memorial out front that the guests are allowed to see which honors all the wardens who were killed in action. And it's a very important component.
The next phase — we completed the outside ponds. We have 45 ponds, approximately 33 acres of fish production area to — part of this is the intensive culture. This is where we'll take the bass and put them on — in our raceways to spawn.
They spawn on the mats. We harvest the eggs. We hatch them. And when their swim — fry, we then take them to the extensive hatchery where they are raised out and then stocked into public waters.
Florida largemouth bass last year — we had the best year ever, with almost 3.5 million produced and stocked into Texas lakes. We also produce and stock Channel catfish and Blue catfish.
We act as a distribution center for rainbow trout, and we stock most of the urban areas in our area of the state with rainbow trout.
Another big program, and perhaps one of the reasons the center is there is the Budweiser ShareLunker Program. This program has been around since 1986. It's been very popular.
We — our goal, initially, was primarily PR, and to also help with our catch and release message. And the program, since its inception, has been very popular. This is a slide showing the different types of media that we get covered.
But I think the numbers that are on there are last year's number. We had 4,000 column inches written about the ShareLunker Program, valued at $152,000.
We changed our emphasis a little bit on the ShareLunker Program. We've always — we're maintaining the PR, and we still wanted to practice catch and release. But we're trying, now that we have the center, to do some genetics research, where we are trying to produce a bass that grows faster and larger for the citizens of Texas.
Our goal is to produce a world record in Texas. Now, I do hope we get there one day.
The final major construction phase was somewhat of a surprise. We had approximately 17 to 20 acres of land below the hatchery that really wasn't utilized for a whole lot. When TxDOT was building a loop around Athens, they destroyed a pitcher plant bog. A pitcher plant is a carnivorous plant that occurs in the bogs of East Texas.
And when they destroyed that bog, they had to mitigate for that loss. And so we proposed a trail. Their part of the mitigation was simply to recreate six to nine acres of wetlands area. They did not cover the cost of interpretive or a trail or any of that.
So we had to go out and find funding sources to fund the rest of the trail. The trail is almost completed. We're up in the upper part of it now. But it is going to be an ADA trail. Round trip, it's over a mile. And it offers a lot for us. It helps us out a lot, particularly in the spring when we have large numbers, say if we have five to 700 kids on a day.
It gives us a place to send the kids to burn off energy and spread them out, because 700 people in the visitors center is just way too many.
But it also gave us an opportunity to broaden our message. It took us out into the wetlands environment, which we had more environmental lessons. Plus it opened up a lot of the wildlife discussions, because they're out in the woods, and they can see some of the animals, as well as all of the habitat that occur.
Another thing that the wetlands trail did for us, it helped us in our hunter ed program. There is not a whole lot of places in Texas where you can go and have a trail like we provide for hunter ed.
Our goal was to have the best hunter ed program anywhere else — or trail in Texas. And Mr. Parker, who is pictured in the upper slide, has been instrumental. He has received national awards for his efforts in hunter training, and we have found sufficient funding to provide everything that he needs to teach hunter safety at the Freshwater Fisheries Center.
To give you an idea of our visitation, within a two-hour driving distance is where most of our traffic comes from. The counties in red are the ones that have the highest. Dallas is by far the most-frequently visited area, followed by Tyler, followed by Henderson County.
The map that you're looking at is simply one month. This is the month of March. This is last March. And this is during spring break. But that pattern holds pretty true for the whole year.
Our demographics is represented in this slide, and we get 58 to 60,000 people at the center a year. Of course, we're trying to target youth groups, and we're in the 20 to 25,000 range on that.
An interesting note on that is we had over 176 different schools last year that sent their kids on field trips to the Fishery Center.
We do generate some income. This is our income figures, between two and $300,000 annually. Most of it is done through admissions.
I threw this slide in because it's interesting. We had a world record caught back in January, January 20. We were able to get the fish. We were able to keep it alive. This photo is a news conference that we had about the fish that made national news. In fact, in this audience we had four camera crews — or two camera crews that were from other states. Minnesota was one of them. In-Fishermen sent a crew down. In fact, this month the picture of that catfish is on the front cover of In-Fishermen.
