Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Regulations Committee

Jan. 21, 2009

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

BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 21st day of January, 2009, 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:





COMMISSIONER HOLT: Good morning, everybody. Happy New Year. Good to see everybody.

The meeting is called to order. Before proceeding with any business, I believe Mr. Smith has a statement to make.

Mr. Smith?

MR. SMITH: I do. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

A public notice of this meeting containing all items on the proposed agenda has been filed in the Office of the Secretary of State, as required by Chapter 551, Government Code, referred to as the Open Meetings Act. I would like for this fact to be noted in the official record of this meeting.

And, Mr. Chairman, if I may just take


MR. SMITH: the liberty of we are fortunate to have with us our new Division Director for Infrastructure, Rich McMonagle. And Rich started with us in December. He had a very long and distinguished career in the Marine Corps as a colonel, and he has hit the ground running, and we're proud to welcome him to our team.

And so, Rich, if you'd just raise your hand so everybody can see you, and look forward to everybody getting to know him. So, Rich, welcome. We love to have you on board.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: And what division and what

MR. SMITH: Infrastructure.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Infrastructure?

MR. SMITH: Yes. He's our Division Director at Infrastructure.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Well, we'll try to get some money for you and you can spend the last round and see if we can get a little more. Welcome aboard.

MR. McMONAGLE: Thank you very much.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, glad you're here. Thank you.

Thank you, Mr. Smith.

And we will begin with the Regulation Committee.

Commissioner Friedkin, please call your committee



COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay, the first order of business is approval of previous committee meeting minutes. Do we have a motion for approval?



COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Moved by Commissioner Duggins, second by Commissioner Hixon. All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)


(No response.)

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Hearing none, motion carries.

Committee Item Number 1, Update on TPWD Progress in Implementing the Texas Parks and Wildlife Land and Water Resource Conservation and Recreation Plan.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate it.

Just a couple of quick items that I want to share with all of you. One of the things that you may not be aware of is that we have a relatively new wildlife management area called the Muse Wildlife Management Area up in Brownwood. It encompasses almost 2,000 acres, not quite. But our team hosted the first series of public hunts this year, which obviously we know that's a real priority of the Commission, and certainly a priority of the Wildlife Division, and they're working hard on it. They had a couple of youth hunts and spike buck and antlerless hunt, and so we're real proud of that opportunity. I think they had a lot of success. So kudos, Clay, and Kevin Mote and the others that put that on. But I wanted to make sure you all were aware of that.

The second thing that I just want to bring to your attention real quickly, in March we're going to be bringing forth kind of a little housekeeping thing that came about as a function of an interesting situation in Houston where there was an educational facility in which a white-tailed deer was stabbed to death. And so our game wardens apprehended the man, and one of our permitted deer breeders has offered to donate a deer to replace that.


MR. SMITH: But because of a rule issue, we need to come forward to you all to be able to allow for a deer breeder to be able to transfer a deer to a legitimate educational facility. And so we're going to come back and talk about that in March, but I just wanted to talk a little bit about the circumstances because it was a case that got a lot of attention in Houston over that deer that was murdered.

The last thing that I will mention to you all, and it got a lot of attention in December with respect to what was called the Operation Texas Shuffle, and this had to do with some individuals that were unfortunately trapping and selling and buying illegally possessed wild deer, some of which are thought to be imported from out of state. And our Special Operations Unit in Law Enforcement made some very, very strong cases in that regard. I believe six individuals have been charged with a whole litany of Class B misdemeanors, and so they are facing court action. This case got national attention and was featured in Time Magazine, and so there's a lot of interest in this issue. So I wanted to make sure that you all were advertent to that.

And that's all I have, Mr. Chairman.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thanks, Carter, appreciate it.

Committee Item Number 2, Rule Review, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Register. Ann Bright.

MS. BRIGHT: Good morning, Commissioners.


COMMISSIONER HOLT: Good morning, Ann.

MS. BRIGHT: And for the record I'm Ann Bright, General Counsel. And I'm here actually to present a couple of rule review items. As many of you know, we are required every four years to go through and review all our rules. Not only are we looking to see if these rules need to continue to exist, but we also take the opportunity to look for clean-up. And in November the Commission authorized us to review a couple of chapters, Chapter 57 regarding Fisheries and 65 regarding Wildlife.

As we're going through this, in addition to cleaning up the language, there were some other a little bit more substantive changes that we would propose to make. On Chapter 57 we want to update and correct some species names. These are scientific names that change periodically, and if you need examples, I'll have to get someone from the audience to come and pronounce those. Item 57.112, public waters to waters of the state, again, this is a fairly minor change, but we want to track the statutory language on that. Also in Chapter 57, we want to update the definition of game fish. And in 57.378, it refers to game fish and we want to go back and just refer to 377. It's one of those situations where we've got a couple of rules that seem to cover the same subject, one of them is not as complete as the other, and we just prefer to have all this in one spot.

On Chapter 65 there is an error in your materials on this first item, and I apologize for that. We want to add as Director Smith just noted, the Muse Wildlife Management Area is being added to our public hunt areas. Also in our Public Hunting Proclamation, Peach Point is still listed as Peach Point and we need to change that to the Justin Hurst WMA.

On motor vehicles, right now there's a provision that allows a person with a who's assisting a person with a disability to use an ATV and doesn't restrict them to roads as other folks are. We just want to make sure that if someone is assisting a person with a disability, they stay within voice distance.

Minors on public hunting lands, again, we want to clarify this to ensure that we have proper supervision of minors and change the word "minor" to "youth." Again, that's a fairly minor change.

Also bobcats are actually considered non-game rather than fur bearers, and we just need to change the citation there.

Therefore, we're requesting permission to publish these two chapters, 57 and 65, in the Texas Register for public comment, and then we will come back to you in March to request adoption.


Any questions, discussion?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay. I will authorize staff to publish this item in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.

Committee Item Number 3, Rule Review. Ann Bright.

MS. BRIGHT: Good morning, Commissioners. I'm Ann Bright, General Counsel.

And this is another rule review item, and you will see that this looks pretty familiar to you. Back in August the Commission authorized us to begin the rule review process on these three chapters: 53, Finance; 59, Parks; and 69, Resource Protection. In November we presented some changes; however, after going through these in more detail, we really want to do a thorough rule review, and so we're re-presenting this. As with these other changes, in addition to just cleaning up some language, we're recommending some specific changes that I want to go over.

Chapter 69 is easy, no changes there. On Chapter 53, Commercial Fishing License and Tags, this is one we talked a little bit about last time, and there's kind of a long history here. At one point we had resident and non-resident commercial actually it's fishing boat license, it's a commercial fishing boat and we had a resident and non-resident. We sold very few of the non-residents, like six, 14 one year. As a result, this was deleted. However, after further review, we really do need to have we're statutorily required actually to have a non-resident license. So what we're requesting to do is simply reinstate the $72 fee, which was the fee before it was repealed. It's kind of convoluted; I hope that makes sense.

On the TTT rules, TTT is actually available for more than just deer; therefore, we'd like to move it to the Miscellaneous Fisheries and Wildlife Licenses and Permits section. There was a Marine Dealer/Manufacturer Number Fee, which actually expired in 2004. It's been expanded and replaced. The Mentored Hunting Fee, again, I think you may recall this was a program that was adopted as part of last year's or in conjunction with last year's statewide and Public Lands Proclamation. We just need to move that fee to another section. Same thing with these other fees, we just want to repeal and move them so that they make sense. As you can see, one of the things we're trying to do is make our rules a little bit intuitive. They're on the website, we want people to be able to find them. Freshwater Fishery Center, again, we just need to amend some language there.

Fifty-nine. On the Park Entrance and User Fees, we would recommend that we do these updates outside the rule review process. These are going to be actually a little bit more extensive, primarily because of some of the SAO audit provisions and the TxParks System, and those really need to be done in conjunction with that.

On C, Acquisition and Development of Historic Sites, Buildings and Structures, we want to make some minor changes to reflect current practices. There is some professional terminologies that have changed. Also, there's some state agencies that have changed. We no longer have a General Services Commission; it's now a part of the Comptroller's Office. Again, the same thing with the administration of the State Park System. There are a number of things that we do that really need to be clarified. Operation and Leasing of Park Concessions, this is another one we would like to handle outside the rule review process.

Again, you know, a lot of the there's a lot of change in work that's being done with those, and those need to be done pretty thoroughly. Same thing with operational rules. The Law Enforcement staff from State Parks has spent a lot of time going through these, and there are a number of things that we need to update. For example, we want to make sure we have proper supervision of minors, issues about putting out campfires, gathering firewood, that sort of thing just need to be updated.

Therefore, we are requesting permission to publish really it's just changes to two chapters, 53 and 59, in the Texas Register, and we would come back to you in March to seek adoption. I'd be happy to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Ann, if we're going to reinstate the section for Chapter 53.12 on the non-resident


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: fishing licenses, should we reconsider the amount? The previous amount was $72.

MS. BRIGHT: That's obviously something that we could do, if the Commission wanted to.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Can you restate that? I didn't catch that, Ralph.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I'm sorry. My question is, the first item under Chapter 53 is to add a new subsection to reinstate the old non-resident fee, and my question was, should we reconsider the previous amount, that being $72, as being inadequate or insufficient.

MS. BRIGHT: One thing I can just point out is that, again, just as something to think about, in fiscal year 2006 we only sold six of those, in fiscal year 2007 we sold 14, so the numbers are pretty low. I don't really know that

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, because this is a commercial fishing boat fee.

MS. BRIGHT: Right.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Tell me, when was the $72 set, do we know, Ann?

MS. BRIGHT: I do not know that. I can find I can get that information.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: To Ralph's point obviously, I mean I don't know how long that $72 has been there, but I would assume things, like everything, has gone up since it was last changed.

MS. BRIGHT: The statutory minimum is $60, so as long as it's over $60 you've actually got a lot of discretion.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: I don't think Ralph was talking about going down.

(General laughter.)

MS. BRIGHT: I didn't think so, just to throw that out.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Can we get some clarity, or are you going to get back to us? Help us on that one.

MS. BRIGHT: I mean yes, I mean if you all if you have an idea about the amount you want to raise it to, or the maximum amount, I mean we could publish a fee at a fairly high rate and then talk about it again in March. Any thoughts on what that might be?



COMMISSIONER PARKER: What about on our neighboring states, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas, New Mexico?

MS. BRIGHT: I don't know.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: It might be something that you would


COMMISSIONER HOLT: It's looks like Robin, or anybody

MR. RIECHERS: For the record, Robin Riechers with Coastal Fisheries Division. When we speak to neighboring states, specifically Louisiana, they have a little bit of a different licensing system. They license each particular gear, they basically have a gear license for each of theirs. They wouldn't they may have something fairly equivalent to this, but if they do I don't know about it, Commissioner Parker. They don't have that general fishing boat license in the same way that we do. We can go back and look and see exactly what they may have, but like I said, they specifically license the gear, so they do it a little bit differently.

MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman, I can't comment to the specifics of this particular license. What I can tell you though is that we have a team that Gene McCarty is leading that is analyzing all of our licenses right now, and plans to come back to the Commission in March to talk about those licenses and the associated fees. And so with your permission I guess let's make sure that we've answered the questions that have been raised as part of this discussion, and we'll come back and talk about them in the context of that bigger discussion, if that's appropriate.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So in light of that, we would leave this here for now and then come back in March and get some clarification.

MR. SMITH: I think so. That would be my recommendation.

MS. BRIGHT: We could do that just to really meet the minimum statutory requirement, and then yes, absolutely, we can change it.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: So you'd post it or whatever.


MS. BRIGHT: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any other questions?

(No response.)


MS. BRIGHT: Thanks.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay. I'll authorize staff to publish this item in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.

Item Number 4, Trapping, Transporting and Transplanting Game Animals and Game Bird Rule Amendments. Alan Cain.

MR. CAIN: Good morning, Commissioners. For the record, I'm Alan Cain. I'm the District Leader for the South Texas Wildlife District, and I'll be presenting a proposal today for an application deadline for the trap, transport and transplant permit, commonly referred to as the TTT permit.

I just want to refresh your memory. This is the same proposal presented back in November to the Commission, and I want to go over the current rules. Right now, TTT applications received by Department staff between September 1st and November 15th of the current permit year will be approved or denied within 45 days. Current permit applications may be received through March 31st, and white-tailed deer may be relocated between October 1st and March 31st of that permit year. In addition, the TTT application requires field approval of the Wildlife Management Plan for the release site. It also requires field approval of the trap site and release sites, and an on-site habitat inspection for release site problems.

Of concern to Department staff is the March 31st deadline, it's that the majority of the TTT applications we receive come after January 1st. And, for example, in 2007 and 2008, the last permit season for TTTs, we had 77 permits, and 51 of those were issued after February 1st, so kind of late in the season there. Now, 77 permits may not sound like a lot, but that represents 146 release sites, and in my district alone, in South Texas, we had 87 of those 146. And I only have 10 staff to handle that, aside from other job duties that they're issued.

In addition, you know, our field staff, and probably permit staff here, are constrained by the necessity to complete these browse surveys or habitat inspections on these properties out there when we get these late TTT requests late in the season. In addition, we feel that it impacts our ability to accomplish our other tasks. We have technical guidance activities with other landowners out there, habitat inspections for Managed Lands Deer Permit Program, which is required for that program for Level 2 and 3, and other job duties and responsibilities that we have during that time of year. So a lot of times staff's schedule is booked a month to two months in advance.

Staff proposed the following rule change, and it states that all TTT applications must be received by Department staff no later than January 1st of the current permit year, and applications submitted to Department staff requires at minimum that the trap site and the release site and the number of deer to be trapped and released be designated on that application. And it doesn't require that the CWD results be in, or the application fee be in, just that the trap site, and release site, and the number of deer to be trapped and released are designated on the application and to Department staff.

Obviously, since the last Commission meeting in November, this has been out for public comment. On our Parks and Wildlife website we've had three folks or four folks totally respond. Three of those in favor, and one opposed. The person that opposed the TTT was just on principle. He didn't think we needed to be moving deer at all, which is not really relevant to the deadline discussion here. I've also had other feedback and comments from other groups. Keep in mind, Commission, that the White-Tailed Deer Advisory Committee has heard this proposal back in August of 2008; they supported the January 1st deadline.

We've had other constituents express a range of deadline dates, from support for the January 1 deadline, but the staff proposes always February 1st. The Texas Wildlife Association, for example, their leadership has proposed an alternative deadline of February 1st. They feel that some of their folks that use TTTs a lot don't know that they don't that they need to move deer until late in the season, you know, February, maybe March, and that it gives them a little bit more flexibility if they have a later deadline.

On the other hand, I've heard from other consultants that deal with private landowners, that TTT deer quite often and they like the idea of a January 1 deadline, or January 15th, you know, there's some are in favor of January 1st, and some the 15th. Their thought was is it forces landowners to make a decision, especially for the release site properties, and it helps them to plan their schedules out as far as consultants go and helps these helicopter companies that are helping trap deer and so forth plan their schedules out.

I have one ranch manager that works for a ranch in South Texas comment; he likes the January 1 deadline, because, again, it forces the release sites that he may be giving deer to, to make a decision, are you going to go ahead and try and get a TTT. And even if they do decide that they're going to go ahead and request deer from this trap site, they still have to be approved based on the browse survey and habitat inspection.

If we deny that because the habitat can't support additional deer, that trap site person, it gives him time to either harvest those deer by traditional methods, or find another release site, you know, quickly, if he begins to plan in the fall. If not, we continue with the late deadline of March 31st or February 1 that some of these other people oppose. Folks like that are putting the crunch time to try to get deer off the range and not damage that habitat. So you have a wide variation of suggestions there, aside from what Department staff recommend.

In summary, I'd like to state that the research that we've conducted in South Texas on the stem count, or our habitat evaluation process, or browse surveys indicates that winter sampling is the best period to conduct browse surveys. And so we're kind of limited to a short time period there. Whether that's browse surveys for a TTT Managed Lands Deer permit, or standalone requests that we get. Because both TTT and MLD programs require habitat inspections, there's kind of competing interest between the two. I just want to remind everybody that the Managed Lands Deer Permit Program is in part based on habitat management principles. That's part of the driving force behind that.

So we need to be able to continue to conduct browse surveys to maintain the integrity of that program, MLDP program, and also it's a tool for us to help landowners, you know, such as you all selves, to determine if our harvest recommendations and our management recommendations are helping the landowner achieve his goals and objectives and maintain quality native habitats, or helping it to improve. Staff feel that, you know, the January 1 deadline would provide us the flexibility to maintain our ability to meet TTT requests and get out there and maintain these habitat inspections on the MLD properties to ensure we're carrying out the integrity of that program.

