Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Annual Public Hearing
Aug. 24, 2005Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 24th day of August, 2005, there came on to be heard matters under the regulatory authority of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission in the Commission Hearing Room of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex, to wit:
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION:
- Joseph B.C. Fitzsimons, San Antonio, Texas, Chairman
- J. Robert Brown, El Paso, Texas
- Ned S. Holmes, Houston, Texas
- Alvin L. Henry, Houston, Texas
- Peter M. Holt, San Antonio, Texas (absent)
- Philip Montgomery, Dallas, Texas
- John D. Parker, Lufkin, Texas
- Donato D. Ramos, Laredo, Texas
- T. Dan Friedkin, Houston, 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 COMMISSION
ANNUAL PUBLIC HEARING
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
NAME/ORGANIZATION MATTER OF INTEREST
- Dale Bulla, 7202 Foxtrail Cove, Austin, TX 78750, Phone: 512/345-9528, Speaker, - Bright Leaf Natural Area, FOB
- Valarie Bristol, Texas Land Trust, 704 Brazos, Austin, TX 78701, Phone: 512/494-9559 ext. 5, Speaker - Hunting Regs., Coastal Misc., Artificial Reefs, Big Bend, Misc.
- Ken Kramer, Lone Star Chapter, Sierra Club, P. O. Box 1931, Austin, TX 78767, Phone: 512/476-6962, Speaker, - Big Bend Ranch State Park
- Ms. Pat Bulla, 7202 Foxtree Cove, Austin, TX 78750, Phone: 512/345-9528, Speaker, - Big Bend S.P.
- Janice Bezanson, Texas Committee on Natural Resources, 3532 Bee Caves Rd., #110, Austin, TX 78746, Phone: 512/327-4119, Speaker, - Big Bend Ranch, Land Acquisition, General Conservation
- Randall Terrell, 4017 Cherrywood, Austin, TX 78722, Phone: 512/451-0346, Speaker, - Big Bend Ranch Sale
- John Puryear, 1781 Spyglass Dr., Apt. 290, Austin, TX 78746, Phone: 512/732-2161, Speaker - Sale of Big Bend parcel
- Lyn Shackelford, P. O. Box 237, Marathon, TX 79842, Speaker — Land Acquisition
- Keith Shackelford, 2610 Rolling Meadows, Pflugerville, TX 78660, Phone: 512/251-7104, Speaker - Land Transfer, Big Bend State Park
- Teresa N. Stoker, 2815 Rio Grande, #113, Austin, TX 78705, Phone: 512/469-7951, Speaker — Big Bend State Natural Area
- Debra L. Beene, 946 East 52nd St., Austin, TX 78751, Phone: 512/451-7804, Speaker — Big Bend Ranch SP
- Nancy Kott Tunnell, P. O. Box 5643, Austin, TX 78763, Phone: 512/246-7021 — Speaker — Sale of land in Big Bend Park
- Jeffrey Mundy, Houston Audubon Society, 816 Congress, Ave., Suite 1230, Austin, TX 78701, Phone: 512/334-4300, Speaker — Big Bend Ranch SP
- Robert Singleton, 1308 Cinco St., #269, Austin, TX 78704, Phone: 512/656-8762, Speaker — Big Bend
- Jim Haire, 5801 Regents Row, Tyler, TX 75703, Phone: 703/561-9501, Speaker — Sponsorships
- Leonard Ranne, Freshwater Angler, 7880 Carr St., Dallas, TX 75227, Phone: 214/388-4724 — Outreach
- Carole Allen, Sea Turtle Restoration — Texas, 3902 Gladebrook CT, Houston, TX 77068, Phone: 281/444-0564, Speaker — Sea Turtle Conservation
- Mick McCorcle, Guadalupe River Trout Unlimited, 1810 Cordillera Trace, Boerne, TX 78006-4238, 830/230-5506, Speaker — Guadalupe River Trout Fishery
- Paul Serff, Texas Travel Industry Association, 812 San Antonio St., Suite 401, Austin, TX 78701, Speaker
- Ellis Gilleland, “Texas Animals”, P. O. Box 9001, Austin, TX 78766, Speaker - TPWD
- Todd Votteler, Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority, 933 East Court St. Seguin, TX 78155, 830/379-5822, Speaker — Edwards Aquifer HCP, Environmental flows
- Dudley Allen, Bass Fishing Clubs, 2102 Phlox CT, Round Rock, TX 78664, Speaker — Slot Bass for Club Tournaments
- Ed Parten, TBBU, 1102 Lisa Lane, Kingwood, TX 77334, Speaker — Habit
- Dr. Terry Colley, Texas Historical Commission, P. O. Box 12276, Austin, TX 78701, 512/463-4581, Speaker — Historic Sites
- Landon Lockett, 3210 Stevenson, Austin, TX 78703-2242, 512/476-1951, Speaker — Restoration of Native Texas Palm trees — to Lake Texana State Park
- Memphis DiAngelo, Youth Hunting, Speaker — Youth Hunting Program
- Jacob Goode, Youth Hunting, Speaker — Youth Hunting Program
- Sara Page, Texas Brigades, 401 Isom Road, San Antonio, TX Speaker — Texas Brigades
- John Dean, Texas Brigades, 562 CR 23273, Rockdale, TX 76567 Phone: 512/446-4974, Speaker — Texas Brigades
- Judge Joe Folk, Jasper County, 121 N. Austin, Room 106, Jasper, TX 75951, Phone: 409/384-2612, Speaker — Fish Hatchery — Jasper
- Tom McClurg, Jasper County, 210 Premier Dr., Jasper, TX 75951, Phone: 409/383-6120, Speaker — East Texas Fish Hatchery
- Martin Dies, Attorney Orange, 1009 Green, Orange, TX 77630, Phone: 409/883-4394, Speaker — Fish Hatchery
- Will Kirkpatrick, Speaker — Freshwater Hatchery
- Judge Jerome O (illegible), Tyler County, Courthouse, Woodville, TX 75979, Speaker — Fish Hatchery @ Rayburn
- Mayor Jimmie Cooley, City of Woodville — Detcog-LNVP, 704 Myrtle, Woodville, Texas 75979, Speaker — East Texas Fish Hatchery
- Walter G. Diggles, DETCOG, 210 Premier Drive, Jasper, TX 75951, 409/384-5704, Speaker — East Texas Fish Hatchery
- Bill Eaton, 13707 St. Hwy. 249, #188, Houston, TX 77086, 1-800-591-7700, Speaker — Money for State Parks
- Barbara Rund (illegible), Bright Leaf, 3416 Foothill Terrace, Austin, TX 78731, 512/453-4567, Speaker — turning over Bright Leaf
- Sally Bird, Friends of Garner State Park, 234 RR 1050, Concan, TX 78838, 830/232-5999, Speaker — Garner State Park
- Nancy Woolley, Friends of Bright Leaf, 5107 Crestway Dr., Austin, TX 78731, 512/323-0544, Speaker — Bright Leaf
- Beck Runte, Friends of Bright Leaf, 700 Meadow Oaks, Dripping Springs, TX 78620, 512/894-0182, Speaker — Support Divestiture of Bright Leaf
- Ron Giles, Friends of Lost Pines State Park, 249 Bobs Trail, Bastrop, TX 78602, 512/581-9140, Speaker — State Parks
- Joe King Gultz, Washington on the Brazos State Park Association, P. O. Box 1, Washington, TX 77868, 936/825-6441 ext. 11, Speaker — State of affairs at Washington on the Brazos State Historical Site
- Beth McDonald, Texas for State Parks, 4409 Gaines Ranch Loop, #440, Austin, TX 78735, 512/721-3321, Speaker — Funding for parks and Friends groups
- Karen Cullar, Houston Parks & Recreation, 2999 S. Wayside, Houston, TX 77023, 713/845-1022, Speaker — Grants and land acquisition
- Joe Turner, Director, Houston Parks & Recreation 2999 S. Wayside, Houston, TX 77023, 713/845-1101, Speaker — Grant funding
- Pam Rice, Gulf Coast Yacht Brokers Association, P. O. Box 263, Seabrook, TX 77586, 281/538-0761, Speaker — Marine Dealers Regulations
- Karol Moulder, Gulf Coast Yacht Brokers Association, P. O. Box 263, Seabrook, TX 77586, 281/538-0761, Speaker — Boat Broker/Dealer Licenses
- Capt. Michael Miglini, 514 Southern St., Corpus Christi, TX 78404, 361/688-9071, Speaker — Artificial Reefs
- Joshua White, South Texas Free Diving Association, FM 3037 #144, Woodsboro, TX 78393, 361/533-6680, Speaker — Artificial Reefs in Texas
- Kathy Kleen, Austin Scuba Club, 1450 CR 266, Georgetown, TX 78628, 512/778-6110, Speaker — Artificial Reef Program
- Mike O’Dell, CBGA, 1104 N. Houston, Aransas Pass, TX 78336, 361/438-1860, Speaker — Red Fish Bay Study Area/Law Enforcement (two sign in forms)
- Tom Hall, Coastal Bend Guide Association, 2595 5th St., Ingleside, TX 78335, 361/774-3934, Speaker — Sea grass
- Larry Whigham, TOWMA, 16100McCraven School Rd., Washington, TX 77880, 936/878-2892, Speaker — Antler Regulations — WTDAC
- Wallace Klussmann, Self, Rt. 4, Box 451, Fredericksburg, TX 78624, 32/247-3233, Speaker — Wildlife & Hunting issues
- James Muzny, Burleson County, 10149 CR 137, Caldwell, TX 77836, 979/535-8021, Burleson County to new hunting regulations
- Cullen “Dusty” Tittle, Burleson County Resident, 100 West Buck St., Ste.105, Caldwell, TX 77836, 979/567-2308 — Adding Burleson County to ’06 — ’07 whitetail buck harvest regulations similar to Lee & Washington Counties
- Pam Robers, Hunters for the Hungry, 2512 IH 35 South, Ste. 100, Austin, TX 78727, 512/462-2555 ext. 506, Speaker — Express thanks to TPWD
- David Brimager, Texas Wildlife Association, Speaker — Texas Big Game Awards
- Kirby Brown, Texas Wildlife Association, 401 Isom Rd., Ste. 237, San Antonio, TX 78216, 210/826-2904, Speaker — Wildlife issues
- Jeff Beshears, Leon County, P. O. Box 677, Buffalo, TX 75831, 903/322-1361, Speaker — Antler Restrictions
- Hanss Dersch, TERRA, 509 CR 144, Marble Falls, TX 78654, 512/755-9922, Speaker — Motorized Trail system
- Mike Nugent, President of Port Aransas Boatmen Association, Speaker - Speckled Trout Regulations
P R O C E E D I N G S
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Our annual public hearing will come to order. The meeting's called to order and before I proceed with any business, Mr. Cook, do you have a statement to make?
MR. COOK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. A public notice of this meeting containing all items on the proposed agenda has been filed 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.
So that everyone has a chance to address the Commission here today in an orderly fashion, we're going to follow these basic rules, if you'll follow along with me here.
An individual wishing to speak before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission today must first fill out and sign a speaker registration form, which is available out here on the little table outside. You must do that first and turn that back in to us.
The Chairman is in charge of this meeting and by law, it is his duty to preserve order, direct the order of the hearing, and recognize persons to be heard.
I will be assisting the Chairman today as Sergeant at Arms. We have sign-up cards for everyone wishing to speak and the Chairman will call names from those cards one at a time.
Each person will be allowed to speak from the podium right up front here one at a time. When your name is called, please come forward to the podium, state your name and who you represent, if anyone other than yourself. And also the Chairman typically will call who's on deck — who's going to be talking next, so you can get ready, maybe get out to the center of the aisle and that kind of stuff.
Then tell us which issue or issues you want to speak about, state your position on the issue, add any supporting facts that will help the Commission understand your concerns.
Each person who wishes to address the Commission will have three minutes to speak so that we can hear from everybody.
I will keep track of that time and I will notify you when your three minutes are up on this handy-dandy little thing-a-majig right here that's about to call me here on time.
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 amongst themselves. That time will not be counted against you.
Statements which are merely argumentative or critical of others will not be tolerated. There's a microphone at the podium, so it is not necessary to raise your voice. Shouting will not be tolerated.
I also ask that you show proper respect for the commissioners as well as other members of the audience. You will not be recognized out of turn by raising your hand or interrupting others. Disruptive or offensive behavior will be grounds for immediate ejection from the meeting and possible arrest and criminal prosecution.
If you would like to submit written materials to the Commission, please give them to Carole Hemby or Michelle Klaus, who are seated here at my right. Ms. Hemby will pass the written materials out to the commissioners. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you very much, Mr. Cook. We'll get started with our public hearing and the procedure is I'll call your name and then the next person that should be getting ready.
First up, Dr. Terry Colley, and Landon Lockett, you're on deck.
MR. COLLEY: Chairman Fitzsimons, my name is Terry Colley. I'm the Deputy Executive Director of the Texas Historical Commission.
I bring you greetings from the Commission today. We always take the opportunity to comment at your public hearing.
We are heavily involved in working with your staff on the Nimitz transfer. Things seem to be going well there. I'm not sure I wanted to know Scott Boruff as closely as I do, but we're finding that out and it's going very well.
We continue to meet with Historic Sites Advisory Committee and coordinate with them. The Tourism MOU of which we and you and three other agencies are a part continues to make progress. We're doing well there and we appreciate Lydia Saldana and Darcy for the work that she does there.
And then finally, the ending comment that I wanted to make was that we understand the predicaments that many of the folks that we work with and Parks and Wildlife are in during this summer. We appreciate you working closely with us and then continuing to work.
Walt and Cindy Brandimarte and the rest of them and if there are any additional ways that we can work with you, we'll certainly do it. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you very much, Terry.
Mr. Lockett, and Memphis Di Angelo on deck.
MR. LOCKETT: How do you do? I hope you all got copies of this booklet like my wife is holding. It tells everything and I don't talk very well. If you don't understand something, I'd say, Hey, tell me and I'll repeat it.
What I proposed to do is restore Sabal mexicana palm trees at two — Lake Texana State Park, where they once grew natively in the past. We have that on historical record.
For many years it was believed that Sabal mexicana, which is Texas' only native palm tree and I do mean tree. They're big. They were thought to occur or be native no farther north than the lower Rio Grande Valley.
Well, that is just plain wrong. In 1989, I was working with a palm expert from the Smithsonian and we found a wild population of these palms on Garcitas Creek, which is the borderline between Victoria County and Jackson County. So we've got them way north of the Valley.
And further this palm is very hearty and on the basis of that, we believed that they occurred much farther north than people imagine.
In the first picture that I've given you there, it shows a 44-foot-tall Sabal mexicana. You can see what they look like.
Now, where was that picture taken? In Brownsville and McAllen? No. It was taken in Georgetown, just 30 miles north of Austin.
You'll also see in the next picture some palm trees of this species growing wild on a ranch in the Hill Country. There were some planted there years ago and they escaped cultivation, as we say, and now there are seven reproducing palms in the wild. Nobody waters them or fertilizes them or anything like that. In other words, each palm thrives hundreds of miles north of the Border — of the Rio Grande.
Now the third picture shows a leaf of a young Sabal mexicana palm and most people when they see these they think they're seeing a dwarf palmetto, but no, this is a Sabal mexicana, you know, because you see a lot of threads in the leaves. The dwarf palmetto has much fewer threads.
Now where do you suppose these palms are growing wild in the woods? In Inks Lake State Park and so whether you all know it or not, you've already got some of these things growing in state parks. And the state parks in the Valley, I think, also have them. Of course that would be expected. But we've got a little population beginning in Inks Lake.
I imagine you all are handed a lot of projects that are very expensive. Well, what I'm offering is a very cheap one.
You can plant as many or as few palms as you want. The price on this could range from $1,000 to whatever you want to put into it — $20,000. Thank you very much and please read the books.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Well done, Mr. Lockett. I tell you this is very interesting and I commend you for your work.
Without volunteers like yourself, Parks and Wildlife can't do its job and I thank you for your dedication. You're obviously an expert in the field and we look forward to your help.
MR. LOCKETT: Well, thank you for having me out.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Memphis Di Angelo and Jacob Goode, be ready.
MR. DI ANGELO: My name is Memphis Di Angelo. Friends, Texas and fellow hunters, thank you for your invitation. It is a very big honor which I am proud.
I have come here today to praise the Texas Youth Hunting Program because I wanted to be able to hunt when I'm grown up and because the program has made such a big difference for me.
My name is Memphis Di Angelo and I am 13 years old and in the seventh grade and I have a physical disability, CP.
