Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Regulations Committee

April 5 , 2000

Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744

         7        BE IT REMEMBERED that heretofore on the 

         8   5th day of April 2000, there came on to be heard 

         9   matters under the regulatory authority of the 

        10   Parks and Wildlife Commission of Texas, in the 

        11   Commission Hearing Room of the Texas Parks and 

        12   Wildlife Headquarters complex, Austin, Travis 

        13   County, Texas, beginning at 9:07 a.m., to wit:


        17                  Lee M. Bass (absent) 
                            Carol E. Dinkins 
        18                  Dick W. Heath 
                            Nolan Ryan 
        19                  Ernest Angelo, Jr. 
                            John Avila, Jr. 
        20                  Alvin L. Henry 
             Chaired by:    Katharine Armstrong Idsal 
        21                  Mark E. Watson, Jr. 

             Andrew H. Sansom, Executive Director, and other 
        23   personnel of the Parks and Wildlife Department  


.                                                                     2

         1                     APRIL 5, 2000 

         2                       *_*_*_*_*

         3                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  The meeting is 

         4   called to order.               

         5                  Before we get started, I wanted to 

         6   say that our Chairman, Lee Bass, is recovering 

         7   from surgery.  I know we all wish him a speedy 

         8   recovery.

         9                  Before proceeding with any 

        10   business, I believe Mr. Sansom has a statement to 

        11   make. 

        12                  MR. SANSOM:  Ms. Chairman and 

        13   Members, a public notice of this meeting 

        14   containing all items on the proposed agenda has 

        15   been filed in the Office of the Secretary of 

        16   State.  This is required by Chapter 551 of the 

        17   Government Code and referred to as the Open 

        18   Meetings Law.  And I would like for this action to 

        19   be noted in the official record of the meeting.   

        20                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  We need an 

        21   approval for the minutes of the January meeting.  

        22   I need a motion.

        23                  COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  So moved.    

        24                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Second.  

        25                  COMMISSIONER WATSON:  Second.  
.                                                                     3


         2                  MR. SANSOM:  Item 1 will be a 

         3   briefing of the Chairman's charges. 

         4                  Andy?

         5                  MR. SANSOM:  Members, the 

         6   particular charges that relate to the Regulations 

         7   Committee, first and foremost, have to do with 

         8   Sunset.  Yesterday, Mr. Cook, Mr. McCarty, and I, 

         9   along with Emily Armentan of our staff, had an 

        10   exit interview with the Sunset Commission.  They 

        11   have completed the staff report, and it will be 

        12   delivered to the Sunset Commission -- that is, the 

        13   legislators and public members of the Sunset 

        14   Commission -- next week and made public on or 

        15   about April 15th.  So within a week we will have a 

        16   public release of our Sunset Commission report.   

        17                  This process has been one in which 

        18   our staff has done its usual terrific job.  The 

        19   Sunset Committee is impressed.  And I believe that 

        20   although we will see some things in there that 

        21   will cause us to think hard about changes that may 

        22   need to be made in the Parks and Wildlife 

        23   Department, that overall it will be supportive of 

        24   our efforts; and we'll see to it to try to address 

        25   some of the questions that you all and we have 
.                                                                     4

         1   raised for them.  

         2                  Under the Chairman's direction, we 

         3   have completed our review and reform of the 

         4   advisory committee system.  All of our advisory 

         5   committee members have been put on standardized 

         6   terms, and the appointments have been unified.  

         7   We have developed a set of guidelines for 

         8   advisory committee management, and the Chairman 

         9   has actually created a new advisory committee 

        10   which has had its first meeting, which I believe 

        11   Mr. Watson attended, which is the Hunting Advisory 

        12   Committee.  

        13                  Today you will be hearing as a part 

        14   of this agenda several items that relate to the 

        15   charges, the Statewide Proclamation itself, the 

        16   finfish license management program, and the 

        17   commercial shrimp management plan.  

        18                  I'd like to make particular note in 

        19   conclusion that as a part of the charges which 

        20   relate directly to expanding landowner incentives 

        21   through the regulatory process, we have completed 

        22   the hiring of 10 new technical guidance biologists 

        23   that are now in the field working directly with 

        24   private landowners.  

        25                  So I appreciate the opportunity to 
.                                                                     5

         1   bring the progress on these charges to your 

         2   attention, and that completes my report.

         3   ITEM NO. 2 - ACTION - 2000-2001 STATEWIDE HUNTING 


         5                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  Item 2 will 

         6   be the Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation.  

         7   Phil Durocher will discuss the proposed changes.

         8                  MR. DUROCHER:  As soon as we get 

         9   this thing on.  Here it is.

        10                  Madam Chairman and Members of the 

        11   Commission, I'm Phil Durocher, Director of the 

        12   Inland Fisheries Division.  This morning I'll be 

        13   presenting the inland fisheries regulation 

        14   proposals for 2000 and 2001.  All the regulation 

        15   changes that we're proposing this year deal with 

        16   one of the species of bass.  

        17                  The first proposal is for the 

        18   spotted and Guadalupe bass.  The current limit on 

        19   the spotted and Guadalupe is a 12-inch minimum 

        20   length limit, five-fish daily bag in combination 

        21   with other basses.  What we are recommending is 

        22   to change the limit to no minimum-length limit and 

        23   to retain the five-fish-daily bag.                 

        24                 In justification for that, both of 

        25   these species remain relatively small.  We have 
.                                                                     6

         1   very few of the fish in the wild that ever exceed 

         2   the minimum length limits; and because of this, 

         3   we're getting some increased competition for 

         4   forage.  In other words, we have a lot of these 

         5   small bass that are competing with the other fish 

         6   in the reservoirs for forage.  So we're hoping 

         7   that by allowing some harvest here, we can reduce 

         8   this competition.  

         9                  The second proposal deals with Lake 

        10   Jacksonville, Cleburne State Park Lake, and 

        11   Meridian State Park Lake.  Currently, the 

        12   largemouth bass regulation in those reservoirs is 

        13   a 14-inch minimum, five-fish daily bag; and we're 

        14   recommending to change to an 18-inch minimum 

        15   length limit and retain the five-fish daily bag.  

        16                  At Cleburne and Meridian State 

        17   Parks, these proposals were made through our work 

        18   with the State Park staff.  Their hope there is 

        19   to increase the angling quality on these small 

        20   reservoirs.  Currently the bass populations are 

        21   at a low density, and we're hoping that these 

        22   regulations will protect additional quality-size 

        23   bass from harvest and allow these populations to 

        24   increase.  

        25                  Lake Jacksonville is a little bit 
.                                                                     7

         1   different situation.  It's a 1352-acre reservoir, 

         2   and the numbers of bass above 14 inches are low 

         3   at this time.  Small bass, especially the spotted 

         4   bass, are abundant.  And we're hoping that this 

         5   regulation change, in conjunction with the removal 

         6   of the limit on spotted bass, will reduce some of 

         7   this pressure on these small fish and allow 

         8   expansion of that population.  

         9                  Our last proposal is for Lake 

        10   Austin, Town Lake, and Buescher State Park.  The 

        11   current limit there is, of course, the statewide 

        12   limit, a 14-inch minimum --  this thing is slow 

        13   this morning -- and a five-fish daily bag.  And 

        14   what we had proposed was to change to a 14 to 

        15   21-inch slot limit with a five-fish daily bag, 

        16   only one bass 21 inches or greater.  

        17                  At Buescher State Park, again, this 

        18   regulation proposal was made in conjuncion with 

        19   the park staff to improve the quality of angling 

        20   in this lake.  The lake at Buescher State Park is 

        21   a relatively small lake of about 25 acres.  It has 

        22   an extremely good population right now, with a 

        23   high-use situation, and the Park Superintendent 

        24   and our staff wish to maintain that quality of 

        25   fishing.             
.                                                                     8

         1                  Now, Town Lake currently has an 

         2   excellent bass population.  It has developed 

         3   because of a fish consumption advisory which has 

         4   been on this lake for the last several years, and 

         5   it also was helped by limited boat access.  

         6   There's limited access to using this reservoir.  

         7   Currently the consumption advisory has been 

         8   lifted, and the staff feels that the potential for 

         9   overharvest and reduction in angling is there now 

        10   that this advisory has been lifted.  We knew what 

        11   the population looked like before this advisory, 

        12   and we want to make sure that we can maintain 

        13   what's built up during this advisory.  

        14                  On Lake Austin, Lake Austin has 

        15   produced numerous 10-pound bass in recent years.  

        16   In fact, just recently, about a week and a half 

        17   ago, we had a lunker turned into the program from 

        18   Lake Austin.  And it's one of the best trophy bass 

        19   or quality fishing lakes anywhere in the Central 

        20   Texas area.  

        21                  The proposal was one of the staff 

        22   trying to be proactive, and they believe that the 

        23   increasing population and growth, along with the 

        24   lake's new reputation, could increase the harvest 

        25   pressure and perhaps cause a decline in that 
.                                                                     9

         1   population.  

         2                  Now what I want to do is give you a 

         3   summary of public comments.  And these are both 

         4   from our public hearings and other public comments 

         5   we've received, including letters, e-mails, and 

         6   entries on our Website.                  

         7                  As far as the change to the 

         8   Guadalupe and spotted bass, at the public hearing 

         9   we received five comments, one in support and four 

        10   opposed.  On the Internet and other sources, we 

        11   received 92 comments.  Sixty-three supported the 

        12   proposal, and 29 were opposed.                 

        13                  For the Lake Jacksonville and 

        14   Cleburne and Meridian State Park proposals, there 

        15   were no -- 

        16                  COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  Excuse me.  

        17   What was the reason for the opposition?  

        18                  MR. DUROCHER:  There were some 

        19   concerns about the -- I believe it was concern 

        20   about the Guadalupe bass.  We're trying to protect 

        21   the Guadalupe bass.  And before we made this 

        22   proposal, we ran it by the person on our staff who 

        23   is responsible primarily for bringing back the 

        24   Guadalupe bass in the Central Texas area, and he 

        25   doesn't think it's going to have any impact on 
.                                                                    10

         1   that at all.  

         2                  On the Lake Jacksonville, Cleburne, 

         3   and Meridian State Park proposals, we received no 

         4   comments at public hearings.  On the Internet and 

         5   other sources, we received 73 comments.  Sixty-one 

         6   were in support, and 12 were opposed.  

         7                  On the Lake Austin, Town Lake, and 

         8   Buescher State Park proposals, at the public 

         9   hearings we received six comments, and they all 

        10   were opposed.  And on the Internet and other 

        11   sources, we received 72 comments again, and most 

        12   were in favor of the proposals.  

        13                  The comments that we had in 

        14   opposition to the proposals, and they were 

        15   primarily at Lake Austin, were from bass clubs in 

        16   the area.  They felt like the population of bass 

        17   in the lake was doing fine.  And they thought 

        18   that because of the pressure from other 

        19   recreational uses on the lake, the skiing and the 

        20   jetskis, that fishing pressure actually wouldn't 

        21   increase as we were projecting; and we really 

        22   can't argue with that contention.  

        23                  We had other comments on e-mail 

        24   that we feel like we need to address.  We had two 

        25   comments wanting the staff to do more about 
.                                                                    11

         1   cormorants in the State.  For your information, 

         2   the cormorants are a protected species controlled 

         3   by international treaties with Mexico and Canada.  

         4   The Federal Government, the Fish and Wildlife 

         5   Service, has put together a task force to begin 

         6   looking at the cormorants and seeing if there's 

         7   any changes that need to be made in the 

         8   regulations.  And we have a member of our staffs 

         9   of both Wildlife and Fisheries working with the 

        10   Feds to see if some changes could be made there to 

        11   give us some relief with cormorants.  

        12                  We had one comment asking us to put 

        13   slot limits on more lakes, and we had one asking 

        14   us to drop the crappie minimum on Lake Wright 

        15   Patman or to lower the limit from 10 inches to 

        16   nine or nine and a half inches.  And that's a 

        17   type of proposal we get almost every year, and 

        18   what we tell the people is -- they believe that if 

        19   we lower it to nine to nine and a half from 10, 

        20   that they're going to keep more of these 

        21   nine-and-a-half-inch fish.  And what we tell them 

        22   is that next year they'll want to lower it to 

        23   eight and a half, because that's all they will be 

        24   catching is fish right below the limit; and that's 

        25   just the way fishing is.  When people fish and 
.                                                                    12

         1   harvest fish, as soon as they get past that limit, 

         2   they tend to disappear.

         3                  On the staff recommendations, we 

         4   request that the Commission approve all the 

         5   proposals except the Lake Austin proposal.  We 

         6   have no data to indicate that the pressure will 

         7   automatically increase with the populations.  

         8   Since the other recreational uses are now limiting 

         9   pressure, those who spoke in opposition may be 

        10   right.  We will continue to monitor that bass 

        11   population closely and look for changes usually 

        12   associated with an increase in harvest pressure.  

        13                  So we're asking the Commission to 

        14   send to the full Commission tomorrow 

        15   recommendations that our proposals be approved, 

        16   with the amendment dropping the Lake Austin 

        17   proposal.  

