Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
May 26, 2005Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 26th day of May, 2005, there came to be heard matters under the regulatory authority of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission in the Commission Hearing Room of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex, to wit:
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION:
- Joseph B.C. Fitzsimons, San Antonio, Texas, Chairman
- Alvin L. Henry, Houston, Texas
- Donato D. Ramos, Laredo, Texas
- Peter M. Holt, San Antonio, Texas
- T. Dan Friedkin, Houston, Texas
- Philip Montgomery, Dallas, Texas
- Ned S. Holmes, Houston, Texas
- J. Robert Brown, El Paso, Texas
- John D. Parker, Lufkin, Texas
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT:
- Robert L. Cook, Executive Director, and other personnel of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION
May 26, 2005
NAME/ORGANIZATION MATTER OF INTEREST
- Mr. David Hayward, Texas Deer Association Item #4 - For - 8300 Que Pasa, Anderson, TX 77830
- Mr. Kirby Brown, Texas Wildlife Association Item #4 - For - 401 Isom Road, Suite 237, San Antonio, TX 78216
DONATIONS OF $500 OR MORE NOT PREVIOUSLY APPROVED BY THE COMMISSION
|1||D & R Transport||Goods||Pipe for building fences, cattle guards, etc.|
|2||D & R Transport||Goods||Pipe for building fences, cattle guards, etc.|
|3||Texas Wildlife Association||Goods||Youth Shooting Sports Event|
|4||The 100 Club of Houston||Goods||Law Enforcement Officer Safety|
|5||Mr. Richard W. Bricker||Goods||For decoration of common walls within the Dickinson Marine Laboratory|
|6||Tri-State Van and Bus Sales||Goods||Ray Roberts State Park Use|
|7||Tri-State Van and Bus Sales||Goods||Improvement of park restrooms|
|8||Washington-on-the-Brazos State Park Association||Goods||Equipment for use at Barrington Living History Farm and WOBSHS|
|9||Washington-on-the-Brazos State Park Association||Goods||Equipment for use at Barrington Living History Farm and WOBSHS|
|10||Tree Town USA||Goods||Beautify TPWD facilities|
|11||Friends of Colorado Bend State Park||Goods||Provide support for the operation of Colorado Bend SP|
|12||ATSKO, Inc.||Goods||For Hunter Education Program students and special events or workshops|
|13||Walls Industries, Inc.||Goods||Hunter (Blaze) Orange Vests used in Hunter Education Program as incentive awards|
|14||Dick Willett||Goods||To help the physically challenged at the Nimitz Museum|
|15||Winchester Ammunition||Goods||Ammunition and literature are used in Hunter Education Program as incentive awards, student course handouts and annual conference handouts to instructors|
|16||Texas Bighorn Society||Goods||Provide food/drinks for three public desert bighorn sheep hunts conducted on Trans-Pecos Wildlife Management Areas|
|17||Center Point Energy||Goods||Give-aways for inner city youth traveling to EXPO from Houston by bus|
|18||Sabine River Authority||Goods||To enhance patrol of Lake Tawakoni & Fork|
|19||8th Judicial District-Adult Probation Department||In Kind||Labor Assistance at Cooper Lake Wildlife Management Area|
|20||Sue Childers||Cash||To assist the Becoming an Outdoor Woman program|
|21||Environmental Defense Fund||Cash||To further spring-related activities of the Water Resources Branch|
|22||Lewis, Monroe, & Pena Attorneys at Law||Cash||Edinburg Coastal Expo|
|23||Friends of the Fulton Mansion||Cash||Fund Fulton Mansion|
|24||Texas State Bank||Cash||Edinburg Coastal Expo|
|25||Best of America by Horseback||Cash||Fund Cooper Lake State Park|
|26||Austin Water Utility||Cash||Supporting partner/sponsor of Outdoor Kids Adventure Day (OKAD) April 23, 2005|
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Good morning. The meeting's called to order. And before proceeding with any business, Mr. Cook has a statement to make.
MR. COOK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. A public notice of this meeting containing all items on the proposed agenda has been filed with the Office of the Secretary of State as required by Chapter 551, Government Code, referred to as the open meetings law. I would like for this action to be noted in the official records of the meeting.
So that everyone will have a chance to address the Commission today in an orderly fashion, the following ground rules will be followed. An individual wishing to speak to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission must first fill out and sign a speaker registration form for each item on the agenda on which you wish to speak.
The Chairman is in charge of this meeting, and by law, it is his duty to preserve order, direct over the hearing and recognize persons to be heard. I will be assisting the Chairman today as Sergeant at Arms. We have sign cards for everyone wishing to speak outside in the lobby here, and the Chairman will call names from those cards one at a time.
Each person will be allowed to speak from the podium one at a time. When your name is called, please come to the podium, state your name and who you represent, if anyone other than yourself. We'll also call up an on-deck person.
Then state your position on the agenda item under consideration. Add supporting facts that may help the Commission understand your concerns. Please limit your remarks to the specific agenda item under consideration.
Each person who wants to address the Commission will have three minutes to speak. I will keep up with your time and notify you when your time is up on this handy-dandy little thing right here. Your time will be extended if the Commission asks you a question and they get into a discussion. We'll give you your full three minutes.
Statements that are merely argumentative or critical of others will not be tolerated. There is a microphone at the podium, so it is not necessary to raise your voice. Shouting will not be tolerated. I also ask that you show proper respect for the commissioners as well as other members of the audience. Thank you, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Cook.
Next is the approval of minutes from the previous meeting, which have already been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: The corrections —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: On the regulation committee minutes, line 10, page 97, we could delete the words to the device and insert the words access funding. I think they just missed the intent of that statement.
And in the finance committee meeting, page 24, line 6, convert the word — program should have been the word period.
And in line 13, the word deduct should be deduction.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Got that, Gene?
MR. McCARTY: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: And I'm — I have to acknowledge the presence of Carol Dinkins here.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: It looks like we have somebody grandstanding for the Carol Dinkins cup, but I don't — you got a ways to go to get the Carol Dinkins cup.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: I'll never do that. I'll never be in that league.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Okay. You got that, Gene?
And with those changes, do I have a motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: So moved.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Moved by Holmes, second by Holt. All right.
He won't try that next meeting, Carol, I don't think.
Next is the acceptance of gifts which have already been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: So moved.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Moved by Commissioner Ramos. Second?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Second by Commissioner Dan Friedkin.
And with that, I'd like to welcome our newest commissioner, Dan Friedkin from Houston. I've gotten to know Dan over the last few years, and his commitment and experience in conservation, not only in Texas but in Africa, is a real tribute, not only to his family's work, but a great asset for this Commission and for the state. And I'd like to welcome Dan, and we look forward to having him.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I'm happy to be here. Thank you, Chairman.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Next are the service awards and special recognition.
MR. COOK: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, my name is Robert L. Cook. I'm the executive director of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The first thing I would like to do is express my appreciation to the commissioners and some special guests that we've got in the audience today for your attendance last night at our Lone Star Land Steward Awards.
Those of you who attended saw and recognized what a wonderful program that is, what an incredible group of cooperators we've got across the state. And we were able to recognize ten individuals last night at that awards program and honor them, a Rolla wildlife management association and a corporate winner.
And our statewide winner last night was from the Cross Timbers and Prairies, Richard's Ranch with the Hackleys [phonetic]. And they were a great group, and we had a lot of fun. And there are some people in the audience this morning that, Mr. Chairman, with your permission, I want to recognize some very special people to us.
We call them past commissioners. I don't think they're ever past or they're ever ex. They're always commissioners and always friends of conservation. Terry Hershey, Carol Dinkins, Bob Brown, Mark Watson we're going to recognize again in a minute. But you all stand up and let us give you a hand and thank you for all of your help.
MR. COOK: We enjoyed a good visit last night and good times. Along that line, we have a couple of small mementos that I want to give out this morning in recognition of commissioners who have served their full six-year term, done us an incredible and wonderful job. We talked about them some last night, and we want to talk about them again a little bit today.
Commissioner Mark Watson, been on the Commission six years, served out the full six years. And we talked about — last night about Mark's commitment to conservation. And your — you went into issues. Once we understood what the issues were — and when Mark took the position with you, you knew exactly where he stood, and he made that clear to everyone involved.
He campaigned conservation every day, I believe, of his life that I've known him, and I've known him a long time. And he's been a good friend to the Department.
Mark, we appreciate you very much. Looking forward to continuing to work with you. Thank you very much, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I want my friend Mark to say a few words, I mean, now that he's free.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: He can say whatever he wants.
MR. WATSON: You know, this is a big chance you've taken, because, you know, I do have some feelings about things. But I do want to tell you how much I have enjoyed this. It's been a pleasure to be with all of you. I'll miss, you know, these meetings very much.
But that doesn't mean I'm going away. And we have some significant unfinished business. I've — as I've discussed with many of you, you know, I feel like — that certainly one of our — you know, it's hard to say what our greatest natural resource is, but certainly one of them is the Gulf Coast.
And the Gulf Coast, in case you haven't been there lately, is changing dramatically with the influx of more and more Texans and visitors coming there to enjoy these very fragile resources. And, you know, I've been going down there.
In fact, I was — as — it's kind of telling my age. I was at Rockport on Pearl Harbor day. Now, I wasn't very old, but I was there. And so I've been going down there a long time.
And, you know, I want to see us return to the time when we can take our children and grandchildren down there, and the first thing we do is give them a piece of string and a chicken neck and a dip net, and they can go out and catch all the blue crabs they can, you know, possibly put in a bucket.
So we've got a lot of work to do down there, and I want you to know that, again, I'm, you know, fairly focused on this. And I'll tell you what. You know, I wish you all the best, and I'm here to help you in any way I can, and I've enjoyed this so very much. Thank you very much.
MR. COOK: Commissioner Watson has been a real advocate in our coastal-fishers issue. As you can tell, it's dear to his heart. And, you know, when we look at the coastal-fisheries issues and we think about what some of the major conservation issues in the state are today — and they revolve around that flow of fresh water coming down the river, going into the bay.
Again, Mark Watson has been a strong and consistent supporter of conservation of that resource, and we appreciate that. If you've ever been to his ranch, involved in some of the youth hunts and the activities that go on out there, you know what a great job he does there too.
Mark, again, thank you very much.
Next I want to recognize Commissioner Al Henry. Mr. Henry's still serving with us, and as we told him last night, we hope this is — this little recognition is premature. We may see him many times again. But we want to recognize the six years that he has served and what he has meant to us.
Not only, again, a consistent, steady advocate of conservation, but a man who has found a place in our hearts. And I — the best words that I know to say about Al Henry is such a gentleman, so intelligent, knows everybody.
I mean, you start going around Texas, southeast Texas especially, and working in conservation, working in the area of parks, working with people, you learn about Mr. Al Henry, a gentleman who it has been our honor to work with and learn to love.
And we appreciate you, sir. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Thank you very much. This has been a tremendous experience for me — one that I'll always be very grateful. People ask me what I'll miss most about Parks and Wildlife. I say very simply, The people that I have come to know and respect and admire and, in some cases, love, and the good friends that I've made.
I'll treasure them always. I know that we are in good hands for the future when I look at this table and recognize the caliber of people that we have to take us into the future. And I know that the kids of Texas particularly are going to be well served.
I commend you for your commitment to diversity and serving the entire population of the state, and I have every reason to believe that that will continue as well. It's been a great ride. I'm not through. We've got a lot more money to raise at Sheldon and a few other things, so I'll be around for a little while, anyway.
And they tell me you never become an ex-commissioner, so I'm looking forward to being called an alumnus. Thanks again very much. I've appreciated it.
MR. COOK: Thank you, Mr. Henry.
I would ask only one thing of everyone in the audience today, and that is that you make a commitment to go by the Sheldon Environmental Learning Center, learn about that place, assist with that place when — and at every opportunity, because — and you're liable to have the opportunity to visit with Mr. Al Henry while you're there.
So again, Al, thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Thank you.
MR. COOK: Now, to get into our service awards, we have one retirement certificate today. And that is in Inland Fisheries, Michael Ryan, natural resource specialist VI from Marshall, Texas, with 31 years of service.
Mike Ryan began his employment with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in October 1973 as a fish and wildlife technician in the Inland Fisheries Waco District Office. In 1976, Mike was promoted to a fisheries biologist in Marshall, Texas, where he worked hard in the management of many important east Texas fisheries, including Caddo Lake.
In December 1986, he was promoted to district fisheries management supervisor in San Marcos, Texas. In June 1989, Mike returned to east Texas as district supervisor in Marshall. Mike was responsible for the survey and management of 12 major water bodies, including Caddo Lake, and three major river drainages.
Some of Mike's scientific publications include Food Habits study of largemouth bass in heated east Texas reservoirs, Influence of temperature on fish survival and distribution in a Monticello reservoir, Use of an angler incentive program for data collection and management of a trophy bass fishery at Caddo lake. He also has coauthored many other publications on fisheries work in both east and central Texas.
A study led by Mike on Lake Wright Patman provided our Department with vital information that supported a ban on commercial and sport netting in Texas. As a result of Inland Fisheries management programs, fishing quality has improved because of his dedicated efforts. Retiring with 31 years of service, Mike Ryan.
MR. COOK: In our service awards — these awards recognize employees that — at various intervals from 20 years in five-year intervals on up. And let me just say as we go into these and just like recognizing Mike there, I mean, 31 years in this business and to accomplish what these folks have done at whatever levels within the Department —
Folks, they didn't do it for the money. They did it because they love it. They enjoy it, and they believe it needs to be done. And they appreciate your help in supporting the process.
First service award recognition goes to James L. Connally, Captain, Law Enforcement Division, Brownwood, Texas, 30 years of service. James Connally began his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department upon graduation from the Game Warden Academy on December 23, 1975.
His first duty station was Seabrook in Harris County from May 1, '75 until January '79, when he transferred to Aransas Pass. There he was involved in the enforcing of bay closures on net fishing, the channel closure to shrimpers due to the Gulf being closed offshore and redfish and trout becoming a sport fish.
On March 1, 1991, James was promoted to Lieutenant Game Warden and assigned to the Brownwood Regional Office. When Region VII was disbanded, James assisted the — assisted Austin and the Internal Affairs staff with special investigations and ran the operations of Civil Restitution.
