Committees, March 28, 2012
TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION
MARCH 28, 2012
TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT
COMMISSION HEARING ROOM
4200 SMITH SCHOOL ROAD
AUSTIN, TEXAS 78744
REPORTED BY: PAIGE SLOAN WATTS
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Good morning everyone, welcome. This meeting is called to order March 28th, 2012, at 9:14.
Before proceeding with any business, Mr. Smith, I believe you had a statement.
MR. SMITH: I do. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Public notice of this meeting containing all items on the proposed agenda as been filed in the Office of the Secretary of State as required by Chapter 551 Government Code, referred to as the Open Meetings Act. I would like for this fact to be noted in the official record of this meeting.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Go to Outreach and Education Committee — Regulations Committee — Conservation Committee — Finance Committee
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you. Okay, we’re going to begin this morning with Outreach and Education.
Chairman Martin, would you call your committee to order, please.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Thank you. Is there a motion for approval of the last minutes that have been placed in front of you from the last Committee meeting?
COMMISSIONER HIXON: So moved.
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Second.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Second. Motion by Commissioner Hixon. Second by Commissioner Scott. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes)
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: All opposed? Being none, motion carries. Committee Item No. 1, the Zebra Mussels Public Awareness Campaign, staff member Darcy Bontempo. Thank you, Darcy.
MS. BONTEMPO: Good morning, Chairman, Commissioners, and Mr. Smith. Can you hear me? Good morning, I —
COMMISSIONER JONES: Could you speak up? I can’t hear you.
MS. BONTEMPO: Good morning —
COMMISSIONER JONES: I’m just kidding.
MS. BONTEMPO: — Chairman, Commissioners, hello. I appreciate the opportunity to be here this morning and provide a brief update on the Zebra mussels public awareness campaign. This is an effort that represents the cross divisional teamwork of the Communication Division and the Inland Fisheries staff. We’ve worked very hard together to educate Texans on the aquatic invasives.
Public awareness is a critical and necessary part of any strategy to stop or reduce the spread of invasive species. And in 2010, the Department launched its first awareness campaign to combat Giant Salvinia. This campaign targeted boaters —
MS. HEMBY: I’m okay, I’m okay. I forgot about the new step.
MS. BONTEMPO: This campaign targeted boaters in East Texas and since this was by far the most significant communications campaign we had ever launched here at Parks and Wildlife, we also understood a pre- and post-survey to determine what the results of that campaign were. And we were very pleased to find that the results of 3,000 boaters indicated that 96 percent of them said as a result of seeing the campaign, they were more likely to clean, drain, and dry their boats, which is, you know, exactly what we were hoping to achieve.
So, as based on this success, we turned our next focus to Zebra mussels, which is what I’m here this morning to talk to you about. A bit of background on this nasty mollusk might be helpful. Zebra mussels came to North America from Russia, and they quickly spread from the Great Lakes through a large part of the United States. They are primarily in eastern and central U.S., but they also are as far south as Louisiana and as far west as some spots in California. In 19 — in April 2009, the Zebra mussel made it’s way to Texas and it was confirmed — an adult Zebra mussel was confirmed in Lake Texoma.
Since then, we’ve also found Zebra mussels in a stream that feeds Lake Lavon. Experts, in fact, fear that it could spread through the Trinity and the Red River systems. A very sobering thought. Especially when you consider the impacts of the Zebra mussel, the economic impacts threatening our aquatic species and our entire ecosystem, damaging boat hulls, props, boat docks, water pipes, and fouling beaches with their shells, and the economic impact hurting local tourism, damaging water pipes, and costing ultimately taxpayers millions of dollars to make infrastructure repairs.
Our Zebra mussel’s campaign that we launched last year, built upon the success and the learning of the Giant Salvinia campaign that I mentioned earlier. We used the same hello/good-bye campaign tagline, but this time "Hello Zebra Mussels, Good-bye Texas Lakes." And we again targeted boaters; but in this case, we targeted them in North Texas and the focus was on Lake Texoma where, of course, the Zebra mussels have been confirmed. And our goal again was to create awareness of Zebra mussels, their impact, their negative impact, and the call to action was to ask boaters to clean, drain, and dry their boats.
In May of 2011, we quickly organized a meeting of water municipalities and Corps of Engineers and others and hosted a meeting so we could update them on the situation related to Zebra mussels. We took them through the results of our Giant Salvinia campaign and we talked with them about our plan and our desire to launch and mount an effort to combat Zebra mussels. We asked them for their financial support. We wanted to match some Federal aid dollars that we had and they responded very positively and they quickly stepped up and these partners that you see here provided funding to make this campaign possible.
And major funding came from the first four partners that you see listed there — North Texas Municipal Water District, the Tarrant Regional Water District, Trinity River Authority, and the City of Dallas Water Utilities Department. And we moved at breakneck speeds to sign these memorandums of understanding, to get the funding in, and to get this campaign launched quickly. We wanted to launch it no later than the July 4th weekend, and we managed to do that.
On July 1st, right before the very busy July 4th weekend, we had our media launch event. And as this clever press release shows, we tied into the holiday with Texans must declare independence from Zebra mussels and we held along with our Inland Fisheries staff that actually brought a boat to demonstrate how to properly clean the boat and to inspect for Zebra mussels, we held a media event at Lake Ray Hubbard, which was actually at a Bass Pro Shop on I-30 and we had a terrific turnout and we had coverage from TV Channels 5 and 11, from the Dallas Morning News, Associated Press, and others and we were able to get a lot of good coverage for this story right before boaters got on the lake for July 4th weekend; so we were very pleased we were able to do that.
All the press — the press release, the media coverage, everything directed boaters to this website that you may be familiar with. It’s the same website that we partnered with the Lady Bird Wildflower Center to create for our first campaign for Giant Salvinia; but as you see here, the feature was updated to focus on Zebra mussels. And we also produced radio PSAs that ran in about 50 stations within the North Texas region, and those also directed boaters to this website for more information to learn more.
Our campaign used a full suite of communication tactics. I’m going to quickly run through those just to give you a feel for the things, the elements of the campaign. This event banner was used for the media launch, as well as for other events and shows. We used e-mail. As you see here, we sent this one to more than 86,000 boaters, registered boaters. And there’s a video there as you can see that educates them about how to properly clean their boat. Oversized, colorful posters were sent to 220,000 registered boaters and we targeted those boaters in the Central and North Texas area. We developed print ads. A print ad that ran in the 2011 Outdoor Annual, the Parks — the Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine and Texas Monthly. And as you see here, billboards. We had billboards that were placed on highways en route to Lake Texoma.
We had plenty of pointed display materials that were very well received by boat dealers and marinas. We also used a kind of innovative attention getting stencils and these were placed on the boat ramps at Lake Texoma and on boardwalks. Pop-toppers, which are what they sound like, as you can see here we had those at gas stations and those were, again, gas stations selected based on their vicinity to the lake. And we went a step further at six gas stations where we dominated every inch of floor, counter, and glass cooler space; so we wanted to be sure that no boater that was stopping to get a cold drink or ice or whatever could possibly miss seeing our message.
COMMISSIONER JONES: Did you put it in front of the beer?
MS. BONTEMPO: You’re going to be trouble today, aren’t you? No comment.
COMMISSIONER JONES: Because I don’t think they were getting Gatorade.
MS. BONTEMPO: Abstain.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: They were getting ice, though.
MS. BONTEMPO: That’s part of the —
COMMISSIONER JONES: Yes, they were.
MS. BONTEMPO: Part of the learning for next year, we’re going to check on the placement of those coolers.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Got to keep the beer cold.
COMMISSIONER JONES: That’s right.
MS. BONTEMPO: We also did online advertising. We ran Facebook ads and here’s some examples, creative examples of what we ran and we were also to get learning here on which ones worked very well. Just, for example, we learned incorporating attention Texoma boaters, really targeting that helped with our click-through and our effectiveness. And just also briefly I might mention that what we did with Facebook is we targeted boaters who self-identified themselves in their profile. We’re going to broaden that for next campaign because we couldn’t spend enough money. There are not enough people necessarily identifying themselves as boaters, but that still boat or go on boats; but we still did very, very well with our Facebook campaign. We also bought key words for Google app. words and we also did animated ad banners. This actually — the boat actually, you know, you saw the — you would see the mussels growing on the boat, so it would catch your attention. And we saw excellent results.
This banner ad ran on AccuWeather, which again we thought was a very appropriate ad network, online network; and we saw excellent results. We had a click-through rate on the web banner of .21 percent, and the national average is .05 percent; so we did very, very well. All together with the online advertising, we actually garnered 23.49 million impressions — and there it is on the screen — and 9,000 clicks. And when we look at all — over all the media for the campaign actually generated about 42 million impressions.
That campaign ran through the end of September. In the meantime, we’ve continued to produce additional materials. I just wanted to quickly share these with you. These are wallet cards. We actually produced about 600,000 of them. We’re going to have those for a couple of years to distribute to law enforcement offices, boat dealers, etcetera. We also produced a brochure, which — a sample of here — which will also be similarly distributed. And we are very close to being able to deploy 37 custom buoys that will be in Lake Texoma and we expect to have these in place by the end of April thanks to the work of Brian Van Zee’s staff in the field who will be, after I guess gillnetting, working on this as well. So everybody is putting in the extra hours to make sure that we get this up before this year’s boating season.
I also wanted to mention that these are just hot off the press, and I can share these with you; but we also have produced buck slips. And these are going to be inserted in about 130,000 boat registration mailings. And I just have to say while it’s not okay for Zebra mussels to hitch a ride, these are hitching a ride for free and that’s pretty good. So that works well for us. I didn’t get one laugh, okay. I tried on that one.
Anyway, we were fast approaching this year’s campaign and we’ll be ready to launch as you see there in May and we’re going to spend about $200,000 on this effort. And once again, our partners have stepped up and renewed their commitment to us; so it’s a terrific working relationship all around. We are going to be applying our learning that we got from this past year to the new campaign, but basically the same strategies as you see here — the billboards, the banners ads, the website. We’ve been doing radio news segments and then we’re also going to be doing lots of signage and displays in and around Lake Texoma.
So we’re looking forward to another successful communications campaign to combat Zebra mussels, and that concludes my presentation. I’d be more than happy to — I’ll welcome any comments or any questions.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Any questions?
COMMISSIONER JONES: I have a question. Is there anything that — I understand the campaign is to prevent the spread from Lake Texoma. Is there anything that can be done to minimize the population or once they get in, they’re pretty much there?
MS. BONTEMPO: That’s definitely a biologist’s question. I know when I’m not suited to answer, so let me...
MR. SMITH: That doesn’t stop the rest of us, Darcy; but thank you for setting that bar high.
MR. SAUL: Good morning. My name is Gary Saul. I’m the Director of Inland Fisheries. At this point since it has come to the United States, there has been no successful method of slowing its population growth. We truly believed that Zebra mussels would not come this far south. It’s a northern species. Very successful in the Great Lakes. But as boats have been moved and carrying Zebra mussels with them, they’re very, very adaptable and we have seen them change their spawning modes. They will spawn at any time above about 50 degrees and in Texas in most of our waters, they’re going to be above 50 degrees. So for us right now, it’s a containment issue. Doing our best to try to contain it.
COMMISSIONER JONES: And so given that, this kind of policy will have to be in effect for the foreseeable future?
MR. SAUL: Yes. This is — this is the advertising campaign and what you’ll hear a little bit later on when we get to regulations is one of the ways that we’re attempting to work with this as well.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I have a quick question. Darcy, what was our budget, advertising budget last year? About the same or...
MS. BONTEMPO: It was about 275,000, I believe.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: How are we spreading it from Giant Salvinia to other invasives and Zebra mussels? Is that —
MS. BONTEMPO: Those dollars were just spent on the Zebra mussel.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay.
MS. BONTEMPO: We did have some remaining dollars I believe from Costal Fisheries that we also spent on the Giant Salvinia just to produce some additional materials. But, again, it’s just a matter of funding and needing to focus our efforts.
I don’t know, Mr. Smith, if you have anything else to add to that.
MR. SMITH: Well, Darcy, I was going to just ask how much of that 275,000 came from our partners?
MS. BONTEMPO: The vast majority of it —
MR. SMITH: Yeah.
MS. BONTEMPO: — came from our partners, yes.
MR. SMITH: And that is a point I want to make sure the Commission understands. The River Authorities have been extraordinary partners in this regard. I think they’ve really taken it seriously. They see this as an opportunity to partner and to try to get ahead of it to the extent that they can and I really want to publically acknowledge them for how seriously they’ve taken it and also how well they have coordinated by and large with the Agency and our Fisheries staff and Marketing team on this and we’re very grateful for that. Candidly, we just couldn’t do it without them; so I want all of you to know that.
COMMISSIONER JONES: Another biology question. Do they have a predator?
MR. SAUL: Not native — or there’s not a predator in the United States. And I’ll look to Dave. Dave, do you know? Is there a natural predator in the Caspian and Black Seas?
MR. TERRE: Excuse me. I’m Dave Terre. I’m the Chief of Fisheries Management and Research. And, yes, in their native habitats, of course, like — they do have natural predators. But in Texas, we do have animals — Blue catfish for instance — that will consume Zebra mussels. Unfortunately, they’re never going to keep pace with the population growth.
COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Gary, since you’re up here. How are we doing with Giant Salvinia? Obviously, there’s been a great campaign to focus awareness, but are able to —
MR. TERRE: The winter before, we had a good hard winter, which knocked it backed a lot. That helped us tremendously last year. This year we’ve had a quite a warm winter, and we’re seeing growth now taking off again; so we are fully prepared to get out and actually, we are currently doing some treatments in certain areas where we’re finding it. But we are fully engaged to go out and treat our Giant Salvinia this year.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: You’re able to gauge the effectiveness of the campaign? Do you see the difference with the advertising and marketing efforts?
MR. TERRE: Yes. I mean we had a tremendous amount of awareness that —
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Yes.
MR. TERRE: — came forward out of that last year. Yes, absolutely.
MR. SMITH: You know, it might be worth just noting for the Commission. You know, this past session our funding for aquatic invasive species was completely cut and so that’s made it very difficult on us then to go out and partner with River Authorities and others and help bring some funds to help leverage. And so Gary and his team have really been trying to turn over the rocks to find any funding to help address spot-control issues and strategically try to get ahead of it. But that was hard on us, particularly after a mild winter, which we know we’re going to have a strong response.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Great, thank you.
MR. TERRE: You bet.
MS. BONTEMPO: I was just going to add one thing as well on Giant Salvinia, which was that in February — sorry, excuse me. In February of 2012, we are also working — we met with Caddo Lake Institute, and they did get some grant funding. So Inland Fisheries and the Communications division, we are working with them to help so that they can use our campaign materials, that we can help assist them as much as possible. They’re primarily focused on Caddo in Texas, Caddo Lake, so; but that is an effort that we are continuing to partner with them on so that we can continue to get that message out, at least in that area. I wanted to mention that.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: That’s great work, Darcy; and I really like the creatives, too. I think that’s —
MS. BONTEMPO: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: — tactful.
MS. BONTEMPO: Glad to hear that. Thank you, Chairman.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Any further questions? I also wanted to reiterate great, great marketing and utilizing all the different avenues and really going into the social media, which is so important. So great marketing, thank you.
MS. BONTEMPO: Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Committee Item No. 2, Conservation Education Strategy, Ms. Nancy Herron.
MS. HERRON: Good morning, Commissioners Mr. Smith. I’m Nancy Herron. I’m the Outreach and Education Director. I’m very pleased to have the opportunity to share with you this morning our department’s conservation education strategy on recruitment and retention on stewardship and on our new key messages.
I think there was nothing that could have proceeded this — nothing would have done more for me than to follow the previous presentation because I think it so aptly illustrates the perplexity of conservation. It is always a resource issue and it is always a people issue and that’s where conservation education comes in. There is — let me go to this first. To support conservation, people make daily decisions. They have input. They decide their behaviors. And we know based on sound science that there are three good avenues toward that conservation behavior and one is participation in the outdoors, that they actually have fun, that it becomes a part of their lives, that they understand something about ecology and systems and Zebra mussels is a great example. And also that they have a sense of stewardship. And I’m going to clean that boat for a reason and for more than just my own time.
In terms of recruitment and retention, we’ll look at that part first. There’s a — there’s a model that we’re going to take a little clockwise journey around it that illustrates the key components to get somebody involved. It’s very easy relatively to get somebody in the door; but, as you know, garages and consignment shops are filled with equipment that gathers dust because someone tries something in a year or two and then off it goes. So how is it that people stay involved and engaged?
Well, first, they have this at the top, this positive initial experience. And so we spend some time having a good first impression because it’s hard to beat that first impression. So those are outreach events or "Life is Better Outside," those events that are safe and fun and successful. And moving around that circle, we have access to equipment. Also critical to somebody adopting a long-term activity. So we have tackle loaner programs, for example, or the co-op grants that helps groups buy their own equipment. Access to the resource is a big issue and as you know, we concern ourselves with the distance that a park is from an urban area. That there is fish stocked in a neighborhood fishing pond in an urban area.
Access to a mentor. We make sure that we have mentored youth hunts, for example. We invest in a robust volunteer network. Continuing around, it’s very important that there’s support from family and friends and community. So we place media stories. We have very strong partnerships with groups. We make sure that we have family friendly events. All of these pieces together help ensure or at least increase the likelihood that someone is going to stick with that outdoor activity and engage and enjoy and have the outdoor as part of their lives.
Stewardship and becoming a steward follows a similar path. And starting at the base here, this foundation, we have those entry level experiences that promote awareness and interest and appreciation. So, again, we have outreach, special events, promotions, all those things that help create that wow experience. Next are classes, courses, exhibits, media pieces, those things that build knowledge and skills that say, you know, yeah, I know about that. I can do that. That’s that sense of ownership that builds someone towards stewardship.
Next is feeling like you can make a difference and those are those experiences that we ensure that people have volunteer opportunities that let them practice those stewardship behaviors. And finally when we get to that level of stewardship, we want to recognize and support those folks who are our Lone Star land stewards, who are our master naturalists, who are our healthy habitat schools that are demonstrating those stewardship behaviors. We support them, we congratulate them, and we keep that circle going.
Just as important are those outside influences demonstrated by these circles around this pyramid. Your peers. Is this something that I can enjoy with my friends? Social influences. Can I do this, you know, with my club, my organization, my church, my workplace, support this activity? Cultural influences. Do you ever see this on TV, on Facebook, media, in the paper? Sesame Street after 40 years actually changed their set to include trees and greenery and shrubs and flowers and Big Bird was trying to decide whether he needed to migrate or not. This is important to have it part of our dialogue in our daily lives.
And finally and very importantly is family. Is this something that you can talk about at Thanksgiving dinner? Is it something that your family will enjoy with you, or do they roll their eyes? So all these pieces play a huge part as well as that recruitment and retention model and whether someone is engaged and involved over the long term.
The glue that helps hold all these pieces together is speaking with one voice. This is something that our Director knew from the very start. On about day three of his directorship here, he asked us "So what are our key messages," and, well, we all knew we had them. We didn’t know if they were consistent across our department. So we let our big eyes close a little bit and got busy on looking at what key messages could possibly speak for a department as diverse as we are. We first turned our attention to the Foundation of Fish and Wildlife Management, which is the North American model. It espouses some very fundamental understandings that wildlife belongs to the people. We manage it as a public trust. It’s based on science, and it transcends the interest of the few. It is a democratic model. We then looked at the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agency’s work on conservation education. And it was based on the North American model. We concluded that people need to value the resources of public trust, appreciate that we must conserve and actively manage our resources. We can’t just step away and say nature will take its course. That they would support and participate in nature based recreation and stewardship. So this was a good foundation that we were involved in.
As a matter of fact, these mirror a lot of how Texas feels. I was — I had the privilege to chair this in its infancy and we were able to bring a lot of Texas thanking there. The next — next what we did is we had an internal group that looked in at our department. Every division had some messages that they were already trying to get out. Were there any common themes? And that took a lot of work to figure that out. We had a lot of things layed out on the table and we looked for those themes and we, by golly, we found them. We tried to make them as simple and fundamental as possible and came up with these take-home messages — everything is connected, everyone plays a role, and life is better outside.
Everything connected gets to that understanding of systems. If you fiddle with one part, it’s connected to something else. That’s okay, but you need to understand that that’s how things work. And, again, think back to the Zebra mussel’s campaign or others, that understanding of systems is important. Everyone plays a role. Whatever we do, we’ll have an impact. We’re not saying it’s all good, it’s all bad. We choose. We choose the role. And having that ecological understanding, understanding our impact, we can decide on the balance of needs that is appropriate for ourselves and our communities. And finally, life is better outside. I know you’ve seen this before. Try as we might, we couldn’t find better phrasing for that idea that it’s fun to be outdoors. You know, by golly, it’s even — you’ll be healthier and happier and smarter. It’s where you want to be, and you don’t want to miss it. So we ended up with just continuing on with life is better outside with that participation.
So, those — that’s kind of the big picture of our conservation education strategy. We apply this with partners, with our own programs, and it might be that we take one role and then passing them off to another partner; but we are trying to apply those best practices that we know, that sound science that we apply to our resources management we apply to our people management. We’re including this now in new employee training, division meetings. We have an online tool kit, and we continue to look to the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. They’ve got some wonderful tools. They also are promoting best practices. As a matter of fact, I’ll be leading a webinar next month, a national webinar on best practices. So it’s going to be — it’s a national effort that we’ll be participating in.
So with that, I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Any questions? That was terrific, thank you.
MS. HERRON: Okay, thank you.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: It’s put together where even I understand it. Thank you, Nancy.
MS. HERRON: You’re welcome.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Thank you for — you always do amazing work.
MS. HERRON: Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: And really appreciate all you bring to the table.
MS. HERRON: And your support, thank you.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Thank you.
MS. HERRON: I’m just going to hang here.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Committee Item No. 3, Aquatic Education, Ms. Karen Marks and Ms. Nancy Herron.
MS. HERRON: Good morning, Commissioners. I am Nancy Herron. I’m the Outreach and Education Director and I’m very pleased have with me this morning Karen Marks, who is going to talk to you about our Aquatic Education program.
MS. MARKS: Good morning, Chairman, Commissioners, Mr. Cater. As Nancy said, my name is Karen Marks. I am the Aquatic Education Manager, and it’s my pleasure to speak to you today about our Aquatic Education program. Our main goals are to inform and educate Texans about aquatic habitats and also to increase participation in recreational fishing. We do that through three main areas of our program, which includes our Angler Education program, our Aquatic Resource Education, and of course our partners.
We have a vast network in our angler education program across the state. You can see here pretty much wherever there is water, we have a volunteer. We have 90 volunteer area chiefs that help staff recruit and train new instructors. And we have typically in any given year, we have 400 active instructors teaching fishing classes to youth and adults across the state. These volunteers last year helped conduct 515 classes and outreach events, reaching over 49,000 people, and they reported over 16,000 hours last year, which is a value of $260,000. We had 26 volunteers who reported more than 100 hours. One instructor who was brand new, did — he was very zealous. He reported 500 hours. He basically worked ten hours a week every week.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: That’s dedication. We appreciate that.
MS. MARKS: In addition to our fishing classes, we also have three main outreach initiatives and that is our Go Fish, Learn to Fish events, our Take Me Fishing interpretive trailer, and also our Tackle Loaner program. Our Go Fish program started about six years ago. It’s run by paid contractors. And at each event, we have learning stations where the families, the adults and the children, go through the learning stations. They learn how to tie knots. They learn about safety. They learn about fish ID. They learn about fish habitat. Then they pick up a fishing rod and go practice their new skills down at the water’s edge and hopefully catch a fish.
