Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Annual Public Hearing Meeting
August 24, 2011Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 24th day of August, 2011, there came to be heard matters under the regulatory authority of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission in the Commission Hearing Room of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex, to wit:
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION:
- Peter M. Holt, San Antonio, Texas, Chairman
- T. Dan Friedkin, Houston, Texas, Vice Chair
- Ralph H. Duggins, Fort Worth, Texas
- Antonio Falcon, MD, Rio Grande City, Texas
- Karen J. Hixon, San Antonio, Texas
- Dan Allen Hughes, Jr., Beeville, Texas
- Margaret Martin, Boerne, Texas
- S. Reed Morian, Houston, Texas
- Dick Scott, Wimberley, Texas
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT:
- Carter P. Smith, Executive Director, and other personnel of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
|Name/Organization, Address||Matter of, Interest|
|Courtney Jasik, Texas Brigades, P.O. Box 499, Mertzon, TX 76941, 325-656-3916||Texas Brigades|
|Helen Holdsworth, Texas Brigades, 2800 NE Loop 410 #105, San Antonio, TX 78218, 210-826-2904||Texas Brigades|
|Gabe Jennings, Texas Brigades, 100 Cornerstone Road, Fredonia, TX 76842, 325-429-6249||Texas Brigades, Wildlife|
|Meagan Hooker, Texas Youth Hunting Program, 160 Chambers Drive, Italy, TX 76651, 972-217-5278||Youth hunting|
|Abel Anguiano, TYHP, 901 West Marvin, Waxahachie, TX 75165, 972-938-0120||Youth hunting|
|Bill Bebee, TYHP, 10702 Bayridge Love, Austin, TX 78759, 512-422-2196||Youth hunting program|
|Steve Hall, Texas State Rifle Association, 314 E. Highland Mall Blvd., #300, Austin, TX 78752, 512-615-4200||Youth shooting sports/hunting|
|Fred Morse, Friends of Parrie Haynes Ranch, 640 Briggs Road, Killeen, TX 75649, 512-970-8720||Business plan model for Parrie Haynes Ranch|
|Bradley Ware, Parrie Haynes Park, 911 Gann Branch Road, Killeen, TX 76549, 254-634-6327||Plans for PHR|
|Gail Conway, DVM, Texas Equestrian Trailriders Assocation (TETRA), 1100 Hwy. 3381, Comanche, TX 76442, 325-356-3355||Parrie Haynes SP and equestrian access to state parks|
|Ona Trubee, Cove Trail Riders, 2746 Mtn View Road, Copperas Cove, TX 76522, 254-394-0330||Parrie Haynes Ranch|
|Darlena Cobb, Cove Trail Riders, 8808-2 Hwy. 439, Belton, TX 76513, 254-681-7701||Parrie Haynes Ranch|
|Ellen Ott, Texas Volkssport Association, 11906 Pepperidge Cove, San Antonio, TX 78213||Volkswalks in state parks|
|David Woodberry, 3301 Paintrock Drive, Killeen, TX 76549, 254-247-5723||Parrie Haynes Ranch|
|Eddie Adams, Parrie Haynes Ranch (CIS), 1608 E. Ranelier Avenue, Killeen, TX k76541, 254-336-1666||Parrie Haynes Ranch|
|Joseph Hosler, 1704 MLK Jr. Blvd., Lot 161, Killeen, TX 76543, 254-285-4534||PHR|
|Will Myers, Texas Wade Paddle & Pole, 2431 Wooldridge Drive, Austin, TX 78703, 512-565-2656||Protection of coastal waters|
|Ben Frishman, Texas Wade Paddle & Pole, 4403 Balcones Drive, Austin, TX 78731, 512-458-6658||Texas coast|
|Aldo Dyer, Texas Wade Paddle & Pole, P.O. Box 2771, Corpus Christi, TX 78403||Texas coast|
|Raymond Clark, Texas Airboat Association, P.O. Box 40113, Fort Worth, TX 76140, 817-298-7937||Airboats|
|Thomas A. Lile, Jr., Brazos River Adventures, 811 Percifield Tr., Alvarado, TX 76009||Airboat tour services|
|Stan Floyd, American Airboat Corp., 433 Lotcher Drive, Orange, TX 77632, 800-241-6390||Restriction of airboats|
|Katie Erwin, 1434 Morgan Lane, Ingleside, TX 78362, 361-758-4866||Shallow water boating on coastal waters|
|Dana Smith, Texas Airboat Association, 1434 Morgan Lane, Ingleside, TX 78362, 361-318-0596||Shallow water boating on coastal waters|
|Jeff Rost, Texas Airboat Association, 8724 FM 2145, LaGrange, TX 78945, 979-249-5935||Volunteer impact of private airboats in Texas|
|Chuck McKinney, 424 Pinehurst, Portland, TX 78374, 361-876-5654||Low impact fishing areas|
|Bonnie Basham, 10797 Wadesboro Road, Tallahassee, FL 32317||Airboat issues|
|Elizabeth Hair, Texas Airboat Association, 811 Percifield Trl., Alvarado, TX 76009, 804-283-7233||Benefits of airboat economics in Texas|
|Jo Nell Haas, Blanco State Park, 454 Orphan Lane, Blanco, TX 78606, 830-833-5695||Local park pass prices/fundraising in parks|
|Connie Barron, 319 2nd Street, Blanco, TX 78606, 512-750-6362||Ability to raise money to support parks/local charges|
|Marjorie Farabee, Burro Protection League, 9977 CR 302, Plantersville, TX 77363, 936-894-2867||Burro preservation|
|Bob Nunley, Nunley Bros, Sabinal, TX 78881, 830-591-4817||Deer depredation permit|
|Nicole Paquette, The Humane Society of the United States, P.O. Box 10885, Austin, TX 78766, 512-550-2150||Poaching efforts|
|Joe Turner, Houston Parks & Recreation Dept., 2999 S. Wayside, Houston, TX 77023, 832-395-7050||LHWP/grant program|
|Will Kirkpatrick, Texas Anglers, 21815 FM 705, Broaddus, TX 75929, 409-584-3177||Funding|
|Evelyn Merz, Lone Star Chapter-Sierra Club, 7095 Santa Fe Drive, Houston, TX k 77061, 713-644-8228||Various|
P R O C E E D I N G S
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Good afternoon. This meeting is called to order on August 24, 2011. Before proceeding with any business, I believe Mr. Smith has a statement to make. Mr. Smith.
MR. SMITH: I do, Mr. Chairman. Thank you.
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 the meeting.
I just want to welcome everybody to our annual public hearing. This is a special opportunity for us at Parks and Wildlife for partners and stakeholders and constituents really from around the state to come and speak to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission about anything that’s on your mind. So we’ve got an orderly process that we’re going to ask that everybody adhere to. We have a lot of folks that have signed up to speak. If you do want to address the commission, be sure and sign in outside, include your name. I think most of you have already done that.
When the chairman calls your name I would ask that you come forward. You’re going to have three minutes to address the commission so that we can make time for everybody this afternoon. I’m going to be keeping time. Green means go, yellow means start to wind it down and red means stop. So a very simple green light, red light system, everybody can do that.
Just also, because we’ve got a lot of folks in the room, I’d respectfully ask if you could either put your pagers and phones on silent or vibrate. If you’ve got a conversation to have, if you’d be so kind as just to step outside in the hallway outside of this room. Otherwise, welcome and appreciate you all coming from around the state to join us today. Mr. Chairman, thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, Mr. Smith. And I feel the same, welcome everybody and the commission is glad to see everybody. We do this once a year. The last few years we’ve been moving it around. Let me see, where were we last year?
