Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Annual Public Meeting
August 26, 2009Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Annual Public Hearing
Amon G. Carter Jr. Exhibits Hall
Will Rogers Memorial Center
Fort Worth, Tarrant County, Texas
BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 26th day of August, 2009, there came to be heard matters under the regulatory authority of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission in the Cactus Room of the Will Rogers Memorial Center, to wit:
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION:
- Peter M. Holt, San Antonio, Texas, Chairman
- Mark E. Bivins, Amarillo, Texas
- Ralph H. Duggins, Fort Worth, Texas
- Antonio Falcon, MD, Rio Grande City, Texas
- T. Dan Friedkin, Houston, Texas
- Karen J. Hixon, San Antonio, Texas
- Dan Allen Hughes, Jr., Beeville, Texas
- Margaret Martin, Boerne, Texas
- S. Reed Morian, Houston, Texas
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT:
- Carter P. Smith, Executive Director, and other personnel of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
|Name/Organization, Address||Matter of Interest|
|Carolyn White, Texas Youth Hunting Program, Colleyville, TX||Youth hunting|
|Kenneth Mount, David Mount, Texas Youth Hunting Program, Dallas, TX||Youth hunting|
|Blaine Balliett, Texas Youth Hunting Program, Longview, TX|
|Claire Balliett, Longview, TX||Youth hunting|
|Keith White, Texas Youth Hunting Program, Colleyville, TX||Youth hunting|
|Gene Roesh, Texas Youth Hunting Program, Keller, TX||Youth hunting|
|Tammy Perry, Texas Brigades — TWA, P.O. Box 133002, Tyler, TX 75713|
|Carolyn Biedenharn, Allie Biedenharn, TWA — Brigades, 40 Corley Rd., Boerne, TX 78006|
|Shelby Perry, Texas Brigades, P.O. Box 133002, Tyler, TX 75713|
|Dalton Myatt, Brigade|
|Kirby Brown, Texas Wildlife Association, 2800 NE Loop 410, Ste. 105, San Antonio, TX 78666||Wildlife|
|Teresa Macorke, Houston Jeep People, 1911 River park Ct., Houston, TX 77070||TPWD Land and Water Resources Conservation and Recreation Plan (OHV)|
|Todd Bacon, 8322 Lamond Ln., Houston, TX 77064||For/OHV — full size vehicles|
|Tony Eeds, Texas Motorized Trails Coalition, 1407 San Saba Drive, Dallas, TX||Land and Water Resources Conservation and Recreation Plan (OHV)|
|Matthew Benefield, Houston Jeep People, 7055 Hollister St. #718, Houston, TX 77040||For/OHV|
|Curt Swafford, H.C. 65, Box 222, Alpine, TX 79830||Burro killings at Big Bend Ranch State Park|
|Herbert R. Haynes, 15250 Wortham Bend Rd., China Spring, TX||Target range program grants|
|Will Kirkpatric, Freshwater Anglers, 2815 FM 705, Broaddus, TX||Funding; previous meeting — tournament lic.|
|Chris Hunter Jones, Universal Ethician Church, Pineywoods Sierra Group, Center for Biodiversity, P.O. Box 160 Waterwood, Huntsville, TX 77320||Neutral/Alligator gar|
|Jim Smarr, RFA Texas||Open saltwater fisheries|
|Keith Guindon, Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Stakeholder||Red snapper|
|T. J. Marshall, Ocean Conservancy, 465 S. Atlantic Ave., Cocoa Beach, FL 32431||Marine fisheries|
|Pat McGuigan, Recreation Fisherman, 1500 Sylvan #118, Hurst, TX 76053||Fisheries|
|Jim Haire, 5801 Regents Row, Tyler, TX 75703||Boating safety|
|John Dexter, 483 CR 2140, Quitman, TX 75783|
|Doug Evans, Texas Recreations Park Society (TRAPS), Jonestown, TX||For/Support for TRAPS|
|Julia Burgen, 2312 Winewood Ln., Arlington, TX||Comment for public hearing|
|Janice Bezanson, Texas Conservation Alliance, 1605 Mission Trail, Salado, TX||Thank commissioners re legislation; a couple of conservation issues|
|Bonnie Bowman, 1601 University Drive, Arlington, TX 76013||For/Urban open space for wildlife|
|Peggie Kimberlin, 3400 Mesa Drive, Flower Mound, TX||Equestrian interests|
|Niels Brown, The Trust for Public Land, 11006 Wilder Ct., Frisco, TX||Thank commission for the work it does to provide for more public access and parks.|
|Ben Harbowz, 550 CR 4191, Decatur, TX 76234||Days/hours of state parks tours|
|K. B. Kabuta||Great Plains Restoration; Fort Worth Prairie Park|
|Jarid Manos, Great Plains Restoration Council, P.O. Box 1206, Fort Worth, TX 76101||Fort Worth Prairie Park|
|Stephen Sargent, Great Plains Restoration Council (GPRC), 7533 Ederville Road, Fort Worth, TX||For/Fort Worth Prairie Park|
|Tom Hall, I Fish Guide Service, P.O. Box 756, Aransas Pass, TX||Red snapper|
|Ed Pischedda, 1104 Auburn Dr., Arlington, TX 76012||Land acquisition; wilderness; parks as greenbelts|
P R O C E E D I N G S
COMMISSIONER HOLT: It got awfully quiet here, hello, everybody. On behalf of myself and the Commission, we are very excited about being here in Fort Worth today. One of our esteemed Commissioners, Ralph Duggins is —
Were you surprised I said "esteemed," Ralph?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yes.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Ralph Duggins is from Fort Worth. And of course, tremendous support up here for Texas Parks and Wildlife. And we want to thank everybody and the great Citizens of Fort Worth and this area for that. And we are very glad to be doing our public hearing this year, in Fort Worth. So we will get started right away. And with that, this meeting is called to order, August 26, 2009. Before proceeding with any business, I believe Mr. Smith has a statement to make, Mr. Smith.
MR. SMITH: I do. Mr. Chairman, thank you. A public notice of this meeting containing all items on the proposed agenda has been filed in the Office of the Secretary of State as required by Chapter 551 Government Code referred to as the Open Meetings Act. I would like for this fact to be noted in the official record of the meeting. I also want to join Chairman Holt and the Commission in welcoming all of you to our annual public hearing. This is an important aspect of the Commission meetings every year. We are particularly proud to be in Fort Worth. This is a real privilege for all of us.
For some of you, this is your first time at this meeting. And so, let me spend just a minute going over a few little housekeeping rules. If you have got a cell phone or a BlackBerry or any kind of a PDA, if you don't mind just turning that off, to help respect the noise levels here.
Also, Chairman Holt has a list of every one who has signed up to speak. And if you didn't take that opportunity, or would like to, there is an opportunity to sign up outside. He will call you by name. And we are going to ask you to come forward. Every individual is going to have three minutes to address the Commission on a topic of your choosing. Please just state your name and your affiliation, and then you are welcome to address the Commission in a respectful and constructive fashion.
And so again, I want to welcome all of you to joining us today at this meeting. And thanks for coming. So Mr. Chairman, thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, sir. And with that, I would like to recognize the Honorable Mike Moncrief, the Mayor of Fort Worth. Mayor Moncrief, and we won't limit you to three minutes. Please feel free to speak as long as you care to.
MR. MONCRIEF: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
MR. SMITH: Glad to have you.
MR. MONCRIEF: But it's our property.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes. I know. We had better fix that.
MR. MONCRIEF: Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you and all of the members of the Commission for joining us here in our backyard, today. We hope that you have felt the Fort Worth hospitality upon your arrival.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Absolutely.
MR. MONCRIEF: And it is something that you are not going to feel again, until you come back. We are delighted to have you here today. And I know that here we are, right at the cusp of the start of dove season. I know that it coming around the corner. Ralph, I will find out whether or not my doctor allows me to shoot a shotgun after the shoulder surgery. You will have to tell me how long that took.
But I also know that right on the heels of that is deer season. And the reason we know that, is because that is also the first NASCAR race at our speedway. We have been trying to convince NASCAR not to do that. We are trying to convince them that part of the reason of the absence of the people in those stands is because they are in another stand; it is called a deer stand. And so it has had a small impact up here. But they don't see near as much camo in the crowd as they would otherwise.
But I want to welcome you on behalf of our 722,000 citizens that live here in Fort Worth. And to thank you for taking the time to join us, to share your thoughts and hear some of the reactions of the public in this hearing.
I appreciate the opportunity to have a few moments to address you this afternoon. I want you to realize that we are delighted to have you here today, because we realize that parks are something that the people of Fort Worth are pretty passionate about. That is putting it mildly. They are very much a part of the fabric of this community.
And they are a big reason why we enjoy a quality of life here in Fort Worth that is second to none in this entire nation. Let me first say thank you for being the strong partner and the good friend that you have been to Fort Worth. You see, over the past 30 years, we have received 23 grants from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. During that time, we have completed 67 projects together, totaling more than $19 million. Now 46 percent of that money came from Texas Parks and Wildlife. So thank you. And you all can thank them too.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you. Thank you, Mike.
MR. MONCRIEF: Just as an example, we matched $187,000 worth of grant funds from your organization with two federal grants for a total of $1.8 million to renovate 21 neighborhood park playgrounds. Now that might now seem a whole lot. But when you start thinking about those kids that haven't had the kind of equipment that you would like your children to play on, and that is a big deal. That is a big deal to a neighborhood, a surrounding neighborhood. It is a big deal to parents. And it is even the biggest deal to the children who enjoy it.
It is what you call leveraging your dollars. It is about working together to improve neighborhoods and cities and our state. And we greatly appreciate your Agency's $2.5 million grant in support of Gateway Park Riverside Oxbow Ecosystem Restoration Effort. That is a mouthful. But this is a huge project in this city. This grant has been matched with local funds for a total of $5 million. Again, leveraging those dollars.
And that important project has now been incorporated into our Trinity River vision plan, which will eventually leverage these funds with an anticipated $30 million in the U.S. Corps of Engineers funding for recreational infrastructure. That is what you call partnering up. And we do that better here in Fort Worth than most. It took some out of the box thinking. It is a partnership that will pay great dividends for all those who live here, and those who come to visit. It is especially important to East Fort Worth, an area of our City that has been historically overlooked and underserved. The residents who live and use the current Gateway Park are going to benefit.
Your commitment to Fort Worth is apparent and the people of Fort Worth thank you. But more opportunities lie ahead for both of us. The good news is, that the state has increased funding for parks. And that is a big deal. That is something that we can all support. But we also support spending that money within Texas urban centers, like Fort Worth. Not all of it, just a portion of it.
As you allocate funding, I ask you to keep in mind that the large majority of our state's population lives within these urban settings. That is where the majority of our state's population are located. And I am talking about the people who use and count on public recreation. Our priority should be to grow and preserve parks, open space, and other recreation facilities where people live, and not where they just may happen to take a vacation.
We should continue to work together to meet the needs of our inner city families, families who may not have the money for a vacation or a trip to the state park, especially in these economic times we now find ourselves. These citizens deserve to live in healthy and happy communities, clean, safe parks are certainly central to that. Fort Worth has made a lot of progress over the past several years, and that is certainly a credit to your commitment to help us improve our neighborhoods.
So Mr. Chairman and members of the Commission, I want to thank you again for your support, for your encouragement, for your partnership. We look forward to working with you, hand in hand, as we continue to build liveable, clean and healthy communities together. That is responsible government. That is responsible stewardship of our resources. And that to me, is a partnership that has been very effective.
So I want you to know that we appreciate you being here. We hope you have a productive meeting. We hope you get a good taste of Fort Worth hospitality during your stay. And I would be happy to answer any questions you might have.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, Mike.
Commissioners? Any questions? Ralph, you had a lot this morning. You don't have any for your mayor?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I'd like to leave him alone. He is a friend.
MR. MONCRIEF: You all help me welcome Parks and Wildlife.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you. Thank you all.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Mr. Mayor, thank you for those comments. You know, in the position that you are in, and sometimes we are at times, it is nice to have some affirmation. And one of our goals, of course, particularly with the parks, and Walt Dabney who is the head of the parks, right behind you, has been an advocate for urban parks and parks very close to, within let's say, a 30-minute drive of urban areas.