But the neat thing about the catfish is the spike it has given us in visitation. The red line shows that big fish are important, and people want to see them. It hit right prior to spring break. And we were taken a little bit by surprise, because normally we're busy. But we were having 1,000-people Saturdays every Saturday. And it's continued. It hasn't stopped.
Currently our numbers are 12,000 people over last year at the same date. So the catfish has been a great addition. You all will be happy to hear, it has eaten. It started eating last week. And I think it's going to do well.
And lastly, I want to talk about — we did some strategic planning session two years ago. And we did this with not only the Austin staff, but the city officials at Athens, and our friends board.
And it was this concluded in this strategic planning that we need to emphasize more about the educational aspects of the Freshwater Fisheries Center, and focus a little bit less on marketing. And so we are going to shift, you know, the amount of educational effort that we do.
But to do that, we — the group defined a need. We need an educational building. Currently, we don't have enough educational classrooms, even for hunter safety. We have a classroom size of 20 downstairs. That's not enough.
And what happens, if you have a seminar in the theater, then people that are visiting that day then can't — they are limited from going to the theater. And so in an effort to fix that problem, we put on our — our Friends Board has adopted a project to raise the money to build us a new educational building.
This building will be approximately 10,000 square feet, with an estimated cost of $1.5 million. We have been raising funds for the past two years. We had a great fundraiser this past weekend. We're going to clear over $160,000 on the auction itself.
And then Johnnie Morris got up, and Johnnie Morris is the manager of Bass Pros, and committed a dollar-for-dollar match for a year for everything that we raise for this building, up to $650,000. That is a major statement by Bass Pro. And that's the end of my presentation.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: I just have a comment.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Commissioner Henry.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Some of you may have noticed that one of the areas that sends a number of visitors is Harris County. And that's no accident on the part of many of us because this is one of the more impressive facilities that the department manages. And I can't commend Allen and staff enough for when I've visited and taken friends there.
They just — one group I had from about seven different sections of the country, and they are still amazed by what they saw and still talk about it. And I constantly recommend to groups in Harris County that they visit that area when and if they can, because it's just outstanding. And I'm looking forward to getting back to see some of the changes that you've talked about.
MR. FORSHAGE: Thank you for saying that.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: You guys do a great job.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: You do do a great job. I was there two weeks ago, and it's part of the job, I have to go up there and I have to go fishing. And I'll tell you, you mentioned Allen and all the great work. And we did catch some fish with the man that made that possible, Ed Cox, our former chairman here. And that's a real labor of love for all of you there, and I know for former Chairman Ed Cox, and you're doing a great job.
MR. FORSHAGE: Thank you.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Any other questions about the Freshwater Fisheries Center? Oh, I saw the catfish, too. It's pretty cool. How old is the catfish? 120 pounds.
MR. FORSHAGE: The catfish weighed 120.5 pounds, and it has been certified now as a world record. And we get that question a lot. We don't know for sure. But judging from the condition of the fish, the skin color of the eye, it looks like a younger fish. It's likely 20-plus years old.
The only similar catfish that we had was a flathead catfish that was illegally caught out of Lake Tyler. It was caught by hand, which the guy brought it to the center. We — or to the office. We took it away from him and gave him a ticket. But — he didn't appreciate it.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: He got to keep a picture of it.
MR. FORSHAGE: But we did get to take the spine.
The only way to age those guys is take the spine. And the problem with the larger big fish like that, they only get cavities in that spine, so you don't get an accurate representation. I'm guessing her age to be over 20 but less than 30. But she is in excellent shape. Her color is just iridescent blue. She looks like a shark swimming around that dive tank.
And it was really good news that she took food, because she went for almost a month without eating anything. And now she's part of the gang. She's — the divers are scared of her, but she is taking food, and that is good news.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Thanks, Allen. Next is Action Agenda Item Ten, Hunter Education. Steve?
MR. HALL: Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission, my name is Steve Hall, Education Director. And I'm here to present an action item related to the Mandatory Hunter Education Program.
I'd first like to say I appreciate Allen's efforts as well. We took some soccer kids there, and they met your goal, Allen. They all caught fish that day, but he really does — that facility really does embody the spirit of outreach, education, interpretation and the strategic plan that we've worked so hard on. It's obviously the model of all three of those components. And we certainly appreciate his efforts here from Austin.
