Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
March 27, 2008Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 27th day of March, 2008, 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:
- Peter M. Holt, San Antonio, Texas, Chairman
- Mark E. Bivins, Amarillo, Texas
- J. Robert Brown, El Paso, Texas (Absent)
- Ralph H. Duggins, Fort Worth, Texas
- Antonio Falcon, M.D., Rio Grande City, Texas
- T. Dan Friedkin, Houston, Texas, Vice Chairman
- Karen J. Hixon, San Antonio, Texas
- Margaret Martin, Boerne, Texas
- John D. Parker, Lufkin, Texas
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT:
- Carter P. Smith, Executive Director, and other personnel of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
|Item||Donor||Description||Detail & Purpose of Donation||*Amount|
|1||Partners of Inks Lake||Cash||Donation from previous Inks Lake friends groups||$2,302.79|
|2||Sierra Club Building Bridges to the Outdoors||Cash||Family Camp-Out Program||$3,000.00|
|3||David B Terk Foundation||Cash||Sponsorship for Wildlife EXPO||$1,000.00|
|4||US Fish & Wildlife Services||Cash||Sponsorship for Wildlife EXPO||$5,000.00|
|5||Holt Cat||Capital Property Item||Support of operations at Big Bend Ranch SP, 2006 Caterpillar bulldozer, model D5G Serial #WGB2701||$90,000.00|
|6||Golden Pass Pipeline, LLC||Other Goods||Personal Flotation Devices for use on J D Murphree WMA, 13 inflatable Personal Flotation Device collars||$1,460.68|
|7||Upper Guadalupe River Authority||Cash||Guadalupe Bass Restoration Program||$18,000.00|
|8||Bass Pro Outdoor World||Cash||Game Warden Training Center Capital Campaign||$1,383.15|
|9||Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation||Cash||Annual dues for the Southern Environmental Enforcement Network||$5,000.00|
|10||Wal-Mart (Lockhart)||Cash||General Donation||$1,000.00|
|11||Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation||Cash||Kerr - WMA - Construct New Conference Center||$925,000.00|
|12||Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation||Cash||Kerr - WMA - Construct New Conference Center||$32,850.38|
|13||City of Grapevine||Cash||Boater Education Programs||$500.00|
|14||Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation||Cash||Continuation of Urban Fishing Project - purchasing, raising and stocking catfish||$110,000.00|
|15||Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation||Cash||Funding of the State Fish Art Contest||$22,300.00|
|16||Professional Anglers Association||Cash||For observer entrance fees||$500.00|
|17||Friends of Huntsville State Park||Controlled Goods||Park Maintenance||$3,410.00|
|18||Friends of Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center||Capital Property Item||Richard M. Hart and Johnny Morris Educational Center a 14,000 sq. ft. education purposes at TFFC||$2,100,000.00|
|19||Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation||Cash||Kerr - WMA - Construct New Conference Center||$250,000.00|
|20||Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation||Cash||To Support the "Life's Better Outside" awareness campaign||$25,000.00|
|21||Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation||Cash||Sponsorship for Wildlife EXPO||$60,000.00|
|22||Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation||Cash||Sponsorship for Wildlife EXPO||$30,248.57|
|23||Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation/Texas Bass Classic Foundation||To expose kids and non-traditional users to fishing and the conservation of the Freshwater Resources upon which good fishing depends.||$117,700.00|
*Estimated value used for goods and services
|State Parks||Kenneth Moore||Park Ranger V||Blanco, TX||33 Years|
|Inland Fisheries||Michael J. Brooker||F&W Technician IV||San Marcos, TX||20 Years|
|Communications||Terry D. Erwin||Manager II||Austin, TX||20 Years|
|Coastal Fisheries||Charlene Hons||Natural Resources Spec. V||Port O’Connor, TX||20 Years|
|Wildlife||Jackie M. Poole||Program Specialist V||Austin, TX||20 Years|
|Coastal Fisheries||Michael S. Ray||Director I||Austin, TX||20 Years|
|Name/Organization, Address||Item Number||Matter of Interest|
|Scott Townson, 416 Keren Pl., Hurst, TX 76053||3 — Action — 2008-2009 Statewide Hunting & Fishing Proclamation||For — 33" restriction for Lady Bird Lake|
|Justin Wengert, 2428 Shetland Drive, Highland Village||3 — Action — 2008-2009 Statewide Hunting & Fishing Proclamation||For — Lady Bird Lake proposal|
|Chad Edwards, Carp Anglers Group, 828 Asmount Lane, Arlington, TX||3 — Action — 2008-2009 Statewide Hunting & Fishing Proclamation|
|Tim McKee, Texas Bowfishing Association, P.O. Box 1273, Georgetown, TX||3 — Action — 2008-2009 Statewide Hunting & Fishing Proclamation|
|Peggy Venable, Americans for Prosperity, 807 Brazos, #210, Austin, TX 78701||3 — Action — 2008-2009 Statewide Hunting & Fishing Proclamation||Against|
|Leonard Ranne||3 — Action — 2008-2009 Statewide Hunting & Fishing Proclamation||Bowfishing|
|Toby Gascon, Omega Protein , 251 Florida Street, Ste. 308, Baton Rouge, LA 70801||3 — Action — 2008-2009 Statewide Hunting & Fishing Proclamation||Against|
|Jack Jetton, Lonestar Bowhunter Association, 1824 Branch Hill Drive, Pearland, TX||3 — Action — 2008-2009 Statewide Hunting & Fishing Proclamation||Against — Elimination of minimum draw weight-archery|
|Tom Wheatley, Marine Fish Conservation Network, 3018 W. Kennedy Blvd., Suite B, Tampa, FL 33604||3 — Action — 2008-2009 Statewide Hunting & Fishing Proclamation||For — menhaden|
|Jason Johonnesson, 8809 Greenwood Tr., Rowlett, TX||3 — Action — 2008-2009 Statewide Hunting & Fishing Proclamation||For — Lady Bird proposal|
|Robert Griffith, 1012 #A Harwood Pl., Austin, TX||3 — Action — 2008-2009 Statewide Hunting & Fishing Proclamation||For|
|Randi Wayland, Inland Fisheries Advisory Board, 103 Hunters Branch,||3 — Action — 2008-2009 Statewide Hunting & Fishing Proclamation||Against|
|Jim Smarr, RFA Texas, Rockport, TX||3 — Action — 2008-2009 Statewide Hunting & Fishing Proclamation||Menhaden and commercial IFQ|
|Joey Park, Texas Wildlife Association and Coastal Conservation Association, P.O. Box 1206, Austin, TX||3 — Action — 2008-2009 Statewide Hunting & Fishing Proclamation|
|Page Williams, Gulf Restoration Network, 2234 Ashford Hollow Lane, Houston, TX 77077||3 — Action — 2008-2009 Statewide Hunting & Fishing Proclamation||For — menhaden cap|
|Brian Steward, 7310 Pusch Ridge Loop, Austin, TX||3 — Action — 2008-2009 Statewide Hunting & Fishing Proclamation||Against — archery draw weight|
P R O C E E D I N G S
COMMISSIONER HOLT: This meeting is called to order. Before proceeding with any business, I believe Mr. Carter Smith, and welcome for your very first official meeting, has a statement to make.
MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman, appreciate that. Just a couple things, I want to read something for the record, and then we have a little bit of housekeeping for everybody.
First, just our formal statement that a public notice of this meeting, containing all items on the proposed agenda, has been filed in the Office of the Secretary of State, as required by Chapter 551, Government Code, referred to as the Open Meetings Act. And I would like for this fact to be noted in the official record of this meeting.
Just a couple of housekeeping things. First and foremost, welcome to all of you who are here today. This is a very important part of our public input process, and so we appreciate all of you who have taken the time to join us today, particularly those of you who want to share your perspectives with the Commission.
For those of you who are new, I just want to go over a couple of housekeeping matters. First and foremost, I would ask that if everybody could silence their pagers and cell phones and PDAs —
COMMISSIONER HOLT: That's a good idea.
MR. SMITH: — and if you have a —
MR. SMITH: — thank you, Chairman for that confirmation. And if you have an extended conversation with somebody here in the audience, if you wouldn't mind just stepping out in the halls or outside to do that, we would appreciate that.
For those of you who want to speak on a particular matter, we ask that you step outside and register at the desk, fill out your name on the registration card. At the appropriate time the Chairman will call you individually and ask you to come up to the podium, state your name and your affiliation if any, in the matter to which you want to speak.
We are giving everybody three minutes to speak; we've got a simple stoplight system which I will be manning over here; green means keep talking, yellow means start winding down, and red means stop. So as you approach three minutes I'll stand up just to help, but you've got a little light there on the podium that will help you.
I would just ask in all of your comments, when addressing the Commission, to just address them as you would like to be addressed yourselves, and so if everyone would be as respectful as possible I would certainly appreciate that.
And then last but not least, if you have any written materials for the Commission, if you would provide those to either Mrs. Michelle Klaus, or Carole Hemby, to my right, and they will distribute them to the Commission on your behalf. So, thank you for coming today.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, Mr. Smith.
Next, the approval of the minutes from the previous meeting, which has already been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: So move.
COMMISSIONER HIXON: Second.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay, I've got a motion from Commissioner Martin and a second from Commissioner Hixon. I guess we need to vote, don't we? All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER HOLT: All right, it will take me a couple of times to do it.
Next is the Acceptance of Revised Donations List, which has also been distributed for — oh, excuse me. I need to back up one. We have new Commissioner here today. I'd like to introduce our new Commissioner, Ralph Duggins, from Fort Worth. He's just joined us, his first meeting was — started yesterday, so Ralph, welcome. We appreciate you coming aboard, and representing that part of the world.
A little later we're going to have a nice ceremony honoring the individual he's replacing from that part of the world, Phil Montgomery and his wife are here today. So — but Ralph, welcome to your first meeting.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Next, Acceptance of Revised Donations List, which has been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So move.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay, Friedkin.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Second.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Second from Bivins. Let me see, all in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Aye, great. Thank you. Next, we'll do service awards, and special recognition today, and I like doing that, so I will step down.
MR. SMITH: Great, thank you.
Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, I'm Carter Smith, Executive Director here at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. We have one retirement today that we want to share with you, and Mr. Chairman, this will be near and dear to your heart.
Kenneth Moore has been with us for over three decades, 33 years, at our Blanco State Park, and started out there as a park ranger, gradually worked his way up to be our lead ranger there at the park, was very instrumental in the 60th birthday celebration of the park, he's built a great friends group there, very active with local CCC volunteers as well.
His colleagues love to share a story on him, and for those of you who have spent any time working on waterlines, you'll appreciate this. After a long day fixing muddy water lines, in lieu of going home and changing, he just went straight to the river and jumped in with his uniform.
MR. SMITH: So he's always showed a great spirit, he's been with us for 33 years and he's retiring, and so we want to honor him today. So please welcome Kenneth Moore.
Kenneth, are you here?
MR. SMITH: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Congratulations.
MR. SMITH: We are now moving out of retirements and on to service awards, and our first one is Glenn Prater. Glenn has been with the Infrastructure Division for a quarter of a century and he got a great story. He started way back when as a seasonal drafter, in helping to put together construction documents for a whole host of parks around the state.
And back in the early '80s during his lunch hour, he taught himself to use the computer and all kinds of things about survey design and construction design, and just showed a lot of initiative in that regard. He ultimately has been promoted through a whole host of positions with the agency. Today, he's our section head of our Project Management and Information Systems Section.
Again, he's been with us for 25 years on our Infrastructure team and we're real proud of Glenn.
So Glenn's here with us today, so Glenn please come on up.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Congratulations. Now let's take your picture.
MR. SMITH: With our Fish and Wildlife divisions, kind of the heart of our work is often carried out by our Fish and Wildlife technicians. That's really where the rubber meets the road, and we've got a great series of technicians around the state that just do phenomenal work for us. And we're going to recognize one today, Michael Brooker.
He's been with us for 20 years, he started out down in Rockport in the — on the maintenance team there, he was very instrumental in helping to outfit a bunch of our research vessels along the Coast, I know all of you know how important that is to our fishery science.
Ended up moving to the fish hatchery, near San Marcos there, the A.E. Wood Hatchery, and he's been with us for two decades, and Michael Jack Brooker has been a great part of our team and he's here today, so we're going to honor him. So please come on up and join us.
MR. SMITH: I know you all are aware of our hunting and fishing education program. You know, over the course of its time it's touched about three-quarters of a million hunters, and helped train hundreds and hundreds of instructors across the state, actually 12,000 to be exact.
And Terry Erwin has been a big part of that team; he's been with us for 20 years, started out as a volunteer instructor, we were smart enough to ultimately hire him full time, he's been a great contributor to this effort, been very involved in the professional associations; he was asked to go over to Peru and South Africa to help start their hunter education programs; been very instrumental in a number of new programs here, created a national program that ultimately was featured on ESPN called "Dream Hunt," in which there was a drawing to help select a hunter nationally to go participate in this televised program. He takes his work very, very seriously; great member of our team and he's been with us for 20 years and we're proud to have him. So please join me in welcoming Terry.
Terry, where are you? There you are.
MR. SMITH: Down on the Coast we want to recognize Charlene Hons, and Charlene has also been with us for 20 years; started out down there as a technician doing creel surveys and interviewing anglers all up and down the Coast; ultimately she was promoted to a fisheries biologist position, primarily working in San Antonio Bay, which we all know how important ecologically that area is of the state.
She's been involved in a whole suite of kind of routine fisheries management research, but also very involved in kind of the shrimp-crab virus research, and trying to reduce bycatch. And so she's contributed a lot to our team and our efforts on the Coast, and we're proud to have her, been with us for 20 years. Charlene Hons.
So Charlene, please join us.
MR. SMITH: Commissioners, you know this is my first time to do this and so forgive any missteps, I'll tell you I misstepped pretty seriously on this next one with Jackie Poole. I've known Jackie for about 15 years, and she's been a big help to a lot of private landowners around the state that have been interested in working to conserve their rare plants.
And so when I got the list of folks that were either retiring or receiving a service award I mistakenly assumed that Jackie was retiring, and I thought, "Oh, my goodness, I've run her off, and my parents love Jackie, and you know, I'll never survive this job." And so I sent her a note asking her to please reconsider, and —
MR. SMITH: — she sent me back this very polite note that said, you know, "Mr. Smith I presume you've misunderstood, I don't think I'm retiring actually, but I'm going to receive this award." But so anyway I blew that one pretty well.
Jackie's been with us for about 20 years, and she's sort of one of the great deans of botany around the state, I assure you she has forgotten more about plants than just about anyone in the state; she's done botanical inventories on all of our natural areas, a particular area of expertise in kind of the Hill Country and West Texas; she's received many, many awards over the years from the Native Plant Society, the Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas Organization on Endangered Species, The Nature Conservancy, the Parks and Wildlife Department; she's going to talk with you all a little bit later today, about a book that she and several of her colleagues wrote on the rare plants of Texas, so you're going to get to hear a little bit more from Jackie.
And Jackie's been with us for 20 years, and I'm glad she's staying.
So Jackie, please come up.
MR. SMITH: I think all of you know Mike Ray, and Mike is our Deputy Director for our Coastal Fisheries Team, just been a great leader within this agency. He's been a very strong advocate and supporter of our Natural Leaders Program, and that's kind of our successional planning process: how we do grow our future leaders in this organization, how do we invest in them and help them to succeed.
Mike has been wholly and unequivocally supportive of that program, and really appreciate his leadership. Long history with the Department, started out down in Corpus, helped us develop our fish hatcheries down there, our Sea Center Texas, our partnership with CCA and CPL, on that center; went to work for Inland Fisheries for a period of time and was — helped, very, very instrumental in the design and construction-related matters associated with the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens. Ultimately was named our Deputy Director for our Coastal Fisheries Team. He serves as a proxy commissioner for the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission, and he was appointed by the Secretary of Commerce to serve on the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council.