I love baseball. My favorite team is the Boston Red Soxs but the Little League doesn't accept me. I need to be good at a sport. I want to be good at a sport and know that I can be as good as I want to be, but I won't be able to play football or basketball or any competitive team sport.
No one wants me on their team. Hunting offers me that opportunity to be as good as anyone, not to have — this is on the best and wish I could.
Three years ago I was invited to attend the Partners Family Ranch Annual Hunt. With a dozen other kids with physical challenges, it was like being with family for Christmas and the present I opened was a 10-point whitetail buck. Everyone went home with a trophy and memories for always.
Mr. Partner allowed them to come back for three years. That helped in remembering how good it is to be out there with other boys and girls excited about hunting and learning about the outdoors.
Since going on those TYP hunts at the Partner Family Ranch, I have become a member of a large team. Team Texas, the best team there is, and there is room for me on this team. For me and plenty of kids like me.
Texas Mentors and Texas Outdoors have made it possible for me to learn discipline, skills, and love for God's creation. And while having a great time, my dad became a hunt master and then my mom too.
I get to hunt as a volunteer and help other kids learn how to do it the right way. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Memphis. You're a tribute to the program.
Jacob Goode and Sarah Page on deck.
MR. GOODE: Hi, I'm Jacob Goode and I'm from the Elgin area and I'm a freshman at Lexington High School. I feel very honored to be here today as a representative for the Central Texas Area Youth Hunting Association.
I have now been hunting for three years. The Texas Youth Hunting Association has taught me respect, appreciation, and love for the outdoors.
Before my education with them, I had no idea that there was such a thing as deer management. I learned it is very important to get a doe-to-buck ratio in order to control the quality and livelihood of deer.
This all ties into the conservation of wildlife. I have learned about inferior genetics and why it is so important to manage the deer population.
I am looking forward to learning about other wildlife as well. I have a Youth Dove Hunt scheduled for September, which will be my first dove hunt.
The Texas Youth Hunting Association has taught me many great skills to use while hunting, like how to tell the age of a deer, how to tag an animal, skin it, quarter it, and cook it. I feel such a rush of joy when I can bring home meat for the dinner table. My first Youth Hunt was two years ago in Harper, Texas. When I received a phone call to say I won a Youth Hunt, my heart jumped out of my chest. I had not had an opportunity to go on a real hunt before.
As a joke to the ranch in Harper, we were greeted by at least a dozen turkeys. That night while we were making dinner around the campfire and sharing hunting stories, we noticed about four or five bucks 150 yards off.
Everyone was amazed at the sight and we were all so excited about the next morning's hunt. Sharing this experience with others like me helped me to discover that there is a whole other world outside my daily existence.
I have learned about more self-discipline, not only in the field, but in my everyday life. I have become more confident in gun safety and my shooting abilities. Texas Youth Hunters Association is a great way for youth to grow more confident in themselves and around others.
Yesterday I was asked to speak in front of my outdoor ed class to tell them what I was going to do today. Afterwards, I had four kids ask how they could get involved in youth hunts.
Hunting has helped me find the rewards in just spending time with my dad and not really caring if we get anything or not. Sometimes we don't even see anything but have been able to bring home some stories anyway. I have learned that if I don't get anything not to be upset. That's why it is called hunting, not killing.
Texas Youth Hunting Association helps youth hunters learn about conservation today so they can be better guides and caretakers of nature in order to ensure the future of our own children's children. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Jake. Sara Page, and John Dean on deck.
MS. PAGE: Hello. First of all, I would like to thank you all for the opportunity to speak today.
My name is Sara Page and I am from Waco. I am also 17 years old. I have been involved with the Texas Brigades for a little over a year now. In the summer of 2004, I went to the First Battalion of the Bass Brigade. I went shy and I didn't know what I had gotten myself into.
I was nervous about if these people would like me and what we were going to do in these five days. I loved the people. They were nice and supportive. What we did in those five days was amazing. A whole college semester class in five days? We had lessons in and out of the field.
One of my favorite things was electroshocking legally on a Texas Parks and Wildlife boat. Most people never get to electroshock legally on a Texas Parks and Wildlife boat.
We also played a who-done-it activity where the cadets get to be the game wardens. The leadership and public-speaking activities helped the cadets be more confident in whatever we do, so that we can go out and do educational programs and spread the word of conservation.
On the first day at Bass Brigade, we did a necropsy. That was very disgusting to me, a city girl, who hadn't been fishing that much and never gutted a fish before. I then began to wonder about camp. I thought, What am I doing here? And if all we're going to do is smelly fish dissection, why are we here?
I gave camp a chance because the school I was with was really great. I didn't want to look like a quitter and by week's end, I was so passionate about conservation.
I decided to try to give programs to go back as an ASL, an assistant school leader. I was the only girl ASL. I wanted to give back to the Bass Brigade and the Texas Brigades for what it had done for me. I had built confidence and I found my true passion.
I wanted to be as good as my ASL and mentor cadets, who may not be sure if the Texas Brigades is the right place for them.
I came back as an ASL in 2005 to my, and many of the staff's surprise, and I earned a college scholarship.
We are very appreciative of Texas Parks and Wildlife for sending Don Cash to the Bass Brigade to film a segment for the Texas Parks and Wildlife TV show.
In the summer of 2005, to add to my conservation knowledge, I went to the South Texas Wildlife Brigade. I went with a positive attitude and I had a wonderful time.
Then we were in coveys and I was in the only girls' covey — the California covey. We did a necropsy of a quail, which was no biggie.
Then there was the shooting. I found out that I was left-eye dominant, so I had to shoot with my left hand and I was also terrified of shooting. At South Texas Wildlife, I learned how to shoot. The instructors were very supportive and would take time out of their schedule to help me.
When I hit that first clay pigeon, I was sitting on top of the world. Most people probably think that hitting one wasn't a big deal, but it was for me.
Out of about the first 50, I hit two, so that really wasn't that good, but at South Texas Wildlife we also did nest depredation, plant collection, and learned from the top professionals in their field, including Texas Parks and Wildlife's own Robert Perez.
The Texas Brigade showed me once again something I was excited about.
In May, when I graduate, I plan on attending college and majoring in wildlife and fisheries. I would like to thank the following Texas Parks and Wildlife staff for lending time, expertise, energy, and sport at the Bass and South Texas Wildlife Brigades: Mike Gore, Ann Miller, Lydia Saldana, Jim Gallagher, Robert Perez, Dale Prochaska, and Ashton Hutchins. Thanks for letting me speak today about the Texas Brigades.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Sara. Well done there at the Brigades. All right.
I have next John Dean and on deck will be Judge Joe Folk. John?
MR. DEAN: Good afternoon. My name is John Dean. I'm 16 years old. I'm from Rydell High School and I just want to talk a little bit more about the Texas Brigades.
Two years ago, not this summer, but last summer, I was able to go to the Buckskin Brigade — the South Texas Buckskin Brigade — and there we learned a lot of cool stuff. It's just like Sara was talking about.
We learned a lot about habitat evaluation, aging techniques, how to age deer on the hoof, gut them, clean them. We learned a lot about photography and numerous other things.
And in this past year, I decided to move on a little bit. I went to the Bass Brigade, which is really cool. Like she said, you get to shock fish. That was — I wish I had one of those. That is easily the coolest thing ever.
But we learned a lot about testing pH levels. We learned about water clarity. We learned various job opportunities. We got to interact a lot with the Lower Colorado River Authority. We got to go out on the Colorado River — watch one of our cadets fall out of the boat. We had to save him.
We went to an island where we were chased around by a mad cow. I mean it was a lot of fun, but one of the greatest things about this camp is you get hands-on experience and that is by far one of the funnest things ever.
You don't just get told in the classroom about how to manage these deer or manage a pond. You actually get to learn how to do it physically. They actually take you out with experts and show you what they do and how you can do it.
And not only is this just about deer or fish or anything like that, it's called a Wildlife Leadership Camp. It's a lot more about leadership any more than it is about animals. You learn how to speak in public. You learn how to give presentations. You get to march a lot and you just become a leader. And that's one of the most important things to me.
And what this means to me is that in a couple of years I hope to go to A&M. I know I'm in Austin but I want to go to A&M, but I think this put me on the trail towards what I want to do.
I got to go to the big game wards. I got a hunt from the Brigades and I got to go to the big game wards. I got to go on the King Ranch. It just really pushed me ahead in time to where I want to go in my future.
In closing, I just want to thank the following Parks and Wildlife staff for lending their time, expertise, and support —- for the Texas youth at South and North Texas Buckskins Rolling Plains Bobwhite and Feathered Forces Camp, Ty Bartoskewitz, Amy Hanna, Jimmy Rutledge, David Synatzske, Scotty Parsons, Bobby Eichler, Jimmie Caughron, James Edwards, Michelle Haggerty, Jim Lionberger, Dana Wright, Charlie Newberry, Chip Ruthven, and T. Wayne Schwartz.
I also want to thank Commissioners Fitzsimons and Mr. Parker for participating in one of the activities that we held at the camps. I really appreciate it and thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you.
Judge Joe Folk, and up is Tom McClurg will be on deck.
MR. FOLK: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Judge?
MR. FOLK: Honorable Mr. Chairman, Honorable members of this commission, I'm Joe Folk. I'm the Jasper County judge and here just to make a progress report on the fish hatchery project in Jasper County.
As a former educator, I was impressed with the young folks here this afternoon and their presentations to you. I know they're a whole lot more at ease than I am, but I would like to take just a few moments and to say thank you to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and especially to Mr. Phil Durocher, Dr. Gary Saul and his staff, Commissioner Parker, and all the Commissioners, who, without your assistance, consultation from Commissioner Parker, and assistance from this commission, we would certainly not be able to have this project and have it in progress.
We would also like to thank Temple-Inland Corporation, Molpus Timberland management's corporation, Harvard University, and the John Hancock Fund for their assistance and for committing resources and making this project a reality.
I would like to also express our appreciation to the Lower Neches Valley Authority for their water rights and financial contribution in this project; to the Corps of Engineers for allowing the property to be used and water access; to the Texas Department of Transportation for road improvements and materials; and to the Jasper County Commissioners Court members, of which we have all of our commissioners present and I'd like to just ask them to stand as I call their name.
Precinct 1, Commissioner Charles Shofner — and this is the precinct that the hatchery will be located in; Precinct 2 commissioner, Mr. Rod Barger; Precinct 3 commissioner, Mr. Willie Stark; Precinct 4 commissioner, Mr. Mike Rose.
And to all of the employees and elected officials of Jasper County who have been a big supporter of this and for other support and we are entirely and deeply grateful to them — Tyler County Judge Jerome Owens; Woodland Mayor Jimmie Cooley; Congressman Kevin Brady; Senator Todd Staples; Representative Roy Blake; the Deep East Texas Council of Governments, and Walter Diggles is Executive Director of that; assistance from the City of Jasper; from Tom McClurg and the Jasper Economic Development Corporation; and for the residents of the Lake Sam Rayburn area, of Jasper County, Angelina County, and the counties that surround us.
And to the following individuals who voluntarily donated their expertise, personal time, and financial resources to help and develop this project: Bob Shaw with Bob Shaw Consulting Engineers, who provided the initial engineering study in coordination with the Corps of Engineers to create the gravity of flow water system; to Martin Dies III, for his legal advice, consultation, and his assistance in many ways; and we are grateful to you and to all the members of the department — Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for your assistance.
If I might just say I have a letter from Congressman Brady, which I'll just give a copy of it to the secretary and we'd like to have it included into the record please, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Judge. Thank you very much for all your work and support on that.
Tom McClurg and then Martin Dies on deck.
MR. MCCLURG: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Commissioners, we do appreciate the opportunity to update you on this important project.
I'm proud to report that the East Texas Fish Hatchery is moving along. We had a few bumps in the road as we started off, primarily relating to exactly where in the 200-acre tract out of several thousand acres that were available to us as to where that was going to land.
Thanks to Dr. Saul and his staff, we spent many, many hours out there surveying, identifying the most precise, advantageous location. We finally agreed upon — I would like to say four corners but we finally agreed upon a circle where the fish hatchery will be located.
I'm proud to report that today we have a contract — a binding contract with Temple-Inland Corporation on that property and we're ready to move forward.
In addition, I would like to report that we have met with Texas Department of Highways, Texas Department of Transportation. Not only are we getting outstanding support from them pertaining to the road that goes into the fish hatchery, but they're also willing to make some significant improvements there at Lake Sam Rayburn that are going to affect the public boat ramp, which is funded by Parks and Wildlife, also Twin Dikes Park, and the Lake Sam Rayburn pavilion area.
This will be a major tourism draw. The fish hatchery is going to be a tremendous asset to the lake in general.
Already we see over 1.2 million visitors to the lake every year. The fishermen alone spend better than $60 million in the area and we think the fish hatchery is only going to enhance that.
So we're very proud of being able to participate with the state on this very important project and we want to let you know that Jasper County — City of Jasper — is committed to seeing this thing through and we're ready to go to work. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. McClurg.
Martin Dies, and then next up is Will Kirkpatrick.
MR. DIES: Chairman Fitzsimons, members of the Commission, I'm Martin Dies. I've practice law in Orange for 31 years. I grew up in Lufkin. I've been in East Texas all my life.
It struck me listening to the outstanding presentations of these young people just how much good you do. How much good this department does for the people of Texas and that's got to be awful rewarding for you.
I know that you put in a lot of hours, a lot of sacrifice to serve on this commission, but we appreciate what you do and the East Texas Fish Hatchery is another, I think, outstanding achievement for this Commission.
And the message I want to bring is that this fish hatchery is not just something that serves one county. I think that from my vantage point, there are people throughout East Texas that are excited — that want to work with the staff to make this happen and that are supportive.
I see this in Orange County. Sure there are people that would have liked to have this on the Sabine River, but I think everybody realizes this is the logical site with the most access to the people that are using Sam Rayburn.
Angelina County — number of people have expressed their support to us, so I think you are going to — your staff is going to receive, I hope, a model of support for these projects. There are just so many people that are volunteering to do anything that is necessary.
One other thing — you are within 14 miles of a state park that's been there for many years and the people that support this state park are talking about, How can we put this on our tour? It's only 14 miles away.
So we're going to get, I think, a lot of positive things out of this.
In closing, we appreciate you. We appreciate the Department. We recognize the sacrifice you make to be part of this. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Dies. Thank you for your hard work in that area. Mr. Kirkpatrick and I believe it's Judge Jerome Owens on deck.
MR. KIRKPATRICK: Commissioners, my name is Will Kirkpatrick. I live on Sam Rayburn.
I got started on the fish hatchery when Commissioner Henry — you were the only one here then. That's how long ago it's been.
But we started on this thing five years ago — six years ago. I brought freshwater fishing [inaudible] staff for Parks and Wildlife.
We were promoting this when it was going to be on Toledo Bend. We promoted all of the way. A bunch of us went out on a limb to get the thing going. We called legislators. We did talks. We set up Phil Durocher with radio programs. We were promised that the fish hatchery would go the best location possible.
The $5 stamp flew through. It's not where it's supposed to be. I gave Mr. Cook a letter — we're not going to get into here at the meeting but there is some problems.
And, Mr. Fitzsimons, I promised you several years ago — I'd never come to you without something to hand to you and it's there. We need to look at it. It's going to be there 50 years.
We promised; you promised; I promised. Mr. Cook promised; Mr. Durocher promised that this money would be spent properly and I certainly hope that we do because it's going to be there a long time. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you. Judge Jerome Owens and Mayor Jimmie Cooley on deck.
MR. OWENS: I always hate to be in front of the mayor. I'm going to tell you right now. There's no telling what she's going to say.
Of all the mayors in the state of Texas, I get Jimmie Cooley, but you're going to be entertained. She's kind of like my American Express card. I don't leave home without her.
Members of the Commission, my name is Jerome Owens and I'm the county judge of Tyler County. That's the home of the State 2-AA baseball champions, see, Eagles of Woodville, and we're proud to be here today.
I started on this project a long time ago and I was looking for the road map on how we build a fish hatchery over in East Texas. And I talked to Dr. Saul and I talked to Mr. Durocher and they said the road map is you've got to have a fish stamp in order to pay for this.
I went to Dan Alice, along with Mayor Jimmie Cooley, and we lobbied with him and he carried this bill in the House. Then the Mayor and I went over on the Senate side and we got with Todd Staples and Todd Staples carried that on the Senate side.
Now, I'm not saying that we're the ones that got it, but I will tell you that those are the two legislators that said we're the ones that pushed it and we're proud of that.
So that was the first stop on the road map. The second stop was after we got that, we began to look at where we can put this and we talked with Commissioner Parker and he said the road map is regionalism. And so we grasped this concept of regionalism and we said, We'll work to put that fish hatchery in the best place in East Texas that we can find. And we worked hard on that.