MR. SMITH: San Antonio.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: I ought to remember that, I live in San Antonio. Now, that’s embarrassing. You all know you’re in trouble already. That’s right, we did San Antonio, Fort Worth, Houston, and so we’re back in Austin and glad to be here.
We will now hear from those who signed up to speak, as Mr. Smith said, regarding any issue related to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Again I’d like to remind you you have the three minutes and he is quick on that red button. But no, please, if you have something to say and you want to say it, we will give you the time, obviously not hours by any means, we have a lot of people who want to speak, but you are our constituents and we love you and this commission takes its job seriously, so we do want to hear from all of you.
What I will do will call out the first name and then I’ll call out a second name so you’ll know you’re on standby to be coming up. And I will probably do a terrible job on names. In fact, I’ve just borrowed my wife’s little half glasses so I can see, and I’ve already broken them I can tell. Courtney Jasik from Texas Brigades is first up, Helen Holdsworth on call.
Courtney, okay. Sorry. Hi, how are you? You can pull it closer to yourself and start talking.
MS. JASIK: Good. Hi. My name is Courtney Jasik. I’m a sophomore at Irion County High School. A few of the many things that I participate in are varsity cross country, varsity cheerleading, 4H, FFA, and of course, the Texas Brigades. All of these activities play a major role in my life and I wouldn’t be the person that I am today without them. For example, training for cross country gives me endurance and teaches me that I can do anything if I try and set my mind to it. Cheerleading gives me the ability to go out on the field and show my true colors. FFA gives me the leadership skills and speaking abilities that I can use all throughout my lifetime. And then there’s the Texas Brigades which has given me every single asset that I just named and then some.
As an assistant leader for the Texas Brigades, I received a scholarship which is not commonly given to someone my age. I’m a small town girl and live out on a ranch where we raise deer and practice intensive wildlife conservation techniques so that we can selectively bring in hunters every season. I grew up in a family where hunting and fishing are a passion, so I’ve always understood the process and cared about wildlife conservation and habitat management.
Through the Brigades I have obtained a much better understanding of wildlife and learned so many things that I had never heard of before, like the thing that quail do when they clean their feathers which is called preening, or the gland that deer have between their toes which is called the interdigital gland that secretes a liquid and leaves a scent marking. Not only do the Texas Brigades teach you about wildlife conservation and habitat management but they also teach you leadership and communication skills that you can use for any career path that you would like to take. As of right now I would like to go into the medical field. Obviously the medical field doesn’t have much to do with wildlife, but I can use the communication, leadership and media skills that I have gained for any career that I choose.
All in all, the Texas Brigades have offered me so much more than I could ever ask for. I’ve made lifelong friends, many memories, and most importantly, skills that I can use all throughout my life to enhance and give back to my community. None of this would be possible without Texas Parks and Wildlife’s support of the Texas Brigades. I know that many of the instructors are staff members of the Texas Parks and Wildlife. They voluntarily take time out of their busy lives to go to each camp and teach kids about wildlife and habitat management or whatever it is that they specialize in. I’m so grateful for those staff members, and I’m sure that I speak for all of the other kids when I say this. The Texas Brigades leadership programs would not be able to be put on without the help and involvement of Texas Parks and Wildlife. I would like to thank all of you again for your help and continued support. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Wonderful. Thank you very much. That was very well done, that was a good start. I would hate to follow that, that would be tough.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Helen Holdsworth, and Gabe Jennings up next.
MS. HOLDSWORTH: Good afternoon. My name is Helen Holdsworth and I’m the executive director of the Texas Brigades, a youth leadership development program which you just heard about. Each summer we provide an intense, hands-on educational program for over 130 high school age youth on private ranches across the state. We ask these youth to act as conservation ambassadors in their communities, spreading the word about the importance of wildlife and natural resource conservation, particularly on private lands. These youth traditionally conduct educational programs to well over 10,000 citizens, set up exhibits for 70,000 more, and have newspaper and magazine articles which reach over a half million people.
Texas Parks and Wildlife is one of the primary partners in Texas Brigades. Parks and Wildlife staff serve as instructors at all five Texas Brigades camps. They not only share their expertise with the participants but they also serve as role models and mentors to those youth with a passion for wildlife and the outdoors.
In addition, Texas Parks and Wildlife is a strong supporter of the Texas Brigades WILD program. WILD stands for Wildlife Intensive Leadership Development. And this is our graduate level program for those Brigade graduates who have the desire to learn how natural resource policy is developed and implemented in the State of Texas. Texas Parks and Wildlife generously provides WILD graduates two internships with the department to further their leadership and career development. In 2012 Texas Brigades will launch a new Brigades camp focusing on waterfowl. The camp will be held in the Trinity River Basin and Texas Parks and Wildlife staff are taking an active role in planning and coordinating the inaugural camp next summer.
And I’m here on behalf of the 150 volunteers involved with the Texas Brigades to offer our thanks to Texas Parks and Wildlife for being a part of the program which is translating conservation education into conservation action. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you and thank you for all that you do. How long have you been doing it?
MS. HOLDSWORTH: I’ve been involved since 1997. This is the 19th year we’ve done Brigade camps, 20th anniversary next year.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Wonderful. Congratulations. Thank you for all you do. Gabe Jennings up and Meagan Hooker standby.
MR. JENNINGS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and the Commissioners. My name is Gabe Jennings, I’m from Fredonia, Texas, in Mason County, and I’m here today to represent the Texas Brigades.
Eight years ago my brother attended the South Texas Bobwhite Brigade when the eye of Hurricane Claudette passed over the lodges. Ever since the graduating ceremony where my parents and I picked him up, I wanted to attend a Texas Brigade. Last summer I got my chance. I jumped at the opportunity to attend the South Texas Bobwhite Brigade and have not looked back since.
The first day of the Brigade I wasn’t sure how well I liked the topics outlined to study, but by the end of the camp I knew I loved it. At the Brigade we studied not only forage types and their impact on wildlife management, but also leadership and the political aspects of wildlife conservation. Many of the instructors were Texas Parks and Wildlife employees who truly cared about the cadets and represented the organization well. They, along with others, invest their time, talents and financial support into youth, such as me, to train leaders for the future in the wildlife and stewardship of the range.
I’m very grateful for programs like this that were not available when my father was my age. The camps teach stewardship to the youth that will manage the rangeland in the future. But as we all know, great camps such as the Texas Brigades would be impossible without the support systems behind the scenes. That’s where I thank the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and its personnel for not just supporting a camp but all of the cadets in the state.
After a year of giving presentations and spreading the word about conservation, I decided I hadn’t gotten enough. This summer I returned to the South Texas Bobwhite Brigade as an assistant covey leader to even further hone my leadership and communication skills. I also attended the North Texas Buckskin Brigade as a cadet to learn about deer. Other than the species of focus changing between the camps, they were extremely similar. The instructors all encouraged the cadets and supported us throughout the camp. I know I have undoubtedly matured and developed skills through the Brigades that may have otherwise been undeveloped.
Thank you again for supporting not only a camp but all of the cadets that attend the Brigade. A silver bullet or life quote from the Texas Brigades states: Anyone can count the seeds in an apple but no one can count the apples in a seed. In other words, the Brigades does know how many cadets go through the program each year but it will never truly be able to recognize how many positive influences it can really make. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, thank you very much. I couldn’t speak like that back then, still can’t speak like that.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Meagan Hooker up next, and Abel Anguiano. I think I’m saying that right and I apologize if I’m not.
