Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
August 24, 2006Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 24th day of August, 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
- Donato D. Ramos, Laredo, Texas, Vice Chairman (Absent)
- Mark E. Bivins, Amarillo, Texas
- Ned S. Holmes, Houston, Texas
- Peter M. Holt, San Antonio, Texas
- Philip Montgomery, Dallas, Texas
- John D. Parker, Lufkin, Texas
- T. Dan Friedkin, Houston, Texas
- J. Robert Brown, El Paso, Texas (Absent)
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT:
- Robert L. Cook, Executive Director, and other personnel of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
|1||Billy Jack Browder||Goods||One Ruger Mini 14 Rifle||$600.00|
|2||Coastal Conservation Association of Texas||Goods||Five (5) NVEC-NEPVS 14 night vision monoculars with NVEC-273482 magnifying lenses assemble and five (5) Pelican 1450 waterproof cases||$17,477.75|
|3||East Texas Woods -N- Water Foundation||Goods||25 tons of Bentonite to aid in hydric soil conditioning of wetland||$3,975.00|
|4||Enbridge Pipeline||Goods||Four (4) new Motorola handheld radios' Model AXV5100 with rapid charger||$971.44|
|5||Friends of Huntsville State Park||Goods||Kustom Signals Mobile Radar Unit||$985.00|
|6||LDL Resources Foundation Friends of Dinosaur Valley State Park||Goods||2006 John Deere 790 4WD Tractor #14949, Front End Loader Stock #14943 and 5' Frontier Box Blade BB2060 Stock #13951||$13,900.00|
|7||Royce Faulkner||Goods||One single axel magnum cargo trailer||$2,900.00|
|8||Mr. Larry Flak||Goods||One 2000 18'4" x 56" Go Devil Aluminum Boat with twin 23hp Briggs & Stratton motors with trailer - six years old - in good to excellent condition||$10,000.00|
|9||Saltwater-Fisheries Enhancement Association||Goods||Received hach probes and meters used for seawater analysis||$9,040.00|
|10||T.L. James Lumber Company||Goods||Entire contents/inventory of an 82 year old hardware store portion of T.L. James Lumber Yard||$55,000.00|
|11||Texas Bighorn Society||Goods||Metal roof, pipe, c-purling, gutters, tposts, four water tanks, four water troughs||$44,106.34|
|12||The 100 Club, Inc.||Goods||(4) Motorola Astro Digital XTS-5000 Model II handheld radios w/ software & accessories; (4) Motorola XTL-2500 mobile radios w/ software and accessories||$30,418.74|
|13||The 100 Club of Houston||Goods||14 Bullet Proof Vests, 3 Motorola Radios, 3 Satellite Phones||$19,213.60|
|14||US Fish & Wildlife Service Law Enforcement Office||Goods||2001 model Thor brand travel trailer||$12,924.00|
|15||Texas Bighorn Society||In Kind||1240 volunteer hours @ $7.00/hour to construct two water catchments||$8,680.00|
|16||Albert & Meta Hausser||Cash||Cash Donation to help restore the gristmill at the Landmark Inn SHS||$1,000.00|
|17||AmeriGroup Texas Inc.||Cash||Cash Donation for Outdoor Kid's budget||$500.00|
|18||Aqua Water Supply Corporation||Cash||Wildlife Expo Sponsorship - Antler Associate||$846.00|
|19||Billie L. Parker||Cash||Memorial gift||$500.00|
|20||Blue Bell Creameries, L.P.||Cash||Wildlife Expo Sponsorship - Antler Associates||$3,500.00|
|21||Coastal Conservation Association||Cash||Wildlife Expo Sponsorship - Antler Associate||$846.00|
|22||Dallas Athletes, Inc.||Cash||Cash Donation for 3 AR 15 semi-automatic rifles, 3 Halo sights, ammunition||$4,000.00|
|23||Fort Griffin Fandangle||Cash||Cash Donation to Fort Griffin State Park for use Longhorn cattle in annual play called the Fandangle||$600.00|
|24||Friends of Fulton Mansion||Cash||Cash Donation for the Fulton Mansion Visitors Center Project||$20,000.00|
|25||Friends of Fulton Mansion||Cash||Cash Donation for the Fulton Mansion Visitors Center Project||$44,000.00|
|26||Friends of Lockhart State Park||Cash||Cash Donation for the operation of Lockhart SP's swimming pool for FY '06||$7,793.32|
|27||Gideon Toal - Architects||Cash||Memorial gift||$500.00|
|28||Jeannie Navarro||Cash||Restricted Cash Donation for special project||$500.00|
|29||Lower Colorado River Authority||Cash||Cash Donation for Wildlife Expo Sponsorship - Palo Duro||$4,074.00|
|30||Land Tejas||Cash||Cash Donation for Supplemental Environmental Project wetland enhancement||$10,000.00|
|31||National Wild Turkey Federation||Cash||Cash Donation for Expo Sponsorship – Antler Associate||$846.00|
|32||Parks & Wildlife Foundation of Texas||Cash||Cash Donation for the purchase of supplies for the construction of a traveling exhibit trailer promoting the Budweiser ShareLunker Program and the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center||$4,000.00|
|33||Parks & Wildlife Foundation of Texas||Cash||Cash Donation for the purchase of supplies for the construction of a traveling exhibit trailer promoting the Budweiser ShareLunker Program and the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center||$16,000.00|
|34||Paul's Bookkeeping and Tax Service||Cash||Cash Donation for the Casa Navarro Interpretive Project||$1,000.00|
|35||Princess Craft Campers||Cash||Cash Donation for Expo Sponsorship – Antler Associate||$846.00|
|36||RV Outlet Mall||Cash||Cash Donation for Wildlife Expo Sponsorship - Antler Associate||$846.00|
|37||Ruth Carter Stevenson||Cash||Memorial gift||$500.00|
|38||Sandra G. Kahill||Cash||Restricted Cash Donation for special project||$1,000.00|
|39||Scott, Douglas & McConnico on behalf of Angelina Gathering LLC||Cash||Cash Donation for Habitat Management and Enhancement on the Alazan Bayou WMA||$4,000.00|
|40||Shikar Safari Club International Foundation||Cash||Cash Donation for Wildlife Expo Sponsorship - Palo Duro||$5,000.00|
|41||Sturgis Charitable Trust||Cash||Cash Donation for the CCC interactive website & traveling exhibit||$10,000.00|
|42||Temple-Inland||Cash||Cash Donation for Wildlife Expo Sponsorship - Palo Duro ($1,500.00 received June 9, 2005)||$4,074.00|
|43||Texas Farm Bureau||Cash||Cash Donation for Wildlife Expo Sponsorship - Antler Associates||$846.00|
|44||Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation||Cash||Cash Donation for general support||$34,475.51|
|45||Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation||Cash||Cash Donation for Marketing||$12,500.00|
|46||Texas Wildlife Association||Cash||Cash Donation for Wildlife Expo Sponsorship - Antler Associate||$846.00|
|47||The David B. Terk Foundation||Cash||Cash Donation for Wildlife Expo Sponsorship||$1,000.00|
|48||The NRA Foundation, Inc.||Cash||Cash Donation for Wildlife Expo Sponsorship - Antler Associate||$846.00|
|49||Town of Fulton||Cash||Cash Donation for Fulton Mansion repairs (Hotel/Motel Tax)||$5,000.00|
|50||US Sportsmens Alliance Foundation||Cash||Cash Donation for Wildlife Expo Sponsorship - Antler Association||$1,346.00|
|51||VerizonBusiness||Cash||Cash Donation for Wildlife Expo Sponsorship - Antler Associate||$1,846.00|
|52||Vincent & Elkins (Grandview Development)||Cash||Cash Donation for Supplemental Environmental Project wetland enhancement||$100,000.00|
|53||Wal-Mart Foundation||Cash||Cash Donation for the operation of Lockhart SP's swimming pool for FY "06||$1,000.00|
|54||Worth Casualty Company||Cash||Cash Donation for Wildlife Expo Sponsorship||$846.00|
|Wildlife||James E. Dillard||Prog. Specialist V||Mineral Wells, TX||40 Years|
|Law Enforcement||Kenneth L. Baker||Captain||McAllen, TX||35 Years|
|Law Enforcement||Garth W.S. Robinson, Jr.||Major||Austin, TX||35 Years|
|State Parks||Ellen Buchanan||Manager V||Tyler, TX||25 Years|
|State Parks||Thomas M. Fisher||Prog. Supervisor II||Mexia, TX||25 Years|
|Infrastructure||William M. McDonald, Jr.||Architect II||Austin, TX||25 Years|
|State Parks||Kenneth G. Coleman||Park Ranger II||Smithville, TX||20 Years|
|Law Enforcement||David L. Modgling||Game Warden||Mineral Wells, TX||20 Years|
|Name/Organization, Address||Item Number||Matter of Interest|
|John T. Montford, State Parks Advisory Committee, 1 Buckingham Court, San Antonio, TX 78257||#2 — Briefing — State Parks||State Parks Report — Testify — For|
|George Bristol, Texas Coalition for Conservation &, State Parks Advisory Committee, 8812 Mesa Drive, Austin, TX 78759||#2 — Briefing — State Parks||State Parks Report — Testify — For|
|Diane Schenke, The Park People, 3015 Richmond, Ste 210, Houston, TX 77098||#2 — Briefing — State Parks||State Parks — Testify — For|
|Mike Hendricks, City of Luling, 509 E. Crockett, Luling, Texas 78648||#3 — Action — Small Community Grant Funding||Testify|
|William Nixon, 10140 CR 4084, Sturry, TX||#5 — Action — Natl. Recreational Trail Grant Funding||ATV Park Childress — Testify — Against|
|Jerry Cummins, City of Childress, Box 1087, Childress, TX||#5 — Action — Natl. Recreational Trail Grant Funding||Testify — For|
|Bobby Sanders, City of Childress, 235 Mesquite Lane, Childress, TX 79201||#5 — Action — Natl. Recreational Trail Grant Funding||Testify — For|
|Coy Sneary, City of Bay City, Wellness Matagorda County, 700 3rd St., Bay City, TX 77414||#5 — Action — Natl. Recreational Trail Grant Funding||Hike and Bike Trail App. For Wellness — Matagorda Co. — Testify — For *Just want to say thank you.|
|Renee Griffith, City of Bay City, Wellness Matagorda, 1115 Ave G, Bay City, TX||#5 — Action — Natl. Recreational Trail Grant Funding||Testify — For — Just to say Thank you.|
|Kirby Brown, Texas Wildlife Association, 2800 NE Loop 410, Ste 105, San Antonio, TX 78218||#5 — Action — Natl. Recreational Trail Grant Funding||Testify|
|Tony Price, 295 PR 3557, Paradise, TX 76073||#13 — Action — Amendments to the Statewide Freshwater Mussel and Clam Proclam.||Testify — Against|
|Scott Weaver, Weaver Shell Co., 37955 Wren Lane, Wister, OK 74966||#13 — Action — Amendments to the Statewide Freshwater Mussel and Clam Proclam.||Testify — For|
|Noel Coward, Texas Aquaponics & Texas Red Claw Association, 553 Campbell Rd., Maypearl, TX||#15 — Action — Amendments to the Harmful or Potentially Harmful Exotic Fish, Shellfish and Aquatic Plants Regulations||Prohibition of Parastacidae Crayfish Testify — Against|
|Will Kirkpatrick, TX Anglers, Rt. 1, Box 138 dc, Broaddus, TX||#16 — Briefing — Inland Fish Hatchery Program Update||Testify — For|
|Ellis Gilleland, Texas Animals, P. O. Box 9001, Austin, TX 78766||#17 — Action — 2006-2007 Migratory Game Bird Proclamation — Late Season Provisions||Testify — Against|
|Kirby Brown, Texas Wildlife Association, 2800 NE Loop 410, Ste. 105, San Antonio, TX 78218||#17 — Action 2006-2007 Migratory Game Bird Proclamation — Late Season Provisions||Testify — For|
|Marilyn Shackelford, Box 486, Marathon, TX||#20 — Action — Land Donations — Brewster County — Black Gap WMA||Testify — Against|
|Macky Shackelford, Shackelford Ranch, Box 486, Marathon, TX||#20 — Action — Land Donations — Brewster County — Black Gap WMA||Testify — Against|
|Marilyn Shackelford, Box 486, Marathon, TX||#21 — Action — Conservation Easement (CE) Donation — Brewster County — Black Gap WMA||Testify — Against|
|Macky Shackelford, Shackelford Ranch, Box 486, Marathon, TX||#21 — Action — Conservation Easement (CE) Donation — Brewster County — Black Gap WMA||Testify — Against|
P R O C E E D I N G S
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Good morning. Our meeting's called to order. Mr. Cook, you have a statement to make?
MR. COOK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. A public notice of this meeting containing all items on the proposed agenda has been filed within the Office of 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.
So that everyone in our audience will kind of have an idea of how the meeting is going to go today, I'd like to cover a few points with you. Each individual wishing to speak before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission must first fill out and sign a speaker registration form that we have available out here on these tables for each item on the agenda on 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 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 front here 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, and the Chairman may also call an on-deck person the next person up to be ready.
Then state your position on the agenda item under consideration and add supporting facts that will help the Commission understand your concerns and issues. Please limit your remarks to the specific agenda item under consideration.
Each person who wants to address the Commission will have three minutes to speak. I will keep track of your time and notify you when your three minutes are up on this handy-dandy little stoplight thing-a-majig right here.
Your time may be extended if a commissioner has a question for you or if they get into a discussion about your issue. That time will not be counted against you. Statements which are merely argumentative or critical of others will not be tolerated. There is a microphone at the podium, so it's not necessary to raise your voice. Shouting will not be tolerated, and I also ask that you show proper respect for the commissioners, as well as other members of the audience.
You will not be recognized out of turn by raising your hand or interrupting others. Disruptive or offensive behavior will not be tolerated and may result in ejection.
If you would like to submit written materials to the commissioners, please give them to Carole Hemby or Michelle Klaus who are seated here at my right. Ms. Hemby will pass the written materials to the commissioners. Thank you, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thanks, Bob. Got all that out of the way. Now, next up approval of the minutes of the previous meeting. Do I have a motion?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So move.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Motion by Commissioner Friedkin.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Second by Commissioner Holt. All in favor, please aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion carries. Next is the acceptance of a revised donations list. That list has been distributed in your agenda. Is there a motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: So move.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Motion by Bivins. Second by Commissioner Holmes. All in favor, please say aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion passes. Next are the service awards and special recognition. Mr. Cook?
MR. COOK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, commissioners. We have a lot of really, really important folks to recognize here today and I know that I am proud of our employees and the folks who volunteer and do so much for TPWD, as I know you are, and we're going to take a few minutes here and recognize a number of those folks for their service to the Department, to the state, and to the nation.
First of all, under our retirement certificates recognition, we have one individual and this is a very, very special individual to me. He and I have been friends for a long, long time. James E. "Jim" Dillard is a Program Specialist V from Mineral Wells, Texas and is retiring with 40 years of service to TPWD.
Jim Dillard worked as a wildlife biologist for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for 40 years and will retire at the end of this month. He began his career with TPWD in the summers of 1965 I was just a mere child then and 1966 as a summer intern for TPWD on the Edward's Plateau Regulatory District and on the Matador Wildlife Management Area.
Jim graduated from Texas A&M University in January of 1967 with a BS degree in wildlife science and became a full-time TPWD employee working on the statewide mourning dove project at that time. Six months later, he was drafted to serve in the United State Army for two years, including a tour of duty in South Vietnam. Returning to TPWD, he became the district wildlife biologist in Dumas on the Panhandle Regulatory District.
In 1973, he transferred to Mineral Wells, where he spent 22 years as a district wildlife biologist on the Possum Kingdom Wildlife District. In 1995, Jim was promoted to Technical Guidance Biologist under TPWD's Private Lands and Habitat Program, and worked in a 21-county area in the Cross Timbers and Prairies and the Lower Rolling Plains Ecological Regions, providing wildlife and habitat management recommendations and assistance to private landowners.
He is a certified wildlife biologist by the Wildlife Society and a member of the Wildlife Society in the Texas chapter of the Wildlife Society. Jim wrote a column for ten years entitled, "Cross Timbers Wildlife News" that was published each month in the Mineral Wells Index and several other North Texas newspapers. Retiring with 40 years of service, my friend James E. "Jim" Dillard.
MR. COOK: Now into our service awards, from the Law Enforcement Division we've got Ken Baker, another gentleman that I've known a long time and has been a great employee and has done a great service to TPWD and the state of Texas.
Ken Baker began his career with TPWD by attending the State Game Warden Academy at Texas A&M University in September of 1971. He was commissioned in January 1972 and assigned to his duty station in Hidalgo County. He worked Hidalgo County for 30 years and was promoted to captain for the Rio Grande Valley District in 2003. With 35 years of service in our Law Enforcement Division, Captain Ken Baker.
MR. COOK: Also, another old acquaintance and friend of mine from the Law Enforcement Division, Garth W.S. Robinson, Jr., is a major here in Austin with 35 years of service.
Bill Robinson began his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department when he attended the 19th Game Warden School held at Texas A&M University in 1966. His first station assignment was Marble Falls in Burnet County. He was then assigned to Travis County in 1975 and continued to primarily enforce water safety on Lake Travis, Lake Austin, Town Lake, and the Colorado River below Austin.
He was then promoted to Lieutenant Instructor at the Game Warden Academy in Austin in 1978. In 1979, he was promoted to district supervisor in Kerrville, where he remained for 13 years. In 1993, Bill was promoted to Assistant Commander Fisheries Enforcement at the Austin headquarters.
Bill retired from TPWD in April 1996. After a brief retirement, he was reinstated in 1997 as a field game warden assigned to Hays County, which included assignment to Lake Travis. He transferred to Comal County in 2002 and was promoted to Chief of Inland Fisheries Enforcement at Austin headquarters excuse me Chief of Fisheries Enforcement at Austin headquarters in 2004.
Bill currently holds the rank of Major Chief of Fisheries Enforcement and serves as a vice chairman on the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council Law Enforcement Advisory Panel. With 35 years of service, Major Bill Robinson, Jr.
MR. COOK: From the State Parks Division, Ellen Buchanan, Manager V from Tyler, Texas, with 25 years of service. Ellen began her career with TPWD on August 17, 1981 as park superintendent at Monument Hill and Kriesche Brewery State and Historical Sites.
While there, she oversaw the development of the Kriesche site and was instrumental in organizing a docent program. In November of 1994, she transferred to Martin Dies Jr. State Park, where she worked closely with resource conservation and enhanced the revenue stream. She also served as chairman of the board of the Jasper Lake Sam Rayburn Area Chamber of Commerce.
While there, she graduated from our leadership program from the Leadership Jasper and Leadership Southeast Texas programs. On December 1st of 2003, Ellen became regional director of the Region 8 State Parks, which covers the Northeast section of Texas.
She works the Big Thicket Association and the Big Thicket National Heritage Trust. Ellen is a graduate of TPWD's Natural Leaders Class 5. She is passionate about the state park system and the conservation of the state's cultural and natural resources and the continued development of our employees, With 25 years of service, Regional Director Ellen Buchanan.
MR. COOK: Again from our State Parks Division, Thomas M. Fisher, Program Supervisor II at Mexia, Texas, with 25 years. Tom Fisher began his career with TPWD in June of 1981 at Old Fort Parker State Historical Site.
In 1986, he transferred to Mission Tejas State Historical Park and then in 1990 transferred to Fort Parker State Park. In his 25 years with Texas State Parks, he has worked to protect both the natural and cultural resources of the park, developed educational programs to help the public appreciate those resources, and provide support facilities so that the public can enjoy interacting with those resources.
At Mission Tejas, Tom was involved in acquiring additional property to protect the village site, the Native Indian village site, and displayed boards to tell the history of the Spanish contact with the Natives of East Texas.
At Old Fort Parker, Tom developed educational and historical programs and displays depicting the history of the site for school groups. In addition, Tom has worked to develop a nature center and support for the Confederate Reunion Grounds State Historic Site.
One of the more rewarding projects has been obtaining a historical marker for the Civilian Conservation Corps Camp that constructed Fort Parker State Park. With 25 years of service, Tom Fisher.
MR. COOK: From our Infrastructure Division, also with 25 years, William M. McDonald, Jr., Architect II, here in Austin, Texas.
Bill McDonald, native of Hillsboro, Texas, graduated from Texas A&M University in 1977 with a Bachelor of Science degree in landscape architecture. He began his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Repair and Technical Support Division in 1981.
Bill has been instrumental in the design and development of approximately 23 new and redeveloped state park projects during the 1980s and 1990s, including Choke Canyon and Cooper Lake State Parks. He continues to enjoy being involved in repairs and site improvements to Department facilities for the Infrastructure Division - Planning and Design Section.
Currently, Bill serves on the Project Design Teams for the Sheldon Lake Environmental Learning Center and Indian Lodge Rehabilitation Projects. With 25 years of service, William M. "Bill" McDonald, Jr.
MR. COOK: With 20 years of service from State Parks, Kenneth G. Coleman, Park Ranger II, Smithville, Texas.