As an aside, Mike has also been very involved in the Kemp's-Ridley Sea Turtle Recovery Program, and we're going to hear a little bit about that in just a few minutes, and some recognition for Mike and some of his colleagues by a group. So we're real pleased to have Mike as part of our team, and we're celebrating his 20th anniversary with us today. So please join me in congratulating Mike.
MR. SMITH: Well, we're going to keep going here, and again, another really gratifying part of this is, when other organizations and other entities recognize our colleagues for their exemplary work, and it's really a privilege to be able to help support and share in their success, and I know you would concur with that.
Every year, the Texas Public Employees Association recognizes Unsung Heroes in State Government. And it's an award given to folks behind the scenes that have helped to substantially advance the mission of their respective agency; it's a highly competitive process. I'm proud to tell you that this year we have two groups from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department that are recognized, and our first one is from our Wildlife Division: Debbie Borrego. And Debbie started out with the Agency after graduating from Sul Ross out in Alpine; she's worked her way up to a senior position in Purchasing and Contracts, she's one of those people that, behind the scenes, helps to make sure our folks in the field have the supplies and the equipment and materials they need in a timely fashion. She's got an indomitable spirit, she works very, very well with others and across divisions, she's just a consummate team player, and her colleagues in Wildlife could not think more highly of her.
And I want to ask Dr. Mike Berger from Wildlife to come share a few words about her as well.
So Mike, would you join us up here?
DR. BERGER: Thank you, Carter. Commissioners, I — when Debbie came here 16 years ago she was a diamond in the rough, and we didn't know it. But it didn't take us long to learn it, and as Carter said, she's moved her way up and taken on more responsibility, never shied away from it, and she does work well with others, and if there's a template to be emulated for employees in this agency or any agency, she exemplifies that, and we're proud to have her on our team here, and I don't know what we'd do without her. She's really good.
MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mike.
Debbie, would you come up and be formally recognized? I see you hiding in the back, you can't do that for long. (Applause.)
MR. SMITH: We've got another award winner from the Texas Public Employees Association, and that's our Coastal Fisheries Ecosystem Management Team. And I think what is particularly noteworthy about that group is that 30 years ago, they standardized all of their survey work, their techniques and their methodologies, and it's become really sort of best in class if you will in terms of how a state agency collects data, manages that data, and uses it to make informed decisions.
And so we've got a great 30-year history with our technicians and our biologists working on these projects, and they are one of the recipients this year, and I want to ask Dr. Larry McKinney, our Director for our Coastal Fisheries Team, to come up and say a few words about them, I know he's proud of them.
DR. McKINNEY: Thank you, Carter. Appreciate it.
Yes, I certainly am. I don't want to take much time, I want to get them up here. But as you know, and we've used this information in front of you many times, the power that — the data that we have to make the decisions regarding the management of fisheries, well, it takes a lot of work to do that, and it's not only our folks that are here now, but those men and women who came before them.
And what we do, we put up a little display out in the back of the hallway there, if you have a chance to take a look at it, please do. But I just wanted to give you an idea of the amount of work that goes into it, to give you a summary of all of the samples that these folks have taken to build this database over this period of time.
Basically, they have gone out and taken over 21,000 gill net sets; they've taken 48,000 bag seines in the bays; they're trawled out 47,000 samples; Gulf trawls, 21,000; they've dredged arteries 43,000 times; and they've interviewed 452,000 Texans about what they do for fishing.
That's a lot of work, but it's generated a lot of information today that's been of great value to us, and certainly we all appreciate that.
MR. SMITH: Larry, we want to ask a couple of the members of the team to come up and receive this; obviously Mike Ray we want to have come up; Ed Hegan, who works out of the Rockport office, our Ecosystem Director there on the mid-Coast; and then Lance Robinson from up in Galveston Bay area.
And so Mike and Ed and Lance, if you'll join us to accept this award. So —
MR. SMITH: We have had a long-standing partnership with the National Wild Turkey Federation. I know you all know this great organization, been working diligently around the country to ensure our different species of wild turkey are protected across the nation.
Back in 2000, they started a national award program to recognize law enforcement officers that were going well above the call of duty to help protect our wild turkey stocks and habitat, and engage on the conservation side and the law enforcement side.
And this is a highly competitive program. They have one in each state, and so for the last eight years, with all of that competition, we have had one of our Texas game wardens recognized each of those last eight years. And it's a big deal, it's a very special honor.
We are — feel very privileged to have with us today Paul Ferrell, and Paul is the regional director for the National Wild Turkey Federation, and he is going to announce the award winner. So I will keep you in suspense until then, but please join me in welcoming Paul. Paul, delighted you're here.
MR. FERRELL: Thank you. Mr. Smith, members of the Commission, it's an honor to be able to present to you the winner of the Wildlife Enforcement Officer of the Year for the National Wild Turkey Federation from the State of Texas.
Eddie Hines has been a game warden for a number of years. He started out I believe in Montgomery County, and actually I've only just met Eddie; I'm the East Texas Regional Director and Eddie has relocated, now he's in Fannin County; he's around Bonham, Texas.
A couple years ago he was honored as the Officer of the Year for Fannin County, this past spring or I think last year he was also the OGT — Operation Game Thief Officer for Region VIII. So he has a distinguished career of professionalism; he and his wife recently attended our national convention in Atlanta, and were recognized as the Texas winner of the Wildlife Officer of the Year.
Eddie is very involved in his communities, from teaching wildlife education to schools and working with other game wardens in surrounding counties and U.S. Forest Service, whether it's citing offenders of the wildlife or busting marijuana fields, he's involved very actively with all of his surrounding counties in —
He has also started a local chapter in Bonham County, around Bonham, in Fannin County, it's the Bois d'Arc Chapter. Last year it was the number one chapter in North Texas, the best new chapter of the year. He was very instrumental in forming that chapter, and served as a chairman there. They grossed around $16,000, almost $17,000 and netted out a little over $3,000, $3,200 that went to the Texas Superfund; that's money that's spent here in Texas by our volunteer state board of directors.
The nominations come to our board of directors and they confirm that nomination, and selected Eddie Hines as their candidate to the national for the Officer of the Year, and I'd like to invite Eddie up, and also recognize two very, very instrumental people in his life, that have molded him into the professional he is.
And that is his mother, Ms. Mildred Hines, and his wife, Marcia Hines. They're here with us, I'd like to ask them to stand, and Eddie to come forward, and I believe we have a plaque to present to Eddie.
MR. SMITH: I think most of you all are familiar with the recovery efforts for the Kemp's-Ridley Sea Turtle. It's one of our most imperiled sea turtles, there's just been this herculean effort led by Pat Burchfield, who heads up Brownsville Zoo, working with a whole suite of private and public sector partners to help protect nesting beaches for the Kemp's-Ridley sea turtles, involved local communities in their recovery and their conservation and protection.
And one of the great things about this partnership is that the seafood industry in particular has embraced it wholeheartedly; and they've gotten involved since 1995, been a strong partner in working with Pat, and have really put their resources and their hearts behind this program.
And they have an award this year that they want to present to some of our colleagues here at Texas Parks and Wildlife, all of whom you will know and recognize, for their work supporting it.
And so I want to ask a couple of folks to come forward and present this. Les Hodgson, I've known Les for a long time down in Brownsville; Harley Londrie, and Pat Burchfield of course, the director of the Brownsville Zoo; and then also we've got from Ocean Trust, Larry Hodgson. And Ocean Trust is a nonprofit partner; you may have heard about the restoration of the Bahia Grande, down in South Texas, one of the largest wetland restoration projects in all of the Western Hemisphere. And Ocean Trust has played a big role in that.
So we really appreciate this group coming today to present their award. So please join me in welcoming all of them.
So, Pat and company.
MR. LARRY HODGSON: We really appreciate the opportunity to make this presentation, and would like to begin by telling the Commission how much we appreciate Texas Parks and Wildlife's important role as a partner in this project.
In 2002, I think it was, Texas Parks and Wildlife was recognized with our annual Ridley Award in recognition of their efforts. But we know that, in addition to organizations, it's the individuals in those organizations or behind those organizations that make things happen.
And so we would like to recognize today four individuals from the Texas Parks and Wildlife family that we know have been deeply involved in the project, there may well be others and if we are slighting anyone, if we've overlooked anyone we're going to apologize in advance. But we know that these four individuals have played a very important role.
And I'll begin. Larry Hodgson, I'm a member of the Texas Chapter of Ocean Trust, and — which is an education and research foundation, on behalf of Ocean Trust I'm going to present this award to an individual who had to put up with us as members of the shrimp industry on a different occasion, and told us that he would be able to spend a few minutes listening to us, and wound up spending a lot more than that.
But much of our conversation dealt with the recovery of the Kemp's-Ridley Sea Turtle, and obviously Texas Parks and Wildlife's involvement in that was probably largely due to the efforts of Larry McKinney. So we'd like to recognize Larry.
MR. HODGSON: And now my brother Les will make the next presentation.
MR. LES HODGSON: Thank you, Commissioners. I'm here today representing our national marketing association that represents the states of Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.
And the individual that I'm recognizing today has been down on that beach, has found the turtles coming in, has saved a bunch of the babies, has been listed as one of our Ridley Rangers for their good work down there. And so today I'm here to present the award to Scott Boruff. Scott?
MR. LES HODGSON: Our next presenter is Harley Londrie, vice president of Texas Shrimp Association.
MR. LONDRIE: Thank you very much for allowing me to be here, and I also appreciate the involvement of Texas Parks and Wildlife in this project. The Texas Shrimp Association has been a partner in this restoration for a good many years, and we really appreciate our state government being part of that. So today I'd like to recognize Mike Ray.
MR. LONDRIE: I'm sorry, I'll also introduce Dr. Pat Burchfield.
MR. BURCHFIELD: Commissioners, it's a pleasure to be here today. I'm going to make just a brief comment or two. As was mentioned in the beginning, Kemp's-Ridley is still the most critically endangered sea turtle in the world, but we're moving in the right direction. We're within reach of recovery of this critically endangered species.
In 1985, as few as 702 turtles came to nest on the beach at Rancho Nuevo, Tamaulipas, Mexico, which is the epicenter of Kemp's-Ridley nesting in the Gulf of Mexico.
I'm here to tell you that last year at our six turtle camps in Mexico, the bi-national project of which you all are a big part, a critical part, we released 1 million hatchlings; we protected over 15,000 nests, which amounts to over 6,000 nesting turtles.
Here in the State of Texas, we had 128 Kemp's-Ridley nests in Texas, and I can remember walking Texas beaches for months and you wouldn't see a Ridley turtle. We're on the way back, but it's the fourth quarter, we're on the one-yard line, this is not the time to fumble the ball.
MR. BURCHFIELD: And I want to honor another individual who's been critical to this recovery effort, it's my pleasure to present this to Gene McCarty.
MR. SMITH: The last presentation I have this morning relates to our Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center. And I think as all of you will recall, there was a very strong public-private sector partnership that was put in place with Phil Durocher and his team, to help get that project built.
And very instrumental in that was the Friends Group. They were out there trying to raise much-needed dollars to support it, and augment the facilities that we had the funds to build, and one of those individuals, Richard Hart was the champion for that, and all of you all have been involved in fundraising, and you know you need a good champion to get over the goal line.
And through Richard's leadership with the Friends Group, they helped raise over $2 million to help build what we now call the Richard Hart and the Johnny Morris Conservation Center there, it's a great addition to that program.
As a small token of our appreciation, we want to ask Richard to come forward. We've got a signed print of the first edition of the Texas Freshwater Fishing stamp, which our anglers have used to help fund these great programs around the state. We also have the director of our Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center, who was here at the last Commission meeting, Allen Forshage, he and his team have won a number of awards over the years. So please join me in welcoming Richard and Allen. They've done a lot for this Department, so —
MR. HART: Just a few words. Under the banner of the Friends Group, there was a need at the fishery center for — to raise the level of outdoor education through a new building, which is called the Conservation Center.
It was done really through three groups; we formed a Schooling for Bass group of 50 people, upscale group of people from basically the Dallas area, to operate three major banquets and auctions in Dallas, in 2003, 2004 and 2005.
We were also able to enlist the sponsorship of Bass Pro Shop in Springfield, Missouri, to be a part of the process. Johnny Morris came to all three banquets, which was somewhat a miracle, and at the second banquet he issued a substantial, dollar-for-dollar pledge, challenge pledge, which we were able to meet and exceed, through foundations and corporation donations. All of which amounted to a 14,000-square-foot building, at a cost of about $2.2 million.
Since the building has been completed, it has exceeded our expectations. It's taken the fishery center to a new level of outdoor education with school children, school teachers, plus we have the ability to host meetings and banquets at the new building. For instance, tomorrow and Saturday, Texas A&M is sponsoring a small lake management seminar at the new building. So it is staying busy, it's doing what we expected it to do, and I would say that from my somewhat large network of fishing contacts around the country, no place but Texas has the type of volunteer cooperation and support with Texas Parks and Wildlife. We are the envy of every other state in the Union.
And I would like to particularly say that Allen Forshage, the director of the fishery center and I were in lockstep all the way to make this happen, with very strong support from Phil Durocher. So it's good evidence of how voluntary partnership works in the State of Texas. I think we can all take pride in what was accomplished. Thank you.
MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman, I think I'm going to turn it back over to you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Sure thing. I want to visit a bit about a fellow Commissioner who is leaving us, and we'll miss him, and I'm talking about Phil Montgomery, and of course his lovely wife Carol, who are behind us, and we had dinner with them last night. Phil sent me 14 pages of things to read into the record, but I've reduced them to two.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: I couldn't resist. I'm just going to talk, I will say a few things, but I just want to talk about Phil from the point of view as a human being, and Phil was here when I came aboard the Commission, and as we all know, this guy's the smartest guy on the Commission, at least from my point of view, and so I just kind of sat in awe of him, because of not only his intelligence, but his breadth and width of knowledge.
And what I really appreciate about Phil is his enthusiasm in getting involved. And so he would jump into anything that was going on in the Commission, and then take it to the next level. And I think that's really our job as Commissioners is to help staff who's out there working every day in the trenches, to then come up with a vision and then act on that vision and help the staff then work through that vision. And I think that Phil did that as well as any Commissioner, certainly that I've met.
And so I was really proud to be able to sit next to Phil and work with him, and Phil's kind of thought-processes too. Somebody was kidding him last night, I think he went to the University of Chicago, is that correct, Phil?
So anyway, somebody said that, you know, you got to be a really smart guy to go to the University of Chicago, and maybe that's where some of those ideas came from, but he certainly brought them back to Texas and he's a true Texan. And that was another thing I appreciated about Phil.
Phil's focus was always about what is best for the constituency, the people, the 22-million-plus people that live in the State of Texas. Not only now but in the future. And that's where I really loved his foresight. And so that's just kind of a personal thing for me, but I do want to talk about a few things he did, because he was so active for those, gosh for those six-plus years, I assume at this point.
And just — so I'll just name a few things here. He was on the five-member search committee that brought Bob Cook in; as you know, Bob has just retired as executive director. Another thing Phil reminded me of, he served under three chairmen. Is that correct? Four chairmen — four chairmen and you've only been here six years? That may say something in itself, I don't know.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: I better worry about that. Anyway he served under four chairmen and with three executive directors. And, because of course he was here right as Carter started. But anyway, he was very involved in the search committee that brought Bob Cook into the executive director committee; I mean, into that position.
Also, he served as chairman of Texas Parks and Wildlife Conservation Committee for most of the time that he was here, and a few things that he did get involved in, and I think — you know, I can read about them, but it's important to realize a lot of these things, he came up with the ideas, he got staff involved, and then he followed through on them. And in fact they are programs that are now in place.
The Inland Paddle Trails, for example, he championed the development and commencement of Inland Paddle Trails program. First project was the Luling Trail on the San Marcos River. There are now more projects being involved each year. We should open 10 to 12 of them in the next few years.
Our Texas Parks and Wildlife-branded products. Now, this is an idea that he came up with, and then also got us, you know, how do we then work this through Lydia's group, and the Internet, and communicating and reaching out, and the objective of this effort is to create a network and a kind of a clearinghouse.
