Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Regulations Committee Meeting
November 5, 2003Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 5th 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, 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
- 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
P R O C E E D I N G S
MR. ANGELO: I'll call this meeting to order and request that Bob Cook make his statement.
MR. COOK: Thank you, sir.
A public notice of this meeting containing all items on the proposed agenda has been filed in the Office of the Secretary of State as required by Chapter 551 of the Government Code, referred to as the Open Meetings Law. I would like for this action to be noted in the official record of this meeting.
MR. ANGELO: Thank you, Mr. Cook.
We will now move to the Regulations Committee and Mr. Fitzsimons.
MR. FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The first order of business is the approval of the Committee minutes. Is there a motion for approval?
MR. WATSON: So moved.
MR. RAMOS: Second.
MR. FITZSIMONS: Thank you.
And that was a motion by Commissioner Watson and a second by Ramos. And all in favor say aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
MR. FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
MR. FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion carries.
Bob Cook, Chairman's Charges?
MR. COOK: Commissioners our Chairman's charges ‑‑ let me kind of just give you a little update at this point in time, because it'll be applicable to all of our committees. We have completed all of the chairman's charges previously assigned and agreed upon by the Commission and ‑‑ with the Agency. They are all complete, all done, all of them in good shape. Some of them, of course, are continuing, but ‑‑ continuing activities, but as charges, they are complete.
And we have been in the process of drafting ‑‑ coming up with thoughts and ideas and suggestions, things that we have heard from you of items that we know are on the agenda based on what we came out of the legislature with, to initiate that process of developing a new set of chairman's charges. We thought it would be appropriate to wait until we have a new chairman to kick that thing into high gear and sit down with you and go over them and agree on and decide on which way that we're going to go and what our priorities are in those charges.
And like I say, that is applicable to all of our committees. If that meets with your approval, we will be prepared to address that at the first opportunity that we have.
MR. FITZSIMONS: That seems appropriate. And that will apply to all the committees. Right?
MR. COOK: That is correct. That will apply to all committees. Typically, we have chairman's charges, again, that the Commission has worked on and agreed upon in all of our committees ‑‑ you know, certain items that ‑‑ whether it's finance or conservation, that we want to look at over the year. And so we will be prepared to do that if that's ‑‑
MR. FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Bob.
The next order of business on the agenda is the legislative update.
You're up again, Bob.
MR. COOK: I felt like it would be timely to take five or ten minutes here to tell you where we are in the process of some of the specific pieces of legislation. I think we've kept you informed about this, but it's just a good opportunity to go into a little more detail there and have whatever discussion you would like to have regarding that.
Senate Bill 155 by Zaffirini, protection of freshwater areas, is basically the ban on four-wheelers in rivers. In our public education and publicity part of that process, we have a press package detailing the components of Senate Bill 155 that was released on October 13 of this year.
The press release explained that the motor vehicle restrictions in navigable stream beds begins January 1, 2004 and gave contact information for local river access plans and motorized trail grants. A second press release will go out in December of this year as a reminder that the restrictions are effective January 1 of 2004.
Wallet-size educational cards about Senate Bill 155 were produced and given to law enforcement regional offices for our game wardens to distribute throughout the state. And in addition, an informational web site about Senate Bill 155 has been developed on our TPWD web site. And we have that address for you.
Under our local river access plans, the local river access plan guidelines and a sample local river access plan were developed and were posted on the same web site. The Department has been contacted by two county and municipal offices interested in developing local river access plans and has offered assistance.
Following the enactment of Senate Bill 155, we have become aware of a situation in where a disabled has in the past moved a motor vehicle in a protected freshwater area to launch and recover a vessel, in other words: To get their canoe into the water, as it may be. And we would like to make you ‑‑ I'd like to make you aware at this time of our intent to publish a proposed rule that would allow continuation of that practice for that limited purpose. That's just an area we need to clean up on, and we need to be able to provide that access.
To date, the Department has received one trail grant application for a motorized vehicle park in Uvalde County. This grant application has met with considerable controversy and opposition, and the applicant is still in the process of obtaining the required environmental and archeological clearances. I think we reported to you the last time that we met about the status of that and that before we go further with that, we will get a lot of public input and a lot of involvement in that decision.
Senate Bill 1094 by Duncan, the Water Conservation Implementation Task Force, was approved by the legislature and signed by the governor and created a task force to evaluate matters regarding water conservation. The task force will review, evaluate and recommend optimum levels of water use, efficiency and conservation for the state. The task force must submit a report to the legislature by November 1 of 2004, and we are a member of that task force.
This task force has met twice, and there have been three sub-committees created: Agriculture, Municipal and Industrial. And we have begun to discuss and address best management practices and the need for a statewide public awareness campaign.
I'd like for you to be advised that ‑‑ and I see Cindy Loeffler sitting down here on the end of the front row. Cindy and I have attended those meetings ourselves and represented the Agency and represented our resources. I have spoken on a couple or three occasions about the value, for example, of good habitat management, the positive impact of good habitat management on our watersheds and how that in itself, we believe, can significantly contribute to the improved quantity and quality of water that are coming down our streams, a real ‑‑ something that really can be measured and really can be evaluated.
So we are keeping those kinds of issues in front of you. It's kind of interesting. The last meeting we had, we got into a considerable discussion about this business ‑‑ about the need for a statewide public awareness campaign. And I was, I guess, under the assumption that a public awareness campaign about water conservation would be something that everyone would support 100 percent without hesitation; I learned very quickly that that is not the fact.
So it just gives you an idea that even an issue like that that, to me ‑‑ I just would have assumed that there would be unanimous support for such an awareness campaign. There is not.
So those are some of the kinds of issues that keep ‑‑ continue to arise in this water and water conservation issue.
Senate Bill 1693 by Staples, the Study Commission on Water for Environmental Flows: This bill, approved by the legislature and signed by the governor, allows ground water districts to regulate the production of ground water using methods appropriate to the hydrological conditions of the aquifer, including limiting the amount of water produced based on contiguous surface area.
This bill also creates the Study Commission on Water for Environmental Flows, consisting of 15 appointed members that include TPWD. I believe the way it reads is something to the effect of our chairman or his designee ‑‑ his or her designee. The study commission is required to submit a report for the legislature no later than December 1, 2004. The bill prohibits TCEQ from issuing water right permits for environmental flows; however, TCEQ may issue amendments to existing permits to change a use or to add a use for instream flows or freshwater flows.
Just in the last week or so, Governor Perry has appointed two members to the study commission: Mr. Bill West, the General Manager of Guadalupe/Blanco River Authority, and Mr. Jerry Clark, General Manager of Sabine River Authority. We heard yesterday ‑‑ and, in fact, I got a little information on it hot off the press just this morning ‑‑ that Speaker Craddick had appointed five individuals to the study commission.
The governor has appointments, the lieutenant governor has appointments, and the speaker has appointments. So the speaker made his appointments.
Representative Puente of San Antonio, as ranking member of the study commission, who will serve as a co-presiding officer with the ranking senate appointee, Representative Bill Callegari from Katy, Texas, Representative Scott Campbell from San Angelo, Dr. Ben Vaughn IV from San Antonio, who is very involved in our coastal conservation association group, and David Herndon of Austin are the five members that the speaker named yesterday. And I have that information for you.
So it looks like that ‑‑ those appointments are being made and that group will more than likely be functioning soon.
House Bill 1529 by Cook, relating to the inspection of wildlife resources and devices used to catch or hunt wildlife resources, adds to the Parks and Wildlife Code to authorize the game warden to inspect licenses, equipment and game if the game warden observes or has reason to believe a person is hunting or fishing.
You know, the bottom line there: Our ability to search was limited. And once that fish got in an ice chest on the boat or that bird in the bag, our warden could ask that hunter or fisherman if he could look in that bag and count those birds or make sure the fish are of appropriate size, but if the hunter or fisherman so desired, they could deny that. This bill clarifies that we have the authority to look.
Our wardens have themselves gained that kind of trust in the Texas legislature; I think that it would have been almost impossible for any other law enforcement organization to have gotten that kind of search authority, and I think it is a statement to the trust and the confidence that those folks have in our law enforcement group. And I know that our law enforcement group will [indiscernible].
House Bill 1989 by Mr. Ellis, relating to hunting and fishing stamps: Basically, that is the bill that's providing us the authority to issue a freshwater stamp to be required of all licensed anglers who hunt in ‑‑ who fish in freshwaters and public waters of Texas. It's a 10-year program. And basically, the purpose of that program, as you know, is to provide funding for the renovation and reconstruction of our hatcheries across the state.
House Bill 2351 by Mr. Kuempel, relating to certain fees collected by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department: That's the one that authorizes us to do 15 percent of the boat registration and titling fees towards Fund 64, our state parks fund. As you know, state parks is the funding that we've always been short of and we've been looking for ways to add funding to that.
We saw the opportunity ‑‑ here, with the need to increase our boat titling and registration fees, we saw the opportunity, because of the number of our parks across the state that have ramps, that have marinas, that have docks and that providing boating and recreational facilities like that, to involve them in this. It was important that we be careful how that was done, because we did not want to take away from the funding ‑‑ this funding source, as it has applied to boater safety in our law enforcement division.
So with the fee increase, we were able to do that, through our boating safety, and the fund will be increased by about $1 million ‑‑ it typically brings in about 14- or $15 million; with this increase, we'll bring in 16- to 17-, in that range ‑‑ add a million to our Fund 9 group and put about 2 million into our state parks. So I believe that will be a good thing.