        18                  Any questions?  

        19                  COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  Move approval 

        20   of the recommendation.  

        21                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Second.  

        22                  MR. DUROCHER:  Thank you.  

        23                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  Thank you, 

        24   Phil.  

        25                  Hal Osburn will discuss the 
.                                                                    13

         1   proposed changes regarding coastal fisheries.

         2                  MR. OSBURN:  Good morning.    

         3                  COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  Do we need to 

         4   vote on the -- I was going to ask that.  Do you 

         5   think there's no comment that we would need to 

         6   reserve it?  I guess we could bring it back.

         7                  MR. SANSOM:  We will get it right 

         8   on the regular agenda --

         9                  COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  That's what I 

        10   was thinking. 

        11                  MR. SANSOM:  -- with our 

        12   recommendation, but you need a motion to move it 

        13   forward.  

        14                  COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  I so 

        15   move.          

        16                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  Okay.  Second?  

        17                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  I'll second 

        18   it.  

        19                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  Hal?  

        20                  Oh, I'm so sorry.  Do we have a 

        21   vote?  Ayes?  Nays?

        22                  (Motion carried unanimously.)

        23                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  Hal?  

        24                  MR. OSBURN:  Thank you, 

        25   Madam Chairman.  I'm Hal Osburn, Coastal Fisheries 
.                                                                    14

         1   Divison Director.  I'd like to brief you on the 

         2   proposed changes to the Statewide Hunting and 

         3   Fishing Proclamation for the Coastal Fisheries 

         4   Division.  

         5                  Our first proposal is for moderate 

         6   increases in size limits on sailfish, white 

         7   marlin, and blue marlin.  These rules will help 

         8   conservation and provide some compatibility with 

         9   the rules that currently exist in the Federal 

        10   waters.  

        11                  Public opinion received on this 

        12   proposal was overwhelmingly in favor of these 

        13   increased size limits.  

        14                  Staff also has a proposal on our 

        15   shark populations.  We had proposed decreasing the 

        16   daily bag limit from five to one, establishing a 

        17   24-inch minimum size limit, and setting the 

        18   commercial season to be concurrent with the 

        19   Federal season.  

        20                  Many of the species of sharks in 

        21   the Gulf are overfished, primarily due to some 

        22   intense commercial long-line fishing that was 

        23   allowed to happen in Federal waters in this last 

        24   decade.  These proposals will complement some 

        25   shark conservation measures that are now being 
.                                                                    15

         1   enacted on the commercial and recreational fishery 

         2   to counter that previous overharvest.  

         3                  I can tell you that the public 

         4   response we received was a very good majority in 

         5   favor of these rules.  Those that opposed 

         6   generally wanted to go to a two-fish bag limit 

         7   rather than a one-fish; but staff does recommend 

         8   that we adopt the original set of proposals 

         9   without modification, the one-fish bag limit.  

        10   About 80 percent of our anglers that do land 

        11   sharks are within one shark now, so this proposal 

        12   would probably only reduce the harvest about 

        13   30 percent; but I think it's a conservation 

        14   measure that we can contribute to the Gulfwide 

        15   effort.  

        16                  I'll be happy to answer any 

        17   questions.                    

        18                  COMMISSIONER HEATH:  I just have a 

        19   comment here.  On the billfish proposal -- and 

        20   this really does not, Hal, directly address the 

        21   proposal -- I just went with my family billfish 

        22   hunting, so I wanted to tell you about that, and 

        23   I'd like to get that in the record.  

        24                  My daughter, who weighs 80 pounds, 

        25   caught a 180-pound striped marlin 10 feet long; so 
.                                                                    16

         1   I just thought I wanted to get that in the record.  

         2   Mine was smaller, so I won't tell you its size.  

         3   And my wife caught one, and my daughter's friend 

         4   caught one.  I won't tell you where I was fishing, 

         5   but we landed four of them.                  

         6                  But, anyway, the purpose of my 

         7   comments -- other than to get the fact that 

         8   Brittany Heath, 15 years old, 80 pounds, caught a 

         9   180-pound fish 10 feet long -- other than that, 

        10   the boat that we went out of, which was out of -- 

        11   I'm not going to tell you where.  

        12                  The boat that we went out of and 

        13   that whole area have a catch-and-release 

        14   recognition program.  And the point is that the 

        15   particular place that we fished out of and their 

        16   boats catch and release more billfish than any 

        17   other -- and this is out of Mexico -- any other 

        18   in, they say, the world.  

        19                  Do we have any such program 

        20   specifically?  Is there recognition for people who 

        21   release?  

        22                  MR. OSBURN:  Yes, sir.  There is a 

        23   big fish award, a catch-and-release award, that 

        24   we have in our program.  Most of the participants 

        25   in that, of course, are reds, trout, flounder.  
.                                                                    17

         1   That's the most commonly caught.  But billfish, I 

         2   believe, are part of that program.  

         3                  I will tell you that the anglers of 

         4   Texas that target billfish had the catch-and-

         5   release ethic way before many others in that 

         6   fishery thought of it.  They have been releasing 

         7   fish, tagging them --  

         8                  COMMISSIONER HEATH:  Right.  

         9                  MR. OSBURN:  -- to help biologists 

        10   track.  There's a group down on the Coast that we 

        11   have worked with, Steve Qualia, Fish Trackers, 

        12   Incorporated out of Corpus that provides the tags 

        13   to the anglers; a very good angling ethic in the 

        14   billfish community.  The only fish that we know of 

        15   that are really brought in are the occasional 

        16   tournaments and the occasional mortality. 

        17                  COMMISSIONER HEATH:  Do you have 

        18   any idea what percent are released?

        19                  MR. OSBURN:  I'd speculate that 

        20   it's over 90 percent.  

        21                  COMMISSIONER HEATH:  Okay; good.  

        22   Thank you.  

        23                  That's Brittany Heath.  

        24                  MR. OSBURN:  By the way, 

        25   Commissioner, I'm  a very good -- I can put bait 
.                                                                    18

         1   on the hook real well if you ever need that help.  

         2                  COMMISSIONER HEATH:  Thank you, 

         3   Hal.  I really appreciate that.  We have that in 

         4   the minutes, too.  

         5                  MR. OSBURN:  Yes.

         6                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Didn't you 

         7   want to put a photograph in the minutes?    

         8                  COMMISSIONER HEATH:  Yes.  That's 

         9   Brittany Heath.  

        10                  MR. OSBURN:  Thank you.  

        11                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  Thank you, 

        12   Hal.                      

        13                  Jerry Cooke is going to be up next.  

        14   We're going to wait until we've heard what 

        15   everybody has to say before we vote on the 

        16   Proclamation.  

        17                  Good morning, Jerry. 

        18                  MR. COOKE:  Good morning, ma'am.  

        19   Madam Chairman and Members, my name is Jerry 

        20   Cooke.  I'm currently the Director for Upland 

        21   Wildlife Ecology in the Wildlife Division.  I'll 

        22   be presenting the Wildlife Division's proposed 

        23   changes to the Hunting and Fishing Proclamation 

        24   for 2000-2001.  

        25                  Our first proposal was to include 
.                                                                    19

         1   eight new counties in the Eastern wild turkey 

         2   spring season.  Those counties are Camp, Franklin, 

         3   Hunt, Morris, Panola, Rains, Shelby, and Titus 

         4   Counties.  This will be a standard season, as we 

         5   have in the other counties that are shown in red.  

         6   It will be opening the Monday nearest April 14th 

         7   for 14 consecutive days.  It will be shotgun,  

         8   lawful archery equiment, and crossbows only as a 

         9   means of take.  No baiting will be allowed, and 

        10   every bird taken must be taken through a check 

        11   station.  

        12                  We had 120 comments in favor of 

        13   this proposal and 10 in opposition to it.  

        14                  In three counties of East Texas -- 

        15   Cass, Marion, and Harrison Counties -- we propose 

        16   to create four doe days in which deer may be 

        17   taken, either sex.  This will be opening the 

        18   Thanksgiving Day through the following Sunday, and 

        19   the map shows the relationship of these counties 

        20   to the counties that currently have that season.   

        21                  There were 130 comments in favor of 

        22   this proposal and 17 in opposition.  

        23                  We propose to redefine in a portion 

        24   of our 23 doe-day county compartment to allow 

        25   antlerless deer to be taken in doe days from the 
.                                                                    20

         1   opening day through the Sunday following 

         2   Thanksgiving.  Currently, Thanksiving is not 

         3   always included in that opportunity, so we're 

         4   expanding it in that area.  Also, we recommend to 

         5   include San Jacinto, Trinity, and Walker Counties 

         6   in that compartment.  

         7                  We had 120 comments in favor of and 

         8   13 in opposition to including those three 

         9   counties.  We had 142 comments in favor of and 10 

        10   in opposition to redefining the doe days in those 

        11   counties.  

        12                  In the 11 counties that currently 

        13   have the 23 doe days in that portion of the Piney 

        14   Woods, we would recommend to create a 

        15   muzzleloader-only season in those counties.  It 

        16   would open the Saturday following the close of the 

        17   general season for nine consecutive days in which 

        18   two antlerless or two spikes may be taken during 

        19   that season.                 

        20                  We had 119 comments in favor of 

        21   that proposal and 12 in opposition.  

        22                  I included this map to refresh the 

        23   Commission's memory on the distribution of deer in 

        24   Texas.  Currently, something over a third of all 

        25   the white-tailed deer in Texas reside in less than 
.                                                                    21

         1   one-fifth of the geographic area of Texas, and 

         2   that's the Edwards Plateau eco-region.  

         3                  Our proposal -- as soon as my slide 

         4   changes -- our proposal would be to increase the 

         5   bag limit in 25 counties of the Edwards Plateau, 

         6   all or part.  This proposal would include the 

         7   northern portion of Val Verde County; the northern 

         8   half of Kinney, Uvalde, and Medina Counties; all 

         9   of Bexar County; and the western half of Travis 

        10   County, Hays County, and Comal County.  All of 

        11   these counties currently have the four-deer, no 

        12   more than two-buck, bag.  We would propose to 

        13   increase that to five deer, no more than two bucks 

        14   in the bag. 

        15                  Our comments were 152 in favor of 

        16   the proposal and 39 in opposition.  

        17                  COMMISSIONER WATSON:  Jerry?  

        18                  MR. COOKE:  Sir?  

        19                  MR. WATSON:  Did you say Bexar 

        20   County?

        21                  MR. COOKE:  Bexar County is 

        22   included in that.  

        23                  COMMISSIONER WATSON:  It's not 

        24   yellow.

        25                  MR. COOKE:  It's not yellow on the 
.                                                                    22

         1   map; correct.  This was my slide from the previous 

         2   proposal, and I didn't get the map drawn all the 

         3   way to the whole bag.  I apologize for that.  

         4   That's why I named it --

         5                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  Good catch.  

         6                  MR. COOKE:  -- named it 

         7   specifically.  But I did pronounce it correctly.  

         8                  At Commissioner Angelo's request, 

         9   and the rest of the Commission, we took to the 

        10   public a proposal to increase the length of the 

        11   mule deer season in the western portion of the 

        12   Panhandle.  This would be in the western half of 

        13   Andrews County, Bailey, Hockley, Lamb, Terry, and 

        14   Yoakum Counties, and to include a proposal to add 

        15   Cochran County to that compartment.                

        16                     Generally, we had favorable 

        17   comments on the proposal of lengthening the 

        18   season.  We had 122 in favor of lengthening the 

        19   season and 17 in opposition.  However, there was 

        20   some concern about going all the way to 16 days 

        21   from a fairly new season in those counties.  But 

        22   there was general support for increasing the 

        23   season to nine days, for example, as an 

        24   incremental step; and that would be the 

        25   recommendation to the Committee and to the 
.                                                                    23

         1   Commission.  

         2                  For inclusion of Cochran County, 

         3   they had the same comments about the season 

         4   length.  But there were 134 in favor of and six in 

         5   opposition to including Cochran County in that 

         6   compartment.  

         7                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  Will Cochran 

         8   County also be 16 days?

         9                  MR. COOKE:  It's whatever the 

        10   Commission adopts.  But it would be included in 

        11   the compartment with the same seasonal length as 

        12   all the other counties in that compartment.  

        13                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  How about the 

        14   other counties in the State?

        15                  MR. COOKE:  In the Trans-Pecos, we 

        16   have a 16-day season.  And that was Commissioner 

        17   Angelo's concern was that we had an area of Texas 

        18   with only a five-day bag.  They are not really 

        19   comparable populations.  They're not generally 

        20   distributed throughout the counties.  It's 

        21   essentially a couple of soil associations where 

        22   they are found, and naturally the people in the 

        23   county are conservative people.  This is Texas, 

        24   you know.

        25                  COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  I think this 
.                                                                    24

         1   will be a big improvement, because the problem 

         2   last time was that with five days you only have 

         3   one weekend, and it turned out that the weather 

         4   was awful, so it pretty well eliminated the 

         5   hunting for a lot of people; whereas, if they had 

         6   two weekends, it doubles their chance to have some 

         7   decent weather to hunt in.  