One place to go, okay, where we have readily accessible outdoor experience is offered and branded by Texas Parks and Wildlife. So there may be something we're doing, or we're partnering with local groups. And I think it's a terrific idea, because I think one of the things we don't do as good a job as we could is putting our brand on things because our brand is — means a lot to our constituency out there.
And so this is the kind of thing that Phil did also. And last but not least, something that's close to my heart is, public hunting. He conceived of and led the initial development of a Texas Parks and Wildlife public hunting on private lands program, which we're developing as we speak, which is a voluntary market-driven program, okay, where we go out to the private landowner and try to get them involved, designed to make affordable hunting more accessible to the public. And really, I think that's a big part of what we can do working with our private landowners.
So I just wanted to give a few examples, because as I said, most importantly is, Phil Montgomery's going to be missed, from my point of view, as a human being and as a great man.
So Phil, with that, I'd like you to come up; we do have a plaque for you but also I'd like you to say a few words.
Why don't you, Carter, bring it on up.
Oh, wait, wait, wait. Where's the catfish? Where's that catfish with the arrow through it?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: I couldn't resist, Phil. Here, come on up here.
Carol, why don't you come up here also. You want to say a few words?
MR. MONTGOMERY: Sure. Well, thank you, Peter, for the nice honor and the recognition, it's much appreciated and all of you really will talk long and give a lot of speeches. But I want to — really appreciate the support the Commission's given, and to so many of you here, for so many initiatives.
It's been a real honor and a pleasure, and the opportunity of a lifetime. I hope it's six years' start on a lifetime of friendships and support of conservation; that's the way I'm looking at it. I really admire and appreciate the professionalism and dedication of this group, and it's been a real honor to work with you all. I hope I've done my job as well as you do yours, but it's been a great opportunity.
I hope you all will count on me to help in the future, at the right time in the right way, I look forward to it. And like I say, I hope it's a lifetime of friendships with all of you. Thank you very much. It's been a great honor.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: At this time, I would like to inform the audience that everyone is welcome to stay for the remainder of the meeting. However if anyone wishes to leave, now would be an appropriate time to do so. Please move away from the doorway as you're leaving so as to let everyone through.
We'll wait a second, and —
COMMISSIONER HOLT: I want to — we waited just a moment, I want to welcome the class from Texas A&M Wildlife Conservation. Is that correct?
Dr. Doug Slack? Dr. Slack, are you here? Yes, thank you for bringing your class, and we appreciate you all coming, and we'll try to move this along and not bore you too much, but sometimes it takes a bit to get through the agenda. So hopefully you'll enjoy it. But welcome. Welcome to the Texas A&M students.
Our first order of business is Item Number 1, which is approval of the agenda. Do I have a motion?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So move.
COMMISSIONER HIXON: Second.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. I have Commissioner Duggins and Commissioner Hixon. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Aye, great. Thanks.
Number 2 is an action item, selection of the new internal auditor. Mr. Gene McCarty.
MR. McCARTY: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Gene McCarty. I am Deputy Executive Director for Administration. The item before you today is the selection of a new Director of Internal Audit.
As you're aware, our director of internal audit retired on December 31st. We advertised that position on January 2nd, the advertisement closed on January 13th. We had 13 qualified applicants.
Of those 13, an interview panel of a number of people within the agency interviewed eight candidates, selected three of those candidates to move forward to a second interview, and that interview panel consisted of Chairman Holt, Commissioner Brown, and Executive Director Carter Smith.
That group selected two of those individuals to do a full, 360 background check. We called and talked to supervisors; we talked to peers; we talked to subordinates; and we talked to individuals who had been interviewed and/or audited by the prospective candidate.
At the end of that process, we submitted that information back to Commissioner Brown, Chairman Holt, and Executive Director Carter Smith for a final recommendation. And I believe Chairman Holt has a recommendation at this point.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, Gene.
Yes, we'd like to recommend Mr. Carlos Contreras, and Carlos is here. You want to wave your hand, Carlos? Yes. He has an education that's a really wonderful background, a B.B.A. in accounting management in 1982 and an M.B.A. in general business in 1992.
And what we really liked about Carlos besides he as a person, but 15 years of experience as an auditor in various agencies, and one of the areas we're definitely going to need a lot of help in, going forward, is his expertise in IT. He's concentrated on IT audits, which is a critical specialty that we really don't have internally at this point.
So he brings to the table kind of two expertises; and I think it's going to be a real addition to our organization. So I do want to recommend Carlos, is that what I do, Gene?
MR. McCARTY: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: And need motions, and —
MR. McCARTY: You need a motion.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: — all the — I guess I ought to read my deal here. Probably would help. I recommend offering the operating position at Texas Parks and Wildlife, Internal Auditor, to Carlos Contreras. Is there any discussion or any questions.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: So move.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay, a move by John Parker. Do we have a second?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Second.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Second by Dan Friedkin, all in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay, Carlos, welcome aboard. Thank you, sir. Yes.
MR. CONTRERAS: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. And thank you very much for this tremendous opportunity, and for the vote of confidence from Chairman Holt, Commissioner Brown and Mr. Smith. And I look forward to working with the Commission, and management and staff of Texas Parks and Wildlife, and continue serving the State of Texas. Thank you very much. Do you have any questions for me?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any questions for Carlos?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Carlos, thank you and we're going to be putting you to work right away, my friend.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: As you know, we're in a state audit as we speak —
MR. CONTRERAS: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: — so your help will be great. When do you think you can come aboard?
MR. CONTRERAS: 5/1, sir.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Great, wonderful. Look forward to it.
MR. CONTRERAS: Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Welcome aboard. Thank you.
MR. CONTRERAS: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay, move on to Item Number 3, which is an action item. Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation, Mr. Ken Kurzawski and Dr. Mike Berger and Mr. Robin Riechers are all going to make presentations. Ken?
MR. KURZAWSKI: Good morning, Commissioners, my name is Ken Kurzawski with the Inland Fisheries Division. And today I will go over our proposals for freshwater fishing regulations that were taken to public hearings and give you some — I'll relate some of the comments we received through that process.
First off was a proposal we had concerning Lady Bird Lake, formerly known as Town Lake here in Austin. Currently there is no regulation on that reservoir for common carp. The proposal was to put a limit to the number of large carp, those carp over 33 inches that could be retained in one day.
All the carp below 33 inches would be allowed to be harvested, but only one over 33 inches could be harvested. And our goal was to protect some of these larger carp from harvest; we don't believe there will be — minimal or low increase to the overall abundance, and our goal there is to promote carp fishing as another method of fishing in Texas, especially one that can be utilized by bank anglers and in urban areas.
Some of the comments we received on that, through mostly — and I might note that almost all of the comments we received were through our — over the Web, over the Internet, we received more comments on this one for than against. Those people expressing support for this particular proposal did so because they believed carp angling was — is a valid method for enjoying some of the fishing in Texas. Those against didn't agree with putting some sort of a regulation on an exotic species.
Next, we had a proposal on community fishing lakes. The Community Fishing Lake designation covers some of our smaller impoundments within city limits and state parks. Our proposed change there would be to limit anglers in these community fishing lakes, limiting state park lakes to two poles. We're doing this to alleviate some of the crowding concerns that we have, especially when they're stocking catfish or rainbow trout.
In those areas that have limited bank access, anglers with multiple poles can dominate those areas, and we're looking again, all those situations, to try and get as many people, give them an opportunity to catch those fish as possible. And we think this will be something that would alleviate those concerns.
Most of the comments we received were in favor of that; looking over those ones who were against, I know that some of them there was a little bit of misunderstanding about the designation, just what this would cover, so we'll have to ensure that when we publicize this or put it in the Outdoor Annual that we explain that so we won't have those problems.
Next, we had a proposal for Lake Nacogdoches, largemouth bass, currently there's a 14- to 21-inch-slot limit on that reservoir. Our proposed change is to a 16-inch maximum, which means no fish over 16 inches would be allowed to be harvested, with the following exception: I might note that in the Register item we did mistakenly note this as a minimum, so that would be a change we'll have to implement. What the exception would allow anglers to temporarily retain in a live well fish over 24 inches, anglers would need some sort of a scale to weigh those fish for possible inclusion in the ShareLunker program, which is a 13-pound minimum standard. They would be able to contact us like they do, in any other instances, and we would come and take possession of that fish.
Most of the comments were in favor of this. Some of the comments that were against were people just don't agree with some of the slot limits or additional limits for trophy bass.
On two state parks lakes, Purtis Creek State Park and Lake Raven and Huntsville State Park, we have catch-and-release regulations which add a similar exception for retaining fish and bringing them to shore, where there were weigh stations, to — temporary possession of those fish, and get a weight on them and then return them to the reservoir.
Our change there would be to use the same standard that we were doing in Nacogdoches, standardize there to 24 inches, which is more appropriate for those larger fish, and also give the anglers the opportunity to temporarily retain those and donate them to ShareLunker program. And we also would delete any references there to the lakeside weigh stations. Most of the comments there were in favor of this particular proposal.
We had a — on Lake Texoma our proposal for spotted bass, currently we have a 14-inch minimum there. Our proposal would be to remove that minimum length limit, retain the five-fish bag; this is the same as our statewide regulation, this has come about, Oklahoma is proposing a similar change to their regulations, and I believe they have approved it and it will go into effect next year, so that means we'll be able to standardize our regulations on Lake Texoma on both sides of the reservoir.
We occasionally meet on a regular basis with the Oklahoma staff to try and get those regulations the same on both sides of the reservoir, to, you know, make it easier for our anglers to observe those regulations. Most of the comments we received there were in favor of that particular proposal.
We have a few reservoirs, a handful of reservoirs around the state that we've been stocking with red drum. When we do that, we have some special regulations on those reservoirs. Two of those reservoirs, Lake Nasworthy and Colorado City we have some special regs there; there are some certain requirements that we need in the reservoirs, and we do stock red drum. One of them is some sort of heated water input from a power plant. These two particular reservoirs, the power plants are no longer in operation on a regular basis, because of that we've discontinued red drum stocking in both reservoirs, and we removed the special regulations on those reservoirs, and they'll revert back to the statewide limits, which is the limits that most people are familiar with in our coastal counties. Most of the comments we did receive there were in favor of that particular regulation.
We have a proposal, bowfishing for catfish. The proposal that was taken to public hearing was to extend the bowfishing for catfish until August 31st, another three years, 2001. And this was done to allow more input through the public hearing process. We did have a few comments at public hearings, but once again, most of these were — came over our website. We had 328 that were for it, which were, one, supporting the extension of the proposal, and about an equal number that were against that extension.
We did, at the March 4th meeting of the Freshwater Fisheries Advisory Board, they reviewed all of the current proposals, and agreed with all of the proposals as presented at public hearings except for the continuation of bowfishing for catfish. Their opposition centered on their disagreement that lethal means such as bowfishing is an acceptable method for harvest of catfish.
In summary, while the taking of catfish by bowfishing is not a resource issue at this time, staff agrees with the Freshwater Advisory Board that the use of this method for taking catfish is not compatible with the status of catfish as our second most valuable game fish, and the management of game fish populations by selective harvest, which includes the use of catch-and-release for undersized fish.
Anglers wishing to catch catfish have the opportunity to catch these fish by more legal means than any other game fish. An additional concern expressed by some sportfishing group is the precedent set by allowing the use of a lethal method for taking of a game fish.
Based on these concerns, staff would recommend against any extension of the use of bowfishing for catfish. Staff would recommend that all of the proposals be approved as presented at public hearings, with the correct designation of the length limit for largemouth bass in Lake Nacogdoches.
Those are all our proposals and comments. Do you have any questions at this time?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Mr. Chairman?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, go ahead.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: On the community fishing lakes proposal, I'm confused by the first change because you say, the definition of CFL covers impoundments of 75 acres or less, or of any size within a state park, but yet the first proposed change says, "Omit SP, State Park."
MR. KURZAWSKI: Yes, that's right.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: — Is that all state park lakes?
MR. KURZAWSKI: That would be all state park lakes wholly within the boundaries of the state park. For instance, Purtis Creek State Park is solely within the boundaries of a state park, so that lake is designated as a community fishing lake. But for this proposal, we are not including any state park lakes in that rod limit; that's being done because at most of our state park lakes we have park staff that, if there's for instance a fishing pier where someone's there monopolizing that area, the staff could talk to those people and, you know, say, Okay, you know, let other people fish here.
Most of the community urban situations we don't have that type of, you know, staff involvement.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any other questions for Ken? So what we'll do is, Ken will finish his and then Mike will come up, and then Robin, and then we can — and so ask questions individually, and then we'll have public comment. Because these three really is our biggest single agenda item. Ken, thank you.
MR. KURZAWSKI: Okay.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Mike Berger.
DR. BERGER: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, I'm Mike Berger, Director of the Wildlife Division here, to present the proposals for the wildlife portion of the Statewide.
This map shows that we've proposed adding Sherman and Hansford counties to the northern Panhandle mule deer season, and Gaines, Martin, and the eastern portion of Andrews counties to the southwest Panhandle season. These counties we believe have mule deer population sufficient to sustain a few mule deer buck harvested. Such a buck- only harvest wouldn't affect the overall population, but it would provide additional hunter opportunity in those counties.
Regarding a public comment, some folks did express some concern about poaching or trespassing, but the great majority of the comments supported the proposal, both in the northern and the southwest Panhandle.
Proof of sex requirements, under our current regulations, the proof of sex, which generally is understood to be the head, must accompany a harvested deer until it reaches its final destination or has been finally processed, unless the hunter has obtained a signed statement from the landowner or from a taxidermist.
To simplify the proof of sex requirement for deer, we propose that the Department permits that are listed here would function as proof of sex in lieu of the head or signed statements. These permits are all issued to the hunter, and all have an indication of sex on them already.
These changes should simplify hunters transporting harvested deer to their final destination. Again, a few of the commenters indicated that this might make an easier opportunity for crooks, the great majority supported this proposal as well.
Minimum draw weight for lawful archery equipment, currently we have a requirement of a 40-pound minimum peak draw weight for archery hunting of turkeys, and all game animals other than squirrels. And about 20-or-so states still retain a requirement for this heavy a draw weight, many others have shifted to either a 30-pound or a 35-pound draw weight minimum, and 11 have no draw weight minimum at all.
We believe that a reduction in the minimum draw weight would increase the opportunity for younger folks or folks of smaller stature who might have difficulty pulling a 40-pound bow.
Most commenters supported eliminating the minimum draw weight, however some did express concerns about the possibility of increasing wounding loss from a lower draw weight bow, or some recommended lowering the draw weight to 30 pounds, and others wanted to require mandatory archery education.
Our recommendation is to eliminate the minimum peak draw weight, and encourage all bowhunters to practice and become very familiar with their equipment and its capabilities, regardless of its draw weight.
And finally, I'd like to say, pursuant to the directions from the Regulations Committee yesterday, staff's recommendation that the proposals affecting quail and Panhandle pheasant seasons have been withdrawn from consideration for adoption. I'd be happy to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Hi, Mike. Quick question on the proof of sex requirements. Refresh my memory on why the Wildlife Resource document wouldn't serve as that, as well?
DR. BERGER: It would serve for that as well, I think but under all these permits they are issued, that would be a duplication —
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay.
DR. BERGER: — if we had those. But if you're —
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So basically that — you're calling — considering that as part of the MLD.
DR. BERGER: Again — yes. But if you're dividing the carcass, then the resource document comes into play then.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay. And on the minimum draw weight for archery, from the states who have eliminated it, have you heard any concerns about —
DR. BERGER: I haven't talked to all of them —
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: — accidents, wounding —
DR. BERGER: — but those I have heard from, or heard indirectly from are not having a problem with the elimination of that draw weight requirement.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay. And we spend a fair amount of time on that, with our hunter's education, don't we?
DR. BERGER: Yes.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any other questions for Mike?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay, Mike. Thank you.
MR. RIECHERS: For the record, Commissioners, my name is Robin Riechers with the Coastal Fisheries Division, and I'm here to present the coastal proposals to the Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation.