And I know the Commission had a lot of things to consider, but any time we had a proposal but it's just like picking a beauty queen. Somebody may have the best ankles. Somebody may have the best talent, but somebody has to have overall the best project. And I believe that the Commission went with that proposition and that's what you were charged with doing.
And through the Texas Foundation, Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, they presented to you the location at Rayburn. We're proud of that. We think it's the best. We think it helps East Texas. We know it helps Tyler County and we're glad to be here to support that as being a good, logical, and best choice for a fish hatchery in East Texas. And we're going to benefit for that.
And I want to thank you for your dedication and for your willingness to stand by East Texas and the people of Texas and this fish hatchery. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Judge.
Mayor Cooley and Walter Diggles on deck.
MS. COOLEY: And to think I've got to ride home with home.
I'm Mayor Jimmie Cooley and I'm mayor of the City of Woodville, Texas, and I'm also on the board of Deep East Texas Council of Government. And I'm a commissioner for the Lower Neches Valley River Authority. And I want to speak to you today on the fish hatchery at Rayburn.
Thank you for having Tyler County here today. As I shared with you last year, when the Caddo Indians lived on Tyler County and Jasper County land, they had no county lines. In the interest of the Texas Park and Wildlife fish hatchery at Rayburn, we again see no county lines.
Tyler County has always been a partner with a strong working relationship with Texas Parks and Wildlife.
When John Parker was appointed to this Commission, Judge Owen and I called him one day and asked him to come to Tyler County and we wanted to buy his lunch.
Well, let me tell you, East Texas style, that lunch turned into over 100 people with a boxed lunch provided by Deep East Texas Council of Government at Martin Dies State Park, but that's how we do things in East Texas. We were happy to do that, John.
Anyway, we learned that day that there could be a fish hatchery built in East Texas. Another occasion that comes to my mind this afternoon is the day that Dr. Saul and his crew, Judge Owen and myself, walked Campers Cove near Steinhagen Lake looking at Tyler County's proposed site.
Not a dry thread was had by all when we came out of those woods, but we did have a better understanding of the magnitude of this fish hatchery.
Another outstanding event that has touched Tyler County on this was the day that Phil Durocher called with Dr. Saul and wanted to take Judge Owen and I to breakfast, and the four of us sat down and we worked out in our minds what a tremendous impact this would be for economic development-wise for our region.
This also —- in these meetings with your wonderful commissioners and your staff, gave us an even deeper and broader understanding of the work you do and how you do it. And that impressed the Judge and I. You know, this fish hatchery is only going to be 12 miles from the Tyler County line and on a good day with a good chew, some Tyler Countians can spit that far.
I also speak today as a commissioner from the Lower Neches Valley River Authority. I'm here to tell you today that we're ready, willing, and able to the supply of the water and other considerations for this new fish hatchery in Jasper County and thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mayor.
Walter Diggles and then Rod Barger on deck.
MR. BARGER: Thank you. I'm not Walter Diggles. I'm not tall enough.
My name is Rod Barger, County Commissioner in Jasper County, and we just wanted to let you know that all of the commissioners in Jasper County are united in this project. We already have plans to obtain the necessary equipment to de-stump and clear the land to build the road and we're ready.
We've got the plans and we're all united and we're ready to go. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you very much, Mr. Barger.
Now Mack Rose and then on deck will be Willie Stark.
MR. GILLIAND: Who'd you call?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I had Mack Rose. Is there such a person?
AUDIENCE: Yes. He's here.
MR. GILLIAND: I thought you called my name.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I'm sorry, Mr. Gilliand. We'll get to you. I'm sure you're here in the stack. I apologize.
MR. ROSE: I'm Mack Rose. I'm one of the commissioners over in Jasper County and one of our commissioners back here set us up and he signed it up to where we're all going to speak, so I guess we're all going to get a chance here to speak.
I just want to reiterate what Commissioner Rod Barger said. We are united on this and we are ready to go. We'll do the clearing and the grubbing and everything.
I'd like to thank Commissioner Parker and the rest of you all for your consideration, for the hard work that you've done. That what you do and we just want to appreciate that and just let you know that we're ready to go. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Rose.
And let's see. I got out of order here. Willie Stark and Valerie Bristol be ready.
MR. STARK: I'm the one that set them up and I put for observations — I guess I got mixed up on which one we checked. But we appreciate everything you all do for us and we certainly appreciate the work you did.
And Commissioner Parker and everybody concerned, I did physically have to walk out to the site with TxDOT employees and all the Parks and Wildlife was there — some of you all's people and it's wonderful how all the organizations can work together, the different counties, the different entities of the state can come together on a joint venture and we can make this thing work for all of Texas — not only East Texas but everybody in Texas and I think we're going to have a good center and a good fish hatchery. Thank you, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you very much, Mr. Stark. Thank you.
Valarie Bristol. Good to see you, Valarie.
MS. BRISTOL: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And on deck will be Ken Kramer. Be ready.
MS. BRISTOL: Thank you very much, Chairman. I am Valarie Bristol. I work with the Nature Conservancy of Texas, but I'm here today in my role as chair of the Texas Land Trust Council.
The Texas Land Trust Council was born here in Texas Parks and Wildlife in 1994 when Lee Bass was chair, Terry Hershey and Mickey Burleson were particularly active as commissioners in helping bring the Texas Land Trust Council — or Land Trust Movement to Texas, which there were some land trusts but bringing it here and putting it inside Texas Parks and Wildlife has exploded the growth of our land trusts in Texas.
In 1994, the Land Trust Council was formed, which we have now our membership organization of the land trust in Texas, who have since the inception of this program here, has doubled in size to where we now have 43 land trusts in Texas.
Some of the key moments were Commissioner Fitzsimons was very much a part of, some of the governor's planning, the governor's task force in early 2000, the Texas Tech study that presented the Texas Parks and Wildlife for the 21st century, and the adoption of the ten-year land and water resources conservation plan all include and understand the importance of voluntary conservation agreements between landowners and land trusts throughout Texas to help conserve land for wildlife habitats, for water protection, and for many other natural resources that mean a lot to us as Texans.
It allows private landowners to continue to own their land and has many benefits for the people of Texas.
I'm here to thank you for those years of incubating this organization. We believe that we play an important role in assisting you in your mission, preserving the habitats and wildlife of Texas for whatever purposes people wish to have them there for.
We've helped conserve over a million acres of land and while we have grown into is 43, there's still room to grow. There's parts of Texas that are not covered by land trusts at this time and we have many young organizations who are just really beginning to build their skills, their talents, and their fund-raising abilities.
So we see a major role continuing in the future of the Texas Land Trust Council and we want to continue our wonderful partnership with you. But we're leaving the Parks and Wildlife Department.
In January, we'll be a stand-alone program on our own. Like I said, we want to keep that relationship very powerful.
But before I sit down, I have to honor Carolyn Vogel.
Carolyn, would you stand up?
Carolyn has been the Texas Parks and Wildlife employee who has grown this program, who has led it, who has inspired it, who serves on national boards and councils, and just last month, she was awarded the Texas Public Employees Association Unsung Heroes Award, which is given to Texas employees who make a difference in their agency. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Valarie, and thank you for your work. Ken Kramer and then Dale Bulla.
MR. KRAMER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission, I'm Ken Kramer. I'm the state director for Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club and I just want to speak very briefly today about a matter that will be on your commission agenda as I understand it tomorrow — the perspective sale of a part of the Big Bend Ranch State Park.
I'm sure that most of you probably know that the Sierra Club has long been interested in Big Bend Ranch. We were one of the groups pushing in the 1980s for state acquisition of the ranch. There was a wide-ranging public debate about that acquisition in the '80s. In the 1981 legislative session, which I participated in as a volunteer Sierra Club member, it was one of our state legislative priorities and although it didn't happen in that session, thanks to the efforts of Bob Armstrong and Parks and Wildlife Commission it did happen in 1988.
Following that, there was also an extensive public debate and discussion about the management plan for Big Bend Ranch that spanned several years and involved literally hundreds of people and we were very actively involved in that as well.
I think one of the reasons I emphasize that is that the public has had a very intense interest in Big Bend Ranch and one of the concerns we have now based upon some of the reports we've heard is the possibility that a significant portion of the ranch might be sold to a private buyer without what we consider to be adequate public debate about the wisdom of that particular move.
I do want to state for the record that I am not in any way questioning the motives of the Parks and Wildlife leadership in looking at this prospective land transfer or land sale. I very much appreciate Chairman Fitzsimons and Executive Director Cook and the other people involved in leadership and their commitment to land conservation, but that doesn't necessarily mean that I agree with everything they do.
And I think in this instance we need to step back and look more closely at all the ramifications of what is being considered here before making any final decision about this.
I do also want to point out that in 2002 the Agency underwent a very extensive discussion of the future of the Agency in the development of the land and water conservation plan, which many of us participated in, and there were many public meetings on that.
That plan was revised earlier this year. Included in that plan, as I recall, were a list of state parks that potentially might be transferred to other jurisdictions. I don't recall in the hearings on that plan any discussion about the possibility of selling part of Big Bend Ranch State Park nor is that covered in the land and water conservation plan as a potential action.
So I am concerned also that moving forward with any effort to make a sale at this time without a wide-ranging public debate undermines, if you will, the integrity of the land and water conservation plan, which your agency I think has put a lot of stock into.
So I would urge or caution in going forward on this particular matter. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Ken, and if it wasn't clear to those speaking on the Big Bend Ranch issues, it is on the agenda tomorrow and today being open public meeting. Thank you, Ken.
And Dale Bulla? Mr. Bulla and then on deck Pat Bulla.
MR. BULLA: And this is on the Big Bend Ranch section?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes, sir. Whatever you may want to speak on.
MR. BULLA: Well, I signed up for the Bright Leaf. I didn't want to be on the wrong slot.
I'm here as a citizen and a Texan and someone that's not in favor of giving away our scarce park land. I think that in a state that has one of the smallest per capita park acquisitions of any state in the Union, the last thing we need to do is to give away some of our — especially our jewels.
This particular area is also — has water on it in a very arid part of the state and to me, even considering that, is just shocking.
The other part is the fact that no one knew about this until just a few days ago and I contacted people around me, the people that should have known, no one knew anything about this.
And I think that it should be put up to the public to let them know about this because it doesn't belong to Texas Parks and Wildlife. It belongs to us, to Texans, and we should have a right to have some input if a part of our land is to be sold and at $45 an acre?
I don't know what that comes to but I bet you you can find somebody that will give you 46 for it. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Bulla. Pat Bulla and let's see — go ahead, Pat.
MS. BULLA: Mine is a little bit of repetition to what Dale said.
Thank you for letting me express my grave concerns about Big Bend State Park.
I'm a native Texan. My ancestors came to the Republic of Texas in the 1840s and received land grants.
Today I think they would wonder what in the world is happening in this state. I know I do. Why are we getting ready to secretly sell off a large portion of Big Bend State Park at $45 an acre to Mr. Poindexter, who has been quoted as saying, You can't live in Texas without a ranch.
According to the internet site, Mr. Poindexter also rents his rooms at Cibola Creek Resort starting at $450 a day and his forts at $8,000 a day. And Texas Parks and Wildlife will sell him this property at $45 an acre without even opening it up for bids?
With water getting to be more and more of a precious resource, why would we ever sell off these water rights?
Have you heard the saying, Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over?
I think there are plenty of people in this state who may be ready to do battle over selling off this part of Big Bend State Park.
If we are trying to use the logic of squaring things off, has the state not considered the other long extension of land called the Panhandle? If that extension is sold off, so as to lop off that extension, we could save a lot of money on highway patrols and road maintenance.
I need your advice. I don't know him but I've heard that the head of Parks and Wildlife is a good friend of the governor. If this is true, do you think that if enough people across the state got in touch with the governor, would he be able to help the people of Texas keep what park land we own? Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Ms. Bulla. And Janice Bezanson, Texas Committee on Natural Resources. Janice.
And then, Randall Terrell, you're up.
MS. BEZANSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Members of the commission, I'm Janice Bezanson. I'm the executive director of Texas Committee on Natural Resources. We call it TECONR from the acronym and we are the state affiliate of the National Wildlife Federation.
Many of us are aware that are some parks and historic sites in various possessions in the Texas Parks system, that perhaps are not as productive as they should be. They're not protecting natural and cultural resources that are as significant as some that we might be protecting and we would support a process whereby there was a very careful assessment of this with public comment, public input, and some careful decisions for divesting of some of these properties — perhaps finding other partners to run them.
But selling 46,000 acres of Big Bend Ranch is not where we would start. This is a very special park. Its acquisition was a stunning victory for Texas Parks and Wildlife. It was met with wild enthusiasm by sportsmen, conservationists from all over the country — all over the state, and we think of it as one of the crown jewels of the park system.
Perhaps there are some things that need to be done here. If this particular area is a management problem, if there's a way to protect it under conservation easement, these things need to be looked at and if Parks and Wildlife feels strongly that needs to be done, then we would appreciate a public process whereby we can know what the facts are, know what the dollar signs are, the costs are, and have an opportunity for public participation.
I've had calls from quite a few of my members since the word began to get out that this might be done and they're very upset about it. Some of them have been there and they say this area is just gorgeous.
I haven't personally been there but the Cienega and well watered aspect of it is something that is very special to people.
So we would urge you not to make a decision tomorrow, not to make a decision on a specific proposal that's being brought to you without having the proper — look at this through a public debate and that you would think very carefully about divesting yourself of anything as special as this.
This sends a signal to the people of Texas that we're not serious about protecting natural resources and I hope that's not the signal you plan to send because I think the people of Texas are serious about protecting natural resources. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Janice, and I look forward to seeing you tomorrow.
MS. BEZANSON: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Let's see here. Randall Terrell and then John — forgive me — Puryear? Close? Thank you.
MR. TERRELL: Thank you, Chairman and commissioners.
My name is Randall Terrell. I live in Austin, Texas. I am a fairly routine backpacker out in the Big Bend area. Gone out to Big Bend Ranch State Park a couple of times.
I've never actually been to Cienega Springs at this point, although I've tried. Every time I've looked on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website or the maps of the trails out there or the availability for back country hiking, specifically to look up into the northwest corner of the park because that seems to be the farthest removed from people, I've never been able to find out how to get access to that place.
I'm a little disturbed now that it may be considered for sale, but I really don't know that because the only notice that I've had of this is under the Secretary of State's website is this meeting and the notice of tomorrow's meeting that says, Land Sale-Presidio County. So I don't know whether it's 46,000 acres or $45 an acre or what part of the park is for sale.
I don't know if it's a good idea to sell. It may be. I don't know. I asked for a handout when I came in here today and there was no handout, so I don't know what's up for consideration.
So rather than urge you not to take any action, I would urge you not to even consider any action tomorrow and postpone it from your agenda.
I do believe there are some problems associated with Chapter 6 of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Code. I'm not an expert on that but I think that you need to have a 30-day notice of any potential sale and according to the Secretary of State's website, this was submitted to the SOS for posting for public meeting on August 15.
So I would urge you to table the issue for the meeting tomorrow and set this thing out for a full and fair public hearing so we can all have the opportunity to evaluate it. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Terrell, and just to clear that up tomorrow is a public hearing. Let's see. John? Is it Puryear?
MR. PURYEAR: Yes. John Puryear.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And then, Thomas Davison, be ready.
MR. PURYEAR: I want to begin — John Puryear. I'm studying civil engineering at UT Austin.
I would begin by thanking you all for the work that you do. I go to a lot of parks in Texas. I enjoy them. I appreciate the work that you do on the lean Texas budget that you have to maintain some of this. I want to begin by that.
And an issue that I'm interested in is this Big Bend sale and I can't speak as eloquently as people here. I just found out about it yesterday in the paper and pretty well, it seems to me what everyone else before me has said it just seems that there needs to be more transparency, more public discussion before anything so drastic is done with such an irreplaceable — once you lose a bit of wilderness like that, which there is so little of in Texas especially, there's nothing you can do to replace it.
And one thing that I heard when I talked with the Land Commission was that the site was not accessible. It's hard to get to. And my thought in response to that is, Just thinking about the purpose of a wilderness park like that.
You think about when modern conservation began, with like Theodore Roosevelt, one of these kind of figures.
He went on a hunting trip one day. Okay? He went out to New York or he went out to — I believe he had a ranch in North Dakota — and he was out hunting and he couldn't find anything. You know? All of the buffalo are gone. The pronghorn elk or pronghorn cantaloupe — antelope. Yes.
I love it. They were gone. The elk were gone. It was just barren and he went straight back to New York and began — I cannot recall the organization that he began — but he began — yes. There you go. The Boone Crockett Club.
