Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
April 6, 2006Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 6th day of April, 2006, there came to be heard matters under the regulatory authority of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission in the Commission Hearing Room of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex, to wit:
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION:
- Joseph B.C. Fitzsimons, San Antonio, Texas, Chairman
- Mark E. Bivins, Amarillo, Texas
- J. Robert Brown, El Paso, Texas
- Ned S. Holmes, Houston, Texas
- Peter M. Holt, San Antonio, Texas
- 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
|1||Byron Wayne Schoettle||Goods||2000 23-ft Sportcraft Boat, Inboard/outboard w/ trailer TX 7651 JL — SPBW4040B000||$28,000.00|
|2||Caprock Partners Foundation||Goods||Dell Latitude D510 Notebook; #CN-ON8719-48643-5BB-2403||$1,604.00|
|3||Coastal Tech Fiberglass||Goods||5 fiberglass larvae transport tanks, 37"L X 21"W X 12"D||$1,300.00|
|4||Dallas Athletes, Inc.||Goods||3 Bushmaster .223 cal. rifles, 3 Halo sights, ammunition||$4,000.00|
|5||Drymalla Construction||Goods||Robotic Decoy Deer||$1,600.00|
|6||East Texas Woods & Water Foundation||Goods||Exmark zero-turn riding mower: Lazer Z HP 46, deck, 19 HP Engine||$5,000.00|
|7||East Texas Woods & Water Foundation||Goods||Heavy gage steel gates with "Nature Center" logo||$6,000.00|
|8||Friends of Garner||Goods||Dell Laptop Latitude D610 — serial tag # 9LR1D91||$2,268.00|
|9||Friends of Garner||Goods||2005 Kubota Tractor with Frontend Loader, M680 S# 71130||$28,000.00|
|10||Friends of Government Canyon||Goods||Three (3) Vertex 210 Hand Held Radios; serial numbers TBD||$608.00|
|11||Saltwater Fisheries Enhancement Association||Goods||Mercury Marine computer diagnostic system that analyzes Mercury outboard motors (2004 model and newer) for repair and maintenance purposes||$6,682.90|
|12||Hydro-Chem Industrial Services||In Kind||96 man hours of donated labor and equipment necessary to remove gravel from Gulf aquarium and reinstall new gravel in same aquarium at Sea Center Coastal Fisheries facility||$4,000.00|
|13||Alamo Chapter — Safari Club International||Cash||Cash Donation to fund specifically for desert bighorn sheep management||$3,000.00|
|14||NATRC/Spring Romp Comp. Trail Ride||Cash||Cash Donation for use on Parrie Haynes Ranch Trail Drive||$500.00|
|15||National Trust for Historic Preservation, Southwest Office||Cash||Cash Donation to fund State Historic Sites Training||$4,000.00|
|16||Parks & Wildlife Foundation||Cash||These are the balance of funds at the Foundation received to assist Wildlife Expo||$5,927.00|
|17||Parks & Wildlife Foundation of Texas||Cash||Cash donation for purchase of two vehicles for fish hatchery use and 5 laptop computers||$50,000.00|
|18||St. David's Wheelchair Fitness Program||Cash||Wildlife Expo Sponsorship — Antler Associate||$846.00|
|19||Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation||Cash||Cash donation for purchase of supplies & equipment for toad habitat management at Bastrop SP||$1,150.00|
|20||Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation||Cash||Cash donation for maintenance & repairs at Canoncita unit of Palo Duro Canyon SP||$50,000.00|
|21||The Nature Conservancy||Cash||Cash donation for funding of an overabundant deer brochure||$700.00|
|22||Trustees of Hillcrest Foundation||Cash||Cash Donation to purchase an ATV for Region V, Kinney County Wardens||$3,500.00|
|23||Wal-Mart Foundation||Cash||Cash Donation for Nature Center Equipment||$500.00|
|24||Weatherby Foundation International||Cash||Wildlife EXPO Sponsorship — Palo Duro||$4,074.00|
|25||William A. Burns Consulting LLC||Cash||Cash Donation to assist in operation of the Sauer Beckman Living History Farm||$500.00|
TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT
APRIL 6, 2006
|State Parks||John Garbutt||Park Specialist III||Rusk, TX||30 Years|
|Coastal Fisheries||Helmut E. Hegen||Manager V||Rockport, TX||35 Years|
|Law Enforcement||Alice T. Cadena||Staff Srvcs Officer I||Lubbock, TX||30 Years|
|Executive Office||Robert L. Cook||Executive Director||Austin, TX||30 Years|
|State Parks||William L. Fowler||Mgr. V||Lubbock, TX||30 Years|
|State Parks||Wilburt T. Scaggs||Mgr. II||Washington, TX||30 Years|
|State Parks||Glen R. Korth||Prog. Supervisor II||Monahans, TX||25 Years|
TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION
APRIL 6, 2006
|Name/Organization Address||Item Number||Matter of Interest|
|Brett Smith, Washington County Chamber — BISD Request, 1707 Shady LN, Brenham, TX 77833||2||Action — Target Range Grants — Washington County Hunter Safety Training Facility — Testify — For|
|J.W. Jankowski, Washington County Sheriff Office, 1206 Old Independence, Brenham, TX 77833||2||Action — Target Range Grants — Washington County Hunter Education Training Facility — Testify|
|Dr. Allen Commander, Brenham Ind. School Dist., P. O. Box 2357, Brenham, TX 77834||2||Action — Target Range Grants — For|
|David Yeager, Brenham ISD, 711 Mansfield, Brenham, TX 77833||2||Action — Target Range Grants — Testify — For|
|Alice Tripp, Texas State Rifle Association, 956 Stockade Ranch, Paige, TX 78659||2||Action — Target Range Grants — Testify — For|
|Ellis Gilleland, Texas Animals, P. O. Box 9001, Austin, TX 78766||8||Action — Repeal of the Sea Rim State Park — Testify — Against|
|James Vonwohske, Bowfishing, 2107 Lakeshore Drive, Austin, TX 78746||10||Action — 2006-2007 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation and Alligator Proclamation (Bowfishing) — Testify — For|
|L. W. Ranne, FFA, 10418 Cayuga, Dallas, TX 75223||10||Action — 2006-2007 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation and Alligator Proclamation — Testify — Against|
|Milton R. Bergman, Neils Creek Wildlife Mgmt. Association, 24030 Woodhollow Dr. WB 109, Whitney, TX 76692||10||Action — 2006-2007 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation and Alligator Proclamation — Testify — For|
|Jack King, S.C.O.T., 101 Fossil Trail, Leander, TX 78641||10||Action — 2006-2007 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation and Alligator Proclamation — For|
|Joey Park, CCA Texas, P. O. Box 1206, Austin, TX 78767||10||Action — 2006-2007 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation and Alligator Proclamation — Testify — For — Against|
|Tim McKee, TX Bowfishing Association, P. O. Box 1273, Georgetown, TX 78627||10||Action — 2006-2007 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation and Alligator Proclamation — For — Bowfishing|
|Byron Ryder, Leon County, P. O. Box 429, 113 West Main, Centerville, TX 75833||10||Action — 2006-2007 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation and Alligator Proclamation — For|
|Thomas Karels, Leon County/Trinity Valley Forest Landowners, P. O. Box 346, Oakwood, TX 75855||10||Action — 2006-2007 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation and Alligator Proclamation — Testify — For — Antler Restrictions|
|Jeff Beshears, Leon County, P. O. Box 536, Centerville, TX 75831||10||Action — 2006-2007 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation and Alligator Proclamation — Testify — For — Antler Restrictions|
|George A. Muzny, Burleson Co., 10148 CR 137, Caldwell, TX 77836||10||Action — 2006-2007 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation and Alligator Proclamation — For|
|Dwayne Faust, Burleson Co., 2190 CR 143, Caldwell, TX 77856||10||Action — 2006-2007 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation and Alligator Proclamation — Testify — For — Antler Restrictions|
|James Muzny, Burleson County, 10149 CR 137, Caldwell, TX||10||Action — 2006-2007 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation and Alligator Proclamation — Testify — For|
|Kirby Brown, Texas Wildlife Association, 2800 NE Lo-op 410, Ste. 105, San Antonio, TX 78218||10||Action — 2006-2007 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation and Alligator Proclamation — Testify — For|
|Mark Maifa, Bowfishing, 15109 Cavalier Canyon, Lakeway, TX 78746||10|
|Sarah Cerrone, Self, P. O. Box 1620, Anahuac, 77514||10||Action — 2006-2007 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation and Alligator Proclamation — Testify — Alligator Reg. Prop changes|
|Ellis Gilleland, Texas — Animals, P. O. Box 9001, Austin, TX 78766||10||Action — 2006-2007 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation and Alligator Proclamation — Testify — Against Hunt & Fish|
|John H. Ricke, Self, 246 South Shore Road, Bastrop||11||Action — 2006-2007 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation and Alligator Proclamation — Against|
|Kirby Brown, Texas Wildlife Association, 2800 NE Lo-op 410, Ste. 105, San Antonio, TX 78218||11||Action — Deer Permit Rules — Consolidation of Deer Permit Violation Provisions — Changes to Scientific Breeder Regulations Testify — For|
|Chris McSpadden, 2000 Glenwood Circle, Corsicana, TX 75110||11||Action — Deer Permit Rules — Consolidation of Deer Permit Violation Provisions — Changes to Scientific Breeder Regulations Testify|
|Ellis Gilleland, Texas Animals, P. O. Box 9001, Austin, TX 78766||11||Action — Deer Permit Rules — Consolidation of Deer Permit Violation Provisions — Changes to Scientific Breeder Regulations Testify — Against — Scientific Breeder|
|Susan Hightower, Texas Humane Legislation Artwork, 2214 Alta Vista Ave., Austin, TX 78704||11||Action — Deer Permit Rules — Consolidation of Deer Permit Violation Provisions — Changes to Scientific Breeder Regulations Against|
|Scott W. Bugai, DVM, Texas Deer Association, 403 E. Ramsay, Suite 204, San Antonio, TX 78216||11||Action — Deer Permit Rules — Consolidation of Deer Permit Violation Provisions — Changes to Scientific Breeder Regulations Testify — For|
|James Anderton, Deer Breeders, 3497 Co. Rd. 2546, Quinlan, TX||11||Action — Deer Permit Rules — Consolidation of Deer Permit Violation Provisions — Changes to Scientific Breeder Regulations Testify — Against|
|Daniel Dietrich, Dietrich Farms, 14401 CR 323, Blanket, TX 76432||11||Action — Deer Permit Rules — Consolidation of Deer Permit Violation Provisions — Changes to Scientific Breeder Regulations Testify — Against|
|Ellis Gilleland, Texas Animals, P. O. Box 9001, Austin, TX 78766||13||Action — Oil and Gas Lease Nomination — Harris County (Sheldon Lake State Park — 54.57 Acre Tract) — Testify — Against|
|Kirby Brown, Texas Wildlife Association, 2800 NE Lo-op 410, Ste. 15, San Antonio, TX 78218||19||Action — Request to Exceed Capital Budget Transfer Limitations — Testify — For|
P R O C E E D I N G S
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Good morning. The meeting's called to order.
And before proceeding with any business, Mr. Cook, you have a statement to make. Sorry, Bob. I didn't mean to catch you away from —
MR. COOK: I'm fine. Thank you very much.
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, Government Code, referred to as the Open Meetings Act. I would like for this fact to be noted in the official record of this meeting.
I want to go over a few ground rules right quickly so that everyone in the audience will know how this meeting is to be conducted and so that you will have the opportunity to address the Commission in an orderly fashion.
Any individual wishing to speak before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission must first fill out and sign a speaker registration form for each item on the agenda to which you wish to speak.
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 up here in front one at a time.
When your name is called, please come to the podium, state your name and who you represent, if anyone other than yourself.
We'll also — the chairman will probably also call up — like the on deck person, who's coming up next, so that you can be ready to come up.
When you get to the microphone, state your position on the agenda item under consideration and add supporting facts that will help the Commission understand your concerns. Please limit your remarks to the specific agenda item under consideration at that time.
Each person who wants to address the Commission will have three minutes to speak. I will keep track of that time with this handy-dandy little stoplight thingamajig here, and we'll notify you when your time is up. At that time, please resume your seat so that others may speak.
Your time may be extended if a commissioner has a question for you. If the commissioners ask a question or discuss something among them, that time will not be counted against you.
Statements that are merely argumentative or critical of others will not be tolerated. There is a microphone at the podium, so it is not necessary to raise your voice. Shouting will not be tolerated. I 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.
If you would like to submit written materials to the Commission as you make your comments, please give them to Carole or Michelle here seated to my right, and they will get them to the commissioners.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Bob.
Next is the approval of minutes from the previous meeting, which have already been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: So move.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Moved by Ramos. Second by —
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: — Friedkin. All in favor, aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion carries.
All right. Did we get — did you get the names there? Ramos and Friedkin.
Next is acceptance of donations, which have also been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Move.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Moved by Holmes. Second by —
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Ramos.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: — Ramos. All right. All in favor, aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion carries.
Next are the service awards and special recognition.
MR. COOK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
We always take a few minutes at the start of each of our commission meetings to recognize our wonderful employee who have worked hard and many years, and I appreciate your attention to this. These folks deserve every bit of recognition we give them.
First of all, we've got a retirement certificate for John Garbutt. John was a park specialist III at Rusk, Texas, with 30 years of service. He began his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as the first park ranger stationed at the newly acquired Caprock Canyon State Park in August 1975.
In addition to performing normal duties, he was also able to participate in special park projects, which included filling in as park manager during the absence of park superintendent.
In March of 1978, he was promoted and transferred to Lake Whitney State Park as assistant superintendent. John developed and conducted campfire programs and gathered interpretative information to enhance the park's natural and cultural resource program.
In September of 1980, John was promoted and transferred to Jim Hogg State Historical Park as superintendent. He took special interest in this prominent figure, creating a special Hogg family genealogical project, and developed special events for the park.
In 2002, John transferred to the Texas State Railroad Park, where he worked as its program administrator working in operations, accounting, and managing the park's public relations and the interpretative and educational programs until his retirement.
Retiring after 30 years of service to the state of Texas, John Garbutt.
MR. GARBUTT: Thank you very much.
MR. COOK: Now in our service awards, from the coastal fisheries division we've got Ed Hegen, Manager V, Rockport, Texas, with 35 years of service. Somebody was marveling at that a while ago, and I said, Well, Ed will probably be here another 35 years.
Ed began his career with the costal fisheries division in 1969 as a summer technician at the Rockport Marine Lab. As a summer technician between 1969 and 1972, Ed worked on various projects, including the Cedar Bayou Natural Fish Pass and San Antonio Bay freshwater inflow studies.
In April 1973, Ed was hired as a full-time fish and wildlife technician, where he participated in a wide variety of coastal fisheries routine sampling and special projects in the Corpus Christi, Aransas Bay and San Antonio Bay systems.
In 1975, Ed was promoted to biologist and spent the next four years assisting with the development of the finfish monitoring programs, now known as the resource monitoring program, as well as coordinating and supervising finfish monitoring field sampling in the Corpus Christi and Aransas Bay systems.
In 1979, Ed was promoted to finfish program leader and became responsible for program development, supervision and coordination of the finfish program in all eight Texas bay systems, and also became very involved with developing management strategies to ensure healthy recreational and commercial fisheries.
Ed was promoted to regional director, region II of the coastal fisheries division, in 1983. As regional director for the past 26 years, he has overseen all aspects of coastal fishery programs, operations and continues to make major contributions toward the development of fisheries management strategies to ensure that the goals and objectives of the coastal fishery division and the department are met.
Through his example as well as his participation as a mentor in the natural leaders program, he is helping develop future Texas Parks and Wildlife Department leaders.
With 35 years of service, Ed Hegen.
MR. COOK: Holding up pretty good, Hegen, for anybody who's been a regional director for 26 years.
MR. HEGEN: Thank you very much.
MR. COOK: Congratulations.
MR. HEGEN: Thank you.
MR. COOK: With 30 years of service, Alice Cadena, staff services officer from Lubbock, Texas, in our law enforcement division, began her career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as a clerk in the Lubbock regional law enforcement office on February 2, 1976, when the department started titling boats and outboard motors.
Alice worked boat registration and sold hunting and fishing licenses to the public for 18 years. She enjoyed her work, and the customers became her friends.
When she began her career with Texas Parks and Wildlife, there were no computers in field offices, so Alice recorded arrest citations, depositions and warrants on green accounting ledger sheets.
In March — on March 1, 1994, Alice advanced to her current position as staff service officer to the region VI director for — of law enforcement. Alice Cadena has worked in the region VI law enforcement office for 30 years and two months, and it says six days and 23 hours — no.
And she says that she has enjoyed every minute of it, that it has been a very rewarding and wonderful career.
With 30 years of service, Alice Cadena.
MS. CADENA: Thank you.
MR. COOK: I'm telling you, anybody that can put up with those guys for 30 years —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I get to take over from you, Bob.
MR. COOK: No; I think I got one more.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: They told me — okay.
MR. COOK: Laird Fowler. Should I? Okay.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I believe Carole. You should.
MR. COOK: This is not very good. I want to —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Sorry, Bob.
MR. COOK: I'll be back.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: That's one of the good things about Bob. They — I've known Bob for a long time, and that's why they wrote a script for me, so that I wouldn't tell what I know. And so I thought —
MR. COOK: And I edited the script too.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes. And just remember, Bob, I'm going to stay to the script, so when it's your turn with me, remember that. Stay to the script.
We all know Bob. You may not know that Bob began his career with Parks and Wildlife Department in 1965. He was seven or eight years old, I believe. As a wildlife biologist, he was stationed in Junction, Texas.
In 1972, he became the area manager at the Kerr Wildlife Management Area in Hunt, where he initiated nutrition and genetics research studies on white-tail deer. As many of you know, the work done at Kerr is known nationwide and has been the foundation of so much of what we do in management.
He acquired the initial breeding herd of deer for the study and constructed the white-tail deer research facility.
In 1975, Bob was promoted to program leader for the statewide white-tail deer program, where he initiated Texas standardized data collection and analysis procedures on white-tail deer in Texas.
Bob left TPWD in 1979 to work for the Shelton Land and Cattle Company. While there, he served as wildlife biologist for six large ranches in Texas and Montana and as vice-president of ranch operations.
In 1990, we were lucky to have Bob return to TPWD, where he served as director of the wildlife division. He was promoted to senior division director for TPWD land policy in 1997 and served as acting division director of the state parks division for almost two years.
Bob served as the chief operating officer of Texas Parks and Wildlife from 1997 through December 2001. He was named executive director on January 1, 2002.
With 30 years of service, my friend, Bob Cook.
MR. COOK: Just lucky.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Get back to work, Bob.
MR. COOK: Well, I — and I — we probably should let everybody have some sort of rebuttal after such a thing. But I just thank you — the commission for this opportunity, the people of Texas.
But most of all, I got to tell you, the people in this agency, the employees in this agency, are the best. And I sincerely consider it an honor and a pleasure to work with them and truly tell you they make my job very easy. Thank you.
All right. From the state parks division, Laird Fowler, manager V from Lubbock, Texas, with 30 years of service. Laird Fowler began his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as a Texas A&M intern working at Lake Brownwood State Park.
On January 1, 1977, Laird became a classified park ranger at Sea Rim State Park, building displays, guiding canoe and air boat tours, assisting with public duck hunts, and obtaining a water/wastewater license.
On January 1, 1979, Laird transferred to Palo Duro Canyon State Park as assistant manager. After a brief stint as acting manager at Fort Richardson State Historic Site, he became manager at Monahans Sandhills State Park and obtained his commission as a park police officer there.
In October 1982, he was promoted as a manager at Brazos Bend State Park, where he directed the final preopening preparations. During his tenure as a manager, he organized the volunteer program, the astronomy partnership, as well as alligator, prairie and other natural resources programming.
In 1986, Laird was promoted and transferred to Austin headquarters, where at various times he was program lead for numerous state park division programs, park operations, special services, human resources, and facility management.
He has served on numerous agency committees, including the safety management committee, cultural resource assessment, Americans with disabilities, and Texas Wildlife Expo. He contributed as a master-plan writer to include Big Bend Ranch State Natural Area and the Balcones Canyonland Conservation Plan.
In 1993, Laird served with me as co-chair of the agency's public lands initiative. He served as a regional parks director for the Hill Country.
Currently, Laird Fowler serves as a regional parks director for the Texas panhandle in South Plains, where he supervises operations at such parks as Palo Duro Canyon, Lake Brownwood, and Fort Griffith.
With 30 years of service, Laird Fowler.
MR. COOK: Next, we —
MR. COOK: Thank you, Laird.
Next, with 30 years of service, Tom Scaggs, Wilburt T. Scaggs, Manager II, Washington, Texas. As a seasonal historic site interpreter for the National Parks Service and at San Jacinto Battleground, Tom Scaggs began his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in May of 1976.
As the lead interpretative ranger at Washington on the Brazos, he helped transition the home of Anson Jones, the last president of the Republic of Texas, into an operational house museum.
In 1981, he was promoted to park manager at Washington and became complex manager of the Republic of Texas complex in 1996. During his tenure at Washington, the Anson Jones home has been developed as one of the state's prominent living-history sites.
The birthplace of Texas has been redeveloped into an historic site all Texans can be proud of.
With 30 years of service, Tom Scaggs.
MR. COOK: Thanks, Tom.
MR. COOK: Finally, from the state parks division, with 25 years of service, Glen R. Korth, program supervisor, Monahans, Texas. Glen Korth began his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department on March 1, 1981, at Lake Somerville State Park, the Birch Creek unit, as an hourly worker, and achieved the assistant manager's position five years later.
In the spring of 1992, he transferred to the Lake Somerville State Nails Creek Unit as the manager of that state park, the Somer and the Somerville trail-way system and management area.
On December 1, 1997, he transferred to the Monahans Sandhills State Park, where he has had the pleasure of having one of the premier friends group in the state.
During his tenure, he has been a safety officer, park police officer, and worked on the development of more customer-friendly annual pass for the state parks. He is currently working with local environmental-education centers to start a more comprehensive educational opportunity for local students at his park.
With 25 years of service, Glen Korth.
MR. KORTH: Thank you very much.
MR. COOK: All right. My next presentation is for the Texas wildlife law enforcement officer of the year awarded by the Texas state chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation.
In 2002, the National Wild Turkey Federation developed an awards program to recognize top state, federal and provincial officers who have demonstrated a high level of professionalism and dedication to wildlife resources.
This marks the fourth year that the Texas state chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation has honored a deserving Texas game warden.
The Texas wildlife officer of the year, nominated by the Texas state chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, for 2005 is Bryan Heath Bragg. Warden Heath Bragg is a six-year veteran of the Texas Parks and Wildlife law enforcement division.
Heath graduated from the Texas Game Warden Training Academy in February 2000. His first duty station was in Tyler County, East Texas. His performance is consistently stellar, and duties are performed professionally.
Heath has conducted law-enforcement efforts pertaining to eastern wild turkeys, including a number of notable investigations. In November 2002, Heath conducted an investigation where he apprehended a Tyler County man for taking a mature eastern gobbler with an eleven and a quarter inch beard in — during the closed season.
Turkeys such as this one taken illegally were reintroduced to East Texas at a cost of $500 per bird. Heath's case resulted in a guilty plea with fines and civil restitution totaling $1,250.
In addition, Warden Bragg assisted Stephen F. Austin State University Professor Monte Whiting in a three-year co-operative agreement tracking eastern turkeys. Heath radio-tracked eastern turkeys with transmitters and recorded data, determined mortality and health, and geographically plotted movement.
In 2005, Heath transferred to Angelina County, where he periodically uses the turkey decoy, curtailing poaching and hunting from the roadway. These activities have no doubt increased survival of east — of turkeys in East Texas, prevented violations, and apprehended violators.
Heath generally cares about hunters and anglers and always embraces the opportunity to support the eastern turkey program and resource. His dedication is superior; his motivation is contagious; and his sense of justice is accurate.
It is consistent job performance and positive results like these that give me great pleasure in recognizing Game Warden Heath Bragg as the National Wild Turkey Federation's 2005 Texas wildlife law enforcement officer of the year.
I'd like for J.B. Winn, the Texas state chapter director, and Dale Moses, Game Warden Dale Moses, Texas state chapter director, to come forward and help with this presentation.
J.B. and Dale and Heath Bragg.
(Picture taking occurs.)
MR. WINN: Just a few words from the National Wild Turkey Federation. On behalf of the national organization and the state organization, we honor Heath today for the job that he does to protect our wildlife of our state, plus ensure that future generations will have the opportunity to go out there and listen to the gobble of a wild turkey. And for that, we appreciate it.
MR. BRAGG: Thank you.
MR. WINN: Thank you.
MR. COOK: Thanks, J.B. and Dale.
If you have followed the eastern turkey restoration program in Texas, you know what an important role the Wild Turkey Federation has had in that restoration program. They've been wonderful partners, and we appreciate them very much. And we appreciate young men like Heath doing the job that they do. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Bob. And I want to join you, Bob, in thanking the folks at the National Wild Turkey Federation. Great work you do.
If it weren't for groups like that and Texas Bighorn Society and others, groups of folks that really get it done on the ground, then what we say up here really wouldn't matter much. Somebody out there has to do the conservation, and we sure appreciate your work.
Next up is approval of a revised agenda, which we have here before us. Action item number 15, land transfer at Hidalgo County will be heard before item number 10. Item number 18, action request for driveway and utility access along Smith School Road, Travis County, has been withdrawn. Is there a motion for approval as amended?
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Move approval.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Moved by Montgomery. Second by Parker. All in favor, aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion carries.
Item 2, action item, target range grants.
Mr. Steve Hall, you're up.
MR. HALL: Mr. Chairman, members of the commission. My name is Steve Hall, education director. I oversee the hunter education and the target range grant program.
Today we have two new range projects. As you remember, target range grant applicants provide 25 percent of the total project cost, and the remaining 75 percent are federal funds from our hunter safety apportionment of the wildlife restoration account.
Grant applicants submit an extensive application that includes the resolution of support from the local authorities and various assurances, such as a compliance to environmental laws. Once the commission approves the new project, our staff conducts a review and gains the necessary natural and cultural resource clearances prior to executing a contract with the range applicant.
The first project we have is an amendment to an existing range project. It's the Elm Fork Sporting Clays facility in Dallas, and they're requesting additional funds to upgrade and improve their road facilities on the property.
They used prior grants to upgrade their range and classroom facilities, as well as their parking area. Elm Fork serves as a — serves us a very high volume of hunter-education students, as well as being one of the top public ranges in the state.
The second project that we have today is an exciting one out of Washington County. This will be our first project in Washington County. The Brenham Independent School District wishes to relocate and expand its existing indoor range facility and open it to the public.
They plan the funding — or they plan to use this round of funding to begin the first phase of the project. And I believe we have several folks here today to talk about their project.
Staff recommends that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorizes the executive director to execute these contracts funding the projects at exhibit A and B pending availability of federal funds and federal approval to proceed. I'll be happy to address any questions that you may have.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: We have a few people signed up to speak on this. Any questions for Steve before we call the public comment?
Steve, stand by.
First up on agenda item 2, Brett Smith.
And J.W. Jankowski, be ready.
MR. SMITH: Good morning. I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you today. And I just want to — on behalf of the board of directors of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce, I'm hear to speak today about the economic impact we think this facility will have in Brenham and Washington County.
Right now you're being given a copy of this book, which details letters of support from the entire community.
On behalf of the economic impact that this project will have in Washington County, I just want to say that everyone I've spoken to is very excited about the possibility of this being in Brenham and feel like it's going to be a great economic impact for our city in terms of hotel and motel occupancy, in terms of hunter education for our young people, as — in terms of just visitors to our community.
My understanding is that there'll be tournaments. There will be groups coming from out of town. And economically, we just feel like it's a very positive project for our community.
As a parent, I'd like to say that hunter education, I think, is something that we want to make as accessible to our young people as possible. I think this will go a long way in providing that in our community. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you. It's a very impressive project.
Next up, Mr. — is it Jankowski?
MR. JANKOWSKI: Jankowski.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes, sir.
And then Allen Commander, be ready.
MR. JANKOWSKI: I'm J.W. Jankowski. I'm the sheriff of Washington County. And I appreciate the commissioners listening to us.
This project that the Brenham school district is trying to do is a great project, I think, for our community. We have hosted many hunter-safety courses at the sheriff's office, and it has outgrown our facilities, and we're not able to do that any more, unfortunately.
But we have instructors in our community that are looking forward — for this new project, this new building where we can still do the hunter-safety course. Because we have to go outside of our community now.
But we have many young people that are coming up in this area now for — wanting to get their hunting license and stuff — and also, the ROTC program that we have there too to help these young men and young women out in our area.
And I ask the commissioners and the committee that looks at these grants for this firing range that will — it would be considered greatly — for Washington County.
Also, it would help our office out, the sheriff's office, parks and wildlife there, and also the game warden — also is very in favor of this project. Also, DPS is very in — for this project. Because we'll have a place to go also to qualify —
As you know — that we have to do this at least twice a year to qualify with our service revolver for the state of Texas to hold our peace officer's license. And I thank you all very much for this opportunity to talk to you all.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Sheriff. Is that — is this facility also available for the 4-H shooting program?
MR. JANKOWSKI: Yes, sir. It's going to be available for everybody in our community —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Okay.