Again, our statewide proposal was to set a Total Allowable Catch for the Texas Territorial Sea, at the approximate average of a previous five-year average, 2002 to 2006, which would equate to, when we round up, to 31,500,000 pounds.
As discussed yesterday, I want to go over some of the key points that you have heard in public comment and you may hear some more about today. The first one is a question regarding the science behind the proposal.
The second one is an issue regarding Gulfwide management of this particular fishery, a possibility of limited entry in the fishery, observers in the fishery, and tracking of the quota and how we would go about that.
Again, as a reminder, we brought this proposal to you as a precautionary ecosystem-based approach, being proactive instead of reactive. We discussed with you the magnitude by the bycatch, and the characterization of the bycatch, and we also talked to you about just some of the fishing practices and how we do have a certain number of spills that occur each year with that fishery.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Robin, what do you mean by, spills? Will you explain? Sorry, I —
MR. RIECHERS: When we talked about that last time, at the last meeting, basically in the — at some points in times when they're trying to pull the nets in, they may have a snag, and they may have to release then the set, and that's called a spill on their — that's what kind of what the industry terms it. And there is some mortality associated with spills like that.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you.
MR. RIECHERS: As we talk about the science basis — I'm sorry, I went one too far, as we talk about the science basis, we brought to you yesterday a letter from 91 marine scientists and a request from the National Marine Fisheries Service. They recommended four basic principles in managing forage fish.
This letter was in response to a National Research Council committee on ecosystem effects of fishing. The report was titled, "Dynamic Changes in Marine Ecosystems, Fishing, Food Webs, and Future Options." And as I pointed out yesterday, the first two recommendations are basically just talk about the critical ecological role that forage fish play in the ecosystem.
But the second two are of utmost importance in what we're doing here today. Basically they go on to say that MSY may not be an appropriate level, target fishing level when you — in regards to forage fish. They basically suggest that a more conservative approach that accounts for that — the role those fish play in the ecosystem probably is the level we should be targeting.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: MSY?
MR. RIECHERS: I'm sorry, maximum sustainable yield. I did it yesterday too, I —
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Because I just —
MR. RIECHERS: — a little bit of jargon, there.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: — yes. Which is a normal way that you work from, in those fisheries. Right?
MR. RIECHERS: That's correct. Often on this fisheries or in the past there has been a target of MSY. In actuality, many of the targets were set today in these fisheries as somewhat less than MSY, because we don't want to go over that point; that's kind of a critical threshold point. And so we're actually looking at points that would be before that as this point in time.
When we talked last time with you about the most recent stock assessment, which was Vaughan, et al., 2006, we pointed out that the fishery now is not undergoing overfished — it's not in overfished status and it's not undergoing overfishing.
But we were probably a little remiss in that we may have made it sound a little different than some of the other conclusions that that stock assessment also brought to you. That stock assessment said the stock is below the ideal level; it said that there's increased susceptibility due to the hypoxic zone. It said that there's been a recent rise in fishing capacity. And in conclusion, it says that the rise in fishing mortality and the decrease in landings are consistent with a pattern of decreased abundance in this fishery.
We will move on to some of the other key comments. You've seen, you've heard some discussions about a Gulfwide Total Allowable Catch. And as I indicated yesterday, we certainly are in support of continuing to work with our partners, and look at Gulfwide management of this fishery, because it is prosecuted over — in the entire Gulf or over the five-state region, four-state region.
And we would, you know, one of the key components is that question about MSY, what is that appropriate catch target; what would that be set at, and how would we then determine that we stay within that.
As I indicated yesterday that even if we do that and we are going to enforce it in our state waters, we would still have to come down to probably something similar to what we're asking you to do today, which is a state allocation, so that we would then have the enforcement powers when they've caught that state allocation, we would know that and we could ask them to basically quit fishing in our waters at that point in time.
Another option we heard about was limited entry; or you may hear about, is limited entry, and we've discussed that, you've seen some of that in your comment letters. As we indicated yesterday, that would be a complementary tool to the action we're taking today. It would provide protection to the historical participants, to remain in the fishery and continue to have the catches they have at whatever the appropriate level is.
But we view that as complementary; we certainly are willing to work with the industry in that endeavor, as we've done in many of our other fisheries, and our in-shore shrimp fishery, and our crab fishery, and our other fin-fish fisheries.
Lastly, you might hear some comments about onboard observations. We certainly believe onboard observations would help us in tracking a quota if it was a census of all the vessels in Texas. We certainly — that would be more real-time tracking of a Total Allowable Catch or some sort of quota-based system. It would certainly give us the opportunity to collect more information about the bycatch, both in magnitude and in characterizing that bycatch, and again we certainly look to our partners in industry and across the Gulf to look to establish some newer databases in this regard.
Lastly, when it comes to tracking the Total Allowable Catch, we would want to use the current reporting mechanism that is in place with the industry today, which is the Captain Daily Fishing Reports. They turn those reports in to National Marine Fishery Service every Friday during the season at this point in time, and we would be working with National Marine Fishery Service to get those reports from them or directly from industry, whichever works best.
And that's how we would anticipate tracking this. As they reach near points in the quota at 75 percent, 80 percent, 90 percent, we would be sending them a letter notifying them where they are in the quota tracking, and we believe that would allow us to basically — they would be able to slow their practices as we reach that point.
The other thing we would do in protection of that quota and making sure that there is some accounting for, if they're already out on the water, and they're in the process of fishing that next week and there was some sort of overage, we would recommend, as you all forwarded yesterday, the proposal that would allow for a 10 percent overage and underage of the TAC to be rolled.
If they caught over the TAC in a particular year, that would be taken off the TAC the next year. If they were under the TAC by up to 10 percent, that could be added to the TAC in the next year, Total Allowable Catch in the next year. And that rollover provision only would apply to the subsequent year.
In addition to those kind of key issues, just overall in support of the proposal we had 2,788 comments; in opposition to the proposal we had 278 comments.
As we indicated yesterday, staff recommended and you forwarded to the full Commission, changes to the published proposal that would amend it to apply only to the purse seine fishery, as was the original intent; it would include the rollover provision of the Total Allowable Catch that could be carried over to the next year and that would be equal to 10 percent; and it would provide provisions for tracking — and we will basically state that it would be the Captain's Daily Fishing Report or other reporting requirements specified by the Department in case something did occur with the CFDRs that we weren't able to obtain them in a timely fashion; we would then have the ability to ask for another reporting requirement.
With that, I'd be happy to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any questions for Robin before we go to public comment?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: No questions? Okay.
Robin, thank you.
MR. BORUFF: Mr. Chairman, for the record my name is Scott Boruff. I'm the Deputy Executive Director of Operations. The staff would respectfully recommend to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission that you adopt the amendments as referenced on the slide that's on the screen right now, concerning the Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation, with the changes as just described necessary to the proposed texts; those have been published in the Texas Register as of February 28th, 2008.
The staff also recommends that the proposed amendments that you see concerning the extension of the pheasant season, the extension of the quail season, and the taking of catfish by archery equipment be withdrawn, and therefore not adopted. I'd be glad to answer any questions or have the experts back up here to do so.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Does everybody understand what we're doing? Okay — relative to our discussions yesterday? Good.
We'll now go to public comment.
Scott, thank you.
Excuse me, any questions for Scott?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay, we'll now go to public comment. What I will do is call the first individual up, and I'll call the second name so that the second individual can be ready to come up. We have quite a few comments on Item 3, so — and but please feel free to speak, you have three minutes. Carter has his — you still have that handy-dandy light over there as the prop cook used to call it? Handy-dandy light?
The first individual I'm going to call up is Scott Townson. And on deck, Justin Wengert. And if I mispronounce, I apologize. Scott?
MR. TOWNSON: Well, ladies and gentlemen of the Commission. I come today thanking you for the opportunity to support the future of sport fishing for trophy carp here in Texas.
I wish to state my support for regulation change to Lady Bird Lake, allowing only one carp over 33 inches to be taken per day. Lady Bird Lake is a very special fishery that needs protection. Carp fishing here in Austin is quickly becoming world-renowned. It's a big fish location, and I believe that a gem like this should be recognized as such, and treated as such.
I encourage you to vote for this very positive change, and take this step to ensure that this fishery remains a trophy carp water. No doubt you'll hear today from people who tell you that carp are detrimental. They'll submit technical data, biological studies done on very special waters, with very special, specific issues.
They'll submit Canadian depth mark studies, Minnesota depth mark studies, Australian silty river studies, but please listen closely. These studies are all done on waters that are very, very different from our own Highland reservoirs.
I can wholeheartedly agree that carp are not suited for every body of water in the country. However, I can tell you that these carp have existed in these waters since at least 1885, after a four-year carp stocking program from the Barton Springs State Fish Hatchery.
They have developed in a balanced ecosystem, with checks and balances inherently in place to manage populations.
The facts are that the Highland reservoirs and city ponds are stocked with carp; we do not have water clarity issues, we do not have problems with aquatic vegetation dying off to disturb sediment. Quite the contrary, we have an overabundance of aquatic vegetation, and white amur being stocked in select locations to help control it.
Amazing that such claims are not substantiated. We as carp anglers promote fishing through kids' fish-ins. We teach the great availability of the superior sport fish, and the skills needed to engage it. We believe that the future of Texas license sales depends on developing fishermen from the urban masses.
What excites a sport fisherman more than easy access, challenging battles, great size and awesome pictures. In my opinion, nothing. We held the Austin Team Championship Carp Tournament on Lady Bird Lake here in Austin just last weekend: the media interviewers, the spectators watching in awe as these grand fish were caught.
The interest shown by the kids as they learn, carp fishing is a very good thing to Austin. Let's protect its future. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, Scott. Thank you very much.
Justin Wengert, please. And next up, Chad Edwards.
MR. WENGERT: Thank you, Commissioners. My name is Justin Wengert. I'm not here representing any particular group. I am a founding member of a website called txfishes.com. We consider ourselves multi-species anglers. so as an angler who likes to fish for every fish in the water, I'm here to support the Lady Bird Lake presentation — I'm sorry, proposal.
It's important to note, I think, that the Parks and Wildlife Department here in Texas has always been at the forefront of protecting trophy fish and trophy fisheries, throughout Texas. We have the ShareLunker program for largemouth bass; we've had SPLASH at the Texas Freshwater Fishery Center; we have bag limits on catfish that are designed to promote the growth of trophy catfish.
Adopting this regulation would simply be adding another trophy fish to that. Carp fishing in the United States has been seeing extreme growth over the last few years, especially here in Texas. As you may or may not know, carp is one of the most popular freshwater sport fish around the world, especially all across Europe. It's catching on here, in fact whereas a few years ago you wouldn't ever even hear anyone talking about it, Field and Stream magazine is actually just publishing in their most recent issue an extensive article all about carp fishing here in America.
We have anglers that come from all over Europe, all around the world specifically to fish Lady Bird Lake. Now, it's true we have carp throughout the state. But Lady Bird Lake is something a little bit different; there's something about the growth curve for the carp there, whereas the water remains a constant temperature, there is not a lot of spawning ground so the fish do not have any chance to over-populate; there's a good predator base that eats a lot of the fry of the fish that do manage to spawn.
There's not a very big population of carp in this lake; but the fish that are in there tend to reach trophy size, we're talking 30-, 40-, 50-pound fish. In fact, a few years ago an angler won $250,000 for breaking the state record, and that same angler had actually beaten that record previously with an even larger, 46-pound fish but chose not to register it at the time.
And as Scott said, there's a bit of opposition to this from some bowfishing groups, especially. I think it's also important to note that this regulation really has nothing to do with bowfishing. It's an across-the-board restriction. It — basically all it says is that, you can harvest as many fish under 33 inches as you want, all day long.
All they ask is that you only harvest one fish over 33 inches, per day. That has to do with trotlining, that has to do with rod and reel, angling, it has to do with bowfishing, any method of harvest at all.
Lady Bird is not really a very good bowfishing lake anyway, so you can only fish — bowfish it for a few hours, so — that's not a very good argument against it. It's certainly — carp have certainly not harmed the lake, as Scott said, they've been there for over 100 years, and have long since become naturalized, just like a lake like Lake Fork, or a lake like say, Lake Austin, which is crystal-clear water, lots and lots of hydrilla, to the point where as he said, they have to stock white amur, but a huge population of healthy carp there, and — thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you. Thank you.
Chad Edwards, and next up, Tim McKee.
MR. EDWARDS: Commissioners, thank you for the opportunity to speak. I'm a phobic public speaker with a sore throat; please bear with me.
MR. EDWARDS: My name is Chad Edwards, I'm the current state chair with Carp Angler's Group. I'm also a member of the Lone Star Carp Brigade, and I'm a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department certified angling instructor.
As the state chair for the Carp Angler's group, I am in charge of hosting the annual Austin Teen Championship, the tournament they just mentioned, and the tournament actually Scott just won, this last weekend.
This year was the seventh annual Austin Teen Championship. Over the course of the history of the tournament, we've had years where we've had up to 48 teens participating. Teens have come from different countries; they've come from France, this year we had two teens from Canada; we've had teams traveling from England and even Romania, just to fish for carp at Lady Bird Lake.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: I'll be darned.
MR. EDWARDS: Carp as a general rule, I do not believe that carp need a general blanket protection. Lady Bird Lake, as Justin said, is very special, in that it offers a special angling opportunity only for those trophy fish, and that's what we're angling for in the protection.
The — also working with the Parks and Wildlife Department, I work with Cedar Hills State Park where we host an annual Kid's Carp Event. While we've had that event four years running, we've had up to 200 kids, many of them catching their first fish, a common carp, three to five pounds; a lot of times they're bigger than anything their folks have caught, and it's really a special time.
The — but Lady Bird Lake is also one of the urban fisheries, another one of the focuses with Parks and Wildlife Department and the Inland Fisheries Department, in that we're developing urban fisheries. It's a lake downtown, very easily accessible to many different anglers, not just carp anglers but folks — other anglers all around.
The common carp in Town Lake — or in Lady Bird Lake do offer a special opportunity for urban anglers. Again,
we — there are folks that will be speaking against the issue, but keep in mind, the Parks and Wildlife Department considers common carp a naturalized species, not a nuisance species, and that they — this month, in March, they added common carp to the Big Fish Award.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is honoring and aiming to help anglers be recognized for big, common carp, and that's what we should keep in mind during our — during consideration of this proposal. Thank you. I appreciate your consideration of this proposal.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Great, thank you.
Tim McKee? And then Peggy Venable up next.
MR. McKEE: Good morning, everyone. My name's Tim McKee, I'm Director of the Texas Bowfishing Association. In regards to the bowfishing for catfish issue, we totally agree that more data does need to be gathered on the subject. So an extension would be in hand, I believe.
As far as the carp issue goes on Lady Bird Lake, last November I distributed to the Commission a binder containing a lot of data and facts from biologists and so forth, all over the world. Yesterday in fact I also distributed some additional information.
I contacted the DNR of many states, and asked them a simple question. Can you tell me if more and bigger common carp in your public waters is beneficial? And of course, the overwhelming majority of the answer was no, basically.
It's a — I see no reason why Texas should be protecting an invasive, destructive, unwanted fish. I'm all for these anglers catching these carp; I think we should promote that. But bottom line is, we don't want them back in the water. I don't believe in this catch and release for the common carp.
I had also yesterday distributed photographs, aerial photographs of other bodies of water, because there's not that many that were taken, but it's just a prime example of water quality that, where there is carp and where there is not carp.
Since water quality is affected, I don't know if LCRA, the City of Austin or Bastrop would be interested, but possibly more time needs to be taken to gather data on that subject.
Our membership has grown over the last couple of years, probably doubled, there's been a tremendous increase in bowfishing, and I'm hoping that the catfish issue has had a lot to do with that; we've seen a tremendous increase with the children and even getting ladies involved.
And — like my wife, she always thought that fishing was nothing more than a jerk at one end waiting for a jerk at the other.
MR. McKEE: But now she's even getting involved in the sport.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, that's pretty good. I like that.
