Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Conservation Committee Meeting
Nov. 3, 2004Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 3rd day of November, 2004, there came to be heard matters under the regulatory authority of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, in the Commission Hearing Room of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex, to wit:
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION:
- Philip Montgomery, Dallas, Texas, Chairman
- Joseph B.C. Fitzsimons, San Antonio, Texas (absent)
- J. Robert Brown, El Paso, Texas
- Ned S. Holmes, Houston, Texas
- Alvin L. Henry, Houston, Texas
- Peter M. Holt, San Antonio, Texas (absent)
- John D. Parker, Lufkin, Texas
- Donato D. Ramos, Laredo, Texas
- Mark E. Watson, Jr., San Antonio, Texas
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT:
- Robert L. Cook, Executive Director, and other personnel of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: The first order of business for the Conservation Committee is approval of the Committee minutes, which have been distributed. Do we have a motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: So moved.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Second.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Okay. Motion by Commissioner Holmes, second by Commissioner Brown. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Opposed?
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Okay. The motion carries. Committee item 1, Chairman's Charges, Bob Cook.
MR. COOK: Thank you, sir. I am pleased to report to you and to the folks here today that we have had a very busy fall and many of our conservation education projects are moving right along. As you know, on October 2 and 3, we held our 13th annual Expo. And I don't know if the 13th had anything to do with it or not, but we received an incredibly wonderful — about three inches of rain that morning at about 5:00, just as the vendors and everybody was beginning to line up out here on the highway.
And thanks to Ernie Gammage, thanks to Lydia, thanks to everybody who worked at this thing, we still came off successful. I mean, in the middle of the day that day, we had people out here on the tarmac literally fly fishing in the rain. It was a good thing. You are going to hear a full report on that from Ernie later on this afternoon.
Another huge event that I am so pleased to report, on October 23, we held the grand opening of the World Birding Center at Mission, of our headquarters there at Mission. Over 4,000 people attended the two-day grand opening event, including dignitaries such as Representative Kino Flores, who has been a major supporter and sponsor and advocate of this program, from day one, Representative Chuy Hinojosa, Congressman Lloyd Doggett and a representative from Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson's office. So we gave everybody a little face time that day and had a good session and everybody enjoyed it.
On the 28th of October, Vice-Chairman Henry hosted a very successful open house at Sheldon Lake Environmental Education Center. Over 100 people attended, including Chairman Fitzsimons, Commissioner Holmes and Commissioner Parker. And a lot of great folks from that part of Texas, including Houston Endowment and several other of the major donors who are already involved, and who we hope become even more involved.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, this Commission and the Agency, as you know, have recognized water as the single most important natural resource issue that we face in meeting our legislatively mandated responsibilities to conserve our state's fish and wildlife resources. Exemplifying that commitment, Chairman Fitzsimons is today participating in the first meeting of the Study Commission on Water for Environmental Flows, rather than being able to be here. And I think that speaks something to his commitment to, you know, how important these meetings and the folks that come to these meetings are to him.
But he is there at the Capital as we speak. The recommendations that will hopefully come from the work of this interim legislative committee will significantly affect the future of this state's fish and wildlife resources, and our Chairman, like us here, is fully committed to assuring that fish and wildlife are at the table when these decision are made. Later on, I believe, during this session, Scott Boruff will provide you an update on our Land and Water Resources and Recreation plan that has been mentioned earlier.
In addition, I would like to note the following accomplishments in the implementation of this plan. The American Fisheries Society reviewed and conducted a survey to further investigate the integration of science into our management decision process. A written questionnaire was distributed to selected TPWD Coastal and Inland Fisheries Division staff in early October. The review is on track to achieve the goal of a preliminary report of findings by November 30 of 2004.
The final report including Agency responses to the draft report will be completed by January 31. Bottom line there, our science review is in progress, both in Fisheries and in Wildlife and we are making some progress. Thank you, sir.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Thank you. Committee item 2 is the TPW Land and Water Resources Conservation and Recreation plan update by Scott Boruff. Scott, you are one.
MR. BORUFF: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners who had to be here. My name is Scott Boruff, Deputy Executive Director of Operations. Let me see if I am up here. Just as a bit of background, the Land and Water Resources Conservation and Recreation plan was the result of a sunset directive, Senate Bill 305, back in 2001, which requested that we develop such a conservation plan. The process took about a year, and in November of 2002, the plan was adopted by the Commission.