He was awarded the customer service plaque for his work with the public and for the collecting of $1.5 million in back restitution payments for the Department. He was a member of the 2001 natural leaders class that worked on bills passed by the Sunset Commission.
After reinstatement of Region VII, James was promoted to Captain Game Warden in Brownwood in October 2002, where he is the district supervisor of eleven game wardens in nine different counties. With 30 years of service, Captain James Connally, Brownwood, Texas.
MR. COOK: Also with 30 years of service from the Law Enforcement division, Mokey McCrary, Major, in Lubbock, Texas. Mokey, as we call him, began his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department upon graduation from the Game Warden Academy in 1975.
His first assignment was in Amarillo, where he spent 13 and-a-half years, averaging over 150 cases per year, with a 98 percent conviction rate. He was then promoted to Lieutenant Game Warden at the Game Warden Training Academy.
While there, he implemented several new programs, one of which is the Standardized Field Sobriety Training, which is still being used today. From the Austin Training Academy, Mokey was promoted to Captain Game Warden in Lubbock, where he served for six years.
Mokey then transferred to Kerrville, Texas, where he served for five years. While in Kerrville, he enhanced the swift water rescue efforts with the acquisition of a state-of-the-art rescue craft. In 2003, he was promoted to Major Game Warden and returned to Lubbock, Texas.
Mokey has worked in four regions from Dalhart to Laredo. Currently, he supervises three Texas Parks and Wildlife Department offices, one of which is a regional office. He has seven clerks, 46 uniformed officers and 22 percent of the land mass in Texas. With 30 years of service, Mokey McCrary.
MR. COOK: Like a lot of our guys, he — they traveled around quite a bit.
I don't know why that was, Mokey.
From the State Parks Division, with 25 years of service, Thomas G. Breuer, Park Ranger IV, Rockport, Texas. Inspired by his father, Joe Breuer, who was a TPWD marine biologist with Coastal Fisheries, Tom Breuer began his employment with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department on May 1, 1980, as a Park Ranger I in the State Parks Division at Goose Island State Park.
He has gained a lot of experience and training in the many years of park operations, maintenance and public relations. Beginning with the general park maintenance of mowing, trimming, plumbing and electrical work, he also became a certified first aid and CPR — he became certified in first aid and CPR as well as becoming a certified host for the National Association of Interpretation.
He also works in the park office doing visitor/camper registration, taking reservations and answering questions from the public. After achieving Park Ranger IV status, his primary duty within the park the last ten years has been as the utility plant operator, where he monitors and maintains the water and wastewater systems. With 25 years of service, Tom Breuer.
MR. COOK: With 25 years of service from the Coastal Fisheries Division, Artussee D. Morris, Program Specialist III. Art Morris began his career with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in the Coastal Fisheries Division at the Rockport Marine Lab on April 28, 1980.
Classified as a motor vehicle mechanic II, Art worked as a field technician assigned to the Aransas and Corpus Christi Bay Shrimp Monitoring Program and the initial St. Charles Bay Red Drum Stocking Evaluation Study.
Art earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi in the spring of 1996 and the following spring was promoted to fisheries outreach specialist for the lower Texas coast. He transferred to the Corpus Christi Field Station, where he worked as a fish and wildlife technician for the Upper Laguna Madre Ecosystem Monitoring Program until 1997.
During his tenure with the Department, Art has coordinated the Abandoned Crab Trap Removal Program, securing over $137,000 in grants to make the program cost free to the Department. Art was recognized for those partnership efforts in 2003 when he received a TPWD employee award for partnership.
He also was the recipient of a Conservation and Environmental Stewardship award for public service by the Coastal Bend Bays Foundation for his trap removal efforts. And additionally, through a partnership with the Gulf State Marine Fisheries Commission, the trap removal program was awarded an EPA Gulf Guardian Award in 2004. The program is also a 2005 finalist for a Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Excellence Award.
Art is also an award-winning member of the Texas Outdoor Writers Association and an accomplished writer. In fact, the forthcoming issue of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Outdoor Annual, which you heard some reports about yesterday, will feature an excellent article written by Art on Black Drum. With 25 years of service, Artussee Morris.
MR. COOK: From the Communications Division, with 25 years of service, Robin Williamson, print service technician V. Robin Williamson began her employment with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department on April 1, 1980, as a Clerk III. During her tenure at TPWD, Robin has watched print technology change dramatically and has proven her value to the agency by demonstrating a keen ability to change and thrive with those advances.
She was the first woman to ever work in the TPWD print shop, which became a copy shop in 2000. Her coworkers love her unique blend of professionalism and great humor and look forward to working with her for another 25 years, at least. With 25 years of service, Robin Williamson.
MR. COOK: Commissioners, ladies and gentlemen, we had one other recognition that we were going to do today for 20 years of service. But it's my understanding that Jesse Pena, who works out of the Fort Davis State Parks Complex out there, was injured in a fire — fighting the grass fire up on Miter Peak the day before yesterday and is unable to make the trip.
Is that correct? Did Jesse not make it? I was — I just got that message this morning and — that he probably was not going to be able to be here, third-degree burns. I think — we think he's going to be just fine, but — so that's going to take some recovery time, and we'll recognize him when Jesse's able to get in. Okay.
Our next special recognition is a presentation to the Trinity River Authority of Texas for their assistance and valuable help to us on the Lake Livingston Project. Texans enjoy some of the finest freshwater striped bass and stripped bass hybrid fishing in the nation, due largely to an aggressive and ongoing stocking program that began in 1967.
During the period of 1981 through 2004, the Inland Fisheries Division has stocked over 116 million striped bass and striped bass hybrid fingerlings into 107 different inland reservoirs for the benefit of anglers, 116 million.
The Trinity River Authority and the Texas Lake Livingston Project has played a vital role in this program. The success of the program hinges entirely on procurement of wild striped bass brood stock needed for hatchery spawning and production.
In 1981, after nine years of hit-and-miss success at various locations — and if you know our fishery guys, they are — you know, that's kind of the way they are. They're all kind of hit-and-miss fishermen. But after nine years of that, a large concentration of mature striped bass were discovered in the Lake Livingston tailrace.
That same year, biologists approached Trinity River Authority officials to request access to the restricted area harboring this striped bass honey hole. Permission was granted, and a cooperative relationship was established between Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Trinity River Authority that has continued to the present.
For 25 years, the Lake Livingston tailrace has been the primary source for obtaining essential brood stock, accounting for nearly 80 percent of the total fish in that program. Without these fish, the program could not have been developed and maintained at its current level.
Not only has the Trinity River Authority Lake Livingston Project allowed Inland Fisheries staff to access a reliable source of brood stock, they have actively participated in the annual procurement efforts at a level far beyond expectations.
Under the directions of General Manager Danny Vance, Project Managers Glen Adair and Bill Holder, the Lake Livingston Project staff has provided equipment and manpower to improve bank-side boat launching and workup areas, providing heavy equipment and operators to facilitate ingress and egress of electroshocking boats and fish-hauling units.
And most importantly, they have regulated water discharge from the dam to maximize procurement, effectiveness and safety.
On behalf of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the anglers of Texas, we present this token of appreciation for truly outstanding support from the Trinity River Authority Lake Livingston Project and look forward to many years of productive cooperation.
In the audience today, and I'll ask them to come forward, is Mr. Danny Vance from the Trinity River Authority — these three gentlemen — Jim Simms and Bill Holder. Also present today, I think, is Roger McCabe.
Roger, if you would, please.
Roger McCabe in our Inland Fisheries Division was instrumental in this project. We would not have been able to do it without him, and we appreciate his efforts very much.
MR. VANCE: Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, if I could have just a moment of privilege, please, I'd like to tell you that, speaking on behalf of the board of directors of Trinity River Authority and all of our employees, particularly at Lake Livingston, we have been delighted to be a part of this program.
Commissioner Henry mentioned people. I will tell you that the people of Texas Parks and Wildlife have been one of the primary reasons that we have been such enthusiastic supporters of this program. We, of course, recognize that this fish-stocking program is in furtherance of your purpose and mission as well as ours.
And so that is a very beneficial part of this entire effort. But I would want you to know that the very professional, competent, dedicated people that have represented the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and have worked with us in this partnership have been one of the reasons that we have been so enthusiastic about it.
And I would particularly cite to you Roger McCabe, with whom we have worked and gotten to have a very good relationship, and know that he is furthering the purposes of this Department in a very good way.
So again, I would like to thank you for this recognition and tell you that we look forward to another 25 years of partnership in this particular venture. Thank you.
MR. COOK: Well, you know, I know it's just one of those parts of the job where you have to go over there and fish all day and all the next day and all the next day, you know, but somebody's got to do it, and our guys do a great job of it, and we appreciate them.
We appreciate Trinity River Authority and their assistance in that absolutely wonderful program.
I want to call your attention to another very special guest that just walked in.
Mr. Bob Armstrong, stand up and let's give you a hand.
MR. COOK: Our next special recognition is for a Texas Master Naturalist volunteer, Thea Platz. It is my pleasure to introduce to you Ms. Thea Platz, the first Texas Master Naturalist to volunteer who has surpassed the milestone of 5,000 service hours, 5,000.
Over the past eight years involvement in the Texas Master Naturalist Program, she has provided over 5,700 hours of volunteer service valued at more than $100,000, the equivalent of a full-time employee over three years.
Thea, a volunteer with the Alamo Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalist Program, is a founding member of this popular program partnership between TPWD and the Texas Cooperative Extension Service. As one of our most valued volunteers, she has contributed to the following initiatives:
Interpretive trail development and maintenance at Government Canyon State Natural Area, herpetological studies and grassland restoration projects, coordination of natural resource training workshops for teachers and landowners, after-school outreach programs to inner-city and at-risk youth, and leadership at the chapter; statewide and national level of program development.
Because of Thea and other volunteers like her across the state, the Texas Master Naturalist Program has grown to include 30 chapters, including more than 3,000 volunteers who perform an average of 85,000 hours of service per year valued at one and-a-half million dollars per year.
Thea exemplifies the Texas Master Naturalist volunteer who gives unselfishly of her time and talents to advance the missions of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Texas Cooperative Extension Service and conservation in the state of Texas.
At this time, I will ask Michelle Haggerty, the statewide coordinator of our Master Naturalist Program; Pat Morton, program leader for Conservation Outreach; and Dr. Neal Wilkins of the Texas Agricultural Extension Service, to come forward and help us present this award to Thea.
MR. COOK: Mr. Chairman, I believe that concludes our recognition and awards services. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Bob.
One other recognition. Many of you know our friend Dick Davis, who will be joining the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation as the executive director. And I've known Dick for a number of years and his commitment to conservation and the outdoors.
And we look forward to having you, Dick.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: One last mention. Many of you have probably heard about our friend Andy Sansom — was in an automobile accident Tuesday and is stable, but he's — he has been injured. As I understand it, they'll be operating on his leg — and had a good bit of injury to his leg.
And I got to tell you, so much of what we celebrated last night at the Land Stewards award and what we celebrated today wouldn't have been possible without Andy's leadership. I've known Andy for 20 years, from the days he started at the Nature Conservancy and I first got involved in conservation.
And all of our thoughts and prayers are with Andy and Nona as they get through this. So he's at Herman Hospital if you'd like to check in on him. But I'm — we're all praying for Andy and Nona.
Next up is our agenda, and I'm pleased to say that I get to make an amendment to the agenda. One of the agenda items was the election of a new vice chairman, and I'm glad to say I don't have to do that today. So I'm going to move that we remove that from the agenda, because I'm very happy to say that I'm going to hold on to my vice chairman as long as I can.
So with that change, do I have a motion to approve the agenda?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: So moved.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Moved by Holt. Second by Brown.
And I get to have you one more meeting at least, hopefully more. One at a time.
Next on the agenda, item 3, a briefing item on Desert Bighorn Sheep. Clay.
MR. BREWER: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, my name is Clay Brewer, and I serve as the Wildlife Division program leader for mule deer, pronghorn and bighorn sheep. I must say it's a pleasure to talk about something other than mule deer MLDPs this morning.
I'm here today to present a wildlife success story that's based on sacrifice, hard work and persistence. Desert bighorn sheep restoration in Texas is a testament of the great things that can be accomplished when people work together towards a common goal.
Since the mid-1950s, TPWD, hunters, landowners and later on a very special conservation organization known as the Texas Bighorn Society have worked cooperatively to restore and manage bighorn sheep in Texas. And I'm here today to talk to you about that organization.
Much of the success we've experienced in bighorn restoration is because of a group of people that were willing to dream and then had the courage and commitment to see it through. Simply stated, bighorn sheep would not exist in Texas without the Texas Bighorn Society.
Formed in 1981, the Texas Bighorn Society spearheaded the revitalization of a Texas Parks and Wildlife program that was virtually dead and without funding. Since then, the organization has raised approximately one and-a-half million dollars for the bighorn program.
The organization has no salaried employees or administrative cost, which means that every penny raised by the organization goes towards — to the bighorn program. And despite a relatively small membership, TBS has contributed immeasurable support for bighorn management on both public and private land.
Now, TBS members come in all shapes and sizes. The only requirement for becoming a member, make a serious commitment with your time or money, work hard, but most important, know how to have fun.
The list of accomplishments is long. Among these are habitat work. The Texas Bighorn Society has built probably 90 percent of the water developments in the west Texas mountain ranges and lots of other things. They've been involved in transplants, research, acquisition of critical bighorn habitat.
David Wetzel, the current president of TBS, will have some more information on that in just a moment. They pay our travel costs to attend professional meetings. So we — they do many things for us, and I don't have time to go into all those things now.
But to truly understand the critical role that the Texas Bighorn Society has played in bighorn restoration, it's important for you to understand where we came from and where we are now. Let me begin by saying that desert bighorn sheep are an important part of our natural heritage in Texas.
Archaeological evidence indicates that desert bighorns were present in the arid mountain ranges of west Texas thousands of years ago. In the late 1800s, the population was estimated at 1,500 animals. In the early 1900s, Vernon Bailey estimated the population at 500 and described 16 mountain ranges that contained desert bighorns.