House Bill 2926 by Mr. Geren, relating to the licenses of our marine manufacturers, dealers and distributors: This bill changes the present system of licensing marine dealers from a voluntary license to a mandatory license requirement for any person engaged in the business of buying, selling, selling on consignment, displaying for sale or ‑‑ at least five vessels, motor boats, or outboard motors in a calendar year.
Previously, it was a voluntary program; we did not have good compliance. And lots of opportunity for boats that were improperly registered being out there, taxes ‑‑ required taxes not being paid, and all. So we hope that that will help us get that straight.
Senate Bill 607 by Mr. Janek, relating to abandoned crab traps: This bill clarifies the closed crab trap season for the taking of crabs from the public waters of this state. It eliminates the initial 7-day period of the closure, when only game wardens may remove crab traps from the water. The information was given to the game wardens at the legislative updates and by memos sent out to field wardens. Our crab trap advisory group has been advised and is working with us on this.
Senate Bill 608 by Janek, relating to the creation of resident and non-resident fishing guide licenses, gives the Commission the opportunity to create separate saltwater and freshwater guide licenses, as well as the ability to set fees above $75 for those guide licenses. The Commission approved this increase.
And the non-resident fishing guide fee for saltwater will become effective September 1, 2004. No similar changes for non-resident freshwater fishing guides are necessary.
SB 1582 by Wentworth, relating to the authorized political subdivision to trap, transport and transplant certain white-tailed deer: This bill would authorize TPWD to issue permits to a political subdivision or property owners association who at their cost trap and transport white-tailed deer to a destination specified by TPWD and for a purpose specified by TPWD.
This thing got kind of convoluted. You know, a lot of these subdivisions you take ‑‑ particularly on the western and northern edge of communities like Austin, New Braunfels, San Marcos or San Antonio, they have got a deer problem and have had a deer problem for 30 years. And I fear ‑‑ I'm afraid they're going to continue to have a deer problem.
But some of these communities have worked really hard and worked with us to reduce those deer herds by trapping, transplanting and moving them out of the areas. Some of them have hired shooters to harvest those deer and provide the meat to the groups that donate to ‑‑ prepare that meat and donate it to people who need it ‑‑ and with some degree of success.
Some of the traffic incidents with deer have declined in some of those areas. Some of the complaints from residents who have everything in their yard eaten up by those deer, have subsided. It has improved some, but it is an ongoing problem.
There was a glitch in this bill. At one point in time, it looked like these folks would be able to put deer in a trailer ‑‑ trap and put these deer in a trailer and we would have to find the location for those deer to be released.
And, you know, we continued to emphasize to the folks involved and looking at this that, you know, there were not many areas in Texas that needed additional deer, that that was a big, controversial issue from a habitat standpoint if nothing else, and that with the CWD, the Chronic Wasting Disease, issues that we're trying to manage and trying to understand, we need to be very careful with that.
So we're continuing to work with them. We had some folks in here ‑‑ Scott and I had some folks come over just the other day from one of the communities. And we're going to continue to work with them, and we're going to continue to try to help them.
As far as in the appropriations bill, there were some instructions regarding golden algae. And just to give you an update on that, in the Brazos River basin, the fish kills have ended and golden algae concentrations have gone down but, certainly, remain a threat. In the Colorado River basin, minor fish kills continue and the concentration of golden algae are still high in some reservoirs, such as Colorado City Lake.
Management of reservoirs and affected areas continues to be a challenge due the threat of toxic algae blooms. Dundee and Possum Kingdom fish hatcheries continue to implement the protocols developed to monitor and treat hatchery ponds for this algae.
A state wildlife grant of $375,000 was awarded to the Department by U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service to coordinate efforts to address the golden algae problem, conduct an assessment of historical data related to golden algae fish kills, conduct research on the genetics of golden algae and implement a statewide survey to determine the distribution of golden algae.
The Department held a scientific meeting on the golden algae in Fort Worth on October 24 and 25, bringing together national and international experts, Texas researchers and agencies in other states to discuss information on the algae and develop suggested actions and research for managing the algae. Sponsorships obtained from Brazos River Authority and Lower Colorado River Authority enabled the Department to hold the workshop without expending funds allocated to the Department by the legislation that addressed this issue.
Using the results of this work shop, the Department golden algae task force will move forward with projects and requests for proposals to address the golden algae issues using the $600,000 of legislatively directed funds and other funds that may be obtained.
Golden algae is a big issue, a big problem, for us. We've got lakes that have literally lost millions of dollars worth of business, fishing decline in those areas, businesses that are suffering as a result, and fisheries much reduced. And we are doing everything we can to, as you heard there, bring in people who have worked with this and are working on it currently with us.
House Concurrent Resolution 256 basically was a resolution concurrent with the senate that directed us to continue to work on these deer permit issues, whether it is managed lands deer permits, ADC permits or Triple-T permits, all of those kinds of permit programs that we work with, to work those openly through with our white-tailed deer advisory committee. And we have been doing that.
We've had a quarterly meeting. We have reported the results of those meetings. And I think it's going fairly well. There's not absolute total consensus on those programs, but we've got land owners involved, we've got hunting operators involved ‑‑ and interested citizens. And I think that basic approach is going to work out for us fine.
We continue to maintain a [indiscernible] by the Commission [indiscernible] Commission that habitat is the corner stone of each program. We would not [indiscernible] get the support overall from the committee on that issue. We do not want to destroy habitat by moving too many deer, by supporting too many deer with these programs and these permits.
I believe that completes my update to you. I'd be glad to answer any questions that you might have.
MR. FITZSIMONS: Any questions for Bob?
Bob, I have ‑‑ I guess I'll do it in reverse order. The white-tailed deer advisory committee ‑‑ I read their report. I received it last week. And my understanding is there's no recommendation to the Commission at this time.
MR. COOK: None at this time. That is correct.
MR. FITZSIMONS: At the next meeting?
MR. PATRICK: The ‑‑ in January or February ‑‑ okay. January 13.
MR. FITZSIMONS: Okay. And back to 1693, the instream flows, has the question been resolved by TCEQ as to whether or not that legislation requires them to deny all instream permits? There's no question as to the interpretation.
MR. COOK: My impression is that the answer to that question is yes, that they intend to deny or have denied or been instructed to deny all of those permits.
Dr. McKinney, is that an accurate ‑‑
MS. BRIGHT: The recommendation for ‑‑
MR. COOK: Ann Bright.
MS. BRIGHT: The recommendation from TCEQ staff as I understand it is to deny those permits. It's set for ‑‑ I believe November 19 is the hearing date. So we'll have somebody over there to monitor that. We had filed a briefing requesting that they not be denied, but be abated.
MR. FITZSIMONS: And so if that happens, they'll just go through the administrative remedies procedures and then on appeals. And by the time the instream commission is done, they should be at the court of appeals, I guess.
MS. BRIGHT: Absolutely.
MR. FITZSIMONS: Yes.
MS. BRIGHT: I suspect that these will also end up in litigation like [indiscernible].
MR. FITZSIMONS: Correct me if I'm wrong. The legislation did not say, "Shall deny"; it said, "Shall not grant"?
MS. BRIGHT: That's true. That's correct.
MR. COOK: That sounds like an attorney.
MR. COOK: Well, the bottom line there just so ‑‑ just to be sure that you all ‑‑ and I'm sure you are. But, you know, the SMIRF or SMIRF-like permit request ‑‑ there appeared to be in the flow regime there several thousand acre feet of water that was available and was flowing to the gulf. And some folks that was a good idea, and they made a permit request to keep it for that purpose. And so by this legislation, that permit cannot be granted.
MR. FITZSIMONS: Well, you know, when we worked on that [indiscernible] ‑‑ the difference in denying grants was we wanted to keep some of that there. And if they continue to ‑‑ they deny these in the meantime, in a sense, we've set the result for the instream commission. I mean if they come out with a recommendation and the water's all gone, what difference does it make what the recommendation is of the instream commission? So that's interesting.
The other one I wondered about is on your watershed ‑‑ what do you call it ‑‑ the water conservation task force?
MR. COOK: Yes, sir.
MR. FITZSIMONS: Is there any recommendation there the watershed research that has been done on like the Kerr and ‑‑
MR. COOK: Right. We ‑‑ I in fact did a note, as Commissioner Fitzsimons is aware of and as we all are, of some excellent research going on on the Kerr wildlife management area regarding the impact of that water that ‑‑ as opposed to just rushing off and carrying sediment and all that with it, that actually soaks into the ground and goes into the aquifer. There's some good research going on on the Kerr area and with a group of private land owners up on the Leon River up in the northern and western adjacent area to Fort Hood ‑‑ with university researchers involved.
And we are going to make an effort to get those groups in front of this water conservation task force. I honestly believe, folks that it is ‑‑ you're talking a huge impact on the river systems in Texas, you know, when you think in terms of a system like the Colorado system or the Brazos system that start at the cap rock of Texas and run for 600 or 800 miles through the different gyrations, our ability to change the ‑‑ improve the quality and the quantity of that water that comes downstream.
We have something in the range now of 18 to 19 million acres in our wildlife ‑‑ in our approved TPWD wildlife management plan program alone. And if that kind of improvement that I believe is there and that we believe is there can be documented and can be measured, which we believe can be, then if I'm a municipality downstream, if I'm a user downstream, the incentives ‑‑ the potential for incentives for those kinds of programs, I think, would be worth looking at.
So that's the kind of thought process and ‑‑ you know. And they're going through a lot of questions regarding re-use and when you can re-use, everything from dripping faucets to, you know, the amount of water that we put on St. Augustine grass. And, you know, it's ‑‑ there's immense opportunities if we will go to work on them now.