We understand that this state has shifted very dramatically from rural to urban. And so, certainly that is going to be our goal going forward. So I appreciate you reaffirming that also.
MR. MONCRIEF: We appreciate your focus.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Great.
MR. MONCRIEF: Again, I don't envy your jobs, at the same time, you all asked for them. So thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: That is right. Thank you, sir.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. We will now hear from those who signed up to speak. What I do is, I will read the first one, ask you to come up, and then I will also at the same time read the second one, so that individual can be on standby. We ask that you speak for three minutes.
Carter, are you going to handle that, kind of on a timing basis, sort of to help?
MR. SMITH: I am.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. And certainly, if the Commission has questions, they will ask you. And if there is anything we may ask you, but you can't answer, but could get information, we will ask you to get with somebody on the staff. And they are all lined up in the back so that we can follow up on anything that may need to be followed up.
So with that, we will get started. And I may mispronounce names. Please forgive me. The first one up will be Carolyn White. And on standby, Kenneth Mount. Carolyn White.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: It is a friendly crowd. You can say whatever is on your mind. Did you want to speak about Texas Youth Hunting?
MS. WHITE: The Texas Youth Hunt was —
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Could you speak up just a little bit, please? Sorry.
MS. WHITE: The Texas Youth Hunt was an opportunity for me to join and to have fun with. And to learn about gun safety and other rules for wildlife. Last year, I went on a hunt with my dad, and it helped me realize that hunting wasn't about the killing the animal. It was just for the fun of it, and to enjoy. And I really liked going on both hunts that I went on.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Wonderful. Would you recommend it to your friends?
MS. WHITE: Yes. And I would like them to go on hunts, too.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Wonderful. Okay. Any questions? (No response.)
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Wonderful. Well, thank you Carolyn, we appreciate you. You are a brave young lady, and a very poised young lady. Thank you for being here today.
MS. WHITE: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Kenneth Mount, up. And next up after that would be Blaine Balliett.
MR. MOUNT: I am Kenneth Mount. I think the Texas Youth Hunting program is a really good program. I went on my first hunt when I was nine with this program. And I went to the Stasney's Cook Ranch. Although I didn't harvest any deer, I still had a great time.
I learned lots about the safety of hunting, and got to spend quite a bit of one-on-one time with my dad. After going on that first hunt, I was pretty excited when he told me that I would get to go on another one at the Flagler Ranch. And I went on this hunt, and the guide was actually someone my dad knew from high school. So we kind of — I shot my first deer on this hunt. It was a pure white fallow, and its hide is up on my wall.
By this time, I had a pretty good experience with the Texas Youth Hunting program. So when I found out I was going to get to go on another hunt, I was really excited. This hunt was at the TP Creek Ranch. On this hunt, I didn't harvest any deer, but I still had a really good time, because I got to spend time with my dad.
Overall, I think it is a really good program. If it wasn't for the program I might not have gotten to go on a hunt until I was 21 or so. I have some friends who want to go on hunts with this program. So I think it would be good to keep funding it, so my friends and I, and other kids who are like us can go on — can get an opportunity to hunt.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Wonderful. Thank you. Any questions?
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: I do.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Did you get to hunt with Carolyn?
MR. MOUNT: No.
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: You didn't? Okay. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Blaine Balliett up and David Mount to follow.
MR. BALLIETT: Hi. You may not know this, but the youth hunting program also gets kids with physical disabilities out there.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Wonderful.
MR. BALLIETT: And you know that a bunch of those kids have never even been in the outdoors before. So they start learning things they have never heard about, except maybe on TV and it gets them aware of all the things that go on out in the wild. And when I went on this hunt, there is all kids with physical disabilities.
I was really impressed to see how many kids adapt to hunting, and they have all these things that help them and I was really surprised how many kids got out there and shot things.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Wonderful.
MR. BALLIETT: And I was one of them on that hunt, at the Faulkner Family. I got to shoot a nine point white tail buck. And the next night we went out and I got a doe. So I had a pretty successful weekend out there. And I tell everybody I see about them, I take out my phone and show them pictures of it. And it is just a really good program. And I hope that you all think so too, and just keep funding it for many years.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Wonderful. Thank you. Congratulations. That was a pretty good hunt.
MR. BALLIETT: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes. Any questions?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Great. David Mount, up.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you. Thank you very much. David Mount up, and Clare Balliett to follow.
MR. MOUNT: Good afternoon. Gene Roesh asked me if I would mind saying a few words about the Texas Youth Hunting program. And without any hesitation, I told him I would be proud to do it. The program has just been great. My biggest problem is, I only have a couple of minutes to talk about it.
I found out about the program by accident. Gene called me, I work for Southwest Airlines. And he wanted to know if we would fly a terminally ill boy to go on a hunt. And just through the conversation, I found out more about the program and became very interested in it. Unfortunately, at the time, Kenneth was only seven years old, and so we kind of had to sit on the sidelines for a couple of more years. But I did stay in touch with Gene.
And when he was finally old enough to go, as Kenneth said, we got to go on a hunt. And I think we were both a little nervous I guess, going out for the first time, not knowing what to expect. And I was just maybe a little less of a greenhorn than he was. And as we drove, I told Kenneth, I said, this is something you may love, and you may want to do again and again, or you may not. And that is fine, either way. You know, just — it is something that most kids don't get a chance to do. And I wanted him to have that opportunity.
When we got on the trip, on the hunt, all the guides, they couldn't have been better. Couldn't have been nicer. They taught the kids. They showed them all kinds of safety rules. We just had a blast on the hunt, and we were hooked. Luckily, on the way home, Kenneth fell asleep immediately, because I couldn't wait to get on my cell phone and call my friends to tell them about this program.
And then the next time, as we went on the hunt, as Kenneth said, we went to the Flagler, and we didn't come back empty handed. And I have got to tell you, I will never forget the expression on his face, when he got his first deer. It was just — you know, proud parent, you just couldn't — I loved it. It was great.
And I guess the closest I have seen to that expression on his face is when he was a toddler and we went to see "Barney Live." Luckily, Barney is a memory, but that deer skin is still on the wall, and we talk about it all the time.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: There you go.
MR. MOUNT: This program allows city kids, well, all kids, but city kids as Kenneth is, the opportunity to do something that they may never experience because their parents are not avid hunters, or can't afford to take them hunting. With this program, the parents don't have to be hunters. We just get to sit back and enjoy watching our children do something that they may have only dreamed about doing. I wish that the program had been around when I was a child.
Kenneth has one friend that is being raised by his 70-something-year-old grandmother. And she wants her grandson to get to go on a hunt. And that is one of my goals, is to take him on a hunt with this program. So I just — I hope you all keep the funding up. It is a wonderful program.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Wonderful. Thank you. Any questions, comments?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. Great. Thank you, sir.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Clare Balliett? I think I am saying it — thank you. And next up is Keith White.
MS. BALLIETT: My name is Clare Balliett, otherwise known as Blaine's mom. And I do want to thank you very much for the opportunity that you provide through these youth hunts. As Mr. Moncrief spoke about the children with the inner city parks, this gives them an even greater opportunity to see what Texas truly has to offer. The Texas out of doors, there is nothing that compares. And to provide them an opportunity to actually get out and experience it, is wonderful. I am sorry.
As a mother of a child with a disability, the opportunity that you provide for children with disabilities is unbelievable. What we face day in and day out is incomprehensible to some people. Your guides, your volunteers, they saw nothing wrong. They provided opportunities to all these children that nothing will ever compare to.
So please, when you look at your budget, I know that it is tight. But please consider the youth hunt program, especially the handicapped park. And thank you very much. COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Keith White, and next up is Gene Roesh, or Roche. Roesh, I think.
MR. WHITE: Commissioners, Director, Warden, thank you for allowing me to be here today. I am joined today by my beautiful wife, Karen. You heard from Carolyn earlier. You asked who we were representing. I would like to say I am representing my kids. The youth hunt program provided a tremendous opportunity that I did not think was possible. I grew up in North Texas, bird hunting. Deer hunting was just totally out of my league. Just a foreign concept.
Once we started the program, it provided the structure that I looked for; the safe hunting, being on the properties. A regimen where everybody understands what is going on. They maintain a clean premises. Just a tremendous opportunity. Since Carolyn harvested her deer, we now this year, her — my cousin, my nephew is planning to join a hunt. He is from a single parent family now. And they have never been hunting before.
The second thing I was looking for is just the safety. The program provides the structure to maintain safe hunting before hand, understanding the rules, and being safe on premises. Carolyn didn't mention it, but she through the tests that they provide you, she made 100 on her exam and I only made a 98.
The second, the final point that I would like to make is that the program is affordable for the people to participate. Having a job where I travel quite a bit, I have Carolyn, I have twin boys that are eight. I just thought that that was out of my spectrum. But it is very affordable. And I think it is a tremendous opportunity. Others have mentioned funding. And I will have to say that my twins, they are eight. They can't wait to be nine.
And if the funding is not provided, I will need your contact information so you can explain to them why they can't go. Do you have any questions for me?
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: I would like to, Mr. Chairman, if I may?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes. Please, go ahead. Absolutely.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: I want to thank the parents of the children, and the youth that are part of this program, because without your encouragement and your support, then they wouldn't have this great opportunity. So I want to thank you as well for encouraging your children and their friends to participate.
MR. WHITE: It is a tremendous program.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you. And thank you for taking time to bring your daughter and your family, also.
MR. WHITE: You bet.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you. Gene Roesh up, and then Tammy Perry.
MR. ROESH: Good afternoon. My name is Gene Roesh, and I would like to read this letter from Mark Johnson, who has been our neighbor with CBS. He was unable to attend, so I would like to read his letter to Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.
I am the father of two young boys who always look for new ways to get involved in the outdoors. Hunting is one of my many passions, a tradition my father passed to me and my brother. Safety of field, learning about nature, understanding the value of conservation are time-honored goals in my family. These goals are also shared by one of the most valuable programs our great state has to offer; the Texas Youth Hunting Program.
Like many parents, I do not own property or have financial means for a hunting lease. Finding a quality place for my son to hunt presents an opportunity, or excuse me, a challenge each year. I understand and appreciate the public lease opportunities provided by Texas Parks and Wildlife. I cannot stress how important it is for a youth to have a quality place to hunt. Thankfully, the Texas Youth Hunting Program and generous ranchers make this possible.
My oldest son, Brenner was fortunate to take part in a hunt two years ago at the Stasney's Cook Ranch. Words cannot describe the look on his face, and the thrill in his heart, after harvesting his first deer. It is a moment that neither of us will ever forget. Most importantly, he learned why being safe, ethical and a responsible hunter is so critical to the future of this great tradition.
I tell him these things, but as with many youth, the message sinks deeper into, when coming from somewhere else. Gene Roesh, participating ranchers and volunteers and staff of the Texas Youth Hunting Program deserve the credit. Their enthusiasm, understanding and professionalism are what make the program a success. Please continue to support our efforts. Sincerely, Mark Johnson.
And I personally want to say thank you for supporting our program. I appreciate it.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Gene, thank you for all you do. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Tammy Perry up, and Carolyn Biedenharn to follow.
MS. PERRY: Good afternoon. My name is Tammy Perry, and I am a parent of a Texas Brigade graduate. I am here today on behalf of everyone involved in the Brigades, to thank the Commissioners and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for your support of that program. As a parent, it is especially thrilling to see these young people like Carolyn and these other young boys get involved and get passionate about the outdoors.
And then as they become teenagers and get involved with the Brigades program, it is really thrilling to see them become passionate about the conservation of those resources. As a partner in the Texas Brigades, you are helping to educate our young people about the importance of our state's natural resources. Not only that, but to help them become ambassadors for the conservation of those things.
We want to recognize some of the employees who serve as camp coordinators, instructors and leaders of our camps. These are people who are employees of Texas Parks and Wildlife. This year, we were fortunate enough to have six camps around the state. And these were some of the people who helped in those.