In the late '30s or early '40s, the population had declined to about 300, and Davis and Taylor described only eleven mountain ranges that contained desert bighorns. By the mid-1940s, the population had declined to about 35 animals.
And the last documented sighting of a native Texas bighorn occurred in October 1958 on the Sierra Diablo Wildlife Management Area. It is believed that desert bighorns were gone by the early 1960s.
There are a number of reasons for these declines, including unregulated market hunting, the inability to cope with diseases carried by domestic sheep, competition for forage with domestic sheep, and netwire fencing that restricted movement.
Early management focused on protection. In 1903, a hunting prohibition was enacted. And later, in 1945, the Sierra Diablo Wildlife Management Area became the first wildlife area in Texas and was established to serve as a sanctuary for the last remaining bighorn sheep.
In 1954, bighorn restoration was initiated. There were cooperative agreements between the Arizona Game and Fish Department, Boone and Crockett Club, Texas Game, Fish and Oyster Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Wildlife Management Institute.
Initial and subsequent efforts focused on raising sheep in propagation facilities and then releasing them into the wild. The first facility was constructed at Black Gap. It was operational by 1959. The facility was stocked with sheep from Arizona.
Additional facilities were constructed in 1970 on the Sierra Diablo Wildlife Management Area, in 1977 in the Sierra Vieja mountains. And the most successful was constructed by the Texas Bighorn Society in 1983 on the Sierra Diablo Wildlife Management Area.
The facility served its purpose and was eventually closed in 1997 because of persistent disease problems. Experiences taught us that raising bighorns in captivity is not the answer. And Elephant Mountain currently serves as the primary source for brood stock for reintroduction efforts.
And this video that you're looking at is an excellent example of that. This was the largest transplant in the history of our program. We moved 45 head of sheep from Elephant Mountain Wildlife Area to Black Gap. This is how we plan to conduct business in the future, and we hope to never go back to propagation facilities again.
A number of setbacks occurred in the early years. However, the Trans-Pecos region of Texas currently supports seven free-ranging populations. These occur in the Beach, Baylor, Sierra Diablo, Sierra Vieja and Van Horn Mountains and the Texas Parks and Wildlife's Black Gap and Elephant Mountain Wildlife Management Areas.
In 2000, bighorn numbers surpassed the early population levels of the early 1900s. Today, Bighorn numbers are pushing 800 and continue to grow. The Bighorn program represents one of the only self-sufficient programs in the state.
The program is funded by the Texas Bighorn Society and through hunters — through several sources, the Federal Aid Program, the sale of bighorn hunting permits such as the Public Hunt Program and the Big Time Texas Hunt Program.
However, one of our most critical funding sources is — comes from what's called the Foundation of North American Wild Sheep or FNAWS. FNAWS is a private conservation organization whose purpose is to restore bighorn sheep to North America.
And the way it works — the state of Texas donates a permit to the organization. The organization auctions the permit off. And 90 percent of those funds are returned to us specifically for bighorn restoration and management. Since 1989, we've issued nine FNAWS permits, generating a total of $645,500 for the bighorn program.
Hunting was reinstated in 1988 following an 83-year prohibition. Since then, 54 total bighorn hunting permits have been issued. Among those were 16 public hunter permits, nine FNAWS permits, 28 private landowner permits and one Texas Bighorn Society permit.
To give you an indication of how well our program is doing, we have an overall hunting success rate of 87 percent. Fifty-three percent of the rams harvested in Texas have made the B&C record book. Seventy-five percent of the rams harvested at Elephant Mountain have made the B&C record book.
The 2004-2005 season — both of those seasons proved to be record years in several categories. Permits were issued for five of seven free-ranging populations in both of the previous two hunting seasons. A record seven permits were issued for the '03-'04 hunting season.
Among those was the very first Texas Bighorn Society permit. The permit was purchased by Mr. Glen Thurman at the annual Texas Bighorn Society fundraiser for a record $102,000. Every penny of that went towards the bighorn program. And in March 2004, Mr. Thurman made history by harvesting a new state record ram that scored 180 Boone and Crockett.
Surpassing the previous year, a record eight permits were issued for this last '04-'05 hunting season. Among those was a FNAWS permit that was auctioned in March at the annual convention in San Antonio. And the permit was purchased by Mr. Terry Fricks for $77,000.
A few weeks ago, Mr. Fricks made history again by replacing the one-year-old state record. He harvested a new ram that scored 183 5/8. So let me tell you, people are trying to figure out a way to get to Texas to hunt sheep.
I visit with bighorn biologists from other states on a fairly regular basis, and I'm often asked, Why is the Texas program so successful, or what are you guys doing that makes it work? My answer's always been hard work and persistence.
And while this is true, it's much more than that. It's about striving to achieve something extremely worthwhile with those that have the same passion. It's about the friendships we develop and the way we care about each other.
Simply stated, the Texas Bighorn Society's the best. For me personally, bighorn restoration and my involvement with the Texas Bighorn Society has been the most rewarding aspect of my professional career.
Our current target is the late-1800 population levels, and we have many challenges ahead of us. Among those are changing land use, predation, wind generators, disease and many others.
We must stay the course. Experience has taught us that there aren't any quick fixes. There are no Buck Rogers sheep or anything else that we're going to create that's going to speed this process up. It's just hard work and persistence, and we're making it work. Two things are certain. There is nothing that we can't accomplish if we continue to work together, and the Texas Bighorn Society will be there every step of the way.
I'd like to introduce David Wetzel, the current Texas Bighorn Society president, who will discuss the future bighorn restoration and management in Texas.
MR. WETZEL: Thank you. I'm David Wetzel with the Texas Bighorn Society, and I appreciate you all giving me the opportunity to speak with you today. I'm proud to represent the group that Clay has been speaking with you about.
You can tell from some of the pictures we enjoy what we do and have a lot of fun at it. Being a part of the bighorn program in Texas is real gratifying work these days, and we take great pride in the role that Parks and Wildlife has given us to play in this story.
We just completed a work project at Elephant Mountain. The pictures you're seeing are some we took while we were there. But it was particularly exciting, in that every one of us got to see bighorns on the way to and from the work project, and not just any bighorns, huge bunches of rams.
Putting something back into nature's gratifying. Putting something back when the recipients of that are watching you from over the ridge is — falls squarely into the instant-gratification category. I wish each of you could have been there, because it showcases the — both the success of your program as well as TBS's involvement in that effort.
I'm not a biologist, but if you spend just a little while at Elephant Mountain, you can see Texas has a great model for doing what we're trying to do, bringing sheep back to the mountains of Texas.
The herds there are fat, happy and dispersing naturally to the ranches and properties around it, reestablishing old travel corridors, and at the same time, providing a place to actively manage for a brood stock for other transplants and some exceptional hunting opportunities as well.
Maybe because we spend so much of our time in a non-profit world, I get used to begging, and I'd like to do just a little more today from you all. I firmly believe that when we're doing right by bighorns, we're doing right by the mountains and, ultimately, by ourselves down the road.
And I'd like to ask that each of you consider how we carry this effort to the next level that Clay's talking about.
Start connecting the dots that represent our bighorn program today into interconnected populations that will give us the ultimate success of returning these to the numbers they once were before we started messing with them, understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each of the players involved, whether it be the landowners; state agencies; conservation groups. Communicating regularly and openly and, most importantly, working together makes great things possible.
At TBS, we've got the luxury of being able to focus on one animal, and I know that's not possible with Parks and Wildlife. But it's especially true in bighorn country that everything is related. They're all tied together, and doing good for one is good for all.
The wind, water and wildlife and soil come together in the Chihauhuan Desert to make a place that's truly like no other. And it deserves our very best efforts, whether it be by protecting the land itself, adequately supporting the program and the people that have committed their time and life to these efforts, and doing whatever it takes to protect this resource for future generations.
Twenty-some years ago, one of your biologists, a Mr. Jack Kilpatrick, shared his dream with TBS about building a brood pen once at Sierra Diablo. Clay mentioned several determined people from the early TBS crowd dug deep and found a way to make that happen. About 170 bighorns were released from that, and the original brood stock for Elephant Mountain came from there.
Through the years, we've learned a lot from efforts such as that. We partnered with you on a lot of different projects in both good times and bad. You've heard stuff from us you don't particularly want to hear some of the times and probably wish we'd keep quiet on occasions.
But we believe in what we're doing and are very interested in helping this move forward. Parks and Wildlife has returned that expression of faith as well in us by offering us a permit to sell and, more importantly, giving us the belief that we could use the funds wisely.
I hope today we can further justify that faith on your part and particularly that of Mr. Cook, Mr. Brewer and Mr. Berger — I know have gone to bat for us often over the years. The real reason I'm here today is to join forces with Parks and Wildlife on what we believe is a very rare and exciting opportunity.
Some big pieces of a grand puzzle are already in place with Black Gap Wildlife Management Area, Big Bend Natural Park, Big Bend Ranch and several private landowners that are working closely with Parks and Wildlife to restore bighorns on the U.S. side, in the Mexican flora and fauna areas and the CMex Corporation's El Carmen project in Mexico.
Together, these areas represent roughly 2.3 million acres of largely intact wilderness. We feel that preserving the integrities of these areas and the travel corridors for wildlife on both sides of the border will go a long ways towards the ultimate success I mentioned earlier of having interconnected populations. We believe this is one of those dreams that we can help come — make come true.
If I could, I'd like to get Mr. Cook to come up here for a minute. We have a Publisher's Clearinghouse-style check I'd like to give him to help with some land acquisition at Black Gap. There is — a big part of what we're doing now that you all have undoubtedly got a better handle on —
(Mr. Cook showing check to Commission.)
MR. WETZEL: And we would be happy to offer our help in the future in whatever way is possible.
MR. COOK: I want to just take one minute. I have had the pleasure of working with this group, and I got tickled when David said sometimes we don't want to hear from them. You know, we passed that point a decade or so ago. These are truly our partners, and partners you always want to hear from.
I look at the group over here, and I see several familiar faces. They have — let me — and I want to tell you Commissioners, they have a work weekend, I believe in March of each year, and if you get a chance — sometime if you get a chance, you should go spend that three days with this group of people.
Women, children, men all absolutely work ferociously. First of all, they come well-prepared to do the project, whatever that project is, whether it's a water project or a fence project or whatever it is, and bring everything with them, bring the helicopters; bring all the gear; all the groceries, eat very well, I might add.
Some of them are fairly good 42 players. And so they have a great time. And I encourage you, if you get the opportunity, to join them.
There's one other gentleman in the audience. You have heard from Clay several times. You know what a great ally and advocate Clay is for conservation in the Trans-Pecos and throughout Texas.
Mike Pittman, stand up.
Mike also works — as one of our biologists, works on this sheep program and has for years done us an absolutely incredible job, along with many other of our staff out there. But I want to recognize Mike and thank him and thank all of you for this incredible donation.
One last thing. We're going to auction a sheep permit at our Operation Game Thief Event in Houston on the evening of June 11. So if you get a chance to come and see that and participate in the fun that evening, we'd be glad to have everyone. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Bob, I — they've come a long way since I first saw their work 30 years ago when I was working at Black Gap. I worked on that first project out there with Kilpatrick. I was an intern. And the TBS guys came out.
And there weren't but a few. There were no helicopters then. And that, as you know, wasn't the great success. But the work you all were doing then was the early construction of the guzzlers. And I'm sure they're all still there.
MR. COOK: They're there.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And it's an incredible group of people. When I was there in the '70s, there were less than a hundred. And it's an incredible example of voluntary incentive-based conservation working. And I tell you, if it weren't for volunteers like that, there wouldn't be bighorns in west Texas. So thank you very much.
Next up, item 4, white-tailed deer permit rules.
Clay — now, before we get off, anybody have any mule deer questions for Clay?
Clay, you can go now.
MR. WOLF: Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, for the record, I'm Clayton Wolf. I'm the big game program director. And as I briefed you yesterday morning, we have several proposals that we're asking you to consider. These are proposed changes to various deer-permit programs. And I beg your patience as I go through these numerous slides presenting these proposals to you.
Our first proposal deals with what we have come to term inconsequential Triple T releases. Of course, a Triple T permit is a permit we authorize that allows individuals to move animals.
But these must — the movements and the approval is contingent upon our inspections of the release — or the receiving sites to make sure that suitable natural habitat exists on that site so that we do not authorize or permit anything that contributes to habitat degradation at the release site.
However, we currently do have a provision where applications for Triple T releases may be approved without inspection provided the release does not exceed one deer per 200 acres. Of course, the theory behind this is that regardless of the current stocking level, one animal in 200 acres is going to be of no consequence.
Over a year ago, we had a proposal on inconsequential Triple T releases. We received some public comment, and as a result of that public comment and at the direction of this Commission, we took the issue back to our White-Tailed Deer Advisory Committee to study inconsequential Triple T releases and their impacts or how they are consistent with our Department's stocking policy.
And in summary, what we determined was that although the theory was good, in practice, animals are not moved one at a time, and we can't keep them in one place. And so trailer loads of animals can be moved, and they can congregate or cluster in habitat and may have an impact that is of consequence.
Therefore, the proposal is to repeal our provisions for inconsequential Triple T releases. As I indicated, this was studied on numerous occasions with our White-Tail Deer Advisory Committee. Our White-Tail Deer Advisory Committee agrees with this recommendation.
In addition, as of about 7:30 this morning, the public comment via our website was 23 comments in favor of and seven that disagreed.
We also have a proposal that deals with CWD testing for Triple T deer. As I briefed you yesterday, these are the current rules up here before you. Test 10 percent of the animals — equivalent to 10 percent of the animals that you're going to move, no fewer than 10 or more than 40.
And we do not propose to change these rules. We want to leave these in place. However, we have begun working with a group of private veterinarians and veterinarians from the Texas Animal Health Commission to assist us in making disease-minded decisions, since we do not have veterinarians on staff.
These individuals and individuals from the deer industry helped us develop an incentive-based program to, if you will, encourage folks to submit samples and then in turn reward them for doing a good job and reward them based on some statistically significant numbers.
With this help, we developed what we have — we are terming the Preferred Triple T Trap Site Status Program. We would propose that a site or permittee that submits 60 sample results that show non-detected from a site would qualify for this preferred status.