At each event, we conduct surveys and these surveys have shown us that about 65 percent of the youth have little to no experience fishing and almost all the adults have learned something new at each of these events and we have many people coming back repeatedly to these events to continue their learning. Our Take Me Fishing Interpretive Trailer is a 14-foot box trailer that’s been retrofitted with exhibits on three sides and we take this out to community events and school events to help recruit new anglers and to teach people about aquatic habitats. We use funding from the Toyota Texas Bass Classic to pay a contractor to take this trailer across the state. Last year, we had 14 events and reached over 10,000 youth and adults.
In addition to providing equipment to our volunteers, we also want to provide equipment to the general public and so we have set up tackle loaner sites across the state. Mostly at State parks, but also some City and Community parks. And we’ve had over 5,000 borrowers borrow the equipment last year. We provide the fishing rod and reel and the tackle. The participant provides their bait. And this man here in the picture, he caught this 9-pound bass at Copper Breaks State Park using our equipment, so very proud of him.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: So everyone that uses our equipment gets, you know, a big fish?
MS. MARKS: Oh, yes. Definitely.
COMMISSIONER JONES: That’s what’s in the marketing materials.
MS. HERRON: It’s a positive first experience.
MS. MARKS: Our Aquatic Resource Education program focuses on conservation messages for the general public. While our Agency’s mission includes saving water for wildlife, first we have to get the people to care. And like Nancy mentioned, everything is connected and we’re passing this message along to the general public.
So first we teach them about their drinking water resource and where that comes from. Then we teach them about the local aquatic habitats and water issues in their area and then we bring in awareness of simple actions that they can do either on a personal level or on a community level to protect their local waterways. An example of one of those simple actions is our State of the Water Video Screening program. We are taking our fabulous videos that have been produced over the years and encouraging organizations, State Parks, master naturalist groups, Lion’s Clubs, church groups, those kinds of folks to host a movie night and get that discussion going in their community about their water. So to make it easy for them, we designed this nice little tool kit. It’s available online. And it makes it real easy for anyone who’s never done this and has guidelines step by step what to do, fliers, press releases, and we also include pledge cards because we want those folks to take a simple personal action, maybe like turning off the water while they’re brushing their teeth or planting native plants in their yard. So we provide that for them.
Of course, we couldn’t do any of this without our partners. We have many partners, including local, city, and county and state governmental agencies. We have nonprofits and fishing clubs. The Junior Anglers and Hunters of American, Fishing’s Future, our friends out in El Paso with the Ascarate Fishing Club, and many different fishing clubs across the state. We also partner with schools and universities and scout groups and camps. A lot of our fly-fishing clubs are now partnering with retailers and hosting events in the retail stores. We provide teacher workshops. And as depicted here in the middle picture, we also provide curriculum training for future P.E. teachers to include angler education in their programs.
Probably one of our most unique partners this year has been Keith Miller. You may have heard about him on the news recently. Last year, he pledged to catch a fish every day using only artificial lures, and he has four days left on this pledge. So let’s listen now to a little bit of his story.
(Video is played)
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Keep track of him. He may be working with us pretty soon.
MS. MARKS: Right.
COMMISSIONER JONES: A Toyota champion.
MS. MARKS: So as Keith mentioned, he does work full time. He is married. He has a very supportive wife. He works for Baylor University. And whether he’s at home or traveling on the road, through sickness and health, through rain, sleet, and drought, he has managed to catch a fish every single day.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: I was going to ask how he is doing with that goal.
MS. MARKS: So he has four days left, and Saturday will be the big finale fishing day in Waco. We’re inviting the public to come down and fish with Keith and that will be this Saturday, March 31st, in Waco and we invite you to join us for the fun. It should be quite fun.
So with that, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you today and if you have any questions, I’ll be happy to answer them.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: That’s terrific.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Thank you, Karen.
COMMISSIONER HIXON: Does his wife fish with him, too?
MS. MARKS: I’m sorry?
COMMISSIONER HIXON: Does his wife fish with him, also?
MS. MARKS: Yes, she does.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Any further questions? This has been fun.
MS. MARKS: Great, thank you.
MR. SMITH: Yeah, good stuff.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Thank you very much. I really appreciate all of your hard work and your passion and integrity and it’s important to get the right message out. If we don’t get the right message out and reach everybody we need to, then our efforts are not nearly met; so really do appreciate all your efforts.
MS. HERRON: Thank you, thank you.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: I want to bring up one other item here. A thank you to Lydia and your whole group and your team. As we see and we’ve known that we’ve had problems with our, you know, funding of our magazine, it remains in the high integrity that it has always. And the magazine has remained and beautiful and wonderful and great to read and I look forward to it every month, as well as so many others and it’s getting the right message out. It’s continuing with the conversation we’ve had this morning and really want to thank you because it is a continuation of our subject this morning and it’s getting a beautiful message out in a beautiful way. The photographers are great, the writers are great, and everybody has done an amazing job under circumstances that have not always been quite what we would like; but you would never know that, and so thank you.
And so with that, Mr. Chairman.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Our committee is concluded.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Appreciate it, thank you. I will now call the Regulations Committee to order. First order of business is approval of the previous Committee meeting minutes from the January 25th, 2012, meeting, which have already been distributed. Motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: So moved.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Second.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner Martin, seconded by Commissioner Morian. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes)
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any opposed? Hearing none, motion carries.
Committee Item 1, Potential Changes to the Migratory Game Bird Proclamation, Request Permission to Proposed Changes in the Texas Register, Corey Mason. Good morning.
MR. MASON: Good morning, Mr. Chairman; good morning, Commissioners; and good morning, Mr. Smith. For the record, my name is Corey Mason, Migratory Shore and Upland Game Bird Program Leader for Parks and Wildlife and I’m here this morning to present 2012-13 migratory proposals. But before beginning that, I would like to provide a brief overview of the regulation process for these birds.
Recognizing that migratory birds spend portions of their life crossing international boundaries, it was decided that their management should also be international in scope. As such, in 1916 the United States signed a treaty with Great Britain for Canada, 1936 with Mexico, in 1972 with Japan and the Soviet Union. The following three points in the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 are important considerations when discussing regulations.
First, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act made it unlawful to hunt, kill, or possess migratory birds except permitted by regulations promulgated by the Secretary of the Interior. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act authorizes the Secretary to determine when, if at all, to allow the hunting of migratory birds. And lastly, State regulations can be more restrictive, but not more liberal than Federal requirements.
Now, a quick look at the timeline that this process works under. The top of the slide denotes the Federal process and the bottom denotes the TPWD’s process. The regulation process is currently structured in two facets. Early seasons species primarily dove and late season species, for this example, ducks and geese. The difference in timing stems mainly from when survey data are available for these two distinct groups. The process associated solely with late season species is denoted in red. You will notice that the Federal and State processes do not necessarily align.
One example of this is the Service Regulations Committee, which serves as a decision-making body of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, meets in late June to approve early season species regulations and we do not have a Commission meeting until August. As such, the Executive Director of Parks and Wildlife acting in consultation with the Chairman of the Commission approves the early season regulations.
The regulation process deals with three primary types of regulations. Examples of these are basic regulations, which include things as firearm restrictions, the prohibition of baiting, and the use of nontoxic shot or the requirement of nontoxic shot. Second, annual regulations consist of things such as bag limits, dates, season lengths, etcetera. And third, special and other regulations encompass a very wide variety of things; but things such as zones, splits, and early seasons fall in this category.
Zones and special seasons are often misunderstood. Zones are portions of the state with a continuous boundary allowing independent season dates. Federal process allows zone modifications to be proposed on a five-year basis with the next to be implemented in the 2016 season. Special seasons include early Teal season in the special white-winged dove area in South Texas. Revisions to these can be proposed on an annual basis.
Now, I would like to begin with the 2012-13 migratory proposals. A couple of things to note before we get into the proposals is that the proposed dates can be altered by Federal action and the proposals presented to date are supported by the Migratory Game Bird Technical Committee and the Migratory Game Bird Advisory Committee. And the proposals prevented today are simply calendar shift from this previous season.
For dove, proposing a 70-day season with a 15-bird daily bag limit with the North and Central zones to run concurrently with an opening date of September the 1st through October the 28th. With the second segment opening December the 22nd through January the 2nd. The South zone opening as early as legally possible, which is September the 21st this year through October the 28th. The second segment, December the 22nd through January the 22nd.
By Federal law we are allowed four early days, half-day hunting the first two complete weekends in September in the area defined as the special White-winged dove area. This weekend — those two weekends are September the 1st and the 2nd and the 8th and the 9th. This does require a restriction of up to four Mourning dove and an aggregate bag of 15 birds, with the general season opening September the 21st through October the 28th and then the second segment, December the 22nd through January 18th.
Now, look at these dates on the calendar for the North and Central zones. Now, the special White-winged dove are in South zone, the dates denoted in gray once again are the early dates in the special White-winged dove are and the dating denoted in yellow there are the dates in which the South zone extends past the special White-winged dove area to account for the four early days. We’re only allowed 70 days total in each area.
Now while we’re on dove, I would like to mention a proposal that we have recently presented to the Fly Away for consideration for the 2013-2014 season. In an attempt to provide additional opportunity on expanding populations of White-winged dove, we submitted a proposal to expand the special White-winged dove area. The existing special White-winged dove are is denoted in red, and the proposed expansion area is denoted green. If approved, this would essentially double the size of the special White-winged dove area and offer four days of early September hunting in new portions of South Texas. If approved, this is intended to be implemented in the 2013-14 season for timing purposes. Since we will not know if the regulation is approved until late June, we proposed this this year to allow adequate time with communications of landowners, hunters, and agencies and staff within our Agency. TPWD staff worked to lease private lands for public hunting, and this would allow time for communication of those — this implementation.
It’s been Commission policy in the past for Teal season, for early Teal season, with a 16-day season for it to be last three full weekends of September and for a 9-day season to encompass the last two full weekends of September. As such, the proposed dates for a 16-day season are September the 15th through the 30th and for a 9-day season September the 22nd through the 30th.
For Rail, Gallinule, Snipe, and Woodcock — for Rail and Gallinule, an early season to run concurrent with the anticipated 16-day Teal season, September the 15th through the 30th, November the 3rd through December the 22nd. Snipe, November the 3rd through February the 17. And Woodcock, December the 18th through January the 31st.
Now, to move to late season species. In the High Plains Mallard Management Unit denoted in orange there on the map, the new season proposed of October the 20th through October the 21st, the weekend of October the 27th through the 28th, and then open November the 2nd through January the 27th, with a required closure for "dusky" ducks the first five days of season, would open November the 5th through January the 27th. Now, what these dates look like on the calendar. The statewide Teal season is denoted there in green with the youth hunt there in gray. Proposed dates for the North and South zones. Once again, proposed to run concurrently. Youth season, October the 27th through the 28th. Opening November the 3rd through November the 25th and a second segment December the 8th through January the 27th. Once again with the "dusky" duck closure the first five days of the season. What the North and South zone dates look like on the calendar again.
The anticipated bag limit to be proposed, ducks in the aggregate up to six in the daily bag, of which three can be Wood ducks, two can be Scaup, two Hen Mallards, two Redheads, two Pintail, one Canvasback, one "dusky" duck after the first five days of the season, all other six, Merganser, there’s five a day up to which two can be Hooded Mergansers and 15 Coots a day.
Geese in the Eastern zone denoted in blue on the map. Light geese proposed November the 3rd through January the 27th. Canada geese, the early season to run concurrent with the Teal season, September the 15th through September 30th, November the 3rd through January the 27th. White-fronted geese, November the 3rd through January the 13th, with a bag limit of three Canada geese, two White-fronted geese, and 20 Light geese. What this looks like on the calendar. Now, this is fairly busy. We can certainly revisit this at the end if there are any questions.
In the West zone for geese, proposed dates for Light geese, November the 3rd through February the 3rd, with a bag limit of 20. And Dark geese, November the 3rd through February the 3rd, with a bag limit of five of which no more than one can be a White-fronted goose. These are the dates on the calendar. Regarding the Light goose conservation order, proposed dates for the West zone are February the 4th through March 24th, and the East zone January 28th through March 24th.
Moving to Sandhill cranes. Zone A, November the 3rd through February the 3rd. A self-induced restriction of approximately three weeks in Zone B to allow time for any Whooping cranes in the area to pass through the area before Sandhill crane season opens. Zone B dates proposed November the 23rd through February the 3rd. In Coastal Zone C, December the 22nd through January the 27th. And finally, extended falconry season dates. Dove proposed November the 15th through December the 21st. Rail, Gallinule, and Woodcock, January the 28th through February the 11th. And ducks in the North and South zones, January 28th through February the 11th.
That concludes my presentation. I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have.
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: I’ve got a question for you.
MR. MASON: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: The dove zone, the Central and North dove zone, I know the second season is relatively short compared to South Texas, the South —
MR. MASON: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: But any consideration of maybe extending that season a little longer and making the first season end a little sooner? I think right now the season is September 1st to October 28th. The second season starts December 22nd and goes to January 2nd. Have we considered that or...
MR. MASON: Yes, sir, we have. We actually addressed that and I believe it was two years ago through a hunter survey. I think we had 7,500 surveys that we submitted to just randomly drawn hunters across the state and asked for their preference. It was focused on the design of that late segment, a longer late segment, shorter late segment, focused around that Christmas opening date. And really the desire from the majority of the hunters was about that two week, late ten — ten days, two-week late season segment. And we do know that really regardless of the season, about the last ten days of the season comprises less than 3 percent of the harvest; so not to say there aren’t people hunting, but the percentage of the harvest is very low compared to early season.
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: I’m talking about the second season, the last ten days?
MR. MASON: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner Duggins.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I had the same question Dan Allen did because we’re ending it on a Wednesday. It seems like we ought to try to move it to a Sunday, given that that’s a holiday and a lot of family — should be a lot of family that get out.
MR. MASON: One of the things that we have in the North and Central zone is with the — with the beginning date on September the 1st, regardless of the day of the week, if we run it 70 days and we end that first segment sometime on a Saturday or Sunday on a weekend, with 70 days we end up typically having to start somewhere. The end result is typically during the week. One thing — I’ll back up here quickly if I can get back to the slide here. There. So one of the thoughts associated with the late season segment was that people would be out of school knowing that December the 25th, people off from work, out of school on that Tuesday likely would have that week out beginning the season on December the 22nd, which is a Saturday. So we have the opportunity. We like to try, of course, encompass as many weekends as possible. That’s the — fortunately this year September the 1st falls on a Saturday, the opening date, and trying to encompass all the weekends in October as well.
And if we take into account that December 22nd date, that results in that January 2nd closure. So you’re suggesting that that December 22nd date be later then?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I’m suggesting that we ought to shorten the first season by a few days and extend the second season through January 6th, which would allow hunting through that New Year’s weekend. I just think you’re — there’s a lot of opportunity. I mean more opportunity for people, for families to hunt that weekend then there are the last weekend of October.
MR. MASON: Okay. One reason that we did it — we did have that is we have been asked through some public opinions and just general consultation with people to offer as much October hunting as possible. If we move that, it will result in a — unless we move it back to the 21st, we would have some more days on the back end; but it just depends on how many days you’re looking at moving.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, that’s just a suggestion that I —
MR. MASON: Sure.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I don’t know. Have the surveys been very strong? Are there a lot of people hunting the last weekend of October? Because in the North zone, I don’t know anybody that hunts that late in the year.
MR. MASON: The majority of the hunting for dove in general in the North and Central zones take place in September, with the bulk of that taking place in the first 14 days. October hunting is much reduced than September hunting and typically the late segment beyond that is even more reduced than October hunting.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So do the surveys indicate that there’s a strong preference for weekends in October?
MR. MASON: That’s been more conversation with people, suggestions from technical committees, advisory committees that we use as sounding boards as well.
COMMISSIONER JONES: So in terms of priority preference, what you’re saying is there’s more priority to hunt in October than December?
MR. MASON: In the interactions that we’ve had, yes. There is still a desire to have a late season segment, if it’s 10 days, 14 days, 16 days, like that. The participation in that late segment is very low; but those that do participate are fairly, you know, avid about it.
MR. SMITH: Corey, have we assessed anything? You know, what we’ve seen in the last couple of years is at least is a shift of activity from quail to dove, given folks are exercising a fair amount of restraint there and then looking for opportunities for dove in the late season. Have we picked that up at all in any surveys or conversations or anything like that?
MR. MASON: We have not, not at that fine of a scale.
MR. SMITH: Okay.
MR. MASON: Not in the last couple of years.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: And we wouldn’t have a fine enough scale to say that there is a known preference for that last weekend in October versus an addition of a few days and — you know, typically kind of the school break weekend, the first weekend of January; is that right?
MR. MASON: Yes, sir, we would not have that fine of a scale of preference.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Go ahead.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So do you — can you think of any reason that we shouldn’t try to create more opportunity when we know that people, you know, as families can enjoy the January? Is that...
MR. MASON: The only thing that I can offer there is that we have been asked to offer October hunting opportunity and just if the weather is pleasant, it’s a nice time to be out. Harvest is not high just because of the number of participants at that time of year, but it — you know, it was suggested basically relating to weather, so.
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: I would like to propose that we — can’t — we don’t have the last weekend in October and move those days to the first weekend in January, to close the seasons on the 6th. Do we have the flexibility to do that?
MR. SMITH: Yes, we do. Yep.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: We just have to — as long as we stay under 70, we can adjust it per your suggestion.
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Well, just from my observation, I’m seeing more and more participation in the late season. And now, it’s just an observation; but it seems to be becoming more popular and there seems to be, at the least areas that I hunt in Central Texas and South Texas, more birds in January than there are at the end of October. The birds are pretty well gone at that time and that’s, again, just my personal observation.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Right. Commissioner Jones.
COMMISSIONER JONES: That’s been my personal observation as well. And I was about to ask you why that was because you would think you would see more birds in October than you would in December and January, but my personal observation hasn’t been that. I’ve seen way more birds in December and January.
MR. MASON: Yeah. You know, it’s just kind of a local influence. You know, birds distribute themselves as food dictates basically that time of year. You know, by — typically by middle of September to early October, if we have received migrant birds from numerous states to the north, a lot of that has taken place by late October/November. We certainly have an influx of birds through that whole time period. We even have movements of birds within the state. It’s obviously a very large state, so there’s a lot of shifting of birds throughout the state. By January, you know, we still have a movement of birds; but the birds are fairly are where they’re going to be.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: All right. So I would suggest we go ahead and amend the dates to reflect what we just discussed. Any other comments, concerns? Commissioner Morian.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Just briefly. You’re moving the — you’re including the new White-winged zone — yeah, that slide.
MR. MASON: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Refresh my memory. We had an issue with 10/17 or something that...
MR. MASON: Sure. We have proposed — and let me take even one step back. To make any proposal in a boundary zone or a special season or anything like that, we have to provide relevant biological data to the Fish and Wildlife Service to show that there’s no necessarily a net effect to the targeted species or tertiary species associated with that. So regarding even this proposed expansion, we provide it to the Fish and Wildlife Service dove survey data, relative abundance, population index type information regarding Mourning dove and White-winged both because Mourning dove are allowed in the aggregate bag during this early season. And so regarding this, we have attempted to — it still has to be decided by the Fish and Wildlife Service in late June if they will approve this for the 2013 season. We’ve attempted to expand this as far as biologically relevant, showing that White-winged dove densities were still high and Mourning dove densities were not too high as far as biologically acceptable to the Fish and Wildlife Service.
There has been some discussion in the past to move this special White-winged dove area. There was discussions it would potentially reduce the daily bag of Mourning dove in that early season daily bag. But this proposed to I-37. I’m not sure if that answered your question.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Why did we move it before? Just refresh my memory.
MR. SMITH: Well, we had been asked by a number of people in South Texas to consider moving that special White-winged area further north to kind of —
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: It impacted them in their season length because of the —
MR. SMITH: Well, they were not part of that special White-winged area and so they didn’t have an opportunity to hunt in that special White-winged area and they felt like that this would help create opportunities. So we addressed that, Corey, four years ago, three years ago, moving it up to 10/17? Is that my —
MR. MASON: We have —
MR. SMITH: About three years ago, Commissioner.
MR. MASON: We moved the boundary in 2008, I believe.
MR. SMITH: Yeah.
MR. MASON: And, you know, we’re still allowed 70 days of season; so either way, if we use the four days up front or on the back end.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: So this won’t impact those people who had the issue four years ago?
MR. MASON: There’s certainly people within this proposed expansion area, such as anywhere else where you have such a large zone boundary that may not have concentrations of White-wings on their particular property that will not be able to maybe take advantage of these early season dates. But by and large, the percentage of people that will be greatly impacted on a positive manner in this expansion will be very favorable. It will provide four additional days —
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: There’s no negative impact. Just a lack of opportunity; is that right?
MR. MASON: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: It will encompass those same...
MR. SMITH: Just a bigger area, Commissioner. It basically would extend it to I-37, is what it would do.
MR. MASON: The area in red, plus the area in green would be the proposed area.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner Duggins.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, you’ve asked the Service to approve it for 2013?
MR. MASON: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But the resource is okay now, right? So why shouldn’t we ask for approval this year, even though there may be some people who don’t get the word? I mean I think the word would get out pretty quickly. We’re fanning opportunity and I don’t know why we wouldn’t go ahead and try to get it approved for this year.
MR. MASON: One of the things that we face — last year is a good example where we tried to address some opening season dates and we did not know until late June and we had people trying to book hunts, landowners, outfitters, people trying to plan their travels and we did not know until late June. It put a lot of people in a pretty significant pinch and we heard from many, many people complaints waiting until June to basically let them know if the season was going to be open or not at that point in time.
And additionally we have staff, Parks and Wildlife staff that are out actually right now knocking on doors trying to get access for private landowners to lease their fields for public hunting. And without the knowledge of this being certain or not, they’re not asking for that because we cannot definitively, you know, approve that or not. So this would also allow staff time for next year to adequately prepare, provide these four days, if approved, in contracts with landowners for lease and for public hunting.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But when would you — when would you get the approval next year? Wouldn’t it still be June? It’s always has been late.
MR. MASON: Well, that’s a good point and that’s the reason that we’re asking for it this year. So if we get the approval this June, we’ll ask for implementation the 2013 season. So that way we have essentially a year lead time to notify people next summer, early next summer, that it will be in place for 2013 if approved.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So we would get a definitive decision —
MR. MASON: This June regarding the following — the next September.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So you would not have to wait until June of next year?
MR. MASON: Correct, yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Which is unusual. That’s not the norm.
MR. MASON: Yes, sir. And that’s the reason that we asked for it basically a year in advance so that we wouldn’t have a lack of communication that we’re trying to, you know, overcome.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I didn’t understand that. My other question is will you remind me why we have the "dusky" duck pushed back? Because it seems to me that just creates confusion in the field for people.
MR. MASON: Sure. That is a result of a Federal requirement related specifically to Mottled duck. That they have concerns of Mottled duck populations and so basically Mottled ducks are a front-end loaded species. And by that I mean that a majority of the harvest takes place early in the season. So in order to reduce harvest on that particular species, they asked us to close the season the first five days of the general season and then begin after that period on that particular duck. And so we —
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: We have no choice on that?