So we're ‑‑ we feel pretty good about it. But like you say, when you run in to that thought process, that, you know, "Well, no; We don't need a public awareness program," we're ‑‑ how effective are we?
MR. FITZSIMONS: That sort of stuck on you, didn't it?
MR. COOK: It's getting stuck on me, I'll tell you.
MR. FITZSIMONS: We'll come back to that, I think.
MR. COOK: Yes, sir, we will.
MR. ANGELO: Mr. Chairman, if I might address your Committee a moment?
MR. FITZSIMONS: Yes, sir.
MR. ANGELO: I neglected to do something very important at the start of our meeting, and that is to welcome and introduce our newest member of the Parks and Wildlife Commission, Peter Holt from San Antonio.
MR. HOLT: Thank you, sir.
MR. ANGELO: Peter, we're glad to have you with us.
MR. HOLT: Thank you. Glad to be here.
MR. ANGELO: I apologize for overlooking that important item.
MR. HOLT: That's all right.
MR. ANGELO: Mr. Chairman?
MR. FITZSIMONS: You're going to learn a lot about white-tailed deer.
MR. HOLT: Yes. There you go.
MR. FITZSIMONS: More than you know already.
MR. HOLT: And water conservation.
MR. FITZSIMONS: And lack of public awareness.
MR. HOLT: And lack of public awareness.
MR. COOK: We're not ‑‑
MR. HOLT: And education.
MR. COOK: We're not going to tell you about that.
MR. HOLT: I'll ask later. I've already written it down.
MR. FITZSIMONS: All right. Any other questions for Bob on the legislative update?
MR. FITZSIMONS: Our next item on the agenda is, Robin Riechers, our crab trap fishery closure.
MR. RIECHERS: Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, for the record, my name is Robin Riechers, and I'm the Management Director of the Coastal Fisheries Division. And I'll be presenting a proposal regarding the abandoned crab trap removal program.
This item proposes final adoption of amendments to Chapter 65, Section 78, Crabs and ghost Shrimp. As you'll remember, in the 77th Legislature, Senate Bill 1410 gave us the authority to create a closed crab trap season for the removal of abandoned crab traps from the public waters of the state.
In the last legislative session, as Mr. Cook just described, Senate Bill 607 modified that previous language and basically removed that seven-day period at the beginning of the closure, where only law enforcement personnel could pick up the traps. And ‑‑ but the way they did that in fact is by declaring it litter on the first day of the closure.
So now the closure ‑‑ it can still range from ten to 30 days, as it was before, but what in effect we can do is set it at the minimum of ten days and still capture two weekends and one week for volunteer help, which was the ‑‑ which allows us to change the length of the closure.
In reviewing the last closures in 2002 and 2003, over 12,000 traps have been collected during the closures. Each year, we've had a little over 500 volunteers show up to help us on the main day of the event, and they've ‑‑ each year, they've brought about 200 to 250 vessels to help us with that clean-up.
Over 60 companies have donated anything ranging from items like tarps and gloves and hooks to disposal facilities and sites for that ‑‑for those crab trap disposals to our event each year.
And that's not only companies; it's organizations, municipalities and local governments. So we've had a lot of support.
The majority of organisms found and released from the traps during the clean-up are blue crabs and stone crabs; however, other species of recreational concern that we do see in those traps are black drum, red drum, flounder, spotted sea trout and sheep's head, and we also see a species which is on the species of concern list, the diamond-backed terrapin.
This year, based on input from the crab advisory committee review of concentrations of traps after last year's closures, the fact that Hurricane Claudette hit the mid-coast ‑‑ and we know we've had some dispersal of traps from when that occurred ‑‑ and the changes in the legislation that allow us to close for an even shorter period of time, the Department again proposes a coast-wide crab trap fishery closure.
The proposal, as posted in "The Register," will establish an annual closure on the third Friday in February and that will last ten consecutive days. Notice the wording change. Where we basically are establishing a time certain for many years to come, we'll only have to come back to you if we choose not to do the closure. This year's closure will in effect then begin on Friday, February 20 and last through Sunday, February 29, with no exemptions for any crab traps.
We held three public hearings along the coast, and we've received a total of seven public comments either through those hearings or in other means. We've had four comments that were against the closure, and three comments were for the closure. I'll note that the four comments against the closure all came from the Matagorda area from when we had a hearing in Bay City, and, basically, they were citing the recent bad times associated with that hurricane that came through there and has reduced their landings for a period of time as their reason for not wanting to do the closure this year.
But based on those comments, we still do recommend the closure. And we recommend the dates as published in The Texas Register which would establish that closure from February 20 through February 29. I'd be happy to answer any questions.
DR. RISING: Robin?
MR. RIECHERS: Yes?
DR. RISING: How many days did we close the season last year?
MR. RIECHERS: It was 17 days last year.
DR. RISING: 17 days?
MR. RIECHERS: Yes.
DR. RISING: Do you have any ‑‑ a rough idea of what percentage of traps were collected in that first seven to ten days by the game wardens ‑‑
MR. RIECHERS: Really, a very minimal amount because at that point, we're waiting on the huge volunteer help. And our enforcement people are gearing up, just like many folks in the Department. At the site I was at, we had inland people, resource protection people, our own people and law enforcement people. We all gear up for that big weekend where we help take volunteers out and get those traps out using that volunteer, you know, help.
DR. RISING: So we're just going to concentrate our effort and ‑‑
MR. RIECHERS: Right.
DR. RISING: ‑‑ eliminate that?
MR. RIECHERS: We still get the same amount of volunteer help and time for that, but we can basically get people back on the water just a little quicker.
MR. ANGELO: Mr. Chairman, I was wondering if we've actually ‑‑ if you've got any way of determining whether we're really making a dent in the problem or if it's still about as bad as it was. Or how do you feel about it?
MR. RIECHERS: Well, we have went ‑‑ last year, we collected about 4,000 traps, and we got about 8,000 in the first year. One other thing we noticed last year is that we didn't see as many traps. And the very first year, we saw several traps that were actually ten and 11 years old. We saw traps that were very old, and some that didn't have our degradable panels that we now require. We saw a lot higher compliance rate when we pulled traps out.
So I'd say yes, we're making a dent. And it'll be interesting to see how far that number comes back down again this year.
MR. FITZSIMONS: Any idea of what the total number of abandoned traps would be?
MR. RIECHERS: When we ‑‑ when the bill was immediately ‑‑ when the bill was passed ‑‑ Senate Bill 1410 ‑‑ we estimated there was maybe 25,000 traps at that time.
MR. FITZSIMONS: So you've made a pretty good dent?
MR. RIECHERS: We've made a pretty good dent.
MR. FITZSIMONS: Almost 50 percent of them.
MR. RAMOS: Did any of the people that objected to the closure indicate what kind of financial exposure they ‑‑ or losses they might incur? Did they ever quantify it for you?
MR. RIECHERS: No, sir.
MR. RAMOS: Okay.
MR. RIECHERS: They never really quantified it.
MR. RAMOS: Okay. Thank you.
MR. RIECHERS: I would ‑‑ to that point, as well, I will say that the crab advisory committee, who is also made up of crabbers ‑‑ a lot of them from the Rockport area ‑‑ are in favor of the closure. And they did make a statement in favor of it, as well.
MR. FITZSIMONS: Any other questions for Robin?
MR. FITZSIMONS: With no further discussion or questions, without opposition, I'll place this item on Thursday's Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.
Thank you, Robin.
MR. RIECHERS: Thank you.
MR. FITZSIMONS: Next is Item 4, the Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation.
MR. BERGER: Good morning, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. For the record, I'm Mike Berger, the Director of the Wildlife Division. And we've got to bring you a couple of necessary adjustments that need to be made to the statewide hunting and fishing proclamation this year. The first involves pheasants.
Earlier this year with the proclamation, the Commission adopted a ‑‑ in response to a petition, we adopted a longer pheasant season, from two weeks to 30 days, and reduced the daily bag limit from three birds to two and instructed that that start on December 6 and run for 30 consecutive days. That ‑‑ and that did appear.
The outdoor annual, however, printed the dates from the old start date, which was in the middle of December, and ran it for 30 consecutive days. And in August, you authorized us to simplify that rule and make that change consistent with the outdoor annual. And we did publish that. The petitioners have been contacted, and they were not affected. And so ‑‑ and no comments have been received on the proposal. So this would just change the season to be what is currently in the outdoor annual, rather than what was in the proclamation.
The other necessary change involves a change in the archery season which, when published in the Texas Administrative Code this year, had no closing date. So we published a regulation proposal to implement corrective action to close the archery season. And this will not affect any and did not affect any hunting opportunity for archers this year, and there were no comments received on this proposal, either.
I'd be happy to answer any questions.
MR. FITZSIMONS: Any questions for Mike? It sounds like ‑‑ looks like a little housekeeping from our previous work.
MR. BERGER: That's correct.
MR. FITZSIMONS: No questions on pheasants?
DR. RISING: Looks good.
MR. FITZSIMONS: Okay. Well, if there's no further discussion or comments, without opposition, I'll place this item on Thursday's Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.
And you're up again, Mike, for the Statewide Fur-bearing Animal Proclamation.
MR. BERGER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. Again, for the record, my name is Mike Berger, Director of the Wildlife Division. This has to do with a change to the statewide fur-bearing animal proclamation.
At the last meeting, you may remember, you adopted the majority of the proposed revisions to the fur-bearer rules. And at that time, there was some public comment that requested that we expand the opportunity for fur takers and fur buyers to keep and sell their pelts at any time during the year, rather during a more restricted time period.
