Annual Public Hearing, August 21, 2013
TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION
August 21, 2013
TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT
COMMISSION HEARING ROOM
4200 SMITH SCHOOL ROAD
AUSTIN, TEXAS 78744
ANNUAL PUBLIC MEETING
REPORTED BY: PAIGE SLOAN WATTS
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: We will convene the annual public hearing now at 2:35. Okay, so we're calling our meeting to order at 2:36 now. Will everyone please rise for the posting of the colors by the Texas Buffalo Soldiers.
(Texas Buffalo Soldiers)
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you, please be seated. For those of you in our audience who may not be familiar with the Buffalo Soldier Program, Buffalo Soldier was the name given to the African American troops of the United States Peacetime Army in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Since 1995, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Buffalo Soldier's Program has served as an outreach program of the State Parks Division dedicated to sharing a unique and often overlooked piece of African American history.
The program aims to provide educational and interpretive experiences that connect underrepresented populations with Texas State Parks through heritage interpretation. Before proceeding with any further business, I believe, Mr. Smith, you have a statement to make.
MR. SMITH: I do. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Public notice of this meeting containing all items on the proposed agenda has been filed in the Office of the Secretary of State as required by Chapter 551 Government Code referred to as the Opening Meetings Act. I would like for this fact to be noted for the official record of the meeting.
Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, I just want to welcome everybody that's joined us today. This is a special day for us. It's an opportunity to have our public hearing. A chance to hear from all of you who've come from near and far to share your perspectives on a wide array of issues to the Commission and so we're looking forward to hearing you this afternoon and apologize a little bit for the late start.
A little bit about the protocol in terms of how we're going to conduct that today. For all of you who plan to speak to the Commission, I think you already know you sign up. At the appropriate time, the Chairman will call you forward by name. At that time, please come forward to the mic. Please state your name and if you represent an entity at all, please let the Commission know that. You'll have three minutes to share your perspective with the Commission.
We'll time that just in the interest of making sure that the meeting goes seamlessly. Green means go, yellow means start to wind it down, and red means eject. And so we'll keep a close eye on that and give you a little bit of latitude, but not too much. And so again, want to thank all of you for joining us today. We're looking forward to hearing from you. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you, Carter.
And we'll now hear from those who are signed up to speak. Thanks for being here, and we're going to start out with Mr. Ken Pollard. Next up will be Shawn de Cento.
MR. POLLARD: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission, Division Director. My name is Ken Pollard. I am with the Texas Buffalo Soldier Association and we are here to provide you an invitation to be a part of the rededication ceremony honoring a Buffalo Soldier, Felix Lindsey, U.S. Cavalry Indian War at Riverside Cemetery in Wichita Falls, Texas, on October 5th, 2013, at 10:00 a.m.
A formal military ceremony is being planned in conjunction with Sheppard Air Force Base and the Texas Buffalo Soldier Association and at that same time, the Felix L. Lindsey State Historical Marker will be unveiled. A reception and fellowship will follow with a Buffalo Soldier exhibit provided by Parks and Wildlife at the museum of North Texas History downtown Wichita Falls.
In the packet that I provided you, you'll find additional information about Mr. Lindsey, his State Historical Marker information, and a very entertaining article in the Times Record News of the local newspaper. But the rest of the story about Mr. Lindsey actually falls to a gentleman by the name of Mr. Mark Greenwood, son of the reporter Art Greenwood who interviewed Mr. Lindsey in 1937. Mark Greenwood has spent decades working to honor Felix Lindsey with a memorial ceremony and a State Historical Marker, and now this story is almost complete.
The Buffalo Soldier's story stretches from the forts and plains of Texas as the first African American regiment in today's peacetime army to the 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps, 2,000 mile bicycle experiment from Fort Missoula, Montana, to Saint Louis, to the first park rangers in Law Enforcement in Yosemite and Sequoia National Park.
The Association would like to thank you for your support of the Parks and Wildlife Buffalo Soldier's Program and for keeping the story of these soldiers alive for future generations. Mr. Chairman, thank you.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you, Mr. Pollard. Appreciate it. Appreciate all that you're doing, and all the time that you're spending on this special program. Appreciate the invitation as well, so.
MR. POLLARD: Okay.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you.
MR. POLLARD: Thank you, sir. Thank you, Mr. Director.
COMMISSIONER JONES: If I might add -- they have my mic off. They do that all the time.
MR. POLLARD: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER JONES: I think it's because I'm a lawyer. I don't know. But keep up your good work as well. I'm a big fan of the Buffalo Soldier and been collecting Buffalo Soldier art and bronzes over the years and very interested in what they've done in the state of Texas and the 10th Cav. and 9th Cav. in particular.
MR. POLLARD: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER JONES: And more of the research that can be done to know some of the background and history of these individual soldiers, I think is helpful for educating the public and we're putting up a monument on the State Capitol grounds one day that will also include a depiction of a Buffalo Soldier because of their impact on the settlement of West Texas.
MR. POLLARD: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER JONES: So keep up the good work, and we appreciate what you're doing.
MR. POLLARD: And thank you very much, sir. Thank you for your interest and keep in mind that July in Texas is Buffalo Soldier Heritage Month. That was part of Senate Bill 1457 in 1999. So we actually in Texas are the only state in the union that honors the Buffalo Soldiers with a heritage month. So my pleasure is passed onto y'all to share with our future generations and thank you.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you.
MR. POLLARD: Anybody else's mic turned off? Okay, all right.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay, Shawn de Cento. Good afternoon.
MR. DE CENTO: Good afternoon, thank you. I don't know how I'll follow that. Thank you for that history of Buffalo Soldier. I can't wait to get back to reading more about that. That's very neat.
Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Carter, I'm Shawn de Cento. I'm a Board member for Ducks Unlimited in the United States. On behalf of Ducks Unlimited and our 1 million members and supporters nationally and internationally and almost 50,000 Texas members and supporters, we want to thank Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Commission for providing Ducks Unlimited $200,000 in state grants funding this year.
This commitment brings Texas contribution for habitat conservation on the breeding grounds importance to Texas waterfowl to nearly $3 million. We appreciate the Commission's long-term recognition that waterfowl are a shared resource and that waterfowl habitat conservation has to take place not only here in Texas, continentally significant to the wintering grounds; but also on the breeding grounds that produce our waterfowl here in Texas.
Ducks Unlimited matches every dollar that Texas Parks and Wildlife contributes to the state grants program and we thank you for your continued commitment to the ducks and to wetlands. Through Ducks Unlimited -- excuse me, through Ducks Unlimited, Texas' new commitment for our Texas migratory game bird stamp dollars, we'll be leveraged to a minimum of four times to yield at least 800,000 to $1 million for waterfowl habitat conservation in Saskatchewan.
Banding data has shown that large portions of the ducks harvested in Texas come from Saskatchewan, so investing the State's dollars in this region clearly provides the greatest return for Texas waterfowl hunters. The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, AFWA, State Grants Programs began in 1965 and is funded primarily through hunting license sales. Funds to the AFWA must be used for habitat conservation in Canada, but it's the distribution of the available funds that is decided by each State's Wildlife Agency Commission following a request for funding proposals.
Texas has been participating in this program since 1985. Also, the Parks and Wildlife Department provides up to $150,000 contribution annually to the Texas Prairie Wetlands Project. The Texas Prairie Wetlands Project provides cost-share assistance to help private landowners restore and enhance wetlands. This is a 20-year plus wetlands conservation partnership with Ducks Unlimited, Texas Parks and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, USDA, Natural Resource Conservation Service, and private landowners working together to conserve habitat in Texas and the wintering grounds.
The Department's contribution is leveraged with other partners' funding to secure an additional $1 million to provide grant funding to private landowner habitat projects that provide over 3,000 acres of wetland enhancement annually to Texas Gulf Coast. Since 1991, together we have helped private landowners restore and enhance over 65,000 acres of wetland habitat. Through these programs like this, Commission -- with this Commission and many other partners, D.U. has conserved, protected, restored, and enhanced over 13 million acres of wetlands in North America.
Our special thanks go out to you, your staff, and Texas waterfowl hunters for your part in this. Finally, we would like to thank Carter, Ross, Clayton, Dave Morrison, Jeff Raasch, the entire Migratory Bird staff, the Wetland Wildlife Area Managers, and Coastal Resource staff for their partner in joint ventures and the Department's partnership with our Ducks Unlimited venture to planning and addressing water availability and sustainability for Texas wetlands and waterfowl now and into the future.
