TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION
REGULATIONS COMMITTEE MEETING
LA ORILLO BALLROOM
203 S. ST. MARY'S STREET
SAN ANTONIO, BEXAR COUNTY, TEXAS
AUGUST 25, 2010
BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 25th day of August 2010, there came to be heard matters under the regulatory authority of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission in the La Orillo Ballroom, International Center, San Antonio, to wit:
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION:
T. Dan Friedkin, Houston, Texas, Committee Chairman
Peter M. Holt, San Antonio, Texas, Chairman
Mark E. Bivins, Amarillo, Texas
Ralph H. Duggins, Fort Worth, Texas
Antonio Falcon, MD, Rio Grande City, Texas
Karen J. Hixon, San Antonio, Texas
Dan Allen Hughes, Jr., Beeville, Texas
Margaret Martin, Boerne, Texas
S. Reed Morian, Houston, Texas (Absent)
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT:
Carter P. Smith, Executive Director, and other personnel of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
P R O C E E D I N G S
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you. The first order of business is the approval of previous committee meetings minutes. Motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER HIXON: So moved.
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Second.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Moved by Commissioner Hixon, second by Commissioner Hughes. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: The motion carries. Committee Item 1, update on Parks and Wildlife Progress in Implementing the TPWD Land and Water Resource Conservation and Recreation Plan. Mr. Smith.
MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. For the record, my name is Carter Smith. Just two things I want to report on.
One is an update on a specific action item in the Land and Water Plan. And it has to do with the expectation that we will have appropriate education to commercial fishermen about regulation changes, and gear changes. That, just so you know, is really an everyday process, for our game wardens out on the water, and our Coastal Fisheries staff. But there have been a couple of specific things that we have done, very targeted outreach to commercial fishermen over the course of summer.
One, there was a new requirement about commercial fishermen sending in their trip tickets from their reports. And we had a letter out reminding them the importance of that. Also our law enforcement team, in working with Texas Sea Grant, and the National Marine Fisheries Service hosted a series of workshops and training exercises at coastal sites from Texas City to Brownsville to provide outreach to commercial fishermen, shrimpers, netmakers, on bycatch reduction device changes.
And you are going to hear a little bit more about that. And also turtle excluder devices. But I think we had about a half dozen or so, Pete, around the coast. And I think those went very well. So I just wanted you to know that action item is going on. But that is kind of a daily basis for us at the agency.
The thing that I guess I really want to focus my discussion on this morning, is in response to a request from Commissioner Duggins about an update as to where we stand with respect to deer-breeder-related compliance, and enforcement-related matters. Obviously, a lot of discussion at the last Committee, following the rules changes related to the Lacey Act, and our ability to consider that conviction in whether or not to issue or reissue a deer breeder permit. And also how it affects the Triple T and DMP permit.
So I guess, just as a point of departure, just as a reminder, I mean, our law enforcement team really looks at the deer breeder industry like it does any other commercial enterprise involving fish and wildlife. And obviously, there is a very strong biological component. And outreach on that front.
But we really approach it in three ways. There is an outreach and education component. There is a compliance and monitoring component. And then there is obviously a law enforcement component to it. And so let me try to get the highlights of all three of those areas.
Just as a quick status report, as of kind of mid-August, roughly 1,202 permitted breeders in the state. With about 1,254 licensed facilities. And a little over 80,000 penned deer that are found within the confines of those facilities. With respect to education and outreach, you know, obviously, we have a very strong dialogue with the leadership, and the staff at the Texas Deer Association. Lisa Barton, Karl Kinsel, their board. We are talking with them all of the time about issues of importance to that group.
We also have a breeder user group, which is an advisory committee that helps provide counsel to the staff when we have issues that we are dealing with, with respect to deer breeding. And I want to talk about that a little bit more in just a moment.
And then of course, we have got very strong representation from deer breeders, biologists that work with deer breeders. Veterinarians that work with deer breeders, on our Whitetail Deer Advisory Committee. And so that group is very well represented on that front. So a lot of education and outreach that is happening all of the time with the deer-breeding community.
With respect to compliance, this spring, we started noticing problems with respect to permittee compliance, having their permits renewed. Sending in the fees. Making sure that we have the appropriate herd reconciliation forms that were submitted at the end of the permit year. We struggled with trying to improve that compliance. We had roughly 20 to 25 percent I would say, of our permittees that were not compliant. So we felt like we probably needed to take fairly aggressive action. And so the perfect opportunity to relay that to the breeder user group.
We spoke with them about those challenges. They asked and encouraged us to take very strong action in that regard. Mitch Lockwood, working with our law enforcement team, sent out a letter to all of the non-compliant breeders in both June and July. And told them that they had 30 days to get compliant. For that duration, they were no longer movement qualified. Meaning, that they could not move deer anywhere outside of their pens.
And if they did not comply within that 30 days, then we would be rescinding their permit, and we would be shutting down the operation. I think that letter helped a lot. We ended up getting about 80 to 85 percent compliance following that. Very little complaints about that.
For those breeders that chose not to respond to that letter, we then turned it over to law enforcement. And our game wardens went out and met with the breeders and then shut down those operations that needed to be shut down. Obviously, we had some instances in which breeders did not receive that letter for whatever reason, and obviously, we extended their time to comply appropriately. So I think it was a very reasonable approach to it.
But that is an issue that we have really worked hard on, with Texas Deer Association, and the Breeder Co-op and the breeder users group, to really push, and get better compliance. It is important to us. It is important to the industry. It is important to law enforcement.
The Lacey Act discussion at the May commission meeting generated a lot of interest among many stakeholders and partners out there, legislators and so forth. Chairman Holt asked that we take a very strong measure to reach out to the affected groups after the Commission's decision. I want you to know that we absolutely did that.
I sent a letter to the leadership of the three main organizations. Well, really four. North American Deer Farmers, the Texas Deer Association, the Texas Wildlife Association, and the Breeder Co-op Group, that laid out what the new regulations were. Just as importantly, what they were not, and how we intended to apply them, going forward. So I think we were able to help explicate that.
We met with a lot of legislators and legislative staff that had questions about it. And I think we were able to clarify a lot of the misimpressions, or misinterpretations about that. We also met with the breeder user group to explain to that leadership again, what these were and what they weren't. We had a good dialogue with them, as well as the Texas Wildlife Association.
So a very strong push on that front, and I want you to know that we followed up, just as we were asked by the Commission and specifically Chairman Holt on that front. The new rules related to the Lacey Act, our ability to consider a conviction in whether or not we issue a deer breeder permit or reissue a permit. And also, consider that on the issuances or re-issuances of the DMPs or Triple T's now in effect.
We have had a couple of instances since they went into effect in August in which we had three or four deer breeders that had been convicted of Lacey Act violations, and are currently serving time in the Federal Bureau of Prisons. And we have made a decision on several cases to not reissue deer breeder permits, based on those Lacey Act convictions.