MS. HOOKER: Hi. My name is Meagan Hooker. I’m 15 and from Italy, Texas. I’m representing the Texas Youth Hunting Program.
Now, then, please take your gear, your quiver and your bow and go out and hunt game for me. This is Genesis 27:3. The first time that I was exposed to the outdoors was on a family hunting trip when I was just two years old. I remember sitting with my dad in his tower blind at our deer lease. This began my hunting experiences and resulted in many fond memories of growing up around wildlife. Since that Fall day at the young age of two, I’ve been hooked. I now look forward to the times when I can be outdoors with all of God’s creatures around me.
My outdoor experiences have created a whole new world for me. This world was once a deer lease in the Hill Country but now it’s the Texas Youth Hunting Program. TYHP has not only given me the opportunity to still be a huntress and be outdoors with my family, but it has also taught me safety, ethics and conservation. After nearly four years of experience with the program, in March of this year I made the decision to become a huntmaster and take the class offered through the program. I knew that I someday wanted to be able to lead my own hunts and see the great outdoors have an effect on the lives of many youth.
Honestly, a year ago I would not have said the same thing. I was in this program for me, but I’ve learned that it’s not just about me. As I’ve matured this program has given me a whole new perspective. I know now that I have a love for the outdoors and I want to see the next generation of youth have that same love. Every child should have the same opportunities that I’ve had growing up. It’s had an impact on my life that is greater than I could ever explain and given me a more positive outlook on life. My hope is that the outdoors would have the same impact for other youth. Getting to where I am today with my outlook on life is all due to my family, God and my love for wildlife that I’ve gained through this program.
Throughout my amazing journey through life God has blessed me in many ways. He has taken me down a path that has not only led me to TYHP but I know it will lead me to other great things in the future. Although I’m blessed in many ways, it hasn’t always been easy to keep my head up as I’ve encountered bumps along the road. Along the way I’ve been diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy and Chiari malformation. This year alone I’ve undergone brain and heart surgery, all in the month of January.
Through these hard times, my family, my faith and my love for wildlife has been my motivation to keep going through everything. The bond that I’ve formed with my family through this program is part of what’s helped keep me strong while I’ve been sick. It’s something that I can look forward to being involved with when I’m healthy and helps me to look at the positive side of my situation. My faith that God is going to get me to the other side and take care of all my problems has been a blessing. I know that he has a greater plan for me, part of which I believe includes wildlife. Wildlife and TYHP have been an amazing way for me to remember all the blessings that God has given me. These two aspects of my life have been my source of strength and perseverance, all so that I could get back outdoors doing what I love.
Now I don’t dwell on the trials in life, I look at all that life has given me. Knowing that I’ll be able to help put on my first hunt as a huntmaster this year and have an impact on a child’s life is truly what keeps me going. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Wonderful. Congratulations. Are you healthier? Are you feeling okay?
MS. HOOKER: Yes, sir. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Good. You did great. Thank you.
Abel is up, and then Andrea Hooker.
MR. ANGUIANO: Hello. My name is Abel Anguiano and I’m a senior at Waxahachie High School, and I’m here representing the Texas Youth Hunting Program.
"The emotion that good hunters need to cultivate are love and service more than courage. The sentiments of a hunt then become translated into art." James Swan, The Defense of Hunting. Mr. Swan and I have both made this connection. Hunting is more to me than going to a random place and waiting for an animal to peak out for just long enough. Hunting to me is about absorption, absorbing nature, teamwork and all the memories that go along with a hunt. That’s what this program is about: kids getting outside and truly experiencing the majesty of the outdoors, breathing, seeing and feeling, breathing in the fresh air, seeing an experience of harvesting your first animal, and along with witnessing a weekend of fun and replenishment and the feeling of accomplishment.
I have a deep love for this program. I love nature and I would do anything to conserve and protect it. When I attend one of these hunts, I receive such a plethora of gifts back: the gift of fantastic food with every meal, the gift of possibly harvesting an animal along with helping manage the wildlife population, and the gift of an unforgettable weekend with a parent that neither of us will ever lose.
I love the memories I have personally have gotten to make with my father. Just me and him on a hunt, no TV or computer or cell phone, just us having a weekend together, free of my everyday stresses and routines. I love the fact that every single kid and chaperone on the hunt, whether they harvested or not, take away something more than just a fun weekend together but a lifelong memory with each other. I know this from the group fires that we usually have the last night of the hunt where everyone shares a special moment of the weekend. Every single one of them is satisfied.
I truly appreciate the experiences that I’ve made through the Texas Youth Hunting Program. I appreciate all the men and women that work so hard to make these hunts happen. Every time I leave a hunt, I walk away feeling refreshed like my natural reset button had been pressed. I feel thankful, accomplished, closer to nature and my dad and I feel blessed to be a part of such a fantastic organization. The memories that I have made through TYHP will be carried with me through my entire life. The truly artistic pictures and places that I hold in my head are uncountable. I love and appreciate TYHP. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you.
MS. HOOKER: Pass.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Pass? I don’t know what that means.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Bill Bebee, am I saying that correctly? Close, good. I go the Bill right, anyway. Okay, Bill is up, and Steve Hall up next.
MR. BEBEE: Good afternoon. I wasn’t planning on coming up here to speak, I actually came to listen to Meagan. I was with her on one of her hunts and then I was training when she took her huntmaster class and we’ve become very close friends with her and her family. I’ve been involved with the program a long time. I personally take about 50 kids out hunting a year, and if it wasn’t for Parks and Wildlife and TWA that put this wonderful program together, we wouldn’t be changing people’s lives like these four kids that have just spoken. The way I look at it, I was about 10 years old when I harvested my first deer and I get to relive this about 50 times a year through these kids. And I just wanted to tell you I really appreciate the program, it’s changing lives. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Well, thank you. And thank you because it takes volunteers like yourself be willing to do it.
MR. BEBEE: And I appreciate the pay raise.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: I’m going to have to think about that one. Let me see, I don’t know, who’s this guy? We’re going to let him come up here. Wait, wait. You’re going to talk about rifles? Where’s your bow?
MR. HALL: I’m still a bow hunter that won’t ever leave me.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: And Will Myers will be up next after Steve.
MR. HALL: Bill undersold himself. He’s one of or our pied pipers in Central Texas as a huntmaster and it’s a pleasure to work with him and Meagan and the others in Central Texas.
Mr. Chairman, members of the commission, my name is Steve Hall, formerly with the department, but now executive director of the Texas State Rifle Association. I’m here today to pledge our partnership and support for your programs. That’s kind of a no-brainer in my world, but truthfully the Texas State Rifle Association is one of those better kept secrets and has never stood up in front of you before, but I aim to change that because your mission is our mission, it’s to protect the rights of those that own, collect and use firearms, it’s to promote the shooting sports, and it’s also to support all the youth and the great women and veterans and the minority program outreach towards the shooting sports and it accomplishes so many of the strategies that are listed in the future of hunting and shooting sports that I’ve brought to you before.
This includes support of the programs that are in Nancy’s and Lydia’s shop and the people and great staff that you have, including Terry Erwin, Charlie Wilson, Burnie Kessner and Trey Hamlet. You’ve got some great people there, and including Linda Campbell, Jerry Warden and some of the partners and our friends there at the Texas Wildlife Association. Certainly great partnerships and we aim to support all of those efforts.