The plan endorses many long-standing conservation efforts undertaken by the Agency and sets the stage for a renewed focus on water. The Agency decided to enhance operations by developing an aquatic model that would result in closer working relationships between the resource divisions, with an emphasis on improving conservation on the ground.
I might, before I go to the next slide, point out to you that one of the first things we decided to do, after we were charged with kind of reviewing the plan and making sure that it was relevant to operational efforts on the ground, was to ask our resource divisions to come up with an aquatic model which we could utilize as we moved forward in putting the plan into place. And the poster that is represented right over here is the result of that set of activities. And this was really kind of the starting point for us.
As you may know, the Agency has historically utilized ten or eleven terrestrial ecosystems to organize the way we do conservation in this state, and without diminishing the importance of those terrestrial ecosystems, because they are important, we decided to define some aquatic ecosystems that could be overlaid over the terrestrial ecosystems for obvious reasons.
As Mr. Cook referenced in his charges, water has become a renewed focus for us, and many of the aquatic ecosystems across the state transverse several of the terrestrial ecosystems. So what you see there represented in that map — and we will be glad to get you a smaller version, if you are interested in having one of these — is the final product, which essentially defines some of the major water basins of Texas as they run across the state from generally west to east and flow into the bays.
So this served as the basis for our beginning the update of the plan. We also took the opportunity to integrate this process with our Natural Leaders program, which is a very popular program here. We have all seen the benefits from having many of our staff go through this program and become trained in leadership skills and activities.
So one of the things that we decided to do, is integrate on of our Natural Leaders team into the process. So we identified actually two teams, combined two of the Natural Leaders teams to look at the plan, to help us identify strengths and omissions, make recommendations for revisions and to probably, just as important, to recommend how we would in the future go about updating this plan on a periodic basis.
The next step was to hold employee focus groups and constituent meetings across the state. We decided to organize this based on these ten aquatic eco-regions. So what we did is we went out to each of those eco-regions and asked staff from all divisions, it was a cross-divisional effort, to come together, based on their aquatic ecosystem and talk about how and what we should be doing in conservation out there on the ground.
We had, obviously, ten of those meetings, since we have ten ecosystems. We also had a constituent meeting, where we invited in our partners in conservation across the state, many of the NGOs and groups to talk about what we should do to update the plan.
After those series of meetings, we identified really six major areas that we thought needed some tinkering, or some additional comments in the goals and objectives section of the plan, that primarily had to do with, we did not say a whole lot about our own lands in there.
We talked a lot about private lands, which is very important to us, and obviously is a key component to good conservation in this state, but we needed to endorse the reality that we also needed to do good conservation on our own properties.
Secondarily, we wanted to beef up the recommendations relative to recreational activities. We have some projects ongoing now to look at the canoeing trails and bicycling trails and those kind of things. We wanted to be sure those were reflected in the plan as well as hunting and fishing.
We wanted to be sure that we addressed those issues that were consistent with our other conservation partners around the state, and clearly we are a conservation outfit, so we wanted to talk a little bit about habitat, and the importance of habitat and how that drives biodiversity.
As we move forward, we — and you will see in just a moment, we decided that there were two of the goals that needed no changing in the opinion of the teams that talked. And there were five of the goals that did see some changes, and we'll talk about those in a minute, and we will probably be coming forward to you in January, and I'll talk about that in a minute, with one additional goal that we would recommend.
I would like to talk to you for just a minute about our charge, and Mr. Montgomery has been very helpful to us, as staff, in trying to determine exactly where we want to go with this project, and I guess the real goal for us, was to translate the vision, your vision, Mr. Cook's vision into behavior, and ultimately into deliverables that we could measure each year.
We did want this plan to be something that we embraced here in Austin, and the field didn't know anything about, and didn't value, and didn't see as a tool that they could use. So what we decided is that the goals that are written in the plan are essentially the vision that has been articulated for us. That is the vision.
The objectives in the plan then become strategies. What strategies will we use to get to those goals? And then last but not least, how will the Divisions utilize these plans to develop deliverables each year?
This chart here is important for us, because obviously, we have a natural agenda out there, which the Agency has used for quite a long time to devise its strategic approach, particularly relative to budgeting.
This land and the water plan, then, really becomes the operational arm of the executive mandate, and the Chairman's Charges refine those goals for us in each budget cycle. Obviously, the land and the water plan is a pretty ambitious plan.