I think you heard Sergeant Chappell testify that there are a number of ongoing investigations with respect to individuals that are bringing deer across state lines illegally, in violation of the Lacey Act. And obviously, we are pursuing those with vigor.
It is something that concerns us greatly. It concerns the industry greatly. It concerns the hunting community greatly, because we absolutely want to do everything we can to stop a disease like CWD from coming into our borders. So it is a major priority of law enforcement.
There have been a number of fairly high profile cases that some of you may have read about. In the news, in Kimball County and Junction, down in deep South Texas, over in East Texas with respect to convictions of individuals for deer-breeder-related violations, Lacey Act violations and so forth. And again, our law enforcement team is very much focused on that, where we have specific problem areas, and where we have information. And so it is a high priority.
Again, working closely with all of the breeder community out there, and the leadership of the organizations. And everybody understands how important it is to make sure that we weed out any bad actors that are out there. So I wanted to provide that high-level report to the Commission. And see if you had any questions, that I might be able to answer.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you, Carter.
MR. SMITH: Okay.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: I went to the TWA conference, and nobody beat me up. So my point being is that I think you communicated it well. I think people said it the right way, even if they may not agree 100 percent, I think understood. And I think really, that is what we were trying to accomplish initially.
And then I think, as they see, we apply this going forward, that this is not, as we talked about, one extra bird gets you know ‑‑ hunters go across the state. And one extra bird is brought back in. And then all of a sudden, we are going to take away their deer breeder permit. I mean, that never was what this was about. This is the most egregious issues that we will then have some ability you know, to make decisions on whether those individuals should be in the deer-breeding business or not.
And I think we ‑‑ I think the TDA, in talking to some of them, certainly, they understood if anything, it helps, for lack of a better term, weed out the bad apples. And the people that give them generally a bad reputation, or potentially could give them a bad reputation. So I thought you did a good job of communicating that.
MR. SMITH: Good. Well, I appreciate that, Chairman. And again, also, leadership at both TWA and TDA in particular, that we worked very closely with. Completely understand this issue. And I think we were able to provide a lot of clarification. You know, just as a reminder, you know, I think there have been about 11 Lacey Act convictions of Texas residents in the last five years.
Now we have had a few since that statistic was reported. And obviously, where we catch folks, we are going to go after them. There is no doubt about it. This is ‑‑
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Sure.
MR. SMITH: You are right. These are for the most egregious cases. And you all also, as you will recall, made sure that when we were looking at whether or not to make a decision, to issue or not re-issue a permit, you know, we looked at the seriousness of offense. The duration and time from which the offense occurred to the present. The level of cooperator of that individual at the present. And just the overall gravity of the situation, and to use our best judgment on that.
And so we tried to communicate that as well, Chairman. So I appreciate your words.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thanks. Thank you, Carter.
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Carter, on a related subject, I have had several of the DMP stakeholders talk to me about extending, we extended the release date. And unanimously, I probably had seven or eight I have talked to, unanimously they are all very thankful and agree that that is a good thing.
MR. SMITH: Good. Well, I appreciate that feedback, Commissioner. I have heard the same thing. I think that gave the appropriate level of flexibility to those permittees that felt like they wanted to hold their fawns a little bit longer, particularly in the southern part of the state.
And you are right, I have gotten the same level of feedback. I think that was a very sound decision by the Commission, going forward.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you, Carter.
MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Item 2, Revisions to the Exotic Aquatic Species Rules, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Register.
MR. KURZAWSKI: Good morning, Commissioners. My name is Ken Kurzawski with Inland Fisheries Division. And I am here today to present our proposed revisions to the Exotic Aquatic Plant rules, which includes the list of approved aquatic plants.
Exotic aquatic plants have been used in Texas for many years. And in most cases, have not caused any problems. They are commonly used in aquariums, water gardens. They are very popular. And numerous businesses support these activities. Some, as we have noted in the past, such as water spinach can be used as food items. And something that has been garnering a lot of interest recently is the use of algae for biofuels.
Although most persons are responsible in the possession of these plants, some have escaped. And they can lead to problems in our natural habitats and there are economic costs associated with that. We currently spend about $1.2 million, treating plants such as hydrilla, water hyacinth, and giant salvinia. Currently, exotic aquatic plants are regulated by the use of prohibited lists. We do allow the possession of some, with a permit. In the recent legislative session that the Sunset Bill directed us to publish a list of plants that are approved, exotic plants that are approved for use in Texas. And that would be a direct opposite of the 20 plants that we currently have on the prohibited list. The Bill further directed our agency to develop these rules to be as permissive as possible without allowing plants that would cause some damages.
As always, our goal here is to apply sound science to this, and protect our aquatic resources of Texas. When you are revising these rules, would be a large undertaking, and which would require staff, expertise from staff across the agency. We assembled an interdivisional team that has done outstanding work on this.
And I am here representing all of their exceptional work that we have done over the last few months of that. At various stages, we have had up to 18 people involved in that process. The goals of that team were to develop that list of exotic aquatic plants that are approved for sale in Texas, and revise our rules to implement that program by the January 1 deadline, which was specified by the Bill.
As I noted in May, one of our challenges here was to identify all of our user groups and stakeholders. We started back in November with a letter that we sent out to ‑‑ on the new regulatory direction, and requesting for candidate plants. We started building our lists.
We tried to contact aquarium and water garden stores, various plant distributors. Major pet store chains, associations that are affiliated with, such as the Texas Nursery and Landscape Association, the Texas Feed Trade Association. Other agencies, state agencies that we knew would have an interest in this. Over time, we have built in, added aquatic plant hobbyists. People have pond societies within communities that are interested in these plants.
And over time, we kept building on this, and tried to get this input out to, get this information out to as many people as possible. After this initial letter, we did begin a compilation of an approved list. Most of the input initially came from some of the distributors of plants. We compiled a draft listing of those ‑‑ of the approved list.
We made another mailing to the stakeholders. This included an invitation for some meetings that we held in March around the state. We held seven meetings at that time. We did add a couple of additional meetings in June and July, to address some specific needs to water gardens and also the algae, biofuel industry.
And over time, we continued to post this information on our website, all of the various lists that we have been working on, the draft lists. And part of this meeting, posting the proposed rules out on the site. Then we do have a ‑‑ we will continue to use that as a vehicle to provide information to the public.
Taking a look at proposed rules, we decided, since we are changing our regulatory direction here, we felt it was best to create a separate chapter for the exotic aquatic plants rules. Currently, those rules are in Chapter 57, and that also contains our rules on exotic fish and shellfish.
[inaudible] ‑‑ through these proposed rules, looking at some of the highlights, we had to create some definitions. We had the exotic aquatic plant definition. We pretty much followed what was in the statute there, to non-indigenous aquatic plants found in Texas. But we felt it was best to include not only vascular plants, but the macro-algae and micro-algae. Some of the genetically modified organisms associated with, and hybrids of exotics.