In January, we brought to you a hunting recruitment proposal we call the Hunter Education Deferral. It is part of the Hunter Education rules in Chapter 55 of the TPWD regulations.
The proposal addresses strategies and the future of hunting and strategic plan. It grants a grace period for adults to give hunting a try. It gives TPWD an option for handling last-minute requests, and enhances hunter services and conveniences.
The target audience for this proposal included lapsed and new hunters, such as those in the military, non-residents, corporate and lease invitees, adult mentors, and residents who have recently moved into Texas.
It specifically allows those adults 17 years of age and older to purchase a one-time extension to take the hunter education course. This person would have to be accompanied by a licensed adult who has completed hunter education, or who is otherwise exempt.
I might add that this is the same exemption that we grant those 12 through 16 years of age at the current time.
The deferral began through the department's point of sale system, printing it on the license. The sale validates the purchase and expiration date of the deferral, and that is good through the end of that license period.
The deferral fee is $10, of which $5 can be used as a discount when taking the hunter education course within the same year. Public comments reflected 62 percent in favor, 38 percent against. A meeting with the hunter education instructors also indicated a high rate of approval.
This is the recommendation for the motion before you, which includes an amendment to end the repeal of two of the rules in Chapter 55. I'll be happy to address any questions that you may have.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Thank you, Steve. Any questions of the Commissioners? I see here those who signed up to speak. Mr. Kirby Brown.
MR. BROWN: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, my name is Kirby Brown, Executive Vice President, Texas Wildlife Association. And we just want to say we think this is an intelligent proposal. It's been a while coming. We think it's great in terms of how it works.
Hunter education has reduced accidents. It's reduced deaths. They provide excellent outdoor safety and wildlife management information and education. It's a great process.
However, during the future of hunting in Texas process, we noted that this had acted as a barrier. Hunter education has acted as a barrier to folks being involved in hunting. And we were trying to look for several ways to do this.
This is an important first step in seeing that this takes place, that we're going to remove the barrier that hunter education provides, while providing the information and education that it does.
I am looking forward to working with you guys further on this. Also, thanks to staff, Steve Hall and Terry Irwin do excellent work, as do all the Texas hunter education instructors. Just an incredible bunch of folks. And we thank you for this.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Thank you, Kirby.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Any questions for Kirby or Steve? Do we have a motion on this item?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: So moved.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Second.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Motion by Commissioner Holt, second by Vice Chairman Henry. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Any opposed? Hearing none, the motion carries. Now, the next item up, Briefing Item, Agenda Number Eleven. Ann?
MS. BRIGHT: Hi, I'm Ann Bright, General Counsel for the record. And with me today is Colette Barron, who is an attorney in our legal division who has the primary responsibility for dealing with water issues, primarily water rights.
And we're here today to give you a briefing on our roles. And so it's an occupational hazard, since we're both attorneys, we're primarily going to focus on our statutory roles.
There are three primary agencies in the state that deal with water issues. The Texas Water Development Board is charged with planning and developing water resources. TCEQ is charged with granting permits, and with regulating discharges. When we talk about these permits, we're talking about surface water.
And there's Parks and Wildlife. And we're charged, statutorily, with protecting the state's Fish and Wildlife resources. So in a nutshell, the Water Development Board does the planning, the TCEQ does the permitting. And we're in the very unique position of having a foot in both.
We are both involved in planning. We — and we'll go through some of this in more detail. And we also get involved in some of the permitting.
And designating the Parks and Wildlife Department as the state agency with primary responsibility for protecting the state's fish and wildlife resources, the Legislature spelled out specifically in the Parks and Wildlife code some resource protection activities of the department. And we'll go through those kind of quickly.
Invest — whoops. I think we're missing one. We're supposed to investigate fish kills and seek restoration for lost resources, assist the TCEQ in reviewing water quality standards, provide recommendations for protecting fish and wildlife, and provide recommendations to the TCEQ on scheduling in-stream flows and freshwater inflows, and the thing that we've been talking about most of today, regulating the conservation and take of fish and wildlife resources.
There they are. Okay. Now, I'm going to turn this over to Colette Barron, who is going to talk about water rights. And then I'm going to follow up with water planning.
MS. BARRON: Good afternoon. For the record, I'm Colette Barron, attorney for Parks and Wildlife. And again, as Ann mentioned, this is going to be a talk about surface water rights permitting as opposed to groundwater, which is private water, considered under state law, and not subject to any kind of statewide permitting process.