MR. McKEE: But we would like to see the extension of the catfish issue, and reject the carp issue in Lady Bird Lake, nobody's removing these carp from the lake; there's no reason to have this; it's a very destructive fish, and it's a problem not only for Texas but worldwide, and needs to be considered. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, Tim.
Peggy Venable up, and Leonard Ranne, stand by.
MS. VENABLE: Good morning, Commissioners. My name is Peggy Venable. I want to thank you for the good work that you do. I am here — I'm State Director of Americans for Prosperity, we're a grassroots citizen organization, we believe in good government, and I also headed a program called Take Pride in America under the U.S. Department of Interior back during the Reagan Administration.
I understand and appreciate regulations and the need to protect natural resources. I have concern about one of the proposed regulations regarding the menhaden fish. I have two reasons for opposing this regulation. First, everything that I've been able to read and to find shows that there is absolutely no problem with the current stock, and there's no good science behind any kind of a proposal to regulate.
And even in the presentation that I attended in Waco, the Commission itself had, in their slide, that the fish stock was healthy. Some of what I've heard today is new information; perhaps I would call this regulation in search of a reason. But my second reason for opposing this, and opposing this strongly, is because of who is behind it.
The individual who has been advocating this regulation I think merits no credibility with this esteemed body. No one can minimize the role that this Dr. Bruce Franklin has played in promoting this whole regulatory scheme.
I obtained all the Commission files regarding this regulation through a public information request, and found, and I've got it with me, that his name and his work was over almost half of it.
I am personally offended by this individual's anti-American activities, I will refer you to the book which I think each of you have now received, and we'll just refer to several of the references that have been made on this professor from Time magazine, from a number of newspapers and also in this David Horowitz book, The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in the U.S.
This professor is a Stanford University co-founder of the Bay Area Revolutionary Organization as a Maoist vanguard. He embraced the ideals of armed struggle in the hopes of establishing a dictatorship in the proletariat in the United States.
I will tell you, while many of my friends, and your perhaps friends and family, have been serving in the military in our country, this individual, as reported in this book, a San Francisco Examiner reporter who interviewed Professor Franklin summarized his agenda as Dr. Franklin described it to him.
"Encouraging young men to fight the draft [during the Viet Nam war], go to Viet Nam and shoot your commanding officer; become an airplane mechanic and learn to sabotage planes."
This professor was fired from his tenured position; that's not easy to get done. And I think he merits absolutely no credibility with this body, though he has certainly pushed hard for this regulation.
In closing, I will simply say that I hope common sense and sound science, and American patriotism prevail. We don't need to hand this self-proclaimed Communist any kind of a Texas win. I hope you will reject any further regulation of this fish. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, Peggy. I'll make one comment as a Viet Nam veteran who served in Viet Nam, I can assure you, I didn't base any of my decisions on that book, never read the book, never looked at the book. I based my decisions on Texas Parks and Wildlife biology and Larry McKinney's recommendations. Thank you.
MS. VENABLE: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Next up, Leonard — oh, excuse me, and on standby, Toby Gascon, I think I'm pronouncing that right.
MR. RANNE: Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, Commissioners. I appreciate the opportunity of being here. My name is Leonard Ranne, I'm Executive Director of Texas Black Bass Unlimited. I'm also on the staff of Texas Freshwater Advisory Board.
We come supporting the recommendations of the staff of Texas Parks and Wildlife Inland Fishery; the proposals they put forth here, as usual have been constructive programs that's help build our fishery to where it is today.
We oppose the catfish and the main reason there, and I appreciate the fact that you all removed them from the deal. The basic problem here, if I may give you a bad illustration, would be, when you're fishing with a hook and line, you have to learn something about the fish, how to present your lure or your bait; you have to know their spawning, their migration patterns. Once you catch this fish it has a chance to break a hook, break the line, tangle into brush and get off.
And if you're successful, fighting to the surface and reach down and get him by the gills, he's flouncing and jumping around as you take the hook out, he can get free to get back into the water.
But the important thing, when he has that fish in his hands, he can make a decision how important that fish is to our environment. If he keeps it, what would it be worth to him, or if he puts it back in the lake, will this fish reproduce? Will other people be able to catch it?
We're talking about management. And that's why we support the Department Ed management programs. I may add real quickly, I know the fishermen had supported the Department in their whole program in the '20s when we started a game fish management program, and that's why it's so important to us.
To illustrate, the last time they raised fishing license, they raised it $10 a person, and the fisherman asked for, and was granted, a $5 stamp. Now, that stamp would generate roughly, some $50, I mean, $60-plus million, to build and maintain our hatchery system. We must at all times protect our game species of fish and wildlife.
At the same time, we're doing a lot of work with young kids, bringing them into fishing, there is a need for us to take the time and make sure they understand not only the thrill of catching that fish, but the thrill of releasing it back in our fishery. Thank you, gentlemen.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, Leonard.
Toby Gascon, I think I'm pronouncing that correctly, and Jack Jetton up — or on standby, sorry.
MR. GASCON: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. Thank you for the opportunity to address you today. For the record, my name is Toby Gascon. I do represent Omega Protein, and as well, over 4,000 men, women and children whose livelihood depend on a healthy and well-managed menhaden resource.
Omega Protein, just as background for you, is the nation's largest manufacturer of heart-healthy fish meal and fish oil contained in Omega-3 fatty acids for human consumption and other uses. Many of you may know us by, prior to 1998, we were known as Zapata Corporation, then became Omega Protein.
I want to come here today to make it clear to you that we appreciate and respect the environment in which we work, and we will always do our part in protecting the environment and its inhabitants.
Our main goal is to be a good corporate citizen. And I think we have demonstrated this through 50 years of fishing in Texas waters and the voluntary measures we have adopted as company policy, which go above and beyond Texas law. When you start talking about enforcement, we are very stringent with these voluntary things that we put in place. We encourage Texas Parks and Wildlife Department police to let us know if any of our captains break these rules. First offense, you get one week unpaid suspension; second offense, immediate termination. We do not mess around with that.
And that is above what Texas law requires, because we believe that we're taking a resource, and we need to be a good corporate citizen as well — going back.
This whole proposal has been presented to you as a status quo, that it's going to be an average over five years, that it's not going to hurt the fishery, we'll still be able to continue to fish at levels that we have.
Mathematically, when you start working with averages, you know that's an incorrect statement. I went back and applied this TAC retroactively to 1990; we would have exceeded the total TAC 71 percent of the time, with an average of 23 million pounds over.
So we are taking a huge bite out of this fishery, and this would be a major reduction. We're factoring in five years here from '02 to '06, that saw unprecedented hurricanes. It's also had our plants wiped out, and things like that.
I also want to address and complete misinformation that I think has been provided to the Commission. Oftentimes people are afraid of what they don't understand. I heard Mr. Riechers, respectfully, earlier mention that the fisheries don't need to be managed by MSY. Fortunately, menhaden aren't managed by MSY. They haven't been for some time. They're managed by established biological benchmarks, which is spawn stock biomass, fecundity, and also fishing mortality. MSY has not been used in managing Gulf fisheries for three years now, or even more than that.
He also mentioned a recent rise in fishing capacity; that's simply not correct. And he also referenced Doug Vaughan's 2007 report on increased fishing mortality. Doug Vaughan also made a caveat on that, that the increased fishing mortality was probably due to the lower effort, due to the hurricanes and the plants not operating for a year and a half. I imagine Dr. Vaughan would not appreciate his report being used in such a way.
I already went into the MSY and the derived biological benchmarks. Also yesterday it was stated that Magnuson-Stevens does call for a precautionary management approach and an ecosystem-based management approach. Ecosystem based management lacks a substantive definition up until this day.
Magnuson-Stevens Act does not call for a precautionary approach. I'm aware of that, I did federal fisheries for Congress for three years, and I helped craft parts of Magnuson-Stevens. So I do know what's in there, and I do know what's in there according to ecosystem management, and it's simply not as it was presented to you.
And also, Magnuson is not going to require a Gulfwide cap for menhaden within the next couple years. Magnuson applies to fisheries governed under federal fisheries management plans, menhaden's not governed under federal fishery management plans.
MR. SMITH: Toby — excuse me for the interruption, I'm sorry. Your time is up.
Chairman, if you'd like for him to continue —
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, go ahead. I want to hear — go ahead, Toby. If — he'll give you a couple more minutes.
MR. GASCON: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Sure.
MR. GASCON: I'll be brief. Limited entry was also spoke about. And just like a TAC, limited entry falls under in fisheries management as a category known as catch controls. Catch controls can include seasons, gear restrictions, and overall capacity control.
Limited entry does exactly that, in a much cleaner way. You have a set season in law, you have a set amount of boat licenses that you give out, those boats have a certain amount of days to fish; they can only catch so many fish in those days.
Furthermore, we reduce our fishing efforts by 32 percent voluntarily by not fishing on weekends, and not fishing three days around the holidays in Texas. So when you start talking about reduction, that's it. We think limited entry is much smoother, because there's no enforcement issues there.
You set out, that way you'll put out licenses out that's available; ten licenses will be applied for; and that's the effort that you have, according to a season that's set, which is already set in Code.
Fish spills were also mentioned. We have had fish spills; we reported nine fish spills in Texas waters over the last ten years. Just to put this in perspective for you, over that same time period, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has reported 30,000 fish kills, and that — or fish, many of them menhaden, dying because of hypoxic zones, because of overcrowding in bays and estuaries when they chase these other fish into there, the oxygen level becomes low, they boil up and they die, they wash all over the beaches.
So we're comparing nine fish spills which do happen, unfortunately, accidentally. We do everything we can to mitigate that, to 30,000 killed, which we need to look at cleaning up water quality, I believe.
The last thing I want to mention is bycatch. Texas Parks and Wildlife extrapolated data saying 1,600 redfish and 31,000 sharks were killed annually by the menhaden fishery. Well, somebody must have forgot to move a decimal point, because when you apply the mathematics to the study that was done, it comes out to actually be more like 16 redfish, and 939 sharks in Texas waters. And that has probably been even reduced more by the voluntary measures we've put in place by putting hose cages and shark guards on our boats.
And that's pretty much it. I ask myself, not being a fishery scientist, just someone involved in fisheries policy and management, I asked a former NMFS scientist and a U.N. fisheries expert to address these issues, which he produced about a 25-page paper to specifically address the issues brought up by the Department.
Unfortunately yesterday you were given the first page of that report; I'm not sure why. But I encourage you to read that report and look into the science behind this. Again, we've been in this state for a long time, we've been cooperative, as best we can. If we haven't been we want to know because we want to correct it. And we just want to move forward in a cooperative way.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Good. Thank you, Toby. I appreciate the comments. Any questions for Toby?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: And I'd made comments in the last meeting, Omega has been a good corporate citizen, a good corporate partner. I think — on the Commission side I'll speak for myself only is that, I just — I look at it right not as a kind of a preserve and protect situation. But at the same time, I've asked Larry McKinney and Robin to work closely with you guys, going forward.
And in considering ways that we can work together, okay, to try to determine where is the appropriate way, where we both need to be. Where we're able to continue to enhance the fishery, keep it commercially viable, but also as a forage fish, that it is still strong enough to support all the other fisheries that it does support does.
So that's kind of — I'm just telling you my position.
MR. GASCON: That's correct. And that's the position of the company, and that's what we'd like to look at —
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes. So I do appreciate you taking the time, and I want to make sure everybody understands that, no, we feel that Omega does do a good job, and has don a lot of things voluntarily. So I appreciate you taking the time today. Okay?
MR. GASCON: Thank you. Just — understand, we're just worried about arbitrary TACs, in the present —
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. Thank you, Toby.
MR. GASCON: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Jack Jetton up, and Tom Wheatley on standby.
MR. JETTON: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. My name is Jack Jetton, I'm the president of the Lone Star Bowhunter Association, I'm a hunter ed area chief, and I'm a Master bowhunter education instructor in the State of Texas.
I want to thank you for hearing my comments on the elimination of the current minimum draw weight as it pertains to bowhunting. First, I would like to applaud Parks and Wildlife's desires to expand opportunities for Texas hunters; and we at the LSBA support those desires.
In the archery community it is well known that modern archery equipment is much more efficient than the equipment was when the Department and bowhunters determined the current requirements for bowhunting.
However, we would like for the Commission to consider delaying the vote on this action until adequate testing on current equipment has taken place, in order to determine a proper minimum draw weight, which will ensure ethical, humane harvests of our game animals.
The LSBA supports a reduction in the minimum draw weight, if that reduction is based on reliable data. But we have concerns with the total elimination of the minimum, as proposed.
As you're aware, the Pittman-Robertson Act allows for taxing hunting and fishing equipment to fund outdoor conservation and education activities. Bows with less than a 30-pound draw weight are not considered hunting equipment under this Act, and therefore not taxed. In the absence of a minimal requirements on bowhunters such as mandatory bowhunter education or a minimum draw weight, we will end up with hunters in the field, ill-prepared and ill-equipped to ethically harvest game.
Imagine if you will an unsupervised nine-year-old hunter, which if the hunter ed proposal goes as proposed would be allowed, equipped with a 15-pound draw bow with mechanical broad heads. I'm sure you will agree with me when I say that neither the LSBA nor Parks and Wildlife Department would want to increase opportunities if it meant a larger percentage of animals were wounded and not recovered.
That situation would not bode well for hunters as a whole. We're all concerned about Texas hunters; we need to base our decisions on education and sound scientific data. At this point, we believe we need more statistical evidence to determine what minimum draw weight is sufficient to sustain a moral, ethical harvest, assuming a good shot has occurred. Thus, we as stewards of our resource need to see to it that education of our young and new hunters takes place, and statistically based decisions support a reduction in the current draw weight.
Thank you for hearing my comments, I hope I've presented some ideas that will help preserve the heritage of bowhunting, and while at the same time open up those doors to increase hunting opportunities within the state. I'll take any questions you may have.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any questions?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay, Jack. Thank you.
MR. JETTON: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes. Tom Wheatley up, and I think it's Jason Johonnesson on standby.
MR. WHEATLEY: Okay. Good morning, Commissioners. My name is Tom Wheatley. I'm the Gulf of Mexico Regional Representative with the Marine Fish Conservation Network.
The network is a nationwide coalition of nearly 200 fishing, conservation and science-based associations promoting policies that achieve both healthy oceans and productive fisheries.
We have been working in coalition with a broad base of groups and businesses here in Texas to promote the action you're about to take on menhaden, and persuade you to go even further. The proposed cap on menhaden purse seine fisheries is a step in the right direction, and we support a cap based on an average of 2002 to 2006 catches. But there is ample evidence that more can be done to alleviate the problems associated with this fishery.
First, the recent stock assessment demonstrates a conservative cash level is needed; second, there is no consideration of the needs of predator species such as red drum in setting the catch level; and third, massive bycatch in this fishery is impacting marine fish populations in Texas.
A recent assessment done by Dr. Doug Vaughan on behalf of the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission states, "In the terminal year of data, stock status as indicated by population and fecundity was estimated to be between its target and limit reference points. This result indicates that stock is below an ideal level, but not alarmingly so. Likewise, fishing and mortality rate in the terminal year was estimated to be between its target and limit. Though close to the target, in addition if recent trends of decreased population, fecundity, and increased fishing mortality continues, stock would approach its limit reference points."
This finding, this scientific finding supports a decision to cap catch at its current levels, as increases in fishing mortality may well lead to overfishing and a depleted stock status.
With respect to the needs of predators, including red drum, the network urges you to push for a new and formal stock assessment process through the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission as a basis for establishing the annual catch limit for the fishery. The current assessment has not been updated with new information, and proposed targets and limits in Dr. Vaughan's assessment to not take into account the needs of the ecosystem, especially menhadens' important role as a principal forage food for fish, marine mammals and sea birds, as described on page 1 of the assessment.
A formal assessment process would provide a scientific basis for determining the amount of risk associated with current management, and would provide a transparent process for setting updated biological reference points that lower the risk of over-exploitation.
