Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Nov. 7, 2007Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 7th day of November, 2007, 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:
- T. Dan Friedkin, Houston, Texas, Committee Chairman
- Peter M. Holt, San Antonio, Texas, Chairman
- Mark E. Bivins, Amarillo, Texas
- J. Robert Brown, El Paso, Texas
- Antonio Falcon, MD, Rio Grande City, Texas
- Karen J. Hixon, San Antonio, Texas
- Margaret Martin, Boerne, Texas
- Philip Montgomery, Dallas, Texas
- John D. Parker, Lufkin, Texas
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT:
- Robert L. Cook, Executive Director, and other personnel of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
P R O C E E D I N G S
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay. The first order of business is the approval of the previous committee meeting minutes, which have already been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER FALCON: So moved.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Second.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Moved by Commissioner Falcon and seconded by Brown. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Hearing none, the motion carries.
Committee Item Number 1, Land and Water Update, Mr. Cook.
MR. COOK: Thank you, sir. There are a couple of items to update you on. The 53rd Texas Game Warden Academy began on October 1, 2007, with 41 cadets. Fifteen of these cadets are funded with general revenue approved by the 71st Legislature, as we had mentioned this morning. The class is the most diverse in many years and expected to graduate in May 2008. Note that two of the cadets have dropped out since the inception of this class of cadets, leaving 39 active cadets at this time.
The Law Enforcement division now occupies and maintains the new Game Warden Academy site in Hamilton County. Fundraising for major construction projects continues and a consultant has been selected to begin the design process for the campus. Meanwhile, the division is preparing existing facilities in Hamilton County for use in ongoing training exercises for game wardens from across the state.
President George W. Bush signed an executive order on October 22, 2007, to protect red drum and striped bass, two game fish that are popular in Texas. The order prohibits the sale of striped bass and red drum caught in federal waters, encourages periodic federal stock assessments of the species, and directs federal agencies to work with state officials "to find innovative ways to help conserve striped bass and red drum populations, including the use of state designation of game fish where appropriate to prohibit commercial sales of the fish."
Texas has long been a leader in the conservation of red drum, popularly known as red fish. Red drum were declared game fish by the Texas legislature in 1981 when their commercial sale was prohibited. TPWD outlawed the use of gill nets in state waters in 1985. The first red drum fingerlings were stocked in 1983 and about 30 million are now stocked each year in Texas bays. As a result, populations of red drum have doubled and significantly larger fish are being caught.
We think the President's order is good. It's supportive. It follows the trend we've been on and we look forward to even better fishing. Thank you, sir.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you.
Committee Item Number 2, 2008-2009 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation Preview. Ken, you're up.
MR. KURZAWSKI: Good afternoon, Commissioners. My name is Ken Kurzawski. I'm with the Inland Fisheries division. Today, I will be going over some of the potential changes we have with our freshwater fishing regulations.
Just to give you a brief recap of our process, our district biologists, as in all the resource divisions, work year-round collecting information on our resource. They develop proposals based on that information or input from the public desiring better angling. They develop these proposals, hold meetings within their regions of the state. We have a statewide meeting in August to discuss those with all our biologists. We present those before the Freshwater Fisheries Advisory Board in October. We discuss those with our senior staff within our division and also involve other divisions within the agency, such as Law Enforcement and State Parks in order to get to where we are today.
The first proposal that we have is on Lady Bird Lake that was formerly known as Town Lake here. It was recently changed in honor of Mrs. Johnson who was instrumental in creating a lot of the parks around that lake. Right here within the Austin city limits, because of the hike and bike trail, it has excellent bank access. It does have restricted boat access in that no gasoline motors can be used on the lake. You can use boats without motors.
In recent years, it has documented catches of large common carp and it's become a known destination around Texas, the country, and even the world for carp anglers. That's resulted in ‑‑ we had a couple of major carp-fishing tournaments on there between 2000 and 2006. As a result of one of those tournaments, if the tournament winner would catch a state record carp during that tournament they received $250,000 and this particular gentleman did. Catching a pretty good size carp, it was 43 pounds. So that was a pretty good way to earn some money.
Because of this upsurge in popularity of the carp fishing in Town Lake, and our interest in promoting just any new type of fishing that interests our anglers, we've developed a proposal to maybe assist that fishery in that lake. We're proposing a limited bag limit for common carp. What that would consist of would be no limit to the daily bag for fishes under 33 inches, except for fishes 33 inches and over, only one of those could be obtained each day. We're kind of designating that as a trophy size.
There was some research done by our Fisheries researcher to look at all the freshwater fishes and to try to designate a trophy size. He set most of those around 75 to 76 percent of the world record length. For carp, that works out to be about 33 inches and that seems to be a good starting point for our conversations on that.
So once again, to recap that, all the carp below 33 inches could be harvested. Only one over 33 inches could be harvested. We're not protecting all the carp in there from harvest. That's not our intent.
Some of the potential benefits we see to that are that it will help increase publicity for the trophy carp fishing in Texas and Lady Bird Lake. It also will help promote carp fishing as an untapped opportunity, especially for bank anglers in urban areas. Lake Austin also has good carp fishing, lakes up in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, other places like that. It allows people to have something to walk down to the bank with a pole and fish for carp. A lot of people don't really know about that, but that's something that's been available for years and we're certainly interested in promoting that within Texas.