MR. JANKOWSKI: — for the 4-H and —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: My kids were in that 4-H shooting program, so —
MR. JANKOWSKI: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: That was —
MR. JANKOWSKI: Yes, sir. It is available.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: In some communities, they don't have a place to shoot.
MR. JANKOWSKI: Right now they do have a facility at the fairgrounds, but it has been taken away from them. So this would also help.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: So this would be available for —
MR. JANKOWSKI: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: — them also. Great.
MR. JANKOWSKI: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Sheriff.
Next up, Dr. Allen Commander, is it?
And then Alice Tripp.
Yes. Dr. Commander and then Alice Tripp after the doctor.
MR. COMMANDER: Mr. Chairman, thank you for this opportunity.
I want to pause just a moment. Among all the accolades that you folks gave to these fine staff people — Tom Scaggs, our manager of our parks and wildlife — I've worked with him 25 of his 30 years there, and I got to tell you, he is an outstanding young man.
Let me pause just a moment, and on behalf of all of us, just say thank you, Mr. Fitzsimons, to you and each one of you commissioners. I was privileged some weeks ago to attend a meeting concerned about the funding and lack of funding for our parks system.
A whole day John Parker came and spent at Bastrop working with us, trying to solve that complex problem. And I — he epitomizes, I think, the dedication that you folks have given, your time. You're busy businessmen. You run large corporate organizations.
For you to give your time like you're doing here today — I just want to say thanks to all of you.
Folks, this hunter-education facility is very important to us. I think you would be impressed as you flip through the letters of endorsement here — the diversity and the depth of commitment that our community has made, law-enforcement people, businesspeople, the education community, et cetera.
It's very important to us. We've gotten — we've worked hard. Vernon Webb printed this for you folks. I think it epitomizes, again, the depth of commitment of our community to this project.
I'm an old Marine. I did three tours in Vietnam and a bunch of time in World War II. You see the color guard on the cover here. Captain Tofel, who's here, the Marine captain who heads this group, this Marine ROTC unit, is one of the finest Texas and this nation has. He runs a super program.
The facility, if you folks will bless it for us, will house permanently — he's in temporary buildings now. But it will house permanently a facility for helping these young people.
And none of us, as fathers and grandfathers and parents, can speak more eloquently to the business of the importance of discipline with our young people. And that's a ripple effect of what you will be doing if you provide this facility for us.
We have one of the finest school superintendents in Texas. I'll match this guy against any of them. Dave Yeager is here. And is he next on the speaking list, Mr. Fitzsimons?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I have Alice Tripp. And we may not have a complete list here. Only the last one — but free to speak — just turn in a little handy —
MR. COMMANDER: We don't have —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: — note card there. But absolutely. Whoever would like to — we welcome him.
MR. COMMANDER: He's our superintendent of school — made the trip here.
Dave, why don't you come up for one moment and —
Where's David? There he is.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Doctor. Thank you. This is a very impressive project.
MR. YEAGER: I did fill out a card, but I —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: You did?
MR. YEAGER: Yes.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I — it was lost along the way. No trouble.
MR. YEAGER: I just —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Go right ahead, sir.
MR. YEAGER: I just — and probably — Allen called me up — isn't the way this is supposed to work. I realize that.
But I do hope that the group will look at this. Brenham Independent School District is the oldest publicly funded school system in the state of Texas. We started public education in 1875. We still have a building that was built in 1907 that we operate from, a 1927 building that we operate from.
So I hope that one of the things you'll look at is the investment that you'll make and that — our commitment to keep this building long-term and to use it long-term.
We have a great group of students. I'm sure you hear that from every school superintendent that comes before you, but I promise you — I've worked in all parts of Texas, and there are great kids in Brenham. They care about their education. They work hard for their education.
What we're trying to do is present them with an opportunity to excel, not to be average. We want them to be above average. And we want to do that with our facilities. We want to do it — do that with our programs as well.
And so this, in — for myself in particular, this, I think, will give us the opportunity to be outstanding and to excel with our students in all areas.
The opening letter that you'll see in this book does talk about the different student organizations that will utilize the program and the facility. So just please take note of that. We have a wonderful community that has given us tremendous support.
I think one of the things that we're coming to you for today — you know that the taxpayers of Texas are a little bit tired. And I think that one of the things we're trying to do is find money so that we don't have to go to the taxpayers and say, You have to pay for this.
By asking for a 25 percent match, we can say, It's your choice as an individual to provide the 25 percent match. And that to me gives the individuals a choice. Taxes do not. So this is one of the things that we're trying to do with the facility as well and with this grant in particular.
I just want to ask you again to give it a look and see if this wouldn't be a good investment of the money that's provided long-term. And I appreciate the time. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Yeager.
Next up, Alice Tripp.
I believe that's our last person to speak on item 2.
MS. TRIPP: My name is Alice Tripp. I'm the legislative director for Texas State Rifle Association. We're the NRA state affiliate. And several of my officers and my past president have letters in this document.
We have 35,000 members. And our primary objective is to support youth. And Steve Hall does a fantastic job. I've never seen such a well put together document. If you all want to ever be able to quit doing what you're doing and retire, we need to support these youth. They need a facility.
And as I said, I'm only here in a support — but what a great project. So thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Ms. Tripp, and thanks for all you do.
Anyone else that I might have missed there? Any questions for Steve?
I've got to tell you, this is a very impressive project. And all I could add to this wonderful example of what these target-range funds are supposed to be used for is that if you could possibly make this a template for 250-some-odd other counties, that would be great, because I would like to see this in every community. But you're doing a great job there.
Steve, you have anything to add? Anyone —
MR. HALL: No, other than the way we try to fund some of these ranges is we go in phases. And so this is just the first phase, and we fully expect to come back in front of this commission with a second-phase amendment to the project once we get it up and running.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Well, based on what they've done so far, I'm sure they will.
Any other questions? We take the staff recommendation there. A motion on this item?
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: So moved.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Everybody wants to make the motion on this one. I think that's unanimous. All right. Can you do that? Is that — that's unanimous. All in favor, aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And of course, none opposed.
Great. Good work. And thank you, Washington County. Great job.
All right. Next up is item 3, a briefing on fishing for common carp.
MR. DUROCHER: Mr. Chairman, commissioners, my name is Phil Durocher. I'm the director of inland fisheries. I'd like to spend a few minutes with you this morning talking about a new phenomenon here in Texas, and that's fishing for common carp.
I'm going to spend some time talking about kind of the history of carp fishing, not only in Texas but in the rest of the world — and talk about perhaps what the potential might be here in Texas and some of the efforts that our staff is putting forth to kind of take advantage of this.
Now, to start with, I have a quote here from Bob Williamson. He's with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. And he says the common carp is the most popular freshwater sport fish in the world. He also says in his publication that the carp is cultured and eaten in more areas of the world than any other freshwater fish.
Now, what is the common carp? The common carp is in the family Cyprinidae, which is in the minnow family.
It comes in various varieties of carp. What you see here in this picture — there's three varieties of carp. There's the common carp — starting from left to right, the common carp, the mirror carp, and the leather carp. And those are all varieties of the same species. They're all the same fish.
They spawn in Texas anywhere from March through September, depending on the area of the state and the water temperature, of course. And the thing that's neat about these fish is they're fast growing. They can live for more than 40 years. And they grow to large sizes. The world record is — currently stands at 82.3 pounds, and it was caught in Romania.
Carp are indigenous to Asia. They were introduced in Europe in the 13th century. They were introduced in the United States in 1877, and this wasn't an accidental introduction like most of the non-natives in this country. This was actually done through a government program.
They were trying to find a cheap, readily available food supply after the Civil War for the growing population in the country. And a lot of the growing population was immigrants from Eastern Europe, and they were familiar with the carp. So we actually had a program to plant carp all over the United States.
They were introduced in Texas in 1881. The first freshwater fish hatchery in the state of Texas was built on Barton Springs here in Austin, and it was to grow carp to stock in the rest of the state.
Why are carp so maligned in the country? They have a pretty bad reputation. Of course, as the nation became more industrialized, many waterways became polluted. The carp were able to tolerate pollution better than most species.
And in the minds of many people, the carp became associated with pollution. Hence, the term "sewer trout." And so they became less desirable as a food fish, of course.
Now, when the carp overpopulate, their habit of churning up the bottom in search of food increases turbidity, reducing light penetration, which restricts plant growth and makes condition less favorable for the more popular bass and sunfish. And there was also a concern about the carp being a non-native.
Can the carp become important? An American Fishery Society publication stated that carp is one of North America's most widely distributed and underutilized fishery resources.
In contrast to its position here, carp in Europe have the same status as largemouth bass in the United States. They're a high-profile, very lucrative business. There's a lot of large tournaments and variety of magazines and publications for carp fishing.
Surprisingly, in the U.K., carp fishing only became a major sport during the last 50 years with the development of specialized equipment and especially in the capturing of large 40- and 50-pound fish.
Can the same thing happen here? Many of the pieces are now in place in the U.S.A. We have avid anglers, avid carp anglers. We have organized carp groups. And we have some tournaments that are being put on around the country.
But whether this translates into a significant wave in recreational fishing remains to be seen. We want to be prepared in Texas if it does take off.
Now, carp can be found in almost every water body in Texas. They grow big, are easy to catch, fight hard. And you don't need a boat to fish for them, which is very important, an appeal factor for our beginners — beginning fishermen and lapsed anglers.
Almost all carp anglers fish from the bank. There's no boat needed, which makes it very attractive. The anglers generally will go out and chum a spot prior to fishing. They'll chum with things from corn, range cubes, dough balls and other things to attract the fish.
Traditional U.S.-style bait-and-hook presentation works well, particularly for the smaller carp. There is more specialized equipment used for the larger fish, the large trophy fish.
Many carp enthusiasts and trophy-carp anglers use Euro-style — what we call Euro-style tackle. Rods are mounted on a rod holder, fitted with — they actually have bite alarms on these rod holders, so when a fish bites, it rings a bell and sends an alarm to the angler so he knows he's got a bite.
And some of these things can be very expensive. A well-rigged unit like this may cost up to $2 or $3,000 to get set up. But those are the professional anglers.
Now, the traditional American fishing rod and spinning reel will work — works well for the small carp or mid-sized carp in the ten- to 20-pound range. It's when you get into the trophy 30-, 40-, 50-pound fish that the more specialized equipment is more useful.
In the U.S. today, there are several groups. The Carp Angling Group has a national membership of about 740 — a little over 740 people. It holds carp tournaments — organize special events, and disseminates a wealth of information about carp fishing. The current president, Ron Nordberg, is from Texas.
The American Carp Society organizes carp tournaments and sells specialized carp-fishing tackle. They hosted the 2005 world carp championship on the St. Lawrence River in New York. They had a hundred-thousand-dollar first prize, and they offered a million-dollar prize for anybody who broke the New York State record. The Wall Street Journal and the USA Today reported on this event.
Carp are being embraced by fly fishermen, particularly on the East Coast. They are affectionately known as the golden bones, being compared to the saltwater bone fish.
The Texas chapter of the Carp Angler Group has — right now has 55 members. Since 2002, they have held annual tournaments in Austin, the Austin team championship at Town Lake here in Austin. Town Lake in Austin is considered a world-class trophy-carp fishery, one of the two in this country that are designated as such. Who would have thought?
The March 2006 Austin event attracted anglers from 19 states and Washington, D.C. The American Carp Society organized in March 2006 the Texas carp challenge. They offered a $25,000 first prize and $250,000 to the person who would break the Texas state record. We had anglers that came to Austin from Romania, Slovakia, and England that competed in this event.
And of course, the Dallas/Fort Worth area seems to be the hub. That's where a lot of the events are taking place and most of the groups are stationed.
Now, what are the staff doing here in Texas? The staff, led by Mukhtar Farooqi — and Mukhtar's here today.
Mukhtar, would you stand up?
We've got some staff in the Abilene area and his supervisor, Spencer Dumont. They've been working to help promote this fishing. He — we had a magazine article. I don't know if you saw it, the March 2006 issue of Parks and Wildlife Magazine, The World According to Carp. And Mukhtar did a very good job with that.
We also have spent some time meeting with the representatives of the Carp Angler Groups and the American Carp Society. We met with them in Waco and — to discuss the potential of carp fishing and to see what we could do as an agency to help promote this new activity, new and growing activity.
Also, the staff is currently — we're currently doing a study on these carp tournaments that were held here in Austin, an economic-impact study. We intend to provide that information and publish it so we can get some idea what impact the — carp fishing — the potential of carp fishing has in the state of Texas.
Let me just say, in the March article, Mukhtar stated that the carp — what the carp needed was a good public-relations manager to revamp its image in Texas. What happened last week in Austin went a long way to improve the carp's image.
At the Texas carp challenge held in Austin last weekend, a $250,000 prize was offered for anyone who broke the existing state record of 41.5 pounds. Guess what happened? Mr. Al St. Cyr of Dallas — of the Dallas area caught a 43.18 pound carp, breaking the record. He earned the $250,000 prize, and this catch has generated tremendous media coverage, which may have helped promote the future of carp fishing in our state.
And by the way, the $250,000 prize was the largest ever earned by a competitive carp angler in the United States. I'll be glad to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: That's great. Well, I'll tell you, I'm doing my part. I've picked up fly fishing for carp. And if you've never caught a carp on a fly rod, you don't know what you're missing. It's unbelievable. You don't know who has who there at the beginning. So we'll have to stop that sewer-trout stuff, especially if I'm doing it.
Any other questions for —
That's great. Good work, Phil. I mean, more and more opportunity for people. It's great.
We're going to jump now to another agenda item a little out of order to accommodate our friend. Mike Behrens, the executive director of TxDOT, I believe's here. We're going to jump over to item 12 and — a briefing item.
And Jack Bauer, can you make a presentation.
MR. BAUER: Good morning, Chairman Fitzsimons and commissioners. I'm Jack Bauer, director of the land conservation program. It's my pleasure to brief you this morning on the acknowledgment of an interagency agreement with TxDOT and Parks and Wildlife that hopefully will provide a model for addressing large highway-construction projects that's planned in our state in the future.
Specifically, a mitigation agreement that has been developed demonstrates the partnering of our agencies to develop a more effective and efficient way to mitigate for anticipated natural-resource impacts with the planned construction of interstate-highway and Trans-Texas-Corridor projects.
Specifically, this agreement establishes roles and responsibilities for our agencies whereby Parks and Wildlife will identify and develop large mitigation banks that will provide competitively priced mitigation credits to TxDOT to offset the federal regulated natural-resource impacts anticipated with these large projects.
TxDOT, in return, will give its first priority to the use of those Parks and Wildlife-developed mitigation credits if and when these highways become approved for construction.
Our agencies have a long history of co-operating to establish mitigation banks for a more effective way to mitigate resources's impacts to these highway projects. Specifically, we have three banks on the ground in East Texas to help the Tyler, Houston, and Matagorda districts in their routine highway construction.
The challenge before us is to address the significantly large projects, trans-Texas-corridor and interstate-highway-system projects, that are planned in the future. And this agreement will specifically address those.
This is an example of the credits and the conservation that has been an outcome of the existing banks. Old Sabine Bottom, Tony Houseman, and the Nannie M. Stringfellow Wildlife Management Area since 1990 represents over 6,000 acres put into conservation — and provide public use and have provided over 6,000 credits to TxDOT that includes mitigation for endangered species and wetlands over a life of approximately 20 years.
The traditional way to mitigate for wetland impacts with highway projects has been — typically, a regulatory community would require onsite and project-by-project mitigation. The result of that has been, in many instances, piecemeal and fragmented wetland habitats that do not duplicate the functions and values of those wetlands lost, and it results in a net loss for wildlife.
We have recommended mitigating away from the highway corridor as a way to address the specific and unique problems with highway construction and mitigating for impacts that result from highway construction.
The benefit of mitigation banks are several, but primarily they aggregate the mitigation away from the highway corridor. Highways tend to bring their own development — and mitigating onsite. Then you often end up rebuilding your own mitigation in the future. Getting the mitigation away from the highway corridor is a long-term solution that's much more effective for natural resources.
And it offers the potential to restore and enhance wetlands as large, ecological, significant recreation areas. It also addresses watershed issues to improve water quality, in addition to other wetland functions and values.
And this mitigation-bank idea, that is also being supported now heavily by both Fish and Wildlife Service, EPA and the Corps of Engineers, fits well into our conservation strategy whereby they — our agency proposes to identify key sites and facilitate the aggregation that mitigation needs for infrastructure development with other funding sources to conserve large, significant areas for future recreational use.
I think the benefits to Texas in looking at these highway projects in this manner will result in a more lower cost and effective mitigation for transportation projects. Certainly, the scheduling of improvements for planning and construction will be improved by looking and taking into account early in the process mitigation requirements.
And from a Parks and Wildlife goal, establishment of ecosystem and watershed-management improvements through use of large banks will be significant. And I think the potential for the public recreation at these sites is especially important, because these should — this should be able to be done with no additional cost to the state.
I would be happy to answer any questions. And Mr. Behrens is here too, if he — if you'd have any questions for him.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: What is the — I notice one of the projects — is it 1969 or 69 that —
MR. BAUER: Interstate 69. Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: It looks like it starts down around Brownsville and goes all the way up through Texarkana or something like that. When is that project going to be in?
MR. BAUER: I believe that the initial EIS document will be available this fall. And Mr. Behrens may have a — more refinement of that. This schematic, by the way, is just that. It is not a rude alignment. It's a general schematic of where the highway is being considered and planned.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: The rude alignment at this point is not determined?
MR. BAUER: Not in any final form, no, sir.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Not in final form —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Mr. Behrens, come on up. You're always invited here. And I know you can answer some of these questions better than we can.
MR. BEHRENS: Thank you, gentlemen.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And introduce yourself to the commission. Good to see you.
MR. BEHRENS: My name is Bike Behrens. I'm the executive director of the Texas Department of Transportation. Chairman, commissioners, appreciate the invitation to be here with you.
You're asking, sir, about the I-69 corridor that Jack was referring to. We've been looking at that corridor since about 1994 and started out looking at the benefits that that corridor could provide to the transportation system.
We are currently, in our environmental studies, leading toward submitting a draft environmental-impact statement to the Federal Highway Administration this fall. When we present that to them, we will be identifying approximately a four- to six-mile corridor where this particular highway could go.
And then of course, the next step would be if they approve that initial DEIS, as we refer to it. Then we would have about another year of public meetings where we go back out to the public with that draft, give them the opportunity to comment on it before we have a final EIS.
And then we would be getting into actually the study of a final alignment on where that particular highway would go.
Right now, in fact probably within a week, we will be going out — our commission just approved at their March meeting the ability to us to go out for requests for proposals to see if someone would be interested in a private consortium bringing some financing and some ideas on how this project might be developed.
So probably when we're looking at actually doing something on the ground — we could be, you know, five years-plus away.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Commissioner Montgomery's been very involved in this since we first got started in trying to get us more efficient ways of addressing our mitigation goals.
Would you like to comment, please?
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: A couple of thoughts. We did serve on the group who put — the land and water plan together. When we passed that plan, it called for five to six large aggregations of land for public use near the urban areas, which we don't have today.
And we passed that plan with no funding mechanism in place, but just because we thought it was the right strategic plan, and we'd have to work on the funding.
And in the course of studying how mitigation was handled before, we learned that it was carved up, parceled out into small little parcels, as Jack was saying — and then approached your agency with the idea of aggregating that help — both — you achieve consolidation of the mitigation needs in a form that you could use them to help time the highway projects better.
And having served on the board of the Turnpike Authority, I realized how critical that timing need is — and far outweighs the incremental cost of little tracts here and there — and to help us achieve our public-policy purpose of more impact, more public use and a greater impact of these tracts in the urban areas.
And I want to compliment you, Dianna Noble, and others at TxDOT for working with us. You could have continued doing business the same way over and over, and we would not have had this opportunity. But for this agency, this is a huge thing to help us accomplish one of the centerpiece goals in our long-range plan, which is to create large areas for both conservation and public use around the urban areas.
And we really appreciate what you've done. It's not easy to change a major complex area that's as critical as this is to your projects. Environmental, you know, approvals are — I know are fundamental to you getting, literally, the road on the ground.
And so it's not something that you could undertake lightly or without a lot of deep thought. And I know Johnnie Johnson worked on it. Ric Williamson's worked on it. You worked on it, your predecessor, Amadeo, Dianna, and others.
And we really appreciate it. It's a big thing. It's a wonderful legacy for you all and for all of us to leave for the state.
I do want to call out Jack Bauer's role in this, who really helped see the opportunity, helped shape it, worked through the MOU at TxDOT.
And Jack, I think this is also a great legacy for you personally for all the good work you've done in the department in this area. This is a big thing. It'll last forever once we get these tracts put in place. And I hope you're proud of your effort. I know we're proud of the good work you've done.
But Mike and all the folks at TxDOT, Bob, Jack, everybody who worked on it — this was a great thing and a very important really landmark event for TPWD, and we appreciate all you've done. Thank you very much.
MR. BEHRENS: Well, I think when you mentioned the word "forever" — you know, our charge at TxDOT is trying to figure out how we can provide transportation for this great state of Texas and the people that are — need to use that transportation system every day.
Parks and Wildlife, of course, is charged with — part of their charge is protecting the natural resources of this state. And I think it's — you know, it's sort of a monumental step. It gives us another tool.
The legislature gave us some tools the last couple of sessions on how we can continue to provide for transportation a little differently from the traditional ways we have always done it. But I think this tool where — and, you know, you were referring to sort of how we've done mitigation in the past.
First we try to avoid as much as we can, but sometimes you're going to impact something. And I always call it that postage-stamp approach where we did a little mitigation here and there. But, you know, when you look at it — at the broader things, we can help you all to provide these large mitigation areas. We can purchase those as we need it as we go forward with these major projects.
But then it's something that's preserved for posterity for, you know, my five grandchildren and their children someday to enjoy also and enjoy what a lot of us have enjoyed for a long time. So we think it's a great thing.
We have worked well with Parks and Wildlife. I know I've worked with them when I was at a district level, and now, since I'm — been up in Austin a few years — worked well with Bob Cook and all his people, and our staffs have worked together. And we want to continue that relationship.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Well, thanks. I'll tell you, I get more and more excited about this. You know, to me what we've done here is link — instead of having conflict — transportation growth and new public lands.
And usually this natural-resource-protection mission we have and the transportation mission you have — some people view those as being in conflict. And here what you've done is you've pulled it together. And, you know, you're to be congratulated.
And I want to thank you, Phil, because Phil's the one — because of his background with the tollway in North Texas — really understood mitigation. When he first described this to me, I had that faraway look. And, you know, you did a great job. You pushed it through.
And all the staff did a great job. So thanks very much, and we'll look forward to getting some real things done on the ground here.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Can I mention one more thing?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes. Go ahead, Phil.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: I think it's also appropriate to mention the leadership role the governor's office played here. When we first raised this issue, we felt like it was of enough consequence where they need to be aware of it.
The governor sort of went, Whoa. You take the same dollars and accomplish two public-purpose uses and help speed up our, you know, critical priority of these roads. He —
MR. BEHRENS: Absolutely.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: With his quick mind, he very quickly realized this was a good thing for everybody and encouraged both of us all the way through the process to get this done and work it through. So we also need to thank governor staff and the governor.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Absolutely.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: This thing only happens with leadership at the top.
And again, Mike, I think narrow leadership — narrow-minded leadership at your agency — this would never have happened. With broad-minded, far-sighted leadership, we made it work. You gave that to this process. We really appreciate it.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any questions from other commissioners about the TxDOT Parks and Wildlife mitigation MOU? We'll, I'm sure, be hearing more about this as we actually do it rather than talk about it.
MR. BEHRENS: Absolutely. Thank you all again, Commissioner.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thanks again for all your help. Jack, anything to add?
MR. COOK: Thank you, Mike.
MR. BAUER: Yes, sir. Big help from Ann Bright. You know, we had these ideas, but putting those ideas into a legal contract is no easy challenge, and Ann did that.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes. Saying it and writing it are two different things.
Well done, Ann. Thank you.
MR. COOK: I'd like to —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Bob.
MR. COOK: I'd like to just echo what everybody said, incredible project, be very meaningful in the years to come.
And I also want to recognize Dianna Noble, who is here, who we have worked with extensively for many years — been a great help in the project study, staying with her goals and objectives.
And it's been a lot of work, and we've got a lot of work to do. But it is doable, and we will really see some incredible results from this.
And Mike, thank you again. Appreciate you being here.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Dianna, good to see you. Thank you. You were at that first meeting, because you all tried to explain this to me.
And I'm excited, because it clearly is a great way to streamline the process and get us to our goals, to our mutual goals. So well done, everyone.
Now, no further questions. We will get back on the original agenda order. We took that one out of order, and we're back to item 5, action item.
Oh, I'm sorry. Did I miss one? Oh, we stopped at 4. You're right — I mean 3. So it's 4, designation of representatives, foreign travel.
Walt, sorry about that.
MR. DABNEY: Chairman, commissioners, I'm Walt Dabney, state park director. And I'm here to — in a request for out-of-country travel for one of our employees. Michael Strutt is our director for cultural resources in state parks.
Many of you know we've been doing a lot of work at the San Jacinto battleground on an archaeological survey. We know — now know a whole lot more about the battle in April 1836 than we knew before this project started. We've got a lot more that we're going to be doing down there, most of that or much of that paid for by donations.
Michael has been requested to come to Leeds, England, in September of next year to present the findings on this actually nationally important battle site for us to a symposium entitled The Fields of Conflict Number IV.
It's a very neat opportunity. All of the expenses will be paid for by the battle — San Jacinto Battleground Association, so this will not cost the department or state parks funding. So our recommendation is that we hope that you would approve this travel and that we would be represented at this important international conference.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Well done.
Are you —
MR. BERGER: Mr. Chairman, I'm Mike Berger. And we have two people from the wildlife division who would like to undertake some important out-of-country travel.
First is Jeff Raasch, our state wetland program leader, who is currently serving as the president of the southeastern — south central chapter of the Society of Wetland Scientists. And as such, he has been invited to attend the international meeting of the International Society of Wetland Scientists in Cairns, Australia.
And again, this is an important function for him and for the society and for wetlands in this country. And again, all expenses will be paid by the chapter.
Finally, I've been invited to attend in my capacity as the chairman of the International Relations Committee of the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies to attend the upcoming meeting of the Animals Committee of the CITES in preparations for the upcoming conference of partners. And that will be in Lima, Peru in July.
And again, all of my expenses will be paid by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the International Association.
So our request is for you to authorize those out-of-country travels for all three people.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Great. Thank you, Walt, and thank you, Mike. I think it reflects very well on our staff that they're invited to these international conferences. And part of that process — I think it reflects very well on the performance of your people.
And with that, I will entertain a motion from Holmes. Second by Brown. All in favor.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion carries.
Now we're on to item 5, Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission policy amendments.
Darcy Bontempo. Hi, Darcy.
MS. BONTEMPO: Good morning, Chairman and commissioners. For the record, my name is Darcy Bontempo, and I'm the marketing director at Texas Parks and Wildlife. And I'm here this morning to present recommended changes to the commission policy on the naming — naming department lands and features, which was developed to guide the department on such matters.
The purpose of the changes is to provide criteria for naming rights for department facilities, not just for lands and features; to allow for instances where monetary contributions may be a consideration; and also to address other updates.
First, the recommended criteria for naming rights for facilities are that the executive director may grant naming rights for department facilities to corporate sponsors, foundations or individuals when there is a significant sponsorship fee or donation provided to the department, when the naming right is defined in advance, and when the naming right becomes null and void if the facility does not continue to be operated by the department.
Staff further recommends that the title of the policy be revised to include facilities, so as to be called naming department lands, facilities, and features — and finally, that the reference to John J. Stokes, San Marcos River Park would be deleted, as this park is no longer in our inventory.
And that concludes the recommendation that — the following motion is laid out in the resolution and exhibit, which I believe has been passed out to you — would be for formal commission approval today.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Okay. Thank you.
MS. BONTEMPO: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Any comments?
Yes, sir, Commissioner.
Any discussion first from anyone? If not, I'd entertain the motion. It's been moved by Commissioner Parker, seconded by Commissioner Brown. All in favor, say aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Motion passes.
The next item, Robin Riechers, item number 6, briefing on the Texas anglers attitude and opinion surveys.
Good morning, Robin.
MR. RIECHERS: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, commissioners. My name is Robin Riechers of the coastal fisheries division. And assisting me today with this presentation, because it's an inland and coastal presentation, will be Ken Kurzawski of the inland fisheries division as well.
Both the fisheries divisions have a long history of doing human-dimensions work, over 20 years of doing this kind of work, having a formal program in the human-dimensions arena. But you really have to ask yourself, why did we start doing this kind of work. And it can really be boiled down to three reasons.
The first reason was we felt like we needed to be able to describe who our clientele was, the current characteristics, their fishing habits, species preference, and their expenditures, so that we actually know how much is coming into the local economies associated with this.
The second reason was we really needed to understand the extent and rates of participation and where it was occurring in both fresh and saltwater. And those two things basically lead us to the last, because you can't do the last one without the first two.
And that's basically so that we can make better and more informed management decisions. We can basically understand better how we're going to affect the angling population before we pass a rule or before we initiate a certain type of program.
This led us to a partnership with Texas A&M University Human Dimensions Laboratory. And as we — as I indicated earlier, this program's been going on since the mid-1980s. We are lucky to have Dr. Robert Ditton on staff there, who's a nationally recognized human-dimensions expert, and we've partnered with him throughout this time.