He began that organization to work with this and so the idea wasn't accessibility for human recreation but preserving wildlife.
And that's something, again, is irreplaceable. You put roads in. You cut off that part of the park from other parts of the park — is going to more than linearly — you know, it's going to be an exponential decrease the amount of biological diversity that the park can support.
So, again, I second what others have said. I think we need more transparency, more discussion of this, and for the record, my opinion is that don't sell it because there is so little as was said per capita protected land in Texas. Don't sell it because these things are irreplaceable. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Puryear. I hope you can join us tomorrow for that discussion.
Thomas Davison and then on deck will be Keith Shackelford.
MR. DAVISON: My name is Thomas Davison. I don't represent any organization. I'm here to speak to you also about the potential sale of land in Big Bend State Park.
We all had to fill out a form on the way in saying whether or not we would like to speak. I checked no, but I'll take the invitation to speak that you are welcoming my ideas.
My wife and I enjoy state parks very much. We are pass holders so we can visit state parks around the state throughout the year. And we've lived here about a year.
So in that short time, we've really come to appreciate the diversity in Texas state parks and of wildlife, flora and fauna in the state of Texas. And for a couple of reasons I would urge the Commission to carefully consider the sale.
I think, as someone else has said, I don't know if it's a good idea or not, but I ask you to consider carefully that the state park serves a function of preserving biological diversity, remote or not. It will serve that function.
And I also ask you to consider that once it's sold, it's sold. And I suspect that repurchasing this land from private holders will be even more difficult than securing it in the first place.
And finally, I ask you to consider whether this is in the general interest or whether there will be benefits from this land disproportionately benefitting some to the exclusion of the general welfare.
So I thank you for listening to me and I ask you to make a careful decision tomorrow. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you. I hope you can join us tomorrow. Thank you very much, Thomas.
Keith Shackelford and then Lynn Shackelford.
MR. KEITH SHACKELFORD: Thank you. I'm not here to talk about Big Bend Ranch but that's what prompted me being here today. Me and my family are private landowners and we have a ranch on the east side of Big Bend National Park close to the Black Gap Wildlife Preserve.
There is a section of land that my family has been leasing for ten years from the General Land Commission and we were notified on our renewal this year, which was processed — there was a filing fee. A check was cashed and then we were notified that the lease was not going to be renewed.
And the reason was that the Land Commission was selling or giving the land to Texas Parks and Wildlife and so we've approached the Texas Parks and Wildlife as well about a possible acquisition of that land.
We surround the land on three sides. It's very inaccessible. Situation of the Big Bend Ranch and my family has developed roads to get access to there through our property and have maintained it over the last ten years from a wildlife preservation standpoint.
And I'd like the commission to consider that if the land now is in your possession, which I'm not sure if it is or not, that we would gladly offer $47 an acre.
The strategy that prompted you to sell the Presidio land is what prompted us to be here and we would like a public option to propose to you the benefits for us as private landowners and you, as the Parks and Wildlife property that you manage in Black Gap and otherwise. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Good. I hope you can also — [inaudible]
Thank you, Mr. Shackelford. Della Thomas be ready.
MR. LYN SHACKELFORD: My name is Lyn and I'm a Parks and Wildlife employee also. Also with my brother who is right in front of me — we have a private ranch out in Big Bend.
Pretty much what he said — I've done more on this ranch, folks — I've got my life investment in this place and I'm begging to you.
I did it with GLO; now I'm coming to you all. I mean obviously I don't make much money working with you all. Let's just put the facts out and my living is on this ranch.
The reason I work for you all is I live next door to you and I know the country and I'm good at what I do. I'm not trying to brag but when it comes down to it, my ranch is first and it's obvious you all don't have the resources to maintain the country.
You can't. I'm not here to put you all down but we can't even maintain Black Gap, guys. I hate that this had to happen this way but I couldn't get a meeting with you all any other way.
So I do have the resources to maintain the country. We don't raise cattle. We're strictly in the wildlife business.
I make my living off of deer hunts and bird hunts. And if you could just see the country, what I've done to it in 20 years, you could go across this ranch — this country is next door to the Big Bend, next door to Black Gap. Right in the middle of you and when we first got that country, you could go across there and count one deer. I can take you across it now and count 50 and I did it all myself. No state help. I didn't go anywhere through the state entities. All out of my pocket.
I went through a construction company. Had my own construction company to raise the money to build this ranch and I'm finally there — fixing to go over the top and self-sufficient. My ranch will be self-sufficient and you all are going to pull the rug out from underneath me.
And you got me in a corner, guys. I'm going to fight my way out of it. I'd expect you to do the same thing if you were in my situation. Any comments from you all?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I have a question. I'm not familiar with your situation with GLO.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: The short version of what your problem is? Your property is being transferred and you're losing the lease. How many acres?
MR. LYN SHACKELFORD: Yes, sir. You all are having a land swap with the GLO and I'm sure you know about it, which was fine and dandy. I was part of the land swap to begin with to help say who gets what.
And all of a sudden, my three, they come in from behind me and three sections of my land is in the land swap. Well, I jumped to GLO first and they said, It's not our deal. Somewhere in the laws, you all have the priority to take the land if you border it in one place or another.
I'm probably going to contradict some of these people here, but I'm all for you all selling the property to Mr. Poindexter. You have too much. You can't afford what you have.
Am I right, Bob? You can't afford what you got. There's got to be a place where you stop. You don't have the money for it.
I do. I don't have that much, but Bob, don't speed it up.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Let me just ask one question.
MR. LYN SHACKELFORD: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Is this property that you own or property that you lease?
MR. LYN SHACKELFORD: I own eleven sections and have those other three leased that are adjoining me. Actually, there's four there. I've never had the fourth one leased, but another private man had it leased, which it was in the middle of me, but he had it leased for years and years before I ever acquired the property. But I used it with an agreement with him because he couldn't even access it, which this property — you can't access it without going through me for three miles.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: I'm sorry. The three sections are not accessible other than going through your property?
MR. LYN SHACKELFORD: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And your objection is to losing your lease?
MR. LYN SHACKELFORD: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Okay.
MR. LYN SHACKELFORD: I know it's between me and GLO on the lease but the ball's in you all's court as the way I understand it now. But I can't get a meeting with anybody to tell me what's going on.
I'm willing to work with any of you, any way you want to go, but I just need somebody to talk to me.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I'm sure Bob can find somebody to talk to you.
MR. LYN SHACKELFORD: Well, I asked to talk to him and I seem to can't get that done.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Well, I'm sure he can find somebody that can do it.
MR. LYN SHACKELFORD: It's kind of an awkward situation because I work for you also.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I'm sure there's somebody who handles the GLO relationship. Thank you.
Della Thomas and Teresa Stoker be ready.
MS. THOMAS: I'm not speaking.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I'm sorry?
MS. THOMAS: I'm not speaking.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. Teresa Stoker then.
MS. STOKER: Hello. My name is Teresa Stoker and I want to thank you for letting me come and speak to you, as well as to thank Texas Parks and Wildlife for all the good work it does.
I am coming here with several caps on. I'm a native Texan, at least six generations. I'm a Hill Country landowner, who is considering giving the land to Texas Parks and Wildlife, but with Big Bend going on, our family's having some reservations about that. We own land above the Guadalupe River State Park, but we are having some considerations about that.
And also I am professionally trained as a biologist, as an environmental planner, and I'm currently pursuing my PhD and I'm almost complete with that.
What I'd like to say I opened the paper today and I saw the article on Big Bend. I looked at that at 12 noon and I got here by 2:00 p.m. That's how I found out about the Big Bend Ranch.
It's exceedingly ironic to me that I'm standing here in this room at this time when in the late '80s and early '90s I worked on the Big Bend State Natural Area Master Plan.
I was actually in the Department. I helped write the reports. I helped deliver the master plan to the Commission. I helped Andy Sansom, Director Andy Sansom, get that through. I consider it one of the proudest things that I've ever worked on and I would hope that in memory of the work done by Andy Sansom and not due to partisan politics, that you would consider not negating all of our work.
I'm trained at Yale. I'm trained at University of Texas in Austin, at Washington State University, and I'm about to get my PhD and I'm returning to Texas. And look what I found at noon.
I'm shocked. So I have the concern that I've briefly written down there are legal concerns about people that gave the land in trust or in memorial to Texas Parks and Wildlife. As someone that is considering giving our land on the river of the banks of the Guadalupe River to Texas Parks and Wildlife that raises considerations in my family.
I'm a Texas Passport member. All of my family are Passport members. We're active in environmental organizations, but there's legal issues. I wonder about international legal issues because I believe we have some treaties with Mexico about environmental issues.
If we're going to ask Mexico to conserve their environment on the northern border and protect Texas from northern Mexican air pollution, then how can we take away 45,000 acres when we're asking Mexico to please not pollute Texas with air pollution?
I don't see how that we can do both. So I'm concerned about the international conservation treaties with Mexico. I'm concerned about land that was given to you in memorial or as a land trust. I'm concerned with procedural and regulatory issues.
I think I should not have found out about this at 12 noon and I've done the best I can to compile something for you that quickly. I would like to have more time to respond to this proposal.
I believe public land is a public trust. If I didn't believe that, we wouldn't be considering giving you land. I also believe that it is a jewel. It is a gem. Numerous metaphors have been made of that sort and it is important to environmental services, to the watershed of West Texas, to air pollution control in Texas, to animal and plant protections, in biodiversity.
We're asking Mexico to help us preserve the mountain lion because it needs such a huge habitat and yet we're about to cut it off. I think you're underselling. I'm not in real estate, but you're underselling. I want to know what percent of the annual budget you're actually getting and I know — just one more comment.
I understand the enormous budgetary constraints and pressures you are under. I understand that very, very well but I've also through my graduate work and I work for the National Parks Service — have learned ways to deal with that.
And I really hope that you will not make a decision tomorrow — that you will postpone it so that myself, as a public landowner or landowner and a citizen and a professional, that I will be able to put together a report for you. And I really would appreciate that consideration. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you. We look forward to seeing you tomorrow, Ms. Stoker. Thank you.
Debra Beene. Did I skip somebody? Debra Beene and then Nancy Tunnell will be up.
MS. BEENE: Hi. I'm here just as a citizen and I just read the article in the newspaper late last night, so I can really only comment on what I read in the paper and I believe there's a lot of things that you may not be aware of that are issues and concerns about this proposed sale of Big Bend Ranch.
First of all, $2 million is an obscenely low price. It's a giveaway. I think there would be numerous offers —should be expected if given an opportunity and then also the comments in the paper that this area hasn't been used.
Well, perhaps that's because on the state park maps and all of the information on the website for visitors to use for hiking or camping it's not included and nobody knows about it.
So right there. And also talking about it not being accessible. I've been to the Ranch House at Cienega. I used to work for Parks and Wildlife and there's a public access road all the way to the Ranch House. So public access is not true.
So it's not included on the Big Bend Ranch Visitor Map. It's not listed as any available hiking or use for the citizens of Texas.
And also I believe that conservation of resources and public use isn't about today. It's about future generations. The importance of wilderness and the protection of our natural and cultural resources only become more important as we move into the future.
And I believe there's been no complete intensive surveys for natural or cultural resources on this property. We know there are very, very important cultural and natural resources, but there could be others that we're not aware of.
And one site in particular is the lower Pecos-style petroglyphs in this part of Texas and no where else. They would be endangered.
And I just wish you would postpone the vote and give us an opportunity to look at the facts. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you. You'll have that opportunity tomorrow and I appreciate your time and hope to see you there.
Nancy Tunnell, then Jeffrey Mundy be ready.
MS. TUNNELL: Yes. My name is Nancy Tunnell and I'm coming to you just as a private citizen.
The person to whom you want to sell this land owns Cibolo, which is adjacent to it; my husband, Curtis Tunnell, who was director at the Texas Historical Commission for 18 years and many archeologists have not looked favorably about what has happened to Cibolo.
There's been bulldozing on both sides of the creek there and many archeological sites have been destroyed or obscured. Protests were made but they were not heard.
I'm concerned that the conservation easement then is of some questionable value because if something comparable happened at Cienega, it would not be known until the deed was done. What Parks and Wildlife would choose to do about it, which may be go to court or something, is irrelevant because once the land has been damaged that way, it can never be put back to its original state.
So the conservation easement doesn't mean a lot except for words on paper, but in effect it doesn't really mean anything.
Secondly, this property, Big Bend Ranch in Cienega, were purchased with public monies to be held in trust for the public and for gratuity. And I find it very disturbing that it's a very unique site in a dry desert area. Very special, very unique site — and it's very disturbing to me to think that you would sell it to a private land developer who will use it for tourist development to tourists and clients who are only a very small percentage of the population who can afford $450-$1,000 a night rooms and thereby, you're removing it from public access to the great majority of Texas citizens. And I think that's very sad. That's all I have to say.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hope you can join us all, Ms. Tunnell.
Jeffrey Mundy and then Robert Singleton.
MR. MUNDY: Mr. Chairman, with your permission —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes?
MR. MUNDY: Can I approach? I have a letter.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Absolutely.
MR. MUNDY: I give you a copy to each of you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I remember you from when you worked with Terry in Austin.
MR. MUNDY: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Good to see you again.
MR. MUNDY: Good seeing you. Good afternoon, Commissioners. My name is Jeff Mundy.
I'm an attorney here in Austin. I'm a past president of the Houston Audubon Society, which I know seems illogical even though I live here in Austin, but I am retained by the Houston Audubon Society and am acting today as their attorney on this matter.
My pay is not generous. It's pro bono. I'm here for free primarily because I do care very deeply about what has been brought up.
I won't reiterate everything everybody else has already said and I think the letter on behalf of Houston Audubon Society really lays out the concerns their 4,000 members have.
I would just say very briefly the questions I raised for you in that letter and I raise here for your consideration today from a lawyer's prospective is not necessarily whether you legally and permissibly can vote tomorrow, but it's whether as stewards of this commission and the assets of the citizens of this state should vote tomorrow.
I think as you're hearing right now — this came about, at least to the public's attention, very abruptly this week. I know I was reading my paper Tuesday morning — about choked on my coffee when I saw what was going on.
But I think there's no harm in delay of the vote. Houston Audubon Society is not advocating or opposing opposition to the project. At this point in time, it is merely asking for a delay of a vote on this agenda item so that there can be better public disclosure about what is going on and consideration of whether or not it should be submitted to open, competitive bidding with whatever criteria you deem appropriate to protect the resource.
The problem at this point is there's simply not adequate information out in the public arena. I will say the Houston Audubon Society yesterday submitted an open records request regarding issues related to this to hopefully gather information.
As you know, we hope to hear a response within ten days. The problem is tomorrow doesn't give us time to get that information back.
I do wish to emphasize Houston Audubon Society — I've been in your seat on a nonprofit, which is even worse because you're begging day to day to exist. I understand there are times when you have properties that you cannot maintain, should not maintain, or don't fulfill the state's purpose anymore.
But having said that, I think given the size of this, the area of the state is one that is publicly loved by all citizens of this state and frankly, nationally. I was in Big Bend — in this area just in April. I was shocked, not by just the number of Texans in the area but the number of visitors nationally and even internationally.
And I noticed in the Big Bend Ranch Park itself there were German groups out there. There were people from England out there. This is an area of the state park system that is just now gaining attention.
The question is it doesn't get a whole lot of visitation. Well, it's new and I think put yourself in the seat of where, say, the president was 200 years ago when they were thinking about, Hey, What's that thing over in the Louisiana area? Maybe we ought to buy some of that.
No one was going out to Louisiana back then but it's obviously critical.
So very respectfully, I would ask you all to delay the vote until there can be better information put out, better public disclosure, and frankly, better transparency about what is going on here. Thank you very much and I'll speak to you all tomorrow.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Great. Thank you and we look forward to seeing you tomorrow.
MR. MUNDY: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Let's see. Robert Singleton and Jim Haire be ready.
MR. SINGLETON: That's a good way to make a first impression — destroy the equipment.
One would think there would be very little we disagree about. I like Texas. I like parks. I like wildlife. I even like ampersands, so we should start out well on this.
I want to comment on something Ken Kramer said when he said he's not questioning anybody's motives on this. I was thinking about this, state park land being proposed to be sold to a private developer on short notice with no opportunity for meaningful public input.
Well, I'm not going to question anybody's motives either but I'm not going to deny that the thought crossed my mind.
I want to stress that I would like an answer to this question either today or tomorrow. What are the requirements for posting for alienation of park lands under the Parks Code and does tomorrow's hearing meet all those requirements?
I know today's doesn't and I hate to take anything about 46,000 acres of public land and turn it into being all about me but I thought I'd tell you guys what some people go through in order to get to one of these things.