Consistent with other disease-monitoring protocol and monitoring programs, if animals were brought onto the site from a non-preferred site, they would lose their preferred status. Now, what would an individual or permittee get for having preferred status?
First and foremost, annual samples — sample results would not have to be submitted prior to trapping in a permit year. So once someone receives status, they would simply have to submit the required results at some time prior to the next season.
And this helps solve some logistical problems associated with getting samples, getting to them — to the lab and getting them back in time to line up their operations, trappers; helicopters, et cetera.
We also would propose that once someone receives a preferred status that their testing requirements be reduced to 3 percent of the animals that they did move that year, with no less than one sample. So we're proposing a significant reduction once they have achieved the 60 samples there.
And by the way, I did not mention this yesterday, but that 60 samples is significant in that the statistics tables indicate that if you submit 60 samples, you have a — you should be able to detect CWD if it was present at 5 percent level with a 95 percent confidence interval.
We received 16 comments from the public that agree, 12 that disagree. We also presented this to our White-Tailed Deer Advisory Committee, and the White-Tailed Deer Advisory Committee agreed with the recommendation.
I believe, as I noted yesterday, with the number that disagree on this, their — most of the comments, generally speaking, are not opposing CWD testing. In fact, in most cases, the comments are encouraging more testing of CWD out there.
We have one proposal that deals with testing CWD exemptions, testing-requirement exemptions for transports or movements on tracks that are adjacent and owned by the same individual. And basically what I'm talking about is pasture-to-pasture transfers, someone that possibly has a high fence that subdivides their ranch and they want to move animals across that.
We would — the idea was presented by the White-Tailed Deer Advisory Committee. And because the scale of the movement is rather small and it impacts the individuals that is moving the deer, we find that this is reasonable, and staff concurs with this recommendation. As far as general public comment, we received 24 comments agreeing and eight that disagree.
We are proposing a review process for Triple T permit denials. This Commission in April adopted an identical process for MLDP permit denials, which is consistent with one for ADCPs. Basically, if someone is denied a permit, they have an opportunity to request a review by senior Wildlife Division managers.
And the mangers would gather the evidence and look at it and determine whether the decision was appropriate or not. Received no public comment on that proposal.
We have two proposals dealing simply with definitions in our Triple T proclamation. One is to define a wildlife stocking plan for the trap site. The statutes that authorize Triple T permits direct the agency to — that there should be stocking plans for both the trap site and the release site.
Our current rules define a wildlife management plan written by a biologist or technician as meeting the needs of the stocking plan for the release site. And functionally, we have been using the application materials as the stocking plan for the trap site, and we would simply want to clarify that in rule that that meets that statutory directive.
And simply, we want to define permit year to be September 1 through August 31 when we refer to this term in our rules. No public comment on the proposed changes to those two definitions.
We have proposals that deal with Triple T and TTP trapping notification. The 78th Texas Legislature enacted legislation that authorized us to develop rules for a permit not only to trap and move live animals, but in addition, trap animals and move them to a processing facility because of the limitations we're running into in Texas of finding places to move live animals.
This permit is becoming popular. It's becoming an effective tool for urban areas. We see it growing and expanding in areas even outside of the hill country, and we think it's helping us solve some habitat-related problems that we run into when we try to move live deer.
We're also finding out, our trappers are telling us that these rules need a little bit of tweaking to make this an efficient process. Currently, a permittee must notify the Department no less than 24 hours prior to trapping and no more than 48 hours prior to trapping.
In urban areas, many times the trapping equipment is set up and trappers can go on short notice. If the weather forecast indicates that tomorrow will not be good trapping that day, then they will not give notification.
But if things change — if conditions change and the 24-hour time period is passed, then they're not able to trap, and they lose valuable time getting those animals out of these urban areas.
We would propose to reduce this to 12 hours on the front side and leave the 48 hours on the back side. We have run this past our Law Enforcement Division, because this is principally a law-enforcement issue, and Law Enforcement agrees with this proposal. We had 17 comments in agreement and 15 that disagree.
There's also a current rule that indicates that transport to a processing facility shall begin within 18 hours of trapping. The intent is to allow trappers to have an evening session, and if weather conditions are appropriate, animals can be kept in a trailer overnight. They can have a morning trapping session, load them all up and take them to the processing facility.
What we have learned and heard from our trappers is that sometimes 18 hours cuts us a little bit close, so we propose to extend this by two hours to 20 hours. We had 19 comments in agreement and eight that disagreed.
We have one proposal dealing with our scientific-breeder proclamation. Currently, scientific breeders can obtain deer from two sources. They can get them from other scientific breeders in Texas, or they may obtain them from other lawful sources outside the state of Texas as long as they meet Texas Animal Health Commission entry requirements.
At a recent meeting of our White-Tailed Deer Advisory Committee, the Texas Deer Association presented a position statement calling for the closure of Texas borders to the importation of all CWD-susceptible species. Of course, those species are white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and blacktail, at least as we know it today.
The White-Tailed Deer Advisory Committee discussed this issue and actually agreed with this position statement. In addition, there was a discussion on what the agency could do, and a recommendation was made to staff that we look into proposing rules that would have an effective border-closure by-rule, regardless of what happened at the capitol.
Staff concurred. We believe that this is a safe option. We have a lot of deer in Texas, plenty of deer in Texas for managing and for managing recreation and hunting. Therefore, we are proposing that scientific breeders shall be the only source for deer obtained under scientific-breeder rules and statutes.
Therefore, if you want to purchase deer for liberation, for starting a new operation, your only legal source would be another Texas permitted scientific breeder. We had 40 comments in agreement and six that disagreed.
We have a few changes that we propose to our deer-management permit rules. As I indicated yesterday, we briefed our White-Tailed Deer Advisory Committee on what a deer-management permit was, the permit to trap wild deer and detain them in breeding enclosures for a temporary period.
And we were also seeking some clarification from the White-Tailed Deer Advisory Committee on some rules that we had that provided rather wide sideboards. Currently, no deer may be released from a DMP enclosure until April 1.
And as I indicated yesterday, the Triple T trapping season ends March 31. And the intent of this was so that someone wouldn't put deer in a DMP enclosure, have them bred and then release them during the Triple T season to be immediately moved off the property.
What we are proposing as a result of a recommendation from our White-Tailed Deer Advisory Committee achieves the same thing, but we would propose that no permit shall be issued for trapping on a property if DMP deer have been released in the same permit year.
In essence, there are individuals that would like to release their deer earlier, provide a little relief on the habitat in the pens. Some of these individuals do not do Triple T operations. And the bottom line is if you are going to have a Triple T operation, you could not have released DMP deer from that pen in that same year. We had 26 comments in agreement and four that disagreed.
Currently, all DMP deer shall be released no later than ten months following capture, unless otherwise approved by the Department Deer Management Plan. As I said yesterday, DMPs are becoming more popular, and we were getting requests for people to hold deer for rather lengthy periods.
The statutes indicate that this shall be for temporary breeding purposes. And so we had a discussion with our White-Tailed Deer Advisory Committee and had some people that were there at the capitol when this legislation was enacted.
We got some guidance, and it was recommended that we look at the term temporary in a more strict sense than we were operating. Therefore, we propose that all DMP deer shall be released from captivity no later than August 31.
In addition, all supplemental food and water would be removed from the breeding enclosure for 60 days to encourage these animals to leave. Received no public comment on this, although I don't know if I mentioned this was a recommendation that met with concurrence from our White-Tailed Deer Advisory Committee.
Each DMP deer that is captured must be marked with a stripe of yellow acrylic water-based paint unless otherwise prescribed by the Department. As I said yesterday, this doesn't work, so we advise individuals in their plans to mark them with ear tags.
We simply want to delete this rule. We propose to and replace it with a requirement that each deer shall be marked with a durable ear tag clearly visible from a distance of 50 feet. And we received no public comment on that proposal.
Triple T deer may be imported onto a DMP property, but currently by rule, they may not be imported directly into a DMP enclosure. So theoretically, if someone wants to move deer onto their property and they feel like those are the deer they want to use for their DMP breeding purposes, they have to move them onto the property, release them and then recapture the animals to move them into the DMP pen. And they could do that.
This issue came up, was a recommendation from our White-Tailed Deer Advisory Committee. The proposal to — that Triple T deer may be imported into a DMP pen as long as the ranch meets the requirements of the Department's stocking policy at the time of release.
And this was really the — the primary concern from staff was that — is that we didn't do anything that was not consistent with our stocking policy. And if the other rule is adopted that requires release by August 31, then obviously those animals are only going to be in there for a short time period.
We had 37 comments in agreement, 97 that disagree. As I indicated yesterday, the — most of the written comments that are in disagreement with the proposal aren't necessarily specific to Triple T deer going directly in a pen. Most of them are simply comments that these individuals do not agree with the capturing and detention of wild deer, whether it's from the property or from another property into that pen.
And of course, we're — we are also proposing a similar review process for DMP denials, just as we are with Triple Ts, and have already done — as you've already adopted for ADCPs and one other that escapes me right now. I think we have a few deer permits out there. No public comment on that.
As a result of a recommendation from our White-Tailed Deer Advisory Committee, we are proposing that a person who is finally convicted or received a deferred adjudication for a violation relating to release is prohibited from obtaining a DMP for a period of three years from the date of conviction.
This was a recommendation that came from our advisory committee to provide some teeth and maybe some deterrent to illicit activities resulting from the release of deer. Staff concurs with this proposal, as does Law Enforcement. We had 134 comments in agreement and nine that disagreed.
Also, to be consistent with our other rules, we propose that the Department reserves a right to refuse permit issuance to any person that has been finally convicted or received deferred adjudication for a violation of Parks and Wildlife code within the three years immediately preceding an application for a DMP.
This is language that's consistent throughout many of our other permits, but it's currently absent in our DMP rules. We had 132 individuals that were in favor of this and seven that disagreed.
And finally, in the Texas Register we did publish a proposal as a result of comments from our last meeting in April — of the Committee meeting in April. The proposal is that the Department may refuse to issue a permit to a person for a prospective DMP permit if they believe that the person is acting on behalf of a person or is a surrogate for someone who we would deny permits because they've done something illegal.
And of course, the question was asked, If we refuse to issue a permit for a DMP facility, could that person's wife or cousin apply for the permit and that person continue to do business and, in fact, not be impacted? And the simple answer was yes.
Now, as I indicated yesterday, this proposal here has not been taken before our White-Tailed Deer Advisory Committee. And in fact, we are looking at — we are at least thinking about doing identical rules for our other deer permits.
So we would suggest withdrawing this proposal at this time, allowing us to take this to the White-Tailed Deer Advisory Committee, looking at it in a more universal context of all deer permits, and then come back at a later time with a recommendation that involves more than just DMP violations. We had 136 comments in favor and four that disagreed.
And there is a recommended motion slide — and just to clarify that the motion would not include Subsection D of Section 65.138, which is that at one particular clause that deals with people that are acting on behalf of someone else that apply for a DMP permit. And I'll take any questions.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Clay. We've got one person signed up to speak on this item.
MR. HAYWARD: Good morning, Commissioners, Chairman. Appreciate you all as always. For the record, my name's David Hayward, president of the Texas Deer Association for about 90 more days.
I would like to convey our appreciation of Mr. Cook, Mr. Boruff, Mr. Berger, Mr. Wolf and Mr. Lockwood in working with the white-tailed deer and mule-deer permit users to continue to clarify wording of permits and the application processes.
This, as well as closing the borders to importation of such species for the protection of our resource — we're all in favor, and we thank you all again. That's it.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, David. And David, you don't have any problem with taking that other recommendation back to the committee to be —
MR. HAYWARD: No, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: — reviewed. Right?
MR. HAYWARD: That's fine. Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Good. All right.
And I have one more, a late arrival.
MR. BROWN: Not sure why it got waylaid. Sorry about that.
Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, my name's Kirby Brown, executive vice-president of Texas Wildlife Association. And we want to thank Mr. Cook and the staff, especially Mr. Berger. Clayton Wolf has done a remarkable job in this.
We support the staff proposal and the considerable efforts of Mr. Bass and the White-Tailed Deer Advisory Committee in working through these issues and coming to some real good resolutions on these. That's all I have. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And Kirby, you also agree in removing that last DMP violation recommendation and running that through the committee also for —
MR. BROWN: I think that's a very good idea. I think it'll apply to a lot of things.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. Would it be consistent with our practice?
MR. BROWN: Yes, sir, it would.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Kirby.
MR. BROWN: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And Robert Saunders signed up in favor, but does not wish to speak. Is that right, Robert?
(No audible response.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Robert.
All right. Any questions for Clayton that we didn't cover yet today on this issue?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: I just have one question. And I wasn't here yesterday, which — I apologize.
Clayton, on the one where you had all the votes against — and I can't remember which one it was — why did they jump on that particular one? Because you'd indicated it was really a more overall — just being against trapping of wildlife.
MR. WOLF: Yes, sir. There were quite a few comments — of course, everyone that votes doesn't necessarily submit a comment, but I perused the comments. And generally speaking — of course, it's a complicated rule —
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Right.
MR. WOLF: — to start with. But the comments, generally speaking, were just the capture and detention of wild deer. Our proposal — DMPs currently allow people to capture deer on the ranch and put them in the pen.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Right.
MR. WOLF: And this proposal would allow them to take them off another ranch and go straight into the pen. But generally speaking, the comments were that these individuals just didn't believe that — whatever the source was, that individuals should be able to hold wild deer in a breeding enclosure for any period of time.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. And then they just use that particular one to register that vote.
MR. WOLF: That's correct.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. I was just curious why it was —
MR. WOLF: That's correct.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: — on that particular — okay. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Clayton.
Is there a motion on this item?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: So moved.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Commissioner Holmes makes the motion, and Commissioner Ramos second. All in favor, aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Motion passes.
All right. Next up, item 5, Ducks Unlimited.
MR. MORRISON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. My name is Dave Morrison. I'm the Waterfowl program leader for the Department. This morning I have the pleasure of introducing Mr. Ken Babcock with Ducks Unlimited southern regional office out of Jackson, Mississippi.
He's going to give you a brief presentation on the accomplishments of Ducks Unlimited here in Texas and what the future holds. Currently, Ducks Unlimited and this Department have had a good working relationship for the past many years, most recently under the umbrella of the Texas CARE Program.