Again, we would like to express our sincere thanks to this Commission for all that you're doing for waterfowl and wetlands in Texas, the U.S., and North America. Now, we would like to get a group photo with a very large check -- it's a copy of a very large check supporting our ducks and wetlands habitat. Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Carter, Dave, would you please join our D.U. team here today, Dr. Todd Merendino, he's a manager of Texas Wetlands Conservation Programs, and Kirby Brown our Conservation Outreach Biologist. Thank you again.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: That was a great way to kick off the afternoon. Thank you so much. We appreciate our partnership with D.U. Obviously it's a great organization with incredible reach and impact and we appreciate your working so closely with us and all that you do for TPW.
We're now going to hear from the Texas brigades. First up is Elizabeth Brogan and Lane is next and Lane is going to help me pronounce the last name. Elizabeth, how are you?
MS. BROGAN: I'm fine. How are you?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Well, thank you.
MS. BROGAN: My name is Elizabeth Brogan, I'm from Hutto, Texas, and I'm 13 years old. I recently attended the 21st Battalion of the Rolling Plains Bobwhite Brigade in Talpa, Texas. First of all, I would like to extend my appreciation to the Commissioners and the staff of the Texas Parks and Wildlife for not only your support of the Brigades; but for the opportunity to speak to you today.
I would like to share my personal Brigade's experience with you. My experience with the Brigades began several years ago when my brother attended the 18th Battalion of the Rolling Plains Bobwhite Brigade. I remember sitting with my parents watching the cadets march and call cadences. I thought it looked like so much fun. I decided right then and there that that's what I wanted to do when I was old enough.
Over the next three years that I had to wait before I could apply, I learned a lot from my brother William. I soon discovered through his patient examples that the Brigades were much more than just marching and yelling. While I attended my camp, I learned so much about the quail and their habitat. I ate, drank, and slept quail. Our family has a ranch near Kenedy and since my brother has attended the camp, he has been able to greatly increase the quail population on our ranch. I'm excited to be able to be -- to work with him to continue conservation efforts.
Before attending camp, a quail was, well, just a bird to me. After learning about the quail, it gave me a great respect for not just the quail, but for wildlife in general. I now seriously think twice about any actions, big or small, that may have an impact on wildlife ecosystems. In addition to learns about our fine feathered friends, I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I enjoy speaking to groups about things that excite me. I also learned valuable leadership skills that will allow me to take conservation ideas out of Talpa and into the world around me by sharing conservation efforts with others.
Of course, I cannot fail to mention all the wonderful -- all of the wonderful people that I was lucky enough to encounter on my Brigade's experience. From Dr. Rollins, Ms. Holdsworth, and all of the other amazing adults who gave their time and experience to help put on the Brigades. I'm certain many of these friends and mentors will be a part of my life for many years to come, as I plan on continuing the Brigade's program and concentrating on animal sciences in college. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you. Great job, thank you very much. Any questions?
COMMISSIONER JONES: I assume you'll be studying that animal science at Texas A&M University?
MS. BROGAN: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER JONES: I'm just kidding. You don't have to answer.
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Let it rest.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Maybe we ought to fix that microphone button again.
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Where are the wire cutters?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Elizabeth, thank you.
Next up is a Lane. Lane, you're going to give me your last name. You're going to help me out.
MR. BOENKER: Boenker.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Boenker, got it.
MR. BOENKER: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Welcome.
MR. BOENKER: Thank you. Hi, my name is Lane Boenker and I'm from Brenham, Texas. This year I was fortunate enough to be selected to attend the Waterfowl Brigade's camp in Tennessee Colony, Texas. I learned so many valuable things while attending camp, but becoming a leader of (inaudible) is at the top of the list. Imagine pulling up to a 7,500-acre ranch miles away from home with people I've never met, except for a few.
When we got inside, we introduced ourselves to everyone and then we watched a couple of presentations. These presentations were an overview of what we were going to do and learn about ducks for the rest of the week, but little did I know that the information on ducks was not all I was going to learn. We were going to learn how to trust our flock just like the ducks have to trust their leader and formation.
When we woke up the next morning, we lined up into a formation. It so happens that I fell in active front because I was the shortest. I was nervous that I would do something wrong. Over the next couple days, we got better and better. The more we practiced, the more my flock-mates trusted me. That is when I finally realized I could lead.
Not only did my confidence rise from marching in formation with my flock, but my speaking abilities as a conversationist got better. For two days straight, my flock-mates and I watched several presentations about waterfowl covering hunters, safety, hunting ethics, duck formations, and migrational patterns, anatomy, diet, habitats, and many different types of waterfowl species. Then we participated in a field lab dissecting ducks, learning about their digestive system and wing colors.
We went waist deep into the ponds examining the plants that ducks use for food and shelter. We even studied the development of the embryos developing inside the eggs. I really enjoyed cracking those eggs. But the best event of all was learning to throw duck decoys into the ponds. I even painted my own decoy of a Redhead duck. Once, one of our assignments required our flock to create a presentation about Waterfowl Brigade's camp. Our flock did so well, we placed second out of all the presentations.
One of the most meaningful speaking assignments was to create a syllabic speech. Waterfowl Brigade graduates are presented with a duck band to wear around our neck. When people ask about the duck band, our silver bullet, we get to share a -- our story about others. My experience at the Waterfowl Brigades changed my perspective of waterfowl and turned me into a leader. I will leave you with one last thought that can teach us all a valuable lesson. Did you know that when a duck is injured, two ducks follow the injured flock-mate down and they stay with the flock-mate until the injured mate dies or returns to the flock after the flock-mate heals? Never leave a flock-mate down.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: That's good, I like it. Lane, thank you.
MR. BOENKER: I would like to just thank you for your support and your time.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Well, we appreciate all that you're doing. That's great. Love the story. That's excellent.
Next up is Wyatt Hohlt.
MR. HOHLT: Hi, my name is Wyatt Hohlt and I'm from Brenham, Texas. There was once a young guy who had a great love for the outdoors. This guy lived on acres of land that had been in his family for four generations and he spent most of his time roaming and working this land. He had hunted and fished ever since he could barely walk. He was confident and capable alone outdoors, yet this young man was quite unsure of himself among others.
His thirst for more knowledge about wildlife led him to the Texas Brigades camps, but here he gained so much more than facts. He was surrounded by men and women sharing their time and high levels of expertise in varied fields. They'd work side by side with the young man and other campers in necropsies, equipment demonstrations, mock interviews, and mock Commission speeches. The instructors took the cadets out into the field to manage food plots and survey habitat populations.
The young guy didn't just learn about species of fish from a book. He was out waist deep in water seining for fish with the instructors. He had fish and plants in his hands. Not pictures to identify. They taught him the importance of conservation. He was shown techniques and techniques to help conserve natural resources and also how to teach others the importance of conservation. The instructors led the young guy through team building and leadership games and activities.
As the week progressed, he began to more -- feel more confident and his mind was flooded with knowledge. Well, maybe y'all figured this out already; but I am that young man. Texas Brigades have changed me. During my second year of camp, I was no longer the guy in the back who didn't ask questions or volunteer to participate. No, I was the first to volunteer to speak. I was up front asking questions and involved. More than that, I was engaged in learning.
Not only did the instructors give me vast knowledge and skills, but they gave me insight for career paths and role models to follow. Thank you does not seem enough for these life changing opportunities. I will be forever be grateful and appreciate the unique experience found at a Texas Brigade's camp. Today I am proud not only to be standing in front of you, but for the confidence to be able to deliver this message. My name is Wyatt Hohlt, I am from Brenham, Texas, and I am proud to be a Texas Brigades Cadet. I thank you for all your support.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: We're proud to have you. Thanks, Wyatt. Great job, great presentation. Thank you.
Cody Craig is up. How are you, Cody?
MR. CRAIG: Hello. Good, how about you? Hello, my name is Cody Craig. I am a sophomore at Martins Mill High School. I have attended the Brigade's camps for two years. I attended the 11th Battalion of the North Texas Buckskin Brigade as a cadet last year and the 12th Battalion this year as an assistant herd leader. I also attended the 1st Battalion of the Ranch Brigade this year as a cadet.
First of all, I would like to thank the Texas Parks and Wildlife for partnering with the Brigades which has allowed me to become the leader that I am today. The Texas Brigades has allowed me to increase my knowledge of wildlife, agriculture, and conservation. My desire to protect my world and to promote agriculture has grown through my experiences at the Texas Brigades. The Texas Brigade's camps have taught us the importance of taking care of our resources around us, as well as the importance of conservation. Without our natural resources, the world will not be the place it is today.