Now, I might add, as the need arises, we've partnered with several economists throughout the country and other specialists, just depending on the things or the survey type of research that we're trying to conduct.
What that does for us is it kind of provides a built-in peer and independent review in a state-of-the-art of technology as far as doing this kind of work. And typically, we achieve response rates anywhere from 40 to 70 percent as we do this kind of work, so we feel real comfortable that we're getting a good overview of what our anglers think out there.
Now, just to give you a little bit of an idea of the kind of work or the kind of people we've tapped over the last 20 years, I'll break this down basically into species-specific and activity- or issue-specific.
And in the saltwater side, we've done surveys of our red drum anglers, our spotted seatrout anglers. We've done surveys of people who participate in saltwater tournaments. We've surveyed sport divers who participate on artificial reefs or dive in the artificial-reef area.
And we've also basically done surveys of the people who will be accessing the scientific bay — or the redfish scientific bay area and their impacts towards the seagrass protection plan that you all passed just a little while ago, a couple meetings ago.
On the freshwater side, we've done two different black bass surveys. We've done a study of people who are accessing our urban fisheries programs in those urban areas, and we've done some lake-specific types of survey — Lake Fork, Lake Texoma, Toledo Bend and at Sam Rayburn.
And as Phil just mentioned to you earlier this morning, we also have a carp-tournament anglers survey underway where we'll be actually trying to determine the economic impacts and the attitudes and how that fishery might be growing and what we can do with that.
There are several of them that we really can't separate out into freshwater and saltwater, and I'm going to hit a few of these next. The first two on that list are senior anglers, those who are over 65 and receive that special licensing.
We basically feel a need that we need to go in and actively survey that group and look for some different issues that that group may be having with accessing our fisheries as compared to the general angling population. And so we have a survey underway now that will basically tap that group.
Next year we anticipate doing a non-resident anglers survey. We've done that in the past, but we want to revisit that and see what kind of new — basically new things we can provide those anglers to attract more anglers into the state of Texas.
In 2002, many of you may have remembered we changed the structure of fishing-guide licenses. We separated salt and fresh. And basically at that time, we had done a survey of those fishing guides looking at their willingness to pay certain fees and so forth. And you saw some of that information at that time.
And then lastly, I'm going to present some results next of a statewide Texas anglers survey which basically is a survey that covers both fresh and saltwater. It's a general-licensed anglers survey. It taps the largest group of our anglers throughout the state.
In that case, our survey's just mailed to a random sample of those license holders. And we basically oversample the coastal counties to make sure that we get those up high enough in the sample so that we can split those out if need be.
To give you some basic results from that survey, we find that 85 percent of our anglers are male, 90 percent are white and non-Hispanic. Our average age, as we've talked about many times, is aging, and it's about 47 right now.
And in freshwater, those anglers spend about 27 days fishing. And their two species preferences highlighted yesterday is black bass number 1 and catfish number 2. On the saltwater side, those anglers average fewer days in numbers of fishing days. They average 20 days fishing in saltwater. And our species preference there, number 1 and 2, is red drum and spotted seatrout.
That survey also provides us some motivations for fishing or some questions regarding what makes people tick, what makes them go fishing. And as you can see here, in reality, the fresh and saltwater groups here don't differ a lot.
But if you boil — you go down to that second line, to obtain a trophy fish — while we often think a lot of people go out there to obtain a trophy fish — and it is a fairly large number, 18 percent or so, but it's not as important as you might think.
But when you do forward — fast-forward down to for relaxation or to be outdoors, you can see a very high percentage of people basically list those things as their highest need when they go outdoors.
And that's really not rocket science. You'd kind of expect that. But we do try to collect a lot of that information and more in this regard so that we get a better handle on what is making those groups go out there and participate.
In that same vein, we talk a lot about why people aren't fishing and what their constraints are to fishing. And you can see there, if you look up at the very top line there, it's too many work and family commitments. And that almost is always top of the list when you talk about constraints to going fishing.
Then you go down to the second from the bottom. And we often talk about our license fees. And certainly, there are some people there that agree that our license fees are too high, around 30 or 35 percent. But for the most part, you still have a larger majority disagreeing that that's really what's keeping them from going fishing.
And then lastly, we talk about our fishing regulations sometimes get too confusing. And in reality, according to this, only 15 to 18 percent — we're always looking to simplify those regulations, but it doesn't appear that that's really a constraint to those people going fishing at this point in time.
The last thing I'll present you from the statewide anglers survey is just kind of an anglers satisfaction rating. And basically, this is for that — all anglers, freshwater and saltwater combined. And we've actually looked at it in comparison to those previous surveys that we've done.
And what you'll see — the take-home message from this slide is basically that most of our anglers are moderately, very satisfied, or extremely satisfied with the job that we're doing. And we're actually increasing more into that very-satisfied range as we move through time. And there's very few people who are dissatisfied with the job that we're doing at this point in time.
The next couple slides that I'm going to go over — and then I'm going to turn it over to Ken — are basically slides that will start to give you an idea of the scope of the different kinds of things kind of outside that realm of the statewide general anglers survey — but in dealing with some of the more specialized surveys that we do.
The first one I'm going to highlight is the survey of saltwater-tournament anglers. There's been discussion amongst this body and over in the legislative arena about managing tournaments a little bit more. And so in order to get a little bit more information about that, we conducted this survey in 2002.
What we found were anglers preferred promotion of catch and release in tournaments. Anglers support a percentage of each tournament fee going to the agency for fisheries management. And we found that artificial bait only in tournaments for business profit were less preferred as compared to other motives for those tournaments.
The next slide, as I mentioned earlier — that we had done a survey of sport divers and their use on artificial reefs. And this particular question that we dealt with here just highlights the way we can utilize some of these survey data as we move to try to get new dive-access opportunities.
And of course, many of you remember we didn't get the Oriskany, but you'll see here that large naval ships certainly rank very high in diver opportunity. And that's one of the reasons why we've been so aggressive in trying to obtain those kinds of dive opportunities here off the state of Texas.
With that, I'm going to turn it over to Ken and let him go over some of the more inland-related activities, and then wrap it up.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Thank you, Robin. That's very interesting, and it gives us an insight as to what our constituents really want.
MR. KURZAWSKI: Thank you, Robin. Commissioners, my name's Ken Kurzawski in inland fisheries division. And as Robin mentioned, this has been a program that, since the beginning, has been personified by co-operation between the coastal and inland fisheries. It's just — a lot of the surveys — it's just fishing. And in that vein, we've co-operated on this over the years.
I'm going to go over a few of the areas on the freshwater side that we've used over the years to give us some insight to particular issues or angler groups. As mentioned, we have done a couple surveys on black bass anglers, '92 and '95.
And we used that information to compare with that statewide survey and also obtain more detail on bass anglers themselves. Taking a look at how some of these items compared, bass anglers with freshwater anglers — there's some similarities there. You see some differences, as you might expect, more bass anglers fishing in tournaments, higher use of guides. Satisfaction is real similar.
And the last one, supporting special regulations, is one we are especially interested in asking our bass anglers. They're our most — sort of our most heavily regulated anglers. We have the most — various slot limits, minimum-length limits, like that. And as you can see, there's a lot of support, even more support than the anglers in general for those regulations.
We also used some of this information — in the '90s, we had a request by angler groups at a couple reservoirs, Lake Fork and Ray Roberts, to restrict the use of live bait for bass in these reservoirs.
And they came to us and asked us, well, would we support you in there. We had a couple of pieces of information there. We had some data on hooking mortality, some experimental data that showed there wasn't a big difference between live bait and some of the other bait types that would make a biological difference.
And then we also had information from the anglers themselves, asking them would they support these type of restrictions. And as you can see, there's not a lot of consensus there among our anglers. And it's — even among bass anglers, there's some both support and opposition to those — to making those type of restrictions.
So that — you know, we went back to them and told them, Well, we really can't support that. And ultimately, that effort didn't succeed because of that. There wasn't really any consensus to support it or biological information to support that issue.
We've also undertaken a number of location-specific surveys. We've done that to get some specific information of the anglers in those areas, ask — we can — that's an opportunity to ask their opinion on issues of local interest, particular regulation at a lake, water levels, what they need in the area that we could ask.
We also ask that — what's the value of the fishing in those areas. We've been doing that both in freshwater and saltwater to try and establish the economic value of fishing to those local economies.
We always get the big numbers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on an every five-year basis, but we try and get something that those local communities could use to show what the worth of those fisheries are in those areas.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Can you tell that also in the state parks, the fishing and economic impact of the state — from the state —
MR. KURZAWSKI: We don't have that specific of data on state parks. We haven't done any specific to state parks.
We've — some that — we've looked at some of our major reservoirs, Lake Fork, Rayburn, Amistad. And we've also tried to look at some other sort of unique reservoirs, Braunig and Calaveras, reservoirs near urban areas, Guadalupe River below Canyon Dam with the trout fishery there.
And we've tried to look at some other smaller reservoirs around the state to give us a diversity of what all that information is. And these are — this is data we can use when our — we're making management decisions — and where we need to put our effort.
Lake Fork was one of the ones that really opened a lot of people's eyes. We took some information there, compared it with other bass anglers. One of the things we noticed there was that the anglers who were fishing Lake Fork had twice the level of investment in equipment. They were fishing twice as many days on that reservoir, and they were more likely to fish tournament.
And what — the picture that paints for us — that the anglers who are fishing Lake Fork are very — fairly heavily specialized anglers, very invested in their sport. So when you take a look at managing Lake Fork, you have to — there's a different clientele, and it's worth the different management strategies that we've employed there over the years.
We've also taken a look at some of the impact on local economies, the spotted seatrout on the coast. Fishing trips there were worth $95 million one year — that — sport divers in coastal communities. There was a significant impact there varying from anglers who were coming from the local area to out of state.
Toledo Bend. We looked at that. We did both sides of the reservoir in conjunction with Louisiana, got some interesting information there.
Sam Rayburn, another very important fishery in east Texas. And we also looked — went in there and looked at the impact of a couple bass tournaments there, and those were worth about $190,000 each, just a couple tournaments with a couple — 300 anglers each — and what money that was bringing into the local economies.
And finally, that first study we did on Lake Fork. That was worth — the expenditures in that to the local economy was worth $27.5 million. And one of the co-operators in that project, the Sabine River Authority — the manager there said the impact of this was — in this area would be equal to an industry coming in and employing 500 people at $30,000 per year.
So that gives us some way to relate to some of the other uses to get some specific information on those local areas that those local people can use.
And some — to sort of wrap up — to some of the lessons that we've learned, we really — there's no such thing as an average angler. Even when we look at bass anglers, red drum anglers, there's a lot of diversity in there.
Some people like to catch a lot of fish. Some people like trophy fish like to fish tournaments. So we need to remember that when we're managing for these anglers. That average really isn't necessarily the way to go, because there's a lot of diversity in those user groups.
Non-catch items, as we — as shown, can be important as catch items. And those are the other things. Some of them we don't necessarily have control of, but they're things that, once again, we need to keep in mind when our — in our management strategies.
And this gives — this verifies that fishing is a big business to those local economies around the state, and finally, that anglers are satisfied with our efforts to provide quality angling. And certainly, we don't want to take that as, well, we're there and we don't have to do anything else.
Certainly, anyone who works with anglers know that they always have an opinion on something, and they're always going to be challenging us to provide them with more and better things.
But we use this, and we can tell, at least so far, we've been doing a good job. So we know we can continue on that vein to give them the quality angling that they come to expect from us.
And just as a final note there — that many of these reports that we've done in conjunction with the A&M lab are posted on the website if anyone is interested in more detail there. So thank you for your time, and if you have any questions of Robin or I, we'd certainly try to answer them.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Ken, that example of $15 million payroll, whatever it was, 500 by 30,000 — was that Toledo Bend?
MR. KURZAWSKI: No. That was for Lake Fork.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: That was Lake Fork.
MR. KURZAWSKI: Right.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: That's pretty impressive for one lake, a $15 million payroll those fish have.
Any questions, comments?
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Ken, I think part of the survey included asking whether or not the anglers would be opposed to a tournament fee, perhaps to use those funds to help our fisheries. Do you have any specifics on that?
I mean, is that generally a proposition that would be palatable to persons that are putting on tournaments or anglers in general?
MR. KURZAWSKI: Well, when we have asked that question, there are — there is support for that type of fee. In the past, we did have — did propose a tournament permit — at that time, a no-cost permit, and there was some opposition to that. I don't know if that — over time if that has changed. That's been a few years ago.
But among anglers, that — many of them who do have some opposition to tournaments, they always voice, well, if the tournaments were putting some money back, they would have less opposition to that.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Did your survey also include the more sophisticated anglers, as you might say, or the ones that are — have more sophisticated equipment? Or was it just —
MR. KURZAWSKI: Well, that — we've asked that in our statewide tournament — our statewide anglers survey. And I don't know if we've pulled out specifically for the bass anglers, but we could go back there and do that if we wish. We would probably do that on the survey that we have coming — the results coming out.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: The only other thing that I want to do is I wanted to publicly commend you all, both the inland fisheries and everyone, for the effort that we have. You know, the fishing industry's a huge industry in Texas and just growing every day.
And fishing opportunities are much more readily available to the youth, because it doesn't cost as much to buy a little fishing rod and go fishing. So we need to continue the great job that you all have done.
Larry and Phil, you've done a great job. So again, I commend you all for everything that you've done. And we're learning as we go through this process of — you know, there's a shift in attitude with our anglers, so we have to be sensitive to that. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Vice-chairman Ramos.
Is there any other comments or questions for Ken or Robin or Phil or anyone else?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Great. Thank you very much, Ken. Good luck with the Cubs this year.
Okay. Next up, coastal fishing forecast, item 7.
MR. McKINNEY: Mr. Chairman, members of the commission. For the record, I'm Larry McKinney, director of coastal fisheries. You know, one of the things that Ken noted — that anglers all have an opinion on anything you ask them for, and it's mostly varied.
But one thing they all agree on is they want to catch fish. And that's — and so if you want to keep them happy, you try to supply that product. And as you can see from things we've talked about in the past, both inland and coastal have — our staffs have been excellent at doing that in the past and continue to do it.
And that's what I'm here to talk to you today — is kind of give our annual — what we're looking forward to in coastal fishing for this year. So let's get started on that.
First, a couple of updates on a few things. On our crab-trap-removal program, which has been going on for several years — update on what happened this year. We had some weather problems. We only collected a few traps.
But one of the good points is that — the progress of the program overall. And that is it's been quite successful. The number of traps are going down. They're getting more difficult to find, for one thing. So that's good. And crabs are going up.
So that program is quite successful and being emulated all across the Gulf states, as a matter of fact. So a good project there.
Robin mentioned this, but I just note to you that, you know, the commission passed rules to protect seagrass in Redfish Bay. Those rules go into effect on May 1. And our staff — Ed Hegen, whom we recognized today, has been a tremendous leader in this effort, putting things together.
I'm quite proud of what they've done down there. Their getting the information out and putting the project together, I think, is going to work really well. So we're on course to do that.
Well, let's go ahead and take a look at the coastal fishing forecast for this year. First, let's take a look at what happened in 2005 in the coastwide summary. One thing we did note this year — we saw a — about a 1 percent decline in effort over the last year, which you might expect from the hurricanes and fuel prices and that type of thing.
Although it's not as bad as it could be. When I talk to my counterparts over in Louisiana, they're seeing a 40 percent reduction there, and they're facing some really difficult budget issues because of it, and their whole management structure is in jeopardy because of it.
So we're doing good from that regard compared to that — hope we don't have to go through that kind of situation, and don't think we ever will, as a matter of fact.
Now, the good side — those of us who did go fishing — we did a lot better. There was a 2 percent increase in landings. We caught over a million and a half fish. And we got a lot better fishing, because we caught them more frequently. So the good side of it is if you went fishing, you likely did better last year.
Let's take a look coast wide. A couple of our top species, as Robin noted, is spotted seatrout and red drum. We saw increases in landings and catch rates for spotted seatrout across the coast, so that was good news there.
A quick peek ahead at this year. Looking at our gill nets, we're seeing an abundance of those fish from the 19- to 30-inch range. And so we're seeing the fish getting bigger. So if you go out fishing this year, your chances of catching a bigger spotted trout are going to be remarkably improved.
Red drum. This is one — we saw a bit of a decline or decrease in landings there. Catch rates went down. But the catch rates were at a ten-year high, so it did good. And when we look at our gill nets for this year, we see near record numbers of the 20- to 24-inch fish, which is right in our slot, which are perfect.
So there's no excuse this year. The fish will be out there. And so that — we should see that turn around quite well.
We talked about yesterday's flounder. We're still concerned about flounder. They — we're looking at those, and we've talked about it, and we will talk to you more about that in the future. The good thing we see this year, continual — we're seeing above-average numbers of those 14- to 20-inch flounders.
So we're seeing a steady move up. And so it's looking — still looking good. We're still on the right track for flounder and where we want to be.
So let's take a look at spring and fall — look at our catch-rate prospects for the spring and fall of 2006. Just to remind you, this is based on our data that comes out of last fall and this spring. So we — our biologists, our ecosystem leaders from each of the major bays put all this information together. And our team has put this assessment together for you, of which I'm presenting a summary today.
So let's take a look. Coastwide, in all of our bays, spotted seatrout and red drum — all of them are — will be above — and exceed the long-term averages. So we're looking at another good year overall.
This is the point that — recall from our last year's presentation — that I want to make sure and recognize that full credit for this goes to our executive director for his leadership and management skills.
And you want to make sure and — maybe remind you of that when it comes time for the end of his review in August. And it's entirely —
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Way to go, Bob.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: How do you do it?
MR. COOK: This is the same guy that predicts the weather for us, by the way.
MR. McKINNEY: I'm not going to go down that road.
Let's take a look at some of the individual systems, starting up — the upper end of the coast in Sabine Lake. Now there, we're going to see catch rates for all of our — for spotted seatrout, drum and flounder are all going to be going up. They're up higher this year than before. That's good news.
In fact, when you look at the gill-net catches for redfish — red drum, they're double last year's. So the red drum in Sabine is really looking outstanding.
You know, we still have some concerns there with the impact on our facilities from the hurricane, navigation and that type of thing. We're working very closely with all the folks in that area to develop some websites, so as our folks go out and find these changes where — you know, thing that used to be on land are now in the water and vice versa.
So we're working closely with our local folks up there to make sure they see what the changes are and getting out — but those who do go — the opportunities in Sabine Lake are going to be great for this year.
Galveston Bay. We always look closely at Galveston Bay. It's our biggest recreational fishery. And in — all of our species — again, it's looking up this year. And this year will be no exception to the continued increase in availability. That's a big plus.
You know, we really didn't have much of a winter anywhere along the coast this year. And particularly in Galveston Bay, our biologists are seeing that basically a system just kind of stayed on. So forage fish and others were there, so these fish that are coming in this year should have a good forage base and should really take off. And so we're very happy to see that as well.
Matagorda Bay. Same thing. When you're looking at spotted seatrout, we're looking at a 20-year high in numbers of spotted seatrout that we're finding in our surveys. Red drum. Our angler catch rates are at a ten-year high. So Matagorda Bay continues to really be an improved fishery as well and growing.
One of our biologists there wanted to take a special note of the — our catch rates around oyster reefs and the fact that that's a — that would be a good spot to go, just to give a little bit of a hint there, that the fishing of the oyster reef's going to be — should be particularly good this year.
My biologist there, Bill Balboa, would get on me if I didn't mention tripletails. And now it is — or it will be a game fish, we hope, if you adopt that. But that — Matagorda Bay is our central area for the fishery there in that area. So we're looking forward to another good year with tripletail as well.
San Antonio Bay. Again, the good news kind of continues there. Spotted seatrout and red drum are at all-time highs in that bay. So again, we expect a good year from San Antonio Bay.
Another little area — as we've seen the lacks of freezes, the mangrove snapper has continued to move up the coast and become a resource.
And Commissioner Ramos, I know this is something you're always interested in, youth participation. These mangrove snapper are a great opportunity for youth. I mean, you can catch them right off — around piers and those type of things.
And actually, I was fishing down Brownsville this last weekend around some piers and picked some up and cooked them up. They taste just like red snapper. They're great. Put up a nice little fight, but anybody can catch them.
So they're a great resource for youth to come in and kind of get going — and really give you a pretty good fight. They're a neat little fish. As long as we don't have any significant freezes, we're going to have them around. They're moving slowly up the coast up into San Antonio Bay now. [inaudible] that point.
Let's go into the coastal bend. Take a look at Aransas. Our spotted seatrout — we — seatrout — we saw a slight decline from a record year last year, but we — one of the things — there are fewer numbers, but the fish are bigger. That's what our gill net shows. So we may have a few fewer seatrout up in Aransas, but they're going to be bigger, which you might expect. So that's fine.
And we take a look at Corpus Christi Bay. Our seatrout and others — it's going to be about the same as last year. But it's interesting enough; we have a sheephead fishery that's developing there. And as you can see there, our sheephead have increased by threefold since the 1980s. More and more people are picking them up.
And of course, red drum catch rates continue at a six-year high. So all those areas there are really looking good.
And one is always interested in the upper Laguna Madre and Baffin Bay. And taking a look in the Baffin Bay area, for example, spotted seatrout are at near record numbers there. And we have especially good numbers of 25-inch trout or more.
If any of you commissioners have ever had the opportunity — and please feel free to do it, to go out with our biologists, particularly in Baffin or anyplace along the coast, but Baffin is a particularly interesting one — to go do our gill-net surveys and go out and run one of those nets and see the number of large trout that we capture, you'd know that they're there.
And then of course, the drum — but it's just a fascinating trip to go and see what kind of productivity we see up in that area. I want to make sure I note too that red drum catch rates there are the highest on record. So we look at trout in Baffin Bay, but red drum are just — are really thick there.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: In that particular area, do you think we're getting more pressure more for fishing pressure — it's a fact that it's pretty well known.
MR. McKINNEY: It's the Lake Fork of the coastal area. There is no doubt about it. Exactly — there are a lot of people there. The fish are there to support them right now, but there's a lot of pressure. It's a neat place to go. It certainly is.
And just like with tripletail, Kyle Spiller, who is here today, and Art Morris would really get on me if I didn't mention that one of the species that are just running crazy in Baffin Bay are black drum.
And when you run those gill nets looking for those trout, and you have to remove several hundred black drum out of them, you know they're just — they're all over the place too. And so it's a fishery that has a lot of potential as well.
Down in the lower Laguna, juvenile and [indiscernible]. The red fish are at record numbers down there. Again, we usually think about spotted seatrout down in the lower Laguna, but red drum are there and thick as fleas. And so that's something that we look to see develop.
We're looking at kind of an average year for spotted seatrout and flounder, but you know, an average year for spotted seatrout in the lower Laguna is like a big time for the upper — the rest of the coast. It's pretty super down there. So we're looking for a good year.
Now, we've had some brown-tide issues. They're still sporadic, but it seems to be diminishing this summer. We won't see much impact. There'll be some changes. You may have to go to — people down there have adapted.
But I was down there this last weekend and caught trout like crazy all through the lower Laguna. And it was a great trip. Even with 30-mile-an-hour winds, we were still doing pretty good. But it's a great fishery.
And of course, the opportunity to catch all types of things down in the lower Laguna — you never know what you're going to pick up, from barracuda to pompano to snook. And it's a great fishery as well.
With that, basically in summary, our fishing forecast — we're really looking at another outstanding year. There is no excuse, the fish are there, and if people go down to try to catch them, they should have good luck.
So with that, I'd be glad to answer any questions or comments.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Larry, thank you. You mentioned the increase in larger trout in the upper — or was that Sabine?
MR. McKINNEY: Aransas —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Aransas.
MR. McKINNEY: — the Aransas area — Coastal Bend.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: How long ago was that that we did the change in the —
MR. McKINNEY: Going three years now.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Three years. Right.
MR. McKINNEY: Three. So it's beginning to — I think we're seeing some impact of that now.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: So do you think that's a result of — or is that too soon to tell?
MR. McKINNEY: My biologists are being cautious, because they want to make sure I'm statistically correct. But I think we're seeing an impact of that. Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Because that was the original idea was to protect those —
MR. McKINNEY: That's correct.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: — those larger breeding-age fish, so —
MR. McKINNEY: Keep those bigger trout out there.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: The trend is positive, but you can't necessarily say that's the cause yet.
MR. McKINNEY: I won't declare it a victory yet until my —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Okay.
MR. McKINNEY: — biologists give me the statistics.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And the tarpon in Galveston continuing to increase or —
MR. McKINNEY: That's one of those little fisheries — it's not only in Galveston, but it's in Matagorda and Espiritu Santo. That's kind of a niche fishery right now that's kind of gaining ground. And actually, we're seeing some smaller tarpon up in some places.
Nobody wants to talks about them much, because they want to kind of keep them secret when they see the smaller tarpon —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Right.
MR. McKINNEY: — in there. But it's holding its own right now. And we're trying to work with a group down the coast to do some more tracking on tarpon — and looking forward to it.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: That's good news.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Just one other question. What about the snook?
MR. McKINNEY: Well, they're there in the Laguna, moving up occasionally. In fact, we caught a couple this weekend, smaller ones. We're doing some survey work on them. But they're there in Laguna. And actually, there was some reports — I have not seen any confirmations — but in the Packery Channel — the new opening Packery Channel — that there was a small group of nice-sized snook.
So there's snook around, particularly down in the lower coast. They're there. Just like the mangrove snapper, they continue to move north as long as we don't have a really cold winter to knock them out.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And keep freshwater inflows — an important part there. I have to always have my pitch there.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Could you go back over the — on the tripletail, the logic behind the designation of game fish and what your management expectations and goals are for that species.
MR. McKINNEY: Of why we're designating that?
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Tripletail. Well, and then what you expect to happen going forward. We want to talk about your expectations for the future for that fish and what that strategy is.
MR. McKINNEY: Well, right now, one of the reasons we asked to name it a game fish was because of the increased pressure in Matagorda Bay. In fact, there's a pretty established fishery there. And in working with our guide and the folks that went out there, they came to us and said we ought to take a look at it now, because we're beginning to target them enough that we don't want to overdo it.
So at this stage, that's why we named them a game fish, just to give them some protection. We don't know a lot about them. In fact, not a lot of people know a lot about them in any of the states. So we took this step first to kind of establish that basis. We're going to look at them.
And we have a biologist — Bill Balboa is studying them. As we learn more about it in conjunction with other states like Florida and so forth, we'll understand it a little better. But it's — I have a cautionary approach at this point. If that's what — getting at your answer —
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Well, is it a species that's been depleted, or is it a species which was always limited in its occurrence and you're trying to grow it? What's the —
MR. McKINNEY: It's a —
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: — backdrop in the strategy?
MR. McKINNEY: The reason — it's a species particularly susceptible — I mean, they're easy to — not easy to catch, but they flow to the surface sideways, and so they're very susceptible to pressure. Now, we don't know enough about the numbers to know if you can deplete them or not.
And they certainly — they're even a commercial fishery in some areas. And there's a lot of pressure offshore. So we don't know that answer. That's — at this point. It's cautionary — is why we went that way.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Doc, on my little handy fishing-regulation guide, I don't find the mangrove snapper. What are the limits and —
MR. McKINNEY: There are no limits on them now.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: No limits —
MR. McKINNEY: No.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: — size or number.
MR. McKINNEY: No, there's not. And we — and some people have suggested we ought to look at that — or not. But I'm not so inclined right now, one of the reasons being — is that they are one of these species that are very limited by temperature. One of these times we're going to get a freeze, and it's going to knock them all back.
And they're such a neat opportunity for kids and things. Now, at this point, we haven't looked at it. Now, there's some — my biologists — we're — we go through a cycle every year to look at these species. Mangrove snapper's on there. They're going to kind of take a look at it to see if we need to do something.
But because of that particular issue, I want to be a little cautious before I limit them. Because we could lose them all in a very short time at any rate.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: John.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Dr. McKinney, do you have — could you rate your concerns about freshwater inflows into certain areas up and down the coast? Are there areas of concern that you — that your people have about freshwater inflows right now?
MR. McKINNEY: Well, clearly those estuaries in which the population demands or population growth is increasing demand for water. That's our highest priority. But at this point, it's just about every one of those estuaries.
Texas is growing at such a rate there's not a single one where there's not an issue up and down the coast. I can't think of one — I used to think Sabine might be somewhat kind of exempt from that because of all the water they have, but in reality, we're looking at the ability to move water over great distances and issues, so that's — it's —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: The answer to that, John, is every single river is moving towards full appropriation. When you get to full appropriation, every single one of those bay systems is at risk, which is why our environmental-flows commission is looking at how to allocate senior water.
Because once you get fully appropriated, the whole question is a matter of being able to get senior water dedicated to environmental purposes. So, I mean, I think Larry's right. Once you get to full appropriation, which eventually we will be as the state grows, every single bay's at risk if you don't fix it, which is —
With the governor's leadership — you know, he's reappointed that commission — we'll hopefully get that done.
MR. McKINNEY: Time to do it. I think we hope — this is our best shot that I've ever seen to get something done, so I hope that we can —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Well, let's not blow it.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Is that our policy position? Don't blow it?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Don't blow it. That's my policy.
MR. McKINNEY: I'll write that down in my notes, and I'll make sure I keep it.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: You say it's our best show. Isn't that what you say —
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Don't blow it.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any other questions or comments regarding the coastal fishing forecast?
MR. McKINNEY: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: It is a forecast.
MR. McKINNEY: It's a forecast.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Okay. Not a promise.
