Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
November 6, 2003Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
Be it remembered, that heretofore on the 6th day of November, 2003, there came on to be heard matters under the regulatory authority of the Parks and Wildlife Commission of Texas, in the Commission Hearing Room of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex, beginning at 9:00 a.m. to wit:
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission:
- Ernest Angelo, Jr., Midland, Texas, Vice-Chairman
- Joseph B.C. Fitzsimons, San Antonio, Texas
- Ned S. Holmes, Houston, Texas
- Alvin L. Henry, Houston, Texas
- Peter M. Holt, San Antonio, Texas
- Philip Montgomery, Dallas, Texas (not present)
- Donato D. Ramos, Laredo, Texas
- Kelly W. Rising, M.D., Beaumont, 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 Department
TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE
PUBLIC HEARING REGISTRATION
NOVEMBER 6, 2003
- Mr. Dion Miller, City of Mineola, P. O. Box 179, Mineola, Texas 75773
- Mr. Dan Hepker, Texas Trappers & Fur Hunters, 1002 MN. St., Bastrop, Texas 78602
- Mr. Jack King, Sportsmen Conservationist of Texas, 804 Brazos, Suite 506, Austin, Texas 78701
- Mr. Kirby Brown, Texas Wildlife Association, 401 Isom Road, Suite 227, San Antonio, Texas 78216
Donations of $500.00
Not Previously Approved by the Commission
November 2003 Commission Meeting
Donor, Description, Purpose of Donations
1. Texas Bighorn Society,
Canon digital camcorder,
Bighorn sheep restoration
2. Parks & Wildlife Foundation of Texas, Support of Canoncita, Support Palo Duro SP project
3. Parks & Wildlife Foundation of Texas, Operation of Texas Expo, Texas Wildlife Expo
4. Parks & Wildlife Foundation of Texas, Canoncita project, Septic system repairs project # 101413
5. Parks & Wildlife Foundation of Texas, Teacher Intern Program, Support The Natural Classroom Teacher Intern
6. Parks & Wildlife Foundation of Texas, Teacher Intern Program, Teacher Intern Program
7. Parks & Wildlife Foundation of Texas, Passport To Texas Radio Passport to Texas Radio Program
8. Fancy Publication Wild Bird Magazine, Great Texas Birding Classic, Team Sponsorship
9. The Bunton Company, Great Texas Birding Classic, Team Sponsorship
10. Parks & Wildlife Foundation of Texas, Hispanics Outdoor Reach, Promotion Hispanics Outdoor Reach
11. Parks & Wildlife Foundation of Texas, Canoncita Project, Repairs Canoncita Foundation of Texas septic system
12. Fredericksburg Chamber Commerce, Heart of Texas Wildlife, Support non federal match for Heart of TX Wildlife Trail
13. Del Rio Chamber Commerce, Heart of Texas Wildlife Trails, Support local match – federal grant Heart of Texas Wildlife Trails
14. Parks Wildlife Foundation of Texas, Education & Outreach, Support TPWD Education and Outreach Programs
15. Friends of Pedernales Falls SP, Six carport, Six carport for sheltering park
16. The Wells Texas Foundation, Wildlife Research, Texas horned lizard research
17. East Texas Woods & Waters Foundation, Renovation, Renovation of Visitor Center at The Nature Center
18. Saltwater Taxidermy By Harris, Sea Center Texas, Reproduction at Sea Center Texas
19. Energy Resource Technology, Artificial Reef Program, Material to create artificial reef in Gulf of Mexico
20. Foundation for North American Wild Sheep, Desert Bighorn Sheep, Restoration of Desert Bighorn Sheep
21. Kerrville Convention & Visitors Bureau, Heart of Texas Wildlife Trails, Sponsorship of non federal match
22. Robert Swift Fichtel Design Inc., Great Texas Birding Classic, Corporate team registration fees
23. Parks & Wildlife Foundation of Texas, Texas State Park Guide Editorial printing on Hispanic heritage in Texas
24. ConocoPhillips Co., Great Texas Birding Classic, Completion of sponsorship package
25. Sheltered Wings, Great Texas Birding Classic, Completion of sponsorship package
26. The Brunton Co., Great Texas Birding Classic, Corporate team registration fees
27. Shikar Safari Club International Foundation, Expo Sponsorship, Palo Duro sponsorship
28. Texas Farm Bureau, Expo Sponsorship, Antler Associates sponsorship
29. Texas Wildlife Assoc., Expo Sponsorship, Antler Associates sponsorship
30. Leica Camera Inc., Great Texas Birding Classic, Corporate team registration fees
31. Michael J. Shelly, P.C.,Attorney at law; Great Texas Birding Classic; Corporate team registration fees
32. Rockport-Fulton Area Chamber of Commerce, Great Texas Birding Classic, Completion of sponsorship package
33. Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program Inc., Great Texas Birding Classic, Independent team registration fees
34. FUMC Methodist Men Brotherhood, Interpretive Master Plan, Monument Hill SP local monetary account
35. RV Outlet Mall, Expo Sponsorship, Antler Associates sponsorship
36. National Rifle Assoc., Expo Sponsorship, Palo Duro sponsorship
37. Tokyo Electron (TEL), Expo Sponsorship, Antler Associates sponsorship
38. AFLAC, Expo Sponsorship, Palo Duro sponsorship
39. Weyerhaeuser, Expo Sponsorship, Lake Fork Club sponsorship
40. Temple – Inland, Expo Sponsorship, Antler Associates sponsorship
41. Cemex, Expo Sponsorship, Antler Associates sponsorship
42. WorldCom (MCI), Expo Sponsorship, Antler Associates sponsorship
43. Cajun Riverport (Boudro’s Restaurant), Expo Sponsorship, Antler Associates sponsorship
44. Texas Ducks Unlimited, Expo Sponsorship, Antler Associates sponsorship
45. Dallas Safari Club, Expo Sponsorship, Antler Associates sponsorship
46. Capital Area Trauma Regional Advisory, Automatic External Defibrillator, Bastrop SP purchase of AED
Grand Total $596,194.93
P R O C E E D I N G S
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Welcome everyone this morning and begin the proceedings of business –
MR. COOK: Thank you, sir.
A public notice of this meeting containing all items on the proposed agenda has been filed with the Office of Secretary of State as required by Chapter 551 of the Government Code, referred to as the Open Meetings Law.
I would like for this action to be noted in the official record of this meeting. So that everyone will have a chance to address the Commission today in an orderly fashion, I'd like to go through some ground rules with you right quickly so that we'll know how to proceed here.
The Chairman is in charge of this meeting, and by law it is his duty and responsibility to preserve order, direct the order of the hearing, and recognize persons to be heard.
I will be assisting the Chairman today as sergeant-at-arms. We have sign-up cards out here, outside at the table for everyone wishing to speak. And the Chairman will call names from those cards one at a time. Each person will be allowed to speak from the podium here in the center one at a time.
When your name is called, please come to the podium, state your name and who you represent, if anyone other than yourself. Then state your position on the agenda item under consideration, and add supporting facts that will help the Commission understand your concerns.
Please limit your remarks to the specific agenda item under consideration. Each person who wants to address the Commission will have three minutes to speak. I will keep track of the time on this handy-dandy little thing right here, and notify you when your three minutes are up.
When your time is up, please resume your seat so that others may speak. Your time may be extended if a Commissioner has a question for you, or if they get into a discussion about the issue. We'll be sure that you have the time, and that that time that they use is not counted against you.
Statements that are merely argumentative or critical of others will not be tolerated. There is a microphone at the podium, so it is not necessary to raise your voice. Shouting will not be tolerated.
I also request 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.
If you would like to submit written materials or information to the Commission, please give them to Carole Hemby or Michelle Klaus, who are seated here to my right. Ms. Hemby will then pass those written materials to the Commissioners. Thank you, sir.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you, Mr. Cook. Next, we have approval of the minutes of the previous meeting, if there are no additions or corrections. Do we have a motion to approve?
COMMISSIONER RISING: Move to approve.
COMMISSIONER WATSON: Second.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Motion by Commissioner Rising, second by Commissioner Watson. All in favor, say aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Opposed? The motion is carried. And the next item is the acceptance of gifts, of which you all have a list. Do we have a motion for approval of this item?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: So moved.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Second.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Motion by Commissioner Fitzsimons, second by Commissioner Holmes. All in favor, say aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Opposed? The motion is carried. Mr. Cook, next we have the service awards.
MR. COOK: Thank you, sir. I would like to first point out to the Commission and the audience here today that typically in this ceremony, we would also recognize folks who are retiring from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
We really are proud of the people who work here, who give us their time and efforts, and have done great jobs for us. And typically, part of this ceremony this morning we would have a number of folks who are retiring.
Now, the fact of the matter is that as a result of the retirement incentive that was granted by the Texas Legislature, we had 161 retirees that potentially would have been on the agenda this morning, and the time to do something like that wasn't appropriate for our meeting to be able to get done today.
And so we had a wonderful ceremony here Tuesday night. And I appreciate the Commissioners attending that meeting. We had a room full of folks, and honored those folks who have retired ‑‑ recently retired from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
I mention this to you because of the importance that it is to us, and the importance that those people are to us, and what they have done.
Those 161 folks who retired carried with them something over 4,100 years of experience at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Now, we're a big outfit, and we're spread wide. But any time you lose that kind of knowledge, that kind of experience or those kinds of scars, you lose a lot. And we will miss them, and we appreciate them very much.
Our service awards today ‑‑ these folks are ‑‑ have worked with us, and we recognize them for their service. And they continue to work with us, and we're proud to have them also.
First of all, I want to recognize a guy who I've known a long, long time, Jimmy Dean in the Inland Fisheries Division, with 35 years of service. Jimmy Dean started with the Department as a Fish and Wildlife Technician at the Sheldon Reservoir on the 1st of July, 1968.
Jimmy transferred to San Antonio as an Assistant Project Leader in November 1969, and has been there since. One of the first biologists in the state to implement the Slot Length Limit for large-mouth bass at Calaveras Reservoir, Jimmy has also co-authored several papers for the Southeastern Association.
One paper won as best paper, one of his papers won as the second-best paper. And believe me, this is an incredibly competitive group of folks and their scientific presentations.
Jimmy was very instrumental in the planning phase of Choke Canyon reservoir, and the need to keep standing timber within the reservoir for fish habitat.