The Texas Brigade's camps have also allowed me to become a leader in my community by being more involved. I have recently become a committee member of the Van Zandt County Wildlife and Resource Committee. The committee is working on making the community more aware of its wildlife and how to protect it. Without my experience at the Texas Brigades, this opportunity would not be possible.
The Texas Brigades has also increased my confidence in being able to speak in front of people and given me the knowledge to be able to speak with confidence about such an important subject as conservation and wildlife. The groups of people that I have been able to address regarding this matter have a concerned interest in what I'm talking about. By promoting wildlife and conservation, I have been able to meet different people in different areas of the state with similar interests.
Also, I became involved in different organizations through sponsorships I have obtained, which allow me to attend the different camps as a cadet. These sponsorships are a vital part of the organization by increasing awareness of the Texas Brigades and the importance of our resources. As a result of these sponsorships, I have returned to these organizations and made presentations regarding the Texas Brigades and benefits of the program. In my experiences with the Texas Brigades, many people were not aware. Also, during the camps we increased our knowledge of the importance of being a responsible adult. We were required to maintain a clean room, a made bed, clean bathroom, and be punctual at all events during the camp. Through these responsibilities, we learned the importance of discipline and doing a quality job.
In returning to the North Texas Buckskin Brigade, I was awarded a scholarship to pursue a future career in agriculture or wildlife. The Texas Brigades promotes individuals to pursue future careers in agriculture or wildlife. These scholarships allow individuals to grow as leaders of tomorrow by increasing their knowledge of the resources around them and allowing them to achieve a higher level of education. We are the future leaders of tomorrow. The future is in our hands, so we must take care of the world around us through our voice and actions. The Texas Brigades has allowed us to do this. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to speak about an organization that is of upmost importance to me.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Cody, thank you very much and thanks to all the Brigades for everything that you're doing, for being here today to tell us a little bit more about it and for your leadership. Appreciate it, thank you.
MR. CRAIG: Yes, sir, thank you.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Youth hunting and I think we're going to hear from Doug DuBoise.
MR. DUBOISE: Good afternoon, Chairman Friedkin. Doug DuBoise, I was raised near --
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Oh, okay.
MR. DUBOISE: -- Lake Charles and I get the DuBoise quite often, but DuBoise. Thank you very much and fellow Commissioners, Director Smith. I'm here to talk to you today about the Texas Youth Hunting Program.
I have the fortunate ability to serve as the Chairman of the Youth Hunting Advisory Committee and TYHP is a very successful collaboration between Texas Parks and Wildlife and the Texas Wildlife Association. It offers affordable educational and safe hunts for youth and their parents. Our youth hunts provide mentored introductory hunts for youth with game hunting ranging from deer, turkey, hogs, varmints, javalina, hogs, exotics, dove, waterfowl, and small game.
As a lifelong outdoorsman with a father who raised me according to the NRA slogan of hunt with your kid, not for them, I was able to spend a lot of time in the dove fields training quail dogs and even spending time in rusted car bodies as modified deer blinds. It was a fortunate time when dads had the opportunity to take their kids to the lease with them and grew up with a lot of other buddies that way. Not as common today to find youth on a lease with their dads, so that's where the Texas Youth Hunting Program provides that opportunity to preserve our hunting heritage.
Having best been blessed with access to great hunting opportunities when I was first given the opportunity to participate in the youth hunting program, I found it a very valuable way for me to give back to those that had given to me. I've been a hunt master for over 12 years and led more hunts than my wife would like me to admit to. But even though I've taken away from my family, it's the opportunity to provide for those who participate in TYHP with youth and their parents spending about 29 hours together planning a hunt, traveling to the hunt, eight or nine hours in the blind together, sleeping in tents together, traveling back home, processing the venison together, and just making lifelong memories. That's what it's all about.
With the program entering into the 17th year with the help of our hunt masters and marketing assistants from the Wildlife Division to Texas Parks and Wildlife, we've achieved two years of back-to-back growth of over 15 percent statewide. In 2012 and 2013 hunting season, we hosted over 1,500 youth hunters on 181 hunts. Our lead hunt masters devoted about 72 hours for each of those 181 hunts for a total of 13,000 hours and each of those hunts we had an average of seven and a half volunteers -- hunt masters, volunteers, landowners, their ranch staff.
Another 49,000 hours, a total of 62,000 hours of volunteer time in 2012-13, which would equate to about a million -- 1.4 million in possible matching grant funds. For the life of the program, we've hosted over 1,856 youth -- I'm sorry, 1,856 hunts with 18,000 youth, 40,000 accompanying parents, family members, landowners and their staff, and 16,000 volunteers with a total of 55,000 individuals impacted by TYHP.
Chairman Hughes, we appreciate your hosting of our youth hunts. Director Smith, those others that might be interested in hosting a youth hunt or participating and attending a youth hunt, we'd be happy to have you and I appreciate your time and to answer any questions you might have.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you, Doug. Any questions for Doug? Doug, how -- you mentioned the number of hunts per year most recently, was that --
MR. DUBOISE: 181, yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: 181, okay?
MR. DUBOISE: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: And the 50 percent growth was --
MR. DUBOISE: Fifteen --
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I see, okay.
MR. DUBOISE: -- over the last couple years. For a number of years, we were plateaued at about 100 -- 115 to 120 hunts, with about 1,000 to 1,200 youth; but in the last couple of years with marketing efforts, outreach at outdoor events, and as we mentioned the outreach through the Wildlife division to MLDP landowners, we've been able to grow the program.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Great.
MR. DUBOISE: And I do have two follow-ups. I'm kind of speaking from the volunteer's perspective. We have one of our youth hunters, and then a landowner coming behind me.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Great, thank you.
MR. DUBOISE: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Next up is Edward Farmer, and Gentry Thomas after Edward.
MR. FARMER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and fellow members of the Commission. Thank you very much for having us.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you.
MR. FARMER: It's an honor to be talking about such a great program, hearing about the Brigades and D.U. and then now being able to talk about Texas Youth Hunting Program and it's just a -- it's just phenomenal state we're in to have all these great programs. As a 7th generation Texan, it's a real honor to see all that's being done for the youth and getting outdoors.
My name is Edward Farmer. I'm a partner on a ranch with my parents, Norman and Cora Jane Farmer, and my sister Lydia Farmer and my brother Collin Farmer, the Jarrett Juno Ranch in Val Verde County, we kind of refer to it there in the Juno Hills there off of Highway 163. We've had a tremendous impact through the TYHP program on the ranch. It's just a phenomenal program that's allowed the seven grandchildren and the next generation, my generation and my parents to all participate on the ranch with guests.
In a state that's so privately owned, I think the TYHP, the Texas Youth Hunting Program, is a really good tool to open up gates and get people on ranches that otherwise wouldn't know that they could get on there, have the opportunity. It's more than just a hunt. You know, our first year we did a hunt with Laughlin Air Force Base and that was a real treat to just try and focus in on veterans and military and support families. Now we've kind of gotten attached to a group out of East Texas at Crockett ISD, not Crockett county which is close to us; but Crockett ISD. And it's fun to see these kids come out of East Texas and they think they're in Mexico and the minute they hit the ground, they're climbing up a hill because they want a -- you know, they want a view. They want to see and get away from the tree and the canopy.
It does allow the kids to hunt, but there is just so much more. They get a lot of experiences with the birding and non -- and activities without even gun, so it's more than just a hunt. The -- we have the Game Warden and the Border Patrol come and visit, so the kids get to interact with the issues that the State is facing and also gets to hear if they've got an interest in joining up maybe in the future with Game Warden, Border Patrol, and the importance of keeping a clean record. So that's -- it's fun the way that the representatives of the Game Warden and Border Patrol talk about that with the kids.
For us, it's also teamed up the landowner with my family and then the leasing group, the leasing group that has the rights to hunt year-round, they've come on strong and that's a highlight to their year where they get to prep the ranch for the week before the kids and just really enjoy hosting the kids and making sure they have a great time. The kids are hunting, helping with the State goals of keeping exotics down. The kids get to also understand that the State owns the deer, landowner has the rights to the land and it's just that complicated, but simple issue. So a real honor talk to y'all. Thank you again and appreciate it.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you very much. Appreciate you coming in.
All right, next is I believe Gentry Thomas.
MR. THOMAS: Hi, I'm Gentry Thomas and I'm here representing the Texas Youth Hunting Program. And what the program means to me, it's a great way for me to bond with my dad and go hunting and we do more than just hunting at the Texas Youth Hunting Program. We also do activities, like learn how they age deer. We do skills show which tests our skills and we also set up a gun. We also have a gun range we can shoot at at each of the hunts.