We don't feel that a later deadline than January 1st would be able to accomplish that. You know, and to put things in perspective, just in South Texas I've got 10 staff that handle the technical guides, for example, and we've got over 730 MLD cooperators, aside from TTT requests, you know, and most of those are going to require managed lands or require browse surveys for those properties. So staff are crunched for time, we won't be able to maintain the integrity of that program, since it is habitat-based, and provide some meaningful conservation on the ground.

And that concludes my presentation. If you all have some questions, I'll be glad to try to address those.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thanks, Alan. So they have until March 15th to transfer. Is that right?

MR. CAIN: March 31st.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: March 31st. Okay. And so, you know, if we chose a date a little bit later in January, would that still take the edge off, or from a resource standpoint for the Department would that be

MR. CAIN: I think

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: would that be a constraint?

MR. CAIN: it would for us. I mean we feel, you know, that January 1 is our deadline because, for example, Jimmy Rutledge, who is our technical guidance biologist in South Texas, I've had some new staff just come on board and we're getting Jimmy out there to do browse surveys with them. Back in December, around the 16th or so, we're trying to plan, and the first open day Jimmy has to go do browse surveys with these other staff is January 23rd, over a month away. His schedule is booked that far in advance. The other folks are not much different than him. We've got so many cooperators, so much demand, we just we can't meet them all.

We'd like to do browse surveys as long as we can, and ideally it would be better if we did them all in the winter and we had that time season that the research indicates would be the best period. But we can't, you know, because we have so much volume. So we've got to be able to start as early as we can, especially when it comes to TTTs, and try to get those accomplished as well as MLD inspections.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: It sounds like good rationale.

Any other questions? Commissioner Duggins?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Did I hear you say that the proposal would not require by the January 1 deadline, CWD testing results, nor the payment of the application fee?

MR. CAIN: That's correct.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Why would you not want if you're going to have to deal with this, why would you not want to the application fee paid when the application's submitted?

MR. CAIN: What we're asking, I guess, is that just kind of some notification to Department staff, and primarily the field staff. If they can if somebody wants a TTT that may not have their CWD results back from the vet lab, we might not even have done a browse survey, but if they get us say, Hey, I'm going to want a TTT on this ranch, you know, can you all schedule a browse survey. That might occur in January or February, but we've got it on our calendar. And the fees, I wouldn't want our field staff handling that when it really needs to come to the permit folks in Austin, a complete application, you know, including us signing off on the field site for the trap site and release site.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So if I understand it correctly, at that point, Ralph, it's not approved.

MR. CAIN: Yes, it's not approved.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: It's just a permit request.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So we wait till we go the entire process, and then

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: The fee's not payable until it's approved?

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Well, it's currently now

MR. CAIN: Yes, I mean I don't if I was a landowner, I wouldn't pay a fee till I knew that I was going to be approved for a TTT, because we may come out there and do a browse survey on the release site and say, We're going to deny it because it can't handle the deer.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yes, but we've already the state's already invested a lot of time and effort in working on that application. I don't understand why we wouldn't go ahead and charge the fee up front.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: My understanding, at that point, have you what have you done at that point, when you receive an application, possibly nothing?

MR. CAIN: Yes. I mean we receive applications, basically requests


MR. CAIN: at that point in time, and it's up to the field staff to go out there and schedule the site visit, approve the Wildlife Management Plan, conduct the browse survey.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So I think the work starts

MR. CAIN: We sign off on it


MR. CAIN: and then it's up to the landowner to make sure he gets the complete application packet, with the CWD sample results, his fee, the $750 fee, plus our two forms that we sign off on, to gather it up and send up here to the permit shop, which they will process. And I understand your concern. That is a lot of staff time, even planning and going through the effort without receiving, you know, an application fee, so to speak. But I guess it may not be fair to the landowner, if we're going to deny him, that he has to pay $750 just to have us come out there to give him a response.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, I don't I disagree. I think if you're going to ask the state to come out and do work and analyze an application, that's part of the application fee, and it ought to be paid up front whether you're later approved or not.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Mitch, can you shed a little more light on it for us?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Commissioners, for the record, I'm Mitch Lockwood, White-Tailed Deer Program Leader.

Commissioner Duggins, I think you have a real good point. Kind of where we're coming from on this is trying to have as little burden on that constituency as possible. I think the biggest risk to the applicants at that time is not having CWD test results in yet. And it could be that CWD test results would prevent the approval of that application. Those application fees are non-refundable. And so that would be a $750 fee that could be for naught if CWD test results resulted in the denial of that permit.

And so from that standpoint, we thought we would just wait and make sure that we could get the information that we need to start scheduling, and then at that point, once we get them on our schedule, they would then follow up once they get test results in, they would follow up with their application process. And they do pay the fee with their application, with their completed application, before it is approved or denied. But at least they know at that time whether or not they have valid test results back from the lab. And so that's just so you know, that's kind of what we were thinking in that process, but you do raise some good questions.


COMMISSIONER PARKER: I kind of go along with Ralph, if we feel like that they don't have enough time, why don't you give them a little bit more time on the front end, you know, a deadline on the front end so that that other agency will have time to do their

MR. LOCKWOOD: And that is another good point. Many of these applicants, if not all, are able to start hunting deer under MLDP as early as early October, or late September. And personally I tend to think that there's ample time to get CWD tests in and get results back, as well as a completed application. However, I also admit that they are at the mercy of Texas Veterinary Diagnostic Lab, and I can't make predictions as to how quickly they'll be able to turn around test results every year. But they do have the ability in most cases, if not all, to begin sending test results in months in advance.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: Could you give them a deadline on the front end, just like we have a deadline on the back end

MR. LOCKWOOD: Well, I think an application deadline would serve both purposes.


MR. BORUFF: Just a point of clarification. For the record, I'm Scott Boruff, Deputy Executive Director for Operations. Historically, these TTT permits have been sent in to Austin from the field, not through the not to the field staff. The permits that come in do come in with the fee already paid for the TTT process to go on. They begin processing that in the permit shop in the Wildlife Division once that application shows up with the fee. So I just wanted to be sure you understood that, that there is already a process in place where a landowner or their representative sends that application into the Austin permitting shop in the Wildlife Division with a fee attached to that, and that triggers the beginning of the process to go through there.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Is that the complete fee, or

MR. BORUFF: The complete fee.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Which is non-refundable.

MR. BORUFF: Which is non-refundable.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: So theoretically the CWD could come in after that and tell them, No, you can't do it, or the browse study, and you don't refund the money.

MR. BORUFF: We've been flexible. There have been a handful of cases where I have approved refunds for folks that came in and had a crunch like that happen. We try to be reasonable and logical about this. I just wanted the Commission to understand that typically the fee does come in up front.


MR. BORUFF: We then work with the landowner to make sure all these parameters are addressed, if indeed something that comes back from CWD or something like that, we work with the landowner to try to make sure nobody's being taken advantage of there.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: But if an application comes in without a fee, we still work it?

MR. BORUFF: Yes, we will work it, but we will also call them and ask for the fee.



MR. LOCKWOOD: Just to make sure we are on the same page, that completed application does include CWD test results with the fee. Currently they can submit all the way well into March.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, and that's okay. Let's go back here. Right now you're trying to move this to January 1st would be your deadline. At that point you're really just the way I'm understanding it, and maybe I'm misunderstanding, is you're not asking for the total application with the fee, you're just asking that the, what, at the field level be notified that you're going to be sending an application? Help me understand what we're trying to do.

MR. LOCKWOOD: As a bare minimum, we were requesting to be able to receive a completed trap site form and release site form which notifies us of where the activities will occur and how many animals we're talking about, by January 1st, as a bare minimum.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. But at that point you're not necessarily asking for the full application, CWD, and all that, with money. You're just trying to get it so you can schedule, I'm assuming


COMMISSIONER HOLT: the study and be able to get out there and okay. So at that point you really haven't done any work to speak of. I'm talking about now I'm talking to what


COMMISSIONER HOLT: Commissioner Duggins is asking about.

MR. LOCKWOOD: We basically receive the application

COMMISSIONER HOLT: But that's all you've done.

MR. LOCKWOOD: and that's it.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: It just allows you to then start scheduling if they can start think can starting thinking through, Okay, who's going to take care of it, when are we going to be able to get it done. Okay.


COMMISSIONER PARKER: Are we still talking about what Ralph's question was?


COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, we're just getting clarified how the process works, see, so by the time what he's asking for, I understand, is that there's still no work that's been done. It's just a notification.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I may be misunderstanding too, but if you receive the two the release site and the trap site, which then triggers a need to schedule surveys


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: you then start that process.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: We do in the field.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. Well, then so there is going to be work done, even though there's no fee paid, and I don't understand if why we wouldn't go ahead and

MR. CAIN: Collect it?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: comply the fee, whether it's $750 or $1,000, whatever it is, paid when that's submitted, because that's going to trigger a duty on the part of the Agency to begin work.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: And, Scott, you said that typically it is paid up front

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That's another issue

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: but what you're saying is

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: why not just make it



MR. LOCKWOOD: And, Commissioner Duggins, one good point that you're making that at least I hadn't thought of, is with our current proposal. Theoretically, we could go ahead and conduct a browse survey before that application is submitted correct me if you disagree with that, Alan which means that quite a bit of work had been conducted by that point.

MR. CAIN: Before that complete application is submitted to


MR. CAIN: the permit shop, yes. Yes.


COMMISSIONER BIVINS: What percentage of these applications are not or are denied? I mean is this a number that is, you know, a problem, or is it problematic that we have a lot of applications that we can't fulfill, or that are not able to be fulfilled, that would cause us to have a loss of labor over time?

MR. CAIN: Under the current demands right now the way it is, we've been able to handle all the TTT requests that are coming in to us. We're not getting to all our MLD properties like we should be, simply because folks TTT-ing it that year they need something done. The MLD program is continuous. We should be doing a browse survey the first year that somebody gets into that, and at least the third year to monitor that progress. You know, I said currently we're handling that request for the TTTs that are coming in. And as far as denying permits, there's a small percentage that gets denied based on the resource that, you know, indicates the habitat can't support additional deer. And I don't know how many are denied up here because of other reasons.

MR. LOCKWOOD: In that event, when they're denied because of habitat reasons, then a fee still should be paid because the fee is based on our time that goes into conducting habitat evaluations. What I don't know at this point today is how many are denied because they didn't end up having enough CWD test results that were valid, or good samples. However, we do advise our cooperators to take additional samples, knowing that there will be a few that are not good samples for the lab. And I think that would just be good business practice to continue to advise to take additional samples to cover them in that event.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Dan and I were talking about this program has been very successful, and we've had great cooperation from the individuals that are moving these deer around. And I want to be careful that we don't starting doing things that maybe creates an issue of people saying, Well, you know, maybe we'll just move without getting the permits, and those kinds of things. So we really have gotten a lot of cooperation with these programs.

Secondly, I'm not being facetious, but I mean in my business, for example, you know, I don't get paid till after I do the work. And so I think essentially we're following what I call general business practices of we do the work then we get paid, or in this case it's kind of it comes as we're doing the work a lot of times, the application with the $750. So at least my case, I would prefer we just stay with what we're doing, and, of course, I'm supportive of the January 1st deadline. And I think you've been out visiting with our constituents and most of them, seem to be comfortable that this will work for them. Is that correct?

MR. CAIN: Yes, sir.


COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: That's real consistent with our goal of supporting landowners' goals


COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: and so forth. I mean if we had a non-payment problem, I would be a little more concerned about it. Do we

Scott, can you speak to that a little bit? Do we have an issue collecting

MR. BORUFF: Commissioner, I would like to have as much information as possible. For those of you who are relatively new, a couple of years ago we raised this fee fairly substantially, and when we did so, the Commission directed us at that time to go out and do a study on the actual amount of work that went into this project, TTT. So the fee that we came up with, which was $750, was predicated on a study that went out and looked at the time that both the field staff and the Austin permitting staff put into this process. So we tried to make it as revenue neutral for the Agency as we could, and those of you that were here then will probably remember that. But for those of you that weren't, I think it might be germane to this discussion that we did just fairly recently raise these fees based on a real study that we did of the amount of time that went into this, both in the field and in Austin. And to answer Commissioner Bivins' question, it's a pretty tiny number of permits that get denied once they come in to the Agency, very small.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Commissioner Duggins, does that help answer your question?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yes, I just I think it ought to be paid up front because it triggers it's the start of the process, and if you're going to engage in the process, I think you ought to pay the fee up front. I don't see a problem, particularly at that level, $750, and paying it up front. But we may all disagree.


COMMISSIONER BIVINS: How complicated would it be if it was changed to what Commissioner Duggins is suggesting to allow a partial refund if the permit was denied?

MR. SMITH: Well, just for everybody's clarification, I mean just technically if we change the timing of the payment and require a change there, that would require a separate administrative kind of rule and public comment period, and so we'd have to go back out for rulemaking purposes. I guess I think this conversation has been very, very productive and helpful and it's helped me.

I mean I think there are really two core issues here, Commissioner. I mean, one, our team is trying to work smarter, and so I think that's why they're saying we need to stripe the road better in terms of helping make sure that we've got a good deadline so that we can plan all of these different types of work that we have, and this will help us immensely in doing that, I think as Alan articulated very, very well.

You know, I think the second issue it's going to be incumbent upon us to make sure that we do as good a job as possible of making sure that our landowner constituents are advertent to these new deadlines. You know, if you all want to come back and kind of revisit the timing of the fee and have another discussion on that, we can definitely come back on that. But the genesis for this really was to help us work smarter. And that's what's prompting this. So I just want to make sure we've got that for when you're

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So that's a separate issue.

MR. SMITH: Absolutely.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So are you comfortable with is the Commission comfortable with, you know, adopting this, or do we want to take a look at this and try to amend it? Or do you want to take a look at it later given that it really addresses two other material efficiency points?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I'm all in favor of restriping the road, to use Carter's terminology, and getting that down. I think that's good and wise. I'm just suggesting that good business practices would justify the payment of a fee upon the initial trigger point.


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That's just my viewpoint.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So at a future time can we look at that and present some more information to the Commission

MR. SMITH: Absolutely, we can come back.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: and make a decision on that?

MR. SMITH: Absolutely.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay. Good. Any other questions?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thanks, Alan, nice work.

MR. CAIN: Thank you.



COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay. No other questions or discussion, I'll place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Committee Item Number 5, 2009-2010 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Register. Kicking it off with Robin.

MR. RIECHERS: For the record, Chairman and Commissioners, my name is Robin Riechers with the Coastal Fisheries Division. I'm here to present to you the 2009-2010 Coastal Fisheries proposed changes.

As we presented to you in November, we had three key issues that we were going to go to scoping with, that was, first, the paddle craft guide license proposal, consistency with federal regulations, that was both for sharks and some reef fish and grouper species, and then also our flounder issue. As I go through these today, I'm going to take them in this order and then I will pause at the end of each one of these just to see if we have any questions that I can clarify at that point as I move through the presentation.

Just to kind of catch you up on our scoping activities, we've held two sets of meetings along the coast. We held the first set in November, we wrapped up the second set last Thursday evening. The first set dealt solely with the flounder issue. We knew that we were going to have a lot of interested people there so we wanted to have a separate set of meetings for those folks. And then as we moved into January, we scoped our three issues.

In addition to that, we also had as we talked to you about in November, we formed a recreational/commercial work group of people who were specifically had shown some interest in working on that issue with us. They met in October, and then we had the collective group, both rec and commercial, meet in December with us as well. As you might expect, when you talk about one of the big fish species in Texas, we've got a lot of interest in this issue. Had over near 400 people come to our scoping meetings, about 350; we've had written comments of 4,851. I can tell you that number has risen by about 900 in the past week, that was as of Friday; about 450 web comments, so, you know, we're totaling now up into the 5600 range on comments, and we haven't even had a proposal yet. So we're going to have a lot of interest

COMMISSIONER HOLT: A lot of interest.

MR. RIECHERS: in this issue as we move forward. The organizations that you see there listed are organizations which have also submitted comments at our scoping meetings, or directly to us in writing.

Now I'm going to start moving into the first issue. That issue, as I indicated at the last meeting, basically to get a guide license you get a guide license now that is good for guiding on a motor boat or a paddle craft, and that is the TPWD All Water Guide License, which allows you to fish in saltwater and freshwater. To get that guide license, the All Water Guide License, you have to show a United States Coast Guard Operator of Inspected Passenger Vessel certification, which requires 360 days of sea time in a power boat.

As we kind of discussed at the last meeting, we think that fails to address some of the key and unique issues, safety issues regarding paddle craft, kayaks, canoes, et cetera. In addition, we think that there may be more people who would be purchasing a guide license if they didn't have to go get that. We do believe that there's some people out there, and we've heard some testimony that there's some people out there who are guiding but aren't getting a license because of the kind of onerous requirements here.

When we talked about this out there in the community, considerable support for this. Most of that support is coming from the paddle craft community at this point in time. They think this is an item that has been needed. They see it as forward looking in regards to their community and their ability to get more people out there in kayaks and canoes. So they've been fairly supportive of this notion.

