Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Annual Public Hearing
Aug. 25, 2004Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 25th day of August, 2004, there came to be heard matters under the regulatory authority of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, in the Commission Hearing Room of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex, 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
- John D. Parker, Lufkin,
Donato D. Ramos, Laredo, Texas
- Mark E. Watson, Jr., San Antonio, Texas
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT:
Robert L. Cook, Executive
Director, and other personnel
of the Texas Parks and Wildlife
TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION
ANNUAL PUBLIC HEARING
AUGUST 25, 2004
NAME/ORGANIZATION MATTER OF INTEREST
- Mr. Leonard W. Ranne, 788 Carr St., Dallas, Texas 75521—Youth Outreach-Testify
- Mr. Sylvan Rossi, Korima Foundation, 2300 Rauder, Rd., Muldoon, Texas 78949—Youth Program at Big Bend Ranch SP-Testify
- Mr. George Donnelly, San Jacinto Museum, Houston-Testify
- Mr. Larry Oaks, THC, Colorado, Austin, Texas—History-Testify
- Mr. Dale Bransford, Texas Recreation & Park Society, P. O. Box 839986, San Antonio, TX 78283, 210/227-1373-Testify
- Mr. Michael Massey, Texas Recreation & Parks Society, P. O. Box 830309, Richardson, TX 75080, Legislative Platform for TRAPS-Testify
- Mr. Pat Murray, CCA Texas, 6919 Portwest, Houston, TX 77024—Coastal Fisheries-Testify
- Mr. Jerry Warden, Texas Youth Hunting Program, 401 Isom Rd., San Antonio, TX 78216, 210/930-2177—Introduce youth speaker and youth program-Testify
- Morgan Schmidt, Texas Youth Hunting Program, 14202 Hirchefield Rd., Tomball, TX 77377, 281/351-8326—Youth Hunting-Testify
- Henry Diaz, Texas Youth Hunting Program, 1119 Lawson, Houston, TX 77023, 713/921-4287—Youth Hunting-Testify
- Whitney Marion, Texas Brigades, 13707 Bluffmeadow, San Antonio, TX 78216, 210/496-2202, TX Brigades-Testify
- Mr. Michael Mann, Texas Brigades, 1004 West 4th, Lampasas, TX 76550,—Texas Brigades-Testify
- Mr. Aaron Jennings, Texas Brigades, 100 Cornerstone Rd.. Fredonia, TX 76842—325/429-6249—Texas Quail Plan & Texas Brigades-Testify
- Ms. Sally Bird, Friends of Garner, HCR 10 Box 599, Concan, TX 78838, 830/232-5999. Garner State Park-Testify
- Mr. David Preister, (Price-ter), Friends of Bright Leaf SNA, 3913 Glengarry Dr., Austin, TX 78731, 512/452-3211, Bright Leaf SNA-Testify
- Mr. Gregory T. Hector, Friends of Fort Lancaster, Fort Lancaster-Testify
- Mr. Bill Eaton, Texas ATV's. Commission, 13707 State Highway 29, #188, Houston, TX 77086, ATV Trails-Testify
- Ms. Laura White, TMTC-Marshall Creek Park-City of Trophy Club, 260 Mountain View Dr., Azle, TX 76020—RTP Grant-Testify
- Ms. Carol L. Smith, American Motorcyclist Association, 1440 CR 270, Mico, TX 78056, 830/612-3607—off road issues in Texas-Testify
- Mr. Bobby Beamer, National OHV Conservation Council, 3310 Long Shadows, Spring, TX 77380—281/636-9072—Offroad (OHV) Programs-Testify
- Mr. Jack B. Slack, Texas Motorized Trails Coalition, 1775 CR 108, Overton, TX 75684, 903/834-4150—OHV issues in State-Testify
- Mr. Jim Haire, 5801 Regents Row, Tyler, TX 75703, 903/561-6501—Sponsorships-Testify
- Mr. James Fulton, Jr., 1195 Sparrow Dr., Vidor, TX 77662—409/769-3407, Sparrow Drive garbage dump-Testify
- Mr. James Fulton, Sr., 1195 Sparrow Dr., Vidor, TX 77662—409/769-3407, Vidor landfill—Sparrow Drive garbage dump-Testify
- Mr. John Jefferson, 10433 Firethorn Lane, Austin, TX 78750—Bow hunting-Testify
- Mr. Horace Gore, P. O. Box 731, Gonzales, TX 78629, 830/540-4468—Deer regulations-Testify
- Mr. Herb Kothman, 8600 Oak Ledge Dr., Austin, TX 78748, 512/282-1530—Regulations-Testify
- Mr. Ellis Gilleland, Texas animals, P. O. Box 9001, Austin, TX 78766-Testify
- Mr. Bruce Manger, 3523 Roland Ave., San Antonio, TX 78210, 210/333-0623—Dove Hunting over bait-Testify
- Mr. Alton Moczygemba, SCOT, 206 Yosemite, San Antonio, TX 78232, 210/215-7331—Dove-Testify
- Mr. Terry Austin, Audubon Texas, 901 S. Mopac, Bldg. 2, Suite 410, Austin, Texas 78746, 512/306-0225—Upland Game Bird Stamp-Testify
- Mr. James B. Wynn, N.W.T.F., 3332 Walkers Mill Rd., Hallsville, TX 75650, 903/660-0138—Texas NWTF & National NWTF-Testify
- Mr. Dale Bounds, Texas State NWTF Chapter, 206 Rosedale, Lufkin, TX 75901—Stamp Consolidation, Youth Turkey Hunting-Testify
- Mr. Jim Peticocas, NWTF, 2001 Anise, El Paso, TX 79935, 915/594-7544—Turkey-Testify
- Mr. Bill Thomas, Rose City Beagle Club, TX Houndsmen, 1593A CR 3240, Clifton, TX 76634, 254/675-8302—Beagles, rabbits on WMA-Complaints & Praises-Testify
- Mr. Charles M. Davidson, Texas Wildlife Association, 6338 N. New Braunfels, PMB #150, San Antonio, TX 78209, 210/861-3841—Wildlife Conservation-Testify
- Mr. Kirby Brown, Texas Wildlife Association, 401 Isom Rd., Suite 237, San Antonio, TX 78216, 210/826-2904—Wildlife Conservation-Testify
- Mr. J. G. Valentino, Jr., Eagle Point Fishing, 16426 Clearcrest, Houston, TX 77059—Shrimping-Testify
- Mr. Glenn Martin, 136 W. Cotter, Port Aransas, TX 78373, 361/749-5252—Sea Grass, Shrimp Buy-Back, Rigs to Reef-Testify
- Mr. Will Myers, 2431 Woolridge Dr., Austin, TX 78703—Seagrass Conservation-Testify
- Mr. Billy Trimble, 1415 S. McCampbell, Aransas Pass,, TX, 512/517-4902—Seagrass-Testify
- Mr. Mike Nugent, Port Aransas Boatmen Association, P. O. Box 321, Aransas Pass, TX 78335, 361/779-8389—Artificial Reefs-Testify
- Capt. Michael Miglini, 514 Southern St., Corpus Christi, TX 78404, 361/688-9071—Artificial Reef Program, Seagrass regulations-Testify
- Mr. Richard Moore, PISCES, Rt. 3, Box 789, Dickinson, TX 77539, 281/559-1104-Testify
- Mr. Malcolm Johnson, 310 Deerwood, San Marcos, TX 78666, 512/396-1231—Bass-Carp—Testify
- Mr. Vance Naumann, FOLA Friends of Lake Austin, 5536 Burnet Rd., Austin, TX 78756, 512/452-0117—Grass Carp—Testify
- Mr. David Stewart, 3415 Shenandoah Dr., Cedar Park, TX 78613, 512/258-2412-Inland Fisheries-Testify
- Mr. Tim Cook, Texas Bass Federation, 319 Pecan Dr. NE, McQueeney, TX 78123, 830 560-1566—Partnerships with angling groups—Funding for aquatic vegetation (native) programs—Funding for angler education-Testify
Texas, 232 Paseo del
Rio, Seguin, TX 78155—Aquatic Weeds—Testify
Mr. Bob Jett, 219 Parker Dr., San Marcos, TX 78666, 512/353-5186—Ramp access-Town Lake, Grass Carp—Testify
- Mr. Terry Oldham, 100 University Rd., Wimberley, TX 78676, 512/847-9202—Hydrilla (Fishing)-Testify
- Mr. Michael Biggs, 2925 Meadow Glenn, Fort Worth, TX 76116—Stocking & Vegetation Kill-Testify
- Mr. Ed Parten, 1102 Lisa Lane, Kingland, TX 77335, 281/723-3828—Inland Fisheries-Testify
- Temple Thomas, 3302 Tyler Ct., Round Rock, TX 78664—Inland Fisheries-Testify
- Lindy Ellason, 16213 Capri, Houston, TX 77040, 713/937-7327—Lake Management-Testify
- Mr. Sam Dement, FOLM, 2115 Terminal Loop, McQueeney, TX 78123, 830/560-3300—Support of TPWD on issues involving lake/river concerns-testify
- Mr. Richard Viktorin, 2005 Exposition Blvd., Austin, TX 78703, 512/477-4353—Balcones Canyonlands Preserve-Testify
- Ms. Karen Hadden, SEED Coalition, 611 S. Congress, #200, Austin, TX 78704, 512/479-7744—Inland Fisheries-thanks for improvements (website & Outdoor Annual)—Posting of signs where fish advisories exist—Testify
- Mr. Randy M. Smith, USDA-Wildlife Services, P. O. Box 100410, San Antonio, TX 78201, 210/472-5456 ext. 238—Cormorants-Testify
- Mr. Michael A. Smith, 7111 Layla Road, Arlington, TX 76016, 817/483-4456—Box turtle conservation—Testify
- Mr. Carl Franklin, 1001 Denmark Drive, Grand Prairie, TX 75050, 972/263-2242—Box turtle conservation—Testify
P R O C E E D I N G S
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Good afternoon. The first order of business is to adjourn our Executive Session and the committee meetings from this morning.
If there's no further business to come before either the Executive session or this morning's committee meetings, we stand adjourned from the committee meetings.
Second order of business is to convene our annual public meeting. The meeting is called to order.
Before proceeding with any business in the public meeting, I believe Mr. Cook has a statement to make.
MR. COOK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
A public notice of this meeting, containing all items on the proposed agenda, has been filed with the Office of the Secretary of State, as required by Chapter 551 of the Government code, referred to as the Open Meetings Law. I would like for this action to be noted in the official record of the meeting.
Now, so that everyone will have a chance to address the Commission in an orderly fashion, I would like to request that we follow the following ground rules.
An individual wishing to speak before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission must first fill out and sign a speaker registration form that are available out here at the desk out front.
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 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 in the front 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, then tell us which issue or issues you want to talk about. State your position on the issue, add supporting facts that will help the Commission to understand your concerns. Please limit your remarks to issues within the jurisdiction of the Commission.
Now, the Chairman may call someone to the podium and also say the name of the person who's on deck, the next person to come up. So be listening for that and be ready, if you will, please.
Each person who wants to address the Commission will have three minutes to speak. I will keep track of the time with this handy-dandy little thing here and when it turns orange, that means you got about a minute left. And when it turns red, it means your time is up.
Please resume your seat at that time so that others may speak. Your time may be extended if a Commissioner has a question for you. If the Commissioners ask a question or discuss something among themselves, that time will not be counted against you.
Statements which 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. Shouting will not be tolerated. 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. Disruptive or offensive behavior will be grounds for immediate ejection from the meeting and possible arrest and criminal prosecution.
If you would like to submit written materials to the Commission, please give them to Carole Hemby or Michelle Klaus, here on my right, and Ms. Hemby will pass those materials to the Commission.
Mr. Chairman, thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Cook.
Thanks, everybody who came to participate in our public meeting. I will get started with Mr. George Donnelly.
And Larry Oaks — you're on deck. Be ready.
MR. GEORGE DONNELLY: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman.
My name is George Donnelly, and I serve as president of the San Jacinto Museum of History at the monument, and I'm delighted to see my two good friends from Houston here.
I want to briefly say that our relationship with Parks and Wildlife is absolutely outstanding. Bob Cook, Scott Boruff, Walt Dabney — their staffs, our park manager, Jerry Hopkins, is a creative, very cooperative, excellent individual, and we couldn't ask for more.
The Parks and Wildlife Battleground master plan is under way. The San Jacinto Museum of History master plan is also under way. We engaged a Verner Johnson, a museum planner, to help us with the site and to help us with what the interior of the museum ought to look like.
We also engaged the firm of Dealey Herndon to be our project manager. The museum planned by Verner Johnson has been completed. The site selection at the — adjacent to the Battleground has also been identified, as well as the Visitors' Center that would be built in conjunction with the museum.
We will continue to work with Parks and Wildlife on a series of issues. Clearly, one is the upgrades that are needed for the interior of the museum, and we're working on those numbers at the present time.
We are now engaging a renowned consultant to do the assessment of the needs of the monument, and those have been communicated with Bob and with Walt and with Scott, so all the management is aware of what's going on.
And just to close to say to you that your Museum of History and Battleground is just humming. We have a tremendous amount of activity going on. Family days, a lot of spirit going out there.
We're going to have a new, and for the first time ever, a visiting exhibition that will last for a year. It's called Texas Originals, and we'd hope that the Commissioners and other people who are here will come.
That's my statement.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, George, and thanks for all your hard work there at the San Jacinto, and you all do a great job.
MR. LARRY OAKS: Mr. Chairman and members of the Commission, I'm Larry Oaks, the executive director of the Texas Historical Commission. I bring greetings from your fellow Commissioners over there.
I'm here today to talk about the health of the partnership between your Agency and ours, and the bottom line is the health of that partnership is very good and in good shape.
So I want to simply mention a couple of things that we're working very closely on and then make one request of you, as we sort of round out the tremendous three minutes we have.
The first thing is your staff and ours is working on the development of a set, a matrix, of historic context for the State of Texas. Most of the things that you do and that we do are based on understanding the very broad and diverse history of the State of Texas.
There ain't no place that has such a sense of place as Texas, so what the two of us are about is you have direct responsibility for about 40-something historic sites that you carry out well, and we'll talk just a little bit about that, the condition of those.
We then have responsibility for the remaining three million of them out there, to work with the private sector to make sure that those get preserved. They won't be preserved unless we know what they are, and the way we know what they are is by understanding the broad array of themes or parts of history that have played itself out on our landscape.
So I want to thank you for the dedication of your staff in working with us on doing that. Some of the other things that have been very helpful to the Texas Historical Commission — your staff worked with us on developing an interpretive master plan or in planning yet for the Sam Rayburn House, and we're appreciative of that.
We continue to work with the Advisory Committee on Historic Sites and look forward to good things coming from that.
It's — I wish we had more time, because they're exciting things. You don't even know about All Aboard Texas. We're working on getting people off the rails, the Amtrak rails, in Texas and getting them to yours and our sites, but that's just an example of how we're working together to make sure that there's a synergy created between what you do and what we do. So I thank you for that.