The Texas Youth Hunting has a variety of different animals you can hunt, and that's what I love about it. You don't just -- you just don't get to just do deer. If you want to do different hunts, you sign up for dove hunts and waterfowl and even pronghorn hunts now. It's just a great program. And they also teach you things, new things. Like they teach you hunter skills and hunter education and thanks to that, it helped me pass my hunter education test, which has allowed me to hunt more hunts now.
I have hung with the program for about a couple years now and after a couple years of hunting it, I've also volunteered with them and after volunteering with them, I've actually learned more while volunteering than while hunting the program. One of the things I like about hunting and volunteering with them is I get to meet great new people and the people you just meet, at first they're just strangers that you've just learned about them. After a couple days, they become your best friends and they help you get through hard times if you're having trouble.
And one of the things that's -- and one of the main purposes I've learned about the Texas Youth Hunting is preserving our nature and learning about conservation and, you know, one of -- another purpose for the Texas Youth Hunting is also giving kids a chance to hunt because it's not -- because a lot of times, you just are busy and everything and you just don't really get to hunt and thanks to the Texas Youth Hunting Program, you can hunt on other lands. Like they'll do a lease for you, they'll buy the food and everything and you just have a great time and get to hunt over there and I -- also, a good thing about the cooks because the cooks are always there. They're always taking care of you. They're always giving you really great food. I mean you can put on a couple pounds over there.
And, well, that's what it's really about, just bonding with your parents and meeting new people. And, well, thank you for your time.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Gentry, thank you. Good job. What have you hunted? What hunts have you been on?
MR. THOMAS: Well, I have been on two dove hunts and a deer hunt and -- yeah, a deer hunt and I've shot a couple of dove. I just shot my first dove there, and that was like one of my best experiences ever.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: That's great.
MR. THOMAS: And I have also on the deer hunt, I didn't get anything there; but that's all right. I had a great time over there.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: It's something to look forward to.
MR. THOMAS: Uh-huh.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Good job, thank you.
MR. THOMAS: You're welcome.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Please.
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: My family has hosted several of the youth hunts on our ranches, and I've attended a couple of them. I've got to say it's an extremely rewarding time to see these youngsters come out. Sometimes maybe I take it for granted. I'm fortunate I've been able to hunt a lot my whole life; but to have young men and women out there that have never hunted, it's extremely rewarding and I would encourage everybody to get involved any way you can. It's a -- it's -- we've had zero bad experiences, and a lot of good experiences with it.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: That's great. Terrific, thanks.
All right, next up is Evelyn Merz from the Sierra Club.
MS. MERZ: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, and Texas Parks and Wildlife staff. My name is Evelyn Merz. I'm the Conservation Chair of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. I'll be followed by Roy Waley, who will conclude the comments of the Chapter. The written comments you've just received combine information from both of our remarks.
Recently, the Lone Star Chapter submitted four recommendations to the House Culture, Recreation, and Tourism Committee as candidates for an interim study assignment by the Speaker. They will form the basis of my comments today. I'll review the first two. First, investigate in the options to increase sales of specialty vehicle license plates. There are four specialty vehicle license plates that benefit TPWD. In total, the plates yield about 1.2 million of dedicated revenue to Texas Parks and Wildlife every biennium. The Horned Lizard plate alone is responsible for about 500,000 to 600,000 of the total.
In fact, the Horned Lizard license plate represents a substantial percentage of the operating funds of the Wildlife Diversity Program. As you know, the purchase of the specialty plate is a voluntary contribution by the public. The purchaser pays an additional $30 annually for a specialty plate of which $22 is dedicated to the cause. However, even though specialty license plate revenue is dedicated, the intended recipients of the revenue could not actually receive the money unless the Legislature also appropriated it. Unfortunately, the standard practice has been to use the dedicated revenue as a source of funds to balance the State budget.
However, during the 83rd Legislative Session, strong bipartisan rapport developed for a bill with the concept to automatically appropriate all dedicated revenue that was sourced by voluntary contributions from the public. The language of the bill was revised and found a home in Section 15 of House Bill 7 by Representative Drew Darby. Section 15 covered both the existing balances and the future revenue of the speciality license plates and it created a mechanism so the funds could not be used to certify the State budget.
The recipients of the specialty license plate revenue are assured they will receive the revenue. The Chapter has recommended to the CRT Committee to investigate options to increase the sales of specialty vehicle license plates issued through the Department of Motor Vehicles in order to increase the funding of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. We have in our written comments three particular items that we would like them to investigate and we would ask that Texas Parks and Wildlife play a role in increasing the revenue from these plates by being an advocate for streamlining the purchase process.
The second item is investigating additional options to fund Wildlife Diversity programs. The program is severely underfunded in comparison to its responsibilities. We suggest that the interim study investigate additional options to fund that program. Traditionally, States have relied upon hunters and fishermen to fund their State Wildlife programs. Although most of the fee revenue has supported game species, it also has benefited nongame habitat. In many ways, nongame enthusiasts have not offered their share of financial support.
We would ask that since once upon a time, hunters and fishermen did not need to have a license, that we look at options and ask our -- your -- the advocates for nongame for possibilities whereby nongame enthusiasts could support what they care about just as hunters and fishermen do. It will require a new funding paradigm and diverse funding sources. A good place to start would be by consulting with the non-wildlife -- nongame wildlife supporters. Thank you, gentlemen.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you. Thanks very much.
Next up is -- also from Lone Star Sierra Club -- is Roy Waley.
MR. WALEY: Howdy, y'all. My name is Roy Waley. I am the Conservation Chair of the Austin regional group of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. My comments will follow up on Evelyn's.
In past Legislation Sessions, the Texas Parks and Wildlife has requested 25 million during the 82nd Session and 30 million during the 81st. The Legislature has appropriated zero dollars in both sessions. There has not been -- there was not a request for appropriation for acquisitions in the 83rd Legislature.
However, the Lone Star Chapter believe that there was a reasonable appropriation for acquisitions and development between zero and $25 million. A minimal amount of acquisition money could be used to take advantage of opportunities to expand boundaries of existing parks. Our written comments that have been submitted to you contain examples of missed opportunities.
Private donations and federal grants are options; but even a minimal appropriation could provide seed money to attract donation and a match of federal funds. Planning and development funds also allow major state parks that are currently closed to the public to be opened at least on a limited basis. Representative Sergio Munoz, Jr. stepped up and introduced a Rider that would have appropriated $6.5 million for fiscal year 2014 through '15 to the acquisitions and development and it included 3 million for acquisition and 3.5 for development of state parks. The Rider was added to Article XI of the budget and survived to be considered in Conference Committee. Unfortunately, the Rider was not moved on into appropriations.
So two of our takeaway lessons were the request for development funds to open state parks is better received than an acquisition request. Also, the request for a single digit appropriation had more traction than asking in the double digit. Although Texas needs much, much more than the minimal A and D funding, we think the approach of uniting behind a minimal funding request could allow for great progress. We request that the Commission study the option of a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department request for minimal A and D appropriations in the 84th Session.
Our second request is that the Commission authorize Texas Parks and Wildlife to develop a program to control and invasive terrestrial species in state parks. It's easy to find 6-foot tall Johnson grass blocking the Colorado Bend State Park, Tallow in San Jacinto, and Yaupon creeping into the Davis Hill State Park. We would not be alone in this approach. In Florida, they already have a program and that is mentioned in your comments there.
In closing, we can therefore tie the two issues of opening closed parklands to the public and controlling invasive species. Texas Parks and Wildlife has reached out to people in the Houston area and is a -- they are interested in developing a framework that would allow limited public access to Davis Hill State Park on the Trinity River. During a recent tour of the park, it was apparent that an invasive species were gaining a foothold in the park.
The Houston group has worked with Region 4 staff to set up two volunteer workdays this fall to begin invasive's control and we hope to be able to continue that in the spring. Thank you very much for allowing me to speak. As a native Texan, I think it's very important that people be able to go to our state parks, whether they are Texas citizens or out-of-state visitors, and get the best impression possible of Texas. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: All right, thank you. Appreciate your suggestions, and we'll look into them. Thank you.
MR. WALEY: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Next up please is Pittman Haymore.
MR. HAYMORE: Good afternoon, Commissioners. My name is Pittman Haymore from Irving, Texas. Good afternoon, Commissioners and staff. There's a proposal before you to remove the instructors out of the hunter education program where it could be a totally online course.