It does have, hopefully, it will protect some of those large trophy carp that bring all those anglers from around the country and around the world. We don't think it will really have any measurable increase in the overall abundance of the carp population in the reservoir.
Sticking with sort of a theme on urban areas, we have a community fishing lake definition in our rules. That consists of all impoundments 75 acres or less that are totally within the city limits or a public park. It also includes all impoundments of any size within the boundaries of a state park.
Because of this definition, we have some special regulations on those waters. We have a different limit from statewide on catfish. We have no size limit and a five-fish bag. We restrict angling to pole and line angling only. Our reason for that is in some of these reservoirs we stock catfish. In a number of them, we are stocking catchable-size catfish and we would like to have as many anglers as possible get an opportunity to catch those fish. By restricting the angling there and also reducing the bag limit, we're trying to spread that fishing opportunity out to as many new anglers as possible. Hopefully, we'll entice some new anglers.
What we're proposing there is limiting the number of poles or lines anglers can actively fish in those waters to only two. In this case, we will omit state park lakes from this particular regulation. This is some response to concerns raised by staff. Our staff has noticed especially during stocking events that anglers would go into an area, set out 10, 15 poles in the area, and especially in areas where there is limited bank access, they could monopolize an area and prevent other anglers from getting at that water to fish. That's sort of contrary to what we're trying to promote there.
So we hope that will create a little bit more equitable distribution of that fishing enjoyment and success. Really as the rules are now, an angler can set up to 100 hooks, which could be 100 lines. So we're hoping this will maybe alleviate some of those problems as we continue to go into some of the urban areas and stock catchable-size fish.
We have a proposed change on Lake Nacogdoches. That's a surface water supply reservoir a little bit east of the city of Nacogdoches. It's primarily a large mouth bass fishery. It does have some crappie and catfish. Currently, it has a 14 to 21-inch stock limit for the large mouth bass. We're thinking about implementing a new regulation for us there, which would be a 16-inch-maximum length limit, which means anglers could harvest fish below 16 inches but above 16 inches there wouldn't be any harvest.
We would maintain the five fish daily bag for those fish under 16 inches. What we do wish to allow there is to allow anglers to temporarily obtain any of those larger fish and we're going to sort of peg that at 24 inches or larger. If they do have a live well and if they do have a scale on board, they'd be able to retain those fish, get a wake, contact us, and donate them hopefully to the ShareLunker program possibly for a state record in a rare instance.
So even though we will not allow actual harvest over 16 inches, we would allow some temporary possession of those fish if they were large enough. We'd also like to implement that little piece of temporarily maintaining a fish on purpose in Purtis Creek State Park Lake and Lake Raven in Huntsville State Park, which have a total catch and release currently.
What we're hoping to accomplish there is to provide some additional protection to bass greater than 21 inches. Hopefully, that will lead to an increase of trophy size fish, including those 13-pound ShareLunker-size fish. Also by allowing a little bit more harvest of those fish under 16 inches, it will decrease in specific competition and improve the growth rates in that reservoir.
We have a small change on Lake Texoma. We currently have an exception there to our statewide limit of 14-inch minimum-length limit for spotted bass. We want to move that back to the statewide limit which is no length limit and retain the five fish bag. Oklahoma is proposing a similar change. We usually work closely with them to try to keep the regulations the same on each side of the reservoir. So this is a good change in our view since it will remove one of our exceptions and move the limit for spotted bass back to our statewide limits.
I have a couple of changes to some of our red drum regulations in freshwater where we're stocking red drum in some reservoirs around the state. One of those is Lake Nasworthy. Due to some changes there in the operation of the reservoir, it is no longer conducive to stock red drum in there. We had some special regulations on that reservoir. We're going to remove those. Similarly, on Lake Colorado City, due to golden algae and also a change in operation of the reservoir, we will no longer stock red drum in that reservoir. So we will be removing the special regulation on that and both of those reservoirs will just revert to the statewide limits which is the limit that everyone is familiar with down on the coast, which is the 28 reverse slide, as we like to call them, in freshwater with the three-fish bag.
That's all the changes that we're considering at this time. If you have any questions, I'd be happy to answer them.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Questions, discussion?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thanks, Ken. I appreciate it. Larry McKinney?
DR. McKINNEY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members. For the record, I'm Larry McKinney, Director of Coastal Fisheries. I've asked Robin Reichers, who is our Director of Science and Policy, to join me. Robin represents us on the Gulf Fisheries Council and has been their chairman for it seems like longer than you would probably like to admit. If we have some questions, I'm sure that he can help us answer those.
For our scoping issues, there are really a set of three. First of all, there's some consistency issues with federal regulations. The National Marine Fisheries Service Highly Migratory Species Rule Proposal dealing with sharks is they want to put some limits on those because of the return of those populations. We commented on that as well. One of the key proposals that we have some concerns with is there are a number of sharks that need to be protected, but in order to try to make sure ‑‑ they have some concerns on identification issues ‑‑ they've included other sharks as well.