I want to define our approved list, which are those plants, exotic plants that can be possessed in Texas without a permit. We defined an ineligible list, which includes not only those 20 prohibited species on the current list, but also other plants that we do not feel would be best ‑‑ wise to be used in the state. This list won't be part of the rule. We will maintain it on our website and other media. And we will maintain that over time.
A crucial point here, is to make sure that we can identify those plants to the species level. This is important for our risk assessments, that we are undertaking the plants and also for enforcement purposes.
One of the major portions of the revised rules, are the exotic species permits. This would allow the possession of some plants not on the approved list. And this, while safeguarding the environment and aiding enforcement.
One of the things, when we were looking at these permits, we decided that for the exotic micro-algae, with some of the specific characteristics of those, we decided that would be best regulated by permit only. And I will mention a little bit more of those in a minute. The use of these permits, which we have existing now for some plants, would allow specified conditions and provide safeguards against escape and release.
We tried to provide a number of categories of use there to specify, to allow people currently in business in these activities to continue those. We can specify facility requirements, packaging and label specifications within this. And also emergency procedures. For instance, if there is a flood or anything to safeguard against the release within those permits.
I would just briefly go over it a little bit. On micro-algae, as you might have known, and we have certainly seen an escalating interest in biofuels, algae and biofuels. We do, because of their special characteristics, we do think it requires separate treatment. Use of permits only.
In addition to our normal concerns about replacing native species, there are specific concerns associated with algae, with problematic blooms and toxicities which we think requires extra scrutiny. And also, there is literally thousands of species and strains. Many of them are poorly under ‑‑ described and understood.
We do recognize that we don't have as much expertise in these as some other organisms. So we have retained the use of a noted phytologist to help us work through some issues associated with the regulation of these organisms. An important aspect of the construction of the approved list, is our risk assessments. We initially had a list of about 400 candidate species. That number is up to 445. These overall processes, these lists have been a sort of an evolving process, as we gain more information, get input from the public. We have ‑‑ we have initially had TPW staff evaluate these, use a widely accepted risk analyses.
We had enlisted the aid of 30 staff, in both Coastal and Inland Fisheries to do these risk assessments. And based on some of my personal experience in talking to them, each assessment could take in the neighborhood of four to five hours. So this represents a tremendous, substantial effort on staff's parts to do an excellent job evaluating these plants. The risk analysis incorporates numerous factors on climate. Growth of the plants, their adaptability, history of invasiveness.
And at the end of the risk analysis, this results in three determinations. Accept, evaluate or reject. Naturally, the accepts are the ones that would go on the approved list. The evaluate ones are ones that there might have been a couple of indications of some concerns there.
And the ones we take an extra look at, to make sure they haven't turned up as an invasive outside of their native range. Our assessments will be reviewed by the Texas TIPPC, Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Council, as another way to ensure that we are doing a good job on these.
Just to give you a little idea of how some of these assessments are turning out, this represents 207 species we evaluated as of last Friday, that number has since increased. We do have a ‑‑ some of that resulted in a score that we will reject. And once again, those ones in the evaluate category are ones that we will take an extra look at to make sure they won't cause a problem.
And you know, this is a process we are using to address those directives in the Bill to allow legitimate use while still protecting our aquatic resources. That as I noted the approved list will include those lower species. Currently we have 170 species on that list, pending TIPPC review. We have approximately 94 species still pending. And assessment is continuing on those species, along with the review by the outside agency.
We do recognize that once we get these rules and approved list in effect, on January 1, there might be other species that people want to add, in the future. After the January 1 date, if people want to do that, they will have to provide us with information on risk assessment of these species. Staff will review that information for accuracy, and completeness.
And if we decide that those are plants that we can allow in Texas, we will bring them before the Commission for your approval. A species that we previously determined to be ineligible will be reevaluated only with new information. That is where that maintaining of an eligible list will facilitate that process.
The final, one of the final portions of the new rules is, on the transition period, taking a look. We decided we needed some sort of a phase in of these new rules, since we are transitioning to a new regulatory scheme. So we are allowing from January 1, through the end of March, we will allow possession of exotic species, pending permit issuance, or review for addition to the approved list.
And we will also provide information and ways for people with plants that are currently being allowed, that don't make it to the approved list, and won't be on the approved list, allow them to dispose of those illegal species in a safe manner. Future steps, we are continuing to evaluate those candidate species.
We will continue to solicit public input on the list and the rules. We have a meeting on September 1 scheduled to get public input on this. We are going to have ‑‑ that will be in Austin, and that will allow people to either attend, participate by conference call, or even a web application that we will set up for that. After all, a few months, we will continue to collect the public input on this. Come back to you in November, to discuss and to consider the public input, and to request your final approval. After substantial effort on staff's part here, we believe the new regulatory direction that we are taking here, will result in increased protection for the aquatic resources in Texas. And with that, I would request your permission to publish the proposed rules revising the exotic plant rules, with the approved list in the Texas Register for public comment.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thanks, Ken. Obviously, a lot of work involved in that. We really appreciate the department's efforts on the Department's behalf. We have got a couple of questions. Go ahead.
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Ken, I have question. Are there currently commercial operations in the State of Texas where they are taking the micro-algae and making biofuels out of it?
MR. KURZAWSKI: There are not ‑‑ I don't think there are any ‑‑ that people are investigating it. I don't think there is anyone who functionally operating in that, yet. There is a lot of interest in that, a lot of experimental processes, a lot of proposals to do that.
MR. SMITH: Just if I could clarify that. And you are right, Ken. I don't think it has reached the commercial stage. But there are definitely companies and universities that have active micro-algae cultivation efforts, West Texas, Central Texas and certainly plan for the coastal areas.
So there is an Algae task force, a biofuel task force that was established by the Legislature that has been working on that. The Enterprise Fund has funded investments, for example, through Texas A & M, to work on and develop that as a fuel source. So there is a lot of interest in some operations that are out there now. More on the R&D side, I'd say.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: And that independent review is being done concurrently, so they will be listed as well, on a ‑‑
MR. KURZAWSKI: Yes.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: All right. For the November meeting, we will have the complete list?
MR. KURZAWSKI: Yes.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: That is where the growth is really going to be is all of this experimentation. Designed to ‑‑
MR. SMITH: I am sorry, Mr. Chairman. I couldn't hear you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Excuse me. That is where the growth is going to be, when they ask you, you have got an escalating interest for use in biofuels, is the experimentation. R&D, the expansion of, trying to bring in new ones. Cross-breeding and everything else, too. I mean, I think it is going to be ‑‑ we are going to be having more and more. Yes. Isn't that right, Ken?
MR. KURZAWSKI: It's going to be a process, and we're going to have to work through that. Yes
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner Duggins.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I have already given you a number of comments to some of the language in there. But I do want to ask you about page, this is page 26 in the book, which would be 70.8, which is the provisional permit. It concerns ed me that this would, at least as I read it, without possession of one of these plants, without the facility being inspected. I ask that, I would like to know, has any consideration been given to a provisional issuance of a permit that does not permit you to possess or propagate the species until the facility is actually inspected.