With the help of our TSRA Foundation and the Midway USA, we’ve embarked on a new Youth Shooting Sports Program. I’m hiring a Youth Shooting Sports coordinator, as we speak, and that person will directly work with staff at the department to achieve those strategies, and certainly there’s many of the directors at our association and myself all behind the effort. So you’ll see a lot more from us, you’ll see funding from us, you’ll see support, and certainly we want to work with you in any way we can to overcome some of the obstacles.
We also stay active on the legislative front. We had two huge successes this year. Many of you know Alice Tripp, our legislative director and worked with some of the Texas Parks and Wildlife legislative teams. Several bills that passed this year was the Range Protection Bill that’s going to help support those ranges that are doing things right, and the number two bill is the Parking Lot Bill and that’s to, again, support our rights to having firearms before and after work when we go hunting or to the shooting range so we can store them without the threat of being fired by our employer.
In these tough economic times we know that you’re doing everything you can to do things like improve range access. We want to come to the table to help you with those issues. We feel like range access is certainly finding safe places for people to shoot is certainly important, and certainly, as you all know, the federal excise taxes that come from the handgun owners as well as the hunters certainly support the conservation and hunter education programs of this department.
So everything that we can do to look toward the future, we’re going to help you with that, and I’m proud to be up in front of you in a little bit different role but know that I’ve taken your goals and your mission forward.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Great, Steve. Thanks. Good to see you too. Thank you.
Will Myers up, and Ben Frishman next.
MR. MYERS: Good afternoon, Chairman Holt and Commissioners. My name is Will Myers. I’ve been a Texas coastal angler for 40 years, a member of two Texas Parks and Wildlife Seagrass task forces, and I’m a current member of the Coastal Resources Advisory Committee. Today I’m speaking on behalf of the organization Texas Wade, Paddle & Pole, a voice for low impact coastal anglers, those who wade, paddle, pole, troll or drift fish.
Our Texas coastal inland waters, a two million acre public aquatic park, is basically void of management in regards to human behavior issues and methods of access. In the past there was enough space relative to this user population to allow open use strategy without resultant damages or conflicts, but Texas has grown dramatically and this growth will continue. Many users now use shallow-running, go-anywhere watercraft, essentially aquatic ORVs, which can cause the displacement of traditional low impact uses such as wade fishing, poling, paddling and drift fishing. Many spectacular fishing flats are resembling aquatic motocross tracts. This is not equitable enjoyment of the resource, this is having one’s fun at the expense of others.
It is the opinion of Wade, Paddle & Pole that the increased use of our bays in such a manner has reached a level in certain sensitive and popular areas that we can no longer turn a blind eye to the resulting habitat damages, disturbances to fish and wildlife, safety concerns, and the conflicts created among incompatible uses. Parks and Wildlife now needs to look for answers to some broad-reaching questions to plan for our more crowded future in bay waters such as: how do we balance resource access with resource protection; how will recreational carrying capacity be defined; how can the most users equitably enjoy this resource for the longest time? Put simply, how can we prevent unique coastal areas from being loved to death?
The answers will only be found by exploring and experimenting with management methods to provide the tools we need to ensure the future of these unique fishing areas. We should look for precedent in what other resource managers have accomplished when faced with similar issues. We should study these models and learn from their failures and successes. We should adapt these models to the needs of Texas and we should tune up these management methods as dictated by their field performance.
Wade, Paddle & Pole is hoping that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will provide the leadership in this process. Thanks for your time today.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Will, thank you. Any questions, comments?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you for taking the time.
Ben Frishman up, and Aldo Dyer next.
MR. FRISHMAN: Thank you, Chairman Holt and Commissioners. Thank you for having me. My name is Ben Frishman. I’m a lifetime hunting and fishing license owner and I have hunted and fished in Texas all my life. I care about it dearly. Today I’m here to speak on behalf of Texas Wade, Paddle & Pole as well. I’m an advisory board member of that organization.
I want to follow up on what Will Myers said before me concerning finding answers to the tough questions facing those who manage our coastal inland waters. As part of the discovery process, Texas Wade, Paddle & Pole co‑hosted a two-day workshop, along with the Coastal Bend Bays Foundation and the Harte Research Institute last January in Corpus Christi. Sponsors of that workshop were the Texas Nature Conservancy, Patagonia, CCA Texas and your own Texas Parks and Wildlife Coastal Fisheries Division. It was a great event. The workshop was titled "Challenges to Sharing and Conserving our Bays" and I personally participated in the event.
The workshop’s mission was to engage a cross section of coastal user groups in a meaningful dialogue to identify and offer possible solutions for the impact and conflict issues arising from a growing population of diverse users, as Will described to you a moment ago. The workshop was attended by some 100 participants. The first day we had plenary sessions with speakers discussing the population trends in Texas, Robin Riechers did that, Redfish Bay State Scientific Area, catch and release practices in saltwater, and legal issues related to the Texas bays ‑‑ the GLO did that, and then the decline of bird rookeries on the Texas Coast. The second day we had breakout groups tackling issues related to safety, habitat damage, fish and wildlife disturbance and user conflicts.
The main product of the workshop is a written report prepared by Dr. Larry McKinney of the Harte Research Institute, and I believe we distributed that to each of you at one point after the workshop. It includes recommendations from the participants, a list of best bay ethical practices, and a post workshop survey that provided responses from the participants to the plenary topics and the recommendations list that was the outcome.
Of course, there’s always those attending workshops and hearings who find it easier to tear down what others are trying to build. Often such demolition work done by an unreasonable minority gets the attention while the constructive work of the reasonable majority gets ignored. Certain users seemed threatened by dialogue such as this and some are just threatened by change in general. Their attitude appears to be a combination of denial and kill the messenger, the messenger being those who have raised their heads high enough to see the necessity of constructively planning for a more crowded future which is inevitable. The problems we face are clear. Over 80 percent of the workshop attendees completely agreed that user conflicts are a problem in the Texas bay waters. I’ll wrap up here. I appreciate your support, we need your support on these issues and I hope you will consider it. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Great. Thank you very much.
Aldo Dyer up, and Fred Morse on standby.
MR. DYER: Good afternoon, Chairman Holt, Commissioners. My name is Aldo Dyer. I’m here from Corpus Christi to speak as an advisory board member for Texas Wade, Paddle & Pole.
I’ve spent a considerable portion of my life duck hunting, fishing and exploring the flats and bays around Port Aransas on kayak, on foot and by boat. I know these areas intimately and consider them one of the finest shallow water fisheries in the country. It’s my great disappointment and heartbreak in watching these areas be degraded that brings me in front of you.
Will Myers used the term equitable enjoyment. I’d like to expand a moment on that important concept. It’s a long held legal principle that when a thing is held in common, all stakeholders are entitled to use and enjoy that resource fairly and reasonably though none are entitled to do so to the detriment of other stakeholders or to waste the resource. In the case of land and wildlife and other resources with future beneficiaries, we’re further obligated to be good stewards and deliver that resource in good condition to coming generations. Chapter 61 of the TP&W Code embodies this. Its stated purpose is, quote, "To ensure reasonable and equitable enjoyment of the privileges of ownership and pursuit of wildlife resources."