In the Texas Bass Brigade, Mandy Scott, camp coordinator. Darrin Gossett, Greg Cummings, Zoann Stinchcomb, John Ingle, Charles Cruz, Michael Baird, John Provine, Tom Fisher, and all the staff at Fort Parker State Park. And the Feathered Forces Brigade, there was Bob Baker, Mike Eason, who was camp coordinator, Jason Hardin, Andrea Webb, Sean Willis, Rusty Wood, Micha Poteet, Charlie Muller.
And then the North Texas Buckskin Brigades was Jim Caughron, Chip Ruthvin, Jessica Alderson, Kyle Melton, Mike Miller, Nathan Rains, Dean Markquart, Raymond Sims. The Rolling Plains Bobwhite Brigade was Bruce Biermann, Jimmy Caughron. South Texas Bobwhite Brigades, we want to thank Dale Prochaska, Robert Perez, Matt Reidy, Jimmy Rutledge, Ashton Hutchins, Brock Minton, Dustin Windsor. And the last, the South Texas Buckskin Brigades, we want to thank Amy Hanna, Daniel Kunz, Brock Minton, Jimmy Rutledge, and Dustin Windsor.
These camps for these kids would not be possible without your support, nor without the knowledge and the leadership from the Texas Parks and Wildlife employees. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Carolyn Biedenharn up, and Allie Biedenharn to follow.
MS. C. BIEDENHARN: Hello.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Hi.
MS. C. BIEDENHARN: My name is Carolyn Biedenharn, and I am also the parent of a Brigade graduate. And I would like to echo Ms. Perry's thanks and appreciation to the Department's involvement in the Brigades. And then I would also like to mention several ways in which the Department benefits from its involvement with the Brigades. The materials presented at the Brigades gives the employees just starting out in the professional realm excellent leadership development training as well as wildlife and natural resource training.
Those who serve as adult leaders at the brigades are put through the paces just like the cadets. Additionally, Parks and Wildlife staff has the opportunity to gain valuable experience and broaden their knowledge base by teaching alongside their peers from other agencies, organizations, and the private sector. They are able to network and develop relationships with other wildlife and natural resource professionals.
I understand that Parks and Wildlife Department has seen a decline in the number of job applicants at the biologist level in the past decade or so. Presumably, because the trend is swinging towards environmental conservation, rather than wildlife and land stewardship. The Brigades camps are all about encouraging wildlife and fisheries management careers. We need wildlife and fisheries managers to come through the ranks, and the Brigades program is an excellent way for students to get started on that path.
My own daughter is a prime example. She would like to study wildlife biology in college and she knows what she is getting into, thanks to the Brigades. The Department should be proud of being a partner with the Brigades. This program has been exported to several other states, and there are other conservation-minded groups that are mirroring this program by having different types of Brigade camps.
It is all because of the attitude and excellence set forth by the leadership of the Brigades. I would like to thank you for this opportunity to speak to you, and also thank you for being part of the Brigades.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: All right. Thank you, Carolyn. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Allie Biedenharn followed by let's see if I can pronounce that right, Sheevy Perry, I think.
MS. A. BIEDENHARN: I am Allie Biedenharn. I am from Boerne, Texas, and I am a junior at the Geneva School of Boerne. Now the Brigades are not your average summer camp. Some high schoolers wouldn't like five days with limited sleep, no TVs, Facebook and no cell phone service. But that is not what I think. I think of the Brigades as the highlight of my summer.
Two years ago, I had my first Brigade experience at the South Texas Buckskin Brigade. The next year, I went back as an assistant herd leader at Buckskin, and a cadet at the Rolling Plains Bobwhite Brigade. This summer, I loved every minute of my three weeks as a special agent at Buckskin Brigade, and assistant covey leader at Bobwhite, and a cadet at the Bass Brigade. But what keeps me coming back? The people and the knowledge.
I originally applied to the Brigades because I wanted to be around people who understand that raising big bucks has just as much to do with white-tailed deer as it does to raising money and that covers are not only bed linens but also a place for bass and quail to hide from their predators. But that is not all I got. First rate instructors from around the state shared their knowledge and love of the outdoors with kids like us, who share the same love.
These best in their fields wildlife biologists, vets, and ranch managers volunteer their time to teach us how to manage animal habitats and conserve wildlife to preserve our natural resources. We are then able to take what we learn to the people back in our communities. Through these past three years, I have been able to teach 5th graders at my school about deer anatomy during their human anatomy unit, prepare and submit wildlife management plans, and write articles that have been published in magazines. The Brigades have given me the tools and confidence necessary to share my love and newly acquired knowledge of the outdoors with others.
So in spite of the lack of sleep and lots of note taking, the Brigades is a great opportunity. I have heard it said that preserving wildlife means throwing a party. And I can honestly say that to me, the Brigades makes learning about wildlife a very fun party.
Thank you for your support for the Texas Brigades. It is greatly appreciated, and does not go unnoticed. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Wonderful. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any questions or comments?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Is it Shelby? Sorry. I saw the L finally. Sorry. Shelby Perry up, and Dalton Myatt follow.
MS. PERRY: Hi. I am Shelby Perry, and I am a junior at Rusk High School. And I attended the South Texas Buckskin Brigade in the summer of 2007. It was actually my dad's idea, but, you know, I just went along with it. But it turned out that I liked it so much I went back the following year as an assistant herd leader, and then that same summer, the summer of '08, I attended the Bass Brigade as a cadet. And then this past summer, I went back as an assistant school leader at the Bass Brigade. And I am speaking from experience. The Brigades is so much more than just a weeklong summer camp. It's an intensive experience that teaches you not only wildlife skills but leadership and team working skills also. For a week, I had a chance to work very closely to people who at the beginning are strangers, and then by the end of the week, they are like family.
At each camp I went to as a cadet, I was given so many different opportunities. I had the chance to perform a live TV interview and speak at a mock stakeholder meeting about real life problems. The Texas Brigades motto, Tell me, I forget. Show me, I remember. Involve me, I understand. It rings true. You know, the staff members, they taught us for a short period of time, but they didn't stand up there for hours and give boring lectures.
You know, they taught us what we needed to know. And then they took us outside, and they involved us in that. And they taught us how to do that, so that it would stick with us for the rest of our lives. Coming back as an assistant leader taught me so much in so many different ways. You know, I learned that being a leader isn't easy. I have to make decisions that are beneficial, not for just one person, but for everyone.
I learned that even when I am stressed out and tired from staying up until 2:00 in the morning trying to finish tri-fold projects, and it seems like there is so much to do, I have to stay calm and be that support and encouragement that my team needs. Most of all, during my experience, I had a chance to be in a leader's shoes for the first time ever. I understood what it was like for my teachers and other leaders in my life.
And the opportunities didn't stop when camp ended. Throughout the year, I had so many chances to speak at various meetings, just like this one. Using the businesslike conduct and public-speaking skills that the Texas Brigades teaches you. I have had numerous articles published in magazines, such as Pine Boss and Hunt Team, and I have been a guest speaker on Bob Phillips' radio show. The Texas Brigades was an experience that helped me grow, not only as a student but as a person.
The opportunities and skills that it offers me will go with me for the rest of my life. I am really glad my dad talked me into it. I want to thank Mandy Scott and all of the other fishery biologists, and thank you for your support.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Does that work better. Dalton Myatt is up and Kirby Brown. Kirby, are you going to get up and take credit for all this, now? Anyway, Kirby, you are up next after Dalton.
MR. MYATT: All right. My name is Dalton Myatt. I am 13. And I go to Indian Springs Middle School down in Keller. I first learned about this when my mom told me that she found it on the internet, and I found out that I really wanted to do it. So I wrote the essay, and I submitted it. Some of my favorite activities were going outside and just playing around, hunting, fishing, boating and helping my grandfather out on the farm.
When the letter came that said I was accepted, I was really glad, and we started getting all the stuff ready. The first day, we learned about quail and turkey. We even dissected them, which was really cool, which was hands on the first day. We learned a lot about the digestive system and all its internal organs. We even went to the shooting range and we learned gun safety. We shot some skeet, and I got five out of five, which was pretty cool.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes.
MR. MYATT: And we just had eye protection, ear protection, so it taught me what I needed to do when I went hunting. And we learned about habitat management and other info for turkey-like behavior and other stuff that they eat. And habitat. We learned that they needed to have certain plants and insects to be able to thrive there, and the trees were really important.
That they needed to have about 90 air cover. And that you could see the air. And about ten trees, or 10 percent of the trees on the land that you have scattered everywhere, so that they can roost. We had leadership games which we had to have a whole lot of teamwork. And that actually was really hard. But everybody enjoyed it.
So we had to have a fishing pole and we had to lower it to the ground and bring it back up using only two fingers for each person. And if one side lowered it, the other side usually went up. So you had to lower it at the same time. We got tired a whole lot, but it was really worth it.
And one of my favorite things was the telemetry we did. You had an ATS radio, and a transmitter on the bird. And you had to go into the bushes and find them, and pick them up, and you had to take off their transmitters and that was really cool. And we went to SFA College and talked to the professors, and we learned about the achievements and degrees you could get. And I really think that I can see myself doing this as a career.
The last day, we had a big ceremony. We had certificates and pens. And we were taught public speaking for things like this. And we had a chance to earn points to go on a hunting trip, if we turned in our book of achievements which I have right here. And it is just really cool.
I would like to thank Mike and Rusty, that they are biologists who work for the Texas Parks and Wildlife, and they led the whole program. And it was really amazing. And I thank you all for listening. And do you all have any questions?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: No. Thank you very much, Dalton. We really appreciate it. It sounds like a good program.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you. Kirby Brown up, and Teresa McCorke I think, up after that.
MR. BROWN: Thank you. And I promise, I cannot take credit for those kids. They are great, aren't they?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes. That program is a great program, Kirby. TWA does a good job.
MR. BROWN: Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes.
MR. BROWN: My name is Kirby Brown. I work for the Texas Wildlife Association. And our members are landowners, hunters and conservationists, who own almost 40 million acres in Texas. And we are proud to be a partner with Texas Parks and Wildlife in the Texas Youth Hunting Program, and the Texas Big Game Awards Program, as well as the Texas Brigades. And we thank you for your continued support.
And young Blaine here was our speaker at our convention. And he just blew them out. He was great. So thank you so much for your help. And we want to thank you, the Parks and Wildlife Commission, your excellent staff, for your help during this last legislative session. And particularly Carter, Scott Boruff, Gene McCarty for their assistance in really moving some things forward that needed to happen, from a salary equity standpoint, and also for financing of parks and wildlife and fisheries.
Thank you so much for doing that. We appreciate it. And I also want to thank folks like Clay Brewer, Clayton Wolfe, and Mitch Lockwood for their detailed work on some of the specific issues that we worked on with legislators. They did a great job. And we appreciate and are grateful for the professional relationship that you have with our members and landowners and hunters. And we appreciate your caring for all that.
I am going to move quickly, because I am not going to be able to be here tomorrow. So I want to say on the draft Land and Water Conservation Plan, while we really appreciate the approach and the interest in brevity, that we believe that there is a need to further incorporate private landowners and private land management in several chapters, subchapters of the document, to make sure they are addressed and the interest is heightened. As well as wildlife and fisheries management, and particularly hunting and fishing. There is a little bit of that, when you go back through it, that we think you could add and move forward with.
Two, I am unable to be here tomorrow, so I want to express my support for the proposed Crop Depredation Rules. During House Bill 1965, we worked specifically to make sure that this Commission and the Department had the authority to set those rules in a reasonable fashion. We wanted to see them considered, discussed, and appropriate rules put into place as part of this. And we think the rules as proposed are appropriate for white-tailed deer management option, especially as we are looking at reasonable different approaches to bring white-tailed deer into current capacity with the habitat.
But we stand ready to assist — and further refinement if some localized populations are actually impacted, or at risk. We also agree, the rules as proposed are good, they are sound. We think the approach for white-tailed deer is sound. And we believe the difference in approach to pronghorn, bighorn, and mule deer is really necessary. And I appreciate both you and Representative Darby considering that.
That said, we have a split on our TWA deer management committee, and we have to agree with Commissioner Duggins on your concerns of issuing a permit prior to inspection during an open season. But we do believe that the rules give the staff the discretion.