Lastly, the amount of bycatch in this fishery is unacceptable. As with the pollack fishery in Alaska, the menhaden purse fishery should be required to not only pay for but carry observers to document the amount — the amount and species composition of bycatch.
The industry claims that only 1 percent of their catch is bycatch. But that translates to more than 10 million pounds of bycatch Gulfwide. That's higher than the entire red snapper quota in the entire Gulf of Mexico. Data collected by Dr. Richard Condrey of Louisiana State University showed juvenile sharks among their bycatch. As we all know, National Marine Fishery Service is in the process of severely curtailing commercial and recreational catch of coastal sharks due to depletion.
All fishermen have the responsibility to rebuild depleted species. No industry should be given a free ride. With observer data on bycatch, Texas can work with the industry to minimize bycatch of its valuable species, including sharks and red drum.
In sum, we urge you to cap the catch, account for the needs of predators, and reduce bycatch. These provisions can lead to conservative management of this ecologically and economically important marine fish species. I've got copies of my testimony and also an editorial from the Galveston County Daily News, that I'll hand over here. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, Tom. Thank you.
Jason? Jason up next, and Robert Griffith on standby.
MR. JOHONNESSON: My name's Jason Johonnesson. I live in Rowlett, Texas, proud member of the Lone Star Carp Brigade. And I strongly support the Lady Bird proposal, I think it's a very good idea.
In January a professional fishing journalist and photographer from Denmark came to our great state to fish Lady Bird amongst other lakes he and I fished; Lady Bird and Lake Austin, Lake Fork, for three weeks straight.
We made many significant captures, including my capture of a 70-pound buffalo in Lake Austin. Peter caught many, many carp on Lady Bird. These photographs and his article have been sold to all of the major fishing magazines throughout Europe.
The first article will be released in France next month, and then even the bigger markets like the United Kingdom in months following.
During the three weeks that Peter and I fished together, we had a lot of conversations about European anglers. And it's important to note that carp is the world's number one game fish when you consider all the markets in the world. But what I pieced together from our many conversations was that Europe spends $6 billion a year fishing for carp.
Out of that $6 billion, most of that money comes from the United Kingdom, people in the United Kingdom, and they spend most of that money outside of the United Kingdom. And I can tell you that Texas is not getting its fair share of that revenue. But a thoughtful step like the Lady Bird proposal lets them know that you're thinking of them too.
All Texas residents know that Texas Parks and Wildlife does a great deal for its own residents. But this also has worldwide appeal. Whenever Texans think of fishing, black bass is instantly the first thing that comes to mind. But the European view is not black bass; they respect black bass of course, but they come here for three species; and that's small-mouth buffalo, alligator gar, and carp. That is what they come here for.
Small-mouth buffalo and alligator gar are bigger here than anywhere else in the world, and with — you know, thoughtful Acts like this, you will get more of those anglers to come here. That's all I have. Any questions?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: All right. No, thank you. Appreciate it. Robert Griffith up, and stand by, Randy Wayland.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Robert Griffith?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay, Randy Wayland. And on standby, Jim Smarr.
MS. WAYLAND: Mr. Spurs, Commissioners — Mr. Smith.
MS. WAYLAND: I'm Randy Wayland, Vice Chairman of the Inland Fisheries Advisory Board. We support wholly the regulations that have been proposed by our Inland Fisheries with the exception of extending the shooting of a game fish. What we're mostly concerned about is the future possibility of standards set for killing other fish.
I was born on a lake in another state but I got to Texas as quick as I could. My grand-dad and my dad and I fished, and a fish that's caught with a hook, can be released. And I do advocate catch and release. A fish, whether it's a game fish accidentally shot or on purpose, shot with a bow and arrow is a dead fish.
We strongly recommend that you do not extend the bowfishing for catfish, but that you do pass the other regulations that have been proposed. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you.
MS. WAYLAND: And go Spurs, go.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you. Jim Smarr up, and Joey Park on standby, please.
MR. SMARR: Good morning Chairman Holt, Commissioners.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Hello, Jim.
MR. SMARR: Mr. Smith. For the record, my name is Jim Smarr. I am here representing the Texas Recreational Fishing Alliance.
I left my prepared speech on the counter and didn't go back to get it before my cup of coffee. Tom Wheatley with Marine Fish Conservation Network has worked very closely with us, and we with them. The RFA mirrors every single remark that Tom made. As far as limited entry in this fishery, the RFA does not like limited entry programs in the fact that since there's only one company involved in this fishery, it would give them a monopoly on the fishery.
So we like the cap that Parks and Wildlife has — the TAC approach. We also would ditto the observers. We see that the rise in fish landings or the statement that the fishery may be at maximum sustained yield for Texas bothers us, and we would like to see obviously observers on you know, what the bycatch is, 415,000 organisms out of Texas is a huge problem, and the RFA would not want to see there be given any type of IFQ, ITQ quota, any type limited entry thing there.
But we totally support, this is a great first move. The East Coast, where the RFA is headquartered, has seen numerous occasions of the menhaden fishery being taken apart by commercial overfishing, and we've seen subsequent predators really damaged in that process. And we've been on the record numerous times for this. We wholeheartedly support this, and would like to see this issue put on the radar screen and given the respect that the menhaden need.
Due to the fact that they're filter feeders, I think there should be some studies done to show really what they do do for Texas; we brought this to the forefront and kind of pushed this thing really hard, really fast, and I think slowing down and getting the proper data in place I think would be a good move for Parks and Wildlife, and you are to be commended for getting to this point.
Again, in commercial fisheries we don't support any, the resource belongs to all Americans, we don't like IFQs, ITQs or anything that would give any individual group control of a fishery. Thank you, Commissioners.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, Jim.
Okay, Joey Park up, Page Williams on standby, please. MR. PARK: Good morning. Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, my name is Joey Park. I'm here today representing the Coastal Conservation Association in Texas. CCA is a marine conservation association with 52 local chapters and in excess of 50,000 members in the State of Texas alone.
CCA has historically been involved with the forage fish conservation issues, in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. There's clear scientific support, the need for proper management and conservation of forage species such as menhaden in maintaining and enhancing our marine ecosystems.
CCA Texas board of directors recently voted to support Parks and Wildlife Department staff recommendations to cap the annual commercial menhaden harvest in Texas waters based on the average of the five-year TAC that has been proposed here.
Secondly, I'd like to commend the — or thank you for removing bowhunting for game fish off of the agenda as well. CCA did not support that when it was put in place, and continues to oppose taking of game fish by archery.
And as long as I'm up here, if I can change a hat for the sake of expediency, I am also here today on behalf of the Texas Wildlife Association. Kirby Brown apologized for not being able to be here today, but we would like to take this opportunity to support the Wildlife Division's recommendations for the Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation and Recommendations.
We look forward to working with the Game Bird Advisory Group, in — on the pheasant and quail hunting issues, and thank you very much for everything you all are doing.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Joey, thanks. Any questions for Joey?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, sir. Appreciate your comments.
MR. PARK: Thank you all.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Page Williams, and Brian Steward on standby.
MS. WILLIAMS: Thank you for allowing me to speak about the proposed menhaden cap. My name is Page Williams, and I have traveled from Houston this morning to applaud Dr. McKinney's foresight, and to ask that the cap be temporary, and more conservative, while additional studies are done on menhaden stocks and bycatch.
I am on the board of the Gulf Restoration Network, and the executive committee of the Galveston Bay Foundation. I am the Upper Coastal Coordinator for Lone Star Sierra, and I am the Environmental Chair for Houston Underwater Club.
These groups have all signed a coalition letter to you, asking for these measures. The letter speaks for the groups. I now speak to you as a Texan with a strong connection to the coastal environment. I spent my childhood on the Chesapeake Bay and the coast of Delaware, and have now transferred my allegiance to Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
Almost two decades ago, I spoke to this Commission of my concern over the bycatch and sea turtle mortality in shrimp trawls. Since then I have watched as the shrimp industry, beleaguered by ever-changing regulations, soaring fuel prices, and competition from foreign imports, has responsibly welcomed observers aboard their boats, collected data for government agencies, and assisted in the research and development of turtle excluder devices and bycatch reduction devices.
Yet any bycatch from shrimp trawls is probably dwarfed by the bycatch of our country's second-largest fishery, menhaden. We all owe it to the Texas shrimpers to at least examine the menhaden bycatch. Overfishing of menhaden was a major contributor to the sad degradation of the Chesapeake Bay; there is a good reason that most Atlantic Coast states have totally banned the menhaden fishery. And I suspect that there is a good reason that the menhaden fishery resists any sort of observer program that would identify the amount and species of their bycatch.
Any fishery that can afford spotter planes as part of their fishing technique can well afford to support an observer program, and would do so if they truly felt there was nothing to hide.
Menhaden is a prey species for many marine creatures, including sharks, red drum, dolphins and sea birds. That makes them especially vulnerable to capture in the purse seines, and they are severely impacted when menhaden is overfished.
Personally, I'd rather see dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico and in Galveston Bay than in my morning fish oil capsule. Please consider our concerns and suggestions when you make your decision about this fishery. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you. Thank you, Page.
Brian Steward. And that is the last individual, I think.
MR. STEWARD: Good morning, Commissioner Holt, Vice-Chairman Friedkin, Executive Director Carter and the rest of the Commissioners here.
I'd like to thank you in advance for hearing my brief testimony, here on the reduction of the draw weights in the archery. I am going to be brief with this so we can move forward. I would like to concur with everything that Mr. Jetton had mentioned about the reduction of the draw weights.
We — well, some of you may know I'm associated with the Lone Star Bowhunters' Association on the executive council, I'm speaking on my own behalf today. I would like to quickly sum up that the efficiency of bows has drastically changed over the last 35 or so years in the archery. We all know that. We know that we could probably effectively reduce that to some degree, to enhance and expand the bowhunting opportunities in Texas, which I think is all of our goals.
Real quickly, I think that we can get to some point where we've done some testing to correlate the efficiency of bows and the ethical harvest of, let's say, white tail, because that's going to be the big one, with respect to direct pass-throughs, assuming a good shot has taken place.
With that, I would like to really mimic what he said on the bowhunter education. I think that's going to be a big part of our — anything as we move forward. My late grandfather, Brent Bergstrom was in one of the first classes of the wardens here at the Parks and Wildlife.
And he always said that education was the key for success, and I've kind of kept that in my back pocket as I've gone through life, and would really like to see us move forward and do some testing with this before we effectively do away with that minimum draw weight. Thank you, and I'll entertain any questions if you have any.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you. Any other questions or comments among the Commission?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Scott, can I get you to go ahead and read the recommended motion one more time, and let's make sure everybody's clear on what we're voting on, because there were some changes relative to the last couple of days.
MR. BORUFF: Yes, sir. The recommendation reads that the staff would recommend that Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the amendments to the sections referenced concerning the Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation, with the changes necessary to the proposed text, that were published in the Texas Register on February 22nd, 2008.
In addition, the proposed amendments relative to the extended pheasant season, the extended quail season, and the take of catfish by archery equipment would be withdrawn, and therefore not adopted by the Commission if you vote on this proposal as presented.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any questions on that. Does everybody — I just wanted to make sure there was clarity, because I had to go through it a couple times before I was quite clear.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. Do we have a motion on this item?
COMMISSIONER PARKER: So move.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: So moved by John Parker.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Second.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Second, Dan Friedkin. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. We will move on then to 3 — I mean, to Number 4. Item Number 4 is an action item, Advisory Committee Rule Amendments, Ms. Ann Bright.
MS. BRIGHT: Good morning, Commission, I'm Ann Bright, general counsel. This item is to propose some changes to the advisory committees. The Parks and Wildlife Code authorizes the Chairman to appoint advisory committees. There are currently a number of advisory committees; today I'm going to talk about just three of those, the Game Bird Advisory Committee, the Texas Quail Council and the Operation Game Thief Committee.
The proposal would repeal the Operation Game Thief Committee Advisory Committee. There are separate rules on the Operation Game Thief Committee; this won't actually eliminate the committee, just the rules — the advisory committee rules on that committee.
Also, replace the Game Bird Advisory Committee with the Migratory Game Bird Advisory Committee, and the Texas Quail Council with the Upland Game Bird Advisory Committee.
And then this is the recommended motion, would be to adopt the amendments and the repeal as published in the Texas Register. I'd be happy to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Go ahead. Yes, sir, John.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Ms. Bright?
MS. BRIGHT: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: What we're doing here today, would that preclude the Game Bird Advisory Committee, would it preclude them from asking for a specialized group? For instance, an ad hoc specialized group committee that would help the Commission and the Department with, let's say, prairie chicken, or Atwater prairie chicken, or pheasant or quail or any of the other species, both species of turkey, in the future.
MS. BRIGHT: No, Commissioner. There is a limit, a statutory limit of 24 members. The Committee could have as many subcommittees as it wanted so long as they don't exceed the 24-member limit. So that would —
COMMISSIONER PARKER: So they could have an extension dealing with a particular species, such as a pheasant, which we all know need attention up in the Panhandle, and also the Atwater on the Coastal Plain.
MS. BRIGHT: Yes, Commissioner Parker. Nothing in these rules would preclude that.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Very good.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any other questions for Ann?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Do I have a motion?
COMMISSIONER HIXON: So move.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: So moved, Commissioner Hixon.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Second.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Second, Commissioner Bivins. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, Ann.
On to Item Number 5, Nuisance Aquatic Vegetation Update. Dr. Earl Chilton please.
DR. CHILTON: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, other members of the Commission. My name is Earl Chilton. For the record I'm with Inland Fisheries Division.
What I'd like to do is provide you with a brief update of nuisance aquatic vegetation in Texas. The way I want to do it is to give you some information about the four most problematic species in Texas, and then talk about some of the hot spots around the state as well.
This first slide shows you two of the most problematic species we have. The first two, the first is giant salvinia, on your left, giant salvinia is from South America and it causes several problems. The first is its growth rate, it can double about every — once a week, in the wild, and when it grows, once it fills up a water body completely it can pile up on itself, and there have been reports of it being a meter thick on top of the water.
We have one example of its fast growth rate here in Texas. In Toledo Bend it grew from 150 acres in 2003 to over 3,000 acres in 2004. So it can significantly infest a water body.
The second, on your right, is hydrilla. We currently have it in over 100 reservoirs. Hydrilla also has a high growth rate; it can grow up to an inch a day. That top slide on the right is from Lake Austin, so you can see how thick it can get and how it can inhibit boat traffic, swimming, and skiing and so forth. And it also produces tubers that can remain dormant for up to 12 years in the sediment, so that it's very difficult to eliminate hydrilla completely.
This next slide indicates water hyacinth on your left. We currently have water hyacinth in 35 reservoirs around the state. Up until giant salvinia was discovered, water hyacinth was thought to be probably the world's worst weed, and that was because of its high growth rate. It can double population every two to three weeks.
An example of that right here in Texas is that top slide on your left is actually the main channel of the Rio Grande a few years ago, at that time water hyacinth had infested the Rio Grande below Progreso to the point where you couldn't even see water for miles.
On your right is giant reed. Basically you can find giant reed all around the state. You can find it here in Austin, but the place that it has become significantly problematic is on the Rio Grande, and I'll be talking about that a little later. One of the problems with giant reed is the fact that it grows up to 30 feet tall. It uses water in amounts that are two to three times that of native vegetation, if the information out of California is correct. And the Border Patrol has told us that illegal aliens hide in the water hyacinth — I mean, hide in the giant reed as they come across the border; it's very difficult to find people in that stuff.
Well, the first hot spot I want to talk about is Lake Conroe. I'll just give you a little bit of background information first. Lake Conroe was impounded in 1973, and by 1975, hydrilla was found in the lake. Seven years later hydrilla covered almost half the lake, almost 9,000 acres. And at that time, 270,000 grass carp were stocked in the lake between September 1981 and September 1982. Within one year, all of the vegetation was removed from the lake and we really didn't find any hydrilla again until 1996. We tried to keep it under control with herbicides alone, without stocking any more grass carp, because grass carp had gotten sort of a bad reputation as to the way they denuded the lake. But after nine years it became apparent that herbicides weren't going to work. If you look at that graph, in the middle there, about 2004, 2005, hydrilla began to take off despite our best efforts with herbicide.