Currently our public bay waters are subject to a management system which I would label unlimited access where all methods of access, reasonable or not, are allowed to all areas. Many people mistake unlimited open access for equitable enjoyment. The negative short-term impact of a boat running or burning across a flat is unmistakable, especially when contrasted with traditional methods such as wading, drifting, paddling or poling. This type of irresponsible boating behavior is simply not compatible with the concepts of equitable enjoyment and good stewardship of a public resource. TP&W Code Section 65.72, a rule targeting such behavior addresses the issue directly, quote, "Harrying fish with vessels is considered an artificial method of concentration that deprives other anglers of the opportunity for equitable enjoyment of the resource."
The long-term impacts of unlimited open access and the destructive behavior it invites are undeniable. The prop scars visible on almost every shallow area speak for themselves. After repeated harassment, fish and birds simply stop frequenting an area, as any longtime observer will notice. The cumulative effects in time will cause irreversible harm. Sharing a public resource equitably requires that no user groups right to pursue recreation be allowed to create a nuisance that is detrimental to both the present experience of other users and the future health of the resource itself. In simpler and less populated times this has been worked out among the various users themselves.
Wade, Paddle & Pole believes that we have reached a tipping point in certain sensitive coastal waters which demands that Parks and Wildlife step in and ensure the continued equitable and sustainable use and enjoyment of our inland coastal waters for years and generations to come. Thank you for your time and consideration. And we’ve prepared some materials for your review.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. If you’ll just hand them out. Any questions?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, sir. Thank you for taking the time.
Fred Morse up, and Bradley Ware standby.
MR. MORSE: Hello. I’m Fred Morse. I’m president of Friends of Parrie Haynes Group that’s a volunteer group from Killeen, Texas, and there’s a lot of people here in support. Everybody here in support of Parrie Haynes, would you please stand? It will give you an idea of the interest that we have in this community.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: You’ve got a good group down.
MR. MORSE: And this is just a small sampling of what we have.
Friends of Parrie Haynes was formed several years ago with our vision was to enhance and complete the vision of Parrie Haynes for the children of Texas, the use of her ranch, and also to make the ranch sustainable. We’ve worked several years toward that and in the last two years we’ve made really tremendous progress, and I give a lot of credit to the superintendent there, Adam Jarrett. He was a wonder to work with. He’s moved on to more responsibility now but he really helped us move in the right direction with both of these.
Now, what I want to talk to you today about is we are in the midst of developing a new business plan for the way to run Parrie Haynes, a business model. Adam started it and we want to move forward with that. But first I want to give you a couple of examples of programs that can be ‑‑ been run, have been out at Parrie Haynes that can help fulfill the mission of the children of Texas and also along with making it sustainable. I handed you a couple of handouts that she’s handing out now.
One we just recently completed a program out there with an organization called TAPS, that’s Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. These are children that have lost an adult parent mainly in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is a bereavement program, it’s a national program that came out. They did four camps across the nation this year. The last one was at Parrie Haynes. Some of the comments they had there is out of all the institutions that they went to in different places, this was a five star compared to everything else that they got to be with. We as a group supported them by preparing and serving them meals, you had C5 out there doing a ropes course, and you had volunteers from USO out there. So the reason I give this as an example is it’s a wonderful program for these children but it was a program that took minimum staff from Texas Parks and Wildlife. That’s one of the keys, we know the constraints that we have now, so we have to look for different ways to do business. So that took very little.
As a result of that, USO came out and looked at it from Killeen, they have programs that they want to run for children of parents that are deployed and run stress camps for these kids on weekends occasionally to help them deal with their parent being overseas. And also they gave me a list of other organizations that would be willing to look at a place that has the facilities like this. The importance of this is they can come in with their own staff, we don’t have to staff this, and they bring money. The TAPS people said some of these other organizations are better funded. And USO wasn’t talking about having stuff free, they realize they have to pay for it. So from a revenue standpoint they can generate revenue, but also from the standpoint of the children, they can have a large service there. So that’s one program that was done. The other one was a KISD ‑‑ I see my time is running out ‑‑ it’s in a handout I gave, they run a lot of programs on projects.
So there’s a lot of things that can be done out there, but what we’re asking of you is, number one, allow our group and other interested groups to be a part of the planning process with Mr. Franklin, Rodney Franklin out there, to develop a program that will help run that ranch for the mission and also make it sustainable for the future. That’s one thing. The other, we’re kind of envious, we’d like to have Adam come back occasionally to help us with the business plan because he knows the area, knows the people and everything up there. So that’s wonderful.
The last thing, as most of you know, it’s been a ongoing battle with TYC and this, we encourage you to get the lawyers to final, get this thing finalized so that it can be turned over to Parks and Wildlife. It will save a lot of rent money and get it moved forward. So with that, that’s all I have, but we look at this as an opportunity that has been presented to us because of the cutbacks to do a different business plan to make this place sustainable and move forward. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: There’s been, I know, kind of ongoing issues, I assume there’s still ‑‑
MR. SMITH: There’s a lot going with Parrie Haynes right now, absolutely, and why don’t we follow up with Mr. Morse.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: I wrote a note.
MR. SMITH: I made a note of that, Brent, and I’ll do that.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, Mr. Morse.
Bradley Ware up, and Gail Conway.
MR. WARE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I’m just going to kind of wing this or whatever. We’ve got numerous groups here covering different parts of the good things that happens at Parrie Haynes. I believe most of you all have been up there at Parrie Haynes. I’m kind of in a unique situation, I’m here as a neighbor, I’m a member of the Friends group, but I live on my family farm, it’s been in the family since 1874, and it’s landlocked inside the Parrie Haynes Ranch. When you’re up at the hilltop facilities, my properties are just few hundred yards.
And so we’ve watched this thing. My folks were friends with Parrie and Alan Haynes, knew their concept and their thoughts and their theories and stuff like that, and of course, I’ve been brainwashed through the years of what their thinking was and stuff like that, so I felt like I know them. I remember Steve Hall before he was using that Grecian Formula.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Better watch it now. I think he’s head of one of these firearms groups now.
MR. WARE: I’m hoping he’s gone.
But my family has a best 30. We go back a long ways and we see a lot of history of Parrie Haynes and the last 15 years or so when Parks and Wildlife got it I remember Texas Youth Council and all. It’s been a wonderful thing for Parks and Wildlife to have got this piece of land, it’s as near as what Parrie Haynes wanted, she left it to orphans, if you read the deal, and of course we’ve spread that out to neglected and other children too. We’ve heard the children get up here earlier and give a heartfelt story, and that’s what Parrie Haynes was all about is youth. The last two years whenever Adam come up and had taken over and pushed strongly on the youth deal, it’s been a wonderful program.
We’ve got thoughts and ideas and we know we can make this work. If you’ll give us opportunity to deal with your executives, and just like getting it changed out of TYC over into Texas Parks and Wildlife is one of our life dreams, even the Ware family is 100 percent behind that. So anything that we can do to promote that along and push it, we want to be there for you. And so whether it’s with the legal deal or whether it’s with the kids up there or the different groups and stuff like that, we’re here to do that. So please give us a chance to deal with this and get this management plan onboard and we’ll all win in the end. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. We’re working on it. Thank you for taking the time.
Gail Conway, and next up Ona Trubee.