         8                  And I think the idea that the staff 

         9   is recommending to go to nine instead of 16 makes 

        10   sense, because this is somewhat of an experiment.  

        11   And there was some general opposition to having 

        12   the season at all to begin with, but I think it 

        13   became nearly unanimous that it was a good idea.  

        14   We don't want to mess it up by overdoing the 

        15   changes too quickly.  

        16                  MR. COOKE:  Thank you.  

        17                  In a portion of Henderson County, 

        18   current regulations allow only shotgun and lawful 

        19   archery equipment to be used in hunting, and staff 

        20   proposes that we delete that restriction from that 

        21   portion of the county.  

        22                  We had 104 comments in favor of 

        23   removing that restriction and 11 in opposition to 

        24   it.  

        25                  Currently, there are two options 
.                                                                    25

         1   available to landowners within the MLD Program.  

         2                  The first option provides 

         3   antlerless-only permits to be used during the 

         4   general season available within the county.  

         5                  The second option is available to 

         6   landowners whose management has resulted in better 

         7   population characteristics and significantly 

         8   better habitat conditions than is generally found 

         9   in the remainder of the county.  This option, 

        10   facilitated with permits for both bucks and 

        11   antlerless deer, provides a five-deer bag, no more 

        12   than three bucks on the property, and allows deer 

        13   to be hunted on the property by any legal means 

        14   from the Saturday nearest September 29th through 

        15   the Sunday nearest January 31st of the following 

        16   year.  

        17                  Wildlife management plans used in 

        18   this program identify as deer population levels 

        19   that can be safely supported by native vegetation 

        20   without degradation of habitats, and permits are 

        21   issued based on harvest recommendations to 

        22   maintain the deer herd at that safe level.  Field 

        23   staff is currently in training to use a browse 

        24   survey technique to more objectively evaluate 

        25   foraging impact on habitats.  
.                                                                    26

         1                  A scoping meeting held at Canyon of 

         2   the Eagles in October 1999 showed general support 

         3   for the program while identifying some concerns.  

         4   Some claim that landowners using feeding programs 

         5   and food plots were not being acknowledged within 

         6   the program.  The program is currently focused on 

         7   native vegetation, because all species of wildlife 

         8   depend on native vegetation for survival.  

         9                  Those that were concerned claimed 

        10   that these treatments, the feeding and the food 

        11   plots, relieve foraging pressure on native 

        12   vegetation; and this claim will be addressed 

        13   through the use of the browse survey.  Where these 

        14   enhancements result in protection of native 

        15   vegetation, their benefits will be recognized and 

        16   realized in the future.  

        17                  There was concern that annual 

        18   review of management activities were burdensome 

        19   and placed landowners in the uncomfortable 

        20   position of justifying field staff when agreed-to 

        21   management practices were not accomplished; for 

        22   instance, during burn bans, you couldn't burn.  

        23   When you had really, really good habitat 

        24   conditions, harvest recommendations can't be 

        25   accomplished.  
.                                                                    27

         1                  One way to address this concern 

         2   would be to only require practices to be 

         3   substantially accomplished within some time frame, 

         4   such as three years; but staff requests guidance 

         5   on an appropriate time frame from the Commission.  

         6                  Also, there was concern that there 

         7   exists a broad gulf between the two available 

         8   options within the MLD Program as they are 

         9   currently being implemented.  To address this 

        10   concern, staff proposed an intermediate option 

        11   between the above two described options to clarify 

        12   our understanding of the Commission's intent, the 

        13   enhanced season and enhanced bag option, both in 

        14   option requirements and the requirements for the 

        15   wildlife management plan as it applies to the 

        16   program.  

        17                  The basic difference between the 

        18   current ESEB option and the proposed intermediate 

        19   option would be whether or not the October portion 

        20   of the enhanced season would be available on the 

        21   property, which it would not be under Option 2, 

        22   and whether or not all the recommended management 

        23   pratices needed to be substantially accomplished 

        24   within the time frame established by the 

        25   Commission, which in Option 2 would only include 
.                                                                    28

         1   the harvest portion of those recommendations.  

         2   Staff anticipates the use of the browse survey to 

         3   objectively distinguish between these two habitat 

         4   conditions.

         5                  Also, this proposal distinguishes 

         6   between the intermediate option and a general 

         7   season antlerless-only option based on whether or 

         8   not harvest recommendations are being 

         9   substantially accomplished within the time frame 

        10   established by the Commission.  

        11                  It is important for the Commission 

        12   to understand that if this proposal were adopted 

        13   as presented, and no grace period is provided for 

        14   in the regulation, there will be property owners 

        15   who currently qualify under the ESEB option that 

        16   will only qualify for the intermediate or general 

        17   season antlerless-only option during future 

        18   seasons.  

        19                  Also, there will be property owners 

        20   who will not qualify under the intermediate option 

        21   because they will not substantially meet harvest 

        22   recommendations within the time frame established 

        23   by the Commission.  However, if the Commission 

        24   provides that substantial compliance is required 

        25   only within a designated time frame, these 
.                                                                    29

         1   situations would be minimized.  

         2                  This proposal will mean that within 

         3   this program, the wildlife management plan will 

         4   not be an informal voluntary agreement between 

         5   property owners and Parks and Wildlife, but will 

         6   become to a certain extent a regulatory device. 

         7   The purpose of this proposal is an attempt to 

         8   address the concerns that have been brought to us 

         9   about the program as it is currently being 

        10   implemented, and to clarify the intent of the 

        11   Commission for this program.  

        12                  If we understand the Commission's 

        13   intent for this program, staff would further 

        14   propose to change the name of the program to the 

        15   Managed Lands Permit Program to emphasize that the 

        16   focus of this and all other programs of Parks and 

        17   Wildlife is on habitat.  

        18                  The comments for this proposal was 

        19   94 in favor of and 21 in opposition to.  

        20                  Since I'm the last presentation, 

        21   the staff recommends that the Regulations 

        22   Committee forward the Statewide Hunting and 

        23   Fishing Proclamation to the full Commission 

        24   tomorrow for adoption, and this will be the 

        25   adoption motion that will be presented at that 
.                                                                    30

         1   time.                     

         2                  Do you have any questions over the 

         3   Wildlife portion?  

         4                  MR. SANSOM:  Ms. Chairman, if I 

         5   might, before we take your questions, I'd like to 

         6   add to what Jerry has said by noting, first of 

         7   all, that the public comment on the last part of 

         8   his proposal -- that is, the changes to the MLD 

         9   Program -- have been generally supportive.  On the 

        10   other hand, these proposals have generated a great 

        11   deal of confusion about what our intent is and 

        12   about what the standards are by which we would 

        13   issue these permits.  

        14                  Mr. Watson and I and some of some 

        15   of the staff have begun a process of visiting many 

        16   of the affected ranches to try to see what the 

        17   impact is on the ground, and that's convinced us 

        18   that that confusion is definitely out there.  

        19                  I will tell you that I'm concerned, 

        20   as I know our Chairman is, that we have the most 

        21   successful program in the United States that seeks 

        22   to bring landowners into voluntary conservation 

        23   programs.  We now have over 10 million acres in 

        24   Texas in voluntary conservation programs.  We've 

        25   got over four million acres in MLD at this time.  
.                                                                    31

         1   And the last thing we want to do is to create 

         2   disincentives, as opposed to trying to get more 

         3   people into that program.  We need to grow it.  

         4                  Our programs are focused on 

         5   habitat.  Habitat is the key to all wildlife 

         6   success, and so we need to make sure that 

         7   everyone understands that habitat is the focus of 

         8   our programs.  But we also need to realize that 

         9   there are people out there who have legitimate 

        10   grievances, perhaps, about how this is program 

        11   should be administered.  

        12                  So my proposal to you today is that 

        13   we leave the MLD portions of the Proclamation as 

        14   they are and go forward with the program as it 

        15   currently exists; to also defer our later item on 

        16   the agenda today that has to do with Triple T; and 

        17   working with our Chairman and Mr. Watson and 

        18   others, that I will appoint a group of people who 

        19   represent the interested parties, interested 

        20   people who are currently concerned about this 

        21   program.  And we will within the next two weeks 

        22   begin a process of trying to work with them to 

        23   seek a format for this program that reaches the 

        24   objectives that I've laid out, if that is 

        25   acceptable to you.  
.                                                                    32

         1                  That would involve only the 

         2   portions of this program, of the Proclamation, 

         3   that deal with the managed lands permits.  

         4                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  I think 

         5   that's a good approach here, because I think these 

         6   are difficult to understand.  And as hard as they 

         7   are to understand, they must be particularly 

         8   difficult to take advantage of and for the 

         9   Department to administer.  

        10                  But both Jerry and you, Andy, 

        11   talked about habitat; and I think it's essential 

        12   that we continue to make clear that that is a 

        13   critical part of what the Department has to focus 

        14   on in this program, and I think getting a 

        15   committee of interested stakeholders together on 

        16   that issue is an excellent approach.  

        17                  But I would just urge that you 

        18   continue to stress the need for protection and 

        19   management of the habitat; because in Texas, with 

        20   all of it or virtually all of it being in private 

        21   ownership, that's the only way that we can protect 

        22   our natural resources.  And our private landowners 

        23   do a good job in that regard, and we just need to 

        24   make sure that this program is one that supports 

        25   and encourages that.  
.                                                                    33

         1                  COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  Madam 

         2   Chairman, my motion earlier to approve the 

         3   fishery's part was premature.  So if there's no 

         4   objection, I would ask that that one be withdrawn, 

         5   and I would move that we approve the 

         6   recommendation as to the appropriate changes.  

         7                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  And I'd 

         8   second that.

         9                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  All in 

        10   favor?  All opposed?   

        11                  (Motion carries unanimously.) 



        14                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  Item Number 3, 

        15   Proposed Finfish License Limitation Program; Paul 

        16   Hammerschmidt.  

        17                  Good morning.

        18                  MR. HAMMERSCHMIDT:  Good morning.  

        19   Madam Chairman, Members of the Committee, my name 

        20   is Paul Hammerschmidt, Program Director for the 

        21   Coastal Fisheries Division.  

        22                  My presentation today will review 

        23   staff's proposals to fulfill the legislative 

        24   mandate to implement a license management program 

        25   for the commercial finfish fishery in Texas.  
.                                                                    34

         1                  The 76th Legislature under Senate 

         2   Bill 1303 granted the Parks and Wildlife 

         3   Commission this authority.  

         4                  Let me back up here.  There we go.

         5                  The various proposals that we made 

         6   were to implement the licensed management program 

         7   through a new Finfish Fishery Proclamation.  

         8   Within that, it would delegate administrative 

         9   authority of the program to the Executive 

        10   Director.  It establishes rules for the display of 

        11   the license plate on a vessel; sets the date of 

        12   the  transferability of the licenses to any time 

        13   beginning September 1, 2000; and lays out the 

        14   framework for a license buyback process.  

        15                  It also sets commercial finfish 

        16   fisherman license and transfer fees at $300 for 

        17   resident, $1,200 for nonresident; and, finally, 

        18   under the Statewide  Hunting and Fishing 

        19   Proclamation, sets the total number of trotlines 

        20   and crab traps a fisherman may use and establishes 

        21   marking requirements for those trotlines and crab 

        22   traps.  

        23                  We had approximately 53 responses, 

        24   83 percent of which were favorable toward adoption 

        25   of this proposal.  
.                                                                    35

         1                  Additionally, during the public 

         2   hearing process, members of the commercial fishing 

         3   industry asked that the Commission consider new, 

         4   less restrictive criteria which are used to 

         5   determine whether fisherman can leave trotlines in 

         6   the water during the weekend ban on trotlines.

         7                  Currently, trotlines must be 

         8   removed from the water no later than 1:00 p.m. on 

         9   Fridays unless the National Weather Service has 

        10   issued a small-craft advisory, where wind speeds 

        11   are 20 knots or greater.  The industry asked that 

        12   the criteria be lowered to a newly adopted 

        13   advisory category called "small craft take 

        14   caution," where wind speeds are 15 to 20 knots. 

        15                  Staff obtained weather data from 

        16   the National Weather Service and found that the 

        17   number of Fridays eligible for the new advisory 

        18   would increase from 10 percent of the Fridays per 

        19   year to 50 percent of the Fridays each year.  

        20                  Consequently, due to this 

        21   significant increase of potential effort, staff 

        22   felt no action should be taken at this time.  

        23   However, we would like to continue to evaluate 

        24   this proposal.  As part of our evaluation, we will 

        25   solicit more input from the general public and 
.                                                                    36

         1   look into the potential effects from a resource 

         2   perspective; and we will also assess how the new 

         3   license management program, pending approval of 

         4   the Commission, may offset future commercial 

         5   fishing activities.       

         6                  That's my proposal.  I'll be happy 

         7   to answer any questions. 

         8                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  This may sound 

         9   like a silly question, but why is it important 

        10   that trotlines be taken out of the water?  