MR. MASON: Yes, sir, that’s a Federal requirement.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thanks. Any other questions for Corey? Corey, thank you very much.
MR. MASON: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So no further discussion, I’ll authorize staff to publish the proposed changes in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.
Item 2 is Floating Cabins Permit Rules, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Register, Mr. Cody Jones. Good morning.
MR. JONES: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Committee Members. For the record, my name is Cody Jones. I’m a Lieutenant Game Warden in the Marine Enforcement Section, and I’m also the Administrator over the Coastal Floating Cabin Program. Excuse me. I’m here this morning seeking permission to publish in the Texas Register proposed changes to regulations governing the permitting of floating cabins.
Just a little background. In 2001, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 1573, which sought to regulate the number of floating cabins on Texas coasts. Those regulations gave authority to Texas Parks and Wildlife at that time. A floating cabin is defined as a structure securely moored in the coastal waters of this state, which is used for habitation or shelter and is not routinely used for transportation. In 2001, we had a total of 151 permits that were issued at the inception of the program. Currently, only 145 permits remain. All six of the permits that have expired were due to the permittee’s noninterest in the renewal.
Under current regulations, all floating cabin permits expire August 31st of each year and the renewal materials must be submitted before this date. However, I should point out the language also allows for an additional 90 days for the expiration of the renewal. This causes some confusion. If a permit is not renewed within — by the end of the 90 days, then the permit becomes ineligible for renewal and the cabin must be removed from the water at the owner’s expense.
Under proposed regulations, first, a reference to the original regulatory date deadline is eliminated since it’s no long necessary. Second, the language is clarified to state that the deadline for submission of renewal materials would be 90 days from the date the permit expires, rather than before the expiration date. And finally, the proposed language would state that upon the expiration of a permit, all parties would be mailed a notice from the Department and they would be given an opportunity to request a review of the expired permit within ten days after the Department’s mailing.
In addition, it creates a review panel made up of senior Department managers, including the Executive Deputy Director or his or her designee, the Director of Law Enforcement or his or her designee, and the Director of Coastal Fisheries or his or her designee. This panel would be able to review the late renewal application and make findings on its review, which is consistent with the Wildlife permit review process which is already in place. One small note I would like to point out is a minor change to the wording that we will be making to Section 55.202 Subsection C and Subsection C(1) before publication in the Register. To eliminate any confusion, we’ll be changing the term "owner" to "permittee" to remain consistent within the rule.
And with that, if you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them at this time.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Please.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I — that was one question I had in the draft, in the hard copy we got on Page 35 it says that we’ll have — we’ll notify each owner and I don’t know how we’re going to know who each owner is. But you’re saying you’re going to change that to permittee?
MR. JONES: It will be changed to permittee. On the actual permit, it lists all the permitted parties.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But when you say it lists all the permitted parties, is that the intent to list each owner?
MR. JONES: When the legislation was passed in 2001, it required that an application was submitted with all parties interested in a specific cabin be listed on that application and on the permit. So in that respect and also in the language of the law, it requires that all are responsible for violations that occur with that cabin. So in that respect, all parties are listed on the permit.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: What do we do if you have ten people that are listed and there’s a fight, five of them want to do one thing and five what do to something else? How do we know who has the ultimate say-so?
MR. JONES: That would appear to be a civil matter in most respects. In respect to the renewal process or any violations that occur within the law, all of them are responsible.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So we just wouldn’t get...
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I don’t know. That’s why I was asking. I wonder if this — we may not have this backwards in putting the burden on the Department to give the notice. Should we not consider reversing that and just say that any permittee will have a certain period of time to seek renewal for good cause? Put — let them — instead of us having to give a notice, just have a period of time that anybody could —
MR. JONES: Certainly.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: — apply for the renewal?
MR. JONES: Yes, sir. Currently in rule, it states that the expiration is August 31st of each year. The rule also states that they have a 90-day period or grace period in which they can renew, which creates some confusion. So in that regard, I guess we could put the burden on them in respect to the renewal process. If they don’t renew within that time period, the permit becomes ineligible and it no longer exists, in essence.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: It seems to me that’s a more practical way to do this, is you give them a grace period where anybody that’s on the permit can come in and seek to renew it. But I don’t — I just think it’s — we’re taking on a burden there when we say we’ve got to give certified mail notice and what if one of them says "I didn’t get it" and there’s different dates, you have multiple people and there are different dates of receipt, when does that 90 days begin? Is it as to each person?
MR. JONES: Absolutely. The ten-day proposal that we’ve made is based on the Department’s mailing them notice. It’s not based on their receipt of notice, based on that very reason. When you send out certified letters to folks, they can deny receipt of that letter. We send out certified letters notifying them based on their last known address that they have listed on the permit and by regulation, they are required to give us up-to-date addresses if they do change.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, I think we ought to consider reversing that and just stating what the period of time is that any permittee can seek to reinstate an expired permit and not have to give the notice. Just say this is the period of time, you know that when you get the permit, put the burden on them so that if — or each have the right to come in and reinstate it after the August 31st expiration. Everybody knows they all expire on the same day each year, rather than have us give a notice and then you still have the — staff as the flexibility to reinstate within that 90 days. And the only other observation I would say is if they’re going — if you’re going to give everybody this 90-day period, should we not tack on a late fee? Because I would think everybody would now just wait until as late as they could.
MR. JONES: That is something that we did review. Within the current rule and statute, we don’t have the ability to place a late fee. We don’t have that leeway. However, the 90 days is currently in place. If they do not renew within that 90 days, the permit has become inexistent. We’ve included this advisory or review panel of sorts to be consistent with business practices we already have in place in the Wildlife permitting, thereby allowing if something does come into place, if somebody off in Iraq fighting or something, that they have a way of notifying us that there is extenuating circumstances; so their permit does not become completely in existence and they do have to remove their cabin at that point.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I support giving the — or this review panel the discretion to reinstate it.
MR. JONES: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: My only suggestion is I don’t think we ought to have to do the —
MR. JONES: Sure.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: — certified mail. I think they ought to have just a set period of time they can reinstate it and it ought to allow any permittee.
MR. JONES: Absolutely.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner Scott.
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yeah, I brought this issue up because it was brought to my attention, as I mentioned to you. And the issue that I’ve visited with Carter about, the way it came about is there was a group of people that had this and one person was supposed to get it. Well, he was ill. And anyway, long story short, none of the rest of the partners got any notice; so they did not know that it had not been handled. So that was the thrust of what I’m trying to get is to make this fair like the deer and everything. Just there needs to be a — if we’re not notifying everybody in a group and it is incumbent upon them to give us all their names and addresses, as I understand it now, right?
MR. JONES: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: So as long as that’s happening and they’re all getting a notification of some sort, that was the whole idea behind the thing. Because there was no recourse when we got to looking into it. I mean it was after that 90-day, bam. I mean there was nothing you could do with any — I mean it was dead. It was history. The permit could never be redone, and I just didn’t think that sounded very fair to me.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But if the permit is issued, if there are ten people on that —
MR. JONES: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: — do each of the ten people get the permit?
MR. JONES: The permit is mailed out to one responsible party at this time. All are listed on it. Because we only have one set of decals, it’s each of the permittees have agreed that one person will receive those decals and make arrangements to have those decals placed on the cabin. So the mailing is sent to that one person specifically; however, they’re all listed on the permit itself.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Ann.
MS. BRIGHT: If I — for the record, I’m Ann Bright, general counsel, and I just want to make sure I understand the change that is going to be made. We’re talking about the 90-day period in the certified mail, as I understand it, is intended to notify the people on the permit that it has expired. Basically, you’re out of luck, it’s expired. And so what we would do is we would — would we not send a notice to them after it’s expired? Is that the suggestion?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, based on what Dick just said, I think maybe we do have to do it. If you’re trying to make sure that each of the sub-permittees or permittees knows the permit is expired, we need to give some notice. Whether it needs to be certified mail or not, I don’t know.
MS. BRIGHT: Okay.
MR. JONES: We also do have to give notice in the regulation right now. If we request them to remove it, we have to give them that same notice. And if the permit were to get to that point, it would be a requirement that they remove it from the water. So that notice encompasses that the permit is no longer eligible for renewal and that it must be removed from the public waters within 90 days, so.
COMMISSIONER JONES: And you would have to give that notice to all of the permittees?
MR. JONES: Certainly, we already have to do that; so it would just be within that existing notice to notify them.
COMMISSIONER JONES: So what Dick is saying is if you’re going to have to give all the permittees notice to remove the boat, why not give all the permittees notice that your license has expired?
MR. JONES: In the case in which Commissioner Scott is talking about, we did notify all the permitted persons on the permit at the time that it became ineligible, notified them. At that point, some of them became aware of what the original party had not taken care of in the first place, who was the person who was supposed to receive the decals; and that was the case where, you know, the issue lies.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well if we’re going to do this, do we need to give — does it need to be 90 days? Can it be a shorter period of time?
MR. JONES: That is something that’s within the rule, and we can change.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: If we’re going to give everybody written notice that it’s expired, it seems to me 60 days ought to be plenty of time. Don’t you think?
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Oh, it’s just like I said, the only thing that was brought to my attention, I mean it was drop-dead deal if you didn’t pay it after that 90 day, I mean it was history. There was no recourse for any discussion. That permit is history. And so I just thought, you know, we ought to let people have an opportunity to at least come before —
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: But if you make it 60 days, you might also compress the, you know, timing of receipts for reapplication, right? So it might — it just kind of hurries the process up. And if you give them 90 days, it might be a little bit spread out or more spread out for Department purposes.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I feel strongly about it.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I’m not sure from our standpoint is there’s no real difference between 60 or 90 in terms of notification, is there?
MR. JONES: No, sir. We notify them actually two months prior to the expiration of the permit to inform them that it’s going to expire August 31st. So we send that notice out to the one responsible party who receives the decals. At that time, we’ll follow up with phone conversations if we don’t hear from them by the expiration date and then beyond that into the 90-day period. Again, out of 151 permits that originated, we’ve only had six get to that point.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: All right. So given Commissioner Scott’s input, are you comfortable with the proposed regulation?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yes.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay. Any other — everyone else?
MS. BRIGHT: And are we — we’re changing it to 60 days?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: No, I think leave it at 90.
MS. BRIGHT: Leave it at 90.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I don’t — no, I don’t —
COMMISSIONER JONES: It’s only six out of 151. That’s not...
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Six (inaudible)...
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you very much.
MR. JONES: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: All right. No further discussion, I’ll authorize staff to publish the proposed changes in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.
Item 3, Update on Quail Science Review, Mr. Robert Perez. How are you?
MR. PEREZ: Good. Okay...
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Is yours coming up on quail?
MR. PEREZ: Mine hasn’t come up yet.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Mines not coming up.
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Mine didn’t come up either. Yours didn’t come up?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: No, I’m not getting anything.
MR. SMITH: I’m going to check on that.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Are y’all not coming up?
MR. SMITH: I don’t want anybody to be surprised, but there’s trouble with quail.
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: It started with a computer.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: It says show help. Just hit the help button?
MR. SMITH: Yeah, yeah. She’s checking on it.
MS. GOWRY: I think ours is good. Can you (inaudible), Robert, (inaudible)?
MR. PEREZ: Yes, ma’am. The Commissioners’ desktops don’t have it though.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: All the desktops are frozen.
MR. SMITH: So, Chairman, it doesn’t sound like we can fix every computer for the quail. Do you want us to go ahead and just do it on the big screen?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Yes, please, if you can do it on that.
MS. GOWRY: If we take a short break, I can fix it.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I think we can see it on the big...
MR. PEREZ: Andrea says we can turn those televisions and face them towards the Commission, if you want to do that. Look at all the tall people in here, great.
MR. SMITH: Good work guys. It’s the tall guys.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you. All right. Robert, we’re ready. Thanks.
MR. PEREZ: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Robert Perez, Upland Game Bird Program Leader with the Wildlife Division. I will be presenting an update on two recent quail related activities. The first is a summary of a quail science meeting and the second is a preliminary analysis of a quail hunter survey.
Taking Commission guidance, staff conveyed a meeting of quail scientists as part of a broader effort to gather more information regarding regulatory and nonregulatory approaches to quail conservation. The quail science meeting was held March 7th, here in the Parks and Wildlife headquarter’s building; and was attended by four leading quail researchers from Texas, one from Missouri, and one from Florida. These scientists were asked to discuss the relationship between harvest regulations and population trends for quail and to determine if current statewide population harvest surveys are appropriate for monitoring and decision-making purposes. They were also asked to discuss nonregulatory approaches to support equal conservation.
The next series of slides is a summary of the main conclusions of the meeting regarding regulations and surveys. In regard to regulations, the group concluded that current harvest regulations have little affect on quail population trends and that quail have been in decline in the long term due to losses in the quantity and quality of suitable habitat. Hunting is not the cause of these declines.
I must also emphasize that drought and dry periods have a significant impact on quail numbers in all but the eastern third of the state, but these impacts are usually short term. The group also suggested that Parks and Wildlife should not be reactive with the quail regulations process. Responding to annual variation in quail abundance gives the impression that populations can be influenced by regulatory changes. For instance, prior to 1984 the Department did, in fact, regulate quail at a much finer scale with no appreciable impact on population trends. Weather, not regulations, largely drive annual variation in quail abundance in semiarid regions like the Rolling Plains and South Texas.
Additional quail science meeting conclusions conclude that Texas quail populations are sustainable with up to 20 percent harvest of the fall population and TPWD cannot prevent overharvest on any given property under any conventional regulatory scenario, other than season closure. In other words, State agencies cannot control the total number of quail hunters who hunt on private property or how many quail are legally harvested. If a landowner chooses to allow overharvest and potentially negatively impact quail on his or her property, he can certainly do so. But Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute data suggests that very few landowners exceed a 20 percent harvest.
The group also indicated that bag limit reductions have limited biological effects. This is because minor changes in bag limit have no affect on total quail harvested since most hunters don’t obtain the daily legal bag limit of 15 quail. The group agreed that if a change must be made, reduction of season length is in line with the biology of quail. Shortening the ending date allows for more birds to have an opportunity to breed and contribute to next year’s population. Now, whether or not this would be significantly — now, whether or not this would significantly hasten recovery at a broad scale is unknown, but may be unlikely considering the relatively low number of quail hunters on the landscape.
The group also pointed out that more restrictive regulations are a disincentive to those actively managing and conserving wild quail populations and if changes must be made, that incentives should be created for properties practicing sustained yield. The group suggested that any incentives would be most effective if proposed in concert with a regulatory change, offering benefits like maintaining the current season structure for those managing and monitoring quail at the local level.
Parks and Wildlife could develop rules for an incentive program on short order, but the capacity of field staff to administer the program may be difficult with current resources and given the popularity of the MLDP program, which you’re all familiar with.
Here we move on to quail science meeting conclusions related to Departmental surveys. The first of which is that the Parks and Wildlife Quail Roadside Survey is appropriate for tracking regional trends in quail abundance. This is evidenced by the survey’s ability to predict trends in fall harvest, but the survey is not valid at any scale finer than ecoregion. The group also made suggestions to improve the survey at its current scale, which will be implemented. They also pointed out that the number of additional surveys needed to monitor at a scale finer than ecoregion is not feasible with current manpower and is unwarranted if quail regulations remain at scales at or broader than ecoregion.
Here is a graphic of the distribution of the current 163 Quail Roadside Survey routes across six ecological regions. The routes are the red lines. Also in regard to surveys, the group concluded that the Parks and Wildlife Small Game Harvest Survey is appropriate for tracking statewide quail harvest trends; but due to small sample size at the ecoregion scale, improvements to the existing survey or new surveys could provide additional information, including the distribution of harvest through time and quail harvest per day. These metrics should be very informative.
This graphs shows a relationship between August quail roadside counts, shown in orange, and total fall quail harvest, shown in yellow. As you can see, the Roadside Survey is highly predictable fall harvest. In fact, the R-squared value of .95 indicates that the Roadside Survey can explain 95 percent of the variation in total harvest. Additional quail science meeting conclusions include that Parks and Wildlife should direct resources to development of focus areas that demonstrate successful quail restoration. A focus area is generally larger than a county, but smaller than an ecoregion with a boundary determined by opportunity, habitat potential, and landowner and partner interest in participation. A recent survey of states within the Bobwhite range reported that states are interested in enhancing population monitoring efforts at the focus area scale, to measure the impacts of habitat manipulation, and develop models that can be reproduced in other areas with restoration potential. This is becoming the national model for wildlife quail conservation.
The meeting participants from the Northern Bobwhite Conservation Initiative and from the Oaks and Prairie Joint Venture strongly recommended the development of key focus areas illustrated here as red ovals. The recently developed NBCI 2.0 spacial planning tool shows areas with high potential in dark green and medium potential, light green, for quail recovery. Based on these and other data, the Oaks and Prairie Joint Venture partnering with Parks and Wildlife to build a grassland bird conservation model that is focused, spatially explicit, and intensely monitored.
From here, we move on to the second portion. I’ll provide a summary of the preliminary results of the recently completed quail hunter surveys.
MR. SMITH: Yeah. And I just want to make sure as we go through these, I mean these data really are preliminary. We’ve just gotten some initial results in. We wanted to give you kind of a quick look at what we were seeing so far kind of trendwise; but not yet ready to draw absolute unequivocal definitive conclusions. So just want to say that caveat before Robert starts.
MR. PEREZ: So in response to the Commission’s interest in gathering additional information regarding hunter harvest and behavior, staff developed a survey to estimate variables such as location of harvest, timing of harvest, self-regulation, daily bag, days hunted, and so on. There were two group surveyed with the same questionnaire. The first was previous respondents to the Small Game Harvest Survey, which includes quail. There were 1,934 previous respondents that received a postcard directing them to an internet link where they could take the online survey. To date, there have only been 112 respondents, which is a relatively small sample to draw inferences from.
The second group was a blind e-mail link distributed through quail conservation organizations. It’s difficult to know how many hunters received this request; but we estimate around 6,000 and have received 1,465 respondents as of yesterday. The next series of graphs illustrate the preliminary results of several of the questions posed in the survey. The orange bars represent the previous Small Game Survey participants that received a postcard. They’re indicated as postcard. And the blue bars represent the quail conservation organizations, Quail Org.
This first graph shows the quail hunting destinations by zone. The majority of hunting trips took place in North Texas, Zone 1, and South Texas, Zone 3, which is not surprising considering this is where Bobwhite can be found in high densities in certain years.
COMMISSIONER JONES: How many people got the postcard? I’m sorry, I’m just...
MR. PEREZ: There were...
COMMISSIONER JONES: 1,900 and that’s the 112...
MR. PEREZ: 1,934 and 112 responded.
COMMISSIONER JONES: Responded, okay.
MR. PEREZ: So a relatively low response rate, which is typical for that type of postcard survey.
COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay.
MR. PEREZ: This next graph shows the average number of days hunted this past season, 2011-2012. This analysis only includes hunters that hunted at least one day within each month. Quail organizations appear to be slightly more active in January and February than postcard recipients. Here we see the average number of quail harvested by month by successful hunters for the 2011-2012 season. Again we see that quail organizations are just slightly higher in January and February, but that’s likely because they’re in the field more days than the postcard group.
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: This is not by day. This is by month?
MR. PEREZ: My month.
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Per hunter?
MR. PEREZ: Per hunter. And here we see the average number of quail harvested per day by hunters who harvest at least one quail. There is some many differences between groups here, but the sample size for the postcard group in orange is far too small to draw inferences from. For instance, the February estimate kill per day of seven for the postcard group is based on only three respondents. Again, this analysis is preliminary and this graph in particular will change once we add in unsuccessful hunters to the sample.
Here, hunters were asked in a typical year how many quail do you shoot per day. As you can see, only around 10 percent of hunters harvest over 11 quail per day, which is the main reason why minor bag limit reductions have limited impact. Next was in a typical season, what percentage of your hunting time was in the following months. Here, the hunters were asked for their answers to some to 100 percent. And you can see peak activity occurs in December and January. Here, we see simply separated respondents as either being February hunters or non-February hunters. From there, they were directed to different sets of questions.
So those hunters that did not hunt in February, were given six choices to choose from as the reason or reasons they did not hunt. Frequent responses include lack of birds, no time, and birds are beginning to pare. Those hunters that did hunt in February were given seven choices to choose from as the reason or reasons that they did hunt. Frequent responses include have time, good weather, tradition, and all other seasons are closed.
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: That’s a good one.
MR. PEREZ: The last two graphs are related to self-imposed restriction practices for hunters and for landowners. Here you see that hunters indicated a variety of methods of self-regulation, including limiting the number of birds taken from any given covey, imposing a bag limit lower than the State, and use of pen-raised birds. The majority of hunters practiced two or more forms of self-regulation.
Lastly, you can see that landowners indicated a variety of methods of self-regulation, including not allowing hunting on their property, limiting the number of birds taken from any given covey, and imposing a bag limit lower than the State. The majority of landowners also practiced two or more forms of self-regulation. I would also like to add that we also separated and compared North zone respondents and South zone respondents for this category for both hunters and landowners, but interestingly found no significant differences in self-regulatory behavior between these two groups.
And that concludes my presentation. I’ll be glad to take any questions at this time.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Robert, thank you. Commissioner Scott.
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I guess we’ve just given up on East Texas, huh? I didn’t even see one little road drive by deal in East Texas.
MR. PEREZ: The focus areas I think are an approach to working with that. We are actively working with mines, the mining industry in East Texas; and we’ve got some really interesting things on the horizon to have some restoration projects in East Texas.
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: That was going to be my — suggest an industry. And that is what’s definitely has hurt it up in that habitat area. So, yeah, I figured y’all were working on that.
MR. PEREZ: Indeed.
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: That’s who you’ve got to work with, the timber companies and the mining interests.
MR. PEREZ: Correct.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Robert, you mentioned refinement, potential refinements in the Roadside Count Survey. Without getting too granular, what were some of the suggestions?
MR. PEREZ: Right. At its current scale, some of those routes through time since they were initiated in 1978, some may be all parking lot and Walmart subdivisions and they’re zero every year. So there was a group suggestion that we could just make those permanent zeros because we want to maintain them in the dataset. They reflect what’s happening on the landscape, but want to replace it with a new survey route that meets the original criteria of the survey to get us a better — better trend information. And we’re going to implement that.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I have to say there’s a high correlation, you know, the R-squared 95. It’s pretty impressive.
MR. PEREZ: It’s very predictive, indeed.
COMMISSIONER JONES: What — and I know no one can know what’s going to happen between now and August. But from what you’ve indicated, a lot of what is affecting the population is, of course, climate, drought, etcetera. Is there — let’s assume that the weather patterns continue as they have been this year where we’ve gotten at least more rainfall in several areas of the state. Do you then also anticipate that can affect the population positively?
MR. PEREZ: We would expect so, yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER JONES: Based on historical analysis of negative —
MR. PEREZ: Yes.
COMMISSIONER JONES: — impact as well as positive impact.
MR. PEREZ: Right.
COMMISSIONER JONES: If the weather continues as it has been with rain, rainfall, etcetera, you expect there to be a...
MR. PEREZ: We can hear the quail calling now.
COMMISSIONER JONES: Absolutely. Okay, okay.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner Morian, please.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Can I make just a couple of comments? I started doing some research after our last presentation and one thing I can certainly attest to is that is quail hunters are passionate.