And so in response to that, we withdrew the affected section of the fur-bearer proclamation that contained that provision and added a provision which would allow trappers to possess and sell year round, with no sale date. And we republished that proposal in The Texas Register, and there were no public ‑‑ no comments received on that issue, either. So that's the change we're recommending.
MR. FITZSIMONS: Mike, I think it was at the last public meeting that this issue came up ‑‑
MR. BERGER: Yes, sir.
MR. FITZSIMONS: ‑‑ that there was a representative of the trappers ‑‑
MR. BERGER: Yes.
MR. FITZSIMONS: ‑‑ association. And this ‑‑ you know, I thought they were made a very good point, that we were restricting their ability ‑‑
MR. BERGER: That's correct.
MR. FITZSIMONS: ‑‑ to conduct business and their commerce. So that ‑‑
MR. BERGER: And that was the ‑‑
MR. FITZSIMONS: That takes care of their problem?
MR. BERGER: This takes care of their problem. They can possess the pelts at any time during the year, and they can sell the pelts at any time during the year.
MR. FITZSIMONS: Just so that's clear.
Any other questions or discussion ‑‑ questions for Mike?
MR. FITZSIMONS: All right. With no further discussion, without opposition, I'll place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.
And the next item on the agenda: A Preview of the 2004-2005 Statewide Hunting ‑‑ the next Hunting and Fishing Proclamation.
MR. BERGER: And I only get a piece of this, but I'm Mike Berger, Director of the Wildlife Division. And this is our statewide hunting and fishing proclamation preview.
Each year in November, we present to the Commission our potential regulation changes for the year and discuss some issues of interest. We will come back to you in January with actual proposals and ask for your permission to publish them in The Texas Register at that time. And then, after that, we will conduct public hearings and bring proposals back to you for adoption in April.
The first of these has to do with the additional doe days and some new counties to provide doe days. In many counties of the state, the white-tailed population cannot sustain a full season of antlerless harvesting. And in those counties that can sustain limited hunting ‑‑ antlerless hunting, we do offer doe days. And this map you see shows the number of doe days and the various counties that have those.
The populations in the counties shown in red we believe can sustain a limited antlerless harvest. And therefore we are proposing these counties for four doe days to be implemented. The doe days ‑‑ when there are four doe days, they are implemented around the Thanksgiving holiday season in order to provide maximum family hunting opportunity. So those four days would occur on Thanksgiving and the Friday, Saturday and Sunday following.
We also would like to simplify the late youth-only hunting season regulations. There are a number of complexities that make the late youth deer season more confusing than it needs to be, and, for example, the complexities are listed there. There is no season in counties with late special antlerless and spiked buck seasons; no season in counties with a muzzle-loader only special season; there's a permit required in counties with doe days, and there may be different bag limits between the early season and the late season.
And we would like to come back to you with some simplification suggestions for these that makes the early season and the late season regulations as identical and as simple as possible. And this is in line with your charge to simplify whenever we can and to provide additional youth hunting opportunity. And we will have some ideas for doing that when we come back to you.
MR. COOK: Commissioners, I want to add here that I am really leaning on this simplification thing. You've heard some of it, and you'll hear more of it in this fur-bearer thing. I think the simplification of our regs does as much for us as a price reduction almost in a ‑‑ when you do them with a commodity, you know, the ‑‑ particularly with youth, where we can keep those, you know, "Go hunting, and have a good time." You know, that's the rule.
And so we're looking for those opportunities. And you'll be seeing more of that, I think.
MR. BERGER: The next proposal would be to add some additional counties to our spring eastern turkey area. Eastern turkeys have done well in east Texas; since restoration efforts, the populations have continued to get strong. And this proposal would increase hunter opportunity by opening the season in two full counties and the right-now-closed portions of two other counties. And you can see in red the counties and areas that are proposed for this.
We would ‑‑ also, with the spring eastern turkey season, we would like to lengthen the season from 14 to 30 days, again, more hunter opportunity. This would make the season dates from April 1 to April 30 instead of mid-April to the end of April.
It should be noted that if this is adopted, later ‑‑ it would not affect the 2004 season, but it would become effective in the 2004/5 cycle. So it would become effective in the spring of 2005. Both of these county restrictions would do that.
The other thing we'd just like to bring to your attention is the ‑‑ again, in an effort to simplify, we want to let you know what we're thinking about on turkey regulations. This map ‑‑ there's a lot of different colors and patterns on there, and they all reflect different season lengths and species that can be taken around the state. So there's a great variety of seasons and harvest limits around the state for Rio Grande turkeys.
And it's our desire, again, to simplify the regulations where ever possible. In that regard, we have some research studies ongoing with universities. You can see the two hatch places in the panhandle; that's a research study with Texas Tech. And then in the ‑‑ just west of San Antonio is a research study with Texas A&M. And one in south Texas is with A&M/Kingsville.
And these ‑‑ upon completion, these studies would provide additional information on the impact of the various fall harvest scenarios. And we're looking at telemetry studies of these turkeys to determine the impact of the fall season and conduct ‑‑ construct some population models that will help us understand.
And it will take a couple or three years to have the final results of these studies done, but we are working on this, again, so we can have something that is simpler and easier for the hunters to understand and continue to offer them the most opportunity we can.
MR. COOK: Mike, I'd like for you to go back a slide, please.
MR. COOK: And I request, Commissioners, that you look at this and you ‑‑ because we're going to want you to be involved in this. This is something that ‑‑ you know, it sort of evolves over the years and changes. With ‑‑ some wildlife division director might have an idea or some commissioner might have an idea or somebody from the public has a suggestion or a concern.
And so through the years, we have mashed and blended and come up with this assortment, and I submit to you that the Rio Grande turkey probably doesn't know the difference.
MR. COOK: And from the opportunity standpoint, we have a lot of Rio Grande turkey. You know, we see bag limits of ‑‑ numbers like what we have, four or five birds, or whatever it is, you know. And, you know, the truth of it is in the fall season, you know ‑‑ I forget the numbers right now, but, on a per-hunter basis, it's like .25 harvested birds per hunter.
So we're offering a lot of opportunity. That's good. But there's some complexity here that is of little or no value to us resource wise. Some of it is in convenience and in conjunction with the deer hunting season, and that is a factor that has to be considered. So we'd just like to look at this. We don't have a problem. I want to emphasize that.
There's not a big problem with Rio Grande turkey and these things, but, again, we're looking for that opportunity to simplify and clarify and make people feel comfortable in getting out there and not worrying from one ‑‑ whether they crossed that imaginary line of that county or not or whether they're doing the right thing. We want to look for that opportunity, and I would appreciate your participation in this process.
MR. ANGELO: I think the goal of simplification is highly commendable and something that really ought to be pursued. And that map's real pretty, but that has got to be weird.
MR. COOK: I'm sure the turkeys are not resting well at night knowing how complex it is.
MR. RAMOS: Have we done enough research at this point to where we could project the impact on the turkey population if we adopted these, or is that still ‑‑
MR. BERGER: These are the existing regulations right now. So we would like to end up simplifying them. And no, we can't project what the impact would be until then. But we want to do ‑‑ we want to make it as simple as possible and provide the maximum opportunity consistent with the conservation of the species.
MR. RAMOS: I guess maybe I misunderstood, but I thought we were going to be granting more hunting days ‑‑
MR. BERGER: No.
MR. RAMOS: ‑‑ for turkey.
MR. BERGER: No. We're not changing any of or recommending a change in any of the seasons at this time. It's just to alert you that we are doing turkey population research to see if we can't change these seasons to make them simpler so people going from one county to another don't have to try to assimilate a different regulation or bag limit in their minds.
MR. RAMOS: Sure. That's good. Thank you.
MR. FITZSIMONS: Spring is a lot simpler.
MR. BERGER: Spring is a lot simpler, yes.
MR. FITZSIMONS: So I ‑‑ the question arises as to why can't ‑‑
MR. COOK: We can't we do it for fall?
MR. FITZSIMONS: Yes. Why can't we. And ‑‑
MR. BERGER: We can.
MR. COOK: It's just going to take some consensus on our part.
MR. FITZSIMONS: And I think the spring gobbler season is one of the great success stories of this Department. I mean I know where I manage land, you've saved a lot of habitat by creating that new season. And people went ‑‑ land owners and ranchers have a new product ‑‑
MR. BERGER: Right.
MR. FITZSIMONS: ‑‑ to sell. And I think maybe our fall is a little bit behind our spring mind set.
MR. BERGER: We're working on it.
MR. FITZSIMONS: Okay.
MR. BERGER: The next item ‑‑
DR. RISING: I have a ‑‑ Mike?
MR. BERGER: I'm sorry? Excuse me.
DR. RISING: I'm sorry. Do we have any time line on when we should have adequate data back from these studies? I mean do we ‑‑
MR. BERGER: The studies will run for another two to three years.
DR. RISING: Okay.
MR. BERGER: So at that time ‑‑ I mean if we get something early enough that we know would make a difference, we would come back with a proposal at that time. But I think you should anticipate at least two years before we have final data.
DR. RISING: Okay.
MR. COOK: I'm not sure that ‑‑ let me comment that I'm not sure that our ability to simplify is not necessarily dependent upon the results of the studies. In many cases, there are important additional pieces of information that give us the ability to refine at a later date, but we're still going to look for that opportunity to simplify.