Through their hard work working with various landowners, cooperators in this Department, there's been at least 150,000 acres of wetlands conserved for waterfowl and other wetlands species. DU's logos can be found on projects from as far south as McAllen, Texas, all the way up through the coastal areas of this state into the Piney Woods and now as far north as the Playa Lake region of the Panhandle.
We look forward to continuing working with them. And with that, I'm going to turn it over to Mr. Babcock.
MR. BABCOCK: Thank you, David.
Prior to my prepared remarks, I would like to introduce a couple of members of our staff who are residents of the state of Texas; Mr. Ed Ritter, who's the director of our conservation programs in Texas and New Mexico, and Mr. Sean Stone, who is our director of development.
And I'll make reference to each of these gentlemen in my remarks, but I did want to introduce them to you.
Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission, Director Cook, I am Ken Babcock, the director of Ducks Unlimited's southern regional office, as Dave said, located in Jackson, Mississippi. Our office is one of four offices established across the United States to deliver conservation of wildlife and waterfowl habitats in the United States.
The southern region covers 15 states, of course including Texas. And our primary emphasis is on providing wintering and migration habitat for, on any given year, up to two-thirds of the North American waterfowl populations that migrate through our continent.
Nearly all of the work we do is done through partnerships with conservation organizations, federal or state government agencies. I'm delighted to be here today to report to you on the joint accomplishments in wetland conservation in Texas that benefit not only wildlife but the citizens of the fine state of Texas.
I want to convey to you Ducks Unlimited's commitment to build upon the foundation that we have established together to be more aggressive and to be very progressive in the future in meeting wetland and waterfowl conservation challenges here in the lone star state.
I think as an indication of our commitment to build on this is the fact that recently we did testify before both the House and the Senate in support of establishing a Texas migratory bird stamp, and we are certainly pleased to hear that that seems to be moving along the — in a way favorable to this commission.
Since Ducks Unlimited began working in the United States some 20 years ago, we have worked with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and other partners to complete over 650 projects in the state of Texas. We have conserve around 140,000 acres of wetland habitat with a total combined expenditure of some $16 million.
Nine years ago, our work in Texas was a one-person operation. It was a fledgling operation dealing mostly with private land programs, and it was headed up by Ed Ritter. Today, as the director of our conservation programs here in Texas and New Mexico, Ed supervises a staff of three biologists, two engineers and two engineering technicians.
And we have offices located in Richmond, Texas, just outside Houston, and in Tyler to deliver these programs in cooperation with the Department and with our other partners. Let me just tell you that this growth over this last decade would have — not have been possible at all without the cooperation and support of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and this Commission.
And I hope you share the view that we have that this has been a great success story for the wildlife of the state of Texas and for the people who benefit greatly from the work that we do.
Let's just take a few minutes and look at some of the specifics about the accomplishments that we've had. DU's worked with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department on every wetland wildlife management area in the state at some point in time.
Our projects have — our first project was delivered in 1989, and to date we've completed 54 projects on public areas, protected and restored over a hundred-thousand acres of land.
Some of the examples that I would cite to you would be areas that are very familiar to you, on Mad Island, Peach Point, Guadalupe Delta and the J.D. Murphree area, all which are key waterfowl wintering areas for birds that migrate through the central and the Mississippi flyways in winter in your great state. Also, all of this work has been critical to resident waterfowl species that are important to people in Texas as well.
DU believes that the conservation battles, including wetland conservation, will ultimately be won or lost across this country, including Texas, on privately owned lands. Most of the wetlands of this country are owned by private individuals, and if we neglect attention there, we will not win this battle. And I don't think anywhere is that more true than it is in the state of Texas.
Ducks Unlimited, Texas Parks and Wildlife and other partners teamed up in 1991 to establish the Texas Prairie Wetlands Project in 28 counties along the Gulf Coast. And I will just reiterate the importance of the Gulf Coast and the need to deal with the issues on the Gulf Coast that have been mentioned earlier today.
To date, this partnership has resulted in 686 projects covering over 30,000 acres. We have work underway on an additional 2,000 acres through the Texas Prairie Wetlands project. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, with approval of course of this Commission, has contributed $1.2 million towards this effort since 1991.
Now, total expenditures, bringing dollars from other sources such as the North American Wetland Conservation Act from Ducks Unlimited and Fish and Wildlife Service and other partners — this program has resulted in a total expenditure of some six and-a-half million dollars.
If you'll take a look at that, the citizens of the state of Texas have realized a return on their investment of about $5.4 for every one that has been invested through your agency.
In 2001, again, the Texas Wetlands Program on private land was expanded with the establishment of the East Texas Waterfowl Program or East Texas Wetland Project. This covers 46 counties, obviously in eastern Texas in the Piney Woods area.
And in just four years, we have accomplished over a hundred projects and conserved over 4,000 acres with an additional 1,000 acres of projects underway. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has contributed $320,000 to this effort. Total expenditures have exceeded $1.3 million, again, more than a four-to-one return on investment.
I would want to also point out that one of the flagships of the east Texas program as it was conceived by the Department and Ducks Unlimited was utilizing the Wetland Reserve Program through the — administered by the USDA. And certainly, that has been an important part of the efforts that we've done there.
Through a period of about three years, Ducks Unlimited was involved in a cooperative agreement with USDA to deliver WRP. That has kind of slipped off the table in the last few years, but we're in the process of renegotiating that, and we do see that again as being a very important flagship program to help deliver the objectives in east Texas.
In 2001, Ducks Unlimited launched its Texas CARE initiative, which identifies the highest-priority areas for Ducks Unlimited to work in the state of Texas with regard to our mission. We've discussed two of these, of course, the Gulf Coast and the east Texas.
The third priority area for Ducks Unlimited — and I know it's important to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department — includes the Playa Lakes region, some seasons, some years extremely important for migrating and wintering waterfowl.
Now, let me point out to you that when we talk about Texas CARE, CARE is an acronym for conserving agriculture resources in the environment. This is in recognition that we have to — have this need to work with farmers and ranchers in Texas if we're going to achieve our mission on private lands.
The goal of Texas CARE is to substantially increase our fundraising in Texas to be expended on projects in Texas in cooperation with this Commission, the Texas Parks and Wildlife and other partners. And since 2001, we have raised over a half-a-million dollars of individual private gifts to Ducks Unlimited.
And I think I mentioned earlier how successful these programs have been of leveraging these dollars, and we are very successful in turning these dollars into four and five to one each time that we do that.
We also have initiated, again in cooperation with the Department, a Texas License Plate Program, and that is starting to gain a little momentum. And those dollars, too, are earmarked to be expended in Texas.
Now, Texas CARE got a great boost here recently when we were able to transfer and promote Sean Stone, who I introduced to you earlier, as our director of development. Sean is a Texan. He found his way chasing his career into California for a few years, but he saw the error of his ways and found his way back to the Lone Star State.
And we're really pleased to see Sean back here working in lockstep with our conservation staff and with your staff to help generate these dollars under Texas CARE. I think you'll be hearing great things about this program in the future.
In closing, let me thank you once again for allowing me time on your busy agenda to report on what we in Ducks Unlimited consider one of our most important and successful partnerships with your Department. Texas is the wintering home for millions of ducks and geese utilizing both the central and the Mississippi flyways each year.
And in addition, Texas contributes substantially to the production of birds, waterfowl particularly, mottled ducks. Obviously, a large portion of the continental mottled duck population resides in Texas.
It's an important state for producing wood ducks and a variety of whistling ducks. All of the work benefits waterfowl, but it also benefits a myriad of other wildlife and adds significantly to the quality of life of people in Texas.
Ed Ritter and I visited a few months ago with the — with Director Cook and some of his staff, and we talked about some of the cooperative efforts and renewing our commitment to build on these. And our discussions very quickly turned to the most common theme with regard to wildlife conservation, and that is the securement and the management and the utilization of water.
And let me just say in wrapping up my comments that in that discussion, we made a commitment to keep water and waterfowl in the state of Texas. We make a commitment, and I offer this commitment to you all as commissioners to work with you in any way to make sure that we have the proper quantity of high-quality water flowing through the streams of Texas, because without water, obviously, there is no waterfowl.
So on behalf of the 40,000 Ducks Unlimited members who reside in Texas and who contribute dollars each year to our efforts, and on behalf of the more than 600,000 members of Ducks Unlimited nationwide, I again want to thank you very much for allowing Ducks Unlimited to be your conservation partner.
We look forward to great times ahead. And in fact, I think the best is yet to come. Thank you very much for your attention.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Thank you for your presentation. We appreciate the partnership and the contributions that Ducks Unlimited makes to this Department and to the state.
MR. BABCOCK: Thank you, sir.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Are there other questions or comments by commissioners?
COMMISSIONER HENRY: If not, we move to item number 6. It's a briefing on the Lake Fork Trophy Bass Survey. Presentation by Mr. Dave Terre.
MR. TERRE: Good morning, Commissioners. My name is David Terre, and I'm a Regional Fisheries director up in Tyler, up in east Texas. Today I will tell you about the Lake Fork Trophy Bass Survey, which is a cooperative project being conducted between the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Lake Fork Sportsman's Association, and the Lake Fork Area Chamber of Commerce.
The main purpose of the survey is to gather information from anglers on angler — on catches of trophy-size fish, and this is done on a volunteer basis at Lake Fork. Information obtained in the survey are used to promote and monitor catches of angler — of trophy-size bass on this very important reservoir.
But before I go any further, I want to thank my staff up in District 3B up in Tyler, some biologists and technicians up there, Kevin Storey, Randy Myers, Gary Pickett and Kirk Pratis. These guys work really hard to help summarize the information that I'll present to you today.
Most of you probably know Lake Fork. Lake Fork is easily Texas's best trophy bass fishery. It also, arguably, is probably — it may be the best trophy bass fishery in the United States. Lake Fork has produced two state-record large-mouth bass, including the current record, an 18.18 pound bass caught in 1992. It was caught by Barry Sinclair.
Lake Fork is also home to the sixth-heaviest large-mouth bass ever caught in Texas. It also holds 34 places in the Texas top 50, and those are some big fish. Lake Fork has contributed 222 ShareLunker fish. This accounts for 57 percent of the fish that have been donated into this single program, more than any other lake.
These fish are 13 pounds or larger and are donated to the Department. They go to our Athens Visitor Center, and there they are used in our research and hatchery.
It should come no — as no surprise to you that Texas Parks and Wildlife does a lot of extensive fishery-survey work, monitoring work up at Lake Fork. We conduct annual creel surveys, and we use information from these surveys to monitor trends in angling. We also conduct routine electrofishing surveys. These are surveys that are primarily designed to target the large-mouth bass population.
And we've also done economic surveys on the reservoir. Between June 1994 and May 1995, it was estimated that anglers spent $27.5 million fishing Lake Fork during that one-year time period. Pretty incredible. Fishing, we know, is big business on Lake Fork, and trophy-bass fishing is a very important component of that.
You might be surprised, however, to find out that sometimes big bass are difficult to catch in our Texas Parks and Wildlife surveys. Our electrofishing surveys, since 1990, have yielded about 10,000 large-mouth bass, and only 50 of those fish have been fish seven pounds or larger. Okay.
We know that Lake Fork obviously has more fish than that abundance reflects, because our anglers are catching them. So what we needed to do is we needed to come in and try to find a way that we could sample the Lake Fork fisheries, especially these big fish, and get a good handle on their numbers.
And it's important for us to know that, because we have some very important management that's going on at the lake, including a 16- to 24-inch slot-length limit, and we need to track those big fish over 24 inches to know that those regulations are working.
So with this idea in mind, what we did is we approached two very important organizations up at Lake Fork, the Sportsman's Association and the Chamber of Commerce, and asked them to — about the possibility of doing a cooperative project where we would survey and track angler catches of these large fish.
What we had envisioned was, you know, a long-term survey where anglers would provide us information about their trophy-bass catches, and then we in turn would summarize that information and then disseminate it back to the angler, hopefully educating them about their fishing, maybe help increase the success of their fishing — also use the information to promote Lake Fork.
This survey was also important because it gave the lake wide — the lakeside business owners, the anglers and these important organizations the opportunity to work together on a common project with common goals to benefit the lake.
So what were the benefits? Of course, we felt like the survey would provide good publicity for the reservoir. And we felt like this might help them, and they were certainly interested, because it would increase business opportunities for them.
This survey also had — was going to be — provides some interesting information — and have it be very useful about trophy-bass fishing in the lake. Of course, Texas Parks and Wildlife would benefit also, because we would be able to finally quantify numbers of these large fish being caught in this reservoir.
And a very important benefit is it gave us the opportunity for us all to work together on a common project. So when we finally got together with these guys and talked about how we were going to plan this survey, we all agreed that all stakeholders needed a lot of involvement and a lot of input into the process of how to build this survey.
We wanted to make sure we kept the survey simple. It's important to keep the survey simple so when anglers report this information to us, we don't hold them up from their fishing. We wanted to make sure to keep the survey itself non-competitive.
We also — had a little argument about this — is how to define a trophy bass. You know, a trophy bass can be a fish, whatever. You know, it's the biggest fish you ever caught. But what we agreed upon is to track numbers of fish seven pounds or larger and look at that.
Parks and Wildlife, though — we were particularly interested in fish that were 24 inches and longer, because, of course, we wanted to assess the effectiveness of our regulation.
We wanted regular monthly reporting. And I think you've handed out a — kind of a monthly-report form that we hold out. What we do is we summarize this information from our anglers and then give that report out.
We felt like it's important to stay — to keep participation high, it was really important to keep — you know, keep in contact with our anglers on a monthly basis. And believe me, I think sometimes they sit at the edge of their chairs and wait for that report to come out. At least, that's how it's been. And we started the program on March 1, 2003.
We established, with the help of the Sportsman's Association and the Chamber of Commerce, 13 angler-reporting stations on the lake. Now, these are the places where anglers, when they catch their fish — they go and report their catches during the day.
We try to make them throughout the lake, make them convenient for the fishermen. They come in, and they basically report their fish that they caught, you know, on standardized forms.