MR. PEREZ: Indeed.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: But as a side note, somebody sent me a booklet from Texas Game and Fish Commission in Austin, Texas, 1954; and it’s quail management for East Texas. And I hate to say, but I guess everybody dies at the end because it — but it was interesting in that it focuses on habitat, habitat, habitat. And then I started looking at our bag limits and seasons and I went on the internet and went to the Bobwhite quail band all the way to Florida and we don’t appear to be out of the norm. We’re not an outlier. Mississippi, their season closes March 3rd. They have a lower bag limit. But again, a consistent theme came up and that was the answer is habitat restoration.
And every State’s website had a quail program, and the headline was bringing back the Bobwhites. It didn’t matter if it was Georgia or Florida. But they had a lot of programs and they’re doing a lot of work and they seem to have gotten past the bag and the season issues and they’re getting people together and I was amazed at how much work each individual State has already done.
And I would like you to — the Department to look at what has worked and see if we can’t do some of those things. I know we have the other booklet from, what, ’05 where —
MR. SMITH: Quail Plan, Texas Quail Plan, uh-huh.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: How has that worked? What can we do? We can’t impact the rain, but we can certainly impact the habitat. One landowner called me and he had restored native grassland and right after he did it, TxDOT came along regraded the ditches and put improved grasses out, which took over his — all his work. Little things like that, do you think we could work on that would have an impact?
MR. PEREZ: Correct. And those things you mentioned are outlined in that strategic plan you have a copy of and we are working and continuing to work on all fronts, including roadways, including developing those focal areas. You’re right. In other States where they’ve had success is where they concentrated efforts in a smaller area and measured impacts and effects. And we’re starting to do that in a couple of different areas. One in the Sealy/Columbus area with the Wildlife Habitat Federation with Mr. Jim Willis, who some of you may be familiar with and that’s kind of our model that we’re working with.
We’ve been supporting as an Agency those efforts for several years now. One of the things that’s lacking is an intense monitoring effort and we’re hoping to get the monitoring component in that model and also one in Navarro County that’s a quail initiative in Texas where we do have a monitoring effort, but no birds yet. And so we want to continue to develop new focus areas in Texas indicated on that map with the ovals and that’s the direction I think that staff are excited to move in and demonstrate success.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: The only other comment I would like to make, Mr. Chairman, is that I think you have to look at the economic impact, also. I was surprised at the number of people that have leases that are only for post-deer season and if you take a week or two weeks a month off, you’re cutting significantly their opportunity which has an economic impact which flows through the whole system. So I’m concerned that if we try to do anything that would have an overall negative economic impact on the quail community because they’re so vital —
MR. PEREZ: Right. Texas, the lease system in Texas is very different from the other States, correct. And economic analysis was not included in any of the presentations you’ve seen to date.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Well, I don’t know how anybody else feels; but...
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Based on the current research, I mean what we have at this point, we cannot say — we can’t establish that there is a correlation between February offtake — offtake, not direct, but the offtake — and population dynamics and —
MR. PEREZ: At a broad scale we really couldn’t say that, no, sir.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I think you’re sending the wrong message. Most people want to assume hunting is the problem if you reduce the bag and reduce the season and it’s not.
MR. PEREZ: Intuitively you would think that, yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I don’t want to send that message either, but we need to talk about how much impact positively they’ve had in other areas.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Very good points. Commissioner Scott.
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yeah, and I would just like to agree with what he’s — I mean I definitely agree with that. We don’t want to send messages especially now that we see that it really doesn’t have any impact. You know, it’s not the hunters that’s creating the problem. Mother nature is not helping and industry somewhat or clearing — whatever is doing it. But I agree that we — from an economic standpoint, like I said back in January, we know how huge it is. I mean it’s — we go down the line and it’s something that I think we all need to seriously look at pretty hard before we make some drastic — you know, I think the science is proving up what the problem is.
COMMISSIONER JONES: Did I understand you correct that some of your survey results there that many of the landowners are self-regulating in —
MR. PEREZ: Both hunters and landowners were all self-regulating in our survey in excess of two different ways, yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay. To me, that would indicate then that if you keep the landowners and the hunters incentivized to continue self-regulating, that’s the kind of behavior we would like to foster. Rather than us coming out there telling them what they can’t do, let them continue to do what they — what they’re doing anyway because they want to see the population thrive just as much as everybody else does. Perhaps more so.
MR. PEREZ: The quail science group indicated they felt that was a disincentive is the words that they used.
COMMISSIONER JONES: Yeah. Because if you’re a landowner and you have a population, it would seem to me that you would want to do things to take care of it, whether it be the feeding, providing of water, whatever it is that landowners do so that they can provide a better habitat and that’s the kind of incentives that I think we want to encourage and that’s the kind of programs and regulations that we want to talk about or policy decisions I think that we ought to talk about and not just sort of what you would consider a knee-jerk reaction of, oh, well, let’s just, you know, limit hunting and that way birds will come back. I don’t — it sounds to me like that’s just not the case.
MR. PEREZ: Right. There’s certainly nonregulatory approaches to conservation, bird conservation.
COMMISSIONER FALCON: I would like to just follow up on things that have been said earlier and that’s — I mean if we know factually that hunting is not a problem, then we shouldn’t tamper with that. And I think if you’re not sure, then you should let us know. But it seems like everything that I’ve seen pretty much tells you that hunting is not a problem.
MR. PEREZ: At a broad scale, correct.
COMMISSIONER FALCON: Okay.
MR. PEREZ: But any individual landowner could easily overshoot his population; but our reach isn’t that deep to prevent that with any set of regulations, other than issuing —
COMMISSIONER FALCON: Right. And we have to look at the large-scale problem. And I think the other thing is that I think it’s important for us to know what is happening in specific regions because if you don’t have a problem in the region, then there’s no — certainly no reason to spend a lot of time in that particular — in that particular region or with problems that may or may not be associated. On the other hand, if there are specific regions, like in East Texas, then we have to pay more attention to that. And I think the other thing is that do you have anything yet on all of the other factors that have been considered, specifically poisons associated with Chloridum and things like that? Do you have any —
MR. PEREZ: There’s been limited research on environmental contaminants. There’s been a little better more with Aflatox and there’s been some research done on that and it does have negative effects. Now to what degree it impacts quail is something that needs to be further investigated. Diseases are currently being investigated by both Texas Tech University and also the Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch has ongoing studies that are in their first year. They will look to have some preliminary results in Year 2 of those studies looking at all those factors.
COMMISSIONER FALCON: Is there any regulation on the — that monitors any potential Aflatoxin at the time it’s sold from the company that produces it, etcetera, etcetera? Any monitoring of that at all?
MR. PEREZ: Yes, there is.
COMMISSIONER FALCON: Okay.
MR. PEREZ: I guess we’ll let Clayton answer that.
MR. WOLF: Commissioners, for the record, I’m Clayton Wolf, Wildlife Division Director. And I’m not by any means an expert, but we do know that the — I believe it is still called the Feed and Fertilizer Service, which is a branch of the Office of the State Chemist, they’re in charge of regulating feeds and there are restrictions on feeds, whether it’s feed for dairy cattle, feed for wildlife. And right now, any corn that’s labeled for wildlife feed must have at least less than 20 parts per billion of Aflatoxin. And, of course, the standards are different depending on the types of animals that’s fed.
Now, I think Robert probably could tell you that birds are more susceptible than deer and there’s been plenty of research there; so there’s no doubt that even if someone is buying corn to distribute for deer, that doesn’t mean quail and turkeys and other, you know, song birds aren’t picking those up. And I think — Robert, correct me if I’m wrong — game birds are more susceptible; but right now the standard is 20 parts per billion for wildlife feed.
MS. HERRON: Twenty parts is okay for quail and turkey; but what happens on the ranch in the storage facility if mold gets in there, that’s just when you get it, but there’s certainly things that can happen and there’s recommendations and different quail resources on how to safely store your feeds and to make sure that you buy smaller amounts at a time so you’re not holding it for a long period of time. And the research do indicate that once it gets at a higher level, it does have negative impacts on game birds. Maybe not death, you know, right away; but anything that slows a turkey or a quail down is going to be negative at some point.
So some of those things are still being explored. We do know that a lot of those feeders grow Boone and Crockett raccoons, and that could be a negative effect right there. And as far as the Aflatoxin, it’s still under investigation.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any other comments? Commissioner Hughes.
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Yeah. Chairman, I’m in agreement with the other Commissioners as far as the hunting. It appears to have very little impact on quail and quail populations year to year. At our last meeting in January, we — from what I recall — talked about voting on this issue in August. I would — well, I would like at least by — maybe we’re going to have this by May, have recommendations from the Department as to seasons; but again, I think that the sentiment I’m hearing is that maybe we shouldn’t tamper with the season very much, its length limits. But I think we need to get something out in May so that hunters and landowners and enthusiasts can start planning for next year and know what they’re — now, we may not vote until August, but at least have a pretty clear plan out for our hunters and our — everybody involved.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: For all the reasons that you’ve mentioned, I think that’s a good idea. I think what you’re hearing here, Robert, is that there’s kind of directional indication by the Commission that in the absence of a known — in fact, it’s quite the opposite — but a known correlation between regulation and population dynamics, we just at this point don’t see regulation as the tool to deal with some of these bigger picture, long-term issues involving quail.
Having said that, I do think we have a couple of things we need to do. We need to benefit from a gathering of our Upland Game Bird Committee, as well as the Quail Group; and that’s going to be a meeting that’s held I believe early June?
MR. SMITH: Uh-huh.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Moderated by Carter and some of the Commission will be there and assist with that and I think it’s important to get the benefit of that information and probably focus that meeting to some extent on these long-term issues and population dynamics and trends, as opposed to, you know, the regulatory impact. Although we’re certainly open to any kind of scientific input we could get from that. So I think, you know, we referenced that meeting in January, getting a group together. I would like to do that. I think the Commission will benefit from it. It will help us in our decision process in August.
But in the interim, I think it’s — you know, we’re sending the message that, you know, for planning purposes we don’t see a reason to — a compelling reason at this point to try to regulate differently for coming here because we don’t see a — we don’t see a correlation between population and regulation. So that’s where we are now with it. I want to go through this important process in early June. I think it is important for staff to come back with some recommendations based on this directional input that you received for — in May — for our consideration. We can refine that based on the input that we get in our June meeting and then we can make our decisions about the regulatory cycle for the following year in August.
So, anybody have any input or refinements or suggestions to that recommendation?
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Sounds good to me.
COMMISSIONER JONES: Continue to pray for rain.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Yes.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: May I end it with one light note?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Please.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I don’t know who Daniel Lay, the wildlife biologist was, or who the Executive Director was in 1954; but I just have to read you one line under the Legislation. It says the Bobwhite populations of Texas continue to go up and down, but mostly down with no regard whatever for transactions in the Capital at Austin.
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: There you have it.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I just want to underscore one thing. We take the long-term trend issues based on habitat fragmentation and other factors very seriously. We all want to know more about it. We want to study it. I want to commit Department resources to reorganizing our efforts and our studies to be a little bit more active in this area. And, you know, I certainly want to commit my time to being more involved in that. So, it’s a very important issue; but it’s potentially a different issue than regulatory change. Carter, you had a comment that you wanted to —
MR. SMITH: I did. Just two things, Mr. Chairman. One, with respect to Dan Lay, one of the finest wildlife biologists that ever served this State and I would encourage all of you to read his book about East Texas called the Land of Bears and Honey. It’s a beautiful, beautiful read about the natural history of East Texas and ought to be on the required reading list for every single Texas child.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Good.
MR. SMITH: Just an extraordinary man, and we miss Dan. He’s been gone for a number of years, but just a remarkable biologist. I’m not surprised he said something like that. I guess the — we hear you loudly and clearly on the direction and, of course, the message about habitat and education and continue to work voluntarily with our partnerships, what our wildlife biologists are doing every single day. I want to assure you of that. That’s a huge emphasis for them.
Just one matter of clarification I think as we come back to you in May with proposals for you to consider and then approve in August. You know, we’ve been kind of focusing on kind of where the quail largely are. Not necessarily where the quail aren’t, but where we would like them to be. You know, Commissioner, thinking about East Texas. Are you open to ideas on that front that may be different for the rest of the State or do you want us to kind of explore those ideas and see if we have any substantiation on that front for you to consider?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Let me comment first on that if I can. For no particular — for no scientifically based reason, other than just — you know, it just seems intuitive to me that we should start looking at this State on a more refined level than, you know, a zone or two zones. Not to suggest that there necessarily be different regulations; but in terms of how we drive our research, how the research community starts to look at the State, it seems logical that we would break the State up in terms of ecoregion. Certainly not to represent our nine different ecoregions; but, you know, North Texas, South Texas, West Texas, and East Texas. I mean I would like some input from staff and Commissioners on — and, you know, your views of that. Whether that’s a logical way to start driving our, you know, our regional research; but, you know, I would throw that out that that would be helpful and I think we are certainly open to refinements within those areas.
MR. PEREZ: I might add that in the January presentation, there were from staff recommendations. There were some clear dividing lines between areas of State where quail aren’t and rainfall isn’t the driving factor of those populations and where quail are. And there’s some clear distinctions at least in two major areas of the State where perhaps, you know, it’s worth taking a look at the regulatory system between the difference between those two areas.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay. So —
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I’m on board on the — I think the region approach, I don’t think you can keep doing it as huge of area. I think those five make a lot of sense to me.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: I agree with you. I think to have it tailored is really important.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I join. I think that. But I think you’re talking about on the science side, we’re not seeing any regulatory differentiation on the...
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: That’s right.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yes.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I mean at this point, that’s right.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I think everybody is talking about that.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Yes.
MR. PEREZ: Very good, thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Robert, thank you. Appreciate all your effort and all your hard work, thank you.
Okay. Committee Item 4 is Public Opinion Survey Regarding Mule Deer MLDP Season Extension, Mr. Shawn Gray.
MR. GRAY: Ready?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I’m ready.
MR. GRAY: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee. My name is Shawn Gray, and I’m the Mule Deer and Pronghorn Program Leader. Today I will brief the Committee on the recent Mule Deer MLDP Season Extension Survey. The current Mule deer MLDP season starts the first Saturday in November and continues through the first Sunday in January. The MLDP program is an incentive based program that provides participating landowners with an extended Mule deer hunting season if they collect deer population and harvest data and implement practices to improve habitat conditions on their ranches.
The population and harvest data collected for a specific property are analyzed by TPWD biologists and are used to establish a bag limit tailored to that particular deer population. Overall, harvest is limited by the bag limit and number of permits issued for the property. This graph depicts statewide Mule deer MLDP landowner participation and associated enrolled acreage. Participation has increased by nearly 350 percent and associated acreage has approximately tripled since its beginning.
Because of the growing interest in the possibility of extending the Mule deer MLDP season, this Committee asked us to address the potential in extending the season. Therefore, staff sent out an opinion survey last fall. A total of 647 questionnaires were sent to all MLDP cooperators who received permits in 2010 and a comparable number of non-MLDP landowners in proportion to MLDP participation within the Panhandle and Trans-Pecos regions and a similar number of Mule deer hunters, roughly a one-to-one ratio of landowners to hunters.
It’s interesting to note that of the 149 non-MLDP landowners, we were actually providing technical guidance for approximately 50 percent of those properties. As I toot our horn a little bit there. Participants were asked ten questions varying demographics, support of season extension, length of extension, hunter opportunity, possible biological concerns, and antlerless harvest. A total of 354 questionnaires were returned with a response rate of 57.2 percent. Approximately 58 percent of the respondents said they hunted or owned land in the Trans-Pecos with 37 percent indicating they hunted or owned land in the Panhandle.
Median respondent rate for supporting an extension given the season would begin on the first Saturday in November, which is the current opening day, was 60.2 percent. An average of 26.4 percent said they would not support an extension, with the average for undecided respondents was about 14 percent. Both MLDP cooperators and hunters significantly supported extending the MLDP season; however, over half the non-MLDP landowners did not support the extension.
Respondents were given five choices for extending the season from January through February 28th. All were asked to rank their preference from one to five. One being first choice. Five being last choice with no ties. A lower preference number indicates a higher preference. A January closing was strongly favored over a February closing. And from a biological perspective, one of the reasons for an earlier closing date was most respondents were concerned of mistakenly harvesting a buck that had shed its antlers.
Results from each respondent category were similar, with the majority documenting they believed that an extension would increase hunting days in the field. A significant proportion reported that an extended Mule deer season would not help them meet their antlerless quota. Only 21 percent of the MLDP cooperators believed that an extended season would be beneficial in meeting their antlerless harvest goals. If you look at our permit utilization data, that indicates that the majority of cooperators are doing a pretty good job of meeting their quota.
Based upon data collected from our survey and the majority of participants supported an extension to the existing Mule deer MLDP season. Given several choices of extension dates, most respondents strongly favored a January closing over dates in February. I would like to thank Jay Roberson and John Purvis of the Research and Technical Programs for their help and expertise, as well as field staff.
And with that, I would like to address any questions or concerns you might have at this time.
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: On the antlerless harvest, you said — I forgot the percentage. I’m not at that slide. But a large percentage didn’t think a January closure was going to make any difference?
MR. GRAY: An extension, right.
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Extension. What percentage of those respondents actually are harvesting antlerless deer? All of them?
MR. GRAY: No.
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Because if you’re not harvesting —
MR. GRAY: Not all of the respondents. There’s — we don’t issue — the MLDP properties that receive antlerless harvest or antlerless permits are a small amount compared to buck only properties.
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: So the data we’re looking at here though, is it — are we just taking the properties that —
MR. GRAY: I actually —
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: — get antlerless permits and that’s the data we’re looking at, or is this all respondents?
MR. GRAY: Well, that was all respondents.
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: So if don’t harvest them anyway, it’s —
MR. GRAY: Right. And then also I did look at the properties that do receive a large number of antlerless permits and those were the guys that were doing a pretty darn good job of getting that quota met.
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Okay.
MR. GRAY: But, yeah, you are correct.
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner Duggins, do you have a question?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I have one question on the slide that showed the support for extending the season and it had on the nose a fairly consistent number among three. But under the non-MLDP landowners, you said more than 50 percent.
MR. GRAY: Yeah, 50 percent.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Is there any — do you have any opinion about why —
MR. GRAY: No.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: — 50 percent of them were opposed?
MR. GRAY: To be honest, I really don’t. I mean those are the guys that — to give you a little background of how I sent those questionnaires out. The Trans-Pecos, the MLDP participation in the Trans-Pecos is around 90 percent compared to somewhere around 10 percent in the Panhandle. So I weighted those questionnaires significantly on the Trans-Pecos side about 90 percent and of those in the Trans-Pecos, I actually got data from Louis Harveson at Sul Ross State University. He sends out a questionnaire and a news release regarding his Borderlands Research Institute. And he got that information from tax appraisal offices from all the counties in the Trans-Pecos, so he had — he did basically all my leg work for me. So I just took his data using the tax appraisal information and randomly selected those non-MLDP cooperators that way.
And I did weight it a little bit too on our MLDP landowner acreage. We only had about — we only have four cooperators that have 2,000 acres. The majority are big ranches. So I kind of — I stratified it that way. I said if the non-MLDP landowner has 2,000 acres or above, then they — and they were randomly selected, they got the questionnaire. Does that help kind of answer —
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yes. One other follow-up. Did we ask any of the non-MLDP landowners in the larger category why they had chosen not —
MR. GRAY: No, that was not a question.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I think if you do a survey in the future, I would be —
MR. GRAY: Right.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: — curious to know why they’re not participating.
MR. GRAY: That is a good question. And we were trying to — we just kept it to ten questions. We didn’t want to over compass — you know, just big where they wouldn’t fill it out, so; but that is a really good question.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any other questions?
COMMISSIONER JONES: So your recommendation is to not extend the hunting?
MR. GRAY: No.
COMMISSIONER JONES: To extend it into later in January?
MR. GRAY: Right.
COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay.
MR. GRAY: If the extension were to happen, I think our recommendation would to extend it to a date in January.
MR. SMITH: I think that’s really the direction we’re looking for, Commissioner. And we wanted to do this preliminary survey, get a sense of what the data would show us, how landowners and hunters and our partners would feel about this. I think you’ve seen Shawn’s data and so I guess the direction we’re looking for as we go through our regulation cycle coming up with our biologists getting together this summer and thinking about what potential changes they would like to propose for your consideration, would you like us to kind of consider looking at a possible extension of some length to the MLDP season, so, and then bring something back to y’all in November as part of that cycle? Is that something you would like for us to look further at and consider?
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: I think so, Carter. I mean it looks like if you take out the non-MLDP owner/holders, you know, 75 percent of the respondents were in favor. They already participated in favor of extending it, so I think it’s something we should look at. We can hear recommendations in November.
MR. SMITH: Okay, great.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Yes, sir, absolutely.
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: I agree.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I agree.
MR. SMITH: We’ll proceed accordingly. While Shawn is up here, just a quick aside. Shawn has been our quarterback on the Pronghorn antelope work out in the Trans-Pecos. That’s a very, very important wildlife resource issue for us. He’s been just doing an extraordinary job and there’s been a lot of effort, some really good partnerships with the ranching community out in West Texas and vets and universities there at Sul Ross and biologists and just really just I know putting a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into it. So thanks, Shawn.
MR. GRAY: Thank you, Carter.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you, appreciate it.
MR. GRAY: You bet.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Committee Item 5, 2012-13 Statewide Hunting Proclamation, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. Is it Alan up first or Scott? Okay, Scott.
MR. VACA: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Committee Members. For the record, my name is Scott Vaca, Assistant Chief of Wildlife Enforcement. I’m here this morning to present the Law Enforcement portion of the statewide hunting regulations proposal. Under current regulations it is unlawful to hunt alligators, game animals, and game birds with a firearm equipped with a silencer or sound-supression device. I would like to point out that it is currently legal to hunt nongame animals, furbearing animals, and exotic wildlife, including feral hogs, with a firearm equipped with a silencer or sound-suppressing device.
Under the proposed regulation, it would become lawful to hunt alligators, game animals, and game birds with any legal firearm, including a firearm equipped with a silencer. And the term "silencer" is used here to be consistent with State and Federal laws. In addition, a person must still comply with all applicable Federal, State, and Local laws governing the possession of a silencer and this specifically refers to the registration pursuant to the National Firearms Act.
This proposed regulation change was presented to the White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee in January, and the Committee did not voice any concerns over this proposed change. There’s been a lot of public comment on this proposal. As you can see, over 3,500 in support of it; 327 in opposition. This was as of yesterday. And to review some of the reasons for opposition, 83 felt it would invite poaching or trespassing violations, 31 voiced public safety concerns, 20 felt it would violate the Fair Chase Doctrine, 6 felt it should only be legal for exotics and varmints, 4 felt this would allow hunters to hide mistakes, 4 felt it should not be allowed on public lands, 2 felt it should only be allowed on public lands, 2 felt this would encourage antihunting groups, 1 person stated it should be legal for everything except deer, 1 felt this would allow the Government to somehow identify gun owners, and 1 felt it should not be legal on game birds.
COMMISSIONER JONES: The Government can already identify gun owners. Do they not know that?
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: There ain’t no doubt about it.
COMMISSIONER JONES: I’m really interested in the one — I’m really interested in the one that was against it because it would allow the Government to identify gun owners.
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yeah.
MR. VACA: This concludes my portion. Before I turn it over to Alan Cain, I’m happy to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay.