Just so that you know, the statute does indeed authorize us to protect fish in public waters. And we are, in fact, are authorized to acquire and hold water rights. The department has approximately 50 water rights found in state parks, hatcheries and wildlife management areas.
As we've heard from almost every speaker earlier today, that water is vital to our core functions. Put these all out. The main duty of the water quantity program at Parks and Wildlife is to participate in water rights administration, and make recommendations to TCEQ on how to protect fish and wildlife resources and water quality when authorizing water use permits.
We review the same application materials as TCEQ, and by statute, TCEQ must consider Parks and Wildlife's comments, evidence testimony, and any information that we present during our decision-making process.
We review about an average of 80 water right applications a year. Those can range from just a few acre feet for some small irrigation permit, or up to very large amounts of water.
Some of the very large complex applications may take a year or even several years to review to reach technical completeness. And by this, I mean, it's actually the applicant and the TCEQ along with Parks and Wildlife as we do our review. But it takes several years to refine the technical details for that kind of application.
And examples of these kinds of applications would be — I'm sure you've all read about it in the newspaper, the LCRA proposal to transfer up to 150,000 acre feet of the Colorado Basin up to San Antonio.
There is also another high-profile application, which is the Guadalupe Water Supply Project, which seeks to produce almost 100,000 acre feet for San Antonio.
Then we also have some applications that have been, I would say languishing, over at TCEQ for a number of years. Very large reefs applications that don't fit nicely into our water rights permitting system, that take years for the technical completeness, and also looking at various policy issues and how they affect other water rights.
And there are some on board from Trinity River Authority, Sabine River Authority, and actually the City of Austin as well.
And as you look at the slide and see what kind of things we review in our application review, those are all — all those environmental protection provisions are required with the Texas Water Code. And I do want to note that those protections only appeared in law around 1985. And so the vast majority of water rights were issued before 1985, and in those applications, fish and wildlife resources really had no voice, and really no protection under the law.
So we're a little bit behind the times on bringing fish and wildlife resources to the table in water rights permitting.
The end product of our technical review is that we will make specific recommendations on the actual quantity, rate, and distribution of either in-stream flows or freshwater inflows, or both, which are necessary to protect fish and wildlife resources. And these recommendations are based upon site-specific studies, literature reviews, and desktop methodologies.
A desktop methodology called the Lyon's Method, which was developed by Parks and Wildlife, has actually been adopted by TCEQ as their standard desktop methodology for instream flow maintenance in the absence of any kind of site-specific study.
And speaking of TCEQ, Parks and Wildlife works extremely closely with the TCEQ water right staff and administration. We work very cooperatively with them, and in fact, we engage in joint efforts, such as joint studies, technical reviews, site visits, and meetings with the applicant.
And this, I think, is a very important function of getting several different perspectives, working on the same issue, and all of us having different statutory responsibilities, but really looking to fulfill correct water rights administration and the protection of fish and wildlife resources.
And as Ann, I think, pointed out before, should there be some grave issue of concern to Parks and Wildlife that we find in a water rights application, we do have the statutory right to contest applications, and we do have the right to be admitted as a party to any hearing on a water right at the TCEQ.
At Parks and Wildlife we contest maybe one application a year. We end up usually negotiating out any other kinds of conflicts with the TCEQ staff and the applicants. But in those cases where we do contest, we certainly actively seek settlement before we pursue any kind of hearing process.
I think I've been here about four years, and we've had three contests. So I think we're actually averaging under a year. And to explain my presence, we also do a legal review of all these water right applications, looking for compliance with all the statutory and administrative laws and rules.
And that last point on the slide I think shows the unique position that Parks and Wildlife has in state resource protection. In recognizing Parks and Wildlife's expertise in managing water for fish and wildlife, the Legislature has actually required that for state financed reservoirs within 200 river miles of the coast, the TCEQ must appropriate 5 percent of that firm yield of the reservoir to Parks and Wildlife.
And this 5 percent is permanent to Parks and Wildlife to make releases, specifically for in-stream flows and for freshwater inflows to bays and estuaries. You could say either fortunately or unfortunately, there has actually not been a project that meets this description since the 1985 passage of this law.