One of those shark species is the blacktip, which is kind of the basis of our shark fishery here and the population is in good shape so we're concerned they would include that in the prohibited list when its base is in a fishery. So we're looking at that. As far as scoping issues that we'd be dealing with, we'd look at increasing current minimum size limits for those sharks and creating a prohibited shark list from sharks that you could not take. There are sharks that need to be protected.
Another area dealing with the Feds is the National Marine Fisheries Service has an interim rule in place, which basically in the federal waters has a two-fish bag limit in a season of 122 days. In state waters, within nine miles of state waters, of course we have a four-bag fish limit and no closed season.
The National Marine Fisheries' regional director has sent me a letter asking us and all states to make our state regulations consistent with those federal regulations. Of course, we have some concern about that, but we want to put that on the table and get some input from our anglers as to what they feel. Also, we'll hear more on this issue from the National Marine Fisheries Service about what actions they might take if we don't comply. So we want to be ready to respond to that, but need to have it open to discussion.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: What are the resource issues? I guess we're going to be looking into that a little bit. In terms of sustainability of the snapper, are there resource issues or scientific issuers?
MR. REICHERS: Well, the snapper has been in an
over-fished condition for quite some time actually, since the early 1980s. We're still undergoing over-fishing and we're in over-fished status. Of course, that's one of their concerns. Florida at this time has their state waters open and haven't complied and we haven't complied. By doing so, they're afraid we're jeopardizing some of the rebuilding schedules.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay.
MR. REICHERS: Now, specifically in state waters, our stocks are looking pretty good. We're seeing increasing trends in recruitment. Some of the other actions that we've taken such as a closure, a shrimp closure, and so forth have aided our stocks and we may, in fact, while we haven't complied exactly with their rule, we may have had greater conservation benefits than they would have had with those rules. So that's one of the things we've been telling them all along.
DR. McKINNEY: So as we learn more about some of the actions the Feds may take, there are several things. They could preempt state regulations. That's a possibility although they've never done that anywhere I've heard of, but that's certainly a possibility.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: How could they have done that?
DR. McKINNEY: What?
COMMISSIONER PARKER: How could they do that?
DR. McKINNEY: Under the Madison Act ‑‑
MR. REICHERS: They can do that.
DR. McKINNEY: ‑‑ they have that capability to do that. Again, they have not done it. There are other issues that they could look at. They could simply close the snapper fishery in the federal waters and do some other things. Regardless of that, we want to put it on the table so that as we learn the consequences our anglers can look at it and weigh the impacts one way or the other.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: What do you think a two-bag limit will do to our snapper fishing in state waters?
MR. REICHERS: Well, you know, certainly if you talk to charter boats, and party boats, and people who run those kinds of businesses, they believe that that will drastically reduce their businesses. We've seen in mackerel and other fisheries, when you take these bag limit reductions that people actually fairly quickly adjust. It's certainly been our caution because of those local businesses and those local communities that depend on that fishery that we've tried to maintain the four-fish bag and we've tried to maintain our season being open year-round at this point in time.
DR. McKINNEY: It's an important tourist fishing, I mean for everyone, but certainly for the boats I think.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: You mentioned other instances where you have restricted and they have adjusted. What specifically have you adjusted?
MR. REICHERS: Well, for instance, we're now at a two-fish bag for king mackerel. Many of the same arguments were played out when king mackerel went to two fish. You know, certainly in other parts of the country where you have very restricted bags and seasons, you've seen those same kinds of arguments play out. Certainly I can't deny that it wouldn't have some impacts. I believe that it would have some impacts. Again, that's why we've taken the actions that we've taken, or you all have taken the actions that you've taken, in the past to maintain the season year-round and to keep the four-fish bag at its current bag limit.
DR. McKINNEY: And another area dealing with menhaden harvest within the state waters, this is a proposal to limit that, to eliminate that. Right now, in the Gulf of Mexico the landings total 1.2 billion pounds primarily from Louisiana waters. Texas accounts for about 3 percent of those landings. When you look at the last assessment of the stock, the menhaden stock, it was in good condition. In our state waters, it's in good shape as well.
What we're talking about here is a policy type issue. As pressure comes to bear on that fishery along the East Coast and others, to either cap it or close down parts of it, we'll see a shift of that fishery into the Gulf and more and more of our menhaden would be going to commercial enforcement perhaps. So the decision is ‑‑ what's the most valuable use of menhaden? Is it to support our recreational fishermen, which it's a keystone to, or otherwise? So contemplating this as a policy action, to step forward now and say that we want to make that decision now to reserve this fishery to support recreational fishing where the economic returns are greater, that's something that we want to put on the table for our anglers to talk about, and in front of you all. Other states have taken that action, Florida in '95 and Alabama in 2003 for example.
The last item is a certification of saltwater guides. One of the guide associations has talked to us from time to time, and come back, and put it on the table to ask us to help them raise the level of professionalism in their profession. I want to make this point. This is not some regulatory action we're taking, but we want to take advantage of the scoping process to lay this proposal out for this one guide's organization and to others to see what the support might be for that. Certainly, we want to make sure that our customers, our constituents, when they hire a guide that they're getting someone that's competent and has all the training and all the certifications that they need. This would be a way of perhaps coming up with a process to do that. We would help them go through a certification process so basically they could put the seal on their boat that they ‑‑
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: It's all voluntary?