So that they know they will have the permit, as long as they go ahead and build the facility in accordance with the plans and specifications. We then inspect it, and confirm they have done so. They can immediately hit it and go.
MR. KURZAWZKI: Right, we will consider that. And we do note in here, that we will, if we provisionally approve it, we won't automatically give them full approval. It will be based on inspection when the facility was completed.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I think it needs to be clarified though, that in my view, that there is no possession or propagation permitted until the facility inspection is conducted.
MR. KURZAWSKI: Okay. Well, we could address those.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Is my ‑‑
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Concurrently, we don't have a provision for inspection. Correct?
MR. KURZAWSKI: Well, we do have exotic species permits, we do inspect those facilities. Just like the water spinach. And we do have a few other things, prohibited plants that we do have permits for. And for exotic fishes, we will inspect those facilities.
MS. BRIGHT: If I could just clarify something really quickly. On the provisional approval, that is really just intended to address the facilities. Not the possession of the species. One of the things we are requiring, is that if someone is going to propagate any of these species, we want to inspect their facility.
A lot of these folks want to, you know, in order to get funding, et cetera, they need some assurance that we are going to be okay with their facility. You're right, that we probably need to clarify that, and make it clear that we are not ‑‑ we are only talking about a provisional approval of the facility, not of the permit.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That is what I am saying. That we just need to clarify it. The way it is written is not tight enough, in my judgment.
MS. BRIGHT: Absolutely. Okay.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any other questions?
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: I have a question.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner Bivins.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Ken, what is your comfort level on our ability to oversee all of this, as far as policing. I mean, it is great to put all of this in writing, and to have it all you know, as stated. But are we ‑‑ do we have the personnel? Do we have the ability to actually oversee this process?
MR. KURZAWSKI: It is going to be a learning experience for our wardens out there. And we are going to try and provide them with as much information as we can, to assist them.
You know, we do have ‑‑ they are out there doing this work now, looking for prohibited species, currently. And that is something that is ongoing, that we are just going to have to make sure we give them the information and help them through the implementation of the new regulations.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Okay. But you do feel reasonably comfortable that we can stay on top of it?
MR. KURZAWSKI: Yes. We are going to make our best effort to do that, certainly.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Appreciate your efforts, Ken. Thank you. No further questions or discussions, I will authorize staff to begin, publish these proposed changes in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.
Committee Item 3, Consistency of Federal Rules Concerning Bycatch Reduction Devices and IFQs.
MR. RIECHERS: For the record, my name is Robin Riechers of the Coastal Fisheries Division. And as indicated, I am here to present to you, proposed rules to be considered for final action tomorrow, regarding bycatch reduction devices and individual fishing quotas.
The additional approved BRD's here, are actually, what we call two provisional BRD's. They were approved at an earlier time in 2008, that were basically designed to be in a testing phase. The reality of it is, they didn't get enough people testing those birds.
And the National Marine Fisheries Service again published a rule. And it became effective June 23 of 2010. That would extend that date now until May 24 of 2012 to have those provisional birds still allowed in federal waters.
And so what we are doing here, is again, proposing to you to accept the use of those testing BRD's, if you will, into state waters, and federal waters. So that if people are moving in and outside of that nine-nautical-mile line, we don't cause any issues with the BRD testing that is going on.
Similar to that instance, in most recent times, we have also approved IFQ or individual fishing quotas for gulf groupers and tilefish. Those were added to the original individual fishing quota program that we had in place for red snapper.
Basically, the same kind of rule set, as far as how they have to land those fish. How they have to call in to law enforcement to let them know they are going to be at the dock. And the tracking of that quota as it is captured.
With that, you know, again, what we are hoping to do here is, adopt that into our state regulations so that it basically allows our officials to either make a state case or a federal case, depending on the size of the case, and those kinds of issues. So it allows us to enforce those federal rules in state waters, as well as outside of state waters.
Since we reported, or since we made this slide, there has been one additional person to weigh in on the bycatch reduction device rules. We now have two in support of the rule, and no opposition. In regards to the individual fishing quota rules, we have two in support of the rule, and one opposition at this time. With that, that concludes my presentation. I would be happy to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Questions for Robin?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you. Appreciate it. Okay. No further questions or discussion, I will place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action. Item 4, Status of Quail in Texas. Mr. Robert Perez.
MR. PEREZ: Good morning, Chairman. Good morning, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Robert Perez, the Upland Game Bird program leader for the Wildlife Division.
And I am giving more of an informational presentation today, on the overview status, conservation and future of bobwhites in Texas. There are three other species of quail. But we will focus today on bobwhites.
There is no doubt that bobwhite quail have significantly declined. Here is some data from the breeding bird survey, over the past four decades. What happened? There is a long list of factors often blamed for the demise of quail. Including predators, fire ants, feral hogs. But the fundamental cause is loss of habitat.
There have been entire regions of the state that have been altered over the long term. Changes to Texas have happened slowly, day by day, for over a century. Fortunately, Texas is home to many conservation-minded organizations, with programs targeting the restoration and conservation of quail. I think these groups working together is the key for any type of restoration.
Major events that have influenced quail conservation include the completion of the first national recovery plan for bobwhites in 2002. A statewide recovery plan in 2003. And then more recently, a comprehensive Game Bird Strategic Plan that was blessed last week by the Game Bird Advisory Council in Austin. All of these plans target the restoration of bobwhites to a baseline level of about 1980.
Parks and Wildlife is supportive and continues to support quail conservation efforts in Texas. The major headings here in yellow are goals taken directly from our strategic plan. The first year, we are promoting on the ground habitat restoration and conservation. Using proven management techniques. This includes our technical guidance out there, with our field biologists, the purchase of equipment, herbicide, and labor on WMAs, Wildlife Management Areas, developing Upland game birds habitat.
Maintaining existing partnerships and forming new ones. We have got relationships inviting with Audubon Texas, Wildlife Habitat Federation and the Northern Bobwhite Conservation Initiative, where we use Upland Game Bird Stamp funds to support programs and policies that further quail conservation in Texas.
We are also forming new relationships with folks, like the newly formed Quail Coalition in the state. And some of these chapters, formerly with Quail Unlimited. And we are strengthening our relationship with that organization.
Additionally, developing incentives to promote sound science based management activities on privately owned lands. Good examples of this would be our Pastures for Upland Game Bird program. It is a program where we basically kill exotics like Bermuda and bahia grass and replace them with native species. We have got state wildlife grants where we go out and restore habitats into native grasses as well. And a host of other programs that are designed in partnership with other agencies to either conserve or restore upland game bird habitats.
Increasing educational opportunities for landowners, managers, natural resource professionals is an area that we very much have been working on, and could definitely do more. Here recently, we have completed an Upland Game Bird Management handbook which we give out to all of our field staff and landowners. It is the nuts and bolts of how to manage for these species.