When we talk about the people who've been against it, at this point in time, it's those people who are concerned that we're going to lose some of the general boating safety issues as we move forward if you have them take these special kayak and canoe certifications. They suggest it's not as stringent as the Coast Guard requirement, and they really don't want any diminishment of the requirements in the guiding community because they just think that takes away from what a Texas fishing guide should be. If we look at kind of a general feel of support and opposition, there's been about 74 comments in favor, and 28 against at this point in time.

With that, we would still propose that we go forward with this, to public hearing, and that we would require a TPWD boater safety course and we think that kind of addresses one of the concerns about the general rules of the road regarding boater safety. We would require a CPR and a first aid course, and we would also require, as we talked about, the American Canoe Association or British Canoe Union certification with those two courses that are listed, from either one of those, it could be either/or and you would either have to have an ACA Level II Essentials of Kayak Touring and Coastal Kayak Trip Leading course, or you would have the British Canoe Union Three Star Sea Kayak and Four Star Leader Sea Kayak courses.

So with that I'll pause for a second and try to address any questions regarding this issue.


(No response.)


MR. RIECHERS: Okay. With that we'll move on to the federal rule consistency. Basically this is fairly straightforward. As we've discussed in the past, we scoped two items. We scoped consistency on shark rules, and we scoped consistency on when I discussed it with you earlier, we were a little less certain as to which species we were going to include in those other species category. What we've done now is we narrowed that to trigger fish, gag, and greater amberjack and those are the species that are undergoing overfishing, or classified as undergoing overfishing. So we narrowed our range to only those species.

When we talk about the comment summary at this point in time, we've had about 116 support the overall notion of consistency on those two sets of species, with about 50 or so who are opposed. Those supporting basically most of the support came from those people either wanting greater protection, and most of that seemed to be on the shark side of the world, suggesting that some of the species that are still on the allowable category, both from National Marine Fishery Service and would be under this proposed rule, that some of those shark species also need greater protection than what they may be currently getting. There was also some call for raising our minimum size limit on the species that we propose to keep at 24 inches, which was Atlantic sharp nose, blacktips and bonnethead.

When you talk about those that were against the proposal, quite a bit of concern over the federal data regarding sharks specifically. That's where most of the concern and then other species as well. And then in regards to sharks, there's been questions about identification issues, and certainly there are some identification problems when it comes to sharks and shark pups. The Feds have been doing some work throughout the Gulf Coast in trying to work on that issue, having some identification workshops. When they came out with HMS Amendment Two, which is one of things that brought us here to the table, it kind of led them to recognizing that issue and really trying to start working on that identification issue, and certainly we would help to support them in that.

With that, in regards to shark, we would, as much as we scope, would propose that we match the federal prohibited shark list, there's 21 species on that list, and increase our minimum size limit for those sharks that are allowable to 64 inches total length. That 64 inches total length is equivalent to the 54 inches fork length which the Feds use. We always use total length and we try to be consistent with that. With that proposal, that would allow us to maintain a one-fish bag limit per person, and the minimum size limit at 24 inches total length for Atlantic sharp nose, bonnethead, and blacktip, much as we discussed at the previous meeting.

When we talk about the other species under consideration for matching, again, we narrowed that list. I worked with Enforcement, we looked at those aggregate limits that we talked about, and our best solution to that at this time was to narrow that list to just those species undergoing overfishing or being or overfished. And that gave us greater amberjack, which in this case we would increase our minimal length from 32 to 34 inches total length, and we would create the one fish per person daily bag limit. For all these species, the possession limit is twice the daily bag limit.

For gray trigger fish we would establish a 14-inch minimum length limit, but we'd have 20 per person per day as a bag limit. And for gag we would establish a 22-inch minimum length and have two per person per day as a bag limit.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: And this is all consistent with the federal regs?

MR. RIECHERS: This is consistent with the federal

COMMISSIONER HOLT: On all of this. Okay.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: But the measurement is different. Do you think from an enforcement standpoint that's going to create some confusion? I'm not sure what the solution might be, but

MR. RIECHERS: Well, you know, I would say that most of our enforcement here in Texas is going to be from our wardens, and certainly we've tried to maintain a long history of maintaining that total length measurement as compared to fork length to try to reduce the confusion for the angler out there. Don't know if we've been successful with that, but that's certainly been our, you know, consistent stance.


MR. RIECHERS: That concludes that portion if there are any questions.


(No response.)


MR. RIECHERS: Okay. All right. The next portion, or next issue we're going to deal with is our flounder issue. Again, as we kind of discussed earlier, we had a broader set of scoping meetings, actually 10 different meetings. We held the recreation and commercial work groups, and certainly the majority of the comments that you saw in that earlier slide, 88 percent or so, have been directed at this flounder issue. This is the issue that's causing most of the consternation out there right now.

When we started this discussion, of course we discussed all the different management tools that we have available to us in looking at fisheries management options. And that's decreasing bag limits, increasing minimum size limits, area closures, time closures, and, of course, quotas or IFQs as we would deal with that on the commercial side of our business. As we went through the scoping process, we've now narrowed those choices down to decreasing the bag limit for the most part, and time closures. We didn't believe an increase in minimum size limit would have the desired effect here because it would basically push us to harvesting a larger size fish and with release mortality such that it may be with a gig fishery, we didn't believe that was a prudent measure.

When we talk about area closures, quite a bit of discussion if you could close just the passes, would we achieve some of the same benefits that we could with a

time closure. The answer to that is probably yes, but the difficulty in closing a pass and actually enforcing an area closure surrounding a pass is going to very difficult. And, of course, quotas or IFQs, we really haven't spent a lot of time with the industry on that at this point.

I want to kind of catch people up to the biology that we were seeing that drove us to have this discussion with you in August. This is basically a graphical representation of our bag seine catch rates, which, again, for us is our kind of nursery area catch rate, so the gear that we use, our fishery independent information is collected the same way every time through the years so that we get an abundance trend, and in this case it's an abundance trend of what we would call young-of-the-year. And as you can see, when you date back into that period of the early '80s, we certainly were at a higher level many of those years, and as we move through time, you can kind of see a decreasing trend, and certainly you can see that decreasing trend from about '96 to the current time frame.

COMMISSIONER HIXON: Robin, is there any reason for the major peak in '90, I mean something done, was it weather, was it connected

MR. RIECHERS: Well, certainly we did have those freezes in '89 and '90 that could have led to some of that, and there would certainly be some belief when we showed you some of the temperature information that we saw last time. That could have led to some of that. The other thing is when you have those freezes like that, you some predators are removed from the system and some of the you know, some species really benefit from that for a short period of time. So that could certainly be part of that.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: But otherwise total consistency in how we collect the data and where we collect it and

MR. RIECHERS: That's been consistent


MR. RIECHERS: through time, yes, sir.



MR. RIECHERS: Again, when we look at our gill net catch rates, which is really those fish that are going to be what we call, you know, in to the fishery at this point, in to the portion of the fishery where there's catches going on, you'll see this same trend. The yellow line is our spring gill nets and the green line is our fall gill nets. When we presented this picture to you at the last meeting, we did not have that last point on the green line, the fall gill net catch rates. That's new information that we have before us today.

One of the things I kind of draw your attention to, when we talk about recovery in this species, our recovery to a time period before, basically if you look kind of at the last five years trends, fall and spring, you will see that that point in somewhere in that neighborhood of .04 down there, .05, you know, depending on how you draw that average. And if you look at the earlier time series, from

'82 to '88, you know, we're somewhere in that .09 or .9 .09 or .1 range, if you're just trying to figure out where we would like this recovery to go back to. So somewhere in that 100 percent range would get us back to the level we were at before.

As we've discussed in the past, based on the information that we have, the recreational and commercial fishery landings from these two species since about 1989, they've equivalently taken about the same, as far as flounder go in these species. Catch rates have been similar in both commercial and recreational fisheries. I might add on that, if you look back in that same time period, you've seen about that same 100 percent decline.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: All right. Pretty picture.

MR. RIECHERS: As we talked about the scoping comments from the other items, of course, as I indicated, most of our comments have come in regards to this issue. What we have seen in our work shops and in our work groups, and even in our letters, there is belief and support for a closure option understanding that we need to have that protection in that fall run. It's pretty prevalent out there. Now there's not a whole lot of complete consensus surrounding which months should be closed, how long it should be closed, and so forth. There's also considerable support for bag limit reductions. When we talk about those people who are against, how I would characterize them at this point is, they're not actually against enforcement, but they believe that enforcement could be the answer to this, and if we could get more enforcement, we may not need to take these actions. Specifically they're referring to that nighttime fishery that's going on.

Certainly concerns regarding bycatch, and when I presented that to you in August, as we talked about some of the effort reductions in the shrimp fishery, we don't believe while we believe the bycatch was an important part of the mortality in this fishery right now, we don't believe that's a key segment of this fishing mortality going on. And then lastly I think I would characterize those concerns as opportunity concerns, opportunity concerns about closed months, opportunity concerns about a particular gear being moved out of the fishery, those kind of concerns regarding how do we get out and, you know, partake in this fishery the way we've been used to in the past.

Considerable discussion as we've presented a lot of options when we've been out at work shops in regards to which option may leave us at a higher level, or which option would reach certain levels quicker. The reality of this recovery trajectory time line that you see here is because this fish is about a six-year-old fish, or six-year-generation time. Most of the recovery occurs in your one, two and three over 90 percent of the recovery will be realized after three years. All of the recovery trajectories that we'll talk about in a second, will basically follow this same trajectory. Cumulatively, though, some of them will reach equilibrium at a little higher level than some others.

This is a little busy, and I'm sorry for that, but I wanted to try to put it all on one slide so that you can make the comparisons as we walk through this. This basically represents the regulation impacts that we've talking about, and I'll kind of walk through the different columns. The first column basically represents the rule change above and beyond what we currently have today. Our current rule, of course, is 10 fish for the recreational, 60 fish for commercials, and the possession limit is equal to the bag limits in this particular case with a 14-inch minimum size limit. So in column one there, a five and 30-bag limit is just a reduction in the bag limit to five and 30. The November closure would represent just a November closure, and then we go down.

To give you a little idea of what those suites are, I kind of took the less stringent options up top, kind of some middle options in those three that are in the middle, and probably the most stringent options that we could consider are placed down below, are the two options down below. When we talk about the second column, that spawning biomass increase, that basically indicates how fast and where that equilibrium recovery point reaches. And that's what we're trying to achieve. And, again, when we talked about that from the catch per unit effort curves, we're looking at something around 100 percent to get us back to those historical levels in the early '80s. When we talk about harvest decline, it's going to come in both numbers and weight, and so those numbers are basically what we're paying to get the increase in the spawning biomass.

I'll kind of you all have been studying those numbers, or that graph a little bit, but I'll kind of walk through those very briefly. That five and 30-bag limit will give us a spawning increase of about 42 percent, and you can see our harvest numbers decline by about 20 percent, with weight declining slightly less than that at 14 percent.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: And can I stop you there?


COMMISSIONER HOLT: That would be just doing that. So in other words you wouldn't have any closures, you would that would okay. So each one is an individual thing, then you've down below you've tied okay.

MR. RIECHERS: That's exactly correct, sir.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: And also clarification, so the spawning biomass increase, that wouldn't relate back to the percent realization on the graph. Right? That's it does?

MR. RIECHERS: Well, the percent realization is, in that first three years it would say for that five and 30-bag limit, basically 90 percent of the 42 percent increase would be realized in the first three years is how that would work.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay. And the percent realization is based on the 82 level, or what you consider the right density?

MR. RIECHERS: The percent realization is how fast that fishery will recover, and so because of the generation time, that's how we get that recovery time. It's basically a six-year recovery time to whatever these levels are.

Okay. And then we address November closure. Again, that's something if you just did a November closure without changing the bag and size limit, you would see about a 53 or 54 percent increase in spawning biomass, and the cost of that is a reduction in numbers of about 25 percent and 18 percent numbers and weight respectively. The next three items combine a November closure with various bag limit reductions. And as you can see, that November closure with bag limit reductions of five for recreational and then a step down of 45, 40 and 30 for commercial give you in the range of a 95 percent increase in spawning biomass to 102 percent, and the cost of getting that is about a 42 to 45 percent reduction in numbers and by weight it's 33 and 36 percent.

Lastly, if you just looked at an October to December closure, complete closure and when I'm talking about closures here, I should clarify, I'm talking about complete closures, hand line and gig, complete October to December closure would give you a spawning biomass increase of 107 percent. If you combined a five- and 30-fish bag limit with the October/December closure, you would get 127 percent spawning biomass increase. And, again, the cost of those respectively is, in numbers, 47 and 54 percent.

I'll let you all study that for just a second more. Those are the options we've got as you might imagine, there are numerous options you could compile here. I'll do the best I can in doing the math to answer as many of those as you may want to consider. But what I'm trying to do here is show you kind of the two ends of the spectrum with some middle ranges as well.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Robin, can you fill us in a little bit on how, you know, how and when the fishing is conducted and, you know, I understand there's a lot of double-bagging that goes on and which months are you know, we've got to obviously strike a balance between the opportunity, the recreational and the commercial opportunity, and obviously the viability of the species. So help us understand that a little bit better, if you would.

MR. RIECHERS: Well, for both the commercial and the recreational fishery, the key months, the peak months of this fishery are October, November and December. It's in that fall run, and we I think in August we presented some of that information to you. That accounts for probably 50 percent of the fishery in those three months.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: About the same in all months?

MR. RIECHERS: October no, it starts in October, peaks in November, and then starts to decline a little bit in December, but those are really the real key months of the whole affair. In addition to that, in answer to your question, I think part of your question may be how would some of these things affect the different fisheries. A five-fish bag limit would indicate or would affect 2 percent of the overall hand-line, or rod and reel trips that we have in regards to the recreational fishery. It would affect about 20 percent of the gig trips that we have in the recreational fishery. If you look at a 30-fish bag limit for the commercial fishery, that would affect would have affected, in 2008, 60 percent of the trips and, in 2007, 35 percent of the trips. We only really have two years that we can look at for that commercial, based on our trips. And if you went to 40-fish, it would affect 48 percent of the trips, and about 20 percent of the trips in '07. And the reason why it affects more in '08 is we had that big year class come through, and so they're fishing on a that year class, more trips limited out basically, or would have more than 30 and 40 fish basically.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any numbers on the commercial fishermen? How many are there, or how many people are commercially fishing for flounder, I mean?

MR. RIECHERS: Our numbers indicate that we had over 70 folks have some instance of a commercial landing in the last two years. Of those, 43 were actually fin fish license holders. There are other some are taken by trawls, we have some crab trap landings where, you know, there's some various other commercial gears that have incidental take, and they are brought in. But about 43-44 of those have been associated with actual commercial fin fish license holders.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Concentrated in any one area, primarily Coastal Bend, or

MR. RIECHERS: The Coast the mid-Coast area is where most of the commercial activity is, and when we look at the recreational activity and catches, most of it is in the northern coast, Galveston and Sabine.


COMMISSIONER BIVINS: What kind of economic impact is this going to have if, you know, if you take the best month out of the year for the commercial guides, and then also the guiding aspect of it, is that just how big an impact is that going to have on their annual business?

MR. RIECHERS: Well, of course, some of it depends on how they shift their effort to either side of that closure. Certainly it's going to have an impact, but I will say, even within the context of some of that commercial community, a lot of those folks are also there with us saying, We need a November closure. They've seen decline in the fishery and they understand that if they don't do something

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: So that could offset gains that would be derived later on.


COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Robin, I'm not too clear on this. What percent of the offtake is commercial fishermen. Is it

MR. RIECHERS: The graph where we showed the wreck in commercial, and maybe I'm make sure I'm answering the right question.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Graph? Oh, here it is.

MR. RIECHERS: That graph right there basically shows you the pounds of each of those groups. So it's been running about 50/50.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Yes, that's right. Okay. Still a little

COMMISSIONER HOLT: It got way out of whack way earlier because I guess there was a lot more fish.


MR. RIECHERS: Well, and we still had some nets at that point in time.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Oh, you're still netting.



COMMISSIONER PARKER: Robin, what would happen I've heard a lot of concern about, on the commercial side, the double-dip of the midnight situation. What would happen if we considered maybe a closure of flounder fishing between the hours of midnight and six o'clock in the morning to eliminate that double-dip.


COMMISSIONER PARKER: Explain to everybody what

MR. RIECHERS: Well, and we've taken some action. In 2006 we took some action where we made the position limit equal the bag limit. So in any given evening, no one is supposed to be having over a bag limit. So in the case of recreational fishery, it's a 10-fish bag limit and the possession limit equals 10 fish as well. Now the reality of your question is, are people going home, putting their fish up, and going back out, and I really wouldn't have a measure of how much of that is ongoing, and so I really can't give you an estimate of what would change if we did that. We did take that action in '06, and, of course, you have seen the increase in both the bag seines and in the gill nets, basically is after a two-year cycle; it's from '06 to '08.