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I’ll just make an observation about it. I’ve had an application in for some of these for almost six months and, you know, as yet the process is so backed up in Washington, that it is mind boggling. I can’t imagine it ever being an issue because I don’t know if I’m ever even going to get it. It’s supposed — it used to take 90 days at the most. I’m over six months right now, and there’s no relief in sight. You know, I mean it — so the process just takes forever and you have to go through a corporation is your best way or a trust. You can’t even do it as an individual. So the person that’s worried about the Government identifying them, doesn’t even know what the process is. So personally, I — to me, it’s a moot point. I think the numbers speak for themselves, I mean.
MR. VACA: It’s my understanding there’s one examiner that handles Texas applications, and it’s about a year now.
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yeah, I know. I’m six months into it.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commission Morian.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I’ve got one question. What’s the purpose of — what’s the driving force behind a firearm with a noise suppressor for birds, for game birds?
MR. VACA: Just consistency with regulation. You know, upland game birds you can currently hunt with a rifle; so if you can use a rifle equipped with a silencer —
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Oh, it would be a rifle, not a not a shotgun. Could you have one on a shotgun?
MR. VACA: It’s my understanding that there are some in existence. One danger is you’ve got a fragmented — you’ve got shot shells coming through a suppressor.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: They make noise suppressors for shotguns?
MR. VACA: I believe so.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Can you — could you use — is that now legal under this proposed legislation?
MR. VACA: It would be.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Do we want that? Is that — that just doesn’t — I don’t know why that doesn’t make sense to me.
MR. VACA: I understand they exist. Somebody makes them. I’ve never seen them for a shotgun.
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Awful dangerous.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: It seems dangerous, doesn’t it?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Very dangerous.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: It doesn’t seem like there’s any purpose. I hadn’t thought about turkey hunting with a shotgun, but I don’t know. I don’t have a feeling one way or the other.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Scott, I was interested in the reasons for opposition that no one commented on the potential for more wounding, given that if you truly suppress, you’re going subsonic and the bullet not going fast enough to expand. Was there ever any comment by anybody about that? I’m not — I’m going to support this. I’m just making that as an observation because I was speaking with some people in Coleman who make these guns and she said that one thing she hears frequently from people who have bought 308s, for example, that they’re surprised at how — that the bullet performance in a suppressed 308 because they’ve got to go subsonic.
MR. VACA: Right. I’m not aware of any studies. I’ve checked with Wildlife Division. They’re not aware of any studies that this would lead to additional wounding. But I would like to point out that it would be currently legal with an unsuppressed firearm to use subsonic ammunition and also you can currently use any centerfire which would go all the way down to .17 Remington or a .22 Hornet. So I can’t say that there’s any evidence to say that there would be additional wounding loss.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay, thank you.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Good points. Any questions?
MR. VACA: Turn it over to Alan Cain?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you never much.
Okay, Alan, you’re up.
MR. CAIN: All right. Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Committee Members. For the record, I’m Alan Cain, White-tailed Deer Program Leader and today I’ll be presenting several proposals regarding White-tailed deer regulations to be considered for adoption.
Last year, the Department received or was petitioned from individuals in the Collin County area requesting an archery only deer season in Collin and Rockwall Counties. Process of formulating staff response, the White-tailed Deer Technical Committee, which was comprised of our Wildlife Division staff, determined that hunting opportunity could be provided in these counties as well as neighboring Dallas County.
Currently the Wildlife Division monitors deer populations at a resource management unit scale to determine the impacts of our regulations on those deer populations. However, in urban and suburban areas that are characterized by highly fragmented habitat like the photo you see there or isolated deer populations, monitoring efforts would provide little reliable data or wouldn’t provide us confidence in those data as to the impacts of our harvest regulations on those deer populations. In addition, deer populations in closed counties are not monitored either, which would include Collin and Rockwall and Dallas, which have been closed for about 25 years or so presumably on the assumption that there’s a lack of habitat to support stable deer populations in those counties.
However, there are small pockets of habitat that do exist in these counties and they do harbor deer. It’s similar to the situation just to the north like Grayson County where there is deer herds or deer populations in strips of habitat primarily along the Red River where there is habitat in that area. Grayson County has had an open season restricted to archery equipment since the 1960s; so in those situations, they have been able to hunt in those areas.
In analyzing petition for rule making, staff determined that there was no biological reason not to allow hunting in Collin and Rockwall Counties and it was an opportunity to increase hunting opportunity, however limited they may be in those counties, and that opening a deer season would provide an additional method to address nuisance deer issues where the use of archery equipment is not prohibited by county municipal ordinances. In addition, staff also determined that Dallas County was suitable for this application, the urban hunting unit approach and that Grayson County season structure should be employed in all three of these counties for simplicity’s sake and avoidance of law enforcement issues that could result from differential regulations.
Staff notes the traditional biological rational is used to justify season lengths and bag limits are moot in the case of these particular counties and deer population. Given the continued urbanization of these counties, the remaining deer habitat that exists is expected to decline in the future. Just so you know, the picture of that deer in the photograph came from a Collin County landowner up there that sent that; so he’s very proud of those animals.
The proposed regulation is to remove the current permit requirement for antlerless deer in Grayson County and implement that current season structure and bag limit in Collin and Rockwall and Dallas Counties. So the regulation in those three counties would be a special and general archery season with a four deer bag limit to include two bucks, antler restrictions in place, and two does. A chosen season structure is to provide uniformity of regulation and ease of enforcement. Not necessarily biological management of the resource there. It’s a hunting opportunity. Staff have corresponded with the leadership of the Grayson County White-tail Association regarding this proposal and they’ve provided comment and indicated that they did support our proposal, that it was a positive change to encourage youth hunting opportunities in those areas up there, as well as a win-win for the Department of landowners managing deer herds in those areas.
The White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee has also reviewed the proposal and supports the Department in its decision to expand the hunting season in those areas and also remove the antlerless permit requirement in Grayson County. To date, we’ve received a little over 1,600 comments for the Collin, Rockwall, and Dallas County proposal; 1,583 in favor of the proposal, 66 opposed. Grayson County change, we’ve received about 1,500 comments; 1,475 of those were in favor of the proposed change, and 51 are opposed. The reasons for opposition include folks wanted us to allow the use of firearms during those seasons, the general season. Some folks wanted us to allow the use of crossbows during the archery season. Some folks wanted us to relocate nuisance deer in these urban areas. Others simply were concerned that we would overharvest deer populations if we opened the season there. Some folks just didn’t want us to hunt at all.
Galveston County is another county that has a closed season, but deer are present in the county despite the fragmented habitats, just similar to North Texas. Currently all surrounding counties, including Harris County — obviously, that’s Houston, a lot of developed area there — have an open general deer season. These counties are similar in characteristics in that Fort Bend, Brazoria, and Harris all have fragmented habitats; but small and huntable deer populations spread out through there. Galveston County is also in the same resource management unit as Harris County, so we want to keep those regulations consistent. Staff has determined, like the counties in North Texas, additional hunting opportunity can be provided under the current regulatory structure in these adjoining counties.
Staff do not see a biological reason to prohibit hunting and the regulation is not expected to have a negative impact on the resource and, again, should provide additional hunting opportunity. So the proposed regulation would consist of an archery only season, a general season, a special late muzzleloader season with a bag limit of four deer — two bucks, antler restrictions in place, and two antlerless. And to harvest antlerless deer after Thanksgiving, a permit would be required. Before Thanksgiving it would not require a permit. Again, the White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee has also reviewed this proposal and they do support staff’s recommendation to expand the season in Galveston County.
The Department has received, again, approximately 1,500 comments; 1,465 in favor of the Galveston County proposal, and 56 opposed. Reasons for opposition include some folks just simply didn’t want us to hunt in that county or to allow hunting. Some people wanted a bow-only season or a bow and only a muzzleloader season, not a firearm season. Some wanted us to remove permit requirement to harvest antlerless deer and others wanted us to reduce the bag limit to one buck.
And that concludes my presentation, so I’ll be happy to answer any questions if you have any at this time.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Questions? Thank you very much.
MR. CAIN: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay, Robert.
MR. PEREZ: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, for the record, my name is Robert Perez, Upland Game Bird Program Leader of Wildlife Division. And I’m here to present the Upland Game Bird portion of the statewide hunting proclamation regarding both pheasant and Lesser prairie chicken.
Staff recommend adoption of the proposal to close the pheasant season in Chambers, Jefferson, and Liberty Counties highlighted in yellow. This is in response to absence of a population. These are the only coastal counties with a current pheasant season. Back in 2003, the Commission adopted closure of the pheasant season in Wharton, Fort Bend, Brazoria, and Matagorda Counties shown in black for the same reasons. These populations originally were the result of over 17,000 pheasants stocked by the Department in the 1970s and 1980s. Populations have slowly blinked out over time as these birds are not well-adapted to the local climate and available habitat. These potential changes would effectively close the pheasant season on the Texas Coast. Pen-reared pheasants could still be legally harvested under a private bird hunting area license.
Lesser prairie chicken, in 2005 the Commission adopted rules to create a managed land permit for the harvest of Lesser prairie chicken. The rules were adopted in response to long-term data indicating a declining population trend for Lesser prairie chicken throughout much of their historic range. Then in 2009, the Commission closed the season on the Lesser prairie chicken in response to continued concerns about the species.
It now appears the resumption of the prairie chicken — resumption of prairie chicken hunting will not take place in the foreseeable future. Because there’s no longer a need for the rules, staff proposes a repeal of 65.25(B), which sets forth the requirements for the harvest of Lesser prairie chicken on managed lands. As you are likely aware, Lesser prairie chicken is currently a candidate species for listing under the Endangered Species Act and our staff and partners continue to work diligently on recovery efforts.
We expect to continue to see developments in relation to LPC conservation in Texas. It’s important to note that hunting is in no way a contributing factor to declines of Lesser prairie chicken. The gradual disappearance of large, intact native grasslands is the main factor. Of the public comment in regard to the managed land’s Lesser prairie chicken permit rule, there were 1,241 in support and 67 in opposition. Of those in opposition, comments included Department should improve populations instead of restricting hunting, that we should wait longer to see if populations improve, the season should be reopened, that hunting should be allowed, and that this results in no incentive for habitat management.
In regard to pheasant season closure, there were 1,338 in support and 97 in opposition. Of those in opposition, comments included the Department should restock or otherwise improve populations instead of restricting hunting, that the season should be open for pen-reared hunting, that we should leave the season open in case there are stragglers, and that pheasants are an exotic species and should not be regulated at all.
And that concludes my presentation.
COMMISSIONER JONES: Stragglers?
MR. PEREZ: Stragglers. There might be one or two still out there.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner Scott.
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: One quick question. When you talk about — you talked about the pen-raised.
MR. PEREZ: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but my understanding has always been like quail or pheasant or chukar, I mean if you’re getting pen-raised ones and turning them out, it’s legal to shoot them any time.
MR. PEREZ: Under — in a pen-reared hunting licensed area where the boundaries are marked. It’s an $84 permit and within that confine you can hunt year round. Outside of that confine, not the case. There wouldn’t be a season.
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Got you, okay. I thought that was the case. I just wanted to make sure I don’t get in trouble here.
MR. SMITH: Good strategy. Let’s repeat that.
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I learn something new every day.
MR. PEREZ: Any questions?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you. Any other questions on the statewide proclamation? Thanks, Robert.
COMMISSIONER JONES: So if one flew over the fence into the neighbor’s yard, that would be considered a straggler?
MR. PEREZ: Yes.
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: You know what? I’ve been straggler hunting all the time. That’s what it is.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Are you two neighbors?
COMMISSIONER JONES: I’m buying the place right next to him.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So I’ll place this on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.
Moving on. Committee Item 6, 2012-13 Statewide Recreational Commercial Fishing Proclamation, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. Good morning, Ken.
MR. KURZAWSKI: Good morning, Commissioners, Mr. Carter. Today I’ll be reviewing the fishing related proposals that we brought before you in January and that we took to public hearings. Most of these are freshwater, but I do have a few at the end that kind of cross both freshwater and saltwater.
First one, Lake Aquilla. It’s a reservoir in Hill, Hill County. We currently have a 16-inch minimum there for Largemouth bass, which we enacted in ’94. Analysis of the population there, we’re not seeing any population benefits of that. Staff in their investigation determined habitat is limiting there. There has been a lot of silting in that reservoir and not being able to produce good bass population there. They’re looking at some ways working in the area to improve that habitat; but based on that, we’re proposing to change that 16-inch minimum back to the statewide 14-inch limit.
Next couple other reservoirs in West Texas, Fort Phantom Hill and Proctor. Those also have 16-inch limits for Largemouth bass. We’ve seen few pre- and post-regulation changes to those bass populations, and they’re similar to the bass populations in area lakes with 14-inch limits; so as with many West Texas water — west Texas reservoirs, water levels do go up and down and that water level, not fishing or harvest is a determining factor to those populations and we believe we can maintain the similar quality with the 14-inch limit on those.
Next, Possum Kingdom Reservoir. Fish populations have been decimated there by Golden Alga starting in 2001. At that time to try and help that population, we did reduce the Striped bass bag from five to two. We stocked Striped bass in there on an annual basis. It’s on a put-take-take basis. Since then because of continued Golden Alga outbreaks, few fish are reaching that 18-inch, few are being harvested, and the bag really isn’t having any impact on that population. So we propose to return the bag limit to five fish, but maintain the 18-inch limit on that reservoir.
Next, on Lake Naconiche in Nacogdoches County. That’s a new reservoir set to open in September. Typical of most reservoirs, angling effort will be high and also the vulnerability of those fish to harvest will also be high. We’re looking to protect the 14- to 18-inch bass from harvest and hope to ensure that a good quality population is established. When that reservoir opens, we have some regulations to implement. We’re going to put an 18-inch minimum, five-fish daily bag limit for Largemouth bass and we’ll also prohibit the passive gears in there, the jug lines, throw lines and trotlines. This is a relatively small reservoir, about 700 acres. Probably will have a lot of water use on it and both staff and the patrolling authority wishes to limit some of those other things and also eliminating those passive gears will help some of those catfish populations develop.
Next, going over something we’ve been talking a lot about combating spread of Zebra mussels and Asian carp, those exotic aquatic species. Zebra mussels and Bighead and Silver carp are currently confined to limited locations in Texas as Darcy Bontempo noted about Zebra mussels. They’ve just been Lake Texoma and the one small outflow creek. We’ve seen Bighead carp in some of the tributaries of the Red and the Red River itself and one Silver carp did show up in the Red along the Oklahoma/Texas border. Possession and transport of these species, which are declared harmful or potentially harmful, is prohibited; but we feel there’s a need for some additional rules to stop the spread of the Zebra mussels and Asian carp, which are being — could be transported incidental to other activities and uses.
On Zebra mussels, what we’re mainly concerned with here is they have a free-swimming microscopic stage called a veliger. They can occur in any water that’s taken up from those infested waters, such as Lake Texoma. They’re easily transported in the live wells or hauling containers and boat motors and other intake systems. On Silver and Bighead carp, our concern there, you know, they’re found along the borders of 18 states, including Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas. They’re pretty abundant in Louisiana. The young carp, as you can see here, can easily confuse with native bait fish, especially those Gizzard shad and Threadfin shad. And people in bait collecting activities below — for instance, below dams they can collect these with a group of Gizzard shad and they can be easily transported off those areas and into other water bodies.
So first to look at some of the concerns about our Zebra mussels and the transport of those exotic species. The regulation that we are proposing is that all water would be drained when leaving these listed water bodies and this would include the Red River from the I-44 bridge down through Lake Texoma to the Arkansas border and we’re also including Lake Lavon in there because there’s a high probability with some of the Zebra mussels being upper portion — upper creek in that — feeding into that creek that they — feeding into that reservoir that they could show up in Lake Lavon and this would prohibit the transport of any water or live fish off these water bodies.
We would allow travel from another ramp within the same water body, would be allowed for instance on Lake Texoma. Striper fishing is very popular there. Guides will put in at one boat ramp, fish that area, collect some bait, and they might move to another area and in the other part of day, wind comes up or fish are found in another area or they even sometimes go from the reservoir itself, go down below and fish the spillway area and that activity would still be allowed under this proposal.
And then on the proposal of the transport of live nongame fish, we would prohibit the transport of live nongame fish off of these three water bodies and those are the Red River and a couple of tributaries of the Red where we — where those primarily Bighead carp and a few Silver carp are being found. Nongame fish taken on those waters could be used for live bait in a live condition, but they couldn’t be taken off those waters. And I might note that the Red River below Lake Texoma, this would prevent you from going from that water body below Lake Texoma with some live nongame fish and up back up into the reservoir. Those dams are serving as a block to the Asian carp getting upstream and we want to maintain that in this regulation.
And what we’re considering is deviating for these rules, deviating from the effective days September 1. This would — we would set an effective date of 20 days after filing the final rules in the Texas Register, that would be implemented sometime hopefully by the end of May and we would be able to take advantage of a lot of the public awareness campaign that we’re doing for Zebra mussels. We would be able to take advantage of some of the news releases and PSAs associated with that to get this word out if you do decide to approve it. And this would, as I said, would have those rules in place before the peak of the summer boating season.
I have a few changes that impact both fresh and saltwater. We have some gear restrictions in State Parks based on some user conflicts within areas with limited space. State Parks staff is proposing to limit persons fishing on the man-made structures within the Park boundaries to two persons to eliminate some of those user conflicts. This is a similar regulation that we have in place on our community fishing lakes, which are small lakes which have similar problems with people being able to put out a number of poles and dominate a particular area.
And also another on gear restrictions on gear tags. Law Enforcement proposed to require gear tags for throw lines and minnow traps in freshwaters. These were the two passive devices that didn’t have any sort of tagging requirements. This would help in the enforcement of these legally fished throw lines and minnow traps. And part of the discussion on that looked at the gear tag validity date. Currently, that’s 30 days and the proposal was to reduce that to ten days and that would impact these devices in freshwater — jug lines, minnow traps, throw lines, and trotlines. And the ones in saltwater would be minnow traps, perch traps, and noncommercial crab crabs. Commercial crab traps have a different requirement.
We did have one proposal on — that impacts a minor proposal on reciprocal licensing agreements. As I mentioned, we have existing agreements with Louisiana and Oklahoma that allows seniors from all three states to exempt from fishing license when fishing as a nonresident. Oklahoma recently changed their senior age designation from 64 to 65, so we need to implement that corresponding change in our rules to make that similar within our two states.
This is a summary of all the comments that we’ve received on these. And I might note, vast majorities have been through our web comments. Very few — I think we only received one during a public hearing and probably eight or nine by e-mail. A lot of the changes that we’re making on the reservoirs, those were — received a lot of support. The two highlighted ones in yellow, when we initially posted those on our web, we had a problem where the answers for those got combined; so we weren’t able to fully separate them out. It does kind of skew them towards the opposed; but if we didn’t make that little error there, these would probably increase by 50, 60, or more support on that. And looking at some of the comments we did receive at Naconiche, the eight people that expressed some comment about opposition, four of those were actually wishing us to do something a little more restrictive than we proposed and the others were just opposed to not being able to use the trotlines and throw lines and one was against the use of the size limit. We did receive a number of opposition. The other one was on gear tags and that was primarily people opposed to moving the marking, the date from 30 to 10. They were — thought that was too big of a jump at this time and some suggested 15 or 20 days. But basically, they were opposed to that. And on some of the reciprocal licenses, some people were saying we should charge other States for license if they have to pay for it and other people just wanted free licenses no matter what.
So that’s a summary of the freshwater portion of — and saltwater summary.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any questions for, Ken.
MR. KURZAWSKI: If you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer those.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner Duggins.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Ken, on the State gear — State Park gear restriction, you say we limit — you’re proposing that we would limit each person to two poles, but what do we — I think I asked this question earlier. But what do we do when a person shows up and they’ve got two or three kids that aren’t fishing, but they’re using that as a —
MR. KURZAWSKI: Well, that would be — I guess that would be to the discretion of the staff; but, you know, you would have to be — just like — they would have to be — they would have to be actively fishing. There would have to be people there.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That’s the clarification I wanted.
MR. KURZAWSKI: Right.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: It’s meant to apply to someone who’s actively fishing.
MR. KURZAWSKI: They would have to, you know, demonstrate that they do have other people there.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I think that’s important.
MR. KURZAWSKI: Right.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: The other question is on the transportation of the nongame fish. I’m trying to find the slide. We say we’re going to prohibit the transport of nongame fish?
MR. KURZAWSKI: Fish, correct.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Why would we limit it to nongame if the water could potentially have the zebra larva?
MR. KURZAWSKI: Well, in those areas there, we’re not concerned about transport of water from those water bodies. We do — those tributaries to the Red, they don’t have Zebra mussels. We’re just really concerned about people in the collection of shad moving the fish out of there.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Be you said there’s a danger of confusion between the shad and the carp.
MR. KURZAWSKI: Right, right.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So if you’re going to allow them to bring the shad, that to me increases the chance they inadvertently bring the carp.
MR. KURZAWSKI: Well, no. The shad, you wouldn’t be able to move shad. Shad is a nongame fish, so you would be prohibited from —
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Oh, all right.
MR. KURZAWSKI: — collecting Gizzard shad and moving them off those waters. And we’re just limiting that to nongame fish because that’s mainly where the confusion would be. If someone were, for instance, to catch some catfish or bass and wanted to take them home live in their live well, well, we would still allow them to do that. We’re not — we didn’t want to put that for all fishes coming off those waters. We didn’t see a need for that.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay, thank you.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any other questions for Ken? Thanks, Ken. Appreciate it.
MR. RIECHERS: Mr. Smith, Chairman, Commissioners, my name is Robin Riechers, Coastal Fisheries Division and I’m here to present to you the 2012-2013 Coastal Fisheries Statewide Proposals. And at least on this day, I believe I’m both least in controversy and last; so we’ll see about that, but I believe so.
From a statewide proposal perspective, we basically were entertaining the migration of an alternate license system and license log piece of proclamation from one section to another, as well as clarification of the rule regarding the thermal refuge areas or the freeze closures that we’ve had in the past. The migration of the alternative license system and license log really is just moving, as I indicated, from one proclamation. As we split the hunting and the fishing side, it was left — it was inadvertently left over on the hunting side. This is going to migrate it over to the fishing side. And this just prescribes how we would go about creating a license log system and gives us the authority to do so if for some reason we needed to do that in the case of a failure in our licensing system or we reach a point where we want to do that. But that’s really why it was put in there the first time was when we thought we were having a license system change and we might have to issue paper licenses for some period of time. Similar to the change through now; but Gene assures us we’re not going to have to issue paper licenses at this point in time, so.
The freeze closure clarification, again, just clarifies that any device or means in a closed area is prohibited. As I indicated before, even under the current rules this is really the case because dip nets and hand are prohibited; but this basically just assures that no matter where you look in our proclamation, you’re going to understand that you’re not supposed to take any fish from those thermal refuge areas if we, in fact, have to close them due to a freeze event.
When you look at the comment summary, you can see that, first of all, the Coastal Resources Advisory Committee unanimously endorsed both of these proposals. As indicated here, all our comments have come from the web as well. We didn’t have any people attend public hearings on these. And over 90 percent people supported both proposals. Given the nonsubstantive nature, you may wonder why the alternate licensing system seemed to have so many comments in this respect. And it does appear that because people were going on the Wildlife site and commenting about other proposals, they also commented here. It certainly hasn’t created a big fervor in the community out there, but we did get a lot of comments in support of that rule change.