Currently, Jimmy is involved in the finalization of a Bi-National Management Plan for Amistad Reservoir. He was a 2001 recipient of SCOT's Biologist of the Year Award, and a 2002 San Antonio Angler's Club Outdoorsman of the Year. With 35 years of service, Jimmy Dean, Inland Fisheries Division.
MR. COOK: From the Law Enforcement Division, also with 35 years of service, Arthur McCall, Game Warden V, from Pleasanton, Texas. Arthur McCall began his employment with TPWD in September 1968, and attended the Game Warden Academy at Texas A&M.
His assignment began in Real County, and then transferred to Atascosa County in September 1971, where he is stationed today. With 35 years of service, Game Warden Arthur McCall.
MR. COOK: We – I've known McCall a long time. And I was in a place called Junction at the time. He was down there in Leakey. And we used to call him Crash McCall. But I won't go into that story.
With 30 years of service, Gary Hunt, Game Warden V, from Clarendon, Texas, in our Law Enforcement Division. Gary began his career with the Department on August 15, 1973, attending the 30th Game Warden Training Academy at Texas A&M University.
His first duty station was Clarendon, Texas, where he still serves today. With 30 years of service, Gary M. Hunt, Game Warden V.
MR. COOK: Also from our Law Enforcement Division is a gentleman that I've known a long time. But I didn't know his name was Everett. But now I do. Skip McBride, Captain Game Warden, from Mount Pleasant, Texas. Graduated from the Game Warden Academy on December 22, 1973, and was assigned to Dallas County, where he worked as a game warden until being promoted to District Supervisor for the Dallas Office, Region 8, District 1, on March 1979.
On November 1, 1989, Skip transferred to Mount Pleasant as supervisor for District 8 – Region 8, District 2, where he serves today. With 30 years of service, Game Warden Skip McBride.
MR. COOK: We're probably not going to get any prettier. Thank you, sir.
MR. COOK: It always gets me when I come across these guys that I still think of them as a – as we called them at the time, a top-water biologist.
David R. Synatzske, in the Wildlife Division, Manager II from Artesia Wells, Texas, with 30 years of service. David came to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as a summer intern for the Wildlife Division during the summer of 1971 in the Post Oak Savannah region of Texas.
He accepted full-time employment with TPWD Wildlife Division in October 1973 as a Fish and Wildlife Technician, initially stationed in Sonora, Texas.
Eight months later he relocated to Rock Springs to cover Edwards and Val Verde Counties as a part of the Edwards Plateau Regulatory District.
In November 1976, David moved to the Gus Engeling Wildlife Management Area at Tennessee Colony in the Post Oak Savannah Ecological Region as a Biologist II.
In 1983, he became, and remains today, the Area Manager of the Chaparral Wildlife Management Area at Artesia Wells in the Rio Grande Plains. David served for two years as project leader of the South Texas Ecosystem Project, including the Las Palomas and Chaparral Wildlife Management Areas.
He served as a TPWD co-chair of the Texas Big Game Awards since its inception in 1991, and is an official Boone and Crockett scorer, and serves as current chairman of the Texas Big Game Awards scoring committee. With 30 years of service, David Synatzske.
MR. COOK: Ray Thaler, in the State Parks Division, also we honor here today with 30 years of service. Ray is stationed in Somerville, Texas. He began his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in 1973 as a seasonal worker at Lake Somerville Nails Creek.
He was rapidly promoted to Park Ranger II, then to Park Manager at Lake Somerville Nails Creek. In 1980, he was promoted to his current position, Regional Maintenance Specialist at the Region 5 State Park Headquarters.
Ray is a graduate of Texas A&M University with a degree in Recreation, Parks and Tourism Sciences. His optimistic attitude, people-loving personality and ability to lead others constantly provides a positive impact upon our Region 5 park employees. With 30 years of dedicated service, Ray Thaler.
MR. COOK: I didn't hardly know Ray today when he showed up all dressed up.
MR. THALER: I got up early.
MR. COOK: Cleans up pretty good.
From our Law Enforcement Division with 25 years of service, Rolly Correa, Major, at Temple, Texas. Rolly began his career with TPWD by attending the First Game Warden Training Academy in Austin, Texas in September 1978. He is a member of the 33rd Game Warden Cadet Class. His first duty station was in San Antonio, Region V, District III. After ten years as a field game warden, he was promoted to Regional Staff Lieutenant in Region V.
In December 1994, Rolly was promoted to Region IX Major, stationed in Temple, Texas. With 25 years of service, Rolly Correa.
MR. COOK: From the ‑‑ also from the Law Enforcement Division, with 25 years of service, Samuel T. Ilse, Game Warden V. Sam's interest in Texas Parks and Wildlife started when he was employed by Red Nunley and worked in a LaSalle, Webb, McMullen, Uvalde, and Brewster Counties, serving as a Deputy Game Warden from 1974 until 1978, when he was accepted into the Game Warden Training Academy.
Upon graduation, Sam was stationed in Maverick County, where he served until 1985, when he transferred to Frio County. In 1997, Sam transferred to Kenedy County, where he serves today. With 25 years of service, Sam Ilse.
MR. COOK: Sam not make it? We're glad to honor him anyway. It's all right. Okay.
Kanha Cheatham, in the Infrastructure Division, known to us as Nit. And I did not know her name. She is a wonderful person, has done us a great job. Nit Cheatham moved to Austin, Texas 27 years ago from Thailand. Over the 20 years of service at TPWD, Nit has provided excellent custodial services to the Headquarters Building. She has vacuumed square footage equaled to 2,366 football fields, and emptied more wastebaskets than any of us can count. Nit Cheatham takes great pride in her work, maintains a wonderful, upbeat attitude that makes it a pleasure to work with her. With 20 years of service, Nit Cheatham.
MR. COOK: Jay Guthrie from the Law Enforcement Division with 20 years of service, stationed in Brownwood, Texas as a Major. Jay graduated from the Texas Game Warden Academy in 1984, and was assigned to Bayside, Texas, where he served until 1992, when he transferred to Edwards County, Rocksprings, Texas. In 1994, Jay was promoted to District Supervisor in Region IX District 2 in LaGrange, Texas.
Jay was most recently promoted to Major of Region 7 in Brownwood, Texas. With 20 years of service, Jay Guthrie.
MR. COOK: All right. Sorry. Jay is not here. But we're glad to have him. He was in this recent round of replacements, and we're glad that Jay is serving in that role.
From the Wildlife Division, Lee Ann Linam, Program Specialist III, Wimberley, Texas, with 20 years of service. Lee Ann began her career with Texas Parks and Wildlife as a biologist on the J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area, where she learned things they will never teach in school, like how to drive an airboat, how to install a septic system, and how to make ‑‑ and I can't say it, but poule d'eau gumbo.
Now, I don't know what that – I think that has a duck in it or something. But I'll bet she can make good gumbo.
While at the Murphree, she served as the Alligator Species Leader, (AKA, "Alligator Lady") at the time, and developed the first regulations for Texas's new alligator season and farming enterprises. During that time, she also took a one-year leave of absence to attend graduate school in Australia, and to protect Crocodile Dundee from crocodiles.
In 1990, Lee Ann transferred to Austin, where she served as an Endangered Species Program Leader. During those volatile years, she participated in diverse working groups to address concern of the Endangered Species Act, and oversee the development of the first endangered species management guidelines for private landowners. With 20 years of service, Lee Ann Johnson Linam.
MR. COOK: Alligator Lady. Give me a break.
MS. LINAM: It's poule d'eau.
MR. COOK: Poule d'eau. I mean, that's – wait a minute. That's one of them little black ducks.
MS. LINAM: Yes.
MR. COOK: Poule d'eau. All right. I'll bet Durocher knew what I meant.
Rose Mary Stringo, Administrative Tech IV in the State Parks Division in Port O'Connor, Texas joins us today. She began her career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department on September 1, 1983 as a clerk at Matagorda Island State Park and Wildlife Management. She was the first and only clerk since that time.
For 20 years, she has worked well with other agencies, as well as provide quality customer service for the Department. With 20 years of service, Rose Mary Stringo, Administrative Tech, for Port O'Connor, Texas.
MR. COOK: From the State Parks Division, Billy Joe Wood, Security Officer III, Pilot Point, Texas with 20 years of service. B.J. Wood began his Texas Parks and Wildlife Department career in 1983 as a seasonal worker at Guadalupe River State Park. B.J. was promoted to Park Ranger position in 1984, and was commissioned as a State Park Police Officer in the spring of 1985.
During the summer of 1989, B.J. was promoted to a Security Officer III at Pedernales Falls State Park; and in 1992, transferred to the newly-opened Ray Roberts Lake State Park Complex, where primary work assignment was state park law enforcement while assisting with maintenance and office operations. With 20 years of service, B.J. Wood, State Parks Division.
MR. COOK: And that concludes our service awards for our employees at this time. I have one special one here that we want to take a minute to recognize.
This morning we honor Paula Peters. Paula Peters began her career with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation of Texas in 1994 as its executive director.
The following year, the board elected her as president of that organization. Under her leadership, the Parks and Wildlife Foundation has grown rapidly, and become a strong source of private support for the programs and activities of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
During these eight years, the assets of the organization have increased by $8.1 million. The foundation has received over $35 million in private support, and $13 million in state and Federal support for the work of TPWD.
In addition, Paula has been instrumental in the acquisition of over 14,000 acres of new parkland, and securing conservation easements for over 72,000 acres.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has benefited greatly from the efforts of Paula Peters. TPWD programs and facilities that have benefited from her leadership include the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens, the Budweiser ShareLunker Program, the EXPO Scholarship Fund, KidFish, Government Canyon State Natural Area, the Rivers Center, our State Bison Herd, the Sheldon Lake Environmental Learning Center, World Birding Center, Sea Center, Texas- The State of Water Documentary, the LoneStar Legacy Endowment Program, and the LoneStar Legacy Capital Campaign.
These projects and programs preserve our state's extraordinary natural and cultural resources, as well as offer diverse opportunities for outdoor recreation.
Paula Peters has also spearheaded efforts to bring corporate sponsorships that benefit TPWD programs and sites to the table. Our partners now include folks like Anheuser-Busch, Toyota, Oshman's, Dow Chemical, Chevy, BankOne, and Brazos Mutual Funds.