Some of that reaction could be associated with a cold winter that we know we had, and I showed you all some of those temperature influences at a couple of meetings ago. Some of that could also be attributed to that change in possession and bag limit, if, in fact, we had a lot of that activity going on, and now more people are abiding by that bag and possession limit. So some of the increase, that recent increase we've seen could be directed or be attributable to that, Commissioner Parker, that change we made in '06.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner Duggins.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Robin, I want to go over some of the things you told us at both the August and November meetings. In August you said that, in the spring of '08, it was the lowest point ever recorded for gill netting. Is that right?

MR. RIECHERS: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And does any of the results of the fishing from October to December change that trend?

MR. RIECHERS: Well, certainly those last two points, and I'll go back to them just so we can see them. Those last two points in our spring gill net and our fall gill net, you know, when I presented that in August to you we didn't have the spring gill nets, which is the last point on the yellow line. Of course, the fall gill nets have just been added in the last two months, or month, as we concluded those samples. You know, certainly what that means is that we have a big cohort and it's moving through the fishery. And our bag seines indicated that as well.

Now for that to be successful in helping to rebuild the population, some of that needed to escape as it moved through that fishable size and reached some larger ages. And so we're typically, if you assume that that escapement occurs in proportion as it has always done, those two points would indicate that more escaped this year than had done in the previous year. So we can, you know, use that as somewhat of a building point to reach the recovery point that we want to get to. It just depends on the amount of risk you're willing to accept as to what those next points are going to be.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Have you said that you viewed the situation as serious? You still view it as serious, more serious, or less serious?

MR. RIECHERS: Well, I would I still view the situation as serious because when you look at 100 percent decline from the '82 to '86 time frame to where we are now, that's not a good situation. As I indicated then, we've taken a lot of management actions to try to address it, but it seems like we never could really get that change in equilibrium and a ramp up and the abundance


MR. RIECHERS: that we were wanting to get to. I will say that those last two points are helpful as we move forward. You know, you can't deny that those are points that are allowing us to kind of go from a different perspective than we were when we presented this in August. But it's still very serious.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: At the November meeting you said that you thought we needed protection during the October through December run. And if you look at the impact your slide on impacts, which I guess is the last slide, wouldn't that suggest that if we really want to increase the spawning size fish, that we should go with that November 5/30-bag limit, or something in the middle group there, the November closure with some reduction in the bag limit?



MR. RIECHERS: Yes, and let me clarify. Hopefully what I said in November was that, you know, we were scoping October, November and December closures, understanding that we need some protection around that time period. And we were still scoping so we wouldn't have had a proposal out there. But certainly I agree with what you're saying, and, in fact, you know, kind of the staff recommendation would be in that middle range there because we believe that that November closure and actually we would prefer the five and 40-bag limit, given those impacts to those given the impacts as I discussed then regarding the number of trips in each group that it would affect. You know, we believe that gets you close to that 100 percent range. And, of course, we have the ability to look at this every year. We know that most of our benefits will be occurring in those first three years, so, you know, it won't take us long

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Get a quick feedback.

MR. RIECHERS: to know whether we need some of these benefits.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So in that proposal, obviously October and December would be open, and November closed for any means of offtake?

MR. RIECHERS: Yes, sir, that would be our proposal is that we just go ahead and close it to any means of take. Again, that's balancing the number of months you have to close against, you know, the opportunity lost for everyone in one month. It's balancing the impacts to those different sectors, if you will, both recreational and commercially, and trying to reach a reduction in overall numbers and harvest that will lead us back to that goal.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I think you said the average commercial catch is 37 fish? The November meeting that's what I took from the minutes. Does that sound right?

MR. RIECHERS: That should be about right, yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, if that's true, and if the current limits are 10 and 60, shouldn't we go treat both the commercial and recreational fishermen the same and reduce



MR. RIECHERS: Certainly you can do that, I mean and that's treating them equitably as far as the 50 percent reduction in bag of each one. As I've kind of I shared with you those figures a moment ago, if you look at the differential impacts there, the impact will be greater actually even at a five and 40 on number of trips it impacts to the commercial sector. As I indicated, for a five-fish bag limit, 2 percent of the hook and line trips would be affected recreationally, 20 percent of the gig trips would be effected 20 percent of the recreational gig trips would be affected, and if you'll look at the 30-fish bag limit reduction for commercials, that would affect 60 percent in 2008 of their trips, and in '07, 35 percent of their trips. If you went to 40 fish, it would affect 48 percent of the trips in '08 and 20 percent in '07.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Without a significant difference in the biomass

MR. RIECHERS: Correct.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: spawning biomass.

MR. RIECHERS: Correct.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Yes. So that's what do you think?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I just think we ought to treat both since they're both taking out roughly half the fish, we ought to treat them equitably.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: And you also raise the good point that we can evaluate this feedback pretty quickly, so we'll know in a few years and we can adjust as appropriate.


COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay. Any other thoughts or discussion on that?

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Well, just to make a comment, I mean I think seriously this is a major issue and we've got it's time to deal with it. And it sounds like a lot of your constituents believe that also in both commercial and recreational fishing, people that are fishing for a living and people that fish for recreation. Is that correct, Robin? In your various visits up and down the coast?

MR. RIECHERS: That's certainly how I would characterize it. I mean I don't think any one sector is not stepping to the table at this point and saying I mean there are people who say, Do nothing, but most of the members of those communities are saying, We need to take some action and we need to take some action that will turn this fishery around.


COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Did you present this regulation impact slide in your scoping meetings?

MR. RIECHERS: Yes, we a much more complex one than this that had a lot more options, but I tried to narrow the options at the different ranges here, so, yes, a lot of most of the scoping meetings, the second round of scoping meetings all had this kind of option set to it.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Did you get direct feedback?

MR. RIECHERS: Well, and a lot of direct feedback. And let me just kind of characterize let me characterize the organizations. Most of the organizations who replied were in favor of a November closure. Some of those wanted a five and 30-bag limit. Coastal Conservation Association's proposal or organization has supported an October through December closure, five and 30-bag limit, but the closure's only for the gig fishery. But, yes, as far as the feedback we're getting, most of it centers around some sort of November closure I would say, other than and when I say most of it, most of it outside the Coastal Conservation Association because, again, a lot of the letters or written materials that we've received, certainly the vast majority of those written materials have come from their postcard mailing that they've done supporting their position.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: You my have mentioned this, Robin, but what about an October closure, is that where COMMISSIONER PARKER: October and November?



COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: October. I just want to know the percent and the model in terms of not gapping it with a closure month.

MR. RIECHERS: An October closure alone would give you a 25 percent increase in spawning biomass.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay. Well, that answers that. Right.

Okay. Let's

COMMISSIONER HOLT: I think he needs some direction from us to where to go.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay. So I'm correct in saying that at this point we support, for inclusion in the Texas Register, a November closure with a reduction in bag limit of five and 30. Any other comments or do I have that right?

COMMISSIONER HOLT: I tend to go with that, yes.


COMMISSIONER PARKER: Do we want to say anything about that double-dip?

COMMISSIONER HOLT: It was an enforcement issue, but I don't know is it an enforcement issue?


COMMISSIONER HOLT: I mean maybe we need yes, there we go.

MR. FLORES: Commissioners, Chairman, for the record, I'm Peter Flores, Director for Law Enforcement. Yes, that is an enforcement issue, and working with coastal fisheries, you know, we work together on all these regulations to try to make things work. Certainly this will be a management issue. I get together with my coastal supervisors, look at how and where whether our methods are working to address this. This is a matter of being a presence out on the water, a presence on the docks, and working with coastal fisheries and their data trying to be more efficient in how we allocate our resources to be able to address it.

Double-dipping is an enforcement issue, it's one of those things that when you have rules, some folks take the time to figure out how to break them, and we're going to do our best to try to figure out how to stay one step ahead of them when they figure it out. Generally bag limits are from midnight to midnight, and then your possession limit is something that you for a two-day trip, and that's to be able to tell folks that are out camping, or hunting at their beach houses, or fishing at their beach houses, but it's a matter of, you know well, actually fishing you can have more than your daily bag, so we have to check them while they're actually fishing, and then it's but it's definitely a management issue, so we will address it, Commissioners. It's an ongoing issue on anything that has a bag.

I hope I answered it the best


COMMISSIONER PARKER: Do you could enforce it either way.

MR. FLORES: Yes, we can make it work.


COMMISSIONER PARKER: Would it make it easier for you if it was, say, from midnight to six o'clock?

MR. FLORES: Commissioner, what generally you know, when we went to making the bag and the possession the same, that makes it easier because no matter you have, it's the same number. But on the other hand we are sensitive to the two people going traveling a long ways and going out there and spending a couple of days out there with their families and stuff.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: Which we want to encourage.

MR. FLORES: And so we want to be able to work within that framework, and at the same time, you know, be sensitive to protecting the resource. Yes, it is easier to have one number, but that's not always the case with a species and I guess that's science-driven. But we'll do the best we can on the enforcement side to take all those things into account and maintain the integrity of the bag limit.


MR. FLORES: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you, Robin. That was well done.

MR. RIECHERS: Thank you.



MR. KURZAWSKI: Good morning, Commissioners. My name is Ken Kurzawski


MR. KURZAWSKI: Inland Fisheries Division, and I'm here to update you on the proposed regulation changes to freshwater that we presented in November. One of the ones that we did discuss in November was on Lake Ray Roberts, a 26,000-acre impoundment near Denton. It has two major state park units on it, plus some smaller satellite parks that encompass access areas, also a WMA. It's a good all around fishing lake, has a good bass population, white bass, crappie, and others. We did implement a largemouth bass regulation on there a few years ago. Before it was a 14 to 24 in slot limit, maintaining the five-fish daily bag with only one fish over 24 inches. Our goal there was to increase trophy bass in the reservoir. There was some interest among the bass anglers there that thought we could do that on that, so we attempted to try and increase those trophy bass in that reservoir.

Looking at the elect fishing catch rates over that period, if you look at the population and structure before implementation of the regulation and after, we didn't really have any see any impacts to that population. We did have a few sharelunkers caught out of the reservoir, but overall we didn't achieve our goal of increasing the numbers of the larger bass in that reservoir. Therefore, we're taking a look at that information. We're proposing to go back to the 14-inch minimum length limit and a five-fish daily bag.

That's our statewide limit. We feel it's better suited to the fish population structure and the fishery, looking at some other of the large lakes in Northern Texas, Central Texas, population, structure of bass is similar, and they're decent populations, just don't have the ability to produce a lot of big fish, so we feel that 14-inch will be better suited to that. It will probably have some positive economic impact that may allow some more people who want to harvest to come out, or bass tournaments. The flip side to that is some anglers may increase to that increased object that increased harvest, and the potential for more use to fishing tournaments.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I'm sorry, what do you mean by the projected increased harvest?

MR. KURZAWSKI: Well, among bass anglers, there's a large catch and release ethic among anglers, and that's you know, a lot of our bass populations has certainly benefited from that, but when we do have instances where, you know, harvest is a part of the equation in our populations, and we try and manage those for that harvest. Some bass anglers, they think we ought to not have you know, not allow any harvest fish, to leave all the fish in there. So a large slot like that prevents a harvest.

The next group of regulations we talked about, we discussed our blue cat fisheries. We have essentially stocked blue catfish in some of our reservoirs in addition to having natural reproduction. These fisheries typically are slow to develop. A little larger to mature, older to mature fish and the populations are slow to develop. What we've seen reports that there's been high harvest with some of these larger blue catfish in the winter months, primarily through juglining in other states, Missouri, Oklahoma. And we've seen that in Texas in Lake Waco; Oklahoma, some of the recent work they had, they looked at some of their populations, some of those larger 30-inch fish comprise less than 1 percent of the population, but in the winter months, anglers were harvesting 18-19 percent of the harvest consisted of those large blues, so the concerns among biologists is that a sustainable harvest of those large fish, fish that are, you know, taking a long time for those populations to develop.

We propose to look at this with a regulation looking at a 30- to 45-inch slot limit for the blue catfish, and maintaining the 25-fish daily bag, and allowing anglers to only harvest one fish over 45 inches. This will apply to blue cat only. And as we typically do with regulations, new regulations, we want to try and evaluate those on a variety of reservoirs, so we can evaluate those populations to see how they develop under the regulations, and we're looking at three reservoirs: Lake Waco in McLennan County; Lake Lewisville in Denton County; and Richland Chambers Reservoir. All these reservoirs do have good blue catfish populations with wintertime fisheries and these are the reservoirs we intend to evaluate.

What we're hoping to accomplish there with these regulations is to definitely increase and maintain those fish above 30 inches, increase some of the anglers targeting catfish, and also still allow anglers to keep a trophy if they do catch one of those larger fish. Some of the concerns there are there will be some impacts on winter juglining. They'll still be able to keep a good number of fish below 30 inches, but it will obviously reduce those take of those fish over 30 inches. And these long species like blue catfish, they are difficult to evaluate, so we'll have to use a number of different methods, and look closely at these populations so we can evaluate the effect of those regulations.

Moving on to some regulations that we didn't discuss in November. In December we met with the Oklahoma staff, which we do on a periodic basis, to discuss management on Lake Texoma, which we jointly manage. We met with both the fisheries and the law enforcement staffs that work that reservoir. Recently, starting January 1, Oklahoma has implemented a regulation on alligator gar. They're limiting anglers to one per day, and they also have a spawning closure in the upper end of Texoma. When we meet with Oklahoma, we always work on trying to standardize these regulations between both sides of the reservoir. For the most part, on our major fisheries we do a good job on that. We still have some minor discrepancies, but this is one of the ones that we're interested implementing on our side of Texoma. And also we've identified some areas near the Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge and also between Highway 377 and I-35, some areas that possibly gar could use during spawning, and we would reciprocate and close those areas in May also to match what's happening in Oklahoma waters.

Additionally, Oklahoma is proposing a modification to their blue catfish. As I mentioned earlier, they've been looking at blue catfish populations also, and they're proposing a statewide limit of one fish over 30 inches per day. We do have a different bag on Texoma, 15, which we do have existing there, and we would propose to take that to public hearings also. They are, at this time, having public hearings on this one also.

And finally, the one other topic of regulations that we discussed extensively in November was alligator gar. This is a unique fishery that we have in Texas that has increased in interest over the previous years. We had Dr. Allyse Ferrara came and gave an update on gar populations across the South, the southern U.S. And as we discussed at that time, information on all gar species is limited. They're a difficult species to sample, and we really need to collaborate with other states and look over at look at the populations over the entire range to see what's happening in those populations. Last week a number of our staff attended a meeting of the Technical Committee discussing gar populations, specifically alligator gar in the southern U.S., looking at what a lot of the other states are doing. They're seeing some of the similar things, concerns over the populations in many parts of its range. For instance, in Oklahoma and Kentucky it's designated as a species of concern; it's been extirpated in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio; and recently it's been listed as a vulnerable species by the AFS Endangered Fishes Committee.


COMMISSIONER BIVINS: What kind of database do we have on Texas gar populations exclusively, without regard to other states' influence?

MR. KURZAWSKI: We have a little bit of length frequency information. I do have a graph on that a little bit later, and some stuff from past years. And a lot of the status of the populations, other states, is reflected in their current regulatory schemes, as you can see, most of the surrounding states have limited harvest of alligator gar. Texas and Louisiana are the two that don't have any regulations at this time. Missouri, that's sort of an artifact, that 50 per day, that's a combination of all their non-game fishes. In fact, they're under the they're in a mode of trying to recover and identify those populations as a number of other states are around the southeast are stocking, or looking into stocking, alligator gar, identifying their spawning areas to protect those populations. So a lot of these states are in sort of the recovery and protection mode.

A lot of this is based on the life history of these fish. They are compared to a lot of our freshwater fishes that we're used to managing, these are long-lived fishes, they can live 50 to 75 years; there's low annual mortality, meaning there's low turnover in the populations; those fish that reach trophy size, 100 pounds or plus, naturally they're going to be few in that population; and that the combination of long-lived with the large size and older age and maturity, you have males 40 inches, eight years old, females can be 60 inches, 12 plus years, and this limits the ability of these fish to they don't need to spawn every year, they're infrequent spawners because of that low annual mortality and the nature of their population. Also, the spawning habitat, as much of the work around the country has been looking at, is limited. They typically flood in spawn in flooded terrestrial vegetation, and these are seasonally flooded backwaters, and which see the water use and land use in a lot of the river watersheds can have a great impact to the ability of these fish to continue spawning.

Some of the information that we have in Texas over the years, back in 1986 we investigated gar populations in Sam Rayburn Reservoir. This was due to a number of the comments we received from the angling public that the gar were having a negative impact on the sport fish population of the reservoir, specifically largemouth bass. We did an extensive food habit study there, and the top three species, prey species there are gizzard shad, channel catfish, and freshwater drum. They were eating a few game fish such as largemouth bass, white bass, but by and large they were preying on some of the more abundant other fishes in the population, and this is consistent with other studies done on the food habits of gar.