I stand before you as a statistic. Every year everyone that's in the hunting program sees the accident statistics of the last year. We're currently down to 2.3, 3.6 out of 100,000 hunters. I am one of those statistics. I was shot when I was 14 years old. I was shot by my best friend's father who was 40 years old. What you don't see is you don't see the blood, the wounds, the pain, the suffering, the rehabilitation. The other thing that you don't see is I'm one of the very fortunate ones that I survived. I have scars that I can show you, projectile remnants I can show you on x-rays; but there's many that are not here to speak as I am because they were not as lucky or as fortunate as I was, but I am the face of a victim.
Not only that, but it's a disruption in the families as well. The families that we've interacted with, there was obviously hard feelings. When there's a fatality in the family, a lot of times there's a separation and the destruction of the entire family. I hear that we want to make it easier for people to hunt in the state of Texas. I think we're very, very fortunate. Up until the age of 16, we're fortunate in that our youth can hunt with a mentor, with a licensed hunter.
If you want to get into the sport late in life or you've moved here, you can get a one-year deferral, which most states don't offer. So for $10, you get to taste the fruit and see if you like it. If you do, then all we ask is that you take the hunter ed. program. Currently, there's many options to take it. The thing is when you take the hunter ed. class, that's the only time that the State has that student to teach them the class.
After that, that student has a lifetime pass to hunt anywhere basically in North America that honors the Parks and Wildlife's hunter ed. program. I think the current statistics show the efficiency of the classes. We're doing a very good job. The hunter ed. program is. I think the students also owe it to the State resources. People say they want to do it easier, they want to get in and get out quicker. You're getting a lifetime permit to hunt; but you also owe it to the resources, the other hunters. When you go out of state, you are an ambassador for the state of Texas. You're from Texas. You represent us. You cannot teach ethics, live fire, skills trail, safety, or attitude over a computer screen. If you can't interact with that person individually, you cannot judge these attitudes and the responses.
We're now training nine year olds. Again, there's a lot of nine year olds that are just flat not ready to go out and be handed a gun; but on a computer if that same person were 16, they would be given that opportunity. All I ask is that you please do not remove the hunter ed. instructors from the instruction program. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Mr. Haymore, thank you.
We'll now hear from Casimer Stawickal, I believe.
MR. STAWICKI: Close.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Uh-oh. Okay, help me out.
MR. STAWICKI: Thank you, Commissioners. My name is Casimer Stawicki. I am a hunter education instructor out of Houston, and I have been teaching in the program for the last eight years. I have a couple of concerns. Every week I am asked by people to attend the gun safety program for hunting. They are -- many of them are surprised a lot of the other information that they're going to receive through the program. I have also participated in the new test program for the shortened version of the course.
That shortened version takes 112 objectives and reduces it to 37 objectives. Part of those objectives taken out of the course are items such as muzzleloaders, archery, pistols, and revolvers. And I understand that archery has a separate bow hunter course in Texas; but is not required by everyone, as you well know. You guys made the rules, right?
Making the course easier for new hunters, I understand that concept. But these are young people -- the 9, 10, 15, 25, 29 year olds -- who spend their time with video games such as Grand Theft Auto, etcetera, and we're going to retrain them online or in a five-hour course to know their target before they take the shot and we're trying to undo all the societal influences.
I cite James Lott and I cite Robert Grossman and their statistics and articles that are talking about teaching our young people to kill because these video games are causing a skewed view, a wrong approach. Each and every time the Texas hunter -- or I should say each time throughout the history of the Texas Hunter Education Program where changes have been made -- and I'm using your particular statistics -- I find that there has been -- every time there's been a change, there's been an upward blip in the hunting accidents that have occurred.
My concern is that we're going to make a change -- and I'm all for change, don't get me wrong. Change is vitally important, but I don't want -- if there's a blip upward in the hunting accidents in the 2014-2015 year, I don't want to see Parks and Wildlife go through a knee-jerk reaction and try to change something again because we've miscued on something. I would like to see the hunting accident numbers zero. I really would like to see that and many other instructors that I've talked with, we take this personally.
We do not want any of our students involved in a hunting accident. It's vitally important to myself and to many others that we not only we maintain the program, but we also watch what we're doing. I thank you for your time and I also need to drop over to get the secretary to Commissioner Lee, his mail that I sent to him was returned as not deliverable. So thank you for your time.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you.
Terry Erwin, you're up.
MR. ERWIN: Members of the Commission, Mr. Chairman, I thank you for the opportunity. My name is Terry Erwin. I spent 25 years working for this Department managing the Hunter Safety program and I'm talking on behalf of about 2,800 volunteers and Game Wardens and teachers that do this right now.
I'm for change, and I promise you that. I see it coming in other states. What I would not like to see occur is the 16-year-old go into an online course only and the reason is everything in Parks and Wildlife statute, laws, and rules or regs all refer to everyone as 17 years of age and I would like to see that if we do an online course, I would like to have that age raised back up to 17. That correlates with everything in Parks and Wildlife and, again, I am for the change.
I think the time element that you've proposed and I heard that this morning you made some adjustments to that, which I really appreciate. I think the course can be done in one day and a minimum of eight hours. It's been often tried and done that way. Some of our Game Wardens have done it that way and been successful and the only thing I want to see is Texas continue in its leadership.
I was President of the International Hunter Ed. Association and during that time, I sat on numerous committees that brought forth these standards that we teach by. I set up the first course in South America and I also helped with courses in South Africa and the main thing that I would like to remember, these kids that were in the Brigades, you heard them speak about responsibility and ethics. That you can't get online. I can tell you that. I've looked at the course. I helped write the courses that are currently online, and I'm all for the different methodologies of being certified.
We've got more different terms and methods of certification than any other state at this time. We've led the nation for the last six years in certifications. In 2012, 45,000 and some students and we do that continually every year and I don't want to see that diminish. We want to have more hunters out there to buy more licenses. I was responsible for writing up the deferral that got that -- to get that instituted, and every year there's been an increase in deferrals. We want the hunters out there.
All I ask is that you consider changing this limited to 16 year olds online only. They don't need to be out there doing that. It would be much better for a higher age bracket. I thank you for your time, and I'll entertain any questions that you might have.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you. Questions? Thank you very much.
Next up, Will Kirkpatrick and Burt Moritz after Will, please.
MR. KIRKPATRICK: My name is Will Kirkpatrick, and I would like to readdress boating safety. Our nine member boating safety panel of 2010 totally failed to pursue the root of the problem by ignoring those causing the majority of accidents, which are males between the age of 35 and 50.
Boating industry representatives, who like yourselves are business people, contended that any mandatory boater -- excuse me, boater operation education would severely curtail sales in Texas. Your Frances Stiles at my request contacted the 20 states with current mandatory boating education. Sixteen replied with their records showing no decline in overall sales in a one- to three-year period following compulsory education. Some stated that it actually helped sales.
In addition, National Marine Manufacturers Association recommends it with a test-out feature. The end result of our panel was to implement mandatory boating education for those born after September the 1st, 1992, which means it will take 15 to 30 years to cover that 35 to 50 age group causing the problems. An alternate method to improve our State's waters would be as Pete Flores explained, put more Wardens on the water.
This additional funding could be provided by implementing minor license fees for paddle craft, which will get you a lot of heartache and a permit system for those utilizing our State's waters free of charge for private financial gain. Fishing guides are currently required to purchase licenses for the use of these waters. Freshwater is 125. I've paid 2,670 to date. Saltwater is 210. And I'm providing the attachments which will outline those current bass tournament multimillion dollar businesses using our water basically free of charge. Hopefully, you'll at least glance at this.
Attachment 1 is a prime example of a 35- to 50-year-old male and their mentality. Field and Stream magazine, this is an accident waiting to happen. Toyota Motor Company ad from a National Bass Pro Shop catalog. Walmart and Chevrolet pay absolutely no fees. Front cover from Bass promotes Toyota. Lots of exposure. There's 600,000 members in their vehicle sponsor. Keeping Bass booklet that I helped write. State biologists for our two largest reservoirs enters 20 to 30 tournaments each year with one paying -- one win paying 12,000. This is kind of like the fox watching the hen house. Bob Sealy for 25 years lived in a $2 million home. He pays $5 out of 235 to the Ronald McDonald House.