That is the important part of this, so that if they know the area, they don't have to go into the area if they already know it. And the permit can be issued. But we do think they should inspect the area, if they don't know that country. And the other piece on communication to neighboring landowners, we think a few game wardens and past game wardens advise us there has been contention at times, in notifying neighbors that you are about to do this. And so, we would say, if there is some contentious situation, that perhaps the game wardens, or Parks and Wildlife biologists should help on that. With that, I just wanted to say, we also believe in the current border closure, that it has done a tremendous amount for disease management in Texas. Thank you for doing that.
And finally, from Texas Outdoor Partners, we have a new Chair, which I am personally very grateful for, and that is Joey Park, who most of you know. Joey will do a terrific job with the Outdoor Partners. And we are looking forward to continuing to work with you in the next legislative session. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you. And Kirby, thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Teresa McCorke up, and Todd Bacon to follow.
MS. MCCORKE: Hi everybody. My name is Teresa McCorke. And I am here to represent the Houston G people, a few members of the Texas Four Wheel Drive Association. And members of the Spring Creek Off Road Park. I am here following a bunch of really eloquent speakers, some way younger than me. I think, maybe one older than me. But what I am here to do is to really let you guys know there is a misconception, in my belief, on the off highway community.
I am an off-roader. I am a grandmother. I am a mother. I have lived all over the world. Southeast Asia, South America, and my home is Texas, and I am very proud of that fact. Beautiful landscapes here. I love conservation. I am an active member of Tread Lightly. I don't believe in getting out, getting in my jeep and going out and ripping up the countryside.
As a matter of fact, last weekend, when I took my four-year-old grandson four wheeling with me, he was able to see the butterflies flying in the woods. He was able to help me identify which one was a magnolia tree. Those are the important things to me; not getting out, just ripping up, running through the mud with a bunch of single-toothed rednecks.
My dilemma is this. I am a single woman. I need a safe place to be able to do that. It is a hobby. It is something that I take a lot of pride in. I invest a lot of money in what I do. Our local park in Houston, in Spring, Texas, has been closed down for a sundry of reasons.
And I find myself in a position where there is no place locally for me to be able to accommodate my hobby. Huntsville State Park allows ATVs, bicycles, motorcycles, but not me. I am not quite adventuresome enough to be out there on a two wheeler. I am a little old. I don't bounce as good as I used to.
And I really would like to ask you all to please consider that when you do funding, and you look at the parks, the Land and Water Conservation Plan for the next term, I believe it is the 10-year plan. I ask that you please consider that. There are families that enjoy off-roading. We don't want to do it.
Like I said, with a bunch of single-toothed rednecks. We want to do it in a controlled, safe environment. We want to be able to teach the next generation, or in my case, two generations away how to enjoy nature, be a part of it without destroying it. And I believe that the Texas Parks and Wildlife can help us do that. I am not certain how to go about doing that.
So I am here asking for your help. That is what I would like for you to do. Is help us figure out how to have a park in the Houston general area, where we can legally take our off-highway vehicles, the full size vehicles and enjoy legal off-road activities. Thank you for your time and your consideration.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you. Just as a quick question, we have a park in Gilmer.
MR. SMITH: We do, in Gilmer and in Sonora.
COMMISSIONER HIXON: That is in East Texas and then Sonora in West Texas. Are you familiar with those two?
MS. MCCORKE: Yes we are. And we are participants of that. We have regular runs out there.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Good. Okay.
MS. MCCORKE: We are also working with TMTC to get runs going to Escondido. Both of those are very far distance.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: No. I understand that. And we are trying to get closer to urban areas. But yes, it is difficult to find the properties and then deal with it. But good point. Okay. Thank you.
MS. MCCORKE: Thanks.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Next up, Todd Bacon, and then to follow, Tony Eeds.
MR. BACON: Hi. I am Todd Bacon from Houston. And I represent myself as a single father of a 16-year-old, a 19-year-old who thinks he is about 40, and soon to be a grandfather of twins. So I am going to have a lot of steps in front of me.
Actually, I just got into the four wheeling, off-road, OHV, just in February of this year. And have been exposed to a different lifestyle that when I first got exposed to it, had the perception of really the dirty side of life. Something that was really looked down upon. And as I have gotten with members of the Houston G people, worked with TMTC, and gone to Gilmer, gone to Louisiana, and I mean, I really put some miles on my vehicles over the year. I have learned that the perception of people with OHV is a little off.
A lot of the people that are dealing with the OHV are not just your standard low income people. These are people that are out, maybe have a jeep. That is their daily driver. They want to get out, and they want to enjoy using the vehicle for what it is used for, which is off-road. They don't have a venue to do that near Houston. We have to drive about four to five hours away to do something legally.
I would like to see some help, and I am not sure how to go about getting it done, to making some of these venues available for some of the people around the Houston area, not just Houston, but around Texas. As we make some of these things more legal and more accessible to some of these people, we are going to minimize the illegal activities where we get some of these people saying, hey, I want to go take my vehicle off-road and go see what I can do, and destroy things.
I believe in the tread lightly stuff, which I just found out about this year. I believe in the conservation stuff. I am looking for areas that people don't normally want. Strip-mining areas; you don't want to go backpacking in a strip-mining area. You don't want to go hiking in that area. But it is ideally suited for off-road vehicles, so that we can go out and try and see what we can do and get to areas that people can normally cannot get to.
And this type of thing is not really exclusive. It is inclusive to everyone. We include the young. We include the elderly. We include low income, high income, race, gender, disability. It doesn't matter. If you have health issues, not a problem. It is a lot easier to sit inside a vehicle, but yet, we can go into areas other people cannot get into.
And that is part of the fun and the enjoyment after working a long week, whether it is out shoveling sand, whether it is sitting behind a desk, whether it is just being out amongst the people. It is kind of nice to be able to go and to have some place to get off-road and challenge yourself.
I would like to see some funding. Well, I am sure there is funding out there. I just don't understand where the funding is going to. I know that there are — as Teresa said, places inside some of the parks. But they are exclusive to the full size vehicles. I would just like to see us see if we could get somewhere where we can include some of that, and make it closer, and not just to Houston, but to other areas of Texas.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you.
MR. BACON: All right. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any questions or comments?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Great. Thank you, sir.
MR. BACON: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Tony Eeds up, and Matthew Benefield next.
MR. EEDS: My name is Tony Eeds. And thank you for this opportunity to talk to you all. I am the President of Texas Motorized Trail Coalition. And I want to thank you all for your support that you have given us, in giving us the opportunity to represent the OHV community, and provide opportunities. TMTC is a 1,400-member, family-oriented off-highway vehicle recreation group that advocates across the state of Texas for recreation.
We believe it is important to provide those opportunities, and you all have given us that opportunity. I will just say this for the benefit of some of the people in here that may not know it, but Barnwell Mountain, when we purchased it in 2000 was the largest program, or the largest piece of property in the whole United States that had been bought with the program. And in 2006, Escondido Draw then became the largest. We are currently — we have operated Barnwell since the year 2000. We have owned Escondido Draw since 2006. And that is one of the reasons I am here.
Because we have been working with the OHV program at Texas Parks and Wildlife to develop all of the paperwork and everything else that is needed. And I know that many on the Commission know of what we have been working on. But that process, for a volunteer group as ourselves, and we are all volunteer. I am a volunteer as well. It is somewhat difficult and it is a daunting task.
And here we are, three years into it. And we hope that within the next 30 to 60 days, we are going to have final approval out of the Federal Highways Administration. So we are proud finally to be able to start working on it. One thing that I think is important that doesn't get touched on, about the aspect of what we do, is, I am by profession a historical preservation architect, and economic development professional in Texas. I deal primarily with small towns and I see the struggles day to day of what the small towns in Texas try to do to keep people there. You know, as we all know, they are all gravitating to the larger towns; Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, San Antonio comprise about 80 percent of the bulk of the people that are in the state of Texas. Nothing is wrong with that, but they are looking for opportunities to get outside those towns.
And heritage tourism has always been a big part of you know, economic development in rural Texas. And we are seeing destination tourism such as the OHV program as being another great opportunity. So I would like to ask you all's assistance in helping us get these projects on line faster. That to me is incredibly important.
The last but not least, I would also like to say that the RTP program, for those that may not understand it, 30 percent is non-motorized, 30 percent motorized, and the balance is discretionary. It has normally gone to non-motorized because of the lack of quality projects. And we now have them. And so I would like your help in making that distribution better. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you.
MR. EEDS: Is there any questions?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Tony, thank you for your and group. You all have done a great job. It has been a good partnership.
MR. EEDS: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: And I appreciate you taking the time. Thank you. Next up, Matthew Benefield to speak, and Curt Swafford is up after that.
MR. BENEFIELD: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you all very much for hearing our comments today. My name is Matt Benefield, and I founded the Houston G people a little over a year and a half ago. We did this strictly on a whim, and here we are, with nearly 200 active members. We also want to teach our kids how to respect the land, and respect one another. And it is through Texas Parks and Wildlife that we are able to do that.
We are not a bunch of monster motors or crazed rednecks out drinking beer in the woods and leaving our cans behind. We want to teach our kids the better way. We want to teach our friends a better way. And we can't do that without you. Any questions?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: No. You have all been well spoken. Thank you very much.
MR. BENEFIELD: Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you. Curt Swafford up, and Herbert Haynes to follow.
MR. SWAFFORD: One year has passed since I spoke about the 71 burros killed at Big Bend Ranch State Park. I would like to thank you and commend you for not killing any burros this year. I do however, have some concerns regarding your future plans.
And speaking to Scott Boruff, Mike Hill, and Dan Sholly, I am dismayed that they cannot assure me that this slaughter will not resume in the future. I recently contacted my State Representative Pete Gallego and one of his employees, Audra Ana [phonetic] called Texas Parks and Wildlife and was told by Harold Stone that the killings could resume as early as this fall. You have piqued the interest of the Humane Society of the United States, and they would like to help. One of their wildlife scientists named Stephanie Boyles has many ideas on how to control the problem rather than kill the burros. If you have not already heard from her, you will soon.
The people of Texas have made it clear that killing the burros is unacceptable. If you pursue this course of action, you will find yourself confronting several obstacles. First, since you are a tax-supported department that provides a service to tourists, you need to be responsible to what people want. Most people want to see burros continue to run free in Big Bend Ranch State Park, which I might add, is the only place in Texas that offers such a site.
Also, you are in violation of Texas Agricultural Code Chapter 143 Subchapter B. Presidio County is an open range county. And the law states that basically, that you must fence out the animals that you do not want, and fence in the animals that you want protected. I understand that Texas Parks and Wildlife was supposed to fence the park years ago. And I am not a big fence fan, anyway.
The law reads, if a person whose fence is insufficient under this subchapter maims, wounds or kills a head of cattle or a horse, mule, jack or jennet, or procures the maiming, wounding or killing of one of those animals by any means, including a gun, or a dog, the person is liable to the owner of the animal for damages. In this case, the owner of the animal is the people of Texas. And of course, the person liable is Texas Parks and Wildlife.
Mike Hill, one of the shooters from last year, assured me that Big Bend sheep are not being stocked in the park to make money off of trophy hunting, but are simply being put there to reinstate them in the area. If this is true, I am proposing a theory of why not put the big horned sheep on the northwest side of the park where the burros are not as prevalent. Since the park is not fenced, you may lose some of them to other properties. But they will find a satisfactory ecosystem.
And your goal, according to Mike Hill, of reinstating the area will have been completed and satisfied. You will be reinstating the area. It may not just be on your property. The burro is not your only problem. If aoudads and bighorn cannot coexist, which in one of your books, it says that they cannot, eliminating the burro is pointless, while all aoudads thrive in the park.
In addition, you have your own Texas Longhorns and you have loose cattle entering the park through Palo Amarillo and Bofaceus [phonetic] Canyons. How many animals are you going to have to kill to get this project going?