At that time, that population in the reservoir was dominated by a few year classes of fish, large fish, oh, 100 pounds plus. Subsequently, there was some commercial harvest that removed a lot of these large fish. Sam Rayburn's an important reservoir to us, one we study extensively, and we really haven't before or after these impacts to the gar population, we haven't noticed any impacts to the gang fish populations that could be attributed to the alligator gar populations in that reservoir. Recently we've been conducting some research here in Texas on the Trinity River. We're collaborating with some gar guides to obtain get some information. We're doing mark and recapture studies on the population trying to look at their seasonal movements to identify their spawning areas, and also looking at their genetic variability.

Looking at some of the information that we've obtained recently on that, the population structures, we're looking at our population compared to some of the populations in Louisiana that have been heavily impacted by commercial fishing. We have the blue and the pink lines are the size at maturity for the males/females. You can see there's quite a big difference between the Texas and Louisiana populations, especially when you look at the upper end of composition of the large fish in that population. We still have a good population of those larger fish in Texas.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Ken, there could be other reasons for that too. Right?

MR. KURZAWSKI: For the large

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Yes, for a larger population in those two waters.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Correct. But, you know, we're trying those are some of the ones that we have information for. You know, the population structures certainly do change and we do have differences in the fishing between the two states, and that's something we need to consider. Looking at some of the, you know, information that we at the meeting last week, and what we've been collaborating with other ones. Texas seems to have some of the best remaining populations of these fish in the U.S.

We feel there's a window of opportunity there to protect these populations. The nature of the populations, the long-lived nature, the infrequent spawning, if those populations do get diminished, that it will take them a long time to recover, so we feel we have an opportunity here to take a look at those and see if we can maintain the good populations that we do have in Texas. So our management goals there would be to sustain that trophy harvest, maintain those large fish, those large fish are also very important to the spawning in the populations, and that'll help, by maintaining those larger fish we'll ensure that we'll continue to have good viable populations in Texas. We feel to obtain these goals we have to reduce our harvest to make sure they're at sustainable levels, and we have to continue to research to ID and protect some of those critical habitats.

If you remember, in November we discussed some various options for managing these fish. We talked about a seven-foot length limit and a one per day bag; we also discussed a tag for limiting anglers to one per year. A closure of the commercial harvest was something we discussed. We did put all these options out for public comment, and we received over 300 comments through our website on that. Most of the comments on that were against the length and bag limit, and more so against the tags. There was some more support there for the commercial harvest restrictions. But among those people, even though they did disagree with that, there was some recognition of the need for some restrictions in the harvest here to make sure people realize we do have good populations and there certainly is an interest there to

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: What do you mean by commercial?

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, I was going to ask the same thing. How much commercial fishing is there?

MR. KURZAWSKI: Well, there is limited commercial fishing for alligator gar in Texas. We probably have, oh, about 16 people in freshwater harvesting alligator gar. They do that with a non-game permit that allows them to sell those gar that they harvest from public waters.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Where do you buy them? I mean people don't eat them, do they? What

MR. KURZAWSKI: Yes. Oh, yes, they

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Are they pretty good? I didn't either. You know, when I was raised, I mean really the gar was considered kind of a trash fish and you didn't eat much of it.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: If you put enough ketchup on it.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Enough ketchup, yes, fry the heck out of it.

MR. KURZAWSKI: They get a good a decent price compared to some other freshwater fishes.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: I'll be darned.

MR. KURZAWSKI: It's not an extensive fishery, but there are a few people that are harvesting. Probably in freshwater the last few years we're probably looking at maybe 35-, 40,000 pounds at least for two summers reporting of harvest.


COMMISSIONER HOLT: Never have either.

MALE VOICE: It's not bad; it's not good.


MALE VOICE: Tastes like chicken.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: and put a lot of ketchup on it?

(General laughter.)

MALE VOICE: Come to the Parks dinner, I'll serve it.


COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, we'll have to try it.


MR. KURZAWSKI: Based on, you know, the comments that we did receive, and certainly we recognize we're going to a totally unregulated fishery to some sort of management scheme, that's a long way to go in one jump, but we do feel that, you know, we do have a unique fishery here that we need to take a look at and try and maintain that fishery. So our current proposal we would like to take to public hearings is to limit the harvest to one alligator gar of any size per day and this would apply to both the recreational and commercial fishing.

We look at this as sort of a first step in managing these populations and, you know, we'll continue we have our research group looking at this, we're going to continue to collaborate with other states, so we'll collaborate with any of the, you know, angling bowfishing groups that we've been in contact to take a look at these populations and try and go in, identify some of their spawning areas, and adjust as needed.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Let me make one quick comments, Ken. I get a little bit concerned when we have '86 data and then a smaller in number, you know, study that we're doing currently. And doing something that obviously we all want to protect the species, but we want to make sure that we don't effectively kill an outdoor recreational opportunity. And in talking with a lot of groups who do this, I think, you know, they feel it would be it would have a lot of consequence to them in that as a recreational opportunity.

So we don't even really know what the window is, the window that we have before we start seeing big decreases in population or nonrecovery of the species. It seems that we need a little more definition of what that is before we start regulating and putting regulations in place that sort of predefine that, before we even know what the right density levels are, and what the right amount of outtake is, and so forth, and for different river systems. I just, I'm concerned about doing something before we have more data.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Well, certainly, that is a concern of ours, in all states, when managing this population, is lack of information. We're trying to balance that against what we see in the population trajectories around the southern U.S., where a lot of these populations that are on the decline, or people are looking to go back to stock fish to maintain them. We certainly don't want to get to that point in Texas.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: But do we know that those are good analogs, from a study standpoint, for this state and for our river systems?


COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Are we certain of that? Do we know that that will ultimately affect the population? I just don't know.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Well, the populations are, you know, the population life histories and some of those requirements are consistent across their range. So, that's

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Can you say conclusively that we've seen declines in the trophy quality of gar in the state of Texas?

MR. KURZAWSKI: No, we can't make those statements, certainly.

MR. DUROCHER: Mr. Chairman, I'm Phil Durocher, the Director of Inland Fisheries and I understand your concerns and it's a concern of ours. All we can do is look at what's happened in other places that have similar situations. I mean, they have a loss of habitat, reservoir construction, and all the things that impact the flooding that apparently these animals need to spawn.

I think we're very fortunate in Texas. We have some areas that are still pretty prime. Most of the information we got, now we're beginning to look these are hard animals to sample. I was telling Carter, I've been in this business 30-something years and I have yet to see a juvenile alligator gar. You know, they're reclusive and they're just hard to sample, but we've seen these trends happen in these other states, and I have no reason to believe that it won't happen here.

A lot of the information what got us to looking at this pretty intensively was that we were getting information from some of the guides that fish 300 days a year on the Trinity River. It's a pretty big business for a lot of people. They said that they had people come in from all over the world because Texas is known as a destination, the last destination, for people to come in and catch these trophy gar. They expressed concern to us that they weren't seeing as many big gar as they had seen in the past. They were concerned about this increase in harvest.

Again, it's anecdotal because we just really don't have any information. We're hoping to get it now. We're working with some of these bowfishing groups. They have volunteered to help us gather some of this information. Absolutely, we could postpone doing anything now. The staff has looked at all this, and tried to model some of this, to kind of predict what is going to happen with an increase in harvest. They're concerned about we may go past the point of no return very quickly.

As Ken said, because of the life history of these animals, it would take a long time to recover. These fish are 45 to 50 years old.


MR. DUROCHER: The recovery period is very long.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: Is most of the fishing for these animals by bow and arrow?

MR. DUROCHER: I don't know what the percentage is on that, but the guides that were talking to us are not bow fishermen. These are rod and reel fishing, that the clients come down to catch them. To be honest, again, they tell us that most of theirs is catch and release. Most of the rod and reel fishermen people want to catch a big fish, and get their picture taken with it, and they release the fish. So, you know, to keep that industry going, that part of the recreation, we need to have some of those bigger fish.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner Duggins, yes, sir?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: As an alternative, have you considered, as you proposed in November, perhaps saying you can't take any gar over a certain length, whether it's six or seven feet, because you dropped that from then?

MR. DUROCHER: Yes, that was a pretty high limit. Most of the people that were guiding, whether they were bowfishing or rod and reel, said they were concerned about not being able to get any fish, you know that people would quit coming if they lost the opportunity. They said those fish 72 inches and above are very rare. I don't know, he said maybe seven or eight a year are taken out of the Trinity River and they felt like that would hurt their business.

Again, that's very, very restrictive. So we kind of started at the high end and started to work back to something that we thought everyone could live with. The people that will be impacted the most by this proposal will be a few of the commercial fishermen that make a large part of their living on these alligator gar.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Since there is a large bow-angling component to this, you know, length limit is always a concern.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: It's problematic, yes.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Right. When these fish, when they it's hard to get a good one

MALE VOICE: Yes, you can't see them.


MR. KURZAWSKI: an exact length.

MR. DUROCHER: Bowfishing is a legitimate activity


MR. DUROCHER: for this animal.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Well, I just, I recognize the need to protect the resources; we all do, but looking at the goals that we're trying to attain reducing the harvest to sustainable levels, we really don't know what the sustainable level is; and IDing and protecting critical habitat, that would be, you know, there's research and science involved in determining what that would be I just wonder if we ought to take some time.

And, what do you think we could accomplish in a couple year period? We don't have any indication right now that we're going to negatively impact the resource in a year or two by continuing this? We can't say that at this point, can we?

MR. DUROCHER: Not definitively. Of course, you know, when you model a population like this, unfortunately we don't have all the data that Robin and them have, long term data, to look at. Again, a model is only as good as the data that you put in it. With a lot of assumption and some speculation, kind of predicting where we are now and where we could be under certain levels of harvest, the staff is concerned that it would not take us very long, with any increase in harvest, to fish this population down. That's what started this.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: Is this fish beginning to attract tournaments?

MR. DUROCHER: Not that I know of, sir.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Other than that it gets into the context of regular bowfishing tournaments do harvest gar.

MR. DUROCHER: It's usually the largest fish that they're going to take in bowfishing.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: What percentage of recreational anglers actually keep the fish they're catching?

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: That's a good question.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Do we know that? Because, I mean, the commercial fishermen are obviously keeping them all, but

MR. DUROCHER: I'm imagining the bow fishermen, which is probably the largest percentage of the people that utilize the fish, I'm assuming they keep the ones they get. I mean, I imagine they do.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But if they're line fishermen, we don't know?

MR. DUROCHER: You know, most of our work is done in reservoirs and most of this activity takes place in rivers

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, it's on the rivers.

MR. DUROCHER: and it's pretty hard to get information. How do we get to these people? They're not required to have any special license, or any special permit, to go out and get them. So surveying them is a task. Believe me, we're looking at that real hard, on how to get better information.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: That's what I was going to ask, Phil. I'm back on the slide that shows some states have gone to one a day, two a day. Of course, it shows no harvest in Florida or Tennessee. How did they get their, let's say, those two a days? Have we looked at how other states have studied the alligator gar and is there something we can copy there relative to how we could study? I mean, is anybody looked at best practices assigned to it?

MR. KURZAWSKI: We're pretty much taking the same steps they are, looking at the population structures, and trying to look at the trends across what they see in their populations, how vulnerable their spawning areas are, if they're confined to a certain river with limited spawning, things like that.

MR. DUROCHER: For instance, Oklahoma just recently put a one fish a day and protecting a spawning area. This was just a coincidence that I showed Mr. Parker the video one of the biologists in Oklahoma, several years ago when Lake Texoma had a major flood, he just happened to be surveying the lake, and he came across this flat that was previously grass land that had been flooded, and he saw this activity. He went up and there were hundreds of huge alligator gar spawning in that vegetation.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: And they'd never even seen those before because they'd been in the lake.

MR. DUROCHER: They'd never seen them. He went, and got his video camera, and videoed the whole thing, but just imagine how vulnerable those gar were at that point. The water was not even knee deep, and they were coming in, and bumping into his leg, and those things were six, seven feet long, huge.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Do you think we could take a look at identifying spawning areas like that?

MR. DUROCHER: That's one of the things we're going to be doing. We're doing that now. We need to identify the spawning time, be specific about when that activity would take place, and then identify the areas that would be prime habitat for spawning. If, when a flood occurs

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Yes, it doesn't happen every year.

MR. DUROCHER: You see, if it happens in Texoma maybe once every ten years, what are they doing the rest of the time.


MR. DUROCHER: So it's all dependent on this one good spawn that may have to carry that population for 10 or 15 years. That's why that population can be very, very vulnerable.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Can I ask you again? I guess what I'm trying to figure out is the timing. How did these other states and maybe I'm asking a question I'm asking you to ask how did these other states get to this two a day? I mean, did they do the science first and then decide that two a day was the right number, or did they do what you're asking us to do based on anecdotal, made the decision, and then they're doing the science? I mean, because you're indicating that you'd like to continue research and do that, which we certainly will support. Can we find that out or do you know?

MR. DUROCHER: I don't know, sir, but I'll certainly find out.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, because I don't want to make a personally, I just talk for myself, and others may have a different decision but to make this decision based on just anecdotal, I'd like to at least find out whether other states have done that and then maybe why, or did they truly spend the time, do the science, as much as you can I understand the issues you're talking about and then make the decision. That would be helpful for me personally.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Better understand how they went through the decision process.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: How the process worked for them.

MR. DUROCHER: Well, we're going to continue to do research no matter what happens.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: No, I understand, and I understand that it's difficult research.

MR. DUROCHER: We're concerned and we're going to keep moving on.


MR. DUROCHER: If that's your recommendation, then we'll come back to you at a later time, after we've had a chance to try to get as much information as we can. I don't want to be optimistic and say, We're going to work hard on this next year and I'm going to have all the data I need. This data is not going to be easy to get.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: No, I understand. What I'm asking, I think, Phil, is can we find out how the other states went about it?

MR. DUROCHER: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: And maybe you can come back and let us know that. If they've all done what you're asking us to do, then we may I speak for myself I may then be willing to say, okay, we'll go to one or two a day or whatever, but let's fund some research and put some real focus on it or did they do the research at some level, whatever level that may be. Maybe you can talk to a couple of different states. And then, how did they get to those numbers? Obviously, they all made decisions at some point.


COMMISSIONER HOLT: When that is, I don't know, and how. That would be helpful to me. I do understand that no matter how much we put into research, it's difficult research because of the nature of the species.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Well, for instance, Oklahoma, they had a graduate student from Oklahoma State study that population in the Red River and Lake Texoma and they based the regulation that they just implemented on that. That was a study done on that particular system. They tried to look at what was a good, viable, sustainable level there, looking at those population characteristics.


MR. KURZAWSKI: It's a similar exercise that we have done looking at how long lived those species are and how much they can be impacted by harvest. It's somewhat of an arbitrary level. They're trying a one fish per day harvest for recreational fishermen. That's, you know, they kind of arrived at that's a good, well, if you have a seven-foot fish, that's a good, you know, one per day would be a good number to get there.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, so they did a study on one, you said the Red River and then applied that to the state. But we haven't really done that, have we?


COMMISSIONER HOLT: I mean, you can maybe take the Trinity River and

MR. DUROCHER: No, that may be the only area of Oklahoma where there are any alligator gar.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Where there are any, and that's fair enough. Could we do something like that for the Trinity River, and use that then, and apply it? I mean, I'd be willing to certainly consider that.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Right. We did mention that we did do some modeling, and Phil mentioned that, but we would need more information to make those models more robust, and give us more confidence in them.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: We could do that hopefully over the course of a year.

MR. DUROCHER: I would say the Trinity River is beyond a doubt our best population.


MR. DUROCHER: So what we're going to be looking at is the best-case scenario. There is a good population of gar in the Nueces and the Choke Canyon below there.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, I know that.

MR. DUROCHER: Most of the coastal areas, where the rivers empty into the Gulf, is where we're going to have our best populations of gar. The further upstream you go, the more impacted the populations are going to be.



COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Well, I concur with Chairman Holt's comments. I think that it's admirable that we're addressing the issue as we have begun to do, but I think it's premature at this point to limit any opportunity with the amount of data that we have and the background. Obviously the population in Texas is admirable enough that it's world renowned. I think it would be unfortunate for us to limit opportunity without pursuing it further.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner Duggins?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, I agree with the comments of the Chairman and Mark and Commissioner Bivins as well, but I'd like to know more about the impact to the commercial fishing because we know those are kills. I don't know, in the other states where the limits have been imposed, do they allow commercial fishing?

MALE VOICE: It's killed it.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I think we've really got to get our

COMMISSIONER HOLT: If you can only get one a day, that's killed commercial fishing. I can't imagine that you're

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: To what extent is that impacting the offtake? Yes, that's a good point.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Can we also get a percentage of bowfishing and line fishing? Is there a way we can get that?