The one thing I would like to request of you. If you remember, about four years ago the Legislature asked us to do a study of those historic sites and to make some recommendations. We made, I think, 57 recommendations. It wasn't a wimpy little report.
And in fact, the Sunset Committee then internalized a number of those into your reauthorization. I think we could be a little bit more prepared. Instead of the reports that I send to the Commission, our Commissioners want to know how we're progressing on those 57.
So I would just ask that we get back into sort of a regular reporting mode so that we can figure out what has been done. I know significant improvements were made prior to the 7 percent cut. The 7 percent cut happened, and it happened to all of us, and it was unfortunate, so we have some territory to regain.
But we're working together well. Bob and his staff are always polite and helpful and cooperative, and I'll simply by end — end by making a statement about our latest cooperative venture.
Next September this country will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the armistice of World War II. That's a big event. There's probably no state that played a bigger role in winning World War II than did Texas, so we're in the process of going out and gathering grant monies — any money we can round up — to have a huge statewide celebration of that armistice in September.
I mention it because your folks jumped right on board, wrote me a letter and said they want to be a part of that.
So those are the kinds of things that we do that sort of celebrate the special nature of the people that we are. And basically, we look forward to working with you to save those special places, like Castroville that we visited just a couple of weeks ago, so that everybody can not only sort of see them, enjoy them, but a lot of what we're both about is using them sensitively for economic development and improvement of quality of life in Texas.
So I appreciate your time. We enjoy working with you. We look forward to doing even more.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you very much, Mr. Oaks. And thank you for your work at the Historic Commission.
Next up, Dale Bransford, and on deck, Michael Massey or Massey — I apologize if I mispronounced that.
MR. DALE BRANSFORD: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. My name is Dale Bransford. I'm the president of the Texas Recreation and Parks Society. Pleased to be here with you and spend a few minutes this afternoon.
The issue to which I'm speaking is parks. The partnership that the many agencies across the State of Texas enjoy in providing park and recreation services to our citizens and our visitors and how we can continue to work more specifically in the coming months with the legislative session.
Very briefly, the Parks and Recreation Society is a nonprofit professional and educational organization, founded over 66 years ago to advocate and advance the park and recreation service movement in the State. Our organization has enjoyed a longstanding, mutually beneficial relationship with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Your State Park Director is an ex-officio member of our board of directors, and a great number of employees of the Parks and Wildlife Department are also professional members of our organization.
Within our organization, State, regional and local agencies all collaborate to provide a public — excuse me; to provide to the public a system of parks for their use, benefit, health and enjoyment. We all strive to improve these facilities, to expand and make them more efficient.
Our organization looks forward to continuing our relationship and working with you, as I said, in the upcoming legislative session. One point that I would like to make during the time I'm allotted here is to point out a recent poll that was conducted by the Harris Poll and reported on in year 2001.
It's relevant not only to the millions of users of parks across Texas, but also to the economic health and vitality of our State. You may have that in front of you, but the poll was conducted to 50 senior executives of Fortune 500 companies, and the poll was to determine the attributes of cities that were being considered by these senior executives as potential headquarters or location sites for their functions.
And the second ranking of nine, in terms of an attribute, it was tied — was the quality of life, which was defined to be climate, traffic, recreation — that was tied with cost of living as the number two most important attribute as these Fortune 500 companies look to improve their businesses or to relocate.
It's important to our State, and we look forward to working with you. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Next up, Mr. — is it Massey?
MR. MICHAEL MASSEY: Massey. Yes.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Mr. Massey.
And Pat Murray, be ready.
MR. MASSEY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
My name is Michael Massey. I'm Director of Parks and Recreation for the city of Richardson, and I am the legislative chairman for the Texas Recreation and Parks Society.
I thank you for your time today, and I wanted — I'm here to pass along to you what is in front of you now is our legislative platform that we'll be addressing on the Hill during the 79th Legislature.
The TRAPS board met in June and adopted this platform, and if I could indulge you just to look at the top three objectives that our society is moving forward and we're going to ask for your help.
The number one objective being to achieve restoration of the 30 percent reduction made by the 78th Legislature in the Texas Recreation and Parks account. That, of course, is the local assistance account, and we're going to focus on obtaining appropriation of the full amount authorized by Chapter 24, Parks and Wildlife code.
And retention of the dedication language in Chapter 24, Parks and Wildlife code is extremely important to our society. Ensure that no appropriation riders are allowed that would set aside TRPA money for specific projects or locales and insist that all grant projects will be subject to the grant competitive process.
And then third, the last point I want to make today is support the debt service for Proposition 8 to repair State parks' infrastructure and additional funding to support operations through the State parks system.
We recognize, even though most of our society members represent municipalities, that we are a part of a bigger system, which is State, county, and municipal parks, and we want to help you all in that effort.
And we're here today to present to you our platform and ask for your help on the Hill as we walk with our city council and our county commissioners to lobby for these park and recreation issues.
We're going to have a breakfast January 26 to meet with as many legislators as possible. Of course, that's conflicting with one of your meetings, but please know that we will be in your — in the State Capitol that day.
We would again like to ask for your help in supporting any way you can during the 79th Legislature. I realize that you all have monumental tasks to advise the Governor and other legislatures about how to balance the budget that's upcoming, and I just want to, in parting, tell you about how we're doing at home on a smaller level that could relate back to the State.
Recently, our city council decided to raise taxes because they see parks as a vital service in our community. Crime and prevention, of course, of crime is very important to everyone back home, but parks were, too, and those are the two issues that our city council decided to put in front of themselves.
And I commend them for raising the taxes to — so we don't have to close our pools and close our doors, and I know that's an issue y'all are facing — going to be facing here this year.
So thank you for your time.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Massey, for your work.
MR. PAT MURRAY: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today.
I'm Pat Murray. I'm the Executive Director of the Coastal Conservation Association of Texas.
I appreciate y'all creating this public forum for us. I think this is a real positive to get input from the diverse interests out there.
I'll keep my comments brief. I really want to commend the Commission and the staff in the integration of resources into inland and coastal fisheries. That was a monumental task that I think has gone surprisingly seamless.
And I want to applaud Dr. McKinney for his work as Coastal Fisheries Director, particularly in outreach — in reaching out to those in the conservation arena and in the recreational fishing arena.
And to be honest with you, at the risk of being overly laudatory, the whole Coastal Fisheries staff. Someone may hold this against me later if we're in some bitter dispute, but that whole group holds great promise, I think, for the coming year and for the future in coastal conservation.
I want to mention a couple issues that are going to be of great importance to CCA Texas in the coming year, and that's, namely, the management of commercial bay shrimp licenses and freshwater inflows — both vitally important issues.
I know, although they're largely legislative, I know this Commission will keep its collective eye on it as we all work for the best in the conservation and longevity of our coastal bays.
Again, thank you for this public forum and the opportunity to speak to you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Mr. Murray, thank you and for all the work the CCA does. We appreciate it.
Next is Jerry Warden. And Morgan Schmidt, be ready.
MR. JERRY WARDEN: Commissioners, I'm Jerry Warden. I work for Wildlife Division, and I run the Youth Hunting Program, and I'm here to talk to you about youth hunting for just a few minutes.
Our program is designed to produce safe, ethical, and legal hunters. We work hand-in-hand with the Texas Wildlife Association, our partner in this operation, the National Wild Turkey Federation, and a number of other partners around the State.
Since this program really got started in 1996, I just want you to know kind of what we've been able to achieve. We put about 18,000 participants through our program. Only about 6,000 of those were youth, and the rest of them were adults.
Most of those were adults that probably had no connection with the outdoors, so I think we're doing a great thing for our hunting and the outdoor recreation of the State of Texas.
Our program is run by volunteers. We got about 1,000 trained hunt masters around the State, and our program reaches from the Rio Grande Valley up to the Canadian River and from El Paso to East Texas, so I think we've got this State pretty well bracketed.
Since the program got started, we've run about 650 youth hunts all across the State, and I think we have a model program that we've exported to Colorado and are getting ready to export to the State of Florida.
In just a few minutes you're going to hear from a couple of our kids, and they're going to talk to you and tell you what this program has meant to them and how important it is.
I'd just like to let you know a couple other things that we've been doing since this program has started. We've reached about 2,000 kids from inner-city Houston, actually taking them out on hunts. And there's been a lot more kids from Houston that we've taken and exposed to the outdoors that didn't have the opportunity to actually go hunting.
Along with them, we took a lot of adults out of Houston that would never have had the opportunity to get out of the city if it wasn't for programs like the Youth Hunting Program. In Laredo we've got a Hispanic program to get Hispanics recruited into youth hunting. That's working pretty effectively.
One thing we've learned with our program that the kids from Laredo, Cotulla, South Texas, are just as landlocked from hunting as those kids are from inner-city Houston, and we've got to do something about that.
In a few minutes you're going to hear from Megan Schmidt and Henry Diaz. They're both from Houston. Hope you listen to what they have to say. And I'll be glad to return to you and give you a full briefing at some future date if you so desire.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Jerry. And thanks for the great work you do.
Morgan Schmidt, and Henry Diaz, be ready.
MS. MEGAN SCHMIDT: Good afternoon. I'm Megan Schmidt, and I am with the Texas Youth Hunting Program.
I'm 18 years old and I live in Tomball, where I'm currently enrolled in Tomball High School as a senior. Several years ago I had the opportunity to hunt on the King Ranch with the Texas Youth Hunting Program. My trip taught me about wildlife conservation, ethical hunting, and game management.
This organization encouraged me to learn more about ethical hunting and gave me many opportunities to do so. I have been invited to other hunts, such as the Colorado Elk Hunt, as — in which I was one of the first females to go.
I also went on the All-Girls' Duck Hunt in Port O'Connor, which inspired me to later become a hunt master with the program. Many of you do not think of women in this position. However, I encourage more females to get involved.
TYHP gives the same opportunities to females as they do males. This program also gives the same opportunities to inner-city kids who otherwise do not have these experiences. As an organization, the Texas Youth Hunting Program tries to involve as many youth as possible and encourages parents' involvement as well.
The Texas Youth Hunting Program educates youth about subjects such as importance and beneficial aspects of managing wildlife for hunting. Throughout my participation in the program, I have been encouraged to pursue a career in wildlife biology and one day become a game warden.
In my future career as a game warden, I hope to keep these opportunities open and educate the future generations. I owe a great debt of appreciation to the leaders of the association for the experiences I have been given, thanks to Mr. Jerry Warden and Mr. C. G. Guerrero. I also would like to thank all the landowners who have opened up their ranches to this wonderful hunting program and welcomed us with great arms — the great TWA members and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department who make TYHP possible.
This program would not be possible without your generosity and the many volunteers and the parents who dedicate their time to make it all happen.
Thank you again, and thank you, Mr. Chairman, and all Commissioners.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Well done. Thank you, Morgan.
Henry Diaz, and Whitney Marion, be ready.
MR. HENRY DIAZ: Good afternoon. My name is Henry Diaz, and I'm here with the Texas Youth Hunt Program. I am 16 years old and I attend Stephen F. Austin High School in Houston, Texas.
I've been involved with the Texas Youth Hunt Program for the last two years. I live approximately four minutes from downtown Houston where obviously there is no hunting. I got involved in the Texas Youth Hunt Program by Mr. Guerrero, who is my coach and teacher.
To be involved in this program, Mr. Guerrero requires us to make good grades and be leaders among our peers. I have been on three Youth Hunting trips. On the first two I didn't harvest anything. My third trip was a charm.
Not only was it a highlight in my life, but I also harvested a cow elk in Colorado. To me, this was like living the dream. This program makes all the things in life that seem impossible come to reality in the minority inner-city youth and was fun.
And with difficulties from time to time, I thought the closest that I would get to hunting was by watching people on TV. I'm here to testify that the Texas Youth Hunt Program changes lives and make a big difference in our future.
I have seen the love and care shared by hunt masters, volunteers, landowners, and everyone else involved in this program. And I signed up to assist and give others what others have given to me. I am very grateful for everything I have received.
Again, a heart full of thanks to everyone who makes this possible and for all those who give and donate to this program. Especially thanks to Mr. Jerry Warden, my principal Mr. Juarez, and Dr. Ron Johnson.
Mr. Guerrero tells us there is a reason for everything that happens in life. We were broken down in Colorado for three extra days and it was then I got my cow elk on the last day. The very first day at midnight, after Mr. Guerrero promised his son over the phone that he will be there to walk him across the field before the football game. We started our trip in Colorado behind schedule and arrived in Kerrville in time for the game.
As I said, this program makes the impossible a reality. I thank everyone for your time and pray that I can make a difference, just as you made in mine. Landowners, volunteers, hunt masters, TWA members, parents, and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and Texas Youth Hunt Program and staff, thanks again for your blessings you have given us.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Henry. Good job.
Whitney. And after Whitney Marion, I have Michael Munn.
MS. WHITNEY MARION: Hi. My name is Whitney Marion, and I've been involved with the Texas Brigades for the past three years. I'm from San Antonio.
I would like to give my sincerest gratitude to Texas Parks and Wildlife for the continued support of the Brigades. With the help of Texas Parks and Wildlife, the Texas Brigades have been able to provide a high quality education for some of the State's most motivated teenagers, and this is playing a huge part in the promotion of conservation.
Not only are over 180 — 150 Texas teens becoming educated about conservation and proper game management, but there are interns sharing their new-found knowledge with thousands of people every year.
Public education is the key to public appreciation of natural resources, policies, and the future in hunting and fishing in Texas, and we thank you for supporting the hundreds of Brigades cadets and instructors who are a driving force behind public education efforts.
This year I had the opportunity to spend every day working with Texas Brigades, and it gave me a chance to see the camps from a behind-the-scenes perspective. I was amazed at the quality of the Cadets who attended.
These are teens who choose to spend weeks in their summer working late into the night, studying about their new-found favorite subject — wildlife — instead of at home in front of the TV. The first ever Bass Brigade, held this past June at McKinney Roughs out of Bastrop, was no different.
Every cadet, every leader, every worker, and every instructor put their full time and energy into making this camp exceed the expectations of a first camp. The results, an excellent camp, proved by high caliber of the Brigades.
The Bass Brigade is an opportunity for teens to learn about the aquatic environment and the importance of including water and aquatic ecosystems in land management programs and plans.
We thank you for supporting the education of teens in issues regarding water, wetlands conservation, and pond management. Your attention to water issues has been essential across the State.
The Texas Brigades are training the future generations of Texans to have an appreciation for the Texas outdoors. At the Brigades, there is a tradition of treating every cadet as a mature individual with the capacity to understand the complex issues facing our State regarding natural resources.
Cadets respond to this by growing more competent in their understanding of wildlife. These competent teens comprise the future generation of Texans, a generation which will have a great appreciation for the outdoors and an understanding of natural resource policy.
Thank you for working for conservation by educating us. You're leaving a good legacy.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you. And you're setting a great example. Well done, Whitney.
And who's up? Michael Munn, and then Aaron Jennings.
