Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
May 26, 2011Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 26th day of May, 2011, there came to be heard matters under the regulatory authority of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission in the Commission Hearing Room of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex, to wit:
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION:
- Peter M. Holt, San Antonio, Texas, Chairman (absent)
- T. Dan Friedkin, Houston, Texas, Vice Chair
- 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 (absent)
- S. Reed Morian, Houston, Texas
- Dick Scott, Wimberley, Texas
- Carter P. Smith, Executive Director, and other personnel of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
|Donor||Description||Detail & Purpose of Donation||*Amount|
|1||San Antonio Livestock Exposition, Inc.||Cash||Salaries for summer interns, $20,000 to Wildlife and $10,000 to Law Enforcement||$30,000.00|
|2||United States Fish & Wildlife Service||Controlled Item||One (1) Brute Livestock Trailer - Tandem Axle for use in law enforcement activities||$2,000.00|
|3||Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation||Cash||Operating funds for Devils River Ranch||$138,830.27|
|4||San Antonio Livestock Show & Rodeo||Cash||To offset expenses for providing outreach and education regarding conservation and recreation at the San Antonio Livestock Exposition||$5,000.00|
|5||Washington-On-The-Brazos State Park Association||Controlled Item||Three (3) Alienware Aurora Desktop Computers, three (3) LCD HD Televisions, two (2) XPS 7100 Desktop Computers||$5,403.98|
|6||Washington-On-The-Brazos State Park Association||Other Goods||One (1) Beldon Outdoor Public Address System with stadium horns||$3,693.00|
|7||Endoza Films||Controlled Item||One (1) Sony digital camera NEX5A/S in appreciation of TPWD staff||$649.99|
|8||Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation||Cash||Lake Conroe Habitat Project||$10,000.00|
|9||Partners of Palo Duro Canyon||Capital Property Item||One (1) new 2011 black Del Norte 12' dump utility trailer for maintenance projects at Palo Duro Canyon||$6,752.00|
|10||Ducks Unlimited||Cash||To provide funding for a statewide water communications initiative||$4,182.00|
|11||The Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program||Other Goods||One hundred (100) 10'x12' tarps for use by volunteers for the 2011 Abandoned Crab Trap Removal Program||$599.00|
|12||Apache Corporation||Cash||To provide funding for a statewide water communications initiative||$9,052.00|
|13||Halliburton Giving Choices||Cash||General donation to agency||$2,786.18|
|14||Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation||Cash||For the Texas Parks and Wildlife Game Warden Academy||$1,925,325.00|
|15||Friends of Monument Hill & Kreische Brewery SHS||Cash||Fund implementation of the Kreische House Furnishings Project||$5,000.00|
|16||Rosson Sport, Inc.||Cash||To benefit Franklin Mountains State Park||$500.00|
|17||Bass Pro Shops||Cash||To support a Lake Conroe Fish Habitat Project||$10,000.00|
|18||Texas Mountain Trail||Cash||Far West Texas Wildlife Trail map project||$4,720.16|
|19||Ashley Mathews||Cash||Assist Becoming and Outdoor Woman activities||$2,654.00|
|20||Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation (Toyota Texas Bass Classic)||Cash||Contribution from the Texas Bass Classic Foundation for contractor costs to continue operations of the Take-Me-Fishing Trailer through September 2011||$12,000.00|
|21||Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation (Toyota Texas Bass Classic)||Cash||Contribution from the Texas Bass Classic Foundation for marketing activities for the Neighborhood Fishing Program||$30,000.00|
|22||Otis Technologies, Inc.||Other Goods||Two hundred (200) Bore reflectors, Otis bags, A/P brushes, 1/2 oz Bore Solvent, one Otis Elite for Annual Hunter Education Instructor Conference||$2,807.26|
|23||Texas Hunter Education Instructor Association||Capital Property Item||Three (3) Henry Acu-bolt .22 caliber rifles, three (3) Henry Lever action .22 caliber rifles for the Hunter Education and Being an Outdoor Woman programs||$1,362.45|
|24||Otis Technologies, Inc.||Other Goods||Two hundred sixteen (216) pair ear muffs and shooting glasses for Annual Hunter Education Instructor incentive awards||$2,192.60|
|25||National Wild Turkey Federations||Capital Property Item||One (1) Donahue drop-trailer to provide assistance in upland wildlife habitat restoration||$6,583.00|
*Estimated value used for goods and services
|SP||Cruz A. Tanner||Administrative Asst. III||Livingston||26 Years|
|LE||Diane M. Linnartz||Staff Services Officer I||San Antonio||20 Years|
|Name/Organization, Address||Item Number||Matter of Interest|
|Bobby Sanders, City of Childress, Childress, TX||2 — Action — Recreation Trails Grant Funding||For|
P R O C E E D I N G S
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Good morning, everybody. Welcome. As we all know, Commissioner Holt could not be here ‑‑ Chairman Holt could not be here so I’ll be your Chairman today. I appreciate everyone being here. The meeting is called to order May 26th, 2011, at 9:09. Before proceeding with any business, Mr. Smith, I believe you have a statement to make.
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’d like for this fact to be noted in the official record of the meeting.
I want to join Chairman Friedkin and the Commissioners in welcoming everybody today to our Commission meeting. Delighted to see all of you. We’ve got a wonderful meeting scheduled, I think, albeit a short one.
We’re going to start off this morning with some special service awards and recognitions and some acknowledgments of people that are very close to the agency. We also have a special check presentation. If I could, for those of you that are new to the Commission, respectfully ask if you will go ahead and silence your cell phones or pagers or PDAs. If you’ve got a conversation that you want to have in the course of the day or this morning during the Commission meeting, we’d just ask if you would step outside and do that.
We do have a couple of business items for which we’re going to be taking action on. For those of you that are here to speak on those, we’d ask to make sure that you sign up outside. At the appropriate time, Chairman Friedkin will call you forward by name. We’ll ask that you come to the front mike. You’ll have three minutes to state who you are and who you represent and what your position is on the particular agenda item. I’ll be over here with the stop clock. You’ve got three minutes. Green means Go, Yellow means start to wind it up and Red means Stop.
So, anyway, delighted to welcome all of you. We appreciate your joining us this morning. So, thank you, Mr. Chairman.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you, Mr. Smith. Okay, next is approval of the minutes from the previous meeting held March 31st, 2011, which have already been distributed. Do we have a motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER HIXON: So move.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Second.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Moved by Commissioner Hixon, second by Commissioner Duggins. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Hearing none, motion carries. And now, acknowledgment of the donations list, which has also been distributed. Do we have a motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: So move.
COMMISSIONER FALCON: Second.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner Morian and Commissioner ‑‑ second, Commissioner Falcon. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Hearing none, motion carries. And now, I think we’ve got service awards and special recognitions. Mr. Smith.
MR. SMITH: Thank you, Chairman and Commissioners. For the record, my name is Carter Smith and today we’ve got a colleague that is retiring after 26 years. Cruz Ann Tanner. I think we’ve had a chance to recognize her before in front of the Commission. She’s had an extraordinary career there at Lake Livingston State Park. Started out as an hourly employee, doing everything under the sun to help that state park, gradually worked her way up to become the office manager there, overseeing all of our administrative and management responsibilities at the state park. She’s watched the system evolve over time and, certainly from her perspective, seeing everything go from manual processes to automated ones.
She’s been with us 26 years and she’s retiring from the Parks and Wildlife Department. Let’s thank Cruz Ann Tanner for her service. Cruz Ann.
MR. SMITH: I think she took that retirement seriously.