So Parks and Wildlife has yet to hold such a permit, but I think we do envision holding some in the next couple decades. And with that, I'm going to turn it back over to Ann, who will discuss water planning and some technical studies.
MS. BRIGHT: At the January Commission meeting, you may recall that Cindy Loeffler gave a very thorough presentation on Parks and Wildlife's role in water planning.
I'm not going to repeat that, but I am going to focus on some of our statutory obligations. The Water Development Board is engaged in studying, investigating and surveying the occurrence, quantity and quality and availability of surface water and groundwater in the state.
And under the water code, in carrying out those responsibilities, the Water Development Board is required to consider the advice of Parks and Wildlife in a few areas. First, is in determining suitable locations for future water facilities, making estimates of the cost of proposed projects, monitoring the effect of freshwater inflows on bays and estuaries.
And I'm going to talk a little bit more about that one, and about the next one, monitoring in-stream flows in a minute.
And when developing, and reviewing and updating guidance principles for the state water plan, and as Cindy mentioned last — I believe she mentioned it in January, the last state water plan was completed in 2002. An updated plan is scheduled to be adopted in 2007.
In addition, each of the 16 regional water planning groups is required to adopt a regional water plan. And the water plan has to be consistent with the guidance principles developed by the Water Development Board.
And the Water Development Board's guidance principles now include a requirement that each regional water plan include a quantitative reporting of the environmental factors, including effects on environmental needs.
There are a number of studies that have taken place over time, over the last few years, regarding water. And I want to talk about a few of those. First of all, the Texas Water Development Board and the Parks and Wildlife Department have joint responsibility for bay and estuary data collection.
Again, these were statutorily-mandated studies. The two agencies completed studies of the major bays, and we continue to work with the Water Development Board in identifying areas in which these studies can be updated and — or where revisions are necessary.
A summary of the report on this study, at least on the major bays, is available from the water — Texas Water League on the Parks and Wildlife website.
We're also in the process of starting studies on the minor bays. The three agencies are currently working on maintaining an in-stream flow, data collection and evaluation program.
This is a requirement that was added by the Legislature in 2001. The three agencies have developed a programmatic work plan to outline the scope, time frame, and methodology of the studies, and the major studies, the priority studies are to be completed by 2010. The programmatic work plan, if you're interested, is available on the Water Development Board's website.
Also to ensure that our science is good, we've contracted with — actually, the Water Development Board contracted with the National Academy of Sciences to review the programmatic work plan. And we're doing this early on, because we want to make sure that as we go through this process, that we're using good science.
I think as everybody knows, water is in the news a lot. And there is a lot of interest in it. And this is reflected in the number of committees and groups that are currently looking at water issues.
There's the Senate Select Committee on Water Policy, the charges to this committee are very broad, including the first charge, especially their first charge, which is, and I quote, "to study all issues related to ground and surface water policy and management."
The committee is currently conducting hearings across the state. We send staff to those hearings. And we testify when we've been requested to. There is also a subcommittee of this Senate committee that is charged with studying the lease of state water rights.
The Senate and House Natural Resources Committees — these are the committees during the legislative session that will normally receive bills regarding water issues. There is the Study Commission for Water on Environmental Flows.
This was created in 2003. Chairman Fitzsimons is a member of that study commission. And their charges primarily deal with freshwater inflows, but it's actually — I'm going to quote, "Public policy implications for balancing the demands on the water resources of the state resulting from a growing population with the requirements of riverine, bay, and estuary systems, including granting permits for instream flows dedicated to the environmental needs of bay and estuary inflows, use of the water trust, and any other issues that the study commission determines have importance and relevance to the protection of environmental flows.
So they also have a fairly broad duty with regard to environmental flows.
Chairman Fitzsimons is also on the Texas Water Advisory Council. This is — council is currently headed by Senator Robert Duncan. The purpose of the council is to provide the governor, the lieutenant governor, the speaker and the Legislature with resources and expertise on water policy issues.
The Texas Water Conservation Task Force — our executive director Bob Cook is on that task force. He along with Cindy Loeffler have been, I think, very valuable members of that task force. They've brought a unique perspective, particularly when it comes to the value of land management and watershed management and water conservation.