MR. CONWAY: I’m Gail Conway. I’m a charter member of TETRA, Texas Equestrian Trail Riders Association. We’ve be involved with Parrie Haynes for quite a while. One of the premier trail riding locations in Texas is at Parrie Haynes. TETRA volunteers have done a lot of work building trails, we have a very nice meeting area, a camp area with horse pens, something like 30 electric plugins, water, very excellent place for groups to meet. TETRA has used that facility through an agreement we arrived at. We get several days a year to use the park for some of our major trail rides. We have done a lot of work trying to get things going. We’re a pretty central location, we’re within 150 miles of a lot of people that trail ride, and especially with the economic situation with the horse market, recreational trail riding is probably the number one use for horses in the nation. Anything that allows people to use the horses is going to help tourism and tremendous economic impact.
We’re hoping that the Parks and Wildlife can work with some of the groups. You’re going to hear from some of the Copperas Cove Trail Riders in a little bit, try to work some way to keep the park open. With the budget cutbacks, I know there’s a problem with money collection with only a single employee there. Hopefully through either a computer-based program or secure lock boxes that can be sent to headquarters some way so that there could be at least an honor system cash collection basis there. I’ve been involved with another trail riding area close to my home and it’s strictly voluntary but we collect voluntary donations from a lot of people to help keep the place open. Horse people are very good about taking care of the place and we hope that we can arrive at some good situation there. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you.
Ona Trubee, and Darlena Cobb.
MS. TRUBEE: Good afternoon. I’m Ona Trubee. I’m the president of the Cove Trail Riders but I’m also representing some other organizations that have thousands of people, we also use Parrie Haynes.
Parrie Haynes Ranch is divided into two places. On the east side is the equestrian center. There’s approximately 20 electrical hookups, there’s some toilets and there’s primitive camping that is out there. Usually on any given weekend there’s at least 30 families that are spending the night out there, either primitively camping, just riding the trails during the day, what-have-you. We estimate at any time, especially working with Adam, we probably bring in about $25- to $30,000 from using the facilities out there. Without anybody to be out there and collect it, there is no way to get the money to you, to the Texas Parks.
There’s 25 miles, approximately, of horseback trails that are out there. As a club we maintain most of these trails. We’ve been through your certification programs to learn how to cut the trails properly, we’ve done all of that, and once a month we go out and trim the trails, remark them, cut the grass, do whatever we can to provide the maintenance. We estimate maybe about three hours a week, if you were to do it regularly, is really all that it takes, especially in a drought time like this.
Our main point is that we want to be able to keep it open. We need to keep the electricity turned on if we’re going to have campers out there. The electricity works the pumps for the water and the horses need water. Also we need to be able to pump out the restrooms, we need to be able to provide electricity out there. And the most important thing, like he was saying before, is we need to find a way to pay. I go out there right now and there’s no way to pay. I’d love to give you money, we all would love to give you money so we can keep this open.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: We need to be listening to this. You’re the first person, I’ve been here eight years, that said to me I want to give you money.
MS. TRUBEE: We’re trying to keep the facility open. We can be self-sufficient if we have a way just to give you all money, whether it’s to certify some of the volunteers to be out there to help out. Whatever we can do, we’d like to keep it open and there are volunteers here to keep Parrie Haynes open. Thank you, sir.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Wonderful. Thank you. You did write that down.
MS. TRUBEE: We have money.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: That gets anybody’s attention.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Ms. Trubee, maybe we should get you with Mr. Smith to see what might be done with your money because I think with the Parks and Wildlife Foundation there may be a way for you to get those.
MS. TRUBEE: The $25- to $30,000 that you bring in from the east side, the equestrian center, that would pay for the electricity for the whole area.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, I’m sure that somebody in Mr. Smith’s office will be in touch with you.
MR. SMITH: We’ll follow up.
MS. TRUBEE: Money.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: She’s getting our attention. Have you noticed that?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Darlena Cobb.
MS. COBB: Hi. I’m Darlena Cobb and I appreciate you listening to us today. I’m just here to back up what the others have said. We’re all willing to volunteer out there to help keep the trails clean.
We’ve been working really hard to tell people about Parrie Haynes. There’s several groups I’ve talked to at school that they want to bring their children out there, like the handicapped kids for trail rides. We’re willing to take the kids and let them use the horses we can trust on trail rides. We’ve talked to several Boy Scout groups. We’ve talked to some bikers that had no idea they could ride bikes out there. Right now they’re going to Dana Peak and there’s several going out there, and they’re very interested in going out there to ride with the bikes and use the trails, willing to donate, willing to use their time, volunteer time to help also. As a group we’re willing to use our finances that we bring in to use out there, and like they said, we just need a means to give that to the state.
I appreciate your time. It’s a good place to go, bring our grandkids, teach our kids about camping, surviving out there riding horses, and if everybody would talk about Parrie Haynes and let them know what Parrie Haynes is, where Parrie Haynes is, it’s a great place to be. And I appreciate your time. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Sure. Thank you.
Ellen Ott, and David Woodberry will be up next.
MS. OTT: My name is Ellen Ott and I represent the Texas Volkssport Association. We’re going to completely switch things here. And what we do is non-competitive, family-oriented walking, just for health and fitness. And we have several walks in the state parks, year-round events, so we’d like to thank the parks for hosting our walks and keeping track of the walk box for us and our directions.
We would like to have more walks on weekends in the parks but a lot of the parks aren’t willing to be flexible with their fee structure. We don’t mind paying $3 or $4, say, to go to a park, but a lot of the walkers will not pay that just to go to the park and walk for two hours and leave. You know, we’re not picnicking or using the other facilities. And is it better to have 150 to 200 people in the park paying a $3 or $4 fee or not going at all? And that’s one thing we’d like to do is to be able to work with some of the park directors for that avenue. And besides, if the Spurs aren’t going to play, we need to have something to do.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: You walk at night? Are you out there in the middle of the night?
MS. OTT: Well, they don’t always play at night either, at least the games I go to.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Ellen, thank you, and we pass all these on and get them out to our park directors and everything else, and maybe there is a way we can come up with something.
MS. OTT: Because there are several state parks around San Antonio that we’d like to go to again that we’ve been there in the past, but the directors have not been flexible. And they have walks in state parks all over the state.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. So we need to get more flexible.
MS. OTT: If you want us to come out.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, we do. That’s what the parks are for. Thank you, Ellen, thank you for taking the time.
David Woodberry up, and Eddie Adams after that.
MR. WOODBERRY: My name is David Woodberry. I’m the program director for the Greater Central Texas Communities in Schools. We’re the third largest Communities in Schools program in Texas and we’re located in the
Fort Hood/Copperas Cove/Temple/Belton area. We’re in seven school districts, we service between 6- to 7,000 students in schools, those are your at-risk students, and we always are looking for places to go to find an outlet for our children. They’re in the city and they have very few things to do and places to go, and so we try to find things outside of the schools and the neighborhoods.
A lot of them spend very little time doing physical activities, a lot of them spend very little time interacting with each other appropriately, so we try and find places, and I located Parrie Haynes on the site, because I like to Google around, and I found it there on the site and I said well, I’m going to go out and see where they are. I didn’t even know they had a campsite that close to us. So I went out there and saw the location and I said great.
I remember when I was a kid growing up in Los Angeles, California, there wasn’t a whole lot of wildlife for me to do, it was just city and activities and some things I could get into that maybe weren’t always appropriate. It wasn’t until my mom found this camping program that we could afford, and she sent me up north to this camp thing, it was funded by an organization, and it was probably the greatest thing that directed and turned my life around. I saw how all my friends had went another direction which wasn’t productive for them, and I had the opportunity to go to this camp where they taught me about animals and being out in the wildlife and trees. That’s what Parrie Haynes does for us.