I don't think we can say enough to thank Paula Peters. I think Paula did an extraordinary job with this foundation, and we are very appreciative for all of the help that the Parks and Wildlife Foundation and Paula Peters have brought to us. Paula?
MR. COOK: Let's get one here.
MS. PETERS: I want a picture with all the D.D.'s, because they're the ones that made this happen.
MR. COOK: Let's get one here, and then we'll do that right away.
MR. COOK: All the D.D. – Division Directors. You're all going to have to move back some. I know that camera is not that wide-angled.
MR. COOK: Thank you.
MR. COOK: At this time, I would like to honor Wesley Wagstaff. Wesley Wagstaff graduated from the Texas Game Warden Training Academy in April 1993. He was first assigned to Harris County, before transferring in 1996 to the Piney Woods of Hardin County, where he called home.
On August 5, 2003, at about 8:00 a.m., Wesley was en route to a call on Farm to Market 1293 in Hardin County, after receiving an Operation Game Thief tip about someone hunting deer in closed season.
While en route, another vehicle came into his lane, collided head-on with Wesley, killing him and the other driver.
Wesley was known as a hard-working, fair game warden. He was a great camp cook, and an avid outdoorsman who loved fishing. He could always bring a smile to the faces around the campfire with his witty country humor. Wesley was respected as a good family man. He was many things to many people, but he was a friend to them all.
Each year, the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies recognizes a game warden from each of the member states as "Officer of the Year." Additionally, Shikar Safari International annually recognizes game wardens from North America as "Wildlife Conservation Officers of the Year." This year they have each chosen to posthumously honor ‑‑ award their honors to Game Warden Wesley Wagstaff.
At this time, I want to pause to ask Mark Barrett, Mary, Oz to come forward and make the presentations for Shikar Safari. So Lena, Kyle Wagstaff, glad you're here. Thank you for coming.
MR. MARK BARRETT: Mrs. Wagstaff, Kyle, we're – Shikar Safari would like to express our condolences at the loss of ‑‑ we're so sorry that we never got to know Officer Wagstaff. But from what everybody says, he's a wonderful man.
MR. COOK: Thank you.
MR. COOK: Also from the – we've got a presentation here from the Southeastern Association, I believe.
This one from the Southeastern association reads, "Outstanding Officer Wesley W. Wagstaff, Texas 2003, Southeastern Association of Game and Fish Commissioners."
MR. COOK: In addition to the Southeastern and Shikar Safari awards, I would like to call your attention to the fact that Wesley's name was recently engraved on the Texas Game Warden memorial at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens, Texas.
I closing, I would like to present Lena and son Kyle with the Law Enforcement Division Memorial Cross and the American Police Hall of Fame Medal of Honor.
The Medal of Honor Award reads as follows. "In Memory of Wes Wagstaff, who in the performance of his duties as a public safety officer, gave his life to protect life and property; that we the living dedicate ourselves to his memory and the supreme sacrifice that he made. This Posthumous Award is public recognition of the honor in which we will forever hold his name by placing his name in the Hall of Fame, so that his sacrifice, his dedication to humanity and justice will always be remembered by generations to come.
MR. COOK: Thank you very much. The Governor's Task Force on Conservation found that the management of water is the single most critical conservation issue in Texas. As the state grows in population, and competition increases for water, Texans will be faced with a difficult task of balancing those interests in the allocation of that water.
As the state's fish and wildlife trustee, it is critical that the Department be successful in its efforts to conserve adequate water for fish and wildlife in order to reduce future economic and quality of life costs to governments, industries and citizens.
Our history with private land stewardship has taught us that the private sector can and must play an integral role in water conservation and protection. Today we would like to recognize Mr. Kit Bramblett of El Paso, Texas, for his contribution to protecting the instream flows of Texas rivers.
Mr. Bramblett donated 1,200 acre-feet of Rio Grande water rights to TPWD, and directed that those rights be placed in the Texas Water Trust for the protection of fish and wildlife. These rights are the first deposit into the Trust, which was created by the Legislature in 1997 as a bank to hold water rights dedicated to environmental needs.
We hope that Mr. Bramblett's pioneering effort will blaze the way for other private donations to the Texas water trust, and for the protection of the state's highly-valued fish and wildlife resources.
We say thank you to Mr. Bramblett. And Colleen Barron will accept this recognition on behalf of Mr. Bramblett, who could not be here today.
MR. COOK: Do we still have a photographer? If not, fine. We'll get it later.
Last, but not least, the City of Mineola, Texas has been working with TPWD to conserve and provide recreational opportunities on the Mineola Preserve on the Sabine River, and important tract of bottomland hardwood forest near that city.
The City of Mineola will be presenting a check for $5,000 in support of the Prairie and Pineywoods Wildlife Trail. The money will go toward the 20 percent match required of the Federal grant funding for the trail.
Mineola will join the Red River County Historical Society in becoming a Platinum sponsor of the trail.
City Business Administrator Dion Miller will present the check. And he would like to say a few words about why Mineola is supporting the trail, and what it means to the local area. I am not sure if the mayor of Mineola made it today, but we would also welcome him up if he is here.
MR. MILLER: Chairman Angelo and members of the Commission, and Mr. Cook, I am Dion Miller, City Administrator for the City of Mineola. And I'm representing the City, the Mayor and Council and the citizens of Mineola today before you.
Mayor Gordon Tiner could not be here today. He had planned to be here. But he is starting a new – shall we say a new venture in Mineola. He is going to open up a new financial institution in the city. And he just got word of that Friday. So he is involved in that for the next several months.
I am here for two or three reasons. First of all, to offer the city's thanks to the Commission and to the staff of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for their assistance and financial support for the Mineola Preserve on the Sabine River.
I have left a copy of this for each member with Ms. Hemby, and I see that you have it. This will explain to you Mineola's goal in preserving 3,000 acres of what is vanishing in Texas, and what we hope to conserve and preserve for our current citizens and future generations to come.
It all started about four years ago, and it has continued with Mr. Cook and his staff. We first received a grant from your department to put together a comprehensive plan on parks and open space. And that was matched by a grant from the city as well.
So it was a 50/50 partnership, something we'd like to continue in the future, if at all possible. And we'll certainly be your advocates before the State Legislature on issues of that magnitude and topic.
I'd like to also recognize some people who have been very supportive of our project. The staff here in Austin and some of the regional staff members back in East Texas. First of all, your Executive Director, Mr. Cook. Also, Mr. Tim Hogsett, Mr. Walt Dabney, and Mr. Jack Bauer, who I just recently met about two months ago.
In addition to that, Linda Campbell, who has been the Nature Tourism Coordinator. And we hear she has been promoted to another job of responsibility. We hope we don't lose her, because she has been an exceptional resource for the city and for me.
On the regional level, I'd like to commend the following people for their involvement in taking time to help us in promoting and developing this project ‑‑ first of all, Carl Frentress, who is the Waterfowl Biologist for East Texas. Larry LaBeau, the area manager of the Old Sabine Bottom WMA, which is almost adjacent to the Mineola preserve.
His wildlife technician, Stephen Lang, Kevin Harriman, who is a Northeast Texas Ecosystem Program Leader, Kevin Kraai, Ms. Heidi Bailey, who is working with a group of volunteers from Mineola, and from Smith County, in developing a birding list for the preserve site.
I might also indicate to you that in the last session of the Legislature, the Legislature recognized Mineola as the Birding Capital of East Texas. And we certainly want to live up to that in the years to come. We don't want to let the Legislature down or you down as well.
It's all of these people who have helped us get to the point where we are with this project. We received a grant from your agency just recently for the first phase of this project. We will begin construction on the first phase early next year.
The other reason I'm here today is to perhaps give back – for the city to give back some of the support we've received from you. And I'd like to make a presentation, if I could, to Mr. Cook.
MR. COOK: I'd be glad to let you make a presentation to Mr. Cook. I'd like for – if you would, I'd like for Linda Campbell, who has been promoted – Linda is now our – so that you all know, we're very proud that Linda is now our Program Director for our Private Lands Program and our Public Hunting Program. So you're not losing Linda, but she's going to have a few more things on her plate. And Mike Berger, our Wildlife Division Director. Mr. Miller.
MR. MILLER: We in Mineola are quite excited about this project. We're quite excited about working with members of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. We see this as easily probably an eight to ten-year project. This won't be an overnight project.
But we want to emphasize in this project outdoor recreational opportunities ranging from hunting/fishing, just walking in Texas outdoors. Also birding, wildlife observations.
We also want to emphasize on this project a couple of things. First of all, to make opportunities available to our young people in the area. We're within an hour and a half drive of the Dallas/Fort Worth metropolitan area, and we'd be very open to host school groups on the site.
In addition, we'd like to, of course, preserve the site, learn more about the site. And with that in mind, I'll issue an open invitation to serious graduate students in any Texas college or university who would like to come on the site to write a dissertation or thesis.
We had one young man from Southwest Texas State, which is now, I guess, Texas State University, do that just a couple of years ago. So we also want to become an education center as well for this particular piece of property.
So at this time, Chairman Angelo, and members of the Commission, I'd like to present this check –
MR. COOK: Thank you.
MR. MILLER: – to you on the amount of $5,000 to support the Prairies and Pineywoods Trail initiative.
MR. COOK: Very good.
MR. MILLER: And we want to be a partner for life with this department.
MR. COOK: Good. You got it. Thank you, sir. Thank you very much.
MR. COOK: Thank you, Mr. Miller. The – just in closing there, the City of Mineola has been a great. Yes, now we've got a photographer. Let's get a picture right here while we're here.
The City of Mineola has been a great partner in this – with this project. A great little tract. Going to be multi-use. And we're looking forward to continuing that program with them.
MR. COOK: Mr. Chairman, I believe that concludes our ceremony. Thank you, sir.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you, Mr. Cook. At this time, I would like to inform the audience that certainly everyone is welcome to stay for the remainder of the meeting. But if any of you would like to leave, this would be an appropriate time to do so, and we thank you for being here.
The next item on our agenda is to approve the agenda. Do we have a motion to that effect?
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: So move.
COMMISSIONER RISING: Second.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Commissioner Ramos. Second by Commissioner Rising. All in favor, please say aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Opposed? And we'll move on, then to Item Number Two, which is a briefing item on the Texas Wildlife Expo, and ask Ernie Gammage to make the presentation.