MR. BERGER: Some time ago, we discussed the Lesser Prairie Chicken and the status of the Lesser Prairie Chicken and the seasons on those. And you asked us to find out about the motivations of Lesser Prairie Chicken hunters and the characteristics of them and the habitat owners, and we have done so.
And we are now happy to present you the results of that survey, which I hope you'll find interesting. And to do that, Mr. Steve De Masso, our Upland Game Bird Program leader, will go through these data with you.
MR. De MASSO: Good morning, Mr. Chairman and Committee members. I'd like to present the results of the Lesser Prairie Chicken hunter and land owner survey that the Commission directed us in the wildlife division to conduct earlier this spring.
Currently, Texas offers Lesser Prairie Chicken hunting opportunity in eight of the counties in the Texas panhandle. In July of 2003, we mailed 167 surveys to people that responded that they had hunted prairie chickens in the last five years. 67 of those surveys were returned. Fifty-four of the respondents indicated that they had hunted Lesser Prairie Chickens in the last five years, and 13 responded that they had not hunted Lesser Prairie Chickens in the last five years.
If we look at the distribution of where Lesser Prairie Chicken hunters come from and how many hunters come from different areas of the state, we can see the majority of Lesser Prairie Chicken hunters are from up in the panhandle, where the birds occur, and see the next biggest concentration is probably from the Fort Worth/Dallas metroplex where ‑‑ hunters travel to the panhandle to hunt.
Just some additional information here: From 1997 to 2002, statewide, we averaged about 172 Lesser Prairie Chicken hunters for the two-day season. The average number of Lesser Prairie Chickens harvested in that same time period is about 121 per year.
In looking at some of the demographics of the Lesser Prairie Chicken hunter, the majority of prairie chicken hunters are males. The average age of the prairie chicken hunter is 51 years old. The respondents indicated that they had hunted Lesser Prairie Chickens for at least seven years, and the average number of birds or ‑‑ the number of birds harvested during the last five years was about four birds. The most popular counties for hunting Lesser Prairie Chickens in the panhandle are Lipscomb and Cochran Counties.
The main reasons the respondents gave for hunting Lesser Prairie Chickens was the enjoyment of bird hunting, the opportunity to be outdoors and the opportunity to see a Lesser Prairie Chicken were the primary reasons.
Getting access to land to hunt Lesser Prairie Chickens: The majority of hunters indicated that they gained access through a friend who owned the property that they hunted on; 25 percent indicated that they leased the property to hunt prairie chickens.
Methods used to hunt Lesser Prairie Chickens: The two most popular methods were walking and flushing, either with or without bird-dogs.
And the amount that hunters were willing to pay to hunt Lesser Prairie Chickens: 33 percent indicated that they would not be willing to pay any amount in order to hunt prairie chickens. The next highest percentage there is anywhere from $1 to $33 per day to hunt prairie chickens.
Like the previous slide showed, 33 percent of the hunters were not willing to pay. But if ‑‑ the hunters that responded that they were willing to pay indicated where they would want that money that they paid to go to. And 51 percent indicated the money that they paid they would like to see go to the land owner; 34 percent of the respondents said that they would like to see that money to go Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Switching over to the land owner survey, we mailed out 1,011 surveys in July of this year; 246 of those surveys were returned. Forty-one of the respondents reported that they did have Lesser Prairie Chickens on their property. Of the land owners surveyed, about 80 percent didn't allow any Lesser Prairie Chicken hunting on the property; 20 percent indicated they did allow hunting. Most of the hunting opportunity was for family or friends that were allowed to hunt for free.
One of the interesting things that came out of this was the land owners up in the area that we surveyed indicated that not only Lesser Prairie Chicken hunting but all forms of hunting are important for that money that they make off the leases in their farming or ranching operations.
The next question was asked: If land owners did manage exclusively for Lesser Prairie Chickens on their property. Fifty-three percent of the respondents indicated they did. Grazing was probably the most popular management tool the land owners used to help improve habitat for the Lesser Prairie Chickens.
When we asked the respondents whether yes, they had Lesser Prairie Chickens on their property or, no, they didn't or they didn't know if they had Lesser Prairie Chickens on their property, all three categories of land owners indicated that they would use financial assistance if it was available to improve habitat and manage for Lesser Prairie Chicken on their properties.
Again, if you look at the categories of whether Lesser Prairie Chickens were present or not present or the land owner didn't know if they had prairie chickens, the most popular places or the places they would go to first to get information about Lesser Prairie Chickens was Texas Parks and Wildlife and, also, the Texas Agriculture Extension Service, which recently was renamed Texas Cooperative Extension.
In looking at farm bill participation by land owners in the panhandle in Lesser Prairie Chicken range, by far the most popular farm bill program used by the land owners with prairie chickens was the CRP program. That program has been really popular since its inception, especially in the panhandle area.
MR. FITZSIMONS: Steve, most of what the CRP land has been planted to is not beneficial to wildlife. Is that correct, or not? That's my impression.
MR. De MASSO: True. Most of the CRP grass in the panhandle went into aurora blue-stems and weeping love grass. Generally, for the first maybe two to four years of the enrollment in those programs ‑‑ those stands of exotic grasses are fairly open and have a little bit of diversity to them ‑‑ some forbs species that provide insects for the birds. But after that stand really gets established, a lot of that grass becomes too thick and dense and rank to be very useful for game birds and other small game animals.
MR. FITZSIMONS: What can we do to ‑‑ well, as I understand it, CRP has no incentive for native grass in Texas, but in other states, there's incentive to use native grass for CRP contracts. Is that right?
MR. De MASSO: I believe, currently, in the last sign-up, there were ‑‑ in the ranking system, you could get additional points if you went with the native grass. The problem is ‑‑ with CRP in the panhandle is that we've reached our maximum on the enrollment and in order to get more lands enrolled in that CRP program, we'll have to get that cap lifted to increase the acreage and the enrollment. However ‑‑
MR. FITZSIMONS: The cap is county by county?
MR. De MASSO: I'm not sure on the cap, how it's set.
MR. BERGER: There is a cap ‑‑ I mean there's a cap that ‑‑ no more than a certain percentage of any county can be enrolled in CRP. And so we're up against the ceiling on some of those counties, but, also, on the statewide allotment of CRP acreage.
MR. ANGELO: Since so much of that land has already been wasted in effect, is there any chance of going back ‑‑ do any of the programs allow for going back ‑‑
MR. BERGER: Well, there's some new ‑‑
MR. ANGELO: ‑‑ and renewing any of those plots?
MR. BERGER: There's some new provisions that will allow for mid-contract manipulation of CRP acreage. And ‑‑
MR. ANGELO: That's going to be key, because you've already got all those thousands of acres ‑‑
MR. BERGER: Right.
MR. ANGELO: ‑‑ that are planted to something that's no good.
MR. BERGER: If we can manipulate portions of those CRP acreages, surely that will help. And we are working with the Farm Services Agency that administers this program to try to get them to score the use of native grasses and native forbs to ‑‑ as a higher score than the exotic grasses and to do that more in Texas as they ‑‑ like they do in some other states.
MR. ANGELO: We should be able to get some help from the people that are interested in pheasants, because this has been highly detrimental to the pheasant population, too.
MR. BERGER: Right.
MR. ANGELO: Did ‑‑ Steve, did you get the impression from this survey that ‑‑ it was interesting to me that so many of the land owners that say they have prairie chickens don't allow hunting. Do you gather from this that there's more prairie chickens out there than we might have thought, or do you ‑‑ is there anything that you can derive from this about the population?
MR. De MASSO: I think probably some of the numbers that are reported ‑‑ the lack of allowing hunting ‑‑ I think some of the land owners up in that part of the state are concerned about the potential listing of the species or a recommendation to list that species. So the information you get a lot of times is sketchy.
I think one of the ‑‑ probably two of the biggest things that we need are an improvement of our lek surveys in the spring that we conduct ‑‑ look at other methods of conducting those surveys that get us better information. And I think the other priority that we need is ‑‑ we need to get an updated distribution map and have a better idea of where the birds are.
Based on our previous two-year surveys, we estimate that we have somewhere between 8- and 10,000 prairie chickens in the state, but that's largely based on areas that we go back to year after year. So we don't know how many birds have moved out and set up satellite leks or meta-populations that are a result of being near those large concentrations.
So there ‑‑ I would guess that there's probably more birds out there than what we're estimating right now.
MR. FITZSIMONS: Steve, let me ask you. Where ‑‑ it has worked in Kansas, where, as I understand it, the numbers have improved. Is that right ‑‑ in some cases?
MR. De MASSO: Yes.
MR. FITZSIMONS: All right. Now, Kansas has CRP. They've got farming and ranching, and it's not too dissimilar from the panhandle. What are they doing right there that we're not doing?
MR. De MASSO: I think a large part of the range where the birds have expanded in Kansas is a result of ‑‑ Lesser Prairie Chickens will inhabit two different areas. One is the shinry oak country that is more adapted to the eastern side of the panhandle. And the other woody component that they're kind of tied to is sand sagebrush.
I think up in Kansas, they're more in the sand sagebrush country. And I think that the management that they've done with the burning ‑‑ they've done a lot of inter-seeding of their CRP grounds with alfalfa to increase the diversity and the insect quantity. But I think the lack of fire in our Shinry country in Texas has really hurt us as far as expanding.
MR. FITZSIMONS: Is prescribed fire allowed in the CRP ‑‑
MR. De MASSO: Currently ‑‑
MR. FITZSIMONS: ‑‑ contract?
MR. De MASSO: Currently, no.
MR. FITZSIMONS: So to boil it down, we need better management of CRP grounds so that people who want to manage for wildlife can with native grass, fire and other management techniques? Is that sort of the bottom line?