In addition, because the three agencies have overlapping and shared responsibilities, we have regular meetings. We do this on two levels. There are the — for whatever reason, we starting calling them the Bright Leaf because one of our first meetings was at Bright Leaf. And it's a larger group of staff.
And then we have another group that we affectionately call the Big Six, which consists of a Commissioner or Chairman of each agency, and the executive director.
And in addition, we try to give each other the heads up when whenever we're getting ready to do something. This is, you know, water is so much in the forefront, and we're called upon all the time to make presentations and we're involved in a lot of things. And we really do try to coordinate with each other.
And that concludes our presentation. Colette and I would be happy to answer any questions.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Ann. I'm sure it's — a lot of you are wondering here. But this committee shouldn't it be able to solve something. But — I'm convinced it's designed to defuse as much as solve some days. But I did want you to get an update.
We've had, really, the first meeting of the Texas Water Advisory Council in some time, Colette, in — year and a half?
MS. BARRON: Year and a half.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: And there is a lot of overlap. But I can tell you that the staff is doing a good job of concentrating on these — on the issues of bay and estuaries, river flows, and Bob's doing a very good job on promoting the issue of watershed management.
You would be amazed how hard it is to explain to some people that wherever water falls and how that land is managed has a direct impact and result on how much water we have. And it is — I'm constantly surprised at how this fundamental principles of ecology don't seem to be as well accepted. Is that right, Bob, as you'd expect?
MR. COOK: I also, Mr. Chairman, and Commissioners, as the months and the weeks go by, all of you are going to be having opportunities and having issues, and any way that we can help. Dr. McKinney has led and continues to lead our — kind of our water policy group and area.
Colette and Ann have done an incredible job of keeping me and him and — well, I won't include the Chairman, but keeping Doc and I kind of between the fences as far as the legal steps. And we work very, very hard to work with these other two agencies.
So the bottom line, sometimes we're going to step on some toes. And we're going to have some people calling you and we'll try to give you as much warning as we can. But you know, it's — when we are called on to comment — and I made this comment to the Big Six group, to the executive directors and the chairmen of these agencies, technically they request our comment. Technically they request our input.
Quite frankly, at times, they don't necessarily want to hear what we have to say. And because if we're charged, as we are, to see that fish and wildlife are provided adequate water, there are times we have to say we don't think this reservoir or this water use or you know, is the thing to do.
I've got one laying on my desk right now that's a very interesting one regarding transfer of water from one set of impoundments to another set of impoundments where people need water. They're going to be without water. And yet the source is infected with Golden Algae. We know that. Heavily infected.
And so we have to carefully, you know, make people aware, make people conscious of what the impacts may be. But there are times when we have to say, People got to have water to drink. We understand that.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Well, the staff is doing a good job. And I think we all need to support them in delivering that bad news. Sometimes it's uncomfortable news. And Bob is right. You know, our job is sometimes to just maintain a firm grasp of the obvious. And that's not always popular in water politics, to point out the impacts here.
But let me shorten it up, a few of those issues because you see so much on that screen, if you'd only do this and there is this committee and that committee.
We really don't have a regulatory role. I mean, we have a — we're the canary in the mine. We have a role of advising. But correct me if I'm wrong, Colette. When we point out the impacts, the TCEQ is required to consider them, but they're not required to take any action that's consistent with the damage to the habitat and mitigation? I mean, post-'85, every permit is subject to, but it's really nothing more than a warning.
MS. BARRON: Right. They certainly have to consider any evidence that we provide in a proceeding, or a comment [Unintelligible] water right application. But truly, they're really guided by the statute, which says that the TCEQ shall consider what we bring in and any other environmental issues, weigh them against all other public interests and all other information. And when they just consider it necessary, make those permit conditions that are necessary to protect in-stream uses and freshwater inflows.
So there is a lot of weighing and balancing. And that may be different on a permit-by-permit basis.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: And it's still — and in the code, we're not one of the priorities with industrial and municipal and ag.
MS. BARRON: That's right.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: So that's part of the problem.
MS. BARRON: Well, let me back up and say that wildlife management is considered part of agricultural use. If you actually have a permit specifically to manage wildlife, that is an upper-tier use. I think it's on with industrial as a second important use.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: And we learned with SMURF, not for new water.