MR. SMITH: Well, Cruz Ann, in absence, God bless you and thank you for your service. So, okay, all right. Let’s go on to the next one. We ‑‑ no more retirements. We now have a chance to recognize Diane Linnartz for 20 years of service. She’s been with the Law Enforcement Division out of the regional office there in San Antonio, started November 1990, working on the front lines, you know, for the Commissioners that aren’t familiar with a lot of our law enforcement offices in the field, this is front line for a lot of our customers that come in to register their boats and purchase hunting and fishing licenses and so their first impressions of the agency are very much shaped by their interactions with our colleagues who are helping them with their registration and licenses and Diane takes that very, very seriously and so she started out there working as a ‑‑ at customer service and worked her way up to the staff services officer. She supervises a wonderful team there in San Antonio. Three of her colleagues have been recognized with our Employee Recognition Award for customer service and I know she’s very proud of that and we are too.
Twenty years of service, Diane Linnartz with our Law Enforcement team. Diane.
MR. SMITH: I’m glad you’re here. Congratulations.
MR. SMITH: As all of you know, one of the most critical functions that our game wardens provide out there in the field and on the waters are water safety and boating safety. Our game wardens are on the front lines there and really have that primary responsibility for the state and they take that very, very seriously and we’re proud of their efforts. And today we have the opportunity to recognize one of our very own, the Southern States Boating Law Administrator’s Officer of the Year from Texas is Ryan Hall.
Ryan’s been a game warden with us for eight years. He hails from over around Livingston. He’s based in Polk County. He works the Neches and Trinity River but also he makes sure that all of our boaters stay safe there on Lake Livingston. He takes that responsibility very seriously. He’s really become one of the go-to guys with the District Attorney on BWI incidents. He’s made 65 cases during his short career, done an extraordinary job to help enforce really a zero tolerance policy on the lake, to make sure that our boaters and anglers stay safe.
He’s been a great trainer for ‑‑ throughout the division in helping others to know how to properly administer BWI-related procedures on the lake and on the water. Very active in making sure that we get young people into the out-of-doors and sponsoring Kid Fish tournaments and we’re very, very proud that our Southern States Boating Law Administrator Officer of the Year from Texas, Ryan Hall. Let’s honor Ryan. Ryan.
MR. SMITH: I think, as all the Commission is aware, you know, the state has really suffered from these devastating and catastrophic wildfires. We’ve had upwards of 2.5 million acres that have burned in the last six weeks. As you know, Parks and Wildlife facilities and properties have not been spared from that and we’ve had fires at a number of our state parks from the Davis Mountains, got very close to Balmorhea. Had issues there at San Angelo. We have a fire going on right now at Palo Duro Canyon and certainly Possum Kingdom was significantly impacted by the fires and I’m very proud of the fact, though, that I think that this weekend, for Memorial Day, we’re going to be opening up Possum Kingdom and so folks are going to be able to have a chance to come out and enjoy that beautiful lake and our state parks team just did an extraordinary job on the wildfire response.
But we also had some very significant loss of property in that event and our colleagues were not spared from that. We had four who either lost all of their homes ‑‑ three of which did and another who had very, very significant losses. I want to thank the Commission. Many of you stepped in to contribute personally to help our relief fund to help our employees that were so direly affected by this and we’re very grateful by the spirit of generosity of you.
Also, our staff really stepped up and some extraordinary shows of support that really, I think, embody the values of this great agency. A couple of weeks ago, Scott Snyder and Marian Edwards from our Infrastructure team, along with many others, organized a barbeque to help raise funds for it and one of the great outgrowths of that was just a wonderful expression of support by one of our corporate partners, Grainger. They’ve been in Texas doing business for 75 years, helping to provide office supplies and cleaning supplies and safety supplies. Anything you need for facility maintenance, Grainger’s got it. We’ve been a customer of theirs for a long, long time and their employees, after learning about the impacts to Parks and Wildlife employees, made a recommendation to their company’s foundation that they make a $10,000 contribution to help the employees of Texas Parks and Wildlife and we’re so very, very grateful for them. They came out and joined us at the barbeque and today we’ve got Greg Roach and Mickey Bentley.
They are the two branch managers for Grainger here in Austin and they’re here to make a special presentation to the Commission to help support our employees that were affected and so, Greg and Mickey, if you would come forward.
MR. ROACH: Thank you, Mr. Smith, Commissioner. We’ve got a couple of things we’re going to say and then we’ll be right out of your hair. The Grainger Foundation’s asked us to use specific remarks and that’s what we’re going to read to you, if that’s okay with you but before we do I would like to recognize our senior government sales manager, Susan Heck, who’s worked a number of years with you guys. Susan, if you would stand. And Michael Luciano. He’s your account manager and he’s out of Lake Forest, Illinois, and he’s made a specific trip in here for this ceremony here. Michael.
MR. BENTLEY: Grainger’s been part of the Texas communities for over 75 years and families affected by the recent wildfires are important to us and we’re doing our part ‑‑ Grainger’s part ‑‑ to help them in this tough time of recovery. In these challenging times, we believe it is important for businesses to step up and to help their neighbors who have lost so much. Grainger is a strong supporter of local communities across the state of Texas but we’re extremely proud to be here today before the TPW Board of Commissioners.
MR. ROACH: Grainger and the Parks and Wildlife organization have had a long-standing relationship. Further, Grainger employees and their families have enjoyed the many parks, facilities and services the organization has offered Texas for decades. When we received a note about the wildfire victim relief fund, donation was an easy decision. I’d like to take an opportunity to once again recognize our partner who helped coordinate the wildlife relief fund from the beginning, Scott Snyder. Scott ‑‑
MR. ROACH: From our first conversation, we could tell Scott was very passionate about the employee relief benefit fund and the livelihood of those affected throughout this organization. On behalf of the Grainger Foundation, we are proud to donate $10,000 to help these deserving families recover from the recent devastation they have endured. It is part of our commitment to supporting our neighbors every day. Thank you so much for having us here.
(Pause for taking photographs.)
MR. SMITH: A wonderful public/private partnership. We talk a lot about it but that’s right at the heart of what we do and we’re very, very grateful to Grainger so thank you.
The last presentation that we want to do is really honoring one of your own, former Commissioner Mark Bivins, who recently went off the Commission. I don’t need to tell you his family story. A long history of family commitment to the state and the lands that they love and, from a staff perspective, it’s just been an absolute privilege working with Commissioner Bivins ‑‑ working with and for him, just an extraordinary individual to work with; always accessible, cared about all elements of the Parks and Wildlife mission, whether it was wildlife-related things or fishery science or law enforcement or state parks, Commissioner Bivins was right in the middle of it and you could always count on him for a very thoughtful reaction and objective review of what we were doing.
Obviously, as all of you know, Palo Duro Canyon is a place that’s near and dear to him and we’re particularly grateful for his work and I’ll highlight a couple of things that really, if it were not for Commissioner Bivins, these things would not have been possible.
When the Fortress Cliffs Ranch came up for sale ‑‑ you know, six miles of dramatic rim bluff overlooking the canyon that was threatened by development, really, it was Mark Bivins that was a catalyst for that. He pushed very, very hard on the department to try to find a way to make a deal, worked very closely with Scott and Ted Hollingsworth and Corky Kuhlmann and the Trust for Public Land, to protect that extraordinary place for all Texans for all times.
We also now have a new visitor’s center and recreational hall that’s being built there in the canyon that was donated by a philanthropist there in Amarillo, Mack Dick and again, Mark Bivins was the one who really made that possible, working with Mr. Dick, explaining how he could make that contribution, helping to foster a partnership with the Amarillo Area Foundation to help steward those dollars and just a couple of small examples of his many, many and tireless commitments to this great agency and I’ve had the privilege of knowing Mr. Bivins for a long time ‑‑ and his family.