MR. De MASSO: That would be correct.
MR. FITZSIMONS: Okay.
MR. ANGELO: And we've also got or have had ‑‑ I don't know if they've still got them or not, but there have been ag. programs where incentives were provided to kill the Shinry, thousands of acres of it.
MR. FITZSIMONS: Yes.
MR. ANGELO: So that didn't help, either.
MR. FITZSIMONS: So who's making the decision? I mean if ‑‑ the CRP is a federal problem, but, obviously, there's some state diversity there to ‑‑ you know, that term in Kansas ‑‑ do they ‑‑ and Texas is making different decisions, obviously. Where are those decisions made?
MR. De MASSO: Those decisions are largely made at the state technical committee level. Each state has a state technical committee where the farm bill programs are handed down from the office in Washington, D. C., and then the state technical committees in each state basically develop the rules on how those programs will be implemented ‑‑
MR. COOK: But these are ‑‑
MR. De MASSO: ‑‑ within the state.
MR. COOK: These are state technical committees of the NRCS ‑‑
MR. De MASSO: Yes.
MR. COOK: ‑‑ federal soil conservation ‑‑
MR. FITZSIMONS: Oh. Okay.
MR. COOK: You know, the soil conservation service.
MR. HOLT: Is there any input from TPW in any way, shape or form? Or ‑‑
MR. BERGER: Yes.
MR. FITZSIMONS: Okay.
MR. BERGER: Yes. We have a number of ‑‑ just one representative on that state technical committee, which is me, but there are ‑‑ others of us have input, as well.
MR. HOLT: How many ‑‑
MR. ANGELO: The quail council is establishing some pretty good relationships there. And ‑‑
MR. HOLT: Okay.
MR. BERGER: Yes.
MR. ANGELO: ‑‑ a lot of the things that the quail council is working on are going to directly benefit prairie chickens and pheasants, also, because ‑‑ the same programs are going to be beneficial. So that effort is being made, and ‑‑
MR. HOLT: And ‑‑
MR. ANGELO: ‑‑ much more so than in the past.
MR. HOLT: And I was going to say ‑‑ in the past, you say, there hadn't been much acceptance from the technical committees ‑‑
MR. BERGER: Well ‑‑
MR. HOLT: ‑‑ relative to the habitat needs of game birds, et cetera?
MR. ANGELO: To the extent that the effort has been made, there hasn't been much success ‑‑
MR. HOLT: Okay.
MR. ANGELO: ‑‑ I guess, would be one way of putting it.
MR. BERGER: Let me just say that the farm bill programs in the past have been largely directed or almost wholly directed to production agriculture. And it has only been in the last or ‑‑ since, well, really, the current farm bill that it has really injected an emphasis on wildlife.
MR. HOLT: Okay.
MR. BERGER: So we are kind of in an infancy on how wildlife concerns can get integrated into the current farm bill. And some of the other states ‑‑ Mr. Fitzsimons mentioned Kansas. And they've just had a longer tradition of working cooperatively and have had always had a preference or more of a preference for native species of grass in those programs.
MR. COOK: I think your questions here, though, are right on target from the standpoint of the farm bill ‑‑ the current farm bill for the first time really has a major emphasis on wildlife. And that's not an accident. We have ‑‑ this Agency and other ‑‑ Texas Agriculture Extension Service ‑‑ we have worked very, very hard for a long, long time to get that there.
Now the trick is, as Steve says, getting those committees around the state to implement and actually put on what the bill says. And that's still very much in the wind.
MR. FITZSIMONS: Commissioner Montgomery?
MR. MONTGOMERY: One in addition to the Chairman's question. Clearly, the farm bill was the big impact here, but I would also compliment our folks on their efforts to help the eco-tourism industry there. I went on the tour last spring with Nifwith [phonetic] and our Chairman.
An interesting correlate to you question is that a lot of land owners are not allowing hunting because they've set up blinds and have a very healthy little birding industry going there. It brings a lot of tourists through there, probably more ‑‑ if these hunting numbers are indicative, there's more people up there birding than are ‑‑ bird watching than there are hunting right now.
They've got a B&B industry going, and they've got a good steak house in Canadian. And it really was ‑‑ the interesting part is it's focusing these land owners on what they can do through farm bill and making them pay attention to that a lot more as a revenue source for them. So ‑‑
MR. COOK: Well, Commissioners, this is ‑‑
MR. MONTGOMERY: ‑‑ as much as we can do to spread that activity is great.
MR. COOK: This is a real important issue, and it's timely from the standpoint of our regulation cycle coming up again. You know, issues like, "If this bird gets listed," and, you know, whether or not to continue a hunting season ‑‑ some very, very basic questions involved here: This whole tourism and appreciation of the bird and putting the emphasis on the habitat.
Hunting is obviously not what is driving this bird. That is a fact. Hunting is not driving this bird one way or the other I don't believe. But the guys are ‑‑ really, our staff is, I think, representing the species, the resource and the habitat well, and are very involved and knowledgeable about what's going on in other states and would appreciate, again, your thoughts and direction as we proceed here.
MR. FITZSIMONS: Well, I think, you know, to put it in context, Bob, you ‑‑ I think you summed it up well. But remember, it was at the last cycle where we decided to continue the season ‑‑
MR. COOK: Yes, sir.
MR. FITZSIMONS: ‑‑ with an admonition to ourselves that, "We're going to do something about this," because when the game bird gets listed as threatened or endangered, we've done something pretty wrong. And I'm sorry to keep comparing you guys to Kansas, but I'm ‑‑ you know, a little interstate rivalry going here ‑‑ if they can do it, we ought to be able to.
MR. ANGELO: We ought to do it, too.
MR. FITZSIMONS: So if I understand what you're telling me, just, you know, to boil it down, NRCS is the technical committee, but the actual criteria for CRP contracts that are awarded in the state is set by the Farm Services Administration, or the NRCS?
MR. BERGER: The Farm Services Administration administers CRP contracts. It is a program of the Farm Services Administration. And ‑‑
MR. FITZSIMONS: And they're advised ‑‑
MR. BERGER: But they ‑‑
MR. FITZSIMONS: ‑‑ by the NRCS?
MR. BERGER: They are advised in the technical capacities by the NRCS state technical committee. And that technical committee at one of their last meetings recommended these mid-contract changes and practices that have now been adopted.
MR. FITZSIMONS: And that would include what Steve talked about: Fire, prescribed burning, native grass ‑‑
MR. BERGER: I'm not sure ‑‑
MR. FITZSIMONS: ‑‑ re-seeding ‑‑
MR. BERGER: I'm not sure on the fire.
MR. De MASSO: We're not sure on the burning. But strip-disking and native food ‑‑ inter-seeding.
MR. BERGER: But we need ‑‑ we do need more native grass. And we need more of the ‑‑ as these decisions are driven more to the local level, we need more of the interested land owners to participate in those committees at the local level, which will help drive that program for wildlife.
MR. FITZSIMONS: Well, obviously, 54 hunters is not driving it, and that's not what this is about. And I was there at the hunting ‑‑ for the two-day hunting season with these two gentlemen a couple of weeks ago. And the ‑‑ they got a bigger crowd than I did, truthfully.
MR. MONTGOMERY: Well, that ‑‑ if I could just add the note to that? I really hope we will maintain and step up our efforts in the tourism area, because it creates an off-season supplement ‑‑
MR. COOK: Yes.
MR. MONTGOMERY: ‑‑ and a meaningful revenue source. They spend a lot more money ‑‑
MR. BERGER: Sure.
MR. MONTGOMERY: ‑‑ than almost anybody else out there. And it gets a real constituency ‑‑ going to these towns. So, you know, what we've done in Rock Springs and what we've done in Canadian, I hope ‑‑ and to Temple ‑‑ we can spread around the state to, you know, rural areas that have unique species and unique assets. It's a real great role we can play. So ‑‑
MR. FITZSIMONS: I think Vice Chairman Angelo makes a good point. It's that we've got to link it with pheasant and quail, because that's what those land owners are already interested in managing for.
If I'm not correct ‑‑
MR. BERGER: That's correct, yes.
MR. FITZSIMONS: And there's no reason that what's good for quail and pheasant isn't good for prairie chickens? Is that generally true?
MR. BERGER: Generally.
MR. COOK: Mike, I'd point out to the Commission, also, that we've got a briefing on Item Number 3 tomorrow that is going to bring in Mr. Larry ‑‑ Dr. Larry Butler, who is the state director of the NRCS on some of the cooperative programs. And it will be a good time to have some of that discussion and get some feedback there.
MR. BERGER: Yes, it would.
MR. FITZSIMONS: And in January, we might have some actual proposals as to what the Commission can do?
MR. BERGER: On Lesser Prairie Chickens, yes. We'll work on that, yes, sir.
MR. FITZSIMONS: We'll actually do something?
MR. BERGER: Yes. Thank you.
MR. FITZSIMONS: All right.
MR. De MASSO: Thank you.
MR. FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Steve and Mike.
And let's see. That's just a briefing item.
And next, Walt Dabney, the State Park Operational Rules Proclamation, Agenda Item Number 7.
MR. COOK: Hold on just a second.
MR. FITZSIMONS: Oh. I missed somebody. I'm sorry.
MR. KURZAWSKI: Yes.
MR. FITZSIMONS: I'm sorry. I ran right over you there. You've been overshadowed by a little chicken.
MR. KURZAWSKI: The story of my life.
MR. FITZSIMONS: I don't know. I think you have a few more fishermen than the 54 hunters.