Increasing funding and manpower to target on the ground conservation of upland game birds habitats. That is definitely an area that we could do more in. I'm talking about direct management of habitat and applied research or research that targets say, problem areas, where there may be species that we don't know how to control, but are taking over habitats.
Here is a summary slide of some quail-related expenditures. These are focused on very specific projects and items that were directed directly at quail. Not fringe benefits, salaries, things like that. This is actual project we can take down to the project level.
But notice here on the slide, that our research expenditures over the past four budget cycles have steadily declined and our efforts in the management area have steadily increased. And totals are about the same, on either side of the column there. And management, that is defined as a partnership agreement with NGOs, wildlife manager, habitat work, habitat projects and private lands work.
Habitat management is nine-tenths of bobwhite management. That is a quote from Fred Guthrie. Some of you may have heard of a well-known quail researcher at OSU right now. And basically, biologists have a good understanding about what a bobwhite needs in the pasture.
Bobwhite management is an active process. Bobwhite restoration however, is about people, policy and funding. Landscape level challenges make restoration a daunting task. Some of these challenges include improper grazing, lack of fire, exotic grasses and habitat fragmentation. They have got many challenges that they face every day. But these are the major ones. They have had an enormous impact on the Texas landscape. And all of these issues are specifically addressed in our strategic plan.
The first, grazing management. Improper grazing reduces habitat. Grazing livestock is an integral part of rural Texas history and culture. But today's practices have been driven by advances in forage production, not wildlife conservation. High quality nesting cover seems to be a major limiting factor across much of the state.
Solutions here include partnerships and programs that specifically target enhancing rangelands for quail. And also developing more technical and financial incentives to get people to graze properly.
Another area, prescribed fire. Fire suppression alters plant communities. Over the long term, without fire in ecosystems in Texas, what we see is woody species and baby uplands. And if you go long enough without fire, eventually you get so many woody species, it just becomes too dense for quail and other grassland-type birds.
Solutions here include providing equipment and training for staff. Our agency and our division have done quite a bit here, in recent years, providing a real large amount of equipment. We are working on training now. Facilitating and fostering the development of prescribed burn cooperatives, which is based on the model of the Wildlife Management Cooperative, but it is more of a barn building group of landowners, that help each other out, when they do burns, and sharing equipment.
We continue to support prescribed fire, and Federal Farm Bill. And also, education and outreach, not only to landowners but also County Commissioners when it comes to burn bans and lifting burn bans, and understanding the importance of prescribed fire in wildlife management.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Before you leave that, can you elaborate on what the Federal Farm Bill, what you are talking about on that?
MR. PEREZ: Cost-incentive programs from the USDA, NRCS, or FSA with a CRP-type programs. Oftentimes, they will have specific programs that target range lands in enhancing them for quail. We work hand-in-hand with our state technical advisory committee of the NRC to make sure that is a practice that is allowed in CRP. Allowed in some of these federally funded cost incentive programs. In years past, that wasn't maybe one of the practices they could do to maybe get their CRP into shape. It has been in for ten years. And it has gotten too rank for quail. Working with them to allow that practice to get that vegetation down and usable again by pheasant quail and other upland game birds.
Exotic grasses, they are often poor habitat. I mean, Bermuda, Bahia, and a host of other grasses often are either sod forming and quail and other grassland birds can't physically walk through it, or they get too thick and crowd out food items, forbs, and seed producing plants that they need.
Solutions here, including supporting research on how to combat certain species like guinea grass or buffalo grass or caribou stem. Some of these species that we haven't really figured out how to get them replaced with native grasses.
Producing educational materials for folks, to really understand that having natives, and running cows in natives makes sense both economically and environmentally. The rising cost of fuel and fertilizer makes native range very appealing right now. Native ranges don't require the input of fertilizer and supplements. We also could support and expand habitat delivery programs, like the Pastures for Upland Birds program I previously mentioned.
Habitat fragmentation. It reduced space for wildlife. An isolated population of the quail are more vulnerable. Quail have a boom/bust nature to their population. And when these fragments of land and good habitat becomes smaller and more distant, quail can become easily locally extirpated with no source of birds to reestablish. So in that scenario, anything can wipe out a small population, and there is no way to replace it.
Solutions here include assisting existing cooperatives, and providing incentives for the formation of new wildlife cooperatives. We have got examples, including the Wildlife Habitat Federation, which we support. And also the Western Navarro bobwhite Restoration Initiative.
A couple of great examples of how folks can come together, get 501(c)3 tax exempt status. Get grants and go out there, and get people to come together to develop habitats and actually bring back quail. Measurably on spring bird call counts, we have seen some really good things. And we need to encourage more of the same.
For the keys to success, I think quail restoration and conservation in Texas really involves becoming more efficient with the existing resources and also leveraging funds, and partnering with outside agencies wherever possible. Playing an active role in shaping future farm bill programs is also very important.
In fact, we have got a full-time position dedicated to those issues. I think using a strategic focused approach to ensure that our efforts have a positive impact is also critical. Of course, we are always interested in ways to increase our capacity for conservation.
In fact, as mentioned earlier, the Wildlife Division staff submitted an exceptional item for the agency's Legislative Appropriation Request, that $2 million request. And if approved, that would provide significant additional resources to NGOs and other conservation partners, resulting in more enhancement practices on the ground. I will take any questions.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Robert, thanks. If we could go back to the first or, I guess, the second slide. How is this, how is the data gathered? Can you tell us a little bit about how birds per route and how this is compiled?
MR. PEREZ: Okay. This survey, the breeding bird survey is a national survey. And it truly is a picture of the whole state. Parks and Wildlife biologists do run every year in August a roadside counts, but they are not statewide. So we can't get a statewide estimate.
So I chose to use the breeding bird survey data, which is a volunteer-based survey in the spring, where there is hundreds of volunteers go out there and run routes for the breeding bird survey. Many of them associated with Audubon and other groups. And they are counting all of the birds that they see. And so this is in all ecoregions of the state.
And that data has been collected for the long term. It is a well-known data set. It has been published in the literature, used for multiple species. Quail are still common enough to where they pick up enough of them, to have valid date for this survey.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: And so we have determined that it is habitat fragmentation for the most part. At least, that is the prevailing view, I guess. Because they did that by isolating, through the studies, a group of studies, by isolating unfragmented, and seeing no population decline in unfragmented large ‑‑
MR. PEREZ: Correct. I think east of I-35, you see fragmentation. West of it, we still have large blocks where we have stable populations in South Texas and the Rolling Plains. So we have examples here. We have stable populations.
Over the long term, we have areas east of 35 that have received great weather conditions over the years, and rainfall. But there is no response by quail. Because the issue is something other than weather in those areas. It is habitat fragmentation.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: I have got a question.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner Bivins.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Even on the large tracts of land, I think you are seeing a decrease in numbers. I mean, there is ‑‑ there may be ranches that have stable populations. But you know, you have got to define stable. I think that if you looked over the 1970 to the 2008 time frame on this data set that you presented, that I mean that maybe not that drastic a decline. But I think there is a decline that occurs in those ‑‑ I am speaking personally. Because I have a cattle operation north of Amarillo, which we basically view it as a grass-growing operation, because we want to complement the wildlife as well as the cattle. And we have seen decreased numbers over this same time period. Which ‑‑
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: With no habitat change?