And so this is a particularly nice moment for me just to say Thank You for his extraordinary and tireless service to the state of Texas and I think, as all of you know, he’s also gone on to the Parks and Wildlife Foundation so we never let Commissioners go too far and so we’re delighted that he’s going to find ways to give back there.
And so, I know that some of you wanted to say a few words and then we’d like to ask all of you to come forward and take a picture with Mr. Bivins. So ‑‑
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I’m not going to miss this opportunity so I’ll kick it off but I also want to point out that most of those good deeds and efforts from Mark came after the first year because we sat next to each other the first year and Chairman Fitzsimons had to separate us so we were talking and giggling and having a lot of fun.
It’s no secret to everyone that Mark’s a very close, personal friend and it’s not often that you have the opportunity to work on something where you have such a shared passion for a mission with someone who you’re so close to but it’s really been an honor and a privilege for me, Mark. You’ve done so much for this department and continue to do so much for this state and I just want to express my appreciation for that and for your friendship.
Commissioner Duggins? I know you’re not going to miss a little ‑‑
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Do you have pictures of these guys? No, all kidding aside, I echo what Carter and Dan have said. Mark Bivins has been a real team player and made a huge difference and it’s been great working with him and I’m so happy that he’s been willing to go on to the Foundation and look forward to continuing to work with him as we all serve the mission here and I thank you for the privilege of working with you and stay close.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Do we have a picture? Oh, here we go.
COMMISSIONER FALCON: Mark, also on my behalf, I appreciate your leadership. When I started here, at first I thought you were so damn serious all the time. Then I came to realize the other side, after hours and ‑‑ I was so sorry to hear that you were leaving because I thought we were going go back to serious moments after hours also and then Dick Scott came in and took your place.
I just want you to know that I really appreciate your leadership. When we had thoughtful things to discuss, you were there and when we had happy moments and the fun times, you were there so I appreciate that very much on my behalf.
(Pause for taking photographs.)
MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman, that concludes my remarks. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you, Carter. Appreciate it. I also want to take a quick second to recognize three former Commissioners. Dick Morrison, Al Henry and George Bolin are with us today. If you would stand up briefly, we just want to recognize you and thank you for all that you do for our state.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay. At this time, I’d like to inform the audience that everyone’s welcome to stay for the remainder of the meeting, however, if anyone wishes to leave, now would be an appropriate time to do so.
(Pause while some audience leaves.)
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay, first order of business is Action Item Number 1 — Approval of the agenda. Is there a motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: So move.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay. Commissioner Hughes.
COMMISSIONER FALCON: Second.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner Falcon. Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Hearing none, motion carries. Action Item 2 — Recreation Trails Grant Funding. Tim Hogsett. Good morning, Tim.
MR. HOGSETT: Okay, okay. Good morning, Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission, I’m Tim Hogsett. I’m Director of Recreation Grants program in the State Parks Division. This is our annual proposal for funding from the Recreation Trails Grant program. These are federal funds; 80 percent federal match. They are generated from the sale of vehicle ‑‑ off-highway vehicle gasoline tax.
The 2011 apportionment to Texas from the federal government is approximately $3 million. We propose to reserve about $200,000 of that for project administration. We also have almost $900,000 available from savings from previous projects and from a couple of projects which were not successful so we’re going to add that to the around $3 million that we have available.
We requested applications in December. We received 60 eligible applications requesting $9 million and we also propose to reserve approximately $485,000 for state park trail improvements.
These projects are reviewed and scored by a committee that is appointed by the Commission. It’s the Recreation Trails Advisory Board. They have a set of scoring criteria, which includes such criteria as the quality of the proposal, cost-effectiveness and recreation opportunity impact and these projects, after they’re received by a deadline, are scored using those criteria and the recommendations that we bring to you this morning are based on the scores in rank order that that Recreation Trails Advisory Board proposed.
About a year ago, we hired a new employee, which the former ‑‑ is Trey Cooksey ‑‑ who is the former assistant manager at Government Canyon State Parks. Trey had had quite a bit of experience in working on trails in that park and he and Andy Goldbloom and Steve Thompson are actively pursuing developing trail system in our state park system. We hope that through the better trails that we’ll have higher visitation and, hopefully from that, will result in increased revenue.
So, this morning we’re also proposing, along with the projects that we’re proposing for local governments and non-profits, we’re proposing to reserve $485,000 to do some trail improvements in these seven state parks.
The kinds of work that we do, renovate existing trails ‑‑ we do technical assistance to the park staff, we do ADA improvements, we do actual layout and design of the trails, flagging of the trails that are proposed for construction, we train the staff on how to maintain the trails and we also partner with environmental core groups like the Youth Works ‑‑ American Youth Works.
So, our recommendation before you this morning is funding for 21 projects recommended in Exhibit A in the amount of $3,318,450 and the state park trail improvements in the amount of $485,000 be approved. Be glad to answer any questions. I think there are some people here to testify.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thanks, Tim. Any questions? Okay, we’re going to hear from Bobby Sanders. One person signed up to talk about this.
MR. SANDERS: Chairman, Commissioners. I’m Bobby Sanders with the city of Childress and we’ve been a primary recipient now for several years. I want to especially thank Mark. I’ve known his family since 1959. I want to thank all the guys that worked with us. Without you, we couldn’t have a park in Childress, Texas. I want to thank you.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you very much. Appreciate it. Any other questions for Tim? Commission Duggins.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Going forward, I’d like to suggest that we consider awarding less than the amount requested because several of the projects on your list rank just a point or two below and I’m just suggesting that that be considered. I don’t have any issue with the proposal and with that, I’d move approval. Just a comment.
MR. HOGSETT: And possibly cap the amount that each project can receive:
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I would say explore any of that ‑‑
MR. HOGSETT: Okay.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: ‑‑ just to see. That’s my suggestion.
MR. HOGSETT: Okay. Thank you, sir.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I think that’s a good suggestion. Okay, so moved by Commissioner Duggins.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Second.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Second by Commission Morian. All in favor.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Hearing none, motion carries. Thank you, Tim. Action Item 3 — Public Lands Proclamation — Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes and Public Hunting Lands Approval. Linda Campbell. Good morning, Linda.
MS. CAMPBELL: Good morning. Good morning, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. My name is Linda Campbell. I’m program director for the Private Lands and Public Hunting Program and I’m here today ‑‑ oops, sorry ‑‑ I’m here today to request your action on clarification of regulations concerning the Public Lands Proclamation, Section 65.190 and .191 establishing an open season on public hunting lands for the 2011-2012 hunting season and authorizing public hunting activities on state parks for the 2011-2012 hunting season.
The Blue Elbow Swamp — Tony Houseman Wildlife Management Area State Park has been operating as a wildlife management area since 1997 but was never added to the list of WMAs currently contained in the Public Lands Proclamation. The proposed amendment would correct this.
Also, advancements in propulsion systems technology have increased the ability of shallow-draft vessels to operate in very shallow waters and wetlands, which poses threats to habitat and disturbing soils and vegetation.
Current rules prohibit the use of air boats on wildlife management areas except by executive order or written permission and several WMAs impose site-specific restrictions on the operation of motorboats. However, the terms "air boat" and "motorboat" are not defined by rule. The proposed amendment would supply a regulatory meaning for those for enforcement purposes.
So here are the proposed definitions of both air boat and motorboat and I’ll let you take a look at that for just a moment. Again, the purpose of the change is to enhance enforceability of the existing regulations. We did have one public comment in support of the amendment.
The last two items concern establishment of an open season on public hunting lands and approval of hunting on state parks. Establishing an open season on public hunting lands allows the department to hold public hunts during the upcoming hunting season beginning September 1st, 2011.