DR. McKINNEY: It's all voluntary.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Right.
DR. McKINNEY: We anticipate it being that way and we wouldn't do it without the support of the guides.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay.
DR. McKINNEY: I mean, this is their proposal. We think it's a good idea so we want to help them out with it. We'll put that on the table for scoping.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay.
DR. McKINNEY: That concludes this item.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you. Are there questions or comments?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay. Thank you both very much. Mike Berger?
MR. BERGER: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, members. I am Mike Berger, Director of Wildlife division. I'm here to talk about what we're thinking about for the upcoming season. First, with our mule deer, we want to offer a little expanded opportunity we hope. This map currently shows our current mule deer seasons and you'll notice there are a few counties that are uncolored with gaps in there. What we would propose is to add Sherman and Hansford counties, those two up in the very north part of the Panhandle against Oklahoma. We'd like to add that to the 16-day season. And then, in the southwest Panhandle we'd add Gaines, Martin, and the eastern portion of Andrews county in the southwest Panhandle. Those counties, we believe, have mule deer populations sufficient to allow the harvest of a few buck mule deer and that harvest would not have any effect on the overall mule deer population or expansions in those counties.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay.
MR. BERGER: Next, we'd like to talk a little bit about the minimum draw weight for lawful archery equipment. What we have here is our current regulation that sets a minimum 40-pound peak draw weight. There are 14 states that still have a 40-pound draw weight requirement. There are 10 states that have gone to 35 pounds and six states to 30 pounds. Fifteen states have no draw weight requirement whatsoever. We believe the trend is to a lighter draw weight. Going to a lighter draw weight or eliminating the draw weight would probably increase the opportunity for younger people or people with smaller frames who maybe can't pull a 40-pound bow. So this would increase bow hunting opportunity if we were to do that.
It's also interesting that in 2004 the Archery Excise Tax ‑‑ this is the 11 percent tax that's collected on archery equipment that goes into the Pittman-Robertson program ‑‑ it was modified to collect that only on bows of 30-pound draw weight or more. So the bows of lighter draw weight, like those used in the Archery in School program, are not taxed for excise tax purposes.
So, as Larry talked about the other fishing, we could put this out there and see what folks would think. There are two ways, well actually three. We could leave it alone and leave it at a 40-pound minimum draw weight. We could remove it all together or we could reduce the minimum peak draw requirement to 30 pounds for all legal archery equipment.
The third item that we would be thinking about is a reduction of the minimum age for Hunter Education certification. In accordance with the Hunter Education statute, the Commission may establish the minimum age for participation in the program. The current minimum age is 12 that the Commission set in 1988.
The Hunter Education staff recommends lowering this age to nine years of age so that it will be consistent with the Texas Youth Hunting program which does allow youngsters nine years of age. Also, it would be compatible with laws in several states that require proof of Hunter Education in order to hunt. In New Mexico, for example, they allow you to have a big game license at age 10, but you must demonstrate Hunter Education certification and we would not issue that certificate until they were 12 even if they had taken it when they were younger.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Right.
MR. BERGER: So in this case, the instructors would be provided both a pre-service and in-service training by Parks and Wildlife Hunter Education staff that would help them better target and teach those younger students than they're teaching now.
Those are our three items. I'd be happy ‑‑
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: You said the trend is toward a lower minimum age in several states?
MR. BERGER: Yes.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay.
MR. BERGER: There are many states ‑‑ Colorado I believe requires Hunter Education be given to anybody regardless of age.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Right.
MR. COOK: Mike, one important question that I know is on the tip of the tongue of the commissioners here, does that 30-pound draw weight apply to catfish also?
MR. BERGER: It would apply to any legal archery I'm sure.
MR. COOK: That question was coming from Commissioner Montgomery.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: I would suggest you hold that question until Commissioner Montgomery returns.
MR. COOK: I know he would want to know.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any questions or discussion?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Mike, thanks, I appreciate it.
MR. BERGER: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: All right. Committee Item Number 3, Amendments to the Statewide Fur Bearing Animal Proclamation, Mr. John Young.
MR. YOUNG: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, committee members. My name is John Young. I'm a mammologist with the Wildlife division. We received over the past few of months a couple of petitions for rule making. We're here today to go over the changes that we would ask your permission to propose in the state register for public comment.
The changes that we're proposing are to lengthen the beaver season. This would effectively add three months to the beaver season, allowing folks to make commercial use of their beaver pelts over a longer time period; changing our terminology within our regulations from the term leghold, changing it to foothold which is more in keeping with the terminology that's being put forth by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies through their best management practices for trapping; and to reduce the fee charges for non-resident wholesale fur dealers license from $600 to $250. This is to try and attract some more non-resident fur dealers to Texas. That's it, if there are any questions.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Questions or discussion?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay. If there are no further questions or discussion, I'll authorize staff to publish this item in the Texas Register for the required public comment period. Thank you.
MR. YOUNG: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Committee Item 4,
Non-indigenous Snake Permit Rules, David Sinclair.
MR. SINCLAIR: Mr. Chairman and members, I'm David Sinclair, Chief of Wildlife Enforcement. I'm here today requesting permission to publish these non-indigenous snake permit rules in the Texas Register for the required 30-day public comment period.