Kenneth Coleman began his career with TPWD as a seasonal employee at Buescher State Park August 1, 1986. After four years, he was promoted to Park Ranger II. In his 20-year tenure, Kenneth has put his pride into keeping Buescher State Park a beautiful park to visit through daily maintenance and resource preservation duties.
Additionally, Kenneth has been active in Bastrop State Park and Bastrop State Park's Prescribed Burn Program and has always been willing to lend a hand to other parks in the system that requested additional support. His excellent attitude makes him a pleasure to work with. With 20 years of service, Kenneth G. Coleman.
MR. COOK: With 20 years of service from the Law Enforcement Division, David L. Modgling, Game Warden, Mineral Wells, Texas.
David Modgling began his career with TPWD as a seasonal worker at Lake Brownwood State Park in May of 1992. In July of 1990, he was promoted to Park Ranger II at South Llano River State Park and remained there until he entered the Game Warden Academy in October of 1992.
Upon graduation from the Game Warden Academy on April 9, 1993, David was stationed in Mathis, Texas, San Patricio County. In 1996, he transferred to Palo Pinto County. With 20 years of service, David Modgling.
MR. COOK: That concludes our retirement and service awards. Next, I want to recognize the Midwest Officer of the Year for Texas. In 1995, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Law Enforcement Division joined the Association of Midwest Fish and Game Law Enforcement Officers.
The Association is comprised of 29 member state agencies from the United States and Canada. In July of 2006 at the 62nd Annual Meeting held in Omaha, Nebraska, a Texas game warden was recognized for his outstanding accomplishments with officers from each of the other member states and provinces.
The 2006 Texas Officer of the Year, Game Warden Steve Stapleton, has a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism and Agriculture Science from Texas A&M Commerce and a Bachelor of Science Wildlife Biology Degree from Colorado State University.
Steve is a devoted family man, married to his high school sweetheart for 13 years and has one six-year-old son and an 18-month-old daughter. Since graduating from the 42nd Texas Game Warden Training Academy in 2000, Steve has served as a game warden in Van Zandt County for seven years.
During his career with the agency, he has been a leader in public outreach by utilizing all forms of media, including TV, radio, newspapers, and magazines. Steve serves as a guest lecturer several times each semester at Texas A&M University in Commerce.
Besides his hunting, fishing, and water safety enforcement in Van Zandt County, where he has seen three tours of duty, he has seen three tours of duty in Newton County working Operation Broadhead, the last stronghold for deer hunting with dogs in Southeast Texas.
In 2005, Steve spent many long grueling hours involved in the first wave of wardens responding to Hurricane Rita, assisting those in need, and maintaining public safety in East Texas. Game Warden Steve Stapleton continues to have a positive impact on regulating the trade of all types of protected wildlife and wildlife parts, where he routinely patrols the Canton First Monday Trades Day one of the largest trading grounds in the world.
This year's recipient strives at being the best by volunteering for new duties and tasks, including taking a Spanish class designed just for peace officers, becoming a Certified Breath Test Operator for Boating While Intoxicated, a background investigator for the Game Warden Cadet Hiring process, and a Glock pistol Armorer Ruger and Rifle Armorer. At this time, it is my honor and privilege to present to you the 2006 Midwest Game Warden of the Year for Texas, Steve Stapleton.
MR. COOK: Ladies and gentlemen, next I'm going to call up some folks who have we have worked with very, very closely for many, many years and who have been a tremendous partner with us and with everyone in Texas interested in conservation and hunting and fishing and those kinds of outdoor activities.
The Sportsmen's Conservationists of Texas, or SCOT, as we refer to them, is closing its door after 50 years. SCOT has been instrumental in preserving the hunting and outdoor heritage and monitoring legislation that impacts all people concerned with conservation in the Lone Star State.
The three executive directors, Cecil Woods, Alan Allen, and Jack King, worked tirelessly as partners with our Department and with state and local conservation organizations to protect sportsmen's rights. Today, SCOT would like to donate its remaining assets to the Department to the benefit of youth hunting, fishing, and outdoor education programs.
The Department plans to use the funds in its school-based programs to carry on SCOT's legacy in Texas. We have with us here today two longtime directors of SCOT and friends of mine to make a presentation, Mr. Tom Martine, Mr. Ed Strayhorn, as well as past President Alton Moczygemba. Come forward, please.
MR. STRAYHORN: Well, I have a brief statement, but Mr. Cook stole most of it and I'm not allowed to speak very much for reasons most of you probably know. But anyway, it is with mixed emotions that the Sportsmen's Conservationists of Texas, SCOT, makes this donation of $20,000 to the Parks and Wildlife Department in our 50th year of existence.
It has been decided that SCOT should be dissolved. As our last official act, we wish to donate our remaining funds to Texas Parks and Wildlife to be solely dedicated for use by Steve Hall in the New Schools Youth Program targeting archery education, hunting education, fishing education, and outdoor skills education.
This donation will close our history with the same emphasis as SCOT was started with when the Gene Ashby Youth Ranch was established. Primarily, as I understand it, this was done by SCOT with the Department and it really has been a successful program. Although not a formal organization any longer, our members and board will be watching with great interest to watch this new youth education program develop with great success. Thank you very much.
MR. COOK: Tom, you're not going to make a speech for us?
MR. MARTINE: I might mention that the three of us have contributed over 75 years working with SCOT. I started back in '65 when I was teaching school out in San Angelo and was president of the Bass Club. So we go back a long way.
MR. COOK: Very good. Next, we have a really, really special set of folks that we want to recognize and honor. It is absolutely a pleasure and an honor for me to recognize nine Parks and Wildlife employees who are currently on-duty or have recently returned from active military service.
These folks were called away from their families and their jobs to serve their country and they went willingly and have done a great job. First, Senior Chief Petty Officer Andrew Valdez, stationed in Iraq from February 2004 through November 2004 as a senior enlisted leader for the medical department of the Third Battalion 24th Marines 1st Marine Division.
Senior Chief Valdez ensured that the 65 personnel under him were adequately trained to provide medical care to Marines in the battalion. While deployed there, he received the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, 1st Marine Fleet Warfare Designator, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Iraqi Campaign Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, and the Combat Action Ribbon.
Andy returned to Texas in January 2005 and is back at his post as game warden in San Patricio County. He retired from the Navy Reserves after 26 years of service. Thank you, Andy, for your service to your country and the people of Texas.
MR. COOK: US Army Major Ken Ragan was deployed to Iraq in September 2004 and returned to the US in September 2005. While in Iraq, Ken was support operations officer to the Army Material Command Field Support Battalion.
Ragan's unit supported and operated all of the add-on armor that protects soldiers from improvised explosive devices and small arms fire, along with missiles and tank ballistic protection systems.
As the manager of Mustang Island State Park, Ken was used to operating in a sandy situation. However, instead of the sound of the waves on the beach, each day at Camp Anaconda brought the sound of incoming mortars. Camp Anaconda is popularly known among the folks over there as Mortar-ita-ville.
During his service in Iraq, he received the Army Commendation Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and the Iraqi Campaign Medal. As a young man, Ragan also served in the Vietnam War. Ken, we thank you for your dedication and your service to your country.
MR. COOK: First Lieutenant James B. Ranft began his tour in Iraq in August 2005 as a second lieutenant and platoon leader. By the end of his tour, in January of 2006, he was a first lieutenant and executive officer of Bravo Company of the 112th Armor Division 56th Brigade Combat Team.
His platoon conducted routine clearance missions between Scania and Baghdad. During these combat patrols, his platoon located and destroyed 11 improvised explosive devices and escorted military and civilian convoys over 50,000 miles without any casualties or loss of equipment.
Ranft has been awarded the Bronze Star, the Combat Action Badge, and the Iraqi Campaign Medal. Jim was also called to active duty in July of 2002 and served until July of 2003. Game Warden Captain Jim Ranft now serves as division inspector for the Law Enforcement Division. Jim, again, we thank you for your dedication and your service to your country and to the state of Texas. Jim Ranft.
MR. COOK: US Navy Intelligence Specialist First Class Jimmy Dale Shively returned in March 2005 from a year of active duty at the Joint Intelligence Command Central with three months spent in Baghdad. Shively was a member of the High Value Targets Team tracking the location of key insurgent leaders fighting against Coalition forces. Some of his awards include: Joint Services Achievement Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Iraqi Campaign Medal, and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
Dale is back at work as coordinator of the Artificial Reef Program in the Coastal Fisheries Division. Dale, thank you for your service to your country and to the people of Texas. Dale Shively.
MR. COOK: We looked and looked for Dale this morning and had a hard time finding him.
Command Sergeant Major Timothy Spice served for 18 months as the operations sergeant at Fort Hood Provost Martial Office during his second tour of active duty.
During this deployment, Tim earned the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, and his unit also received the Army Superior Unit Award. Tim Spice returned to his job as the Urban Outdoors Program Coordinator for the Communications Division in August 2004 and was promoted to Command Sergeant Major in January 2006. Thank you, Tim, for your dedication and continued service to your nation and to our outfit. Tim Spice.
MR. COOK: Staff Sergeant Shane Detwiler was deployed to Iraq in January 2005 as a counter-intelligence special agent on a tactical human intelligence team. His mission included recruiting and exploiting intelligence sources, tactical questioning of Iraqis during raids and cordon-and-searches in order to determine target identities, gather evidence, and coordinated follow-on targets.
His team was responsible for identifying key insurgent group leaders, financiers, Iraqi government supporters, foreign government supporters, weapon caches, improved explosive device and vehicle-borne improvised explosive device manufacturing facilities and placements of those devices in high, medium and low-level insurgents.
While on active duty, Staff Sergeant Detwiler was awarded the Bronze Star and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. In December of 2005, Detwiler returned home to Chambers County and once again became Game Warden Detwiler. Thank you, Shane, for your service and for the sacrifices of your family. Shane Detwiler.
MR. COOK: The next person I want to recognize is not attending today but his supervisor will accept the award. US Army Sergeant Adrian Edmundson is a Programmer IV in our Information Technology Division. This is his second deployment. He is currently serving with Task Force Houston at Camp Monteith in Kosovo, where his specialized unit works with civilians and local leaders to improve the region's infrastructure.
Adrian has been awarded the following medals: the National Defense Ribbon three times; Global War on Terrorism Medal; and the Texas Faithful Service Ribbon. Sergeant Edmundson has been in Kosovo since December 2005. His supervisor, Mark Miller, has joined us today to accept this honor on Adrian's behalf. We look forward to congratulating him and seeing him in person when he returns in December. Mark?
MR. COOK: I bet old Adrian wishes he was here today. Thanks, Mark.
Also not attending, US Air Force Tech Sergeant Michael Paris is currently assigned to the 433rd Aircraft Wing Maintenance Support Squadron Aerospace Ground Equipment Branch at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. Michael is a mechanic repairing and inspecting all the ground equipment that is used to repair and inspect aircraft. He was been with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department since August 2001, where he was an Accountant I in the Administrative Resources Division. Tech Sergeant Paris is looking forward to his return to civilian life next month. Thank you, Michael, for your service to your country and the people of Texas.
MR. COOK: Coastal Fisheries Fish and Wildlife Technician II, Craig Colquitt, is known these days as United States Coast Guard Boatswain's Mate First Class Colquitt. Now, that's a long one.
Craig is currently the team leader of an anti-terrorism boarding team. He is stationed in Corpus Christi as a tactical coxswain to provide security for the out-load of military equipment. Craig, we thank you for your continued service to your nation. Craig Colquitt.
MR. COOK: Ladies and gentlemen, let's ask all of these folks and their families to stand and let's give them all one big hand.
MR. COOK: Thank you very much. Last in our special recognition today but certainly not least the story of what has become the State Parks Divisions Community Service, Education, and Outreach Program began over a cup of coffee and a story in the local newspaper about 12 years ago.
At that time, Ken Pollard was assigned to the Regional State Parks Headquarter in Abilene as a Regional Maintenance Specialist. After reading an article about the Soldiers in Blue Committee, Ken contacted the Abilene-based group, which helped establish the TPWD Buffalo Soldiers Living History Program.
Ken recognized the opportunity to emphasize the contributions of culturally diverse groups to the rich history of Texas and began blazing trails with nine uniforms of blue wool and the stories of the Texas frontier told through the lives of Buffalo Soldiers, vaqueroes, frontier women, and Native American Indians.
He built partnerships with more than 50 organizations and has recruited 600 volunteers to this program. Ken and a small dedicated group of TPWD employees working together across divisions have reached more than three million students and families in Texas. Their inventory has grown from nine uniforms to over 10,000 items, which serve as a shared resource for kindred outreach and education programs.
As a program supervisor for the State Parks Community Service Outreach and Education Program, Ken has worked strategically and diligently to ensure that the legacy of the black Texas heroes and other culturally diverse frontier groups, endures, and is recognized.
He has achieved celebrity status as a champion of cultural diversity and pride in contributions by minorities to Texas history. He has been involved in videos, movies, documentaries on the Discovery Channel, TNT, Fox Sports Southwest, and numerous television and radio shows.
Through Ken's efforts, the Texas Legislature has designated the month of July as Texas Buffalo Soldiers Heritage Month and has recently established the Texas Buffalo Soldiers Heritage Trail Project. The Trail Project connecting approximately 70 parks and historic sites along the 1800s military and civilian routes will bring education, tourism, and other social and economic opportunities to minority communities across Texas.
Ken Pollard received the 2005 TPWD's Community Outreach Award, as well as the 2005 TPWD Outstanding Team Award, and the 2005 Preservation Texas Treasures of Texas Heritage Education Award for the Huff Wagon Train and Diary Project.
Ken has a long list, almost as long as he is tall, of other awards and certificates of appreciation from distinguished groups all across Texas. The program is the only nationally recognized program of its kind.
The Huff Wagon Train and Diary Project involved taking over 150 seventh-grade students from California and Texas on the historical route of William P. Huff through Texas, starting in El Paso, traversing Southeastern New Mexico to Austin and then to Houston's Glenwood Cemetery to pay respect to Mr. Huff, who the group had come to know through the diary he kept on his journey.
Ken, who is the commanding officer and chaplain for the Texas Buffalo Soldiers Regiment, partners with private groups, local governments, and other agencies, and TPWD employees from all divisions, to host or sponsor events to demonstrate the shared heritage of Texas.
He serves as the Cultural Program supervisor for the Cowboys of Color Southwestern Rodeo Tour, co-authored Black Cowboys of Texas, and serves as an advisor, task force member, and official historian of several notable organizations throughout this state.
The Cowboys of Color Rodeo Tour is an educational and entertaining rodeo that reaches crowds of thousands in Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Houston, Fort Worth, and Mesquite. Next Thursday, August 31st, Ken Pollard will be inducted into the National Cowboys of Color Hall of Fame, along with Charlie Pride and Rosieleetta Lee Reed to name a few.
In case you have not been to a Buffalo Soldier event, Ms. Reed often portrays Cathay Williams, a.k.a. Williams Cathay, who was a Buffalo Soldier before women were officially allowed to enlist. The National Cowboys of Color Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth acknowledges individuals who have contributed to the Western culture and tradition and play a part in keeping this important piece of American history alive.
Please join with me in welcoming and recognizing Ken Pollard for his induction into the National Cowboys of Color Hall of Fame and for his personal accomplishments and for the profound benefits that the Outreach and Education effort have made in the lives of those involved and the lives that have been touched. Ken Pollard.
MR. COOK: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, thank you very much and ladies and gentlemen of the audience, thank you. We appreciate you helping us recognize these folks. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Bob. And for those of you who are not regular visitors to our Commission meeting that's not an uncommon example you saw today of the dedication of the employees of this organization. And I think especially in light of the service and dedication that we honored today for those who are serving our country in the military certainly puts into perspective what we're going to be doing here today, which is how to meet the mission of this organization to really repay that sacrifice that those employees have made. And I want to thank you again for all you do.
Keeping that perspective, we'll move on to our first item, which is the approval of the agenda. Do I have a motion?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: So move.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: By Holt. Second?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: By Holmes. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion passes. On to the first substantive item of the day here, our briefing on state parks. For those of you familiar, you'll note in February of this year with the support and encouragement of Governor Perry and his staff, I appointed a State Parks Advisory Committee.
We've had State Park Advisory Committees in the past but in light of the situation that we've found ourselves in and not being able to meet our mission as stated in our ten-year plan with regard to the Parks funding and as importantly, future park needs and acquisition, I asked a group of people I have worked with over the past six years to help us formulate a plan that will get us to that mission.
This isn't the first committee report or advisory on this subject. I served on one six years ago that pointed out these issues and needs for our state parks, but I think that this group is uniquely qualified. I think I've appointed a very diverse group of folks who have the ability to bring some real focus and clarity to this issue.
And with that, if Scott Boruff would you make the introduction, please, for Chairman Montford?
MR. BORUFF: Yes, sir. For the record, my name is Scott Boruff, Deputy Executive Director of Operations, and rather than re-articulate what the Chairman just said, I'm going to get right to the business here and introduce Senator Montford, the Honorable John Montford.
SENATOR MONTFORD: Mr. Chairman and members, thank you for giving us this spot on the agenda this morning. Chairman Fitzsimmons, as has been stated, appointed the State Parks Advisory Committee earlier this year and in so doing he charged us to study four issues related to Texas parks.
First, funding options. Secondly, any existing units of the system that might be operated by more appropriate entities. Third, the role of public/private partnerships in our parks and lastly, options to secure future needs for state parks and local parks identified in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Land and Conservation Resources and Recreation Plan.
We're here today to present to the Commission our recommendations for addressing these important challenges for Texas. Before I do that, Mr. Chairman and members, if you would indulge me, I would like to introduce some of the members of our committee who were able to make it today. We had 15 Texans serving voluntarily on this committee. Well, I presume it was voluntarily. I'm not sure mine was but anyway they really donated a lot of personal hours and time at their own expense to this initiative.
First of all, if I could ask you to stand, George Bristol, President of the Texas Coalition for Conservation. George has a passion for parks and has really elevated this issue, I think, to its importance in Texas.
Beth McDonald from Texans for State Parks. Beth is with us today. Andy Sansom, former Executive Director of Parks and Wildlife and Wildlife Commission, and currently executive director of the River Systems Institute at Texas State University.
Dianne Schoch, noted conservationist. Diane is with us. David Woodcock, professor of architecture at Texas A&M University. Paul Serff, president of Texas Travel Industry Association. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.
For a number of years, our parks in Texas have struggled for funding. In 1993, the Legislature established a sporting goods tax as a source of funding for our state parks. This would get us away from using the cigarette taxes, which proved certainly at that part of our evolution, both unreliable as a source of funding and unrelated to the recreational purposes of our parks.
Over that time period since its enactment of that particular sporting goods tax, over one-half billion dollars generated by that tax on sporting goods had been directed to general revenue away from the Parks system. We believe and hope it is time to change that.
The report that we are presenting to you today, members of the Commission and Mr. Chairman, include six important recommendations. We know that our first recommendation will probably receive the greatest amount of attention, so I'll probably spend a few minutes talking about that one.
We recommend unanimously that the Legislature appropriate all revenues generated by the sporting goods sales tax to our state parks while maintaining each of the current revenue streams that are available to us currently.
This would represent an increase of approximately $85 million above what was appropriated in 2005 but it would accomplish three critical goals. First, it would provide funding for identified and acute operational equipment and local park grant needs. Secondly, it would establish a ten-year capital program for major repairs and park acquisitions and development. And third, it would adhere to the ten-year Land and Water Resources Conservation and Recreation Plan completed at the direction of the Legislature in 2003.
These recommendations are also consistent with the needs that Chairman Harvey Hilderbran of the Texas House of Representatives sought to address with House Bill 1292 in 2005.
Now, will this objective be easy? The answer is no. The Legislature has to balance a number of important priorities but we believe that it is critical that a substantial and sustainable source of revenue be appropriated for our parks and we believe that Texas public understands this need. Surveys and voter referenda on bonds for parks consistently find public support.
People are willing to pay for our parks and we have significant support from the media. Just consider a few recent examples of editorial and column support. The Fort Worth Star Telegram and the Cox newspapers have been running a number of editorials and articles in recent months.
On August 18th, the Dallas Morning News editorial was published entitled, With Fund Cap, Life No Picnic For Parks. The Express News in my hometown on July 31st ran an article, Remove the Revenue Cap: Help Fix Texas Parks. The Houston Chronicle on July 30th ran the following column: Budget Cuts Threaten Low Performing State Parks.
Virtually every major state newspaper, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, Fort Worth, El Paso, Corpus Christi, Brownwood, Waco, Tyler, and on and on, has devoted either editorial or prominent column space to supporting our parks. So has every small town newspaper where there is a state park.
As we note in our report, Mr. Chairman and members of the Commission, the time for action is now. We, as your advisory committee, stand ready to assist you in this important goal for the future of Texas. We thank you for allowing us to work on this project. It's important work for Texas and we're pleased to present you with this report. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Chairman Montford, and thank you for your hard work and your committee's dedication. I think I appointed a pretty good chairman and a very capable group and we look forward to your report and I've enjoyed working with you on it.