Also, a statute requires the Commission to approve public hunting activities on units of the state parks system. In your Commission booklets, you were provided with the proposed state park hunts on 44 units of the state park lands for the 2011-2012 hunting seasons. There are a total of 1,842 hunt positions proposed on parks, which is an increase of 97 over last year, of which 271 are youth positions. This is an increase of 29 over last year.
This year, Dinosaur Valley and Village Creek State Parks are returning to the program and also Walter Buck Wildlife Management Area will become part of South Llano River State Park effective September 1st, 2011.
Preliminary hunt proposals were developed last fall through a joint effort by field staff of both state parks and wildlife divisions and the public hunting program staff maintain a close communication with park staff to confirm the hunt recommendations and make needed adjustments.
Most of the recommended state park hunts address management needs to control deer numbers and remove exotic animals and feral hogs, however, some of the hunts ‑‑ for example, the dove, quail, waterfowl, squirrel, rabbit, turkey and javelina are proposed to provide additional recreational opportunity.
Staff is requesting approval of the following motions: The Texas Parks ‑‑ and I’ll read those for the record. The first is, The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts amendment to 65.190 and 65.191 concerning the Public Lands Proclamation, with changes as necessary to the proposed text, as published in the April 22nd, 2011, issue of the Texas Register.
The second one, The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorizes an open season on public hunting lands to run from September 1st, 2011, to August 31st, 2012. And the third, The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorizes the public hunting activities contained in Exhibit B to take place on units of the State Parks System. Thank you and I’d be happy to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you, Linda. I appreciate it. Any questions? Commissioner Duggins. Comment?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Does this second resolution create any kind of inconsistency where we authorize open season for the entire year? It seems like that’s a pretty broad declaration.
MR. SMITH: Well, it just gives us the flexibility to set specific dates and specific bag limits throughout the course of the 365 days in a year but we specifically, obviously, restrict it so we’ve done this in the past and we haven’t had any confusion. It just gives us a little more flexibility too as we can adjust as things progress throughout the year.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So that we don’t have to deal with the seasons individually ‑‑
MR. SMITH: Right.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: ‑‑ for specific areas.
MR. SMITH: Yes.
MS. CAMPBELL: We hunt most of the months of the year [inaudible].
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Right.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. The comment I had to make was that I would like to recommend that we explore expanding the hunts for archery only. At least consider whether that can be done where the park ‑‑ part of the park might be designated for archery hunting only and then the rest of the park for typical or traditional park visitors so that both users could use the facility at the same time and perhaps expand hunting opportunities for archers, which doesn’t have the same safety issues rifle hunting would have. Just a suggestion.
MS. CAMPBELL: I understand. I’m told we could perhaps amend that third motion to include additional wording. Is that correct, Ms. Bright? And I ‑‑
MS. BRIGHT: Yeah, that could just be happening today if that’s what ‑‑ if that’s what the Commission wants, you could just amend the motion to say, In addition to the opportunities listed in Exhibit B, direct staff to explore and add additional archery-only opportunities.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I’m happy with that. I think that’s a good suggestion. I like that.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well then, I would make the motion as amended by our general counsel.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So, moved by Commissioner Duggins.
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Second.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Second by Commissioner Scott. All in favor.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Hearing none, motion carries. Thank you, Linda. Item 4 — Request for Pipeline Easement — Orange County — Tony Houseman Wildlife Management Area. Ted Hollingsworth.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, Good morning. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I’m with the Land Conservation Program and I’m having trouble with the ‑‑ here we go. This is – item is in response to a request from Air Products, LLC, to grant an easement across the Tony Houseman Wildlife Management Area in southeast Texas. The Tony Houseman area is primarily wetlands. It’s an area that was acquired for the purpose of satisfying wetland mitigation needs for the Texas Department of Transportation. It is on the outskirts of Orange, Texas ‑‑ about 25 miles east of Beaumont.
Air Products has worked pretty closely with staff to identify a route across the wildlife management area that would minimize impacts to fish and wildlife resources. It is adjacent to an existing pipeline easement with several pipelines in it. The route originates in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and terminates in Orange, Texas. Operations staff are convinced that this is the least overall invasive route and that there is not a reasonable and prudent alternative.
Total impacts from the pipeline ‑‑ temporary and permanent impacts ‑‑ in the wildlife management area total about four acres. One of the measures that’s been taken to minimize those impacts is that the pipeline will be directionally drilled under the wildlife management area with a single exit and re-entry point in the wildlife management area ‑‑ very similar to a pipeline that you approved a couple of years ago for Denbury Green Pipeline Company and also consistent with that recommendation from a couple of years ago, the company’s been working closely with the Conservation Fund to identify lands that are almost inholdings within the wildlife management area and some additional lands on the north side of the wildlife management area that could be acquired by Air Products and donated to Texas Parks and Wildlife to partially offset those impacts to fish and wildlife resources.
Staff feels like the compensation that’s proposed will more than offset those impacts and, accordingly, recommends that the staff ‑‑ that the Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion: The Commission adopts the Resolution attached as Exhibit A. I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any questions for Ted? Is there a motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: So move.
COMMISSIONER FALCON: Second.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Motion by Commissioner Scott. Second by Commissioner Falcon. All in favor.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Hearing none, motion carries. All right, Ted, you’re up again. Request for Utilities — Harris County — Telecommunication Cable at San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, Good morning. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I’m with the Land Conservation Program. You’ve seen this item previously. I’ll just go through it briefly. The San Jacinto Battleground, of course, is the site where Texas won her independence from Mexico in 1836. It’s surrounded by industrial, residential, commercial development on the Houston Ship Channel.
This is an after-the-fact proposal. AT&T began work on this telecommunications line before staff was aware that work had begun. I’m not quite sure where the breakdown occurred at AT&T but the line was directionally bored under that southern tip of the park. It serves only Occidental Chemical Company. AT&T’s been very cooperative. They’ve done after-the-fact cultural resource surveying to make sure there were no impacts to cultural resources.
Staff issued a temporary work permit to allow them to complete that line for our neighbor, Occidental Chemical Company pending your approval of a permanent easement for that telecommunications line. AT&T will be paying standard rates for the line, which will be doubled, as is our habit because it’s an after-the-fact request and the recommendation is that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion: The Commission adopts the Resolution attached as Exhibit A. I’d be happy to answer any questions that you have.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any questions for Ted? Comments? Okay. Motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER HIXON: So move.
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Second.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner Hixon. Second, Commissioner Hughes. All in favor.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Hearing none, motion carries. Okay, Ted, you’re up again. Disposition of Land — Parker County — Sale of 12.4 Acres at Lake Mineral Wells State Trailway.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman and Commissioners, Good morning. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I’m with the Land Conservation Program. This item you’ve also seen before. It’s a little bit unusual in that the Lake Mineral Wells Trailway was acquired by quitclaim deed about 20 years ago and in the deed was reserved to the Union Pacific Railroad Company the right to buy back any portion of the trailway that they deemed ‑‑ that they needed for their operations. Lake Mineral Wells ‑‑ the trailway itself is about 35 miles west of Ft. Worth ‑‑ straddles Palo Pinto ‑‑ I’m sorry ‑‑ Palo Pinto and Parker counties.
Fortunately, the section of the track that they need for their operations is a section that has not yet been developed for public access. In fact, it still has old tracks on it. It’s very, very minimal use and staff feels like there will not be an impact to the overall public benefit of the trailway by the sale of the subject tract.
It’s about a mile long. It’s at the Weatherford terminus. You can see in this illustration exactly where that is. It’s on the edge of town and, again, really contractually, we have no option but to sell that back at appraised value. The appraisal has been completed. It’s a little over $200,000. That money would come to the agency as land sale proceeds and would be available for us to use for other acquisitions in the system.