On a personal note, I know my time is up. My wife, Sue, who spoke last year would have been here, but she and my horse trainer is breaking in a wild Nevada mustang and we'll be back here in Fort Worth in about a month to the Extreme Mustang Makeover. And she got bucked off a week ago Sunday, and she is recuperating from a concussion and a cracked vertebrae. But she sends her regards to you and Carter, Gene. Gene, Currins and Bettina say hello.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you very much. I appreciate it. Any questions?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: This is an ongoing issue. We are trying to figure out the best way. We have tried trapping. We have obviously tried lots of —
MR. SWAFFORD: And for the record, I would like to leave my phone number. If any of you or anyone has any ideas, I would be glad to help also.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Sure. Feel free to. I don't know if it was on your letter or not.
MR. SWAFFORD: 432-371-2784. I am in the Terlingua, Texas, phone book.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. Fair enough. Thank you. Thank you, Curt. Next up would be Herbert Haynes. To follow will be Will Kirkpatrick, please.
MR. HAYNES: Good afternoon. My name is Herb Haynes. My wife and I live in a rural residential area near China Spring. We are here to ask for —
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Could you speak up a little more, or into the microphone, please? Thank you.
MR. HAYNES: My wife and I live in a rural residential area near China Spring. We are here to ask for your help. One of our neighbors is the Central Texas Rifle and Pistol Club. Our concerns about the club intensified this year when our home was struck by a bullet fired from the club's property.
My concern to you has to do with the target range grant program, totaling $90,000, made to the club in 2006 and 2008 and with the club's possible misusing the grant funds, abusing the grant requirements, and not following state law. I can't describe all these concerns in only three minutes, so I will focus on two of them.
First, about $149,000 of grant funds and donated funds have been spent in building a new rifle and pistol range, for which no plans have ever been submitted and at least $90,000 more is still needed to complete that range. Yet the hunter education classroom that was the primary focus of the original grant application has not even been started. Many of the club's existing ranges are unsafe, and have not been improved at all. And even the new range will be unsafe when it is finished.
Second, since this new range is within one-quarter mile of about a dozen residences, it is in violation of the National Rifle Association range manual standards, and therefore in violation of state law. The club's neighbors were not contacted about the new range, even though several of them are almost directly downrange and nearby. Chapter 756 of the Texas Health and Safety Code says that the outdoor shooting range construction must be in accordance with the strictest standards stated in the NRA range manual, which contains suggestions about how to organize a shooting range as well as formal standards regarding range construction.
The NRA standard that prohibits a new range from being built within a quarter-mile of a residence is in Section One Chapter Six and states that it is unacceptable for a range to be built within one-quarter mile of a residence, if the sound level produced by the firearms exceeds 90 decibels during one hour out of 24. The large caliber firearm proposed for use on this range produce sound levels on the order of 150 to 170 decibels. And the ranges are open from dawn till dusk. Therefore the new range is suitable only for archery or small caliber firearms such as the .22 rifle.
I found substantial flaws in the grant application and execution, and sent a lengthy letter discussing some of these issues to the target range coordinator. In a recent phone conversation with my wife, Mr. Hall stated that all of this year's grant funds for the club would be used for safety improvements. That is great. But what about the new range that is being built? Is it legal or not? And how do we find out?
Here is what I propose. First, prohibit use of the new range until its legality and safety can be determined. Then request an Attorney General's opinion about the legality of the range, concerning the use of the larger caliber weapons and dawn-to-dusk availability as the club is proposing. If the Attorney General says the range is legal, finish it to the highest safety standards and use it. But warn the neighbors about it.
If he says it is not okay, finish it for use with archery or small caliber firearms. As for my other concerns, I suggest that you have the State Auditors Office check the grant application and execution. That should be a real eye opener. Thank you for your consideration.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you very much. And we will take note of this. I wrote a note to myself to get with our executive director, Carter Smith, and let me look into that for you.
MR. HAYNES: Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. Thank you. Will Kirkpatrick up, and to follow Chris Hunter Jones.
MR. KIRKPATRICK: Good afternoon. My name is Will Kirkpatrick. And I came here today to clarify some issues from our May 28th meeting. During my career with the Bell System while working both craft and management, we were cautioned against meeting sites. We were warned that any time we are dealing with an adversarial subject, there should never be unstructured meetings held in equipment aisles or hallways.
After the 28th meeting, I failed to heed this rule, and engaged in a hallway discussion after testifying about my position on bass tournaments utilizing our state's waters free of charge. Each of your packets has support documents with attached information, tabbed and highlighted for your ease of reference. Director Smith and I had a brief discussion outside the Commission meeting room during this meeting and agreed it would be better if we held a subsequent meeting where documents could be presented.
And Director Smith just explained to me why this next paragraph is not applicable. So during this hallway discussion, it was stated that bass tournament promoters told him they will not pay user feels. But as Paul Harvey said, now for the rest of the story.
The hottest largemouth bass tournament, fishing tournament in the country right now is at Amistad Reservoir. It is managed by our National Parks Service and you will pay to have a tournament. If you have a tournament over 10 boats, you will pay an application fee. There is a maximum number of boats per tournament. Parking cannot be reserved exclusively for tournaments.
Now the only exception to this rule are events that are held by our National Armed Forces, which is justified. The second item was that Toyota motors was doing everything possible to assist TPWD while ensuing proper fish-handling procedures in tournaments. Clipped in your packet is a brown credit-card-sized card — this right here. This replaces an 8-1/2-by-5 inch "Keeping Bass Alive" booklet that I previously provided you.
And I believe that was in the May meetings, which contains 35 pages of required information. And according to Mr. Chris Horton who — Chris is the conservation director of BASS, was too long and technical for tournament anglers to absorb or understand. I helped Bruce Schupp, who was the previous conservation director of BASS simplify their original full-sized 47-page draft.
After using this blue copy in my fishing schools, it should be for six years, it feels like 12, I guarantee you it is pretty simple and basically uses high school terminology. The other side of this card advertises bass and Toyota trucks rather than providing additional basic handling information. Many of us has practiced and promoted catch and release way before and during the early stages of bass tournaments.
A third statement was made that I just don't like tournaments. Its resources paid for by recreational anglers and taxpayers free of charge, to make millions of dollars that I object to. I worked for tournaments for years to improve and refine bass-handling techniques.
The Department may have lost track of who pays the bills for the outdoors and the fact that fishing is supposed to be fun and not a cash cow. If you have any questions?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Anybody have any questions for Will?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, sir. We will look in your packet.
MR. KIRKPATRICK: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you. Chris Hunter Jones up please, and to follow, Jim Smarr.
MR. JONES: Director, Commissioners. Thank you. My name is Chris Jones. I represent the Universal Ephesians Church of Lake Livingston, trotline.org, and the Longleaf National Environmental Law Group. Last month, we asked you to amend the new one alligator gar per day rule, to protect important spawning grounds and migration routes on the Trinity River and Lake Livingston before the spring floods commence in March.
I repeat our request. Embrace science and not the words of exploiters. Before March, prohibit recreational harvest of alligator gar in spawning grounds on the Trinity River. Here, bow fishermen using air boats and generator-powered flood lamps plague these 100-year-old ten-foot-long fish. Their loud engines cause them to surface where they also breathe.
Alligator gar are so easy to see. There is no sport shooting these prehistoric fish in a barrel. These living fossils deserve protection as permanent components of every river in Texas for all of us to enjoy, in addition to large adult American alligator. Some of us have known 12-foot alligators for a decade and in 2007, to see one gator, George of the Jungle, shot in a public water by Lufkin poachers, and not prosecuted, due to political clout.
And it happened again last month at Armand Bayou. It is time to realize science and teach our youth. There are no longer trash fish in Texas. Director Smith, Commissioner Friedkin, this is a new Texas, with a burgeoning human population in Houston and Dallas. Foreign demand is like nothing before. The warm romanticism of what your magazine portrays of life on the rivers in East Texas is historic. I challenge you to take protective caution from these forces, including dangerous weekend warriors from the city.
Avoid the Agency's archaic principle of maximum yield. Direct the Agency with scientific conservation and reverse the extinctions that are taking place in Texas right now. And you know that every weekend teams of air boats packed with intoxicated men and guns, primarily in their 20s compete for money prizes to destroy everything they shine at night, including gar, non-venomous snakes and incidentally, alligator-snapping turtle. These people are not models for our children.
Our large fish and reptiles have no chance against current air boating and bow-fishing technology, which are mass marketed by sporting good giants across Texas, who are teaching our children to destroy nature by purposely misinforming them, so they can make more money. Do not remove any more log jams from the Neches River for the purpose of ecotourism and recreational paddling. Jumping log jams is a natural part of the paddling challenge, and serve as natural barriers to protect large fish and wildlife from being killed by gunmen in boats, trot lines and limb lines.
I am echoing the scientific community, including the U.S. Forest Service. It is published that public access to streams decreases species diversity due to direct and incidental take by fishery devices and firearms. Do not remove the log jams on the Neches River between Highway 59 and 69, or the air boats will come and 100-pound alligator gar and snapping turtles will disappear in literally the blink of an eye, as they have already in Lake Livingston. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you very much. Any questions for Chris? Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Jim? Jim, up and let me see. Sorry. Keith Guinlon. I think I am saying that right. G-U-I-N-L-O-N or D-O-N up after that. Jim?
MR. SMARR: Chairman Holt, Commissioners. I am Jim Smarr. I am here today on the record for the Recreational Fishing Alliance, Texas Chapter, as Chairman. They reelected me. I can't get — we would like to take the opportunity to thank the Commission and staff for your dedication and resources. You all have done a great job overall.
We have three main issues today that we would like to speak about with TPWD Coastal Fisheries. First of all, we were with the understanding, surprise, that the federal government is once again pressuring your staff at Coastal Fisheries and this very Commission to follow federal regulations in Texas territorial waters. We have done that for everything, I think, but red snapper. We feel that Texas territorial waters should remain under the jurisdiction of this Commission at all costs.
Following the federal two-fish limit in Texas territorial waters along with little or no season would be devastating to coastal communities, and this very Commission, due to lost license sales to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. I don't believe that this Commission or Parks and Wildlife is getting anywhere near the money out of the federal government out of NOAA when you pile that pile of money up, compared to what you get out of selling fishing licenses and the money back out of the Wallop-Breaux money.
So when you look at the Feds being mad, so be it. Texas is a sovereign nation to some of us. We just had Fountain Yachts file Chapter 11. The numbers of people getting out of business or whatever, due to this archaic red snapper deal is just unbelievable.
The second thing is, we are aware that the federal government is pushing catch shares at the national and state level as a new way to manage our fisheries. Simply put, the fisher or our resource would be sold to the highest bidder via public auction in both recreational and commercial sector.
This action violates the basic premise of the Magna Carta where we all own these things in tenants in common. That is a horrible slippery slope to go down, where we would use catch shares or follow Fed Regs which will devastate our economy on the coast.
And third, last but not least, we are having tremendous problems with drought. And as I said before, Governor Connally put the first fishing license in for 50 cents. That was to be dedicated to work on coastal passes. We are working with the Cedar Bayou and Benson Slough. We are having a difficult time getting a positive letter of support out of Coastal Fisheries. There was an 80-page permit sent in. The Corps only published four pages.
So there is a lot of data out there. I would encourage the Commission to speak to Coastal Fisheries and see if we can work with the other passes in getting grant money and teaming up with an engineering firm, to try to help our base. We are going to lose them to silt, hypersaline. Right now, we are going to lose a whole crop of fish this year, because the bays are — the hypersaline bays. If some of these passes were open, it would drop it, and those fry would live. We are going to lose a whole year crop this year.
So I have given you copies of data that we have given to the council. And another article there that I would appreciate. And a card, if any of you have questions, I can certainly give you other information.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Jim, thank you. We appreciate it.
MR. SMARR: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any questions for Jim?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: He has been a good representative down there. Thanks, buddy.
MR. SMARR: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes. Keith, Keith is up, and T.J. Marshall after that.
MR. GUINDON: Hello. My name is Keith Guindon. I am a representative of the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders Alliance. We are commercial fishermen with catch shares that Jim just spoke about.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes.