I'm one of these people who found out about today's meeting this morning. I was at work when I found out about it. I took a half day off, took a lot of begging, and I probably won't have a job on Saturday morning when I go back. I then took a Capital Metro bus to Burleson and State School Road and walked the remainder of the distance. I would also suggest maybe you guys might want to think of two words: public transportation.
Somebody needs to talk to Capital Metro. There's a lot of employees out here. There's no reason why they should all come in their own cars but enough about me.
This is not a public hearing. I don't think the one tomorrow is going to be sufficient to satisfy the Parks Code in terms of alienation of park land.
There's one more question that just occurred to me and I don't know if anybody knows the answer or is going to be able to tell me, and that's who's idea was this in the first place? How did you find Poindexter? Did he just walk into the office one day, open a briefcase, and say, Gentlemen, I'd like to buy part of Big Bend Ranch? Is that the way it happened?
How did he get involved in this?
As far as this land being unproductive, I think the Cienega just sitting there percolating, producing water is productive. I'd like to see it do that for a long time. I'd like to see it protected. I know we all would.
Ultimately that is the argument for doing what you're doing — it's the best protection for the most public land. But I think there's got to be a better way to do it than this.
Finally, I just want to say two last things. One is put me down for one acre at $100 an acre. You don't have to sell it in one piece. You can sell it to willing buyers who will pay more than $46 an acre, $45 an acre. And finally, see you tomorrow.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Good. We'll look forward to that, Mr. Singleton. Thank you and we're on to Jim Haire.
MR. HAIRE: I'm Jim Haire from Tyler and after hearing those young people this morning a while ago talking on the program —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Jim, I'm sorry. I interrupted you. And Leonard Ranne be ready. Go right ahead, Mr. Haire.
MR. HAIRE: After hearing the young people a while ago on the program, I'm about ready to forgive the Department of all of its many sins but I do have a couple of sins left here on my sheet that I've got to talk about since I drove all this way from Tyler.
It appears the Department is withholding — there's two problems with Budweiser beer sponsorship that I'm going to talk about.
First, it appears the Department is withholding critical alcohol safety information and news about alcohol-related deaths and injuries that could save lives if publicized.
Here are six examples of information being withheld from the public: The Department does not inform Texas boaters that alcohol has an exaggerated effect on boaters as opposed to auto drivers.
The Department does not issue press releases on alcohol-related boating deaths and injuries.
No. three, The Department does not inform boaters that it is unsafe for passengers to drink, even with a designated driver.
And the Department's more numerous and strategic beer promotions outweigh and overshadow the Department's warnings to boat operators not to drink.
No. four, the Department chose not to tell the public when Texas became number one in boating deaths. No. five, the Department chose not to mention alcohol in recent press releases on swimming safety, even though alcohol is involved in about half of all adult drownings.
No. six, the DPS has reported that Texas hunters are creating a large DWI problem on the highways during hunting season. There's a copy of that release attached from the DPS.
Instead of the Department cautioning hunters, how much would it cost to put a little paragraph in one of your many, many brochures?
The Department instead proceeded to promote Budweiser beer to hunters in a Department publication immediately after that and then ran a hunting-related beer ad in another publication. And then issued a press release on how safe hunting has become in Texas, never mentioning the hunter DWI problem or the deaths of four teenage girls that were victims of this very problem.
The girls' pictures are attached there and the fellow who killed them crashed into them and killed them on the way home from a hunting trip. According to the assistant DA in Parker County, had never even had a traffic ticket, never drank at home, but he drank on hunting trips — on almost all of his hunting trips. That's what the court testimony showed.
In other words, he related hunting and alcohol.
The second problem I'll touch on that the Department justifies its alcohol promotions by the roughly $700,000 it's paid each year or however much money it is now. It's around $700 or whatever.
When the Department does not tell the public that Texas' alcohol-related health costs and damages have now risen to over $16 billion annually are 60 percent higher than cigarette-related health costs.
Texas' alcohol taxes only offsets a small part of the damages leaving the public to pay for much of the difference through increases in other taxes, such as our property taxes and fishing and hunting licenses, and on and on.
Beer taxes have not been increased in over 20 years and that's another example of the beer's influence in Austin. Takes a lot of influence to have a state agency promote beer to a boater.
To sum up, the Department increases the risk of death and injury to Texas families by withholding critical alcohol safety information and news about alcohol-related deaths and injuries.
And as a state agency, the Department should consider the bigger picture when taking money to promote alcohol. The Department may be aiming a little bit, but it appears the public is paying a lot.
I'll be happy to provide any documentation you'd like for anything in here and I'll answer any questions you might have now or next week. My phone number's up there. If anyone wants any documentation on anything in here, please call me or write me and I'll immediately respond to you. Thanks very much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Haire. Leonard Ranne and, Carole Allen, be ready.
MR. RANNE: Mr. Chairman, commissioners, I'm honored to be able to come before you.
I've come in, I guess, to ask a favor. Freshwater Anglers joined with the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center. Dallas Parks and Recreation had their annual junior angler adventure and summer camp program.
We had a total of 3,072 participants, most of those under 17 years of age and many of them caught their first fish.
This program is basically in two parts. On Saturday — the first Saturday in June was open fishing day at the hatchery; we had a total of 962 people participating and we started our Junior Angler Adventure where we brought — I mean our summer camp, which we brought people from Dallas — kids from Dallas — a bus.
They were transported there. They were given hot dogs, cold drinks. They went to a school to learn about fishing, how to tie knots, how to locate fish — where they can go back home and catch fish in the future.
The back of this page here I have a summary, spreadsheet, here that tells you exactly how many people — what kids were participating, how many males, how many females, how many whites, Hispanics, blacks, and others.
They were all given a test, some 1,800-and-some-odd were given a test. Working on a points system, the first test they were given was a 92,912 points.
When they left the center on their way back home, they were given a test and a score it was like 153,528. That is one terrific improvement.
The people here at the center, like the Friends of the Freshwater Fishery Center, a couple of volunteers that we hired to help with the program, the staff of Texas Parks and Wildlife — have really worked hard to put together one of the best outreach programs I've heard of.
And what I come basically to say was for all this effort and the good job they done, somebody should give them an, Attaboy, or, You all done a good job, because with dedicated people and volunteers like that, you don't find them everywhere. Thank you, gentlemen.
MR. HENRY: Thank you, Mr. Ranne.
Next is Carole Allen.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Mr. Ranne, why don't you let the volunteers know that we appreciate what they do? Give them a pat on the back.
MR. HENRY: On deck is Mick McCorcle.
MS. ALLEN: Good afternoon. My name is Carole Allen from Houston. I'm the Gulf Coast Director for the Sea Turtle Restoration Project Texas and I founded HEART, Help Endangered Animals-Ridley Turtles.
I want to thank you, the Chairman, all the members, Mr. Cook and his staff, for this opportunity to talk with you. I brought a folder of material for you and I also have a poster for each of you and I would like for my comments to part of the official record.
This is definitely a change of subject. Been very interested in the different things that have been going on this afternoon and I know you have a tremendous job to do.
In 2000, and Mr. Henry was here, the Commission closed South Texas waters to shrimping from December 1 to May 15 of each year. This is in addition to state and federal closure which is May to July 15.
This closure involves a five-nautical-mile-wide zone from the Corpus Christi Fish Pass to the Mexican border.
I'm here to thank the Commission for that closure and I would like to ask you to make it year-around to give continuous protection to the growing Kemp's ridleys' breeding and nesting population.
This has been a record-breaking, a tremendous year for the Kemp's ridley. Fifty-one of them nested on Texas beaches, including 28 at the Padre Island National Seashore, seven in the Galveston County area, and the rest on other Texas beaches.
Dr. Donna Shaver of the National Park Service, who is the authority on the Kemp's ridley, has said that she believes that the closure of the South Texas waters has benefitted the nesting population by protecting the nesters while they are in the zone.
She also recommended when she testified in August 2000 that a year-round closure of the southern zone would be more beneficial than would a seasonal closure.
We've had recent studies that show that adult males, Kemp's ridley males, stay at the nesting beaches all year-round, which is pretty smart, and we didn't know that five years ago. But they're there all year and we need to protect them.
The endangered Kemp's ridleys is an important part of the Texas natural wildlife heritage. The only marine sanctuary near Texas waters is the Federal Flower Gardens, which protects coral reefs.
Texas needs to protect the world's most endangered sea turtle by closing all Texas waters along the Padre Island National Seashore, providing safety for this unique population which is literally bringing the world's attention to our doorstep.
In response to the serious by-catch situation, the five nautical mile closure should be extended to the entire Texas coast, allowing juvenile fish, shrimp, sea turtles, and other marine life to prosper.
In closing, we regret that we don't have numbers by now that which we expect will show benefits not only for the turtles but recreational fish, shrimp, and by-catch species, as well, as I said, sea turtles.
We appreciate the actions of the Commission, the Department, its biologists, its law enforcement agents. You have all made a tremendous contribution so far and can continue to make that contribution. Thank you very much.
MR. HENRY: Thank you, Ms. Allen.
Next is Mick McCorcle.
MR. MCCORCLE: Good afternoon. I bring greetings from the 4,500 members of the Guadalupe River chapter of Trout Unlimited, the largest TU chapter in the world.
I'm Mick McCorcle, president of the chapter, and I'm joined today by Bill Higdon our vice president of fisheries and David Schrader we call board member extraordinaire who's helped us with a lot of projects, including special regulations.
We'd first like to thank Texas Parks and Wildlife for more than 35 years of cooperative efforts to establish and maintain a quality year-round trout fishery on the Guadalupe River below Canyon Dam.
TPWD biologists envisioned a trout fishery on the Guadalupe even before the dam was completed and TPWD has joined with our chapter to create that fishery since the chapter's inception in the late 1960s.
Over that time, we have jointly or independently stocked more than two million trout in the river. The fishery has also benefitted from special regulations for catch and release artificials only fishing on a portion of the tailwater and from agreements to establish minimum flow restrictions through the summer ensuring the sufficient cold water to support a year-round trout fishery, the southernmost trout fishery in the U.S.
Since public access to fish the river is a challenge, our chapter also supports an extensive lease access and stocking program with 500 to 700 chapter members contributing $100 a year to support access through 15 or more leases and to invest 40- to $50,000 a year to stock large trout into the public domain where everyone with a proper license can fish for them.
We are pleased to say that work is bearing fruit, despite the best efforts of droughts, floods, and poachers to defeat us.
The Guadalupe tailwater has recently named to the prestigious list of Trout Unlimited's 100 Best Trout Streams in America. And that fact has been noted in a recent book by John Ross, articles in trout magazines, such as the one that you are reading, and the Hill Country publications and elsewhere.
We're already seeing there's national exposure and it's increased the interest in the Guadalupe tailwater and it should be an economic boom to the area — expanding what's a traditional summer recreation area into one that includes the fall and winter.
The river's also become a magnet for attracting and training a whole new generation of fishers and cold water conservationists. But the fishery is not without its problems, the great of which is poaching due to inadequate enforcement of the special regulations that have been established to protect this resource.
TPWD wardens' presence on the rivers has declined markedly in the last few years and some poachers are aware of this and taking advantage of it by filling coolers with trout when they should be limited to one fish per day.
It doesn't take many dedicated poachers to decimate a fragile fishery. It is a year-round trout fishery that requires year-round protection.
We urge the Commission to seek three priorities to help continue the success of this fishery.
First to increase enforcement on the Guadalupe tailwater throughout the year. Second to find other ways to protect the fish in the river through such means as fire ant control. And third, to undertake studies to better understand the fishery and its economic impact on the region.
As TPWD carries out initiatives like these to further protect and enhance the Guadalupe Trout Fishery, we in GRTU will continue our partnership with TPWD and will support you with hard work and any other assistance required to accomplish these goals. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Thank you.
Next is Paul Serff and on deck Ellis Gilleland.
MR. SERFF: Thank you, commissioners. My name is Paul Serff. I'm with the Texas Travel Industry Association and I just wanted to say that we continue to enjoy a great working relationship with Parks and Wildlife, with Bob Cook, with Lydia Saldana who serves as an ex-officio member of our board of trustees with Walt Dabney and his staff. And it's just a great partnership we have with TPW.
Also, the last time I was here I talked about a program that we were starting up called the Texas Education Vacation and I'm happy to say that website is launched.
We have over 500 listings of places that parents and grandparents and teachers can take class trips that have an educational context to them. And Parks and Wildlife sites are prominently on that site and we are proud to say that.
We think that site will grow over the next couple years and be even more prominent and again, Parks and Wildlife will continue to be a very prominent part of that particular site. It's got some great educational sites for kids to go see.
We thank you very much for all the cooperation. Thank you.
MR. HENRY: Thank you.
Ellis Gilleland and on deck is Todd Votteler.
MR. GILLELAND: I have five handouts.
MR. GILLELAND: I'll go ahead. My name is Ellis Gilleland. I'm speaking for myself and for Texas animal rights organization on the internet.
I've provided you five handouts. The first handout is an article that appeared in the New York Times on the 10th of August 2005, which states that the New Jersey Fish and Game Commission is going to start hunting black bears that are in overabundance. So they're going to start killing them.
The second article is from the 27th of February 2005 issue of Dallas Morning Times — Dallas Morning News, which says black bears are back bringing lots of debate and the gist of the article is bring the black bears from Louisiana into Texas.
The third handout I've given you is from a page on the Parks and Wildlife website, which states that black bears — your Department is working on the national recovery in the Trans-Pecos the black bear and it goes on to state about your program in East Texas. And the last line says, Your two task forces, one task force for West Texas, one task force for East Texas and you're going to develop actions.
The fourth handout is your management plan which resulted from all this baloney. It says East Texas Black Bear Conservation and Management Plan 2005 to 2015, signed by Robert Cook, who you're going to give a raise to tomorrow, who says the purpose of this plan is to facilitate the conservation and management of black bears in East Texas through cooperative efforts, which is a lie.
The effort is to conserve bears in Texas and you've established two working groups, one for East and one for West Texas. You've completely ignored West Texas, Robert. Tomorrow maybe we'll learn why when you go up for your raise.
The last item is an article from the Austin American-Statesman dated 24th August 2005, which says, Proposed Big Bend Ranch Sale Causes Stir. Yes. It's not stir. It should be stink, S-T-I-N-K.
You're giving away 45,000 acres — the only acres that have water. Gentlemen, please look at your map. There is no water in Big Bend State Park. Zero, except in the area you're giving away, the 45,000. And there's not one spring fed cienega — the big one lies just to the east.
The big creek, which originates up north of Marfa, nobody said a cotton-picking word about that. That's perfect for black bears.
Please bring those bears down from New Jersey so they won't be killed. Don't give away our heritage and if possible, put them in West Texas and hold onto that land. I'll talk about Robert's raise tomorrow. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Gilleland.
Todd Votteler and Dudley Allen be ready.
MR. VOTTELER: Mr. Chairman and members of the Commission, my name is Todd Votteler. I'm the Director of Natural Resources for the Guadalupe/Blanco River Authority.
I'd like to compliment you on your fine staff that I've had the opportunity to work with often in the past and I'd like to talk to you about two topics today briefly, the Edwards Aquifer and the Habitat Conservation Plan, which is being developed under the Endangered Species Act where the future management of the Edwards Aquifer.
I'm sure you're going to be hearing a lot about that topic over the coming months and years and from the point of view of the Guadalupe/Blanco River Authority, I'd just like to make sure that the Commission is aware of a couple of key facts in relationship between the Edwards Aquifer and the Guadalupe River.
First of all, Comal and San Marcos Springs are the two largest springs west of the Mississippi are found in New Braunfels and San Marcos and they contribute about 373,000 acre feed of water to the Guadalupe in an average year. Now it's about twice as much as the city of San Antonio uses in an average year.
And during severe droughts, like 1996, those springs can supply as much as 70 percent of the water which reaches the city of Victoria on the Guadalupe and about 40 percent of the amount of water which can reach San Antonio Bay in a similar drought.
And so as you can see, management of the Edwards Aquifer is a critical issue for the Guadalupe River and for the GBRA and the citizens of the Guadalupe River basin.
The second topic I'd like to mention briefly is that of environmental flows. Of course, the bill, Senate Bill 3, containing the environmental flows legislation did not pass this last regular session and the legislature — and of course, we were all very disappointed about that — it is still a critical issue for Texas.
We continue to support legislation or rule making or some other way to address environmental flows for Texas bays and to make sure that the citizens of Texas have the water they need at the same time.
We think we had a pretty good mix in the legislation and we hope that's an opportunity that has not been lost.
And so that does it for the comments I have for you today. I wish you well in your deliberations.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Todd. Good to see you.