Wherein and with that, the staff recommends that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion: The Commission adopts the Resolution attached as Exhibit A. And again, I’d be happy to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Questions for Ted?
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: So move.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Second.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay. Moved by Commissioner Scott, second by Commissioner Duggins. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Hearing none, motion carries. Thank you, Ted. Appreciate it.
Next item, Item 7 — Land Acquisition — Smith County — Half-acre at Tyler State Park. Corky Kuhlmann. Good morning, Corky.
MR. KUHLMANN: Good morning. For the record, Corky Kuhlmann with the Land Conservation Program. This is an acquisition in Smith County, Tyler State Park. The park is just north of Tyler, Texas. The proposed acquisition is in a little panhandle directly across from the headquarters at the entrance to the state park. It’s going to be about a half an acre.
It would seem like a fairly important acquisition, looking at this picture but when you look at this, the proposed improvement that are going to be made at the park to make it ADA accessible and then prove access in a smoother flow on heavy weekends, it becomes a pretty important acquisition.
So, with that, the staff recommends that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorizes the Executive Director to take all necessary steps to acquire a half acre tract of land as an addition to Tyler State Park. I’d be happy to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Questions or comments for Corky? Anyone? All right, do we have a motion?
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: So move.
COMMISSIONER HIXON: Second.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Moved by Commissioner Hughes. Second by Commissioner Hixon. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Hearing none, motion carries. Thank you, Corky. All right. We’re moving into some briefing items. Item Number 8 — Wildfires in Texas. Mr. Brent Leisure and Jeff Sparks.
MR. LEISURE: Good morning, Chairman and Commissioners. My name is Brent Leisure, Director of State Parks and pleased to be able to provide a briefing to you today about some of the fires that have affected our state and our state park system.
As you know and Carter had alluded to earlier in the meeting, we have we are in extreme fire conditions and we’ve had this to be the case now for several months. Wildland fire is a dangerous proposition and certainly it has affected many of our staff here personally but also the lands and resources that we manage.
Several years ago we implemented or we started an effort to adjust our policies and procedures and adopt some federal standards and continue our growth and maturation of a program that we’re particularly proud of in our firefighting efforts in state parks and also the wildlife division.
I’ve asked Jeff Sparks, who is our state park fire coordinator to provide a briefing today of some of the impacts of these recent fires and be able to answer any questions that you might have about this program. Jeff, will you come up, please?
MR. SPARKS: Good morning, Chairman and Commissioners. As Brent mentioned, we began transitioning to national fire standards of the National Wildfire Coordinating Group in 2005. And, in 2008, we actually completed a wildland fire management plan and operating procedure which established standards consistent with the National Wildfire Coordinating Group.
Now, who is the NWCG? NWCG stands for National Wildfire Coordinating Group and it’s a group of resource agencies; state, federal and local to develop wildland firefighting standards for wildland firefighting activities. These include training, qualifications, personal protective equipment, suppression equipment, physical fitness and command structure. This was a drastic change when we began taking this on in 2005, however, in the last six years we now have equipment that are consistent with NWCG standards, such as you see the engine there on the top left.
All of our firefighters actually undergo the standardized training the same firefighters throughout the country go through and are required to take a physical fitness test that you can see in the above right and our firefighters also take instant command training and advanced leadership training to actually lead firefighters on the line, as you see in the bottom right where we’re doing sand table exercises actually preparing for incidents such as the wildfires we recently had.
Now, once we begin the transition into these national standards, it opened up for great inter-agency cooperation because now we were playing in the same sandbox with the same rules as other agencies such as the Texas Forest Service, U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and many other agencies across the country.
It allows for great cross-training where our firefighters now actually train with these other agencies and wildland fire academies across the state and actually trainings that we actually host.
Also allows for great sharing of resources because now our resources are typed and meet those same standards that other firefighting teams utilize. Now fire is a management tool ‑‑ has been used on our state managed properties for decades. Prescribed fires are used on our state parks to protect park infrastructure and to restore and maintain high-valued resource habitat.
Since we’ve transitioned into NWCG standards, we’ve conducted 132 prescribed fires for more than 32,000 acres, actually following NWCG standards and our wildlife division is actually transitioned into these standards as well right now.
Now, wildfires are actually very common in our state parks and this year is no exception. In the last five years, we’ve had 111 documented wildfires on our state parks, burning more than 5500 acres. In fiscal year 2011, we’ve had now 22 wildfires since I actually made this slide as we have recently had a wildfire at Palo Duro Canyon State Park that we have state park and wildlife division firefighters on as I speak, burning more than 2000 acres this year.
So, as you see, the 21 wildfires or 22 wildfires is about par on the course for numbers within the last five years; however, where we’ve seen an increase is in acres, as we have had over 2000 acres burn this year. And that’s due to the drought on vegetation we’ve had and the size of some of these fires.
So, our Parks and Wildlife firefighters, more than 50 state parks firefighters and a dozen wildlife division firefighters, have responded to wildfires threatening our state park properties. You add up the total acres of this, it’d be more than a half a million acres that these actually ‑‑ these firefighters have actually touched this spring alone.
Training and qualifications have allowed for our firefights ‑‑ now that we’re using the same standardized national training ‑‑ to smoothly join in with our inter-agency firefighters on these scenes, to protect our park resources. Not only our park resources but neighbor resources where, in many instances, we’ve actually helped protect neighborhoods with our equipment.
So it allowed us to directly coordinate burnout operations, such as in this picture, we’re doing a burnout operation with ‑‑ on Possum Kingdom Lake State Park, to protect one of our restrooms. We’re actually able to tie in with inter-agency resources, coordinate the need for doing this and be able to do it safely where we did not jeopardize their firefighters and we did not jeopardize our firefighters.
It’s also allowed for us to directly communicate with inter-agency resources and where we’ve really improved is communication with aerial resources. Our firefighters, through training and experience in qualification levels, have actually directed air drops, both from fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, to protect our state parks and wildlife management areas.
Now, 2011 has been an exceptional wildfire season and one reason that is is March of 2011 was actually the driest month on record. More than 7600 wildfires have burned more than 2.3 million acres this year alone.
April 15th may have been the single worst day this year whereas more than a half a million acres were on fire at one given time. This is a satellite imagery of the western Texas, where you can see a handful of the fires actually burning that day. Actually, this day there was more than 30 fires active and, as you can imagine, this was taxing Texas Forest Service resources, as well as all the federal resources they had actually brought in.
You notice, you can see the PK West fire and the Rock House fire were both active on this date, which we actually had firefighters on both these fires, on April 15th.
Now, to highlight a few of the fires that actually provided significant impacts to our park operations, we’ll begin with the Rock House fire, which started April 9th, around 2:30 p.m. near the town of Marfa, as you can see at the bottom of this slide.
This fire actually grew exponentially. In 24 hours, the fire traveled more than 33 miles, consuming more than 85,000 acres. The fire continued to be active for nearly a month, burning more than 314,000 acres, destroying 24 homes and two commercial structures.
Now the impacts to the state park. 683 acres of the park were burned in the first day of the fire, April 9th. It destroyed our radio tower and repeater system, which was a station on top of the mountain you actually see there and it damaged a historic structure ‑‑ a CCC structure by burning the wooden shake roof and rafters off of that roof. This structure was actually not currently being utilized but it was a valuable resource.
The park was closed from April 10th to May 7th and during this time actually served as a base camp for more than 500 firefighters, where they actually had a Type 1 incident set up in the park and this is the first time this has actually ever occurred and the Forest Service, I think, was grateful for our hospitality.