MR. GAMMAGE: Chairman Angelo, members of the Commission, Mr. Cook, Good morning. I'm Ernie Gammage. I'm the Director of the Texas Wildlife Expo, and I'm here to report to you about our recently-held 12th Annual Texas Wildlife Expo, held the first weekend of October, right here on these grounds.
The Texas Wildlife Expo planning begins in – well, very soon. Your Commission will appoint one of your Commissioners – in this case, for the 2003 event, it was Commissioner Donato Ramos from Laredo, who took the reins immediately, and appointed a great advisory group.
This is probably the most diverse geographical group we've had. And they really came to the event in terms of their leadership and provision of resources, because this was an interesting year for Expo in a lot of ways.
One of the things that happened was, of course, that our banquet on Friday night became a wholly-supported event by our non-profit partner, the Foundation. And to that end, the Advisory Committee that Mr. Ramos appointed was split into two, and the auction committee, which went out and gathered items for the auction, the purpose of which, of course, was to raise money, and then a Banquet Committee, which oversaw the banquet, which I think those of you who went hopefully enjoyed.
That was our external component. The internal component is a TPWD cadre of employees, about 65 folks that we divided into three different sections, Steering Committee, Program Committee, and an All-Hands Committee. And they are where the rubber meets the road. Those are the folks who actually make the decisions and manage this tremendous event for us.
We started out on Friday with the Texas Conservation Banquet, which was attended by over 800 people this year. There were a lot of great improvements. We had more room, more food, more fun, and we certainly enjoyed the comments of Mr. Pat Oles, who is was the president of the Parks and Wildlife Foundation at the banquet.
Food – we can't get enough of it. And it's always great. The highlight, however, this year was the silent and live auction. And because of the efforts of Mr. Ramos's committee, we raised over $51,000 this year for the Parks and Wildlife Foundation Conservation Scholarship Fund. That is the most money we have ever raised at this event.
Some of the other changes that took place this year was the change from our physical site. This was taken at noon on Saturday 2002. If you look over in the left-hand corner, you'll see the beginnings of the construction of Ojeda Junior High School, part of the Del Valley Independent School District.
This is 2003. There is Ojeda, and the new road that connects us to McKinney Falls Parkway. Because of this new construction, we were forced to make some accommodations for our activities and presentations at Expo, but they apparently all worked very well.
Why do we do Expo, and who is it for? First of all,
it's for our constituents. These are the men, women, children, boys and girls who use the outdoors, who understand the outdoors, who appreciate the outdoors.
And our research shows us that about 50 percent of the 36,000 people that came to Expo this year would fall into that category. They know us, they know what we do. And they come out to improve their skills, to find out about where they can hunt and fish.
The second group would be those folks that aren't in that category. These are urbanites. These are families. These are inner-city kids, these are ethnic minorities. Also includes the youth groups with which we work, those whose missions parallel our own.
What do we do to reach those kids? Well, we had a great opportunity, actually, in Dallas, Houston and in Austin. I want to take just a second and show you what we did in Austin.
A couple of weeks from Expo, we were invited to attend a Hispanic community event put on by a local radio station. It was the first one that they had put on. There we are, handing out bilingual fliers, saying that we are bringing the outdoors to you, which we did with this climbing wall.
We had approximately 600 kids climb that wall during the course of the day. We talked about Expo. We handed out brochures, and we visited with the folks. And when we talk about folks, we're talking about 15,000 local Hispanics who came down to celebrate Diez y seis. And there they learned about Texas Parks and Wildlife.
What did we get out of it? Well, a great partnership with the radio station. They promoted our event heavily on their station, which is Spanish language only. They were out at the event both days doing live remotes. And the outcome was some new visitors to Expo.
We don't have all the data back yet. But our surveyors tell us that for the first time, we had a significant number of people at the Wildlife Expo who spoke only Spanish. And it was our way of reaching this community that is so important to the future of Texas Parks and Wildlife.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Expo – and that is the new name, by the way, now that we're past 2003, started off under a cloudy sky. It never rained until Sunday, when the event was over, for about four minutes. So we were happy that we skated on the weather once again.
And folks came out to shoot. They learned how to fish. They wanted to know more about camping and outdoor skills. They want to know about our cultural history and our cultural sites. We had a great display back in the state parks area.
They also got to touch all kinds of critters that they may not have been able to touch before. And of course, there were some surprises there for some of them. I love that photo.
Saturday night, we held our employee awards and our Volunteer and Exhibitor Banquet underneath the big tent. Once again, the Foundation came to our aid. And I was remiss a moment ago in not thanking Paula Peters for her tremendous leadership this year in taking the banquet, which had been part of Texas Parks and Wildlife in the old review of what Expo was, and taking that and making it a wholly-owned, wholly-presented event of the Foundation. Paula did a tremendous job. There were a lot of unknowns there, and I want to applaud her efforts. They also came to the party, literally, and supported the employee awards that night by treating all of our volunteers and employee award winners to some great barbecue.
We kicked back off again on Sunday night. Here are some kids about to go out on our mountain bike trails, just to the right of us and back of the rec center.
People came to buy. People came to sell. We had almost 200 commercial exhibitors at Expo, talking about where you can go and what you need when you go into the outdoors. And I think this is not only a important financial component of the Texas Wildlife Expo, but also gives people an opportunity to see the kinds of gear they are going to need in order to recreate in the outdoors.
Again, we put bows and arrows in kids' hands. This is a great picture, because it's a lot of things. It's family, it's diversity, and it's a child trying, maybe for the first time, an opportunity to do something in the outdoors.
Rock climbing was extremely popular. We had five of these giant climbing walls. And the line was 45 minutes, but people would do it all day long.
This is a very interesting picture to me, because I think it underscores one of the things that seemed to be different about this year's event. This is the game wardens doing their whodunit? Those ragamuffins in the boat there, are in fact, game wardens dressed up as, I guess, duck hunters.
And if you look at that picture, you'll see that people are in clumps around the grounds. And that seems to be indicative of what went on at Expo this year. People weren't walking around looking for things to do. They were doing things. And it had a whole different feel to it.
This is really, I think, a quantum leap in our engagement of our visitors at the Wildlife Expo. We did have some great new things beside the roadway in the back of the property, which made getting around so much easier. I think my favorite, and one that holds the most promise for us, and really speaks to this water issue that we will continue to hear about, was the Wetlands and Wildlife presentation. As part of the construction from the new roadway, we found ourselves with a acre-and-a-half retention pond in the back of the property, down on that end.
And the Wildlife and Resource Protections Divisions put together a Wetlands and Wildlife presentation that explained why wetlands are so important to habitat. Explained why you need retention ponds. And they went further to actually ‑‑ those little black dots out there are actually decoys.
Next year, this pond will be jammed with wildlife. Jammed with wetlands plants. And folks will have a chance to really see the waterfowl and other life that is so necessary to these habitats and the habitats are so necessary to them.
We also tried a recycling program for the first time this year, which was, I would say, moderately successful. But it was a great kick-off to demonstrate to our visitors that we are a resource agency that is interested in the conservation of all resources, and certainly recycling is one of those things that we can all do in our businesses and our homes to help conservation.
People came out. They shot, they angled, they learned about wildlife. They got to see birds and birds of prey, and other animals up close and personal. Some of them had never had these opportunities before. Some of them were old hands. This is another great shot of this girl. This is the first Catch Your First Fish.
If you catch your first fish at Expo, we'll take your picture, give it to you, and also give you a certificate that says, "I caught my first fish at the Texas Wildlife Expo." And there is a happy young angler.
The whole point of this is to get families out so they can meet our family, to meet our Texas Parks and Wildlife family, so that together we can both take care of Texas.
I want to leave you with one story that I think is remarkable, at least in my view. And that is, on Sunday afternoon, late in the afternoon, it was hot. Folks were leaving. I was in my golf cart. A young Hispanic man waved at me and said, Sir, would you mind taking me and my wife up to the front of the parking lot? We were actually right out in front here. And I said, Sure, I'll be glad to, because I looked over and she was pregnant.
We drove up to the front. As we went, I asked him, How did you find out about this event, thinking of course, that he was a newcomer, had seen one of our bilingual fliers, or something.
And he said, You know, my dad used to bring me to this when I was a boy. What we're seeing now is that opportunity to pass the legacy on to the outdoors, not only as we view it, but that those that we want to engage in it view it. And it was a powerful testament, I think, to what this event means to Parks and Wildlife, and really means to the future of conservation in Texas.
If you have any questions, I'll be glad to answer them.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Any there questions or comments? Commissioner?
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Mr. Chair, I have a few comments. You were very generous in your – giving me credit for this. But the reality of it all is that Expo is put on by a lot of people. And that is – the man that spearheads the effort is Ernie, and he does a tremendous job. But it takes more than just Mr. Gammage. The Texas Parks and Wildlife staff here, and throughout the state, the number of volunteers. It's a community effort.
And it's really enriching to see, like Ernie was commenting, the children that have never been exposed to the outdoors, the youth really partaking and getting involved in it. And again, Ernie, I want to publicly thank you.
I want to thank the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation for their support. Without them we couldn't do it. But this is probably the foremost event that we have from an outreach standpoint. And I've always felt that our focus needs to be with the youth.
And again, thank you, Ernie, and everyone else, not only here at this staff, and Bob, but all of the other volunteers that make this a success.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Any other comments? Thank you, Ernie. I appreciate it.
MR. GAMMAGE: Thank you.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: My pleasure at this time to recognize Dr. Chuck Blend and the sophomores and juniors from Texas A&M who are with us today. They are in the Introductory Wildlife Management and Conservation Program with A&M. We're pleased to have you all.
Item Number Three is another briefing item, Cooperative Projects with the Natural Resource Conservation Service. Mike Berger will make the presentation – introduction.
MR. BERGER: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. Thank you. It's my pleasure this morning to introduce to you Dr. Larry Butler, who is one of our major conservation partners with Parks and Wildlife. He is the state conservationist of the Natural Resources Conservation Service located in Temple.
He is an outstanding friend of ours, and helps us develop wildlife habitat. We – he has – is a unique individual, and he has training in wildlife, recreation, and range science. And he is here this morning to tell us about our cooperative agreements, and how the farm bill works for wildlife. Dr. Butler.