Next up, item 8, repeal of the Sea Rim State Park hunting, fishing and trapping proclamation.
MS. FITE: Mr. Chairman, members of the commission, I'm Vickie Fite, the public hunting coordinator. In January, a request to publish for public comment was granted by the regulations committee for the repeal of the Sea Rim hunting, fishing and trapping proclamation. I'd like to take, once again, just a brief moment to give you a history of this proclamation.
In 1971, the legislature gave the TPWD commission right under sound biological management practices to open seasons for hunting on state parks. These were very restrictive. They were by special permit only, and no season would last longer than three consecutive days.
In 1981, the legislature added subchapter 62.0631 that gave the commission the authority to provide an open season for recreational-type hunting on Sea Rim State Park that would basically mirror the season lengths and bag limits for Jefferson County. The target species for hunting were going to be waterfowl and fur-bearers. This is when this proclamation came about.
1985, substantial changes were made by the legislature to the TPWD Code Chapter 62 subchapter D for hunting in state parks that allowed for more recreational-type hunting to take place on parks. These changes provided the opportunity for parks to become part of the public-hunting program.
In 1990, Sea Rim was added to the list of state parks to be hunted under the public hunting lands proclamation. This was done to streamline the regulations process and to offer more flexible hunting opportunity.
The Sea Rim State Park hunting, fishing and trapping proclamation is basically a duplication of regulation, and there is no longer a need for a separate proclamation. There were no public comments received on this item.
Mr. Chairman, the current slide shows staff's recommended motion. And this concludes my part of the presentation. If you have any questions, I'd be happy to answer them.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Vickie.
We have one person signed up to speak on this item. Stand by. Thank you.
Mr. Gilleland, I believe you're the only one signed up on item 8.
MR. GILLELAND: My name is Ellis Gilleland. I'm a private citizen speaking for myself and Texas animals and animal-rights organization on the internet. I am concerned about the repeal of the proclamation on the Sea Rim State Park, and I've outlined in yellow on the first page — it says the rules are no longer necessary, because Sea Rim State Park is a unit of public hunting lands. That's not true.
They are — it is not part of the public lands. I've given you a copy of the Code, Parks and Wildlife Code, 62.0631, Sea Rim. And you notice down at the bottom, it says 1983. So the proclamation that they've been using for hunting in Sea Rim has been going on for 23 years under a special proclamation.
On the third document I've given you, Texas Administrative Code, you'll notice that I told you the truth, because it says Sea Rim State Park hunting, fishing, trapping proclamation.
And then on the last page of the document I've given you is the excerpt from Texas Administrative Code, subchapter H. And you notice it says public lands proclamation. So my — public land proclamation is what all the other state parks fall under for the hunting aspects every year.
So my concerns are twofold. Number 1, on the correcting the — it says rules are no longer necessary, because it's public hunting lands. Well, it is not public hunting land. But if you designated public hunting land, if you repeal the proclamation, the hunting is being conducted under no proclamation, because it's not under public lands proclamation.
If you look at page 2 of the last document here, you'll notice Sea Rim is not listed as a public lands proclamation. So my concern is to get it under a proclamation — you're going to repeal one; well, get it under the other one, under public lands.
And I would insert public lands proclamation in the wording here — is a unit of public hunting lands as governed by public lands proclamation — is the way I would do it.
And the last concern I have is that very shortly, Sea Rim's going to become a free-fire zone for alligators. And it's an ambiguous situation, because it's not water and it's not land. So any more ambiguity in terms of proclamation and hunting status is going to make it terrible for the alligators. And we'll talk about that later on —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Alligators on number 10.
MR. GILLELAND: Sir?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Alligators will be item 10 on the agenda.
MR. GILLELAND: On — well, on the hunting —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes, sir.
MR. GILLELAND: — proclamation? I'll discuss it then.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes, sir. This is just Sea Rim.
Thank you, Mr. Gilleland, for pointing that out.
Ann, Vickie, I just happened to notice that the listing that Mr. Gilleland prepared for us states public hunting lands include but are not limited to the following.
MS. FITE: Okay. We —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Does that take care of the problem?
MS. FITE: Each year, we submit a list of designated state parks, candidate state parks that are approved by the commission each year for hunting activities. We also list the types of hunting activity and the number of permits and the days that each one of those are open.
And those are approved, and it is in our public lands proclamation, the designated units of the state park system.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Great. Thanks for that answer.
You're nodding over there, Ann.
All right. Any other questions regarding — any other questions?
MS. FITE: One other thing. That —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes. Vickie.
MS. FITE: — will be brought to you all in May when all of the proposals are finalized. That will be approved at the May commission meeting.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Where we deal with the public hunting in all the state parks.
MS. FITE: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And now Sea Rim will just be treated as all the others are —
MS. FITE: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: — presently treated instead of with a special proclamation.
MS. FITE: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Understood. Thank you very much.
Any questions on that item? Motion?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So move.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Moved by Friedkin, and second by Holt. All in favor, aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion carries. Thank you.
And next up is item 9, a briefing on customer service center.
MR. DABNEY: Chairman, commissioners, I'm Walt Dabney, state park director. I'm here to talk to you about part of our operation in the state parks. I'm proud of it all. But I wanted to talk today about a particular component of the state-park operation, and indeed, the department operation that's always there behind the scenes. Nobody sees them, and without them, we could in fact not operate successfully.
In 1993, the state auditor's office did an audit that said we need to do a better job in dealing with reservations. At that time, the parks were doing their own. You tried to call the parks, and if they were full, you tried to — you had to go someplace and figure out where you were going to find a spot.
They told us that was not an effective way. That was not good customer service. It was not good for revenue handling and that sort of thing, and we could do a whole lot better job. It would also let our people out in the parks focus on operating the parks and not spending so much of their time trying to run a reservation system.
So we put together the initial central reservation office, and that has evolved today to become the department's customer service center. It's evolved into a much bigger operation than it was in the original conception.
Originally, it certainly provided state-park reservations for all the parks. We maintained the database, which are all of our customers, and what parks are open; what campgrounds are open; any information that has be had to make a reservation.
It provided information to visitors calling in about the parks. And certainly, it supported and installed and trained the people in 110 parks to operate this system on a day-to-day basis. But it's grown a lot more than that, and I want to share some of those with you today.
If you call the hunter and boater education department, and they are tied up, those calls now come to the — this central office. And we have people that are trained that can answer questions from our constituents about this program.
We're also doing reservations for the Lower Colorado River Authority and for our previous state park at Kerrville. In the agreement to transfer that, we would — we said we'd continue reservations. They reimburse us for those reservations.
You approved the transfer of Lake Houston. When we get that done, we'll continue to do reservations for the city of Houston, and they will reimburse us for that.
Some other things that we now do in that reservation office or that customer support office is we get all the phone calls now that come into this department that — people don't know who they need to call.
In addition to that, if the people call in and have a question, it comes to our people. If they cannot answer it, then they figure out who in this department needs to answer that question and gets that customer, that constituent to the right program.
We've since added hunting and fishing license. That was discussed, I think, yesterday by Mary. Our people over at that customer support office sold last year a million dollars, approximately, in hunting and fishing license through the reservation office, through the customer support office.
In addition, we have people fluent in Spanish that can talk to any of our customers in any time of day that we're open to assist them, whether it's park information or making a reservation.
We're selling the state park annual pass and, I think, sold 5,000 plus last year in the reservation office. And they do an outstanding job. When you call in, they'll literally tell you it's a better deal for you to buy a state-park annual pass, and they've been very successful.
You recently approved the off-highway permit to be implemented to — that requires a permit for use of vehicles on public lands. We're now up and running and selling those permits in that system.
To give you an idea of volume, that customer support center — service center handles 450,000 visitor contacts a year. It's broken out in that pie chart to show you the kinds of things. Certainly, reservations is a big part of it, but you can see license sales or information or any of those. It's an incredibly active kind of a place.
At any one time, we could have as many as 32 agents on or as few as 16. And I'm going to talk about that just a little bit in a minute. But we tailor it to what we need at the given time.
To give you an idea monthly, they're handling over 37,000 customer contacts, whether it's information or making them a reservation. And what we collect in revenue and deposits — $580,000. But by the time they go and pay their bill for entrance and camping fees at the park, that's about $1.4 million a month that they're bringing in.
Or on a yearly basis, it's talking about $16.8 million. And that doesn't include all the other things they spend in the park. That's just what the reservation office is generating through these reservations.
To do this job, we're spending right now these figures, $861,000 in classified personnel. And the operational total down at the bottom includes things like credit-card charges and internet fees and a whole lot of other things that we have to pay to operate.
We're down from 54 FTEs in 1994 when we start to 36.5. So our efficiency is very high. In fact, we may have cut it too far. And we're looking at that, because we're — we get almost no complaints in this system, but we're starting to have some lag times now that are a direct result from us trying to tighten our belt. And all of you are aware that we've tried to do that all over the system anywhere we could.
Referrals. This is an interesting statistic. If you call in and want to go to Enchanted Rock, and there is no place for you to go there, they will find you another place.
Unlike calling Chicago to make a reservation — they don't care whether you have one or not. They're just charging you for the reservation — I mean, if we were to contract this out to Chicago. Chicago's a great place otherwise, I'm sure.
If they refer 43 percent of these customers, that's $2.9 million. That alone pays — well overpays for the cost of operating this center. So I thought that was an important statistic.
Another thing that these folks do on a regular basis is in times of emergency, they are springing into action full speed. To give you an idea, when I say emergency, it can be a fire; it can be the water system going out at Garner Park on Memorial Day weekend, which actually has occurred.
And if you think that isn't close to a natural disaster, it is absolutely a meltdown for us. And they're trying to rebook people, trying to talk to thousands of folks that were coming to Garner that — we have no water and we're closed.
But Rita is one of many hurricane situations that we had. Just to give you some idea on the workload at Rita, we dealt with 10,543 evacuees just related to Rita. What that meant also is they booked reservations. Many of these people in their car, heading — looking for someplace to land that found out that state parks would let them in called us.
We booked a reservation for them. We booked 8,750 nights for people coming in there. We waived — which we do every time there's a hurricane. We'll welcome you in. We know that this is a tough time for you.
$104,000, $105,000 in entrance fees and $140,000, nearly $141,000 in camping fees — that were waived, or cabin fees. We've applied to FEMA for reimbursement on that. I hope that comes through. That would certainly help us.
One of the common questions would be why are we doing it in-house, and could we do it better outside. We've looked at in inside. We contracted with Herbst and Associates in 2000 to look at this. Herbst's recommendation says that they did not recommend outsourcing.
And I will tell you from going to the national director's meeting and so forth, we're the envy of a lot of my counterparts in other states. We have control over our system. We do it cheaper than almost anybody that I know of.
But Herbst made some recommendations to us that we have implemented. Call-management system, virtual hold. Instead of you waiting in line for an operator, this system will come online and tell you how long it's going to be before you can talk to an operator and tell you that if you'll give us a time and a date, we'll call you back at that time.
The system automatically does it. It calls you back whether it's two hours from now or two days from now. It calls you back. The operator doesn't even know it's a callback call. We make your reservation. And we caught you when you said you would be there.
Another thing that we do is an efficiency. If we are not busy with our contract employees, they go home. They punch out. So we can reduce our cost. It is not cost-efficient to run a full complement of reservation agencies if you don't have the volume. So we literally manage that on an hour-by-hour basis.
Internet reservations. We're fully up and running with an internet reservation. Thirty to 40 percent of the reservations coming in now, and certainly those that come in after hours, are happening oftentimes on the internet.
Reduce postage. That was a recommendation. We were mailing out your confirmation notices. It's more and more expensive, as you know, to do that. We now fax or e-mail you a confirmation, and that's cut our cost hugely.
One of our partners from day 1 or our primary partner from day 1 was the information technology division, George and his staff. Without them, we would be shut down maybe in the next 15 minutes, but certainly in the next 15 days. We couldn't have gotten up and running.
If we have an emergency, if our hardware goes down or our software system has a glitch in it, these guys are immediately available to us. If you're in on a weekend or you're on Monday, and your computer system goes down and the reservation lines are backed up, we're in a serious crisis.
These guys are always there. They do our telephone systems, our computer networks, and certainly all our internet connections.
And George, if he's here, and his staff, we all want to tell you for sure a great thanks. It's a partnership that could not work otherwise.
The — this system is an integral part, certainly, in state-park operations. It's an integral part, as I hope you've seen, of the department. This is a moderate to light day at Garner Park in the water. If you've never been there in the summer on a weekend, it's absolutely incredible.
In closing, I just want to say, we have an incredible team at the customer service center. Our turnover rate for this kind of work is absolutely as low as it is anywhere. We've had people that left to go make some more money somewhere else doing this kind of thing and came back to us, because they like what they do; they believe in the purpose of this thing. It's a great work environment.
And the system is doing some great things for us. We have almost no customer complaints, and we're extremely proud of that.
I'd love — in conclusion, if any of you ever wanted to go over there, these people are hidden out over in building D, which you might not have been into. It's really fun to just watch them work and listen to them talking to our customers and how they treat them and how they handle folks.
And with that, I'd be glad to answer any questions you might have and appreciate you giving us the opportunity to talk about the customer support center.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Any comments? Phil.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: I'd be curious to know how you train that many contractors to be knowledgeable about the parks and about the facilities they're actually describing. That seems like quite a challenge.
MR. DABNEY: We have a training component in this. We have a constant evaluation going. We segment, to some extent, expertise. Certainly, Spanish language would be one of those. But we have people that specialize in hunting and fishing licenses and other things so that all reservation agents don't have to know every single thing.
So the training program is incredible. Our turnover rate though, Commissioner, helps us hugely in not having to retrain as many. Again, we have a number of our folks that are contract employees, which gives us the flexibility to not have as many reservation agents on at one time. So the training is ongoing, but it's been very successful.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Any other comments?
Walt, thank you. It's amazing what you guys do. And I'm sure that — the people that are manning this are the voice of Parks and Wildlife, and I haven't received any complaints. And it's a tough job to be able to cater to all the different personalities and the issues that they face. So anyway, thank you.
MR. DABNEY: It's hard to stay up when you can't even see outside. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thanks, Walt.
We're onto 15 now. We're going to skip now to item 15. That was our change in the — with the amended agenda. Land transfer, Hidalgo County.
MR. BAUER: Good morning. I'm Jack Bauer, director of the land conservation program. This is a follow-up from the January meeting for this item, and we're proposing to have you consider and take action at the Weslaco World Birding Center a proposal to accept some land from the city of Weslaco.
We have a site-development plan that is implemented and operating. A component of this transaction is the sharing of contributions from the city and Texas Parks and Wildlife to develop this site. And part of the contribution from the city of Weslaco was a value of land at the 18-acre Weslaco — at the trailer park that contributes to the — their grant for the development of the site.
There have been three agreements between the city and TPWD that include an agreement that each will contribute to the site development. We will accept property as project match — and that we would not choose to own trailer-park lots if the land was leased to residents.
The implementation of the transfer of land and dealing with trailer-park residents is — has been in effect for several years. And there is development of a process agreement to formalize that.
Proposed action is to accept unoccupied lots within an 18-acre trailer park that is shown here. The red crosshatch are occupied lots, and this would not include action on those lots.
There was a public meeting held in Weslaco, approximately 100 in attendance. Most of the people at the meeting where residents in the trailer park, lessees. Most of those people were opposed to the transfer of the facility.
We had adjacent landowners, however, two of those that were there who were in favor. We've received no other e-mail or letter or calls either in favor or opposed.
Staff recommendation today would be to — as you see before you, to accept this land from the city of Weslaco. I'd be happy to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any questions for Jack on Hidalgo land transfer?
Thank you, Jack.
I have someone —
MR. BAUER: I believe there are several —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Oh, good.
MR. BAUER: — signed up to speak.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Good. I'm sorry. I didn't have you on my list here from Weslaco.
VOICE: Is the World Birding Center up and running at this point?
MR. COOK: Yes.
MS. BRIGHT: I could make one comment. We do have some representatives from the city of Weslaco here who I believe would like to speak.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Good. I'm sorry. I didn't have any sign-up sheets from those folks.
So you're welcome, and come on up. And introduce yourself. I'm sorry. I don't have a sign up sheet.
MR. SANCHEZ: Good morning.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you.
MR. SANCHEZ: My name is Joe Sanchez. I am the mayor of the city of Weslaco, I might say the all-American city of Weslaco. I'm here to express the — on behalf of the city and its citizens, the administration, staff — our gratitude to you, the board, commission, director here.
It has been a long road. It has been, at times, difficult. But I don't know if all of you have seen the park, but it's going to be — right now it's a rough diamond, but in a few years it's going to be the crown jewel of the state-park system.
It's a beautiful park in a beautiful city. And I'd like to say again that we would like to continue. The co-operation has grown over the years with this Parks and Wildlife Department — and express our appreciation to you all.
And I am very anxious to get to the time that we, with you, actually officially open it and dedicate it. And I'm hoping it would be soon. So again, thank you so much on behalf of the city of Weslaco. And thank you for the opportunity to say these words to you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you very much. Thank you for the work you've done with our staff. I have been there, and you're right; it's a great spot. It's only going to get better. Thank you.
MR. SANCHEZ: Okay. And everybody's invited to go down there. You know, Mexico's only five minutes away.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: That's right.
Do we have anyone else from the city of Weslaco or any of the community leaders?
Thank you very much for making the trip and for being here and for all your support. Thank you.
MR. COOK: Mr. Chairman, I —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes, sir, Bob.
MR. COOK: — corrected. We have not actually got it open to the public. We — our staff is there. We're doing finishing up at the building. And we've got our local city sewer system — working these folks coming in to get us hooked up, which is a big step for us. And we too are looking forward to the full opening to the public.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any idea when?
MR. COOK: I'm — Steve?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: June, mid-summer.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Sometime this year, I assume.
MR. COVACEVICH: Good morning. My name is Anthony Covacevich. I'm the city manager for the city of Weslaco. As you all know, we had an EDA grant, which the city's participating in, to dig sewer to the site.
We are currently on our third attempt to cross a farm-to-market road. One of the problems we're having is that — the whole area's very unique, and you need to really go by there. We're encountering quicksand.
And every time we try to bore under the state highway — they do not allow us to open — cut the state highway, so we're boring — we tend to miss the mark because of the loose soils underneath that has forced us to do the project. And we're on our third attempt. They always say the third time's a charm, so we hope to have that done.
We're dewatering right now. It's been taking two months to dewater the site. And the water — there's an aquifer underneath, got some of the most beautiful crystal water you've ever seen. So we hope for some potential in that area.
But we are expecting hopefully to cut across this next month. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you for your hard work there.
Anyone else from Weslaco, the community there? Any other questions on the part of the commission?
Let's see. I need a motion on that one.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: So moved.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Moved by Ramos. Second by —
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Second by Holt. All in favor, please say aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion carries. Thank you very much.
All right. Back to the original order. We're now on item 10, 2006-7 statewide hunting and fishing proclamation and alligator proclamation. What do we want to start with here?
MR. RIECHERS: Mr. Chairman, commissioners. Again, my name is Robin Riechers of the coastal fisheries division. I'm here to present to you the proposed 2006-2007 changes to the coastal-fisheries portion of the statewide hunting and fishing proclamation.
The comments on the proposals that we received basically have not changed from a percentage perspective since we did the scoping prior to your last — your agreement to have us publish and put those out for final hearing.
We had 29 commenters during the public-hearing portion. All of those were at the public-hearing sites, and we didn't have any over e-mail or phone at this point in time.
Our first proposal deals with the smalltooth sawfish and the largetooth sawfish. As indicated previously, the listing of the smalltooth sawfish under the Endangered Species Act basically means they're protected under chapter 68 of the Texas Parks and Wildlife code.
But given that the — it's difficult to tell the difference between a largetooth sawfish and the smalltooth sawfish, we're recommending prohibiting the take of the large-tooth sawfish as well.
Our next proposal deals with removing the requirement for the Tarpon tag. Again, we currently have a Tarpon tag, and we basically are selling very few of those per year.
And it is our intention that we can do the same thing by basically creating a one-fish bag limit with a minimum size limit set at 80 inches. It will still allow for the take of a state-record kind of fish, but it will get us out of the business of selling such a — few numbers of Tarpon tags.
Our next proposal deals with black drum. We want to maintain the current five-fish bag limit and the 14- to 30-inch minimum and maximum size limit. But we would allow one fish over the 52 inches per day. Again, the same kind of rationale as with the tarpon — by allowing one over 52, we will allow state-record fish to be caught and landed if someone chooses to do so.
The next proposal dealing with southern flounder — we are proposing that we reduce the recreational-flounder possession limit to equal — to be equal to the bag limit. It's ten — that would be ten fish per person per day.
It will basically mean that you can only have ten flounder at any one given time. Currently, if you stay past midnight, you can actually have 20 fish per person per day.
As indicated earlier, this support hasn't necessarily changed. But I did want to again make the comment that of those who did not support this rule — actually, when you take those who wanted a more stringent rule and you move them over to the support category, assuming that they would support the ruling even though they wanted it to be more stringent, this opposition — it's really more like 50/50 support or opposition.
Next are — and we had some earlier questions about tripletail. We are adding tripletail to the game-fish list. We would establish a minimum size limit of 17 inches, a bag limit of three fish, and a possession limit of six fish.
As indicated yesterday, we did take these proposals to our coastal resource advisory committee after scoping and prior to publication in the Texas Register. We haven't changed those proposals. So our staff recommendation and the coastal resources advisory committee recommendation is to adopt the previously discussed proposals as you saw here today.
With that, I'd be happy to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Robin.
Let's see. Next up we have Ken.
MR. KURZAWSKI: Good morning, commissioners. My name is Ken Kurzawski with inland fisheries division. And today I'm here to go over our public input on our proposed regulation changes for the upcoming year.
First change is on Marine Creek Lake in Tarrant County. We're proposing to change the bass limits, largemouth bass limits, from the 14-inch minimum to an 18-inch minimum, and maintain the five-fish bag.
And our goal there is to protect some of the operation world-record bass fingerlings that we're stocking into that reservoir from harvest for four years, so we can evaluate the growth of these relatively valuable fish.
We did receive a few public comments on that. Two were in favor; one was against.
Next regulation is the change — or adding a county to the bait-fish exceptions. We are proposing adding Kinney County to that list. In 17 counties in West Texas, the use of certain bait fish is restricted to those species already in the Pecos River watershed. And that includes both native and non-native fishes.
Our goal there is to protect the pupfish, originally, and now we had the Devils River minnow to that — advantage of that protection. It's only found in Val Verde and Kinney counties there. And Val Verde's always — has already been included. We didn't receive any public comments on this particular proposal.
The final proposal was the proposal to allow the harvest of catfish by bowfishing. And that proposal would allow the use of lawful archery equipment as a legal means to take blue, channel and flathead catfish. This originated — Texas Bowfishing Association petitioned for this regulation change, and it was included with our statewide proposals.
The existing minimum length and daily bag limits would be filed for blues and channels. Those are currently 12 inches and 25 fish per day. And for flatheads, it's 18 inches and five fish per day. And the goal there would be to increase some harvest opportunity for bow anglers.
The public comments that we received, both from the scoping process, November through January, and through the public hearings — I've segregated those out by the various meetings. The individual comments in public hearings were against — e-mails and phone calls —
We did include a letter. There was a letter of support from Texas Bowfishing Association — was a petition with 102 signatures. And also, we did receive a letter from the Sportsmans Conservation, a Texas organization, and CCA in opposition to this proposal.
Some of the main points that persons for and against this proposal cited in their comments — they didn't believe the harvest would cause any biological damage, wanted to harvest some catfish for eating.
And there was some support there for additional limits against those — believe that bowfish — bow and arrow is not an acceptable method for game fish. They're concerned about localized impacts on big catfish, especially blue and flatheads — and that this would be a possible precedent for other non-pole-and-line methods for taking other game fish.
From the staff's perspective, looking at the proposals, the pros and cons, it would increase some harvest opportunity for bow anglers. There may be some possible increase in bowfishing. There's no — we don't have any biological data to show any negative impacts at this time.
Some of the cons are that there are potential mortality of undersized fish with the minimum-length limits for catfish. There could be some targeting of larger fish. And it could possibly open an avenue for other methods, other than pole and line, for other game fishes.
And finally, it's a break with our ongoing management approach of selective harvest. Our approach there has been to maintain harvest as an important part of the fishing experience. But we would like to give the anglers a choice whether to harvest that fish or the opportunity to release it. Using bowfishing, obviously that choice isn't there.
And we think that ability to either retain that fish or release that fish has improved the quality of many of our fisheries, and that is something that we're interested in doing for catfish. Catfish management is — has been moving in that direction over the last decade or so.
A number of states around the country are looking at that. We implemented minimum-length limits, one of the first states to do that. Some other states have even implemented trophy catfish regulations. And we believe that the management of all game fishes has benefitted from moving them from sort of food fish to a game fish.
And this has been especially important for catfish. And we have worked to elevate the status as a game fish, and pole-and-line angling is an important part of that equation there.
To summarize, there was also previously a petition submitted on this in 2004. At that time, staff did recommend that the petition be denied, and it was denied. We really don't feel there's been a lot of additional, although we've taken some additional public comment on this.
Little additional information has surfaced during the current process. Therefore, we don't feel there's any compelling reason to break with previous management approaches and support this proposal at this time.
We do continue to support the two proposals we — on Marine Creek and the addition of the county for bait-fish restrictions. If there any questions, or are there any comments?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Ken.
Anybody have any more to say that wasn't said yesterday about catfish and bowfishing? We can do that after our public comment. But any other questions for Ken on the other items?
MR. KURZAWSKI: We'll be standing by.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thanks for all — please do. Thanks for all your hard work on this.
Next up, Mike Berger.
MR. BERGER: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, commissioners. I'm Mike Berger, director of wildlife division. And I'm here to talk to you today about our part of the statewide hunting and fishing proclamation, which includes recommendations for white-tailed deer, upland game birds and alligators.
First is the regulation in Upton County, which currently has and has had a split regulation. The green part of the county currently has a three-deer, one-buck limit. The brown part of the county currently has a four-deer, two-buck limit.
And the population is increasing and doing better. The habitat's improving. And we would propose to expand opportunity there by making the whole county four-deer, no more than two bucks, and no antlerless permit required.
You also know about how successful our white-tailed buck-deer antler restriction has been. We started that with six counties, expanded it through 15 more counties last year. And those counties are shown in the hatched area on the map.
The — we are proposing to add 40 new counties this year, 40 counties or portions of 40 counties. And those are shown in the unhatched green areas on the map.
As you'll recall, this regulation would allow for the harvest — a two-buck limit, one of which must have at least one unbranched antler. The other buck could have an unbranched antler or an inside minimum antler spread of 13 inches. In support of this, were 181 folks, and 63 expressed opposition to it.
Next proposal to talk about is the managed land upland game-bird program. The regulatory portion of this has been discussed for some time. You'll see on the slide that there are two major components of the upland game-bird program. One is non-regulatory, and one is regulatory.
Included in the non-regulatory portions are five components. The first is the wild bird translocations. And let me clarify something there from yesterday when we spoke to the regulations committee — that my response to one of the chairman's questions was incomplete and potentially misleading.
When we discussed with the game-bird committee and the quail council — we discussed a broad range of opportunities for moving birds around to areas that were — could fill unoccupied habitat.
One of those things that my staff and I have talked about is moving from wildlife-management areas to — we mention that in a list of — total list of opportunities, that — the possibility of moving birds from wildlife-management areas to private property. That is off the table. We're not talking about that.
We are now talking, as the slide indicates, of Triple T, which is a program that allows private individuals to move wildlife from one private ranch to another private ranch with our concurrence. So —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And the other example you gave me was — there's a research project —
MR. BERGER: There is an ongoing research project that is completely separate from this. But it would shed light on how we would implement this program in the future. But we're seeing if we can move populations or small groups of quail from one area to another in similar habitat and get them to take.
And in that research project, we are trying to capture some quail from an unhunted — an unquail-hunted wildlife-management area to move them onto this vacant quail habitat. But that is separate and apart from this procedure. We're talking about Triple T in this program here.
The other parts of — the non-regulatory part of that is the provision through NGOs and other co-operators of some habitat-management equipment for use on small — by landowners, the encouragement of game-bird co-operatives to piece together larger components of land to — for common management, the leveraging of dollars through farm-bill programs; assistance with getting that done, and the development of a game-bird stewardship recognition program.
Those are the non-regulatory incentive portions of the game-bird program.
In terms of regulatory incentives —was the property-season limit or property quota and modified season lengths. Yesterday when we presented this to the regs committee — and following discussion, the committee instructed us to withdraw the regulatory portions of this proposal and to proceed with the implementation of the non-regulatory incentive pieces of the upland game-bird program.
And we intend to do that — including an instruction to undertake some investigation to refine some of these property-quota ideas and concepts and to come back to the commission with another proposal in the future.
Moving on to alligators, the last legislature eliminated the alligator-hunting-license requirement. And so therefore, we are recommending the addition of the alligator license or the alligator hunting opportunity to the state hunting and fishing proclamation and the general hunting license.
And we want to make provision to govern the recreational take, such as lengthening the season; the recreational season, allowing the take of alligators by means of firearms on private property outside of the core breeding area — and simplify the process for obtaining CITES tags.
The first of these changes — this delineates the core area from the non-core area. The counties in yellow, 22 counties, are the area of primary alligator abundance and breeding. And in these areas, the regulations would remain essentially unchanged from what they have been for many years.