SENATOR MONTFORD: Thank you, sir. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: The next item on we have several members elected members here that would like to comment on the report and I would like to recognize some of those members have been such great supporters of ours. Senator Todd Staples, Harvey Hilderbran, and I would like to recognize a good friend of mine I saw in the audience earlier, former Parks and Wildlife commissioner who's been a very strong supporter and helped me in our work for state parks, Bob Armstrong.
I know, Bob, you're back there somewhere and I appointed you recently to serve on one of our Parks task force. It's good to see Bob back in the building. Senator Staples?
SENATOR STAPLES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. I appreciate your great service to the great state of Texas and particularly your leadership in dealing with a very difficult situation I know that we find ourselves in today in regarding the future of our parks. I would assure that members of the Legislature, like you, do deeply care about the future of our parks system.
I applaud you for the work the Montford Advisory Committee to bring recommendations to you and to the Legislature and I think clearly now that other crises in our state have been dealt with over the last few months, it will allow the Legislature to focus its attention on the parks system.
I think the reality is, though, that even though we have heard expressed support from key leaders in the state for increased funding for parks operations, the ability to deliver those dollars will continue to be a struggle in light of our current budget situation. I know, like you and the people of Texas knows, that money has to come from the Legislature but in order to get the Legislature to deliver those dollars, I think it's so important that we have a specific plan in place.
The Montford Committee goes a long way to laying a firm foundation to make that happen. It's my understanding that the Advisory Committee that we just heard from does not contemplate the funding needs of capital-intensive items like the Texas State Railroad and the Battleship Texas. And I know that is high on our priority list as well.
In light of the notice from this agency that the state railroad operations would cease December 31, 2006, the local community has been working diligently with task force leaders to develop a strategy for the transfer of operations of the Texas State Railroad, by year end, in order not to lose this unique park on rails. They have identified credible operators who have shown a strong willingness to operate the Texas State Railroad.
In order to mitigate the larger than normal operating expenses associated with this type of park, they have proposed creating a larger entertainment venue and it has been proven throughout the country that having a larger entertainment venue will help reduce the operating losses and this seems viable.
At my request, a few weeks ago many of my colleagues and I met with Mr. Cook and Mr. Boruff and we appreciate their diligent efforts to find resolution. We met to express to them where the task force is and what needs to be done from this point forward. And here is what happened: It was determined by your staff that there were significant barriers to finding and procuring a third-party operator or changing title prior to the static displayed deadline of December 31, 2006.
One of the most significant barriers is the logistic of negotiating right-of-ways with approximately 100 landowners who have property bordering the tracks. If the State Railroad were to change hands, many contracts could be void. Similarly, we have been told by your staff that many of these agreements are valid only if it is an operational train.
Therefore, creating a static display would nullify these agreements and forever remove the opportunity to have a unique park on rails like we have. There are many other examples of obstacles but I think you get the picture.
As a result of this meeting, Mr. Cook sent a letter to Governor Dewhurst and to Speaker Craddick, outlining these difficulties that have been identified and requesting supplemental funding for '07 in order to ensure a seamless transition.
As we see it, the only options that are on the table realistically at this point is for the Texas State Railroad to become a static display, which would be a dismal thing to happen, or the other option is realistically full funding to the tune of $50 million in order to meet the projected needs. And I, like you, have great reservations in understanding that that $50 million price tag could be met in light of the other identified needs in this state.
So we're asking for four specific items from you as Commissioners and from the Parks Agency that we think are necessary in order to make this happen. The first one is to develop a time line of the options for the Legislature to consider. Right now, we have an all-or-nothing proposal and I don't think either one of those are going to satisfy the needs of Texans.
Number two, continue the RFP process that is currently underway. Our concern with the RFP process though is this: the length of time line to implement it. How can this Agency ensure to the Legislature that a more efficient operating system is on the way and meet the year end deadline that we have?
This is a hurdle that must be overcome and we would also ask you to consider contracting with a specific operator, outside of the RFP process, if the time line cannot be met to get our $650,000 granted.
Number 3, create a task force, similar to what was just done, to provide funding options for the capital intensive assets such as the Texas State Railroad and the Battleship Texas. Now, we know the sales tax on sporting goods obviously is going to be the funding source but that's being used elsewhere and the Legislature is going to have to supplement that somehow.
This Agency brought to my attention a couple of sessions ago the need to build a new fish hatchery because the old one was out of date. With your help and the anglers of Texas, the Legislature passed a bill because we had a tangible plan in place to add a fish stamp to generate the revenue to build this new fish hatchery that the ground breaking on just occurred, I think, last week.
We need a similar tangible plan for a funding source for these capital intensive items for our state and we need this Agency to bring those options to the Legislature for their consideration. We're concerned that the legislative leadership will be reluctant to grant the funding request of $650,000 for the next year unless a realistic operating plan is designed and in place and tangible and on the table.
Our fourth request is to create a transition plan for the Texas State Railroad similar to what was done with the Admiral Nimitz Museum. We think this is in line with recommendation Number 4 from Chairman Montford that he just presented. Keep in mind, this transfer was about $11 million as I recall. Something that was approved by the Legislature and this Agency and I think in order for the leadership to provide the dollars that are needed for a transition plan for the Texas State Railroad, something that is much bigger in size and scope than the Nimitz, that we must have that plan in place.
We appreciate your leadership. We have been fulfilling our request in conversations that I've had with many of you to develop a plan. Obstacles have been identified in the transfer by your personnel and we look forward to working with you on these four specific requests to move forward. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Commissioners.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Senator, and thanks for your tireless support of our mission and our Department. You've always been there to help us and I appreciate that. I think it's important to point out for those in the audience who are not as familiar with these issues maybe as others, is the charges that I gave the Montford Advisory group did not specifically include the Battleship and the Railroad for the reason you point out, Senator, that these are capital intensive, special projects that really require special attention that you really would not be correct in lumping in with our traditional state parks outdoor venues.
And I'd instruct the staff to continue to work with you and your staff. I know we've got a task force in place now. If I need to do something additional in appointing folks to that task force, I'll do so. But I'd instruct Bob and the staff to continue to work with you and your staff to address those issues that you pointed out.
I know some of these other commissioners have worked on this issue. Do you have any questions for the senator or comments? Ned?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Senator, I appreciate all the hard work you have put in on behalf of Texas State Railroad and Parks and Wildlife. We were involved in the Nimitz transfer, of course, and I think that's a pretty good template and I would encourage you to continue to look for, you know, support groups that are similar to that Nimitz Foundation operation because I think that could be big help. I know you have been working on that for some time now.
SENATOR STAPLES: We have been and I think that's the model that's being pursued. I think the lead time into the legislative action that was necessary for the Nimitz has been a longer length of time than the local task force has had to develop this plan for the Texas State Railroad and there are many more legal impediments to making that occur.
And so we are committed. I don't want to allow this Commission to have any other concept that the local task force is committed to total partnership with the Parks Agency to making this work but the lead time into making that happen from the legal background and research has created an obstacle.
We know if it goes static, that it truly would make it an irreversible decision to make it an operational train again and that's why the $650,000 is so critical for this season.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMMONS: To rephrase that, it would foreclose other options?
SENATOR STAPLES: That's correct.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMMONS: All right.
SENATOR STAPLES: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMMONS: Good. Thank you, Senator. Appreciate your leadership.
SENATOR STAPLES: Thank all of you. Appreciate it.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Chairman Hilderbran?
REPRESENTATIVE HILDERBRAN: Good morning, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. It's a pleasure to be here this morning and I just want to congratulate you, Mr. Chairman, for appointing the Committee and commend the committee the Montford Committee and all the members for the fine job they've done. In particular, I welcome all the recommendations but in particular, I like the thrust and welcome the really finishing the job we started in 1993 about making this more of a user-based funding system and that's what I think this recommendation if you really look at it there's some things that we've talked about before, some things that were included in legislation in the past. I'll comment on those things but really it's drawn a lot of public attention that's going to help our cause and we're going to get the job accomplished largely because of the public attention and focus that's been generated by this most recent efforts.
But also the whole idea that this needs to be a user-based system and this helps us move toward realizing that really important goal. So I really welcome the report. I welcome the support that I'm seeing that we're gaining in the Legislature. For some time now, I like to point out since your August meeting of last year some things occurred in that meeting and there was a lot of public attention on one of the things on your agenda that day that tended to bring the public more into increased public interest in this whole issue. And since then, the work that you've done here, the committee, the work we've continued in the Legislature and our committee, I think, has brought us to where we are now where it's an exciting day because we have a report that's workable, that's something we can all embrace, and work on to turn into a legislative proposal that we have a really promising opportunity to pass legislation to bring this about and to bring this into reality.
As you know, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, and I know since January of 2003 when I became chairman of the committee on Cultural, Recreation, and Tourism, which has oversight responsibilities for the Parks and Wildlife Commissioner and the Department, we have been working on this issue. George Bristol, who's the vice chairman along with I want to say this I'm old friends for a number of reasons with Chairman Montford. I enjoyed working with him in the Senate when he was in the Senate and I was in the House but we worked together on a lot of issues in the Legislature but outside the Legislature too. And I was I think you couldn't have picked a better person to lead the advisory committee.
And George Bristol, your vice chairman on the committee, was the first person to bring this issue to my attention and to get me to focus on it in a way that we could start identifying the things that we needed to do that led, eventually, to a bill that we introduced last session. But in '03, when I became chairman, we immediately started looking at the whole issue of preserving the resources and then increasing or hoping to increase recreational opportunities for Texans.
You know that Texans, all Texans, have a fierce native pride and also have a fierce tie to the land, regardless of whether they're landowners or not. It's just a part of being the character of a Texan that you care about the land and you want to be close to the land. We have to in this state increase the opportunities for every day Texans to have that opportunity to enjoy the natural resources of this state, to help preserve and conserve those resources, but to enjoy those in recreational activities.
Just as your billboards and your advertising that this agency has promoted in the last few years is "It's just better in the outdoors." And so I appreciate the jobs that you've done. I look forward to taking these recommendations. We, as you know, last legislative session, some of the recommendations were in our bill that was mentioned by Senator Montford.
We will we plan to introduce a bill during the pre-filing session in November and we're going to convert many of these recommendations into that bill. And we look forward to working with you, the Commissioners, and the Advisory Committee to get that job done. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for all your support and leadership in helping us with our mission. You've been a tireless advocate for the Department and our mission. Thank you very much. I think all of us recognize your leadership and recognize that we've been at this a while and you've been there with us shoulder-to-shoulder. Thank you.
REPRESENTATIVE HILDERBRAN: Let's get the job done.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes, sir. Thank you. I'd ask at this time if Chairman Montford and Vice Chairman Bristol would come forward because we have a few I know the Commissioners have a few questions on the details here of your report. Chairman Montford, the charge that I gave you sort of broke the challenge into two pieces: current needs, which I think are well known, and maybe what's not as well known, the future needs.
You've heard me on this subject before and I've communicated with your committee by letter and in person. I do not want focus to be lost on the future needs of Texas for state parks. It's not enough to just address our current needs. We're a growing state and I think and, George, I hope you'll expand on this these parks return more to us as a state than the cost. And that's an important message, I think, in your report and I'd ask the two of you to sort of describe how your recommendations address those two issues, current and future.
MR. BRISTOL: Well, as you know, Mr. Chairman, members, my name is George Bristol. I'm president of the Texas Coalition for Conservation. In late 2002 going into 2003, we the Coalition commissioned a report on 40 parks and their economic impact on the state of Texas and their local communities. That was expanded to 80 parks. In every instance, those parks, when you add in the money spent in the local communities at grocery stores and motels and service stations, et cetera, et cetera more than paid for themselves.
First of all, parks never were meant to make money. They were our common gifts to ourselves for the benefit of the citizens. The mere fact that Pat Neff and Teddy Roosevelt at the national level said, Parks have an economic benefit and a tourist benefit, flowed into the deal. And that was Pat Neff's entire argument with this new thing called an automobile and a new thing called roads, getting people to stay in Texas and spend their money in Texas rather than going out of state on vacations and tourism.
Every single park and if you haven't read that study, pick a park adds benefit to the local economy and to the state of Texas. Furthermore, of the 28 reasons and the tourism study a couple of years ago, 13 reasons people come out of state to Texas are identified with our state park system.
SENATOR MONTFORD: George is pretty evangelical about parks but let me just say
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: That's why I appointed him.
SENATOR MONTFORD: As a practical matter, I think the Committee, when we digested all of this information, we feel like this removal of the cap is a good investment for Texas. You've got ten million people a year visiting these parks. You all know or familiar with the economic indices and the turnover factor but this is serious business and it's a serious investment for Texas.
So we want to key on that theme that in lifting this cap and getting us this additional revenue, not as much of an expenditure as it is an investment for the future of Texas because you've got ten million people a year visiting these parks. So it's important and I think we will carry that message forward with your direction that this is in reality a good investment for Texas.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Would you, Chairman Montford, just address briefly some of the specifics as to your recommendation between that issue of current and future needs? And maybe a good example of that would be your recommendations with regard to acquisition of needed parks and some of the current needs that we have there plus future?
SENATOR MONTFORD: Be glad to. I think in the report, first of all, I want to underscore and I really appreciate the Commission's support in giving us really the staff and the Commission in giving us some really good numbers and we collated and correlated those with your legislative appropriation request.
We think we've got good defensible numbers in this report. But I think it is important to note a couple of things that we have voter-approved bonds that have been approved by the voters and yet have not all been allocated or expended. That would be a current source of money that we could tap but I think the important thing to remember as we have found that these are manageable numbers but if you will invest if we can get a regular investment pattern here going with the growth projections of Texas, we believe, we've got to acquire some additional parks. And the expenditure factors are inversely proportional to the passage of time.
If we get them now, it will cost us a certain amount of money but if we continue to push back new acquisitions and wait, they're going to compound in their cost. So we believe that with this plan, with the roughly $85 million in additional infusion that we can count on and you, in allocating your budget and your appropriations in terms of how you allocate those, we believe you could pace a pretty good comprehensive acquisition program.
Now, we sort of detailed it with a ten-year window. Mr. Chairman, I know you told me personally you'd like for it to be projected forever but and we certainly agreed with that position but in terms of practicality in giving the Legislature and giving Chairman Hilderbran and Senator Staples, soon to be Ag Commissioner I guess, a plan to work with, we felt like measuring it with a ten-year window with a normal bonding procedures plus what you already have would be a good index to get the job done.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Well, and I think that's consistent with although a few years into the ten-year Land and Water Conservation Plan already certainly consistent with that.
SENATOR MONTFORD: Right.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: So, my charge with regard to the goals, missions that are set out in the Land and Water Conservation Plan, you believe your recommendations give us a road map to achieve the park portion of that ten-year plan?
SENATOR MONTFORD: Yes, sir. I do. It was tempting to stray but I believe we stayed on point. We focused on that ten-year plan because it was mandated and I think this report is compatible with that ten-year plan.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you. Any of the other Commissioners have any questions regarding the recommendations of the report?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: One, I wanted to thank John and George, particularly both of you, for helping this and I was glad you put a little bit of focus on Government Canyon State Natural Area in San Antonio, which obviously is dear to my heart. Yet it seems to me that one of the ways that we're going to try to get our Legislature to come aboard is to appeal to the urban areas and the legislators and those constituents. Could you address that for a moment? I mean how do we go about that? I assume, George and John, you've thought about that?
MR. BRISTOL: There are two ways, Commissioner Holt. Number one is public/private partnerships I think are the poster child for the future. You have identified in your Land and Water Resources Plan at least four parks of 5,000 acres that are an hour and a half from the urban areas. Try to get the next wave of parks closer in to the urban areas.
But that's not to say that if we can get the City of San Antonio and Bexar and the City of Dallas and Dallas County and Fort Worth to join in, as they did with Government Canyon, that we can't kill two or three birds with one stone.
So we addressed that and that's specifically why we put Government Canyon in the report that it just doesn't necessarily hold that we have to have all the money from one agency to do it if we can get a partnership together to accomplish the same goal.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I really do commend you for pointing that out because a lot of different entities benefit from these parks and for those not familiar with Government Canyon, what we did there and, Andy, I would welcome your comments on this because you were there in putting that together but we brought together entities that had different reasons to benefit from that open space: San Antonio Water System, Edwards Aquifer Authority; of course, private donors who were interested in seeing that happen and so if I'm understanding your recommendation correctly, we need to continue those sort of projects as a template.
SENATOR MONTFORD: Absolutely.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. Any other? Commissioner Parker?
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Mr. Chairman, Mr. Assistant Chairman, I really appreciate your personal commitment to this project. It really demonstrates your committee's unyielding commitment and the Government Canyon Park is a classic example and I want to point out that it was not only a project of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the city and county groups of San Antonio that came together.
And I want to point out that it was also a classic example of what we need to pursue in the future of getting local business entities and statewide entities. I want to have on the record that the great cooperation there at Government Canyon with the San Antonio Builders and the Corpus Christi Builders both associations furnished houses for our park director and assistant park director. And it is I think that we should pursue those business groups that can come together and help us with projects like Government Canyon.
MR. BRISTOL: Commissioner Parker, I'd like to add another former commissioner. If it weren't for Tim Hixon and his passion this never would have gotten done.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Absolutely. Hear, hear. Commissioner Montgomery?
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Yes. Very briefly. Thank you all for your service. We appreciate it and we certainly recognize the need. Chair of the Conservation Committee, if I could just add both for the Chairman and for you all a sense of urgency.
We have a state in which land prices are rapidly escalating and I do think while it's easy to cry wolf, you're not crying wolf. There are opportunities out there to acquire significant properties that are perfect for the park system to serve over half the state's population living in the urban areas and the fast growing segments of the state's population is in those urban areas that we will miss, literally, between these legislative cycles if we don't act. So the urgency is real. The opportunities are real. The need is there and it's only going to get larger and less well served if we don't act now. So thank you all for calling attention of the public to this and, Mr. Chairman and Mr. Chairman, it's a real issue and we really appreciate your leadership on this too and the time to act really is now. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I'm going to ask you a question that I it's pointed but we brought the issue of templates. You've made some very specific recommendations here. I asked you also to look at the Local Parks Grant Program, which I think is very important. It's an integral part of our mission and you've made some specific recommendations there for full funding of the Local Parks Grant Program.
Based on your recommendations, George, and I've asked you, George, recently I've asked you to serve on a small task force working on Eagle Mountain Lake in Fort Worth to get that established as a local park so that we can then pursue our mission of a larger, as you point out, 5,000-acre larger park in the area. Is what we're doing there consistent with that recommendation? And if we had had the Local Parks Grant component available for Eagle Mountain Lake as a local park, would that make that template work any better?
MR. BRISTOL: It would to a certain extent. I think the main question is that over the years you've always been underfunded. You haven't had enough to do —things like develop Eagle Mountain Lake. It just sat there and then it became excess property.
But the Local Parks Grant money and even though we say raise it from the $15.5 to $25 million if you think state parks are a good investment, that $25 million is the best leverage money that this agency and this state can spend to generate because the local parks have to come up with a plan. They have competitive competition and you only get the best and then they have to run it when it's over.
So I hope that we will do it yes. Find other ways. All the ways that we can to make these things mesh together so it's a seamless system from the local park, state park, all the way to the national park.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: So bringing together the county, the regional water district, the trust for public land, the nature conservancy. See what we've done there on Eagle Mountain Lake that's consistent with that template we showed at Government Canyon?
MR. BRISTOL: I believe so.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. Just want to make sure we're following the recommendations already. Ned?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: I'd just like add to my thanks, Senator Montford, George, all the members of the committee. I know that you've spent a great deal of time and looked at this very carefully and made thoughtful recommendations. Now, I would like to just touch on the sense of urgency about this issue.
If Chairman Hilderbran's bill of two years ago in the last session had passed, we wouldn't be here now in this situation and quite frankly, if this session doesn't address this in a meaningful way, it's going we're already in dire straights in some of our parks. And some of the physical condition of the facilities is tragic and it will be nothing but worse if it is not addressed in this session and it's going to take the hard work of quite a lot of people to help this bill pass.
And we really appreciate the time and effort and the attention that you have put to it and the recommendation that you've made. We now have the game plan and we need to carry it out. We thank you very much.
SENATOR MONTFORD: Commissioner Holmes, I would point out that you and I spent, I think it was four hours, in the Lieutenant Governor's Office already working on this and we think we the partnership, obviously we will heed to your recommendations and decision but I think you've got a committee here that, as I've mentioned, ready and willing to go to work and help get the job done.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: You're, by no means, disbanded, Mr. Chairman. I don't know what you're trying to do here but
MR. BRISTOL: For the Commission's knowledge, we voted unanimously to submit the report and unanimously to continue to work to advocate and lobby this thing through the legislature and we're going to meet, again, this fall with Clyde Alexander will head up our committee, John, and fight every way we can and bring in a lot of other groups to help. Paul Serff's already been working on that. So we have not disbanded.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: My Advisory Committee stays as long as I've appointed them so you're not going anywhere. You're staying until we have another issue for you. So if I may, Chairman Montford, I'd invite any member of your committee who's here today, if they have anything to add or special comments they'd like to make, I'd welcome those before we
SENATOR MONTFORD: I noticed a longtime Austin regular, Hector Gutierrez, has arrived. Also Hector
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hector, thank you for your service.