With that, I’d be happy to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Questions for Robin? Thank you, Robin. Appreciate it. I’ll place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action. Regulation’s Committee has completed its business and, Chairman Morian, would you call the Conservation Committee to order, please.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The first order of business is approval of the previous Committee meeting minutes from January 25th, which have already been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER JONES: So moved.
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Second.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: All in favor, say aye.
(A chorus of ayes)
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Any opposed? Hearing none, the motion carries. At this time, I would like to announce that Committee Item No. 5, Land Acquisition in Brazoria County, 480 acres at the Christmas Bay Coastal Preserve has been withdrawn.
And with that, I’ll move on to — I would like to announce, Mr. Chairman, that pursuant to the requirements of Chapter 551, the Government Code referred to as the Open Meetings Act, an Executive Session will be held at this time for the purpose of deliberation of real estate matters under Section 551.072 of the Texas Open Meetings Act and seeking legal advice from the general counsel under Section 551.071 of the Open Meetings Act. We will now recess for Executive Session.
(Executive Session off the record)
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: How about that. Chairman Friedkin said to go ahead and start as soon as we had a quorum; so I’m reconvening the regular session of the Conservation Committee on March 28th, 2012, at 1:52. I’ll go back to Committee Item No. 1, Update on TPWD Progress in Implementing the TPWD Land and Water Resources Conservation and Recreation Plan, Mr. Smith.
MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee. For the record, my name is Carter Smith. Just a very quick update as to where we stand with the Land and Water Resources and Conservation Plan. As you will recall, we talked about this fairly extensively at the last meeting and really leading up to your retreat in May, in which we’re going to be asking y’all for further direction on kind of what action items we really need to be focused on here in the next couple of years to help implement the goals of the plan.
Just as a reminder with respect to kind of the 25 action items that the Commission had approved and had asked us to track and report back to you. Again, we had met fully 20 of those. One of those goals we had partially met, and then there were four for a variety of reasons that we simply were not able to meet. For instance, our prescribed burning acres target, we were not able to meet with respect to the drought and burn bans and so forth. Scott Boruff is our team lead on this and so he’s asked all of the Division staff to provide the senior leadership team recommendations on potential action items from their respective divisions. We’ll look through those and which then be prepared on the 10th of May at the retreat to report those to you, ask for your input, thoughts on other ideas, and then hopefully walk out of that meeting, Commissioners, with a new set of action items that we can be monitoring in order to meet the goals of the plan. So fairly straightforward process, but I just kind of wanted to remind you of what the principal thing we’re going to be focusing on in May is.
What I do want to do at this time, too, is just share an update on a number of items that — some of which y’all are aware of, some of which you may not be. I think that Gary and Ross have briefed all of you on the fact that we had to make the very difficult decision to suspend hatchery operations at our Dundee State Fish Hatchery up near Electra because of water levels in Lake Kemp. One of the things that Gary and Todd Engeling and our hatchery team are doing are to compensate for that lost production of Striped bass and hybrid Stripers, which are really, really important to our fisheries management program, at other hatcheries around the State, they are increasing the production of Stripers and kind of decreasing the production of Largemouth bass. So average basis, you know, we produce somewhere around four to four and a half million Stripers for stocking and I wanted to let you know Inland Fisheries team is trying to do everything they can to mitigate the impacts of this closure. Although very, very, very, very difficult situation having to do that.
Now, on the flip side, in April the 26th is the dedication event for the new John D. Parker State Fish Hatchery in East Texas and Vice-Chairman Duggins has agreed to be there to help kind of keynote all of that. I know he’s been working on his speech, he told me.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: You don’t want to miss it.
MR. SMITH: And I can assure you the spirit of John Parker will be looking down upon us on that event and I hope that those of you who can be there, will come there. This is a long time coming. An extraordinary investment by the Anglers of Texas. We would love to have all of you. Ms. Parker will be there, the family. It will be really a nice way to remember Commissioner Parker who cared passionately about this. So if you can be there on the 26th, please do so and let us know if you need any more details.
Tomorrow you’re going to get a — you’re going to hear some more about the restoration of Bastrop State Park. Specifically, the Commission will have a chance to recognize three of our partners who are providing fairly substantive donations to aid in the restoration of the State Park, which by the way I think is going as well as it can. We’ve had great leadership on the ground there from Todd McClanahan. The Agency has found about a million dollars in capital funds that we’ve gotten approval to help apply to the erosion control issues that we’ve had after, you know, those blessed rains that have fallen; but which have also caused a lot of erosion to those hillsides there on which we’re going to be planting trees a year from now. And so a lot going on there. End of this — end of April, we hope to have most of the park reopened and so really, really proud of our team’s progress there.
A number of you have visited with me in recent months about kind of the status of the various longhorn herds on State property. Commissioner Scott I know has given us some good counsel on that front. We manage a series of longhorn herds on five of the State’s parklands — Palo Duro Canyon Copper Breaks, San Angelo, Big Bend Ranch, and of course LBJ State Park. Our Park’s staff is developing a plan for how best we want to utilize these longhorns and, you know, making some decisions or recommendations about whether they are compatible in all cases with our other park goals. So how can we use them from a ranch management perspective, an interpretation of the important role that longhorns played in our State’s fine historical fabric, and what we need to do there and also may have some recommendations on some parks as to whether or not, you know, we think we can still effectively raise longhorns. And, obviously, the Texas Historical Commission has the principal responsibility for the State longhorn herd that was put together by Mr. Richardson and Mr. Dobie, I think Jay Frank Dobie, that worked on that together. So we’ll keep y’all apprised of those efforts.
One of the things with the recent rains, we’ve had a lifting of burn bans in places around the state and so certainly both our State Parks and Wildlife Management Areas have been busy trying to get in prescribed fire to help manage fuel loads and help accomplish our ecological goals with prescribed fire. We think this is really, really important. Something we’ve talked to the Legislature a lot about in terms of using prescribed fire to help fight wildfires in the future. So we’re trying to lead by example. At least on our State Parks, we’ve done about a dozen fire — prescribed fires in the last couple of months and so we’ll continue to push very, very hard on that.
This morning, y’all heard Robert talk a little bit about the Lesser prairie chicken, which I think everybody is aware has become very imperiled in the State. It’s a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act. I want you to know we have not layed behind the log on that. Our Wildlife biologists up in the Panhandle have been working very diligently with the ranching community to help enter into the — what are called Candidate Conservation Agreements with assurances. These are voluntary agreements with landowners in which the ranchers commit to a series of management practices to benefit prairie chickens on their ranches in exchange for assurances that will help protect them or provide regulatory certainty in the event that the species is listed, if at all. And, again, we’re working very hard to do what we can to help convince the Service that the species should not be listed; but I want to tell you we have got some extraordinary partnerships with ranchers up there. We’ve got, I think, 20 agreements to date on almost 220,000 acres. So really good cooperation on that front.
This year is a special year for all of us who were involved in angling and hunting and who recognized the important role that anglers and hunters play in supporting the conservation work of this Agency and other agencies like ours across the nation. It’s the 75th anniversary of the Wildlife and Sport Fisheries Restoration Act and those are the Federal excise taxes that each and every one of you and all the State sportsmen pay on fishing and hunting equipment. Those are collected by our retail and industry partners. Then they are sent to the Fish and Wildlife Service, who in turn distribute them back to the States to invest in fisheries and wildlife conservation.
It is a great example of what has historically been called user pay/user benefit. I’d respectfully submit that this is a great example of user pay/public benefit because those funds that hunters and anglers are paying and that industry is part of are coming back to invest in fish and wildlife that all Texans care about and it’s just been unquestionably the most successful conservation funding mechanism that we have ever had. It saddens me to hear that national surveys show that as little as 5 percent of hunters and anglers even know that the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program exists and that they’re paying those Federal excise taxes that are collected by industry and then coming back to invest in conservation and so this year we’re going to be telling that story and also talking about the next 75 years of this partnership and we look forward to engaging the Commission on this because it’s just very, very important to all of our work.
Last, but not least, as required by the Sunset Legislation, I am required to provide updates to y’all on internal affairs and if there are any issues that any of you want to visit with Major Grahame Jones, the Director of our Internal Affairs Program, we certainly encourage you to do so. That team has been very proactive lately with ethics training and internal affairs training to our cadets in the Game Warden Academy, as well as our cadets in the Park Peace Officer Academy. Also, we had an officer involved shooting up in the Texarkana area. Thankfully our officer who was involved, thanks to his training, handled that situation exactly as he should have. Protected his life and the lives of other officers that were very much at risk. Our Internal Affairs Division along with the Texas Rangers investigated that and found that it was all justifiable with respect to the actions of our officer and I think from a law enforcement perspective, we felt very, very proud of how that young officer had to act in a very, very difficult situation.
So unless there’s anything else — I’m just looking at you. Want to wait until the next meeting?
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yes.
MR. SMITH: Okay, all right. Then I’d be happy to open it up and see if you have any questions about any of that. Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: On the Federal wild — or excise tax, is that going to be a nationwide push, not just here; but all the States to try to get together and let the public know that that’s being taken out and what it’s being used for?
MR. SMITH: Yes, sir. Absolutely, Commissioner. And I — the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies of which we are a part, essentially all the State and provincial fish and wildlife agencies have taken this on and have asked a recently retired Director John Frampton from South Carolina to help lead that effort, working with industry and our sportsmen’s groups to help promote this. And so, yes, there’s a big national effort that is under way and then we’re essentially kind of using that as a template to then help launch our own effort in Texas in support of that. So it will be done nationally, regionally, and then at the state level. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.
Anything else, Mr. Chairman?
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Any comments, questions? Thank you.
MR. SMITH: Yeah, thank you.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Item 2, Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation, Cindy Loeffler and Colette Barron Bradsby.
MS. LOEFFLER: Good afternoon, Chairman, Members of the Commission, Mr. Smith. For the record, my name is Cindy Loeffler. I’m the manager of the Water Resources Branch.
MS. BARRON BRADSBY: Oh, I’m Colette Barron Bradsby. I’m with the Legal Division.
MS. LOEFFLER: Okay. And we’re here to talk to you again about the Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation Program, specifically the proposal for designation of a State Scientific Area for the San Marcos River. So as you’ll recall, we’ve been before the Commission to talk about this concept.
In a nutshell, it would designate the — if approved, designate the upper 2 miles of the San Marcos River from Spring Lake Dam down to the wastewater treatment plant as a State Scientific Area. And within that area, it would be unlawful to uproot Texas Wild Rice, a Federally endangered plant; and it would also give the Agency working with Texas State and the City of San Marcos the authority when the flows are low when Texas Wild Rice is most at risk, to go in and create areas within the designated area that would allow us to protect particular stands of Texas Wild Rice at low flows, 120 CFS.
Okay, last time we met, the flow in the San Marcos River, that graph in the lower right-hand corner, that spike there interestingly enough, 600 CFS in the San Marcos River, that happened the day of the last Commission meeting. Before that, you can see the flows in the river. Very low. You know, last summer we were concerned that as the spring flows were dropping, the depth of flow in the river was dropping, you know, putting the Wild Rice at risk in the more shallow areas. Today we’re at about 200 CFS, which is above normal for the San Marcos River. I don’t remember how long ago we were above normal there, but it’s good to see.
Now, in response to questions that were raised at the last meeting on January 25th, we have prepared or actually Texas State University Dr. Thom Hardy, who was the Chief Science Officer, he was here this morning, Dr. Hardy and his team prepared maps to show the distribution of Texas Wild Rice in the river and what we have here is also showing you the depth of flow at 120 CFS. So there’s a lot of information on this slide. I’ll walk you through so you can see what we have here. The red areas on the map show the depth of flow when it’s at 120 CFS. That red area corresponds to half a meter. So that’s about a foot and a half. The outlined areas in black show where Texas Wild Rice is now. So you can get a sense of where the Wild Rice is corresponding to the shallow areas of the river at that flow.
And then the cross-hatched areas along the shore, along the banks, that’s where access is happening now; so that’s been documented. And so for this particular portion of the river and you can see on the lower inset map kind of where it is with respect to the dam where this larger map is, that portion of the river, Texas Wild Rice makes up about 1.6 percent of the total area of that — of the river as a whole. So moving downstream to Sewell Park, similar concept. Red means shallow, verging on too shallow for Wild Rice. The outlined areas, black and purple, where Texas Wild Rice is. Purple areas are the persistent areas. So year after year after year they find Texas Wild Rice there in those spots. And then for this portion of the river just a little bit downstream, about six and a half percent of the total river acreage is Texas Wild Rice.
Moving downstream a bit farther, same scheme. Red is shallow. The outlined areas, you see where recreation is happening. 7.4 percent of the river is Texas Wild Rice there. And then finally down at San Marcos River up by Centennial Park, 3.6 percent of the upper San Marcos River is Texas Wild Rice. Oop, one more. So down at Lucio Park — and you can see I-35 there in the lower right-hand corner. See the semi truck down there. So that’s the lowest portion of the river that they mapped for us showing 1.9 percent of the upper part of the river is Texas Wild Rice.
So hopefully that answers the question that was raised at the end of the presentation last time. Public comment to date, we have a few more hours until 5:00 o’clock today; but as of yesterday late, 52 comments had been received, 45 were in favor of adoption, seven opposed adoption. And some of the entities that have continued to show their support on the slide.
So the recommendation is that the Commission adopt this new section of Parks and Wildlife Code concerning the San Marcos River State Scientific Area with changes as necessary to the proposed text. Those changes came from a comment letter from Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation. These are nonsubstantive conforming changes — or, I’m sorry, clarification changes. Helpful changes in terms of just making it very clear what we’re doing with the proposal. With that, any questions? Yes, ma’am.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: I have a question. You said protect. What measure of protection or what do you — could you —
MS. LOEFFLER: Okay. So what we are envisioning is, one, start with education. You know, working with the University, with the City of San Marcos, put on a full-blown education campaign about what Texas Wild Rice is, what the threats are, work with the University in terms of contact with the students; so do those things first. Also, look at if there are better places for recreational access. So some of the areas that could be, you know, more of a threat to Texas Wild Rice, if those areas — if there could be alternatives for those areas.
As the flows begin to drop — you know, and I showed that graph at the beginning. Flows are now up around 200 CFS, so that buys us some time. You know, when we were here in January, it was looking like we might have to do this as soon as this summer. But as the flows drop, you know, look at the areas in the river where the most threatened stands of Wild Rice are and put out — you know, the concept right now is to put out booms or buoys around particular stands. But it’s also as much as anything, it’s also just encouraging recreational users to avoid those areas. So we hope to do that in the educational portion of it. And then at all times under all flow rates, the uprooting of Texas Wild Rice would be prohibited.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: You would cite somebody?
MS. LOEFFLER: Right.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: So is that a misdemeanor, a Class C?
MS. LOEFFLER: Right. It’s a Class C, right?
MS. BARRON BRADSBY: Yes.
MS. LOEFFLER: Yep, Class C. So, of course, our game wardens could issue those citations; but also the City of San Marcos the University police. We’ve had some discussions with them about doing this, so that’s how that would work.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: In the process of protecting, would there be any economic impact to the University or the City or the County?
MS. LOEFFLER: We don’t believe so. You know, we’ve had support from the University, from the City, from the Lion’s Club. The Lion’s Club being the main tube vendor on the river. And if anything, the thought is, you know, protection of the river, protection of the spring flows through the larger RIP package that we’ve talked about in the past actually would benefit the economy by having — you know, maintaining a healthy San Marcos River and continuing to attract tourists and folks to come and recreate there.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Okay, thank you.
MS. LOEFFLER: Uh-huh. Any other questions?
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Any other questions? If no further discussion, I’ll place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and —
MS. LOEFFLER: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: — for presentation. Committee Item No. 3, Acceptance of Land Donation, Cameron County, 10 Acres at the Ebony Unit at the Las Palomas Wildlife Management Area, Request Permission to Begin the Public Notice and Input Status.
MR. KUHLMANN: Commissioners, for the record, Corky Kuhlmann with the Land Conservation Program. This is a small donation at one of the Las Palomas units in the Valley, the Ebony Unit, which is relatively small. Everybody probably knows where the Valley is; but if you look at the donation tract, it is all native habitat, very thick. Talking to the biologist down there, he thinks even too thick to hunt. So basically if we accept this donation, it will be used for its habitat value for — and they do hunt White-wings and doves across the road at the Las Palomas Seventy Unit, so it will just be used for the habitat more than anything else.
We were contacted by an attorney in the Valley. There’s a lot of heirs. The family really didn’t want the property. He’s put together — evidently got consent from all the heirs to donate to Parks and Wildlife. And I’ll be glad to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So the land in green is what we own now?
MR. KUHLMANN: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: This would be that little...
MR. KUHLMANN: That little rectangle right south of the green tract, yes, sir. And it is across a county road there, a small county dirt road. So staff requests permission to begin the public notice and input process.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Any other questions? If no other discussion, I’ll authorize staff to begin the public notice and input.
Committee Item No. 4, a Land Sale in Brazoria County, approximately 2 and a half acres along the San Bernard River, Request Permission to Begin the Public Notice and Input Process.
MR. KUHLMANN: Again, for the record, Corky Kuhlmann with the Land Conversation Program. This is the sale of about 2 and a half acres that was purchased by our Artificial Reef Program in Brazoria County along the San Bernard River. This tract was purchased in 2003 with the intent that we use it for a staging area for our Artificial Reef Program. Since that time, the river has silted in. It’s been dredged once. It re-silted in. Basically, the property just can’t function for what we intended the use to be when we purchased the property.
It seemed like a good idea at the time. Now, it’s costing us money in clean-up fees. We’ve had a lot of trouble with people using the property and leaving litter, dumping there; so we do pay a monthly fee now. We’ve had to fence the property to keep people out. At one point we thought we would be good neighbors and we built a little dock for people to go and fish and somebody burned it down. They thought it was a good idea to have a campfire on a wooden dock. Well, that didn’t work. And basically, it’s just not going to work out for what we intended its use.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Have you had it appraised?
MR. KUHLMANN: We had it appraised in — when we bought it in 2003, it appraised for $90,000. We paid 77,000 for it. Since that time, since 2003, about an acre of it has turned to wetlands. The bulkheads are all in disrepair. I’ve talked to some local realtors and it seems now we would probably be lucky to get what we paid for it. If you notice the property, if you’re looking at it to the west or southwest, is a fishing camp, a guiding service, boat bait shop. Generally when we first think about selling a piece of property, we will notify the adjacent landowners and see if they’re interested. This person is interested in the lots. If we could work a deal with him to at least recoup what we have in it, that would probably be a good deal for us.
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I’ve had a little history with the San Bernard and own a lot of property upriver from it and I would think that that would be extremely optimistic to get what we paid for it because they shut down any kind of commercial activity and that San Bernard River does not — I don’t know if you ever crossed on I-10, you know, like when you’re headed — you know, it’s about this deep if it’s running. This whole thing is going to silt in because they’ve stopped the commercial aspect of it. They don’t want to let any tugboats or barges, no traffic. And so what it’s doing is just silting in. It will end up being wetlands is what it will end up being. It won’t even be a navigable waterway.
MR. KUHLMANN: You don’t need this?
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Huh?
MR. KUHLMANN: You don’t need this?
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: No. I’ve got about 800 acres a little further upstream. Matter of fact, I’ll sell y’all a heck of a park. We can grow Wild Rice on this thing.
COMMISSIONER JONES: Get you one of those flat bottom boats.
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: That’s what you’ve got to have. So anyway, I would say we should get rid of it.
MR. KUHLMANN: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Any discussion? If no further discussion, I’ll authorize staff to begin the public notice and input process.
MR. KUHLMANN: Thank you, sir.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Committee Item No. 6, Land Acquisition, Coryell County, Acquisition of Approximately 142 at Mother Neff State Park, Request Permission to Begin the Public Notice and Input Process.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good afternoon. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I’m with the Land Conservation Program. This item is the first reading pertaining to a recommendation by staff that we pursue by purchase the acquisition of two tracts of land adjacent to Mother Neff State Park. Mother Neff was the first official State Park. It’s located in Temple and Waco. It’s a pretty small State Park. It’s currently 259 acres, but it’s a very popular State Park. It’s close to the highway, close to a couple of significant population centers.
These are willing sellers. They’ve been neighbors of the Park for many years, members of the friends organization for many years, and have actually been working with us for a couple of years to come up with a way to add those to the State Park. The sale of the Fortress Cliffs Ranch, which you’ll see tomorrow, would give us that opportunity. Those lands have a Federal interest in them and because of that, we are required to convert that expeditiously into new public recreation lands and this is the first tract that staff will suggest that we look at. It’s a very high priority for State Park Division. It would half a mile of frontage on the Leon River. Would increase the area of the park by 55 percent. Would add some really terrific topography and some really healthy habitat and some really special opportunities for trails and recreational opportunities that don’t exist currently in the park.
This map will show how that lays on the land with regard to the park. That squiggly line at the bottom is the river and you can see it would more than triple the frontage that the park currently has on the river. The property terminates in a very significant bluff that looks out over the river valley. This rock shelter actually stretches for about a quarter of a mile. Has never been potted. Has never been excavated. It’s an intensely important cultural resource that would add significantly to our mission to protect significant cultural resources of Texas. Not to mention the fact that the view from up on top of the bluff is — are very beautiful views.
This is what the river looks like. Some of y’all from the Hill Country might look at that and see muddy water. I look at that and I see catfish opportunity to put a kayak or canoe in the water. It would add significantly again to our frontage on the river. We do have signed letters of intent from both of the owners to sell that property to us. The National Park Service has looked at this and tentatively agreed to a conversion of those funds to purchase this property and we would anticipate coming back to you in May for an action item if you authorize us to seek — to begin the public notice and input process.
And I would be happy to answer any questions you have.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Any questions from the Commission?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: A beautiful tract.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: A good addition. If no further discussion, I’ll authorize staff to begin the public notice and input. Thank you, Ted.
Committee Item No. 7, Acceptance of Land Donation, Aransas County, 80 Acres at the Big Tree Area at Goose Island State Park, Request Permission to Begin the Public Notice and Input Process.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioner, good afternoon. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I’m with the Land Conservation Program. Staff is very exited about this particular presentation. We have an opportunity to add by donation 80 acres of land at Goose Island State Park on the Lamar peninsula. This map shows that tract in relation to the rest of the park. It surrounds a property called the Big Tree, which was acquired in the mid 1930s. Up until a couple years ago, it was the largest Live Oak tree known in the State of Texas. It’s a very popular tourist destination, not only for the big tree but because the parking lot at the Big Tree is currently probably the best place in Texas to drive to to see Whooping cranes.
Immediately north of this tract labeled the Big Tree Ranch is the southern edge or the west-southwest edge of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, which of course has been established for the Whooping cranes. Staff has been trying to figure out a way to acquire this piece of property for a number of years. The Nature Conservancy has been working closely with us to try and find a creative way to bring dollars to the table to do that just because of its significance for the Whooping cranes.
We have sought several sources of money over the years, including Endangered Species money, CAP dollars, coastal improvement and access dollars. And it appears we now have an opportunity. It looks like we’re going to be party to a settlement in the next month or so that would result in funding going to the Nature Conservancy to buy this property. The acquisition cost is right at $2 million. The Nature Conservancy would turn right around and donate that property to Texas Parks and Wildlife to be added to Goose Island State Park and managed as part of the park and we’re in front of you today to request permission to begin the public notice process.
There is — by the way, there is a side option. It’s historical — I’m sorry. The Nature Conservancy has a signed option with the owners to buy that property at appraised value and we’re optimistic that we can come back in May with an action request to close on that donation.