In the remainder of the state, we propose that alligators may be taken on private land with landowner permission and with a hunting license from April 1 through June 30. During this season, take by means of firearms would be permitted. Take by firearms would only be permitted in the non-core areas. And the required CITES tag could be required after the harvest.
To review the hunting means and methods that are available for alligators, the hunting hours are half an hour before sunrise to sunset. And the means and methods are hook and line, gig, legal archery equipment, hand-held snare, and on the taking devices, a 300-pound test line, except snares and firearms, obviously.
Firearms could be used again only outside of the core areas. No rim fires, no automatic weapons, no silencers — and unlawful to shoot on, in, over or across public waters.
Once an alligator is taken in — outside the core areas, the tagging procedure would be as follows: To — immediately upon take, the hunter would place a wildlife-resource document on the alligator, complete a Form 304A, which is a harvest-report document. That would be available in the hunting annual, online, or at our — any of our wildlife offices.
You take that form and $20 for the CITES tag, send it to Parks and Wildlife. And we will, by return mail, send a CITES tag back, which should immediately be put on the hide.
There's also a need to modify the nuisance-control provisions, because there are more and more alligators in areas that are being developed for human habitation. And at present, our wildlife and law-enforcement staff are overburdened with these concerns.
This — these changes would enable communities in alligator country to have greater control over their nuisance alligators on — in the areas in which they live and basically would allow a political subdivision, government entity, or property-owners association to contract with a control hunter following a site evaluation and removal recommendations from us.
They could contract with a control hunter who, when they had a problem alligator — they could call him directly, bypassing us in the meantime. We had three people in support of these changes to the alligator regulations and 18 in opposition.
And that concludes the presentation this morning. There's — our staff recommendation is there for all the inland, coastal and wildlife, as discussed, and allowing the changes as necessary that we discussed yesterday.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Great. Thank you, Mike.
We've got quite a few people signed up. Do you have a question first?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Mike, can you just briefly describe the nature of the opposition?
MR. BERGER: To the alligators?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Yes.
MR. BERGER: There's a number of concerns. There have been concerns expressed that there will be a waste of the meat and hides as a result of this, that it would lead to overhunting, would encourage poaching, and would devastate the populations.
And I think — my feeling is these are based on a misunderstanding of the provisions for the recreational harvest outside of the core areas. That harvest is restricted outside, and the regulations do not change in what is the core area.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: In the core area. Thanks.
MR. BERGER: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Question. Do I understand, the way that public water is defined there, that you only can shoot an alligator — a person can only shoot an alligator from land on land?
MR. BERGER: This is a private-land proposal.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Okay.
MR. BERGER: This does not facilitate or allow the take of alligators from public waters.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: So any — if it's in the water at all — it's got to be on the land, and the shooter's got to be on the land.
MR. BERGER: Private water —
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Private waters. Okay.
MR. BERGER: — but it's on —
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Right.
MR. BERGER: This is with private landowner permission on private lands.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: You can shoot across private water. You can't shoot across public water. And that was made clear in the last legislative session by a law that specifically prohibits that.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Now, also, we received a letter from Senator Williams, Senator Tommy Williams, asking that we be sure to monitor that there are no negative effects on the population of the core habitat. Will we be in a position to do that and —
MR. BERGER: Yes, we are, because there are no changes in the core area to the regulations. The change, because — I said essentially unchanged. There is — in the core area, there is no longer a requirement for an alligator hunting license. That — the legislature changed that. So that's the only change in those areas.
In the core areas, there will still be a habitat evaluation, a population evaluation, and the CITES tags will be issued to the landowners to be used at their discretion as they have always been done in the core areas.
So — and those are the areas where the majority of alligators live and breed, and those are the — those are — those regulations are unchanged.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. So to put it more directly, Senator Williams's letter is addressed by — his concerns are addressed by the proposal.
MR. BERGER: Yes, sir. I believe they are.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. John.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Back to TTT.
MR. BERGER: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: On the upland-bird —
MR. BERGER: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: — thing, how long after a bird has been transported and released to a new area can you hunt that bird? Do you have any regulations with that —
MR. BERGER: No, I don't believe we have any regulations on that. But we're not restoring a population, you know, to be hunted soon thereafter. So, I mean, it's not like we would — we would only put enough birds in there to be a seed stock to start.
And it would take several years for those populations to grow to the point — I don't believe we have an actual year provision there, but it would be some time, several years.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: So if we don't have a regulation, we could TTT some birds in there and hunt them 30 days later.
MR. BERGER: No, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: We don't have a TTT program for birds yet. That's just one of the ideas that they're going to be looking at.
MR. BERGER: The Triple T statute allows the movement of wildlife between two landowners. Okay. Then we — but we can set stipulations on those movements to say how long between stocking and hunting. And —
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Will you bring those stipulations back to the commission?
MR. BERGER: I can. I mean, I — we don't have those written down at the moment. But they do not require a proclamation by the commission to establish those days. But I'll be —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Commissioner Parker's question — right now you've got Triple T deer.
MR. BERGER: Right.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And you have a restoration permit you can get. Same — I guess it's the same Triple T for turkey. Is that right?
MR. BERGER: Same Triple T for turkey. Yes.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And then if you deal with quail, it's a research —
MR. BERGER: It's —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: — or collector's permit or —
MR. BERGER: The one we're doing right now is research. It's not under Triple T.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Right. So there isn't a —
MR. BERGER: It's under research. For turkeys, when we did the restoration of the eastern bird, we had a five-year wait before that property could be hunted where those birds were released. So — and I would anticipate that in this regard, we would do something very similar to that, if we get there.
I mean, we don't have any of that habitat that's ready to go to receive those birds at the present time. So —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: It's not a present program. So to answer your question, somebody couldn't do that today.
We do have a few folks signed up on these issues. So we'll get started with those and then have plenty of time for questions and comments afterwards.
First up is James Vonwolske.
And Mr. Ranne, be ready.
MR. VONWOLSKE: Can you hear me now, as they say? This — I'm in favor of bowfishing for catfish, and it should pass easily, because it's a win/win here. And it should — by us being able to divert some of our fishing towards catfish, it should make Durocher happy; it should make the carp anglers happy.
And it should make the chairman happy, because we will not be diverted towards another type of fish. I believe the cost is zero, and the benefits are manyfold. And the staff's concerns are really baseless.
Some of the opposition says that we will unravel a 30-year program of catfish management. We can't. We don't have enough numbers. And we won't do that. It's just not possible. We're not ecoterrorists. We're not regular terrorists. We just want the opportunity to share in the fish.
So there are four issues here which I've listed, opportunity, resource, ethics and enlargement. Opportunity. The reality is that for all the years I've been doing it, I've never even seen a catfish. So the probability of me depleting or any of the others depleting the resource just doesn't hold up.
The resource — the staff says there are 250,000 catfishermen in the state. There may be only 250 bowfishermen. So that's a thousand-to-one ration. Catfishermen could catch 25 fish in a night. We may get one fish every 50 outings. It just doesn't happen. So we're not going to deplete the resource.
Ethics. Is it ethical to shoot a fish with a bow? PETA says anything you do to take wild game is unethical, so ethics is a gray spectrum here. But we are conscious of what we're doing. And we wouldn't take fish that's undersized or illegal no more than anybody else would.
Certainly, it's fair pursuit if — hard pursuit. So it says is it — begs the question, is it ethical to feed a deer from a timer — from a barrel of corn and then come out and blow him away with a 300 magnum from the comfort of a deer blind? Well, no.
Is it ethical to set out a hundred hooks on a jugline or trotline like the catfishermen do? I think that's unethical. I think that's equal to snares, which to me are just a terrible way of taking fish. The catfish is caught. You can't get him off the hook. You pull his guts out. You throw him back in. So we're not doing anything unethical.
Enlargement. You know, that's — that is, will this spill over into the next type of fish? Well, you guys are sour, and you can say where the line is and where the line is not. We're not asking for any more. And certainly, catfish fall under the gray area of — like flounder. Is it really game fish? It's certainly protected, but is it game fish?
The staff did their survey, and they said it's three to one against this proposal. Sorry. Time's up. It should be a thousand to one against to be proportionate. And I responded to each of the four commissioners' comments from yesterday specifically at the tail end of my memo. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. — I'm going to mispronounce your name.
MR. VONWOLSKE: Vonwolske.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Vonwolske.
MR. VONWOLSKE: Yes.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Great. Thank you very much.
And next up, Milton Bergman. Be ready.
MR. RANNE: Sir, my name's Leonard Ranne. I'm here opposing this here regulation. I'd like to talk about where we were 30 years ago, what's happening now, and where my fears would take us in the future.
I can remember growing up. As a young man, the whole philosophy was you kill what you can; you catch what you can; you eat everything. Late in the '70s, we seemed to boom with the great fish — lakes. We got out there and we caught fish. We had a ball.
But we've seen that decline. And we realized if we don't help the department manage that resource, then we're going to wind up here with poor fishing. So with the supervision — the commission and its staff, we set forth to put on a 30-year management program.
And the basis of that management program is our game fish. And we're not opposed to the guys using their bow and arrows. They've got six species of fish they can fish for. We've only got like seven, I think, that we can fish for.
So we've seen, as this grows — this process grows, we've seen our friends, the catfishermen — they've organized bass clubs. They got associations. It's a family activity. The families come, and they fish from the bank.
I think Bob Sealy had 7,000 — I mean 750 fishermen at Lake Fork. They caught a tremendous amount of fish. It was a family outing. They had parties after the tournament was over. You know, those guys, for the first time I've ever heard about, released those fish back in the lake.
So we're looking at a change here of what could happen. What would — how easy would it be to change this regulation around? Well, according to a gentleman with the bass federation in Louisiana — we met down here at San Antonio. He was saying, Whatever you do, don't do this.
What happened here — we opened up the door where everybody could fish with a bow and arrow. Then first thing you know, you started hearing things about these poor guys. They might accidentally shoot a fish. We don't want to penalize them. Let's give them a couple of fish there that — if they accidentally shoot something.
Then first thing you know, they went to the legislature. And they said, Well, you're already allowing these people to kill these other species of fish. They opened it up everywhere for everybody.
I think we have a tremendous amount of time, energy, the quality of life — to protect these game fish. You're talking about the catfish. They don't hurt nobody. They don't catch nothing. You can take and bait — a whole catfish will come up and eat it out of your hand.
You can sit there with a flooded light at night with a piece of PVC pipe in front of you. You can put bait out, and the fish will come and get them. And it's like shooting fish in a barrel. It's not sporting.
You can trap them. It would be no more than for me to ask you to let me have the right to set out a gill net or a barrel trap. I'm only going to take a couple of fish. It's not going to hurt nobody. The state has no records showing that what I did would affect something.
Gentlemen, the fishermen has worked with the department. We appreciate the commission. We appreciate the staff. Let's continue to protect something that the commissioners before you put in place. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Ranne.
And next up, Mr. Bergman.
And then Jack King.
MR. BERGMAN: Is it morning or afternoon? Good afternoon. I'm Milt Bergman, and I proudly represent the 67 members of the Neils Creek Wildlife Management Association. By a vote of our membership on March 26 — excuse me; 25, 2006, we extend our wholehearted support to the proposed antler-restriction changes for the coming hunting season.
Further, I salute the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for their professional approach to the idea that what is done now will to the benefit — will be to the benefit for years to come.
Bosque and Coryell Counties in central Texas west of Waco are probably typical of many of the areas of the state with the rich heritage of immigrants from Europe and family farms that have been passed from generation to generation.
Most of the farms are in the 200- to 500-acre range, and the deer are free-ranging, very little high fencing. The quality and the quantity of the deer herd is good, but it is nowhere close to what it used to be.
In the summer of 2003, some friends and immediate family met with Jose Cano, the Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist in the area, to discuss our desire to organize a wildlife management association.
Soon after, the Neils Creek Wildlife Management Association, with an area of approximately 22,000 acres, was established. The primary goal of the organization was to do whatever was necessary to return local hunting to a place of significant prominence, just as it had been many years ago.
Little did we know at that time that we were following volunteer guidelines that closely mirror what is now proposed for Bosque, Coryell and several surrounding counties.
We completed our first game survey in the fall of 2003. And I don't want to bore you with a bunch of numbers. You can see those in the handouts. In that first survey, there were four observations. We observed nine bucks, a total of 146 deer. We had recommendations that the group followed, and we had a good time doing that. We met a lot of new friends while the association was meeting.
The following year, in 2004, we had a second game survey. We observed 21 bucks, a total of 164 deer, a 12 percent increase in the number of deer, but 133 percent increase in the number of bucks.
Last year, we recorded our third survey, and even further — more significant numbers were shown. Based on this, we feel that these recommendations will benefit not only us, but all of the counties around us. The proof is in the numbers. People are seeing more deer. They're seeing better quality deer.
And my voice of support is not just for myself, but for my children and for my grandchildren. And so we wholeheartedly support the recommendations of the commission, and I hope that you will give it favorable consideration. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Bergman. And I'm always glad to see the work of the wildlife management associations. You all do a great job. The co-ops — I know I've been to your organization's meetings a couple of times, and I'll tell you, it's — we couldn't do it without you all. I mean, that's where it's actually happening. Thank you.
All right. Next up, we had Jack King.
And then after that, John — forgive me — Ricke.
MR. RICKE: Yes, sir. That's incorrect. I want to speak at 11. That was —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Number 11. All right, sir. We'll put you over there.
MR. RICKE: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hello, Jack.
MR. KING: Mr. Chairman, how are you, sir?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Great. Good to see you.
MR. KING: Good to see you. Commissioners, Mr. Cook, it's good to see you. My name is Jack King with Sportsmen Conservationist of Texas. And I'm here to speak on the proposal to legalize bowfishing for taking catfish.
And like one of the other gentlemen that spoke, I'm going to say I too agree that it's not an issue of ethics. It's not an issue of opportunity. This is an issue of retaining the integrity of management practices by designating fish as game fish.
And as you can see from your rules today, in your — in the preamble, as we're — you all are going to be making a decision on adding tripletail to the game-fish list. The reason be — to offer it more protection, in other words, to limit it to pole-and-line harvest, which is exactly the reason all the existing fish on the game fish are there.
Now, catfish also can be taken by troutline and jug line and trotline. But the — I think the issue here is, you know, if the catfish is no longer deserving of the — to be labeled as a game fish, then perhaps it needs to be studied a little more before we start taking game fish and authorizing other means and methods that don't follow the department selective-harvest program, which is so strong now.
Because once it's been shot with an arrow or a spear or anything else, you can no longer have the opportunity to release it. Whereas game fish are limited to devices where they — the fisherman has that option to exercise catch and release.
And I believe that — and we believe that if this goes forward, that there will be a lineup of people coming for other species, particularly, I can see, in saltwater. Spear fishermen for a number of years have wanted to harvest game fish in saltwater. And you're talking about the snook that you spoke of earlier and some of the other game-fish species there.
So I would urge the commission — and I know you all have through your discussions yesterday — at length have discussed and — this whole issue — that you all amend your staff recommendation today to remove this proposal until staff and other interested parties can have more time to study this whole game-fish issue to make sure we don't undermine the integrity of that management practice. Thank you, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thanks, Jack. I appreciate your comments.
Let's see. I lost — after Mr. — after Jack, I had Joey Park. Joey.
And then Tim McKee, be ready.
MR. PARK: Good afternoon, Chairman Fitzsimons, commissioners. My name is Joey Park. I'm here today on behalf of the Coastal Conservation Association of Texas. CCA Texas is one of the largest marine-conservation groups in this state, comprised of over 48,000 members and 45 local chapters from Brownsville to Orange.
CCA Texas supports the statewide — proposed statewide regulatory changes regarding changes in bag and size limits on largetooth sawfish, tarpon and black drum, flounder and tripletail. CCA Texas supports these regulatory modifications.
But in the proposed management changes for tripletail, we urge Parks and Wildlife to develop a science, establish a better understanding of our tripletail stocks here in Texas for proper future management, and suggest limits be steered to err on the side of conservation. We further ask that Parks and Wildlife revisit tripletail limits as they gain a better understanding of this species.
Secondly, regarding the bowhunting for catfish, I'm here today on behalf of CCA to oppose this proposal for the bowhunting of catfish here in Texas. CCA Texas does not traditionally comment on freshwater finfish management issues, but we are concerned about the ramifications and precedent that this may have on saltwater-species game-fish management.
After many hard-fought years to protect the game fish of this state, we believe that this would be moving in the wrong direction. Please reconsider this recommendation to protect all of our state's valuable game fish. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Joey. One second. I think I can extend your time. On the tripletail, are you suggesting that we just watch closely the three — the initial three-fish bag or that it should be two —
MR. PARK: I think —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: — or one in the beginning until we know more or — I didn't quite understand your comment.
MR. PARK: We're just recommending as we start to establish — now that we're going to establish this as a game fish, set bags and size limits — that we look at it a lot closer. I don't think we know a whole lot —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Right.
MR. PARK: — about this species — and that we just take a close look at it and be ready to come back and revisit it if what we find is different than what we think today.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Well, I agree with you. And we're making the big step of going —
MR. PARK: Absolutely.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: — from non-game to game here. I think Larry McKinney's comment yesterday was that three is a — I won't say arbitrary number, but a beginning number and — with the intention that you monitor that closely. Is there — is that accurate?
Now, Gene, it's fair to say all regs are Sunsetted.
MR. McCARTY: Every four years we are required by statute to take a look at all regs —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Right. So then it's important to keep in mind that every fishing and hunting reg is Sunsetted.
MR. PARK: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: So — every four years. So nothing is permanent.
MR. PARK: Absolutely.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Right. We take seriously your admonition on tripletail, because it's — I think it's a real opportunity to build a new fishery, and we need to learn more about it.
MR. PARK: I agree.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Joey.
MR. PARK: Thank you, Chairman.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Who do I have next? It was Tim McKee, Georgetown.
MR. McKEE: My name is Tim McKee. I'm director of the Texas Bowfishing Association. I'd like to thank the commission for bringing this issue up for discussion. I know it's very controversial. If I appear nervous, it's probably because I am. I was told to picture everybody in their underwear, but no offense; I prefer to be nervous.
For several years, being in my position directing this organization, we've been asked by not only members but non-members and even out-of-state bowfishermen to try to pursue getting the catfish allowed for bowfishing.
We feel like there's plenty of them out there. If there was a population problem, then why would Parks and Wildlife allow an angler to put jug lines, troutlines, throw lines, a hundred hooks in the water, bait the area?
We just want a piece of the pie. That's all. I'd rather have coleslaw and hush puppies and catfish than carp. And before they were called non-game fish, they were called trash fish, and it's for a reason. The carp are very destructive to the waters.
And there's a lot of bowfishermen out there. We give a lot of our fish away. I've had tournaments where we give fish to the homeless shelter and soup kitchen in Temple. I've donated them to churches. We donate them to people in low-income areas of town. There are people that eat these fish, and there's plenty of them out there. Ninety-nine percent of the fish we see in the waters are non-game fish.
The occasional catfish would look good on our table. And as far as the minimum size limit goes, there's no difference between bowfishing for a catfish and bowfishing for a flounder, which we are legal to do. There's a minimum size limit on a flounder, and we are allowed to take those. And those are fish that also bury themselves in the sand, which are hard to tell the size on.
You all give the responsibility to the sportsmen to determine the size and the species on all game, whether it's fish or deer or birds. There — we just want a piece of the pie. That's all.
We're not out to — the one catfisherman was saying that we have a lot of different species of rough — or non-game fish to acquire, and they only have the catfish. Well, you can also catch non-game fish on a troutline. They can catch them too. We cannot go after a catfish.
I found it kind of strange that being — catfish are game fish — that no other game fish can be caught on troutlines and throw lines. There's plenty of catfish out there. Again, thanks for the opportunity.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. McKee.
Next up is Byron Ryder.
And then Thomas Karels.
MR. RYDER: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and commissioners. Thank you for the opportunity of being here. I'm Byron Ryder. I'm the Leon County judge. And I'm here in response to the antler restrictions in our county.
And on behalf of the county government and the Leon County citizens, we are absolutely for this. We've had two public hearings in our county, and we've had approximately 150 people total in those, and we've had one person that was against this. And he didn't even show up the second meeting, so I don't know if he's still against it or not.
But we believe that this is a great conservation effort. We believe that it will help the size and the quality of our deer and — not to mention the economic impact it will have on our county. Our county has been one of — a lot of deer hunting going on, and it's coming back the way it was ten, 12 years ago. And we believe this will even help further.
And we'd appreciate your effort and your recommendation to allow us to have this antler restriction in Leon County. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you. And again, my hat goes off to your co-ops, because they're the guys that came up with the ideas and did a lot of the work with our staff. So —
MR. RYDER: Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: — they're a big part of it. Thanks.
All right. Mr. Karels.
And then Jeff Beshears.
MR. KARELS: I'm Tom Karels, landowner in Leon County. And I came along with the county judge to just offer our support. I'm also the president of Trinity Valley Forest Landowners Association, which represents, among other counties, Leon County. And our organization definitely supports this change in the regulations.
As the landowner, I also — included in your alligator regulations, which I have a little issue with. We are not a core county. And under the regulation here, it specifies those other counties where — or other properties where CITES tags have been issued previously.
We run a pretty good size bass-fishing catch-and-release operation, and the alligators have been causing us some problems. They come after — just last weekend, a guy lost a fish and caught the alligator, because the alligator grabbed the fish before he could get it in the boat.
MR. KARELS: It was, but then he tries to take the hook and finally decides he's going to cut the line. It wasn't too smart.
But the reason we brought Parks and Wildlife in to look at the issue is because at the time of our survey that we did we had 14 sightings, and we're running only a hundred-acre lake. And it — because of the continued pressure of the fishermen — they're getting more friendly, and it's causing us a problem.
And we would like to be — properties outside the core areas — we are one of those. And I would like to have that restriction removed and allow us to fall under the regulations as an outside area.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: So you're in the core —
MR. KARELS: No. We're outside the core.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: You're outside the core.
MR. KARELS: Outside the core, but we're in a core — in a property that previously had a survey done and was issued CITES tags. And under the proposed regulation, those properties outside the core still will fall underneath the core regulations.
And that causes us the problem of trying to eliminate or remove or — alligators from our property.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Okay. Would you be able to take advantage of the nuisance —
MR. KARELS: We did that —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: — control hunter?
MR. KARELS: We did that last year.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Mike, could you help us here with this one? Man's got a legitimate problem.
MR. BERGER: The — there is a provision in the regulations that allows ranches in his circumstance, I believe, to request and be provided the same opportunities as the core counties — would be treated as that.
So it is — the land could be surveyed, and he would have the same September alligator-taking season as the core counties. I think that's what you were —
MR. KARELS: That's what we have. And —
MR. BERGER: That is unchanged.
MR. KARELS: — it places — I know that, and that's the problem, that we're included in with the core counties. And we are trying to whittle down the alligators in a 30-day season or a 20-day season in September — is not the same as running a — allowing hunting during the April to June period.
It gives you more time. They're more active. And — because they're hard to catch.
MR. BERGER: Well, you can back out of what you had before now that there's a season, a recreational harvest, which was not available before.
MR. KARELS: But it indicates here — says the core counties and properties in other counties where the department has conducted a biological survey and has issued CITES tags to the landowner.
MR. BERGER: Yes.
MR. KARELS: So that includes us in the core counties and all the core restrictions.
MR. BERGER: If you choose to absent yourself from that provision, you can go under the other provision.
MR. KARELS: Is there a mechanism for that?
MR. BERGER: You would talk to our alligator —
MR. KARELS: The people —
MR. BERGER: — program folks.
MR. KARELS: Okay. And —
MR. BERGER: And just — you would —
MR. KARELS: Okay.
MR. BERGER: — absent yourself from that.
MR. KARELS: If we have that option, then I have no —
MR. BERGER: Yes, sir.
MR. KARELS: — complaint.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Okay.
MR. KARELS: Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you very much. I'm glad we could clear that up for you.
And next, Jeff Beshears.
And after Jeff Beshears, George Muzny, be ready.
MR. BESHEARS: Gentlemen, thank you for this opportunity. I'm a landowner and a taxpayer in Leon County, also a hunter. And I speak loudly in support of the proposed antler restrictions. I think it's going to be a great move for our deer herd in our county. I hope it will extend to the counties around us as soon as possible.
And on the second hand, I would like to point out I'm also the chief appraiser for the county, and a problem that we have — or not a problem, but something that's happening in our county and is becoming very prominent is that the larger tracts are being fragmented.
Ten years ago, you know, a 500-acre tract of land might have four deer hunters on it, and that same 500 acres now probably has closer to 75 hunters on it, because it's been busted up into 20-acre tracts. I know of one instance where a 40-acre tract of land — about 12 years ago, they killed 22 legal bucks off of it in one deer season.
And that's an unusual example, but I think these antler-restriction proposals will go a long ways in elevating our deer herd from situations such as that.
I also speak on behalf of Mr. Bruce Barber, who is president of the Bushloo [phonetic] Wildlife Management Area, about 16-, 17,000 acres now. And they are greatly in support of it and were unable to attend today. But I think it's a great plan.
And I also want to point out that Mr. Rick Knight, the biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife, has worked very close with all the landowners there in working toward this goal. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, sir. And thanks for your work there.
And then after that, Dwayne Faust.
MR. MUZNY: Thank you, Commissioners, for allowing me to speak. Back some time ago when I was a little younger, you know, we could — the deer were introduced into Burleson County, and I could see, you know, the deer with big horns, the big-body deer.
And now we're getting to a point where we don't see any horns. The deer dwindled down — deer with the horns — even the doe population is down. So I support the antler restrictions for our county, Burleson County. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you.
And then James Muzny.
MR. FAUST: Hello. I'm also in favor of the new antler restrictions. I personally know several landowners and hunters from some of the original six test counties. Their deer herds and their hunting has improved greatly.
The most important aspect of that to me is the fact that they're seeing more deer, more bucks, more mature bucks, which is helping the whole age structure of the herd, I guess. But the most important part about that is it's making the hunt more enjoyable for them and their kids.
And that's important to me. I have two young kids that like to hunt. And as Mr. Muzny said, we don't see very many bucks any more in our area, and I think this will help at least — get to see some more and hopefully improve over the years and get them back to the way it used to be. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you. It sure worked in the other areas. We hope it will for you too.
Next, Mr. James Muzny.
MR. MUZNY: I'm James Muzny. I represent Burleson County. Thank you, Commissioners, for letting me be here, but they basically said what I'm going to say. And the biggest part I see about this is for the kids.
Because you can go sit nowadays — you might sit three or four days and not see a buck, you know. And now, as I hear, I got a lot of friends that hunt in these other test counties where it just blew up and really exploded.
And they said, Man, the kids — they just want to go hunting now. Because not only do they see a bunch of bucks, but they're also seeing something that they want to put on the wall. So I'm all for it, and I hope that you all will pass it. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you. Yes. I can't help but mention that when this first started, and I went to those early meetings in those test counties, the support was not near so unanimous as it is today.
So, you know, it's interesting. Time and — what's the old saying? Better well-done than well-said. And I think you all have proven that it's been well-done in spite of all that was said.
Next up was Kirby Brown, I think. Kirby, you still here?
MR. BROWN: Mr. Chairman, commissioners, my name is Kirby Brown. Good afternoon. I'm executive vice-president of Texas Wildlife Association, and we're a sportsman conservation landowner-based organization representing over 35 million acres of private land in Texas.
First, I want to thank the chairman and commissioners for forwarding the managed-lands program for upland game birds to your advisory committees and working through those advisory committees, and especially the game-bird advisory board and the Texas Quail Council for thorough deliberation in those bodies.
TWA supports the overwhelming recommendations to keep the bag limits in place as recommended by both advisory committees. And we appreciate that you've listened to all of our concerns. Thank you.
TWA also supports and strongly recommends the commission formally adopt the non-regulatory recommendations and set of incentives. We're all about habitat, and we appreciate that very much. We think anything that will incentivize management and restoration of habitat for our upland game birds is very important.
We also support the concept of the ranch quota. I think that's a dang good idea. It's a good thought process. It's far better than what we see a lot of times, which is bag limits by themselves. But we need research to work through that, and we support the research that will take place over the next three years to see that take place and look at that.
We've just got to figure out a way to actually get down to those bag limits and what the ranch quotas would be on those places.
And we want to continue to brainstorm ways with you — and how to put landowners in contact with good quality technical guidance and assistance on the ground, because that's where we can create and restore habitat. We feel very strongly about that.
On the antler restrictions, we support the comments and deliberations, decisions of the White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee recommending this to you in those 40 counties. It's very apparent it works, and it works well. And that's great news.
We remain a little bit concerned over the incomplete and spotty data on youth hunting and youth participation. We'd like to see that teased out a little better. We think that's very important.
We'd also like to look at the other license data and how that actually works and what we're doing to hunting. We think it's good, but we don't know.
Secondly, it looks like our initial concerns over habitat, carrying over an entire age class a year into habitat — looks like those concerns anecdotally are mitigated by the fact that there seems to be more wildlife-management plans going in in these areas. That's great news. We're very pleased with that.
Talked to Royce Jurries and some other field staff, and that seems to be taking place, and they're getting a lot of requests. We do want to see hard data on that. We want to see how the habitat's actually being affected and see if that is actually taking place.
We also think the commission and staff continue to promote co-ops. We appreciate that. We think that's very important, especially MLDs in these areas and on those co-ops. We think that's very important.