MS. BARRON: That is correct.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: So old water. A lot of, you know, technical issues here that — you know, that Colette understands very well, with the water cut. But the basic issue we're trying to promote is that there is a role for private conservation, private communities and private groups that can play here.
And it's fair to say that we really haven't tackled that — the role in Texas Water Trust. You may want to explain to the Commissioners what it was supposed to be, and it sort of stalled right now.
MS. BARRON: Yes. I think as you've seen, actually providing water for fish and wildlife in a proactive way has not been done on a state level. Environmental needs are piggy-backed onto another water right, let's say an application for a municipal water right, and we look at the effects of taking that water, and what it might have on the Fish and Wildlife resources. And we make accommodations in that respect.
And until recently, there — well, there are a few permits out there that actually have water for in-stream uses for fish and wildlife, and Parks and Wildlife actually has one of those at Sheldon State Park. But primarily again, these were piggy-backed.
And there was some applications that were made by San Marcos River Foundation and some other entities that said, No, we actually want to acquire water specifically for that first use, of protecting fish and wildlife and habitat, and all those in-stream uses and freshwater inflows in their — that of course, became a very hot political issue.
And there were a lot of different opinions about whether the law allowed that or not. And this caused a big round of heat at the Capitol, and some lawsuits were filed. And one thing that came out of that was the Study Commission on Environmental Flows, that recognized that we don't have anything in clarity that tells us how to do this, how to do this in a positive way.
So they have charged this Commission with coming up with legislative recommendations on actually how to provide water for environmental flows. But to get to the Texas Water Trust, that's one thing that has been in evidence since 1997, and the passage of Senate Bill 1. And some people have described it as, you know, you get a gift you're not sure you really want.
It's got really positive aspects, but then you're not really sure what you're supposed to do with it. And the Texas Water Trust was set up by the Texas Legislature as part of the Texas Water Bank in the Water Development Board, specifically to hold water dedicated to in-stream uses and freshwater inflows to bays and estuaries.
And you could only use that water for environmental purposes. You are allowed to deposit it for a term permit — a term period of ten years, and you could renew that. Or you could put it in the trust in perpetuity.
Well, as you can imagine, if you know anything about the cost of water in Texas, there is a very hot water market at — well, hot in the sense that everything is very competitive. And you'd have to look for an incentive to put water in the water trust. And there simply wasn't anything certainly of a financial nature. So the trust just sat there dormant. I mean, literally, it's been dormant since 1997, until, if you'll recall, I think it was at the December or November —
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Are you talking about Kip Brown?
MS. BARRON: Yes, Kip Brown — there was a rancher out in the Hudspeth County area. He had a couple of water rights that he thought, well, I'd like to see this water continue to run on my property. But I'm not using it for irrigation anymore. What can I do with it? I'd like to donate it to Parks and Wildlife, or I'd like it to go directly to Fish and Wildlife.
And he contacted the agency, contacted me, and we discussed things. And his preference was, Well, I want to be the first person donating to the Texas Water Trust. And he gave 1,200 acres he actually donated the water to Parks and Wildlife, and we placed the right in the Texas Water Trust.
But that's it. That's all that's there. We don't have anybody beating the bush to get down there. So one of the things that I think even people who are not normally seen as aligned with environmental interest, they've said that's sort of a positive voluntary mechanism, and we'd like to do what we can to improve it, to put financial incentives to maybe put it in the hands of someone who can really manage that resource.
And there are also some people, just to let you know, who don't trust the state to hold those water rights. They think that perhaps those could be divested at a later time. So there is a lot of talk about creating private water trusts that may play a different — you know, a different role in the eye of the public.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Colette. Any questions for her?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: We were wondering at this end of the table if there is some income tax advantage for donating water rights into the trust?
MS. BARRON: Well, certainly, yes, there is no state income tax, so there is not a state benefit. But Mr. Brown — what did — the person who has actually donated water rights and dedicated to the trust, he did work through a tax attorney. And I was not privy to the deduction that he received, but he did it as a charitable deduction to a non-profit, with Parks and Wildlife not receiving any money or not receiving any kind, you know, of benefit from it, and putting it directly into the Texas Water Trust.
But so I assume he made that decision before he even decided to donate. He had it looked at — his tax attorney. But again, I wasn't privy to the actual benefit that he received.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: But there is a recognized trading value?