There is no realistic thought that we could do everything it says in any given year, so the Chairman then hones us in each year, and tells us which parts of the plan we should be focusing on.
The next step of this process, once we have finished this one, which we hope to do in January, would be to then develop Division operating plans which link back to the objectives and goals in this plan. The budget process then would run parallel with those operating plans, and we would be able to come back to you each year and say here is how we did, given what you asked us to do last year, and what you wanted us to deliver, we either were successful or less successful.
I am going to give you a few examples today. I didn't want — obviously, we will have a comprehensive document which comes forward to you for approval in January. But today I wanted to show you some examples of what we are doing. This is the result of a lot of wordsmithing and tinkering, but as you will see, I think some of the concepts are important.
Goal 1, which was to improve access to the outdoors, was one of those goals that we heard from folks around the state, our own and others, did not need to be changed. It is an important goal, and it is pretty succinct and to the point.
Some of the objectives, and these, by the way, are new objectives, these are not, I didn't want to reiterate the old objectives, which are available in the plan right now, and this is not a comprehensive listing of all the objectives we may have.
These are just some sample objectives that we are contemplating at this point. Obviously, under this goal, as you can see, we think identifying opportunities to expand outdoor recreation water access, hunting and fishing are important.
One of the things you will see woven throughout the new goals are the opportunities to promote the activities of the Agency, and so you see the second one there, which is to promote awareness, support and responsible use of the outdoors, and last but not least, to work with the public and private entities to provide public access to rivers and streams consistent with Senate Bill 155.
So you will notice here one of the things we are trying to do as we move forward is to clearly articulate strategies that are relative to the mandates we get, not only from the Commission, but from the Legislature.
Goal 2 was a goal which was focused exclusively on historic sites as you can see from the slide. The overwhelming feedback we got is that that is good, and we do want to focus on historic sites. They are an important component of what we do. However, given the fact that we are trying to articulate a vision with these goals, it was sense that we maybe needed to expand this to include other facilities that the Agency owns and operates.
So the expanded and revised goal, there, you will notice has a few more words. To conserve, manage, operate and promote all our Agency-owned sites, to maximize recreational opportunities, biodiversity and cultural appreciation. It is just a broader goal which really articulates a bigger vision.
Some of the objectives that we are looking at, are to develop and implement plans for regular maintenance, conservation, restoration, and improvement of all Agency facilities, not just historic sites, and to develop interpretive programs at the facilities that promote our mission, which is conservation.
The third goal which was to increase support for conservation and recreation on private land. Once again the thought was, that is good. Obviously, a lot of what we do is private-land based, but we didn't want to ignore the fact that we need to do the same things for other lands that are held by both ourselves and other public for example, entities. So we have just changed that to assist landowners, all landowners, private and public, to manage their land for sustainable resources consistent with their goals.
This was an important piece that we thought needed to be said. I think we all acknowledge it as we go forward, but a lot of what we do, both with our private partners and other public partners is to listen to what they want and try to develop plans that not only sustain our mission, but support theirs as well.
A couple of the objectives here is to promote awareness of and support for resource management through technical guidance to landowners. This was a concept that is peppered throughout the plan, but somehow we had managed to not have it imbedded in the goals and objectives, but this technical guidance piece is clearly a critical piece for all of us.
And then to prioritize incentive-based management strategies as an alternative to regulatory strategies when appropriate — obviously, what we would prefer to do is to provide win-win scenarios, rather than regulate people if we can.
Goal 4, which originally was to increase hunting and fishing participation. Once again, a slight tweak there, we added the words, "and outdoor recreation" at the end of it. Obviously, we did not want to forget the fact that we do things in addition to hunting and fishing: hiking and biking and canoeing and camping.
One of the other things that we noticed in our goals is that although we are all very committed to the youth components of what we do, we didn't have any words in there about youth, and how we are going to promote youth activities in the goals. So one of the first things we did here is create a goal that says increase opportunities for the youth of Texas to hunt, fish and participate in outdoor recreation.
You will see a lot of these comments in the final version in January. We are beefing up the comments about youth and getting youth into the programs we do. We also already do a quite effective marketing job, thanks to Lydia and her shop, but we wanted to have language in here that acknowledges that, and shares that message with the rest of the team out there. Clearly, one of the issues for us also, is to recruit and inform new hunters, fishermen and other outdoor recreation enthusiasts.