One other thing to notice about this slide ‑‑ if you’ll notice the area in the square, it’s not quite as charred ‑‑ as black as the rest of the area. The reason that is, this area was actually conducted ‑‑ a prescribed fire was conducted here in winter of 2009. Therefore, it reduced the fuel loads and only two years of vegetation actually coming back. The fire burned across this area with much less intensity than the surrounding area, which is a great ‑‑ great representation of how important prescribed fire actually is on our state parks and wildlife management areas.
The PK complex. This was a much smaller fire that actually probably caused more significant impact to us as an agency and to the surrounding landowners and our neighbors in the area. This fire actually started April 14th west of Possum Kingdom Lake. It burned 126,000 acres and destroyed 169 structures and many of those were homes along the Possum Kingdom Lake area.
This is a shot of April 15th. This is satellite imagery that ‑‑ we monitor this imagery on a daily basis to see what wildfires might be threatening our parks and then, when we saw this image at 12:30 on April 15th, we realized that we needed to start evacuating the park and so, at that time, evacuations began. And, we also began mobilizing firefighters to the park and fire equipment.
So, our firefighters arrived on the park Friday the 15th and they worked the 15th and the 16th, with interagency resources. There were several hotshot crews actually working, most notably the Smokey Bear Hotshots out of New Mexico.
We worked with this crew to protect the park. The hotshots created a hand line along our park boundary and they had some dozers that they actually created some bladed lines immediately outside our park boundary to try to protect the park and the surrounding communities.
Everything worked great on Saturday and we kept the fire out of the park. On Sunday, though, weather conditions worsened and Sunday morning, the line was compromised and it quickly burned through the park. The regional estimates were that it burned about 90 percent of the park when in reality it burned about 80 to 85 percent of the park and it burned up 1259 acres total, once we got the good satellite imagery.
Even though it burned this much, we only received minor damage to our facilities. Two of our sewer pond liners were actually melted and we received damage to those and two structures, a linen building and a cabin, actually had a little bit of damage to the rafters ‑‑ or to the soffit where fire actually caught the soffit on fire but the firefighters on scene quickly uses axes to pull it off and their backpack sprayers to spray water on there to put it out. The park was closed April 15th when we began evacuations and remains closed today.
Now, much of the park did burn at a high intensity, as you can see in this slide here ‑‑ the areas in red and this would compromise about 545 acres. Another 181 acres burned at moderate intensity and 532 acres burned at light intensity. The light to moderate intensity fires were actually equivalent to a moderate to high intensity prescribed fire and did not do any drastic damage to vegetation.
The high intensity fires, however, burn at extreme intensity where it basically defoliated all the vegetation, shattered rocks. It was that intensity that it actually shattered rocks and in areas where it actually hit pavement, scorched the pavement and you can see damages on the pavement.
To give you an idea of how intense the high intensity actually is, we have vegetation plots on all our state parks throughout the state and we have several in Possum Kingdom. The shot you see to the left was taken in 2008. On the right ‑‑ this is one week post fire and this is the exact same location. The [indiscernible] tree you see on the left is the tree that’s scorched on the right there.
Now, not all the park burned this way. As I mentioned, much of the park burned at light and moderate intensities and this would be what a light to moderate intensity fire would look like. In this particular situation, we had more grass fuels. There was less fuel load on the ground and the fire actually was carried through the grass.
Scorching the juniper and torching out individual trees but not sterilizing the soil and burning at such high intensities as the previous slide. As you see here, actually we achieved great resource benefits with the wildfire in this area by controlling juniper in the area and we’re looking forward to great restoration potential in these areas.
Give you an aerial shot of what Possum Kingdom Lake State Park looked like after the fire. This slide is taken and you can see the cabins down in the bottom right hand area. These were cabins that our firefighters worked in conjunction with the Smokey Bear Hotshots to clear juniper around and fuels around and initiate burnout operations. Nearly all the structures in the park we had to burn around utilizing the Smokey Bear Hotshots, which stayed in the park with us for about a week and they actually create the hand line and then they knew how to our engines because those ‑‑ they met NWCG standards ‑‑ they’d seen that type of engines before so our firefighters and them worked together to actually use their water on our engines to actually protect our structures.
As you can see, not all the park did burn. The parts that were actually spared from fire were those that were sheltered from the wind ‑‑ from the strong southwest winds and sites that were on north-facing slopes and the fuels were just a little more [indiscernible] a little higher full moisture, didn’t carry through quite as fast.
So, in summary, our training and qualifications and by adopting NWCG standards back six years ago, our firefighters were better prepared for this response and also gained great experience with this response and we were able to assist other interagency firefighters and we currently, right now, have 11 firefighters assisting our interagencies at Palo Duro Canyon, fighting that fire as we speak. Any questions?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner Scott?
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yeah, I’ve got to ‑‑ I’m just curious. For the certification on the firefighters, do you use the A&M system training school down there or do you use somebody else?
MR. SPARKS: No, sir, we use the National Wildfire Coordinating Group, which actually sets its own training courses and they’re totally geared to wildland firefighting. A&M schools primarily focuses on structure fire protection.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Do you feel, Jeff, that we’re doing enough, in terms of prescribed fires, to reduce fuel loads in state parks and in WMAs? I mean, I guess you can never do enough. But are we making enough of a difference with 32,000 acres?
MR. SPARKS: We are making a difference. We could be doing more but we’re limited by staff and funding.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Right.
MR. SPARKS: And, as we’ve seen each year, we’ve burned more and more, after we’ve adopted these standards. Six years ago we were averaging about three or four thousand acres in the State Park Division alone. This last year we’ve burned nearly 10,000 acres. We’ve actually burned less days. This more advanced training, experience level and physical fitness actually allow us to burn more acres in a given burn and we’re able to accomplish higher risk fires that before we would have said there’s no way we can burn that. We now burn around infrastructure to protect infrastructure, on a very routine basis.
Nearly every fire we do in our state parks is an urban wildland fire interface setting and so we are protecting ‑‑ those are high value habitats and high value resources that we are protecting with prescribed fire.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay, any other questions? Commissioner Duggins.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I think your question’s great. I want to ask you to elaborate a little more on it in this way. In hindsight, if we’d had the resources, do you think we should have been more aggressive in prescribed burning?
MR. SPARKS: You mean more resources available to us over the last five, six, seven years?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yes, if we had had the funding and resources that were needed to safely do more burning, my question is, in hindsight, would it be your recommendation that we should be ‑‑ should have been more aggressive.
MR. SPARKS: It would be my recommendation that there ‑‑ all of our state parks and wildlife management areas, for the most part, are in habitats that evolve with fires ‑‑ with natural fire and historic fire ‑‑ historically. There’s a lot of property that we are not touching right now with prescribed fire due to limited staff and funding and I feel that if we would have had staff and funding we could have probably accomplished more with prescribed fire, thus reducing fuel loads.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And any ballpark guess as to what type of additional staffing or funding you think might be needed if that were to be determined to be appropriate?
MR. SPARKS: Well, currently we have 200 firefighters but of those 200 firefighters, there’s only two dedicated to our wildland fire program. The other 198 firefighters in state parks ‑‑ and wildlife division’s in the same boat ‑‑ they only actually have one dedicated person to wildland fire, serve other roles. So firefighting is ‑‑ or implementing prescribed fires is a small part of their job.
For instance, a park ‑‑ most of our firefighters are park rangers so their everyday job 99 percent of the year is actually park maintenance on a park operation schedule. It’s hard where our living factors of where we face right now is we’re limited in staffed to implement burns.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I’m sorry.
MR. SPARKS: We staffed to actually implement burns. We actually have to pull firefighters out of their daily job to accomplish our prescribed fire operations. So, by not having dedicated firefighters that actually can work routinely on fires, we are limited in the number of acres we actually can accomplish in a given year.