Promotion has been a key to the success of this program. There's no question about that. We have these monthly press releases that you see. We distribute them to all the local newspapers. Some of the major newspapers in Texas, San Antonio; Austin; Houston; Dallas, pick them up, report this work.
We also do it on our Texas Parks and Wildlife website. We do lots of radio and TV programs. We also display posters like the one you see here on the slide. These are displayed prominently at all the major boat ramps, all the area businesses.
We even put them in hotel rooms when you go up to Lake Fork and stay up there. So we want to make people — make sure people are aware of this survey and get involved.
Some of the results that we have seen so far are pretty outstanding. So far we've seen 4,125 trophy-size fish entered into this program that were seven pounds or larger. That occurred in only a 26-month period. Pretty astounding.
We currently know that our reporting rate is about 14 percent. In other words, 14 percent of the anglers who catch these fish come in and actually report them. And knowing that, we're able to estimate that trophy-bass catches in Lake Fork are approximately 15,000 fish seven pounds or larger per year. That's a lot of fish, a lot of big fish.
If we break down these big-bass catches by weight, what we see is that most of the fish that are caught are seven to eight pounds. I mean, that's because these size fish are probably most abundant in the population.
However, what's amazing is 17 percent of these fish have been over ten pounds. And based on our reporting rate, that equates to one lake producing about 2,500 to 3,000 bass ten pounds or larger, you know, in a single year. So that's a lot of — that's lots of bass, lots of big fish.
And many anglers kind of look at ten pounds as being that criteria that they'd love to achieve with a trophy-size fish. I've caught two.
Okay. If we break down the entries per length, what you'll see is that 31 percent of the entries into this program that — of all fish that have been seven pounds or larger have been 24 inches or longer.
So this — we finally, through the Trophy Bass Survey Program, have some confirmation that our length limits, our 16- to 24-inch size limit, is producing fish over the slot, you know. And this is really good news, that our regulation is working.
Now, from a national perspective, Lake Fork obviously is very important. Entries into the Lake Fork program have come from 41 different states and two countries. Anglers — our core of angler-group participation is obviously coming from the states that are right here close to us, Texas, of course, Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana. And they together constitute about 84 percent of the entries.
There is really no question that, you know, fishing is big business on Lake Fork, no question about that. Now, if we break down the entries by month, what we see is that catches are not consistent from month to month.
They are highest in the spring, especially during March, April and May. Okay. But this is — this coincides with the bass's spring spawning season. So this is the best time to go catch a trophy bass. And this information is particularly useful to anglers when they're going to fish the lake. If they want to increase the odds of them going out and catching a trophy fish, this is some information that they can use to target them.
Anglers have told us for many years that their catches can vary based on phases of the moon. Most of us will — most of them will tell you that bigger bass are caught during the full moon. Well, finally we've got a survey here that's been able to prove that to be true, at least during the spring of March 2003, where trophy-bass catches were highest on the full moon and on either side of the full moon.
These fish — as compared to during the new moon. So this kind of makes the Lake Fork Trophy Bass Survey an interesting topic for anglers who are studying it. You know, it confirms some of their suspicions that they have about fishing.
Also, we looked at trophy-bass catches during different seasons of the year, and what we found is that it can change. Yes, by and large, most of the trophies that are caught in Lake Fork, no matter what the season, are caught during the day.
But at — but in the summer, nighttime fishing becomes very important, where 28 percent of the trophies caught during the summer months were caught at night as compared to less than 10 percent during other seasons of the year.
So this can help an angler time his or her fishing when they go on out. If you really want to increase the odds of catching a trophy at Lake Fork, you can fish any season of the year. You better be out there between six o'clock a.m. and twelve o'clock noon, because that — anywhere from 40 to 50 percent of the fish caught during any season are caught during that time. So that's an important thing to know.
So in summary, we — the Lake Fork Trophy Bass Survey is a unique survey. It's only being conducted in Texas and nowhere else in the United States. We're very proud of that. The information that we've been able to glean from this has been very fruitful in helping to promote the fishery and creating interest among our anglers and for monitoring trophy-bass catches for the Parks and Wildlife.
So far, we have experienced excellent participation. The number of entries that we've had in the past two years of this program have been about 2,000 fish each year, which, you know, is pretty consistent. Also, our reporting rate has stayed very consistent.
And that's an important thing to watch through time, because we want to keep enthusiasm and interest generated in this program to keep participation at a high level. The higher it is, the more information we get back.
So all in all, this program is a win/win program for all involved, the Sportsman's Association, the Chamber of Commerce, Parks and Wildlife and the anglers who are gracious enough to provide us this important information.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak today, and I'll be happy to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Are there any questions? Ned?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Just out of curiosity, how did you develop your reporting rate? Because it seems fairly low for people catching really big fish.
MR. TERRE: What we do is — and I failed to mention that. What we do is we do one of these creel surveys, and it's done, you know, basically concurrently with the trophy-bass survey. This is a survey where we go down to a boat ramp.
When anglers come in, we ask them questions about their fishing trip. Well, one of the questions we now ask them is if they've caught trophy bass. Okay. Then what we do is get some information from them, a zip code information and stuff.
And then later what we do is go back up to the forms at that marina, because our surveys are — and check that against the forms to see whether or not they reported or not. And that's — but really, what we're not doing is we're not providing any other incentives for the program — we've considered doing that — besides just trying to provide them regular information, keep everybody fired up, you know, about this program.
So if we ever get into a situation — and I — we're talking about that with the Chamber and the Sportsman's Association. Maybe we can offer some incentives, maybe some prizes, some things like that to try to boost that up.
So far we've seen pretty good reporting. Fourteen percent, I would say, is pretty good, really. Despite what you think, there's a lot of people that fish Lake Fork. It's one of the most heavily pressured lakes in the state.
And despite our aggressive promotion efforts, you know, it's hard to contact everybody. But the word's getting out, I think. You know, I think we have a lot of good things going on. And we have a lot of business owners that are really behind us on this, so they display that poster in their windows. When they come in, they ask them, you know, Have you caught a trophy fish?
So that's how we get at the reporting rate. And we'll be watching that very closely.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any other questions?
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: I'm just curious. Of these big bass that are being caught, do we have any statistics as to how many are being put back into the lake?
MR. TERRE: We do. Lake Fork — catch and release is huge on Lake Fork. I mean, we can't get folks to keep a bass there. Matter of fact, during our creel surveys, we estimate that about 99 percent of the bass that are caught are released.
And we're really seeing that, you know, across Texas. And that's simply — that's one of the reasons why this lake is producing the huge fish that it is. There — they are releasing all the big fish, the trophies. I mean, these guys catch 12, 13 — you know, 12- or 13-pound fish, and they're taking a photo, weighing them in the boat and letting them go. So — for an opportunity for an angler to catch another one some day so —
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: My other question's a selfish one. What's the magical lure you use?
MR. TERRE: Well, I tell you —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: You're not supposed to do that in a public meeting. You're supposed to do that back there.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: You don't have to answer. I just —
MR. TERRE: Oh, okay. All right. Actually, we don't ask the angler that information, you know, but we do —
COMMISSIONER HOLT: You don't?
MR. TERRE: No, we don't ask. It's just one of those things we — trying to keep the survey simple and not trying to hold them up. But we do ask anglers when we — when they donate a ShareLunker bass what they catch the fish on. And those results are available.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: But keep it a secret.
MR. TERRE: I will.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. Any other questions for this gentleman? I believe Vice-Chairman Henry has a question for Phil.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Phil — or thank you very much.
MR. TERRE: You bet.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: I'm interested in Lake Fork because it's produced so many ShareLunkers.
The question's been asked since we've been making presentations and your guys are working on the Sheldon project — could you tell us just very briefly what it's going to take to get that fishery up to the order where it would produce something like Lake Fork or a ShareLunker or — what — if you have plans, what are they? If not, when are you going to get some?
MR. DUROCHER: For the record —
COMMISSIONER HENRY: It's just, you know — and —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Still the vice-chairman.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: And, you know, people from this — that city have all — the beauty of it — of Sheldon is it's 15 minutes from downtown, you know. Well, actually, the Houstonian — have to drive 40, 50, 100 miles to catch a decent-size fish when you got a 1,200-acre lake 15 miles from downtown.
MR. DUROCHER: Mr. Henry — for the record, my name is Phil Durocher, the director of Inland Fisheries. I don't know where to start answering that. Let me just say that Lake Fork is a special place, and to think that we can make a Lake Fork out of every lake in the state of Texas is — if I knew that secret, believe me, it would already have been done.
Sheldon Lake is a special place. It — we have some issues there at Sheldon with overabundant vegetation, but we have a plan in place to use Sheldon kind of as an experimental place for some of these super bass that we're beginning to raise in our fish hatcheries, the offspring of the ShareLunkers that we've been collecting over the years.
And we intend to do some fairly intensive management at Sheldon Lake. I can't tell you that Sheldon Lake is going to produce the numbers of big bass that Lake Fork produces, but there's absolutely no reason why it can't be a lot better than it is.
A lot of it's going to have to do with regulating the catches. You can't open a lake and let people take everything they want out of it and hope to get big fish. It just doesn't work that way. But we do have a plan in place for Lake Sheldon.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Would you keep us informed, and particularly Commissioners Holmes and Friedkin? And I'm going to be keeping in touch with them even later down the road on that plan and how it's developing and what's happening.
Because I'm interested, as is Commissioner Ramos, particularly in the youth of the state becoming involved within our programs. And where you have that lake that close to Houston — you have others that are close to the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex and, you know, the San Antonio areas and other places where we have, you know, the — 90 percent of our kids.
And it would be a great thing for them to be able to go to nearby places, you know, to go out during the day and get back home — land and water recreation place — within an hour-and-a-half's drive, to be able to do this. So it's something that I think we as the Department are going to have to address, you know, much more seriously than we have in the past if we are going to continue to meet the needs of our young citizens.
MR. DUROCHER: We — you know, we're looking at a lot of different urban programs. And because we made a presentation on Lake Fork, I don't want anybody to think that we ignore the other lakes in the state. We have a lot of lakes in the state that we put as much effort into as we do at Lake Fork.
We're looking at this type of survey — of extending this type of survey over to more reservoirs in the state, because I believe there's a lot more bigger fish being caught around the state than we're aware of. And when you can show those kind of things, the results of this survey, it's exciting to people, and it gets people excited about fishing.
The urban areas are high-priority with us. But, you know, we're limited of what we can do. But we're looking at some things, especially for the children. You're looking at things like catfish and sunfish, fish that are easier to catch.
We don't want the urban people to believe that you have to have a $40,000 bass boat and a suburban to be able to catch fish. So we're looking at it from all angles. And I did promise to you last meeting that I was going to keep you informed of what was going on in Sheldon, and we'll certainly do that.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Thank you very much.
MR. DUROCHER: Thank you, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: We're glad to know that the number 2 lake this year for ShareLunker, for the big bass, that's closing in on Lake Fork is Allen Henry, which I refer to as Al Henry.
MR. DUROCHER: And we're going to give you the credit for that.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: That's all I need, Phil.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: From now on, that's going to be called Lake Al Henry.
MR. DUROCHER: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Phil, how large is Lake Fork?
MR. DUROCHER: 27,000 acres.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Phil.
All right. No further questions. We'll move on to agenda item number 7, an action item, Nonprofit Partners Resolution.
MS. BRIGHT: Good morning, Commissioners. I'm Ann Bright, general counsel. And I'm here to present a resolution regarding nonprofit partners. Under the Texas Parks and Wildlife code, the Department is authorized to cooperate with nonprofit partners.
The code also requires that the Commission approve additions and removals from the nonprofit and closely related nonprofit-partner list. And I've put up for you the definition of a nonprofit partner and a closely related nonprofit partner.
The nonprofit partner really is just a nonprofit organization that cooperates with the Department. And you've actually heard this morning about two of these, the Bighorn Sheep Society and Ducks Unlimited.
A closely related nonprofit partner is one whose sole existence is to support the Department, and those are mainly friends groups. And I know Walt is going to talk in a little bit about state parks, and a lot of our state parks are really dependent on these friends groups.
We're here today to seek approval for the addition of 12 nonprofit partners and three closely related nonprofit partners. And I've put those up there.
There's the American Youth Works, Archaeological Conservancy, Bat Conservation International, Camp Fire USA Balcones Council, Chihauhuan Desert Research Institute, City Kids Adventure, Education in Action, Fisher County Healthcare Development Corporation, Friends of the Colorado River Foundation, Gulf Coast Bird Observancy, Macedonia Outreach Center, Valley Land Fund.
And then three closely related nonprofit partners, the Friends of Martin Dies, Jr., Friends of McKinney Falls and Friends of Stephen F. Austin. And all of these, as you can see, will support the park.
This is the resolution that will be presented to you, and then this is the recommended motion. I'd be happy to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any questions for Ann?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any motion on this item?
COMMISSIONER BROWN: So moved.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Moved by Commissioner Brown. Second by Commissioner Parker. All in favor, aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Motion passes.
Thank you, Ann.
Next, on to agenda item number 8, a briefing item, State Park Review.
MR. DABNEY: Good morning, Chairman, Commissioners. I'm Walt Dabney, State Park director, and I'm here today to do an overview of the State Park Division, some of our initiatives and activities that we have going, maybe a little look at the summers —- it — and season as it evolves.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Good catch, Walt.
MR. DABNEY: Not bad for an old guy. First bounce. I don't know how it jumped off.
But anyway, the State Parks began in 1923. We've grown to a system of 128 state park sites. Of those, 35 are state historic sites. And about 630,000 acres of land is managed by the State Parks Division. We have 991 full-time employees and 180-plus hourly or seasonal employees.
That's taking care of about, conservatively, 9.7 million visits a year to the system. It's at least that, and it's probably more. To organize this 128 sites, it's under eight regional offices, eight regional directors. Each supervise about 12 to 17 of the state parks.
Our budget is about — nearly $52 million. Of that, the state parks generate about $32 million. So we generate three-fifths — the equivalent of three-fifths of what it takes to operate the parks.
I want to go through several of the different components of the parks. We have a reservation center over here, and I think that came up at the confirmation hearing, and I want to tell you a little bit about that. When I first got here — and it's not because of me — Bob was the — was my boss at that time.