Dudley Allen and then Ed Parten. Help me Ed. Dudley Allen first. Dudley Allen? Last call for Dudley Allen. And Ed Parten.
MR. PARTEN: Guilty, Your Honor.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I'll go straight to sentencing then.
MR. PARTEN: Thank you. Mr. Chairman, Commission, Mr. Cook, Texas Parks and Wildlife officials — I've had the pleasure of working with people in this organization for 30-plus years. It's been a real pleasure.
With their efforts and concerns, I've seen a lot of changes, most of them for the better. I'm here today representing the Texas Association of Bass Clubs, Texas Black Bass Unlimited, and The Bass Federation.
We're asking that you, the Commission, mandate that inland fisheries — Mr. Phil Durocher and his people — hook up and be a part of the National Fish Habitat Initiative. And briefly I'd like to tell you that in your publication the saltwater people — Dr. McKinney and others — have done a great job talking about how important habitat is.
You look a little further over in the hunting aspect of it and habitat is vital to so many of the species that you protect and we hunt for, but I see nothing in freshwater to enhance and protect the habitat, aquatic vegetation and we're not talking about hydrilla or other obnoxious vegetation. We're talking about native species of aquatic vegetation.
It does so much to enhance our fisheries. Finest filtration system known to man. It has not been duplicated. It helps prevent erosion, stabilizes the soil, but more than that, it is a phenomenal fish enhancer — protects the young of the year and you guys are smarter than me and I've got people sitting behind me that work at it every day.
We know how important it is and all I'm asking on behalf of the thousands of people that are members of these organizations — we're wanting to see more incentive from you guys in our inland fisheries, which by the way, they do an awesome job.
I'm not here throwing stones at Phil and his people. But all I'm saying is we need to work more closely together for a good habitat enhancement program. That takes money and we're willing to come to the table with a portion of that money if we can work out some kind of program that would enhance our fisheries in the state of Texas.
Real quick in closing — I will give you four or five examples, some of the most premier bass waters in the nation have an ample growth of aquatic vegetation. Choke Canyon, Three Rivers, Texas. Amsted, Del Rio, Texas. Sam Rayburn was well represented today. A premier bass fishery in the nation. Toledo Bend.
These lakes and others throughout the state of Texas have an abundance of aquatic vegetation growth and they have proven and they have a great track record of what it can do for our fisheries.
It represents the sport fishing in Texas, we all know billions, not millions, of dollars and we'd like to see that grow. With your help, we can make that happen.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you very much.
MR. RAMOS: I have a question.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes.
MR. RAMOS: I'd like to ask you. Do you have any statistics that your organization has collected that would indicate the amount of dollars that are being generated by the freshwater industry in Texas and if you do —
MR. PARTEN: Not just the freshwater, but sport fishing. We relied on and used and utilized the numbers that have been produced by your department and National Fish and Wildlife to exceed somewhere around $5 billion annually and to the economy in the state of Texas.
MR. RAMOS: But other than what we have furnished you, do you have an independent study or anything that would indicate?
MR. PARTEN: On a lake-to-lake study, we have done that. We did a study through the Federation two years ago, three years ago. One tournament, a six-day tournament, generated almost $3 million into the economy and into Jasper, Texas.
MR. RAMOS: Would you be willing to furnish staff so I could — I'd be interested in looking at that data.
MR. PARTEN: Yes, sir, but Mr. Durocher already has that, sir.
MR. RAMOS: Thank you.
MR. PARTEN: Anything we can do, please call us and let us know.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you very much.
Mr. Bill Eaton and then Barbara Ruud be ready.
MR. EATON: You know I came up here with something all written down and everything and on the way up here I was thinking about it and I said, No. I don't really want to go with that.
Now I came in here and found out about you all selling land out and I don't think that's a good idea. Texas doesn't have enough land to begin with that belongs to the state.
I'll tell you right out now I'm an ATVer. I represent anywhere between 700,000 and a million people and we want to get you all some money. There is a way you can do it. You don't need to sell the land.
You've got land that you can put conservative trails on, $10 a bike to come in there for a day pass. Let somebody like TMTC manage it. The trails won't get damaged. You've got volunteers to work it. It costs you nothing but letting us in there and you reap the benefits.
It's money that you can have and in over time, millions of dollars. Give you an idea — there was what was called the Mud Nationals in Jacksonville, Texas. There were approximately 10,000 people came in for that weekend.
Gilmore, Texas, 17 percent increase in tax revenue in that area.
You guys, I'm sorry. I know you don't want motorized vehicles on Texas land but you've got to take a look at stuff. The money's there. You need the money. You want to keep the deal open to the public. Do something conservative. Get with the people that can do it.
I know you're working with TMTC. I also know that you've got parks that are going to be closing shortly because — or you're working on and trying to keeping them open because you can't fund them. They may be 4- or 5,000 acre parks but because they're not being utilized by the general public, they're not bringing any money, so you're not going to be able to keep them open.
Your budget is getting cut. The monies are not there. There is a way for it to get there. I'm talking about maybe $1 million, maybe more a year that you can bring in. That may not seem a whole lot but when the federal government's giving you $2 million off the gasoline taxes, you start thinking about the money that you're going to get from the stickers that are being sold.
All this money's going to be in there. SB 1311 — there's your money there. There's that for keeping trails going. You all are mandated by some of these under Chapter 90 of your code, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Code, to do this.
Gentlemen, you have my name and number. I would appreciate it if I can be of any further help. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you. Barbara Ruud. All right, Ms. Ruud.
MS. RUUD: My name is Barbara Ruud. I'm substituting for Beck Runte, who is another member of the Friends of Bright Leaf State Natural Park.
We are both on the board together and feel similarly about Bright Leaf.
We had planned to come here today to ask you to keep Bright Leaf and start spending money on it. Bright Leaf is a gem of a resource to the city of Austin that was left to us by Georgia Lucas.
However, Monday night we attended a Friends of Bright Leaf meeting. One of your staff and the director of the Austin Community Foundation, the group that will become responsible for the park, were there and we had a wide-ranging discussion.
We ended up feeling like Peter Rabbit that was thrown into the briar patch because the Austin Community Foundation was so receptive to our needs.
So instead of asking you to keep the park, I'm asking you to proceed with your plans to give it to the Austin Community Foundation with the following caveats: return the $10,000-plus donated for Bright Leaf to the Lone Star Legacy Fund by the friends of the group and other supporters.
The Friends of Bright Leaf have been very eager to help and have helped and have also assisted in fund-raising but we think this is our money and not the Lone Star Legacy's.
We want you to delay the transfer of the park until the end of the calendar year so that the park's staff can make the transition as smooth as possible.
We want you to work with the Austin Community Foundation closely to ensure that the park is available during the transition for the guided hikes and the work days sponsored and funded by the friends of the group.
We have Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts out and bird watchers and so on, but all of them are carefully choreographed and I have to say, your employee, our park ranger, Jeff Hershey, has been wonderful. We're going to miss him terribly.
So please give the park to the Austin Community Foundation. They are committed to using it as the educational facility that Ms. Lucas intended. Thank you for your help.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Ms. Ruud.
Sally Bird and then Rick Dewees be ready.
MS. BIRD: Thank you, Mr. Commissioner, Mr. Chairman, the Commission, and Mr. Cook for the opportunity to speak to you today.
I'm Sally Bird and I'm with the Friends of Garner State Park group and I participated in these meetings in the last three years. And the Friends group has participated probably for the last seven years.
We enjoy a good working relationship with our park management, as well as our region office, and with Mr. Dabney's office. And we want to thank the Commission for the different repairs that have been done in our park this year.
We've had a roof replaced that was leaking on one of our buildings, the Pavilion or what used to be called the Concession Building, that was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. And plans are for this fall to begin a resurfacing project and we are very appreciative of that.
I'm here to talk about two items today. One is the Pavilion area and the other one of course is a theme I think we've heard throughout the day, which is staffing.
There was damage to the riverbank that supports the Pavilion dance floor beginning with a flood in 1998 and continued with the floods of 2002 and 2004 without any attempt to stop the erosion.
The Corps of Engineers had a project in their plans to repair the riverbank since 1998, but we learned that last fall the Corps of Engineers withdrew from the project.
Texas Parks and Wildlife now has the responsibility for this repair work. We've been told that the engineering has been completed and that the project will go out for bids in late September and we certainly hope this is a repair project that will remain on the books for this coming fiscal year.
Preservation of this historical building and dance floor that was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps sits on this riverbank and is very important to many Texans.
As an example, in the summer, the crowds at the dance are very large with up to 1,200 people each night on the weekend and I think perhaps you attended one of the dances last year.
The action that we're asking for today is to urge the Commission to move this repair work to completion.
The second item that I'd like to discuss is staffing. Shortages in both the parks staff, seasonal and park hosts prevent providing basic services.
For example, we have long lines for visitors to check in. We have a problem with litter control and cleanliness of our bathrooms.
As an example, in July we had 13 park staff employees. We had seasonal help. We had park host and we even had a summer intern, but in that same month for those types of employees, we had 500,000 visit days.
Now if you take that and divide that by the employees that we had available that was about 1,200 visitors per person for the staff. So that's pretty overwhelming if you want to think of it in those terms.
This year the park was unable to attract enough seasonal workers to fill the voids or to improve visitors' check-in and there continues to be a shortage in law enforcement, park rangers, office staff, seasonals, and park hosts.
And the actions that we're asking for is to fill the state jobs to provide the basic services at the park, to explore alternative methods to attract seasonal workers, and to increase the park host program during the summer months to augment the park's staff.
In conclusion, Garner State Park is a leader in overnight visitation and is one of the top three in every measurable category in the Economic Contributions of Texas State Parks Study that was conducted in fiscal year 2002 by Texas A&M.
We believe that the concerns that I have expressed today are aligned with your published mission statements and I would also like to extend an invitation to all the commissioners and to the public to attend these Civilian Conservation Corps Reunion that's going to be held at Garner State Park on September 16 and 17. Thank you for this opportunity.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Ms. Bird. Thank you for your work in volunteering with Garner State Park. Thank you.
MR. DEWEES: I'll pass.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. Rick, and then Nancy Woolley.
MS. WOOLLEY: My name is Nancy Woolley and I'm the president of the Friends of Bright Leaf.
Many of you on the committee and many people here may not be very familiar with Bright Leaf.
Bright Leaf is within the city limits of Austin and has never been officially opened to the public. For ten years it has been closed pending development.
We have no visitor center, no permanent restroom, not even a water faucet for hikers to fill up a water bottle, but we have a dedicated group of volunteers and we have accomplished a lot at what we feel is a very special place.
Bright Leaf is an urban park that attracts a wide variety of visitors. We offer hikes that are open to the public and schedule hikes by special requests. Being an urban park, we can serve groups such as at-risk youth, inner-city kids, bilingual students, and senior citizens that might not otherwise have access to such programs. We also host more traditional visitors, such as adult hikers and scouting groups.
Bright Leaf is also a very important site for conservation. We see the golden-cheeked warbler return every spring.
The site also provides important habitat for many other native plants and animals. An Eagle Scout project to fence an area to exclude deer will be the reintroduction site for the very rare bracted twistflower.
Earlier this year in that enclosure protected from the deer, we found the crested coral root orchid. We are also working to increase our numbers of the uncommon sycamore leafed snowbell.
The Friends of Bright Leaf is very involved in outreach and cooperation. We hold open house events and work days every year. We have hikes open to the public each month and we have program meetings at the Lucas House that are also open to the public.
We work with such groups as the local neighborhood association, the Central Texas Trail Tamers, REI, and many other groups to improve Bright Leaf. We are also working with Texas Parks and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, the Wildflower Center, the City of Austin, Travis County, and the LCRA to find, protect, and reintroduce the bracted twistflower.
We are sad to be leaving Texas Parks and Wildlife, but we do look forward to working with the Austin Community Foundation and we will continue to work with Texas Parks and Wildlife on this bracted twistflower project.
We would only ask two things from Texas Parks and Wildlife. First, we think that the money donated to the Lone Star Legacy Fund specifically for Bright Leaf should be turned over either to the Friends group or the Austin Community Foundation for use as the donors intended.
And secondly, we would request that Bright Leaf remain under Texas Parks and Wildlife until the end of the calendar year. This will give us time to arrange all the paperwork needed to make a seamless transition over to the Community Foundation.
I thank you for your time and your attention.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you very much and thank you for your volunteer work there at Bright Leaf.
MS. WOOLLEY: She had to leave too.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Okay. I'm sorry.
Ron Giles and Joe King Fultz please be ready.
MR. GILES: Chairman Fitzsimons, Commissioners, Mr. Cook, my name is Ron Giles. I'm president of Friends of the Lost Pines State Park, which is out in Bastrop County — Bastrop and Buescher State Parks.
I'm also vice president of Texans for State Parks to help all the state parks.
That latter subject is really more of my focus of my comments today. I am passing around, by the way, a copy of our last month's newsletter, our Friends of the Lost Pines State Parks out is Bastrop County, just to give you an idea of some of the things we do and you'll see there in the center section we did address the budgetary problems with state parks and as well as some of the support we give parks — some of the equipment that we had purchased — some of the upgrades we're doing on playground equipment, et cetera.
First of all, before I speak much more about that, I do want to thank you for your sponsorship of the program — I forget the name of it — about water issues in Texas that aired on PBS programs several months ago.
As I said in our newsletter at the time, I think you're the only state agency that would have the courage to address that issue and we in Bastrop County have our own problems in protecting our groundwater. So I really, really appreciate you all doing that.
Also, in Bastrop County, I do appreciate the expansions you have supported to Bastrop State Park out there. We serve Houston, Austin, San Antonio, huge population areas and so the growth in land is real helpful to us.
In general, though, our state park's in trouble. The budgetary issues, the staffing issues primarily I think.
So at the same time that we see this crunch in finances, use of the parks is still rising. These parks provide outstanding recreational and educational opportunities to people of all ages, of all ethnic backgrounds, of both male and female. They're an important part of our state and I really urge your continued focus on helping make our parks work and protect them.
I would also say that they provide additional areas of protection for wildlife in the state. Places where wildlife can be protected and encouraged.
During these tough times financially, we Friends groups are doing all we can to help our state parks. I just ask you all to do the same and I appreciate the tough service you provide.
I appreciate your time on this Commission and thank you for your time today.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Giles.
I believe — Joe King Fultz and then Beth McDonald be ready.
MR. FULTZ: Chairman Fitzsimons, commissioners, Director Cook, my name is Joe King Fultz and I'm very happy to meet you today.
I have taken on a three-year project as president of Washington on the Brazos State Park Association, what we all know is the oldest and actually the first major Friends group of the Texas parks system.
I actually wanted just to remind you all what we are, where we are, and that the park association basically funds the educational programs and marketing efforts to promote Washington on the Brazos State Historic Site.
I've made a commitment to the stewardship of those facilities that you've entrusted us with. After the Bob Bullock $6,500,000 expansion, we've got a brand new visitors center, but we've got something old too. We have Barrington Living History Farm, which takes people back. You walk through that little cove of trees and you go back in time to a lot simpler life, but people have forgotten about all of that with the internet and cell phones and all the other things that trap us today.
We're very significant, I believe, to Texas because what we're able to do is we're able to tell the story of what residents of this state were willing to do to make it different for the future.
And so I invite you all to come back to the birthplace of Texas and be reborn in the spirit of what makes this state great. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you very much. Beth McDonald and then Karen Cullar of Houston Parks and Recreation be ready. Nice to see you.
MS. MCDONALD: Good to see you. It's been a while.
Chairman Fitzsimons, Mr. Cook, Mr. Dabney, I'm pleased to be here today representing Texans for State Parks.
I had intended to ask for a show of hands of everybody here that belonged to our association or to a Friends group. However, it would hardly be beneficial now because of time constraints and people having to move on to try to get ahead of the traffic.
But I bring you greetings from Texans for State Parks and I wanted you to know we have been more or less inactive for almost a year due to circumstances I won't go into now.
But we have reorganized ourselves. We have a new dedication. We're looking ahead at about 18 months of hard work and we'll challenge you to be available to help us in our pursuits.
We're very committed to trying to get additional funding for our parks during the next legislative session. If our plans work as we intend them to, we will have a statewide groundswell before the next legislature meets and we'll get the word out to our legislators that we are serious about funding for our parks.
We have got to have the personnel to run the parks. We've got to have the money for the equipment for our parks. We cannot work toward making our parks self-sufficient because we'd be taking the parks away from the people who need it most.
When you start raising fees in order to buy equipment — entrance fees, et cetera — you start weeding out some of the families who need it most. We've heard a lot of speakers today on our youth programs.