MR. LEISURE: Commissioner, I’d like to add just a couple of things to that. We’re very committed to the prescribed fire program and understand the importance to it ecologically and then also to reduce fuels and protect our facilities.
In this reorganization that we’re doing right now that we have initiated due to the budget situation that we’re facing, we’ve actually created a new position to support Jeff and his program and this is a fully dedicated position to our fire program.
One of the reasons is that’s so important is to develop the pre-planning that’s necessary for our prescribed fires that we want a very detailed and comprehensive fire plan for each of our sites before we implement a prescribed burning regime.
And so that, in addition to this growing number of firefighters that we’ve been able to recruit from within our ranks and leveraging that with outside resources ‑‑ with Texas Forest Service and so on, they help us in increasing and that’s why we’ve realized this growth in the number of acres that we’re able to accomplish with prescribed fire. I expect that to continue to grow even though we have limited resources. This networking of staff with other agencies has helped tremendously.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, let me be clear. I’m not being critical at all. I was just asking hypothetically but a follow-up to your comment is, do we ever seek the assistance of some of the private people that are in the business that I think are certified burn managers? I mean, do we ever ask them to donate some time and help us with this?
MR. SMITH: Well with ‑‑ and Jeff will address this, but with the NWCG standards, we only burn with individuals who have met those standards and that way, you’ve got peers that are familiar with all the equipment, all the standards, all the protocols and particularly the incident management system. When you’re on a fire, it’s absolutely essential that you know who’s communicating about what and who’s in charge and so what you don’t want to do is have people come together that have varying levels of training and skill sets unless you just absolutely have to and so that’s the point that I think Jeff was making is, we have raised the bar to really meet the highest level of professional training.
It’s exposed us to a whole other universe of folks that we can burn with that have helped facilitate that but we certainly draw heavily upon other partners that have met those standards to help us with fires.
MR. SPARKS: And, Mr. Smith actually hit it just right. The Texas Forest Service routinely burns on our prescribed fires with us. The National Parks Service has been on a number of our fires. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Nature Conservancy are all great cooperators that we routinely burn with. Most of the certified burn managers, however though, do not meet NWCG standards and, therefore, we are not ‑‑ we do not actually utilize them.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you very much.
MR. SMITH: If I can just elaborate on that too though, because, you know, obviously a big part of what we’re trying to do is to help foster prescribed fire on private lands and help build partnerships there and so, that prescribed burn manager’s certification is really important that you have, you know, some training, a level of expertise for private landowners to be able to burn and so we’re supportive of that program. It’s just kind of a little different level of training and certification on our lands.
We’ve gone to this higher standard but recognize, you know, that’s not always feasible for, you know, your average private landowner. So, we are supportive of any kind of certification that’s out there that will help provide greater training and education about the right ways to do prescribed fires.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Good points. Commissioner Hixon?
MR. LEISURE: And Commissioners that I might add ‑‑ and I didn’t see it in Jeff’s program ‑‑ in the Possum Kingdom fire, we actually have a fish hatchery. It’s right there at Possum Kingdom. We were able to mobilize our resources within the agency to help support and protect that facility and that, in addition to the work that was done to protect some private holdings in and around the park and in that surrounding area, I just want to commend our firefighters. They’ve done a tremendous job. These fires were very intense. We have not seen anything quite like this in Texas and, unfortunately, this appears to be a trend and we’re trying to gear up for it. So, thank you.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HIXON: Just a quick question. Can the certified burn managers become part of the national program or is it only open to agencies?
MR. SPARKS: Yes, ma’am, they could actually follow NWCG and there is one or two certified burn managers that I know are NWCG certified.
COMMISSIONER HIXON: Okay. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Jeff, if you’d just convey our appreciation to your team. You guys have been awfully busy and we just want you to know, as a Commission, that we appreciate all your efforts. Please pass that along, if you would and thank you.
MR. SPARKS: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay. Briefing Item Number 9 — Big Time Texas Hunts program update. Linda Campbell and Carly Montez.
MS. CAMPBELL: Good morning, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. My name is Linda Campbell, Program Director for Private Lands and Public Hunting in the Wildlife Division and today we want to brief you on Big Time Texas Hunts and our continuing efforts to improve marketing and revenue generation from this program.
First, a little background. Big Time Texas Hunts began in 1996 as a revenue-generating program with funds used to supplement research, management and public hunting in the Wildlife Division. The first hunt was the Grand Slam and, over the years, we’ve added other hunt packages.
Today, hunters enter to win one of seven hunt packages, including white-tailed and mule deer, pronghorned, bighorn sheep, African exotics, upland game birds, waterfowl and alligator. Entrance fees are $10 by mail, phone or at retailers and $9 online.
Direct mail marketing began in 1998 and each year we analyze the return on investment, in an effort to increase net revenue.
This program represents a great team effort between the wildlife and communications divisions, including marketing, research and data analysis by Kelly Dziekan, who really took us to the next level as we’ll comment to you in just a moment.
This is truly a hunt of a lifetime for our lucky winners like 29-year-old Ty Chumley from Nederland, who won the Grand Slam in 2009. Ty almost didn’t apply but decided to buy one ticket even though his friend assured him he wouldn’t win. His home, including his hunting equipment, had been destroyed by Hurricane Ike. But Ty did win the Grand Slam and harvested this impressive nine-to-ten-year-old ram.
The Big Time Bird Hunt offers the winner four separate hunts for quail, pheasant, dove and turkey. Mr. Bauer brought his teen-aged daughter Leah with him for the turkey hunt at the Matador Wildlife Management Area in Cottle County and Area Manager Chip Ruthven guided them and called the gobbler off the roost that Leah put on the ground at 6:45 a.m. Steven got his bird at 8:00. So the rest of the day they spent fishing and looking for horned lizards. Winners often tell us how much they enjoy the educational experience as well as their hunting experience.
Big Time Texas Hunts provides great hunting experiences but it also generates substantial revenue for the Wildlife Division. So now I’d like to turn it over to Carly to talk about the marketing strategy and some of the results.
MS. MONTEZ: Good morning, Commissioners. I’m Carly Montez, Marketing Specialist with the Communications Division marketing group. I’d like to begin by telling you about our most important marketing strategies for 2010. Everything we did was with the aim of increasing our net revenue and return on investment. Our key strategy for doing that this year was to use a new segmentation strategy on our direct mail ‑‑ to target our direct mail to only our best and most profitable customers.
This allowed us to reduce our direct mail quantity by 91 percent this year and achieve some significant cost savings.
We also increased our email marketing efforts this year, emailing to new groups. We continued our online marketing and, as always, we used all of our in-house free marketing efforts to get the word out.
I’m happy to report that these strategies resulted in great success this year. We saw a 240 percent return on investment or ROI, which is the highest we’ve ever seen for the program. We generated over $437,000 in net revenue, which was actually at 38 percent over what we generated in 2009 and that was despite the fact that we mailed to significantly fewer people.
The increases in the return on investment and the net revenue were driven by the dramatically lower costs that we were able to achieve by targeting our direct mail. We continue to see that most people enter the program by mail with 53 percent of them entering that way, however, internet purchases have continued to grow, this year reaching an all-time high with 41 percent of our applicants entering online.
It’s important that we continue to grow the number of online purchasers because those people who purchase online, as you can see, purchase the highest average number of entries, making them our most profitable customer group.
We also looked at the profitability of each of the hunting packages that we offer and, as you can see in this slide here, each of the hunting packages is individually profitable. We do see some opportunities here to continue to increase the profitability of the hunts, especially the Whitetail Bonanza and I’ll talk about that in our recommendations for 2011, at the end of our presentation.
But first, let’s talk about how we improve that return on investment this year by targeting our direct mail, to only our best and most profitable customers. We do that using the segmentation strategy called RFM, which stands for Recency, Frequency and Monetary Value. So this is a strategy that’s based on the premise that customers who have purchased more recently, more frequently and have spent more are your best prospects for direct mail.