And I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Go ahead.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Corky, what’s the status of the issue we had over the sewage or water easement line? We had some...
MR. SMITH: We did. There was an issue on a property adjacent to us at Goose Island State Park on the — Ann, do you — can we talk about that?
COMMISSIONER JONES: She looks desperately for an out.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I withdraw the question.
MS. BRIGHT: We’re working on it.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I withdrew the question. Thank you.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Fortunately, this item in front of you is unrelated.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay.
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Ted, I’ve always heard that this is the biggest tree. You said until recently it was thought to be. Where’s the biggest Oak tree now?
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir. As part of the Austin Woods Project down in Brazoria and Matagorda Counties, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has recently acquired a tract of old growth bottomland forest and added to that effort and in inventorying it, they discovered a tree that scores bigger on the — Carter, help me out here. The — it’s the big tree Boone and Crockett...
MR. SMITH: Live Oak.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: They score them somehow and they have one that scores just slightly higher.
MR. SMITH: State Champion.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: State Champion tree that does score slightly higher than this tree, but this is still an impressive tree?
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Where is it? Where’s the new one?
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Brazoria County.
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: In that big old Live Oak bottomland down in the marsh. There’s some huge Lives.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yeah.
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: But this is a huge one here. I’ve been to this one a few times.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: We haven’t ceded the record. I just wanted you to know that there’s competition for the title.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Any other questions or discussion?
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: You know, doing BC — you know, SCI scoring or BMC scoring, you know, that’s just in whoever is doing the scoring; so we just haven’t got the right score on ours yet.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: We haven’t ceded the title.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I’ll authorize the staff to begin the public notice and input process.
Committee Item No. 8, Request for Easement in Harris County, Hydrocarbon Pipelines at San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site, Request Permission to Begin the Public Notice and Input Process, Ted Hollingsworth.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, my name is Ted Hollingsworth. I’m with the Land Conservation Program. This is another first reading. We have had a request from Chevron Pipeline Company to expand an existing easement at the San Jacinto Battleground on the eastern outskirts of Houston, Texas. This is the site as you all know where Sam Houston defeated a numerically superior army under General Santa Anna in 1836 to win Texas’ independence.
Staff considers this probably to be the most sensitive piece of real estate in the entire system. But as you can see from the picture, it is surrounded by industrial development. There are currently about five pipeline corridors that trans — that cross the park. This pipeline corridor dates to the 1920s. There are currently five pipelines in it. Chevron requests permission to add a 10-inch pipeline and a 12-inch pipeline to that corridor. And they’ll be carrying product primarily associated with the gas boom in South Texas to refineries in this area.
Chevron has worked very closely with us to try and minimize the impacts from the expansion of that easement. The leadership of State Parks has asked me to let you know that we are still superimposing the survey data on information we have about the possibility of expanding the ship for the Texas — the Battleship Texas and the new visitor center. We’re continuing to look and try to make sure that whatever we do at the park, won’t interfere with future operations or infrastructure project; but we did want to get this on your calendar for a first reading.
If things — all things are going, you authorize the easement in May, the project would begin this summer. Again, the pipelines are to be directionally drilled so that there will be no surface impact, no surface expression in the park. This map shows two bore sites. There’s actually a third bore site in the upper right-hand corner where the pipeline comes out from under the Houston ship channel. There would be a bore pit there as well. Again, Chevron has worked very carefully to avoid any forested areas and to avoid areas that we think are high probability areas for archaeological resources. Although there will be archaeological testing and monitoring of the project while it’s under way.
Again, this is a first reading. We’re requesting permission to begin the public notice and input process. I would be happy to answer any questions you might have about the project. Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: What depth are they going to be going down to directionally?
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Well, we haven’t committed yet. A minimum of 30 feet. Although the last three or four pipelines we’ve ended up asking them to set those at 40 feet. Right now tentatively the current draft drawings have them at 30 feet below grade.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Questions?
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Oh, yeah. That’s that spot.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Where is the abandoned pipeline?
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: The abandoned pipeline is right in the middle of — right in the middle of the corridor. It was installed in 1929, and it’s in the center of that five-line corridor. The new alignment has a dogleg in it. As you can see, the original alignment actually extends a little further down what we call Independence Parkway or Battleground Road; but it’s in that same — where it’s in the park, proper work passes in front of the Battleship, for example. There are — in that red line you can see there are five pipelines. One of which would just be abandoned, abandoned in place and purged and sealed.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Any other questions? If no other questions, we will authorize staff to begin the public notice and the input process. Do you have a question?
MR. SMITH: Not on this one.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: No. 9.
MR. SMITH: No, I would just — Chairman, on another matter when I was talking about hatcheries, one thing I forgot to point out to the Commission that I wanted to make sure y’all were aware of. On the 11th of April, we’re going to be celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Marine Development Center and the Hatchery in Corpus and that’s a great milestone for us. Commissioner Falcon has agreed to be there and I hope that others of you who may be able to come down there can and help us celebrate that milestone with CCA and a bunch of our local partners there. 11th of April, Corpus Christi, 30th Anniversary of that hatchery built by none other than Gene McCarty and so let us know if you can make that. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Regarding Committee Item No. 9, the Water Distribution Pipeline Easement at Monahans Sandhills State Park, Ward and Winkler Counties, no further action is required at this time. Mr. Chairman, this Committee has completed its business.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you. Okay, we’ll go ahead and convene the Finance Committee now, please. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FALCON: Thank you, sir. The first order of business is the approval of the previous Committee meeting minutes from January 25th, 2012, meeting, which have already been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: So moved.
COMMISSIONER FALCON: Commissioner Scott.
COMMISSIONER JONES: Second.
COMMISSIONER FALCON: Commissioner Jones. All those in favor please say aye.
(A chorus of ayes)
COMMISSIONER FALCON: Any opposed? Hearing none, the motion carries.
Committee Item No. 1, Financial Overview Mr. Jensen, would you please make your presentation.
MR. JENSEN: Good afternoon, Commissioners. My name is Mike Jensen. I’m the Division Director for Administrative Resources. I have about five slides to give you a high level summary overview of our revenue and our budget. The first slide I wanted to touch upon are just he highlights on Fund 9 and 64 that are noteworthy and in the news right now. After an exhaustive search and a competitive solicitation for a replacement to the Verizon vendor for license sales system for hunting and fishing licenses, we narrowed it down to a short list of three vendors. About a week and a half ago, we did select and a contract was signed with Gordon-Darby Incorporation.
They are a private company in Kentucky and they currently have a large contract with TCEQ, which is high volume transactional data for the emissions testing system. I think this is a favorable best value opportunity for the State. They were actually the lower price and it appears after the evaluation, that they’re providing the most mature development team; so I think we’re in good hands and this is going to be under development between now and it needs to go live August 15th, 2013, or sooner. So I think we’re in good shape with the selection that we’ve made.
On Fund 64 in the news, the last Commission meeting we talked about the $4.6 million hole in the State Park account. There was a release on March 22nd from Communications Division that we’ve achieved about $1.4 million in donations. And about 1.17 of that can be attributed to the public appeal. Then we have about $230,000 that are directly related to donors who opt in when they register their vehicles. That’s about 185,000. But that was Legislatively mandated of DMV to do that. At the same time, the Department also implemented in the BRTS, that’s the Boat Registration Titling System, an opportunity for folks to donate there as well and since that’s been implemented for about a month and a half, two months now, those folks who are registering their boats have actually donated $42,000 through that avenue as well and that’s very good. That’s higher than I had anticipated, so it’s looking very good.
I want to move on to the next slides, State Park Receipts. On this slide you can see a bunch of red; but I would like to point out that last fiscal year when we began last fiscal year, the first six months were very strong. They were probably the strongest six-month period starting the fiscal year in the past seven to ten years. So we’re comparing a decent performance against an exceptional performance. That’s why we’re sort of trailing and tracking behind. We’re hopeful with the rain and there are no more burn bans, so families can take their kids out. They can cook in a park. There’s water now. There’s more water in some places than others, so hopefully there’s enough to fish in the State Parks that have that opportunity.
But if you look at the facilities, we are down about 7 and a half percent. Entrance fees are down slightly 3 percent, concessions are down 7.3 percent, and Park passes are down; but we believe that if we have a strong summer, that we can show something in the black. But the reality is with what our appropriation bill says, Rider 27, that we pre-budgeted the $3 million, in order to just meet the Comptroller estimate, we would have to exceed 2011 by approximately 5 percent.
And in order to bring additional revenues with appropriation authority into the Department, we would have to do better than 5 percent over 2011. I think it’s optimistic to hope for that, but I’m an optimist. I’m hoping that — we may not get 3 million, but it would be great if the Department can collect something and get authority from the Comptroller’s office to move forward on 64.
On the boat revenue compared to last year, this number is positive in aggregate 2.8 percent. We are up 164,000 compared to the same period last year. But if you compare this to our baseline year, we’re actually about 6 percent behind the levels of 2008; but this is just the beginning of the boat registration season. With the rain that we’ve had, we’re optimistic that this 2.8 is going to be a better number when we convene in May.
If you look at the counts down below, you can see that the rain is encouraging some folks to go out and register their boats that may have lapsed a year. Because of the drought last summer, a lot of people did not register their boats. So we’re optimistic that this is going to improve as well before we come to the next Commission meeting.
On the license revenue comparison, if you look through each category, we’re down other than nonresident fishing licenses. The biggest opportunity that the Department has at this point in time is the Resident Fishing Licenses. And if you’ll look at the number, that’s where the largest variance is. About $2 million of the hole that we have compared to this period last year is in fishing licenses. So if this rain holds up, lakes fill up, hopefully people will go out and go fishing and they’ll by that license before they go fishing.
And I’ve kind of highlighted with Carter and others the culmination. But really that culmination deficit there, it only accounts for approximately about $600,000 of the hole; but that’s $600,000 we’re probably not going to fill back in because most folks buy their combination license before January, so. We anticipate and hope that fishing is going to improve and that these numbers will improve as we go to the next Commission meeting and as we wind down this fiscal year.
MR. SMITH: Just to build on what Mike said, I mean we’re not just taking that for granted. Obviously, there’s nothing we can do about the rain and the water and the runoff into lakes; but our Marketing team is pushing very, very hard to get people out to fish. Helping to tell that story and encourage folks to get outside. So that’s a big push for us right now.
The only thing we have an opportunity to properly impact vis-a-vie licenses. Most hunting licenses are already sold, save and except a few, you know, folks that are going turkey hunting that hadn’t bought licenses up to now. That, coupled with our State Parks are the big push right now from a Marketing/Communication perspective.
MR. JENSEN: And the last slide for this overview perspective is the budget adjustments. As of November, we had $404 million in the budget, the operating budget. We’ve had some adjustments since then. And through the end of February, we’ve added $6.2 million of Federal grants. We’ve added 3.19 million of other appropriated receipts and interagency contracts. Out of that amount, about 1.2 million is related to border security. Then we have about $800,000, 830,000 related to artificial reef. And the other appropriated receipts also include some of the donations that have come in for State Parks, including the Metal’s Foundation donation, that’s in there as well, and there are a few other donations in there. Then we have some additional Rider 4 and some Construction UB that has been added to the budget and fringe benefits of 260,000. So the adjustment amount is 9.8 million.
Our adjusted budget through the end of February is $414.34 million. I know that was quick, but that’s a very high level overview of the budget adjustments and the revenue streams. I would be happy to try to answer any questions you might have. Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER JONES: Back on your license revenue comparison, where do you include the Lifetime Hunting License purchases?
MR. JENSEN: The Lifetime License falls under the miscellaneous category. When those revenues come in, they don’t go into Fund 9. Fund 9 is the Game, Fish, and Water Safety account. When we sell a Lifetime License, it goes into an endowment fund. So it’s — the Agency does have a limited appropriation authority for some of that interest that goes to the Wildlife Division budget, about $840,000; but it falls within the miscellaneous category.
COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay.
MR. JENSEN: It’s — if I showed you a slide on count, it’s because we haven’t had a fee increase — we had a fee increase about three years ago and you could really see the spike. Everybody went out and bought them before the price went up. And that cycle has gone through; so they’re pretty steady right now, so it doesn’t really throw the numbers off. It doesn’t throw the revenue off either. It’s really a small percentage of the total licenses available.
COMMISSIONER JONES: Increase the fees again.
MR. JENSEN: Talk with Gene McCarty and talk with Carter and talk with your colleagues here.
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: That’s one way to pass that ball.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: You’re going to get the look.
COMMISSIONER FALCON: Anything else, Mike?
MR. JENSEN: No, sir.
COMMISSIONER FALCON: Thank you for your presentation. Any other questions, comments, discussions? Okay. All right, thank you. There’s no further action required on this then.
Committee Item No. 2, Historically Underutilized Business Compliance, Mr. Mike Jensen again. Are you going to make that presentation?
MR. JENSEN: I’m going to present, but I would like to invite Tammy Dunham to come up —
COMMISSIONER FALCON: Okay.
MR. JENSEN: — and answer all the hard questions if you have them because she’s better — she’ll be better equipped to do that than I am. Tammy Dunham is the Department’s HUB Coordinator. So I’m going to go ahead and flip to this slide here, "What is the Texas HUB Program?"
The Texas HUB Program is defined in Texas statute. It’s a gender conscious and race conscious program. Basically, if you’re a woman or if you’re Asian-Pacific, Native American, Black or Hispanic business, there is a certification process that the State has set up that allows them to be designated an Historically Underutilized Business. And the Comptroller’s office is charged to oversee that program and their vision is anybody who meets those criteria, they’re hoping that they can get them certified and to be part of that population for State solicitations. And their philosophy is we need to do everything that we can as public entities for the State to reach out and give these HUB businesses a fair opportunity to compete and to increase their participation and hopefully increase their share of contract awards. That’s their goal.
And this is different than a Federal program. Commissioner Falcon had that question of me earlier. The Federal program is more of an affirmative action type program. The State’s program is not. The State’s program is based upon a disparity study. That disparity study provides the legal foundation. And I have a couple of slides, and I’ll admit I did sort of gear this towards the Commissioners who went to law school. I have a couple of slides on this. And because this a race conscious and a gender conscious program, if it were to ever be challenged, the Comptroller’s office who did the disparity study wanted to make sure that whatever program we had would pass muster, which would mean it would pass the strict scrutiny based on a higher level of scrutiny in judicial review than intermediate scrutiny of gender.
So in 1994, the genesis of this program was after a disparity study that was performed by a group called NERA and that study was very limited in scope. And in 2009, a renewed study was done and in both studies, they have found statistical and anecdotal evidence sufficient to justify and to continue the HUB program. They did make recommendations in the 2009 study, but I want to kind of differentiate the ’94 from the 2009 study.
The 1994 study was much smaller in scope. It only involved seven agencies and they really focused on TxDOT and their regional purchasing units. So the goals that they created back in 1994 were more tailored towards the spend from a TxDOT perspective than from a State perspective. That study did identify disparity and did establish aspirational goals. But it made no recommendations other than setting aspirational goals. It didn’t make any recommendations to make this an affirmative action program or anything of that sort.
So through 1994 through about 2009, the State operated with that as the legal foundation, the analysis, until they conducted a new study. The Comptroller hired a PhD in very strong quantitative statistical analysis to be the manager for the State. They hired MGT of America to conduct a study. It was a three-year study. The data that they used for this study, the current study, included data from all State agencies. Not just seven. It included data from most of the institutions of higher education that receive appropriations from the Appropriation Act. It was a very extensive report. It had ten chapters. One of the chapters is about all the case law, constitutional law, Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, and it provided 16 recommendations to the State.
And since that has been published, the Comptroller’s office has made some rule changes to the program. Ultimately, it boils down to this study says there is a reason for this program. There is a reason to support this program based upon statistical and anecdotal evidence. And based upon the recommendations that they put into rule, they believe that this program should continue. That it has — it serves a valid public purpose.
The enabling statute is Texas Government Code 2161. And there is an exhaustive list of rules on how to administer the program. That was recently changed about four years ago to the Comptroller’s section of the Administrative Code and I’m only going to touch upon two of those real quickly. One of the significant rules that we deal with most of our major contracts and we consider anything over $100,000 to be significant, is a requirement for vendors when they submit a bid or a proposal to reach out to HUBs, to give them an opportunity if they’re subcontracting opportunities. And the lingo is that’s a HUB SUB Contracting Plan. People call that an HSP.
And the rule prescribes what a vendor need to do in order to demonstrate a good faith effort, and that’s one of the rule changes that was significant. It used to be a less number of days, but now they have to contact a minimum of three HUBs and give them seven days to respond to them. It doesn’t mean they’re going to get the business. They just have to give them an opportunity so the HUBs know that these opportunities are out there. They also have to contact a trade organization and give them seven days. And the reason I bring that to your attention is failure to meet those minimum requirements in the rule is failure to be responsive.
So if somebody does not meet the minimum steps in the rule, we cannot consider their proposal. We can’t award. Basically, we shouldn’t even read their proposal at that point in time, and that can be problematic. That could be deemed a "gotcha" in the world of procurements, so we do our best to try to educate and provide information before solicitations close so that vendors can meet these criteria.
The second one here that’s of importance to our agency is delegated purchases. Most State agencies operate through delegation. The Comptroller cannot possibly do everybody’s procurement for them. About three years ago, the Comptroller’s office, the term contracts that all State agencies are required to use, the went to no-spot limits, which made it really difficult because a lot of our operations are fairly rural and it just posed shipping and handling difficulties. So we actually proactively went and discussed with them and they agreed to give Parks and Wildlife some reasonable justifiable spot limits.
And what we committed to as a Department is as we do these spot limits — granted it’s smaller dollar amounts, but it’s high volume — we will do our best to promote and support the HUB program with our delegated purchases when we use our procurement cards and when we don’t use the term contracts.
How does this impact our Agency? Well, basically if you see our one single rule in Parks and Wildlife in our rules, it incorporates by reference all the Comptroller’s rules. Our Agency is not responsible for going out and identifying HUB businesses and pushing them through the certification process. We don’t have staff do that. The Comptroller does that. They do extensive outreach. They invite people to participate and to fill out the paperwork and become certified and they manage that dataset and we use that dataset when we do procurements. Our responsibility is to actively use that dataset, to use the centralized master bidder’s list, and to use the HUB information HUB directory for all of our solicitations and all of our procurements.
When he disparity study came out, it did modify the aspirational goals on a statewide level; but at the same time about four years ago, there was a Government code statute that charged the State Auditor’s Office to look at every State agency to see did that State agency set agency specific HUB goals and did that agency meet those HUB goals. After the disparity study, we were told to wait until we could consult with the Comptroller’s office to create Parks and Wildlife specific goals. And about four — about three or four consultations with Dr. Gahiddy (phonetic) with the Comptroller’s office. We actually used a methodology that’s published as an appendix in the disparity study to develop Agency specific goals and those goals were made available in October and those goals, we’re adhering to a formula that was proposed by the disparity study.
It’s kind of difficult to summarize, but it focused on the spend of Parks and Wildlife and not the spend of all State agencies and it also looked at how to remove certain vendors that aren’t part of competition. For example, we have interagency contracts with other State agencies; so we removed that out of the equation and we just focus on the areas where we really spend and the locations where we spend and there was a method in place to have goals that are achievable and reasonable based upon that formula and that’s what we have now.
We’re committed to pursuing opportunities to supporting HUB businesses and at this time, we don’t really have enough information to give you a good status where we are on the goals. We believe that we can do better with the goals that we have. The goals have to be reasonable, have to be achievable because when the SAO comes to review us, that’s what they’re going to look at. It’s just pass or fail in their audit.
COMMISSIONER JONES: Can we get a copy of those goals?
MR. JENSEN: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER JONES: And a report on where we are?
MR. JENSEN: Yes, sir, we’ll get that for you.
COMMISSIONER JONES: And can you give the breakdown of what category that the businesses fall into? Woman owned? Hispanic?
MR. JENSEN: We can do that.
COMMISSIONER JONES: You know, whatever the various groups are, I would like to know what those are.
MR. JENSEN: We’ll get that for you, and it will be mapped out.
COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay.
MR. JENSEN: Because that’s — in my last slide, that’s one of the areas. We were visited by the State Auditor’s Office and they used a dataset that was about from about three years ago and the audit was not favorable. But Tammy Dunham wasn’t responsible for the program and neither I was at the time. I was actually at the Comptroller’s office. I was responsible for oversight at that level. I mean the HUB manager for the program actually reported to me at that point in time.
So one of the problems we had in the SAO review was our data collection needed to improve, and we’ve made improvements. So the report that you’re going to get is going to be more accurate and it’s going to be a better data set that we’ve been able to provide in the past, so that’s the good thing about the audit review that we had. And another thing from these audits and from the internal audit that followed it, we’ve actually implemented all the recommendations that the SAO had presented to us. Some of them, in my mind, I hate to say this, I felt were kind of immaterial. They wanted certain things and job distribution and that sort of thing.
The things that we really focused on were the substantive things, but we addressed them all. The substantive thing for me was to have good quality data that an objective third party can replicate and could demonstrate that we are actually doing the best that we can to promote the program and you can see that through a process. You can also see that through results. So we have implemented better processes for tracking subcontracting data that’s supposed to be reported and have better tools.
And I would like to mention before I finish that the Infrastructure Division, Rich McMonagle’s division, because of the level of funding we have for construction and bonds, they’ve done a great job. I mean the HUB program is not just Tammy and a couple of her staff. It’s he has a contracting chief who has very good experience in this area for the City of Austin and they really take this into mind when they do their solicitations. It’s challenging because we’re still trying to get best value in everything we do, but we also want to support this program. I do want to compliment them because the last year and a half or so, the Department has done well with respect to actual results and lot of that really relates to the presentation that Rich gave y’all at the end of the last meeting two months ago. He gave you a report about the — what they’ve accomplished, the projects that have been completed.
A lot of those completed projects did have HUB spend on them. So the Agency is doing its part all across. I think Carter and the rest of us will admit that we can do better. Especially with the delegated purchases that we have for the small dollars because we do spend a lot of money on small purchases with credit cards and we can do better with respect to that aspect. We’ll get that report for each of you.
MR. SMITH: Not only can we do better, we will do better. That is our commitment on that. And the HUB program and our performance on that is really the purview of every one of us inside this Agency that have any responsibility for purchasing and so this is something that we take very, very seriously. I think as Mike noted, we’ve seen some improvements; but we’re going to have to continue to see improvements in order for us to perform really I think at the level that’s expected of us.
MR. JENSEN: If you have any other questions, I’d be happy to try and answer or defer to Tammy because she knows the details.
COMMISSIONER FALCON: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I don’t have a question. I just want to echo Carter’s comment because I believe it was two years ago or a year and a half ago you and I met with Senator West and he was — reinforced with us how importance — how important it was for this Agency to step up and do at least what was expected, if not more and we committed at that time that we were going to do that and I know all of us feel that way. So we really — I’m glad to get this report and I’m going to encourage you, as Carter said, we will improve and do better so that we can give him a favorable report from time to time on our efforts in this respect.
MR. SMITH: Yeah.
COMMISSIONER JONES: I was about to say he talks to me on a fairly regular basis, and so you might — yeah, we will need to do that. We don’t want to have to hit that bus all next session.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I didn’t give the commitment lightly. I said we’ll follow up and that’s why I want to see this — encourage us to continue to challenge ourselves on it.