        11                  MR. HAMMERSCHMIDT:  Back when that 

        12   issue was made, it was made as a user conflict 

        13   issue and as a safety issue for over the weekend.  

        14   And we found that in the lower Coast, 

        15   particularly, the small-craft advisory is a good 

        16   portion of the time.  

        17                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  Thank you.  

        18                  COMMISSIONER RYAN:  On the buyback 

        19   program, how do we determine what price that we 

        20   offer?

        21                  MR. HAMMERSCHMIDT:  We have not 

        22   done that yet.  What we're waiting for is for one 

        23   full year of the licenses to be issued, to get 

        24   that to settle out first, so we know who all the 

        25   players are in the program.  Then we'll start 
.                                                                    37

         1   looking at that, and we will be doing that 

         2   currently with the crab industry.  We've had one 

         3   full year of it.  That's the way we did it with 

         4   the shrimp industry as well.  We like to know who 

         5   our players are, how they're distributed up and 

         6   down the Coast, and then we'll look and see how to 

         7   establish a buyback process on that.  There are 

         8   several options.  

         9                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Paul, what's 

        10   been the history over the last 20 years of the 

        11   population of the finfish, given that it was 

        12   about that long ago that some of the restrictions 

        13   came into play?  

        14                  MR. HAMMERSCHMIDT:  Yes, ma'am.  On 

        15   the game fish, red drum and spotted sea trout, 

        16   we're seeing some of the best fishing we've ever 

        17   seen in 20 years.  Tomorrow you'll be seeing a 

        18   fishing forecast on coastal fishing.  

        19                  Black drum seem to be doing okay, 

        20   seem to be holding their own, which is a 

        21   commercial species.  And that's the one that is 

        22   particularly targeted by trotliners.  

        23                  Flounder are not doing so well.  

        24   We're still working on some issues with flounder.  

        25                  We have in the last couple of years 
.                                                                    38

         1   established a bag limit on commercial fishermen.  

         2   We've changed the size limit a little bit, which 

         3   should allow the fish to spawn once before they 

         4   are targeted for the fishery, both recreational 

         5   and commercial.

         6                  So in general everything looks 

         7   pretty good except for flounder. 

         8                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Thank you.   

         9                  MR. HAMMERSCHMIDT:  Yes, ma'am.  

        10                  Any other questions?  If not, then 

        11   staff recommends the following motion:  That the 

        12   Regulations Committee of the Texas Parks and 

        13   Wildlife Commission authorize staff to bring the 

        14   proposed changes before the full Commission to be 

        15   considered for adoption.  

        16                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  Do I have a 

        17   motion? 

        18                  COMMISSIONER HEATH:  So moved.

        19                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  Second?  

        20                  COMMISSIONER WATSON:  Second. 

        21                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  All in favor?  

        22                  COMMISSION MEMBERS:  Aye. 

        23                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  All opposed?  

        24                  (No response, and motion carries 

        25   unanimously.)
.                                                                    39


         2   INITIATIVES.

         3                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  All right.  

         4   Number 4 is the status of the Shrimp Management 

         5   Initiative.  Hal Osburn will give us a status 

         6   report.  

         7                  MR. OSBURN:  Thank you, Madam 

         8   Chairman.  Commissioners, I'm Hal Osburn, Coastal 

         9   Fisheries Division Director.  

        10                  The Shrimp Regulation Review 

        11   Initiative, which we started about a year and a 

        12   half ago, is entering its final phase.  I'd like 

        13   to update you on its status.                  

        14                  Let me start by noting how 

        15   important shrimp are to the ecology of our 

        16   estuaries.  They do provide a critical link 

        17   between the primary producers, top consumers in 

        18   that marine environment.  Basically, if you don't 

        19   have healthy shrimp populations, you won't have 

        20   healthy estuaries.  Shrimp are an important food 

        21   source for virtually all of our game fish:  red 

        22   drum, spotted sea trout, and flounder.  These are 

        23   the species that support a recreational fishing 

        24   industry worth about $2 billion to the State.  

        25                  Of course, humans are also in the 
.                                                                    40

         1   food chain at the top, and we enjoy eating shrimp; 

         2   and those consumptive demands have fostered a 

         3   commercial industry which is worth about a half a 

         4   billion dollars to the State.  

         5                  In Texas there are three primary 

         6   species. White, brown, and pink are their common 

         7   names.  Each has a complex but predictable annual 

         8   life cycle.  It includes spawning in the Gulf, and 

         9   then the larval movement into the back bays.  They 

        10   have several months of rapid growth.  They move 

        11   down back into the primary bays, and then they 

        12   will move out into the Gulf once again as adults 

        13   within that year.  

        14                  Throughout most of a shrimp's life 

        15   history, they are pursued by a fleet of commercial 

        16   vessels.  When they're in the back bays, there is 

        17   a fleet of about 1400 bait-shrimp vessels that 

        18   seek those shrimp out.  As they grow and move to 

        19   the primary bays, they are sought as food; and 

        20   that fleet also consists of about 1400 licensed 

        21   vessels.  As the shrimp reaches maturity and moves 

        22   back to the Gulf, it is hunted by a fleet of about 

        23   2300 licensed vessels.  Those are Texas vessels.  

        24   There's also numerous out-of-state vessels which 

        25   are not required to be licensed in Texas and fish 
.                                                                    41

         1   just outside the Texas waters.  

         2                  Unfortunately -- there's my Gulf 

         3   slide,  the shrimp returning to the Gulf -- we 

         4   had a balance originally a number of decades ago 

         5   between the bait and the bay and the Gulf shrimper 

         6   and the available shrimp population.  That balance 

         7   has been disrupted in the last few decades with 

         8   numerous changes in the fishery, some of them 

         9   listed here.  These collectively have created some 

        10   biological, economic, and social stresses on our 

        11   fishery.                 

        12                  I wanted to highlight some of the 

        13   trends that cause concern for staff.  We've seen 

        14   the shrimping efforts in the bays increase about 

        15   300 percent since the early '70s.  A limited entry 

        16   program, which came in in about 1995, does appear 

        17   to have leveled out the effort, but is has not 

        18   reversed that trend.  

        19                  During that same time period, we 

        20   have seen a none of bay shrimp harvested increase 

        21   actually about 400 percent as the technology, the 

        22   efficiency of the vessels, has increased.  

        23                  The catch rate of the bay shrimp 

        24   has declined about 50 percent in that time period, 

        25   and this to us indicates a reduction in the 
.                                                                    42

         1   relative abundance of those shrimp that are 

         2   migrating to the Gulf as they make their way out 

         3   of the bay.  

         4                  And perhaps the most disturbing 

         5   trend is the decline of the adult spawners in the 

         6   Gulf, about a 30 percent decline.  This means to 

         7   us that the number of adult shrimp available to 

         8   provide the crop of larvae for the following year 

         9   in the bays is basically steadily diminishing.  

        10                  Reversing these trends is 

        11   considered by staff to be a biological mandate.  

        12   We do think that we need to prevent any 

        13   possibility of a collapse of this valuable 

        14   resource.  I will tell you it is not clear how 

        15   long we could go ignoring these trends before we 

        16   saw actual recruitment over fishing, but we 

        17   believe it is prudent to take action now.  A lot 

        18   of folks will tell you that it is impossible to 

        19   collapse a shrimp stock, but there are numerous 

        20   examples in the scientific literature which 

        21   actually say just the opposite.  This kind of 

        22   biological disaster in Texas would obviously have 

        23   an enormous economic impact on the shrimpers and 

        24   the processers; but beyond that, on the tourist 

        25   and recreational fisheries that depend on that 
.                                                                    43

         1   healthy estuary.  

         2                  Excess shrimping effort in our bays 

         3   and Gulf does affect more than just the shrimp 

         4   stocks.  Staff continues to be concerned about the 

         5   huge bycatch of other species, the interaction of 

         6   the shrimper with the sea turtle strandings, and 

         7   the impacts of trawling on bottom habitat and 

         8   water turbidity.  

         9                  Our management strategy for this 

        10   fishery is mandated to be a compromise between 

        11   biological, social, and economic factors.  Given 

        12   our current status, though, we believe that if 

        13   we're goind to achieve optimum yield, we do have 

        14   to reduce the overall impact of this fishery on 

        15   the estuary.  

        16                  One of the least disruptive ways to 

        17   do that is is the licensed buyback program.  It 

        18   has been very popular with industry.  It was 

        19   supported by the Legislature, established by the 

        20   Legislature.  But I will tell you it is not quick, 

        21   and it is also not cheap.  Following my 

        22   presentation, Dr. McKinney will present some ideas 

        23   on how to accelerate that program.  

        24                  Less popular with the shrimping 

        25   industry, but certainly less expensive and more 
.                                                                    44

         1   effective in the short term, are additional 

         2   restrictions on where, when, and how shrimp are 

         3   allowed to be harvested.  In addition, license 

         4   fees can be adjusted on the commercial side to 

         5   properly fund management of this public resoucre.  

         6                  We find ourselves with three basic 

         7   options.  One is to take no action right now, 

         8   which we believe would incur a lot of economic and 

         9   biological risk.  We could impose some very 

        10   restrictive rule changes on the fleet.  That would 

        11   cause some short-term economic disruption along 

        12   the Coast.  Or we could adopt a moderate package 

        13   of rule changes which would begin the recovery 

        14   process by addressing some of the most serious 

        15   parts of our concern.  

        16                  I do need to point out to you that 

        17   even new rule changes cannot guarantee success.  

        18   The reason is that you still have environmental 

        19   concerns; pollution.  Fresh-water inflow must 

        20   continue to be given a high priority.  Law 

        21   unforcement must be given the resources to get 

        22   adequate compliance from our rules so that it's 

        23   not just a paper exercise.  And because of our 

        24   economic stresses in the fleet that have generated 

        25   for many numbers of years now, we have not reached 
.                                                                    45

         1   the point where the industry in general is willing 

         2   to accept new conservation measures, so we have 

         3   not gotten to that co-management phase that we 

         4   want to be at.  

         5                  Staff does seek guidance from the 

         6   Commission on what is admittedly a very difficult 

         7   management issue in natural resources.  With your 

         8   concurrence, we will develop a moderate package of 

         9   rule changes which we will take to the Shrimp 

        10   Advisory Committee later this month, and we will 

        11   then present any modifications of that to you at 

        12   your next meeting.  

        13                  And that concludes my presentation.  

        14   I'll be happy to answer any questions.  

        15                  COMMISSIONER RYAN:  I have a couple 

        16   of questions.  Are we seeing sea turtle strandings 

        17   off bay shrimp?

        18                  MR. OSBURN:  There are some.  That 

        19   is a minor part.  Probably only in the 10 percent 

        20   range of the sea turtle strandings appear to 

        21   generate from the bays.  

        22                  COMMISSIONER RYAN:  Okay.  Another 

        23   thing is:  On our buyback program, are we buying 

        24   back more bay shrimpers than we are Gulf 

        25   shrimpers?
.                                                                    46

         1                  MR. OSBURN:  The Gulf shrimper is 

         2   not a part of the buyback program.  It's bay and 

         3   bait licenses only is what the Legislature 

         4   established.  I will tell you I wish I had a 

         5   limited-entry program on the Gulf fleet.  We do 

         6   not have that.  So we're buying bay and bait 

         7   licenses, and we've bought about 50/50 of those, 

         8   about even to their proportion. 

         9                  COMMISSIONER RYAN:  Would there be 

        10   an interest from those shrimpers on the Gulf?  

        11                  MR. OSBURN:  We have received some 

        12   recent interest from leaders in that arena, and 

        13   I'm very encouraged by that.  I know it's 

        14   something that we're going to pursue.  We do have 

        15   to get legislative authority to do it, though.  

        16                  COMMISSIONER RYAN:  Do you think 

        17   that's something we'll do in the near future?

        18                  MR. OSBURN:  It's on the next phase 

        19   of the shrimp management strategy.  This is a 

        20   long-term process.  We started in 1985, when the 

        21   Legislature spoke to us to give us new regulatory 

        22   authority.  In 1989 we got the shrimp FMP.  In 

        23   1995 we got the limited entry.  We will be taking 

        24   an action this year, possibly, and then in the 

        25   future years there are still things to do.  I 
.                                                                    47

         1   think Gulf limited entry is not a -- just because 

         2   Texas does limited entry, we still have to deal 

         3   with the other states that can come in right 

         4   outside of nine miles.  I will tell you we are 

         5   working with those states and the Gulf of Mexico 

         6   Fishery Management Council Counsel to propose that 

         7   sort of limitation system.  

         8                  MR. SANSOM:  And it's interesting, 

         9   Commissioner -- and I know that Hal has already 

        10   mentioned it -- but for the first time in quite a 

        11   while, we have had members of the Gulf industry 

        12   approach us and ask about it.  But it's got to be 

        13   a Gulfwide solution.  It cannot be Texas alone.  

        14                  DR. McKINNEY:  Madam Chairman -- 

        15                  COMMISSIONER HEATH:  A Gulfwide -- 

        16                  DR. McKINNEY:  I'm sorry. 

        17                  COMMISSIONER AVILA:  I have one 

        18   more question.  A Gulfwide solution:  Does that 

        19   mean Mexico, inclusive, or are you just talking 

        20   about U. S.? 