And finally, we really think this is an education process. And you're using a rule to do the education. We can appreciate that. We're not very regulatorily oriented at TWA, as you all know, and anytime we can move past using a regulation to get to that point, we'll be in favor of that. And hopefully, we won't stay in a regulatory mind-set. We can do the education and move on at some point.
We also support the changes in the alligator regs. We think those are good. They simplify things outside the core areas — and pragmatic and really overdue. So good deal.
Finally, we want to thank you for your hard work. It has been a long process. And in so many areas, you're doing a great job, and we appreciate it. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Kirby, hold on one second. You always seem to get a lot said in three minutes. I don't know how you do that.
MR. COOK: I forgot to start the clock.
MR. BROWN: Oh, that can't be true, Cook. I know it was three minutes.
MR. COOK: You got about two minutes extra there.
MR. BROWN: I don't think so.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I'll tell you who to forget and who not to forget on that clock.
MR. BERGER: Sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I want to — I want you to talk about two points that were made there. Is there a way we can track the impact on an increase or hopefully an increase in wildlife-management plans that's encouraged by the antler restrictions, number 1.
And number 2, acreage signed up in co-ops —
MR. BERGER: Well, I think we can —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Because to me, those are two —
MR. BERGER: — tease that out of the data —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: — big incentives.
MR. BERGER: — that we have. I think we can do that.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Can you do that? Because I don't know about the other commissioners, but I'd be very interested in that, because if these antler restrictions are encouraging people to start wildlife-management plans and to join co-ops and increase the amount of habitat in critical masses that's being managed for wildlife, then we're doing what we want to do.
And then at that point, I think we address Kirby's point. At some point, it will happen on its own. I mean, that's why we Sunset all regs every four years. But at some point, the education's over, and the community takes over.
MR. BROWN: We agree with that.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Right.
MR. BERGER: And we'll take a look at —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Can we monitor that? I think that's important. I think Kirby makes a good point. It's worth monitoring.
MR. BERGER: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thanks.
MR. BROWN: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Mark — forgive me — Maifa.
MR. MAIFA: Maifa.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Maifa. I'm sorry.
And then Sarah Cerrone, be ready.
MR. MAIFA: How are you all doing? I'm Mark Maifa. Some of you all might know me in this room. Some of you all don't. I'm actually — I actually head up the bowfishing program here at you all's Expo every year in October.
I volunteer to do that. I do it for all the kids, the Boy Scouts. And some of the adults come up and get to shoot bows at — bow and arrows at some of the stuff in the tank that we have just for fun.
Anyway, I'm definitely for bowfishing for catfish. Some things that weren't discussed here is that there's quite a few other states that allow you to bowfish for catfish, and they've had no problems at all with limits, quantities, nothing.
It's just purely for table fare. These catfish are not going to be wasted. We're not going to be shooting at small little catfish. Because I'll tell you right now, at 2:00, 3:00, 4:00 in the morning, I don't feel like skinning 20 catfish. You're exhausted.
Something else to also think about. There is — and I'm not patting myself on the back for this. This — I'm just proud of myself. But there is nobody in the state of Texas that bowfishes more than I do. If it wasn't for this meeting, I'd be — I've had — I'd be on the water right now with clients.
I bowfish five to seven days a week. I'm one of two full-time bowfishing guides only in the state of Texas. There's about 30 or so bowfishing guides that kind of do it kind of halfway. There's only two of us that do it full-time. I bowfish year-round. I bowfish day; I bowfish night.
Now, you want to talk about seeing catfish? Forget about it. You just don't — as far as the quantity, the limits, I don't ever see a limit ever being reached by bowfishing on catfish. Now, do we see them? Yes, we do. Anyone says they don't is just someone who just hasn't spent enough time in the water.
I fish from Toledo Bend to Falcon and everywhere in between on different lakes, different rivers. You can't shoot what you can't see, bottom line. Hooks get swallowed by these — some of these small catfish. They die. You got to release them, because they're undersized. You let them go. They're going to die anyway, because the hook's going to tear up their innards.
And some — so that — a lot of small catfish, undersized catfish get killed by hooks. I don't ever see that being a problem with a bow and arrow, because you're — we're not going to shoot a pound, pound and a half anyway — even minimum-sized length catfish.
You're looking for the three-, four-, five-, six-pound catfish, something you can skin, take home, eat, a quality meal, rather than shooting something just to shoot it.
These catfish will not be shot during bowfishing tournaments. I can guarantee that. They won't be allowed. If someone wants to shoot one during a tournament, that's fine. It goes in the ice chest. It goes home, gets skinned. They get eaten. But it won't go toward any kind of count. So these fish will not get wasted.
And if you want to talk about ethics, as far as caring about the — about — that guy that just — in the black T-shirt — all he wants to do is kill fish. Again, I do this for a living. I make most of my big money when I do the alligator gar hunts, which I'm doing mostly right now.
I think there should be a control on alligator gar — not so much, you know, make them a game fish, but like one per day per person. That's something no one's even talked about. So if you think I'm up here — just want to shoot fish and kill them and get rid of them — no.
And this may or may not hurt my business, changing the alligator-gar rules, but it's also something that — show that I do have ethics. We have the best resource in the state of Texas for — the largest alligator gar in the world right here in Texas.
We take more 200-plus-pound gar than any other state by a long means. And what I'm trying to get at is that if you protect these fish, I also want to protect the catfish. I don't want to go somewhere where no one's gone before and go just start destroying our resource just to go do it.
It's purely for food, mainly. And it's just — you know, it would be nice to have something to shoot. I have — I also — a lot of catfishermen that actually want to go bowfish with me. And they say, Can you shoot catfish? Say, No, you can't. It's just against the law.
And at the end of the night they recognize that, hey, you know, we didn't see that many in the first place. But, I mean, we do see them occasionally, and it would be nice to take them home. And if you have any questions, I mean, I can answer them for you. I'm that guy. Thanks, guys.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Sarah Cerrone.
And then Ellis Gilleland, be ready. Mr. Gilleland.
Gene, is Mr. Gilleland outside? Do you just want to tell him he's up? Thanks.
MS. CERRONE: Good afternoon. My name is Sarah Cerrone. I am a resident of Chambers County and work as economic development director of — for the county. I'm one of the founders of Texas Gatorfest and currently serve as the general chairman of the festival.
I am not here in official capacity representing either of these organizations. I am here as a resident of Chambers County in Texas. However, as one of the founders and now general chairman of Texas Gatorfest, I feel duty-bound to voice my concerns over the proposed changes to the alligator-hunting regulations.
I would also like to note at this point that along with voicing my opposition today, I also bring with me the names, signatures and addresses of 71 other Texas residents against these proposed changes.
Living in Chambers County and serving as the director of economic development for the county, I realize that humans are encroaching on alligator habitat more every day. Development is putting people in the alligator's natural territory, and we will continue to invade their domain in the future.
However, we must respect this keystone species of Texas wetlands and strive to sustain the delicate balance that the alligator's existence plays in being the largest predator in its environment.
Everyone that I have spoken with, from alligator hunters and farmers to landowners and wildlife biologists, agree that the changes being proposed that would, first, take away the control of the number of alligators harvested from landowners in alligator habitat, and second, allow hunters to shoot free-swimming alligators, would have grave consequences on the alligator population in Texas.
The present regulations leave the control of the harvest in the hands of property owners in alligator habitat by issuing federal CITES tags to landowners or their agents only. This essentially leaves harvest numbers up to those individuals who deal with alligators on a day-to-day basis.
The landowners and their agents have intimate knowledge of not only their property's alligator population, but also of what number of animals can be harvested and still sustain the resource.
Texas landowners in alligator habitat have worked closely with Texas Parks and Wildlife biologists in the alligator program and know the value these animals bring, not only to their property, but also to the surrounding habitat and the state of Texas.
For the record, I acknowledge that you are not changing the regulations in Chambers County or the 21 other core counties that are — the department — core alligator habitat. The proposed change that would allow anyone purchasing a hunting license in Texas outside of these core counties to take an alligator could have a disastrous effect on our Texas alligator population.
Admittedly, the change says it will be illegal for these extra permits to harvest in core counties. But those of us who live here or have been around the alligator industry for any time know this will lead to widespread poaching.
In Chambers County, with the Animal Act National Wildlife Refuge and the Corps of Engineers Wallisville Lake Project, we have almost 60,000 acres of public property and alligator habitat. Add to that the neighboring Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge in Liberty County's almost 25,000, and you're getting close to a hundred-thousand acres of alligator habitat with public access.
Now, I realize the regulation change says you can't hunt on public property or public water. But I've spent the last 17 years telling anyone who would listen where alligators live in Texas. They are going to come to Chambers County and the other 21 core counties to kill an alligator.
The change in the regulations that would allow these extra hunters outside the core counties to shoot free-swimming alligators or gators not on a line — quite frankly comes as a shock to me that the department would even propose this. Shooting a free-swimming alligator or any other alligator not on line will be an absolute waste of this valuable resource.
Along with a printed copy of what I have said today, I'm also giving you a Texas Parks and Wildlife study which concludes that in a controlled setting, that a minimum of over 22 percent of alligators lethally shot would be lost.
Again, I emphasize that this is in a controlled setting. What is being proposed is far from controlled. And I would venture to estimate that well over half of all alligators shot while hunting in this manner would be lost. The number lost to poaching and just sport shooting would be far greater than that.
The proposed shooting of free-swimming alligators is a total contradiction to the proactive management of wildlife professionals and law enforcement that brought these animals from an endangered species in 1969 to the healthy population that we now see along the Texas coast.
Since learning of these changes, I have tried to figure out —
MR. COOK: Ma'am.
MS. CERRONE: Okay.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Go right ahead. Are you about finished?
MS. CERRONE: Yes.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right.
MS. CERRONE: Since learning of these changes, I have tried to figure out what exactly the motivation was for the regulation changes. I assume that the number of nuisance calls or an increase in the population — that were driving these changes. If that is true, then hire more nuisance hunters and issue more tags in the core counties.
After looking at the number of nuisance calls in 2005, it is evident that the bulk of these calls came from the core counties. 391 nuisance alligator calls were placed in 2005. 212 came from the core counties, and 123 came from Harris, Fort Bend and Montgomery Counties, which are surrounded by the core counties and are in truth also core alligator habitat and have only been excluded because of their population.
Again I ask, wouldn't hiring more nuisance hunters and issuing more tags help to alleviate this problem?
I faxed to all of your offices on Monday a document that contained excerpts from a study done by Texas Parks and Wildlife biologists. These proposed changes are a complete contradiction to the biological data put forth in that study. I have also attached that faxed document for your records.
The most important way to deal with people living in alligator habitat is education. I am not a betting woman, but if I was, I would be willing to wager big money that 99 percent of the calls placed were due to humans placing themselves in harm's way with alligators.
Alligators do not seek out humans. Our continued encroachment into their habitat and our less-than-intelligent actions once we are there, like feeding or bathing them, is usually what leads to negative interaction between human and gator. So again, I would like to stress educating the public on living in alligator habitat should be a priority.
However, the letter I received from Executive Director Cook, which I have also attached, gives increasing the opportunity for hunters in the 232 counties outside the core counties to take an alligator as the only reason for these changes. If that is the case, then increase the number of public hunts in areas that public hunts are currently held on.
The other places that you might be able to increase these are Brazos Bend, Choke Canyon, Daughtrey WMA, Martin Dies, Engeling WMA, Huntsville, Lake Houston, Matagorda Island, Old Sabine Bottom WMA, Peach Point WMA, Richland Creek WMA, Somerville WMA, Nannie M. Stringfellow WMA, and adding adult hunt to Sea Rim.
However, I must point out that hunting alligators is not like hunting white-tailed deer. Reptile meat is truly a different animal. There are not licensed alligator processors all over the state of Texas. There are, at this point, two active processors, both located along the coast.
There have been no provisions in these proposed changes for the transportation of these animals from their county of origin to these processors in a legal manner. But the meat and hide will have been lost while waiting for the CITES tag to be mailed to the hunter.
I shudder to think of the reaction the animal-rights activists would have to these proposals that would allow animals to be shot free swimming and left to waste or then go to waste waiting for the tag to make it a legal transport to harvest — to a processor.
In closing, I would ask that the commission seek the input of landowners and others in the alligator industry and reconsider making these changes to the alligator-hunting regulations. The healthy alligator population that exists in Texas today is one of wildlife management's finest success stories, thanks to the efforts of conservationists and state wildlife agencies like Texas Parks and Wildlife.
Let's all work together to make sure our children and grandchildren inherit an alligator population that is able to flourish in its historic range along the Texas coast. Thank you for your consideration and for your efforts to ensure that Texas will always be a wonderfully unique place to live, not only for us, but also for those creatures that call it home, including the American alligator.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you very much, Ms. Cerrone.
Mike, would you address some of those issues. Not all of them, obviously. But the one particularly having to do with landowners being able to control their own harvest — that struck me —
MR. BERGER: I'll ask Jim to come up here. This is Jim Sutherland, our upper-coast ecosystem —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes.
MR. BERGER: — manager. And he operates that program. But —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: My understanding is this doesn't change a landowner's control of his own — what happens on his own property.
MR. BERGER: No, sir, it does not.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Okay.
MR. BERGER: In the core areas, it does not change that. And as I understand it too, the tags that are issued — there are some that are returned every year. We're not using all the tags that are issued in the core areas now.
So to say that we should issue more tags to accommodate this need from other parts of the state, I think — you know, that is available right now, and they're not being —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: We're not using all the tags —
MR. BERGER: No, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: — we have now. Okay.
MR. BERGER: No, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Jim, identify yourself.
MR. SUTHERLAND: I'm Jim Sutherland. I'm the project leader for the wildlife division on the upper coast in wildlife region IV.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Good to see you.
MR. SUTHERLAND: Thank you, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Do you have anything to add to Mike's explanation or anything to add with regard to the status of alligators, their health?
MR. SUTHERLAND: I think the specific question was about landowner control of harvest. And once we issue tags to the landowner, the landowner does control harvest on their property. We feel like, with the recommendations for the changes in regulations — that a private landowner will maintain that control — no different than he controls other hunting on his property.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: The proposed reg doesn't change that.
MR. SUTHERLAND: It does not change that.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: They still have absolute control over what happens on their own alligator habitat. Okay.
Any other questions regarding the alligator?
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Yes, just one issue. She raised the issue of transporting the alligators. Is there an issue with that? I mean —
MR. BERGER: I don't think there's an issue. I'll ask Pete. But we're asking that a wildlife-resource document be placed on the animal immediately after harvest, and that legitimizes the animal. It would serve as a transport document until the CITES tag arrives.
Now, as soon as the CITES tag arrives, that needs to be put on there. But if the animal was at a taxidermist, that — I would think the CITES tag can be delivered to the taxidermist and attached to the hide.
MR. FLORES: CITES tag must be attached.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Jim, do you think the resource can take increased harvest that may come from this change in the reg?
MR. SUTHERLAND: Yes, sir. Staff feels that the harvest will probably not exceed the tags we have available at this time on an annual basis and that we still should fall within the CITES requirements for —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And it does address the issue even — there was reference to quite a few nuisance calls. And it allows that to be done by private sector rather than always being addressed by our game wardens and their limited resources. Right?
MR. BERGER: Correct.
MR. SUTHERLAND: Yes.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Okay. To me, that's an important part of it is it allows the control hunters —
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Well, and the permits in the core area for landowners — how do you work with your game warden? I mean, how do you receive that as a landowner in the core area — receive those permits?
MR. SUTHERLAND: In the core area, there's an application process. We send out letters annually to our landowners that have alligator habitat.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay.
MR. SUTHERLAND: And we also have some general information out for people to contact us if they're interested in harvesting alligators from their property. We take those applications.
And in the 22 core counties, we'll continue to do as we have done in the past, assess habitat, evaluate habitat and alligator numbers on that property through survey and issue according to our guidelines for the number of alligators —
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Working with a biologist, then.
MR. SUTHERLAND: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. So that's not really changing, is it?
MR. SUTHERLAND: That's not going to change.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: In the core 22 — that's —
MR. SUTHERLAND: That's correct.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: I didn't think so. Okay. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I'm sorry; I don't want to forget Mr. Gilleland. You were the last signed up to testify on alligators. Come right up, Mr. Gilleland. You're the last one on this agenda item.
If I missed anyone, please get your card to Carole there — front. Thanks.
MR. GILLELAND: Ellis Gilleland speaking. Let the record show that I've given you several handouts, the first two of which are Dallas Morning News articles by Ray Sasser. I agree with all three positions he takes on managed-land game-bird permits, bowfishing for catfish, and antler restrictions on white-tailed deer.
I'd like to read a quote from his second article, April 2006. "In a joint meeting of the Texas Quail Council and the Texas Game Bird Advisory Board last week in San Antonio, both volunteer groups voted to reject the harvest-incentive portion of Texas Parks and Wildlife managed-lands and upland-game-bird permit.
'It was the third time" — contained in the quote. "It was the third time the Quail Council rejected harvest incentive and second time the Game Board — Game Bird Advisory Board voted against them."
The third document is my objection to the taking of deer unlimited, no bag limit on antlers and no bag limit on buck. That's what provide for — one man shooting over 2,000 deer or killing however, by helicopter or however he did it.
The third or fourth — third — fourth document is a — under current rules, firearms are a prohibited means for taking alligators. Now you're making it authorized. But then you qualify, "When free-swimming alligators are shot with a firearm, they typically sink very quickly and become difficult or impossible to locate and recover."
Oh, but that's okay, as long as it's done on private land. Let's drop down to the next paragraph where it allows the use of firearms to take alligators on private property. Well, why is it all right to do it on private property but not — you prohibited it on public property?
Firearms is unlawful hunting alligators, game animals, game birds. It ain't a legal firearm, including muzzle-loaded except as specifically restrictedness section. And you don't restrict it; you allow it for the first time.
The last item I'm commenting on is the alligator control. It's an ambiguous statement where you require a wildlife person to — staff member to investigate. It's ambiguous, because B says except as provided in subsection B above.
And then B above says a control hunter — "A control hunter under contract to the department may contract directly with a political subdivision." That's ambiguous, immoral fraud typical of your staff work or — if you don't read it like a lawyer, then you're going to get screwed.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Gilleland.
Okay. No one else on item 10.
We had some —
Excuse me. Quiet in here. If you want to talk, you can go outside.
Do we have some discussion on item 10? I would assume we do.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: I'll kick it off. I'm all in favor of developing fishing opportunities, and I always have. I'm struggling with this issue, because supporting bowfishing of catfish is really contradictory and perhaps inconsistent with our promotion of catch and release, which is a very fundamental principle that we've advocated to all our anglers.
On the other hand, it seems to me that we need to create a niche for — you know, I may not be a bowfisherman myself, but that's of no significance in this issue. Since there is no apparent resource issue, I'm in favor of setting up a niche or places where, at least for some time period, we can experiment and let these anglers or these bowfishermen do it.
In the meantime, have staff monitor the progress and see if it in fact becomes an issue with the resource.
So I'm kind of in — I'm in favor of denying the application, but in the next breath, instructing staff to go ahead and take some immediate action to identify water reservoirs throughout the state — at different points in the state to, for some period of time, create an opportunity for these persons to exercise that right.
I feel very bad in not creating a niche for them, because I think there's a need for it. I philosophically have some difficulty with the manner of doing it, but that's a non-issue. But anyway, that's — those are my comments.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I thought it was interesting. Several people pointed out that presently —
Help me with this, Phil. Presently, catfish can be caught by troutline, which is just as lethal as any other means of —
MR. DUROCHER: Mr. Chairman, commissioners, I'm Phil Durocher, the director of inland fisheries.
Yes, sir; you're right. Catfish can be caught by troutline, jug lines, throw line. Those are traditional methods that have applied to catfishing forever. But they're not — I would say 95 to 99 percent of those fish can be — they're not lethal. Those fish still — you still have the opportunity to release the fish.
Now, you know, managing for catfish — it's something that's evolving as we go along. We understand the concerns that people have about, well, if they can do it with troutlines — we are slowly moving toward restricting that.
You know, we're not to the point with the catfish populations where we're in crisis. You know, it was easy for bass; it was easy for red drum when those populations got in crisis and we could do some things that were rather harsh to get them back in place.
We're not there yet with catfish, and we hope we don't get there. That's why we're slowly evolving to protect these fish. We're really pleased to see the conservation ethic growing in the catfish fishermen. They're beginning to release the big fish.
You know, we've heard reference to some tournaments where they're having family events, and they're actually releasing all the fish.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: But the fact is, we treat the catfish different than other game fish — and that we allow means of take that we do not allow with other game fish. Correct?
MR. DUROCHER: Absolutely.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right.
MR. DUROCHER: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: So, I mean, I think that's — I don't know. Maybe there's a move towards catch-and-release troutlining, but I'm not —
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Not too much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I'm not — no. I don't — I'm betting on fly-fishing for carp before that.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: The opportunity for catch and release on a troutline is still there over 95 percent of the time. If the fish is undersized, then the opportunity is there for you to release that fish and let him grow —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: — a few more inches.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I don't disagree with you. As I said yesterday, this is a very tough one, because we're drawing a line that — I'll tell you what. I disagree with a lot of what was said today. I don't think it's black and white.
I absolutely disagree with the person who said that the concerns were baseless. I never think that the concerns of our staff are baseless or the concerns of any constituency.
You know, Mr. Ranne made some very good points. He and I talked about this on the phone quite a bit. We don't want to do anything to undercut the ethic of catch and release or the expansion of conservation.
But I got to ask you, has that happened in the states where they have bowfishing for catfish? Have they lost their conservation ethic? Have they lost their bass-fishing tournaments and those other things? I don't know.
MR. DUROCHER: I can't — I really can't answer that, because I really don't know. The states that allow bowfishing for catfish — all of them except two of them don't name — catfish are not a game fish. Okay. There's only one state that allows bowfishing for game fish or whatever — it's designated as a game fish. And that's Louisiana.
So some states have chosen not to, and that may be the direction the commission wants to go. We delist catfish as a game fish. That has the staff concerned, because it's our second most popular fish.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: How many catfish — Phil, how many catfish do we raise in our hatcheries every year and turn loose?
MR. DUROCHER: You know, it varies, but anywhere from a million to a million and a half —
COMMISSIONER PARKER: A million to a million and a half.
MR. DUROCHER: We release most of those in what we call our community fishing lakes. And we don't allow troutlining. Community fishing lakes is pole and line only. So like I said, you know, we're moving in that direction of going there, but we're not in crisis mode.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And that would continue.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: A couple of thoughts. I think you asked the right question. I think the ethical issue cuts this way. We're not prevented from arguing for catch and release or good ethics. The question is how should we use our regulatory authority if we don't have a resource issue and we have an ethical — user group who wants to engage in hunting and fishing.
I come back to the reason I responded to the petition. And it requested that we consider it. I didn't go looking for this one — was I served on that land and water plan commission, and we have endorsed it session after session. And it clearly says we are here to expand hunting and fishing opportunities.
The premise we operate on is the more people we can get out hunting and fishing in an ethical sporting manner, the better constituency we have for conservation of our natural resources.
This is a very small group, a very small case. Nobody, I think, with credibility on this has argued that it's a resource issue. It's not a resource issue. There are lots of catfish around the state. For that reason —
And I understand Phil's point that only two states who designate catfish as a game fish allow bowfishing. But ten of 15 southern states, are comparable states, do allow bowfishing for catfish.
I think you do have to ask the question, what does the designation of game fish mean, and what's the purpose? We just heard that the purpose for tripletail was to manage a very finite population that we're concerned about the consequences for that species.
Again, nobody's made the argument that we're concerned about the conservation of catfish. We may want to advocate for it as a catch-and-release species when you're angling. But we do allow lethal means for game birds, for deer, for other mammals.
I don't think we're against killing living things. I think we have quite a big apparatus designed to help people do that. And I think a lot of fishermen take and kill their fish. So it seems to me it's just not a meritorious argument to prevent one group from doing something that is quite difficult, quite sporting, and encourages that activity.
And they admittedly say it has very little impact on their fishing. They won't see very many.
I think we've got to work hard to expand, not restrict, opportunities. The fundamental strategic issue for this department is that we are facing flattening sales, a declining demographic, and an urbanization of this state.
And if we don't look at every opportunity — of how we expand rather than restrict opportunities, I think we're making a fundamental strategic mistake. I'm making a large issue out of a very small one here, but I think the theme is one we need to follow consistently, as we have attempted to do here.
I have great respect for Phil Durocher in the fisheries department. My only difference here is I don't think this is an appropriate means of using a regulation to prevent something. I think — I'm a catch-and-release fisherman almost all the time when I fish, except for a few fish for the table.
So I understand it. I advocate it. I think it's a great tool, especially when there's a population question, to help maintain a population. But I think we need to come down on the side of expanding opportunity. And I appreciate everybody hearing that one out and taking this one on.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: I would add one thought — some other thoughts about — rather than put the burden of proof on the boat fishermen, who everyone says has a limited impact, I would be very comfortable asking the fisheries department to come back — and say, Should we have some angling-only places?
Clearly, community lakes — you don't want people around with, you know, guns or bows in community lakes. Are there other places where it's really appropriate to restrict the bowfishing? But to go and allow them — if you come back and say let's only allow them to do it in a few places — in a huge state, you really — you still continue to restrict it in a very severe way.
I think if you allow some angling-only waters, you then have set up a test case to see whether in fact bowfishing has any impact on the population or on the quality of the fishery. I do think this is an area where we don't have a conflict between users on the ground. That would cause me to think differently about it, which might be the case.
And for the record, let me say, I — in my mind, this is not opening the door to a whole bunch of other creeping changes. This is one case of one unique set of facts — but that does fit the theme of expanding opportunity.
So I personally don't view this as a means of enlargement of a wide variety of other things that we probably don't want to enlarge.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: A couple questions.
First of all, to Commissioner Ramos. I missed part of his comments, but did you have a specific area that you felt like we should utilize this?
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: No, not really. In fact, my request would be that staff look at it and kind of — I'm feeling — really not disagreeing very much. What I'm saying is there should — they should have an opportunity, no question about it. And I'm a strong advocate for creating opportunities.
But since we don't have the history in this state, it seems to me that — I don't want to take the huge step. I want to take a small step. Let's look at it. Let's identify — let staff use their expertise. I don't know which are the ideal areas. I'm sure there are some ideal areas.
And in line with what Phil is saying, let's identify, two, three, four, five throughout the state to where everything is within reach. Let's look at it, and if there's no impact, open the doors. But I'm — maybe I'm just conservative by nature.
And I'm worried that we don't have the historical data. But how do you get historical data? By trying it. That's why I'm saying let's open the doors in a limited fashion.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: And I guess my other concern would be that this somehow would expand into bowfishing for redfish and all these other species. Then I've got some real issues with that.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: We all do.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: We all do. The only thing that I go through — in a way, I think it's a balancing issue. I still preponderate in favor of creating opportunities in the absence of compromising the resource or some other — and that's the balance. But I'd be the first one to advocate against getting very liberal in this arena.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes. John.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: You know, I think that the — that all fisheries, both inland and coastal, create gigantic outdoor opportunities. We're running those hatcheries 24 hours a day. We're turning out fish. He just now said a million to a million and a half.
We turn out other species of fish, the redfish, the speckle trouts. I think we're really doing a good job of creating outdoor opportunities. And I think we need to continue on that course that this fine staff has put us on.
And to change course against the advice of our experts, to me, could really come back to bite us. Now, that's my opinion.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes. And I think we should review, though, that —
If I'm correct, Phil, there's not a recommendation with regard to biology or resource impact. It's purely a cultural and/or — what's the right term — sociological issue here. They're not advising us that we're about to do something that's going to impact the resource, are you?
MR. DUROCHER: I can't predict the future —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Right.
MR. DUROCHER: — you know —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: But, I mean, you did set a bag limit that's within sustainable harvest.
MR. DUROCHER: Right. And let's just say —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Right.
MR. DUROCHER: — you know, we fully support the idea of increasing opportunity. I mean, you know, you see what we're doing with carp. And we look at that. But there's a difference between recreational opportunity and harvest opportunity, and we focus on recreational opportunity.
Let's just say, for instance, that because we do this, we get a hundred thousand more bowfishermen out there. And the reason we've attracted a hundred-thousand people is because of the opportunity to harvest the catfish.
And then we could be in the point where we're having — I said we don't have a resource issue. We're fortunate with catfish. If we're thinking strategically, we don't want to let it get there. And I'm not saying this is going to bring it there.
But we — you know, it was — we're taking little steps to protect this species and make sure it doesn't get to the point where we have to do the drastic things we had to do with redfish and speckle trout and bass. And that's —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: But there's nothing about the idea — the proposal and the proposed bag limit for bowfishing to lead you to believe professionally that it would be a negative impact on the resource from harvest or —
MR. DUROCHER: No, sir. There —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Okay. That's what I'm trying to get to. Because John Parker makes a very good point. When it comes to those biological issues, we take the advice of our experts. But in this case, your advice has to do with a cultural or — how should I say — traditional means —
MR. DUROCHER: A value issue. Right.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: It's a value issue, not a scientific —
COMMISSIONER PARKER: And I think that's —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: John.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: — a very important issue that we need to listen to.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I agree. We need to listen to it.
John — I mean, Phil.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Well, again, for the record and as a matter of policy, my first question on this one when it came up in '04 was what's the biological impact. And at that time, it was too late to change the regulations, but the answer was it's really a social issue.
First question this time is what's the biological impact. So I want you to understand, I am clearly looking to them for the expertise, the biology and the resource-management issues. But they both publicly and privately consistently say it's a philosophical and a social issue.