COMMISSIONER JONES: Well, and I’m — from previous history, I’m somewhat familiar with some of the effort that is required to do this and it does take an effort. I would like to see what we’re doing because I see all of this, but I would like to see in actual numbers where are we, what are some of our policies that we have in place to do some of those things, and particularly in the construction arena. I know I’ve seen reports where — when a contractor is considered for a job, there’s like a spreadsheet of things that that contractor is weighed on.
And one of those things may be, you know, expertise in the field, you know, presentation during the face-to-face meeting. You know, there’s all these categories and one of those is HUB program participation and everybody is weighed according to all of those things, not just one of them. I don’t know if we do anything like that or not, but those are the kinds of things I’ll be looking for just as we go forward so I can — I just want to understand it and understand what we’re doing.
MR. JENSEN: We will get a report for you probably as soon as the end of this week. I mean we actually have data, but we’re looking at the layout of the report. We want it to be as accurate as it possibly can be.
COMMISSIONER JONES: Sure.
MR. JENSEN: So we’re changing layout slightly so it’s more accurate with respect to division by division because there is a lot of work that goes on construction and I want to make sure that everybody understands that infrastructure is partnering with multiple divisions, so it’s not a matter of everybody want’s the credit. It’s we’re just trying to be more accurate than we’ve been able to be in the past and we have that capability now. We have staff trained to do it, so we will get it to you.
MS. DUNHAM: And we have just submitted this in my annual report to the Comptroller, so we’re waiting for them to certify their numbers. So it should be coming in any day where they actually confirm, so we can confirm the figures.
COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay.
MS. DUNHAM: That should be finalized by next week, I assume.
COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay.
COMMISSIONER FALCON: Mike, this morning when we met, I was going to ask you and I just thought about it again. On the rules for applying as a HUB contractor, failure to satisfy the minimum requirements is a fatal error. Can you explain that to me a little bit more, what that means and how does that compare to anybody else that may apply?
MR. JENSEN: I’ll give you an example.
COMMISSIONER FALCON: Okay.
MR. JENSEN: If we have a major — hypothetical. We have a major contract such as a licensed sales system contract and a vendor — and we tell them we believe the subcontracting opportunities are probable and possible under this and they don’t — say they contact two or they contact three and one of them is not presently on the HUB — they’re not certified. If they will submit those plans earlier, we’ve asked them to do that in some solicitations so that we can give them a review before the closing date; but if they don’t avail themselves of that opportunity and they’re deficient, if the rule says it has to be three and they only have two, that is a fatal error.
I mean the rule actually says that we must treat that as nonresponsive. It points us to the Government code that tells us that as well. That’s why infrastructure, as well as our Division’s partnering with the other divisions, if it’s a sizable commitment of State funds, we want to get out there with pre-proposal conferences, pre-bidder conferences, and we have a segment on the HUB contracting plan and we walk vendors through it because we don’t want someone losing out on business. We don’t want to lose out on the opportunity if everything else is good on a best value proposal that we can’t even read. And this is one of the areas I think the Department as a whole has improved, but this is a concern that we have. This is a concern also that the Comptroller’s office has and other State agencies and when you work for the Governor’s office, it’s a concern you had there because when it’s a black-and-white rule and the rule tells you to throw them out, then you have to throw them out.
MS. DUNHAM: And unfortunately — if you don’t mind — we have to disqualify people who have really good proposals that we can’t even look at because they don’t — they only sent it out for four days versus the seven-day requirement. The way we’ve come back on that is now as soon as the solicitation notification is sent it, one of our HUB program specialists sends out a follow-up e-mail with here is exactly what we expect you to do. If you need help, here’s three contact numbers. We’re trying to really be proactive and, you know, holding the hands of the vendors and what can we do to help you? You know, we’ll follow up and we’ll come back with them and then we do the pre-proposals and then we offer to review every HSP if they want before they submit it. So we’re trying to help them as much as we can.
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Having been on the other side of this issue trying to find qualified HUB business, it’s —
MS. DUNHAM: Which is really the base problem, Commissioner.
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: — I think it’s come a ways. But about eight, nine years even, we were up here and doing a lot of stuff Cap Metro and it was extremely difficult to even find three that were qualified. A lot of times you might just have one that’s gone to the effort to get qualified. That’s what I was going to bring up.
You know, on specific and mundane stuff, I’m sure there’s a lot of people that are qualified or certified. But if you run across an instance, you know, if it’s a decent size procurement and we don’t have the necessary qualified people, y’all need to let — you know, that needs to be addressed because it is a separate issue. When you don’t have the qualified bidders, you know, and you’re sitting there sticking your neck out for a bunch of money and no comfort level with the person that you’re having to be put in bed with, you know, that’s something that also needs to be addressed, you know, because that sword bites both ways.
So y’all need to always in my book — you know, I mean if you run across that situation, hopefully it’s gotten far enough down the road now to where there’s enough qualified people in every instance to where, you know, you’ve got at least three. But I sure had lots of issues with that for a long time on being able to get enough qualified bidders. So y’all to let us know if that becomes an issue because if it needs to be addressed, we need to have more outreach to get the people to go ahead and get qualified.
But small business by nature doesn’t have all the overhead, they don’t have all the people, you know, to fight a mountain of paperwork; so that’s why you end up not sometimes having enough qualified businesses. And so we just need to always keep our eye on that because once again, we don’t want to penalize anybody. The whole idea here is just to help them get qualified. But, you know, when a bid comes out, it’s too late to worry about getting qualified.
MR. SMITH: No, that’s a great point, Commissioner. And to be fair, we have struggled in that regard. You know, on some of our categories, the universe of eligible HUB vendors is not very large and so trying to help promote the opportunity, do strategic outreach to unrelated vendors, encourage folks to get certified is something that, you know, Tammy and others have been working on that our — we found in a number of areas, because remember our business is so distributed around the state, particularly in these rural areas, it’s hard to find those qualified vendors, so —
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Right.
MR. SMITH: — our Agency’s specific goals kind of reflect that in terms of our targets and kind of what’s realistic and we’ll continue to work on it. You know, between now and the end of the fiscal year is a big push for us with respect to purchasing and so we do have an opportunity, particularly with our spot purchases for our divisions, to really help make a push on this. And so we’re going to be talking about that as a team and doing everything we can on this front. So look forward to working with all the Commission on this to continue to improve per everyone’s expectations.
MR. JENSEN: And on behalf of the staff, we appreciate your interest. And what you were just saying, I was at Texas Education Agency and just because somebody meets the qualifications to be a HUB doesn’t mean they’re a HUB. I mean at one point we had to avail — you made an offer and the State Board of Education had to go in and talk to some of the attorneys who were doing mediations and hearing disputes as an outsource contract for TEA to encourage them.
We couldn’t force them to go and be certified. In order to participate in the program, the vendor does have to provide sensitive, personal information in order to get that certification and that’s objectionable to some people. Particularly lawyers and other folks who don’t want their tax returns and Social Security number handed over to a governmental entity.
COMMISSIONER JONES: We’re just objectionable period.
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I’ve got to get on board that program myself. I’m not a lawyer, but anyway.
COMMISSIONER FALCON: Any other questions, comments, or discussion? Thank you both very much. There’s no further action required on that item.
Committee Item No. 3, Natural Agenda State Agency Strategic Plan Update, Julie Horsley. Julie, please make your presentation.
MS. HORSLEY: Thank you. Good afternoon. My name is Julie Horsley. I’m with the Administrative Resources Division. And this afternoon I’ll be talking to you about updates that we would like to make to our strategic plan covering the 2013 to 2017 time frame. This plan is also known as the Natural Agenda and I would like to explain just a little bit about how it relates to the Land and Water Plan that you all are familiar with.
This is more of a Legislative strategic plan. It outlines our funding structure and budget structure and it identifies funding needs for the next biennium and on into the future and we do make every effort to make sure that the two plans are consistent and that there are linkages between the two. And I’ll talk to you a little bit about how exactly we plan to do that a little bit later in the presentation.
I’ll start off with just a little bit of background and history. The requirement for strategic planning was established by the Legislature in 1991. Provisions of the Government code require that all State agencies engage in strategic planning and prepare and submit a five-year plan every two years. The plan has to include specific elements per statute and per instructions that are issued by the LBB and the Governor’s office. For example, all Agency strategic plans have to include an Agency mission statement. They all have to have an internal and external assessment and they all have to have goals, objectives, and strategies. And those last elements that I just mentioned are what forms the Agency’s budget structure and provide the framework through which we request our funding request and the Legislative appropriations request.
There’s also some other sections in the plan, such as long-term and short-term funding needs, that kind of set the stage and provide a preview of the kinds of exceptional items that we might be requesting in the Legislative appropriation request as well. In terms of due dates and processes, our process internally relies very heavily on Division input, as far as the changes that we’re going to be making to our strategic plan. We started the process back in January, asking divisions to provide input on possible changes to structure, including strategies and performance measures. I’ll be reviewing the proposals that we’ve received over the next couple of slides. We also have asked for divisions to provide input into other sections of the Natural Agenda as well, including the text of the document.
As far as due dates and deadlines, these are pretty much dictated by the LBB and the Governor’s office. Any proposed changes to budget structure, including strategies and measures, have to be submitted sometime in April. We don’t know the specific dates at this point because the instructions haven’t been issued. But if we go based on what it was last time, it was around the 16th of April.
Once we submit the changes to the LBB and the Governor’s office, there’s usually a series of meetings that we have to negotiate the proposed changes and I just wanted to point that out because final approval of the structure changes rests with those two offices. It’s not something that we determine on our own. And then finally the final plan, which incorporates the approved budget structure as well as the other changes that we have, will be due in late June or early July. And last time, that was due July 2nd.
So in terms of structure changes that we have this time around, the strategy changes that we have are not quite as extensive as they have been in prior years. Really this time the only changes that we have to strategies impact the communication’s division. Currently, we have four different strategies for the communication’s division and they’re listed on this slide. Hunter and boater education is one. The magazine is another. There’s a strategy to promote and provide communication’s products and services and then outreach and education programs. And the request that we’ll be submitting to the LBB and Governor’s office is basically just to consolidate those four strategies down to two. What that would mean is that we’ll roll all the outreach and education programs together into one strategy and then the magazine would also be rolled into providing communication products and services.
The measure changes that we’re asking for, again, not very extensive. We’re asking for addition of a total of four new measures. Two of those would be the Wildlife Division and aimed at allowing them to better gauge the efforts in the area of prescribed burns and also to track better the efforts that they have in serving private landowners by providing a count of the number of presentations and consultations provided to that group. And then the other two measures that we’re proposing to add would be in the Communication’s Division, allowing us to better track communications through various means such as YouTube views and e-mail subscription services.
In addition to the four measures that we’re adding, there’s going to be some revisions to about measures; but these are for the most part nonsubstantive. Just clean up and clarification purposes. So as I mentioned before, in addition to the structure changes that we’ve been working on, divisions have been providing input into other sections of the strategic plan. For example, key events in areas of change that have impacted the Agency, short and long-term funding needs.
And the other section of the strategic plan that I did want to mention is strategic priorities, where we layout our strategic priorities. And this is really where we establish that link between the Natural Agenda and the Land and Water Plan. Basically, this time around what we’re going to do is use all the elements that are in the Land and Water Plan as the strategic priorities that we set forth in the Natural Agenda, including the goals and objectives and the action items in the Land and Water Plan and providing kind of an update on our efforts towards obtaining those action items in the Land and Water Plan.
We will plan to provide you with a draft of the Natural Agenda sometime around the next Commission meeting. And once it’s been circulated and we have comments from everybody and those have been incorporated, we then need to just get the approval and signature of the Chairman and the Executive Director and then we’ll plan to submit the plan to the LBB and the Governor’s office by the required due date.
And that concludes my presentation. I’d be happy to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER FALCON: Any questions or comments? Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Great, thank you.
COMMISSIONER FALCON: Committee Item No. 4, Game Stamp Budget Overview, Mr. Clayton Wolf. Please make your presentation.
MR. WOLF: Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, for the record, I’m Clayton Wolf. I’m the Wildlife Division Director and this afternoon I’m going to give you a brief game bird stamp budget overview. You might wonder why I’m doing this. Just briefly, there’s been a lot of chatter over the last several years about our fund balances and our game bird stamp funds and within the last six months as we met with our game bird partners to talk about important things like quail conservation and Lesser prairie chicken conservation, we’ve been developing a communication’s package. And one of the things that our quail partners ask is that I share with this Commission just some of our spending patterns and some of our revenue patterns in our game bird stamp funds and so thus the purpose for my presentation this afternoon.
Just briefly, our first game bird conservation stamp was a White-winged dove stamp and it was issued in 1971 for $3 and then ten years later came the Waterfowl stamp and then a few years after that our turkey stamp. And we did some great things with these funds, conserving these species and their habitats. But as we moved into the 21st century, we began to realize that we had other game bird conservation needs out there. And the fact of the matter is we achieved some of our goals with these other species, so we needed a little more comprehensive funding approach to deal with more comprehensive game bird conservation issues that were on the horizon for us.
So in 2005, the Texas Legislature basically revised the statutes, repealed the three previous game bird stamps, and created the Upland and the Migratory game bird stamps. And as far as the statutes that dictate how the Agency is to spend that money, we really haven’t seen many significant changes. The money still must be used for the management and research of the species or suites of species out there and for acquisition lease and development of the habitats that support those species and then things like contracts and donations. An example of a contract that would be applicable would be passing through money to DU Canada to purchase breeding grounds in Canada for the Waterfowl that spend their winter down here. So the only real differences as we made the transition into 2005 was that we included many more game bird species and the previous statutes also required that 50 percent of the proceeds from the previous funds be used for acquisition lease and development. So no significant changes except for the mandate that 50 percent of the proceeds be for acquisition lease and development in the former statutes.
So if we take a look at recent history on revenue, the revenue pattern for these game bird stamp funds. I’ve shown the Government’s chart here 2004 through 2011. I’ll remind you that in 2005 is when the new stamp was authorized. So the first bar there is actually the revenue from White-winged dove, the Waterfowl, and Migratory stamps combined. And you’ll see that with the authorization of the new stamps, including more species and the requirement to have that stamp to hunt those species, our revenue went up. And we’ve leveled off at about $5 million a year combined, with the majority of that being in the Migratory stamp category.
More importantly from an operational standpoint for us is not how much money comes in, but how much money we can spend. And so this next slide looks at those — the same set of years. We have parsed out the data here to show that we had balances in our previous accounts and so we had to continue to spend those balances down. And 2011 was the first year when we actually — or in 2010, we had finally spent down the previous fund balances in the other stamp funds. And, of course, the other notable change here on the slide is in 2008 we see a significant increase in expenditures.
Basically in 2007, we were experiencing increased fund balances in our game bird stamp funds, as well as many other funds that the Agency had. And so the Texas Legislature increased our spending authority and the Wildlife Division got a chunk of that additional spending authority to increase our game bird conservation initiatives and so we put that into additive products out there. We put that into habitat management on our Wildlife Management Areas and we significantly increased our research and management contracts, that is money that we pass out to NGOs and universities to do some of this conservation work.
Something else we were recognizing at that time and I had to go visit a little bit with Gene McCarty to get some of the history on this, but we were also recognizing that we were having a decline of balance in our Fund 9, our game fish and water safety account. And so we were on a trajectory that we couldn’t sustain with the revenue that was coming into Fund 9 and at the same time, we still had significant fund balances in our game bird stamp accounts.
And so in 2011, we embarked upon a new strategy. And here is where I probably should let you know that it’s been an expectation of our sportsmen, of our game bird hunters, that when they buy a hunting license, they pay for that hunting license, and then they pay an additional fee for a game bird stamp, they’re expecting some kind of added value to the purchase of that stamp specifically for that species. And that was our expectation as well. The statutes don’t dictate that that happen that way; but, in fact, we recognize that it’s a realistic expectation that as we get more funds in, we should be doing more for those species.
And so as those funds came in, our projects were additive. But as I said in 2008, 2009, as the Agency was looking at our Fund 9 balances, we saw we were on a trajectory that we couldn’t — that we weren’t going to be able to fund and so all the Fund 9 divisions were to look at different strategies to deal with that. We were asked to look at utilizing game bird stamp funds to supplant some of Fund 9 funds that were being used to fund game bird strategies. And so this was a departure from what folks normally expected. We pulled in the leadership of our Upland and our Migratory Game Bird Advisory Committee and sat down, visited with Carter Smith and our leadership about this strategy.
As you might expect, you know, folks weren’t enamored with the idea; but they did recognize that we were in a pinch on Fund 9 dollars. And so ultimately we got the concurrence, not just of the leadership but also of the combined committees, to proceed forward with the strategy of taking game bird stamp funds and replacing some of those Fund 9 dollars. There was one caveat and it was an obvious caveat that the Committee brought forward and that was that any either additive projects or any projects that we were previously funding with Fund 9, that any game bird stamp dollars we put to that would be specific strategies that were addressed in one of our three game bird management plans.
And so now what we do is we present an annual report to our game bird partners that shows how the money is spent in all the projects. This is just one page out of that report. It’s a summary table. But we actually have write-up for each of these projects and we show the specific strategies in the game bird plans that are being funded with game bird stamp dollars. If you look on the screen there, you know, the top two — or line one and line three are basically — those are projects that have always been additive. Those are dollars that we pass through to NGOs and universities. The top four lines have been those additive projects.
But we also have projects down there like technical guidance and wildlife habitat assessment that previously were funded with Fund 9 dollars and now a portion of those, 8 percent of one project and 19 percent of the another project, are funded with game bird stamp funds. But there are definitely activities that are taking place within those projects that are strategies listed in our different strategic plans.
And so if we look back at this chart here and our expenditures in 2011, the take-home point is that for those combined charge — the stack bar chart there, some of those — those are not all additive projects. Some of that money is going into projects that were previously funded with our Fund 9 dollars. And then, of course, we had to make the transition to fiscal year ’12 and ’13. We know that all State agencies had to give some and all of our divisions had to give some and so we dealt with the budget cuts and in addition to our personnel reductions and in addition to reducing operating across the board, we also looked at our game bird stamps and in some, we cut three-quarters of a million dollars in spending authority from our game bird stamps.
The biggest part of that came from expiring contracts. Those contracts that I said in 2008 where we were adding research contracts out there and those typically were contracts for a two- or three-year term, when they would expire, we would roll that money into a new contract. And so we had $621,000 in game bird stamp contracts expiring and we chose not to renew those contracts. Additionally, we were at the time putting $200,000 a year on our WMAs for habitat enhancement projects. We reduced that by $136,000.
Now, I want to make clear here the projects are still going on out there; but we have some goods and services accounts on those WMAs for surface use agreements and pipeline easements and so we’re using that money to replace this $136,000. So, in effect, we have $136,000 in appropriation authority; but we’re still getting the work done. So this is a picture. The title of this slide here is "Game Bird Stamp Expenditures," but actually that last bar for fiscal year 2012 is actually our budget. It’s not an accurate depiction of expenditures because we’re not done. But you can see a significant reduction. If you recall the first slides that I had up there and you compare to this, you’ll notice that we’re spending a lot less than we’re bringing in. And so if we go to my last slide here that shows game bird stamp fund balances since 2006.
We’ve been gaining by a million to $2 million a year. Fiscal year ’10 was probably the closest we got to slowing that down. But now with our reduced spending in these accounts, we’re going — things will accelerate some. You know, I think we can expect to see $2 million a year added to this if we maintain our current spending pattern. So with that, I’ll be glad to take any questions. Oh, and I might add at the end, of course, that is obviously the source of frustration. The fact that our game bird partners are buying stamps, they’re expecting good things to happen. We have a long list of good things we would like to do; but, obviously, we’re in a situation right now where we just can’t spend those. And so the funds aren’t going away. They’re still there and they’re building; but, obviously, someday we would like to get our hands on those and be able to spend them to address some of these things like the quail issues we heard about this morning.
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Wait. We can’t spend them because we don’t have the Legislative authority to spend it; is that correct?
MR. WOLF: That’s correct. Now, there’s no — there’s no specific dedicated authority for game bird stamps. That’s — a game bird stamp — and Gene can jump in if I’m wrong — it’s a subaccount in Fund 9 and so when we get authority to spend Fund 9, we can spend Fund 9 dollars or we can spend game bird stamp dollars. So we do have a choice on where to spend those dollars.
But as we — as the budget grew through time, we were adding those special game bird projects and still doing the business we’re doing with deer and endangered species and all those other technical guidance to private landowners and so when spending authority was to be reduced some, the first logical place we looked was so that we didn’t cut our core services any more, was the money that we were passing out to NGOs and universities because we had already gone through our reduction in force and we felt like we couldn’t reduce our staff any more. So we could — theoretically, we could spend that $2 million a year and just tell our staff quit responding to requests for deer management or other things not related to game birds; but the fact of the matter is we have a diverse group of customers out there that want a lot of work and we want to make sure that we’re addressing all those needs.
So it’s authority. It’s not specific to game bird stamps. We do have decisions that we have to make; but at the same time, if we just went to spending all our game bird stamp money on appropriate game bird projects, then we would have to stop doing some of those other projects that we traditionally do for our other sportsmen.
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Just because of a lack of manpower or...
MR. WOLF: It’s spending authority. It’s limited spending authority is the issue.
MR. SMITH: So, Commissioner, there’s a total appropriation that’s set and then there’s a variety of revenue streams that, you know, that the Agency has to try to meet that total appropriation. What’s happening is we’re collecting more money from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses and stamp funds than what’s appropriated. We’ve got to make decisions internally about what revenue stream we use to fund our programs to meet our different goals subject to that total appropriation cap. Does that make sense?
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Yeah.
COMMISSIONER JONES: So — okay. So what essentially happens then is you may have an income stream from the stamps that you’re not, in any given year, using all of the funds from that income stream.
MR. SMITH: Exactly.
COMMISSIONER JONES: You’re taking some of those funds and using them to get up to your appropriated level; but then the remaining funds, I assume, remains in Fund 9?
MR. SMITH: That’s right, yeah. So those funds remain in a dedicated account —
COMMISSIONER JONES: Right.
MR. SMITH: — that are there for some hypothetical future expenditure consistent with, you know, the intent of those funds.
COMMISSIONER JONES: Got it.
MR. SMITH: But it’s always subject to appropriation. So they’re in a fund balance. They’re used to certify the overall State budget, but they’re just not appropriated to the Agency yet. Does that make sense?
COMMISSIONER JONES: Yes.
COMMISSIONER HIXON: It doesn’t make sense, but...
MR. SMITH: Did you understand the explanation that I gave?
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: It’s an accounting nightmare is what it is.
COMMISSIONER HIXON: It’s a fact.
COMMISSIONER JONES: It doesn’t make sense. It’s a fact. I understand the fact.
COMMISSIONER FALCON: Any other discussion by the Commission? Any other questions?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you. Thanks, Clayton.
COMMISSIONER FALCON: Chairmen Friedkin, this Committee has completed its business.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you. Okay, I think we have completed our Committee business. I declare us adjourned. Thanks.
C E R T I F I C A T E
STATE OF TEXAS )
COUNTY OF TRAVIS )
I, Paige S. Watts, Certified Shorthand Reporter in and for the State of Texas, do hereby certify that the above-mentioned matter occurred as hereinbefore set out.
I FURTHER CERTIFY THAT the proceedings of such were reported by me or under my supervision, later reduced to typewritten form under my supervision and control and that the foregoing pages are a full, true, and correct transcription of the original notes.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and seal this 20th day of April, 2012.
Paige S. Watts, CSR, RPR
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Expiration: December 31, 2012
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