        21                  MR. SANSOM:  Ideally, yes, sir.  

        22                  COMMISSIONER AVILA:  And the other 

        23   question is:  If there's been a shrimp fishery 

        24   collapse that includes Mexico and Brazil, did they 

        25   see that coming and take any action and try to put 
.                                                                    48

         1   in any regulation, or have we looked at that?  

         2                  MR. OSBURN:  Most of these 

         3   collapses around the world have taken action.  

         4   Obviously, when something that dramatic happens, 

         5   you take note of it.  Primarily, those fisheries 

         6   allowed a harvest, a tremendous harvest of the 

         7   very smallest shrimp in their bays.  And in some 

         8   cases, they would literally close the -- put nets 

         9   across the passes.  The tide rushed out with the 

        10   equivalent to cheesecloth across the pass to catch 

        11   everything that went out, and it didn't take long 

        12   before, "What happened to the big ones offshore?"  

        13   They have taken action in all of the situations 

        14   that I know of, but most of it has transferred to 

        15   another area, and then you get another overfishing 

        16   problem.  

        17                  So we're still learning those 

        18   lessons.  Fishery management is not where it needs 

        19   to be around the world.  

        20                  COMMISSIONER AVILA:  But the point 

        21   is, they're taking reactive action, and you're 

        22   trying to take some proactive action?  

        23                  MR. OSBURN:  Yes, sir. 

        24                  COMMISSIONER AVILA:  Okay.  

        25                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  Hal, could you 
.                                                                    49

         1   define for me a "collapse"?  

         2                  MR. OSBURN:  That is an interesting 

         3   term, and it means a lot of different things to a 

         4   lot of different people.  You can have an economic 

         5   collapse, which would not be as bad as biological 

         6   collapse.  An economic collapse would be that it's 

         7   not worth going out there and fishing, and we're 

         8   certainly going to get to that point before we 

         9   get to a biological collapse.  

        10                  A biological collapse for us would 

        11   be when we first see recruitment over fishing, 

        12   which is when the number of shrimp spawned and 

        13   sent into the bays is not equivalent to the number 

        14   that the bays can actually hold.  Right now there 

        15   probably is a surplus of shrimp in the bays that 

        16   the bays can hold, but the number of adults 

        17   producing them is going down.  At some point 

        18   there's just not enough babies being produced, and 

        19   the bays become less fertile with shrimp so that 

        20   the biomass of shrimp is not as large as it would 

        21   be on average.  And that, to us, is at least the 

        22   start of a collapse.    

        23                  MR. SANSOM:  Now, Hal, from an 

        24   ecological standpoint, would it not be the case, 

        25   then, that that would also affect everything else?  
.                                                                    50

         1                  MR. OSBURN:  Absolutely. 

         2                  MR. SANSOM:  I mean, not just the 

         3   catch of shrimp, but the redfish and trout that 

         4   feed on them.  

         5                  MR. OSBURN:  I could spend -- 

         6   we've had a wonderful opportunity to look at 

         7   data.  We've created some biomass pictures of 

         8   shrimp; and it's really wonderful, the biomass 

         9   that the estuaries produce for us every year, 

        10   when you think of how much shrimp biomass is out 

        11   there.  But that biomass has to be shared with the 

        12   other fish, it has to be shared with the shrimp 

        13   population so they can rejuvenate themselves, and 

        14   it has to be shared recreationally and has to be 

        15   shared commercially.  

        16                  And so the first two, what the 

        17   other species need and what the shrimp populations 

        18   need, is the biological side of it that we're 

        19   trying to prioritize, and the socioeconomic side.  

        20   We have to give Mother Nature part of this stuff 

        21   back, and we're not doing a very good job of that 

        22   right now.  

        23                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  Carol?  

        24                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Hal, the 

        25   bycatch of 80 million pounds -- 
.                                                                    51

         1                  MR. OSBURN:  Yes, ma'am.   

         2                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  -- you 

         3   didn't give us a chart that compared that over 

         4   time or showed a trend.  What does that look like 

         5   in terms of history?   

         6                  MR. OSBURN:  The bycatch is going 

         7   to basically parallel in poundage the effort on 

         8   the first increase, which was about a 300 percent 

         9   increase, because the amount of bycatch per trawl, 

        10   I think, has been fairly steady over time.  We 

        11   don't have as good a number on that as we do on 

        12   the actual shrimp populations.  That's what 

        13   scientists have been measuring.  Well, you study 

        14   the shrimp.  Well, the bycatch is something that 

        15   we've only discovered in the last decade or so as 

        16   to, "Well, what about all this other stuff?"  But, 

        17   yes, the steady increase in the bycatch.  

        18                  And I will tell you that our 

        19   Number 1 concern out of the bycatch is those 

        20   flounder.  Paul Hammerschmidt spoke about the 

        21   flounder.  One of the things we've identified that 

        22   is holding back the recovery of flounder is the 

        23   literally millions of flounder juveniles being 

        24   caught in shrimp trawls.  

        25                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  Any other 
.                                                                    52


         2                  DR. McKINNEY:  If there's no 

         3   additional comments, I'll go ahead and continue 

         4   with the second part.  

         5                  Madam Chairman, for the record, I'm 

         6   Larry McKinney, Senior Director for Aquatic 

         7   Resources. 

         8                  As Hal, I think, so eloquently 

         9   presented, one of the important aspects of our 

        10   long-term strategy is to reduce that pressure.  

        11   And one of the options that we briefed the 

        12   Commission on at your last meeting was ways in 

        13   which we could accelerate that buyback program and 

        14   some options that we were looking at and that we 

        15   went out and scoped, and that's what I want to 

        16   talk with you about today.  I'll give you the 

        17   results of that and have a little bit of 

        18   discussion and recommendation of where we go with 

        19   that.  

        20                  Just in a quick summary, the option 

        21   we're looking at is increasing the salt-water 

        22   fishing stamp by $1 to $3, or overall fishing 

        23   license by that amount, in order to generate funds 

        24   to accelerate that program.  We scoped those 

        25   ideas; and fortunately, because we have an ongoing 
.                                                                    53

         1   survey of our salt-water anglers right now that's 

         2   underway and being tabulated, we were able to have 

         3   a question in there and extract that information.  

         4                  And we've looked at over 1,000 

         5   responses to the question, "Would you support an 

         6   increase in the salt-water stamp to accelerate the 

         7   buyback program?"  And Statewide that response has 

         8   been 68 percent in favor.                    

         9                  Where we did specific scopings 

        10   along the Coast, for example, as part of our 

        11   process, that support was as high as 73 percent in 

        12   favor of accelerating that program.  

        13                  A couple of major concerns were 

        14   raised if we do that.  One is that -- and, again, 

        15   we discussed this with the Commission -- we 

        16   definitely wanted to look at a sunset provision 

        17   with that fee increase that not only accomplished 

        18   our goal, but that that fee went away at that 

        19   time.  And clearly our sport recreational anglers 

        20   were saying that if we're going to do this, we 

        21   really need to make sure that we're accomplishing 

        22   a conservation goal.  

        23                  And I think in the discussion we 

        24   just had, making a point of if we can reduce 80 

        25   million pounds of bycatch -- four pounds of 
.                                                                    54

         1   bycatch for every pound of shrimp we take in the 

         2   bays -- that if we can reduce the pressure and 

         3   reduce that bycatch, we will greatly benefit our 

         4   fishery.  

         5                  Also, if we can reduce the 

         6   trawling -- in which many of our bays, all of our 

         7   bays are completely turned over, trawled over, 

         8   from three to eight times each years, creating a 

         9   lot of pressure -- if we can reduce that, that has 

        10   definite conservation values.                      

        11                  So considering that and the 

        12   results, staff kind of seeks your guidance to move 

        13   forward.  And what we would like to do is propose 

        14   that we increase the salt-water stamp fee by $3; 

        15   not the overall license fee, but the salt-water 

        16   stamp fee alone.  We looked at the overall 

        17   issues; but because of the Combo and the success 

        18   of the Super Combo and where it is, we don't want 

        19   to mess with a good thing, although I think this 

        20   may accelerate more purchases of that program, and 

        21   that's good.  

        22                  So our recommendation is to go 

        23   forward with the $3 stamp fee.  We would sunset 

        24   that increase by September of 2005.  We would 

        25   propose putting it forward to you in June for your 
.                                                                    55

         1   consideration of adoption.  It would become 

         2   effective in September of 2000.  If we do that, we 

         3   would generate some $1.5 million annually for our 

         4   buyback accounts.  

         5                  I do want to point out at this time 

         6   we have it set as buyback accounts, not 

         7   necessarily shrimp accounts.  Our concern there is 

         8   that if we generate those funds through the year, 

         9   we don't want to be caught where we can't expend 

        10   them for those shrimp things.  

        11                  We have some limits, obviously, 

        12   from the legislative authority and so forth as to 

        13   what we can or can't do in a year, and we want to 

        14   make sure that we make the best use of that money.  

        15   And to there might be occasions where we would 

        16   want to help on the other buybacks of crabs or 

        17   finfish in order to make the best of the money.  

        18                  But our clear goal -- clear goal -- 

        19   is that 50 percent reduction in shrimp.  But 

        20   until we can make sure we've addressed perhaps the 

        21   fiscal and some of the legislative limits, we 

        22   don't want to lock ourselves in there until we can 

        23   make sure that we will make the best use of that 

        24   money.  

        25                  So, at this time, certainly, if you 
.                                                                    56

         1   have any additional questions, we would just seek 

         2   your guidance and comments on proceeding with that 

         3   proposal.  

         4                  MR. SANSOM:  Commissioners, the 

         5   effect of this conversation would be that if you 

         6   have no objection, we would go the The Texas 

         7   Register during the next few weeks with a proposal 

         8   to raise the salt-water stamp $3 for this purpose.  

         9   It would be sunsetted, have a sunset provision; 

        10   and we would bring it back to you for concurrence 

        11   in June.  

        12                  Let me say here that this is a big 

        13   deal.  I mean, I want to reiterate what Hal has 

        14   said.  This is a big deal.  This is a serious 

        15   resource issue, both in terms of the shrimp and in 

        16   terms of the bay bottom and all the other species 

        17   that are affected by the bycatch.  We will look at 

        18   some alternatives, to even borrowing money to 

        19   leverage against this so that we can take these 

        20   revenues and potentially even act quicker, because 

        21   it is a problem.  

        22                  On the other hand, because of the 

        23   support of people like Edmond Kemple and others 

        24   and members of the industry and the hard work that 

        25   Hal, and Gene before him, have done, and Larry, we 
.                                                                    57

         1   have as good a relationship with this industry as 

         2   we've ever had.  I mean, it is a good partnership.  

         3   And so we want to stick with an approach that 

         4   allows us to try to address this problem in 

         5   partnership with the industry, because they're the 

         6   ones with the most to lose if this industry 

         7   collapses economically.  

         8                  DR. McKINNEY:  Well said, sir. 

         9                  COMMISSIONER AVILA:  You were 

        10   saying you're looking to move forward with this 

        11   accelerated license for the buyback program, but 

        12   you also are going to meet with the advisory 

        13   committee and come up with some restrictive 

        14   measures, as well?  

        15                  DR. McKINNEY:  What this is is the 

        16   long-term strategy.  It's going to take us five 

        17   years to even get that to happen, so this is a 

        18   long-term strategy.  But that's not going to 

        19   alleviate the concerns that Hal has raised over 

        20   the short term and where we are, so it has to be a 

        21   combination at this point.

        22                  COMMISSIONER AVILA:  But we are 

        23   going to do something short-term?  

        24                  DR. McKINNEY:  Yes, sir.  

        25                  COMMISSIONER HENRY:  Since shrimp 
.                                                                    58

         1   is the immediate concern, did you consider 

         2   restricting the funding for that period of time to 

         3   shrimp, and one to two to three years and later to 

         4   deal with the other?  

         5                  DR. McKINNEY:  We did look at that 

         6   scenario, but the unknowns of what our 

         7   restrictions might be legislatively and so 

         8   forth -- and, for example, we'll generate one and 

         9   a half million dollars next year; and that's just 

        10   from the -- if we do this proposal, that's just 

        11   from the salt-water stamp that the industry itself 

        12   contributes.  So over the biennium, we could have 

        13   three to four million dollars to work with.  

        14                  I want to buy as many of those 

        15   licenses as we can, but I don't want to get into a 

        16   situation where I'm just handing out money to 

        17   spend the money to buy it.  And so until we can 

        18   make sure we have the legislative authority and 

        19   direction to do that, I want to make sure we can 

        20   use that money the best way we can to reduce all 

        21   of our commercial fishing impact, crab and finfish 

        22   as well.  

        23                  So at this point, our goal, our 

        24   clear goal, is 50 percent of that shrimping 

        25   license; but I don't want to put us in a situation 
.                                                                    59

         1   where we get the limit and don't make the best use 

         2   of the money, if that explains it.  That's where 

         3   I'm caught right now, just because of the 

         4   uncertainties of how I can spend that money wisely 

         5   if we do so.  