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: No habitat change at all. In fact, habitat improvement over the years. A great deal of habitat improvement. And so I think that in this whole quail study, we have got to address ‑‑ I mean, there is another issue out there, that we are not really getting our finger on. And I think that that is shown in the example that I am giving you.
And it is not just the growth of the population of Texas and the fragmentation of the ranch lands on either side of I-35. There is something else out there that is affecting our population. I think that is something that obviously is a goal for this whole project.
MR. PEREZ: Right. And our strategic plan will identify some of those areas in the research, future research.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Right.
MR. PEREZ: We want to be focused on management-oriented research that deals with those sorts of issues, and gets at the heart of what those things may be. And we certainly don't know everything about quail, but as far as species goes, it is a well-studied species; over 3,000 articles in the popular literature. A lot of work has been done by many before me. Many biologists before me.
And we do see a gradual decline that seems to go from east to west. I think most recently in the Cross Timbers and Prairies where, when I started my career 15 years ago, we were still picking up quail in our roadside counts, that our biologist conduct every year. Now we are not.
Something happened there. I can't quite place my finger on it, as you mentioned. And it seems to be going from east to west. So there is definitely some things that we are still investigating. And we will continue to do so.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Okay. Thanks.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any other questions?
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: I have a couple of questions. You showed a slide, that over the last four years, there has been about $3 million spent on research and management. The first question, does that money come from the game bird stamp, or where does is that coming from?
MR. PEREZ: This is a combination of all fund stamps. This is one of the things included here, but it is not solely stamp. So the research column, those that include projects that were 25 percent funded by state funds, 75 federal, 50 federal, 50 stamp, and some that would be funded by different sources altogether.
Like say, a native grass habitat restoration, I think earlier, we talked about Horned Lizard license plate money. There is one project there that is looking at native grass restoration. And I think even some equipment purchases out of that fund, that go towards really quail, and other grassland birds.
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: $3 million for bobwhite and the bobwhite population ‑‑
MR. PEREZ: These projects that I pulled for this slide are specifically quail-related. They are not ‑‑
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Bobwhite-related?
MR. PEREZ: There is probably two projects that are other quail. One, it would be scaled quail in West Texas, and one, a Montezuma quail. They are smaller projects. But identifying, again, native grass restoration.
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Yes. You have to think of the economic value of quail to our state. $3 million over four years is a pretty small expenditure for Texas Parks and Wildlife, because of the economic value it would bring.
MR. PEREZ: They do have a huge economic impact. Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Good point. Commissioner Duggins.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I want to echo what Mark said about the notion that it is 90 percent habitat. Because the ranchers that I know, and for example, Shackelford County, there hasn't been any fragmentation to their ranches. They are still running cattle the same way they were 20 years ago. They have done everything they know to do. But the quail numbers are just plummeting. In fact, they have even eliminated quail hunting to try to see if that helps. So I challenge you and others to join Dan and Allen on this. That we have got to find more funds to figure out exactly what is going on in those areas. We don't seem to thankfully be having those problems in South Texas like we are in West Texas and near West Texas.
MR. PEREZ: And climate may be a big factor, and the warming of climates, and long-term drought. We are at the western edge of that species range. And so they are far more susceptible to changes in temperature. Climate and research done in that area shows that up to 80 percent, 70 percent of the annual variation year to year in quail can be directly attributed to rainfall or to drought indices.
So even with the best grazing, the best habitat, even with the best intentions on a place, at the western edge of the distribution, if the weather doesn't cooperate, you still may see declines. So you have got to look at long-term data sets to kind of see how often quail can respond when climate cooperates. So we look at a five- to seven-year boom in Texas.
In those areas, in Shackelford County, in South Texas where the weather cooperates enough years in a row, that quail have the time to respond. And so we do see the anomalies where we see these declines, declines. Especially after two or three years of substandard weather. We also see, I am hoping, in the next few years to come, if we get more favorable weather like we did this past summer, and this past winter, that we will see those responses in some of those areas, I hope.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: This hunting season should provide a pretty good data set with ‑‑ it seems like most of the areas that have had quail in the past got substantial rainfall this year.
MR. PEREZ: Yes, sir. Correct. They did.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any other questions?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you. Appreciate it. All right. Item Number 5. Migratory Game Bird Proclamation Rules. Dave Morrison.
MR. MORRISON: Good morning. My name is Dave Morrison; I am a Waterfowl program leader for the Wildlife Division. I am going to be presenting the 2010-2011 final late season proposals for ducks, geese, cranes, and merganzers, but before I do that, just a quick update on the 2010-2011 early seasons. Those season dates and bag limits have been submitted and approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. There was no significant changes. No changes at all, from what we presented to the Commission last May.
The 2010-2011 seasons began development late last fall, or late last winter when the Wildlife Division's Migratory Game Bird Advisory Committee got together. That is an internal group that worked together to look at different ways of approaching how we establish season dates for late seasons. Two key elements were, minimize conflicts, maximize opportunity. So it was the focus of what we did.
What we presented to you in May was a result of that meeting. So the seasons then, we gave to you, were preliminary. Since that time, we have gone through the habitat evaluation. We have looked at breeding populations. We have had our flyway meetings. We have met with the Service Regulations Committee that has developed the final frameworks for the buck seasons. And we are here today to present to you the results of all of that.
I am happy to say, that since we presented this to you last May, there has only been two minor modifications that we are going to ask you guys, ladies and gentlemen, to consider changing from our original proposal. With that said, I am going to move into the season dates. I forgot to add that last week, we did meet with our Migratory Game Bird Advisory Committee and they supported these proposals unanimously.
Proposals for High Plains Mallard Management Unit are basically counter-adjustments from last year, with youth season opening October 16th and 17th. General gun season, for a weekend on October 23rd and 24th. Closed for a few days. Open on a Friday, October 29th. And running through January 23rd. Once again, after last year, Fish and Wildlife Service required that Texas and Louisiana reduce harvest on mottled ducks.
As a result, we have been told to have another five day closure on mottled ducks. And so in High Plains Mallard Management Unit, the dusky duck, which is the term we are using now, because we are trying to minimize conflicts with hunters, when they try to identify these birds.
So we have thrown mottled duck in with the Mexican-like duck, the black duck, and its hybrids to ease any concerns with people misidentifying those birds. And so the bag limit on those will be one, but they cannot take those until after the first five days of the season.
I will say that in the High Plains Mallard Management Unit, we are taking full advantage of the maximum days allowed on the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which is 107 days of exposure for all seasons. This is what that season would look like on a calendar, with the gray dates being the youth season, and the orange dates being the regular season.