We got a lot of complaints about the reservation office. That reservation office now makes, actually, 300,000 reservations a year, doing that not only for the State Park system but for LCRA and Kerrville City Park, which we used to have, and we agreed to continue to make reservations for them.
They also sell Texas hunting and fishing license. They're one of the responders to the 800 information number. But something that we've really done — those complaints come in to me personally or to Bob now. I know you got hit with that — I really believe is old news.
We are not getting complaints anymore. One of the biggest complaints was that we had to wait online. Something we've gone on and installed is something called virtual hold. To make 300,000 reservations, that's a half-a-million phone calls a year that we respond to.
Now if you call in, you're going to get — if we can't answer the phone immediately, you're going to get a recording that says, We will call you back, if you want to just hang up, in eight minutes, six minutes, three and-a-half minutes, whatever it is. If you're not — that way you know to be there.
And this is going to automatically call you back. So you're not sitting there hanging on the phone. If that's not good, you tell us three days from now or three months from now. It's six o'clock in the evening is when you want to be called back. You'll get a phone call at six o'clock in the evening, and the reservation agents won't know that you didn't just call in. You'll make that reservation.
So we've done a lot of things. The other thing you need to know is we've done two reviews of that organization, one internally, and a second one was contracted by the Department to review that. They — the findings were that we have a very good system.
I'm a member of the National Directors Association. We do it cheaper than any of the other states that I know of, and we have control of it because it's ours. We use contract software, but we have our own agents, and we get them trained up, and they stay with us a long time.
Another component of our operation is we have concessioners that operate many facilities in parks in these numbers: 28 full-time lease concessions and several guide services and part-time seasonal. In franchise fees back to state parks or Fund 64. That brings us nearly $600,000 a year, which is good — a good part of that is part of that $32 million in revenue.
Another important component of our business operations — and if you've gone to many of these parks, we have some stand-alone stores where we actually have employees hired for that, like the Inks Lake Store or the Washington on the Brazos Store, that kind of thing.
But if you go into Bastrop and walk in the front door and you're standing in line waiting for someone to make your — assign your campsite or whatever it is, we have a store there that doesn't cost us any more to operate, because the staff is sitting right there.
So when you're standing in line, you pick up two T-shirts and some books and that kind of thing and check out. That generates us nearly a million dollars a year in profits, not gross, but net. And so the two of those together are some significant components of the State Park operation.
We could not physically operate were it not for these next two topics. One is Community Service Worker Program and TDCJ. This is literally an inmate crew working on the railroad. They contribute, between the two of them, about 94.3 FTE equivalent if we had to hire those, or, at a Park Ranger II salary, which is not a lot of money, $2 million 300-something thousand in direct support and cost.
Other park volunteers that do everything from greeting visitors to collecting money to being a campground host in many of our sites equate to 193 FTE or $5 million plus. So total, nearly 300 FTE is contributed. That's equal to about 25 percent of our entire paid staff. And without these folks, we would not be operating a number of these sites.
Another component of state parks is the grant program which all of you know. It's an excellent program. It normally ran about $20 million a year. Current funding is about $12 million a year. We — you award these grants twice a year in most cases, once a year in some cases. It's an incredibly important program, and it makes for that system of parks in Texas, which is not only the state parks but certainly the county and local parks.
The State Park pass, which, as you know, we rolled out last year — and if you haven't gotten your renewal notice in the mail, it should be coming. I hope — I've already got mine this year, and it — and have it in hand. I hope all of you have your annual pass again.
Last year, the first year we had the card, we sold over 60,000 of them. This year, if you can — if you look at 2000 and 2005 comparison, we are probably 1,400 passes ahead of where we were last year. And when Mary did her presentation, she mentioned that State Park revenues are up.
And that's part — that is a primary reason why that's the case. We knew that anybody that bought one last year would probably buy it again. It's that good a deal. And it's being used.
Another thing that I talked to most of the commissioners about before that is now out in the community is this economic contribution to the state parks.
And Commissioner Friedkin, I need to get you a copy of that. I think I have for the others.
It's excellent information. It measured these four categories of people coming to parks. And what it shows is that in calculating these impacts, it's the direct impact of that park being there and the attraction to folks that would not have been coming to that county otherwise.
And what it showed us and what should be good ammunition is while the overall State Park system might cost us $20 million, the reality is, looking at the 80 parks that are already completed in the study, the economic impact on sales in those counties is just under $800 million.
And the economic impact on income, money in people's pockets that would not be there, presumably, if that park did not exist, is another nearly half-a-million — half — or half-a-billion dollars.
Projecting that out, again looking at a $51.8 million budget and the $32 million revenue stream, for approximately $20 million investment, this state is getting — again, according to Texas A&M's study and the projection, nearly $1.3 billion in economic benefit from a $20 million investment. And that's pretty significant to this state.
The impact of that are these here. Tourism is activated by attractions. If the attraction's good, people are going to come. If it's not, they're going to pass that word around very quickly, and they're going to quit coming.
We're a major supplier of these attractions. What are they? Well, certainly camping is one of the things that people come to state parks to do, and it can be as rustic as you want or as convenient as you want. And people have all kinds of different ideas of what that should be.
If you want a softer kind of accommodation, we have some really incredible places, whether it be Indian Lodge or the Landmark Inn or Sauceda Ranch House out in Big Bend Ranch. We've got some real unique kinds of things.
The Texas State Railroad is a 30-mile old historic railroad that the Legislature gave us and said to operate. It's a very expensive proposition. One of the initiatives we did last year is a kids-ride-free. It has worked really well. It's boosted our revenues.
And that train does not care how many people are on it. So if you're dragging a whole bunch of empty seats, it doesn't cost any more than it does if you say, Folks, come on up here. The adults pay, and you bring your kids with you, and they can fill in those empty seats. And it has gone out the roof.
Bob suggested the other day that we should try that at the tram, which is the Wyler aerial tram at El Paso. And we are following up on that, Bob, and I think that's got a potential of folks coming out to the tram that might not have come anyway, and they can take their kids and go up there.
So the kids-ride-free program — we will think of something catchy, hopefully, for the tram. I talked to Commissioner Brown last night about the tram. One of the things that would help us hugely there is if you would ride up the tram — if you could get off at the top and get onto the mountain, which you cannot physically do right now.
You could do a trans-mountain hike over to the highway, make it an all-day deal. Or you can come from the highway and come across. We think it would be a serious wonderful day to spend in El Paso, and the views are incredible from up there. You're seeing one country and two states.
Another unique piece of the system is the Battleship Texas. All three of these were given to the State Park system by the Legislature. And these three, the railroad, the tram and the Battleship, are not huge money-makers, contrary to what we were told.
Anyway, we've got them, and we've — they provide a wonderful experience to the people that come. But they also — if you were going to go into business, would not have been something you probably grabbed hold of. But if you understand that they also generate local economic impacts and they're a piece of our history — except for the tram, possibly — that that's why they're there.
We have many historic houses, unique kinds of places, and these are definitely an attraction for people coming to some of these locations, historic sites. And as we've said, we have 35 specific historic sites, but we have historic components in many of our natural parks.
In the lower right is the Nimitz Hotel, and it has grown to include now the National War in the Pacific Museum. And as you know, House Bill 2025 is presumably going to transfer the operation and ownership of that site to the Texas Historical Commission. And if that gets signed by the governor, if it's done, it — that will happen in September to be accomplished by November, I think.
Parks as classrooms — another major component of what we do. We have thousands of kids coming to parks to learn about history and natural science.
We appreciate, Commissioner Henry, your support of these projects.
But parks certainly need to be used to study history and study natural science. All kinds of interesting tours from rock-art tours at Seminole Canyon in Hueco Tanks to stagecoach rides and birdwatching tours.
Special activities. Monahans sand sliding actually generates more money at Monahans than the entrance fees just from renting the $5 sand saucer, and people flock out there to do that. Birdwatching. The Longhorn Roundup at Big Bend Ranch is absolutely booked to capacity every time we offer it. It's an experience that folks have written Bob and I about every time they've gone out there. It's a piece of Texas, and folks love it.
The Devil's Sinkhole — a unique experience, the bat flight coming out of there. We've built infrastructure, designed and constructed a bat-watching platform, if you haven't been there. It's guided tours only, and if — once you've seen it, you understand why we do not want kids running around out there, because we would be losing them regularly.
We'd know where they are, but they would not be in good shape. They say that the bat flight out is great. The bat flight back in in the morning is even better. It is literally swoop down the tube. So you ought to look at doing that.
Fishing in parks. We work closely with Phil and Larry on this. Fishing should be excellent this year. One of the things that we're doing right now that I think many of you know about and I think is a home run for us is this Family Fishing Celebration, which, if you look at our website on parks, is free fishing in state parks.
If you come to state parks with your kids or whatever or come in from out of state, as long as the lake is in — completely enclosed — or you're standing on the shore, you can fish without a Texas fishing license. It has not hurt, that we can see at all, license sales.
But I tell you, it is getting widely popular with folks coming to parks, and it's really a positive thing. If you want to let your kid try to fish and you're standing there with them but you're afraid to help because you don't have a license and the game warden might come, this takes care of that.
Water recreation. We've got the coast. We've got wonderful lakes, and the rivers on many of these are in better shape than they have been for a long time. It ought to be a wonderful season in parks as it relates to water recreation.
We've got some other unique things. The Texas Longhorn — the official herd is at Fort Griffin, and it has come from a herd that was not very healthy genetically and otherwise to one that is extremely healthy and robust now. The bison herd is at Caprock, and a number of parks have either bison or longhorns, a few as exhibits.
Watchable wildlife. Hunting is important to Texas. There are a heck of a lot — probably more people that want to watch wildlife, and we offer that opportunity as well. And they come, and this is one of the activities rated as extremely high. A huge buck deer near a campground in a state park is a major attraction for people. They even name them.
And skilled activities. A lot of Texans do not have access to big private ranches and that kind of thing. We are their place and — to do, whether it's horse trips — and there's huge demand for horse trips. We got people asking us all the time, can we designate more trails or open more trails, which we are trying to do for equestrian use. Certainly mountain biking is huge and a lot of these other things. People come to the parks.
The — we didn't have a mission in State Parks. We've been working on it for several years. The Department has a mission. We have — Carole's going to hand out a copy of this so that you have it. This is what I send out to all our folks.
If you don't have a mission that pretty well lays out where you're going, then I guess any place will do. You just won't know when you get there. So the mission we've agreed to in State Parks — and this was put together by the employees of State Parks — is threefold.
It's to maintain and restore the natural and cultural resources. We think that parks ought to be examples, healthy examples — in many cases, it's going to take us a long time to get there — of what would have been there naturally, to the extent we can, and what would have — what is there historically and in good shape.
The second it needs to be is a place where we teach history and teach natural science in places where history actually occurred and where your natural science base is right there in front of you and not virtual. And lastly, an outstanding destination for recreational opportunities that are compatible.
To do that, I handed out to you our goals. And this list does not expand on the definition of those. The paper I gave you really does. And that's what going to guide us, our staff. Under each of those goals, we will have measurable objectives to get there. And as you're interested, I'd be glad to show you those, and they will be things that we can report on and show progress on.
One of the things — and this is my last — that we're extremely proud of — in my National Park Service career, when I was selected as a superintendent, I was sent out to southeast Utah and told to go be one.
I watched — I think it worked okay eventually, but I watched a lot of my compatriots that were selected the same way sent out there, and it was — by the time you realized that the smoke was pouring out the roof and that the local constituents were really upset, the staff was demoralized and all you had — an absolute wreck.
A park superintendent is kind of like — is like a cross between a city manager and a mayor. You literally are responsible for the fire, the police, education through school groups and interpretation, the water and sewer — water and wastewater treatment systems, managing the resource and everything.
You're making decisions related to all those kinds of things every day, plus all the state laws and federal laws that affect how you do many of those kinds of things, and we weren't training them. Most states don't train them.
The National Park Service, as far as I know, still doesn't train them. We just had our first class that ended a week ago, and we're going to put every park superintendent through an intense two weeks, and it went from 8:00 in the morning until 9:00 at night plus every single day.
And it was a home run. It was — we had people that are much closer to retiring than they are to beginning their career. That's an advantage, because they bring a lot of expertise and stuff to the table and shared that.
The attitudes were incredible. And the setting was at Bastrop State Park, so lots of the things that you were talking about doing, whether it's auditing your revenue stream or doing a facility inspection to see how your maintenance is and that kind of thing, was done right there. It's going to take us a long time to catch up, but we will have everybody through here.
The next thing we're going to do is develop a curriculum for our administrative staff that are in these parks. Because again, we've got 128 sites probably doing things, in may cases, differently.
So with that, I'm going to close. I think it's going to be a great season in parks. The wildflowers have been wonderful. The lakes and rivers are in good shape. And I'd be glad to take any questions that you have.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Walt, that was a great presentation. I want to congratulate you on your leadership in getting that superintendents leadership program going. I was at Guadalupe last weekend, and the superintendent there just graduated from the program.
MR. DABNEY: What did he say?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And he thought it was great.
MR. DABNEY: Okay.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: He thought it was 20 years too late, but he thought it was great.
MR. DABNEY: I told him that. You got to start sometime.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Well, you're doing a great job. I wanted to add something to your comments about that A&M economic study. I thought it was interesting, because when I read that, what struck me — most of the commissioners know you can get a study to say just about anything if you start out with that objective.
But that study struck me — that that impact was based on the survey of people that would not have been in that community but for the park. In other words, it excluded every — all the local —
MR. DABNEY: That's correct.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: — that were going to that park on a regular basis and only surveyed the people whose purpose for coming there was to go to that park, and I think that's significant.
MR. DABNEY: Chairman, it actually even excluded — if you were the local resident and Al came to visit you and you came out to the park, we didn't count Al, because he came to see you; he didn't come there because the park existed.
So the only ones that counted were ones that would not have come otherwise. It's a pretty —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Well, I applaud you for getting a tight piece of work like that, because that kind of work is not always —
MR. DABNEY: You can inflate. We didn't do that.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: It was well-done.
MR. DABNEY: Or they didn't do that.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any questions for Walt?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Just one, Walt. This is a favorite subject, but you did bring up the Battleship, and we'd had that report about — within the last year or so. Whatever happened with the Battleship, and where do we go from here?