DR. BUTLER: Thank you, Mike. Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, thank you all for having me here today. It's my pleasure to come and provide you a briefing on what we did this past year with the farm bill, and what we're doing with the cooperative agreement with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Many of you I know and have worked with. Commissioner Fitzsimons and I were on a panel not too long ago at Texas Wildlife Association meeting, and of course, Mr. Chairman, you know me from last week at the Texas Quail Council. So happy to work with you, as well as Vernon Bevill and of course, I've worked with Bob Cook. And you've recognized Linda Campbell. And this morning I worked with her and Nature Tourism. So being here, it's like being amongst friends, and I appreciate that.
We also have Chuck Kowaleski as a liaison for Parks and Wildlife, located in our office in Temple, and we're happy to continue that relationship. He's been a real help to us, and I hope we've been able to help you all through him.
Before I go any further, I do want to commit to you that Texas – the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service here in Texas will commit to continuing a partnership, to building upon it, and improving it where we need to.
This past year, the Farm Bill provided Texas, as well as the rest of the nation, with a wonderful opportunity to do a lot of things relative to conservation. And of course, wildlife being a big part of that.
Just to give you a real quick briefing, the way we operate in Texas and throughout the nation in the Farm Bill, is we have a state technical committee that's made up of many, many partners and interest groups throughout the state, everything from cotton interests to wildlife interests, rice growers, beef cattle producers, dairy farmers, and many conservation groups ‑‑ Soil and Water Conservation Districts and others.
And they meet to provide recommendations to me as to how to carry out the program in Texas. And I'm happy to report that we used every single recommendation that they came forward with. It was a very good group, a very easy group to work with, very sound, logical, and they know what Texas needs.
After we get those recommendations, then we carry that program down to the local level. And this year, the theme was be lean and local. Develop some criteria for ranking – for selecting the particular applications for contracts and for ranking them for funding.
The EQUIP Program, which is Environmental Quality Incentives Program – we had about 17,000 applications for contracts this year. And we funded about 6,000 of them. That's around a 36 percent approval rate, which the year before, we only had a 6 percent approval rate. We had 12,000 applications, and only 800 contracts.
So because of the good work of the State Technical Committee, of which Parks and Wildlife plays a part in there, and the local working groups, we have much better success in getting conservation in these contracts and applied out on the ground, of course, is what it's all about.
We took the money that was allocated to the USDA and RCS in Texas through the EQUIP Program, and basically divided it into two parts, one part being for statewide resource concerns, and those concerns were identified by the State Technical Committee. And those were wildlife, which predominantly was upland bird work on Lesser Prairie Chicken and on Bobwhite Quail, and Attwater's Prairie Chicken.
We had other statewide concerns – water quality, brush management, invasive species, surface and groundwater, and the confined animal feeding operations concerns.
The other half of the money went out on a county-by-county basis, and at that local county level, the local working group decided what their priorities are. In some places, wildlife was a very high priority. In other places, it might have been irrigation water management, depending upon what the local concerns are.
But I'm happy to report that out of Texas's 254 counties, 253 of them have contracts in them this year for conservation work. The only reason the other one didn't – they didn't have an application, or they would have had one also.
In the EQUIP Program, we allocated, based on the recommendation of the State Technical Committee, about $1.2 million to the wildlife statewide concern, and we wound up funding I guess every application we received in wildlife, because we wound up with about $600,000 being allocated to the upland birds in the areas that I was just – the species that I was just talking about.
Approximately 375,000 in the rolling plains on quail, about 5,700 in the southern area, with the Attwater's Prairie Chicken and Bobwhite, and about 250,000, give or take, I don't have the exact numbers here – I apologize for that, in the Lesser Prairie Chicken area.
And then we have another program, the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program. We received an allocation of $300,000, and we were able to fund 18 contracts on 52,000 acres. So the other 600,000 in EQUIP represents roughly 60,000 acres of contracts out there for quail work.
On the agreement, let me give you just a little bit of background. The Farm Bill set up the ability to have technical service providers, provide technical assistance to farmers and ranchers that are working on Farm Bill programs.
The technical service provider is a non-government employee, so to speak. A contractor or consultant, if you will, that has to be certified in accordance with the national certification procedures that were established nationally this past year.
Originally, the rule was that these people must be in private enterprise. We couldn't have state government entities such as Texas Parks and Wildlife be technical service providers. But amendment to that, and I'll just call them TSPs, if you'll let me use that acronym – amendment to that TSP interim rule July 9 provided for a limited exception to this, where NRCS could enter into memorandums of understanding and contribution agreements with public agencies such as Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, as well as Soil and Water Conservation districts.
As you know, both of those entities are traditional partners of NRCS, and have a long-standing cooperative working relationship with us in implementing Farm Bill programs.
We entered into a formal memorandum of understanding with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, reaffirming our commitment of both agencies to work toward conservation of natural resources in Texas, through both the state and Federal programs.
We also entered into a contribution agreement with Texas Parks and Wildlife to provide funding to Texas Parks and Wildlife for technical assistance provided by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department personnel in implementing the Farm Bill program.
Now a contribution agreement requires a 50/50 cost share. So basically, for every two hours a Parks and Wildlife biologist, or any other personnel of Parks and Wildlife, puts into a Farm Bill Program through this agreement, we'll pay for one of those hours and Parks and Wildlife Department is paying for the other one. That's a real true partnership, and we appreciate that.
This TSP agreement with Texas Parks and Wildlife is for $180,000. And it expires this coming September, September 30, 2004. These obligated funds are available for payment through that date, or until the 180,000 is used, whichever comes first.
The reimbursement under this agreement is applicable only for Farm Bill Program work. So any other work being done, regardless of how good it is, can't be paid for under this agreement. But there is plenty of Farm Bill work. So it won't be a problem of spending that money.
I look really forward to working with Bob Cook and members of the staff to work out some of the details of how we're going to go about utilizing Parks and Wildlife personnel on Farm Bill programs, and how we can further that partnership throughout this year.
With that, I'll end the briefing there. And again, thank you for having me here. And I'll take any questions you might have.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: We appreciate you being here. Commissioners have any comments or questions? Commissioner Fitzsimons?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I have a question. Good to see you, Doctor. Tell me, how do you think we can best adapt the CRP Program to improve native habitat? I mean,
I'm familiar with some of that CRP country that's on long-term ten-year contracts, that's in exotic grasses, or not a native habitat.
How can we turn the crank there to be using manipulation, prescribed fire, native grass, that sort of thing?
DR. BUTLER: Well, first of all, let me preface my comments by saying that the CRP – the Conservation Reserve Program, is administered by another agency, by the Farm Services Agency and the USDA.
NRCS has had quite a hand in that technical portion of it. And this past year, how all that operated changed. It changed at the national level, and of course, then we had to change it here.
In the past, the NRCS did the environmental benefits index, in which you would – when a person signs up for the program, they determine what they want to do on that piece of land, how many species they want to plant, how they want to go about that.
And of course a more diverse landscape would usually get you a higher environmental benefit index, which would put you higher on the list to get funded. So it was a very good incentive to have good wildlife habitat at NCRP for new contracts.
Existing contracts that are already in a monoculture are just like anyone else's contract. You know, you can live by that contract the way it is, or we can work to try to make some adaptations that would be acceptable to the administering agency.
So NRCS can work with FSA as well as Parks and Wildlife, but specifically with FSA, because that's – they are the administers of CRP. And work on how to go about doing some things in the interim time that the contract is going on for maintenance.
I know there is always some issues on grazing. There is issues on prescribed burning, and in many cases it's been allowed to happen to write some mid-contract maintenance, if you will.
As far as going in and planting other species, that's probably something that would – we'd have to talk about. I don't – can't give you an exact answer on an existing contract.
I know the new contracts – that's the way we want to go and the way we'd like to see it. As you know, when CRP first started, this wasn't a seed availability, and those exotic introduced species was what was there. That's' unfortunate. But –
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And – but the market has caught up to some degree –
DR. BUTLER: Yes.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: – in the seed – native seed area.
DR. BUTLER: Certainly.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And so the law is – does provide for the flexibility to deal with those existing contracts and make them more wildlife friendly? Is that correct?
DR. BUTLER: I would hate to say specifically yes. But I believe that we can work with FSA to do some things. Now, they may not have any cost share for some adaptations that a farmer might want to make.
You know, they have to maintain a cover that they have to get the payments that they're getting, and any change that would involve cost share is probably maybe a little bit out of the question unless we enter into a new agreement or a new contract.
And there has been some talk about things like conservation buffers that can be signed up around field edges, instead of taking in a whole field. There is some discussion on that. But for me to give you a straight answer, I'm going to have trouble doing it today, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Okay. What would you say the bottleneck is? The weak link in getting more wildlife and habitat – wildlife-friendly habitat in the CRP acreage that we have – existing today, and that will be signed up in the future?
DR. BUTLER: The existing acreage today — the bottleneck is that they already have contracts, and they don't have to change their contract the way any contract would be between individuals. So the landowner would have to want to do that. And then beyond that, it would become just an administrative issue.
And frankly, a lot of times it's our personnel, NRCS, as well as other agencies' personnel, whether or not they're sold on it. I believe that we can do a better job in talking to our own local people about the benefits of that.
But if it's not required in a contract, that's probably the biggest bottleneck to start with, as far as changing existing contract.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: But I certainly share Commissioner Fitzsimon's concern about CRP. And I'm sure you do, too, that so much of it is totally non-productive from a wildlife standpoint. So anything that can be done working together, Parks and Wildlife and your office, to bring about changes in that will certainly be beneficial to the state.
DR. BUTLER: One thing that you can do, Mr. Chairman, would be at our technical – State Technical Committee meetings – that could be brought up before the entire Technical Committee. Of course then, you get the support of that committee, you have support of a lot of organizations and a lot of people around Texas.
We always have the Farm Services Agency there, as well as the NRCS. So appropriate agencies would be hearing their concern at that meeting.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: I think we'll certainly carry that ball the best we can. Are there any other comments? I want to thank you for your being willing to serve as an ex-officio member of the Quail Council, and for spending the full day with us last week. I think it was very productive. I know we gave you a bit of a hard time occasionally, but I think you held your own.
DR. BUTLER: Well, it was very enlightening. And I'm just glad that we have people in the State of Texas that care this much. Obviously, all of you all do, on the Commission, as well as the Quail Council. It takes people to make natural resource management happen out on the land, you know. And I'm glad we have dedicated folks that will do that. I'm happy to work with you.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Because of your background and your commitment, Parks and Wildlife is very optimistic about the future of cooperation between the two departments, and we look forward to that.