We have so many kids that do not know, we go to school and we read about science and social studies and technology and animals and space and all that, but we never connect that with the real life. It’s wonderful to have a book, but when you don’t have something to hold onto and see, then it’s not so real. We took a group of kids ‑‑ I’m going to give you some photos of the children we took out there. We took them to Parrie Haynes and they had a wonderful trail riding event. It was great. They got to ride in some wagons with horses, they got to see the different types of horses, I even got an education on horses. I didn’t think they were different, I didn’t know there were smaller and bigger horses. But we got up there and they explained all that to me, and I said, Wow, that horse is awful big! And the kids were excited about that.
Well, that’s what that does and it changes their life. There’s no way that a program like that shouldn’t be available to them. Every child in that school district, in that neighborhood, in the areas that we deal with should be at that ranch. They should go through the same experience we did and experience that as often as they can. We want to change them, that’s how you do it, you take them into a different environment where they’re kind of like having to experience it like it’s all new. And that’s what I got. Every time I go out there it’s something new for me and I try to explore as much as I can.
We took those kids out, it was awful cold that night, and I appreciate that, it was cold and we stayed in tents and I asked the children, I said, You sure you don’t want to go back home because it’s awful cold tonight? But they said, No, we came out here to stay. They went out on a Friday night, they stayed there, and some of them had never been out camping, and we’re talking about kids from Fort Hood, kids from the surrounding area middle schools. They went out there, they were so excited about being out in the cold. I said, What are you going to do? They said, We’re just going to huddle up in our tents until morning and then we’ll do some activities and the sun will be out again. They were so excited about being out there, they did not want to go back home.
Well, that’s what those events and programs do for our kids. When they came back they were so excited and they just couldn’t think about anything except those horses and riding in the wagons and eating outside. We wanted to do more things like cook out, cook those biscuits, but we didn’t get to cook the biscuits. They were excited, they wanted to do that. We did branding and they learned all about that, they learned about cactus and you squeeze this little thing and it turns red on the cactus. I didn’t know that. And we learned that that’s used for war paint, they used that way back. Those are things you cannot get out of a book. Of course, it took a while to get it off their hands but it was okay. But those are the exciting things that we appreciate.
I’ve learned so much about wildlife and how that has a great impact on my life, and I try to expose the kids to that every chance I get. I appreciate everything you guys do to bring those things to us. Keep bringing it. When you bring it, we’ll send them out there. Have it available to us so we can get them to them. I’ve listened to the youth come up here talking. That’s what we want our kids to know, that’s how we want them to present themselves. How that happens is to expose them to those kind of events, and the more we do that, the better they become. And I appreciate your time.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Well, thank you for taking the time to come. Thank you. David, Eddie Adams up and Joseph ‑‑ oops ‑‑
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Can I make a comment?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Always. Commissioners, jump in, please.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Mr. Woodberry, thank you for your comments about the ranch. I just wanted to ask you are you familiar with our Texas Outdoor Family Program?
MR. WOODBERRY: No, I’m not.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: We’re limited because of the budget constraints the legislature placed on us, but it’s a wonderful program to get urban families outdoors, and I would encourage you to check that out on our website.
MR. WOODBERRY: Absolutely. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Eddie Adams.
MR. ADAMS: Hello. My name is Eddie Adams. I live in Killeen, Texas and I’m representing Parrie Haynes Ranch.
I was in school at the time and my Communities in Schools director, she came to me and asked a couple of my friends if we wanted to go to Parrie Haynes Ranch. I hadn’t been to a real live outdoor camp, so I accepted. We went up there, seen a lot. It was outdoors, I seen a lot of tents, so it was a new experience I wanted to see. So the first night was kind of cold, kind of fun the first night.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: It was cold?
MR. ADAMS: Yes, a little bit. So we went out there and it was fun. The next day we got to ride on horses. Usually when I ride with my mom, we go out of town, I see horses out there, they look real small, but when I went to see these horses, they were big. I could see their stomach, I looked up to their stomach, they were big horses.
MR. ADAMS: So we got to ride and that was a real fun experience. It was like riding on a roller coaster at Six Flags, it was real fun, bumpy. Those horses, when they walk it seems like they’re running when they walk. It was fun and fast. I got to learn about Buffalo Soldiers, I seen the tools that they used back then, how they made corn and what kind of beds they lived in. I got to eat out, like cook out with my friends. It was fun. My friends asked me when we got to go back, and I told them when I had an opportunity to go back that I would take the opportunity. We could have a lot more people there if we had like a lot more activities, making rugs, we got to brand ‑‑ that was a new experience for me, it was kind of fun too. My friends they liked it and they wanted to go back, it was fun, and if they have the opportunity to go back, they would.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Good, Eddie. Thank you. And you survived the first night. That’s great.
Joseph Hosler, and next up will be Raymond Clark.
MR. HOSLER: I’m Joseph Hosler and I volunteer for Communities in Schools with Mr. Woodberry. I’ve been doing it for seven years, and I help with the kids because I want to help them to make sure I don’t end up like the kids were back in the past like being all bad and not doing what they’re supposed to do. And right now kids don’t want to go outside, they just want to stay home, play games, computers and all that stuff, and when they went to the ranch they had a blast, like all the horse rides and all that stuff, how people lived back in the day, they did not know it all and they were real shocked. They didn’t know that they had to build their own houses and stuff like that, and you know, live in the cold and take a bath in a creek.
And the kids, they really wanted to go again and I hope that the new kids will have an opportunity to go there again and experience how to survive in the wild and learn all the stuff that they had in the past. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you. Thank you for helping out.
Raymond Clark up, and Thomas Lile standby.
MR. CLARK: Good afternoon, my name is Raymond Clark. Most people call me Rick. I’m with the Texas Airboat Association, and I would like to personally thank you for this meeting today that the Texas Parks and Wildlife is having so that we can all get together and try to learn from each other about some our thoughts and ideas, how we can work better together to help protect the wildlife, the fisheries and the waterways here in the Great State of Texas, from the coast all the way up to Oklahoma. I’m also a lifetime fishing license holder here in the state.
The airboaters here in the State of Texas, there’s been a lot of stuff going on here lately, a lot of things being said about airboats that are not really true, they’re fallacies. We help with grass planting, we help restore the sea marsh, as you’ll see in some of the handouts there. We’re willing to help out wherever can be. Also, an airboat is a self-contained vehicle. There are no props below the bottom of the boat to scar, it’s propelled by wind. I’ve heard stories about the fish being scared away by the airboats. I’ve personally been around airboats since before I had a driver’s license. I’ve filmed fish swimming beside the boat, seen them both riding and driving airboats. Also, I’ve heard how they scare the wildlife away. Been down the river and saw wildlife looking at you when you drive by. Any craft can scare or anybody can startle a wild animal.
You need to take a ride in an airboat both in the day and at dark to see what’s out there. If you haven’t walked in my shoes, you need to, and I’d love to walk in yours. I’ve floated from Whitney Dam all the way to Waco, fished and floated many of the rivers around over the years, and I personally purchased an airboat because I feel like it’s an environmentally sound craft. We have some game wardens out there that use them, and they’re very, very unique crafts. You can feed wildlife when you have flooding, you can get in there and help haul a lot of trash out of the river.