Ron didn't speak of the swim program they have at Bastrop State Park which is tremendous. But you should be ashamed when your parks Friends groups have to buy the equipment to keep your parks running. And that's what they're having to do.
Many of the other park Friends groups are doing the same thing. So I would urge you to be available. We plan to be contacting you to hope to have some meetings in your area with some important people and our legislators probably will be getting the message that you're either with us or you're not.
So thank you for letting me come today and we'll be working real hard for the next year and a half.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Ms. McDonald. I've enjoyed working with your group and I'm glad to see you bringing the group back together. We look forward to working with you. Thank you.
Karen Cullar and Joe Turner be ready. There's an easy one.
MS. CULLAR: Thank you. You solved a dilemma for me because you called my boss next. I was going to have to yield.
Chairman and commissioners, Director Cook, I'm a grant writer. Some of you all sometimes refer to me as that grant writer from Houston. I'm always looking for information to supplement and make the case. I didn't expect to find it in last month's issue of Reader's Digest.
There's an article in there called "Danger on the Road." It's from an insurance perspective and I'd just liked to highlight a few sentences for you. It's called Roadkill.
"The United States has a Bambi problem. The number of vehicle and deer collisions is conservatively put at 1.5 million a year. One major factor the deer population has grown 600 percent in the past century. Texas, for example, is now home to 3.5 million deer compared to 225,000 in 1940."
Well, as a person committed to this business, to me that's another version for sprawl and forcing wildlife out of their natural habitat and to me what that points to is the lack of land acquisition.
And one of the things I would like to commend and ask you to consider as a core mission is the State Grants Program because that is one of the very few exceptions and the only way that land acquisition for parks is happening in this state currently.
You're doing it with municipal partners and it's very important for all of us. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Ms. Cullar.
Joe Turner and then Brett Williams.
MR. TURNER: Commissioners, my name is Joe Turner. I'm the parks director for the city of Houston.
I'd like to thank you for the partnership that the city of Houston shares with each and every one of you. I particularly would like to mention the employees of the Texas Parks and Wildlife we work with in the Houston area. Our coastal biologist, Andy Sipitz, and Woody Woodrow have been wonderful with us on our Freshwater/Marsh Wetlands Project at Mason Park.
We have many wild-scape projects that have been started. We've recently converted our office area to a wild-scape and that's with Diana Foss. And we have a new project that's under way. It's sort of interesting, also exciting. It's on the Wall Street Bridge at Allen Parkway. We have a bat-monitoring project there now.
Our fisheries program — we couldn't make without Jeff Henson and the stocking of our ponds that we have. Of course grants department with Tim Hogsett and then, of course, Jerry Hopkins, Walt Dabney, and Scott Boruff for all their support and guidance on current and future projects we're working on.
As Karen mentioned, regional grants for that and also any other grant allows us, as the City of Houston and many other cities and counties, to leverage the dollars that we have to acquire and develop park and green space.
Every dollar that we lose in a grant has the potential of a dollar being spent at a local level. The good news is on our part we've managed to get our project balances back under our current ceiling and we're in the hunt for new grant dollars.
The bad news is those funds have been cut at the state level.
What we're here today to tell you we stand ready to help you in what we believe or I believe is a core asset of the Texas Parks and Wildlife department is to assist in the acquisition and development of parks and green space.
Since your funding dollars have been cut and since we are partners, so have ours. Please let us know how we can work together to restore the grant funding which will allow all current and future Texans to enjoy the beauty of this great state. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Chairman, I'd like to acknowledge the fine job that Mr. Turner is doing in Houston. You're doing outstanding work and it's noticed far and wide.
MR. TURNER: Thank you, Commissioner.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Appreciate you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Turner.
Brett Williams and then Pam Rice be ready. Well, we outlasted Brett Williams. All right. Pam Rice, Gulf Coast Yacht Brokers?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Wearing them out. Karol Moulder, Gulf Coast Yacht Brokers?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. Captain Michael Miglini? All right, sir.
MR. MIGLINI: You all must be parched after talking about all that dry land, so how about some offshore stuff?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right.
MR. MIGLINI: Well, I came to you all last year to address you about the Artificial Reef Program and that was on the heels of our state losing the Oriskany to Florida and this year I'm coming to ask you all's support again for the Artificial Reef Program off our Gulf Coast.
In this year and last year, there's been some successes and there's been some problems. Nothing we can't overcome. Your staff is doing a pretty good job and we certainly appreciate all the effort and resources that we've been given.
That being said I believe that there are a few key points that I need to bring to you all's attention so you more fully understand the Artificial Reef Program and its significance to the state of Texas.
We think a lot about parks inshore, on land, and things, but the offshore resource that we have has not yet been touched — we're not even touching on how fully it can be developed.
To appreciate the impact that it can have, I think we need to support the development of an economic impact statement so that we can show state legislature and other organizations how important the artificial reefs are to bringing the money into the state of Texas, into the Texas Parks and Wildlife.
And not only that, but developing the offshore habitat for the fish and places to fish and scuba dive.
We're still being outpaced by other Gulf states in the development of artificial reefs. They're spending more money. In their states, they've been able to show their legislatures and their people what a dollar of investment and an hour of time is worth to the return and they're outpacing us and they're seeing the benefit from that.
We're losing business to other states and we're losing offshore resources and habitat and fishing opportunities because a lot of the fixed in-shore platforms are being taken in and near-shore oil development is decreasing to off-shore.
And we need to replace that structure with something else so that the people that are fishing there can continue to fish, but people are going to start coming to Texas instead of going other places.
I appreciate any help you all can give with that and do you all have any questions or anything?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you very much.
Joshua White and Kathy Kleen be ready.
MR. WHITE: I'm the vice president of the South Texas Free Diving Association and we're based out of Portland, Texas, which is around the Port A area.
Our members would really like to see an increase in the artificial reefs out there, especially more practical reef set up in the 50- to 30-foot zone, which would still be plenty safe for ships and stuff because when you get to the farewell buoy you're only in 30 or 40 foot of water anyways and if a ship can make it in that, he's not going to hit one of these reefs.
Every year we have members go out of state and out of the country to dive at these places because they're very accessible and they're very practical. For instance, Florida sinks wreck after wreck after wreck every year to add to this and Texas in its size has the same amount of divers and fishermen as Florida does. And I don't understand why we're not putting all this into our resources.
But we would really like to see the money spent here in the Port Aransas and in Texas. And that's pretty much it. We'd just like to see a lot more reefs and a lot more money come into the state and practical stuff in our backyard. It's so much easier to drive three hours from Austin or San Antonio or Houston than it is to get on an airplane and — especially with the hassles of flying and stuff these days. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you very much.
Kathy Kleen and then Mike O'Dell. Okay. Go ahead.
MS. KLEEN: Thank you. My name is Kathy Kleen and I'm a past president of Austin Scuba Club. We have over 300 active members who are constantly asking for trips to go scuba diving.
Many of them end up going to Florida, Cozumel, simply because there is no place here in Texas. For the cost of a trip to Florida, you could easily do two to three rig dives off the coast of Texas. Cozumel you could do even more.
Not only would it be a great benefit for our divers, but the economic growth I think would be tremendous for Texas. And so I'd like to encourage you to see more development with the artificial reef program. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you very much.
I guess it's Mike O'Dell, CBGA.
MR. O'DELL: Good afternoon, gentlemen. I'm Captain Mike O'Dell of Aransas Pass. I would like to take a moment of your time and talk to you about your Redfish Bay Study and the seagrass issues down there.
Some of you noted this today in your meeting in there. Number one, some of you don't know the area. Come down and look at it. What you're talking about, plan 1 is to put in a no-prop zone. As your game warden said, good black and white.
What you're talking about is an area 14 nautical miles by seven nautical miles. We did some quick calculations today. If you make a no-prop zone in that area, you're affecting every guide and every fishermen and we just did a quick calculation of the guides that we know work that area.
You're looking at $54 million lost revenue if we take half our trips out of there. Okay? You're not going to drift this area — try to drift that area. You can't. Come down and look.
I know, Mr. Fitzsimons, you said you know the area. Okay? Some of the problems we have is prop scaring. We have seagrass issues down there.
We have more seagrass right now than we've had in years. Several of us, probably 18 to 20 of us, were sitting in a café during the hurricane that went into Mexico and we talked about it. The only solution we came up with is maybe God's preparing us for a hurricane this year. We haven't had one in 34 years in our area. We have areas in there that we have had hard bottoms in.
We've got grass and rotten vegetation two and three-foot deep. You can't even wade fish in there because of the build-up of the seagrass and the rotting seagrass. We've got a constant influx. Every time a prop scars within a few days, what's it full of? It's rotten seagrass that's floating in out of the Gulf and coming down the Intercostal in there.
What we would suggest and what we would like for you to consider is taking the three areas, Turtle Island, Brown & Root Flats, and the Turtle Cove area and making these run zones. North, south run zones. Propping it to where we can run through it and run out of it but you can come through there and have it marked to where the wardens can say, You're in black and white. You either run here or you don't run here.
They can enforce in there. This makes a lot more sense then trying to shut this whole area off. I don't know if you all had the time to notice but we did lose Ingleside Naval Station today, so we don't know what the impact is on our economy to that. We don't need any more lost economy down there. And it's not — I'm going to conservatively say guides only educate less than 10 percent of them.
We can't educate the whole public. If you want to know what the boaters are, take your cooler and your lawn chair. Spend a Saturday or a Sunday at the boat ramp. If they can't get it in and out of the water, think what we got to put up with every day out there, folks.
Let's make life simple. Let's take care of our resources out here and try to all help educate the public. So let's look at narrowing this position down and look at our study in a way that we can all maintain it. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. O'Dell. We'll see you at the public hearings I'm sure. Or Commissioner Robert Brown will see you there.
Tom Hall and then Larry Whigham.
MR. HALL: I want to thank you, Commissioners, for hearing from us today.
My name is Tom Hall. I'm the president of the Coastal Bend Guide Association and I'm representing those people, some 80 members of the association.
I want to thank Dr. McKinney for the work he's doing down there on our seagrass. Our seagrass — we have to have it. Without that, we would not have our resources, our fish.
I think part of the resources is why our redfish population is up 73 percent. That's what I got from Dr. McKinney too on that.
It's a resource that we have to have. We first started out with this plan five years ago having three sections that we were working on. Like we said, Turtle Bayou, Brown & Root Flats, and we call it behind one and two areas there.
We always wanted a run zone in that area when you started drifting. Some days we have tons of wind. We got more wind — Corpus has more wind than any place else, I'm pretty sure, other than Chicago.
We can get into a certain area. You drift up to that run zone. It's a designated run zone in between PVC or whatever we have to put out there. PVC would be more safer because you can hit it with a prop and you wouldn't tear up anything.
Have a north, south, east, west run zone so people can drift to it and get it out of it and leave it. And like Mike O'Dell said, if you're not in that area and you're not running in that area, a game warden can see it and say, You're not in the area. Write them a ticket. I'm more for writing them a ticket.
We're in favor of it. We'll help Parks and Wildlife and Dr. McKinney with everything we can on these because we've got to protect our resources. We have to. If we lose everything in there, the economy — there's not going to be an economy there.
Yes. It needs to be stretched out to other areas. Packery Channel is open now. They will start running boats through there. They will have the same problems that we have.
In our area, in the seven-by-14-square-mile area there, we have 35 boat ramps in that one area. The other areas, Kennedy Causeway, you may have eight boat ramps.
That's one of the problems that we have with more boaters is easy accessible to our area and to boat ramps. Yes. We have not had any hurricanes in 34 years. The seagrass has built up and drifted over some of these areas and it's killed out some of the areas.
That's an act of nature. That's nothing that myself or the Parks and Wildlife can do anything about that. We do have prop scarring but there should be some other ways to help take care of that.
I would like for the Parks and Wildlife to look in on the deal that they're doing in Florida with the socks. There's a sock that they plant that's filled full of sand and they have grass already growing in that sock.
They take that sock, lay it in that prop scar, and what it is is a hard surface where grass can grow in it and take effect of it.
I know five years ago we spent a ton of money, Parks and Wildlife spent a ton of money on some research in there, and as far as I'm concerned, there was nothing got out of it. It did not work.
We are different than Florida. We do not have a bottom like Florida has. It's altogether different and as I said, the Coastal Bend Guide Association will help Dr. McKinney, Parks and Wildlife in any way we can.
We invite the commissioners to come down. We'll take you out fishing. We won't supply you beer or anything but we'll supply you food but you bring your own beer. We'll supply you drinks or water or whatever and we will more than gladly take you to these areas and show you what we're talking about. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you very much. You are the ones closest to the resource and we can't do anything without you. So I appreciate your work.
Larry Whigham and then Wallace Klussmann be ready.
MR. WHIGHAM: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Bob Cook, my name is Larry Whigham. I'm here representing the Texas Organization of Wildlife Management Associations, commonly referred to as TOMA, and I want to take this opportunity — I should say we want to take this opportunity to communicate a couple of issues to you.
First, we want to thank you for perpetuating the antler restriction regulation in the six original counties and also expanding to additional counties. Even if a person chooses to ignore the data used to justify the regulation on the basis that it's incomplete or irrelevant or whatever, it would be incredibly difficult to discount the enormous amount of positive and notable evidence coming from the landowners.
As I talk with Wildlife Management Association members from the six counties, I hear nothing but positive results. Even the methodology for implementing the regulation was very effective.
Public scoping and comment meetings were helpful in communicating the purpose and the benefit of the regulation. Post-implementation surveys indicate an unprecedented acceptance of this regulation, which many thought originally to be too complicated.
The only lingering problem is that a few people still view the regulation as a trophy buck program, rather than its true intent of restoring the age class structure of our herds.
I guess we'll just always have people like that who choose not to understand.
Second, I want to thank you for allowing TOMA to participate in the Whitetail Deer Advisory Committee and the Private Lands Advisory Committee.
For me, the Whitetail Deer Advisory Committee was an extremely valuable and productive experience, bringing a large cross-section of people involved in deer management together resulting in a better understanding of the issues and potential solutions.
I would tell you that Mitch Lockwood and Clayton Wolf did a masterful job of leading this committee, but they're sitting in the audience back here. But I do want to thank them and their leadership.
I don't know the status — well, I guess I do know — the status of the Private Lands Committee, but I would encourage the continuance of both of these committees.
And last and most important, I want to thank retiring Texas Parks and Wildlife district leader Bob Carrol for his fantastic support of Wildlife Management Associations, not only in our district, but all over the state.
Bob may best be remembered for his — as the daddy of the antler restriction regulation, but we saw his contributions on a much larger scale. A better friend we could not have had and we will definitely miss him. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Larry. And for your work out there. You all have led by example.
Wallace Klussmann and Dusty Tittle be ready.
MR. KLUSSMANN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Hello. How are you all? Commissioners, appreciate the opportunity to visit with you. It's been a while since I've been at this microphone and I began to feel guilty that I hadn't come up here and said something. And my friend, Bob Cook, I think once told me you don't have to be mad to testify.
So let me begin with the bottom line, gentlemen. I've had the opportunity to be involved with wildlife issues for the past 35 years and continue to be involved with wildlife issues. And I would make this statement that with regard to management of wildlife on private lands, we currently have the best policy and the best direction from Parks and Wildlife that we have ever had in these same 35 years.
Now let me be more specific on some items. First, let me say a sincere thank you for your support of the Texas Youth Hunting Program. I could add a little to what Memphis and Jacob said about what it means to young people and their families, but probably equally important and maybe more important, hunting is the foundation for habitat in this state. Without hunting, we would not have habitat and hunting is our cash crop for landowners in this state and without that cash crop, they wouldn't devote their efforts to saving and enhancing that habitat.
The only thing I would add there with our Youth Hunting Program is that we ask that you continue to support in our task of youth involvement as hunting is certainly greater than our present effort. So we're going to have to continue to do what we do and do it even better and get more kids involved in hunting because that's the future for our landowners' income and it is the future of habitat for all of our wildlife.
Another of your programs I think that's literally the candle under the basket is your Lone Star Land Steward Program. Recognition of good work by the landowners is critical, I think, in encouraging landowners to do more and more of that. I would personally like to see that program increased and expanded down to the county level, where we do a greater job of recognizing people who are doing a good job of managing resources on their land. This I believe is one of your best programs.
And like my previous speaker, I want to thank you for involvement in the Whitetail Deer Advisory Committee. I think all of your advisory committees that you've put up and implemented are doing a great job. It's provided me an opportunity to work with involved stakeholders and we know that the managed land program that's a part of this is really one of the assets for the landowner presently.