DR. BUTLER: Thank you.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you for being with us today.
DR. BUTLER: Thank you.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: All right. We'll move on to Item Number Four. Proposed Print Artwork Program. Frances Stiles will make the presentation.
MS. STILES: Good morning. My name is Frances Stiles. I'm with the Administrative Resources Division. I'm here to present the artwork from Collector's Covey for next year's Print Program and the collector's stamp sets.
This year we have the new Freshwater Fisheries Stamp artwork, which is of the Large-mouth Bass by Mark Cicinio, [phonetic]. This replaces our Freshwater Trout artwork from previous years, which had been done by our in-house artist. Now Collector's Covey will take over the Freshwater Fisheries artwork.
The Waterfowl artwork is the American Goldeneye by Stuart and Scott Gentling. This is the artist's example that was provided. The Saltwater artwork is the Blue Marlin by Don Ray. The Rio Grande Turkey is by Eldridge Hardy. And the non-game artwork is a Kingfisher by Joe Hautman.
These are our five pieces of artwork for your review. If you have any questions, I'll be glad to answer them. If not, then staff recommends approval.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Are there any questions? Or do we have a motion?
COMMISSIONER: HOLMES: Move for approval.
COMMISSIONER RISING: Second.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: First by Commission Holmes, second by Commissioner Rising. Any further discussion? All in favor, say aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Opposed? The motion's carried. Thank you, Frances.
MS. STILES: Thank you.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: I think we've got some extraordinarily good artwork this year. It's always good, but it's especially good this time. And we owe a lot to Bubba Wood for his efforts on our – on behalf of this program. Thank him again.
Item Number Five, Crab Trap Fishery Closure. Robin Riechers will make the presentation.
MR. REICHERS: Chairman Angelo and Commissioners, my name is Robin Reichers, and I'm management director of the Coastal Fisheries Division. I'll be presenting to you a proposal regarding abandoned crab trap removal program.
This item proposes final adoption of amendments in Chapter 65, Section 78, Crabs and Gulf Shrimp. In the 78th Legislative Session, Senate Bill 607 modified the previous language regarding the closure, and removed the seven-day period at the beginning of the closure while only our law-enforcement personnel could pick up those traps.
Closure can still range from ten to 30 days. But with that change in language, the closure can now be the minimum of ten days, and we still can have two weekends and one week for those volunteer efforts.
In reviewing the previous closures in 2002 and 2003, over 12,000 traps have been collected during the two closures. We've had a little over 500 volunteers on our main event day of each of those closures.
Each year, nearly 60 companies have donated – or companies' organizations, municipalities, government entities, have donated resources ranging from tarps and gloves to disposal facilities and sites, and even monetary donations to this community effort.
The majority of organisms found and released from the traps during the cleanup are blue crabs and stone crabs. Other species found, though, do include recreational species of concern such as black drum, red drum, spotted sea trout, and sheepshead.
In addition, another species which is on the species of concern list, the Diamondback Terrapin, has also been found and released from traps.
Based on input from the Crab Advisory Committee, and review of last year's closure, as well as the fact that we had Hurricane Claudette hit the mid-coast area, the Department again proposes a coast-wide crab trap fishery closure.
The closure as published in the Texas Register, will establish an annual closure now, beginning on the third Friday in February, and lasting ten consecutive days. This year's closure will begin on February – on Friday, February 20, and last through Sunday, February 29, with no exemptions for any crab traps.
The Department held three public hearings along the coast. And we had a total of seven comments, either at the hearings or through other means. Four comments were against the closure, and three comments were for the closure.
Based on those comments, and a review of the previous closure, staff continues to recommend the closure dates, February 20 through February 29, as published in the Texas Register. Actually, that language, as published in the Texas Register, which equates to those days.
Staff recommends the following language for your consideration and adoption. The language reflects the item as published in the September 26 issue of the Texas Register, Chapter 65, Section 78, Crabs and Gulf Shrimp. I'd be happy to answer any questions at this time.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Any questions from the Commission? If not, the Chair will entertain a motion.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Moved.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Commissioner Watson.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Second.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Excuse me. Commissioner Henry and a second by Commissioner Holt. All in favor, please say aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Opposed? The motion is carried. Thank you, Robin. Item Number Six is a briefing on, of all things, Water Spinach.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Is it edible?
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: It's edible. I've eaten it. I shouldn't have said that. That's –
MR. PROVINE: Chairman, Commissioners, my name is Bill Provine. I'm chief of research and management with Inland Fisheries Division. I'd like to give you a heads up on an issue that our staff is working on.
We're readdressing the legal status of water spinach. Water spinach is a semi-aquatic plant from southeast Asia. It's used as a food item for the – in the Asian community, but it's also on our prohibited list.
Plants and animals have been relocated to areas outside their native range for – well, since before recorded history. A lot of these have become very beneficial and very common in our everyday life, cattle, horses, dogs and cats, ornamental plants, a lot of fruits and vegetables.
However, others have become nuisances or worse, nutria, cowbirds, common carp, hydrilla. The cost of environmental losses associated with exotics in the United States is over $100 billion annually. So we have to be very careful when we're dealing with new exotics.
In an attempt to prevent harmful introductions, the Texas Legislature gave – authorized the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to develop a list of harmful or potentially-harmful fish, shellfish or plants. Penalties of possession, or penalties of possession of species on this list ranges from 200 to 2,000 for the first offense, and from 500 to 4,000 for subsequent offenses.
Water spinach was placed on that list mainly as a precautionary measure. It became a nuisance in other parts of the world. It's a very fast-growing plant capable of covering the surface of small water bodies in the tropical areas where it was found.
The floating branches of this plant can reach up to 70 feet. But also, it was found growing in the wild in Florida, in areas of similar temperature zones that are found in Texas.
The problem is that water spinach has been illegal in Texas for 13 years. However, a thriving business has been established, and has been operating unknown to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for about 20 years.
The Texas game wardens and biologists teamed up with the U.S. Department of Agriculture earlier this summer and conducted a raid on grocery stores in the Houston area. There were 17 grocery stores involved. They confiscated about 2,000 pounds of water spinach.
They didn't issue any tickets. The primary purpose for these raids were to make sure that these people knew that this plant was illegal, and if they continued doing it, they would get cited.
But the Asian community had a lot of concerns. It's a very important staple food item for them. They had been growing it and distributing it for about 20 years without an incident. And they wondered, you know, why the plant was illegal, and if this status could be changed.
The point was well taken, since the plant was listed before – before any information was available on the plant in Texas. It made sense to revisit the rationale behind this rule, especially since now that we know it's in Texas, we can find out what it's actually doing here.
We – right now, we have a unwritten temporary moratorium on issuing citations for this plant before we – until we can adequately evaluate the risk. We need to make sure that any status change is in the best interest of our native resources.
Our staff is presently investigating the extent and the culture and methods of culture of this plant, the life history of and characteristics in Texas, since that may be different than what it is in its native land.
Occurrences of wild populations in Texas, if there are any, and other risk factors. The probability of escapement, the tenacity and aggression of the plant in Texas, the invasive nature of the plant.
Our local game warden is – using our local game wardens and Census Bureau statistics, we have located Asian communities in Texas to check for areas of culture. We're also checking grocery stores to determine what their sources of this plant – where their sources are.
Last month, the team of biologists were sent to the Alvin/Rosharon area to inspect areas for possible escapement of this plant. Fourteen sites in and downstream of known areas of culture were inspected fairly thoroughly, and no water spinach was found.
We also met with the growers in this same area to inspect their facilities, and determine how the plant is grown, and under what conditions.
What we found was there is about 60 families involved in this culture. And water spinach is very popular in the Asian culture, similar to our lettuce. We asked the growers down there to give us an idea of what the volume of this activity, or the volume of water spinach that was being sold and distributed. We couldn't get that information from them.
But we did get our hands on some satellite photos. And we were able to count about 135 greenhouses in that housing development. Now, all of these greenhouses didn't contain water spinach, but most of them did.
And each greenhouse produces about 750 to 1,000 pounds of water spinach per month. And that calculates to about 900,000 pounds of water spinach per year from this location.
Water spinach is planted by burying cuttings in moist soil in these greenhouses. The soil and plants in these greenhouses are very-well tended. There is not any weeds or any other vegetation in the plants. It's a very clean operation within the greenhouses.
But outside the greenhouses, it's a different story. The area is not well-tended, and overgrown with vegetation, growing right up to the greenhouses. We also witnessed water spinach being used as mulch on – for other plants outside the greenhouses.
And vines – we saw vines growing under the walls of these greenhouses several yards out into the fields. But what we didn't see, even with the lack of them trying to contain the plant – we never found water spinach rooted outside any of these greenhouses.
So we don't have a recommendation for you today. We just wanted to give you – make sure that you knew that we were working on this problem. This problem is very serious to a large Asian community, and you were going to hear about it from somewhere else if we didn't brief you on it first.
But in the next few months, our staff will continue taking – continue with their field investigations and analyzing the data. And we'll probably be coming back before you within the next couple of meetings with some recommendations.
And the possible recommendations could be no change, leaving the plant on the prohibited list without modification. And what that would mean would be keeping these farmers from growing or distributing this plant under any circumstance. They'd just – they'd have to find something else to do.
Another possibility would be allow the growing and distribution, but with permits that require stricter handling and disposal practices. And then the third would be removing the plant from the harmful list altogether, and allow them to continue doing exactly what they're doing now.
We're taking this very seriously, and we won't be coming back in front of you until we thoroughly understand the risk. I'd be happy to answer any questions.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Commissioner Rising?
COMMISSIONER RISING: Bill, I was wondering. You mentioned in Florida it was wildly occurring. There were areas. Do we know if in Florida it's caused any degradation of the native vegetation? Or do we know what experience they've had?
MR. PROVINE: Well, in instances in Florida, it did overgrow some ponds, but it was being – it has been controlled.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Commission Holmes?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: How do they control it? Is it mechanical control?
MR. PROVINE: It's chemical.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Chemical?
MR. PROVINE: Yes.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Do they have a similar commercial production – greenhouse production in Florida as well? Or do we know anything about that?
MR. PROVINE: Yes, they do. In fact, it is a little strange, because in Florida, it's legal to grow the plant, but it's not legal to sell the plant in Florida. So that – so they – apparently the lobby was strong enough to allow them to grow the plant, but it wasn't strong enough for them to distribute it.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: So they're not selling it?