Goal 5 originally was to improve fishing on inland and coastal waters. Added a couple of words, "outdoor recreation," in the same spirit as the previous goal. Rather than read all those, I think the important thing here for us was to look at the broader issues and give the operational team some clear direction, at least in strategic direction as to what they should do to move forward with improving that opportunity.
Goal 6 was an interesting one. As Mr. Cook referenced, we are in the middle of our science review. It is moving forward. As we talked to our own staff around the state, we heard that they are confident in their science and the data collection they do, and the fact, as I travel around the country occasionally and talk to other organizations, this Agency does have a tremendous reputation for the quality of its science.
But one of the things that our own team brought up here though was important, is they thought a weakness was, we weren't as strong at disseminating the information to policy makers and other scientists as we might be. We do a good job of collecting it. So they strongly suggested that we add the words, and information dissemination.
And you will notice the goals there are directly related to the new words. To develop and support integrated databases that include data for habitat, water fish, wildlife, et cetera, based on sound science. And to make that information available to whoever it is appropriate to make it available to.
The last original goal, Goal 7, was to maintain or improve sufficient water quality and quantity to support the needs of fish, wildlife and recreation. We thought there needed to be no change. You will note that what we did do is add some of the words that reflect our new found focus on these aquatic ecosystems, so that it says promote watershed and range management practices that improve water quality and quantity.
Clearly, one of the things that is obvious to us as we move forward is that managing a watershed also has an important component on dry land in terms of how you manage the habitat, and so we have tried to add words that allow us to go that direction.
We are most likely going to recommend to you in January only one new additional goal, and this is it — which is to continuously improve our business management systems, business practices, and work culture.
And this was an effort to acknowledge the fact that good business and good conservation are not mutually exclusive, that we should develop good business practices that don't get us into trouble and don't take the focus off what our real business is, which is conservation.
So you can see the two that we selected to show you today, to develop a work culture that fosters Agency-wide understanding of resource management priorities, a productive flow of information between all levels of the Agency, and a team approach to solving problems that we have got to get solved. And then to develop sound financial systems and strategies based on good business practices that promote our ability to perform our mission. Last and not least, at least for today, is what is going to happen next.
And as I have been referencing, we plan on coming back to you in January with the full-blown recommendations, which will be a larger document. You will get those prior to the meeting, and have an opportunity to let us know what you think, and have an opportunity to make changes there, but the goal is to come back in January and show you the whole document and let you know what it is that we are changing for recommendations.
There will be some consolidation of existing objectives. For example, in the state natural area objective, a goal that we talked about earlier, the historic sites, pardon me. All those objectives currently are relative to historic sites. The new objectives will be reworded to encompass all of our facilities. We will establish some timelines.
At this point, we are leaning towards recommending going through this process every four years in off-Legislative years. It was a lot of work. We pooled a lot of our resources together, both here in Austin and around the state, so we thought it would make sense to do it years when we are not engaged with the Legislature.
And of course, the most important part, we will begin in January, to develop these Division operating plans, which will actually translate these goals and strategies into real deliverables on the ground. With that, I would be glad to answer any questions. Yes, sir?
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Will this be an addendum to this?
MR. BORUFF: Yes, sir. This time around, that is what we are going to propose. Rather than printing the whole book, we will pass out the inserts, basically, which will identify the new goals and objectives sections. It is a good question, because as we looked at the document, the body of the document doesn't need a lot of the changes.
There is a little bit of housekeeping that needs to be done. But the goals and objectives section is the part that we thought really was important for operations. So what we will have is an insert that goes in there. Probably our recommendation would be that we only reprint the book every eight years.
MR. COOK: Commissioners, I want to take a point here too, again, your participation in this process is important to us. This document is an important document. It does not sit on our shelves. Mine is continually out. When we talk budgets, when we talk how we allocate time and manpower, that is how we are going to use it, the science end of this thing. Let me just a couple of specifics.
One of the primary issues that Chairman Fitzsimons is facing today is our science being questioned in regard to the flows in the bays and estuaries. And I have got to tell you, we have got the best there is. Acknowledged, the best there is, but it is always going to be questioned, because some folks have other ideas for what they want that water for. So our science is very important.