MR. GUINDON: I have been fishing the Gulf of Mexico for 35 years. And this is the first program that we have fished under that has caused an enormous recovery of the red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico. I fish off of the Texas coast. So our waters from Galveston to Brownsville, I am very familiar with, and have been familiar with for many years.
These catch shares have allowed us to fish under a system that allows us the ability to choose to fish here, or fish there, and the size fish we target, and the amount of fish we target, to keep our markets going strong. So catch shares is a very good tool for the commercial fishery.
And what I am leading to is the recreational for hire industry in Texas that is being devastated along with the rest of the Gulf Coast. And one of the reasons is, Texas has decided not to conform to the federal rules which punishes them a couple, maybe a week or two out of the year, and it closes down their business. I don't think it benefits anyone on the eastern coast of Texas, from say Port Aransas east.
There is some fish to catch in state waters from Port Aransas down south. And those people are benefiting from the open season. But it is also causing some people that are normally good, hardworking, honest people to go out there and do something illegal. And that is, to go past the nine-mile limit to catch some fish, and then come back in to state waters. It is unfortunate that the business has been cut down to a point to where they have to resort to doing things that are illegal to make a living.
So what I am hoping is that you will take into consideration all methods of management, in particular, the individual fishing quota system. It is not perfect. It is far from perfect. It is new in its development, and it has some really good points. It has some really strong results for the commercial fishery.
And I just wish that you would take your time and look at all of those opportunities that may arise with individual quotas. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: I appreciate that, Keith. Any questions for Keith?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: As you know, it is a contentious issue for all sides. And we are trying to, as we always do at Texas Parks and Wildlife to try to look at it from a scientific basis. And I think right now, that is where there are just kind of some basic disagreements between Texas Parks and Wildlife biologists and Fish and Wildlife. And we are just trying to understand and sort all of that out.
We want to keep the fishery going, like you do, and like we believe everybody — whether you are commercial, whether you are charter boat, whether you are recreational, and figure out how we can make it work for everybody concerned. But obviously, most of the other states along the Gulf have now gone with the federal system, and we will probably be making a decision one way or another here fairly quickly.
MR. GUINDON: I want you to know you have some very good representatives on the Gulf Coast Council, from Texas. They are hard-working guys, and they are doing a good job.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Good. I appreciate that, Keith.
MR. GUINDON: Thank you for your time.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you. T.J. Marshall up next and then Pat McGuigan I think, if I am saying that correctly. If I am not, I apologize.
MR. MARSHALL: Chairman Holt, Commissioners. Thank you for the opportunity to speak before you. I am actually very glad that this meeting is in Fort Worth. It has been 30 years since I have been here. I went to Jess Harben Elementary School and Liberty Junior High School here, outside of Dallas. And I have been in Florida for quite a while now.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: We won't hold that against you.
MR. MARSHALL: Well, I hope you consider me a wandering son. I got Texas in my heart. I ended up going to St. Edwards University in Austin.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Good.
MR. MARSHALL: My wife and I, we met at Deep Eddy pool in Austin. So Texas is a very special place. I think it was in my Texas history class, in Liberty Junior High School that I learned what a carpetbagger was, when I studied Texas history. So I don't want to hide it, or not address the issue. But there has always been a little bit of tension between fishing communities and environmental groups that handle some of these fishing issues. And I just don't want to ignore that elephant in the room. Ocean Conservancy, where we are at, is we just support science-based management to fisheries. Our organization is working on a goal to end overfishing in the Gulf of Mexico, and that includes the shrimp fishery, the reef fish fishery, the inshore fishery.
So we want to work with the Agency. We have been working with staff already, to have discussions with them, to bring our resources that we have to the table. We have quite a large group of supporters in Texas. We have 3,500 members here. We have a large staff up in DC that we work with the congressional delegations to be able to bring appropriations dollars down to the states, to be able to get the funding that we need for the data collection, which is the core to everything. That is how we get to the good science-based research.
I have a letter that I have distributed. I obviously don't want to burn all the time to dive too deep into that. But just a quick summary on the first page is some of the issues that we wanted to address. And that is the jointly managed reef fish species. And we kind of touched on this.
We have been working in Florida. Florida was really the big problem in the red snapper fishery. I think we were over about 900,000 pounds with the total allowable catch in that fishery. We went to Florida; we started working with the Fish and Wildlife Commission there.
And really, the big issue was, how it brings down the easement of enforcement. It brings down the confusion among anglers, when we look at these things as partnerships instead of these are their rules and these are our rules. And that how can we both come to the table and say, this is the way we can manage this fishery cooperatively. Florida opted to be able to go compatible with that. And what that ended up doing was opening up the red snapper season 14 days longer than that season would have been, because of the reduction in Florida's instate season, which is nine miles offshore.
The other issues that we have defined in this letter are our data collection program. There is a movement going on right now in the recreational fishery, and I work with Keith. He is a tremendous influence on the fishery management council. He is at every meeting, and participates actively. But in the recreational fishery, we hope the Agency will direct staff to be very much involved with the program to take the for-hire sector, which we have a definitive universe of permit holders, and be able to have a data collection program, where we can accurately count their fish.
And there are a lot of people in that community that are stepping forward to do that. And that way, we solve half of the recreational problem of how many fish are being caught. It is a very difficult — you know, it is kind of like a balloon, stuffing it in a box. And it kind of pops out over here, over there. And we don't want to have see restrictive measures that you know, upset folks.
But we also have to get to that base problem of how much of the biomass are we taking out of the water. And are we leaving enough biomass that it can reproduce itself and continue at a sustainable level. I appreciate your time. If we can be of any assistance to you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Good. Thank you, sir. I appreciate it. Pat McGuigan. Am I saying that — how do you pronounce it?
MR. McGUIGAN: McGuigan.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: McGuigan. Pat McGuigan, up. And Jim Haire to follow.
MR. McGUIGAN: Just a quick comment on Texas territorial waters. I want you to stand fast. Make sure that the saltwater recreational fisherman has access to it. I am against catch shares. Basically the selling of the resources, where a lot of people stand to make a lot of money.
So I urge you to again, keep the nine-mile limit for the Texas territorial waters. And we know what is best for our waters, not the National Marine Fishery. So thank you very much for this opportunity.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you for taking the time to come up. Any questions or comments?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. Jim Haire. And next up after Jim will be John Dexter.
MR. HAIRE: Good afternoon. I am Jim Haire from Tyler.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Will you turn it a little toward you, Jim? So that we can hear you?
MR. HAIRE: Yes.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, buddy.
MR. HAIRE: There we go. I am Jim Haire from Tyler. And I enjoy the Texas outdoors. And I really appreciate all of the work done from this Department. But none of the Department's work is more important than boating safety. And that area appears to have been compromised somewhat. When the Department took over LCRA's award-winning boating program, it immediately made two changes. The Department named an Anheuser-Busch-sponsored singer as spokesman who is famous for his song about getting drunk before going fishing. The Coast Guard told the Department they would not be associated with that person.
The second change, and the one that I am actually here about today is the Department adding and featuring an Anheuser-Busch boating message that you can responsibly drink and boat by simply designating a driver for the boat, and becoming a drinking passenger. Anheuser-Busch promotes this message nationwide, even using billboards. When they put the billboards up in Oregon, for example, the state protested because the extensive studies done showing the message to be dangerous.
For example, California's boating group reports their studies show that of those killed in alcohol-related accidents, 60 percent were intoxicated passengers, and 75 percent of those either caused or contributed to their own deaths. They added that the idea of designating a sober operator has its roots in auto safety, where the possibility of falling out and drowning is not a factor. And the ad, that this strategy may give a false sense of safety if applied to boating.
The University of North Carolina and Johns Hopkins University conducted an eight-year, that is eight-years study involving hundreds of cases and found the same results. They found that many people who have been drinking fall overboard and drown even when the boat is not moving. These reports are attached as Exhibit 1.
With such hard evidence showing how flawed the message is, one is left to wonder well, why does the Department promote this message? Exhibit 2 provides a strong clue. And it is just a clue, but I provided it.
It shows 15 examples of the Department violating its own written policies, rules and some state laws in my opinion in other over-the-top efforts to help Anheuser-Busch promote Budweiser beer among boaters and other people. This Agency is not the only one to feel the alcohol industry's influence in Austin. The Governor's Tax Reform Commission was able to increase cigarette taxes but reported in the Austin paper they could not increase alcohol taxes, because the alcohol industry has, and I quote, a controlling influence over the state legislature. Your Department's response appears to fall short.
They say this has worked in automobiles, and that it should reduce legal infractions. They dismiss all of the studies and research provided, furnishing none of their own. Regardless, the Department should stop the mixed message of on the one hand saying don't drink and boat, and on the other hand, saying, well, you can responsibly drink and boat by just designating a driver.
I hope you will take my comments in the constructive manner they are intended. And I will be happy to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any questions for Jim?
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: I have a question.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, sir. Please.
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Jim, do you advocate no drinking and boating at all?
MR. HAIRE: Well, the last item I read from the U.S. Coast Guard said it is not safe to drink and boat. You should not drink and boat. And you all have a message that says don't drink and boat. And I suggest that you just stop there. Because there is this ton of evidence, research done by people who are unbiased.
I don't think that Johns Hopkins University buys a lot of beer stock or sells a lot, or they're short beer stock. Their research is pretty definitive. And so why would the Department go against all this hard evidence? All this research? When you talk to people in California, talk to you all's counterparts in California, they are very adamant. They get excited about this. They say, my gosh. You know, you shouldn't be doing that. Talk to the state of Oregon the same way. And the University of North Carolina.
Those people are not in the beer business. They are not anti-beer. They just done an eight-year research covering hundreds of cases. And I am saying, why does Texas Parks and Wildlife ignore that? I mean, why. And I look around, and I found the only evidence I could, is that they ignored a lot of evidence and rules and laws and policies for the sake of Anheuser-Busch. And this is an Anheuser-Busch policy or strategy. Google it.
Google "designated drivers," and you will see, they have done all kinds of studies, and they've asked 20,000 boaters if they like it. And all the boaters say they like it. But as far as objective studies, showing what is safe and what is not safe, showing the deaths and so forth, it says don't do this. And I really would appreciate it. If you all would just look into it.
If you ask Carter Smith, he may say, I have been told everything is all right. But if some, one of you probably have a staff assistant back in your office, in whatever business you are in. Ask them to spend 45 minutes looking at this, and see what they say. I challenge you to do that.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, Jim.
MR. HAIRE: You bet.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: John Dexter, up. And follow, Doug Evans.
MR. DEXTER: Good afternoon.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Hello.
MR. DEXTER: Thank you, Chairman.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you.
MR. DEXTER: My name is John Dexter. I reside at 43 County Road 2140, Whitney, Texas 75783. Please bear with me. I do not talk that much. But I do look, watch and listen.
First, I personally would like to thank all of the individual people and committee members for all their time, effort and hard work in keeping Texas Parks and Wildlife as one of the best in the state parks for our country so that all citizens can truly enjoy their leisure time. When people ask me what I do, I tell them I am a retired cowboy. I do not ride real bulls anymore. I ride pretenders and want-to-be bullriders. But I still enjoy and like riding a well bred, very good cutting horse.
Please know, and remember the past. Live and recognize the present. Work and love for the future. Please keep our state parks as natural as possible. I have your questions and need assistance.
If there is any born-and-raised Texan in this two-day Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission meeting that can and would be good enough to arrange a meeting for me to meet with the good Governor of this great State of Texas. If so, please let that person come forward and speak with me. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, John. Any questions or comments?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay, John. Thank you. Doug Evans, up. And to follow, Julia Burgen. Please.
MR. EVANS: Good afternoon, Honorable Chairman Holt, members of the Commission. My name is Doug Evans. I am the Director of Parks and Recreation of Grapevine, Texas. Also here on behalf of the Texas Recreation Parks Society also known as TRAPS.
First of all, I would like to thank the Commission. I would like to thank Executive Director Carter Smith, State Parks Director Walt Dabney, Grants and Aids Branch Chief Tim Hogsett and all the employees of the Parks and Wildlife Department for the great work you all do in representing our state and your great dedication. Also thanks so much for the partnership we have had and enjoyed. And I am talking about the Texas Recreational Parks Society, and the Parks and Wildlife Department. Thanks so much for your support during our legislative session.