MR. MICHAEL MUNN: Hi. My name is Michael Munn from Lampasas, Texas. I'm representing the Texas Brigades.
The last three summers I've attend the Fed Forces [phonetic], Buckskin, and the Bass Brigade as a cadet and I've served as an assistant leader. My experience as an assistant leader taught me a lot about what it takes to be a good leader.
I've gained useful skills for life at the Brigades, including leadership skills, self-confidence, and being highly motivated through the Brigades to become an advocate for wildlife management in the State.
In doing this, I've given my — I've given many programs to the public and shared what I have learned. I've experienced a numerous amount of things at these camps. Whether it was a team-building challenge or learning about deer anatomy and a necropsy lesson.
No matter what happened, the leaders always had something fun and educational to do and were a constant support throughout the week. These camps are promoting a positive future of conservation, and with your support, our future is in good hands.
I would like to thank you all for your time and support in helping the Texas Brigades.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Michael.
Aaron Jennings. And then on deck, L.W. Rainey, I think it is, or Rainey.
MR. AARON JENNINGS: Hello. My name is Aaron Jennings from Fredonia, Texas, and I am representing the Texas Brigades.
I would like to begin by offering my gratitude to you for helping support the Texas Brigades. Without your support these camps, which instill the roots of wildlife and [indiscernible] conservation, into the future generations of youth in Texas.
We'll be missing a vital link to our State's precious resources. I would like to thank the Texas Parks and Wildlife personnel who took the time to include the Brigades in their work and helped make the Brigades a success. Your support of the Brigades is actively working towards a future of quail in Texas.
I would also like to thank the Commissioners and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for their involvement in the Texas Quail Plan and renewed interest in quail management. In a cooperative effort to implement the plan, in order to stabilize and eventually restore the Texas quail population, your organization has agreed to help tackle quail habitat restoration in Texas.
Your assistance will help take quail restoration to the next stage on the landscape. I commend you for your commitment to managing quail on Texas Parks and Wildlife lands, setting premier examples of effective standards of quail management, monitoring populations, and promoting public education to increase awareness of quail and habitat management.
Every year the Texas Brigades educates over 150 youth about wildlife conservation and land stewardship. I personally attended the South Texas Bobwhite Brigade as a cadet two years ago, and through conducting activities, such as population surveys with the local wildlife biologist, T. Wayne Schwartner, and presentations, I was able to return as an assistant covey leader this past summer.
I have grown up on a ranch in the Hill Country, hunting and fishing. The Brigades truly opened my eyes to the detrimental, as well as the positive, reactions of my family's conservation practices. When returning home with this gained knowledge, I was able to put into practice efforts that will both preserve and improve the land during my lifetime and for future generations.
The Brigades helped me develop educational and leadership skills which I incorporated into the Advanced Habitat Management Workshop for the lessees of the King Ranch. Not only were these educational skills gained from the Brigade useful for teaching advanced habitat management practices, but they were simplistic enough to educate the public, from kindergartners to adults, about quail management in general and the management practices necessary to increase quail populations across the State.
Being able to return to the Brigades as an assistant covey leader improved my skills in motivating others toward accomplishing their goals and passing on to others their knowledge of quail management.
Once again, I thank the Commissioners and the various Texas Parks and Wildlife personnel for supporting the Texas Quail Plan and the building block of the future leaders of Texas, the Texas Brigades.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you.
MR. L.W. RANNE: Mr. Commissioners, my name is Leonard Ranne, Freshwater Anglers Association. I appreciate the opportunity to come to you and talk to you.
If I'd leave that alone it would probably work a lot better.
What I'd like to talk to you today is about our youth outreach programs. We started — I started working with these programs back in the early '80s with our Bass Club, and they really got started by we was having an invitational tournament, and parents were coming with their kids, so we put on a tournament for the kids, teach them to fish, to get them to fish.
We evolved on up to the point where we started getting more and more and more kids outside of the club, so we went to the Dallas Parks — I mean, the Dallas high schools, grade schools, and rented an auditorium. We cooked hot dogs, we'd have all the pros to come in and talk to the kids, and we'd issue them a fishing lines and poles.
We had the DEA people there with drug programs. Shortly after that, Charlie Boseman got involved with — he's the superintendent at White Rock. He put in his budget means of being able to do day outings with the kids, and we started bringing kids down to the fishing center once it was completed.
From that time there, we started — we put on a program, and almost every time somebody would want to know did the kids learn anything. Will they buy a fishing license. Is this really working. I can tell you of a few experiences that I might have here that I would say that will always stick with me in my memory.
I was invited to come to Granbury with Johnnie Davis, angler of choice, to — they were going to have a Bass Club — I mean, a Boy Scout tournament, and they wanted me to come and bring my boat along with a few friends.
We got there and right in front of me they had a 28-foot barge with a 200 Mercury on it, and they said, Ranne, will you take the barge out. I said, Well, yes, anything you'd like. All of a sudden they started taking kids and putting them on there with wheelchairs.
I mean, they was people there in their early 30s that was inflicted so bad that their hands were like this and they talked with — uh, uh, uh — and I'm not trying to make fun of nobody. And I first off the bat, I said, Hey, I've got to have a nurse on here and somebody working the school. I won't take those kids out by myself.
So they finally got that all squared away with. I put that thing in reverse and that boat started moving, and they were, Uh, uh, uh, and I said, Oh, my God, what's happening. And I was afraid I'd get out there — all the things that went through my mind — I'll get out here, this thing may sink, I may have motor trouble, I'll have all these kids out here.
They said, No, listen to what they're saying. So I put it in reverse and go on out and started to spin where I could go up the lake, and they started yelling again. She said, Listen to what they're saying. They're saying, Go, go, go, go.
And you listen. They were saying, Go, go, go. Now, these kids, if — I doubt have ever had anybody that would take them out on the water and take them fishing. I had to make a decision what I could do and how could I get these kids interested in fishing.
I started up the lake and there was a bridge, and we pulled up underneath the bridge. We had some little cane poles and some minnows, and I take some worms and I — uh-oh — well, anyhow, basically, I've got this deal here going to each one of you. I wish you would look at it.
What we're trying to say here is that I think our youth outreach programs are important to the State of Texas. I wish y'all would continue to carry on, but I think in every outreach program that y'all spend money on, the State of Texas should get its money's worth.
They should be monitored where you know exactly how many there are and you should have some kind of a schooling, some kind of a grade — some kind of a way to understand if that's kid learned how to do something. If he'd go camping, he could go fishing on his own.
And I'm sorry. I'll tell you the rest of that story another day when I got more time.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thanks very much.
Sylvan Rossi. And Sally Bird is on deck.
MR. SYLVAN ROSSI: Thank you. Mr. Commissioner, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Mr. Cook.
My name is Sylvan Rossi. I'm the president of the Korma Foundation. We conduct week-long workshops for economically-disadvantaged, at-risk, inner-city youth from Houston and San Antonio under a partnership agreement with Texas Parks and Wildlife.
Our purpose is to motivate these sophomore students to stay in school, and we broaden their horizons and understandings of the choices available to them and the consequences of the decisions that they make.
We'd like to thank the Commission for the continued support and participation of Walt Dabney's staff out in West Texas. Over the past seven years that we've been in existence, we've served nearly 700 participants.
And based on letters from these past students, many have not only completed high school but they have gone back and decided that if they could climb a mountain in Big Bend Ranch State Park, they could take harder courses in school.
Many of them have qualified to go on to college and because of our success, we've had scholarships granted from the University of Houston and from Sul Ross in Alpine. So we look forward to continuing our educational partnership with Parks and Wildlife as you complete the new management plan currently under way.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Sylvan.
Sally Bird. And David Preister, be ready.
MS. SALLY BIRD: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, and Mr. Cook.
My name is Sally Bird and I'm here with a Friends' Group from Garner State Park, and I feel like I'm at the grassroots level and certainly have enjoyed hearing some of the programs that are going on with the youth of the State of Texas.
We feel like for the Friends' Group that we have a good partnership with our park management, with our regional office, and with Mr. Dabney's office. And what I'm here to talk about today is looking for help from the Commission on two areas.
The first area is the pavilion — the concession building that we have at Garner State Park. This building is a historic building that was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the mid-1930s. We had a flood in 1998 that caused erosion to the river bank; that is, the structure for the dance floor.
And the Corps of Engineer project was scheduled to begin in the summer of 1998. That project has been delayed for several years, and now we've had a flood in 2002 and one in 2004, and the erosion continues and the dance floor has cracks in it and there's shift in the dance floor that you can see.
I'm certainly not an engineer, but having danced on that floor, I realize that there are shifts in it. What we're asking for is the preservation of this historic building and dance floor that sets on this river bank, and we feel that it's very important to many Texans.
And we are urging the Commission to pressure or whatever you can do to the Corps of Engineers to get these repairs completed. Beginning in the summer of 1998, we were told that these repairs would begin in a couple of months, and that continues to be the status today.
Another issue that I'd like to talk to you about is staffing. And I think that I could probably — could be common for all of the State parks, but we've had such a shortage in park staff and park hosts this summer that it's been hard to provide basic services.
As an example, the long lines that people have to wait in to even check into the park. Last year the Friends of Garner funded a successful trash program that we handed out trash bags and someone picked them up.
This year, however, the trash bags have set in storage because there's no one to pass the bags out, much less to pick them up. This year there's a shortage in our law enforcement, our Park Rangers, our office staff and park hosts.
And so what we're urging is for the staff to fill these State jobs in order to provide the basic services in the park. And also, we need to somehow increase our park host program in the summertime so that we can help augment the park staff.
Another example of the shortages is for the litter. As I'd mentioned, the trash bag project. Well, litter is not a new issue at Garner but it's a growing problem, and we would like to have more staff to help correct that.
In conclusion, I would just like to say is that the Garner is a leader in overnight visitation. It's one of the top three in every measurable category in the economics contributions of the Texas State Parks study for fiscal year 2002 that was conducted by Texas A&M.
And I would like for Garner to remain in that category, and I look for your help in this area.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you very much, and thanks for the work the Friends' Groups do. They're important to all our parks, and I hope you'll remain involved even after this meeting and looking forward to the next legislative session.
David Preister. And Gregory Hector, be ready.
MR. DAVID PREISTER: Good afternoon. My name is David Preister. I'm vice president of Friends of Bright Leaf State Natural Area. It's my pleasure to be here today.
On behalf of the Friends' organization, I've been asked to appear and thank you and the Department for your support and management of Bright Leaf and to request that you continue to support the park, especially in the face of the severe State budget crisis.
Bright Leaf is a 217-acre park located in the City of Austin. It was donated by Georgia Lucas in 1995. She named it Bright Leaf for the display of color in the fall.
Bright Leaf is not yet open to the public. It is home to one endangered bird species, the golden-cheeked warbler, and several rare and unique plant species. It has a stream running through it called Dry Creek, which, despite its name, flows year-round.
It has about four miles of hiking trails. Guided hikes are open to the public and offered twice each month. Trained docents of Friends of Bright Leaf lead these hikes. So far this fiscal year, 1,329 people have received interpretive hikes.
In fiscal year 2003, over 800 volunteer hours were invested in numerous projects in the park, including trail construction and maintenance. The Friends of Bright Leaf have an excellent working relationship with the park manager Jeff Hershey.
Bright Leaf cannot open to the public until several things happen, including the construction of an interpretive pavilion, permanent restroom facilities, and a bridge over Dry Creek. Towards this end, many people have contributed to the Lone Star Legacy Fund.
There is presently over $9,000 in this account, and we hope that some day money in this fund can be used to construct the facilities that are needed to open this park to the public.
We recognize and appreciate the very difficult decisions that you must make in allocating the scarce resources of the Department. We have read the Land and Water Resources Conservation and Recreation Plan, and we understand that parks smaller than 5,000 acres are not favored by the Department.
But one continuing theme in the plan is the importance of providing conservation and outdoor recreational opportunities near the major population centers of the State.
Although it is only 217 acres, Bright Leaf is an outstanding resource of the Department for achieving this important goal. We respectfully request that you keep this valuable resource and that you continue to work with us in every way you can to support Bright Leaf and help us in seeing that someday it can be open to the public.
Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, thank you for your work.
Greg Hector. And after Mr. Hector, Bill Eaton, be ready.
MR. GREG HECTOR: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, my name is Greg Hector. I'm on the board of the Friends' Group of Fort Lancaster State Historic Site.
And each year we turn in a large number of volunteer hours on behalf of the Fort and on behalf of the Indian War Force of Texas. We also would like to invite you to come to our 149th birthday celebration on October 16, which is a Saturday.
There are two items of interest to the Friends that we would like to have the help of the Department on. One of them is to ask you to influence TxDOT with us to put more signage on Interstate 10 so that people who might want to stop by the Fort can have a chance to think about it before they actually get to the cutoff.
We think that advertising the Fort along the highway is very important to visitation. The second thing we'd like to ask you to do to help the Fort and help visitation is to maybe follow the master plan, if there is one, about building or restoration of buildings on the Fort in order that visitors may have something more to see when they come to the fort, so that we can continue to support the Fort, as far as the Friends are concerned, and to support the Parks and Wildlife.
I thank you for your time.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you.
Bill Eaton. And Laura White, be ready.
MR. BILL EATON: Gentlemen, I represent Texas ATV.com. Thank you for your time.
S.B. 155 has changed — has charged you with the responsibility to create new places for ATVers to ride in Texas, to replace a million acres of river access areas that have been taken from the ATV riders across Texas, places that ATVers and their families have been riding for decades.
As of now, I know of no new ATV riding areas in the great State of Texas that I've been — that have been identified and/or created since the ban under S.B. 155 took effect January 1, 2004.
This year 53,000 ATVs will be sold in the State of Texas — only second to California. In the past few decades, Texans have spent hundreds of thousands of taxable dollars on ATVs, gas, tires, parks for the ATVs, and the State has not returned any of it back.
I strongly urge you to go to your boss, the State Legislature, and ask them for a moratorium on S.B. 155 until new ATV riding areas are in place. This moratorium can be done by different regions. As the new riding areas are completed in those regions, the moratorium can be lifted in those regions.
Please help the thousands of ATVers and their families in Texas find new legal and safe riding areas. Under S.B. 155, we have nowhere to ride on Texas land.
I might add on a personal note, I'm 52 years old. By the time these trails that are set up under S.B. 155, I'll be dead and buried.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you.
Laura White. And Carol Smith, be ready.
MS. LAURA WHITE: Hi. I'm Laura White with Texas Motorized Trails Coalition, and I'm here to thank y'all for your vote tomorrow to give funds to Marshall Creek Park, a little park that is actually owned by Corps of Engineers, ran by the City of Trophy Club.
Two years ago I met with them as the Texas Motorized Trails representative. We met with Trophy Club. We met with the Corps of Engineers. We met with the neighboring landowners. We came up with a plan. Of course, Marshall Creek used to be — it was the barrens, where it was dug — the borrow where we dug up the land to build the dam for Grapevine Lake. So it's never been used for anything but motorized use since then.
We have narrowed it down now from the whole outskirts of the lake that were navigable by trails to 700 acres. Now we're down to 200 acres, but it's all we got for real public land in Texas that we can use.