         6                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  Larry, is 

         7   there any way to quantify the effect of being a 

         8   purchaser, Texas Parks and Wildlife as a purchaser 

         9   of these licenses?  Has that caused an upward 

        10   pressure on the price of the licenses?  Are we 

        11   having to pay a little more by doing it this way, 

        12   a little at a time? 

        13                  DR. McKINNEY:  I think this 

        14   program, what we're talking about, will cause it 

        15   to go up more.  Right now it hasn't, because there 

        16   just hasn't been that money.                       

        17                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  I believe last 

        18   meeting you said the licenses -- or maybe you had 

        19   it here, too -- were about $6,000?  

        20                  DR. McKINNEY:  Around that, yes.  

        21   It would definitely go up, as you expect, if we 

        22   start buying them back.  They become more 

        23   valuable.  But also if people think you have 

        24   money, they're going to try to hold out or 

        25   whatever.  So that's kind of the unknown.  We've 
.                                                                    60

         1   figured that in our models to go up, but that's 

         2   part of the issue. 

         3                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  One more 

         4   question on it:  Can you tell me where the price 

         5   of licenses have been in the last five years, 

         6   from the most you've paid and the least you've 

         7   paid?    

         8                  MR. OSBURN:  On these commercial 

         9   licenses?

        10                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  On the 

        11   buyback.  

        12                  MR. OSBURN:  Oh.  The least we've 

        13   probably paid was a couple of thousand dollars, 

        14   and I think the most was about $8,500.  

        15                  COMMISSIONER HENRY:  How does this 

        16   compare to transfers and transferabilities, and 

        17   what are the major restrictions there?  

        18                  MR. OSBURN:  The Legislature -- and 

        19   this was a compromise with industry -- the 

        20   Legislature established an open transferability as 

        21   of September of this last year.  Before that, only 

        22   historical participants in the fishery could buy 

        23   someone else's license.  

        24                  Now anyone can walk down to the 

        25   dock and buy somebody's license, and you can go 
.                                                                    61

         1   shrimping; or you could transfer it to the State, 

         2   and we have a program to transfer them to the 

         3   State with what we call buyback agents.  We have 

         4   not had anybody do that for us yet, but it is open 

         5   transferability, which makes it a market 

         6   commodity.  It's now a free market on those 

         7   licenses.  And, of course, that means we have 

         8   competition to buy them, and that will drive the 

         9   price up.  

        10                  But the poor economic situation in 

        11   shrimping makes it to where you don't have a lot 

        12   of competition right now on buying thoses 

        13   licenses.  

        14                  As our programs succeed, it will be 

        15   harder and harder to buy a license back.  But 

        16   that's where we want to be.  That's the kind of 

        17   problem we want.  That means the catch rates have 

        18   turned around.  

        19                  COMMISSIONER RYAN:  Hal, what's the 

        20   average cost of a shrimp boat?

        21                  MR. OSBURN:  Shrimp boat?  There 

        22   are some members of the industry here that could 

        23   probably answer that better than I.  It depends on 

        24   the conditions.  I will tell you that in the Gulf 

        25   fleet you were asking about, we've had some 
.                                                                    62

         1   recent brand-new vessels over 100 feet long with 

         2   big Caterpillar engines in them that have gone for 

         3   $1 million; but in our bay fleet, I think it's in 

         4   the $30,000 to $100,000 range.  

         5                  COMMISSIONER RYAN:  If we buy those 

         6   people's license out, where do those boats end up 

         7   going? 

         8                  MR. OSBURN:  We're going to try to 

         9   track that.  In some cases, the vessels are in 

        10   need of a lot of repair, and they just choose not 

        11   to spend any more money on the vessel.   

        12                  COMMISSIONER RYAN:  It's 

        13   depreciated them out, then?  

        14                  MR. OSBURN:  Right.  It's 

        15   depreciated them out.  And a lot these vessels, if 

        16   you look at the fleet, they have been depreciating 

        17   for a while.  

        18                  DR. McKINNEY:  And, as would make 

        19   sense, those individuals that would be most 

        20   interested in a buyback program are probably on 

        21   the edge or under, and their vessel is not going 

        22   to be worth that much.

        23                  MR. OSBURN:  There are, of course, 

        24   shrimp fisheries throughout the Gulf and South 

        25   Atlantic; and there's big broker systems to buy 
.                                                                    63

         1   boats.  

         2                  COMMISSIONER RYAN:  So we don't 

         3   really know what percentage of boats that we 

         4   actually take out of the fleet?  

         5                  MR. OSBURN:  Yes, we do know the 

         6   number that we're taking out, because the license 

         7   is associated with the vessel.  

         8                  COMMISSIONER RYAN:  But what I'm 

         9   saying is:  That boat could go somewhere else and 

        10   continue to shrimp?  

        11                  MR. OSBURN:  Not in our waters.     

        12                   COMMISSIONER RYAN:  Right.  But it 

        13   could still go somewhere else?  

        14                  COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  Another 

        15   state, or --

        16                  COMMISSIONER RYAN:  We don't know 

        17   what percentage of those boats actually are taken 

        18   out of the industry?  

        19                  DR. McKINNEY:  In other words, 

        20   drydocked or whatever?   

        21                  COMMISSIONER RYAN:  Right; 

        22   destroyed or whatever. 

        23                  MR. OSBURN:  We have begun to ask 

        24   them to do a questionnaire on our buybacks of, 

        25   "What kind of history do you have in the fishery?  
.                                                                    64

         1   What is the condition your boat?  What are you 

         2   going to do with your boat?"  We're going to try 

         3   to track that for you.                

         4                  COMMISSIONER RYAN:  I think that 

         5   would be good information.  

         6                  MR. OSBURN:  Yes, sir.  And it does 

         7   speak to the social issue here; and it's part of 

         8   the reason to take what I call the kinder, gentler 

         9   approach on this, because these are fishing 

        10   communities.  

        11                  These are hard-working people.  

        12   They have put their lives into this fishery, and 

        13   a lot of these fisheries would not be where they 

        14   are without their efforts.  We're reaping the 

        15   benefits as to the economy, but they don't need to 

        16   be just suddenly displaced.  And that certainly 

        17   has some precedent around the Gulf, and even in 

        18   this State, of just a sudden displacement:  You're 

        19   not in there any more.  We think this soft exit 

        20   stragegy reduces the social impacts on the coastal 

        21   communities.  

        22                  MR. SANSOM:  I would like to add 

        23   there that in addition to those contributions, the 

        24   earliest proponents of environmental protection in 

        25   the coastal waters were commercial fishermen as 
.                                                                    65

         1   well.  So they have also led the way in 

         2   conservation.   

         3                  MR. OSBURN:  They will speak to you 

         4   about the environmental concerns, and a lot of 

         5   them will tell you it's all environment:  "If you 

         6   would just fix the pollution."  As a manager, I 

         7   have to take what I have to work with in that bay 

         8   system and what shrimp it can hold, and prioritize 

         9   its sustainability.  But they are conservationists 

        10   at heart.  

        11                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Larry, what 

        12   was the number again of the coastal anglers 

        13   surveyed who support this?  

        14                  DR. McKINNEY:  73 percent.  Out of 

        15   our responses from our e-mails or public meetings, 

        16   letters and phones and so forth, we had a total of 

        17   360 responses.  From that, 259 were in favor, and 

        18   94 were opposed.  So we're talking about 73 

        19   percent.  I can get you those numbers in 

        20   particular.  

        21                  The bulk of it, I guess, of course 

        22   came from the fact that we were able to extract 

        23   that one question from the Statewide survey that 

        24   the fisheries are doing to get a total of 1,000 

        25   responses.  That's Statewide in regards to this 
.                                                                    66

         1   issue.  

         2                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  Any other 


         4                  Hal and Larry, thank you for your 


         6                  DR. McKINNEY:  Thank you, Madam 

         7   Chairman. 

         8                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  These are 

         9   difficult issues.  



        12                  Item No. 5, Public Hunting Lands 

        13   Proclamation and Proposed State Park Hunts; 

        14   Herb Kothmann.  

        15                  Good morning, Herb. 

        16                  MR. KOTHMANN:  Madam Chairman and 

        17   members of the Regulations Committee, my name is 

        18   Herb Kothmann.  I'm a Director of Public Hunts.  

        19                  This presentation deals with 

        20   proposed changes to the Public Lands Proclamation 

        21   and proposals for public hunts on State Park lands 

        22   during the 2000-2001 season.  

        23                  The first portion of this 

        24   presentation deals with the changes to the Public 

        25   Lands Proclamation.  This first proposal for 
.                                                                    67

         1   change would promote youth participation in 

         2   hunting on Parks and Wildlife public hunting lands 

         3   by lowering from 21 to 18 years the minimum age at 

         4   which young adults may supervise youth.  Our legal 

         5   staff advised that the age of majority in Texas 

         6   for signing legal contracts is 18.  Therefore, a 

         7   person 18 years of age may assume legal 

         8   responsibility for the liability of a youth.  

         9                  Another recommended change would 

        10   authorize holders of an annual hunting public 

        11   permit, a limited public use permit or one of the 

        12   Texas Conservation Passports, to use our public 

        13   hunting lands to access adjacent public waters and 

        14   to fish in those adjacent public waters from the 

        15   bank of public hunting lands.  Presently, our 

        16   regulation require people to have a $40 annual 

        17   public hunting permit only for this activity. 

        18                  COMMISSIONER HEATH:  What's the 

        19   economic impact of that, Herb?  

        20                  MR. KOTHMANN:  The economic impact 

        21   of that would be to possibly sell a few less 

        22   annual hunting permits.  Hopefully, we would 

        23   stimulate the sale of Texas Conservations 

        24   Passports. 

        25                  COMMISSIONER HEATH:  What do we see 
.                                                                    68

         1   as the potential downside of the number of 

         2   permits?  What kind of numbers are you talking 

         3   about?  

         4                  MR. KOTHMANN:  The $40 permit, this 

         5   year we're selling approximately 38,000 total of 

         6   the $40 annual public hunting permits.  

         7                  COMMISSIONER HEATH:  So the risk is 

         8   38,000 times $40?

         9                  MR. KOTHMANN:  Times $40, yes.   

        10                  COMMISSIONER HEATH:  Well, let me 

        11   wait till Andy gets back, and then we can comment 

        12   on that. 

        13                  MR. KOTHMANN:  Okay.  

        14                  Another proposal would remove the 

        15   current provisions for hunting small game and 

        16   feral hog on U. S. Forest Service lands under a 

        17   $10 limited public use permit.  Staff is 

        18   recommending that this proposal be withdrawn at 

        19   the request of the U. S. Forest Service, which has 

        20   requested additional time to evaluate the impact 

        21   upon public users.  This is a current provision 

        22   applicable only to the five U. S. Forest Service 

        23   units under our public hunting program.  

        24   Everywhere else, hunting activity on our lands 

        25   requires the $40 permit.                   
.                                                                    69

         1                  Another proposal would establish an 

         2   anterless-deer permit to regulate the harvest of 

         3   anterless deer during the general season on those 

         4   five U. S. Forest Service WMAs, where hunting 

         5   where hunting is managed by this agency.  The 

         6   existing Parks and Wildlife permit, such as 

         7   LAMPs, the managed lands deer permit, and 

         8   anterless deer control permit, are not suitable to 

         9   meet this need.  Plans are that the U. S. Forest 

        10   Service would distribute these permits through a 

        11   drawing system to people who possess a $40 annual 

        12   public hunting permit.  Therefore, it would not 

        13   cost the Department any additional staff time, 

        14   and we do not anticipate charging a fee for these 

        15   anterless permits.  

        16                  Another proposal would waive any 

        17   applicable regular or daily permit fees for people 

        18   who participate in authorized nonconsumptive 

        19   activities under any one of the four annual 

        20   permits.  Those would be the $40 annual public 

        21   hunting permit, the $10 limited public use permit, 

        22   the $25 TCP or $50 TCP.  A similar waiver of the 

        23   regular and daily permit fees currently is in 

        24   place for our consumptive users.  This would 

        25   simply put our nonconsumptive users' activities on 
.                                                                    70

         1   par with our consumptive users.  

         2                  COMMISSIONER HEATH:  Herb, can we 

         3   just go back to that issue or --

         4                  MR. KOTHMANN:  Yes, sir.  

         5                  COMMISSIONER HEATH:  -- just 

         6   clarify those numbers for the Commission on those 

         7   permits?  

         8                  MR. KOTHMANN:  Okay.  This year, we 

         9   are issuing approximately 38,000 $40 annual public 

        10   hunting permits and approximately 2500 limited 

        11   public use permits that provide access to public 

        12   hunting lands.  This proposal would allow access 

        13   through those lands to adjacent public waters, 

        14   which presently is not allowed under the 

        15   additional $10 TCP and the $50 TCP; and also  

        16   would allow fishing from the bank in adjacent 

        17   public waters under any of those four permits, 

        18   where previously the $40 was the only thing that 

        19   allows that.  