From the 80th Texas Legislature Section 41 of House Bill 12 which was enacted and amended the Texas Parks and Wildlife Code, it requires the Commission to establish permits for the recreation and commercial possession and transport of non-indigenous poisonous snakes and certain constrictors. In the regulation, we'll be referring to these snakes as controlled exotic snakes. It will apply to all the venomous snakes not indigenous to Texas, four species of pythons, and one anaconda.
The two permit types will be the recreation. That will allow the possession and transport, but not the sale. We're recommending a $20 fee. The commercial controlled exotic snake permit would allow the possession, transport, and sale, and we're recommending a $60 fee.
On the commercial permit, we are required for each place of business where these snakes are sold, employees will be able to sell under that permit. Permittees must maintain a daily record of the commercial activities, which would be the name and address of those they buy and sell from. Records must be kept for two years and made available upon TPWD's request. That would be for inspection by game wardens or other authorized employees of the department.
Now, there's been some concern about someone walking in off the street and buying one of these snakes and not having a permit to possess or transport it. So what we're going to recommend is that the receipt that they get from that dealer will be valid for 21 days. It will be the responsibility of the store owner, the permittee, to advise that buyer that they must obtain the permit within the 21-day period.
In closing, I'd like to mention just a couple of items about the new statute that will be of interest to you I believe. The constrictors that they're referring to are the African rock python, the Asiatic rock sometimes called the Burmese python, reticulated pythons, Southern African python, and the green anaconda. There are some exceptions for the permit requirement. State or county employees acting in their official duty would not need the permit. Licensed zoos and licensed research facilities, including universities that transport or possess, a person who assists the department in the handling of the transportation of these listed species would not need a permit.
A person who unlawfully possesses a listed snake is responsible for any cost incurred in the seizure, removal, and disposition of the snake. The department my contract with a person who has expertise in handling these snakes to assist with the seizure, removal, and disposition.
The permit will be made available by April 1st. That's one of the statutory requirements. Any regulation offense will be a Class C Parks and Wildlife misdemeanor. Anyone that intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence releases or allows the release of a controlled exotic snake from captivity commits a Class A Parks and Wildlife misdemeanor.
With that, I'll close. I'll be glad to answer your questions.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: What about black mambas, are they covered by this?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I would hope it is.
MR. SINCLAIR: Yes, it is.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Mr. Chairman, I'm going to deal with those.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Just don't release them ‑‑
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Don't release it.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: ‑‑ in that Franklin Park.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: What is the ‑‑ do we have any sort of tracking data on the number of people that this is involving that keep these kinds of snakes?
MR. SINCLAIR: The only information we have, there were several resource witnesses who testified at the Capitol. There was one gentleman who suggested that there were 400,000 Texans who had at least one pet reptile, 200,000 Texans who possessed at least one snake, and the majority of those were constrictors, and about 100,000 people that this would affect.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: If I was going to go buy an anaconda, where do I go, pet stores? I mean, do they carry them?
MR. SINCLAIR: They're are a lot of pet stores that do and you can go online and buy them.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: An anaconda, they're a regional reptile.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: What's our goal with this?
MR. SINCLAIR: It's been legislatively mandated.
MR. COOK: Well, the goal, David ‑‑ and correct me if I'm wrong ‑‑ I mean, several of the states are dealing with these large constrictors that have been released into the wild. Once old Bubba, or whatever his name is, gets to that point where he can wrap you up and drag you off to his hole, people get rid of them, you know. They carry him out to the country and kick him out.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes.
MR. COOK: In Florida, for example, I'm sure you've all seen some of the horror stories coming out of Florida, out of the Everglades, where they've got boa constrictors and anacondas there now that are eating alligators and deer and all of those sorts of things. So I think that was kind of behind a lot of this, as well as some of the horror stories of some really, really dangerous snake getting a breeding population established. It happens. You know, tree snakes, there are certain varieties of them ‑‑
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, tree snakes, they can overrun ‑‑
MR. COOK: ‑‑ around the world that have been introduced that have just taken over. I think that's the intent.
MR. SINCLAIR: Correct.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: They can overrun the Panhandle.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Rattlesnakes will keep us defending them.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, right.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any other questions?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay, thank you.
MR. SINCLAIR: Thank you, sir.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: All right. If there are no further questions or discussion, I'll authorize staff to publish this item in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.
Moving from snakes to deer, committee Item Number 5, Deer Breeder Permit Rule Amendments. Clayton Wolf.
MR. WOLF: Mr. Chairman and committee members, for the record, my name is Clayton Wolf. I'm the Big Game Director in the Wildlife division. This afternoon, I'm going to present to you numerous proposed amendments to what is currently our scientific breeder permit rules.
As a result of the passage of House Bill 1308 during the last legislative session, there were some significant changes to what were our scientific breeder statutes, now called our deer breeder statutes. Because of those numerous changes, we are mandated to make changes to our rules. Also because of many of those changes, we've been afforded some opportunities to do some tweaking if you will to these rules, clean some stuff up and do some housekeeping. So I've got numerous changes here. At this hour of the afternoon, I'd like to think it was stimulating, but it's not. So I'm going to try to go as fast as possible through this.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: I love honesty.