SENATOR MONTFORD: The committee was really a great group of Texans. They spent a lot of their own money and their own time and like I say, we're ready to go to work and get the job done.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any other comments or questions for Chairman Montford? All right. Chairman Montford, I think the Commission's unanimous in their approval of your report. It's what we asked for. It gives us what we need to get the job done. With your help, I'm going to instruct the staff to incorporate these recommendations in our internal documents I believe have already been reflected in the LAR submitted but I'm sure that there will be more documents and more discussion with the leadership.
And unless I have any objection from any of the Commissioners, it would be accepted in toto and incorporated in this Department's internal communications and external communications with leadership. Commissioner Parker?
COMMISSIONER PARKER: For the record, I would like to make a motion that we adopt the plan, thanking them for their work, and adopt it hopefully unanimously. I make that motion.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I think we are unanimous. Any objection?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: No objection. We are unanimous in accepting the report and as I say, I've instructed the staff to incorporate it and I look forward to your continued work on this issue because, George, as you know, we've got a long way to go to make it a reality but thank you very much for your service.
MR. BRISTOL: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Okay. We will pick up on Agenda Item No. 3. We'll wait just a minute and let the room clear.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Okay. We still have a quorum here. If everybody will manage their breaks accordingly, we would appreciate it. We'll pick up on Agenda Item 3. Tim Hogsett, Small Community Grant Funding. Tim, you have a presentation?
MR. HOGSETT: Vice Chairman, members of the Commission, I'm Tim Hogsett, director of the Recreation Grants Program in the State Parks Division. This is our annual presentation of recommendations for grants from the Small Communities Program.
Small communities are classified as communities of under 20,000 in population and these are matching grants of up to $50,000 in match. Can make quite a difference in a small community. For our annual review, we've received 25 applications requesting $1.2 million in matching funds. The applications were rank-ordered by their scores after we had used your adopted priority ranking system and we're here today to recommend the funding of the top 15 grants in the amount of $750,000.
I don't need to reiterate at this point that funding for this program has been severely cut back, but I do want to point out that in spite of that, we've tried to maintain a commitment of a large amount of money to these small community grants because of the importance that we think they play.
Our recommendation for you this morning is funding for projects listed in Exhibit A in the amount of $750,000 be approved. I'd be glad to answer any questions you might have?
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Any questions or discussion for Tim?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Move to
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Well, we've got questions first from the audience. Okay. We're going to hear from those signed up to speak. First, we've got Mike Hendricks. Mike, you're the only one. Do we have anybody else on Item 3? Just one?
MR. HENDRICKS: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Nice to see you.
MR. HENDRICKS: Representing the City of Luling and Alexander Mill, we would hope to get your help in Alexander Mill and our first inland paddling trail and I would appreciate anything you'd might do for us.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: We're proud to have that first trail in Luling?
MR. HENDRICKS: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Okay. Thank you for coming. Anybody else on 3? That's all I've got here. Okay. Do we have a motion?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Move.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Commissioner Holmes.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Second.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Second from Commissioner Holt. All in favor, aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Passes unanimously. Number 4, Special Appropriation Indoor Recreation Grant Funding, Tim Hogsett.
MR. HOGSETT: Again for the record, I'm Tim Hogsett, director of Recreation Grants Program in State Parks Division. In the past session of the Legislature, a special appropriation was mandated in the amount $1 million for the City of South Padre Island for the development of the South Padre Island wing of the World Birding Center.
Specifically, the Appropriations Act for this agency says, "Funds appropriated from Texas Recreation and Parks account to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department shall allocate up to $1 million of matching funds for the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center Construction."
We've gotten the required materials to be able to move forward with this project. They're proposing a 4,500-square-foot building that is on immediately adjacent to Laguna Madre on the north end of the City of South Padre Island on a 7.5-acre site. The facility would be an indoor interpretative center and nature education facility. It'll have approximately 4,500 square feet of exhibit space. It will also include a 60-foot-high wildlife observation tower.
Because of this special appropriation, this project is not required to compete with other projects for funding. Therefore, we're recommending that you adopt the following motion: Funding for the City of South Padre Island for the development of South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center in the amount of $1 million is approved. I'd be glad to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Any discussions or questions for Tim?
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Do we have a motion?
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: So move.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Motion from Commissioner Bivins.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Second.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Second from Holt.
All in favor, aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Passes unanimously. Item No. 5, Tim, National Recreational Trail Grant Funding.
MR. HOGSETT: This is our annual review of applications for the National Recreation Trails Grant Program. These are 80 percent matching grants. They are federal funds that are passed through to the state of Texas. The basis of these funds are gasoline taxes on off-road vehicle use.
For our annual deadline, we received 69 applications requesting approximately $7.5 million. This program does require a State Trail Advisory Board be appointed and that that Advisory Board make recommendations for funding. They have reviewed these applications and have assessed them on their quality, cost-effectiveness, and recreation opportunity impact and are recommending funding for 41 of those projects.
I know that yesterday during the public hearing that you heard opposition from a landowner for one of these projects that being the Off-Road Vehicle Project in Childress, so I'd like to give you a little more information as I think that individual's here to testify today. I'd like to give you a little more information on that particular project if I may.
It would be for the purchase of 583 acres, approximately seven miles northwest of the City of Childress. It is an application from the City of Childress and has the unanimous support of the city council, city leaders in Childress. It would be a combination off-road vehicle and motorcycle venue. It would have approximately 15 miles of trails and also a circular motor cross kind of track.
The site is bounded on the north by a railroad and on the south by US 287. You've just been given a handout that shows the layout of the project. The first page actually shows in a little box in the upper-left hand corner or right-hand corner, I believe it is shows the layout of the property and the proposed facilities.
And then on the second page, there's a light orange triangle. That particular piece of property is a piece of property that would not be purchased and does belong to a person who has approximately a section of land on that partially on that side of the highway, about 250 acres and then the remaining amount on the other side of the highway. Actually it's on the north side, I guess, it is.
There have been two public hearings held in Childress, one back in May by the city and then we, as staff, conducted a second one in August. There was one person actually two neighboring landowners voicing opposition. Since then, one of them has withdrawn their opposition our understanding is.
There's also a unanimous resolution on file from Childress from the county also supporting this project. It is a willing seller and we, as we always do, will be more than happy to try to work with this adjacent landowner to minimize impact on his property. Given that, I'd be glad to answer any questions on that project. The City of Childress is represented today and their city manager, I think, will be speaking to you.
We propose for the Recreation Trails Program the recommendation that funding for 41 projects in the amount of $3,288,002 is approved as shown in the recommendations of Exhibit A. I'd be glad to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Any questions for Tim?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: You referenced the landowner referenced an impact on Baylor Creek. Can we we've obviously thought through that. Can you just speak to that briefly?
MR. HOGSETT: Well, we will do a complete resource assessment and require the city to do a complete resource assessment of all the natural and possible cultural resources, if there are any, and do everything possible to try to minimize the impact of any run-off or any other that's basically a wet weather creek. Most of the time it is dry.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Commissioner Holmes?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Tim, it is kind of an unusual layout in that it wraps around this triangular piece. Did that cause any consternation in the committee?
MR. HOGSETT: Not really because in the layout of the proposed trail, it's going to be a trail that basically traverses the entire site and there will be a little piece of that that goes through that piece just above the triangle.
But as far as the city is concerned and we're concerned, it's really not going to hamper the recreation opportunity.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Tim, just one question. Do you think there was any approach to that landowner? I'm going to ask him again if he's coming up here again today to have his parcel as part of that or do you know?
MR. HOGSETT: There's been some discussion of that but I think I would leave that question to the city and the landowner.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. I'll ask them. Thanks, Tim.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Tim, could I ask one other? On the motor cross track section, is there going to be any sort of noise abatement fencing or something of that nature to try to keep the noise down in that area?
MR. HOGSETT: We will ask the city to look at that if that indeed becomes an issue. I believe it's far enough away. There are no houses really, the only thing out in this area are the highway and the railroad. So other than what possible wildlife impact, we really don't see much of an impact of noise but we will of course, there are on those kinds of vehicles noise restrictors as well.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: And I also was under the impression that there was some kind of an agreement that was going to be, I guess, mutually agreed upon that during deer season the access to this area would be limited somewhat.
MR. HOGSETT: Is that the case? I can't really give an answer to that. I'd like the city to address if they could.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: All right. Okay. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: One last question. Tim, it looks like on that triangular track that the long side of the triangle is on a public road.
MR. HOGSETT: Yes.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Is that correct?
MR. HOGSETT: Yes. Highway 287. That's the southern boundary of the property and then the railroad is the northern boundary.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Other questions from the Commissioners? Okay. We've got one speaker, although it sounds like the city may want to speak also, but will Mr. William Nixon is anybody else on this Item 5 here? You may need to if you all could come up. Okay. Here we go. Excuse me. I wasn't reading my sheets. We've got several speakers.
MR. NIXON: Do you have one of these that I handed out yesterday? I gave everybody one but I don't know if okay. I just want to voice my opinion and opposition. I am the landowner in the center of that and I truly believe that anybody on the Board or anybody in this room that owned that piece of land would feel as I do.
I'm just going to give a quick overview. I am William Nixon. I live in Kaufman County. I don't live in Childress County, but my ranch is in Childress County. I leased that place for three years and it came up for sale and I was able to buy it. I would like to note that I still owe 17 years on that piece of property and the ATV park I've got a this sheet and I did it to scale. That's only the application says 15 miles the first year and up to 25 miles of trail.
Well, as you can tell, there's not going to be much else on that piece of property other than trails. I'm just going to kind of read wildlife issues. I just kind of jotted this stuff down. My piece of land lies between Childress Lake and Baylor Lake, north of the Red River. I've worked for six years to improve and preserve its habitat. I've dug two ponds on the property.
The property of the proposed ATV park and my property are the only permanent water sources on Baylor Creek from the Red River to Lake Childress and Baylor Lake. What I mean by that is there is one windmill that is on the piece of property just across the fence from me that will be in the ATV park. I have permanent water hooked up to city water that's the really only permanent water from the Red River all the way to Baylor Lake and Childress Lake.
I think I believe that whenever these ATVs even if they are gone some of the time, hunting season for me starts September 1st and ends about mid-February and then it opens up again in the spring for turkey season. There are also several turkey roosts there on this piece of land they're going to buy. There are several good draws that aren't actually right on Baylor Creek but branch off the creek that are on the property. The turkeys roost there. They come to my place to feed and there's no doubt that ATV activity anytime is going to run the turkeys off and they won't come back and that's a good part of my income.
There's also lots of deer. Quail are there. There are not a lot of quail left in Texas and the horny toad, which are on the Threatened/Endangered List, are there. I haven't seen those since I was a kid. I live in Kaufman County.
Erosion issues. The proposed ATV park is only 583 acres. The plan for the first year is to build 15 miles of trails and then eventually peak at 25 miles of trails in two tracts. Baylor Creek lies in the middle of this ranch as well as mine. Please refer to the map shown on the density of the trails on the area of land. That's the map I was talking about.
For the kind of activity in an ATV park, the erosion will be surmountable. This will carry over to my ranch and other properties. There have already been issues with the railroad trestles on the property and erosion issues. Furthermore, an online article by Western Resource Advocates about motorized recreation states, ORVs have become one of the greatest threats to America's public lands. They destroy habitat, damage riparian areas, degrade water quality, pollute the air, and disturb both wildlife and humans who prefer quiet in the outdoors. This danger exists for private lands also and special care should be taken before approving designated areas for ATV parks.
Property value issues. As previously stated, I farm and ranch for a living, not as a hobby, as well as hunt the properties that I own in Kaufman County are family owned in Kaufman County and I actually own this one on my own in Childress County. Without the hunting services, I can't pay for this property and I have 17 years left to pay for it.
The loss of wildlife here would cause me to fall short of that. I have consulted with Smith Realty in Childress about the value of my property and was made aware of the devastating effect the ATV park will have on it. It will devaluate my property by 30 to 40 percent and I just with all these facts, I would I have a letter from the real estate company and I have this. Can I show you all that?
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: We are limited to three minutes. So we need I know it's important to you but let's if you could summarize, please?
MR. NIXON: This is my property here. All this is the highest property this is my property that sticks in here. This ridge right here is the highest ridge in this park. Whenever I'm on this part of the land, I can see the whole all the way to the railroad track, all the way this way, and all the way back that way. So it's not I keep hearing it they say that they'll monitor it but there's no way to monitor it. This Andy, I got him out there Friday after the meeting on Thursday. This point from the corner of my place all the way across to here. Their property line is only 250 yards. There's no way to have a barrier.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: You know, when I look at this tract, the triangular piece, I'm wondering how you effectively deer hunt on that with that much road frontage in your factoring?
MR. NIXON: To be honest with you the highway affects the deer not at all. They have been raised there, same with the turkeys.
MR. McCARTY: Sir, can I get you to move back to the mic so the public can hear your comments.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Let's go ahead. Commissioner Holmes has a question. Yes. We saw the map. Go ahead.
MR. NIXON: All the game they've been raised. The railroad's always been there. The highway has always been there but whenever you throw the ATV, I promise you, anytime an ATV goes down that draw, the deer eventually may get used to it. They might do it. It's going to take a long time, but today is what I'm worried about because I have to pay for it today. I can't wait and see if it's going to work and there's just no way they're going to stay there.
One ATV down the draw everything's flushed out. Yes, they may come back. Yes, they may not, but the turkeys will not. Anybody that knows anything about turkeys they will not stay with that kind of activity around even if it's just two or three months out of the year. They're going to leave that roost and go elsewhere.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Do we have any more questions for Mr. Nixon?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes. I have one that I brought up a little earlier. Have you been involved in any negotiations with them about buying your property or
MR. NIXON: It's been mentioned.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay.
MR. NIXON: The only thing there, and like I say, I'm more concerned about the wildlife and the environmental issues, but if came to that, I would have to sell it to them, but I can't just sell them that one piece. They'll have to buy it all. That's the only permanent water I have for my ranch. It's on that side of the road.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: I thought you said you could get to city water.
MR. NIXON: Well, I'm on city water but it's on this side of the highway on 287.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: And is that coming out of Childress?
MR. NIXON: Yes. Well, I really don't know where it comes from, but it's the main water line that comes through there. There's no other water other than that stays all the time in that whole draw. And I'm not disputing that they may need a park there, in the general area, but I truly believe this is not the place and I believe anybody that owned it and put themselves in my shoes would feel the same way.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Any other questions for Mr. Nixon?
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Thank you, sir. We've got Jerry Cummins and then Bobby Sanders after him.
MR. CUMMINS: Commissioners, thank you. I'm Jerry Cummins. I'm the city manager there in Childress. Appreciate the opportunity to be here today and visit with you. Also appreciate what Parks and Wildlife has done for us in the past and I'm going to take about 30 seconds of my three minutes and tell you we've been here before.
We've had projects with Parks and Wildlife before, had Recreational Grants projects, and those things allow us, as small rural communities, to do things that otherwise we could not do. Without your help, we couldn't do it. We appreciate it and I just wanted to mention that.
We have been able to develop recreational areas and venues that enhance the quality of life issues for not only citizens of Childress but the surrounding area and a region as well. We have built many different recreational venues there with your help. These activities also help contribute to our economic well being. It's one of the better things we can do. It brings people to town and with our ATV park application that's before you now, we know that we've got a neighbor that opposes the project and I want to be the first one to tell you he's a good man. But we don't have any issue with Mr. Nixon. We think he's a fine fellow. The other gentleman, the landowner that had opposed this, he was a good man too. I think he may have changed his opinion on what we're going to do now.
But these are good folks and they have good issues and we understand their concerns. We know that. We want to ensure both the landowners adjacent to this property and the Commission that we will do everything we can to make this as positive a project as we can for everyone. We want to be good neighbors. We want to work together and we want to solve the problems that exist now and that may arise in the future but we want to do it together and we want to have the best relationship that we can.
It was mentioned earlier that we do have the support from the local governing bodies, both the city council and the Commissioner's court. The Recreation Grants Review Committee has recommended funding the project and we'd just ask that you concur with that and fund the project. That's all I've got. I'd be happy to try to answer any question that you might have.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Any questions from the Commission?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: I guess I'll ask you the same question of you from the other side. Has there been any attempt to negotiate with Mr. Nixon relative to his property and can you walk me through that a little bit?
MR. CUMMINS: We have not had a sit-down negotiation.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay.
MR. CUMMINS: Mr. Nixon does not want to sell his property. We understand that and we don't want to buy it. We want we hope that we can work it out that he keeps his place and everything goes on as is and it's a positive relationship for both of us.
If it did came to pass that he felt like he needed to sell the property and Parks and Wildlife was willing to partner with us again on a purchase of that, then we would sure be happy to entertain that.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: I have a similar question that is would is there an opportunity Tim, you may know or Mr. City Manager you might know to take time until our November meeting to explore whether some way to deal with some of the mitigation, some of the issues he's raising? I would like to support this. I think we need these and I understand the impact that it'll have on Childress. Are there more avenues we might explore there to help mitigate some of those?
MR. CUMMINS: As far as environmental issues that were brought up or an environmental review will have to be done. That's required, I think, probably of all Parks and Wildlife projects. So that will be there. We may have to do an archeological site study as well and that's really normal. You have to do those things and we'll do that and cross our fingers that there's nothing there.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: You do it Commissioner Holt?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: What I was going to ask Tim was is Parks and Wildlife do they do I know it's on the property that we're funding or the federal government is funding, but does it also take into consideration properties that are adjoining it? For example, Mr. Nixon's property?
MR. HOGSETT: We will, particularly, if there are natural resources involved that are that coexist between two pieces of property, but as the city manager said, before we can authorize the city to begin any construction, we will have to do all necessary environmental clearances possibly cultural resource clearances and if there become obstacles that we simply can't work around, then we will have to look rethink the commitment to the project. And I think the city understands that as well. We don't anticipate that.
I think this is a very similar situation to what we faced in Ozona a few months ago and we're going to endeavor to make to have the same kind of relationship with the city and with the adjacent landowner and all work together on a development plan and a use plan that hope to everybody's benefit.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, Tim.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: The obvious one to me there would be purchased that portion but leave the water rights so he's got water on his other tract. I don't know if that's been explored. Certainly, it's his land to buy, sell, or hold but that's the obvious one to me. Do we have latitude in the grant if there's some agreement on that matter?
MR. HOGSETT: We could potentially consider additional grant funds for additional land acquisition if it made sense.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Okay.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Tim, before you move away from the mic, help me a little bit with the process on this. Isn't the process basically initiated by the Commission's approval of the project and then you go through all of the planning and investigative stages?
MR. HOGSETT: At this time, this is an application with a concept a sound concept that we've reviewed and done a site visit and have done public hearings but it has not been engineered yet. It has not been totally decided where the trail will be laid out and it's a large enough piece of property that if there are issues that come up, like environmental issues or other things that need to be mitigated, we feel that there's enough room out there to be able to do that.
But we will require before we authorize any reimbursement of funds a development plan be submitted to us and reviewed, all clearances necessary be in place, and that a use plan be in place for how this thing's going to be operating.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: But the prerequisite for all of those plans being developed and reviewed and amended and approved and et cetera or declined is action today that allows that process to take place?
MR. HOGSETT: Yes, sir. And that's primarily because those kinds of things do involve a fairly sizable investment of time and resources and until the city is able to get into a grant agreement with us, they really don't have the ability to do that. It's the same process we use for all of our grant programs.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Okay. Any more questions of Mr. Cummin?
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Thank you very much.
MR. CUMMINS: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: We've got Bobby Sanders followed by Coy Sneary.
MR. SANDERS: I'd like to thank you for the opportunity of having time to speak to you about this matter. Myself, personally, I've got about 40 years invested in trail riding and racing in the state of Texas.
I choose to live in the state of Texas, but most of the time we have to go out of state to race, to go out of state to ride. One example I can give to you is the Little Sahara State Park in Oklahoma. The Little Sahara State Park brings in enough revenue. It probably funds two-thirds of their other parks in their state. It's all revenue-derived off of ATVs.
The City of Childress had two meetings. We've had over 100 people at the first meeting that said, Yes. We would like to have this here. We've got approximately 256 ATV riders that live in the City of Childress. I personally race with some of them out of state. I've talked to several people in the surrounding towns. I've got motorcycle shops that are willing to come on board to help us with this thing. I've got numerous people that's willing to come on the board free gratis to help us do this.
Myself, I've dedicated the rest of my life, I'm retired to help make a place that our children can enjoy. I'd like to ask the court to please consider this. Small communities need stuff. They need things for their children to do. Most of your riding anymore is not just a bunch of drunken bums. Most of it's all families and family-orientated.
We've also got a program set up that we're going to train most of the children that's 16 and under because federal and state laws require that most people wear helmets, have flags on your ATVs, have everything be forest-approved so that you don't catch anything on fire with mufflers. We will have an on-site manager. It won't be an everyday ordeal. We hope that within maybe by the first part of next year if everything runs smooth we can be up and running and maybe get this thing on a self-sufficient basis.