I'm sorry Gene McCarty isn't here because the check that y'all got earlier, Gene was given one of those by this same gentleman. It was between 30 and $40,000. The problem was it bounced like a rubber ball, and they couldn't do anything about it. Toyota Weekend Series has ten Texas tournaments, ten Texas locations. Rayburn money tournaments are at 45 in four months. BASS and FLW are now implementing their for-profit -- and that's for-profit, it's not out of the goodness of their heart -- for high school and Bass tournament circuits. Texas Toyota Classic, TPWD press release had subliminal advertising one page six times. NBC Sports broadcast Toyota Classic, estimated 75 million homes could watch. Supposedly generated 1.5 million over multiple years to TPWD, but I can't find anybody to tell me how much money we spent to get it.
If you have any questions, I'd be glad to answer them or I'm sure Mr. Smith wouldn't mind setting up a meeting and call me and let me know and we could do that. There's a lot in here that people don't understand about what's going on, so thank you.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you.
Okay, Mr. Burt Moritz, please.
MR. MORITZ: Good afternoon, gentlemen. My name is Burt Moritz. I'm representing the Texas Airboaters Association and I'm filling in for Jeff Rooster, who's the president, wasn't able to attend today. And I want to be very brief to say a few of the activities that our Association has done over the last year, which has been precipitated in the crab traps with numerous many airboats and many man-hours spent on it. Also, many man-hours spent on cleaning up the upper Brazos River above Waco and also in the planting of seagrasses in the -- I'd call it the middle coast, Seadrift -- not Seadrift. In the Corpus area. And that's it, gentlemen. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Mr. Moritz, thank you.
Captain Thomas Hilton, and followed by Captain Scott Hickman.
CAPTAIN HILTON: Hello, Commissioners. Thank you for allowing me to speak today. I am a Board member with the Fishing Rights Alliance. I've also been asked by Jim Donofrio of the Recreational Fishing Alliance to speak on behalf of their organization. More importantly, I represent all recreational fishermen in Texas, offshore waters, and across the Gulf.
I've had extensive conversations with Florida Wildlife Commission, the Alabama Department of Natural Resources, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. All of those -- well, Florida is in the process of developing a boat permit to track and identify the offshore participation, which right now across the Gulf there's really not any mechanism to do that. Louisiana, as you know, implemented a offshore landing's permit this spring and was able to show that the National Marine Fishery Service effort manage data was overestimating their recreational effort by about 70 percent.
I'm here today to express my concerns we have regarding the direction of our offshore fisheries management is heading. Most notably the push for privatization of our public trust resources and the need to totally revamp the way that Texas Parks and Wildlife collects Texas recreational Red Snapper or landing's data. Let me preface this by saying that I've always looked up to Texas Parks and Wildlife as the model for managing wildlife resources as being the very best that I've ever seen and I still believe that.
However, I see some issues with the data and if you look at the -- this chart on this page, we did a data analysis that's on the regionalization document next week on the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council meeting. You'll notice some irregularities. Texas head boats account for about 68 percent of all Texas Red Snapper landings; but across the other four Gulf states, their head boats only account for one-tenth of that. Why such a large discrepancy?
I think it corroborates the fact that the Texas private rec. and charter landings were being egregiously underreported here, and I'm not sure why. And if you -- I know this is a lot of data and I just would hope that y'all would take the time at your convenience to digest this and just look and see what I have to say and I believe that a more realistic number for 2012 for the recreational fishermen in Texas, I believe they landed over one and a quarter million pounds of Snapper.
And if you take that into this chart and you plug it in, Texas' percentage of that allocation is 22 percent. Not 12 percent. So if you're underreporting -- and I'm going to wrap it up. When you have a Gulfwide management system, it's not necessarily a bad thing because everybody gets more fishing days; but if they're planning to carve up the Gulf into five regions, one for each state, and that allocation percentage is based on historical landings that are not reflecting reality, then that's going to be a very, very bad thing for Texas recreational anglers. I'm just trying to subvert that. Thank you for your time.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Appreciate it. Thank you for your time.
Scott Hickman, good afternoon.
CAPTAIN HICKMAN: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Mr. Director. Thanks for hearing us today and letting us share our thoughts with you. My name is Captain Scott Hickman. I'm a charter-for-hire captain out of Galveston, Texas. I own Circle H Outfitters and Charters. I'm also -- set the recreational seat on the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary Council and also set the Reef Fish and Migratory Pelagic Advisory Panel for the Gulf Council.
Once, first off, I would like to thank the Commission and the State of Texas for letting us join their lawsuit this year against the Federal government that got our full Snapper season, which really helped the charter boat industry. I'm also one of the founding members of the Charter Fisherman's Association. We're now the largest federally permitted charter for hire organization in the Gulf of Mexico. It was a great win, and we're going to get another good full whack at these Snappers this October. We're looking forward to that as well.
Going into regional management where Texas could take and set our own bag limits and our seasons, great idea. You know, Texas has done a great job with terrestrial game management. You know, I've got some concerns though for the charter-for-hire fleet, the federally permitted charter-for-hire fleet. I think unless -- you know, if we went to like a weekend only season, that wouldn't work for our guys. You know, we need to be able to operate our business seven days a week.
So I would like the Commission to look at something if we go to regional management, some type of flexibility system or a system that would let us be able to, you know, have that flexibility to fish when we needed to. Maybe whether it be tags or, you know, recreational tags and tags for the charter boat folks that would let us fish at different times. But just to do a straight-up system where we didn't know what we would have just wouldn't work for our industry. So we do have a lot of concerns with regional management right now.
Another concern we have is -- kind of goes on what Tom Hilton was talking about, is accountability measures to be able to count these fish. I know that Texas can do a better job counting fish than the Federal government. That's obvious. We do everything better than the Federal government. And Texas A&M at Corpus Christi, the Harte Research Institute, has developed a new tool. It's just an app that goes on your iPhone. It's called that iSnapper, and we've been doing a three-year pilot project with that. If we go to regional management, I would like to see every federally permitted charter boat operate in the state of Texas have to use this tool.
We'll know who's fishing, what they're catching, what's being landed, and we'll have real data to be able to manage this resource correctly to leave it better off than we found it. I think that's about all -- oh, I wanted to address the hunters education stuff. I do own a 50,000 plus acre hunting business here in Texas and we do dove hunts, duck hunts, goose hunts, turkey hunts, everything. I'm saying y'all do a great job with our terrestrial stuff.
As far as the hunters ed. courses, you know, I don't have an issue going to this new system. I have a lot of people that come to me. My hunters have problems getting in on these workshops. There's not room, they're booked up. And as far as ethics go, being able to learn ethics from a computer, you know, I'm a fourth generation hunter. I've got two 12-year-old daughters that love to hunt and fish. I've taught my kids the ethics, and that's the parent's job. Not the State of Texas' job. So y'all keep up the good work, and thanks for hearing me out today.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you very much. Appreciate your comments.
Next up, Kristen McConnell.
MS. MCCONNELL: Hi there. I'm Kristen McConnell, and I'm with Environmental Defense Fund. I'm the Senior Conservation Manager for the Gulf of Mexico and I would like to thank you for the opportunity to comment today and talk a little bit about management of Red Snapper in the Gulf of Mexico.
I'm here because Texas Parks and Wildlife Department through Robin Riechers and this Commission makes an important contribution to the offshore management in Federal waters and so I would like to thank you for that. There's been a lot of very good work done on Red Snapper and lots of other species. So Red Snapper, despite the current problems in the recreational fishery is a success story. The species was in decline, but it is recovering. The catch limits have doubled and a key reason for that recovery is the action taken by the council supported by Texas and all the states to fix the commercial plan about six years ago.
So now what is left to do is to fix the recreational management, so that all of these incredibly frustrated recreational anglers can benefit from this growing stock with a longer season. So it's tough, but we believe this can be done in a way that benefits the anglers and seafood markets and all the businesses that depend upon fishermen around the Gulf.
As you may know, the Gulf Fisheries Management Council is considering a proposal for state-by-state management that's called regional management of the recreational fishery and we believe that this proposal may have real promise if it's further developed. So what I wanted to bring to you today is that there are several key questions that we wanted to put before you as the council moves forward that need to be considered before this proposal is finalized and I think before Texas or any of the other states move forward with thinking about implementing this.
And the first one is what the State plans look like and how they intersect with each other. There's still not a lot of details on how the States will implement their own management measures and they have real impacts for everything from angling opportunities from fishermen in different states to the impact on the fish stocks themselves.
The second one is how the States, if they go to regional management, will solve the problems facing the recreational fishery. These are things like data and accountability and things that are really needed and the need for flexibility and the need that differing sectors have. So private anglers versus for-hire sector. All of these things are issues that the States can deal with and they have dealt with incredibly well in some of the inshore fisheries, but they're not examined in enough detail in the current plan.