And so in 2006, a management plan was drafted in cooperation with the San Jacinto River Authority, and the property owners and anglers. We stocked grass carp on an incremental basis and tried to stock just enough to put pressure on the hydrilla without completely eliminating the vegetation in the lake. Our goal was to reduce the hydrilla but to leave native vegetation in the lake if possible, because Lake Conroe had become a trophy bass fishery again, and it's — evidence of that is, we've already seen lunkers out of there.
But unfortunately, we've been stocking grass carp incrementally, up until just this past — a couple of weeks ago, and we're currently up to 55 per acre; the number that worked back in the early '80s was 30 per acre, of hydrilla. So we're not quite sure what's going on there, but we're almost at double that stocking rate of the early '80s and we're hoping that this last stocking, which brought the stocking rate up from 40 to 55, will do the trick for us.
Just by way of background information as well, this is a map of the lake, the red is where the hydrilla infestations are the worst, and those three arms at the bottom of the lake are the arms that actually contain almost all of the hydrilla in the lake, most of it, all but about 300 acres.
Unfortunately, those are also the most developed areas of the lake where all the property owners live. So that's one of the problems.
Well, a couple years ago we discovered giant salvinia in Caddo Lake. Caddo Lake, as many of you know probably is the only natural lake in Texas. That slide on your left indicates how extensively giant salvinia has colonized areas of the lake. Currently we have about 600 to 700 acres of giant salvinia in the lake, this past year, the property owners and the local authorities took it upon themselves to build a fence across the lake. The reason for that is, the giant salvinia was first discovered on the Louisiana side of the lake; it's on the border with Louisiana.
And they determined they were going to try to keep the giant salvinia on the Louisiana side of the lake.
DR. CHILTON: Parks and Wildlife didn't recommend it, but we didn't tell them not to do it either. The way they built this fence is, they built it so that it would flap up and allow giant salvinia to blow from the Texas side back into the Louisiana, but it wouldn't allow giant salvinia to come on the Texas side.
Supposedly, it didn't really work that way because water hyacinth is also on the lake; water hyacinth would blow in, get caught up, hold the fence up and then everything blew in everywhere. So now we have it on both sides of this fence.
We've been working with local authorities including the local water district; we've been working with Cypress Valley Navigation District, with the local judge, Judge Anderson, and with the federal representative, Gohmert, to try to get funding and a management plan in place. We drafted a management plan this year, it is in place, we've begun to work on this problem, but we're still looking for additional federal funds to help complete it.
On the Rio Grande, early on a few years ago we had a water hyacinth that began on the upper left hand side, you can see that is actually the main channel of the Rio Grande, all of these pictures are pictures of the main channel of the Rio Grande. We had infestations of both hydrilla and water hyacinth, they were in — the infestations were so significant that the people in the Valley, including the Rio Grande Water Master, suggested that the fact that they were clogging up the river was one of the reasons why, in 2001, 2002, time frame, the main channel of the Rio Grande actually didn't reach the Gulf; that's that lower right hand corner.
The water hyacinth takes water out of the river at a rate anywhere from two to three up to 13 times normal evapotranspiration. And hydrilla clogs it up so the water can't flow through.
We were able to take care of those issues; most of that was below McAllen. We stocked grass carp to eat the hydrilla; we used cutters and — on the right hand side to cut up the water hyacinth and we used herbicides to spray the residual water hyacinth, Mother Nature helped us out, it rained in 2003, and basically we completely eliminated water hyacinth and hydrilla from that stretch of the river for the next few years.
However today we have issues with giant reed and saltcedar. Now, giant reed, the worst infestations are between Laredo and Del Rio. Currently it looks like we probably have 60,000 to 70,000 acres of giant reed there; again it uses water at about the same rate, we believe, that saltcedar does; most everyone is familiar with the fact that saltcedar uses a lot of water. Saltcedar infestations also exist on the river between, primarily in the counties of Presidio and Hudspeth County, just to the west of Big Bend. But we've been working closely with Representative Cuellar, as well as the USDA, the Corps of Engineers, Texas A&M, to try to come up with — and various herbicide companies to try to come up with a solution to the giant reed problem.
There are actually fields, that lower left hand corner picture is a mono-specific field of giant reed that extends about a half mile on that side of the river. So you can imagine how much water it's using up.
My last estimation indicated it probably was using up the entire Rio Grande Water Master's water — annual water supply that he's supposed to keep for the year, annually. So it's using up a lot of water.
The USDA is working on three biological controls, a wasp, a scale bug, and a fly. But none of these are actually registered yet. So at the current time, Representative Cuellar, I believe, is leaning more towards trying to get funding for herbicide treatments along the river.
Director Smith asked me to mention the Texas Invasive Species Coordinating Committee. This committee was formed to help facilitate the information exchange among state agencies. The state agencies involved are TPWD, the Texas Department of Agriculture, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Texas Department of Transportation, Agri-Life Extension Service, used to be the Texas Agricultural Extension Service, the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board, Texas Forest Service and the Texas Water Development Board.
Currently I'm the chairman of that. Representative Cuellar is also interested in the Texas Invasive Species Coordinating Committee, providing an opinion and some expertise on how to deal with this issue as well.
The primary reason that this was formed, and it was formed by an MOA between all of these agencies, was really to facilitate procurement of federal funds. We learned that states that had either an Invasive Species Coordinating Committee or an Invasive Species Council were better able to get federal funds to help with these species.
So are there any questions?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Commissioner Hixon?
COMMISSIONER HIXON: I was just curious what the recommended herbicide is for giant reed, or —
DR. CHILTON: Currently you can use either a glyphosate-based herbicide, which is the active ingredient in Roundup, you may use around your house; but probably the best one is one called imazapyr. The brand name is Habitat, and there's a terrestrial form called Arsenal. But the active ingredient is imazapyr.
COMMISSIONER HIXON: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: John?
DR. CHILTON: And by the way it's the same one that's used on saltcedar.
COMMISSIONER HIXON: Oh, okay.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Doctor, question. And I would like to ask Colonel Flores — Colonel Flores are you there?
COLONEL FLORES: Yes.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: You —
COMMISSIONER HOLT: He's hiding over there.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: But I heard your voice.
COLONEL FLORES: I'm surprised I'm up here about invasive plants, but —
COMMISSIONER PARKER: You know, for the last several years I've been sitting here listening to these huge problems we have with these invasive plants. And I recall, I think it was Phil Durocher talking about how they're transferred from lake to lake on trailers, boat trailers, motors, motor props. Boats themselves. I was wondering if we have ever looked at the idea of creating a law to protect the State of Texas from the transfer of these plants via boat trailers, boaters, props, with the idea that once a person pulled onto a state highway, a U.S. highway, out of a boat launch area, and he had not taken the time to clean his boat and throw those invasive plants into some sort of a trash receptacle there at the launch, or at least just leave them on the pavement there at the boat launch, if we could have some sort of a creation of a citation for violation along those lines.
COLONEL FLORES: You know, for the record, Colonel Peter Flores, Director of Law Enforcement. Commissioner, currently there is statute and regulation regarding the possession and transport of invasive species, exotic species, we work very closely with Inland Fisheries, Coastal Fisheries, and Wildlife Division in trying to educate the public.
In fact if you recall a presentation from Director Durocher in previous Commission meetings where we talked about giant salvinia in East Texas where our wardens and inland fisheries were working with signage to educate the public as far as to not transport — currently it is a violation of law to leave — to have the possession of these plants on your boat trailers when you leave one lake and go to another.
In fact, we've intercepted boats that have come into Texas from other states, that have other invasive species in the bilges, and working with the other states and working with Inland Fisheries to correct that problem. But the statute does exist on the books to address that. It's about educating the public, and then of course repeat offenders we'll use applicable statute and regulation to prosecute when the case is applicable.
So to answer your question, they do exist right now; we are working with our partners here at Parks and Wildlife, and local government and the NGOs, to make sure that we all work together to understand the problem, the potential problems that exist with these invasive species, whether they be plants or animals or fish.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Then quite possibly maybe we need to think about utilization of a task force certain times of the year, or — so forth and so on.
COLONEL FLORES: Certainly, I'm speaking on behalf of the Law Enforcement Division, we will do everything we can, of course working in conjunction with our fisheries partners to be more aggressive along those lines, sir.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: This is actually for Mr. Chilton. You've mentioned several species and you mentioned several public lakes but I'm aware of problems on a number of private lakes in East Texas, where they've got lyngbya, and there's another one I'm drawing a blank on this morning, it's from Asia, that's apparently a huge problem. And I'm just wondering what the Department is doing or might be able to do to address that. Because what I'm told is, people have sprayed with every conceivable herbicide and it hasn't been able to dent that, and they don't know what to do about it. But I think if that gets going, from what I'm told by some of these private landowners, or lake owners over in East Texas, it could really be a huge problem.
DR. CHILTON: Well, the problem with lyngbya is that it's not a typical plant; it's a blue-green algae, and it's resistant to herbicides. And grass carp don't like to eat it, so it's very difficult to use; there's sort of a concoction, a mixture of herbicides you can try to use on it, but when that doesn't work, what we found actually helps is planting riparian vegetation along the edge of the pond; people may not like that, but we've done that in conjunction with the Franklin County Water District in Lake Cypress Springs, and when we started to plant emergent vegetation, they started to use up the nutrients that lyngbya was using to grow, and so you wind up with native vegetation along the edges of the lake, and the lyngbya died back.
So that's another strategy, when you come to a strain of this stuff that just won't take to, just won't be controlled with herbicides.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But are you all looking into ways to monitor and assess the types and — of invasive plants that exist in some of the private lakes that can, through the boats and trailers, just pulling in and out of the water, easily transfer to a public lake?
DR. CHILTON: No, it's difficult to monitor that. We can — we have signs at the boat landings on public lakes asking people to — not to introduce these things, on some of the signs it indicates what they look like, we have some signs that look like giant salvinia, hydrilla, and so forth.
So we were asking people to check their boats before they get in the lake, so that they don't put that in the lake. But if they don't pay attention to the signs, we don't have people at all the boat landings.
At — we do provide some expertise; I get calls all the time about these things, and I try to provide that expertise, and the district biologists try to answer questions as well. But we don't have the manpower to go out and manage all these private ponds, because there's just thousands of them. So we leave that to the private pond managers.
MR. DUROCHER: Commissioner, I'm Phil Durocher for the record. We've got our hands full on public water right now as we speak. This is a program that's not — we don't receive any specific funding for this program from the Legislature; it's something that we absorb, and it's a fairly expensive program just to do the monitoring that we do.
Most of the actual treatment that occurs is funded by river authorities, controlling authorities. We act as more of a consultant, help them put together a plan to make sure that they're doing things that are going to be effective, and they're not overdoing it. That's our role.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, I'm not suggesting that we take on the financial burden of fixing private lakes' problems. I'm just suggesting that if they've got the problem, it's pretty easy to transfer it to public lakes from boats or by birds, and that we ought to try to figure out a way to at least check out and see if they've got it. And I think it may be cheaper in the short — in the long run if we try to do something on the preventative end, rather than wait until things like lyngbya spread to public lakes and this other one that I'm drawing a blank on. But — and as I understand it, grass carp are very selective on what they'll eat, and if you put them in, sometimes they'll clear out one type of invasive plant, but allow another one to proliferate. I don't know that that's a great answer either.
DR. CHILTON: Well, lyngbya, and there's another one, Pithophora; they're a little unique in that. Generally when grass carp clean out a water body, they'll eat anything green. But they just, for some reason, they just don't like lyngbya. And it could be because it's got a gelatinous sheath on it, that's probably not palatable to them. But —
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Just a thought.
DR. CHILTON: Any other questions?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: [inaudible] is it working? I mean, is it — this is your Chairman, now.
DR. CHILTON: We just got it up and running. We got the last signature on the MOA just last month —
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay.
DR. CHILTON: And we had our first meeting and elected officers. The co-chairman or the vice chairman is a fellow from Agri-Life Extension Service. But we are going to form an advisory group made up of 30 individuals from industry and various groups to try to advise this coordinating committee as well.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. There may be a place for private landowners to get involved.
Yes, sir, Dan?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I know that was meant as an overview, and that was very helpful to us. But specifically with Conroe, and obviously I hear about that quite a bit as you know. What's our plan? You said we're not quite sure what to do, I know we're working with other groups on that and we're not solely responsible for that, but we've added — it looks like we've added about 500 acres in a short period of time. Any thoughts on what we're going to do to reduce that?
DR. CHILTON: Well, we think we're making headway, in Conroe. Because when the plan was first implemented in 2006, that year we had about 1,000 acres of growth and expansion of the hydrilla. This past year we only had 200 acres of expansion. So we think what we're doing is starting to work; we actually had two periods of time where we had declines, but then it popped back up in the middle of the summer.
So what we're doing is incrementally increasing the stocking rate, and trying to keep up the pressure with herbicide treatments as well. We're sure we're going to hit it, because sooner or later, if you get enough grass carp in there, they're going to eat the hydrilla. We're just — the people, some of the people have complained because they think we're going too slow, but we're trying to do it to preserve the native vegetation.
Currently, we've slowed the growth of hydrilla, but we still have 1,000 acres of native vegetation in the lake to support that trophy bass fishery.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Most recently, do some of those groups recognize some improvement?
DR. CHILTON: Excuse me?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Do some of the groups that we're working with there, recognize some recent improvement, as well.
DR. CHILTON: Well, they — we've got — it's a balancing act with those two groups. The property owners want, basically we've had to compromise with both groups and neither one is very happy. The property owners want to — really want the hydrilla out of there as soon as they can, and the anglers want to preserve the vegetation, so the anglers aren't too happy with more fish going in the lake. And the property owners want more fish, so we're walking a tightrope right now.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Yes. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: One other question. Refresh my memory, what did you say is being done at Caddo?
DR. CHILTON: We have developed a management plan and a contract with Cypress Valley Navigation District, we — our contract with the Cypress Valley Navigation District right now is for $100,000. Right now they are conducting treatments; they've gotten one of our old biologists certified, and he's heading up their program to spray the giant salvinia. We — I've also — I had given the plan to Representative Gohmert as well as Representative McCreary on the Louisiana side. The plan is — was put together from the perspective of both states.
So if we can, we're going to get some funding for Louisiana as well, if the federal congressmen can help us out some. We've also gotten a grant from the Southeast Association of — I'm sorry the Southeast Aquatic Resource Partnership, for — we think it was for $40,000 but recently I heard that it may have been for $100,000 just for Caddo alone.
And we're also looking into trying to get federal funding for Caddo; and that should come through in the next couple of weeks in which case we'd have a three-to-one match from the Fish and Wildlife Service for what the folks up at Caddo are doing.
Additionally, we're trying to donate an airboat to them, so they can have better equipment; equipment they have now is pretty old, and if they have one of our old airboats, it would really speed things up.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: What kind of timeline though before you are actually going to see some relief on that?
DR. CHILTON: We — it's hard to say, because we don't know whether we're going to get full funding or not. We are — they're going to, the Cypress Valley Navigation District is spraying the plants as fast as they can; additionally we sent some of our people up from Jasper; we have one spray crew for the state; they go up to Caddo as much as they can to help out up there.
And we're also introducing the giant salvinia weevil, which has proven successful around the world, in — but we're still waiting to see what it's going to do in Texas, but it worked in New Guinea, and Australia, and New Zealand and Africa, so we're hoping it will work here as well.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: All right. Okay, thank you.
DR. CHILTON: Sure.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: You know, I feel like I've — I feel sorry for you. You're in a tight spot, and, you know, you're in the middle of a grass fire and you don't know which way to sling your gunny sack. I'm wondering if maybe we could do a campaign of public information through our — through Ms. Saldaņa's department? You're going out to outdoor writers to put on some sort of a campaign, you know, she can — she's all the time dreaming up those catchy phrases that catch people's eye, and I'm just wondering if public information is — could also be a tool that we could use.