Like I said, we've got numerous people that's willing to come hold the schools for us. We've got pro riders that's willing to come help the kids, show them how to ride safe. I'm involved in AMA and MMA as far as racing goes. I've been assured that if a couple of years go by and we can get the motor cross park on the right track that we can get some races incorporated in with Oklahoma and Kansas.
If we can do this, we can become more self-sufficient on the track. Help us out with our enemies. Help us out with our funding and also, you know, there's going to be a lot of clearing that has to be done a lot of tree trimming that has to be done.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Mr. Sanders, we're going to need to wrap up in just a little bit.
MR. SANDERS: Okay. We've already decided that all the trees, brush, and everything that we're going to cut is going to be placed strategically around the property to create wildlife habitat. Again, I'd like to thank you for my time. I see my red light's fixing to come on and we'd ask that you folks help us. Like I said, I've got about 40 years experience in this. One can I do just one thing?
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: We need to stay on schedule, sir, if we could.
MR. SANDERS: Okay.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: One quick sentence.
MR. SANDERS: One quick sentence.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: One quick sentence.
MR. SANDERS: Lake Whitney sits in the middle of a game preserve got one of the biggest race tracks in the state of Texas.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Thank you for your time.
MR. SANDERS: Thank you for your time.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Thank you for your interest. Coy Sneary followed by Renee Griffith followed by Kirby Brown.
MR. SNEARY: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, I'm Coy Sneary.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: We'll I can't
MR. SNEARY: It's my printing, I'm sure.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: No problem.
MR. SNEARY: And I'm here on a different project. I'm from Bay City and on behalf of Wellness Matagorda County Incorporated, which is a private and public partnership to address obesity, cardiovascular disease, and cancer in our county, we're here today to encourage your approval of the recommendation that has been made to you for a hike and bike trail which will be part of a long-range plan that we have for a wildness center in Matagorda County to address those issues. Mayor Richard Knapik from Bay City and Superintendent Dick Walton from Bay City ISD send their regrets for not being able to be here but Renee and I wanted to come up here today and encourage your approval of that and should you approve that, thank you for that very much. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Thank you, sir. Renee Griffith.
MS. GRIFFITH: I'm Renee Griffith. I'm an RN from Matagorda County Hospital District and I'm the trauma coordinator and safety officer and I also co-chair Wellness Matagorda and I would like to thank you for your consideration for approval of our grant. And as a trauma coordinator, you ATV riders should wear your helmet. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Thanks. Kirby Brown. We always appreciate levity. Thank you.
MR. BROWN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. My name is Kirby Brown, executive vice president of Texas Wildlife Association, and our members are hunters, conservationists, landowners, and land managers who own or control over 35 million acres of private land in Texas.
I'm going to apologize because we really just heard about the proposed purchase of the trail project in Childress County and I had not forwarded any discussion that we had at TWA in developing some criteria after the Crockett County site the last time. And we certainly support the concept of ATV trail areas in the right places. We think that's important and many of our members have ATVs and use them and would like to use them in other places.
Andy Goldbloom and Tim Hogsett do great work and they really get with the community and do a good job and I'm sure the city's looking forward to moving forward. We developed some criteria in our initial considerations, where, one, it needs to be a willing seller; two, needs to be adjacent to a major highway so that traffic's already present and not bothering things; three, local community and county support. We think those are important and we checked those boxes off on this one. Number four, surrounding landowners support in agreement.
And in this case, again, I don't know much about it, but the configuration does seem to indicate that without that landowner support, this could be a little problematic and I think we would like to consider that further in our thought process.
Number five, does not impact the economics of the surrounding landowners either the operation or the potential land values. And in looking at this, this is a wildlife operation. It's a hunting operation. Also, land in that part of the country is rising steadily in value but it's for its wildlife recreation value. So that's a concern we would like to have time to look it. We're concerned about wildlife habitat, erosion, and cultural considerations, particularly, of game or non-game species of concern. Just listening the turkey roost up there, there are very few turkey roosts. In fact, we're involved in a project restoring turkey roosts in the Panhandle and so that raises another red flag to us.
Seven, Are there other nearby opportunities for use? And of those, we know the Red River is open and I don't think it's but a couple of miles from there. I could be incorrect, but I'd like to understand more.
And finally, we would like to understand and have input on a management plan with the city for both wildlife use and impact on its neighbors and how the operation would be mitigated, yes, both with the private lands and otherwise.
So if there's a way to defer the decision to November, that would be our preference if we could do that. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Thank you. Any questions for Mr. Brown?
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Tim, I've got one more question. Excuse me. Why don't you go ahead? My question in our business where we're acquiring real estate will be a preliminary approval, spend some study money and give final approval. I realize our process here is final approval subject to staff approval of the work. Is there a way to modify this to give approval for the money to go do the study but also further investigate whether we can address some of the concerns that I have always had the concerns with the adjacent landowners. I know we can never get that perfect. Personally, I'd like to support this project but I wonder if a little more time would give us the opportunity to work through some of this a little more but we need to authorize some money to go do that properly. Is it possible to modify and do it that way?
MR. HOGSETT: It would be at your discretion. I believe we could enter into a preliminary contract with them for assessment and then come back if that assessment is positive and make recommendations for going ahead with the funding of the acquisition and development.
I just think you're hesitant to deal with a piece of property you don't own and I think that would be the potential issue here whether this existing landowner that owns the property that the city's proposing to acquiring would be willing to have that kind of thing going on? There is a sales contract on this piece of property though I think I would need to get city's input on how that would affect their project.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: No. I was not suggesting to go to work on Mr. Nixon's property. I was suggesting continuing a conversation having perhaps a more expanded conversation than, say, may have occurred already, but doing some of the preliminary work so he also understands how the trails are going to be laid out, what some mitigation elements are, and I think continue the conversation about possibly purchasing that part to the north to the extent that he would entertain it. He's not under pressure to do that but if the grant could be expanded, it seems very logical to the extent that there's a willing buyer and seller there, to enlarge this property.
MR. HOGSETT: Okay.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Leave him the water rights and move that direction. Whether that's possible, I don't know and we may look at all of it and choose to vote for it over the same objections in a couple of months. Now, the other Commissioners may disagree. I'm just raising the question but, Commissioner Holmes, you got a
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Tim, we heard you and others say that the other adjoining landowners had given their approval on this project.
MR. HOGSETT: Correct.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: When I look at what I believe to be the boundary of this project, it looks to me like the affected property is maybe 10 or 15 percent of the boundary but it's like 80 or 90 percent of the boundary owners on the north side of the property north and west side they have all approved that?
MR. HOGSETT: Yes.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Is that what I understand?
MR. HOGSETT: Yes.
MR. GOLDBLOOM: My name is Andy Goldbloom. I'm manager of the Recreational Trails Program. The railroad boundary on the northeast side
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Right.
MR. GOLDBLOOM: everything that's the same landowner that's selling this piece of property. They own about 10-, 15,000 acres up to the Red River. So they're in support of selling this piece that's basically their land between the railroad and the highway that isn't as valuable to them for their ranching operation as their other side.
The fellow on the northeast side kind of the longer boundary at the top there still may, in concept, be opposed to the project. I spent time with him, drove around his property. He's a cattle operation and after we drove around the property and looked at fence lines, his comment was, "Well, I guess this probably won't impact me that much one way or the other."
Certainly, it has the potential to impact Mr. Nixon's property. I think we're talking about economic values here and that can be monitored with our wildlife staff looking at what those impacts to the wildlife are. So it's granted without that triangle, this would be the perfect property in between the railroad and the highway.
You hear highway noise on any part of the property and every couple times a day, freight trains go by. But irregardless, we would be willing to work with the adjacent landowner to mitigate those impacts.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: I have one question also. Where is the facility on the Red River?
MR. GOLDBLOOM: There is no facility on the Red River. That was one of the rivers with the Canadian that was exempted from the bill and right now, from what I understand, there's not that much riding in that section of the Red River. North of the city on, I think, Highway 83, the bridge crosses the Red River and people I'm not sure if people can get down there or not. And again, riding up and down there to promote that would probably impact a lot more landowners.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: That's the prairie dog fort?
MR. GOLDBLOOM: No. That's actually the Red River.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Okay.
MR. GOLDBLOOM: I believe. I'm not from up in that area.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Okay. Any further questions? Commissioner Friedkin?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Tim, just to summarize, if we approve this, we would then begin subsequent studies. Correct?
MR. HOGSETT: Correct.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I mean wildlife impact and so forth, so what would come next?
MR. HOGSETT: Correct.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: But it does not come back to us at that point. They will close the land.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I understand.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: And do what they want to do if the studies pass. You do have the ability to enlarge the grant? If we approve it today, you have the ability to enlarge the grant if you reach agreement with Mr. Nixon to acquire the property?
MR. HOGSETT: Yes, we could. We would, I think, like to come back to you with an amended project at that point and ask for your permission if the city were so inclined to acquire the additional property.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Okay.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: With special sensitivity to this particular tract and Mr. Nixon's concerns, I move approval of the staff recommendation.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Second.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Second from Commissioner Parker. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: We voted on all of them.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Okay. Agenda Item 6: Boating Access Grant Funding, Tim Hogsett.
MR. HOGSETT: Our Boating Access Program provides 75 percent matching federal funds for boating access, boat ramps predominantly. It is federal pass-through money from the Sport Fish Recreation Act.
These are local government applications. The local governments, once these facilities are built, agree to operate and maintain them. We've received seven applications for new ramp construction, totaling $2.3 million and in light of time, I will skip through these proposals. They're in your package of what is being proposed to be constructed and move right to the recommendation.
We're recommending funding for boat access projects listed in Exhibit A in the amount of $1,513,643 be approved.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Okay. Any questions for Mr. Hogsett?
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: I have no speakers indicated. Do we have a motion?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: So move.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Second.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Motion by Holt. Second by Parker. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Okay.
MR. HOGSETT: Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Next item, No. 7, Target Range Grant Funding, Steve Hall.
MR. HALL: Members of the Commission, my name is Steve Hall. I'm the education director responsible for the Target Range Program. This morning we have five new grant projects for fiscal year '07 for consideration. As you remember, 25 percent is provided by the applicant and 75 percent are funds from our Hunter Safety apportionment in the Federal Assistance Account.
The projects this time around include a pilot project with Brenham. You approved an initial planning grant for that Brenham project in April. This would comprise Phase II of that project and it is a pilot project because it is being administered by an independent school district and obviously we feel the benefits of serving both the youth in the school system, but also the law enforcement in the local community all at once is a good project.
There are two rifle and pistol range enhancement projects, one in Dallas and one near Waco. There's a road project at the largest range facility in Texas at the American Shooting Centers in Houston and finally, we have a new archery range project on the shores of Lake Ray Roberts that was approved by the City of Denton and is adjacent to one of our state parks.
Our recommendation, like Tim's, is as follows: The Commission authorizes the executive director to execute the contracts funding projects A through E. Pending the availability of those federal funds and also of course an approved application which goes through the same process that Tim described in terms of natural and cultural resource clearances. I'd be happy to answer any questions that you may have.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Any questions for Steve?
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Do we have a motion? I have no speakers signed up.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: So move.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Okay.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Second.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Motion by Commissioner Holmes. Second by Friedkin. All in favor, aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Okay. Next item we have: Operating and Capital Budget. Mary?
MS. FIELDS: Good morning, Commissioners. For the record, I'm Mary Fields, Chief Financial Officer for Parks and Wildlife, and I'm here to present the Proposed Fiscal Year 2007 Operating and Capital Budget and the Budget and Investment Policies for your adoption.
Yesterday, I provided an overview of the proposed budget and today I'll mention just a few key points. The 79th Legislature appropriated $197.7 million to the Department and during the budget process, we identified adjustments and additional funds that brings our operating and capital budget to $295 million.
Of that total, the operating budget represents $242.6 million, which includes $12.6 million for grants and the capital budget is $52.4 million, which includes $48.9 million for construction projects and land acquisition. Our FTE cap for fiscal year 2007 is $2,901 and the Department will stay within that capped amount.
Since this is the second year of the '06-'07 biennium, we are basically carrying over several of the same issues that we dealt with in 2006, including the reductions that are highlighted on this slide. We based our budget on 100 percent of the 2006 base and added our contingency revenue of $8.5 million via Rider 27. We did not budget salary lapses at the beginning of the year, which is a change from prior years.
We raised our capital limits to the maximum allowed at 125 percent. We applied the 3 percent pay raise per state employees. We continued to absorb inflationary costs for utilities and gas. And finally, we anticipate having the $15 million for the East Texas Fish Hatchery encumbered in fiscal year 2007 via contract with most of the other unexpended balances that were discussed yesterday.
That concludes my presentation on the Proposed Fiscal Year 2007 Operating and Capital Budget. I'll move on to the next item, which is to review the budget and investment policies for your approval.
There have been no changes to the Budget Policy since the prior year, so I'm just going to touch on a couple of key points. The Commission authorizes the executive director to approve and execute necessary expenditures, budget adjustments, and transfers. Several different types of transactions are detailed in the Budget Policy. Budget adjustments, excluding federal grants and bonds that exceed $250,000, require prior approval from the Chairman of the Commission and the Chairman of the Finance Committee.
Moving on to the Investment Policy, again this policy has not been changed since the prior year but as the governing body of this department, you are required by statute to review this policy annually. All funds administered by Parks and Wildlife are required to be deposited in the State Treasury, except for the four funds that are highlighted on this slide. While not required, all of these funds reside in the State Treasury except for the Operation Game Thief Fund. Those funds are invested in CDs in several separate bank accounts.
All bank accounts must be authorized by delegated investment officers and must be properly collateralized. Specific reporting requirements are also included in the policy.
If there are no questions relating to the Operating Budget and the policies, staff recommend the Commission adopt the following motion as highlighted on this slide.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Thank you, Mary. Any questions for Mary?
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Got a motion to approve? Second?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: So move.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Second.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Holmes. Holt, second. All in favor, aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Thank you very much.
MS. FIELDS: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Okay. Super-Combination, License Rules, Stamp Revenue Allocation Gene McCarty. Don't give me any guff now
MR. McCARTY: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, for the record, my name is Gene McCarty. The item before you today deals with the allocation of net receipts from the sale of Super Combo Licenses.
As you may remember in a recent audit of Fund 9, the State Auditor's Office recommended that the Commission define that receipts in the methodology it uses to allocate revenue from the Super Combo licenses to dedicated stamp funds and to allocate revenue accordingly.
At the May Commission Meeting, you authorized staff to publish a proposed administrative rule in the Texas Register that would define that receipts from the Super Combo licenses component that's both the licenses and the stamps and allocate as a value calculated from relative weighting, using both the price of the stamp and the purchaser use as established by a dedicated survey.
This rule was published in the Texas Register in the July 21, 2006, Texas Register and to date, we've received no public comment. Also, as discussed in the May Commission Meeting, the Department has conducted a dedicated survey of Super Combo and senior Super Combo buyers to determine license and stamp uses. The results to date are presented in this slide.
When these results are applied to the 2006 Super Combo revenue, fund allocation falls out as depicted here. For comparative reference, I've also included a fund allocation schedule based on the old 2005 methodology. As you can see, there's some swing of funds one way or another but nothing really significant.
Based on Super Combo survey results and comments received from in-house review, I would propose an amended administrative rule but the amendments are intended to clarify and simplify the rule and provide for full utilization of survey data. Staff recommends the Commission adopt the following motion as depicted on this slide. Any questions?
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Questions for Mr. McCarty?
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Do we have a motion?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So move.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Commissioner Friedkin moves.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Second.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Second? Commissioner Parker. All in favor, aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Thank you, Gene.
MR. McCARTY: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Okay. I assume Ernie Gammage is going to give us a briefing there he is on the Parks and Wildlife Expo. You're the only one that can, Ernie, so we need you.
MR. GAMMAGE: Mr. Montgomery, members of the Commission, my name is Ernie Gammage and I'm here to spend a second a tell you about this year's Expo. This is our 15th Annual Expo and through the Expo over these 14 years, we have touched over a half million Texans with the truth about the outdoors and outdoor recreation. And I hope you've had a chance or you will have a chance to look at the back walls and the lobby exhibit about Expo this year.
Lots of changes at Expo. This is our 15th annual logo, which you'll be seeing on the grounds and around the building. The date, Friday, October 6th, is the Expo Conservation Dinner and Auction, and Saturday and Sunday, the 7th and 8th, is the actual Expo here at Parks and Wildlife Headquarters. A week later, we know that'll make it about 75 degrees.
I'd like to introduce Dick Davis right now, who will tell you about one of the most significant changes on site which is the conservation dinner and auction. Dick?
MR. DAVIS: Thank you. As most of you already know, we are moving the dinner and auction this year.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Can you give us would you give us your name and title for the record, please?
MR. DAVIS: Dick Davis, executive director of Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation. As I was saying, this year we're moving from out from under the tent here on the headquarters site to the new Lost Pines Resort that Hyatt has out on the Colorado River just a few miles from here. The dinner is going to be a sit down dinner this year. We this year we were able to recruit for the first time some underwriters to help us pay for that event and so things are looking very well for us to raise some substantial dollars for conservation this year.
We have a high bar to try to get over because last year Commissioner Parker set new standards in revenue generation and we hope to be able to go beyond that this year. I put invitations on your desk in front of you this morning, earlier. Those went out in the mail last week, so you've probably seen them. If you haven't, there is a list of some of the live auction items included in that envelope and we have things ranging from a quail hunt in the Panhandle that Commissioner Bivins has arranged for us with Nolan Ryan to hunt on the King Ranch to a hunt on Commissioner Montgomery's ranch up in the North Texas Hill Country around
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Guided by Dick Davis I may say.
MR. DAVIS: I'll be guiding that. We have we hope that the Governor will be joining us on one of these trips. Lieutenant Governor and the Speaker will be doing so on some. Senator Staples will be on some of those trips with us, but we have a lot of trips that transportation is being provided by Southwest Airlines.
We have some other things like a safari to New Zealand. So we look forward to raising lots of conservation dollars in this new venue at the Lost Pines Resort and honoring Joe McBride in the process. He is generally considered to be the father of the Expo and he is a longtime sporting goods dealer here in town, friend to most of us, gun dealer to many of us, and just an excellent supporter of conservation, not only from the Department and the Foundation's side of things but many other conservation organizations in this state are grateful and very thankful to Joe McBride.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Thank you. Any questions for Ernie or for Dick? Or Ernie do you have further presentation? Okay.
MR. GAMMAGE: Thank you, Dick. I would like to tell you what's new at Expo because every year we try to change it up and bring some new and exciting things for our visitors. Because of some landscaping changes that were made last year right after Expo, we had an opportunity to do some remodeling to the ground's layout and one of those resulted in a conglomeration of the Law Enforcement Activities for the first time that will be right out in back of us over in Parking Lot A. All of the law enforcement activities will be there including the wild game tasting.
Also, the largest wildlife tent will be moving down this area to what was the wildlife watching area and now will be virtually all of our wildlife presentations. Because that tent moved, we were able to relocate and reorient the main tent, which is literally right out here in front of us. So we'll see some changes on the ground.
One of the most significant is moving the sporting dogs and birds of prey arena down to the far end of the grounds. This gave us an opportunity to really move an anchor activity at Expo, so that folks will come all the way through the grounds in order to visit that very popular area.
We have a new presentation that will be in the main tent called Outdoor Gear for Women that will be presented by Academy Sports and Outdoors. Texas Bass Nation Federation will be presenting a casting kid's competition for the first time part of a statewide competition. Leave No Trace, which is a nationally recognized organization that promulgates seven ethical principles for being in the outdoor, will be here with some activities. And we'll also have presentations from the Off Highway Vehicle and RV Promotion folks to give information about the new off-highway vehicle permit and also spots in Texas where you can RV camp.
We will be recycling again at Expo after a year off. Returning will be shooting sports all in the back of the building, all the way from air gun to archery to crossbow to five-stand. Fishing and aquatic presentations and activities in the parking lot out here have a lot of exciting things there.
Tom Knapp and Julie Scardena, as well as John Karger, will be back with their very, very popular shows and probably one of the best things we've ever done, which is the Outdoor Kids Challenge, which gives kids a chance from six to 17 to go around and do a little bit of everything at Expo and in the process find out about what the great outdoors is all about and win some prizes.
Do you have any questions? I hope that you'll plan to come. It's going to be a beautiful day.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Mr. Parker wanted me to ask if you were going to have a catfish pond.
MR. GAMMAGE: No. We opted to instead go with a feral cat toss.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: I will publicly challenge Commissioner Parker, if he will accept.
MR. GAMMAGE: Outstanding. News and Information is preparing a release even as we speak.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: We'll have my poster up here. Okay. Any other questions for Ernie on this one?
MR. GAMMAGE: Thank you so much.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Thank you, Ernie. Dick has left but would you please convey to him we do recognize the significant change here having the Foundation take on that effort. It's a big commitment for them. It's a lot of work for them. We appreciate them doing that so make sure they know that.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: I want to say that this package is the finest package ever.