MS. BARRON: Yes. Yes. Well, that's one of the questions, is how do you value that water right? And especially are you valuing it for environmental needs, or are you valuing it as an irrigation right? And I do believe that he used comparable sales of irrigation rights.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Highest and best use?
MS. BARRON: There you go. Uh-huh.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: One of the issues that we were talking about at the flows commission is how you build those incentives to — because there is no reason to do it otherwise. And one of them is looking at the very controversial cancellation statute, because right now you're protected by law if — from cancellation if you're in the water trust.
Problem is, cancellation statute isn't' really enforced. So that's' one of those issues that we're struggling with there.
MR. COOK: I might share with the Commission one of the — recently, one of the kind of the how interesting all of this gets, and how interwoven it all becomes, there is some farm bill money called Equip Money. Habitat management, range management, brush control, and we're looking at a pretty broad section of the state to — in which landowners might get some of that brush control money from the farm bill, if they're enrolled in a TPWD-approved wildlife management plan, a habitat plan, that we know will not only get more of that water down into the aquifer instead of rushing off and carrying off sediment and soil with it, but get it to — into the aquifer, wherever they are, back into springs, back into the streams.
And also by this brush control thing — but also improve the habitat for whatever the species might be, whether it's prairie chicken or quail or deer or turkey, whatever it might be.
So we're trying to make those kind of connections and those kind of links with these various groups that we're working with. And it's — every once in a while you've got to kind of drive a stake into the ground to make sure you can see the shadow move.
But at least people are beginning to listen up some and again, I give these folks all the credit, because they have worked with this for years and you will be involved in this and hear more about it. And we appreciate your help.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Any other questions? We could go on about water, but we won't. Thank you very much.
Next is the Oil and Gas Lease Nomination. Ted?
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good afternoon. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm the senior project manager with the Land and Water and Land Conservation Program.
This action item follows the discussion yesterday before the Conservation Committee regarding requests for the nomination of 1,362 acres of oil and gas rights for lease in Mustang Island State Park.
Staff recommends the Commission approval of this nomination, with the stated restrictions set out in Exhibit A, as per the motion displayed here.
And I'll be happy to answer any questions you might have.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Any questions for Ted? Motion on this item?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Moved.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Commissioner Holmes.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Second.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Second by Commissioner Brown. All in favor, say aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Any opposed? Hearing none, the motion carries. Thank you, Ted. And Jack? Agenda Item 13.
MR. BAUER: Jack Bauer, Director of Land Conservation. We have formed a recommendation for the Commission to consider that will go over to the Board for Lease for a recommendation to have a right of way easement across Big Bend State Park.
It's to support telephone service at the park and on downstream. It involves the installation of the fiberoptics cable. So this recommendation is put before you to consider for action.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Any questions for Jack regarding the easement matter? Motion on this item?
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: So moved.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Motion by Commissioner Ramos.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Second.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Second by Commissioner Holt. All in favor, please say aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Any opposed? Hearing none, the motion carries. And you're up again, Jack. Gonzales County.
MR. BAUER: Uh-huh. This last item will be the addition of a 6.4-acre tract at Palmetto State Park. And we're not getting a view here, but — a 6.43-acre addition at Palmetto when — and using for funding it, the sale of some past Parks and Wildlife lands. And the recommendation will reflect that. Here we go. And here is the recommendation, the motion.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Any questions for Jack on the Palmetto State Park acquisition? A motion on this item?
COMMISSIONER BROWN: So moved.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Second.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Motion by Commissioner Brown, second by Vice Chairman Henry. All in favor, please say aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Any opposed? Hearing none, motion carries. Thank you, Jack.
MR. BAUER: Thank you.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Do we have any other business to come before the Commission, Mr. Cook?
MR. COOK: No, sir.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: Any comments from the Commissioners? We stand adjourned. Thank you.
(Whereupon, at 12:45 p.m., the meeting was concluded.)
Approved this the 8th day of April, 2004.
Joseph B.C. Fitzsimons, Member
J. Robert Brown, Member
Alvin L. Henry, Member
Ned S. Holmes, Member
Peter M. Holt, Member
Philip Montgomery, Member
John D. Parker, Member
Donato D. Ramos, Member
Mark E. Watson, Jr., Member
C E R T I F I C A T E
MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: April 8, 2004
I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 176 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
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