MR. KURZAWSKI: Yes.
MR. FITZSIMONS: I think you can swamp them.
MR. KURZAWSKI: Getting back to the statewide hunting and fishing proclamation, these are our potential changes to the fishing regulations for inland waters we'll have or ‑‑ that we'll be thinking about presenting to you in January. These changes are the products of discussion and review ‑‑ internal review. And, also, we've been discussing them with some of the outside groups like the freshwater advisory board.
The changes that we're ‑‑ have potentially that we will present to you in January fall into some broad categories. Through our monitoring and evaluation process, we propose special regulations. Those are regulations that are differ than the statewide regulations. And as part of the evaluation, we sometimes modify those special regulations that we've put in place to try and reach our goals that we originally set.
Also, sometimes, that evaluation process will show us that there aren't any benefits to those regulations. So we'll recommend that, in that case, if we're not providing any benefits to the angler, we put those back to the statewide regulations. And then, also, we will make ‑‑ we'll make some changes ‑‑ we'll be making some recommended changes to enhance the enforcement of the special regulations.
The first category of changes that we're looking at is on our community fishing lakes, and these are ‑‑ statewide. They're ‑‑ community fishing lakes are public waters 75 acres or less that are contained within a public park or within a city. There's approximately 585 of them statewide, and most of them are located within our metropolitan areas; Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston have the majority of them.
Our goals for those waters are to increase the opportunity for angling in the urban areas, especially for children and infrequent anglers, and make some fishing close to home that is easy for them to get to.
We currently have a few projects evaluating the management of these waters, what we can do to provide better fishing for anglers. One component of that is stocking 12-inch channel catfish.
So we put those ‑‑ stock those in there on a put-and-take basis, similar to what we do with the rainbow trout, which ‑‑ and that season is coming up here at the start of ‑‑ the end of November and beginning of December. Our goals for both of these put-and-take stockings are to allow some harvest and to spread that harvest among as many anglers as possible.
Our current regulations we have on these waters that we're looking at right now are ‑‑ for blue and channel catfish, we have a 12-inch length limit and a five-fish daily bag. The portion of that that differs from the statewide regulations is the daily bag. On most of our ‑‑ most of the other state waters, we have a 25-fish daily bag for these two species combined. And we do have the statewide regulations for large-mouth bass, which is a 14-inch minimum length limit and a five-fish daily bag.
And what we're proposing to change those to is: For catfish, remove the length limit and just ‑‑ and keep the five-fish daily bag. As I said, in most cases, we're putting ‑‑ stocking catfish in there on a put-and-take basis.
And whether those fish are being raised by our hatchery system, sometimes ‑‑ our goal is 12 inches. Sometimes when we get in there to stock them, they're likely 11 and 11-1/2. And that's not really a concern to us ‑‑ whether the anglers remove those at that size or not ‑‑ we're not protecting them or ‑‑ for some resource issue. We want them to remove them, and this will make it easier for them to do that and not have any problems there with enforcement.
And, also, we're considering removing the length limit on large-mouth bass in these waters and limiting them to a one-fish daily bag. Once again, we're interested in anglers getting a good opportunity there. And if, for instance, a first-time angler would be there and they'd catch a 12-inch bass, this would allow them to keep that and not have to be ‑‑ adhere to the statewide length of 14 inches.
There are some benefits of keeping a good ‑‑ some bass in those populations. We're not really managing them for the bass fishing. We think that mostly the put-and-take fishing is what the anglers will be coming to the waters for at that time, and we think this regulation will achieve our goal there.
Next we have a couple of reservoirs that we initiated some special regulations for white bass and hybrid striped bass in 1998. And at that time, we sort of combined the regulations for white bass and hybrid striped bass to a 10-inch minimum and a 25- fish daily bag and only allowing five of those fish to be greater than 18 inches.
Our goals there were to mitigate some of the identification problems we had. Where we have hybrids and white bass in the same reservoir, anglers sometimes have ‑‑ especially at the smaller size ‑‑ have difficulties in telling those apart. And we thought this regulation would sort of remove that problem and also maintain some of the larger hybrids for anglers to catch which anglers enjoy that ‑‑ fish can easily exceed 18 inches. And anglers enjoy pursuing those larger fish, also.
What we've found in these reservoirs is that there really wasn't much angling going on for these, the hybrids. The populations through our stocking just hadn't developed, and this regulation really wasn't having any impact one way or the other. So we have decided to in these two reservoirs change those regulations back to the statewide limits, and, also, we have modified the reservoir definition somewhat to account for these fisheries.
Those will go back to the white bass, just the 10-inch and 25-fish daily bag, and the hybrids, which will have the 18-inch minimum and a five-fish daily bag. This is something we ‑‑ that combination regulation is something we're going to try to look at in some other reservoirs that have a little ‑‑ have better hybrid populations and have more directed effort for hybrid striped bass. So that's something that we think still has some possibilities, but we need to choose some better examples to get at the information that we need there to evaluate it properly.
Next is on Lake Murvaul in Pinola County. We're ‑‑ this is one where we're creating a reservoir definition to encompass a downstream tail race area. This will allow enforcement in that area of the special regulation that is on Lake Murvaul itself. We have a 14-to-21-inch slot for large-mouth bass.
The situation is there, the only access to that area is from the reservoir. Anglers are pulling up on shore and walking down and fishing that area. Any fish they catch they're bringing back to the boat, for instance, and getting out on the reservoir. And that creates the problem that those fish in that area now are currently under the 14-inch minimum and how that will be enforced.
So this will just eliminate that enforcement concern. And it will extend the regulation to that downstream area.
And we have a proposed change on Lake Pflugerville in Travis County; that's a new reservoir that's scheduled to be opened here in 2005. And there ‑‑ we're going to implement an 18-inch minimum length limit on that reservoir, retain the five-fish daily bag and, also, restrict angling there to pole and line only.
Our goal there is to protect that initial-year class, especially of bass, from over-harvest. And, also, by restricting the angling to pole and line, that gives some protection from over-harvest to the catfish population which we hope to develop there.
The last regular proposal is to change the limit for large-mouth bass in St. Augustine City Lake ‑‑ it currently has an 18-inch minimum ‑‑ to a 14-to-18-inch slot and retain the five-fish bag. What we have developing there is an abundance of small bass in the population and a lot of bass less than 14 inches currently. And the anglers can't harvest those. And they've expressed some desire to harvest some of those smaller fish.
And we ‑‑ and there will be some benefits there to harvesting some of the smaller fish. It will improve the growth among the larger fish, and our goal there is to increase the opportunity for angler harvest by putting a slot on that.
And that's all the potential changes that we're thinking about at this time. If you have any questions, I'd certainly be able to ‑‑ I'll try and answer them for you.
MR. FITZSIMONS: Any questions for Ken?
MR. FITZSIMONS: Ken, a good job, as always.
MR. KURZAWSKI: Thank you.
MR. FITZSIMONS: And next, Paul?
MR. HAMMERSCHMIDT: Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, my name is Paul Hammerschmidt, of Coastal Fisheries Division. And as with our inland colleagues, we're going to discuss some of our potential ideas. This will be very brief.
We're going to be doing some more housekeeping through the regulations as we have the opportunity now. We're going to investigate the need to require degradable panels in perch traps. Perch traps in saltwater are allowed to be the same size as crab traps. And if they're used out there and lost, the same problems of bi-catch mortality will occur. So we'll be looking into that.
We want to ‑‑ one of the other items that we're looking at is to define the star trap. It's similar to these little traps that they use off the piers, but it's a metal one. I brought one with me if you want to look at it. It's used a lot, but it's not defined in the rule. And there doesn't seem to be any resource issues involved in that.
And then, along with everything else, we're going to try to look at the rules to simplify and clarify the intent. I'd be happy to answer any questions.
Do you want to see this?
MR. COOK: Yes. Would you hold it up?
MR. HAMMERSCHMIDT: Sure.
MR. HOLT: They've been around forever.
MR. HAMMERSCHMIDT: Yes. You can buy these at just about any sporting goods store. The trap opens up like that. They put a line ‑‑ they put bait in the middle and put a line on it, and then they pull it up, and these triangles close up on it, very similar as to the snood nets, which is a circle with a mesh net in the middle. And they're ‑‑ these are used all the time.
This just doesn't quite fit some of our definitions of legal gear. And, again, we don't see a resource issue involved in this, and we'll be doing some more investigating. This is one design; there's probably a dozen different models of this type of idea.
Any other questions?
DR. RISING: I was wondering. Do we have any regulations that relate to minnow traps in saltwater?
MR. HAMMERSCHMIDT: If you have a trap ‑‑ a fish trap like that in saltwater, it's called a perch trap. The minnow trap by definition is for freshwater. So if you want to use like the small, tubular minnow trap ‑‑
DR. RISING: Right.
MR. HAMMERSCHMIDT: ‑‑ that's legal. It just can't exceed a certain size. Eighteen cubic feet, I believe, is the total dimensions. So those are legal. And then the question is, is a degradable panel appropriate in one of those smaller traps, or not?
MR. COOK: What size did you say, Paul?
MR. HAMMERSCHMIDT: Eighteen cubic feet, which is the size ‑‑ the maximum size of a crab trap.
MR. FITZSIMONS: That's a lot of perch.
MR. HAMMERSCHMIDT: Well, it's ‑‑ I understand.