        20                  MR. GRAHAM:  Commissioner, if I 

        21   understood your question, it would be trying to 

        22   get at what would be the impact of not requiring 

        23   the annual public hunt permits for those people 

        24   who are principally interested in nonconsumptive, 

        25   and that would be a lot less than 38,000.  I don't 
.                                                                    71

         1   know that we could actually track that number, but 

         2   I'd bet it would be 500 or less.  So the impact 

         3   would not be the 38,000.  It would be much, much 

         4   smaller than that.  

         5                  MR. KOTHMANN:  I would not 

         6   anticipate a negative impact revenuwise. 

         7                  COMMISSIONER HEATH:  Yes.  I'm 

         8   sorry, but I think at least a couple of us here 

         9   thought we were talking about 38,000 permits at 

        10   $40 a whack.  I was just double-checking my zeros, 

        11   and that was a million and a half dollars.  

        12                  MR. KOTHMANN:  Right.  

        13                  COMMISSIONER HEATH:  I just wanted 

        14   to be sure that number was right.  So we're 

        15   talking about less than a thousand permits in -- 

        16                  MR. SANSOM:  I'd say probably a lot 

        17   less than that, but we can't give you a hard 

        18   number.  I agree with Herb's assessment.  The 

        19   fiscal impact would be miniscule, if any.

        20                  COMMISSIONER HEATH:  Okay.  So this 

        21   may be a $10,000 impact or a $20,000, assuming 

        22   there's not an offset against that in the sale of 

        23   other revenue-producing -- 

        24                  MR. KOTHMANN:  Not having my 

        25   soothsayer credentials, I couldn't promise it, but 
.                                                                    72

         1   I would not anticipate a negative revenue impact.  

         2                  COMMISSIONER HEATH:  Okay.  I just 

         3   wanted to be sure that what it sounded like at 

         4   first to me is not accurate, and that we're 

         5   talking about a minimum impact, and we're all in 

         6   agreement with that.  Thank you very much. 

         7                  MR. KOTHMANN:  Okay.  And in the 

         8   real world, in effect, what this has done would be 

         9   clearing up a situation that is relatively already 

        10   existing where our enforcement officers are 

        11   recognizing any of these access permits --

        12                  COMMISSIONER HEATH:  Sure.

        13                  MR. KOTHMANN:  -- as to the 

        14   pricing.  It's an area of gray that we hope to 

        15   clear up.  

        16                  COMMISSIONER HEATH:  Okay.  

        17                  MR. KOTHMANN:  Another proposal 

        18   would specifically prohibit the distribution or 

        19   removal of wood, rock, gravel, sand, soil, or 

        20   shell from our Departmental public hunting lands, 

        21   except as authorized by the Department.  The 

        22   reason we're proposing this is that we have had 

        23   some problem with some theft of soil in some units 

        24   and found our rules did not specifically say you 

        25   could not remove soil without our approval.  So 
.                                                                    73

         1   we're touching another base here.  

         2                  On the proposal for changes in the 

         3   Public Lands Proclamation, the Commission was 

         4   briefed on those on January 20th.  You gave 

         5   permission to publish in The Register, which we 

         6   did on March 3.  The proposals were presented at 

         7   11 public hearings around the State in February 

         8   and March.  We distributed them via our 

         9   Departmental news releases.  They were posted on 

        10   our Internet home page.  

        11                  Our summary of public comments to 

        12   date have been zero.  Apparently, things are 

        13   pretty good out there.  

        14                  The only comments I have received 

        15   have been primarily from cooperating agencies, 

        16   that being the U. S. Forest Service, relative to 

        17   that proposal that we request be withdrawn.  

        18                  The second portion of this 

        19   presentation deals with the recommendations for 

        20   public hunts on 42 units of the State Park System 

        21   during the 2000-2001 season.  This is the same 

        22   number of units, 42, on which public hunts were 

        23   scheduled last year for the '99-2000 season, when 

        24   a total of 1838 people participated in the drawn 

        25   hunts and harvested 932 deer, 101 exotic animals, 
.                                                                    74

         1   eight javelina.  The turkey hunts and some of the 

         2   feral hog hunts are still ongoing for the current 

         3   season.                      

         4                  Forty-one of the 42 proposed parks 

         5   for hunts are the same as last year, and South 

         6   Llano River would be replacing Dinosaur Valley on 

         7   that list for the coming year.  

         8                  We would be offering approximately 

         9   the same number of drawn hunt positions as last 

        10   year.  That would be about 2257.  Actually, it's 

        11   down roughly 141.  But that number will vary 

        12   slightly, depending upon how the computer draws 

        13   numbers of parties for each of the hunt periods; 

        14   so roughly about 2200, 2300 drawn hunt positions.  

        15   We would be offering over 200 youth-only hunt 

        16   positions, which would up about 25 from last year.  

        17                  I have a series of three slides 

        18   indicating the names of the 42 units on which 

        19   public hunts are proposed.  I'll try to go through 

        20   these fairly slowly so that the Commission can 

        21   look at them.  I will read them out briefly for 

        22   the benefit of the audience:  Arroyo Colorado, 

        23   Atlanta, Big Bend Ranch, Brazos Bend, Brownwood, 

        24   Bryan Beach, Caddo Lake State Park Wildlife 

        25   Management Area, Caprock Canyons, Choke Canyon-
.                                                                    75

         1   Callahan, Choke Canyon-North Shore, Colorado Bend, 

         2   Davis Mountains, Devil's River, Devil's Sinkhole.  

         3                  I've been advised that don't need 

         4   to read all these, so I'll give you a pause to 

         5   read the list yourself.  I was sort of enjoying 

         6   it.  

         7                  COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  While we're 

         8   doing that, I have a question about the demand for 

         9   the permits.  How is that running?  Does it change 

        10   from year to year, or what is the level?  

        11                  MR. KOTHMANN:  The number of 

        12   applications has leveled off fairly close at about 

        13   12 to 13 applications for every drawn hunt 

        14   position.  It reaches obvious exaggerations in 

        15   both extremes.  We have a few areas that are 

        16   leased to man that you might have one position for 

        17   every two people that apply.  That's the 

        18   exception.  The extreme will be something like our 

        19   quality deer hunts in South Texas, where we may 

        20   have 50 positions with over 4,000 people applying.  

        21   But it averages about one position for every 12 

        22   or 13 people. 

        23                  COMMISSIONER WATSON:  Well, Herb, 

        24   what does it take to get more state parks 

        25   involved?  
.                                                                    76

         1                  MR. KOTHMANN:  We are currently 

         2   offering hunts on about all the suitable sites 

         3   that we've been able to identify on state park 

         4   lands and wildlife management areas, in view of 

         5   other activities that are ongoing out there.  On 

         6   our parks that are developed for other activities, 

         7   we certainly have to avoid impacting those 

         8   established park activities.  That's why we 

         9   schedule our hunts on weekdays rather than 

        10   weekends, avoid holidays, and try to hunt in 

        11   December and January when our historic park 

        12   visitation has been lowest out there.  We 

        13   certainly can eke out, I think, some additional 

        14   opportunity in the area of small game; maybe some 

        15   squirrel hunting, dove hunting.  But I think as 

        16   far as the obvious choices for deer hunts, exotic 

        17   hunts, feral hog, javelina, those have been pretty 

        18   well identiied.  

        19                  COMMISSIONER WATSON:  Well, what's 

        20   the potential of Government Canyon?  

        21                  MR. KOTHMANN:  Government Canyon 

        22   certainly has potential.  

        23                  We did attempt feral hog hunts on 

        24   Government Canyon several years, with very low 

        25   hunter success.  Since that time, they have gone 
.                                                                    77

         1   into contract removal quite successfully to 

         2   address the feral-hog issue.  

         3                  We did hold some mourning dove 

         4   hunts on Government Canyon.  We found that the 

         5   suitable spot for dove hunting was a small 

         6   opening near the entrance, which unfortunately is 

         7   near where a new subdivision has gone in.  And 

         8   everybody crammed into about a 20, 25-acre 

         9   opening there and really created a pretty spooky 

        10   situation, to say nothing of a parking logjam 

        11   right there.  

        12                  But I think that there certainly 

        13   might be something in the realm of archery hunts 

        14   in that type of situation.  That certainly would 

        15   provide opportunity for hunting activity.  

        16                  But unless you want to alter the 

        17   scene on the ground drastically, I really can't 

        18   see that Government Canyon is going to be 

        19   providing a large amount of hunting in the realm 

        20   of firearms right now.  That's just my thought.  

        21   I'm open to suggestions.  

        22                  MR. GRAHAM:  Commissioner, the 

        23   process is a fairly involved one, where we get 

        24   staff input from the beginning, both from the 

        25   Wildlife Division and the State Park Division, in 
.                                                                    78

         1   terms of the opportunities and the resource 

         2   issues.  Then that gets processed all way up, and 

         3   Andy takes a look at it; and so there's a lot of 

         4   checks and balances along the way.  But it starts 

         5   off from a resource perspective, and we're also 

         6   looking at it from an opportunity perspective.  

         7                  MR. KOTHMANN:  Any more questions 

         8   on that issue? 

         9                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  Yes.  I have 

        10   just a comment, rather than a question.  I 

        11   continue to be concerned about not having all the 

        12   parks in one area to be closed on the same days 

        13   for public hunting, which I raised with you last 

        14   year -- 

        15                  MR. KOTHMANN:  Right.

        16                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  -- when we 

        17   had this discussion.  And I see that sometimes 

        18   there's a day on either side of a three-day period 

        19   when one or the other of them will be open or 

        20   closed, but not both, like Pedernales Falls and 

        21   Enchanted Rock.  

        22                  But you've got quite a few state 

        23   parks in that area, going all the way up to 

        24   Colorado Bend; and I would just urge that you work 

        25   with the State Park Division to make sure that the 
.                                                                    79

         1   publicity gets out as to what parks are closed on 

         2   what days, and that there be signs posted at the 

         3   parks also to say, "Please visit these parks in 

         4   this area," because that falls over the Christmas 

         5   holidays.  And even though it's low visitation, 

         6   those who may have driven a good piece, never 

         7   imagining that they would be closed for public 

         8   hunting, I think, will be quite disappointed.  

         9                  And I just want to be sure that we 

        10   put the word out that there are other 

        11   opportunities and that we be cautious about not 

        12   closing all the parks in one area on the same 

        13   days.  

        14                  MR. KOTHMANN:  Yes, Commissioner 

        15   Dinkins.  We addressed this specific issue at 

        16   length yesterday at a meeting in San Angelo of 

        17   Parks and Wildlife staff trying to, in the 

        18   scheduling process, avoid that overlap of hunt 

        19   dates in this geographic area through the 

        20   coordination of all those proposals is developed.  

        21                  Certainly, we need to put out the 

        22   information.  Once that has been, the schedule is 

        23   set.  And as soon as these schedules, if they are 

        24   approved by the Commission tomorrow, we would have 

        25   that information in our Park Reservation System 
.                                                                    80

         1   that would not accept reservations on those hunt 

         2   dates on those specific parks.  But additionally, 

         3   we have that information posted on our 

         4   Departmental home page on the Internet.  

         5                  But possibly some on-the-ground 

         6   signage needs to be increased out there, giving 

         7   advance warning that a park will be closed on 

         8   certain dates.  

         9                  COMMISSIONER DINKINS:  That's the 

        10   day-trippers, not the campers, that I'm concerned 

        11   with.  And I appreciate your efforts on this, 

        12   because I know it's hard to coordinate all of 

        13   that.  But I think it's important for the part of 

        14   public that's not going there to hunt.  

        15                  MR. KOTHMANN:  I believe every one 

        16   of those people eventually gets referred to me, so 

        17   I'm well aware of the complaints.  

        18                  On the State Park Hunt proposals, 

        19   the initial proposals were developed last fall 

        20   through the joint efforts of our field staff in 

        21   State Parks and Wildlife.  The Regulations 

        22   Committee was briefed on January 20th on the 

        23   proposals.  We distributed them via our news 

        24   releases.  They were listed on our home page.  

        25   They were presented at 11 public hearings.  
.                                                                    81

         1                  Only one comment on the proposed 

         2   public hunts on state parks has been received, 

         3   and that was favorable.  It's surprising how the 

         4   controversy of past years appears to have been 

         5   largely set to rest.  Hopefully, that will be a 

         6   good sign and continue.  

         7                  The favorable comment was from an 

         8   adjacent landowner to Devil's River State Park, 

         9   who expressed support for the hunts.  He said, 

        10   "You're at least keeping the deer moving.  You 

        11   know, they don't go reside on you until the season 

        12   is over.  You're acting like all the other 

        13   property owners in the Hill Country now."  But 

        14   that was pleasing.  

        15                  The proposals were recently 

        16   reviewed and confirmed by all of the concerned 

        17   Park Superintendents, because it has been about 

        18   five months since they were initially developed, 

        19   to let us know that yes, they are still valid.