And I want to take just a minute here, how important this thing is, our Coastal Fisheries guys have again this incredible dam system, about what is going on in the bays and setting bag limits and dealing with those issues. But once that water gets to that bay, they have got to live with whatever they have got. So the connection for each of these major watersheds is what can we do, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, to help at least ensure the quantity and quality of water. Once it gets down there, our Coastal Fisheries guys, they have got what they got.
So what can we do to do a better job of addressing and ensuring that the quantity and quality of water into that bay system right there at the mouth of that river. We could have a tremendous impact through our Technical Guides program, with private landowners, through working with the Inland Fisheries Division on how we manage our lakes.
The constant monitoring of stream flow and those kind of water quality issues that our staff is dealing with, that all ends up right down here. And all along the way, whether it is in springs or in the little creeks and streams that are involved.
So making that connection in the way that we are dealing with those major river systems that we control and manage in Texas, I think really puts us in a position to have a very positive impact on what happens from there to there.
And looking at it from the watershed standpoint, we thought that made sense and we saw the Rio Grande stop flowing a couple or three years ago. How will we manage again these habitats and this river system, these lake systems? We can. Doing our business in this manner will give us that opportunity.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Did you say we can get a copy of that?
MR. BORUFF: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: And can we get a copy of this presentation here?
MR. BORUFF: Yes, sir. You bet.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: You know, now is the time we need to start talking to those Senators Heflin and Ogden and the other people downtown about this.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: They're talking to us, too.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: I mean the group of us; we are going to have opportunities.
MR. BORUFF: One comment I would like to make, as the Chief Operating Officer, you know, I was talking to Commissioner Montgomery this morning. One of the things that really impressed me about this is that this is one of those rare occasions when the process actually is probably as important as the product.
You know, around here, we try to compress the processes and deliver a product quicker, but I tell you, going out there and visiting with several hundred of our staff that are organized around these kind of teams is pretty powerful, because it allowed us all to talk about what we do and come up with mutual strategies that the folks in the field as well as the folks in Austin can embrace. So I do think the process was more powerful than I anticipated.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: I want to thank Bob for initiating the process and Scott for running an excellent process. I have been involved in a lot of planning processes, public, private and non-profit and private, and this one today has really been first rate. And I do want to point out to the Commission the profound nature of what is happening.
We have had — when I came in the door, we had a budget. And we had the Legislative with a natural agenda. We didn't have a strategic plan; we added a strategic plan. But this up until this time, they really haven't been linked, and they haven't translated into operations, management and the budgeting process.
Scott and the team has gone this far, and has now teed it up so that now we can take the next step and link that all, both legislative policy and the policy we are responsible for to operations. I do think it is our expectation, and I think it falls outside this next sieve comes back up, so we look at whether that really is a policy you want to adopt or cut if off, if it doesn't fit.
And I do hope we can attach numbers now, and that we can allocate the staff necessary to do it. I know that has been a struggle up until now. I think that is a critical piece. We have got to have numbers behind these Divisional budgets and around policies, so we can see at the policy level the linkage there, and be completely behind it.
But it is a very profound process, a very important thing. So if you would, please give some careful thought to what Scott is going to send you. We will take action in January. We will take no action today.
There is some fairly significant changes there that I think help mesh this much better with what the Agency's really doing, and really intends to do, than the original plan did completely. And again, I want to thank all the staff and management team who have participated. I participated in one of the sessions. They are quite good, and some really good things came out of them.
MR. BORUFF: And I didn't take the time to thank everybody, because we'd probably be here to mid-afternoon. This was really a team effort, of the team and the division directors. Every division director here took a shot at this thing, as well as the staff. I appreciate the team effort.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: I appreciate the effort. Any other questions? Anything else?
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: If that is it, no action on this. No further briefing this afternoon in the public session?
MR. BORUFF: No sir, this is it.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Okay. So we will see this again in January. Let me get on the right page. We will now recess for Executive Session. Therefore, I would like to announce that pursuant to the requirements of Chapter 551 of the Government Code referred to as the Open Meetings Law, an executive session will be held at this time for the purpose of consideration of Section 551.072 of the Texas Open Meetings Act regarding real estate matters and general counsel advice. And I believe we have a public session at 1:00 after that.
MR. COOK: I remind everyone that this room will be reset, so I would encourage you to take your paperwork and equipment with you.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Was there something else you wanted to say?
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: That's it.
(Whereupon, the meeting was concluded.)
MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: November 3, 2004
I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 26, 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.
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