MR. FITZSIMONS: I don't know if I want to untangle that thing ‑‑
MR. HAMMERSCHMIDT: A lot of people use large pin fish, pig fish and those types of fish that get trapped there for bait. And you can get a really nice red drum on a nice pin fish about that big. So ‑‑
DR. RISING: And as far as we ‑‑ I mean as far as the species that we can catch in like the minnow traps, we don't have any ‑‑ I mean as long as they're not game fish, do we have any specific regulations?
MR. HAMMERSCHMIDT: No. We do not have any specific rules and regulations in that area right now on using that particular gear.
All right. Thank you, very much.
MR. FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Paul.
Okay. Now, Agenda Item 7. Now it's time for Walter.
MR. HOLT: There you go.
MR. DABNEY: Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, my name is Walt Dabney, State Parks Director. And I'm here also today to clarify some rules that affect the park system. That's Item 7 Exhibit A in your folder.
Currently, as it relates to wildlife, it's illegal to harm or harass or disturb or trap, catch, possess, and so forth, wildlife except by permit. Certainly, our state park hunting operations are by permit that you establish.
However, we have currently no prohibition in the state parks, for example, for feeding wildlife by park visitors or any regulations related to how you store your food, which is very inconsistent with other state park operations and, certainly, the national park system. And we are before you today to talk about establishing actual prohibitions on the feeding of wildlife by park visitors and then properly securing your food.
This is not only potentially but is actually a health and safety issue as it relates to park visitors and to wildlife, as well as a habitat and wildlife welfare issue. We would propose to prohibit the feeding of wildlife unless specifically authorized by the Department. So in places where it makes sense or where we're doing it in a prescribed manner, we would allow that to happen.
Again, the rule would primarily be to reduce threats to humans and their health and safety; it also, though, has to do with perpetuating or establishing an unnatural population and habitat degradation, because if you can concentrate everything from raccoons and squirrels to deer in a place that they would not normally be because you're providing or allowing to be provided unnatural foods. And then as we have our seasons in parks and people leave, those animals are still there in those numbers looking to move into the habitat and try to make a living that way.
Animals should live in a natural system, and people want to come see them that way. One of the biggest problems with wild animals: Although they never become un-wild, they do lose their fear of humans, and we call that habituation to people. And that's especially true if there's a direct relationship to the action of you giving them food and them coming to you.
And we've already even this year killed at least one feral hog in a campground situation in broad daylight. And if you've chased feral hogs ‑‑ having them in a campground in broad daylight is not how they naturally operate. That was at Fairfield at Choke Canyon.
We've already shot at least one javelina. And a javelina with a three or four-year-old kid or even an adult is not a good mix of things going on.
Encounters with wildlife who are still wild certainly can result in everything from being bitten to being gored and killed. And in my professional career, I've dealt with all kinds of those.
But probably the single greatest problem and the one that is the most routine is the kid that is feeding the raccoon in broad daylight, which is also totally unnatural ‑‑ they're not there during broad daylight, but, in a place where they've lost their fear of humans, they will be ‑‑ or the squirrel or anything else that then bites the kid or the person and then takes off. And the dad comes walking in and says, They're bit; What do we do.
I don't know what that animal had. I don't know whether it's distemper or rabies or nothing. And so you're really in a bad situation. And we're perpetuating that as we allow it to continue. Certainly, there's the disease potential.
And what we are proposing is to prohibit the feeding of wildlife except in a permitted situation. For example, if you've got an enclosed bird-feeder or a hummingbird feeder or something like that that is not accessible to every other kind of wildlife coming in there, we're certainly not trying to deal with that sort of thing.
If ‑‑ somebody had a question the other day about Choke Canyon, where people do come to see these deer and so forth. Having them wandering around the campground is not a good thing. If we can do some feeding stations where it makes sense and there is not a direct correlation to somebody handing them food and that ‑‑ but they come across it like a feeder, we'll look at those kinds of things and see if we can't do some feeding lines.
But having all those animals, javelinas and so forth, walking through a developed campground is just a disaster waiting to happen. And it's a huge liability, as well as a potential tragedy.
I've got another aspect of a regulation that I need to talk to you about, but I'm going to leave this unless there are some questions related to this feeding issue.
MR. DABNEY: Currently, we have no regulation that would prohibit or allow us to enforce it. I can tell you that our people are going to use this as an educational tool. We want to make this an interpretive opportunity so that you're not doing these wildlife any favor by feeding them anything from marshmallows to corn. And it's also a hazard.
MR. RAMOS: Walt?
MR. DABNEY: Yes, sir?
MR. RAMOS: I notice it says, "It is an offense." What are the penalties if you violate one of these?
MR. DABNEY: Class A misdemeanor.
MR. RAMOS: It's a Class A misdemeanor?
MR. DABNEY: Yes, sir. Our people are really encouraged to use discretion. We would use this, again, as an educational tool. We're not interested in citing people unless it's just a willful want and disregard for what we're trying to help them understand.
MR. COOK: I'm sure some of you have seen it. I have through the years seen it on a number of occasions where the campground ‑‑ basically, you know, right along the picnic tables and the tents and the trailers and the campers, there'd just be literally a line of corn, deer and javelina right in the campgrounds. And the little kids, you know, that big are standing out there and looking at them, you know, and trying to sneak up on them and shooting them with their BB gun or whatever it is, you know.
And it's an issue that I think we can take a positive step on. And, like Walt says, use it as educational information.
MR. DABNEY: The improper storage of food, whether it's your ice chest or your tent ‑‑ if you're not doing that properly, you'll also have a lot of property damage with these animals just going in to try to get this stuff.
The other part of the regulation that is really just a housekeeping issue deals with horses in parks. What we want to do is change the wording related to horses to, "All equines," which would be horses, mules and burros, and remove the terminology that talks about just horses and, also, remove the terminology that says, "Saddle only," because it's any kind of horse use that needs to be ‑‑ needs to fall under these rules, any kind of equine use.
Again, it's only housekeeping. It doesn't change our enforcement or rules that exist now.
And with that, that's the end of my presentation. We would propose to go to The Texas Register with this and adopt these rules after public comment.
MR. HENRY: I have a question.
MR. DABNEY: Yes, sir.
MR. FITZSIMONS: Go ahead.
MR. HENRY: On the matter of enforcing the proposed regulation relating to the feeding of animals, who's authorized to do that? You're saying your people would use discretion.
MR. DABNEY: We have approximately 140 state park peace officers in the various parks, but, generally speaking, any employee that sees something going on can take the opportunity to advise visitors that, you know, You shouldn't be doing that. And we would also have an interpretive effort that posts it and tries to explain why this isn't a good idea.
We actually have perpetuated this, sir, to be honest with you, in some cases. We've been party to, Let's get them in here so you can see them close. But the reality is that has not been a good practice and we need to adjust from that. But any of our employees would be part of the effort to educate people. But ‑‑
MR. HENRY: But is there anything that says, Warning? Or ‑‑
MR. DABNEY: Yes, sir.
MR. HENRY: Okay.
MR. DABNEY: I mean, again, unless it's willful or something ‑‑ in which case we have law enforcement commissioned officers in many of these parks that can take a law enforcement action.
MR. HOLT: You mean they're not going to arrest that ten-year-old kid feeding the raccoon?
MR. ANGELO: You've got to have the penalty provision or otherwise, it wouldn't be effective if you did have willful abuse.
MR. DABNEY: That's correct, sir. And we have no provision to even prohibit it now.
MR. RAMOS: I ‑‑ excuse me.
MR. FITZSIMONS: Go ahead, Commissioner Ramos.
MR. RAMOS: It seems to me, Walt, that the ‑‑ our challenge is to educate the public as to the risks that are involved, because I think ‑‑ I would say that the majority of the general public that's not exposed to wildlife would think that it's neat to feed a javelina or a raccoon. And I think our challenge is to educate them so that they can understand the rationale behind the regulation.
MR. DABNEY: The first time I went to Choke Canyon and saw those javelinas and they were right in somebody's camp site looking for food, I thought, My goodness, having been around javelinas forever, I've never seen them act like that. And they're so fast, they'd be on you before you could even back up.
MR. FITZSIMONS: Any further discussion or questions or comments?
MR. FITZSIMONS: Without opposition ‑‑
You're going to publish it in Register for the required public comment?
MR. DABNEY: Yes, sir.
MR. FITZSIMONS: Okay.
MR. DABNEY: Thank you.
MR. FITZSIMONS: ‑‑ any other matters to come before the Regulations Committee?
MR. FITZSIMONS: Then, Bob, I'd ask you to ‑‑ in light of the earlier comments about simplifying and streamlining the regulations, if staff could, provide us with some ideas on streamlining the hunter ed. process. I think your comments about ‑‑
MR. COOK: Very good.
MR. FITZSIMONS: ‑‑ making hunting safe, accessible and easier goes directly to the issue of our hunter certification and hunter ed. I think we're missing a lot of opportunities to have people out there in the field just because they don't have their certification.
MR. COOK: I think we all agree with that. We've made good strides the last few years and continue to look for those opportunities. And we'll lay that challenge out there.
MR. FITZSIMONS: Well, I think they've hit the low-hanging fruit. And I think we need to go up ‑‑
MR. COOK: Go up the tree?
MR. FITZSIMONS: Yes.
And with that, I adjourn the Regulations Committee and hand over the gavel.
(Whereupon, the Regulations Committee meeting was concluded.)
C E R T I F I C A T E
MEETING OF: Texas Parks
and Wildlife Commission
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: November 5, 2003
I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 79, inclusive, are the true, accurate, and complete transcript prepared from the verbal recording made by electronic recording by Ben Bynum before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.
On the Record Reporting, Inc.
3307 Northland, Suite 315
Austin, Texas 78731
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