        20                  The Commission approval of the 

        21   proposals is required in order to be proceed with 

        22   implementation of the hunts.  I will be presenting 

        23   three motions, if Regulations Committee authorizes 

        24   us to go the Commission.                 

        25                  One would be to approve the 
.                                                                    82

         1   proposals for changes in the Proclamation.  

         2                  One would be to approve the 

         3   proposed state park hunts.  

         4                  And then we would be asking the 

         5   Commission to approve a hunting season on 

         6   Departmental public hunting lands, to run from 

         7   September 1 of 2000 to August 31 of 2001.  You'd 

         8   need to open the season before we can hold any of 

         9   these hunts.  

        10                  But, Madam Chairman, that 

        11   concludes my presentation.  Do you have any 

        12   questions?  

        13                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  Herb, are we 

        14   going to need three individual motions on these?   

        15                  MR. KOTHMANN:  There will be three 

        16   motions listed.  I would say that you could vote 

        17   on them simultaneously as Motions 1, 2, and 3.  

        18   That works for  me. 

        19                  COMMISSIONER RYAN:  So moved. 

        20                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  Second? 

        21                  COMMISSIONER AVILA:  Second.  

        22                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  All in favor?

        23                  COMMISSION MEMBERS:  Aye.

        24                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  All opposed?  

        25                  (No response, and motion carries 
.                                                                    83

         1   unanimously.)   




         5   RULES.

         6                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  Item No. 7, 

         7   Proposed Exotic Species Rules; Joedy Gray.

         8                  MR. GRAY:  Good morning, Madam 

         9   Chair and Committee members.

        10                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  Good morning. 

        11                  MR. GRAY:  My name is Joedy Gray, 

        12   and I'm a Staff Support Specialist for the Inland 

        13   Fisheries Division.  

        14                  Staff is proposing amendments 

        15   concerning the harmful or potential harmful exotic 

        16   fish and aquatic plant rules.  These amendments 

        17   are intended to simplify the permitting process.

        18                  The first proposed amendment will 

        19   provide permits for removal of prohibited plant 

        20   species from public waters.  Currently, operators 

        21   of mechanical harvesters have to obtain a research 

        22   permit in order to remove prohibited species such 

        23   as water hyacinth and hyrilla from public waters.  

        24   This amendment will allow them to obtain a permit 

        25   without having to write a research proposal.  
.                                                                    84

         1                  The second proposed amendment will 

         2   allow operators of wastewater treatment facilities 

         3   to possess permitted exotic fish species, provided 

         4   they are used for water treatment purposes only.

         5                  The third amendment will require 

         6   permitees that import, transport, transfer, or 

         7   sell Triple A grass carp to submit annual reports 

         8   instead of quarterly reports.  

         9                  And, finally, the scientific name 

        10   for several penaeid shrimp species referred to 

        11   throughout the rules will be corrected to reflect 

        12   the change in nomenclature.  

        13                  Staff is requesting the Regulations 

        14   Committee's approval to publish the proposed 

        15   amendments in The Texas Register for public 

        16   comment.  And I'll answer any questions.  

        17                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  Any questions?  

        18                  Do you want a motion for approval?  

        19   And this will be a candidate for the Consent 

        20   Agenda.  Do we have a motion?  

        21                  MR. DUROCHER:  This is just to 

        22   publish it. 

        23                  MR. GRAY:  This is just to publish 

        24   it in The Register. 

        25                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  Oh, I am so 
.                                                                    85

         1   sorry.  I thought you were asking for a motion.  I 

         2   apologize.    

         3                  Do we need a motion to publish?  

         4   Okay.  We need a motion to publish.  

         5                  COMMISSIONER HENRY:  That's what 

         6   I'll move.  

         7                  COMMISSIONER RYAN:  And I'll 

         8   second. 

         9                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  Okay.  All in 

        10   favor?                 

        11                  COMMISSION MEMBERS:  Aye.

        12                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  Opposed?  

        13                  (No response, and motion carries 

        14   unanimously.)

        15   ITEM NO. 8 - ACTION - 2000-2001 MIGRATORY GAMEBIRD 

        16   PROCLAMATION. 

        17                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  Item No. 8, 

        18   2000-2001 Migratory Game Bird Proclamation; Vernon 

        19   Bevill.  

        20                  MR. GRAHAM:  Madam Chairman, I'm 

        21   Gary Graham, Director of the Wildlife Division.  

        22   Vernon is unfortunately ill today, and so I've 

        23   asked Jay Roberson to present today's proposal. 

        24                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  Good morning.

        25                  MR. ROBERSON:  Good morning.  Madam 
.                                                                    86

         1   Chairman, Commissioners, ladies and gentlemen, my 

         2   name is Jay Roberson.  I'm Wildlife Program Leader 

         3   in the Migratory Wildlife Program.  I will be 

         4   presenting the Wildlife Division's proposed 

         5   regulation changes for migratory game birds for 

         6   this coming year.  This is an Action Item, and 

         7   we're requesting your approval to publish these 

         8   proposed migratory game bird rules in The Texas 

         9   Register for the required public comment period.   

        10                   In June we'll be coming back to 

        11   you, seeking approval to adopt those season dates 

        12   and bag limits for those species that begin 

        13   hunting in September; and then in August we're 

        14   coming back to you for adoption for those species 

        15   that begin hunting after that date, including the 

        16   ducks and geese.    

        17                  We have four proposed changes that 

        18   we'd  like to discuss with you this morning.  Two 

        19   of those were included your Draft Proclamation in 

        20   your Commission briefing document.  

        21                  Two others have resulted from 

        22   discussions and actions of the Flyway Councils 

        23   last week in Chicago and were received too late to 

        24   include in your briefing document.  These include 

        25   a delay in the standard teal season opening date 
.                                                                    87

         1   by six days; adjustment of the goose zone 

         2   boundaries to forego loss of hunting opportunity 

         3   because of the special light goose conservation 

         4   action; and a possible extension of the closing 

         5   date for the duck season in the North and South 

         6   Zones; and, finally, to extend the area open for 

         7   sandhill crane hunting along the mid and lower 

         8   Gulf Coast.  Of course, all of these changes are 

         9   contingent U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service 

        10   approval at their Regulations Meeting in late 

        11   June.  

        12                  With regard to teal, our standard 

        13   opening date for the 16-day season that we've had 

        14   recently has been the second Saturday in 

        15   September; so that would be, for this fall, 

        16   September 9th through the 24th.  However, we're 

        17   proposing a change and a delay in that by six 

        18   days, to open that on Friday, September 15th, and 

        19   run it through Saturday, September 30th.  

        20                  Our data indicate higher teal 

        21   numbers and hunter success, the later in September 

        22   that we open that season; and that's due primarily 

        23   to an influx of green-winged teal.

        24                  We also find, in those years when 

        25   the hunting season begins later in September, 
.                                                                    88

         1   higher hunter participation and higher total teal 

         2   harvest.  

         3                  With regard to goose zone boundary 

         4   changes, Federal regulations currently do not 

         5   allow waterfowl or crane hunting during the 

         6   special light goose conservation action.  This 

         7   action must begin before the regular goose seasons 

         8   end to effectively reduce light goose or light 

         9   geese in Texas.  As a result, the dark geese 

        10   seasons have been shortened by about a week.  

        11   This reduces dark goose hunting opportunity in 

        12   North Central Texas, of course, where we have a 

        13   few light geese during this period.  

        14                  We've received several comments 

        15   from goose guides and hunters in this area 

        16   requesting a continuation of hunting of dark geese 

        17   during this period.  The Central Zone will allow 

        18   the action to begin later than in the Western and 

        19   Eastern Zones and provide more hunting 

        20   opportunity.  

        21                  So the specific dates for the light 

        22   goose season that we're proposing are really 

        23   basically no change from last year in the Western 

        24   and Eastern Zones, but the new portion of the 

        25   Central Zone will begin a week later.  
.                                                                    89

         1                  Of course, since we know we're 

         2   going to have a conservation action or a 

         3   conservation season this coming year, we can 

         4   adjust our regular goose seasons to take advantage 

         5   of it and to provide maximum hunting opportunity.  

         6                  We propose that in the Western Zone 

         7   that the regular goose season start a week 

         8   earlier -- that is, October 21st instead of 

         9   October 28th -- and thus it would end a week 

        10   earlier.  This would still allow a maximum of 107 

        11   days.  Bag limits would remain unchanged from 

        12   last year.  

        13                  In the Central Zone, we propose no 

        14   change from last year in season dates.  We propose 

        15   the start of the conservation action after the 

        16   dark season ends on February 11th.  This would 

        17   still allow a maximum of 107 days.  

        18                  In the Eastern goose zone, last 

        19   year the season dates ended the second Sunday in 

        20   February.  This year we propose to open the 

        21   special light goose conservation season the day 

        22   after the duck season closes in order to have the 

        23   greatest impact on snow geese.  This will mean the 

        24   closing of the regular goose season on January 

        25   21st.  For Canada geese, this means a reduction in 
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         1   the total season days from 95 to 86, or a 

         2   reduction of nine days.  This reduction in hunting 

         3   opportunity is necessary in order to address the 

         4   larger habitat conservation issues resulting from 

         5   snow goose overpopulation.  

         6                  Now, with regard to duck season 

         7   framework dates, recently three or four Flyway 

         8   Councils have had some discussion with the U. S. 

         9   Fish and Wildlife Service requesting both earlier 

        10   and later framework closing dates.  Specifically 

        11   with regard to closing dates, there was discussion 

        12   of being allowed to close the season on the Sunday 

        13   nearest January 25th.  Last year it was on 

        14   January 23rd.  

        15                  We have received several comments 

        16   in the past, particularly from the North Zone 

        17   duck hunters, wanting to extend that season to 

        18   allow them to take mallards and other 

        19   late-arriving species later into January.  

        20                  We would like to obtain public 

        21   comment on this proposal in case it is approved by 

        22   the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service at their June 

        23   Regulations Meeting.                  

        24                  With regard to sandhill crane 

        25   hunting zone boundaries, we are proposing the 
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         1   opening of two areas in yellow along the coast 

         2   that have been previously closed in Federal 

         3   frameworks.  Data now indicates, from research 

         4   that we have done here in Texas, a higher 

         5   population of greater sandhill cranes than 

         6   previously estimated.  There is sufficient 

         7   population size, we think, to sustain the 

         8   additional hunting pressure.  

         9                  The area in between, around Aransas 

        10   National Wildlife Refuge, we propose to remain 

        11   closed for the protection of whooping cranes.  

        12                  We propose a three-bird bag limit 

        13   in that area that, if the Service agrees, will be 

        14   rolled into Zone C.  If it's less than three, we 

        15   may ask your permission to create a separate zone 

        16   out of that.  

        17                  All other changes proposed are 

        18   simply due to calendar shift.  Therefore, we 

        19   request your adoption of this motion to allow us 

        20   to publish the appropriate sections in The Texas 

        21   Register for the required public comment period.  

        22                  Thank you, and that concludes my 

        23   presentation. 

        24                  COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  With respect 

        25   to the Central goose zone, what's the reason for 
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         1   holding it to one white-front goose there?  I know 

         2   the population of white-fronts in that area has 

         3   gotten a lot heavier in the last few years.  

         4                  MR. ROBERSON:  Of course, we have 

         5   to deal with the Federal Government on those, and 

         6   I think that's a requirement.  

         7                  COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  Federal 

         8   requirement?  

         9                  MR. ROBERSON:  Right.  Following 

        10   your charges, we're taking the maximum allowed in 

        11   the Federal parameters.  We're not restricting 

        12   them at any points.                   

        13                  COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  I wonder if 

        14   anybody is really looking at that.  Have we done 

        15   anything to see what we think about the 

        16   white-front population in that area.  

        17                  MR. GRAHAM:  In the past, we've had 

        18   staff that really have been deeply engaged in that 

        19   issue and have consistently maximized the 

        20   opportunity within Texas.  We didn't have a staff 

        21   there specifically addressing that issue, although 

        22   Vernon is always on top of it.  So although I 

        23   haven't spoken to him specifically about that, I'm 

        24   sure that he was there pressing for that increased 

        25   opportunity.   
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         1                  COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  He and I 

         2   visited about that before, too.  

         3                  MR. GRAHAM:  Right.  

         4                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  Okay.  I'm 

         5   going to need a motion to publish the proposed 

         6   regulations in The Texas Register for public 

         7   comment.  Do I have a motion?

         8                  COMMISSIONER WATSON:  I so move.    

         9                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  A second?      

        10                  COMMISSIONER AVILA:  Second.  

        11                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  All in favor? 

        12                  COMMISSION MEMBERS:  Aye. 

        13                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  All opposed?  

        14                  (No response, and motion carries

        15   unanimously.)

        16                  MR. ROBERSON:  Thank you.

        17                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  Is there any 

        18   other business?  We'll move to the Finance 

        19   Committee, then. 

        20                  COMMISSIONER AVILA:  Can we have a 

        21   five- or ten-minute break? 

        22                  COMMISSIONER IDSAL:  We're going to 

        23   take a five- or ten-minute break.

        24                  (BRIEF PAUSE IN PROCEEDINGS)