So we looked at our customers for the past five years and we honed in on just a little over 43,000 people who had purchased an entry in the last five years and mailed just to those customers versus, in the past, we mailed to almost half a million people.
Doing this allowed us to cut our costs more than in half and achieve a much higher response rate because we’re talking to those most responsive best customers. So, you can see in this slide that the direct mail was very successful but I also want to talk to you about some of the other strategies that we use to continue to grow our customer base for the program.
We did that by using a number of tactics, which are all shown here on this slide. All of these tactics were focused on driving people online to the Big Time Texas Hunt website where they can easily purchase an entry. We were successful with that, driving over 31,000 visitors to the website during that promotional period and I’d like to tell you about the two most successful of those tactics, which you can see are Email marketing and Online advertising. Together they accounted for 70 percent of our web traffic.
First, let’s talk about online advertising. For the campaign, we purchased online ads on both Google and Facebook. You can see the examples of what those ads looked like here. Those ads were purchased on a cost per click basis, meaning we only paid for an ad when somebody actually clicked on it and visited our website so it’s a very effective tool for getting people to the website where they can buy an entry.
We drove 11,100 website visits from these two types of ads and although we only paid for the people who clicked and visited our website, we also received the ancillary benefit of 13.4 million impressions. That’s the number of times our ads were served up under Google or Facebook.
Now, let’s talk about the email marketing. But before we get into all the details, I wanted to show you this graph because it says a lot about our efforts. What this is is the daily online sales of Big Time Texas Hunts entries during the promotional period. You can see that there’s a number of spikes in the sales and those all correspond to when we sent out a group of emails. So we were able to tell right away that our email efforts were being successful in driving revenue online and they were working very quickly.
This is an example of what one of our emails look like. You can see it has a brief description about the program and multiple links to the website where people can buy an entry.
We tested email to six different groups. Most of the email efforts were executed in-house, meaning that marketing worked with the licensing team to pull the email list from our customer database, wrote the emails and sent them out. I want to tell you about the three most successful of those in-house marketing efforts, which are the first three on this list.
First, we did an email to our RFM customers. Those are those recent, frequent and monetary ‑‑ high-monetary value customers who we sent the direct mail to and we had about 7,000 of them who had also provided us with their email address in the past. So, in addition to sending them the direct mail, we also contacted them by email.
Two things stood out about these people. First, we saw that they had a 39.6 percent open rate. It’s the number of them who opened the email when they received it. This is an incredible open rate, far above the industry average of 20 percent.
The second thing we saw is that these are clearly our best customers. Their response rate was almost twice ‑‑ was more than twice as high as those who received the direct mail only. So it’s important that we have both an address and an email address because it really increases our response rate here.
The other two groups were 2010 hunting license holders. First, we had about 27,000 of these people who had provided us an email address in the past so we emailed all of those folks. You can see that they had a high open rate and a high response rate and they generated over $30,000 in net revenue. A fun fact here is that $30,000 in net revenue is more than enough to cover our annual cost of our email service provider, GovDelivery.
So, the other thing that we saw was that they had a 2.3 percent response rate. This response rate is actually comparable to some of the groups who received the direct mail in 2009, except for this year we were able to achieve that without the additional cost of direct mail.
The final group was a group of 2010 license holders who hadn’t provided us an email address in the past. We were able to use a vendor to append an email address to their customers’ information; their mailing address in our database and we mailed to those folks and you can see that they had a lower open rate and a lower response rate but because the costs were so low to contact them ‑‑ cost us just 10 cents to acquire their email address, we still saw positive net revenue from that group and we brought in 156 new customers who next year we can contact by both direct mail and email.
Of course, the most important thing we look at about all these strategies is whether or not they’re driving revenue for the program and you can see in this breakout here that each of the strategies is also individually driving revenue for the program.
As I said earlier, the bulk of the sales are still coming from direct mail despite the fact that we mailed to 450,000 fewer people this year but what’s exciting is that these other tactics ‑‑ those trackable eblasts and the other marketing efforts ‑‑ are bringing in new customers and new revenue with limited costs. This year they brought in 3,000 new customers and over $83,000 in net revenue.
It’s important that we continue to use these other tactics to grow our customer base and protect the program from attrition.
This brings me to our strategies for 2011. As we do every year, we want to continue to use our learning to improve our net revenue and our return on investment. So in 2011, we plan to continue to use the RFM segmentation for our direct mail. We continue to collect email addresses from our license holders and to learn more about what’s most effective in terms of email creators and timing for driving revenue for the program and finally, as I mentioned earlier, we want to improve the profitability of some of our hunts, specifically the Whitetail Bonanza, by cutting the cost of that hunt, specifically by reducing the total number of winners from ten to eight and hosting two of those eight hunts on public lands.
That concludes our presentation and we’d be happy to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Great job. It’s a great example of a creative marketing approach so congratulations. That’s obviously really effective. Any questions or comments from the Commission? Commissioner Duggins.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Carly, on yesterday, when we were looking at the data for the ‑‑
MS. MONTEZ: For those state parks website?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yes. I can’t remember whether or not this option was one of the options that a user could purchase.
MS. MONTEZ: On the online sales system.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yes.
MS. MONTEZ: Yes, it is. The Big Time Texas Hunts entry are actually license types so when you go in to buy your hunting license or your fishing license, you can buy a Big Time Texas Hunts entry at the same time. They are available on the system from May 15th through October 15th and so right now you could go on and say, I want to buy a hunting license for next year and they would be listed under there.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But it was in that category of blanks that you ‑‑
MS. MONTEZ: Yes.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: ‑‑ a user could purchase?
MS. MONTEZ: Yes.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Good. Okay, that was first question. The second question is, do we have a link on the homepage that says Big Time Hunts?
MS. MONTEZ: During the promotional period, it is definitely something we put on the homepage with a banner spotlight. We actually ‑‑ that drove a lot of traffic to the website this year.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay, last question is, on the ‑‑ you talked about sending emails to hunters who didn’t provide an email address, there was an appendage ‑‑
MS. MONTEZ: Yes.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Would you tell me how you got the email ‑‑ how that worked. I’m sorry I’m ‑‑
MS. MONTEZ: Absolutely.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: ‑‑ just not following that.
MS. MONTEZ: We work with a vendor who ‑‑ they’re a direct mail list vendor but they’ve started providing these services called Email Append. So what they do is, they take a customer address ‑‑ physical mailing address and they match it with other databases who also have an email address for that customer and so we provided a list of, I think it was a little over 80,000 customers and they’re not able to match an email address to all of them. I think it was around 17 percent that they were able to find an email address in other customer databases and match it to that.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any other questions? Carly, thank you very much.
MS. MONTEZ: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay, here we are. Mr. Smith, this Commission has completed its business. I declare us adjourned.
MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
(Whereupon, at 10:30 a.m., the meeting was adjourned.)
In official recognition of the adoption of this resolution in a lawfully called public meeting of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, we hereby affix our signatures this 26th day of May 2011.
Peter M. Holt, Chairman
T. Dan Friedkin, Vice-Chairman
Ralph H. Duggins, Member
Antonio Falcon, M.D., Member
Karen J. Hixon, Member
Dan Allen Hughes, Jr., Member
Margaret Martin, Member
S. Reed Morian, Member
Dick Scott, Member
C E R T I F I C A T E
MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: May 26, 2011
I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 70, inclusive, are the true, accurate, and complete transcript prepared from the verbal recording made by electronic recording by Penny Bynum before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.
On the Record Reporting, Inc.
3307 Northland, Suite 315
Austin, Texas 78731