We are happy with our grant program. I can't say it any better than Mayor Moncrief did about our Texas Parks and Wildlife parks account as far as the grant program, and the importance to local communities. In closing again, just thank you so much for your support. On behalf of TRAPS, I am here to tell you, we are here to support you in any way we can as far as your mission in whatever. And I know we are going to have a great partnership throughout the years. And thanks, Carter, to you. We appreciate this very much.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Doug, thank you. And just to the rest of the Commission, to let you know, TRAPS and Doug and everybody have been a big help. The last two legislative sessions, we are finally getting somewhere, getting a little momentum going. So I really appreciate all Doug's help and TRAPS, everybody that is involved.
MR. EVANS: I appreciate that very much. I know we do need more money for our state parks. And I will just throw that in.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Well, we will keep working on that one. Thanks, Doug. Julia Burgen up, and Janice Bezanson follow.
MS. BURGEN: Good afternoon. I received awards from TRAPS and Sierra Club and the League of Women Voters and the State of Texas in the '90s for my conservation work. Recently, I have tried my best to be retired. But parks issues always bring me forth. It is my number one most convictions come there.
I represent myself today, although I have been an elected official in the past. I was particularly concerned about the changes which led to the resource protection division being dropped. Now obviously, the topic of resource protection is something that has permeated about every speaker who has come here today. But if it is true that there is not an umbrella Resource Protection Division in the Department that addresses the umbrella issues of connectivity and across the board relationships between the resource, the habitat, the users, the critters — that was my information. And I am concerned.
If there is not a Resource Protection Division, or if there is no way for individuals to know to whom they would take a resource protection question, other than trying to find, pinpointing what your area of interest it is, and then going in through that area. I understand that you do coordinate with other agencies, the public interest presumably being met when you coordinate on resource protection issues with other agencies, developers, business and industry. But that leaves out folks like me, who nowadays, although I am a native Texan, I am an individual now who needs to be able to talk to somebody.
I also, there is different strokes for different folks out here. And that is the joy of it all. And that certainly is obvious this afternoon. But I would encourage you to give greater emphasis and attention on non-consumptive uses, particularly with families in our Texas state parks. I am very encouraged that Lake Mineral Wells has a sky-watching event coming up September and October, I believe it is, that there are bird- watching opportunities, that there are hopefully Monarch opportunities. That is one of my big interests at the moment is that we not lose that species.
And so things are different nowadays. We need to be encouraging people-powered activities as opposed to hydrocarbon-based activities on our public lands.
And a lot of what you heard today has to do with the hydrocarbon things. So I just think that was important for somebody to stand up here and say that. I am also concerned about your funding. It is my understanding that the sporting sales goods tax that was supposed to go to parks still doesn't go.
And I also am concerned because of the license plates. I always wanted a bluebonnet license plate. And finally I had enough money to do it. And then I found out in 2005 that you all weren't getting the extra money that I was paying for that license plate. And it is my understanding that that is a state legislature issue.
I want you to know that I will do whatever I can. I keep trying with the few legislators who will listen to me. That is something that is really bad, and I hope your funding needs to be what it is supposed to be, from the sporting goods tax and from those license plates. Thanks for listening.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Julia, thank you. License plates.
MR. SMITH: Yes. The funding from the license plates, and she is referring to the bluebonnet plate that you can purchase that is dedicated to state parks, and can only be used for state parks. We spoke with the legislature now, and they assured us that the funds that have accumulated, those fund balances are now fully appropriated to support the Agency whether it is state parks or the horned lizard plates or —
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes. So I think we have got it now to where it is being appropriated, and we are able to use it, Julia. I just wanted to let you know, on the license plates.
MS. BURGEN: Well, I dropped mine. I was just so furious at the whole thing.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Well, you need you to buy another one now.
MS. BURGEN: I will go back.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Help Walt Dabney with his parks.
MS. BURGEN: I will go back. I want it in writing from somebody.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Well, we probably only do that two years at a time. The legislature —
MS. BURGEN: I want that in writing. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Fair enough. Thank you. You raise some good points. Thank you. Janice — I won't even — I know Janice, but I can never pronounce her last name. Janice, I am sorry. I never can pronounce your last name. And next up — you are a big supporter of ours. Bonnie Bowman is next up.
MS. BEZANSON: Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission, Carter. My name is Janice Bezanson. It is really quite simple. Just Bezanson.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Bezanson. Okay. I am going to get it in my brain.
MS. BEZANSON: Okay. I am the Executive Director of Texas Conservation Alliance, which is the state affiliate of the National Wildlife Federation. We have 41 member organizations and they span a broad spectrum of hunting groups, fishing groups, recreation, indoor middle education, one faith group, two businesses, a very broad spectrum of conservation interests.
I want very much to thank the Commission for your leadership during the last Legislature. If it were not for your leadership and the strong support that you gave to the staff, Texas Parks and Wildlife would not be in the shape it is, and we need it to be in the very best possible shape. And I want to thank you for working with all of your constituents so well through the legislative process.
There is one issue on the agenda tomorrow, and unfortunately I am not going to be able to be here tomorrow, so I want to mention it while I am here today. Invasive species is one of the big natural resource issues in this state. I have seen under stories of wonderful native vegetation disappear to privet. Whole forests disappear to tallow tree. Caddo Lake choked with giant salvinia.
This is a problem we need to be very strong on. And we are very concerned that if the Commission starts granting, relaxing the rules and granting more permissiveness on invasive species, that we are going down the wrong road. We are setting the wrong precedent. In the last legislative session, as part of your Sunset, of course you know, the Department has been told to go back and review this issue.
We think it would be the wrong time to be voting an issue where we relax the rules on that when that process has not gone forward. So we hope that you will vote against that item on the agenda. The last thing I want to say is what I have said to practically every Commission for 20-some-odd-more years than I want to tell you that I have been doing this and that is always a major priority needs to be land acquisition.
Acquisition of natural areas, Wildlife Management Areas, parks. Because intact ecosystems are becoming very rare. We are fortunate in Texas that we have landowners who are concerned about wildlife and our private landowners do an amazing job of including wildlife in their work. But there has always got to be a balance there.
And we need some land that is strictly set aside for wildlife. And I know that money is scarce. But I urge you to always make this a priority as you work with the legislature. Again, we do appreciate you very much. And we look forward to seeing you in the outdoors.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thanks, Janice. Thank you for what you and your group have done, too. You know, it is a joint effort anytime you go before the legislature. And you all have been a tremendous support for us.
MS. BEZANSON: Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you. Bonnie Bowman up and Peggy Kimberlin to follow.
MS. BOWMAN: I want to thank you for this opportunity for me to speak before you. I live here in the Fort Worth area. I live in Arlington. And so had you met anywhere else, I would not have been able to attend, and kind of see you a little bit in action. And so thank you again for coming. My name is Bonnie Bowman. And as I said, I live here in the Arlington area.
It is thoroughly urban area. We are surrounded by Fort Worth and Dallas and all of these others. And every morning I get up and I walk in our parks. And I am very grateful to the fact that the Texas Parks and Wildlife makes many of those possible through their community park grant program. The ones that I usually frequent are the ones that they bill as natural areas. And so I see the invasive plants coming in.
And I see all these things. But one of my big concerns is, is that as I move around the area, these areas, such as I am walking in, are getting increasingly rare. And they are hard to find. And they need to be bought before they get developed. Because we urban areas are very in love with these development people who come in and erase it all, and build these tract houses, and give the nice roads little things like Oak Drive, and there is not a single tree to be seen anywhere.
So one of my pet issues is the Fort Worth prairie, even though it is not in my backyard. And it is a pet issue in particular because it is public land. And in order to develop that as a park, we the citizens have to buy back our own land, in order to be able to use this. And the Texas Parks and Wildlife, because of their policies of only going for big tracts, somehow, you can't get it. And so we can't get it.
And when I look at the grants program, there have to be recreational components. Sometimes, just as our previous speaker said, sometimes land has to be bought because it of such incredible habitat value. It provides connectivity, not only for our roots, but for the animals and the wildlife and the things that we really want to enjoy when we do go outside.
So I want to take you again, this chance for bearing my heart here, on something that is very important to me, and asking you to look at these parks grants and the community grants. Because your agents have the knowledge, much more than a local parks and recreation hiree might know, to be able to give the insight and through that grant process, in the application, and in the thing, kind of look at the point system, so that cities are motivated to just preserve certain land.
And so that we can move forward on protecting and connecting the little bits of heaven that we have within our urban areas. Thank you again.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Good Bonnie. Thank you very much. Peggy Kimberlin, please. And after that it will be Niels or Neils Brown, please.
MS. KIMBERLIN: Hi. I am Peggy Kimberlin. I live in Flower Mound, Texas. And I very much appreciate you all coming north instead of me going south. If you got up at 4:00 in the morning, I could make the meeting at 9:00. I really appreciate this opportunity to visit with the Commission and Mr. Carter. Again, I am glad that you came to Will Rogers Coliseum.
I hate that Mayor Moncrief left, because I was going to point out that this facility was built for the 1936 Centennial, the Texas Centennial. And we could use a little makeover here, too.
So congratulations on you finally getting some money that Texas Parks and Wildlife well deserves from the legislation this year. And a little sidebar, riding drag on a herd of this many speakers gives me a lot of thought. And on the Anheuser-Busch point, I suspect the big dollar is behind the advertising.
And if the Texans that love their Texas parks and their fishing organizations and all the clubs that love our parks and our fisheries, if they would actually speak up to our legislators and tell them. No, don't just speak. Yell at them. Tell them, it is time for that legal money from the sports sales tax and recreational sales tax to be given to the Texas Parks and Wildlife like it is supposed to. If the citizens of Texas would be vocal about that, you might get some more money. But I don't think they realize this greasy wheel gets the noise, you know.
As publisher, my main course of being here today is equestrian. I am editor and publisher of the Trail Riders Journal for 17 years. And now it is an online magazine. It is — Texas equestrians in Oklahoma and the neighboring states that come to Lake Decatur grasslands which is federal U.S. Forest Service. And of all the 24 parks, there is not but 24 out of the over 100 parks in Texas that are equestrian friendly. And only nine of those are for day riding. And 15 are for overnight camping.
Equestrian trail riding is a big issue, and a very popular one. In fact, this would be my 23rd year to host the one at the Stilwell Ranch in Big Bend country. People from all over Texas, this is a very popular sport. And about four years ago, when I went to one of your meetings in Austin, I emphasized the issue of Coggins papers were not being checked at the state parks, which is an issue.
Designated, it is a law since 1995 through the Texas Animal Heath Commission. And after that visit and through your efforts, it is now, you don't go to a state park with a horse if they don't verify that you have a negative Coggins paper on your horses. So yes, you do work, and yes, you do listen. And that is very commendable.
I appreciate very much the opportunity to speak with you. And I very much admire all of your efforts to travel around the state so that other people like myself get an opportunity to address you. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, Peggy. Thank you. Thank you very much. Appreciate it. Niles or Niels Brown. Let me sure I get that right, up. And then Ben Harbowz to follow please.
MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman, Niels Brown from the Trust Republic Land had to leave. But he dropped off a packet of information from his organization.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. So Ben Harbowz, and I think I am reading this right, seeing it right, is up, and K.B. Kabuta to follow.
MR. HARBOWZ: Good afternoon.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Good afternoon.
MR. HARBOWZ: I appreciate you all being up here, with all that has been said back and forth. You all might divide up into three groups and have three of these around the state, so we don't have to travel so much in order to visit with you all. Videocamcorders and the like still work.
Anyway, I have heard a lot here. And as far as rednecks go, you can't tell us by our teeth anymore. We can all afford dentures now. So you need to find some other way, just like we gave up carpetbagging. We don't call folks carpetbaggers anymore. I am here basically, I have worked for the federal government for 23 years. And I got out of that when I figured it is like listening to all this.
You guys, I mean, your bailiwick is so broad, and your terms aren't that long to deal with that. So it is like transferring the ball all the time. And I hear a lot of these people have been coming here for years and years. And they still feel that they are talking about a lot of the same things. So I know that change is going on.