MR. PROVINE: Not in Florida. They're selling it outside of Florida, which is actually against the Federal law.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Any other comments? Appreciate it, Bill.
MR. PROVINE: Okay.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: That's something to be working on, obviously.
MR. PROVINE: Thank you.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: All right. Item Number Seven, Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation. Mike Berger.
MR. BERGER: Good morning again, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. I'm Mike Berger, Director of the Wildlife Division. We had just come before you this morning to have a couple of necessary adjustments that need to be made to the Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation.
The first of these has to do with the Pheasant season this fall. That in response to a petition earlier this year, the Commission adopted a longer Panhandle Pheasant season and a reduced daily bag limit. And you approved a season which would begin December 6 and run for 30 days.
When the Outdoor Annual was printed, the season was printed there to begin on its heretofore normal opening date of December 13, and it did run for 30 days. In August, we brought this to you and you authorized us to print in the Texas Register a change in this rule to allow the season to be the 30-day season as printed in the Outdoor Annual.
We have contacted the petitioners, and they are fine with this change. They are not affected, and there were no comments received in response to the posting.
The other change has to do with the Archery Deer Season. When the Texas Administrative Code was printed this year, it did not provide a closing date for the archery-only open deer season.
So we published – the staff published a regulation proposal to implement a corrective action, and it will not affect any hunting opportunity for archers. And in this regard, there were no comments received on this proposal either.
So our recommendation is that you adopt this rule to implement these changes as you see here on the screen.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Any questions or comments? Commissioner Holmes?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: So moved.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: A motion by Commissioner Holmes.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Second.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Second by Commissioner Henry. Any discussion? All in favor, please say aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Opposed? The motion is adopted.
MR. BERGER: Thank you very much.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: All right. Item Number Eight, Statewide Fur-bearing Animal Proclamation. John Young will make the presentation.
MR. BERGER: I think John is not here, and I will do that now.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Mike, you can take that one.
MR. BERGER: Mike Berger, Director of the Wildlife Division. This is our changes to the Statewide Fur-bearing Animal Proclamation. At the last meeting, the Commission adopted the majority of changes to the Fur-bearing Animal Rules.
And at that meeting, there was comment that recommended that fur-takers be used to possess and sell their furs for longer than was prescribed.
We withdrew that section from approval, and printed an amendment that would allow the trappers to possess and sell their furs year-round. There was no comment on that action as a result, and we would recommend that you adopt the changes to the proposed text, as was published.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: We have several people registered for comment. We'll take those first, and then see if the Commission has any questions.
MR. BERGER: Thank you.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Dan Hepker. Jack King to follow.
MR. HEPKER: Mr. Cook, Texas Parks and Wildlife Staff, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, my name is Dan Hepker. I represent the Texas Trapper and Fur-hunters Association. During the August Commissioners Meeting, I spoke about the disadvantages that Texas trappers experience, requiring us to sell our furs shortly after the close of season.
Rather than use my allotted time repeating my August testimonial, I prefer to comment on how overwhelmed I was by the positive response I received when I presented my facts.
Mr. Cook, Commissioners, staff, every one of you listened to what I had to say. You intently listened, and you worked diligently to help the 3,000-plus trappers of Texas become competitive, being able to hang onto our furs. Hopefully we'll be able to hang onto our furs and be able to sell them at a more profitable time.
I cannot adequately express the appreciation I feel for your endeavors. Although you are surrounded by some of the best staff that Texas has to offer, if ever I can be of assistance to you, please do not hesitate to call on me.
As Mr. Cook stated previously in the year at a SCOT meeting, he stated that Texas Parks and Wildlife Department should be considered a friend to the outdoorsmen of Texas. Truer words could not be spoken. I assure everyone that all of your dedication to making Texas Parks and Wildlife what it is today has not gone unnoticed. I appreciate it. And thank you.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you. Jack King, followed by Kirby Brown.
MR. KING: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Mr. Cook, my name is Jack King, Executive Director of Sportsmen and Conservationists of Texas, better known as SCOT.
And I would like to say that SCOT supports this rule change, and like Dan said, would like to commend Mr. Cook, Mike Berger and his staff, and particularly John Young, Robert Mcdonald, and also I'd like to mention David Sinclair from the Enforcement perspective for you all's response to Mr. Hepker's facts about the fur industry of Texas.
The Texas Trappers and Fur-hunters Association is an affiliate club of SCOT, and we truly appreciate what they bring to the table in terms of conservation in Texas, but this is a prime example of the Commission, and Mr. Cook, you and your staff truly wanting to simplify and clarify regulations and bring them up to what's currently going on in conservation in Texas.
And I hope this is just the first step. As we saw in a slide yesterday, there is room on the Rio Grande Turkey to try to simplify and clarify and in white-tailed deer as well. But thank you all so very much.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you. Kirby Brown.
MR. BROWN: Commissioners, how are you? Mr. Chairman. My name is Kirby Brown. I'm Executive Vice President of Texas Wildlife Association. And we represent over 30 million acres of private lands in Texas. And we too want to express our appreciation for you hearing and understanding the issue that was there that Dan had brought up, and responding to that in a positive way.
And I want to thank Mr. Cook, Mr. Berger, and all the folks on the staff that did help in that. We just ‑‑ I would just reiterate the comments you heard. Thank you so much.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you. Do you have any comments to that?
MR. BERGER: No, no.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: How about a recommendation to adopt? Any comments or questions from the Commission, or do we have a motion?
COMMISSIONER WATSON: So moved.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Second.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Commissioner Watson, second by Commissioner Ramos. Any further discussion? All in favor, please say aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Opposed? The motion is adopted. Thank you.
MR. BERGER: Thank you.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Item Number Nine, a briefing from the Inland Fisheries Hatchery Update. Gary Saul.
MR. SAUL: Chairman Angelo, Commissioners, thank you. My name is Gary Saul. I'm the Chief of Hatcheries for Inland Fisheries. And I have the opportunity today to come and just give you a brief update of where we are in some of our hatchery renovations, and where we're hoping to be able to go.
We've had some wonderful things happen in the last several months, and we wanted to give you an idea about what we're trying to do.
Hatcheries are an extremely important tool in inland fisheries and fisheries management in general. But it's only one of the tools. Education is an extremely important tool for our constituents, as are regulations and habitat enhancement.
But stocking and hatcheries has been a tool that has been very, very visible to our people, and that has had the opportunity to make some very dramatic changes in our fisheries.
We have been able to create fisheries through hatcheries, fisheries that we did not have in the state. The state was a rivers and stream state. We had one natural lake in the beginning. We now have 800 or more reservoirs in our state, four to 500 major ones.
And we have been able to go into places in some of these major reservoirs now and create fisheries that could not exist if it were not for hatcheries producing species such as striped bass or hybrid striped bass to provide opportunities for our constituents.
Hatcheries has also been able to bring over some trophy potential through genetic manipulation. Bringing in the Florida large-mouth bass has increased the state record bass from 13 pounds, which was held for over 37 years before we finally broke it with some Florida bass. We're now up in the neighborhood of 18 pounds, and we're heading to 20. We feel real confident we're going to get there. But this has been done through work that we've been able to do with our Florida Bass Program.
Hatcheries also have an extremely important outreach and educational function. And if you've not had the opportunity to get to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center yet, we sure hope you'll get there, because it's an absolutely wonderful place to go and learn about conservation, learn about fisheries. And it is also one of our newest hatcheries.
So we do an awful lot there. We serve 50 to 60,000 constituents a year there. They get to come through and see what it is that we do on hatcheries and in conservation.
And hatcheries support – obviously fishing is big business, and hatcheries support that by being able to provide some of the benefits for those fishermen, and opportunities for fishermen in Texas.
Parks and Wildlife owns and operates, now, five fish hatcheries. Over time, we have had up to 17 fish hatcheries. And we made a conscious decision to go ahead and reduce the number of hatcheries to make more larger and more flexible and increase the technology in hatcheries.
That has served us very well. We have been able to go higher in our production. But one of the things that we've done is we've given up pond space. And pond space ends up being the ultimate determiner of how many fish you can actually produce, because you have to be able to put them in the ponds to grow them out.
So we have the five hatcheries. They are located up, you know, Wichita Falls has Dundee. Possum Kingdom is in the Mineral Wells or Graford area. A.E. Wood is just south of us here in San Marcos. The Texas Freshwater Fishery Center in Athens, and then the Jasper Fish Hatchery in Jasper, Texas.
Fish hatcheries today are extremely large and complex facilities. And the asset value of our fish hatcheries in inland fisheries are second only to the Parks Division's facilities' asset value. So these are places that we've invested a lot of money, and that we've put a lot of work into.
And they have ranged now in age from four and actually it's five years from ‑‑ in terms of hatcheries coming on line, the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center, to over 70 years old, which is our Jasper fish hatchery.
We have put together efforts – a lot of times in terms of saying what are your most-critical needs? How can we meet those needs? And what are those needs going to cost? And those determinations have been made.
And consistently, we come up with about $50 million is what we need to do to come in to really get up to snuff and make our fish hatcheries what they should be to meet the needs of management.
We've looked at – oh, I just passed myself, didn't I? Let me back up if I may. I've just skipped myself. Let me tell you where I am in terms of our current efforts. I'm sorry.
Our current efforts, where we are in renovations now – we have changed our strategies from trying to take a little bit of money and going several places and doing a little bit of work, to focusing as much of our money as possible that we can get our hands on and going to one place and fixing it.
And our current effort right now is at Possum Kingdom. And Possum Kingdom Reservoir has been under renovation now for about three-and-a-half years. And we should be completing those renovations this funding cycle.
This was one of the hatcheries that was used as an example of needs when Proposition 8 went out. And the voters supported the fact that we need to make these renovations. So we have gone forward there, being able to use some Proposition 8 monies there, as well as Fund IX monies there. And we fully expect to complete our renovations there in this cycle.
We have just recently let the contract for the final buildings there in terms of an intensive culture center, and also a new administrative building, so that the people will have offices there.
One of the comments is always how can we fund them? Because hatcheries are expensive. And Proposition 8 was a very large opportunity for us. And we felt very, very fortunate to be able to be included in Proposition 8 and to be able to get some of those dollars that were released, to be able to do some of the renovations that we had there.