So we really appreciate y'all voting for us tomorrow and giving us funds to make it something more worthwhile and safer for the users.
And if you have any questions on the park itself. And that's all I have. I can't even make it to the yellow light. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Carol Smith. And Bobby Beamer, get ready.
MS. CAROL SMITH: Good afternoon, Director Cook, Chairman Fitzsimons and the rest of the Commission.
I've spoken with you before on a number of occasions concerning issues relating to my form of outdoor recreation. I'm a volunteer within the administrative and political needs of my sport, as well as an active participant.
I'm here representing the American Motorcycle Association Community Council Director of the Texas Hill Country. I also sit on the board of directors of the Texas Motorized Trails Coalition as an ATV user-representative. I also sit on the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council as an alternate state representative.
I'm talking to you today because I recently had a chance to read your 2003 TPWD publication entitled Land and Water Resources Conservation and Recreation Plan. I was privileged to be a member of the Riverbeds Task Force in 2002, and Professor Ronald Kaiser, from Texas A&M, spoke with us.
Professor Kaiser is with the Department of Recreation Tourism and Park Sciences, and he explained to the task force what I had known for quite some time: that OHV recreation in Texas is growing dramatically, is considered a legitimate form of outdoor recreation in all other states, and is second only to California in the numbers of active participants.
The economic impact of the OHV industry in California numbers are estimated to be $3 billion annually. I recently received a copy of his report entitled Issues and Opportunities Associated with OHV Use in Texas, which statistically quantifies these facts.
In his first recommendation, he states that TPWD is the logical and appropriate agency to take the lead in addressing the recreational needs and uses for off-road vehicles in Texas.
According to his report, the number of Texans who participate in OHV use is 16.3 percent. That is greater than that of mountain biking, at 15 percent, or greater than that of hunting, at 12.1 percent. The economic development potential for this State is astronomical.
My question is why is OHV recreation not mentioned in your 2003 Land and Water Resources Conservation and Recreation Plan? I believe that OHV recreation was included in your plans up until 1990, and I would respectfully request that you include OHV recreation for your plans for the future.
Thank you very much for your time.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you.
Bobby Beamer. And Jack Slack, be ready.
MR. BOBBY BEAMER: Good afternoon. My name is Bobby Beamer. I'm from Spring, Texas. It's a suburb of Houston.
I'm here representing the National OHV Conservation Council. I'm also the grants program director for the Texas Motorized Trails Coalition. I'm a Tread Lightly master trainer, and I'm an ATV safety institute-certified instructor. I also run the — I'm the founder and the administrator of the Texas Off-Road Network, which is probably the largest information source for OHV users in Texas.
That demographic survey that I gave you is for you to look over later at your leisure. I think you'll note on it that the boating numbers and the ATV numbers are getting pretty close to each other. It's substantial enough to recognize.
In the next couple of years you're going to discover ATVs are — OHVs in general are going to becoming more self-serving. We're looking to develop programs in this State, and without demographic studies like you have here, we're not going to be able to get the funding we need.
The gasoline tax — the State gasoline tax, that is — is pretty well allocated already, so we don't expect to be able to get any of that. I would expect that sometime in the near future, we're going to put some type of legislation through or we're going to attempt to do a private partnership between Texas Motorized Trails, the Texas Motorcycle Dealers Association, and the TPWD to put together some type of a green sticker program, similar to what California has, or maybe a right-to-ride program of some kind.
By doing that, we can raise the couple of million dollars a year that we're going to need in order to supply these parks to alleviate the pressure that we're seeing because of the waterways issues, the outlaw trail riders that are going from generation to generation, teaching each other how to avoid getting in trouble and still being able to enjoy those ATVs that everybody seems to be buying in such mass numbers.
I'd like you to consider moving forward anything that you see crossing your desk that could help this kind of fund-raising that we need to do. We can develop programs for Tread Lightly, permanent programs where we can teach the next generation coming up the proper way to do things.
We can develop ASI training programs, and we can make both of these mandatory for youngsters and suggest it with a discount or with some kind of incentives for the adults.
There's really a huge range of programs that we can put into place, and I'd like to thank Walt and Andy Goldbloom for the work they've done with us over the past four years to try to make a difference, at least in some small way.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Beamer.
MR. JACK SLACK: Good afternoon, Chairman —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Good afternoon.
MR. SLACK: — Fitzsimons. Good afternoon, gentlemen of the Commission. Good afternoon, Director Cook.
My name is Jack Slack, and I'm a rancher in northeast Texas, the Tyler-Longview area. I'm also the volunteer vice president of the Texas Motorized Trails Coalition. Our board of directors is all volunteers. We have one paid employee at our park.
We opened our park in Gilmer, Texas, due entirely to your help. I might add through your funding, as some of the RTF grants, in 2000. We've been operating for four years. We are a successful public/private operation that provides OHV opportunities for citizens of the State of Texas.
We have 1,700 member families. Now, I can't give you an exact number of how many people are in each of those families, but we do not have individual memberships. We have family memberships, because we are a family-oriented park.
We have ASI training for safety. We require helmets. We have other rules and regulations to make our facility a facility you would be proud of, just like any other State park in the State of Texas.
I'm here to thank you, basically. Thank you for the ability to show you that we can provide this service in a public/private partnership for the State of Texas. I would like to thank you in advance for any consideration you'll give us to our grant request that will come before you in the next day or so.
That would help us do a better job of what we're trying to do. We also have a real desire to spread out. We're in northeast Texas. We do a good job of supporting people in northeast Texas, but we have just scratched the surface of the need in the State.
We'd like to spread out to the south central area. We have — we are presently looking for property. Thanks to the support of Mr. Walt Dabney and Andy Goldbloom of the Texas Parks and Wildlife staff, we're moving forward. But we need your help. We need your continuing help.
And in conclusion, I guess what I'd like to say is thank you for your past help, and we appreciate it very much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Slack. We look forward to working with you.
Jim Haire, please. And James Fulton, be ready. You're on deck.
MR. JIM HAIRE: Thank you for this chance to speak to y'all today.
I'm Jim Haire from Tyler, and I appreciate this chance to discuss two issues involving the department's Anheuser-Busch relationship. As background, it's a matter of record that you've been involved with Anheuser-Busch in your boating safety program.
You've had beer keychains handed out to boaters at your Gulf Coast fishing contest, and you even publish charts showing how much beer boaters can drink and still boat. All this stems from a textbook conflict of interest and is a violation of public trust.
Now, to compound your violation of the public trust, you fail now to fully inform boaters about the dangers of drinking and boating. I recently visited one of your regional offices and your website and cannot find where you inform boaters about boating stressors that increase the intoxication effect of alcohol on boaters.
Can you visualize the Texas DPS advertising beer to car drivers and then refusing to inform them if driving a car somehow increase the intoxication effects of alcohol?
You also fail to warn boat passengers about the dangers of drinking. You also tell people not to drink and boat, but you send out a mixed message, which is unacceptable when it involves the risk of death and injury.
The second issue is your pattern, your long pattern, of advertising beer among underage Texans. The Department's lawyers have been defending your Budweiser beer ads in our schools with a tortured interpretation of the law.
The Department continues to ignore the fact that alcohol kills five times the number of kids as all the so-called illegal drugs combined. If kids start drinking early, like 14 or 15, they're four times more likely to abuse alcohol later.
TCATA tells us about 20 percent of Texans now have an alcohol problem and the economic costs of alcohol-related damages in Texas was $16.4 billion in the year 2000.
State alcohol taxes only offset about 3 percent of that $16 billion, so the public is stuck paying the balance in higher taxes and insurance rates. These numbers make it clear to you how absurd it is for the State Government to be promoting alcohol to anyone, much less boaters and children.
I understand the politics involved in your alcohol relationship. What I cannot understand is why anyone would accept an appointment to this Commission, knowing they're going to be a party to a conflict of interest that compromises the safety of boaters and the health and safety of our children.
What I suggest is that each Commissioner attend an intoxication manslaughter trial involving boating and a child victim. That should help you understand the seriousness of what you're involved in.
If any Commissioner has a question or needs more backup or anything I talked about it here, I'll be glad to answer your question or send you something in the mail. I've got lots of information on this issue.
Thanks very much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Haire.
Mr. Fulton. And I have Mr. Fulton, Jr., and Mr. Fulton, Sr., both.
MR. JAMES FULTON, JR.: I'm James Fulton, Jr.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right.
MR. FULTON, JR.: Okay. I have some stuff for y'all to look at.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. [indiscernible]
And Mr. John Jefferson, be ready.
MR. FULTON, JR.: My name is Jim Fulton. I am here to speak on behalf of my family who owns land adjoining the proposed park on the Sparrow Drive garbage dump site.
I would like to thank you, Mr. Chairman, and the Commission committee members for the opportunity to speak here today.
I have a bachelor's of science degree from the — in engineering from the University of Texas and over 30 years of experience in the construction industry.
I'd like to speak about the health and safety issues of this proposed park that y'all are wanting to do there in Rose City, right outside of Rose City. There's a black substance oozing from the covered area. This has already been covered, according to TCEQ standards of two feet.
This substance fluctuates from a solid form in cold weather to a liquid state in warm weather. This is an unregulated garbage dump. According to TCEQ, the City of Vidor is not obligated to place any cover on the portions of the dump that were covered, even if it was only by a few inches.
More than 100 drums were buried at this site. It is surrounded on three sides by a swamp. The area under the dump fluctuates with the tide. No liner was placed under or over the dump. The subsoil surface is like Jello.
The other issue is access to this property. The road was not platted and the easement — instead of a 60-foot easement, there is only 26 feet between the center of the ditch and the telephone poles. Two RVs will have a hard time passing each other. This is a dead-end road. It serves 23 homes and four businesses.
This proposed park is about three-quarters of a mile off of Interstate 10 through Rose City and into the County of Orange. As adjoining landowners, we are concerned that the park entrance on a dead-end road will adversely affect our property.
This park is five to six miles from the city limits of Vidor through another city and into the county. We believe the citizens of Vidor and the citizens of Texas would be better served if this grant money was not awarded.
We would like the opportunity to meet and discuss this matter further. Be glad to take any questions.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you very much.
And next up, John —
MR. JAMES FULTON, SR.: I'm senior. I want to speak to it.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Oh, are you Mr. Fulton, Sr.?
MR. FULTON, SR.: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. I'm sorry. That was my confusion.
John, stand by a second.
MR. FULTON, SR.: Well, I thank you for the opportunity to be here. I'm 73 years old. I own that land he's talking about. That's my son.
And I have RVs. I've got one right now — motor home. I like the way y'all do parks and stuff. I go all over United States myself, and I think y'all doing a great job.
But I go in those parks and I know what I'm talking about. Most parks have drive-thrus. If you're pulling a car, which I do — I pull a car behind mine — you have to have a drive-through or you got to disconnect it.
And like I said, I'm 73 years old and my wife has got braces on her feet and she's taking oxygen, so you know what kind of shape I'm in.
But anyway, what I'm trying to get at, Vidor has represented this wanting this park put in right over my house on a dead-end street. They have a nice place in Vidor. On Interstate 10, on a feeder road, and it was donated by Conn Appliances out of Beaumont back a few years ago.
They got a swimming pool there, got a bathroom. But they will not finish a park. And I'd like to have some type of question. Why don't they finish that park before they go down to a dump place and try to set up a park on the dump.
It's not an authorized dump to start with, just like my son was talking about, so — I'm new at this. I don't like to get up here and talk in front of anybody. I'm always worked my job by hands. I'm not that smart, so — but I do know that it will not go. The park will not make it where they are wanting to put it.
And I thank you for your time.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Fulton, you're doing fine.
MR. JOHN JEFFERSON: I'm John Jefferson. Mr. Chairman —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Horace Gore, be ready.
MR. JEFFERSON: — members of the Commission, Mr. Cook, Carole, Michelle, my name is John Jefferson.
Just got a little matter I'd like to suggest to you. I'm the hunting lease manager on a 3,000-acre lease in Lampasas County. It's a one buck, two buck county — one buck, two does; excuse me. Hope Jim Lindemann isn't listening. He's our warden.
We — although that's the swing tag —
MR. COOK: Time's up, John.
MR. JEFFERSON: Well, Mr. Cook, since you mentioned that, I noticed several people did go overtime, and I trust that you will let me know if I go over. Thank you, sir.
We border San Saba and Burnet and Llano, and they've got the two-week extra doe season at the end of the year. We'd like to have that, but that's not what I'm here about.
We've reduced our doe-buck ratio in the last four years from five to one to three to one, but we've still — we're still overrun with does. We got the same habitat Burnet does.
One of our lease members' wives asked me if she could use a cross-bow during October. She doesn't shoot a bow. I'm not a bow hunter. None of our hunters hunt with bows. But it dawned on me that we've got this anomaly, I think, in the law that cross-bows are not legal during the special archery season in October.
I'm not real sure why that is, but I know a couple years ago it was proposed that they be legalized. There were a few comments against it at public hearing, and it was withdrawn. And I understand these comments were — I can't help but use the word elitist.
They were people who use compound bows that didn't think it was sporting to use cross-bows. Personally, I don't see much of a difference, but I would urge that you perhaps reconsider that. It would not create a great impact on the deer herds of Texas.
Law enforcement last time approved it. But it would give us just one more tool to help us manage wildlife and habitat.
How'd I do, Mr. Cook?
MR. COOK: You did great, John, except for that part about the swing tag.
MR. JEFFERSON: Well, we'll be looking into the swing tag.
Any time that I did not use up cannot be used by the next speaker. Thank you.
MR. HORACE GORE: Mr. Chairman —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hold on. Herb Kothmann, on deck.
MR. GORE: Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission, I'm Horace Gore from Gonzales.
I never thought I'd ever come to another Commission meeting after I retired eleven years ago, but here I am.
I'd like to speak to you a moment about — I'm — the handout will speak for itself, really. I'm concerned — and I want to be positive about this. Y'all get enough negative things going on all the time. Let's don't be negative. Let's be positive about this.
I want to — I'm a little bit concerned about the way the wind is blowing and the tide is drifting in deer hunters' regulations these days. We have a six-county area down here in the Gulf prairies, and it's
got — and I hate to use this word but I'm going to use it — asinine is a good word.
Asinine regulations that I've ever heard in my 44 years as a wildlife biologist. We've got more deer in Texas now than we've ever had in the history of the State. We're just harvesting 12 percent of them. We've got a little over half a million deer hunters, but we really need three-quarters of a million deer hunters, because we could easily take 20 percent of the deer population where we're taking 12.
I go through these figures to point out that it's ironic to me that we're constantly looking for ways to get new deer hunters, to get youth into deer hunting, to get women and wives into deer hunting, and then suddenly, we're trying to promote regulations, experimental regulations, to keep people from hunting — from killing deer. Doesn't make sense to me.
The six counties are in an experimental regulation that will be concluded this fall. The first year you keep people from killing deer — boy, that's a fast three minutes — the first year you — all right. All right. It speaks for itself.