MR. DABNEY: It's still upright —
COMMISSIONER HOLT: It's floating, isn't it, now?
MR. DABNEY: It's not sinking to the bottom right now.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Oh, it's isn't? Okay.
MR. DABNEY: No, sir, we don't think. It's — we've got $16 million plus a little change.
MR. COOK: 16.1.
MR. DABNEY: 16.1 that is coming from T21 money, federal T21 money —
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay.
MR. DABNEY: — so far. There is a bill that is either introduced or will be introduced in Congress, U.S. Congress, for another $20 million that's going to come out of defense appropriations, if that's successful. So that would give us 36.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thirty-six.
MR. DABNEY: Our preference —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: It's 45 to do the —
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Well, we don't — I don't know —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I don't think we — we never settled —
MR. HOLT: We're not —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: — on an actual number, did we?
MR. DABNEY: But the first thing we would do is figure — if we had those is we would sit down and figure out what the best solution to that is. And there's a lot of different opinions about that, but there's a consistent feeling that it has to be better getting it out of that saltwater —
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, get it out of the water.
MR. DABNEY: — which, if you got a permanent thing, would not require that you go back through and completely rebuild the hull.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: We're not going to tow it as long as I'm chairman. I'm not going to be the one that sunk this thing.
MR. DABNEY: Unless it's going to the artificial reef —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Germans and the Japanese couldn't do it. I'm not going to do it.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: You don't want to move it out. And we were talking about — Ned Holmes doesn't want it out in the Houston Ship Channel either.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: I don't think any of us could do that.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: No, I know.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Okay.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: John, any Parks questions?
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Yes.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: You're active in Parks.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Yes. Walt, with respect to our volunteers —
MR. DABNEY: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: — who work at the parks — and the reason I'm asking you this is that I want all the other commissioners to hear it, because two years from now, we will, I hope, have another legislative session.
And if we could — if you could develop a proposal for the legislators to offer some sort of relief on liability insurance for our park volunteers, what do you think that that would — that one item would do for those numbers as — for the park volunteers?
MR. DABNEY: It can't help but enhance people's interest in that. Right now we have —
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Would you tell them some of the little problems that —
MR. DABNEY: Well, especially related to vehicle operation. They're not covered under the State Tort Plans Act. We make it clear to them that their personal insurance needs to cover that. In the National Park System, when I was there, a volunteer is covered. They're signed up under the Federal Tort Claims Act.
A lot of states — they are covered. I think it certainly would ease their minds if they knew they were covered. It would probably make it easier to get some people to come in. It's awkward, a little bit, in telling them they — yes, we want you to come here and volunteer, but you need to go get insurance to operate here.
So I think it would be a help. We could craft that. We — working with Ann or whatever, if that were your interest. But I think it would help us overall. It would increase liability though for the state, because the state is not itself insured.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Thank you.
MR. DABNEY: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: It's a pretty small cost if you figure the value of the volunteer hours that —
MR. DABNEY: The value to us is huge.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any other questions for Walt?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Yes. Just to follow up on that, because I'm not sure that I understood exactly where you were headed with it. Are you talking about including volunteers in a state insurance program, or are you talking about —
MR. DABNEY: No.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: — capping their liability for torts?
MR. DABNEY: Well, they're not covered now by us, by the state.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: I understand that.
MR. DABNEY: This would be for liability.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Providing liability insurance for them.
MR. DABNEY: Yes, sir.
MR. COOK: Well, and basically — and Ann, correct me if I'm wrong, but basically the state doesn't have insurance. I mean, if we — if one of our employees has an accident and it's — you know, it's our fault or however you want to say it, I mean, the state doesn't go, say, call their insurance and company and say, We've got a problem. We've got to fix this guy and this guy's car, you know.
And, I mean, we — they just pay for it. Or —
MS. BRIGHT: Right. The — under the Texas Tort Claims Act, the state has essentially waived immunity for certain types of claims against state employees, which means that, for example, if someone backs into you at the — out in the parking lot, that will be covered.
And we send those claims to the attorney general's office, and they basically act as the claims processor. Since volunteers are not considered state employees, they're not covered by the Tort Claims Act. We do have a liability insurance policy that covers volunteers, but there are some issues about their driving our vehicles. If they're driving equipment, it's a little clearer.
There have been some discussions over the years about the best way to do that, whether it's to acquire — to attempt to acquire additional insurance, which is not generally available, and it tends to be very expensive if we want to expand that coverage.
The — if you put them under the Tort Claims Act, there would probably be a huge fiscal note on that, which is one of those things that tends to hurt legislation's chances of passing. Probably the best alternative for us to look at at this point — and Walt and I and several of us have had discussions — is really trying to pursue additional insurance.
And we actually have special authority in the Parks and Wildlife code to purchase insurance for our volunteers. And we purchase that — we're required to purchase that through the State Office of Risk Management.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: How does the federal system work?
MR. DABNEY: Under the Federal Tort Claims Act. Bob said it doesn't.
MR. COOK: It doesn't do any better than ours, you know.
MR. DABNEY: It actually — you sue under the Federal Tort Claims Act. They're considered an employee.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Ann, is there a limitation on liability —
MS. BRIGHT: Yes.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: It's a hundred thousand. Right?
MS. BRIGHT: It's actually — it — it's — for vehicles, which is really primarily what we're talking about, it's $500,000 per incident. And I think it is — it's either — I think it was — I think it's like $250,000 per person.
So if you have, you know, a wreck with a lot of people, it's — there's going to be the $500,000 max.
MR. COOK: Mr. Chairman, I'd just like to say thanks to Walt and all the people involved in this. And I want to — I'd like to call to the attention of the Commission and the audience here — everybody here, in the last 24 hours, you've got a really heavy dose of partnerships, volunteer programs, cooperative efforts, I mean, starting last night at the Land Steward awards thing.
I mean, what a partnership, what an incredible partnership. Ducks Unlimited. I mean, these people we've been partnering with in real on-the-ground projects. The Texas Bighorn Society. Dave Terre mentioned the partnership with the fisheries group and the businesses over on the lake. Trinity River Authority.
I just want to — want you to pause a minute and remember that and think about the fact that what we've just talked about, the TDCJ workers, the community-service — is literally just the tip of the iceberg of the partnerships, the cooperative working relationships we have with the friends group.
I mean, no telling — friends groups in our state parks, on our wildlife-management areas. Support that this agency gets from the people of Texas and the corporations of Texas is wonderful. And we, as you have seen, I think, and heard from various staff members continue to build on that and look for those opportunities and would appreciate any thoughts and suggestions you have along that line.
It's something we need to build on. We can't ever expect, I don't think, to be able to go to the Legislature and the people of Texas and expect them to pay for this. And on the other side of that issue, we have people who work in the state parks who literally come and move in to the state park in their trailer, in their camper-type rig, and serve as the park host for months and months.
And I'm going to tell you what. If somebody else sneaks into their spot, if somebody else wants in that spot and they come and say, Well, I'm here to work all spring and summer, and you happen to have already somebody there, there's a problem. They want that. They want to be involved. They want to help, just like the fishermen, just like the bighorn sheep people. So I just really —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Do you have an estimate of the hours annually they volunteer?
MR. DABNEY: It was on — let me look. I can tell you exactly.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: It's amazing, the amount — you know, and those hosts — you're right. Some of them are very talented.
MR. COOK: I'm going to tell you, though, just what you've heard. Literally, I mean, it is true. It's just the tip of the iceberg overall in the Department.
MR. DABNEY: Community-service workers, which are people assigned to do community service by the court or TDCJ crews, are 94 FTEs a year, for a value of $2,344,000. The volunteers —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: That's — I'm not — I don't consider TDCJ volunteers.
MR. COOK: We sure do like them, though, I tell you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: It's a different kind of volunteer.
MR. DABNEY: Not only do we like them, they like it.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: They do.
MR. DABNEY: They'd much rather be working out in the park.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I saw them at —
MR. DABNEY: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: There are a lot of —
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Life's better outside.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Life's better — our Department standards are going to be very popular with that —
MR. DABNEY: Volunteer hours are 402,000, nearly 403,000 a year or —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: 403,000. That's just straight volunteer.
MR. DABNEY: That's straight volunteers of all types, campground hosts or whatever it is. And the total value of that, again, at a Park Ranger II — and a Park Ranger II makes $19,000 a year, so we're not inflating this at all — $5,287,000, so $7,600,000, conservatively, in state parks every year.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Ten percent, I —
MR. DABNEY: That's equal to 25 percent of our work — our paid workforce.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I'm thinking you have a 5 percent cut too. That's pretty good.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: See why I would like to have a little enticement?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any other questions for Walt?
MR. DABNEY: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Walt, mine just expired.
MR. DABNEY: Did you get a notice? Do you want to get —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: No.
MR. DABNEY: — want us to get you a new one?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: We gotta pay. You're going to get some money from me —
MR. DABNEY: We can do that here —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: They will take your money right outside.
MR. DABNEY: — in this building.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Outside. That's right.
Thank you, Walt.
Okay. We have an action item up next, the resolution designation of representatives to the Barton Springs HCP.
MR. SWEENEY: Commissioners, Mr. Cook, I'm Bob Sweeney with the Legal Division. And this item will seem like a deja vu to some of you, because it's much like a couple other items of this nature that we've had in recent Commission meetings where you've chosen representatives to these committees to assist in the development of regional habitat conservation plans.
But I'll give you just a second of background, partly for the benefit of our new commissioner, Mr. — Commissioner Friedkin. When — governmental bodies sometimes want to receive a permit from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service for the incidental take of endangered species, and they can do that by developing a regional habitat conservation plan.
And that's been done in Williamson County. It's been done — or it's in process in the jurisdiction of the Edwards Aquifer and in other places.
In 1999, the Texas Legislature said, Well, if governmental entities in Texas are going to do that, then we want some more involvement by landowners, by professional biologists and by the Parks and Wildlife Department.
So they created some statutory roles for the Parks and Wildlife Department when these plans are being developed. And this first slide tells you the things that really bring us here today to deal with. The governing entity has to form a citizens advisory committee. It has to form a biological advisory team.
And then the commission of the Parks and Wildlife Department has to appoint a representative to the CAC and a presiding officer of the biological advisory team. So today, the organization — the governing entity that's doing a regional habitat conservation plan is the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District for the Barton Springs salamander.
And so the staff is recommending appointment of Dr. Duane Schlitter of the Wildlife Division to be the — to be a member of the citizens advisory committee for this plan and Dr. Andy Price of the Wildlife Division to the biological advisory team of the plan and its presiding officer.
So there's a resolution that would accomplish this, and that's the text of it. I'm sure you've all read that by now. And that's the motion that would achieve this result and that staff recommends you adopt, and I'm available for any questions.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any questions for Bob on the HCP designation?
COMMISSIONER HENRY: So moved.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. We have a motion from Vice-Chairman Henry and a second from Commissioner Ramos. All in favor, aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Motion carries.
MR. SWEENEY: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Bob.
MR. SWEENEY: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Next up is the oil and gas lease nomination.
MR. KUHLMANN: Just for the record, my name's Corky Kuhlmann. I'm a project manager at the Land Conservation Program. This item is a request for a recommendation by the Parks and Wildlife Commission to the board and lease for nomination of mineral rights at Tyler State Park and the Kiskadee Unit of the Las Palomas WMA.
There will be no surface occupancy. The terms are as shown. This is the motion recommended.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any questions for Corky? A motion on this?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: So moved.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Moved by Commissioner Holmes. Second by Commissioner Friedkin. All in favor, aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Motion carries.
Thank you, Corky.
MR. KUHLMANN: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Next up, item 11, land transfer, Brazoria and Jefferson Counties.
MR. BAUER: My name is Jack Bauer, Land Conservation program director. This item recommends the transfer of Parks and Wildlife properties in Brazoria and Jefferson County for public use. Parks and Wildlife was donated approximately 12 acres in 2000 that included the McCrosky Log Home, built about 1836 by a member of the Stephen F. Austin original 300 in Brazoria County.
Our intent was to add the structure in to the interpretation of Varner Hogg State Historic Site. We changed that direction following the purchase of Levi Jordan. The donor requests return of the property. At the JD Murphree Wildlife Management Area near Port Arthur in Jefferson County, Parks and Wildlife with Jefferson County owns and manages adjacent property for public use.
Mutual transfers of property and conservation easements between Parks and Wildlife and Jefferson County are recommended to provide the ownership arrangement to expand the county park for boat access to Keith Lake and expand the JD Murphree Wildlife Management Area, management of coastal wetland habitats and hunting opportunity.
Staff recommends the Commission adopt the motion before you that would transfer 12 acres of Varner Hogg back to the donor and transfer property ownership and conservation-easement ownership between Jefferson County and Texas Parks and Wildlife to expand the county park and expand habitat management and recreation opportunity for Parks and Wildlife. I'd be happy to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any questions for Jack? Is there a motion?
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: So moved.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Move approval from Commissioner Montgomery. Second?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Commissioner Holmes. All opposed, aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Motion carries.
Thank you, Jack.
Bob, anything else —
MR. COOK: No, sir. I believe that wraps it up.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: — before we go to executive session? Therefore, I'd like to announce that pursuant to the requirements of Chapter 551 Government Code referred to as the open meetings law, executive session will be held at this time for the purpose of personnel matters.
MR. COOK: Thank you, sir.
(Off the record.)
COMMISSIONER HENRY: We will come to order. Is there any further business to be brought before the Commission?
VOICE: No, sir.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: There being none, I declare the meeting adjourned.
(Whereupon, the meeting was concluded.)
Approved this the 26th day of May 2005.
Joseph B.C. Fitzsimons, Chairman
Alvin L. Henry, Member
J. Robert Brown, Member
Ned S. Holmes, Member
Peter M. Holt, Member
Philip Montgomery III, Member
John D. Parker, Member
Donato D. Ramos, Member
T. Dan Friedkin, Member
MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: May 26, 2005
I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 132, inclusive, are the true, accurate, and complete transcript prepared from the verbal recording made by electronic recording by Penny Bynum before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.
On the Record Reporting, Inc.
3307 Northland, Suite 315
Austin, Texas 78731