All right. In the North and South zone, we have similar seasons to last year, simply adjusted for calendar. With youth season opening on October 23rd and 24th, general gun from October 30th to November 28th. Closed for a couple of weeks. Reopen on December 11th and run through January 23rd.
That pesky dusky duck season will be from November 4th through the 28th and run concurrent with the second split. This is what it looks like on a calendar. Again, the gray-shaded areas, being the youth season, the green being the regular season.
I mentioned earlier that there was a couple of minor changes from the original proposal, this slide depicts one of them. Pintail populations and habitat conditions this year were pretty good. As a result, plug all of the information into various models, we now believe that there is sufficient pintails out there to withstand a two-pintail bag limit. This is a change from last year. And one of the modifications to the original proposals that we will be seeking your approval on. Nothing else changed, with respect to bag limits from last year.
In the West Goose Zone, calendar adjustments from last year. November 6th through February 6th, which would be the season structure for both light and dark geese. No change in the bag limit on light geese. However, there was a change for dark geese.
The Fish and Wildlife Service has looked at our various population information and determined that the Canada geese in the West Zone of Texas, probably can withstand some additional hunting opportunity so as a result, that bag limit changed to five in the aggregate, to include no more than one whitefront.
It is a little bit different from last year. We are still five in the aggregate. But you can only take four Canadas and whitefront. So now people out there, particularly in the High Plains can shoot five Canada geese. The White Goose Conservation Order will be from February 7th to March 27th.
In the East Goose Zone, no change from last year. No change from the May proposal. The light and Canada geese from October 3rd to January 23rd. Whitefronts will open with those two, but they do have to close earlier, simply because our management plans require a shorter season. Bag limits are unchanged from last year, with 20 aggregate for white geese, five in the aggregate with no more than three Canadas or two whitefronts. The Conservation Order will open the day after duck season would close, opening January 24th and running through March 27th.
Proposed Sandhill dates are in Zone A would run concurrent with the goose season, from November 6th to February 6th. In Zone B, we delay the opening to allow those ‑‑ any one percent that maybe pass through that country to get through and beyond. So there is no conflict with Sandhill crane hunting and endangered species. And then Zone C, we are taking full advantage of the maximum of days allowed by the Fish and Wildlife Service, that being 37. And we are having a bag limit of two.
Falconry dates. Because we take full advantage of the 107 days allowed by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, in High Plains, there is no extended falconry season there. However, in the North and South zones, we do have an opportunity for extended falconry seasons. And that would be from January 24th to February the 7th.
Public comments, as always, there are public comments, because ducks is, to me, one of the most important things out there for our sportsmen to enjoy. We did get about 600, over 600 comments. It was 350 in support of the proposals, while there were about 270 disagreeing with all or part of the proposal.
I need to point out that the bulk of the comments came with respect to the season structure; 113 people commented they wanted the season to run later, and extend to the end of the framework, which is the last Sunday in January. You see here that 87 gave no specific reference. 19 wanted a North, six in the South wanted High Plains Mallard Management Unit.
Tied to that, staggering the North and South zone opening dates. Have a little bit different split between those two. And that is kind of interrelated with the extension of the frameworks. As I said, the proposals that we have presented were developed looking at minimizing conflict, maximizing opportunity. But there are some people that don't necessarily support the proposals that we have laid out there in front of you.
There were some comments to eliminate modified splits. There were 43 comments asking me why I was dumb enough not to recommend two pintails. Well, that is because the proposal, the original proposal had one and we had to carry that forward. The Wildlife Division is making a request to modify the proposal to allow the taking of two.
There was 27 requests for youth hunt. Most of those centered around the structure of the season, when it occurred. Again, tied to the framework, pushing the season later. There were some that requested putting it in the middle of somewhere after season closed.
On geese, there was 13 people who wanted a later opening. There were some who wanted delayed opening for the whitefronts so they could run concurrent with the rest of them, so they all went in the same day. As always, the snow goose bag limit was in there. Some want it reduced; some want it increased. And there was ten comments on the Conservation Order from eliminating it, to making it longer. So it was kind of a hodgepodge of everything.
So tomorrow, we will be here again, requesting permission or requesting the Commission adopt the amendments to that paragraph concerning migratory game birds with changes as necessary to the proposed text published in the May 21st, 2010 issue of the Texas Register. With that, I am finished. And I would be happy to take any questions you have.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thanks, Dave. Commissioner Bivins has a question.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: I would like to ask, on the comments on reduced bag limits for snow geese, what is the reasoning?
MR. MORRISON: We have seen over the last several years, declining numbers in the Coastal zone of Texas, with respect to white geese. Those numbers are declining.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: So it is going to be regional specific.
MR. MORRISON: It is regionally specific. Nationally, we still have the same problem. But in that particular area, there are people that suggest, and I have even discussed it with people about the possibility of reducing the bag limit, trying to keep those birds in or around longer. I don't think it is going to necessarily reduce the total harvest. But I think it would keep those birds around longer.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: I see. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any other questions for Dave? Commissioner Duggins?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: This, the comment about trying to move the Youth Hunt dates from October 23rd and 4th, which seem pretty early. Is there any way to try to accommodate them? The goal is to try to get these kids out and let them have a good experience. And if it is too early in the season, I'm not sure we accomplish the purpose.
MR. MORRISON: Two trains of thought there. Yes, it is early. But you look at migration chronology, of ducks showing up in Texas, migration is in full swing. It is different species. A lot of bluewings. A lot of gadwall. A lot of shoveler. So there are ducks available based on migration chronology. And if you look at our harvest, there are reasonable numbers of birds available that opening weekend. Now I won't disagree that that is a little bit early. However, when you are trying to develop that youth clientele, you want to give them the opportunity, first crack out of the bat. The ducks are gone. Now if you push it later in the year, well, there is a lot fewer ducks to begin with, because they have been hunted. They are a lot more difficult to hunt from the standpoint that they have already wised to this game. And lastly, the biology of the bird, they have already paired up. They don't want to be where their mate might be stolen. So they are trying to stay away from these concentrations. So it is a little bit tougher to hunt. If you wanted to do something with respect to modifying the Youth Hunt, one of the things that could be considered would be in the middle, if you will. During the split. Because you do have one weekend of a split between the first and second split. So if you were considering moving it, I think that pushing it later would probably be my last recommendation to anybody. Putting it in the middle would be a potential. But you always have to consider that anywhere you push it beyond out front, you are hunting birds that have been shot at. And it is going to be a little bit tougher to deal with.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, but couldn't you move it to the 30th and the 31st of October? One week?
MR. MORRISON: If you wanted to shift the entire season structure, yes, sir. You could.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I don't see how anybody ‑‑ I mean the youth can't shoot bluewing in the North Zone in October, because isn't that a September ‑‑
MR. MORRISON: Well, if bluewings are available, yes, sir. They can. But the September teal season is for bluewing specifically. But that does not preclude you from shooting bluewings during the regular season.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, I would like to encourage us to look at that issue for next year. Nobody wants to change it this year, and I am not suggesting we change it. I just think we ought to look at it, going forward.