But the first year, you keep people from killing deer, so that year don't count. Last year the kill was down 38 percent, so — and the first year was down 38 percent. Last year they were just killing the deer that you saved the year before.
And so really, if you — if the Commission, and I know you're going to get the if the Commission — is called on to make a decision this fall about extending those radical regulations to the rest of the State, especially in one-buck counties, or even to the rest of that district down there, I would hope that you'd take close consideration in this.
Let's don't run deer hunters off. Let's have them enjoy themselves out there and just go out and have a good time, and we need more deer hunters and more license sales, not less.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Horace. Always good to see you.
Herb Kothmann. And Ellis Gilleland, be ready.
MR. HERB KOTHMANN: Gentlemen, it's a pleasure to speak to you as a member of the public instead of on the staff, for a change.
My purpose in standing up here is just to compliment you for your great public hunting program. It's an indication of the good staff that you have, both present and past.
But seriously, I want to compliment you and call to your attention if you weren't aware what I saw as excellent cooperation between your divisions — the Wildlife, Law Enforcement, State Parks, all the support services here — they all are needed to put this out.
However, also would like to make a few suggestions. Hopefully, they will be constructive. One is that in your public hunts, your drawn hunts, you maybe revisit the Commission — it's not a policy, but it's a procedure we follow of not closing down a developed State park on a weekend or a holiday for public hunts.
And that's, of course, to not impact public usage. But this does put a tremendous limit on the use of State parks for youth hunts, because that's when the kids have to be out of school, on the weekend or a holiday.
So you might consider a little leniency or consideration in some instances to allow consideration of some parks — developed parks, I'm talking about — on some weekends or holidays.
Another one is the antler restrictions. I won't use the word that Mr. Gore used, but we do have quite a few public hunts, drawn hunts, that are having antler restrictions of various types creep into them. I'm concerned about those.
I think you need to certainly keep these as simple as possible — your regulations — encourage the public, especially the novice hunters, the youth hunters, to understand the regulations that they're hunting under.
And right now, we're only able to satisfy less than one out of ten of the applicants for openings that we have for drawn hunts. I think that's still the still the situation. Just keep — make simple when you're thinking regulations.
Two other quick points — am I red already? God a mighty. The split dove season in the central zone, I think you're wasting opportunity. The first three weeks of September is when the vast amount of your hunting opportunity takes place. After that it drops off precipitously.
I would think let the hunters take a liberal bag when the doves are there and when the opportunity presents itself. And last but not least, don't mess with the legality of using rifles to take Rio Grande turkey, you know, during the regular season.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Herb. Good to see you again.
For the new Commissioners, Herb was for many years the director of a public hunting program. Did a great job.
It's good to see you again, Herb.
Ellis Gilleland. And after Ellis, Bruce Manger, be on deck.
MR. ELLIS GILLELAND: My name is Ellis Gilleland. I'm speaking for myself and Texas animals and animal rights organization on the Internet.
I've given you a handout, consists of three items, three documents. The first document is a Parks and Wildlife letterhead. You'll notice on the letterhead that Mr. Lee Bass is designated as a member of the Commission. He is chairman emeritus.
The second document is a January meeting of the minutes of the White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee. All my comments today will be in regard to the White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee.
So in January Mr. Bass, who's a member of the Commission, was appointed as the chairman of the Wildlife Advisory Commission. So Mr. Bass, a Government person, gets to advise a Government Commission. I think that is highly unethical, in addition to the illegal items which I'll mention in following.
In addition to that unethical item, the third item I presented you is a extract from the Government code, Section 21.10, and this provides the legality or the legal basis for having an Advisory Commission.
And you will notice that there are some provisos here which you are flagrantly violating. The first one is that you are not providing — this is 21.10.0 — to composition of advisory. Provide a balanced representation. You are not providing a balanced representation on the Advisory Committee between the industry or occupation and consumers of service.
I'm a consumer of service, and there's no one representing me. There's nobody on this whole 24-man Commission representing the animal. Every one of these 24 people are taking killing and taking profit where they're hunters or not.
Whether they're hunters, whether they're raising deer and seminating, where they're building high fences or whatever they're doing, they're profit-oriented people. I demand that you put somebody on that Advisory that's non-profit and takes the animals' interest into consideration.
And thirdly, fire Mr. Bass and put on somebody that represents the public, such as myself, and hold an election. The law, the Government code, I've given you a copy, says, The Chairman will be selected by vote of the Advisory Commission — Committee, not by you, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Good to see you again, Mr. Ellis — Mr. Gilleland.
Let's see. Bruce Manger, you ready? And Alton Moczygemba, be on deck.
MR. BRUCE MANGER: Yes, sir. Gentlemen, I'm Bruce Manger from San Antonio.
Mr. Holt, go spare us.
I would like to know about this law that's written hunting over game, dove hunting over — I mean, over bait. This past season I got burned with a citation for hunting over bait and tried to talk to the game warden and, I mean, the situation was we were invited to a place.
We were there hunting about 30 minutes. I personally was about 85, 90 yards down in the brush by the tank and never saw them come in. He came down there and
checked and he checked the two buddies that was with me. They were closer up to the cabin, and everything was fine, and he left.
Ten minutes later he comes back, tells me, I think y'all better quit hunting. We got a problem up here by the cabin. I don't know what it is, so I go up there. As he was leaving, he found a feeder sitting in the weeds out there about 20 feet from these people's outhouse.
They had a little cabin, that's where we parked. Been hunting down there for about 20 years. And this was the only time I got to hunt last year. The year before I got invited but I didn't get a chance to go.
But what I'm getting at is as they were walking out, because they parked out on the dirt road, as they were walking out they saw the feeder sitting over there. They went over and shook the thing. It evidently had maize in the feeder. It's sitting in the weeds over there, like I say, 20 feet from their outhouse.
He comes back down there and we'd talk. He tells us about it, and I said, Well, you know, we don't own the place. I saw the feeder about 30 minutes after I was there, but it was sitting out where they — they even have so many feeders down in the back of their place that — but we only hunt in the front, and I figured it's something that's broke or something they're taking.
I never thought — never even thought of anything. What I'm getting at is when he checked us, we were legal. And then suddenly, we were outlaws. He wrote three of us up. The fine was $352, and I tried to talk to him and everything, ask him, you know, We haven't been down there — I haven't been down there in two years.
What I'm getting at, he wrote us up anyway. And what I would like to know is why that law is so vague that the game warden can interpret it any way he wants to. If you have a feeder — this place is about 200 acres. If they've got a feeder on the far corner of the place, if he wants to, he can write us up for being outlaws and we don't even know it's there.
And I had — this past year in West Texas, well, I was out mule deer hunting. They had a biologist come from Alpine where we were in Sanderson, and he wanted to check for the chronic-wasting disease and everything.
And I told him about this. He told me the law is written so vaguely that the game warden can interpret it any way he wants to. So if you go out hunting anywhere, then you're going to be an outlaw if they say you're an outlaw, and I'd just like for somebody to answer why it's written so vaguely, and there's no more — you know, there's a distance or there are other conditions, because I just — I'm going to quit hunting, because I don't — I'm not — never — I've never had any ticket that I can ever remember, and I don't like being termed an outlaw when I didn't do a thing.
And I'd just like somebody to answer why it's written like that and why it can't be changed.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I'm glad you came here today, Mr. Manger.
MR. MANGER: My three's over. It's over your turn.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And this is response to a few of the others of you that have had issues on bird hunting. I'd refer you to — we have a Game Bird Advisory board, and that's exactly what they're for is to listen to these sort of issues, and you're not the first person to bring up this issue —
MR. MANGER: I know. I'm representing —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: — on the Federal regs —
MR. MANGER: — two others that —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes. Well, you're not — believe me, the Federal regs and the whole issue of baiting is difficult, and I would just tell you that
the — and you can get the information from any of the staff here on the Game Bird Advisory Board, and that's exactly the sort of recommendations that they're supposed to work on.
MR. MANGER: Well, this was LaSalle County, and when it came time I called the Judge down there and I told her, I said, I didn't do anything. I didn't intend to do anything, and I want a jury trial, and that's it. I'm not paying it because I want a jury trial.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I appreciate your time coming here, and really, if you want to do something about it, and those of you that are interested in those other game bird issues, that's what those Advisory Boards are there for.
So it's not just come up here one time and talk about it. It is to get the process going, and the same goes, I think, for those who were interested in the deer and the antler regulations. Those White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee — that's what it's for is to hear that and —
MR. MANGER: I'll keep that —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes, sir. Thanks for your time, Mr. Manger.
MR. MANGER: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you very much.
Mr. Moczygemba. And Terry Austin, you're up.
MR. ALTON MOCZYGEMBA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Mr. Cook.
Thank y'all for the opportunity. My name is Alton Moczygemba, and I'm past president of Sportmen's Consolation of Texas, an organization that was formed 48 years ago, with the vision and foresight about bringing awareness and preservation of our great resources we have in the State of Texas.
I come here today and will have two people here with me — Mr. Ed Strayhorn, who is president of SCOT, and Jack King, who is our executive director — to say thank you to Mr. Mike Berger and to Mr. Cook for listening to us several months ago.
We really appreciate it, and what they listened to us about was hunting in the south zone of the State of Texas. We asked, because of the changing of the territory down there, the way we have gone from the maize patches, the flax patches, the barley, the wheat, and the corn patches to cotton patches and mostly coastal bermuda, we have no birds, come the latter part of September.
All the birds are north of Highway 90 and I-10. Somehow or another, those birds come September 23 or thereabouts — they forget where that Highway 90 and Highway 10 is at and they ended up the other side of Mexico. We have no birds.
And I thank y'all for giving us the opportunity to include 1604 to bring a lot of people with the ability to hunt. Our aim is to bring hunters where the birds are, and I thank y'all for that.
The other is I'd like for y'all to consider changing the south zone to be inclusive with the central zone or the north zone, however you put it, because of the children in the south zone are handicapped because there are no holidays from September 23 till Thanksgiving.
Dove season is over at Thanksgiving. We have no dove season. The children in the north zone on Labor Day when their parents off from work and they're out there fixing their deer blinds, hunting and so forth, they all can enjoy it. We in the south zone do not have that opportunity.
I wish that y'all would really consider that the economic impact on this is unbelievable, because those surrounding areas down there — Karnes, Wilson, Atascosa, Goliad, and some of the other — Freer, down around Freer, Texas, Beeville — when those people come down to work on their deer blinds, they do it Labor Day weekend.
We thank y'all again so much for the opportunity y'all have given us and the — extending that. And if y'all need a bird count, we'd be happy to clip a wing off. Mr. Ron Henry will publish it in Express News, and we can put it in a freezer bag and keep it for the biologists so they will know the flight patterns of the birds and the fledging of the birds also.
Because on my ranches, we been working cattle for the last three weeks. I've seen one nest, and those birds are ready to come out of the nest in three weeks' time.
Thank y'all, gentlemen, for everything. We thank y'all for the opportunity.
And congratulations to you, sir, for being the Outdoorsman of the Year this year at Anglers Club of San Antonio, Number 46. We congratulate you, Mr. Fitzsimons.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank y'all, and thank you for all the hard work you did.
Terry Austin. And James Wynn, be on deck.
MR. TERRY AUSTIN: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and members of the Commission.
I'm Terry Austin. I'm the State Director for the National Audubon Society. I'm here in that capacity today, but I'm also proud to serve as the chair of your department's Wildlife Advisory Committee — I'm sorry; Wildlife Diversity Policy Advisory Committee.
I sit on the Landowner Incentive Program Committee and the Texas Quail Council. Before I hit my agenda item, I'd also like to commend the Commission for its wisdom in creating the Texas Quail Council.
Jim Teer, who many of you know, just returned from a meeting of wildlife managers in New York, and he said they were up there talking about our Quail Council and our strategies to recover quail in Texas, so what you've done has become a model for other states. And again, I commend you on that.
My agenda item relates to State stamp endorsements. I would like to strongly encourage the Commission to consider an upland game bird stamp rather than species-specific game stamps.
There's really just a couple of key points I'd like you to think about in that consideration. One is it's extremely hard to single-species manage. What people are doing now is really landscape-scale management and trying to manage for as many species as they can. That's one item.
The other one is just — is flexibility. If you think about an upland game bird stamp where you have funds where you could target species of greatest need or greatest concern, I think that flexibility would provide us a lot of latitude in wildlife management.
I will get a letter to the committee, the Game Bird Committee, so they know where we stand. But again, I encourage you to consider an upland game bird stamp.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Terry, and thanks for the work you do at Audubon.
Mr. Wynn, James Wynn. And Dale Bounds, be on deck.
MR. JAMES B. WYNN: Mr. Commissioner — or Mr. Commissioners and Mr. Chairman, Directors, I'm J.B. Wynn.
I'm senior regional director for the National Wild Turkey Federation, and I'm going to try to tell you in a short time that I have all about the National Wild Turkey Federation and have meanings for doing that.
The National Wild Turkey Federation was established in 1973 with a very specific goal, and that was the conservation of the wild turkey and the preservation of the hunting heritage. And since that time, we've worked and done that through partnerships with wildlife agencies, industries, energy companies, but our main stay is grassroots volunteers.
And through those volunteers, we have established a credibility nationwide and done some things nationally that have been brought to attention, you know, in the forefront of conservation.
We were the first conservation group of the Women in Outdoors Program. We also have a wheeling sportsmen program, a Jakes program for kids. We have programs for every aspect of conservation. I'm going to — that's enough about the national.
What I'm here really to talk about is the Texas organization which I've been a part of for 14 years, since 1990. And that organization, we've built a 43-chapter organization in the State. That's made up of grassroots volunteers that we've done several incredible things across the State with partnerships with Texas Parks and Wildlife.
One of them was the restoration of the eastern turkey in East Texas. That restoration was probably the biggest conservation restoration program in the last century that was a success. Through our partnerships, we have accomplished a lot.
We're here today to talk about the fact that we feel like that we've been a silent partner at Texas Parks and Wildlife and NWTF. The way that the world's going now, we have found out that we can't be a silent partner; that we want to be a more vocal partner, but we want to be a partner with Parks and Wildlife to do great things that we have done in the past.
Some of the things that can be accomplished through our partnership is further habitat improvements, education through our education programs, such as Women in Outdoors, Wheeling Sportsmen, and so on.
So what we're here today to do is basically introduce you gentlemen to the National Wild Turkey Federation, which we're pretty proud of the fact that we're wrote up in Peterson magazine as being the top-ranking conservation group in the nation, as far as putting in our money where our mouth is and putting our money to work.
The only organization that was above us was U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance Foundation. That's our legal foundation that we give a million dollars to, plus, to help us with our legal aspects.
The National Wild Turkey Federation, like I said, prides itself in being a leader and doing things because it's the right thing to do.
Thank you, gentlemen.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, sir.
Mr. Bounds. Mr. Bounds, and then — I'm sorry, is it Kim or Tim Petta — Pettacoat?
VOICE: No, I'm not speaking.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Oh, you're not? All right. Well, you got in the wrong stack. Sorry.