I think we are here to set policy. That is our job. That's why we were appointed. And this is a policy issue. And if we can have differences with each other, we can have differences with staff. This issue may go down in flames. I don't know. But I'm trying to argue what I think is right.
So I want you to understand I have great respect for the scientific basis on which we act, and I think that's exactly what we're doing here. But I think this is purely a policy matter.
If it's all right with the chairman, I would like to make a motion that we pass the hunting and fishing regulations as published, but also ask staff to come back on this issue with recommendations for waters which they believe should be angling only, where there might be a resource issue or there might be a user-conflict issue or where there is the opportunity to promote catch and release, to determine whether in fact it does change the management of that fishery and should be advocated on a broader basis.
I would prefer to put that burden on those arguments rather than limit to a few places the areas people can go, because we're trying to create opportunity on a state with 22 million people now. And to only give a few areas really fundamentally doesn't change things, I think.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I'm trying to carve the motion part out of what you just said.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: The motion was to pass the regulations as proposed, but with the instruction on this particular one to staff to come back —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Okay. We carve out the bowhunting for catfish. And you're asking staff to come back with a proposal for site-specific —
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Angling only.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Or bowfishing only.
MR. DUROCHER: In other words —
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: No, angling only.
MR. DUROCHER: — to expand —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Angling.
MR. DUROCHER: — the —
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Well, to prohibit —
MR. DUROCHER: — pole and line fishing only to other larger reservoirs. That's what you're asking.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Well, where you all believe there are resource issues or user-conflict issues or opportunities to promote catch and release and can look at whether that in fact does enhance the hatchery — the fishery; excuse me — we should ask you to come back with areas where bowfishing's not allowed.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Point of order.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Can we, at this time, restrict what we have already put?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes. What —
What we can — as I understand it, that proposal can — you can either carve it out and ask staff to come back with other —
MS. BRIGHT: So what are we proposing —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: — approaches.
MS. BRIGHT: — to do?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: That's a good question. I've heard lots of discussion. And sprinkled in here, people begin with I'm making a motion, and then we just — okay. Somebody else try.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Well, my — let me try. Let me move that the current motion be denied, but that staff identify areas where bowfishing may occur in the state of Texas and other areas where it would be — for catfish — and other areas that would be strictly for angling for catfish, and that that matter be put on the agenda in a month — because I don't think we can address it today — if that is a consensus of the commission.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Are — do you and I —
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: It's really —
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: — have the same motion? Because my motion was to pass the regulations as proposed but ask for staff to come back with areas where they — we may restrict it.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Okay. Yes. But your motion has to be —
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: So you're passing it.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Item 10. Yes. You don't mean to pass it. Your item 10 is state fish — statewide hunting and fishing proclamation. It includes the proposal for bowhunting for catfish.
The motion has to approve, if you do, all the other portions of that agenda item, with the exception of the freshwater-fisheries portion dealing with bowhunting for catfish, and ask that that come back for the staff with —
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: With a recommendation.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: — a recommendation that you — that modifies it to site-specific areas. Is that correct?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: No. That was Commissioner Ramos's suggestion. And Commissioner Montgomery said something a little different than that.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: He's proposing that it be adopted but that staff be instructed to, in the future, come back to the commission and then identify areas that are strictly for catfish bowfishing and/or angling, as I understood —
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: No.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: — what you were saying.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: It would be for angling only.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Or for angling only. Well, the impact of which would be the reverse. Everything else would be — since the motion passed, everything else would be legal for bowfishing for catfish. You're passing it, and then you want to carve out in the future —
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Why don't we — so we don't complicate — I make a motion to carve this one out, pass it, but with the instruction to come back for angling-only areas where there are resource issues, user-conflict issues, or the opportunities to promote catch and release, to determine whether it enhances the fishery. We'll deal with the other ones in a separate motion.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: And then at that point, it would — at that point, it would pass. In other words, we would pass —
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: That particular one.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: On that particular one. It would become effective once staff —
MS. BRIGHT: If I could make just a quick comment.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: There's an easier way to do this. If you really want to do it, you can have a motion to pass all of the proclamation with the exception of the bowfishing for catfish, and then have a separate motion on that, if that's what you intend to do.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Which is fine. I was going to go to the separate motion —
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: We were getting of ourselves —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Is that not a procedural way to —
MS. BRIGHT: That will work. And to clarify, the change from what was proposed also includes elimination of the regulatory portions of the game-bird managed-lands program.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. So we can do that, I think, in — so in two motions. First motion — well, I can't make a motion. Someone make a motion. You're going to divide the two. Right?
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Well, let me try — I move that — I was going to say I move that we accept the staff's recommendation, save and except that portion of the recommendation that relates to bowfishing for catfish — and that that be considered separately.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: So I have a motion from Ramos. Second from Holmes. All in favor.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Okay. Now let's —
COMMISSIONER PARKER: No.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: No. You're not — well, we're not voting on catfish. We carved it out.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Carved it out.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes. Right.
Do you want to do your motion again, Donato?
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Yes.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: We'll send the signal when we vote on catfish.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Let me see if I can repeat it. I move that we accept the staff's recommendation, save and except that portion of the recommendation that relates to whether or not there should be bowhunting for catfish — and that portion of it be severed and excluded from this motion.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. We have a motion. Do we have a second?
All right. All in favor.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion passes.
MS. BRIGHT: Could I just make one logistical comment —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes, ma'am.
MS. BRIGHT: — about the month, about the timing for coming back? If we're actually going to come back with a proposal — a proposed rule, it would probably have to be in August. Because of the short time frame between the April and the May commission meeting, any proposal would have to go to the Texas Register by this coming Monday.
So I'm not sure what kind of timing you all are looking at in terms of coming back with the proposal.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: What are you asking? Is there a motion on the catfish proposal separately?
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Yes. I'd like to make a motion —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Phil.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: — that we pass it and ask staff to come back with recommendations for angling only where there are resource issues, user-conflict issues, or opportunities to promote catch-and-release fishing only to enhance the fishery.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Catch and release only on bowfishing —
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: On catfish. Well, bowfishing would be prohibited for these other purposes. In other words, come back with specific areas where it would be prohibited —
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: The only concern I have is we're passing it, but we're not passing it. Do you know what I'm saying?
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: We are passing it.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: We're passing it, but we're saying until staff reports — my motion was that it be denied, but that staff be instructed to come back with what you're saying, and that at that time, we consider it.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Well, I have to turn to Ann to see whether we can —
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: That's not what I seconded, Donato. What I seconded was that you had carved it out.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Right.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: And we passed everything else. And now we're addressing whether we pass that or not or amend it or not.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: That's correct.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: I thought Ann just said — I thought what Ann said was that we could —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Excuse me. I'm just going to — the prerogative of the chairman here. The only thing we're discussing right now is what's left. Okay. And the only thing that's left from the 2006-'07 statewide hunting and fishing proclamation that was presented is the issue of bowfishing for catfish. Everything else, we passed.
Any discussion on that issue?
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: I was trying to come up with an accommodation to the differing points of view that still allowed the bowfishing to occur on a statewide basis but provided opportunities to restrict bowfishing in some areas where there are policy reasons to do so, those being where we want to promote catch and release specifically to determine how that affects the fishery and if bowfishing has a negative impact, where there are user conflicts, those —-
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: The problem is from a legal standpoint —
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Well, I'll be happy to move —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: — you've got something —
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: — that we pass it only, if that's acceptable, and ask that they came back later.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Here's the only issue that I have, and it's a legal issue. I don't have a problem with your concept, but that is not the motion that's been presented by staff. So we have to either amend or come up with our own motion.
And what I'm suggesting is that we move to deny, or that we move to approve with the understanding that staff will, within 60 days, identify areas that will be angling only and that that be defined, and then it goes into effect.
I think we're saying the same thing. It's just a matter of how we're going to put in a motion.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Well, if we just move to approve — you're saying we can move to — you're comfortable moving to approve, but with staff coming back with restrictions.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Yes. In other words, have staff in the interim look at it and say — I'm sorry.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: You're saying two different things, guys.
Yes. Go right ahead. Take a shot at this, Ned. You're fresh. You've been gone for an hour.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: If we accepted Commissioner Montgomery's motion, when would it come into effect? Would it be delayed until the staff came back with it — their recommendations for angling only, bowfishing and angling?
MR. KURZAWSKI: I guess I could just —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Ken, please, address that.
MR. KURZAWSKI: The process of our — we're sort of on an annual basis with our regulatory changes, and that deals with just the process of public hearings plus publishing in the Outdoor Annual. We have to essentially go with those changes by the middle of June Excuse me.
So with the short filing deadline for the next meeting, which — we would have difficulty making some sort of proposal and file it by — even if we went to August, we wouldn't be able to get those into the Outdoor Annual, which is always a concern with, you know, informing the public of changes.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And correct me if I'm wrong, Ann. What we have here is a situation where you've got a proposal on catfish or — bowfishing for catfish. And you can either have a motion to adopt as proposed or not. Or you — and you could have one to deny it and instruct staff to come back with something different. Or you could have an amended —
MS. BRIGHT: That's correct.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: — that is less restrictive.
MS. BRIGHT: That is less restrictive.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: That is less restrictive than the published proposal.
MS. BRIGHT: Right. That's within the scope of the current proposal.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Those are the options. Let's not mix them up.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Okay. Ann, excuse me. What does less restrictive mean in the context of this?
MS. BRIGHT: In — and it's really one of those things. You just kind of have to look at the rule and see if what is being proposed is within the scope of the rule so that if somebody reading this rule — wanting to comment on it understands what they're commenting on.
If things are added to the rule, things that are not included in the proposal, then there's not really an adequate opportunity for public comment as required by the Administrative Procedure Act. And I'm still — if I knew more what exactly we were looking at making as a change, that would be a little bit easier to address.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Mr. Chairman —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. One other comment. John.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: You — we're talking about — now we're talking about having time for public comment. You know, what is today? It's May? No. April. We're in April. We've been having public comment since November, and it's three to one against.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Right. The present proposal — that's correct. I think what they're talking about is you can either have an amendment to that present proposal, which would have to — which, if it's less restrictive — correct me — does not require new publishing, or deny it and ask staff to come up with something different. Those are really the choices here. So do I hear —
COMMISSIONER BROWN: I make a motion that we deny it as presented with recommendation that the staff come back with another proposal.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: And in what time would that occur? That would be in the May meeting?
MS. BRIGHT: It would have to be within the next regulatory cycle.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes, it has to go a whole year.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Even though — now, for the present, we're going to come back at the May meeting and make changes.
MS. BRIGHT: And the reason that we're able to do that, actually, is because we're withdrawing the managed-lands game bird. Because that — we can withdraw that rule and propose this one at the same time.
And because, you know, we got — we did frankly get a little bit of advance notice about that, and so we've been able to develop that. And we're looking at, within this time frame, holding some — at least one or more public hearings within the affected area.
I mean, physically, I suppose you could — well, if we have any other changes to that section — that section will not be closed until the — 20 days after the rule — the adopted rule goes to the Texas Register.
So we can't even propose anything until after that period. So I'll need to look — I think — is this the same — I need to see if there were any other changes to that section.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Do you see any way to accomplish the objective of passing it but providing some accommodation for this regulatory cycle in any way other than saying yes or no to this current proposal?
MS. BRIGHT: I suppose that one of the things you could do is in — the section that is open says no bowhunting or bowfishing for game fish except for catfish. I suspect that you could say except in specific places and perhaps limit it that way.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: But that's more restrictive. Right?
MS. BRIGHT: Well, it's actually — it's sort of between what the rule is now and what the rule is as proposed, if that makes sense.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Donato Ramos.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: I think what Ann is saying is we could do it, but we would have to today be able to identify those reservoirs and say it's passed except as to this, this and that. And since we cannot be specific, the regulation would be very vague and unspecific.
And I think that's what you're saying.
MS. BRIGHT: Okay. And one of the things that Robert just pointed out to me is that the changes to the statewide are all in one section, which means — right — unless you do this as part of what was already proposed, it can't be done by May.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: In other words, you can't peel something out.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Well, we just did.
MS. BRIGHT: Okay.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: I'm not asking —
MS. BRIGHT: Okay. What you could do is you could adopt the rule as proposed with some restrictions so that it is within the scope of the rule. Because the rule would say that you can bowfish anywhere. If you said you can bowfish in — for catfish in certain areas, that would be, I guess, less restrictive. But it would be within the scope of the current rule.
The thing that is logistically a problem is adopting this rule as recommended and then coming back in May with a new proposal, proposing something in time to be adopted by May.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I understand what you're saying. And you didn't — or I don't believe you meant to say what was commented here, we can't carve something out. We can pass all or any part —
MS. BRIGHT: Absolutely.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: — of the proposal. Right?
MS. BRIGHT: Right.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Okay. And what we passed, I think very clearly, was everything but bowfishing in our last motion that passed. Now —
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: I have another question.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: — I think we're clear —
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Well, here's another angle. I just learned that these regulations are Sunsetted every five years.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Four.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Every four years; excuse me. Is that correct?
MS. BRIGHT: There is a process that we review all of our regulations every four years. I should point out though, with the statewide, we review that every single year.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Right. Can we — but unless we choose to review them, they stay on the books.
MS. BRIGHT: We're required by law to review them. And I think that they may go away. I don't know. I think that there used to be something in the Appropriations Act that we couldn't use appropriated funds to adopt regulations unless we went through that process. So there was a pretty —
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Can we pass one for one year?
MS. BRIGHT: Sure. We could put an expiration on something.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: I guess I would like everybody to consider a motion in which we pass it for one year but ask the fishery department to monitor it and come back and tell us what the incidence was and treat it as an experimental year, but not delay a year after we've gone through all this. Let's don't do this again. I mean, we're either for or against it.
I'm trying to come up with some middle ground, and I think that's what Donato and Dan are trying to do. I'd say let's try it for a year. There's no way they're going to have a huge impact on the fishery in that year. And let's determine what the impact was —
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Is that a motion?
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: I'd be willing to make the motion. I'm happy to discuss it, since we're throwing out new ideas.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: I'm going to second that motion.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Okay.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: One year.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. One year. All right. We have a motion, if I understand it — is to adopt but Sunset for one year. It expires in one year.
Robert, discussion on the motion?
Do we have a second?
COMMISSIONER BROWN: The other possibility — why couldn't we designate maybe three lakes now that we're going to have that program — with the ability to come back, and we can amend that later, and we want to expand that program.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I don't know that fisheries would be able to designate the lakes. I won't speak for Phil, but —
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: But it's not just lakes; it's rivers and lakes. It's rivers also.
MR. DUROCHER: You know, you've got to give us a little time to pick the spots. I mean, you know, it's not something — I'm just going to sit down and throw darts at a map. We need to — we want to look at some data.
And I would be concerned about the request that we do this and monitor it. I don't know how we can do that. I mean, we don't know who these people are. They don't have to have any special license — to find out where they are.
We've got a lot of lakes in this state. To know where they are, when they're there — we have no way of knowing that. So I ask you to be cautious.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Phil, you have anything else to add?
MR. DUROCHER: No. That's —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Okay.
MR. DUROCHER: I just ask you to consider that.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. Ned Holmes.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Mr. Chairman.
Phil, would this year give you time to study that?
MR. DUROCHER: If that's what the commission wants, we'll certainly be ready for another recommendation. Yes, sir. If that's — you want me to look at some sites to allow fishing or sites not to allow. That's the —
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: I think the motion that I seconded was to allow it for one year and study the impacts and come back with any other recommendation you might have, whether it's to continue it, to eliminate it, to restrict it, whatever that study shows over that year's time period.
MR. DUROCHER: That's why I said it's going to be hard for us to monitor it. It's not a big thing, and it's spread all over the state. But we'll do the best we can.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Well, the reason I picked the year was it does give you time to sort through where some of these other arguments may apply and come back with a plan that — it doesn't put it in a hotbox the way these other angles we were approaching do.
The other angles were putting it in too much of a hotbox and, we realized, didn't give time to consider it professionally. Anyway, that was the thinking.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Are you suggesting you need two years, three years?
MR. DUROCHER: No. I'm — I mean, I don't know how much time we have. You know, bowfishermen are not registered anywhere. You know, we would certainly go to the associations to try to find out where they are and to put some kind of monitoring program on them, you know.
But we have to have staff and watch — some kind of reporting system. We don't have that now. And what I'm saying — it's going to take some time to do that. I just — I can't make a projection, but we'll do whatever the commission tells us to do. We'll try to do it in a year, if that's the —
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Mr. Chairman.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes, sir. John Parker.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: In my opinion, I don't think we're ready to do this. In my opinion, we're asking somebody to throw the papers — throw all those papers out there. In the lakes that are there — we'll do that. We're asking him to look into a glass ball.
And I don't think we should be asking the staff to do something like that just to accommodate 65 to a hundred people on an issue here that could have huge ramifications, just like he said. What are we going to do when Larry comes to us and says, Well, we got some spearfishermen. They want some consideration.
I just think that we need to take this thing a little bit slower. We've only been talking about it now since when? Since last November. I just think we need to take it a little slower.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. That's the discussion. Any further discussion on the motion and second we have to adopt for one year, Sunsetted, expiring in one year?
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Motion.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: We have a motion. We have a second. All in favor.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
(Commissioners Bivins, Brown and Parker oppose.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. We have two opposed — three opposed. All right. Aye for the one year is — all right. And three opposed. All right. Motion passes. Thank you.
One — is it clear, Ann, what the motions were?
Okay. Very good. We're off like a herd of turtles here. That was number 10. On to number 11. Hold on. If anyone would like to leave, you can go ahead and leave, but please do so quietly. We still have other business to conduct.
And at this moment, we will recess for lunch — is that all right, Bob — and be right back.
(Whereupon, at 1:32 p.m., the meeting was recessed, to reconvene this same day, Thursday, April 6, 2006.)
A F T E R N O O N S E S S I O N
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: We're going to reconvene. We didn't wear everybody out, did we? Okay. And we're going to reconvene from — to our public meeting where we recessed at item — at the end of item 10 and resume with item number 11, deer permit rules.
Mr. Clayton Wolf.
MR. WOLF: Mr. Chairman and commissioners, for the record, I'm Clayton Wolf. I'm the big-game program director in the wildlife division. This afternoon I'm going to present to you numerous proposed changes to our scientific breeder regulations, as well as other deer permit regulations that we're going to ask you to consider for adoption.
As you're aware, we were anticipating to do this in January, and with this extended time period of deliberations over these regulations, we have numerous amendments.
I just want to make the point that all of these amendments we have — we visited with Ann Bright, our general counsel, to make sure that these are within the scope of this commission to adopt. And so everything we're asking for is within the authority of this commission if you so choose to adopt them as I present them to you.
Of course, the first set of regulations deals with some significant changes to our scientific breeder rules. A major component of that is the development of a movement qualified program. It's a disease-monitoring program.
There's two major components that we are proposing, and that is that a herd could be movement qualified or have movement-qualified status if they remain with the Texas Animal Health Commission and maintain a status level of A in a CWD-monitored — monitoring program.
Or the newer component would be an intrastate-type movement program that we would monitor. And those that chose to participate at this level would have to turn in at least 20 percent of test results on eligible mortalities.
I also want to indicate that it always has been our intent that a herd meet one of these categories and not both of them. And so we're asking for the amendment to strike the word "and" there from the first bullet so that one just has to meet one of the criteria to be movement qualified.
In the Texas Register, we published that these rules will become effective April 1, 2007. But we also published that the monitoring period would begin April 1, 2006. And of course, because these regulations were tabled, we're asking for an amendment so that that is at the time of adoption.
The monitoring period would begin and would run through March 31, 2007, for the first year's analysis. Until that time, until April 1, 2007, the current rules for liberation would still be in place. And that is that someone has to be in a CWD monitoring program with Texas Animal Health Commission in order to liberate deer into the wild.
Of course, we are proposing that if a facility would lose movement-qualified status — if they take on deer from an unqualified facility, if they knowingly do so. And they would lose that status for a minimum of a year.
We're proposing to abolish purchase permits, transport permits and also temporary invoices. Purchase permits are $30 apiece. So are transport permits. All these are pieces of paper that are necessary to move deer in Texas for different purposes.
In order to simplify matters, we are proposing to implement a transfer permit, and this transfer permit would have to be completed for the — for any deer movement outside of a breeder pen, with one exception I will present to you in a minute.
A big change. We are proposing to eliminate the pre-movement notification requirement. Breeders right now have to fax us a copy of a purchase permit and identify all the deer that they plan to catch and move.
And that's problematic for breeders, because oftentimes they don't catch the deer that they anticipate getting. And so they have to send in amendments, and it creates some paperwork problems on both ends. So we would abolish that pre-movement notification, at least at the individual animal level.
However, we are proposing that persons transporting deer must possess a transfer permit on their person while they are moving these deer. And at that time — basically, by the time they get on a public road, each — unique identification of each animal would have to be listed on that permit.
As currently, we require an activation or a notification to the department before anyone leaves a facility with a deer.
Permits could be activated by fax or phone, and we're currently developing a web-based application. And when that is developed, we are hoping that many people will use this, and it will cut down on our manpower efforts in administering the program.
Non-breeders that are holding deer for temporary purposes will also have to possess a copy of a transfer permit, and that would have to indicate the source of the deer. These permits would be valid for 48 hours.
Other required information. Obviously, for disease-management purposes, we need to know the source and destination facilities. If deer are going to be liberated, we want to know the ranch owner, ranch name and location. We want to know the name and location of individuals that are holding deer for temporary purposes, phone number of the person moving the deer, and an activation date.
In our deliberations on February 15 where we were discussing some of the contentious items that caused this commission to choose to table the regs, we discovered an oversight on our part. Right now, scientific breeders — if they have an animal — a medical animal emergency and have to take an animal to a veterinarian, they do not have to do any kind of a notification to the department.
And obviously, we see this as being a possibility that — it could happen on occasion. And so we are recommending that a transfer permit would not be required for deer that were being transported to a licensed veterinarian for veterinary purposes.
This would be the one exception that we would have where someone could remove a live deer from a scientific-breeder facility and not have to activate a transfer permit. Also, it would only apply to permitted breeders and agencies or people that are already listed — they're already permitted in the system.
Other miscellaneous items. We're proposing to stagger our reporting period and the permit period so that the permit period now would start on July 1.
And we are also proposing that of all the presentations I'm giving — proposals I'm showing you this morning, with the exception of the CWD monitoring period, which would begin at the time of adoption — all these other rules would take effect July 1, when the new permit period begins and also the new price begins, which I'll present to you in a minute.
We propose to require that certified wildlife biologists physically inspect the facilities and certify that there are no deer within the facility prior to the issuance of the permit. And we are also proposing to allow 30 days for soft releases.
The last two items. One proposes to increase the permit fee from $180 to 400 — and the redefining of unique number — fell into those — the category of proposals that were somewhat contentious.
I'd like to say at this point, everything that I — through bullet 3 there on the slide in front of you and prior — all of this has been presented to our White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee, and our White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee concurs with all these proposals.
From this point forward, these were the issues that — we met again with our scientific breeders and also with some representatives from the senator's offices to discuss some of these issues that caused some concern.
As it turns out, the increase in the permit fee is no longer an issue. Basically, they — the breeders just wanted a better understanding of how we calculated that. They think it's fair. And they made the point that they want to pull their own weight and pay for the administration enforcement of the permit that they are issued.
We could not get the endorsement from our scientific-breeder group in the definition of unique number. Before you is a proposed definition in the yellow text — department staff is proposing in the change.
We're trying to achieve two objectives. Number 1, no longer allow scientific breeders to develop their own unique numbers. That's been problematic. And number 2, just have a more technically accurate definition of the purpose of unique numbers.
And in so doing, you'll notice on line 4, the first word, ownership, is stricken. And because there are some issues around deer ownership, there's been at least a request from our scientific breeders to have an alternative definition that keeps the term "ownership" in.
I want to make it very clear at this point that the definition before you there in the yellow text is staff's proposal, and it is endorsed by our White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee.
However, in our debate in our advisory committee meetings, our — it was recommended that we present to this commission some alternative proposals or alternative definitions that were offered up by our scientific breeders, just so you're aware of what exactly they were looking for.
This was one that was developed kind of on the fly during a White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee meeting, you'll see. And then secondarily, at the meeting on February 15, with a little more time to think, Dr. Bugai, who is the president of Texas Deer Association, presented the definition of unique number to be a four-digit alpha-numeric identifier used by the department to track the ownership of a specific deer.
So this is basically to let you know what they were looking for. But I do want to reiterate that staff's proposal is the one that's endorsed by our White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee also, and that's the one staff is recommending, the one that is published in the Texas Register.
On to permit-denial provisions. We had a lot of misunderstanding about our permit-denial provisions. And this extra time that we got allowed us to have people have a better understanding of our permit-denial provisions.
And for the most part, what we've got is concurrence and — with some amendments. Of course, what we're talking about is consolidating the language so that our language among the permit-denial provisions in our breeder permits, our deer-management permits and Triple T permits is similar.
Because right now, it's varied. And every time someone asks us, we have to go in the book and look. And so we wanted to make these consistent but still allow the department the discretion to refuse permits.
One of the biggest points of misunderstanding was the fact that the department already has very broad discretion to refuse permits based on a lot of violations. And once we made that clear, then there — we got the endorsement of our breeder user group.
Also, we wanted to make consistent the time period that we could look back and see if someone had violations and make that consistent for a period of five years. And then we also wanted to make consistent the types of violations that would apply in permit denial here. And also, as I present — some reasons for us to maybe prohibit agents from being on a permit.
The main point that our White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee wanted to make is that they wanted us to administer these rules in a manner that we did not take someone's permit away based on some minor violations.
A classic example is oftentimes ear tags will fall out of a deer's ear in the scientific-breeder pen, and it's going to happen. And folks didn't want to have their permit denied because something that is obviously going to happen out there —
And as you'll notice, if you read the preamble to this regulation, we think it's very clear that we're looking — we want to have the ability to deny permits for folks that have egregious violations, or they have demonstrated a pattern of a disregard for the law. And we're not going after folks just because of one minor instance.
One recommendation that we feel is nonsubstantive — but we don't have a problem with this amendment — is in bullet 1 and 2 — is a change to the word "any" — from "any" to "a." We think it means the same thing, but we're recommending that amendment.
A regulation that we don't currently have on the books would specifically allow us to prohibit an agent from being on a permit if they also have a history of convictions. And so we are proposing to add this at the directive of this commission.
Back in May '05, we were asked to develop some rules to keep people from circumventing the intent of this — of these rules and remaining in the business. And this is — this regulation was developed to try to achieve that purpose.
We are asking to amend the language a bit. I'll click right back. It says right now for a period of five years. We would ask to amend that for a period of up to five years, because in our permit-denial provisions, we can do an annual review each year and decide if we want to maintain that discretion or not. And this would be consistent with that.
Of course, the list of violations is the same. And we would ask for the same amendments on the words "any," changing those to "a."
I do want to back up one point here and note that in the regulations book that you have and what is published in the Texas Register, there is a mistake in that. Under the DMP permit-denial rules for agents, it doesn't say convicted or received deferred adjudication. It says someone who is a defendant in prosecution.
And that was an error on our part in doing some cutting and pasting, and it's not consistent with what I've been presenting to this commission ever since November. So we'd ask for that amendment so that it is consistent with the scientific-breeder and Triple T rules.
We also — right now the department has the ability to delay the processing of a permit if someone has violations. In other words, they don't have to have been convicted or received a deferred adjudication. And we have that statutory authority.
Not all of our statutory authority is reiterated in rules. However, recently we were challenged in court with — when we delay the processing of a permit based on a list of violations. And so our staff felt — at the guidance of Ann Bright felt that it was probably prudent to go ahead and articulate this authority in regulation so that everyone understands that.
And so basically, this would clarify the department's current authority to delay the processing of a permit if someone has violations against them. We would ask for an amendment to strike the words deny or for, because that's handled in our previous proposals.
The list of violations is the same. When we presented this to our White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee, there was some degree of concern, because we might potentially be taking action based on evidence and information we had but without a decision being rendered by a judge or a jury.
And to remedy this, the suggestion was given that we only apply this to violations that are really directly related to the nature of the permits. These permits all deal with holding live white-tailed deer. Bullets 1 and 2 directly relate to violations associated with holding live game animals.
And so it's recommended to strike the class A and B misdemeanors and the felonies, and we feel that this is appropriate and we can still achieve our objectives if we do that. So staff is willing to go along with this recommendation and include it as part of the staff recommendation.
And of course, another means to get at folks that probably shouldn't be in the business and have proven themselves to be untrustworthy — we developed this proposal, that we would have the ability to review some — refuse someone permit issuance if we had reason to believe that they were applying on behalf of someone else who was disqualified from getting a permit.
We presented this to our White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee, and they did have quite a bit of concern with this. We also then presented this to our breeder user group on the 15th, and our breeder user group chose to do a little bit of wordsmithing and replace the words "reason to believe" with "evidence."
And of course, it was always our intent that our reason to believe would be based on evidence — compelling evidence. And so we supported this change and are recommending to substitute this word.
That being the case, our breeder user group supported this proposal. And we took it back to our White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee last week on Tuesday, and our White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee also now supports this proposal with this recommended amendment.
We're proposing to develop or adopt rules that would have a review process for permit denial for breeder permits, just like we do for DMP and Triple T permits. If someone is denied a permit, after notification, they would have ten days to seek a review.
The decision of the review panel would be final. And then we would report these findings on an annual basis to our White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee. The review panel would consist of the deputy executive director, the director of the wildlife division, and the big-game program director.