MR. DUROCHER: We can try. We just have to look and try to get the number of licensed guides that are actually

COMMISSIONER HOLT: And then, talk to them.

MR. DUROCHER: and then talk to them.


COMMISSIONER HOLT: You say, you have some current research going on the Trinity?

MR. DUROCHER: Absolutely.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: How long has that been going on?

MR. KURZAWSKI: I believe we've been at that a couple years, at least.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. Maybe we can see some of that.

MR. DUROCHER: We're just trying to get an estimate of the population levels and things there.


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: One way, I know this is a difficult job, but I come back to discussions that we've had before about using the website and email to get feedback from our sportsmen. If there's some way to ask people by email, did you take a gar, and if so, how, and size, it might help you on this. I know it's difficult, but that's sure one way you can

MR. DUROCHER: We've had all those discussions. It's so, in comparison to the total number of anglers in the state, it's so small, the number of people that actually fish for gar. We do a random sample of all our anglers, there's a good chance we're not going to get any of them, just because of the numbers. So that makes it more difficult. They don't have to have any specific permit or any specific license to get gar so we know exactly who to pinpoint.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: You don't have to have a fishing license?

MR. DUROCHER: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: But you mentioned working with some of the groups who

MR. DUROCHER: Yes, our intent is to work with these people.



COMMISSIONER HOLT: I've got to believe a lot of people go with guides because the gar just aren't

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: to gain some more information.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: you know, you don't just walk down the river and find gar. I mean, you've got to kind of know where they are.

Carter, do you have any comments?

MR. SMITH: Well, I do, and I really have a question for Phil and Ken, just so that we can set expectations appropriately. I mean, what is your confidence in terms of being able to ascertain more data in the next year to come back? Are we going to see a significant incremental improvement in data to help feed the population viability analysis that our guys have been running to Heart of the Hills or probably not?

And so, I just want to make sure the Commission understands that because in fairness to our biologists, they feel like the lesson learned from the other states is that an abundance of caution is in order here because of the life history and biology of the species, and what we've seen in all these other river basins. Admittedly, our data in Texas is sparse at best and we're struggling with that. So, do we have a sense of what kind of improvement we might be able to see, just to be realistic here in terms of what we might be able to glean?

MR. DUROCHER: Well, my intent from this conversation is to go back and I really, I can't give you a figure on that right now but I intend to meet with the staff at Heart of the Hills and the management biologist, and have this discussion, about what kind of effort it would take, what kind of resources we'd have to put into it, to go get this information. We're going to have to make a decision about whether we want to spend that much resources to get this information.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: That's an important thing for us to consider. I think there's two components though. There's the scientific research and also I think we're looking for what Chairman Holt was talking about, which is tying what other states are doing with what we are looking at. I think we can at least better understand that as a Commission if we understand what they've done and just understand the species a little bit better in general.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: How difficult would it be to get a compilation or a condensed version of other states' research just that we can review?

MR. DUROCHER: We can do that.

MR. SMITH: We can do that.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Can you get it and can you bring it by March?

MR. SMITH: Yes, we can have that by March, absolutely. Yes, we've got that.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: We don't have to wait a year.

MR. DUROCHER: The lady who came and gave the briefing to you at the last meeting, she's probably the national expert on gar. Any information that's out there, she has it. So that's probably where we're going to go first, ask her, because she's been gathering this stuff from all over the world. So we're probably going to start there and we have contacts with all the states.

COMMISSIONER HIXON: Can I ask a question?


COMMISSIONER HIXON: A point of interest, when you're talking about Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, obviously, there are no more. Do we know how long it took for them to disappear there?

MR. KURZAWSKI: There's records about the Mississippi River probably in the early and mid-part of the century where gar were still present in some of those systems.


COMMISSIONER FALCON: Yes, I was just going to say I appreciate the staff coming up with their presentation today. It's not often that Phil comes stone faced and sounds alarm bells before us. In science, we can see graphs and measure numbers and do all kinds of things, but scientists do have gut instinct and I suspect there's some of that here. I appreciate you trying to present this difficult issue before the Commission because there are unknowns out there.

I would like to make sure that we proceed quickly with this and not put it off, because we may have an opportunity here that will be lost if we don't make a decision. And so, I just think that if we set some kind of deadline to get as much information as possible because it seems to me that the scientific record will not be available for some time, if at all available.

MR. DUROCHER: If we have to go collect new information, it will be fairly long term.


COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I agree with that. That's a good point. To better understand what other states are doing and, you know, to enlighten us a little bit further, maybe we can get that information in March, and possibly make a decision at that point. I agree with that. We don't want to miss an opportunity to protect it.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: That map, the state of Oklahoma, they own half the Red River and we own the south half, and that's a pretty long stretch of Texas shoreline there.


MR. DUROCHER: Well, one of the recommendations here is to put the one per day on Texoma


MR. DUROCHER: to be consistent.

MR. KURZAWSKI: That could be a separate proposal.

(Simultaneous discussion.)

COMMISSIONER PARKER: Would that cover the length of the Red River?


COMMISSIONER PARKER: The definition of Lake Texoma

MR. KURZAWSKI: Most of, the way the Red River is structured, once you're in the river, you're essentially in Oklahoma.


MR. DUROCHER: Except for Lake Texoma.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Right, except for Lake Texoma. There's a small portion below Lake Texoma dam that's not ours.

MR. DUROCHER: We're still fighting over those borders, but


MR. DUROCHER: So what's the are we going to go to the Register with the one per day, and then come back, and then if you decide that we don't have enough information? How do you want us to proceed here, besides just going and getting this information which we will have?

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: My understanding was we were going to the Register without a restriction, and then gaining information, and could, we at that point, change it in March, or how does that work?

MR. SMITH: Right now, there are no restrictions on the harvest of gar. So that exists?


MR. SMITH: I mean, we have this separate proposal to make sure that you can only catch one gar per day in Texoma. What we hear everybody saying there is you all are comfortable with us proceeding as part of that. I think Phil's question is as we continue to scope this, and we continue to acquire the information that you all are asking us to, do you want us to continue to proceed with the proposal


MR. SMITH: for more comment, more information gathering, to come back in March with more discussion?


MR. SMITH: Okay. So we will go to the Register with a continuance of this proposed, one fish per day statewide, get more information, see what additional science we can assimilate from across the country, probably not much more in Texas, come back, and report to you in March.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Talk to more of the constituents?

MR. SMITH: Yes, talk to the constituent groups


MR. SMITH: see how they can help us collect data, and then we can revisit the conversation in March with this still on the table.


MR. DUROCHER: We'll get a lot of comments. I think there's some concern about us being able to be more restrictive, or least restrictive where is Ann? we have this discussion all the time.

MR. SMITH: We're okay with that, Phil.

MR. DUROCHER: We go with this. We can at least go back to what we are

MR. SMITH: Yes, it gives us more flexibility.

MR. DUROCHER: now. We want to get more direction.

MR. SMITH: Yes, we want to stay as flexible as possible.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: If there is any way for us to get the information prior to the March meeting so that we could digest it, that would be very helpful.

MR. SMITH: Sure. Phil, can we do that, with that synthesis from Dr. Ferrara on everything else that's gone on in the other states?


MR. SMITH: Okay, yes.

MR. DUROCHER: We're going to contact Dr. Ferrara and the other states to make sure that we've got everything that we can get.



COMMISSIONER HOLT: So it includes data and process?



COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, so we understand how they got just one or two. That would really help out.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: And feedback, data, process, and feedback, yes.




MR. KURZAWSKI: Thank you so much.

MR. BREWER: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. My name is Clay Brewer and I am currently serving as the Interim Director of the Wildlife Division. I'm here along with Clayton Wolf to present potential regulation changes to the upcoming hunt season. I will present a couple of items related to game birds and Clayton will present those for deer.

Before we get into the proposed regulation changes, I have one follow-up item from the November Commission meeting concerning pheasants. If you will recall, we were asked to investigate changing the current pheasant season structure by actually moving the season up a week. The current season

COMMISSIONER PARKER: Pardon me just a moment. Could we wait until Mark comes back?

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, I just thought the same thing. Mark's our Panhandle guy. I don't know. I assume

MR. BREWER: I'll come back.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Why don't we take a minute break because these are really important and I know a lot of them are based on different areas? So we'd better take a break. I'll take a break. We'll take a five-minute break, thanks.

(Whereupon, a short recess was taken.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: We will resume now.

MR. BREWER: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, my name is Clay Brewer and I am currently serving as the Interim Director


MR. BREWER: I'm currently serving as the Interim Director of the Wildlife Division. I'm here along with Clayton Wolf to present the potential regulation changes for the upcoming hunt season. I will present a couple of game bird related items and Clayton will present those for deer.

Before we get into the proposed regulation changes, I have one follow-up item from the November Commission meeting. This was a we were asked to look into changing the current pheasant season structure. The current structure, the season opens the first Saturday in December and runs for 30 consecutive days. We actually looked at moving the season up a week, which would mean that the season would open the Friday after Thanksgiving and run for 30 consecutive days.

After that, we conducted four scoping meetings in the Panhandle and did a web survey on the TPWD website. Of the comments received on the idea of the Panhandle, 94 percent of those disagreed. On the web page, 69 percent of those disagreed. There were some different ideas that came out of that, but overall most of those that commented on the idea were opposed to changing the current pheasant season structure. So, at this time, staff, along with the Upland Game Bird Council, recommend no change to the existing pheasant season and I'd be happy, before we actually move into the regulation changes, I can answer any questions you might have.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: I'd like to make a few comments.


COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Having been directly involved with one of these scoping meetings, it very clearly represented the "what part of no don't you understand." I would really like to thank Vernon Bevill and Danny Swepston for all of their groundwork up there. They did an excellent job.

There was a lot of driving and a lot of travel, but the process was fascinating in that the opening day of pheasant season in the Panhandle of Texas is much more than the beginning of a hunting season. It is a tradition that has become a big part of a lot of these small towns' economies. One of the aspects that was brought up was that if we did open it after Thanksgiving, a lot of the people that are the support team for all of these hunting groups that come into these small towns would not be available and would be otherwise doing something with their families. And so, it would be probably more disruptive than beneficial as far as creating more hunting opportunity. It was an angle that, you know, we really didn't see and the scoping process brought it out very clearly.

And then, there were also several options that we had particularly we may have discussed one or two of them but, you know, extending the season, I guess that was probably the predominant option that was brought up that was not actually one of the discussion items, but it's something that we might want to look at in the future. I thought that that process was also beneficial, you know, to get public feedback into, you know, channeling it into a more acceptable season for the pheasant-hunting public up there.

But the process does work and I'd like to thank all those involved. It was interesting to see that.

MR. BREWER: Appreciate that. The first proposed regulation change relates to the lesser prairie chicken hunting season. Staff, along with the Upland Game Bird Council, recommends a suspension to the lesser prairie chicken season as a result of continued population declines in Texas and range wide. These declines are associated with adverse impacts to habitat. Hunting is currently provided on a two-day season in October on a very limited basis, by permit only, to the landowners who work with us under a Wildlife Management Plan.

The lesser prairie chicken is a candidate species under the Endangered Species Act. If you will recall, in November, I actually reported that the species had a listing priority of 8. Since that time, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has elevated the species to a level 2. So the next step is actual listing. So we believe it is critical that we act now.

The suspension is intended to be temporary rather than permanent and staff is working on a realistic population recovery goal. The ultimate goal is to restore hunting upon achieving that population goal.

I'd like to publicly thank Heather Whitlaw for her work in the Panhandle. She's a good hand. Her work with landowners up there I might also add that she's worked closely with those who will be impacted by this decision. It is important because these are folks that worked with us on the management plan, did their best. And so, we take that very serious, that impact to those landowners. They're conservation-minded people and they support this decision.


MR. BREWER: So I think that's important to point out.


MR. BREWER: With that, I guess I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have in regards to the lesser prairie chicken season.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: I do have one question. Do you know anything about there was an article in the Amarillo paper some time ago, which I brought with me and I'll be happy to give you, that makes reference to including the habitat restoration of prairie chickens within the Conservation Reserve Program?

MR. BREWER: I've heard various things on that. Vernon, if you would like to comment?

COMMISSIONER HOLT: You're talking about CRP land now?

MR. BEVILL: There are a lot of ideas being kicked around.


COMMISSIONER HOLT: Vernon, if you'll sit down there.

MR. BEVILL: I'm Vernon Bevill, Program Director for Small Game and Habitat Assessment. There are a lot of ideas being kicked around. They are formulating interim rules within the Farm Bill. We have some specialized opportunities within the Farm Bill to target species or issues that we want to target both for conservation purposes. Of course, the interest in the prairie chicken is one we might want to target and there have been several things kicked around, what's called a CREP and some other ideas.

So, in March, when we go to the North American Wildlife Conference, that is certainly going to be a topic of discussion on what we might formulate. There's a five-state interstate working group on the lesser prairie chicken and they are very active. Heather is a leader in that group.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: I'm sure she is.

MR. BEVILL: She deserves all the accolades we can give her for the hard work she's done. So that is a possibility in the not too distant future.



COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: You say, temporarily suspended. Would it be suspended pending further action? I mean, it's not

MR. BREWER: Well, no, it's until we achieve a population recovery goal that we establish, unless it is actually listed. Of course, that comes with a whole different set of rules.



MR. WOLF: Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, for the record, my name is Clayton Wolf. I'm the Big Game Program Director in the Wildlife Division and I'm going to present to you, it's a rather extensive suite of proposals mostly dealing with white-tailed deer regulations, one with mule deer. You saw these in November. I have tried to consolidate my presentation down some for the sake of brevity. Please feel free to interrupt me if I'm going too fast or have left out some details that you might want to consider.

Also, the way I've organized my slide presentation, I've taken all the items that we've received positive scoping comments on and put them up front. Those that we've received some negative comment on, or the majority being negative comments, I put at the end of my presentation.

You remember from November, the way I'd like to display our proposed change in bag limits for white-tailed deer is segregated by bucks and antlerless. The slide before you shows the current buck bag limit structure in Texas, ranging from one to three bucks, and antler restrictions.

If you'll focus your attention on the eastern third of the state, which has three different packages right now, we would propose an additional 52 counties in the eastern part of the state to go to the antler restrictions with two bucks. I'll just to show you on the screen there, I'll toggle back to the current, and then I'll go forward again. So we're looking at basically in that part of the state there is one county down there south of San Antonio, Atascosa County, and we received a lot of public comment. For the last several years, folks are wanting to see antler restrictions in that area as well. That is a little bit different and it is currently a three-buck county. So it's the only three-buck county we have in Texas where we would propose two-buck antler restrictions.

As far as the comments, we received a significant number of comments on our web page. That's good. We're getting a lot of feedback. We had press releases to let folks know that they could go to our web page and comment. We segregated these. Number one, the antler restrictions were most commented on. As of Monday, 1,608 individuals commented and 80 percent agree with our proposal to go to antler restrictions in an additional 52 counties.

Up there in the north part of the state


MR. WOLF: Yes, sir?

COMMISSIONER HOLT: antler restrictions, could you make clear to everybody what antler restrictions you're talking about?

MR. WOLF: The antler restriction package that we've had going since 2000-2001 basically would require that bucks meet minimum guidelines. Basically a hunter has a two-buck bag limit in these counties. They can kill no more than one buck that has a 13-inch spread or greater. They can also shoot one or two bucks that have at least one unbranched antler.

It's a unique package, unique from other states that have antler restrictions, in that we're looking at, there is some evidence that if you just look at the larger antler dimensions and use that, that you could have potentially high grading of the deer herd. And so, we're rather unique in that we kind of have what some folks maybe refer to as a slot limit, where we also allow for the harvest of those animals with smaller antler dimensions. Our research shows that that kind of balances things out and, hopefully, will keep us from high grading the deer herd.

Also, in the slide, there's about nine counties where the arrow is pointing where we're proposing to go to a two-buck bag limit. That's from Shackelford County all the way up to Wilbarger County there on the Red River. This area is typified by large ranches and harvest is already controlled. The population, the age structure of the buck herd is in good shape there and we think it can withstand an additional buck in the bag limit. We had 987 individuals comment on the proposal for those nine counties with 89 percent agreeing with the proposal to go from a one to a two-buck bag limit.

As far as our current antlerless bag limits, you'll see, right now, most of Texas has a two-antlerless bag limit, not to include South Texas, Edwards Plateau, and the Trans-Pecos. You may recall we talked about some population concerns in the eastern Panhandle and

north-central Texas and the Cross Timber areas where we'd like to afford more opportunity for landowners to implement some antlerless deer harvest.

So if you'll focus your attention there on the central part of the state, in the eastern Panhandle, we are proposing to go to a five-deer bag limit, up to five antlerless, throughout that central part of the state and into the Cross Timbers. Additionally, if you'll look in the eastern Trans-Pecos, there's three counties there. That's Pecos, Terrell, and Upton counties. We are proposing to go from a four-deer bag limit up to a five-deer bag limit in those counties as well.