MR. DALE BOUNDS: Commissioners, Mr. Cook, thank you very much for the opportunity to come here and speak to you.
We truly value the partnership that we've developed with the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Texas Parks and Wildlife.
Today I'm here to raise some concerns about the consolidation of the stamp program. But I want you to know that we are open-minded about that. We want to — we understand that it's a work in progress, and there will be opportunities to work out some of the things that we are concerned about and maybe the understanding of it will be made clear to us.
And we look forward to working with you to try to resolve these issues. Our consideration is not about a stamp. That's a piece of paper. Our consideration is about the wild turkey and other game species in our State.
And we want to make sure that the money is there to do the restoration, the research, and the habitat management for the wild turkey in every part of Texas — not just East Texas.
There's opportunities in East Texas on public lands to make those public lands better for quail, turkey and other species of wildlife, consumptive and non-consumptive. If we use the money that was generated by the turkey hunters in this stamp to address those problems, we can truly make a difference for wildlife in Texas.
We can do that at the Gene Howell Management Area. We can do that all over Texas. I understand there's $800,000 in the stamp fund now. That's a concern for me. I know that it's not your problem. You didn't do that.
But I want to come up with ways to get that money on the ground so that we can benefit these species of wildlife, consumptive and non-consumptive. And like I said, a stamp is a piece of paper. We want to put the money on the ground.
We don't want to see money accumulate in the bank account to become a target for people that don't understand the issue. If we can address those problems and get those monies on the ground, whether it's for quail or turkey, it's going to benefit the wildlife of this State and give the hunters and the land users who pay that money for that stamp the opportunity to enjoy a better, successful harvest of game.
And we look forward to working with the Agency. We do not want to be adversarial. We want to be partners, and we want to have a voice in it, and that's what I want you to take back from this discussion.
And thank you for the opportunity.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Mr. Bounds, thank you for your creative leadership there at the Wild Turkey Federation. We appreciate it. Thank you very much.
And Mr. Bill Thomas. And Charles Davidson, you're on deck.
MR. BILL THOMAS: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Mr. John Parker, I'm the beagle that called you and bent your ear so much.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Good to see you.
MR. THOMAS: First of all, Texans, pat yourself on the back. This youth hunter thing — that's the greatest thing you got going. I see a lot of grey hair around here, including a little bit on mine showing up now. If you don't get the young ones coming up, ain't no way — won't need y'all if we don't have hunters coming.
I have a couple praise situations and a couple complaints, if you don't mind.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Fire away.
MR. PARKER: I like to hunt, beagles, field trial, and member in good standing with American Kennel Club. I judge field trials and hunted them, trying to work on some championship points on some of my hounds.
My problem is near Palestine where I own some land, we lost almost 50,000 acres that Temple Inland had leased to WMA territory. You can't blame the corporations for trying to make a dollar. They took it back. They split it up for private small deer leases.
Hate to see it go, because that was a favorite place of mine. Is it possible that Parks and Wildlife could look into some more, other territories? Say, an example: TXU is about — is mothballing 14 power plants. Each one of them has about a 3- to 500-acre tract around it.
How about a small — talk to them about small game leases? I'm trying to get as many thoughts in as possible. I would also like to ask you in that land over there near Palestine, it's Davy Crockett National Forest and like that, if y'all — is it possible that we could set aside part of that area as small game tracts?
I know deer hunting is money. That's plain and simple. That's money in Texas. But we sure would like to have more territory set aside for small game. You got wild turkey folks, Sportsmen Conservation — if all these different people could get together, possibly using Dingle Johnson, Pittman Roberts, and money to buy a tract a land, there's 1,500 acres near Waco, Texas, that would be perfect for it. It's for sale. Buy that one that's close to me. I'm sorry.
Mr. Parker, I'll get back and talk to you later on the phone.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Thomas.
Charles Davidson. And Kirby Brown on deck.
MR. CHARLES DAVIDSON: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and members of the Commission and Director Cook.
I'm Charles Davidson. I'm from San Antonio. I'm here on behalf of the Texas Wildlife Association, and I'd like to thank you all. I'd like to thank you all, not only the Commission, the Chairman, and the staff at the Department — all of you for your tireless efforts, and I'll paraphrase your mission, to manage and conserve the natural resources of the great State of Texas for all users, present and future.
And especially for your cooperative efforts and work with private land stewards of Texas in their efforts to do the same. I'd also like to thank you for all of your continued support of the many partnership and other programs that work to achieve the Department's missions; notably, the Texas Youth Hunting Program, the Texas Big Game awards, Brigades, technical guidance programs, wildlife management plans, the land steward programs, and the advisory committees, among others, of course.
Texas and Texans benefit greatly from all of our continuing efforts in the areas of wildlife conservation, and we thank you. Appreciate it.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Davidson, and thank you for the work you do at TWA, especially that Youth Hunting Program. That was a great presentation.
Kirby. And Mr. Valentino on deck.
MR. KIRBY BROWN: Thank you. Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Mr. Cook, thank you for doing this today. Probably going to go late, but we sure do appreciate the opportunity to comment.
And as you're aware, Texas Wildlife Association is a statewide organization that represents landowners, wildlife managers, hunters, and conservationists that own or control over 30 millions acres of private land.
We really want to thank the Commission. We want to thank the staff for your hard work, for the effort you've made, and especially the philosophy and direction that you've taken. We just think it's an incredible approach that you have.
We also want to thank you for the many partnerships, especially our joint programs that we have. I love the heads in the lobby. It's beautiful to see those out there with the Texas Big Game Awards Program and the joint program that we have on that.
And we thank each of the Commissioners that have managed during this past year to make some of those awards banquets. That's really great to have you there, and we certainly do appreciate it.
We also thank you for your efforts in the Texas Youth Hunting Program. Jerry Warden has done an outstanding job, but the hunt masters and kids have made that program go. What an incredible thing to see those guys working that hard.
And also the Texas Brigades kids. Thanks to the staff for all their input into those Brigades, because that's a wonderful program we have together.
We also want to continue partnerships and expanding partnerships in education and particularly to fight conservation illiteracy that exists in Texas. We think that's very important.
We want to — I want to also thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the creation of the White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee and the work that's been processed through there and the advancements that's gone on.
And I want to echo Terry Austin's comments on the Texas Quail Council, and also your comments on the Game Bird Advisory Committee. Very important committees to work with.
We're working hard right now on many of the water issues, and you and the staff have been very — I guess just outgoing in terms of providing support for our efforts in that regard, and we appreciate that.
And finally, we just want to thank you for your conservation of rivers and the implementation of Senate Bill 155 and what has gone on to protect those resources and our rivers and provide safety in those places.
Again, thank you. We're looking forward to continued leadership on the future of hunting. We appreciate it.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Kirby. And thanks for all that great work. I think Mr. Thomas was right. If we don't have the young hunters and fishermen, there won't be any need for us pretty soon. I'm going to remember that one.
Mr. Valentino. And Will Myers, you're on deck.
MR. VALENTINO: Chairman, Commission, Mr. Cook, I want to thank you for the opportunity to speak today.
My name is John Valentino and I'm from Eagle Point Fishing Camp in Galveston Bay, and I'd like to talk to you about the inshore shrimp fleet so vital to our businesses in Galveston Bay.
Mr. Cook red-lighted me last year. I'm going to try to avoid that this time.
The hottest topic in shrimping seems to be the reduction in effort, and the main news from Galveston Bay is that reduction in effort is a reality — not a little reduction, but a huge reduction, and that every sign points to a complete reshaping of the inshore fleet.
An inshore fleet that will bring in product for the sport fishing community and the shrimp-consuming public alike is on the horizon, if we can only learn to work together. If this Commission wants it, our inshore shrimp fleet can be a model for the entire country.
However, it cannot be done without industry involvement and lately, outside sources seem to be proceeding with plans for the shrimp fleet without any significant feedback from the fleet or their leaders.
In particular, I've been hearing about big plans for a quicker reduction in inshore fleet. I'm here to tell you that that is not necessary and actually could be harmful.
You can extend the $3 increase in the saltwater stamp a few years longer if you want to, but that's really not necessary. The two main reasons that the fleet is being reduced is that, one, a moratorium on license sales, and two, the economic reality of working in a low-income job with a large overhead.
Why some people are just now talking about the problems of too many boats when they're 20 years late is beyond me. I am puzzled as to where these people were when the industry pleaded for help and why they are here now, when the moratorium and buyback plan are working so well.
Regardless of my puzzlement, I can tell the Commission without any reservation that we have achieved a reduction in effort that people could only imagine ten years ago and will continue to do so until economic forces level out the risk and reward.
Ten years ago, Gene McCarty, Hal Osburn, and Robin Riecher worked with the industry with patience and due diligence to craft a workable program, and they should be recognized for this hard work. It is time to start recognizing the great success of this program, enhance it if we must, but do not destroy it.
With all due respect, ask this Commission to oppose any and all requests to change the present program without approval of the shrimp industry. Given the proper amount of time, this program will make us all in the State proud.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Valentino. And thank you for your work.
Will, if you don't mind, Glenn Martin has asked if he could — he needs to move on.
No? Whichever — you guys want to arm-wrestle?
MR. GLENN MARTIN: I may be imposing of his.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. Then go ahead.
MR. MARTIN: Thank you, Mr. Commissioner and Director. I will be brief, I promise.
My name is Glenn Martin. I'm from Port Aransas. I served on many of the Parks and Wildlife work groups, advisory panels, and thanks to term limitations, I'm the ex-mayor of Port Aransas, Texas.
I have a few issues, just a little bullet points for you. There's issues you had this morning, you'll have them a few weeks from now, and maybe when the Legislature comes up.
But we don't mind protecting the seagrasses. We need to have a way to use the seagrasses. We cannot segregate these bays and open to a one separate user group. You know, saltwater fishing and tourism is a big part — saltwater fishing is a big part of Texas.
We need to be able to use these areas. We agree that they need protection. They are the habitat and the nurseries for a healthy bay system. I'm probably one of your poster boys for Parks and Wildlife. I think you've done a fine job, had great staff, and we've worked through these issues.
The shrimp buyback problem I heard Mr. Valentino talking about — let's be ever mindful not to reduce that number below what will support a healthy bait industry for our tourism and the ones that buy the saltwater stamps are a growing part of the licensing program in Texas.
One other real quick thing that you'll hear of a little bit today, and we're up here to meet tomorrow is the Rigs to Reef Program. In a very viable situation, we need to be ever mindful that these rigs are not shut down and moved off. They provide habitat for our offshore fisheries.
I'm on several national marine fisheries advisory panels, and I can always brag of the habitat in the State of Texas and the jobs that we do here with wildlife.
Thank you for the opportunity.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you very much. Will. Will Myers. And Billy Trimble, be on deck.
MR. WILL MYERS: Chairman, Commissioners, Director, good afternoon. It's been a long day for you, I'm sure.
My name is Will Myers. I'm a member of the Seagrass Task Force, and I'm an avid saltwater angler. My wife might say rabid, but I think avid is a more appropriate word.
I'm here today to endorse the use of mandatory protective measures in the three designated seagrass beds of the Redfish Bay State Scientific area as proposed by coastal fisheries, but with the following criticism and suggestion.
These measures are certainly a good start, but we are only scratching the surface as to management needs for inshore waters. If the development of management plans proceed at such slow speed and small scale, Texas will not keep pace with the growing population pressures along the coast.
We are not going to curtail the fishing and boating population. In fact, Texas Parks and Wildlife is in the very business of recruiting more anglers, and doing a good job. But inherent with that goal comes a responsibility to manage that growth so as to protect the natural resource upon which angling and other recreation depends.
Management does not mean closure. It means finding the most reasonable means by which the greatest number of users can share a common and limited resource. Everyone has the right to use these baywaters, but no one has the right to monopolize it through intimidation, by use of superior horsepower or speed.
My suggestion to you is that in addition to protecting seagrass from prop scarring, the Seagrass Task Force or a similar group needs to address other issues facing highly-used, traffic-sensitive embankments.
These issues might include creation of troll, pole and paddle zones, reduction of user conflicts, geographic and seasonal partitioning, reduction of fish and wildlife disturbance, and user safety.
After an area of need has been identified, a multiple use plan could be developed. One such area in need of such a plan is the Lighthouse trails of North Harbor Island, near Port Aransas. But it's my understanding that without the jurisdictional umbrella of the State Scientific Area that it is impossible for Texas Parks and Wildlife to create rules and regulations to manage many activities in the baywaters and the conflicts that may ensue from them.
I believe this problem must be resolved, perhaps in a similar fashion as the resolution of the problem of four-wheel drive vehicles in Texas riverbeds. If new legislation is needed, then so be it. If the establishment of the first marine state park is needed, then so be it.
But to not manage these areas will be to lose them for future generations.
Thanks for your time.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Will, and thanks for all your hard work down there.
MR. BILLY TRIMBLE: Commissioners —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I'm sorry. And next, Mike Nugent, be on deck.
MR. TRIMBLE: Commissioners, my name is Billy Trimble. I'm a shallow-water fishing guide out of Aransas Pass.
I'm here to speak in favor of mandatory protection for the seagrasses. My main concern is that it's too limited. I think that it should be extended to other shallow grass areas, such as Lighthouse Lakes, East Flats to Shamrock, the Ransom Mile into Dagger Island area, and many others too numerous to mention from Port O'Connor to Port Isabel.
And I think some consideration should be given to making the Lighthouse Lakes area a state park.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you very much. And Mr. Mike Nugent. And Michael Miglini, on deck.
MR. MIKE NUGENT: Good afternoon, Mr. Commissioners.
My name is Mike Nugent. I'm a charter boat owner/operator from Aransas Pass. I'm here today representing the membership of Port Aransas Boatmen's Association, and I'm also on the board of directors of National Association of Charter Boat Operators.
Primarily, I want to talk about artificial reefs and a word or two about our stand on the seagrass.
Almost four years ago, Dr. Bob Shipp gave a presentation in Galveston at a Gulf of Mexico Fishery Council Meeting, and they had gone back all the way into the 1800s and done a historical tracing of the red snapper fishery in the Gulf of Mexico.
And it was interesting that throughout the history, his main premise of this presentation came to be that until the development of the oil and gas industry in Texas, there was very few — very few places that were viable red snapper locales.
And he thinks, as do a lot of people, that red snapper are almost entirely a habitat-driven fish. And what we're — as our organization is here to ask is that we would like Parks and Wildlife to take a more aggressive and proactive stance in the artificial reef industry.
As an example, we've done a handout — and I'll leave it with y'all — but in a 55-mile radius of Port Aransas, we've lost 35 rigs that are documented, and there's four sites — four places where rigs have been toppled over.
And in the junction to — in addition to the red snapper, you know, these are complete ecosystems, all the way from little tiny invertebrates to bait fish to larger fish. So there's just a myriad of benefits if we could get some more rigs in there, and I think we're on the right track.
But we're just here to encourage it and to let you know that the whole future — and I don't think that's an overstatement — of the Texas red snapper fishery may indeed be in how much of this habitat we can get left in the Gulf waters.