MR. MORRISON: Okay. I would be happy to.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I think that makes sense. We can certainly gather some information, some data from this year.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Right.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So good. I appreciate it. Thank you. All right. No further questions or discussion, I will place the 2010-2011 Late Season Migratory Regulations item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.
Item 6, Update on the Joint Enforcement Agreement Between TPWD and NOAA, and National Marine Fisheries Service. Mr. Robert Goodrich.
MR. GOODRICH: Thank you, Commissioners. Robert Goodrich, Assistant Chief of the Fisheries Enforcement. Coming before you today, to give you an update about the joint enforcement agreement we have with NOAA, National Marine Fisheries.
Just to give you a little insight into where we are in the scheme of things, you know, of course, it comes from the U.S. Department of Commerce. We are part of a joint enforcement team. And that boils all the way down into National Marine Fisheries Service Office of Law Enforcement. And we are part of that Southeastern Division.
Now all of the Gulf States have joint enforcement agreements with NOAA. And what we are going to do is talk; I am just going to give you a brief overview of where we are in ours. Again, we are represented by NOAA, and National Marine Fisheries. They have four agents, and an Assistant Senior Agent in Charge that is here in Texas; two on the lower coast and two on the upper coast.
Again, game wardens are deputy enforcement officers under their authority. We do this cooperative agreement. It provides enforcement for the assistance in federal regulations. But you know, we also, we are out there patrolling for state resources, and state regulations. And we do this in conjunction with that. So we are actually wearing a couple of hats out there, in enforcing these regulations. What it does for the federal regulations is, is it allows us to protect resources that are all of our resources out there, you know. Because even those are some federal regulations, they are resources we all enjoy in Texas as well.
Again, those funds that we get from this enforcement effort, we actually allocate hours in the contract. Those hours are dedicated based on the vessels and the officers out there in them. And it is a contractual agreement, where we track it, as we go through the year. Every month, we make a report on how we are doing. The wardens report on what their efforts are towards this JA enforcement effort.
And out of those funds, we get ‑‑ we fund patrols. Our fuel purchases. Some of our fuel purchases are supplemented there. Boat purchases. And boat and equipment repair. This vessel right here is one of the new SAFE boats, a full cabin, a 29 footer. That we have, and that was bought with JA funds.
Again, game wardens patrol out to nine nautical miles, and inside the water, inside and outside waters. One of the things, we work a lot with NOAA with is the TED enforcement for turtle-excluder devices. And again, that is a device that helps when the shrimp go through the net, and the turtle comes in there, it excludes the turtle out of the net. And it is very critical to enforcing that regulation to get that equipment done right, and make sure that it is being fished correctly out there. And that is, again, we do this in addition to checking regular commercial activity and recreational activity that is out there, as well.
Again, TEDs have specific, and they have specific things in the net, regulations, measurements all have to be met and qualified. And another thing that goes along with that is the bycatch reduction device. Which Coastal talked to you a little bit about before. That is to reduce the amount of finfish that are captured and killed inside the shrimp net.
So it is very important that those are installed in the bag correctly. And that is one of the things the wardens go out there and do, is make sure that the TEDs and the BRDs, they are in there correctly, and being fished properly.
The other thing, that we work closely with National Marine Fisheries with is IFQ quotas. Now fishermen fish federally in federal waters, and come inland, they are catching Texas. And they have allocations for quotas, like red snapper, like this group picture here. They come in, and they land those quotas. And we do dockside inspections under that authority to make sure that they are staying inside their quotas, and they are meeting the regulations. And again, that is protecting a fishery that we enjoy as well as Texans out there.
Outreach is a big part of this. This agreement provides funding for outreach. So this effort that we have done over the years, every year, we go out there and do outreach with a commercial fisherman and this funds some of that effort.
And we have developed a good working relationship with the NOAA gear specialists. And they go out there with us. And we actually show fishermen how to get it right. Make sure they have got it right. And then so hopefully, when we board the vessel, it is being done correctly and towards that end. We did that this year in seven locations along the coast. And we did get a lot of netmakers in this one as well, which is very critical. So that the netmakers get it in there right for the fishermen.
Just a little background on it. We have been in this from 2002, eight years. That is the amount of money there. Almost $6 million in those eight years, in that eight-year period, that we have realized out of this contract. We just did an additional amendment for this year because we needed to increase patrols for TED enforcement.
We were having some turtles show up in Texas on Texas shores. And they wanted us to increase our enforcement effort. And we went and got with them, and we negotiated an amendment to our contract. And we put an airplane up, and did some extra patrol out there, which we feel, was very beneficial to prevent any violations.
And lastly, we just negotiated our new one. This is our new one for 2010-2011. $600,000 for this year, is where we are at. And it has come up a little each year. So we are showing them that we are doing a much better job. And we are growing the program, so to speak.
This new SAFE boat that I wanted to show you right here, this is already going to be part of our purchase this next year. And that is a 38-foot boat for the middle coast. And that is going to give us some coverage in the middle coast area, where we had more ‑‑ we didn't have that kind of coverage. The bigger vessels were on the upper and lower. So we are going to have a little more coverage in the middle coast area.
VOICE: Robert ‑‑
MR. GOODRICH: Around 55 to 60 in open seas, it will run very fast.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes.
MR. GOODRICH: And it is quite a ride. Like the 29 footer, if you haven't had a chance to ride on that closed cabin one, it is really an experience. This boat is so maneuverable, because it will do a complete 180. You know, there is a lot of torque inside that cabin, but it will do a complete 180 at about 45.
So it is a very maneuverable vessel. And it is again, it is in its nature, a safe boat. That is what it says. It is much safer for the wardens out there, too.
I did want to mention one thing before I leave this. I have got my Lieutenant here. This is ‑‑ Lieutenant Fred Ruiz is in the back, right here. And he is ‑‑ I just want to recognize him. Because he helps coordinate this effort down there. He, between the upper and lower coast, the two regions, he makes sure that this agreement is being met. And that all of those activities are going on. But much more than that, he has coordinated a lot of special enforcement efforts that are for state regulations as well. So he is one of those guys that makes it happen. And I wanted him to be here today, and let you all know that. And really, that is all that I have. If you have any other questions, I would be glad to answer them.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any questions?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: That is terrific. Thank you. Okay.
MR. GOODRICH: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: We appreciate it.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: All right. I think that the Regs Committee has completed its business.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. Thank you, Chairman Friedkin.
Chairman Bivins, I guess we will move into the Conservation Committee.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. (Whereupon, at 12:14 p.m., the meeting was concluded.)
C E R T I F I C A T E
MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
LOCATION: San Antonio, Texas
DATE: August 25, 2010
I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 61, inclusive, are the true, accurate, and complete transcript prepared from the verbal recording made by electronic recording by Penny Bynum before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.
On the Record Reporting, Inc.
3307 Northland, Suite 315
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