But I am glad to hear the last few people talking about parks. Now we talk about land. Texas has, like what, 268,000 square miles? We have got like 3 million acres of private land in the State of Texas or public, most of that was purchased. And most of it by federal dollars. There is 500 billion acres, 500 million acres or more, west of the Mississippi, as public land. We don't have that luxury.
We have got to take what we have now and use that and take care of what we have got. Especially our parks. When you go to the parks, we spend what, I read in the paper, that got me here. Less than $3 per capita on our parks. We have got millions of people in the state that just want to go someplace on the weekend, take their kids, visitors or whatever to a national park or a state park and visit and relax. Like watch butterflies and put our feet in the water.
Teach our kids how to camp, and how to get along with people next to you. Play with strangers. Get to trust folks. Enjoy the environment. I taught school for 10 years. I was really encouraged the last 10 years. These young people are gone now. I quit teaching school. It wasn't doing any good.
I don't know where these kids go to school, but it wasn't where I taught in Dallas. So we have got hope here. What you all's programs are doing in that area are really good. I am not necessarily believe that we ought to spend that much money on one little program to make sure that we have license purchasers in the future, but take care of the parks. Land costs money. Texas doesn't have a lot.
We need more land for people. Take care of what we have got, and more people will come and support it in many different ways. Not only that, but they will be supporting you all too, in the other endeavors that you all are pursuing that are also critical to this. Now I know you all are hand in foot with landowners in this state. We are 98 percent private. You have got to be. We understand that.
But at the same time, we know who is really flipping the cards and who has got what up their sleeve and all that kind of stuff. You all have got a tough job. Take care of our parks. We have got them; hold on to them, don't lose them. Put $4 in per capita. That might help. Thank you. Appreciate it.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: You can help us also. Thank you. I appreciate your comments. I have K.B. Kabuta up now, and then Jarid Manos or Manos up after that.
MR. KABUTA: How are you all doing? My name is K.B. Kabuta.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Flip it up a little bit. There you go. Hopefully, it won't break on you. I think we broke it last time. That way we can hear you better. Great. Thank you.
MR. KABUTA: How are you all doing? My name is K.B. Kabuta and am with the Great Plains Reservation Council. I am a senior youth leader. And then I want to thank you all for coming.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Sure.
MR. KABUTA: And I just wanted to say that I came here today to tell you, to let others know how the Great Plain Reservation Council means a lot to me. And then believe it or not, it helped me get through my problems in life, as me being young, you know. And then it educates me a lot. And then the organization is to let people know about the grassland, about the grassland prairie and how much the animals, the animals of the Fort Worth Prairie Park mean to us. And that is what I wanted to say.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: All right.
MR. KABUTA: Thank you all.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Great. And I appreciate you taking the time. So grassland preservation is something we are interested in. Trying to figure out how to do it is the hard part. Thank you. Jarid — go ahead.
MR. KABUTA: I wanted to thank Commissioner Duggins and Carter Smith and let me see — I get names mixed up. You know, I just can't remember some names sometimes. And Walt —
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Dabney, right behind you?
MR. KABUTA: Yes.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you. Jarid Manos or Manos up next. And then Stephen Sargent after that.
MR. MANOS: Good afternoon. Thank you for this opportunity. My name is Jarid Manos. I am the founder and CEO of Great Plains Restoration Council. And I think Texas is such a beautiful country — I mean state.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: You make our Governor happy.
MR. MANOS: And at the same time, I think, in the chaos of our modern lives, we don't realize how much we have lost. I think that we inhabit a landscape of pain if we look a little deeper. Right here where you are standing, we have an opportunity to save the largest remaining sections of our native tall grass prairie. As you know, the Blackland Prairie and the Coastal Prairie are in tatters.
And the Fort Worth prairie ecosystem, there are several thousand acres of that left, and there once was 1.3 million acres. Out by Lake Benbrook, we have an opportunity to preserve 2,000 acres that is owned by the Texas General Land Office that is of incredible biodiversity. And I have been all over the Great Plains and I have just seen nothing but devastation and sorrow and loss.
And I don't want our future as well as our present to be defined by that de-evolution of losing things. I believe that in protecting what we have left, the living biodiversity, we also set a model for how we can evolve into the future. These ecosystems, sometimes we objectify them, but they are places of life. The Fort Worth Prairie has been a living and breathing, it may seem ancient for tens of thousands of years, but it is like it was born just this morning.
And when I look at the work that we do, I am trying to open a door, not just into the next day or the next year, but a thousand, five thousand years from now. And so the work that we do in our lifetimes, especially at this critical time, when things are changing. We are the bridge for that. Because 5,000 years is not even really a moment to the Fort Worth Prairie.
And I would really love it if those who haven't been out there, I would love to bring you out there, and take you into some place that is ancient but born this morning. My organization, Great Plains Restoration Council will be 10 years old next month. We started from nothing, and we are more or less the founders of the ecological health movement which is a new way of looking at conservation or the environment. Ecological health is the interdependent health of humans, animals and ecosystems.
And we, through our social work, we blend social work with ecological recovery and protection. You know, it is a body and earth, soul and soil combination. It is a new approach of looking at the integration of our lives. There is — we have two programs that our young people work to heal themselves while healing or protecting our shattered prairies and plains. Plains Youth Interaction is our main project.
And then we have Restoration Not Incarceration also. Last thing I will say is, that old drunk Sam Houston said, no country upon the globe can compete with Texas in natural advantages. I definitely agree with him. And I hope you all will come out. And thank you for caring. To me, it is a sacred duty. And I hope that you will come and help us protect the Fort Worth Prairie Park. God bless. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you. You do good.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Stephen Sargent and to follow, Tom Hall.
MR. SARGENT: Good afternoon, my name is Stephen Sargent. I would like to thank Commissioner Holt, the Commission, as well as Carter Smith. I know you are probably wondering why this teenager is standing before you. But I promise you, I am not as young as I look. I just graduated from Texas A & M, actually last Saturday with my Ph.D. in political science.
I met Jarid working in advocacy and politics. And the thing that compelled me about the work is that it has threefold importance to the State of Texas, I believe. Specifically speaking about the Fort Worth Prairie Park. One, whenever I meet anyone, they ask where I am from. I tell them I am from Fort Worth, Texas, where the West began.
And so I feel very proudly about the heritage of Texas and this area. And I think that the Fort Worth Prairie Park is an area that needs to be preserved and protected, just for the historical importance that it plays in Texas history. Additionally, I also think that we have to preserve our environment. Fort Worth Prairie Park holds many of the rare species of plants and animals. So it has a historical importance, and also has the environmental importance. But third, and I think most importantly, I think the impact that it will have on youth. Studies have shown that children who are able to participate and enjoy nature have a greater opportunity in life. They have lower rates of negative interaction with the criminal justice system.
Additionally, they are more successful in the education system. And so I think that preserving the Fort Worth Prairie Park is something that is very important. And I think it will also send a message that Texas cares about the environment. Texas cares truly about its heritage. Because if we don't preserve this, then this is going to be a piece of Texas history that we will never get back.
I would like to thank you once again for allowing me to speak. I have some packages for the Commission, if someone could — I will bring that over there.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay.
MR. SARGENT: But thank you again. And I appreciate it.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you. Thank you for taking the time to come in. Interesting concept. Yes. Tom Hall, up. And Ed Pischedda, I think, will be last.
MR. HALL: How are you, Commissioners? Good afternoon. I thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak to you. I am from the South Texas, Corpus Christi area, and that is way south of here. Corpus Christi is south, and so I hope you remember to go into Corpus some time.
I want to ask you to — the State of Texas has some of the best marine biologists in this United States. There is a lot of states that ask Texas biologists what is going on. They take a lot of stuff from Texas; how to study their fish, how to — they learn everything, a lot of stuff from us. Listen to our biologists. They will tell you how the red snapper are taken care of. How much we regulate our own fish.
Do not let the federal government come in here and tell the State of Texas how to control Texas waters. If they come in here and take a ruling, dropping us two fish, you are going to lose a lot of people buying state license to go offshore. They may buy — they will buy a license, but you are going to lose a lot of recreational fishermen. You are going to.
I also represent my business. I am a fishing guide. Coastal I Fish Guide Service. I also represent the Coastal Bend Guides Association. We have 100 members in association. And they have all voted for the state to control their own waters. Do not let the federal government in here to control us.
But I ask that you do listen to your biologists. They know what is going on in our waters, not the federal government — our state waters. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, Tom. I know Corpus. My children were all born there. You are the last, Buddy.
MR. PISCHEDDA: Well, maybe I was —
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Ed Pischedda. Okay, Ed.
MR. PISCHEDDA: Thank you. I am glad to be here. Maybe my words will get remembered. I am here today to emphasize the importance of green space, the need for large tracts of green space preserved in their natural state, in Texas. In 1986, I first came to Texas as a child in 1966.
Twenty years later, in 1986, I moved to Oregon, where I spent the ensuing, much of the ensuing 20 years. And the difference in the amount of public recreation space available to the typical urbanite, Oregonian, is striking. There is vastly more recreational opportunities available to city dwellers and rural residents too, in Oregon. There is much federal land that is open to hunting and fishing for free. It is a very different state of affairs than exists in Texas.
And I would like to see — I would like to encourage you all to do what you can to take steps, be it starting planning, spending money on consulting engagements, to see what we can do to get Texas, have more land brought into the public domain so that Texas can compare favorably with the other western states that it is going to compete with for tourists, the tourist dollar in the future. One example I would point out, I would point to that where I think you have done an excellent job is the acquisition of the Big Bend Ranch in far west Texas, next to Big Bend National Park.
That was the addition of much acreage in a natural state. And I think is a great boon to Texans. And I think it was a key crown jewel of an acquisition. And I would like to see more of that kind of thing maybe closer to some of the urban areas, like Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, so that it is more accessible.
The second thing that I would like to emphasize along those lines is the possibility that any such planning, consider the possibility of using the Parks Department as the agent to establish greenbelts, wide swaths, two- to three-, five-mile-wide doughnuts around our towns and cities that are devoted to parkland, preserved in the natural state as well as farming.
Agriculture conducted on a small farm scale where locally grown produce and livestock are raised to supply more locally grown food for the residents of the towns within this green doughnut. And I think the Parks Department over the long term might be an agent that could make that possible, make that happen. Along those lines, both in these urban greenbelts that I have described, as well as the more rural wilderness tracts like the Big Bend Ranch, regardless of the land that is under the Parks Department jurisdiction, I would like to see less of an emphasis.
I am not complaining. I do like the recreation-oriented parks that are under you all's jurisdiction. I think that is good. But I would just like to see the more wilderness-type tracts acquired in the future, and less of an emphasis on the amusement park style parks. And particularly, I would encourage you all to promote policies that keep ATVs, dirt bikes and chainsaws out of park land.
And I also, for what it is worth, don't think that the average Texan is well served by having and knowing that other Texans are running around with handguns loosely in wild parks. I think that is a bad combination. So I will leave it at that. More acquisitions. Vastly expanded acquisition program for land kept in a wilderness, natural state.
And particularly, I would also like to put in a word along with the people who just spoke for the importance of prairie land and the land maintained in a natural prairie state. And consider also the possibility of the reintroduction of buffalo on that land for just to look at, as well as possibly harvested and used as a food source. So thank you very much for your time.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes. Thank you for taking the time. Thank you very much. Any others?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. Is there anybody else that would like to speak, that we have missed?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: I appreciate everybody taking the time and being patient. I appreciate my fellow Commissioners for being nice and patient. If there is not anyone else, this Commission has completed its business. And I declare us adjourned. Again, thank you all. Thank you, everybody.
(Whereupon, the meeting was concluded at 4:15 p.m.)
C E R T I F I C A T E
MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Annual Public Hearing
LOCATION: Fort Worth, Texas
DATE: August 26, 2009
I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 104, inclusive, are the true, accurate, and complete transcript prepared from the verbal recording made by electronic recording by Barbara Wall before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.
On the Record Reporting, Inc.
3307 Northland, Suite 315
Austin, Texas 78731