And I don't mean just throwing it out there; I mean, make a campaign out of it.
DR. CHILTON: Well, I'd certainly be willing to work on it with her.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Well, just — your overall group working together, maybe we can have one campaign that's part of the Texas Invasive Species Coalition.
DR. CHILTON: With the Invasive Species Coordinating Committee?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes.
DR. CHILTON: That's what we have in mind.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Good —
DR. CHILTON: We're trying, we've gotten, we think we've gotten a grant from the Water Development Board to put up a website, about this, and periodically we do — we have worked with her group to put together videos about some of these things; we just put together one last fall, about hydrilla and boat trailers and so forth.
So that's a very good idea, and we're going to try to pursue that as much as we can.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay, Lydia we need that catchy phrase.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any other questions for Earl, or comments?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Doctor, thank you very much.
DR. CHILTON: Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: We appreciate you taking the time. That was not an action item, we're on to Item 6 which is an action item, Internet Sales of Big Time Texas Hunts. Ms. Darcy Bontempo. Darcy.
MS. BONTEMPO: Good morning, Chairman and Commissioners. For the record, my name is Darcy Bontempo, I'm the marketing director for the Department and I'm here this morning to present an action item for Internet sales for Big Time Texas Hunts.
Big Time Texas Hunts has been a revenue-generating program for the Department since 1999. And last year, as an example, this program raised about $799,000, for — to support public hunting opportunities, as well as wildlife conservation.
In addition, beyond generating revenue, this program gives hunters the opportunity to win premium hunt packages. Participants pay $10 an entry, they buy an average of 4.5 entries, and for the most part they enter by mail, about 84 percent buy their entries by mail.
As you know, the Parks and Wildlife Code requires the Commission to set fees for participation in public drawings, and at the January meeting, staff did receive permission to publish a proposed rule amendment in the Texas Register to authorize the sale of entries at $9 versus $10 for — if those entries are purchased online. And also to clarify that the $5 convenience charge fee per online transaction also applies to Big Time Texas Hunts, and I also want to clarify that that fee is a fee that is the same regardless of how many entries or for that matter other licenses would be purchased during that online shopping occasion.
We did receive 29 comments on this proposed rule change and about 66 percent of those agreed with the proposed change; we did receive 10 disagree comments, and we received three opinions from those comments. One was from a hunter who was concerned that older hunters might not have access to the Internet; one was someone who had a negative experience buying online in the past, on Parks and Wildlife's website; and one was — just felt in general that the fee should be the same for all entries.
Before you is the recommended motion staff recommends, and that concludes my presentation; of course I'm happy to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any questions for Darcy?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: And thank you, Darcy. Do I have a motion?
COMMISSIONER FALCON: So move.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Second.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay, Commissioner Falcon, second, Commissioner Friedkin, all in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay, thank you Darcy.
MS. BONTEMPO: Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you very much.
Item Number 7, Amendments to the Harmful or Potentially Harmful Exotic Fish, Shellfish or Aquatic Plants Rules.
MR. DUROCHER: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, I'm Phil Durocher, the Director of Inland Fisheries. We recently published in the Texas Register some amendments to the harmful or potentially harmful exotic fish and shellfish and aquatic plant rules.
Those proposed amendments, the first one was to prohibit the possession, sale and culture of live silver and black carp in the State of Texas. Now, this was done to put us in line with the regulations that were recently put in place by the Feds. And we think these are two species that are currently not in Texas, and we'd like to keep them out.
The second one was, the second amendment that we proposed was to prohibit the possession, sale and culture of all of the live Southern Hemisphere crayfish species. Currently they are all prohibited except one species, the red claw, which can be possessed in Texas with a permit from the agency, and we'd like to remove that possibility of anybody culturing and possessing the red claw.
The third amendment that we proposed was to prohibit the taking of triploid grass carp from public waters, where stocking has been permitted by TPWD. An example of that would be Lake Conroe. These people are spending anywhere in the neighborhood of $11 to $12 per fish to put fish in Lake Conroe, and our recommendation, and we think we should protect those fish and keep them in there until they've done the job that we want them to do.
Now, we've received comments, public comments on this proposal. We had 19 in favor and three opposed, and we got one from the Cotulla Fish Hatchery which we think was the only facility in Texas that was currently culturing the red claw crawfish.
I think that you received some information from the gentleman, Mr. Lee Peters, the owner of that facility, and we've had an opportunity to review that information, and what the staff believes is that the information that we put forth in the risk analysis that we provided you at the last meeting still holds. We believe that the red claw crayfish can escape from agriculture facilities, in fact it most probably will, and if it escapes it can survive and establish feral populations in Texas. And we're mostly concerned about the negative effect it could have on some of the endemic crayfish populations we have in Texas.
So with that in mind, the staff recommends that the Commission adopt the following motion, which is to adopt the proposed amendments, as published in the February 22nd, 2008, issue of the Texas Register. I'd be glad to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So move.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any questions?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay, we have a motion from Commissioner Duggins. Second from somebody?
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Second.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Commissioner Martin. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you. Staff and invasive stuff, bigger and bigger problem.
We have a briefing item, Rare Plants of Texas from Ms. Jackie Poole. Jackie?
MS. POOLE: Good morning, Commissioners. My name is Jackie Poole and I work in the Wildlife Diversity Program in the Wildlife Division. I'm here today to introduce you to The Rare Plants of Texas, a book that was recently published by Texas A&M Press, by myself and three co-authors, Jason Singhurst, another botanist with the Wildlife Diversity Program is here today, and I'm not sure if Bill Carr, one of the other co-authors said he was going to make it but I guess he didn't.
He currently works for the Nature Conservancy, but he did work for Texas Parks and Wildlife and basically wrote the backbone of this book while he was here. Our additional co-author, Dana Price, has taken a job with the Corps of Engineers in Albuquerque.
And part of the Parks and Wildlife mission of course is to manage and conserve the natural resources of Texas for the current and future generations; and I think that one of the ways to do that, we have to know what the flora of Texas is, what the rare species within that flora are, and to be able to present it to everyone in an easily-understandable way.
Chapter 88 of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Code deals directly with endangered plants, and in that it says that Parks and Wildlife may produce a list of the endangered, threatened and protected plants of Texas, it also provides us a permitting process for the take of listed plants; there are prohibitions and regulations, such as you cannot take a listed plant from public lands for any purpose except research and educational. And also, if you wanted to sell an endangered plant from private land, you would have to have permission of the landowner and also a permit issued by the Department.
And one of the other things that it says the Parks and Wildlife Department shall do is to collect and disseminate information about native and listed plants, particularly on endangered, threatened and protected species, and disseminate pictures and other information on them. And we feel like that's what The Rare Plants of Texas book has done.
Just to give you a brief overview of the flora of Texas, there are over 5,000 species of plants in Texas; this is more than any other state in the country except California. Almost 90 percent of our flora is native, which is quite a high percentage compared to other states like Florida, where 25 percent of their flora is non-native, or Hawaii where probably 90 percent of their flora is non-native.
And there are over 300 plants in Texas that are endemic; that is, they occur nowhere else but within the State of Texas.
Of these plants, the 5,000 species, 250 of them we consider to be endangered, threatened or imperiled. Thirty of those are actually listed as endangered or threatened by both the federal government and the state government; and the other 220 we would consider imperiled or vulnerable to extinction, meaning that they have 20 or fewer populations worldwide.
In addition, there are — in all of those, those 250, are within this book. There are an additional 500 species that we would consider rare, but we need more information on them to know what their threats are, and whether or not they would be considered for imperilment. So we also have, there will be a copy sent to each of you, on The Rare Plants of Texas, and if you have any questions now or later please don't hesitate to ask. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you very much. It looks like quite a book. Did the book just come out?
MS. POOLE: The book just came out in January, late January of this year.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Wonderful. Any questions for Jackie? Comments?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Well, congratulations.
MS. POOLE: Thanks.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: And I'm glad that Carter didn't retire you.
MS. POOLE: Me too.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Appreciate you hanging around.
MS. POOLE: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, Jackie. I couldn't resist, Carter. Remember it is his first meeting; we got to pick on him a little bit.
Let me see. We have an Action Item Number 9, Hunter Education Regulations, Reduction of Minimum Age, Mr. Steve Hall.
MR. HALL: Good morning, Mr. Chairman and members of the Commission. My name is Steve Hall, Education Director. I oversee the hunter education and the boat hunter education program, as alluded to this morning.
Today we have an action item on the minimum age for certification in hunter education. And in accordance with the hunter ed statute, the Commission may establish a minimum age for certification in the program. The current minimum age is 12 years of age; that was established in 1988. We're proposing, today's recommendation is to go to nine years of age with that certification.
Hunter ed instructors already accept those under 12 years of age in the courses, we certify — excuse me, we have about 500 participants annually in the course that are under 12 years of age.
We received over 400 comments on the proposal; 85 percent in favor. There was some concern regarding safety and ethics of those under 12, and that does not change whether a youngster gains certification or not. Just like with those 12 through 16, the parent or mentor must still be actively involved in the young person's development as a safe and responsible hunter.
Mr. Jetton spoke with you this morning about a nine-year-old taking up a 15-pound bow and lobbing it, and certainly if that nine-year-old's in the hunter education class, they would understand at least, at that point, why that is an unnecessary or unethical act.
So the sense is, if we can get more kids into the process at an earlier age, from nine years of age and on, that would be beneficial actually to their learning process, but certainly that doesn't relieve the responsibility of the parent, through the age of 16 years of age, to actually oversee that process anyway. Hunter education is a tool for the parent or the mentor, and that does not change.
The recommendation before you today is for you to adopt the proposed amendment, reducing the minimum age from 12 to nine years of age as published in the February 22nd issue of the Texas Register. I'd be happy to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any questions on this?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: I like the idea about more inclusive and getting more people involved, our younger children. Yes.
MR. HALL: It gives them now an eight-year window instead of a five-year window to get the certification.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes. Do I have a motion?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So move.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Second.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay, Commissioner Friedkin, Commissioner Parker. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, sir.
We're on to Number 10, Action Item, Naming State Parks and Historic Sites, Mr. Walt Dabney.
MR. DABNEY: Chairman, Commissioners, I'm Walt Dabney, State Parks Director. I'm here to talk to you briefly about mainly a housekeeping effort to clean up our list of historic sites. First of all, to rename two of the sites to include the components of them that are both historic and recreation, and to correct the 2002 list, because we have in fact transferred a number of sites.
The first one, Goliad State Park and Historic Site certainly has a very historic component from the state history, as well as a significant recreational component. We manage them for both purposes there, and this would allow people to understand that it is both a state park and historic site.
Hueco Tanks is the same thing, we would be adding Hueco Tanks and Goliad to a list of three other parks that are this way as well. Hueco Tanks, a very significant site that you heard about yesterday, as well as a very significant recreational destination for many different activities.
We have transferred a number of sites over the years; we transferred the Nimitz Hotel in 2003 to the Texas Historical Commission; pursuant to House Bill 12 this year we have transferred 18 additional sites, so 19 sites are now operated — formerly operated by us are now operated by the Texas Historical Commission, and we've transferred the Texas State Railroad to the Texas State Railroad Authority over in Rusk-Palestine.
So with that, the recommendation would be to — for the list that you have in your book, to adopt this recommendation. I'll be available for any questions.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any questions for Walt?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay, may I have a motion?
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: So move.
COMMISSIONER HIXON: Second.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Commissioner Martin, Commissioner Hixon, all in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Great, thank you all. Appreciate it.
MR. DABNEY: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Item Number 11, Acceptance of Land Donation, Marion County, Ted Hollingsworth.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good morning, good afternoon; my name is Ted Hollingsworth I'm with the Land Conservation Program.
This item pertains to acceptance of a donation of approximately an acre of land, at the Caddo Lake Wildlife Management Area. The land that's being donated is sandwiched between the current boundary of the Wildlife Management Area and the water's edge. Staff feels like it fits the plan for management of the land and boundary at Caddo Lake Wildlife Management Area, and recommends that you adopt the following motion. I'll be happy to answer any questions you might have.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any questions, comments?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Do I have a motion?
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: So move.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Second.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay, Commissioner Bivins, Commissioner Duggins. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER HOLT: All right. Thank you, Ted.
Okay, and last but not least, Number 12, Action, Land Acquisition, Aransas County, Mr. Corky Kuhlmann.
MR. KUHLMANN: Good afternoon, Commissioners. For the record my name is Corky Kuhlmann. This item is in regards to an acquisition at the maintenance complex for the Rockport Fisheries Lab in Rockport, Texas.
We currently have a maintenance complex there we got from TxDOT. We own all but two lots of the entire block, and these two lots have been offered to us by the adjacent landowner. You can see, we own what's in yellow, red is what we propose to buy. Staff recommends you approve the motion before you. Any questions?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Is the price already in this motion? Is there a cap on the price?
MR. KUHLMANN: Sir?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Ask Corky.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Sorry, is there a cap on the amount to be paid, or is there a contract already entered into —
MR. KUHLMANN: There is, we have a contract of sale with the current owner. Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Does that price need to be part of the authority or not? I'm just — I'm asking, I don't know whether that's typically done or not.
MR. KUHLMANN: It —
COMMISSIONER HOLT: For the new Commissioner, just kind of explain how the process works.
MR. KUHLMANN: Well, just until recently, we had a sheet that was attached that would show the sales price, but that was — we've done away with that. So to my knowledge at this point it isn't part of the approval process by the Commission.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Ann, why don't you answer from a legal point of view.
MS. BRIGHT: Okay. We do have a contract for sale, and I think it's not a bad idea to go ahead and state the price on the record, you know that, Corky? Do you know the price?
MR. KUHLMANN: Yes, yes.
MS. BRIGHT: Well, just go ahead and state it on the record, I think that would be good.
MR. KUHLMANN: Okay. For the record, the contract for the price of the two lots is $135,000.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: And how do you come —
MR. KUHLMANN: That was arrived by because it was such a small purchase, for these days, we had a real estate cost analysis done on the two lots; the two lots are on Business 35 in Rockport, and unfortunately there has been very little property on Business 35 in Rockport come up in the last year and a half, so it was difficult to come up with a cost analysis. The asking price was $160,000, the realtors that I knew in Rockport that did the analysis for me said that he was justified in the $160,000 that he was asking, and that if he — he came to us first; he didn't go through a realtor; the owner came to use first and we negotiated that price down.
But from the information I got from the local real estate community, the $160,000, that would have been bought up in a heartbeat at the $160,000 once they were put on the market.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, I'm not being critical. I'm just suggesting that the amount ought to be — or a cap ought to be in the resolution.
MR. KUHLMANN: Okay.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: And I think it — my fault yesterday during executive session, we probably should have, for our new Commissioner explain kind of the process and what we — what you do Corky on a regular basis to determine fair value, et cetera, et cetera.
MR. KUHLMANN: Right.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: And of course, this is — there can be unique situations; like you said today, it sounds like you didn't have that many comps. But — and then so we'll do that next round.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay.
MR. KUHLMANN: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. Any other questions or comments for Corky?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay, a motion?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So move.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay, Commissioner Duggins.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Second.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Commissioner Friedkin. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. Thank you, Corky.
MR. KUHLMANN: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: This Commission has completed its business. I declare us adjourned.
(Whereupon, at 12:08 p.m., the meeting was adjourned.)
In official recognition hereof, we hereby affix our signatures as approved this 27th day of March 2008.
Peter M. Holt, Chairman
T. Dan Friedkin, Vice Chairman
Mark E. Bivins, Member
J. Robert Brown, Member
Ralph H. Duggins, Member
Antonio Falcon, M.D., Member
Karen J. Hixon, Member
Margaret Martin, Member
John D. Parker, Member
C E R T I F I C A T E
MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: March 27, 2008
I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 141, inclusive, are the true, accurate, and complete transcript prepared from the verbal recording made by electronic recording by Penny Bynum before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.
On the Record Reporting, Inc.
3307 Northland, Suite 315
Austin, Texas 78731