So we have some ideas. Some were published in the Houston Chronical a few weeks ago. I'm going to leave you with that op-ed. But the bottom line is we think regional management could be a fix, but it has some key questions that need to be solved first. We encourage you to look into those. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you.
Captain -- is it Tres Atkins? I think I'm...
CAPTAIN ATKINS: It's Tres.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Got it, thank you.
CAPTAIN ATKINS: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, my name is Captain Tres Atkins and I operate a charter boat, as well as a commercial fishing vessel out of Galveston, Texas. I'm a member of the Charter Fisherman's Association, as well as the Reef Fish Shareholders Alliance.
I would like to personally thank you for allowing us to join the State in getting our fishing days returned. I was actually one -- one of the actual named Plaintiffs in the suit that joined the State and filed for those -- getting those days back, so kudos for that. Thanks very much.
I'm here today to discuss the possibility of regional management in the Federal EEZ, and how is that going to look. I can support a regional management for the recreational sector, as long as it carries accountability measures that will ensure sustainable fisheries for the future. I do not think it's necessary to include the commercial sector in regional management, as it currently has an excellent fisheries management plan in place. It is shown to be instrumental in the rebound of Red Snappers in the Gulf of Mexico and I'm from the school if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
As far as how the charter-for-hire industry plays into regional management, please keep in mind that we are business owners. Flexibility is extremely important to us. I could support some type of a tag system or any other program that allowed me to carry Texans fishing when it was convenient for them. As for weekend only season, that would not benefit charter businesses as they are the easiest days to book already. I need the ability to provide my target audience fishing trips when it's best for them.
Lastly, I would like to thank you guys for amending the Parks and Wildlife Code to prosecute violations of illegal Snapper harvested in the EEZ and enabling our Game Wardens to try these cases at the justice precinct level as opposed to the federal level. That was very good and greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you. Appreciate your comments, thanks.
CAPTAIN CANTRELL: Good afternoon. I'm Captain Shane Cantrell. Own and operate a charter fishing operation in Galveston, Texas. Glad to be back here and address y'all this afternoon. I was up here last year, and actually was part of the group requesting the Commission to change the Parks and Wildlife Code as Captain Tres just mentioned. I wanted to thank you for -- thank the Commission for the Statewide Recreational Commercial Fishing Proclamation Section 57.982, possession of wildlife resource importation.
It's a new rule providing state violation for the possession of aquatic products possessed in the state that have been harvested in violation of any Federal regulation. This was a real problem over the past few years as the Snapper seasons have been shrinking and shrinking and this will allow our great Texas Game Wardens who are probably the best in the country to be even better. It's a step ahead of the rest of the country in being able to really provide for our recreational fishermen and enforce the laws that are on the books.
I would also like to thank the Commission for the support and encouragement to the Texas Attorney General's Office to protest the emergency rule established by the Gulf Council. This rule was found to be discriminatory against the Texas charter boat fleet, charter boat fleets across the Gulf, as well as the recreational fishermen across the Gulf. It was a discriminatory action taken by the Gulf Council against these fishermen. Discriminatory based on either the state that they lived in, the state that they choose to fish in, or the state that -- like me, the state they have chosen to operate their business in. This was a great help to our charter fleet, and it's really improved our ability to benefit the recreational fishermen. Went from 17 days to 28 days. It was great.
As for as regional management, I really support it. I've been on the record supporting it for a while; but we're getting really close to the finish line on this deal, and we're not sure what it looks like. We're not sure what it means to our charter businesses. I recreationally fish as well. I'm not sure what that would be for recreational fishermen. It's -- we really need some details coming down to the end because I guarantee that a weekend season is not going to be good for my business.
I've got a lot of -- a lot of fishing customers that like to come and they like to come during the week. They can take off from their businesses. They can go when it's not a lot of time, not a lot time for them. They can go at a good time of year in October when it's nice. They can go in the spring when their kids are out of school. They don't need to go in July and August when it's hot. They can come when they want to. It would be a great opportunity if we can get regional management, fish on our time, fish on our customer's time. It will be a great thing whether its a tag system or just -- I'm not sure what the way would go; but if we could dedicated some time in the spring, some time in the fall. Tourism season in Galveston is just fantastic, and it's not the time that we need these Red Snappers. That's about it and if y'all have any questions, I'd be happy to answer them and I thank y'all for your time.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thanks for your comments. Appreciate it, thank you.
Jerrell Coburn is up. Jerrell, excuse me.
MR. COBURN: Yeah. Chairman Friedkin, Commissioners, and Executive Director Carter, I'm Jerrell Coburn. I'm the current President of the Texas Bighorn Society and I would like to use the time allowed to thank TP&W for the way you take care of wildlife in Texas. Especially the desert sheep of Trans-Pecos.
The reintroduction of desert sheep in Texas is one of the great conservation success stories of North America and would never have happened or be still happening without the highly dedicated group of people that you have put in place to spearhead the operation. I've worked in business long enough to know that a company or an organization is no better than their employees and Texas didn't just luck in to having the right people in place to accomplish what has been done.
The hiring, promoting, and creating an environment to let talented people succeed starts at the top and that is why we now have a growing population of sheep. I would be remiss if I didn't mention our other partner in the reintroduction and that's the ranchers who have done everything possible to see that the sheep have a home. Together TP&W, the landowners, and Texas Bighorn Society make a pretty good team.
In concluding, I encourage you to continue doing business the same as you are now so future generations of Texans will be able to study, see, and maybe even hunt our desert Bighorn sheep. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you.
Douglas Slack and after that, Krista Seeburger. Welcome.
MR. SLACK: Thank you very much. I'm Doug Slack. I'm Executive Director of the Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society. I happen to also hold a rank of regence professor emeritus from Texas A&M University. But I'm here --
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: What makes you say that?
MR. SLACK: I'm here though to talk about Texas Chapter of Wildlife Society business. Wildlife Society is an 11,000-member organization compromised of professional wildlife scientists, biologists, managers, conservationists, and the like. Texas has the largest state affiliated society of any state in the nation.
The overarching mission of the Texas Chapter is to ensure that our State's rich legacy of native animals and plants are conserved for future generations. We seek to do that, that insurance, seek to do that through habitat management based on science based wildlife conservation and management principals.
Now, you guys. One of the things that I taught and one of the things that I'm very, very concerned about is the North America model of wildlife conservation that has evolved in this country. You represent the key crux of that whole pyramid of wildlife conservation in North America. You're the ones that provide the stewardship of the public's resources and ensure those public resources are available for future generations and I can tell you, you're doing a great job from my perspective.
I think I saw an example last winter when you could have punted on the CWD regulations relating to being ready to move in if another case of CWD in an (inaudible) herd shows up someplace else in Texas besides Trans-Pecos and you did a very good job of moving those rules and regulations through the process. The same with White-tailed deer. White-tailed deer, native populations in White-tailed deer, captive populations. Those are easy to punt. Rattlesnake roundups, you could have punted on ways to collect rattlesnakes and you have not done that and I appreciate it and I am here to say that you've got an incredible staff of professional wildlife biologists, professional support staff. You're taking advantage of it. Continue to do that, and I think together you and your professional staffs will make the right decisions into the future and it seems to be happening. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you, Mr. Slack.
Next up is Krista Seeburger. Okay, how about Ben Eldredge? Oh, here she is. How are you? Sorry about that.
MS. SEEBURGER: Commissioners and Executive Director Smith, my name is Krista Seeburger and I'm here on behalf of the East Texas Black Bear Task Force.
In 2005, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department produced and approved the first East Texas Black Bear Conservation and Management Plan to cover the time period from 2005 to 2015, which is this thing here. The Department and other natural resource stakeholders realized then that Black bear sightings in East Texas were on the rise, partially due to expanding populations in Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.
The entire plan is on your website and can be found using the wildlife and bear search words. It contains the information to answer most questions about bears and bear management in Texas. One of the first items addressed in the plan was the formation of the East Texas Black Bear Task Force to develop a sound foundation of partnerships involving private landowners, private corporations, State and Federal agencies, and interested conservation groups.
The Task Force works closely with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department on an assortment of conservation and management issues dealing with the slow and natural return of the wild and free-roaming Black bears to the forests of East Texas. Thankfully the return of wild and free-roaming Black bears -- oh, I'm sorry. Thankfully, much has been accomplished since 2005 and I am here today to urge you for your continued support for the East Texas Black Bear Task Force.