MR. WOLF: I'll be happy to answer any questions as we go, but there is a lot of information here to go through. First, we propose to amend the permit name from scientific breeder's permit to deer breeder's permit, just to be consistent with statute ‑‑
COMMISSIONER HOLT: That's all it is.
MR. WOLF: ‑‑ and remove the term "scientific" from throughout the rules. We propose to substitute the term "deer breeder" for "scientific breeder" anywhere that it occurs throughout our rules. We also propose to repeal provisions regarding the marking of deer. The old statutes actually had provisions for tagging deer and also gave the department rule-making authority for tattooing deer. The new statutes actually incorporated our old rules. And so, the new statutes now have tagging requirements and tattoo requirements and we are afforded no rule-making authority when it comes to the marking of deer.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: It's still there.
MR. WOLF: It's still there.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: It's just a different statute essentially?
MR. WOLF: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay.
MR. WOLF: Basically, the tattoo requirements were in our regulations and they're now in rule, but they are satisfactory.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Good, okay.
MR. WOLF: We propose to substitute the term "breeder deer" anywhere deer occurs throughout the rule. Actually, these two terms are defined in the statute. Deer being any white tail deer or mule deer, and breeder deer being a subset of those that are being legally held under a breeder's permit.
We need to propose to amend the antler removal criteria for deer that are liberated from a temporary facility ‑‑ and by temporary facility, we typically mean a deer management permit pen ‑‑ if those deer are released during an open season or 10 days prior to open season. Currently the deer breeder statute requires that if a deer breeder releases a deer into the wild during our open deer season or 10 days prior to an open deer season that they saw the antlers off. The old standard was sawing it off right at the base. The new standard is that they can saw it anywhere between the G-3 tine and the base. And so, that leaves a little bit of headgear on the deer that is released to defend itself, say during the rut.
The statute also says that if someone puts a deer in a deer management permit pen, that they don't have to remove the antlers. And so, we have rule now that requires that the antlers be removed if they're liberated from the pen into the wild. We would simply amend the criteria to match statute, so that if they do release a deer from the DMP pen during an open season that they can saw it anywhere between the G-3 tine and the base.
We propose to repeal the prohibition for the killing of deer in a deer breeding facility. Actually, we had this in a rule and now the statute is a little clearer. It does allow for a couple of exceptions that were not there before. It's still going to be a violation to kill a deer, say, for hunting purposes in a deer-breeding facility, but there are two exceptions. If a deer needs to be dispatched for humane purposes, say it's injured or diseased, that is allowed now by statute. Also, if disease testing needs to take place, for instance CWD testing or any other reportable disease, a breeder will be allowed to dispatch a deer for those purposes.
We propose to repeal the violation for introducing wild deer into a breeding facility. This was a violation of the old statute. It isn't anymore. However, it still will be a violation to put wild deer in a breeding facility. Basically the violation within our old statute was a Class C misdemeanor for introducing a wild deer into a breeder pen. Now with the repeal of that statute, and with the repeal of this rule, if someone illegally traps deer from the wild for any purpose, then the Triple T statutes are enforced and that's actually a Class B misdemeanor. So it's a stiffer penalty.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Can I ask you a question?
MR. WOLF: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Back up on repeal the prohibition on killing a deer in a deer-breeding facility, what if a fellow has a deer-breeding facility, and it's like this and he's got a fence down through here ‑‑ it's all high fence and there's another fence here ‑‑ if he puts a deer out in this part of his property, then can he shoot that deer, or hunt it, or otherwise?
MR. WOLF: The way the rules are established, when someone applies for a permit, they send us a diagram so we know the perimeter of the facility. They cannot hunt a deer in that facility. They cannot kill a deer except for these two exceptions. Now, they can release a deer from that facility if they activate a transfer permit. If they do it during open deer season, or 10 days prior to an open deer season, they have to saw the antlers off. Once they release that deer, they can hunt that deer.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Even if it's high fence?
MR. WOLF: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Okay.
MR. WOLF: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Okay.
MR. WOLF: In fact, I would have to say the norm is usually if someone is releasing some of these animals that are fairly valuable that they usually go into high fence pastures or ranches as opposed to just out into the open range.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Sure.
MR. WOLF: We also propose to repeal the definitions for common carrier, deer propagation, and scientific. Terms such as common carrier and scientific are no longer in the statute. The definition of propagation is
self-evident. As I said before, deer and breeder deer are now defined in statute so there's not a need to redefine them in our rules.
We propose to redefine sale to also include the activity of releasing a deer. The term "sale" is found throughout the breeder rules, but it simply refers to the transfer or possession of an animal. We just want to make it clear that that also includes someone who buys a deer for release on their ranch.
We propose to define accredited test facility to mean a laboratory approved by the United States Department of Agriculture for testing for chronic wasting disease. Right now, our rules require that test results come from the Texas Veterinary and Medical Diagnostic Laboratory, but the reality is that there are many facilities throughout the U.S. that are accredited at the same level. We would propose to allow us to accept tests from any of these accredited facilities.
We want to define, or propose to define, or actually redefine, transfer permit to mean a permit authorizing the movement of breeder deer to or from a breeding facility for release, nursing, or breeding purposes. Basically, this is just to re-tool the definition to more closely match the activities that are defined as transferring deer in the statutes.