MR. GAMMAGE: I'll pass that on to those who did it.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Okay. We're on to Agenda Item No. 11: Designation of Representatives, Foreign Travel Resolution. Lydia?
MS. SALDANA: Good morning. Lydia Saldana, Communications Director. Two employees in the Communications Division have been invited to travel to other countries to conduct training and give presentations. The South African Hunters and Game Conservation Association has invited Terry Erwin, who many of you know. He's our hunter education coordinator. He's also the current president of the International Hunter Education Association and he's been asked to conduct training of their members. That organization is the newest member of the International Hunter Education Association.
Cappy Manly, who's our Project Wild coordinator, and many of you met her during a presentation a few Commission meetings back. She has been invited by the Parks and Recreation Foundation of Japan to speak about Project Wild and also to conduct some training workshops. Project Wild has started to take off in Asia and they've asked Cappy to come and show them how to do it.
Travel expenses are being covered by these two host organizations, but just in case there are some unforeseen travel expenses, we want to make sure that we're complying with the law which requires you all's approval. So we're asking you to approve the resolution that's in your package.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Lydia.
Any questions for Lydia on Item 11? It's an action item.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any comments?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So move.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Let's see. We have a motion from Commissioner Friedkin. Second by Parker. All in favor, aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: None opposed. Motion passes. Thank you. Item 12, Briefing Item on Avian Influenza. Mike?
MR. BERGER: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, I'm Mike Berger, Wildlife Division director. And we're here this morning to provide you with an update on the current status of avian influenza and the surveillance activities that we anticipate undertaking in Texas.
I'm pleased to be joined this morning by Dave Morrison, our Waterfowl Program leader, and he will describe those surveillance efforts in just a moment.
First a little bit of background and these are very important facts to be kept in mind at all times. There are no cases of HPAI H5N1 in North America. Surveillance for this virus has been in effect in Alaska since 1998 when this form was first discovered. It is a disease of birds, primarily water birds and poultry. Human deaths have occurred and I will report on those in a moment.
The current form is not easily transmissible to human beings. Again, it is a disease of birds and poultry. Even if it is found in North America, if we discover it in a wild bird, does not mean that this is the beginning of a pandemic. And migratory birds may not be our biggest concern in that virus getting to North America and we'll talk about that again in a moment.
So what does HPAI mean? And as you can see here it's highly pathogenic avian influenza on one side and it means it's considered highly pathogenic, likely to cause severe illness and death in poultry in poultry. This is an agricultural designation. It doesn't necessarily mean that it causes death or disease in human beings.
The designated low or highly pathogenicity based on its potential to kill poultry but it doesn't refer to its infectivity to humans or to wild birds. There are 16 different types of H the hemagglutinin and nine types of the neuraminidase. That makes up 144 subtypes all together that are possible.
Avian influenza in water birds. So mainly in ducks, gulls, and shorebirds are the natural reservoirs for this influenza. All 16 H and nine N combinations do occur. AI endemic to water birds is low pathology, so it means it is not necessarily deadly to those water birds that are carrying it. Again, the highly pathogenic is a reference to poultry.
The subclinical mild disease respiratory or GI tract is how this influenza attacks those birds and is transmitted by fecal-oral. It means there's fecal material in the water. The birds are in the water. That's how the disease is passed around.
The first major outbreak of the disease was in China at Qinghai in 2005 and here you'll see that in May an outbreak of HPAI H5N1 was reported in Qinghai and that is the large red dot in China. They were bar-headed geese were the species that were mostly impacted and almost 10 percent of that population was lost from this outbreak. From this location, researchers have been able to track the disease, the lineage, other reported cases in poultry and wild birds across Asia to Europe and Africa back to this outbreak.
So that is really the start of that outbreak scenario.
And why is this important to us? Flyways overlap, as we'll see. Some birds that are in one area, some go east, some go west. Migrating water fowls use these flyways and overlap with the area of the Qinghai Reserve that some birds come from. And you can see on this map that Qinghai is there in China. These are the dark lines are pintails that are moving from that area. They combine in Siberia, cross Alaska. They can be mixed up with birds that come into North America and Alaska. That's why Alaska has been conducting surveillance since 1998 because of that and most of those birds will come down the Pacific Flyway and so the Pacific Flyway is more of a concern. However, a lot of those pintails, as you know, end up in our state and along our coast. So that is why we are a critical state for this surveillance.
The Eastern US isn't as much of a concern because there's a fewer number of birds that interact with the European flyways.
The other routes of introduction to North America are probably human caused or human brought. In September of '05, there were 820 cases of eggs, 120 eggs each, discovered in a ship in California with no permits and it was not listed on the manifest. So if this had been in those eggs and this poultry, it could have been entered that way.
In October and November of '05, there was 165,000 pounds of smuggled Asian poultry products that were intercepted on their way to this country. And recently, within the last few months, a shipment of chicken feed was smuggled into the United State from Thailand. They arrived in Connecticut marked "jellyfish." So if these poultry products are contaminated and they arrive this way or there are people traveling worldwide today carrying poultry products, knowingly or unknowingly, that is a way the flu could come to North America not necessarily going to come from wild birds.
There is a national pandemic influenza strategy that has been developed and it's based on preparedness and communication, a surveillance and detection which is ongoing now, and then response and containment if it is found. This national strategy is being led by Homeland Security with significant input and coordination with the United States Department of Agriculture and Department of Interior. And if and I say if a strain of this disease does mutate and develop into a pandemic strain, then this strategy will be implemented. But just the first two parts, the preparedness and communication are there, and the surveillance is there and I would like to only go one more slide.
These are the death cases that have been reported in humans as a results of this. In many cases in some of these Asian and African countries, people do live in close contact with poultry. They may keep a pet or a food duck or chicken in their house and this close interaction it can jump that species barrier but it is very uncommon. So this is since 1998, this is all the human cases and you can see that it's not always fatal.
So now I'd like to ask Dave Morrison to come up and talk about our efforts at surveillance and then we'll be happy to answer any questions. Dave?
MR. MORRISON: Thank you, Mike. My name is Dave Morrison. I'm the Water Fowl Program leader for Texas Parks and Wildlife and I have the dubious distinction of coordinating Texas Parks and Wildlife's role in the multi-agency efforts to detect highly pathogenic avian influenza.
All states and various federal agencies have been working together to develop a national strategy and this is going to be the responsibility of the 50 states, as well as select federal agencies, to implement this program on the ground. Working in cooperation with these various government agencies, we've developed the Inter-Agency Strategic Plan and basically what that's doing is several things. One of the primary things is standardized protocols to include sampling, shipping, and diagnostic and the reason this is so important everything we do in Texas will be the same in Alaska, will be the same in Maine, will be the same in Florida so that the science behind this early detection and surveillance cannot be questioned.
Also, as part of this national strategy, they've come up with early detection strategies. These include the investigation of morbidity/mortality events, live birth surveillance, sports and subsistence hunting, sentinel surveillance, as well as environmental sampling. Now all of these have advantages and disadvantages, but what Texas is going to focus in on with respect to our sampling will be the live bird, as well as the sport and subsistence hunting. If morbidity/mortality events occur, then certainly we'll be there to take samples if necessary.
During the course of development of this plan, states were assigned Level I, Level II, or Level III. If you note, the red states are Level I. They're going to be required to collect 1,000 samples. The Level II states are in blue, 750. And Level III states in green will be required to collect 500 samples. If you look at that map, you see the West Coast pretty important simply because that's where the affinity of the birds coming through the Pacific Flyway tend to come from the Alaska region. So that's the reason why they're so important.
You'll also notice that the Central Flyway, the northern tier of the Central Flyway, is also very important with all those states being Level I. Again, the reason for that is that's a prime breeding area across this country. It's also a staging area for birds coming from northern Canada and Alaska.
As you move further south, you'll see that Texas and Louisiana are the southern tier states that are Level I. The reason that's important is because we serve as the wintering terminates of these various flyways and the bulk of these birds that winter in the United States typically occur in Texas and Louisiana.
In the Central Flyway, there are ten states and we're going to have approximately $800,000 provided to these ten states from the United States Department of Agriculture. USDA will also be providing approximately $270,000 in diagnostic funds to the approved labs to look at the 8,000 samples that we're going to be collecting.
Many states have already started their sampling of their resident water fowl. For example, Kansas is currently looking at resident game birds in urban areas. Nebraska is about to finish up its shorebird collections. States production states like North Dakota and South Dakota have already as part of their normal banding operations are also taking samples. So they're all well underway.
Texas Parks and Wildlife's role. What are we going to do? Well, we have to collect 1,000 samples as I said either from hunter killed or live bird samples. We're going to be getting about $100,000 from USDA to fund this project. So hopefully we'll have no out-of-pocket expenses. Going to be looking at primary and secondary species, primary species being the pintail, sandhill crane, pectoral sandpiper, long-billed dowitcher and breasted sandpipers. Secondary species include just about every duck or geese that should fly into Texas, as well as a variety of shorebirds, including sandpipers, plovers, various gulls. So we're going to be looking at a lot of different things.
Our sampling strategy is spatial and temporal. We're going to be looking through time and space. We're going to start next week in the Panhandle trying to collect some shorebirds as they start moving the state. Also going to be looking in East Texas as they move through.
We hope to conclude this by December 31st. We understand we may run into problems but we're going to shoot for that. We do have some latitude to go beyond December 31st, particularly for geese as the arrive sometimes later in January, and also we'll be collecting Blue-and-Teal in March trying to watch the backdoor, if you will, from Mexico and Central and South America.
Our sampling locations? We're going to start out in High Plains and Rolling Plains, again, because that's where the first birds are showing up. There's a high affinity for those birds coming in from Alaska. As our samples progress, we'll then start moving to the coastal areas. Simply by the time they get to the coastal areas, they've already mixed up with just about everything else. So we're going to be looking across the state at various times.
I also point out this is not a single agency endeavor. Wildlife Services, which is part of the USDA, also has similar responsibilities. They're going to have to collect 1,000 bird samples as well same species that Texas is going to be looking at, both primary and secondary. We're going to be working in conjunction with one another. But USDA Wildlife Services has also been tasked with collecting environmental samples that'd be either fecal material or water samples from areas where birds may be concentrated.
In summary, this is the largest surveillance effort ever undertaken of this kind. Across the state, in federal jurisdiction, has support of government at all levels, and the process is going to be very transparent and I emphasize this very transparent simply because if something should ever be found, they want to make sure the public is aware that we've done everything right and we've alerted them as quickly as possible.
It's going to be expensive, time-consuming, and probably going to be a multi-year project. One year, probably, is not going to get them. No one is sure what we're going to find but we feel it's necessary to keep the public aware of what's going on with this particular highly pathogenic avian influenza. With that, I'll shut up and take any questions you may have.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: What as part of the monitoring process, what time of year are we going to have any idea if there's been any communication through that small part of overlap in the Arctic of migratory water fowl that would be coming down here in the fall?
MR. MORRISON: Well, the pintails will start arriving next month and as I said, Alaska has taken the brunt of this. They have to do all these sampling techniques and they've collected probably about 20,000 samples during the course of the time they've been sampling.
It takes about two to four days for the samples to be analyzed at the labs. Should something pop up that doesn't look right, then they have to send it the National Veterinary Lab and then they will take another ten to 12 days. Then we'll know something.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: So the teal aren't in that part of the overlap? Where there's overlap from Asia?
MR. MORRISON: No, sir. The blue wings that are coming through now, probably pretty safe, but we chose in Texas to look at those
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Right. So it's only in that part you showed in the map where there's overlap of the Asiatic migratory wildlife that then
MR. MORRISON: Actually, it could be anything because if those birds come out of Alaska into Saskatchewan. White fronts are classic examples. They come from the northern slope of Alaska. They end up in the Peace River of Alberta and then into Saskatchewan. Then they mix with everything else and they're headed south. So it's not necessarily just that one little piece. Because of where they end up mixing with lots of other things.
MR. BERGER: But they're doing intensive surveillance in Alaska, where it's most likely to show up first before we get it somewhere farther south. But as Dave said, they do mix throughout the flyway with other populations.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Have you briefed the Game Bird Advisory Board?
MR. MORRISON: Yes, sir. I gave the presentation to them a couple of weeks ago on this very issues.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Good. Great. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Mr. Chairman, I have a quick question. I noticed, Mike, on one of your slides that you mentioned possessions and showed people getting off a boat or whatever. Is it possible to transmit this on an inanimate object?
MR. BERGER: No. But there are parts if people are bringing in animal parts
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Okay. All right.
MR. BERGER: or products, it could have it on them.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Okay. All right.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: John Parker?
COMMISSIONER PARKER: How are you going to take your samples? Are you going to take your samples by trapping or are you going to take your samples by hunters bagged or how are you going to do that?
MR. MORRISON: Mr. Parker, the samples are collectible samples and we plan on taking these either through hunter shot birds or birds that we actually collect. We're very concerned about live trapping birds that if we should sample a bird, release it, ten days later it comes back positive, the public relations nightmare if you turned loose something that had a highly pathogenic H5N1, it's something I personally don't want to deal with.
So we're going to try to focus our efforts on either hunter taken or birds that we actually collect.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thanks, gentlemen.
MR. BERGER: Thank you.
MR. MORRISON: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I tell you what, this is important work you're doing and you don't get any attention until things go wrong. So I appreciate all you're doing to be in front of the problem. Next, Item 13, Action Item, Amendment to Statewide Freshwater Mussel and Clam Proclamation. Bill? I'm sorry. We have somebody oh. We do? On 13. Okay. Bill, go ahead. I'm an inexperienced vice chairman today.
MR. PROVINE: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, I'm Bill Provine with Inland Fisheries.
MR. PROVINE: In the January Commission Meeting, I briefed you on the status of the freshwater mussel populations in Texas and the need for protection against overharvest.
At that time, you instructed me to meet with the commercial musselers and work out a solution that protected the resources but didn't run people out of business. And I did that and I think we've come up with a win-win solution and that solution involves the establishment of a limited entry fishery in the modification of no harvest sanctuaries.
In January, we talked about the ecological importance of freshwater mussels, how they're sensitive barometers of the environmental quality, how nationwide nearly 80 percent of mussel species are either threatened, endangered, or extinct.
We talked about the economic importance. In the early part of the 20th century, mussel shells were mostly used for mother of pearl mussels. More recently, they were used for implant nuclei in the cultured pearl industry. Gem-quality pearls are found in a couple of freshwater mussel species in Texas. Their shells are used in arts and craft industry and their tissue is used for live bait.
Our surveys have found in several streams and rivers in the states the populations have been badly reduced or eliminated. Mussels grow very slowly. Some of them live 100 years and they have complex life cycles, so the recovery of these animals could take quite a few years, even decades.
The decline has been caused by many factors. Changing land use and overgrazing has caused scouring floods, reducing or deteriorating or even eliminating habitat in a lot of our streams and rivers. Droughts and pollution has killed all mussel species in certain sections of rivers. Overharvest, although not a major problem in the decline of mussel species, it is some factor that we need to consider when we talk about the well-being of this resource.
Currently, the Texas regulations allow essentially unlimited harvest of mussels over particular size groups. The demand has fluctuated quite a bit through the years. In the 1990s, we had we sold between 450 and 500 commercial mussel licenses in this state. The international demand was real high and people came from a lot of states to Texas to harvest our mussels. Demand has been fairly low in the last few years. Last year, we only sold a total of 12 licenses, 12 commercial musseling licenses, and no commercial buyer licenses were sold.
Our concern is not what's going on right now. We don't really feel like these 12 people are causing a big problem, but we are concerned about what would happen to our resource this degraded resource if we sold 400 or 500 mussel licenses again. So to address this, we looked at a couple of options.
We could decrease the bag limits, but to decrease the bag limits on 400 or 500 operators, we'd have to decrease them to such an extent that it would probably put these small businesses or these musselers out of business. We also looked at limited entry, similar to how some of our coastal fishes or species are managed. In this particular situation, limited entry would mean essentially grandfathering the existing licenses holders and not selling any new licenses.
So our proposed changes would restrict the commercial license purchases to those who held license between September 1, 2003 and May 1, 2006. It would restrict recreational harvest to 25 pounds of whole mussels or 12 pounds of shells. Now, there still is a recreational demand for pearls in several parts of Texas and this would allow this activity to continue.
It would require our proposed changes would require a daily log. Now, this is what's in it for us. When I spoke with you in January, we had really one mussel expert. Bob Howell's the author of the book that was distributed to you. Well, since then Bob has retired so we don't really have much of a staff to collect information on mussels.
So what we're going to do is to require the commercial musselers to report to us not only what they harvest and where they're harvesting it but what they're seeing and where they're seeing it. So they're out there in a lot of different rivers and streams looking for new sources of mussels, looking for new mussel beds and we can get them to keep us informed of where these beds are.
These proposed changes will also prohibit the take of mussels in 16 sanctuaries. Now, this is a reduction from the previous rule. We used to have 21 sanctuaries. Some were deleted because the environment or the habitat was deteriorated so much we just there weren't any mussels and we weren't protecting anything. Some were added because we found new areas of endangered or rare species.
So what the staff is recommending is that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the repeal of 57.157 and accept the new 57157 concerning mussels and clams with changes as published in the June 9, 2006 issue of the Texas Register. Be happy to answer questions at this time.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Do you have the support of the industry? You said you were working something out. Is it a consensual plan?
MR. PROVINE: Yes.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Thank you for doing that. Could you show us the map of the restricted areas and explain how you selected those?
MR. PROVINE: Well, to begin with, we had limited knowledge of the mussels in Texas. So we tried to some of them were arbitrary and those really are the ones that were changed. The ones that we missed. We knew of some mussel populations that were kind of in trouble and we knew where certain rare species were so we included those in our first 21, but some of those were arbitrarily chosen. And we just chose the wrong rivers.
Once we got the manpower to get out there and look more closely, we decided to change those sanctuaries. They just weren't returning.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Bill, we have a few people signed up to testify on this issue. If you'll stand by and maybe answer some other questions the Commissioners have after we hear that testimony? Thanks for your work on this.
MR. PROVINE: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Stand by here and we will call Tony Price. Mr. Price and Mr. Weaver, be ready.
MR. PRICE: How you all doing? I just want to get up here and thank you guys for all your time and your effort on this and working with Bill over here and tell you all I really appreciate it. And have you all got any questions for us?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Well, I tell you what I appreciate you working with the staff. It sounds like you've come up with a proposal that you can live with and help us conserve the resource and you continue to do your work. Any question you have? Thank you for taking the time to work with us.
MR. PRICE: Appreciate it.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: It doesn't always work that way and I appreciate you taking the time.
MR. PRICE: I thank you all a lot for your time and efforts and we're looking forward to working with Bill and the Wildlife Department letting them know what we can. And like he said, we're out there quite a bit and we've got a pretty good idea of what's out there and like I said we're looking forward to working with him. So sure appreciate it.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Well, thank you. Nobody knows more about the resource than the guy closest to it. Thanks. Next, I have Mr. Scott Weaver.
MR. WEAVER: Pretty much ditto what Tony says. I really appreciate Bill for all the effort he put in and I know you guys are really underappreciated, not just by us commercial guys but all sportsmen and thanks again.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thanks for your work. Thank you very much, Mr. Weaver.
Any other questions for Bill or from the Commission? Is there a motion on this item?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: So move.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Moved by Holt. Second by Friedkin. All in favor, please say aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion carries. Thank you, Bill. Next up, Item 14, we have a briefing item on federal and state management of red snapper. Management by lawsuit.
MR. RIECHERS: Well, that could be the description. We could just stop there. I'm here for the record, my name is Robin Riechers and I'm the director of Science and Policy with Coastal Fisheries Division and as indicated, I'm here to present to you a briefing on the federal and state cooperative management regarding the red snapper fishery.
Just kind of catch everyone up, our federal partners in this basically starts at the level of the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council, which is one of the eight regional councils that was formed by the Magnuson Act in 1976. The Magnuson Act, at that point, governed how those councils would behave basically.
That body is made up of 17 members, eleven members who are nominated by their governors in the Gulf states and appointed by the Secretary of Commerce. In addition to those eleven members, there are five members that represent the Coastal Aquatic Resources and Wildlife Fisheries in our case, Coastal Fisheries Group one member from each of the five states and then the regional director from the National Marine Fisheries Service out of St. Pete makes up the full 17 member body. That body basically serves in an advisory role to the National Marine Fisheries Service, who of course is in the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration.
Currently, we are under the guidelines of the Magnuson-Stevens Act which was re-authorized in 1996 and there's current draft language on the hill today that will re-authorize this once again. And they kind of thought it was going to go through this fall but it's looking more like spring if at all right now.
So basically what the Magnuson-Stevens Act does is set up guidelines for the council and National Marine Fisheries Service to create fishery management plans and within that is to basically set sustainable levels of harvest on fisheries where we can have that kind of fishery. What it does is require us to set overfishing rates, which is the level of fishing that can accrue for a particular given year where you would not eventually lead the stock to an overfished status or overfished level. And then we set that base level and so any time we have an overfishing rate, we're required to take certain actions and each time you have an overfished level, you're basically required by law to take certain actions.