I also ask for your support to lead the effort, just as the Department did in 2005 to update, revise, and prepare the next ten-year plan to cover the period from 2016 forward. A continued good, solid plan for conservation and management of Black bears returning naturally to East Texas means that Black bears will have a fighting chance to survive here in Texas where they were prolific before European settlement.
The Department's partnership with the East Texas Black Bear Task Force remains strong, and we would like it to continue as we enter into the second decade of partnership. I appreciate your time and the opportunity to bring this before the Commission.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you for your time. Appreciate it.
MS. SEEBURGER: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Mr. Ben Eldredge.
MR. ELDREDGE: Mr. Chairman and Commissioners and Mr. Smith, I thank you for the opportunity to speak with you-all today. I'm Ben Eldredge. I'm the Director of Adult Education and Citizen Science Research at the Cibolo Nature Center in Boerne, Texas. The Cibolo Nature Center has been a proud partner of the Texas Parks and Wildlife since its founding and I personally have been grateful to office with two of your employees, as well as attend numerous events with the staff from Texas Parks and Wildlife.
I just want to say, first of all, that I am consistently impressed by your staff's knowledge and personal integrity and I look forward to our continued partnership. I really think you guys have great people on the ground.
I have several comments today and I'd like to -- I'll do my best to keep them brief. First of all, I would like to encourage Texas Parks and Wildlife to take a more holistic approach in regard to its wildlife responsibilities. Currently much of Texas Parks and Wildlife's work focuses on species of interest. Especially game wildlife and endangered species. And while these species are worthy of special attention, I believe that Texas Parks and Wildlife can better serve all of our amazing native wildlife by focusing on habitat stewardship, as habitats are the shelters, the food sources, and the foundations for all wildlife.
Currently most terrestrial natural resource management outreach is provided by AgriLife, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Texas Forestry Service, and Texas Parks and Wildlife. The focus of each of these agencies tends to compartmentalize aspects of a land's ecology. Essentially splicing them into grasslands, woodlands, natural resources, and species of interest.
However, nature is entirely connected and forms a whole. Quality management of this whole requires a holistic approach that balances the resource needs of livestock, game, and other wildlife. A holistic approach to land management incorporates game management, prescribed fire, and grazing management as tools to emulate the positive ecological benefits of predators, wildlife, and herds -- and the herd impact of bison. We're trying to emulate what nature was doing before the hand of man came and disturbed it basically.
Because wildlife and the ecosystem services significantly benefit from holistic land management, I believe that Texas Parks and Wildlife can best fulfill its mission by encouraging holistic land management, including holistic planned grazing as a means of encouraging quality habitat management for all wildlife. Again, not just target species.
Additionally, in my capacity as an educator and education coordinator in a region that is quickly being subdivided into smaller ranches, I am seeing an increase in landowners who are -- who are interested in managing -- not interested in managing for bigger deer. They're interested rather in nongame wildlife, including birds, reptiles, native plants, and butterflies. These nongame wildlife oriented landowners are not currently being served by Texas Parks and Wildlife and they need and are hungry for education on how to be better wildlife stewards.
For this reason, Texas Parks and Wildlife should employee more nongame biologists to assist these landowners. The assistance of these nongame biologists should include native landscape restoration service -- services, as this is desired by many landowners and helps to restore wildlife habitat and repair damage to ecological services. I've got more to share. I'll e-mail somebody, but the red light's on.
MR. SMITH: Thanks, Ben.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Appreciate it. Thank you very much.
Mr. John Gosdin.
MR. GOSDIN: Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission, Director Smith, my name is John Gosdin and I'm here today representing Texans for State Parks. This organization is relatively young, only having been incorporated in 1997 and it is made up of particularly volunteer groups, private citizens, and businesses dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of the Texas State Park System for the benefit of the people of Texas, as well as the guests to our great state parks.
I want to do a little shout-out to the staff. An excellent little article here in the July edition of Parks and Wildlife magazine that gives a snapshot look of all the contributions dating back to 1955, when one of the first Friends Groups helped with some land donation at Washington on the Brazos State Park. They've also helped with the July 4th celebrations and other activities there and have -- the State and the state parks have benefited from other organizations like this across the state.
Today we have 95 state parks and I'm glad to say that we have roughly 50 organized Friends Groups associated with state parks across the state and that number is growing. The Texans for State Parks has worked with and stood with Texas Parks and Wildlife and other organizations over what I kind of call a decade long dialogue with the Legislature about the proper way to fund state parks and we certainly continue to support the sporting goods tax as the basis for providing funds for our state parks.
And when the regular session ended back in May, the appropriations for state parks as a part of our state park budget here was a good solid foundation to provide for the operating needs in the biennium ahead. I just wanted to say that you never have enough or there are other opportunities and we sure look at these volunteer organizations as a means to stretch those appropriated tax dollars and provide additional services in a variety of ways -- talent, individual taking care of front desk duties, helping with campgrounds, doing programs, and all kinds of other services that make the experience at a state park more valuable.
That is it. I just look forward to working with the staff here and the state park managers in the year ahead to find ways to provide additional leveraging of those dollars and provide more opportunities for the visitors to our state parks. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Mr. Gosdin, thank you. Appreciate it.
Last but not least is Debby Alley.
MS. ALLEY: Thank you, Commissioners. I am Debby Alley with Texas Equestrian Trail Riders Association Incorporated. For 15 years our organization has been associated with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in a variety of equestrian related outreach projects, such as the Outreach Expo, Outdoor Expo, and the Youth Outreach Ride.
With grants through TPWD Trail's Program, we have opened trails at several parks operated by TPWD and Corps of Engineers. Our mission is to increase the number of public areas with equestrian facilities that can also accommodate other trail users. We regularly hold fundraising trail rides to assist the friends of parks and volunteer groups for Hill Country State Natural Area at Bandera and have similarly made donations to other parks in the park system like Caprock Canyon State Park.
Currently, we are working with John Ferguson, superintendent of the new Palo Pinto Mountains State Park, just off Interstate 20 halfway between Fort Worth and Abilene. Located just west of Strawn, Texas, on State Highway 16, this former ranch of about 4,000 acres has attracted the interest of a number of local groups and individuals who have begun work with Superintendent Ferguson to connect some ranch roads on the property for multi-purpose trails.
Since no additional infrastructure is required for use of these trails, they enhance the public relation's efforts to attract potential users. John Ferguson has held a number of events requiring no special permitted equipment and making use of the space in rural nature of the park. One of these was a trail ride for interested riders to preview the potential sites for development of trails and to encourage trail ride -- trail users to assist as volunteers in developing the trails.
A community gathering in Strawn on January 24, 2013, drew a number of interested riders from the area, including representatives of Texas Equestrian Trail Riders and the North Texas Range Riders. Following the meeting, John Ferguson visited briefly with several attendees and expressed willingness to explore ideas for trails development in the park. Significantly, a trail ride was held on June 1 to coincide with National Trail's Day and 22 riders attended. The stated purpose of the ride was to view the ranch roads and to consider how connections could be made between the roads to begin a system of trails using volunteer labor.
Before riders left, three workdays were set to begin initial work on the first loop. On June 29 and July 13, volunteers cleared the initial 3-mile trail near the headquarters. A total of 27 workers donated 136 hours to this project to date. Another workday is set for August 24 to begin on a longer loop. Over the years, Texas Equestrian Trail Riders Association has received grants and completed trails work on several projects and at the proper time will consider applying for a grant for work at Palo Pinto Mountains State Park.
This will not occur until a more detailed study is completed, which I've been told is 2017. At this time, we would appreciate the Commissioners' attention and assistance and the inclusion of equestrians at this park. Thank you, Commissioners.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you. Commissioner Scott.
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yeah, one quick question. You can get with Carter or staff. Do y'all accept or are you looking for healthy good horses, older, that will do rides? I'm involved with some stuff and I know people that are looking for homes for some good animals and I'm just curious if y'all were looking for any, I'll be glad to get y'all hooked up.
MS. ALLEY: I have friends that are looking for some free horses, yeah.
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Just get with staff if you would and get the names and I'll get y'all hooked up. Thank you.
MS. ALLEY: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any other questions? Okay, thank you.
Is there anyone I may have missed who would like to speak?
Okay, this Commission has completed its business and I declare us adjourned. Thank you very much.
(Public Hearing Adjourns)
C E R T I F I C A T ESTATE 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 Turn in date 27th day of September, 2013.
Paige S. Watts, CSR, RPR
CSR No.: 8311
Expiration: December 31, 2014
Firm Registration Number: 87
1016 La Posada Drive
Austin, Texas 78752
Job No. 106705