And the key words I think, Mr. Chairman, are the first two, managed land. The more managed land we can have under the direction of Parks and Wildlife's biologists, the better. The better habitat we'll have. The better hunting we'll have. The more wildlife we'll have. They all work hand in hand.
Of course what this means is you have to spend more money on technical guidance and have those kinds of people in the field to help our landowners.
In addition to the deer committee, I've had the opportunity to work with the Quail Council and they too are doing some important things.
One of the major items I see is the changing of reclamation of mining lands from simply planting coastal Bermuda to prevent erosion to more wildlife and quail-friendly plants. This is going to make a big difference and I think this sound approach will make a difference.
Also, the new game bird stamps which came through the legislature this time is going to be important. And I see the red light, Mr. Cook, and I will only say that I will stay involved and if I can help the Commission on any matter, I will certainly take that opportunity to do so. Thanks for all you do. Bob, thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Wallace, thank you for all your hard work and time spent on the advisory committees and youth hunting. It's again led by example. Dusty — is it Tittle?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: We outlasted Dusty? James Muzny?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Pam Robers? Hunters for the Hungry?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: David Brimager. I know David Brimager's here. Oh, I'm sorry. You are Pam Robers. Okay. Yes. Step right up. And then David Brimager be ready.
MS. ROBERS: Good afternoon. My name is Pam Robers and I'm the manager of the Hunger Relief Programs at the Texas Association of Community Action Agencies.
One of the programs we administer is called Hunters for the Hungry. It's a statewide wild game donation program that helps feed hungry Texans.
I'm here today to share our new brochure with you, which we're very proud of, but more importantly to express our gratitude to the Texas Parks and Wildlife for their continued support over the years.
While Texas Hunters for the Hungry coordinates the meat processors, the hunters, and the food assistance providers, Texas remains one of the states with one of the highest food insecurity in the country. And with the help and support of Texas Parks and Wildlife, you have helped us increase the donated meat by helping spread the word about Texas Hunters for the Hungry, as well as by helping us implement some important projects.
So staff have throughout the years helped us by spreading the word, by informing the public, by letting hunters know about the options of donating deer, and this last hunting season we actually started a new pilot, which was a great success in the Hill Country district.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife staff were a cornerstone in this pilot project because they provided the information to the landowners who had the deer management permits and let them know about the potential for donating deer and the potential for the Hunters for the Hungry Program to help them financially defray some of the costs.
And as a consequence of us working together last season, on this small project alone we ended up being able to donate more than two ton of venison that otherwise might not have come into the program.
It was so successful that Texas Hunters for the Hungry has committed not only to doing the project again this season but to expanding it to include a large geographic area.
And really what I'm here today is to thank all the staff that have — the volunteers that have helped us. Mr. Clayton Wolf, program director of the Big Game Program, and the members of his staff, including Mr. Kevin Schwausch. He's helping us coordinate the Venison Permit Project again this year.
Mr. Mitch Lockwood, last season, was instrumental in helping us get the word out there and helping us review drafts and getting the pilot project going last season.
Ms. Jeannie Munoz, Ms. April Chronister and Ms. Kristal Cain have helped us by sharing information with the landowners about the program and the potential for donating.
Mr. Max Trawee the district leader with the Edwards Plateau Wildlife Division and his staff last year and again this year are very helpful in helping us get the word out.
Commander David Sinclair has always helped with the wardens and sharing the word with the public and people they interact with.
Mr. Terry Erwin with hunter education. The instructors and volunteers, again, have been just pivotal in helping us keep hunters aware and letting them know about the possibility of donating.
And Ms. Linda Campbell and Mr. Kelly Edmiston have helped us with the Public Hunting Lands booklet and getting information out there that way as well.
I know my three minutes are up. It would take three hours, really, to list all the people that have been supportive and kept this being a continued success.
Last year we did 175,000 pounds of venison, which was fabulous. So I want to thank the commissioners, the staff, and the volunteers who help us help Texans. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you.
David Brimager and then Kirby Brown be ready.
MR. BRIMAGER: Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission, Mr. Cook, my name is David Brimager. I'm an assistant vice president with the Texas Wildlife Association and on behalf of everyone at TWA we'd like to thank you for all your continued support of the Texas Big Game Awards.
It's a program that you helped create back in 1991 and as you may know, this hunting season marks the 15th anniversary of the Big Game Awards which is a big step. The steady increase in the number of entries in the program shows a continued interest by Texans in a statewide recognition program that honors successful hunters, landowners, and land managers.
With the addition of the youth division in 1998 as well as our Carter's Country $20,000 College Scholarship Program, the program's growth potential we see is unlimited.
TWA believes the Texas Big Game Awards Program is vital to wildlife habitat and the hunting industry in Texas and we look forward to helping you for another 15 years in officially advocating expanding hunting in Texas.
Up to now, we've awarded almost 30,000 certificates to hunters, landowners, first-timers, and youth and we thank you so much for all your time. And we want to thank all the Wildlife Division staff for all their time and all their hard work in helping to promote the program. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, David.
Kirby and then Jeff Beshears.
MR. BROWN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Commissioners, Mr. Cook. Appreciate it.
My name is Kirby Brown, executive vice president of the Texas Wildlife Association and it's good to see all of you here toward the end of the day. I tell you what, it's a long day, and I appreciate what you do. You can't know how much we appreciate it.
As you know, Texas Wildlife Association is a hunting, landowner conservation-based organization. Our members own or control over 35 million acres of private land in Texas and we're not a single species focused organization.
We really look at habitat and habitat management is the key. And I just want to take this opportunity on behalf of all our TWA members to thank you for the job you do. The decision making and the policy making that you do here to drive the Department staff is wonderful and we certainly do appreciate it.
I also want to extend my personal thanks to Mr. Cook, Scott Boruff, Gene McCarty. The really talented division directors that you have here and the incredibly hard working staff at Texas Parks and Wildlife for the job they do. Great bunch of folks.
I hear sometimes folks that denigrate public employees and I will tell you this agency has no problem with its work ethic. These guys do a great job. What a wonderful place.
TWA is proud to be a partner in the Texas Youth Hunting Program with the Parks and Wildlife Department. It's a great program. Weren't Memphis and Jacob, great young people to speak on behalf of that?
I had the privilege to hunt at Royce Faulkner's. Begin that hunt about eight years ago when I was a Department staffer and to meet Memphis — he at ten or eleven he was finally able to begin to walk and begin to talk through a breakthrough rehabilitation and he just loves to hunt. That's his passion. So it's great to see a young man taking that forward.
The Faulkner Hunt is the first weekend in January and I would invite you to come to that hunt. What a great hunt to see kids in wheelchairs, primarily, other physically challenged youths, about 18 to 20 kids. It'll tear your heart out but the kids love that thing and they really grow up during that hunt and I hope you all can make it. Put it on your calendar.
We're very proud to be a partner also with TPWD on the Texas Big Game Awards. That's a great program recognizing landowners and hunters and especially proud of the component that recognizes youth and first-timers and the landowners.
And then I also want to express our thanks to TPWD's involvement in the Texas Brigades. Great bunch of kids. These are our leaders of tomorrow who are going through these intense workshops.
And thanks also for the many actions and decisions that have helped to expand and promote hunting and good management and habitat in Texas, such as Mule Deer Managed Lands Permits.
The regulations and procedures and work with the Whitetail Deer Advisory Committee, the Private Lands Advisory Board, the Game Bird Advisory Board, the Quail Council, other committees that our members are on and you all have done a great job with those.
And also the legislative issues, especially surrounding water. We didn't get it done but we'll be back there and we will and we appreciate your approach and your help. Very dramatic.
And finally just wanted to express that TWA will work with the Department and with the Comptroller's office to ensure our sportsmen's dollars that are collected are provided to the Department because that's absolutely critical that the Department have the sportsmen's dollars and spend those dollars on the activities we all think are important.
Thank you. Thank you for what you do. We appreciate you and anything we can do, we'd be glad to help. Thank you again.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Kirby, and thank you for your work.
Jeff Beshears and then Hans Dersch be ready.
MR. BESHEARS: Thank you, gentlemen. First of all, rest assured there's no threat of a filibuster here. I'm here merely to represent Leon County and tell you that we have done some preliminary petitions.
We are one of the proposed counties for next year's antler restrictions and we are — I would like to say 100 percent in full support of this. We've circulated petitions and the county judge reported to me this morning as far as he knows there has been no opposition to the petition supporting the antler restrictions.
I'd also like to compliment Mr. Mitch Lockwood. Did I get that right? He did an excellent presentation.
I think most of us landowners learned more that night about whitetail deer than we'd like to admit but he did an excellent presentation.
And I serve as chief appraiser for the county and I had the opportunity to visit with other chief appraisers in other surrounding counties and I think there's a certain amount of envy that some of those counties aren't included yet.
I think within the next five years I wouldn't be surprised if the entire region of East Texas is not under this program. I think it's a job well done and these gentlemen that have worked hard for it, I think they certainly commend a pat on the back for it.
This is my first opportunity to be down here. I've listened to a lot of discussion today about a lot of different topics that I was not aware of.
You've got a tough job ahead of you and one of my good friends and fellow landowner in Leon County is with me today and his father who passed away years ago always told me — he served for county commission for 30-some-odd years — he said, When you do your job, let your conscience be your guide and just hope it don't lie.
I would leave that with you today. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you. Good advice.
Hans Dersch and then Dale Bulla be ready.
MR. DERSCH: Hi. My name is Hans Dersch. Swam for the University of Texas. In fact I started there the year after you finished law school there. Went to the Olympics in '92. I represented the US, in case you were wondering based on my name, and let me say as an athlete, I admire all of your endurance.
I'm here today representing TERA, Texas Engine Run Recreation Association. We represent our off-roaders and as you all know, coming up real soon here — September 1, I believe, Senate Bill 1311 is coming into play and Parks and Wildlife is going to get a whole new division, basically.
And what I wanted to do with my time here today is present to you all, since I haven't heard anyone say it yet, the kind of economic impact this represents.
On the back side of this little sheet is listed out — and this is all from the 2001 National Survey of Fishing and Wildlife Associated Recreation done by the US Department of the Interior, a Fish and Wildlife Department of Commerce and U.S. Census Bureau.
These are some of the same numbers that Parks and Wildlife uses. Hunters, you can see our economic impact is set at one and a half billion with slightly over one million participants and a number which is undergoing unfortunately a gradual decline although I'm doing my best to prevent that.
The anglers are at two billion per year at economic impact and they're also in somewhat of a decline with almost two and a half million participants.
Birdwatching is growing in its expenditures but the number of participants, according to these figures, is actually in decline. So they're buying more expensive binoculars perhaps.
ATV off-road recreation is not an area we're familiar with. This is new ground for Texas. Most of these other states have got public lands to work with. However we've got some strategies in place to where Parks and Wildlife is going to be able to turn this new burden and new task for them, I think, into a tremendous opportunity.
Looking at some of these other states, starting with Arizona because these are fairly recent numbers, $3 billion they list as their economic impact and I've got sources for this on the back if you'd like to look at some of these sources for this because there are more than just this one particular one.
Tennessee — 3.4 billion and one of the things I like about their study here is it's UT Ag Department study. So this was not just an industry report or a particular group trying to pump up its numbers.
The second figure there, the 5.7 billion, includes economic multipliers, which the Southwick Associates study done in 2001 — that's what they define as a total economic effect.
So I just want to leave you with that brief snapshot of the potential revenue that there is. We've got 2.7 million ATV and off-road cycle users in Texas. They've been marginalized. I think you probably sat through last year and heard some of the anger from some of these users. Some of them not as articulate as others but some are certainly passionate.
They've got nowhere to go and now we're faced with trying to provide them some places and we've got the means to do it. And we've got some fine ideas to help Parks and Wildlife and Mr. Cook do all we can to make that happen in Texas and bring that economic development to our citizens and to help us grow. And we'd be happy tomorrow to answer any questions for you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hans, thank you very much. We look forward to working with you.
Last person to testify today is Dale Bulla.
MR. BULLA: Thank you very much. I was just going to speak briefly about Bright Leaf, but I think you've heard a lot about Bright Leaf. I think my only addition would be the transition time to allow us to have a smooth transition.
But I'd like to share other observations with you sitting here for three and a half, four hours. There's neat stuff happening in this state.
I don't know if — you must know but to me it was evident or not that you have millions of people that love this state. They put hours and dollars and volunteer time when the state doesn't do what it should do, they come in and try to help.
I think I would challenge you to do one thing and that is better present your case to the public. You have millions of people out there that could nudge a legislator, could kick one, could drag one, but they have to know what you need and I don't think you've done a good enough job of selling that.
And I'd like to see the commissioners take a proactive role in letting the public know what their parks need. And I think you would be amazed at the political will that could be generated when the public is loud.
We're on your side. We're out there. We love our parks. We just maybe don't realize that they're falling in disrepair. And everyone here — that thread has gone through most of the presentations of lack of funds and what more we could do if we had those resources.
I just think it may be up to you all to get out there and let us, the public, know that those dollars are desperately needed and we need to use our political wherewithal to nudge the people involved.
But thank you for what you do. I really had an eye-opening experience today and I've really enjoyed hearing the wonderful things that are happening in the state. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you for your words, Mr. Bulla.
And with that, Mr. Cook? Mike Nugent.
MR. NUGENT: I must be the last one.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: You are.
MR. NUGENT: I'll try not to stand close to the door so I don't get trampled when we get done here.
My name is Mike Nugent. I'm a charter boat owner operator from Aransas Pass and I'm here today as president of the Port Aransas Boatmen Association.
The first thing I'd like to bring up to you today is as a by-product of the speckled trout regulations we went through a couple of years ago, either intentionally or unintentionally — it doesn't really matter how it happened, but from that came a bag limit problem in that every species in state waters in Texas, the captain of a for-hire vessel cannot keep his limit.
And at the time, I think it was intended for speckled trout, but what that results in is in my case if I take two anglers out in the Gulf on my charter boat and the limit is two kingfish per person, and in federal waters of the Gulf, we can keep my limit, so we catch six kingfish for three people.
Well, later in the day, if I venture into state waters to try to catch Spanish mackerel or some shark or whatever, even if my anglers have their Texas state licenses and stamps and I have my guide license, well, I'm in violation of the bag limit in the state of Texas because I kept those two fish in federal waters.
And this is happening pretty commonly and it's a problem that I've talked to Dr. McKinney and it wasn't a biological problem with the other species. It just kind of came to be because of that and what we'd like for you all to do is to consider rescinding that and moving to a species-by-species restriction.
In other words, for example, if flounder comes up and it's in the minds of the stock assessment folks — if flounder is having problems with numbers and you want just the anglers to keep theirs and their guide not to, that'd be fine. Just put it on the restricted list.
But we would like for Parks and Wildlife to consider lifting this all-encompassing ban. With the numbers in on redfish, for example, a guide that catches two redfish in the flats, there's no biological thing saying it would hurt to keep his limit.
We're not quarreling with the speckled trout portion of it, but we would like you to take into account the other species and see what can be done about that.
And the other thing I'd like to mention echoes some of the statements from the artificial reef testimony you've already had. And again to go back to what the gentleman had talked about the bass-fishing habitat — it's hard to believe in our Gulf, if you're not familiar with it, how large it is. But all we have is a gradual sloping sand and mud bottom until you get out to what's called the snapper banks or the rocks, which are limestone and salt dome outcroppings.
The only structure we have on that bottom, except for very small patches of a little bit of broken bottom, is stuff that man has put there inadvertently or on purpose. Every time we loose some of that it really amounts to a tragedy because it's a whole ecosystem even if you don't take into account fishing it.
It protects and it draws in invertebrates and it protects and draws small fish, which draw in the larger fish. So I just want to echo what everyone else has said and with all the other needs I understand but you know if we could put emphasis on our Artificial Reef Program, it would do wonders for the Gulf of Mexico.
And every time one of those oil and gas structures is lifted out of the water, placed on a barge, and brought to shore, that's revenue that Parks and Wildlife is losing through the Rigs to Reef Program. And that's also revenue that's going to turn right around and go out of the Department's budget if they have to take materials they're paying lease money for to maintain on shore, put it on a barge, take it out, and dump it when we already have the facilities and the physical stuff there.
So I would just like for that to get in your minds if possible. Thank you for your time. I appreciate you all putting in a day like this.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Bulla. If I understand on the guide limit, just make it species-specific the same way we do a bag limit?
MR. BULLA: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Okay. Thanks.
MR. BULLA: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Anything else to come before the public hearing, Mr. Cook?
MR. COOK: I do not believe so.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: We stand adjourned. Thank you.
(Whereupon, at 5:20 p.m., the hearing was concluded.
C E R T I F I C A T E
MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Annual Public Hearing
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: August 24, 2005
I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 144, 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