We propose to clarify that no person may possess a live breeder deer outside a breeder facility unless they possess a valid transfer permit. We would also propose to repeal the requirement for a person to possess a permit to sell a deer. Basically, that would be a redundant rule because selling a deer would require a transfer permit so there's no need to have a rule requiring a permit to sell a deer if you have to have one to transfer a deer.
We propose to redefine unique number in our rules to match the statutory language that defines the requirements for tattooing a deer before it can leave a breeder facility. As I stated before, there are requirements in statute. Our reporting requirements, asks that breeders report these numbers to us and this would simply define that requirement as the unique number for that deer.
We propose to simplify the requirements for certified wildlife biologists endorsement of application materials. In actuality, what we are proposing is to remove the requirement for the endorsement of a breeding plan. The breeding plan requirement has been there for some time, but in actuality we do not use that breeding plan for any purposes. I would want to make it clear that the statutes do still require that there be an endorsement and, with the combination of the statutes or the rules, if adopted, that endorsement would still require that a certified wildlife biologist endorse the facility, endorse that it exists, that it's suitable for conducting lawful activities, and that there are no deer in the facility before we issue the permit.
We propose to repeal two requirements to notarize documents, that is the new application and also the escaped deer notification. All of our documents of this nature require a signature attesting to the truthfulness and the accuracy of the documents. They're already are violations listed in the penal code for folks that falsify these kind of documents. So we feel that the notarization requirements are not necessary.
We'd like to propose that applications for renewals be submitted in a timely manner or the applicant is making satisfactory progress towards resolution of issues. We have deadlines, but also we understand that many times some of our applicants have some real world scenarios that they have no control over, like deaths in the family, deaths of permittees, natural disasters occur. Our standard usually is as long as someone is making contact with us and making progress toward resolution of the issues, we're willing to consider that. If they're not responding to our requests, then in all likelihood we will not renew their permit.
We propose to allow an individual who does not possess a breeder's permit to transport deer if they were obtained from a deer breeder and if the person transporting the deer is in possession of a valid transfer permit. Previously, breeders could transport deer, a breeder's agent could transport deer, and then the only other person would be someone who was receiving a deer to release on their own property. And so, we would like to expand that so that as long as someone has a valid transfer permit they can move deer.
We propose to repeal the requirement that the deer breeder maintain and on request provide the department documentation as to the source of all deer in possession. This is actually a change in statute. The new statute basically requires that they maintain records for the current reporting cycle and the previous reporting cycle. In actuality, that is sufficient for us because all these records are turned into us on an annual base. With our new database, we have records of those transactions.
We propose to clarify that breeder facility changes must be reported to the department only if it changes the perimeter of the facility. There seems to be a little bit of confusion out there as to what kind of changes we are looking for. And so, this new definition just makes it a little clearer that if the perimeter does not change, we're really not concerned about new cross fences with facilities within that existing perimeter.
Finally, we propose a few repeals within the rules relating to dates. One is a reference to a March 31st date that is now obsolete for disease-monitoring requirements and also an effective date of April 1st. Since this time has passed, the reference to these dates is no longer necessary in the rule. We would like to propose to specify that May 23, 2006, is the effective date after which eligible mortalities are counted in reference to movement qualified status.
That concludes my slides. I would like to say that we have been working since the passage of the legislation with our breeder user group. This is an ad hoc group that is appointed by the Executive Director. It's made up of scientific breeders, or agents, that do a lot of business in the breeding industry. We consult with them and get input from them to make sure that we understand the real world consequences of these rules. To date, they are satisfied with these rules. We also presented these rules to our White-tailed-Deer Advisory Committee last week in San Antonio and received no comment, positive or negative, on them. I'd be glad to take any questions if you have any.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Questions or comments?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thanks, Clayton. I appreciate it. If there are no further questions or discussion, I'll authorize staff to publish this item in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.
Committee Item Number 6, Amendments to the Harmful or Potentially Harmful Exotic Fish, Shellfish, or Aquatic Plants Rules. Joedy Gray. We're getting there.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: You're moving along.
MR. GRAY: Mr. Chairman, committee members, my name is Joedy Gray. I'm with the Inland Fisheries division. The Commission has established rules to regulate the importation, possession and sale, and placing in the water of this state any harmful or potentially harmful exotic fish, shellfish, or aquatic plant. Staff is proposing amendments to these rules which will provide additional protection to our native aquatic species and provide clarification for certain provisions of the rules.
The current exotic species rules allow the possession and sale and culture of silver carp with the possession of a valid exotic species permit from the department. Silver carp, a native to rivers in China, are prohibited because of their potential escapement and successful reproduction in Texas. Silver carp have already escaped and successfully reproduced in the U.S. waters. As a matter of fact, this has been documented on a DVD, which is entitled "Extreme Aerial Bow Fishing" in which silver carp are shot out of the air on the Illinois River.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Something new we can do, right?
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Tell them to stay in the river.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, right, stay in there.
MR. GRAY: On July 10, 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service added silver carp to their list of injurious fish under the Lacey Act. Consequently staff is proposing a total prohibition of all forms of live silver carp in Texas.
On October 18, 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service added black carp to their list of injurious fish. The department currently allows possession of triploid black carp with a valid exotic species permit. Staff is therefore proposing the total prohibition of all forms of black carp in Texas.