We received 1,045 comments as of Monday for the bag limit change up there in the north central part of the state; 85 percent are agreeing with that. As far as Pecos, Terrell, and Upton counties go, we had 802 comments, 92 percent agreeing with our proposal.

And then, we segregated those counties up there in the eastern Panhandle because you may recall we had a short discussion about buck bag limits. We are not proposing to go to a two-buck bag limit. So we'll have a little different package than we've had in the past, where it will be no more than one buck and up to five deer total. So it's a little different package. So we segregated it out for scoping and 90 percent of the individuals that replied agree with our proposal.

Additionally, in addition to bag limits, we also used what sometimes we refer to as "Doe Days." Those are days during the season when an individual, a licensed hunter, can take an antlerless deer without the need for a deer permit or a doe permit.

You'll see most of the state, the central part of the state, is full season either sex. In other words, they can go out there any day during the general season and harvest an antlerless deer without a permit. As I toggle to our proposed changes, you'll note that we are proposing to extend the full season either sex all the way out through the rest of the Panhandle, a little bit into the eastern Cross Timbers.

Additionally, as far as "Doe Day" changes, if you'll focus your attention on the eastern part of the state, you'll note that we have some proposed changes there. In all cases, except one, we're proposing to increase the number of "Doe Days." In some cases, we're going from permit only to four "Doe Days," 16 to 30, et cetera. The one exception is Grayson County and I'll discuss that at the end of my presentation. We received 1,066 comments on the proposal to increase antlerless harvest opportunity in Texas, 92 percent agreeing with our proposed changes.

I do want to clarify this has already been depicted in the slides before you, but Dawson, Deaf Smith, and Martin counties they are highlighted in green actually currently have a closed deer season. So we are proposing to open a white-tailed deer season in those counties. We segregated that particular item on our web page and we received 703 comments, with 95 percent of the respondents agreeing with out proposal to open the season there. Just as a recap, that would be a one-buck, two-antlerless bag limit, full season either sex.

Additionally, I failed to point this out in November, but the result of all these changes the six counties up there in the northwest part of the state, Dallam, Hartley, Moore, Oldham, Potter, and Sherman counties, currently have a 16-day white-tailed deer season. It's the only six counties in the state of Texas like that. That overlaps the current mule deer season up there. And so, our proposal, just to clarify and make clear, would propose to go to the full, general season in these six counties. That would be a one-buck, two-antlerless, and a full season either-sex bag.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That would coincide with mule deer season?

MR. WOLF: No, sir, that would not coincide. Right now, the current season coincides with the mule deer season, but it's only 16 days. It would coincide with the deer seasons in the rest of Texas, the white-tailed deer seasons.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So the mule deer season would remain at 16 days?

MR. WOLF: That is correct.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Could you get, do you have a comment slide on that?

MR. WOLF: On that particular one, no, sir, we do not, right now. We do intend to segregate that out when we go for comments through the public hearing process, as we choose to go forward, if we choose to go forward with that proposal.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: The biggest problem with that particular six-county area is species identification during mule deer season obviously, the unnecessary harvest of both.

MR. WOLF: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: I know several people, especially along the Canadian River, that think that this may not be a very good idea with regard to the mule deer population.

MR. WOLF: Okay. We will make sure that we segregate those six counties out specifically as we receive comments on it, as to see what folks are thinking.


MR. WOLF: The slide before you shows the late antlerless and spike seasons in Texas. Right now, we have late antlerless and spike seasons in South Texas and Edwards Plateau. We have a late muzzleloader season in the Trans-Pecos and the Piney Woods.

One thing that is different about the beginning of these seasons is their start dates. For the late antlerless and spike seasons, they begin the Monday following the close of the general season. However, the muzzleloader season, there's a five-day break, those five weekdays, and then it begins on the Saturday following the close of the general season. And so, we're going to present to you a proposal to hopefully clarify, or make those consistent, so there's not any confusion.

Additionally, just as I indicated, there's a need for additional antlerless harvest opportunities through the central part of the state. So as we progress to the next slide, you will see that we would propose to extend the antlerless and spike muzzleloader seasons up in the central part of the state, Cross Timbers area, basically stopping there at about the Interstate 35 corridor. Additionally, that also would include those three counties in the eastern Trans-Pecos: Pecos, Terrell, and Upton counties.

I'll go back again, if you'll look and just see, for muzzleloader season, the proposed changes are in the eastern part of the state. We're proposing to go up through the northern Piney Woods and also the Oak Prairie, southern Post Oak Savannah region of Texas with a muzzleloader season. In order to maybe cut down some confusion, we would propose that for all of these late seasons that they begin the Monday following the close of the general season and run for 14 consecutive days.

We are proposing a little different standard for bag limits because we do want to focus on antlerless harvest in the central part of the state. We're proposing no change, that the bag limit in that late season would be antlerless and spike only, with a take by up to a modern firearm. However, on the muzzleloader, we are proposing to expand this muzzleloader season into counties that are antlerless by permit only.

And so, what we propose is that the bag limit basically be the same as the general season. In other words, if it's antlerless by permit only during November and December, you would need a permit during the muzzleloader season; and if there are antler restrictions in those counties, they would also apply during the muzzleloader season. So, in essence, it's a 14-day extension of the hunting season restricted to muzzleloaders. As far as scoping comments on this, we received 1,199 comments, 89 percent agreeing with the expansion of the late antlerless and spike season and 81 percent agreeing with the expansion of the muzzleloader season as well as the change in the bag limit.

Our antlerless harvest regulations on Forest Service lands can be quite confusing. So we're just proposing a little bit of housekeeping and some consolidation. That would also include Army Corps of Engineers and river authority lands. We are proposing that the standard be antlerless by permit only unless otherwise specified.

We would like to specify two exceptions. One of those would be for Fannin County, where no antlerless permit would be required. We've got some other control mechanisms in place that the Forest Service or our Public Hunting Program could control antlerless harvest. Another exception for Wise and Montague counties, where we would propose to basically have doe days during the Thanksgiving break on Forest Service land.

Last year, we opened yes, sir?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Before you go to mule deer, on the proposal for Baylor through Wilbarger counties where you would increase the buck limit from one to two, that's without any antler restrictions.

MR. WOLF: That is correct.


MR. WOLF: That is correct.


MR. WOLF: The antler restrictions basically would pick up just east of there, Stephens County and east.


MR. WOLF: This Commission adopted rule changes last year to open a mule deer season in several counties. Somewhere, late in the process, we had a request to consider Parmer County, but it was a little late in the process to thoroughly investigate this. And so, we promised that we would wait until this year. Staff, just within the last two weeks, concluded our mule deer surveys, in our aerial mule deer surveys and ground surveys, in Parmer County, and there is a limited population of mule deer in Parmer County that could be hunted with buck-only harvest regulations.

And so, we are proposing a nine-day mule deer season in Parmer County just like all the counties to the south. It would be a one-buck bag limit and antlerless by permit only. Obviously, in these areas of very low population, the likelihood of issuing antlerless permits is pretty low, unless it's warranted by some site-specific data.

Ever since October of 2007, the White-Tailed Deer Advisory Committee has been wrestling with numerous issues related to the waste of game, statutes, definitions for quartering, other definitions and tagging requirements, and spent at least a year wrestling with these issues trying to develop a set of recommendations with some fair balance for understanding as well as enforcement. It's my understanding that many of these may be addressed in statute this session and there may be some legislation introduced to address most of these.

However, I was made aware that this Commission does have the authority to address the issues relating to tagging requirements. That is because the Commission there are tagging requirements in statute, but the Commission is also given the authority to exempt or modify tagging requirements. And so, it's under that authority that we're bringing this proposal to you.

Currently, carcass-tagging requirements cease when a carcass is at a final destination, and is processed for cooking or storage, and is beyond quarters, and this is in statute. The issue that was brought forth was the terminology "and beyond quarters." Basically, we do understand that some people will harvest a deer, take it down to quarters, and then may wrap up those whole quarters, and put them in the freezer for storage purposes. Technically, tagging requirements don't cease at that point if they haven't gone beyond quarters.

And so, there may be some situations where technically folks would be illegal and members of the White-Tailed Deer Advisory Committee were looking for an alternative to deal with this. In the end, after quite a bit of deliberation, the committee agreed on a proposal that carcass-tagging requirements would cease when a carcass is at a final destination, and is processed for cooking or storage, and at least one quarter has been removed. So, basically, all we're doing is taking that time frame, and once a person starts processing a deer at a final destination, that's when they would propose, or we would propose, that tagging requirements cease. So it's as opposed to requiring that the carcass go beyond quarters for tagging requirements to cease.

Final destinations, just to clarify, final destinations might be your residence is one of those, a cold storage processing facility, a family-owned

non-commercial cold storage processing facility. So folks still couldn't do this in the field. You know, tagging requirements would still apply in the field. You have to get to these final destinations before this particular amendment would kick in.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: At least one quarter has been removed, I'm trying to visualize that. What do you mean exactly?

MR. WOLF: That means the deer basically you'd have the deer skinned.


MR. WOLF: And then, if you took off either one of the hind quarters, or either one of the shoulders, and began to wrap it up and put it in storage, then at that point, in the way I have looked at the draft language, it would require that the animal would be fully skinned and then it would require that you completely sever one of those carcasses. Basically, it's just the beginning of the process for an individual that processes their own carcass. They skin it and then they start taking it apart. And so, what we're talking about is once you start taking that animal apart for cooking or storage purposes, then tagging requirements would cease for the carcass.

There are still some requirements, for instance, for taxidermists for antlers. This would, in no way, undermine the requirements that taxidermists have to maintain some documentation for antlers that they might have in their possession.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So if it's dressed, skinned, quartered, or one quarter is removed, and then you move it to another final destination you have a final destination and then the meat is transported somewhere else, to your home

MR. WOLF: Technically, yes


MR. WOLF: tagging requirements would cease. The reality is that there is a this already occurs to some degree, in that you can take a deer home, and you can take it down even beyond quarters. Maybe you put the backstrap in the freezer, you take the shoulders and cut it up into sausage meat, and then at some point later, you decide that you're going to take that sausage meat and go to the processor with it, we always, what we recommend and what's in the Outdoor Annual, is we always recommend that folks hang onto their documentation.


MR. WOLF: That just makes things go much smoother for law enforcement. That's written in the Outdoor Annual. Technically, someone could, and people do, go down the road with venison in a cooler without any documentation. I mean, they could do that without any documentation or tagging once they've been at a final destination.


MR. WOLF: The slide before you depicts, in red, the four days this year that were the youth-only deer season days for the 2008-2009 season. Back in November, we brought before you the idea of basically closing the gap between our youth season and our general season so that once youth season began, it continued to the general season, and then continued after the general season until, for instance this year, the 17th and 18th of January.

After I presented that idea, there were numerous other ideas talked about, including every weekend in October, every Friday, Saturday, Sunday in October. Ultimately, we were asked to go out and investigate the idea of having a youth-only deer season for the full month of October or, in essence, would overlay the current archery-only deer season. It wasn't very long after we left here and went back to our headquarters, we started receiving some comments. I think many of you probably received numerous emails, comments, petitions, much of it from the bow hunting community, but not exclusively. We have received petitions and comments from other people opposing this idea.

We had a meeting with Lone Star Bowhunters Association here at headquarters and it included Executive Director Carter Smith, and Scott Boruff, and some of our staff in the Wildlife Division including Clay and myself and others to sit down and see if we could get a better understanding of their concerns and where they were coming from. We had a very productive meeting. We sat down and the first thing I want to say is Lone Star Bowhunters Association is not against youth hunting or recruiting other people into youth hunting. In fact, I'd say that almost every written comment we got, there was this caveat that we are not against youth hunting. And so, everyone made that very clear.

What Lone Star Bowhunters indicated to us and we know this from our data you know, bow hunting is a growing sport. It's one of the few segments of hunting that is growing. Over the last 10 to 15 years, our data would tell us that we've gone anywhere from 70,000 to 100,000 bow hunters in Texas. So it is popular. It is growing. LSBA would like to maintain that growth in bow hunting.

One of the rationales that they presented to us is, you know, as Texas becomes more fragmented and there are more places where it might not be appropriate to use a firearm maybe the landowner doesn't want to use it or there's some current municipality is regulating the use of firearms, but not bow and arrows they would like to make sure that in Texas we have a capacity to still be able to hunt those lands, and deer hunt, have people out there hunt with bow and arrow, and also control deer numbers.

Additionally, what they indicated and this resonates with me is that that archery only season at the very beginning of the season is a recruitment tool for recruiting folks into bow hunting. I know it's one of the reasons that I decided to get into bow hunting myself. It was a chance to get out there and get a jump start. The woods are quiet, not as much gunfire. And so, what they saw, they saw that potentially a youth-only deer season over the entire month of October might somehow have a negative impact on one of those incentives to get folks into bow hunting.

Now, it's pretty obvious and they stated this that bow hunters bow hunt for a lot of other reasons. I won't go into detail, but, ultimately, they did a very good job of articulating to us the importance of bow hunting to Texas and the importance of trying to maintain some of those unique aspects of bow hunting so that they could continue to recruit new hunters into bow hunting.

So as far as our web scoping page goes, we did scope this idea and we received 1,625 comments on the idea of a youth season during the entire month of October, as well as running through January. We received 1,625 comments, 54 percent disagreeing with that. Also, LSBA officials directed me to their website the other day, and I went in there and looked, and they have a petition online that shows that there are 561 individuals that had commented at that time, 87 percent disagreeing.

And so, the one other aspect that they brought forward and this makes sense with us is what are we hoping to achieve with the addition of extra days during the bow hunting season. I think it's pretty clear that we're trying to recruit more youth. There are surveys out there that now indicate that days of opportunity is really not the bottleneck for recruiting more youth hunters.

LSBA brought forward some recommendations that really hit the nail on the head in trying to address what the surveys are indicating are the bottlenecks. One of those is having a mentor to take someone hunting. Without that, it seems like that is a significant bottleneck. The other item is having a place to go, a place that's convenient, a place that's close, and, obviously, if you don't have access to private land, having as many opportunities to go on public land as possible.

So they presented these ideas to us, and we agree, and our staff has been working diligently through the years to try to think of things. You heard this morning when Ann Bright was giving the proposed changes and the rule changes, a fee for mentored hunts. This was a new program that we implemented this last year to try to look at other avenues to address the real bottlenecks. With that, I'll turn it over to Clay Brewer because Clay Brewer has a little bit of other information as far as Wildlife Division efforts in promoting youth hunting.

MR. BREWER: Clayton's right. In the Wildlife Division, we believe it's critical, the significance of youth to the future of hunting. We are committed to find ways to expand youth hunting opportunity. Carter mentioned earlier, the Muse WMA were looking for opportunities. Kevin Mote and his guys did a real good job in offering youth hunting there.

And so, last year alone, we expanded youth hunting opportunity by 2 percent, which didn't sound like a whole lot, but we continue to work towards that and increase statewide the overall youth hunting opportunity. I guess a more realistic figure, something that may help it stand out a little bit, in the last 10 years, the total number of youth hunting permits has increased by 67 percent. That's on WMAs, which has lead to an overall statewide, all state land, a 60 percent increase in youth hunting opportunity.

Another good example is the Texas Youth Hunting Program, which is a joint effort between the Texas Wildlife Association and the Texas Parks and Wildlife. This program has grown from 10 hunts and 131 youth participants in 1997 to 170 hunts, 989 participants in 2007. So, we in the Wildlife Division are extremely proud of our accomplishments, but we also must continue to search for creative ways to increase youth hunting opportunity on, and not just our WMAs our WMAs serve many purposes, research and demonstration areas and so we provide maximum hunting opportunity on that property, but we have to do better. We have to look for more opportunity and even look at private land. And so, we will continue to work towards that.

MR. WOLF: That being said, weighing the idea of trying to work with our allies in the bow hunting community, and not do anything that really works against their goals, and understanding that there are probably other more significant bottlenecks for recruiting youth hunters than the number of days, what we would recommend is our original recommendation that we brought back to you in November, basically just closing the gap. We did specifically visit with Lone Star Bowhunters Association with this idea to get their feedback and they fully support this proposal as it stands before you to add the 15 weekdays and one weekend to our youth-only deer seasons.

The other thing that was kind of an afterthought at the last Commission meeting was turkeys. We have a youth turkey season as well. And so, when we left here, we went back and visited with our game bird staff, visited with Vernon, and the feedback that we received is that we do have a turkey task force that involves our field staff and NGOs, and they're going through a strategic planning process right now that may likely result in some changes in turkey regulations within the year. In addition, our Upland Game Bird Advisory Council has not had a chance to comment on this. And so, they would recommend no changes to the turkey season right now, with the possibility that within the year we may be coming back with some proposed changes to turkey seasons in general. And then, they could address the youth season at that time.