And that's where we stand on that, and we hope we can work with you to get some more habitat not put in, but kept in the Gulf of Mexico.
We sent in a position paper already on the seagrass. As y'all start considering the seagrass stuff again, and our association stand on it is — it's kind of interesting. What one man comes up here and says it's just a start, you know, other people consider it's already going too far. So it kind of depends on it.
But the one thing I would like to say from our position paper is that if this is truly a seagrass issue, then the use of power boats which do not scar the bottom, such as jet boats and air boats, should be exempt from any restrictions.
Several of our members operate such craft and feel the real issue is one of usage rather than conservation. And I think, in a nutshell, the resistance that is being generated toward all of this seagrass plan is there's a lot of suspicion and a lot of resentment that seagrass may indeed not be the main driving force behind this.
Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Nugent.
And next I have Michael Miglini.
MR. MICHAEL MIGLINI: Hi, there. I'm Michael Miglini, and I'm here to speak on the Texas Artificial Reef Program.
I'd like to thank the efforts of Paul Hammerschmidt, Dale Shively, Douglas Peter, and John Ambisi for doing a great job to help with the Artificial Reef Program.
That being said, I feel that Texas is missing great opportunities by not putting more resources into this program. Earlier this year I had the unfortunate opportunity of watching the U.S.S. Oriskany come to harbor in Corpus Christi.
A couple days later I received a phone call from another captain in Florida. He jokingly, but it was very embarrassingly — embarrassing to me, to hear him say how much he appreciated our State preparing that ship to return to Florida to be an artificial reef.
Florida has made a massive investment. It has a very highly sophisticated and successful artificial reef program in place. I would like to see Texas, namely, the Texas Parks and Wildlife, put more investment into their already-successful program so that we can compete with states like Florida.
Florida has invested that large amount of money in that program, and they continue to do so, because they see the huge economic benefit of that investment. It's not spending money. It's investing it.
Just — luckily there's only three minutes, so everybody sitting behind me can't listen to all the financial information and economic impact information I have on this, but just the Coastal Erosion Planning and Response Act was analyzed by the University of Texas and showed a 16 to 1 return on investment.
I think that that would be very conservative if we could show that kind of return. If we were to invest more time and more energy in the Artificial Reef Program and the Ships to Reef Program in the State.
And I'd appreciate any support — additional support we can get for that.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you very much. We were disappointed to lose out on the Oriskany and as you know, we tried to get it.
MR. MIGLINI: I know we did, but with a little bit more sophisticated program, I think it will show up on our radar earlier. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Richard Moore. And Malcolm Johnson on deck.
MR. MOORE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Mr. Cook.
My name is Richard Moore. I'm a Pisces. I was one of the fortunate ones that was able to set out in '94 with Parks and Wildlife and draft the Limited Entry Bill, get it passed. Some of it still sat on the review board of that bill. I sat on the Shrimp Advisory Board, so I know a little bit about this industry.
You have to excuse me. I've got a bad, bad cold.
What I'm concerned about is all the rumors that we're hearing and then it came to light on April 8 when Mr. Holmes asked Mr. McKinney how many boats he wanted to buy out, and his answer was that he wanted to get the effort back to where it was in the '70s.
What we prepared here is a document that has had a peer review by Bennie Galloway from LGL and a sea grant, and the numbers are fine because we got the information from your numbers.
The other thing I wanted to talk to you about was your — the keeping a $3 surcharge going. As a commercial fisherman, I have no objections. I don't care if you want to raise $100 million for our buyout. As a recreational fisherman, I object to it.
What I object to is you're targeting one group of people to fund this. With our numbers which we pulled together, you have 45.7 percent of the saltwater fishermen that do not contribute to this fund, and we don't think that's fair.
If you had tacked on an addition to the Super Combo, you would already increase it over a million dollars. And in the discussion I heard this morning of raising the $3 surcharge to more money and still not attach it to the Super Combo is really scary.
There's a lot of people out there, the little people, that's having to foot this bill. And they object to it. If you want to keep it going, that's fine. But either charge one or don't charge anybody. Charge them all or nobody.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Moore.
And Malcolm Johnson. And on deck, Vance Naumann.
MR. MALCOLM JOHNSON: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Dr. Cook, thank you for letting me speak here today.
I'm Malcolm Johnson and I'm the owner and operator of Johnson Lake Management Service in San Marcos. In 1992 the triploid [indiscernible] the grass carp was legalized in the State of Texas by this Commission and this Agency.
I'm here today to tell you that that has — was a valuable addition to the Aquatic Resource Management toolbox. It's even a tool that we have that I'm not sure we could do without. Our rivers and associated reservoirs in Texas, such as, for example, the Colorado River and the Guadalupe River, have to retain the capacity to do a lot of valuable and even critical things for Texans.
And one of them is the conveyance of water to downstream users, not least of which would be our estuaries. The others would be power generation, the water flowing through the turbines. It has to get in through the screens, turn the turbines, and generate electricity.
Another is to improve our flood control up and down the floodplains and the rivers. Other one is, of course, is recreational uses of all users — boaters, fisherman, swimmers, skiers. Even, if I might say so without frowning — the jet ski crowd.
But they're all part and parcel of the usages of our rivers and we have to take the steps to keep these rivers able to fulfill those functions. One of the main things that inhibits rivers from doing these types of things is invasive exotic plants, such as hydrilla and water hyacinths and giant salvinia and those types of things.
So to the extent that we want to keep our rivers functioning for every purpose, I applaud the Commission's continued use of grass carp and hope that it goes on into the future.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you very much.
Mr. Naumann. And David Stewart on deck.
MR. VANCE NAUMANN: Good afternoon. I thank y'all for having this public forum. I appreciate it.
My name is Vance Naumann. I'm the president of the Friends of Lake Austin, and we are a nonprofit citizens' group who is a partner in the hydrilla management plan that is currently in progress on Lake Austin.
And to get right to the point, to echo Mr. Johnson, we like grass carp. And I know this is a very passionate topic and we have done a lot of work, obviously, on Lake Austin and on this issue, and being a partner in the plan, we're very confident that the progress — that we are making some progress on Lake Austin.
And to keep things short, I'd like to make a compliment to the staff here at Texas Parks and Wildlife. I've been dealing with this issue for about four years on Lake Austin. I'm a resident on Lake Austin, besides being involved with the Friends of Lake Austin, and I can assure you the staff is very aware of the bass fishing community, and without a question, they are always looking out for their interest.
But fortunately and thankfully, and I appreciate all their work, and for Lake Austin's benefit, they're also looking out for other recreational users' interests, and we appreciate their work.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And let's see. Tim Cook. I'm sorry — David Stewart.
VOICE: He had to leave.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: So who do we have here?
MR. TIM COOK: Cook. Tim Cook.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Cook. Tim Cook. And Michael — I'm sorry; is it Biggs?
VOICE: He had to leave.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. You're on deck.
MR. COOK: Thank you, Chairman, Director Cook, members of the Commission.
My name is Tim Cook. I'm the State Conservation Director with the Texas Bass Federation. The Bass Federation is the grassroots arm of the Bass Anglers Sportsmen Society. We have 1,500 Federation members and over 50,000 BASS members statewide.
There are a lot of anglers who have taken time away from work to speak today. They are unhappy customers, if you will. Our legislators consider every letter their office receives to represent 500 voting constituents.
If you were to apply the same formula to the numbers of anglers who are here today and those who have written letters of concern, you can see that the numbers are significant.
I'm asking you today to provide a little customer service. The root of most conflict is a lack of communication. I encourage the Commission to direct Inland Fisheries to open the door of communication and find new ways to work with anglers on important issues that affect sport fishing in Texas.
Anglers are asking for a seat at the table so we can help make our waters cleaner, more accessible, and a better place to fish. Anglers are also willing to get involved, as demonstrated by the Denton County Bass Club.
When an aquatic herbicide treatment was scheduled on Lake Quitman this month for one-quarter acre of water hyacinths, I asked the Department on their behalf if they would manually remove those — if we could manually remove those plants.
Phil Durocher and his staff were very willing to work with the anglers, and as a result, herbicide should not have to be used on Quitman this year. If we're going to talk the talk, we have to walk the walk, and I believe that every angler in this room is willing to do his or her part.
There are many other competing uses for our resources, such as drinking water, power generation, and other forms of recreation. That is why anglers and the Texas Parks and Wildlife have to work together to protect our resources.
I'm also here today to ask you to commit funding to aquatic habitat enhancement programs. When steps are taken to control aquatic vegetation, there has to be a plan for maintaining adequate habitat for the fish population.
There will be a Department study released soon on aquatic habitat enhancement using native aquatic plant revegetation methods. Once this study is complete, I ask you to make funds available so that we can start improving habitat in our aging reservoirs, utilizing native aquatic vegetation.
The millions of dollars the Department spends raising and stocking fish is wasted unless the fish have adequate habitat to ensure their survival. Otherwise, you are just raising bait fish instead of sport fish.
Finally, I'm asking you today to find additional funding for the angler education program. Because of budget constraints, much of the work Inland Fisheries staff used to perform on youth-related fishing education has fallen on the shoulders of volunteers.
The youth is the future of the sport and with annual decreases in license sales, youth involvement is critical for our sports future.
Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I'm sorry — did not pronounce your name right. Is it Michael —
VOICE: Mr. Beek left, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. You're up, and McKanna is next. Peggy McKanna. Did I get that right — Peggy McKanna and Bob Jett. Bob Jett, on deck.
MS. McKANNA: My name is Peggy McKanna, and I'm here today representing PLAT, Protect Lakes Across Texas.
And I have a statement from our president, who was unable to be here today. Protect Lakes Across Texas, PLAT, believes all public surface waters within the State of Texas should be managed for the benefit of every citizen.
That includes swimmers, water skiers, water for human consumption, property owners, boaters, personal watercraft, fisherman, bird watchers, divers, and all users.
Aquatic weeds are very, very serious problem for many bodies of surface water throughout Texas. We believe the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is taking a sound, scientific, logical and conservative approach to the aquatic plant management problems across our State.
Unfortunately, there are not sufficient funds for all the areas with serious aquatic plant problems. We encourage Texas Parks Management to continue the current programs for aquatic plant management and to increase funding so that this outstanding program can be expanded.
Signed by John Wagner, President, PLAT.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you very much, Ms. McKanna.
Bob Jett. And Terry Oldham, on deck.
MR. BOB JETT: Mr. Chairman, Mr. Cook, fellow Commissioners, thank you for allowing me to speak.
I had written down two points that I wanted to speak about. Does it matter which one, Mr. Chairman?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: No, sir. Go right ahead. Fire at will.
MR. JETT: Okay. My first point was ramp improvement or access improvement for Town Lake, the ramp underneath I-35. For you to depart your co-boater or bring them back on board after parking the vehicle, you can't do so without scarring up your boat by hitting concrete or stumps.
A floating dock would be a good addition to that area right there to make accessment to the water a whole lot better.
And my second point was Texas Parks and Wildlife biologists have numerous studies recommending against the use of triploid grass carp and have denied numerous permit applications. Because of political pressure from the State level, they have been forced to approve them.
A large number of voting anglers are upset with the circumvention of the normal chain of command. We are asking for this Commission to convey this to the Governor's Office and to the State Senate.
And we thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you.
Mr. Oldham. Mr. Ed Parten, on deck.
MR. TERRY OLDHAM: I'm Terry Oldham, live in Wimberley, Texas. Some of you know me from before.
Mr. Cook, I don't think I've — last time I saw you, the space shuttle wasn't doing too good up in Athens. I don't know if you remember that or not.
At that meeting the — a lot of anglers went up there to that meeting the morning the space shuttle had its problems, and since then, seems like we've been kind of out of touch with each other.
And it seems to me like the Department has gone back on a chemical dependency and grass carp, and it's not the direction that we all worked hard. There was a lot of fisherman involved the last four or five years to try to get the Department to get out the carp and chemical dependency, you know, as far as eradication of the hydrilla.
You know, we had some good success, had a lot of good meetings, a lot of good things came out of that. But it seems to me like, or the rumors I'm hearing, we've gone back to it. Lake Austin's a very good example.
There's no doubt something had to be done on Lake Austin. I think a harvester would have been a better option. Lake Bastrop — I'm hearing now that they're going to chemically treat 60-something acres, and that's the lake we fought so hard over for three or four years.
I was over there this spring or early June, and the harvester was sitting at the dock. The paddlewheels on the side were completely clean except for the portion that was under the water. Had moss about this thick growing on the paddlewheel. So it hadn't even been used.
So, you know, if they said they been using it and it's not doing their job, well, somebody's not telling the truth.
I think we need to get back with the Commissioners. I know the anglers would love to meet with y'all anytime with Mr. Cook and try to work, you know, get plans back in the works to where we can do something besides dump chemicals and grass carp into the lakes in this area.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you.
Ed — is it Parten?
MR. ED PARTEN: Yes, sir. On my way up, I have a question to the 44 year biologist. How do we include our wives into hunting and also other women? My wife's real narrow-minded. I don't think she'd go for that.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: We won't deduct that from your time.
MR. PARTEN: I was hoping you wouldn't. But it's still a question someone needs to answer for me.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Temple Thomas, you're on deck.
MR. PARTEN: All right. I hear from a few people that fishing in the State of Texas is as good as it's ever been. And before I comment on that, in 1945 George Orwell said, If liberty means anything to any of us, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.
Well, I'm here to tell you or ask some questions that you might not want to hear today. One is that if fishing's as good as it's ever been, why hasn't the State record been broke in the last almost-13 years? Why is it almost 13 years old?
Why is fishing license sales down dramatically? Why haven't the Lone Star Share a Lunker program continued to be so effective? We've had as many as 68, but the last few years we've had as few as three entered into that program. We had 15 this year. That's a far cry from the record that we've had.
Boat registrations are still down. The Department needs money. We want to support the Department. We want to see things improve in our fisheries. We want it back to where it was where people were buying boats, buying fishing license, and we're willing to work with you to make that happen.
We can't do that if permits are granted on a very regular basis to dump grass carp into our lakes to eradicate all the aquatic vegetation that's there or to dump chemicals on a regular basis to eradicate the aquatic vegetation that's there.
We've heard saltwater people talk about how important habitat is. We've heard the quail and turkey people talk about how important habitat is. That habitat is just as important for fisheries and inland fisheries as it is in any other aspect of this great Department.
And I want to say that as long as we have water, we're going to need grass to help filter the water, help prevent erosion, and also to enhance our inland fisheries. And I think that it's time that we start working together to make this happen.
Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Parten.
Temple Thomas. On deck, Lynn Washman.
MR. TEMPLE THOMAS: Good afternoon, gentlemen, Commissioner, Doctor. Thank you very much.
My name's Temple Thomas. I'm a local fisherman. I am a member of BASS. I'm also a member of the Texas Federation. I'm also a member of a local fishing club. I'm pretty avid about it, as other people have mentioned.