What we typically do in those cases is set a total allowable catch, which I'll refer to as TAC later on in this presentation, and we use the traditional measures we use here size and bag limits, area seasonal closures, trip limits, and gear restrictions to try to maintain the catch within that total allowable catch for the year.
In the Red Snapper Fishery today, that TAC is allocated and has been allocated since basically the early 1990s when the first Reef Fish Management Plan went into effect. It's allocated 51 percent to the commercial fishery and 49 percent to the recreational fishery.
Our history of our TAC and our TAC settings basically are as follows: In March of 1991, the TAC was set at 4 million pounds. After revision of the models and the assessment, it was revised upwards to 6 million pounds in 1993. It stayed in that ballpark until 1996, when it was increased to 9.12 million pounds and we've been there ever since.
Now, in 2000, there was a lot of discussion about lowering the TAC when a new assessment was done and in 2006, following an assessment that was given to us in 2005, there's a considerable amount of discussion regarding where the TAC will be set. It looks as if we're going to be in a range somewhere from 5- to 7 million pounds. Under a 9.12 million pound TAC, which is where we're at today, we have about 194-day recreational season and if we go to a 7 million-pound TAC, you're going to be looking at a reduction from anywhere from 76 to 94 days, and if you go to a 5 million pound TAC, you're going to be looking at a reduction in days somewhere in the order of 60 to 103 days, depending on the bag and size limit combinations you choose.
In the commercial fisheries management, I just wanted to note that we're really transitioning at this point. We've been acting under a TAC, a total allowable catch, where it's basically established for the year. It's divided two-thirds into a spring sub-quota, if you will, and a one-third in the fall sub-quota and then when they reach those sub-quotas, basically, the season stops no matter how many days they've fished. It's basically a derby-type environment.
They would open the season for the first ten days of each month. People would fish as hard as they could given the trips limit they had, come to the shore. They would kind of do the accounting and figure out where they were and they'd go back out if they had any TAC left for that ten-day window. And that went on until for months until their side of the quota was reached or sub-quota in those two seasons.
We're transitioning to an individual fishery quota or individual transferable quota system. It's been passed out of the council for over a year now or pretty close to a year. It's called Reef Fish Amendment 26. The Secretary of Commerce is out for comment on that right now and those comments are being accepted until October 1, 2006.
Another transition in the commercial fishery is that we are going to go toward vessel-monitoring systems. Those will be required by the end of this year for every reef fish-permitted vessel, including red snappers. That basically is a real-time monitoring of where those boats are and where they're fishing at any given time when they're on the water, assuming the equipment is working correctly.
In the Recreational Fisheries Management side, in federal waters we are currently at a four-fish bag limit, a 16-inch minimum size limit, and our season runs from April 21st to October 31st or really November 1st at midnight. That equates to that 194-day season that I mentioned just before.
In Texas waters, we've maintained a four-fish bag limit, a 15-inch minimum size limit, and we have no closed season inside our waters at this point in time. The reason we've stayed at a 15-inch minimum size limit many people have asked this question one of the reasons is the commercial side is at a 15-inch minimum size limit and we wanted to maintain that consistency between the commercial size limit and the recreational size limit so that there's not conflict over that people fishing on a size limit that smaller and not getting into the recreational fishery.
When you look at kind of the where we stand today with regards to the red snapper stock assessment as I indicated the previous assessment was in 2000 the ideal is that you get a benchmark assessment every five years. So we were presented a new assessment in the fall of 2005. The Gulf Council started working on a joint Reef Fish/Shrimp Amendment Plan. It's Reef Fish Amendment 27 and Shrimp Amendment 14 and I was really here and anticipated the next slide would be showing you where public hearings were going to be held in the fall, but based on action in Baton Rouge of last week, basically, the Council passed a motion on a 10-5 vote that stalled all action on this amendment until January 1, 2007.
Let me at least try to give you my opinion of how I heard the arguments for delay. The first, and probably greatest, argument or one of the greatest arguments by many of the people is that the assessment was based on a 2001-2003 time period and when you factor in Katrina and Rita impacts into that, the world has changed greatly in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama and many people just believe that the assessment is no longer an assessment that depicts the reality on the ground in those states, as far as the commercial effort that's going on and the recreational effort.
The other thing that has happened since that time is there's been a National Research Council review of the Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistical Survey. That's the survey that basically does their recreational statistics and runs from Louisiana all the way through Florida and many other states use it. Here in Texas, we do not use that survey. We aborted that survey a long time ago, but basically the Research Council found many flaws in the survey. It's not necessarily in the report, but one of the authors of the report, in presentation to fishing interest, basically called it "fatally flawed." So there's a lot of concerns about the data coming out of that and the estimations coming out of that and how that works into the assessment.
And then the last issue would be the issues regarding equity issues when we talk about rebuilding this fishery. Many people in the directed fishery and commercial and recreational directed fishery feel like they've taken the brunt of this rebuilding plan. They've reduced TACs. They've reduced bag limits and reduced their seasons and at the same time, the effort hasn't been made on the by-catch side of this equation to basically do their part. And they felt like in the current amendment, more and more of the items in Shrimp 14 were being taken out of the amendment and they didn't want to go forward unless those were in the amendment.
Where that leaves us today is National Marine Fisheries Service could for the year 2000 use an interim rule or an emergency rule to go ahead and set the TAC. It could be set it could remain status quo at 9.12 or it could be set at any of the options that were in the previous amendment ranging, I would guess, from 5- to 7 million pounds.
Then, as we move forward for subsequent years, National Marine Fisheries Service and Secretary of Commerce could choose to do a secretarial amendment, which would basically remove the Gulf Council from the process.
And then lastly, the option is to resume the council amendment either at our November meeting or our January meeting. And we certainly will resume it in January if nothing else takes place, but we could even resume it at our November meeting. With that, I'd be happy to answer any questions at this time.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I understand the reason for keeping the 15-inch the commercial and the recreational the same so that there's no confusion between the two and for law enforcement purposes, but why the difference between the 15 and the 16 when you get to the nine-mile mark?
MR. RIECHERS: They moved the recreational they were at 15 and in federal waters, they moved it up to 16 inches some time back. The idea was they felt like the yield per recruit was higher at 16 inches basically creating more bio-mass. Subsequent to that, quite frankly, we found that the discards are so much greater in federal levels.
At the federal level, we're really talking about now a reduction in size limits possibly coming back down to 13 inches. But we've always we stayed at the 15 inches because that's where the commercial was at at that time when they took the action to go to 16.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: So what you're saying is their reason for going to 16 on the federal proved to be incorrect?
MR. RIECHERS: That's basically correct. Yes.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Phil?
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: I sure like the ITQ system. I appreciate you all headed that way. Is there any risk that we won't go that way with this one or you're pretty comfortable that's the way it's going to go?
MR. RIECHERS: There's been a lot of people more recently after this current assessment came out, I think, now coming to the table and questioning the IFQs, not questioning them from a management standpoint, but more questioning how law enforcement could really enforce that. In reality, there's going to be more checks and balances in enforcement than there would have been under the old system.
So I believe certainly I believe that we're moving ahead and that it will be passed and certainly every indication we've gotten from Washington is that it will be going through.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Okay.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Is the ITQ system under could that change during the litigation, the pending litigation, red snapper?
MR. RIECHERS: The pending litigation that I'm aware of does not it's not questioning the ITQ system. It's questioning whether or not there's been appropriate by-catch reduction elements put into the plans.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Okay.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: I hope we'll look for every opportunity to move that direction with our fisheries management. Seems to me it's a far superior system.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes. I agree with Commissioner Montgomery. It's consistent with what we've been doing on the in-shore and it's certainly consistent philosophically of what we do on-shore with wildlife, which is to give every incentive and management flexibility to the people who are moving the ball. Thanks, Robin.
MR. RIECHERS: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I don't believe we had anybody signed up on red snapper, 14. Did we miss anybody there? We will go to Item 15, Action Item Amendments to the Harmful, Potentially Harmful Exotic Fish, Shellfish, and Aquatic Plants Regulations. Joedy?
MR. GRAY: Chairman, Commissioners, my name is Joedy Gray with the Inland Fisheries Division. The Commission has established rules to regulate the importation, possession, sale, and placing into waters of the state any harmful or potentially harmful exotic fish, shellfish, or aquatic plant. Staff is proposing amendments to these rules which will provide additional protection to our native aquatic species and provide consistency and clarification in the provisions of the rules.
Staff is proposing adding two exotic Chinese carp to the prohibited fish list. These carp have the potential to cause negative ecological impacts if accidentally raised in the state waters. Round gobies have invaded the Great Lakes causing ecological damage to native fish species, therefore Staff proposes adding round gobies to our prohibited fish list.
Chinese perches have been added because of their cold tolerance and their potential to compete with our native large-mouth and small-mouth bass. The Asian and European temperate basses are ecological counterparts of our native striped and white basses and have the potential to be major competitors with our native species. Staff is proposing prohibiting all species of temperate basses, except striped bass, white bass, yellow bass, and hybrids between the three.
Staff is proposing the following changes to the prohibited shellfish list: The prohibition on crayfish has been expanded to include all Southern Hemisphere crayfishes. Some species of Australian crayfish would represent a major ecological threat if released in Texas. Therefore, it is prudent to restrict them now before they become prevalent in the agricultural or pet industries. Additionally, the prohibition of applesnails and giant rams-horn snails has been expanded to include all but one species, which is currently popular in the pet industry.
To maintain consistency with the USDA and the Texas Department of Agriculture regulations, eight species of plants have been added to the prohibited plant list. Finally, water spinach has been added to the list of exotic species that are permitted to culture in Texas. Water spinach has been cultured for over 20 years in the Houston area. Extensive habitat surveys by staff biologists reveal no evidence of water spinach in public waters. Therefore, staff recommends that current culture facilities be allowed to continue operating under a permit from the Department.
The proposed amendments were published in the Texas Register and received negative comments from members of academia, the aquacultural and pet industries. One comment was received in support of the proposed rules and two comments were neutral.
The major concern from the aquacultural industry and academia was the economic effect the prohibition would have on small businesses that currently culture and sell Australian Red Claw in Texas.
In response to comments from the aquacultural industry, Staff is proposing to add an exception to Subsection 57.113(d) to allow possession, propagation, sale, and transport of Australian Red Claw crayfish, provided applicants meet the requirements to obtain an Exotic Species Permit. Retail or wholesale fish dealers may possess live specimens of Australian Red Claw crayfish but may only sell or deliver specimens that are dead and packaged on ice or frozen.
Staff surveys of other states indicated that nine states either totally banned or have some sort of restriction on species in the family Parastacidae. Staff contacted other Gulf states and found that Florida only allows culture of Red Claws with a permit. All other states, with exception of Alabama, strongly discourage the use of Red Claw. Alabama has promoted the use of Red Claw in their Ag programs in the past, but has taken a more cautious approach.
Staff recommends that the Commission adopt the proposed rule amendments, suggested modifications, and text clarifications to the harmful or potentially harmful exotic fish, shellfish, and aquatic plants rules. And I'll be happy to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Joedy?
MR. GRAY: Yes.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: We do have someone signed up to testify on this, so if you'll stand by
MR. GRAY: Okay.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: for any questions that that may generate, I'd appreciate it. Noel Coward, Texas Aquaponics Association. Is that right?
MR. COWARD: Yes, sir. Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission, my name is Noel Coward. I am the president of Texas Aquaponics, a Texas limited liability corporation in Maypearl, Ellis County, Texas. I'm also the president of the Texas Red Claw Association.
I've been studying and raising a species of parastacis crayfish for seven years, particularly the Australian Red Claw or Cherax quadricarinatus and I'm informed that I've only three minutes, so here we go.
I represent all the Red Claw crayfish farmers in Texas. Red claw have been farmed and sold for food and to aquarium stores since 1991 in Texas. I learned of your proposed rule-making and I called the Department of Wildlife. I talked to Bill Robinson who told me they were just tired of answering the phone and so they were going to try to create a white list for exotic species.
As a seventh generation Texan, it sounds like a lazy bureaucracy to me. Yesterday, your employee Raenell Silcox allowed me to view the responses the Department has taken. They have decided to assume the minority position to prove their proposal. I have called several farmers and primary researchers in Australia last night. They've never heard of the person who sent the main derogatory e-mail and could only determine it was some flake on the internet that was dispersing spurious data, of which there are many.
I hope we don't want to base Texas regulations on unverified sources on the internet. Your Commission has ignored the majority of responses and at least one grower in Victoria, Texas, has been growing them for the pet industry market for three years and the corporate giant PetCo, who I have been in PetCos and seen Australian Red Claws. The Commission has ignored also the reports from Texas A&M and who Governor Perry purports to support whose studies on Australian Red Claw were funded by taxpayer money. By doing so, they have placed the research of Texas A&M as fraudulent and fake. I'm sure the Texas A&M Gazette will be interested to know that.
This rule-making action will destroy the possible multimillion-dollar industry that is growing in Texas. They've never harmed anything in the 15 years of their existence here and cannot even create a feral population in their own Australian country after 20 years.
I believe this rule-making was not afforded any right of due process before being stripped of its right of commerce. I talked to our attorney last night and if passage happens as currently proposed, we will be filing a lawsuit in federal court regards to the lack of due process. My small company alone has gone from $120 a month to $3,000 plus a month in sales in the first five months of 2006 and I've spent $10,000 in importation costs and fees this year alone.
We have $20,000 in orders to pet stores that are on hold right now because of this legislation. We want Cherax quadricarinatus exempted from this rule-making, as they are in Alabama and other southern states. That leaves you 163 other species that are prohibited. If there are any questions and I'm out of time.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, sir. Bill, I have a couple questions or two for you and, Joedy, I guess explain again, Joedy, the threat from the Australian Red Claw.
MR. GRAY: Well, anytime you have any kind of exotic species that's accidentally introduced, you have a threat. I mean we're looking at the problems from hydrilla, from Salvinia, from tilapia, and you never know how long it's going to take for adverse effects to happen. Tilapia took ten years before they started showing up in our waters.
It's not our purpose to put anybody out of business. We just our mandate is to protect the environment so we have to err on the side of caution whenever we do that.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: To protect the native habitat.
MR. GRAY: Right. And you look, you know, Maryland now with the snakehead issue up there and that's
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: That's a very good example of the snakehead.
But, Phil, do you want to add something?
MR. DUROCHER: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, for the record, I'm Phil Durocher, the director of Inland Fisheries. This whole harmful/potentially harmful list is a lot of concern to us. The way the law reads now if something is not on that list if we don't put it on that list it's legal in Texas.
So where that puts us in most cases is behind the curve. By the time we find out something is in Texas and it can be a detriment to the environment or some of our native species that horse is usually out of the barn. And we look at what's happened with species like hydrilla and Giant Salvinia and the way the world is now with the mass transportation, people moving around we're getting a lot of different things in Texas.
It would be preferable to us that we had a list of accepted species in Texas and anybody who wished to bring in something that wasn't on that list would have to provide us with a risk analysis. But the way it is now we have to prove that it's a detriment and we will try to err on the conservative side because we've got too many cases of things that were supposedly going to be great for the state and didn't turn out that way.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And those that you mentioned, those exotics that have become a had a resource impact on our native habitat have come from the pet and aquarium trade.
MR. DUROCHER: Right. Absolutely.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Not exclusively but
MR. DUROCHER: No. And they didn't mean any harm at the time.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Right.
MR. DUROCHER: But we have no way of knowing and when we find out something is here and we generally try to look at it and if it's of concern then we're going to bring it up and try to get it on that list before the industry really grows to the point where we hurt a lot of people having to put it on there.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Commissioner?
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: I'm for you on being cautious on exotics. I know I've always argued for more opportunity, but on this one, I think the externalities of exotics going loose far exceed the benefits of being liberal. So appreciate you all being conservative of this one.
MR. DUROCHER: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Commissioner Parker?
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Phil, did somebody mention tilapia a moment ago? Joedy, what did you say about it?
MR. GRAY: I just said that sometimes
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Come on up, Joedy.
MR. GRAY: Joedy Gray, Inland Fisheries. I just said that sometimes it takes a while when they were introduced ten years before they start showing up. So say some of these Red Claw get loose, it may be ten years before we start seeing negative impacts. That's the point I was making.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Tilapia is not on the list?
MR. GRAY: Yes. It is.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: It is.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Tilapia?
MR. GRAY: Yes. They are on the list. They can have them with a permit from the Department and that is what we were proposing here was to allow the continued culture of Red Claw with an Exotic Species Permit. And you can do that with tilapia certain species of tilapia.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Okay.
MR. DUROCHER: Mr. Parker, there are numerous species of tilapia. Some of them are more cold tolerant than others. The ones that are the most cold tolerant are on this list.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you. Any other questions for Phil or Joedy?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: On this issue, do I have a motion?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: So move.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Motion by Commissioner Holt. Second by Commissioner Montgomery. All in favor, aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion passes. Item 16, Briefing Item on the Inland Fish Hatchery Program. Todd? I'm sorry. Did I miss one? Item 15.
MR. BEVILL: Thought I was 16.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: That's all right.
Glad to see your enthusiasm there, Vernon.
MR. ENGELING: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, my name is Todd Engeling and I serve as the Chief of Hatcheries for Inland Fisheries Division. Today, I will provide you with an update of the Department's Freshwater Hatchery Program, including current production levels and status of recent facilities improvements and anticipated future projects.
Since the late 1800s, hatchery production has been used as a tool in fisheries management and today more than 425 state fish hatcheries and 68 federal fish hatcheries are employed by conservation agencies throughout the United States to assist fishery managers and support fish populations in restoring threatened and endangered species.
Since 1925, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department or its predecessor agency has operated 17 freshwater fish hatcheries in support of fisheries management objectives across the state. Today, we operate five facilities: the Dundee Fish Hatchery located near Wichita Falls, the Possum Kingdom Fish Hatchery located near Mineral Wells, the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens, the Jasper Fish Hatchery in Jasper, and the A.E. Wood Fish Hatchery in San Marcos.
The Inland Fisheries Hatchery Program has a proud history of production and excellence. To date, more than 779 million fish of 40 different species or subspecies have been stocked in public water, including 7 million adult-size fish, 327 million fingerling-size fish, and 445 million fry.
Currently, ten species are routinely cultured in our facilities or acquired from commercial producers and stocked each year including the large-mouthed bass, striped bass, and hybrid striped bass, channel catfish, blue catfish, small-mouthed bass, saugeye, various sunfish species, walleye, rainbow trout which are acquired from a commercial producer out of Missouri and red drum which are produced in our coast facilities are acquired from a commercial producer when available.
On average, 14 to 15 million fingerlings are stocked in more than 400 water bodies in Texas each year as part of the statewide management efforts. To date in 2006, approximately 12 million fingerlings have been stocked in 370 locations. To accomplish this, hatchery staff make more than 600 stocking trips and drive over a quarter-million miles distributing fish each year in Texas throughout the state.
On average, the majority of the fish stocked are large-mouthed bass or striped bass or the hybrid striped bass which are comprised approximately 74 percent of the total fingerlings stocked annually. Also on average, demand for these two important species currently exceed production capacity by about 6- to 7 million fingerlings. This is primarily due as a result of limited production space in our hatcheries.
An essential component in meeting the production demands and maximizing hatchery operating flexibility and efficiency are continuing facility improvements. With the exception of the Texas Freshwater Fishery Center, most of the facilities that are currently in operation were constructed prior to 1950. During the mid-80s and early 90s, renovation efforts were started, starting with the A.E. Wood Fish Center in San Marcos then in the Dundee Fish Hatchery in Wichita Falls.
Of course, the Texas Freshwater Fishery Center was constructed in 1999 and most recently, renovations were accomplished at the Possum Kingdom Fish Hatchery. The Possum Kingdom Fish Hatchery was constructed in 1950 has been undergoing renovations since 2001. As part of the renovations, a total replacement of the water distribution and drain systems were accomplished. Construction of maintenance and equipment storage facilities was accomplished. Construction of intensive spawning and rearing facilities was done and also construction of administrative and laboratory and staff support building was constructed.
The A.E. Wood Fish Hatchery in San Marcos was originally constructed in 1949 and was completely renovated in 1988 and 1989. In 2005, additional repairs were made to the water intake structures on the San Marcos River, as well as total replacement of production pond liners. In 2006 scheduled for 2006, additional renovations are scheduled for the storage reservoir which is the large nine-and-a-half-acre pond which is shown in the photograph, which will receive again new pond liners and renovations of its levees.
The Dundee Fish Hatchery, which was originally constructed in 1927 and is our largest production facility currently in the state, was renovated partially renovated in 1994. Repairs that are scheduled for it in 2006 include replacement of its at least partial replacement of its pond liners.
As you are aware, a site was selected to replace the Jasper Fish Hatchery in East Texas below the Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Jasper County. Currently, design efforts on that are approximately 30 percent complete and construction is scheduled to begin sometime next summer.
Current plans to develop the site include 60 to 70 acres of production ponds, a 30,000-square-foot production building, and about 8,000 square feet of administrative and office space including staff-supported areas.