Next to Grayson County, Grayson County is the only county in the entire state of Texas where the harvest of white-tailed deer is restricted to archery only. You'll recall, back in November, because of Mitch Lockwood's presentation on resource management units, we had also received a petition for a rulemaking to investigate a gun season, we brought forth the idea of looking at a gun season in Grayson County for the harvest of deer. I don't think it's any secret that that item also was met with a lot of opposition, most of you are familiar with.

We think we've got an alternative that we're going to recommend to you in a minute to address the concerns of all the folks that oppose this, but I did want to take just a moment to recap the scientific basis for our proposal because we definitely don't want to think that all of our decisions are made solely upon public opinion.

When we brought the proposal forward, basically, what we were investigating was could Grayson County have a gun season. The other idea we were looking at was looking at our populations of inference and statistical sampling. What we don't do in Texas, typically, is get our units down to such a small size that we don't have the staff to go in and collect data at that small scale. And so, that was the reason we were looking at combining Grayson County with the RMU to the west there.

The simple fact is that even when you have deer populations that are extremely low, habitats that are fragmented, a population that may be not that productive, not real good deer habitat, you can manage it with a gun season. The secret is having the appropriate bag limits, restricting the harvest by gun. Grayson County, right now, is able to do that by the weapon of choice, and that being archery only. So deer are taken at a much lower level in Grayson County than in adjacent areas because they're restricted to archery equipment, but you could do that with guns, and we have proposed the most restrictive bag limit in Texas.

I will say, as far as data goes, although we went on the record as saying, here and in Grayson County, that we don't have data in Grayson County at the scale we need to make a decision for Grayson County, that does not mean that we didn't have data when we came forward. We have data off of hundreds of animals in that part of the state. We know that they grow a little bit bigger than the deer down, say, in the Post Oak Savannah, but we did have a pretty good idea that if antler restrictions were accepted in this area that a significant number of young bucks would be protected. And so, that's just the scientific and biological basis for our proposal.

As far as scoping comments go on this idea, we received 977 comments off the web; 56 percent of those responding on the web disagreed with the idea of a gun season in Grayson County. We do know this is also a localized issue. If you look at, when someone signs up on the web and gives their comments, I will tell you that most of the support for gun season in Grayson County, those people registered as being from another area of the state, not Grayson County, and most of the opposition that we got, or a lot of the opposition, was from Grayson County. So it is a localized issue.

On January 8, the department felt it was important to have a scoping meeting in Grayson County since this was a localized issue. It was scheduled for January 8. I was not able to attend. So Executive Director Smith ran this meeting and I'm going to turn it over to him to give a summary of that meeting.

MR. SMITH: Yes. Thank you, Clayton. Just as an aside, we picked the time and date that also coincided with the Oklahoma-Florida game, which prompted one of our game wardens who was there to describe it as being cruel and unusual punishment that he had to be there.

So, a couple of things that I want to acknowledge. First, I want to thank Commissioner Parker and Commissioner Duggins for going to that meeting. I know that made a very, very positive impression on the community as a whole and the leadership in particular there.

Also, I want to thank Nathan Garner and his team David is here, and Kevin Schwausch and Mitch Lockwood, who helped set up that meeting. It went remarkably well. And so, I wanted to let you all know that. Also, Brock Benson, who I think is here today, from the Grayson County White-tail Association, helped facilitate a tour for us, a lot of the local habitat on the ground, so that we could get a good, firsthand sense of that and understand some of the hunting patterns and interests of the hunters there. So that was an enormously constructive part of it.

We had wonderful attendance, in spite of the game. It was standing room only. We had well over 230 people that attended that night. The county judge opened it up for us. We had Representative Phillips there. We had Toby Baker from the governor's office and we had Robin McCoy from Senator Estes' office. And so, we had good representation from all of the local representatives and senators that had an interest in it.

The meeting went for about three hours. Mitch did a great job of presenting some of the background information on it and to help lay out the groundwork there. We then took public comment, remarkably constructive in terms of the input that we got, very, very respectful. Overwhelmingly, everybody in attendance there, the vast, vast majority was opposed to the opening of a gun season.

The reasons that were given were, you know, the concerns about the quality of our data; there were concerns about the fragmentation of the habitat; a lot of expressions of support just for the unique heritage that the county has and that the bow hunters enjoy up there, and the concern that that was going to be altered by this proposal; a fair amount of discussion about a local perception that they really had a model for deer management that they felt like we ought to be thinking more about and see if it could be emulated in other parts of the state; but the bottom line is overwhelmingly the feedback we got was against changing this to gun season.

Now, one thing that I think was remarkably constructive was an offer by many of the people there to help us collect more data in that area. And so, we fully intend to take those folks up on that offer and to help us improve the quality of our data in the future. So, by and large, very, very productive. I think we learned a lot. I think we're going to have a lot of long-lasting relationships that will portend good things for our deer resource up there in the future. So that's kind of my summary report on that.

Commissioner Duggins or Commissioner Parker, did I miss anything in capturing the spirit of that?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I would say, you say we had 200 and

MR. SMITH: We had well over 230. It was standing room only.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Right, and I recall only three people, one was the petitioner, the other was, I think, Roger Long, who has written this letter, a retired game warden, and the third was a person who was actually had more of a libertarian position on it than that he was really adamant about it. And so, you only had three people who stood up and voiced any support for this. The county judge and, I think there were, what, two or three commissioners who were there

MR. SMITH: I think we had a full Commissioner's Court there.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: also were very firm in their opposition. It was an overwhelming show I think you would agree, John of opposition to changing what's going on there.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: It sure sounds like it.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: It was a clear message.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Given in a very nice way, I understand.

MR. WOLF: With that, I will go ahead, if you don't mind

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, we'll move on.

MR. WOLF: and discuss our options for Grayson County. I'll tell you. This has been a challenge for me. You know, as a bow hunter, if I hadn't worked for the department, if I didn't work for the department, and I was up there in Grayson County, I suspect I probably would be one of those people in that room, maybe not as brave as some of those souls, but I'd be pushing them there to the microphone to speak on my behalf to protect what's unique up there.

Unfortunately then, or fortunately, the job I have, having to put on that biologist's hat, and come with a not so popular message, what I am happy to report is that those folks have been very respectful. Even though they disagree, you know, and they had a difference of opinion, and maybe challenged some of our biological basis, we have been able to have productive conversations.

What we sat down, and staff sat down and thought about, was how we take all this upswell of attention, albeit its origin is in a negative response, and take that, and turn that into some positive momentum for deer management in Grayson County, because it is a highly fragmented part of the state. I'm sure most folks that hunt it, or our landowners, would wish that there wasn't as much development, but nonetheless we have some challenges for deer management there. Those challenges are going to increase in Texas.

With that being said, you know, our goal was to try to figure out if we could meet our scientific principles for data collection and also try to maintain that unique heritage and work with these folks that are our allies. You know, they're bow hunters and they're not our enemies. They're allies, and we're got all our hunters, and we've got to stick together. And so, we recognize that. We wanted to come up with a formula that would address all those goals.

Currently, in Grayson County, there's a one-buck, two-anterless bag limit, with four "Doe Days." As you know, it's archery only. In order to address the issue of collecting enough data at a county scale, what we would propose to do is coordinate, as Carter Smith said, coordinate a volunteer effort. This effort could be lead by our field staff going up there and using all this interest in deer management to help get sufficient data set for Grayson County alone, because the reality is that if we don't put the same regulations in Grayson County that we have in the RMU to the west, then it would be inappropriate to lump any data. It would be inappropriate to make any conclusions about Grayson County in addition to those.

So in order to measure the success of Grayson County through the future, and also to help facilitate better data collection and deer management, we think this is a prime opportunity to take all this interest, and get together, and work with all those volunteers, and Grayson County White-Tail Association, and everybody else up there, to collect the data we need, specifically harvest data we need, so that we can document the good things that are going on in Grayson County. We think that can be easily done because of the interest.

With that being said, our proposal is to stick with archery only regulations in Grayson County. We would also propose a two-buck bag limit with antler restrictions and anterless by permit only. Now, these are changes. These are changes that were discussed to some degree and all indications are that the folks in Grayson County and bow hunters would not oppose antler restrictions. To be honest with you, we weren't specifically scoping that particular issue.

And so, what we would suggest is if we propose the bag limit there before you, then we will have an opportunity to get comment on antler restrictions for Grayson County and to get comment on antlerless by permit only. If for some reason the Commission decides to go back to status quo, then they can just simply choose not to adopt that change, and that's within your latitude. So that gives this Commission the most flexibility.

And so, that's what we propose to go forward with. We think it's a good combination of working with all the conservationists and bow hunters in Grayson County. We think that they can help us get data that we all need to help better manage those unique populations.

Yes, sir?

COMMISSIONER PARKER: Is that a two-buck county now?

MR. WOLF: No, sir, it is one-buck right now.


COMMISSIONER HOLT: Your top line, one buck, two antlers.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: It's a one-buck RMU currently.

MR. WOLF: That RMU, it's all currently one-buck. We are proposing antler restrictions for all the counties to the east and west of that. So basically, it would be sandwiched among if this Commission chose to adopt our proposal in March, it would be sandwiched among gun season antler restrictions all around it.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: The Grayson County slide has some shading in there. Is that the RMU?

MR. WOLF: That slide right there depicts the, actually, there are four RMUs. There are two primary RMUs in that area. RMU 21 is on the north part of the county. That's adjacent to Lake Texoma. That's also the RMU that contains the Hagerman. That's where my understanding is I didn't go on the field tour but that's where most of the deer hunting and most of the limited deer habitat is in that RMU.


MR. WOLF: RMU 21 is our classic Blackland Prairie.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So there is currently support for the two-buck limit with antler restrictions?

MR. WOLF: All indications are there is support.


MR. WOLF: All indications. As I said, if we propose antler restrictions, and it turns out that there's something different, and this Commission chose antler restrictions not to be appropriate, we could fall back to the status quo, which would be a one-buck bag limit.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So would the permit refer to, would that be an MLDP permit?

MR. WOLF: That would be an MLDP.


COMMISSIONER HOLT: Are there many up there, in that county?

MR. WOLF: In that area of the state, I'm not sure.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: I wouldn't think so.

MR. SMITH: Very, very few.

MR. WOLF: My understanding

COMMISSIONER HOLT: It's too fragmented.

MR. WOLF: It's very fragmented, very limited habitat, very small tracts of land.


COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any other thoughts or questions?

MR. WOLF: Any other questions?

MR. SMITH: Well, I just have one caveat to this. I mean, there was some discussion among the Commission about if there was an isolated part of the county that had a very abundant deer herd, would we consider looking at a Managed Lands Deer Permit and allow rifle hunting on there to help harvest deer. We did get a lot of feedback on that issue at the scoping meeting, with folks overwhelmingly opposed to that concept. And so, we are not bringing forward that recommendation. I just want to be clear on that so everybody understands that.

So keep it bow hunting, go to the antler restrictions, yes, it would potentially increase the bag limit on bucks. We didn't talk much at the public hearing about a one-buck, two-buck deal. So our sense is that the groups would be supportive of it, but let us go back out and get that feedback in the next couple of months, and we'll bring you better data and more input. So I don't think that's going to cause a lot of consternation out there.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: The smaller tracts and fragmented land really don't lend themselves to that type of outtake, do they


COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: in conjunction with bow hunting particularly?

MR. SMITH: Correct.


MR. WOLF: And the slide before you basically reiterates what Carter Smith is saying, that we did have some questions and we're not proposing to move forward with any changes for MLDs particularly related to Grayson County or any other closed season right now in the state of Texas.

The only other item that I'm just putting in here is that I have been made aware that because of some rule changes on turkeys, there is a need for some nonsubstantive changes within the regulations. There's some inaccurate references to the wrong paragraphs that resulted from the last rule change. So there may be some little minor changes in paragraph references and these are nonsubstantive; but if someone did see them, we're just trying to get our books in order there.

With that, that concludes my presentation. We'll be happy to take any questions.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner Duggins?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Back to the proposals on youth hunts, as I understand it, you're proposing that we add five days on the front end to the current two-day hunt?

MR. WOLF: That is correct.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: What is your view of the reaction of the bow hunters to doing that? What I heard from people who contacted me was that they didn't want that; they felt like there was ample opportunity there; and also there was a low probability that the youth would be hunting during the week because it's a school week.

MR. WOLF: Right. I think that was part of the discussion last time as well, these week days are going to provide a limited opportunity. I guess our thought-process was that once it starts, in order for a child not to accidentally get out there, say, for instance, on Friday evening before deer season starts, if they get down to the lease ahead of time and want an opportunity to hunt before the general season, that they would be afforded that.

We did specifically ask Lone Star Bowhunters Association about this proposal and they said they could support this proposal, basically on some of the same principles. It's that really the opportunity out there is going to be very limited. It's not going to be significant. It stays off of the weekends. And so, at least that one organization said they would support this. Obviously, they don't necessarily represent all bow hunters and we would try to get input on this particular proposal from other bow hunters, but they did say they would support this.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But didn't they say they'd prefer not to have it? They'd give on it if it was an all or nothing type of proposition, but I understood that they would prefer to keep October for bow hunting with the exception of the one weekend.

MR. WOLF: I don't recall, to be honest with you. That's a possibility, but I'd have to check. My memory we could get back with them and find out.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: In terms of additional opportunity, if we don't, Monday through Thursday is gone, so we're really just talking about Friday as a potential hunting day for them. So is it really going to be measurable in terms of the opportunity increase versus five more days?

MR. WOLF: I suspect it's going to be very limited.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I mean, you already have the preceding weekend.

MR. WOLF: Right.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Ralph, what do you think?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, I just don't think the proposal would provide meaningful additional opportunity, and I really think the bow hunting community is a growing set of sportsmen, and we need to be mindful that this is the one time of year they can be out there and not worry about. They can be in camo. They can not worry about rifles. I would prefer we not add those weekdays that are up on that slide.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I would agree with that, with the understanding that we're adding January.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I'm not talking about January.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Right. There's a measurable significant opportunity increase in January for youth hunting.

MR. WOLF: And my guess would be that we're not going to have any opposition if we do that


MR. WOLF: if we just stick to the weekend, the last weekend there, of the bow season. I'm sure they would support that as well. As you indicate, that could well be their preference.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: I don't know that we're faced with a problem that we can't run away from. That is that we have grades 5 through 8, in the state of Texas, we have 1.354 million candidates to become hunters and fishermen in Texas, 1.354 million students. That's boys and girls.

You know, if we continue to not provide special opportunities for those children and the parents, and don't come to me and say, Oh, Daddy will just take him out there and shoot the deer for him. Don't give me that because for every one that will do that there are 975 that won't. You know, it just seems to me that we could do a better job of trying to offer more for that 1.354 million children in the state of Texas to hunt.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Yes, I couldn't agree more. Hopefully by adding January, we're adding two additional weekends.

MR. WOLF: It will be one additional weekend and ten weekdays.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Ten weekdays and a weekend, but I agree with John. We need to find other ways to recruit effectively.

COMMISSIONER MARTIN: What's the recruitment for the youth getting into archery? I mean, there's programs in place that would be opportunity for them.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: In the schools themselves.

MR. WOLF: There is an Archery in Schools program and I know LSBA presented that to us.

COMMISSIONER MARTIN: That's what I thought.

MR. WOLF: I don't know a lot of details.

COMMISSIONER MARTIN: So it wouldn't be like the youth would be taken out of the equation. It would just be a different opportunity

MR. WOLF: That is correct.

COMMISSIONER MARTIN: but then at the end, they would have the opportunity of coming in, you know, with rifles.

MR. WOLF: Yes. There is a significant national effort of this Archery in Schools program. I've seen some presentations. I don't recall all the data. It is successful though. Kids seem to be drawn to shooting bows and arrows. Of course, what the bow hunting community wants to capitalize on is that next step, getting them out into the woods, and getting them to use those skills. I think it is a good, logical step, but it takes someone to take them out there.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: It takes mentors, right.

MR. WOLF: They're not going to go on their own.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: I agree. I think the mentoring aspect is very important, but also, I was just looking at this calendar and thinking that, as we all know, Texas is very focused on football. Providing these extra dates in January, that wouldn't conflict with the middle school and high school football seasons. It could give them more of an opportunity than the October dates might actually provide. It's just a thought.

MR. WOLF: Just for clarification, do we have a recommendation on how we should go to the Texas Register? Do we want to not propose those five days in October? Is that your request?

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: That's my understanding at this point.



MR. WOLF: Do we have support for that?


MR. WOLF: Okay, but the additional January days?


MR. WOLF: I believe we're clear on that, yes. That's all we have. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Well done. Thank you very much. We appreciate all your efforts.


COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay. I will authorize staff to publish this item in the Texas Register for the required public comment period and, Mr. Chairman, we've completed our business.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, sir.

(Whereupon, at 11:35 a.m., the meeting was adjourned.)


MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, Regulations Committee
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: January 21, 2009

I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 156, 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.

(Transcriber) (Date)
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