And I'm echoing what a lot of other people have said. Basically, anglers want a voice. And what we hear more than anything is the outcome instead of the intended meetings or the intended plans. We never get to hear what's going on, and we never feel like we get to be involved with this.
We want to be a part of both. We want to have a voice and even to help. As was mentioned before, removing of a pest, if you will, water growth that was done manually instead of through chemicals. We have the force, we have the workforce, to help out with pretty much any program that Texas Parks and Wildlife wants to help initiate, and we're willing to come to the table and sit down and talk with you to do anything that we can to help.
We want to look at better methods of water — or vegetation management. You hear all the comments of all of us against introduction of grass carp. I'm one of the ones that will say it again. What we're looking at is a better management.
We're not talking about letting it grow unchecked. We also know it needs to be managed. But on the other hand, the long-term effects of grass carp has not even been addressed in any of the publications that we've seen, any of the reports that have come out.
And as another one of my cohorts said, there have been many biologists that have given plenty of reports against it, because once the hydrilla is gone, then it's out of the mill foil, then it's onto everything else and before you know it, you basically have a dirt-filled, rock-filled lake with nothing but mud in it, and you have nothing, no habitat for the fish as well.
And that's also harmful as far as the quality of water. The other issue that we want to bring up is just better communications. We want to communicate with you. Today, I'm actually real proud to say that I bought my lifetime fishing and hunting license.
I'm a big supporter of Texas Parks and Wildlife. And, you know, I have no problem spending money and buying the things that we need to, but I want to see that the money goes forward, and we want to see that we have a voice in what we do.
We want to be included in it. Texas Parks and Wildlife has a great website. I spend a lot of time doing a lot of research on it, reading from it, and there's a lot of ways that you could get the input that you want without having to go through hours and hours of public hearings sometimes.
You can put polls out there, put out requests for things, and there's plenty of us that check it out. If you want to get some information or just get a general feel for the community, utilize the website that you have. Like I said, it's a great site and I enjoy using it.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you very much.
Lynn Washman, and on deck — no?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Linda? Is it Linda Washman?
VOICE: Linda, and I didn't mean to speak today.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Put you in the wrong stack. Sorry. Jack Washman also —
VOICE: Same thing.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: — observing? Got a lot of — Allen Hendrickson, Lindy Ellason, none of those?
VOICE: We're all in the wrong stack.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Wrong stack. Okay.
VOICE: Lindy Ellason wants to speak.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. Lindy Ellason.
MR. SAM DEMENT: Thank you. Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Mr. Cook, I appreciate the time.
I have to go down a little bit and read a line that I had — that I was going to end on. I have taken the time to read the Texas Parks and Wildlife mission statement to better understand the overall complexity of your task. After the last two hours, the word complexity I understand a lot more now.
As I say, my name is Sam Dement. I live in McQueeney, Texas, and this is the first time I've had the opportunity to address the Commission.
I live and boat on Lake McQueeney. I am a Friends of Lake McQueeney board member, FOM, FOLM. We have 700 household members that love Lake McQueeney.
I want to thank Texas Parks and Wildlife for the support I have personally observed for the last 13 years that has afforded me the opportunity to enjoy the water in Texas.
Apparently, noxious plants will continue to be a serious concern for many Texas waters. It has been my pleasure to work and learn and support the actions of Texas Parks and Wildlife and to try to maintain and control these plants.
I know they take their actions very seriously to maintain control in many areas of rivers and lakes. FOLM also has safety as one of our primary concerns, and we appreciate the support — the job accomplished by Game Wardens on our very busy boating lake.
Again, I want to thank you for allowing me to talk to you. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Ellason. And next, Sam Dement, is it?
VOICE: That's who just talked.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I'm sorry. Who did I miss there? Lindy Ellason. Sorry.
MR. LINDY ELLASON: I've been sitting so long here, the blood circulation's down.
I've come here today to talk to you about the future of our lakes. As of you know, most of all our lakes are man-made. So we've had an automatic habitat when all the lakes were new.
However, with decreasing habitat, we're experiencing decreasing fishing opportunities. Therefore, with less revenue from fishing license used to replace decreasing habitat. The increased cost of fishing license will not be enough.
Where have the people from our State that used to come down to fish Lake Livingston — where have the people that used to come down to fish Lake Conroe? And Lake Fork, bass capital of the world. As again, Texas Parks and Wildlife do an adequate job with the funds provided to them.
Did we budget for them for extra funds to correct this? If not, what can we do to develop more funds? Sounds like same song, second verse. To do this, we can work together. Communications — excuse me — it will take communications between this board, Parks and Wildlife, and mostly, grassroots of this country.
There is no one alone that will solve our concerns. We must be united in this effort. You need to know just what the problems are from the grassroots. Do we need to review what effects treatments being used will have on the future?
Do we have the funds to do what needs to be done? And as presented here today, we have concerns with the present treatment or the amount of treatment being applied. I would not want to make a decision on eradicating the habitat for the future or how many people get sick from polluted or treated waters.
If the services around the lakes have deteriorated, people cannot make a living doing what they would like to do. Just recently, a hotel was tore down due to no business and no plans for replacement, due to the economy.
Marinas have closed down. There is hardly a place that is suitable to stay the night. And why is that? Because marina operators and business people cannot make a living without the proper management. What will this look like in the future?
Future investment from the private sector is not being made. The economy is just not there due to a lack of participation. We have a lot to do to preserve our lakes for the future. I am not one to create a new department and Governmental agency, but this would be a big job and may we consider something like this.
I am sure Mr. Durocher would love that. He's stuck with this problem.
I would like to thank you today. We hope that your valuable time has been educational. The silent majority has presented to you our concerns for the future. We are fisherman, and we are voters.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you very much.
MR. VIKTORIN: Viktorin.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Viktorin. And Karen Hayden next.
MR. VIKTORIN: Chairman Fitzsimons, Commissioners, Mr. Cook, my name is Richard Viktorin. This is my first time to appear before you. It's wonderful to hear the variety of voices and stakeholders and issues here today.
I appear before you as a member of the trail-using public here in Austin. The general subject of my remarks is leveraging local parks and preserve assets. Specifically, I want to talk to you about the Balcones Canyonland Preserve and Bright Leaf State Natural Area.
Balcones Canyonland Preserve is a multi-agency conservation effort which operates under a regional 10(a) permit issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Preserve operates to mitigate habitat loss, primarily for the golden-cheeked warbler.
As development has harvested our scenic and natural lands in western Travis County, the Balcones Canyonland Preserve provides habitat for the warbler to nest and breed during the five months it resides here in Austin from March through July of each year.
The Preserve acreage is currently some 28,000 acres. It will be completed at 30,428.
As a member of the Austin trail-using public, I came here primarily to comment about the Balcones Canyonland Preserve and its trails management system. It has no trails program and has not created one foot of trails in its ten years of existence.
Moreover, for some six years now, Preserve biologists and managers have engaged in a program of closing trails and BCP lands to even the lightest recreational uses, such as hiking.
The BCP has even attempted to restrict trail use on Austin park lands that are counted as Preserve acreage but grandfathered as to their use.
Trails and trail use support the land and conservation ethic. I'm here today to encourage the Texas Parks and Wildlife to participate in this debate over appropriate recreational use, light recreational use, of Preserve lands.
At a time when America faces an epidemic of obesity, we should be creating opportunities for exercise and recreation, not closing them off.
To engage you in this debate and demonstrate the unreasonableness of management practices at the Balcones Canyonland Preserve, I would like to draw your attention to four inconsistencies, four double standards, regarding BCP management and endangered species management here in Austin.
If you attempt to study this issue and go looking at species management plans for the golden-cheeked warbler around the State of Texas, one of the first places you will find yourself is at Fort Hood, the second most active live artillery range in the nation, where we have force launches, war games, grenades, bazookas — all manner of intrusive activity.
Yet, we have a successful endangered species program at Fort Hood. I want to point this out because the Preserve managers have said that bicycles and hikers are — I've used up my three minutes already. I'm used to usually speaking a little bit quicker than that.
Well, let me close. I just want to draw your attention that y'all need to leverage the local public assets as much as possible. One asset that you do have control over is the Bright Leaf State Natural Area.
For ten years it's been under State authority. It has not been open to the public yet. I hope y'all look at giving it adequate funding as well so the West Austinites can have more trails.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you very much. I'm familiar with that program at Fort Hood. You're right — there's plenty of action there.
Karen Hayden? I don't blame her.
Randy Smith? We outlasted more than one.
Michael Smith. Good for you.
MR. MICHAEL SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners and Mr. Cook. Thank you very much.
I am the Conservation Chair of the Dallas-Fort Worth Herpetological Society, and I want to talk with you today about box turtles.
Some years ago, before most of the horned lizards disappeared from most of Texas, supposedly we would have been able to do something that would have kept more of them around. We would certainly have done it.
Today we have an opportunity to help protect our box turtles, and if we don't act, I believe we will see them decline even more than they already are. Box turtles are in trouble for a variety of reasons, including that they are collected and sold in the pet trade by the thousands in Texas.
A number of us here in Texas have been looking at box turtle conservation issues over the past year. Today, we present you a petition that has been available on the petition online website. Over 400 people have signed the petition from various states, countries, and 168 of those signatures are from Texas.
The petition states the box turtles are charming and likeable reptiles that play a valuable role in nature. We believe that commercially collecting and selling box turtles is not sustainable and should be prohibited.
Box turtles reproduce themselves slowly, and only a few make it to adulthood. Those who do survive to adulthood must be allowed to stay where they are and lay many clutches of eggs over the course of decades in order for the population to survive.
If the number of box turtles drops too low because of over-collection, the population dies out. So these are not like deer or turkey or other game species that replace themselves quickly. These don't replace themselves very quickly at all.
Those who signed the petition have made many eloquent comments, and I'd like to quote just a couple of those. One says, "I am a Texan and I do not want my State's box turtle population to be destroyed."
Another says, "I have lived in Harris County for 59 years. I recall very well how common box turtles were 40 or 50 years ago. I find it appalling that their numbers have declined to such a great degree and nothing has been done to halt that decline. Please give this matter serious consideration."
Dr. Kenneth Dodd, a very well-known biologist, says — is author of the book, North American Box Turtles and Natural History, and about ten papers on box turtle biology. "I concur that box turtles cannot sustain harvest based on their biological characteristics as long-lived species."
And zoo biologist Rick Hudson says that, "All the biological data we have indicates that commercially harvesting box turtles is unsustainable."
I have researched the literature regarding how box turtles' life history makes them vulnerable to over-harvesting, and I present that paper to you today also. And also, for a shorter summary of the issues, I think you have the brochure there on box turtles.
And I appreciate your time and attention very much. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Smith.
MR. CARL FRANKLIN: It's nice to get up.
Good afternoon, Chairman, and members of the Committee.
My name is Carl Franklin, and I'm a herpetologist, and I'm Collections Manager and Biological Curator at the University of Texas at Arlington with their natural history specimen collection, and I would like to concur with several of the comments made by the previous presenter, Michael Smith, in regard to box turtles in the State of Texas.
But I'd like to also present a different tangent. I have been involved as science from just herpetology, but as well as with herpetoculture and encouraging individuals to provide and to captive-breed reptiles and amphibians.
And one of the things I'd like to mention in regard to that — myself, in the State of Texas, I haven't found anyone that has bred or produced on an annual basis as many box turtles as I have.
I would like to concur that the commercial harvest of box turtles from the wild is unsustainable to natural populations, and if you were to review the numbers that were indicated from the 1999 to 2002 report from the Non-Game Commission in regards to box turtles, the numbers of those that were purchased and sold and wild-collected are quite interesting to review.
Ornate box turtles, as an example, I believe, were somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 were wild-collected, and there were more than 7,000 that were sold. I can tell you that I'm not aware of anyone in the State of Texas that is breeding those in that type of number.
Another encouraging factor for protecting or limiting the number of box turtles that are collected for commercial activity or prohibiting that activity is that it would not only protect our natural resources, but those from all our neighboring states as well.
And that pretty much concludes the comments. Thank you for your time this afternoon.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you very much, Mr. Franklin.
Our last speaker, Will Kirkpatrick.
MR. WILL KIRKPATRICK: This is the one you wanted, right? Everybody can wake back up again.
My name's Will Kirkpatrick. What I want to tell you about is they were discussing the — what happened to all the fish. Commissioner Parker has a copy of it. The rest of you will get a copy of it. The local newspaper, for the first time in 18 years, front page, Tournaments Kill Bass.
They have an organization that's been promoting tournaments on Rayburn. They've got a big weigh-in center. They are finally going to build something to take care of the bass. They found out — and this was in the paper — that they're losing 60 percent of all the bass released from tournaments on Sam Rayburn in the summertime.
So that's the good news. It's the last speaker, and it's good news.
Commissioner Watson, you worked on this a long time. It's finally starting to help.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Kirkpatrick.
And I'm informed that one of the people that signed up to speak is back. Karen Hayden or Hadden. I'm glad you came back.
MS. KAREN HADDEN: Thank you. And thank you for still making time. I apologize — I got called out.
And good afternoon, Mr. Cook and Commissioners.
My name is Karen Hadden. I'm the Director of the SEED Coalition, which is Sustainable Energy and Economic Development, and we work on cleaning up mercury pollution.
And I'm here to say thank you today, because I've seen two massive improvements that I'm very pleased about with Texas Parks and Wildlife. One is that the website is markedly improved with being able to find fish consumption advisories.
And secondly, the Outdoor Annual is now listing, page 49, the fish consumption advisories for this State. And I want to thank you, because that's very, very important.
Mercury is impacting fish. It does impact reproduction. We're working to get it cleaned up. We don't think that anyone should have to worry about having mercury in the fish they eat, but currently, we do have to be concerned about that.
Children can be exposed and end up with brain damage and learning disabilities, and adults can have impacts as well. For people with cardiovascular problems, it can worsen their conditions.
So I'm very happy that you're doing this. I think it's the right thing to do to protect both our fish and our public health. And I urge you to take one step further. Right now, Texas is the worst state in the nation on mercury for the third year running.
We had an increase in the last year, not a decrease. And it's not looking like we're seeing reductions anytime soon, although certainly, we would like to see that.
What I'm urging you to do as Parks and Wildlife is to go ahead and get signs posted where there are currently advisories. We have 12 water bodies total that have fish consumption advisories for mercury. One is the Gulf of Mexico. But then many of our major fishing lakes, and at those ramps, we need to have signs up.
An earlier estimate by your Agency was $20,000 for those signs, which comes down to about 1.3 cents per fishing license in the State. So please find a way. We've got phone tag in motion. We're setting up a meeting to talk about this further, but I wanted to raise it with all of your attention.
And I thank you for this opportunity. I'll leave some handouts here, and I welcome any further contact. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you very much, Ms. Hadden.
Have I missed anyone that would like to speak?
Mr. Cook, any other business to come before this Commission today?
MR. COOK: No, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. Hearing none, I declare so adjourned.
Thank you very much.
(Whereupon, at 4:45 p.m., the hearing was concluded.)
C E R T I F I C A T E
MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Annual Public Hearing
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: August 25, 2004
I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 131, 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