Fund IX Capital is another area that we used to be able to operate and take care of maintenance and repair needs. And as our budges have all shrunk, so has our capital budget there.
So one of the places that we looked, and we looked very, very hard, was a dedicated funds. What is it that we could do, where we could say that we can get those monies to go forward?
And it was through the work of this Commission, certainly our executive director, and a tremendous amount of support from the fishing community, that we were able to go ahead and have come through the Legislature this session a Freshwater Stamp. Okay. This stamp has been created. Will be required as of September 2004 of all anglers who are required to have a license.
It is estimated that these dollars – the stamp dollars, will provide revenues of approximately $4-and-a-half million per year for us, and that all of those monies are dedicated to making the repairs on hatcheries.
Okay. So we go back in now. We say, What are our principal needs? Where do we go first? What is the most-important thing we need to do?
Our oldest hatchery is the Jasper hatchery. The last major renovation at Jasper happened in 1945. We've been able to do some little fix-ups, and we've done some things there. But 1945 was the last real major work that was done there.
So we've done engineering studies. We've looked to see what can we do? Where is the best place to go? And the studies have told us that realistically, we need to replace the hatchery, and not try to renovate it.
Water sources, effluent issues – there are a lot of issues associated with the Jasper hatchery that perhaps we should consider going someplace else.
Other needs that we have – all the new hatcheries that we have are plastic-lined ponds. Okay. This is a requirement that we have to ensure that we meet wastewater discharge requirements. But one of the biggest issues that we have now, is that after a period of time, the plastic wears out. It ends up being costly.
We're looking now at A.E. Wood, which was renovated 20 years ago, of being – those liners are now worn out. And it's going to cost us about two to $2-and-a-half million to replace those liners. It's not inexpensive.
But that's one of the things that we need to do. And we will be able now to move forward in doing some of these things.
Another major renovation project that we have is up at Dundee. Dundee, in the early '90s, we were able to do a Phase-One renovation, which produced some of the finest ponds that we have in our hatchery system. We were unable to go on ‑‑ go forward with Phase Two.
Phase Two would provide the spawning facilities, the laboratories, the office facilities and maintenance facilities for our staff up there. Currently our staff work out of our little put-togethers, you know, that we have. And we get the job done. We go forward. But it's an opportunity now for us to go up there and complete the job up at Dundee.
To give you just a kind of a quick list of some of the others that are big. You've certainly heard about the golden alga and the problems that we have with that. It has been devastating on some of our hatcheries, on both Possum Kingdom and Dundee. At Dundee one year, we lost our entire hatch.
So we have learned – we've done tremendous amounts of research in very short periods of time. And we've learned how to control it on the hatchery. The next deal we need to do is to consider not allowing it to get onto the hatchery. How can we do that?
And so that will be one of the things that we're going to look at, because certainly, Possum Kingdom and Dundee are extremely important to us. Okay.
We need to expand our fish health, genetics, water quality, and the law enforcement forensic labs that all work together down at the A.E. Wood fish hatchery.
The need for this type of science is critical and continues to grow. And it's an area that we need to go and address and take care of.
Up at the Texas Freshwater Fishery Center, if you've been there, you'll know that we pump water out of Lake Athens, and we pump it up onto the top of the hill. It goes into a box, into a concrete box. And that box is probably from me to you. And that's all the bigger this box is. And it runs over top of a little wall.
And there is four inches of what we call head. Four inches of head, four inches of water coming in that then flows off and goes down to feed all the exhibits, and to feed the hatchery. And that is how we manage our water up there.
When we built the hatchery, we didn't have the sufficient funds to build the reservoir and to provide gravity flow in. If a pump fails, we have moments to get there and get it fixed prior to systems going critical within the facility.
So people up there wear pagers and beepers and as things happen, you know, people react very quickly. So this reservoir at TFFC is an extremely important thing for us to do, and I think there are going to be a manager or two up there who will sleep a little bit better if he thinks he can actually sleep through the night.
Another major renovation effort would be at the Heart of the Hills. It is our science center. And it has also been put back into production – into a production phase during these efforts that we've had with the golden alga. We use it as a reserve. It is an extremely productive place. And we'd like to get back in there and make some changes there.
So really, where are we now and what are we doing? Replacing Jasper is our highest priority. We have all decided on that, and feel very comfortable that this is what we need to do. It will probably take about four years to complete from beginning to end, in terms of a project of this size.
What we have done – and actually, we have been solicited by people who have heard that we need to look at renovating Jasper. What can we do? How can we help you? We'd be very interested in having you – in being involved with you. So we have been in a very – it's been a wonderful position to have somebody call us up and say, How can we be with you, you know, in some of this?
So we are looking, right now, for partners to help us to extend dollars, so that maybe we can go a little bit further down our – down the path in terms of renovations.
So our strategy right now – this is where we are. What we have done is we have sent letters to the Sabine River Authority, who has expressed an interest to us, of partnering with us on a new hatchery.
We have sent a letter to the Lower Nueces Valley Authority, who has expressed an interest in working with us. And our letter has told them, basically, what we need and what we would ask them what they wold like their role to be, and what their interest would be in this.
We have asked for them to provide us by about mid-December what – how they would like to be involved, and for us to be able to look at this.
And then we're hoping that in early 2004, that we are able to move forward with the project that's going to go ahead and begin the process for Jasper. We have also worked – submitted a proposal to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation to assist us in this decision-making process, to see where we're going to go.
So it's very exciting for us right now. There are some real opportunities for us, I think. And I'd be happy to answer any questions that you might have.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Any comments or questions? Thank you, Mr. Saul.
MR. SAUL: Thank you.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: I appreciate it. Item Number Ten, Oil and Gas Lease Nomination in Tarrant County. Ronnie Ray.
MR. RAY: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. This item is the oil and gas nomination in Tarrant County at the Eagle Mountain Lake Property. It's a 400-acre property, and we own 350 acres of minerals there.
The restrictions on the lease would be no entrance on Parks and Wildlife properties without review and written permission from Parks and Wildlife staff. The terms would be a minimal bid of $150 per acre, with a 25 percent minimal royalty, 10 percent delayed rental – I mean, $10 delayed rental. Excuse me. And the term would be for three years.
The recommended motion is the executive director has authorized to nominate the oil and gas leases to the Board for lease for Parks and Wildlife lands, approximately 350.88 mineral acres out of Eagle Mountain Lake State Park at $150 per acre, with a 25 percent royalty, $10 per acre rental, and a three-year term, incorporating the restrictions set out in Exhibit A, which would be the restrictions on entrance.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Any questions or comments? Let me have a motion. Commissioner Holmes?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: So move.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Second.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Any further discussion? All in favor, please say aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Opposed? The motion is adopted. Thank you.
MR. SAUL: Thank you.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Item Number 11, Land Acquisition in Bastrop and Brazoria Counties. Jack Bauer.
MR. BAUER: Good morning Chairman and Commissioners. My name is Jack Bauer, Director of Land Acquisition. In the Executive Session Meeting yesterday of the Conservation Committee, we looked at the details of some acquisition proposals in Bastrop and Brazoria County.
As you recall, there were two tracts at Bastrop that are habitat additions, that are recommended, going 113 acres. And we have a commercial fishing lot in Brazoria County at the mouth of the San Bernard River to assist in the Artificial Reef Program that's recommended for acquisition.
You asked for us to bring it forward today for a vote. And the motion before you is a staff recommendation for approval to make these acquisitions. I'd be happy to answer any questions.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Are there any questions or comments? The Chair would entertain a motion.
COMMISSIONER WATSON: So moved.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Second.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Commissioner Watson. Second by Commissioner Ramos. Any discussion? All in favor, please say aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Opposed? The motion is adopted. Thank you, Mr. Bauer.
MR. BAUER: Thank you, sir.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Item Number 12, Local Boat Ramp Grants. Mr. Hogsett.
MR. HOGSETT: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission. I'm Tim Hogsett, Director of Recreation Grants Program in the State Parks Division. We're bringing to you today recommendations for funding for four boat ramps from our Sport Fish Restoration Federal Aid Pass-through Program.
These are 75 percent grants to local governments. And the local governments are required to own, operate and maintain the facilities. We have received four applications requesting about $1.7 million in matching funds assistance, and are recommending four ramps, the first one in Cameron County, for approximately $490,000. The second one in Comal County for approximately $370,000. The third one in the City of Missouri City for a half a million, and finally, the City of Orange for $375,000.
In addition, we have a sort of a housekeeping item that we'd like you to help us with. When the ramp that we helped Calhoun County build was built in 1967, that – at that time, the boat ramp program required that the Department take ownership of the property before we could build the facility.
Calhoun County thus deeded the property for that boat ramp to the Department. We no longer do business that way. The county is wishing to pursue some additional grant monies from other sources other than the Department to further develop the site, and would like to reacquire that property. And that's what we're recommending today.
So our recommendation is funding for new construction projects in the amount of $1,737,189 is approved for boat ramps to be constructed in Cameron and Comal Counties, in the Cities of Missouri City and Orange. And secondly, the executive director is authorized to transfer title of acreage in Calhoun County from the Department to Calhoun County for boating access purposes.
And I'd be glad to answer any questions.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Any questions or comments? Do we have a motion?
COMMISSIONER RISING: Motion.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Commissioner Rising. Second by?
COMMISSIONER WATSON: Second.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Commissioner Watson. All in favor, please say aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Opposed? Thank you, Mr. Hogsett.
MR. HOGSETT: Thank you very much.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Mr. Cook, do you know of any other business to come before us?
MR. COOK: No, sir. I believe we're done.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: No further comments from the Commissioners. This meeting is adjourned.
(Whereupon, at 11:00 a.m., the meeting was concluded.)
Approved this the 6th day of November, 2003.
Ernest Angelo, Jr., Vice-Chairman
Joseph B.C. Fitzsimons, Member
Alvin L. Henry, Member
Ned S. Holmes, Member
Peter M. Holt, Member
Philip Montgomery III, Member
Donato D. Ramos, Member
Kelly W. Rising, M.D., Member
Mark E. Watson, Jr., Member
C E R T I F I C A T E
MEETING OF: Texas Parks
and Wildlife Commission
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: November 6, 2003
I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 90, inclusive, are the true, accurate, and complete transcript prepared from the verbal recording made by electronic recording by Penny Bynum before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.
On the Record Reporting, Inc.
3307 Northland, Suite 315
Austin, Texas 78731
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