In the near future, funds generated with the Freshwater Fishing Stamp will ensure that facility repairs and improvements can be accomplished. Facility improvements will target not only scheduled maintenance and repairs but will look to incorporate technologies to address or mitigate issues associated with toxic growing algae, water allocation and conservation, and opportunities to increase facility operating flexibility and efficiencies.
Similar projects include additional improvements at the Possum Kingdom Fish Hatchery such as incorporating water treatment technologies to deal with the toxic growing algae. Also looking at opportunities to expand the facility to meet our production demands.
Also looking at the Dundee Fish Hatchery at incorporating again water treatment technologies to control the toxic growing algae. Also to construct an intensive spawning facility and to renovate the existing water supply system. Other improvements include construction at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center to develop a storage reservoir which would offer staff an opportunity to better control the water flow through the facility and grant them a little greater operating flexibility.
Also looking at expanding the health and fish genetics laboratory in San Marcos at the A.E. Wood Fish Hatchery and then also to address statewide maintenance and repair needs.
Texas lakes and rivers continue to provide a quality fishing experience for Texas anglers. For decades, hatchery stockings have played a significant role in management efforts by providing quality fish for stocking not only in large impoundments, but also in small urban impoundments.
Continued support and funding to improve and maintain hatchery facilities is vital to sustaining production levels and continued support fisheries management efforts throughout the state. And I'd be happy to take any questions.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: We have one person
signed up on this but do you know how much that bass weighed?
MR. ENGELING: Excuse me. That was one of the longest that was caught last year out of Lake Casa Blanca in Laredo.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Fourteen pounds or something.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: We have one person signed up, Will Kirkpatrick.
MR. KIRKPATRICK: My name is Will Kirkpatrick. I live on Rayburn. Yesterday, when I talked, after the meeting I was asked about the figures I had spoke with. There were some problems. The figures we had were incorrectly overestimated. The dollar value was $6 million. It was overestimated for the Jasper location and it's actually going to cost Texans about $3 million extra from what it would have at the other location. And that's what I had to say.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Thank you very much.
MR. KIRKPATRICK: You got any questions at any time, we can answer them.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Thank you. This is not an action item. Are there any questions?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Thank you very much. Item 17 Vernon?
MR. BEVILL: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission. For the record, my name is Vernon Bevill and I'm program director for Migratory Small Game and Habitat Assessment. I'd like to present to you today the late season regulation proposals for the water fowl season.
There's a couple of fairly major changes that I'll bring to your attention on this slide. The Hunter's Choice bag and the issue we began to deal with with the Light Goose Conservation Order. For the High Plain Mallard Management Unit, the season and bag limits are basically unchanged from last year except the bag has dropped from six to five that I will talk about on a Hunter's Choice. But we have 89 days available to us that we have broken out into a youth hunt, a short split, and then the longer split.
The north and south zones we're basically doing the same season set-up as we did a year ago. Seemed to work well and under these longer seasons having similar seasons within the north and south zones seem to work out okay. If we get to shorter season options, we'll have to reconsider that make-up.
For our bag limit and opportunities there, we are again under some species restrictions. Two scaup, two wood ducks, two redheads, and then under the Hunter's Choice bag, one of any other of an aggregate group hen mallard, pintail, canvasback, or mottled duck or dusky duck is what we're actually calling it. That includes mottled duck, the black duck, and Mexican light duck. All other species in the bag are five birds are allowable. We have our merganser bag this year we add one hooded merganser to that bag option. Coots similar to last year.
Let me go over Hunter's Choice with you. I briefed you on this several times. We've had some extensive feedback from sportsmen on it, but Hunter's Choice bag is an effort to try to get away from the season within a season for, particularly, pintail and canvasback. There are other species that may be coming online that don't seem to be able to handle the heavy harvest like these two species and we've been looking for an opportunity to maintain the long season for the species that don't have a problem with the heavier harvest but still protect the resource of those species that seem to be having problems. And that's basically, as you can read in this slide, the aim of the Hunter's Choice bag.
And the Hunter's Choice species, to give you a kind of a brief overview, the species up at the upper left of your slide are the species that hunters can kill five of every day. The species on the upper right are those species that are restricted to no more than two each per day. And then the group at the bottom are the species in the Hunter's Choice of which the hunter can taken any one of in a given day.
For the eastern goose zone, we are basically are similar to last year. That's the breakout for the eastern goose zone. Western goose zone the same. We came to you back in the spring with some information we had received from a public hearing sponsored by the Fish and Wildlife Service that suggested that the Light Goose Conservation Order should be ended in Texas. So we proposed that so we could get it on the public agenda for discussion among our hunters to be sure we were hearing the hunting interest correctly.
As a result, we found out that a lot of folks didn't want the Light Goose Order to be ended. So we will be taking that off the table. Sandhill crane seasons are broken out in three zones to basically the zonal seasons allow the hoopers to come through the various parts of Texas on their route to the Aransas Refuge.
We had 37 comments in support of the Hunter's Choice bag. We had 35 comments that were opposed to our proposals. Basically, most of them centered on Hunter's Choice. Some of them dealt with different issues and as you can see regarding Light Goose Conservation Order, when we put it out on the public table, we had a far greater group of people who favored a continuance of Hunter's Choice than us eliminating it. And this slide represents the recommendation that you will be acting on in a few minutes. If you have any questions, I'll be glad to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: I've got one. Can you update us just briefly on the current status of the nesting habitat in Canada for the snow geese?
MR. BEVILL: The if I remember right because we get so many reports in in a given time frame snow geese look pretty good across a good many of their nesting areas and apparently they had an early spring in some areas and so geese, in general, look good this year in general look good and many of the goose populations are well above the population management plan goals because we're still trying to get a handle on snow geese. Harvest is not going to get us there probably
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: But the extended snow goose season has not affected the populations in any way?
MR. BEVILL: The extended snow goose season probably has resulted in some impact in certain areas. We don't see as many snow geese getting to the Texas coast as we once did and so, from that standpoint, we have probably had some impact.
Up in your part of the state, we've continued to see a growth of the snow goose numbers and of course 15 years ago there were hardly any snow geese in the Panhandle. So some of the wintering population of snow geese are in different locations than they used to be.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: But the actual habitat destruction in Canada, is it
MR. BEVILL: Continues.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: It's continuing?
MR. BEVILL: It continues.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Okay.
MR. BEVILL: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Vernon. Any other questions for Vernon?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Do I have a motion?
COMMISSIONER PARKER: So move.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Move by Parker. Second by Holt. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion passes. Thank you, Vernon. Oh. I'm sorry. Ran right over my two comments. I'm sorry. Kirby Brown. Are you going to rescind your motion? Kirby's going to change your mind? He's done it before.
MR. BROWN: Kirby Brown, executive vice president of Texas Wildlife Association, and we support the staff proposal. We have a lot of support for the Hunter's Choice bag limit, to avoid the season within a season, and we continue to support the Light Goose Conservation Order because there are continued habitat impacts in the Arctic. So that's all we wanted to say. Thanks.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Kirby. Mr. Gilleland?
MR. GILLELAND: My name is Ellis Gilleland and speaking for Texas Animals, which is an animal rights organization on the Internet. I'd like to make a request the same request I made last year to cancel the dove hunting and the reason why is because the dove is the international symbol of peace and we certainly don't want to be shooting that down.
The other aspect of it is, which I don't think you've considered, is that many states do not even allow dove hunting at all, even though they do have them. And as a loyal foot soldier, I've followed my national leaders, and President Bush doesn't shoot doves. He shoots killdee and even Vice President Cheney doesn't shoot dove. He shoots lawyers.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: He's pretty good too. All right. Any other questions? Comments? I liked that. Could we get a lawyer season next time there, Vernon? Can you go to work on that? All right. Commissioner Parker?
COMMISSIONER PARKER: So move.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Move.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Second by Holmes. All in favor, aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion passes. Get to work, Vernon. You're dismissed. Go get the lawyer season started. Next up is Item 18, Oil and Gas Lease Nomination. I hope my lifetime license is applied to that.
MR. KUHLMANN: For the record, my name is Corky Kuhlmann. I'm in the Land Conservation Program for Parks and Wildlife. This is a lease nomination. The authority for leasing minerals for Texas Parks and Wildlife lands lies with the General Land Office and traditionally they have accepted the recommendations of this Board.
This is a nomination at Lockhart State Park in Caldwell County. It is for the entire park, 264 acres. It's the usual conditions. No surface occupancy, $150 make or lease minimum, 25 percent royalty, $10 a day rental, and three-year term. Staff recommendation is you pass the motion before you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Corky. It's a good piece of work. Motion?
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: So move.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Bivins.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And second by Friedkin. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion carries. Thanks, Corky. Next up, Item 19, Land Donation, Brown County. Corky, you're still up.
MR. KUHLMANN: This is a mineral and land donation at the Muse Wildlife Management Area. The Muse Estate has donated the mineral rights and any properties that they may have left at the area that weren't donated in the 1998 donation to TPWD. Staff recommends you pass the motion before you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Well, and thanks to the donor. That's very kind. Pass on our thanks there. Any motion here?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So move.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Motion by Friedkin. Second?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Second by Holmes. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion carries. Thank you very much, Corky, for getting that work done. Item 20, Action Item, Land Donation. Another land donation. Ted?
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Good afternoon, Chairman, Commissioners. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This item pertains to the acceptance of the donation of some in-holdings at Black Gap Wildlife Management Area part of our ongoing strategy to tie up as much of that country in conservation as possible.
These tracts are being acquired by the Texas Big Horn society and offered to us in order to plug some small remaining in-holdings at the wildlife management area. You've heard this. This is the second reading. We can you'll see a Commission action item here to accept these tracts. I'll be happy to answer any questions that you have about the transaction. We also have David Wentzel, the president of TBS, here. Traveled all the way out here in case you had any questions for TBS regarding what they're trying to accomplish for us in terms of big horn sheep management at the area.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Ted. David, would you like to come up and tell us what you're doing? No. Well, I want to thank you and the other Commissioners want to thank the Texas Big Horn Society for all you do. That's typical. You guys will just do the work and leave the talking to somebody else. That's a great organization of hunters and conservationists and we really appreciate this donation. Any questions for Ted? Any questions from the Commissioners for the Texas Big Horn Society?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: We do have one person signed up to testify on Item 20, so stand by, Ted. You may need to answer some questions.
Marilyn Shackelford, please.
MS. SHACKELFORD: Thank you for putting these items on the last of the list that maybe you'll remember them. I'm Marilyn Shackelford from Marathon, Texas, Brewster County, and I was born and raised in Brewster County and my family goes back seven generations there.
I've taught school in the Big Bend area for 40 years and I'm a private landowner and my husband's land borders Black Gap Game Preserve. I'm here to oppose the acceptance of the 1,380 acres of land donated by the Big Horn Sheep Association, as well as to oppose the conservation easement of the 9,470 acres, better known as the Adams Ranch now owned by CEMEX.
I am not a negative person but what I see happening concerns me greatly. The conservation easement on the 9,470 acres and is it all right if I speak to that?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Well, I think that's another
MS. SHACKELFORD: It's the next item.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes, ma'am. Why don't we just talk about the Texas Big Horn Society's donation to
MS. SHACKELFORD: All right.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: which is Item 20 and then we'll go to 21.
MS. SHACKELFORD: I had it all kind of together here. Just let me
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: That's fine. Take your time. I just think, for the record, it's important that those are two separate items on the agenda.
MS. SHACKELFORD: That's a conservation easement. Let me just get this separated.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: As I understand, Ted, this is not a donation of an easement. This is a donation of land as to Item 20. Correct?
MS. SHACKELFORD: Correct.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Correct.
MS. SHACKELFORD: Right. This is land.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: So if you would restrict your comments to the Texas Big Horn Society's donation, please.
MS. SHACKELFORD: All right. On the Texas Big Horn Association donating the 1,380 acres, we're very familiar with that property in small tracts and the last we have noticed that they have not really got that 1,380 acres intact yet. They're still contacting landowners and Mr. Wentzel can speak to that.
But when you take this acreage you've got me a little bit thrown now instead of accepting the land which is given by the Big Horn Sheep Association, we need to be more concerned with what Texas Parks and Wildlife is having to do with the Big Horn Sheep Association.
Sure they're giving it to you. They're providing the money and they're paying for the land, but who is running that land? Who's taking care of it? Who's taking care of the big horn sheep that were brought in and dumped on Black Gap? And then somebody has to take care of those sheep. That's Texas Parks and Wildlife employees that are doing that.
And not only are you paying an employee to do that or employees they're using pickups. They're using gasoline and I understand that there's a shortage of monies in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as there are in all other departments. They have to use bulldozers. They have water guzzlers they need to check. How often are those water guzzlers checked?
We, as a ranch owner, we have about 17 guzzlers on our land. We don't check those once a month, once every three months, or once every six months. We check those every single week. If water's not in them, we haul water to them if it doesn't rain.
So my concern is where is the monies coming from to take care of these big horn sheep after they're put in the program and who's paying for that? Because I know the Big Horn Sheep does buy the land. They do put the sheep on but there's a lot more cost. As a rancher, we know that. When you run cattle of any kind, somebody has to pay the price and that's what I'm concerned about. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you. Mike, could you address that issue as to the budget? Hunters and fishermen, Fund 9 that pays for that?
MR. BERGER: Well, I think the hunting licenses that people pay do pay for the operation of all our wildlife management areas, some 750,000 acres of those, and this is a large area at Black Gap, and a relatively small addition to that.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Right. In relation to the total, it's a small addition.
MR. BERGER: In relation to the total, yes.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Right. Thank you, Mike. Next up, I've got Macky Shackelford on Item 20.
MR. SHACKELFORD: My name is Macky Shackelford and me and my wife own this adjoining land to Black Gap area just like she said and I have also lived in that area all my life. And the Parks and Wildlife had just taken three sections of land that I had leased from the General Land Office for the past ten years, which didn't set too good with me because it kind of ruined my operations.
But I am against this acceptance of the 1,380 acres of land donated by the Big Horn Sheep Society mainly because the Parks and Wildlife already has more land than they can manage. I understand the reason Parks and Wildlife wants this land. It's because of the Big Horn Sheep Program. The Big Horn Sheep Program is one of the reasons for the financial problems Parks and Wildlife is in now.
The Big Horn Sheep Program today, like the one in the 1960s and '70s, is destined to fail. All the monies that has been spent in the last 45 years has been lost. I'm not bragging, but I know quite a bit about what has gone on with all the land trading, but it will take a lot more time than three minutes to explain it.
There's one thing I don't know and that is what in the world Parks and Wildlife is going to do with all the land they have acquired, not only in Brewster County but in Presidio and Culberson counties also?
Now, some of you may think I'm getting a little bent out of shape, but I think it's time someone started trying to straighten this mess out and it is a mess. That's all.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, sir.
Mike, could you tell us just very briefly the increase in numbers since the program started of big horn sheep?
MR. BERGER: Well, the program started in the back in the '60s and '70s when the big horn sheep disappeared from the Trans-Pecos and we've been on a reintroduction program and rebuilding program since then and their numbers at last count as well as I can remember well over 800 sheep.
We haven't finished our counts this year, but the numbers so far preliminarily appear to be increased again this year over previous years. So we certainly believe the Sheep Program is a very successful program and with the partnership of the Big Horn Society is doing very well.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I knew the numbers would back you up there. Thank you.
MR. BERGER: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any questions, comments on this? Ned?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: All the numbers fall in favor.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Motion?
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: So move.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Second it.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. Who's the motion? Bivins?
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Sure.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. Second, Holt. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion carries. Thank you. We'll move on, Ted, to Item 21.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, I'm still Ted Hollingsworth with the Land Conservation Program. This final item also pertains to Black Gap Wildlife Management Area. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation is holding an easement on a 9,470 acre-tract of land called the Adams Ranch. You can see in this wide view that it is a gap. It is a piece of property that was not formerly under conservation, sandwiched between the Big Bend National Park and the Black Gap Wildlife Management Area.
Here's a close-up. That area in blue is the property that comprises the Adams Ranch and on which the conservation easement is held. The request is that the conservation easement be transferred from the Foundation to Texas Parks and Wildlife so that it can be monitored and managed by staff of the wildlife management area consistent with the management of that property. And this is the motion before the Commission.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And, Ted, so this conservation easement is already in place?
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: It is already in place. Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And the decision by the landowner's already been made to enter that's already done and negotiated? We're just transferring it from the Foundation to the Department?
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir. And it was actually entered into by the previous landowner who asked the Foundation to take that because he wanted that conservation easement in place prior to selling the ranch to another party.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I see. So that decision was made by the previous landowner?
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. Very good. Thank you. We have two people signed up on Item 21, Marilyn Shackelford and Macky Shackelford. Item 21.
MS. SHACKELFORD: On the conservation easement of the 9,470 acres of land, it not only gives the owner the doctor who sold it to CEMEX and we're glad to have CEMEX in our area but the doctor who sold it asked for this easement as we know in our part of the country because we keep up with these kind of things for a huge tax break.
For those of you don't know, he bought it for $141 an acre and sold it for $317 an acre one year later and that easement gave him quite a bit of money for a tax break. And again, I feel like it puts a burden on the Black Gap employees and the Texas Parks and Wildlife.
Somebody's got to take care of that easement and it's not going to be the people that are living there. In fact, we were just hired as a contractor my son and some of the family to go down to the Adams Ranch and clean that place up. You have never seen anything like that. We shoveled bat guano for five days out of houses. It was horrible. We cleaned it up and it's in good shape now and CEMEX is getting ready to move in.
We fixed the airstrip. My husband did the airstrip. We're doing the roads going in and by the way, we do the roads from Black Gap into our ranch and we do the roads from Black Gap into the Adams Ranch because the employees just don't have the equipment or the time. And we're not complaining about that. We are glad to have the privilege to do that.
But when you talk about these easements and somebody's got to go down and make sure the easements are in place, who's going to do that? Again, Texas Parks and Wildlife is responsible for it.
I understand that you have most of these things in place before we walk in here and our voice doesn't seem to mean a whole lot, but I think if you sit back just for a little while and listen to some of the things we say we're there every day. We're there. Mr. Fitzsimmons, I know that you lived at Black Gap, I believe, for a while as a young boy and I appreciate you being on this Board because you know what we're talking about that land.
So think about some of these things. Consider us down there. We're in a very sparse area that people don't even see, don't even think about. Well, they don't Black Gap is the biggest state park area in Texas and the least visited. And that concerns us because there are many beautiful things to see down there and that park should be a place where people can come to see.
But if you put too many restraints on it, the first thing you know people will say, we can't go down there because we can't do anything. And I would really ask the Commissioners to think about this and look at these situations before you vote just because you've heard something from someone else because we are an important part of Texas and we're going to become more and more important as time goes on and you're going to see that as the population is moving out in our direction. And I can grant you it's moving in our direction.
And so please consider this and think about it and think about these easements that you put on land and who takes care of them and are they really taken care of in the correct way and how much it costs to do that. And I appreciate your time. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you. Mr. Shackelford, Macky Shackelford.
MR. SHACKELFORD: Well, the only thing I want to say about the conservation easement is I can't understand why Parks and Wildlife would want to take on a conservation easement on land that they don't even own. It's just another financial burden that you just add to your already financial burdens. And it just don't seem feasible to keep adding expenses to where you're already strapped for money. You need to look at that I think.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. Thank you. Mike, very briefly, could you explain the difference between parks and wildlife management areas? This is not a park.
MR. BERGER: Right. These are wildlife management areas. They are not parks. They are not funded with Fund 64, which is really strapped. This is funded with Fund 9 from the sales of hunting and fishing licenses.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you. Just to clear it up, there's been a lot of talk about park funding. That has nothing to do with the wildlife management areas. They have a separate dedicated account that we actually receive.
MR. BERGER: That's correct.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Maybe just quickly explain the difference between a park and a wildlife management area because I think there's a bit of confusion.
MR. BERGER: Right. I don't pretend to speak for Walton Park, but the parks are an area which are designed to attract a lot of attention to come out and use and enjoy these areas. Wildlife management areas are open to similar kinds of public use, but they are restricted because they are research and development areas. So we're not going to have the kind of intensive recreational activities on those areas that you might find on the state parks. So you would anticipate and expect a lower participation, a lower usage of those areas just because of the remoteness of the area and the less development that's on those areas.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mike.
Good explanation. Any other questions or comments on Item 21, the conservation easement donation?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Entertain a motion.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: So move.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Motion by Holmes. Second by Parker. All in favor, aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion passes and next up we need to recess to Executive Session. I would like to announce that pursuant to the requirements of Chapter 551 of the Government Code, referred to as the Open Meetings Act, an executive session will be held at this time for the purpose of personnel matters, annual evaluation of the executive director under Section 551.074 of the Texas Open Meetings Act, and then we will reconvene afterwards to adjourn the meeting.
(Whereupon, a short recess was taken.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Reconvene the Commission Meeting. Is there any further business to come before the regular Commission?
MR. COOK: No, sir. There's not.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Cook. Anything further from the Commissioners? Hearing none, our meeting is adjourned. Thank you.
(Whereupon, at 1:58 p.m., the meeting was adjourned.)
C E R T I F I C A T E
MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: August 24, 2006
I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 190, 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.