At the August 2006 Commission meeting, the Commission adopted rules prohibiting possession of all southern hemisphere crayfish, which included crayfish in the family Parastacidae. Because there were individuals already selling Australian red claw crayfish, which is in the Parastacidae family, staff intended to allow the live possession of this one species. Our current rules, however, allow the possession of all crayfish in the family Parastacidae. Staff is proposing that the rules be amended to reflect staff's initial intent.
Staff seeks approval to publish the proposed amendments in the Texas Register. I'll answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Discussion or questions?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: So in the crayfish, you're saying you'll still allow the Australian red claw crayfish?
MR. GRAY: Yes, right now, we'll won't say ‑‑
COMMISSIONER HOLT: What do the Feds do?
MR. GRAY: ‑‑ that any crayfish in that family can be cultured in Texas. We just want to limit it to that one Australian red claw. We initially were going to prohibit all southern hemisphere crayfish, but we found out that there were people culturing it already in Texas. So to allow them to continue business, we allowed that one species to continue to be cultured. The rules, when they were published, allowed all species in that family to continue to be cultured and we just want to limit it to that one.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: But I guess why allow the one? How risky is it or dangerous is it if it gets released? Does it become ‑‑
MR. GRAY: It's pretty dangerous.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Then why are we allowing it, I guess?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: The question is ‑‑ why would we allow that one?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, the one.
MR. GRAY: Because I guess there were five or six different farmers at that time that were culturing it and we didn't know about it. At the time we proposed the rules, we didn't think anybody was culturing that in Texas. Those businesses were already established and we had comments from the Australian embassy. It's a trade issue going on.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: We could, if we chose to, I suppose just grandfather those producers or something, but I'm thinking that's ‑‑
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, I'm a little nervous about that.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: I remember your presentation ‑‑
COMMISSIONER HOLT: I do, too.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: ‑‑ about this particular species being basically being a pest.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Right.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: I'd say, Let's take a hard stand because these ‑‑ I think it's amazing, but aquatic species just grow like wildfire once they get out.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Yes, at least a better understanding of how established is it, and how many people are doing it, and ‑‑
MR. DUROCHER: Yes, I don't know how ‑‑ for the record, my name is Phil Durocher, Director of Inland Fisheries ‑‑ I don't know how long these people have been producing in this state. We had some issues with a form of plant that we were concerned about it and we found out that they had been growing it in Houston for years and years, and selling it in the Asian markets, and it had not caused any problem. We had found any spread of the plant, but we'll certainly prohibit it if you want us to. I would just as soon do it now before it gets any bigger.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: That's what worries me. That would be my preference. I mean, I'm not trying to put anybody out of business.
MR. DUROCHER: Now, you do need to understand that you're going to have some people come here.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Well, we've got a public comment period so I think we should go ahead and do it.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, and then we could always ‑‑
MR. DUROCHER: You could always change it.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: That's right.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: We can always get the input and then evaluate it.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: That's what I'd like to do.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Why don't you all come back and tell us more about that ‑‑
MR. GRAY: Sure.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: ‑‑ how they're farming it, and what they're doing, what the risks are with the species, before we say yes to this.
MR. DUROCHER: Should we grandfather the one ‑‑
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Are we going to publish to prohibit it?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: I think we publish to prohibit.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Do we have any evidence of this crayfish escaping into our waters ‑‑
MR. GRAY: No.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: ‑‑ and reproducing wildly?
MR. GRAY: No, sir, not at this time.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Yes, so with that restriction, any other discussion or questions?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: And then we go through the public comment.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: We should write it.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Write it and then the public comment. Maybe, can you all do a little work and let's find out as much as we can before our next meeting?
MR. GRAY: Sure.
MR. DUROCHER: And how big of an industry it really is.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, and what risk. I'd like to see that, balancing what kind of risk you really think is there relative to ‑‑ I don't see how you can just keep producing things like this and they don't eventually get out. I mean, plant, maybe that's more control, but this thing can walk up and down the road theoretically. That's what I'm saying. Or wherever they're raising them gets flooded and it gets washed down.
MR. GRAY: You're talking about a producer that's already produced him, are you going to allow him to continue doing that?
MR. DUROCHER: No, we're going to propose prohibiting it right now, and get their comments, and they can change it to that at the meeting.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Remember that doesn't go in until after we go again, after we go through the public comment period.
MR. DUROCHER: Right.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Let them come, and I'd ask you all to reach out to them too and find out pros and cons, and let them know what we're doing.
MR. GRAY: Okay.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Let them know that we're very worried about this.
MR. GRAY: Okay.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So with that additional restriction, I will authorize staff to publish this item in the Texas Register for the required public comment period. Thanks.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I'll get my bow on it ‑‑
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Get his bow on it.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: ‑‑ if I see it coming down the road.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: That's it.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay. This committee has completed its business. Is there any other business to be brought before this committee, Mr. Cook?
MR. COOK: No, sir.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. Now, we go back to Infrastructure with Commissioner Parker.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: You got it.
(Whereupon, at 3:59 p.m., the meeting was adjourned.)
C E R T I F I C A T E
MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: November 7, 2007
I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 47, 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