When we presented this to our White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee, there were some recommendations to have third-party observers or outside parties observe this process to supposedly add some legitimacy to the process.
There was a recommendation to change our rules. Ann Bright went back and investigated and determined that actually we have the authority to do this on a voluntary basis. And so just — as a matter of fact, we have already implemented some guidelines for third-party observers.
We've determined that since these are all deer permits, that third-party observers — we could pick from our White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee. And any of those that chose to serve as an observer could watch the process, but they would not have a voting position in the process.
Two changes we have to our deer-management permit rules. Right now if someone applies for a deer-management permit, it's a thousand dollars. If they renew, it's $600, as long as they don't change their deer-management plan.
But oftentimes, the statues will change; the regulations will change, and individuals will be compelled to change their plan. And we're basically proposing that they don't have to pay the new permit fee, the $1,000 permit fee, if the changes are simply the result of statutory or regulatory changes.
And finally, as a result of some more litigation, we found out that our current rules about approving deer-management plans was misunderstood. At least one individual felt that once a wildlife biologist or technician signed a deer-management plan, the department was compelled to issue a deer-management permit.
The record — this commission's record, when this was adopted, is very clear that that was not the case, that that signature was merely a component of the process. And so basically, our intent here is to reword this so that everyone knows that the signature is just the first part of the process, and people have to do other things like meet all the statutory requirements, pay the fee, et cetera.
As far as public comment goes, on the scientific-breeder proclamation rules, we had nine people comment. Eight agreed with our proposals. We had one individual that checked the disagree column, but basically what they were disagreeing with was scientific-breeder permits in general. Their comments weren't germane specifically to this — to the regulation proposal.
On permit-denial provisions, we had 21 individuals that agreed. Eight indicated they disagreed, but of those eight, five were more generally negative comments about deer-management and Triple T permits, and they weren't specific to the proposal.
And as far as the scientific-breeder permit fee, 13 individuals agreed. Three disagreed, but two of the three that disagreed did so because they thought that the permit fee should be higher.
And I'll be glad to answer any questions at this time. Then — and before you is the recommended motion. And I just want to clarify that if you so choose, that would include all the amendments that I asked for during my presentation.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thanks, Clayton. That's a lot of work. Everything went to the White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee. Correct?
MR. WOLF: Yes, sir, at least once.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. At least once. Including the part about the no transfer permit necessary if hauling to a vet?
MR. WOLF: No, sir. That one was not. That came up later on. So that specifically was not presented to our White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Okay. So everything except that.
MR. WOLF: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. And that one just seems to be a pretty obvious —
MR. WOLF: Yes, sir. I think so.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: — exception. Okay. All right. Very good.
Any questions for Clayton before we have the public testimony on this issue?
Stand by, Clayton.
First up, Kirby Brown, Texas Wildlife Association.
MR. BROWN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, commissioners. Good to be with you today. I'm just glad that I had the opportunity to witness the longest commission discussion I've — in my 25 years of working with Parks and Wildlife and five years afterwards — and it wasn't about deer.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes. You know, I want everybody to know that.
MR. BROWN: So congratulations.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: It wasn't about deer. Wasn't that something.
MR. COOK: Kirby, your time is up.
MR. BROWN: We just want to say that TWA supports the recommendations from the White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee to the commission on this subject. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Kirby.
MR. McSPADDEN: Thank you for allowing me to speak. I'm here — I'm Chris McSpadden on behalf of myself. I operate a family breeding program in — High Fence White Tail Ranch. And my only concerns — I don't have any problems with most of these regulations. I'm very intent on following every law and crossing every t and dotting every i.
But my only concern is, on the CWD monitoring program, I don't — the only problem I have — there's some things about it as far as from a breeder standpoint. To track it — I've been in the program three years and have always moved up — in going up in the status.
Now, for instance, if I were to purchase a deer from someone and I asked that certain person what their status would be, they may say it's, you know, level A, B, C. And — but he forgot he bought a deer from someone that — bought a deer from someone, the domino effect of that.
But I may not know that. If I'm due to get inspected every October, I won't find that information out until the next October, which would allow me to fall back in my CWD status, whatever that may be, if I go below status or what have you.
And I just hope that the commission will ask that we do something that may make it become more real time. And I don't know the exact way to do that, to check status of other breeders. Whereas if I'm — you know, if I sell a deer to someone, I fax my permit in to Parks and Wildlife.
And at that point, you know, with these new laws, it'll be 48 hours to move the deer. So the deer should be there in two days. At that point, that information should be able to be somehow into a database.
And you all may be — they may be in the works of this. But as it is today, it's very difficult to maintain that — could be — to maintain that level because of the unknowing — the uncertainties of the program.
And that's with — we're with Texas Animal Health Commission. And, you know, it's just — there's some gray areas to that that make it — make — could make it difficult to track as far — from a breeder standpoint to maintain the levels that the — the proposed levels of a CWD status.
But I'm all for CWD monitoring. And I understand it's a regulatory agency. We breeders kind of say our prayers every night that it never happens. And as a regulatory agency, I'm sure they think, what are we going to do when it happens.
So I understand, and I'm in full compliance and total agreeance. But that's my only concern. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I appreciate it. You're right. We're — we all pray it doesn't happen, but we're getting ready anyway. Thank you.
Clayton, do you have anything to add to that, Mr. McSpadden's — concerns?
MR. WOLF: Yes. I do have a comment. We've — Mr. McSpadden is right in that you could — right now, it — really there's a burden of proof or at least a burden to investigate on the receiving end to ensure that you don't somehow negatively impact your status. And of course, with a little bit of investigating, that can be accomplished.
The database that we are developing right now — if — when we get our online application up, what we anticipate folks doing is being able to get online and activate a purchase permit. And if we can get folks and encourage folks to do that, they would not get the authorization, because the database would do a check to see the status of the party that's selling the deer.
And so there would be a real-time occurrence if folks use the web-based application. And we're hoping that will be what encourages folks to use it. So that will cut down on our data-entry time.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Clayton.
Next up, Ellis Gilleland. Mr. Gilleland.
MR. GILLELAND: Ellis Gilleland speaking. I've given you a handout which is from Texas Administrative Code, scientific breeders permit, rules 55.611. And I'm quoting subparagraph F, which says, "No scientific breeder shall hunt or kill or allow the hunting or killing of deer held pursuant to this subchapter."
And I want to tell you from the outset that I have never been in a Texas Deer Association breeding facility, but I have spent a day at Kerr Wildlife white-tailed deer breeding facility with the entire Parks and Wildlife Commission.
So I feel qualified to tell you that a white-tailed deer breeding facility is a fenced-in area populated by tame deer — a condition to receiving chow, protein pellets, on call. And they certainly are not wild by any stretch of the imagination. They are analogous to the tame deer that you find in the state parks like at Choke Canyon State Park where they eat out of your hand.
Accordingly, I would like to tell you that I think the scientific breeder has a moral obligation, not legal — moral obligation to turn these animals over to a person that will treat them in a moral fashion, in other words, not take them one day and put them in a canned hunt the next day.
So I would ask you to insert in your scientific-breeder permit the proviso that the animal be kept by the buyer for a period of time, six months or whatever is required, to make that animal become wild again.
I would not expect deer breeders to be moral persons and entrust them to turn deer over to moral buyers. I think that's too much to ask. But if you can make it a legal proviso, I think the deer would appreciate it. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Gilleland.
Next up, Susan Hightower.
And after Susan, Scott Bugai, Dr. Scott Bugai.
Susan Hightower. Calling once, twice. Got a belly full of catfish, I guess.
Scott, come on up.
James Anderson, be ready.
MR. BUGAI: My name is Scott Bugai. I am president of the Texas Deer Association, and I'd like to thank you all for the opportunity to be here. I disagree with some of the things I've heard today as far as morals and all that. I tend to come from an industry that I see a lot of morals in, but that's a different conversation.
Mr. Chairman and Commissioner Friedkin, I want to thank you all for the time you all took for meeting with the TDA leadership and just helping us to gain a better understanding of what the department — what they expect or think needs to come from our industry.
I'd like to thank you also for the opportunity that we receive from the breeder user group to have some input as an industry, an association that represents an industry, into some of these regulatory changes.
You know, I think about human nature. And I know for me and probably for a lot of folks — don't like changes. And I'm not one that's real fond of regulations, but I understand the need for them. And we appreciate the chance to have some input into it.
All in all, these proposals that Clayton has made — they're good. We agree with them. We've had some input into them. There are some things we didn't agree with, for one, the definition of unique number. I will stand on that at this point. Texas Deer Association is not in favor of that. I would appreciate you looking into adopting the proposed one that he mentioned that I made.
I'd also thank you for your consideration of the exclusion for needing a permit to move deer to a veterinarian. That's important to me. I guess you know I am a veterinarian. And there are times when that will be very beneficial, possibly could affect the outcome of a deer's life.
That's really all I got to say is thanks for the chance to input. And if you all have any questions for me or how my association feels, I'd be glad to take them at this time.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Scott. And you do serve on the White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee, for those members of the commission that are not aware.
MR. BUGAI: Yes, I do, and the breeder user group and the CW task force. And I appreciate that opportunity to be on all those things. It's — unfortunately, it's gotten to be a habitual passion for me to be a part of that, but I'm —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: You get to go to plenty of meetings. That's good.
MR. BUGAI: Yes, sir.
THE COURT: All right. Thank you very much, Scott.
MR. BUGAI: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Appreciate it.
James Anderson, Anderton.
MR. ANDERTON: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. And then after him will be Stan Copeland.
MR. ANDERTON: Mr. Commissioner — Mr. Chairman, commissioners, I appreciate the opportunity to speak before you today. I'll be speaking basically on the scientific-breeder denial permits. You know, number 1, I think the purchase permit being changed to a transfer permit is only a way for Parks and Wildlife to try to regain or attempt to regain the ownership of the white-tailed deer that's inside the breeder pens.
The unique number is a way of tracking the ownership. It's been that way ever since I've been in the business. They also would like to change that in order to take away the possibility of the ownership of the deer being to the deer breeder.
The deferred adjudication is not a guilty plea. It is a plea — it's just — it's nothing there. I don't see how in our law enforcement that we can take a deferred adjudication from five years back and hold it against anyone that's applying for a breeders permit at this time — or refusal of a permit at this time.
Because at the time of the deferred adjudication, this law was not in effect. I've had one deferred adjudication two years ago. I have also applied for my license from 2005 on April 6, 2005, and have never received them, and it expired as of March 31, 2006.
The — for reasons — for what, I don't know. That's neither here nor there, because it's expired. It wouldn't do me no good to get it now anyway.
I don't think you have to — I don't — what law or statute, you know, that they give us to — that Parks and Wildlife has that says they own the breeder-pen deer — are deer that are legally possessed and legally purchased on a purchase permit throughout the state or at the time when it was beyond — where you could go beyond the state borders — how those deer became property of the state of Texas when they crossed the state line.
You know, that's — we haven't been able to find that anywhere with our legal counsels. In the United States, we're innocent until we're proven guilty. But at Parks and Wildlife and law enforcement, you're guilty the minute you get a ticket.
And that is aforesaid here by the motions and amendments that they're looking at today. There is no way that you should be guilty or anything held against you until you are proven guilty by a court, by a judge or jury of your peers.
And likewise, you know, you cannot deny due process, and due process being you have to pay the ticket in order to be able to do something, which immediately says you're guilty, which in turn immediately says that they can deny your permit.
The CWD — you know, my question was does Parks and Wildlife have to follow the same rules and regulations on CWD as the Texas deer breeders. In a case back in May, there was some deer given back to Parks and Wildlife after the judge ordered them back to the original and sole owners. There was some deer given to Parks and Wildlife.
The Parks and Wildlife wardens killed two of those deer, adult deer. Two days later, those deer are still laying on the ground, and it was never tested. Had I had done that, I would have lost my status.
I feel that will be — I feel that if you approve these rules and regulations today, that this will be the second step in deterring the ownership of white-tailed deer — becoming the breeder — or possibly even the ownership of all deer behind High Fence being privatized.
Thank you for your time. And I will answer any questions you have.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you very much.
Next up, Stan Copeland.
MR. COPELAND: Mr. Chairman, I'd like to just yield my time.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Okay. Thank you, Mr. Copeland.
Mr. Daniel Dietrich.
MR. DIETRICH: Hi. My name is Daniel Dietrich. I'm from Blanket, Texas. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and commissioners for allowing me to speak today. I'm a small scientific breeder, and I struggle to keep up with all the regulations and rules imposed on us.
Many of these rules and regulations — notification is sent out over the internet. Currently, my phone line takes me 38 minutes to sign onto the internet. You can imagine the cost to get onto the internet in my community.
My question today is that before you approve these booklet of rules and regulations, why can't we determine, one, who the ownership of the deer in the scientific-breeder-permitted pens is. Is it the state of Texas; is it Parks and Wildlife; or is it scientific breeders?
Two, what is a wild herd, and what is a captive herd? This would make it clearer on liberation of deer into the wild or liberation of deer into a pen.
Who controls and which rules do we follow with animal health regulations? I have my herd inspected yearly by the USDA veterinarian. His comment was, when I asked, What do I do with a deer that I know died from running into a fence and breaking its neck? Do I need to send that head in? Do I need to do something else with it?
His comment was, Use your best judgment. If you know what it died from, we don't need to test it.
Then last, has Parks and Wildlife researched what the new regs would do to deer scientific breeders and what input would be on the state of Texas hunting revenues if some scientific and — or all scientific breeders were put out of business — in the loss of hunting revenue? Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you.
Anybody else signed up on item 11? I don't have any other cards. Did I miss somebody?
MR. RICKE: Mine was 10, and it was in error, and you said —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Oh, yes, sir. I'm sorry. All right. Come on up, sir. I apologize. Yes.
MR. RICKE: It's all right. It's been a long day. I —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: You were called —
MR. RICKE: — still trying to digest that catfish.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: You were called on 10 and put in — identify yourself, please.
MR. RICKE: My name is John Ricke. I live in Bastrop. I'll make this short, because a lot of it was — already been covered. I'm a manager of a ranch that — I'm helping the individuals with some white-tailed deer.
And I see quite a few discrepancies in the handout that I received this morning concerning the tracking of white-tailed deer. I've been to only two meetings with the Texas Animal Health Commission, based on the new law that USDA passed down because of the mad-cow disease in New York the second time in the beef industry and how bad it's hurting the ranchers now. I understand that.
And I'm not against deer breeding. I mean, that brings big bucks, four-legged, and big bucks, two-legged. It brings a lot of money into the economy. But on the USDA, they passed down to — the responsibility to the state level, and it's up to the states to track.
Now, the last meeting I was at, they stated that, in as few words as possible, anything other than a two-legged human has to be tagged with a premise tag. It's got your property-tag number on one side and the animal-ID number on the backside. I've already been doing that with my exotic sheep. That law went into effect back in — I don't know — '94 or '97 or something.
I see a big pile of paperwork in tracking in two systems, one through the Texas Health Commission in support of the USDA, and now another tracking system and report system to you for the same animal. Because white-tailed deer are now classified as livestock, and it does fall under USDA — the last meeting I went to. I can give you paperwork copies that were handed out.
So that means that white-tailed deer has to be tagged, any birds, anything, once they leave your premise. And that tag stays with that animal, because that tracks it back down to the original landowner where that animal was purchased or was — birth.
The law goes into effect June 1. That law states that if you don't register your premise, it's a $1,000 fine. And you have to report that animal whenever it leaves your premise. You also have to report in if an animal is deceased for whatever reason.
So there's some — I think — my suggestion is that the commissioners get together with the Texas Animal Health Department and have their own meeting to resolve some of these questions. I'm getting nervous, as you can tell, because this has been a three-ring circus from the — ever since that incident happened in New York to appease the Japanese for beef importing.
But — and one other comment is that when deer are released in the wild after they've been farm-raised, we got pet deer on our ranch, and we — ethically, we can't hunt them, because they see us coming; they come out there and want to eat out of your hand.
You know, somebody paid $20,000 to shoot a big buck, and it's been in a brood pen. And you come around the corner and shake the bucket of corn; he comes out here, and you shoot it. Well, that's canned hunt, in my books. But I'm a hunter. But I can't hunt an animal like that.
So the 30-day period, you know — I don't think you — you release the deer in the wild; I don't think you should hunt it for — there's got to be a stipulation of like six months or something. Thirty days — that deer's still tame.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Okay. Thank you very much.
Clayton, do you have anything to add to that? I know there was discussion at the White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee. And also, we have been working with the Texas Animal Health Commission — requires a memorandum of understanding, because white-tailed deer are not livestock in Texas.
White-tailed deer are native. Other deer are livestock in Texas and covered by the animal premise ID, as I understand it. The animal premise ID was not passed by the — Animal Health Commission?
MR. WOLF: No. They — matter of fact, we just got new — well, everything's on hold, and that's out of a news release. And they're probably not looking to adopt anything until 2007. But just in order to address the gentleman's concerns, we had the same concerns.
I've been working with Animal Health Commission to try to make sure there's no redundant reporting. And of course, we're not getting any really clear answers from USDA. Nobody really knows the answer yet.
But folks speculate that possibly parties like Texas Parks and Wildlife — USDA would accept our data as long as it fits their standards. And the new database we're developing is set up for premise ID. We're registering premise IDs and the numbers.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: So we have to be ready for it when it comes.
MR. WOLF: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: COMMISSIONER Bivins, you wanted to add something to animal ID —
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Within the livestock industry, it's been postponed on several occasions. But the last we heard was that it may be as long as 2009.
MR. WOLF: The only difference is they did adopt rules for elk and the elk breeders. If you move elk in Texas right now, you have to have your premise ID and use the tags and report that. And so really, I guess our elk breeders are the ones that are the guinea pigs, if you will, right now about what's going on.
I think everyone knows it's coming. I — no one is real sure about the pace that we're on.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. That — nobody else up on item 11?
Any more questions for staff or discussion by the commission on item 11?
Do I have a motion on the staff recommendation?
COMMISSIONER PARKER: So move.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Parker. And second by Holt. All in favor.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion carries. Thank you.
And next up is — well, we've already done 12. Number 13, oil and gas lease nomination, Harris County.
MR. KUHLMANN: Good afternoon, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Corky Kuhlmann, project manager with the land-conservation program. This item relates to a nominated mineral lease on a state park.
The authority for leasing mineral rights on Parks and Wildlife lands lies with the board of lease, the General Land Office. The board of lease has traditionally honored all the recommendations made by this commission.
This particular nomination is in Harris County, at Sheldon Lake State Park. The nominated tract is in magenta. It's 54.47 acres at the Sheldon Lake State Park and Environmental Learning Center.
The terms and conditions of this is no surface occupancy, $150-an-acre lease rate minimum, a ten-acre delay rental fee, and a three-acre-lease term. Staff recommends you adopt the motion before you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any questions for Corky or discussions on 13? We saw this yesterday at the conservation committee. Anything we didn't cover yesterday?
Corky, thank you.
Do we have a motion on this item?
Oh, we do have someone signed up on this. Do we? I'm sorry. Ellis Gilleland. I'm sorry. I apologize. Mr. Gilleland's testimony. I apologize, Mr. Gilleland. That was an oversight on my part.
MR. GILLELAND: No problem. It's a long day, Mr. Chairman. My name is Ellis Gilleland. I'm speaking on this oil and gas at Sheldon. I'd like to quote from the Texas Register, the publication on this. "The oil and gas on this site is owned by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Funds generated from the lease activity will be deposited in the appropriate Texas Parks and Wildlife fund."
In short, it's not — the money is not going to the general fund, and the legislature, it's going to you in your pocket. Therefore, it behooves you to do directional drilling. It made a convert out of me.
The next item is a Dallas Morning News article where the Irving school trustees [indiscernible] royalty offering 580,000 plus future royalties to the leased district property for gas drilling, unquote. That's almost $600,000 for a school district.
The next item is New York Times, March 14, showing you oil and natural gas industry investments and earnings. Notice the earnings are going off the board, up, up, and away, not down, up.
The next item is what can be done in Houston. Naturefest 2006, Jesse A. Jones Park. This is only 275 acres. This reminds you of 400 acres at Eagle Mountain Lake — it was, "too small." 400 acres almost doubles Jesse Jones. This is what could be done at Sheldon with 580K, what could be done at Eagle Mountain Lake.
I've also given you — if that is not driving the nail hard enough, I've given you a pipeline-pressure article that shows you one extremity of the pipeline, gas pipeline, originating at Eagle Mountain Lake State Park and the other — and terminating in Chicago.
Does that tell you something? It tells you that 580K is peanuts, peanuts. 580 million would be more like it. What have we got to do to tell you to start taking care of the directional drilling?
And I've given you the top page of the article that shows you the Barnett Shale [phonetic] — it's published in the Houston Chronicle, July 24, 2005 — which shows you Eagle Mountain Lake State Park on the top of Barnett Shale goldmine.
Gentlemen, please do not sell that park. Please drill more directional, and spend your money, your money. You don't have to beg Governor Dewhurst to spend it. You can spend it on your own. God bless you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Gilleland.
To clear that one up, Corky, this is a directional site. No surface location will be on the lease. Correct?
MR. KUHLMANN: That's correct, sir. It is — no surface — occupancy.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And we are presently receiving oil and gas revenues from not only that, but also from Eagle Mountain. Correct?
MR. KUHLMANN: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. Thank you.
Any other questions? Got a motion on this item?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: So move.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Moved my Holmes. Second by Bivins. All in favor, aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion passes.
Thank you, Corky.
MR. KUHLMANN: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Let's see. Next up is number 14, land transfer, Brown County.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, commissioners, good afternoon. My name is Ted Hollingsworth with the land-conservation program. This item consists of the second of two readings of a proposal to transfer 47 acres at Lake Brownwood State Park to the Brown County Water Improvement District, from whom we originally got the property in the 1930s.
That 47-acre area constitutes the Girl Scout camp, the Lake Brownwood Girl Scout camp. They've had a lease from us since 1952 on this tract, have improved it with cabins, meeting buildings, the swimming pool, other improvements.
We are proposing to transfer that back to the water improvement district. They will in turn enter into a long-term lease with the Girl Scouts, which will allow them to seek grants and other funding to maintain and enhance and add to those facilities.
And staff does recommend that the commission authorize the executive director to proceed with that transfer. Be happy to answer any questions you might have.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Good deal, Ted. Well done.
Any questions? Motion?
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: So move.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: By Bivins. And second by Holt. All in favor, aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion passes. And that was item 16.
Number 17, land transfer.
Jack Bauer, Freestone County.
MR. BAUER: Good afternoon, Chairman and commissioners. I am Jack Bauer, direction of land-conservation program. Item 16 relates to a pipeline right-of-way request at — in Nacogdoches County at the Alazan Bayou Wildlife Management Area. This is just south of —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I'm sorry, Jack. I said 17. You're right. It's 16 that you're on.
MR. BAUER: Okay.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Okay. I'm sorry. I was incorrect. Go ahead.
MR. BAUER: As discussed yesterday, Alazan Bayou — the proposal is for a six-inch pipeline to be bored under the river and then across the southeast corner of the facility. The schematic in front of you shows where the pipeline would be.
The restrictions that would be included would be no — first of all, an underground bore, the rights to grant the pipeline construction and operation. And by the way, this is an item that is proposing a recommendation to the board for lease for Parks and Wildlife lands.
No surface disturbance or surface occupancy. It would provide the right for an annual inspection by the operator. A ten-year term and a revenue of — one-time payment, Commissioner Parker, of $16,000, approximately $30 a rod.
And the motion before you would be the motion that would go to the board for lease.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And that is a ten-year —
MR. BAUER: Ten-year term. Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Ten-year term. Great.
Got a motion?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So move.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: By Friedkin. Second by Holt. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion carries. Thank you, Jack. And you're also up for number 17.
MR. BAUER: Okay. Seventeen relates to a land donation that would come as a result of a claim against an oil and gas operator at Richland Creek Wildlife Management Area, Freestone County. This facility came to us in 1987 as part of the mitigation to construct Richland Chambers Reservoir. We — the minerals had been severed at the time we got the property. We do not own the minerals, and we do not have a surface-use agreement with the operator.
In 2000, oil and gas — salt brine was contaminating a section of the property. Our staff sought help and relief from Texas Railroad Commission. Intervention proceeded, and it is still ongoing. The actions of the operator prompted us to seek additional help from the attorney general's office. And we, with our legal staff and wildlife division staff, entered into a negotiation with that operator claiming trespass and negligence.
The outcome of that negotiation came in February to include a land donation of 68 acres to offset the permanent destruction of approximately 13 acres of forested wetlands, and a fee of $10,000, presumably for operation maintenance that is — that will be turned over to attorney general staff to cover some fees, and a surface use being put in place to define roles and responsibilities for future operations with that operator.
So we are asking approval to accept 68 acres as part of the compensation for that settlement. We would ask that you consider this recommendation for consideration. I'd be happy to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any questions for Jack on this?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Jack, you said ten acres were contaminated.
MR. BAUER: Approximately 13 —
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Thirteen —
MR. BAUER: — in several sites. So it wasn't all in one location, but a variety of sites in a fairly confined area, though, of the facility.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Has that contamination been cleaned up?
MR. BAUER: It is still in the process of being cleaned up. Basically, there were soils removed, new soils brought back, and trenching and other additives to the soil to try to get that salt moved from it. It's now revegetated in salt-tolerant species, but the salt levels there are still under the remediation of the Texas Railroad Commission, so it is not completely cleaned up.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: But that's not been done at Parks and Wildlife's expense.
MR. BAUER: That's correct. That's being done through Texas Railroad Commission, the operator's insurance company and the operator.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Jack, if we take this, and 12, 15, 18 years from now that thing bubbles back up, whose responsibility is it? Who cleans up at that point?
MR. BAUER: It will still be the operator. And we would have — part of the purpose in establishing the surface-use agreement with this operator would be to define roles and responsibilities with us for that oil and gas operation. And it will — it does more clearly define what those roles are.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Can we define those roles or rules or whatever you talked about?
MR. BAUER: Well, it — most of this is regulatory rules of the Railroad Commission. I mean, that part of the contamination issue, even if it happened in the future, would come under the jurisdiction of the Railroad Commission.
MR. COOK: Jack, correct me. Just for the information of the commission on this item, that operator — that operation was in place there on Richland Creek when we got the property in mitigation.
MR. BAUER: That's correct.
MR. COOK: Some of that operation's been there for 30 years —
MR. BAUER: Yes, sir.
MR. COOK: — maybe more. And we're dealing with some of those —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: That's an important point to make. We took the property subject to the existing oil and gas lease.
MR. COOK: It was a mitigation site for the reservoir. It's been a difficult one, just to be honest about it.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you. Any other questions of Jack on this item? Hear a motion?
COMMISSIONER PARKER: So move.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: By Parker. Second by Holmes. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion carries.
The last item of the day, request to exceed capital budget transfer limitations, item 19.
MS. FIELDS: Good afternoon, commissioners. For the record, I'm Mary Fields, chief financial officer. And I'm here to request the commission's request to exceed the capital budget transfer limit for your consideration and approval.
Yesterday we discussed the capital budget expenditure requirements, and today I'll mention a couple of highlights. This request is necessitated by Article 9, Section 616 of the General Appropriations Act, which states that within our capital line items, such as transportation items and capital equipment, we cannot transfer more than 25 percent to or from a particular capital line item.
We can grow an item up to 125 percent, but if we want to spend in excess of that limit, we need to get approval from the Legislative Budget Board and the governor's office. The request to exceed the limit must be submitted by the commission as the agency's governing board, and the request has to include certain elements.
Exhibit A in your handouts for action item 19 lists the capital items we are requesting. We have additional capital equipment needs of $268,000, and vehicles, boats and motor needs of almost $1.3 million. Our total request is $1,544,832, of which $1,502,604 is Fund 9. The remainder of that amount is Fund 64, which is coming from the support divisions to match their capital needs.
The actual letter from the commission to the LBB and the governor's office is included in your handout as Exhibit B. The letter justifies that our vehicles and other equipment are aging — and in some cases, obsolete. And we're incurring costly repairs to keep them running. With this in mind, we should not defer these capital budget expenditures any longer. So with that, staff recommends the commission adopt the following motion as — on the screen. And if there are not any questions, that concludes my presentation.
MR. COOK: Mr. Chairman, I'd just like to add here, our needs are much greater. Our budget only allows this extent.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I understand.
MR. COOK: It's much needed.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Ned, do you have anything to add? No, but he makes the motion.
Motion by Holmes. Second by Montgomery. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion carries. And there's the letter. Perfect.
Thank you, Carole.
Thank you very much, Mary.
Any more business to come before the commission, Mr. Cook?
MR. COOK: No further business, sir. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: We stand adjourned.
(Whereupon, at 3:30 p.m., the meeting was concluded.)
In official recognition hereof, we hereby affix our signatures as approved this ___ day of ____________ 2006.
Joseph B. C. Fitzsimons, Chairman
Donato D. Ramos, Vice-Chairman
Mark E. Bivins, Member
J. Robert Brown, Member
T. Dan Friedkin, Member
Ned S. Holmes, Member
Peter M. Holt, Member
Philip Montgomery III, Member
John D. Parker, Member
C E R T I F I C A T E
MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission — Public Hearing
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: April 6, 2006
I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 283, 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.
(Transcriber) (Date)On the Record Reporting, Inc.
3307 Northland, Suite 315
Austin, Texas 78731