And we’re willing to work with everybody. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been on the river and we end up sitting there visiting for two or three hours with people that are coming down the river. They don’t know. What you need to do is you need to stop and talk to the airboaters, find out what they do, how they do it. We enjoy finding out different people’s viewpoints. I had a gentleman approach me one day at Tin Top. He said, I didn’t know you could direct the wind flow from behind those big airplane motors. Which we have both car motors and airplane motors, and we’re a self-contained vehicle. You put the gas in, it’s just like the automobile you came here today in, it goes through the motor, down through the exhaust pipe, out through the muffler and out the tailpipe. So it’s a really environmentally friendly craft.
Study about it, learn a little bit about it, talk to us about it, and if we can help you do anything on the river, we’re more than willing to help. We enjoy working with different groups and learning how we can help the environment. Thanks a lot for your time today, appreciate it.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you and appreciate you coming in. And communication, as you said, visiting and learning and putting yourself in other’s shoes, it always helps.
Tom Lile, and then Stan Floyd up next.
MR. LILE: My name is Tom Lile. I’m a native born Texan, lived here all my life. I do belong to the Texas Airboat Association for the simple fact that we’ve organized where we can teach one another more courteous manners in which to utilize the waterways here in Texas. At this point in time I’m operating a small tour service on the Brazos River in Somervell County, and I principally cater to the senior group that’s beyond that canoe and tubing years of floating down the river, and it seems to have a great deal of appeal there on the outskirts of three million people. We do some public relations for some corporations and visitors from other countries come over and they want to see the scenes of the river and we’ve utilized the airboats and taken them down. We work with the local canoe and tubing companies there that rent tubes and canoes. Sometimes we’re recovering lost patrons or lost equipment, but we do work with them.
We’ve participated in several cleanups, and in terms of cleanups, I’m not positive whether Texas Parks and Wildlife has the clout to negotiate with the solid waste folks, but if there was a manner in which we could get some type of negotiated pricing for our landfills, a lot of our volunteer programs are out collecting tires and garbage from our waterways that it’s awful expensive to go to the landfill with it and it’s a curtailment of the public effort there of trying to get the cleanup work done. If there’s any way of negotiating special pricing with our landfill folks for the public effort of cleanups, it would greatly assist. But we do work with our game warden.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Good. Appreciate it.
MR. LILE: Like I said, we’ve got good access right there in that part of the river for a large populous of folks, and needless to say, the Baby Boomers are out there. We appreciate everybody here today and appreciate your hearing our comments, and if we can be of any assistance, we’d appreciate it. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Great. Thank you very much.
Stan Floyd up, and then Katie Erwin on standby.
MR. FLOYD: Mr. Holt, Commissioners, I want to thank you all for the opportunity to speak today, and unlike a lot of the other folks that have spoken in front of me, I’m here to help you make some money. I am the president of American Airboat Corporation. We do build several millions of dollars of airboats every year. I have personally been airboating over 40 years, and I want you to think about all of the guide services on our coast, the revenue from the fishing license, from the hunting license, from the gasoline these machines burn, think about all of that revenue. Myself, I do employ over 25 people, 25 families. I have hundreds of vendors in the State of Texas that do supply me with everything I need to put this craft together.
I have talked to game wardens many times over the years at hunting/fishing shows, different programs I’ve worked with, and you know, they have made the statement numerous times that the licenses, they’re not having the hunters and fishermen they used to have. I want to ask you at this time to think cautiously before you put any type of restrictions on airboats. You would be slowing down a cash flow that the airboat industry generates.
I personally have spearheaded some cleanup programs in areas that no other type of vessel could get there. I sell and lease airboats to people that are working in restoration sites, replanting numerous types of grasses. So our industry does generate a lot of money for Parks and Wildlife and hopefully it can be used to help some of these other people that have spoke today.
I won’t go so far to say there’s probably some people out there that may misuse the craft, but we are having meetings and we’re going to be getting our organization together and be much more responsible, and I think this commission working with us will be beneficial for everybody involved. Thank you for this opportunity.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Sure. Thank you. Thank you for taking the time.
Katie Erwin up, and Dana Smith on standby.
MS. ERWIN: Good afternoon. My name is Katie Erwin and I live in Ingleside, Texas and I would like to comment today on the actions of a group of people known as Texas Wade, Paddle & Pole.
What’s more, earlier this year our local outdoor sports writer, David Sikes from the Corpus Christi Caller Times, published a poll. In this poll over 80 percent of our citizens who responded said they would not like to see the goals of this group achieved, specifically closing any public waters to motorized boat traffic. Eighty percent is a huge margin of opposition, and I would just like to ask each of you to consider this number very carefully when dealing with this group and any of its plans for the future. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you very much.
Dana Smith, Texas Airboat Association, and then Jeff Rost, I think I’m saying that right, R-O-S-T, up next.
MR. SMITH: Good afternoon. My name is Dana Smith. I’m a Region 4 representative for the Texas Airboat Association. I’m here to comment on some terms I heard used by members of a group known as Texas Wade, Paddle & Pole a year ago at this meeting. Terms such as nervous fish, population growth, overcrowding and user conflicts were used in an attempt to gain support to limit motorized boat traffic in shallow water areas along the coast in one form or another.
One such area is the Lighthouse Lakes area of Aransas Pass. The term nervous fish strikes me as a natural reaction of a fish when he is shadowed by low-flying pelicans, blue herons or an osprey that would love to make a meal out of the fish. Perhaps it’s a reaction to having more human contact in the form of wade fishermen or paddle craft stalking the fish on a daily basis now.
Overcrowding, when a geographic area experiences population growth, municipalities don’t segregate certain areas of town or freeways that can be used by certain user groups. How can the overcrowding in the area be measured? There currently isn’t a way to track how many paddle craft are being used on our bays, they’re not forced to register with the state. No information is tracked where these units are being geographically used either.
The mission of Wade, Paddle & Pole is to have their own private game preserves along the coastal waterways at any cost, and while I mentioned the word cost, I can’t help but wonder if Texas Parks and Wildlife can actually leave revenues on the table in this economic climate by not collecting registration fees on these vessels.
Wade, Paddle & Pole is also aided in its quest by someone many of you know personally, Mr. Larry McKinney. In January of this year, a meeting was held and a hundred people were handpicked by Wade, Paddle & Pole for a two-day roundtable meeting to discuss the issues this group has brought to light. The mission of the meeting was to gather thoughts and opinions of various user groups and form a basis of a report to be submitted to your department. On the second day of the meeting the group voted by a show of hands as to what should be contained in the report and also prioritized its concerns.
Everyone left the two-day meeting feeling like much was accomplished, however, days later attendees were contacted via email by Mr. McKinney who quickly pointed out that he had made a mistake, another vote must be necessary under a new format. Suddenly a Ph.D. with months to prepare a meeting agenda had made a mistake. Many of the attendees aren’t buying the mistake and the process has truly been tainted. The original vote simply did not go the way Wade, Paddle & Pole wanted it to. The final report does not actually reflect voting on the final day of the meeting. I implore each of you, please do not fall prey to the underhanded tactics that this group is using. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you very much.
MR. ROST: You got it right, Rost, but you’d be surprised how many times we can butcher four letters.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: You’re up next, and then Chuck McKinney on standby.
MR. ROST: The magazine that’s being handed out is paper-clipped to show a couple of articles on restoration projects that Texas Airboat Association has taken under their wing. But I digress for a second. Good afternoon, Chairman and board. We appreciate the ability to be able to speak here in public comment, and for Mr. Friedkin ‑‑ and I hope I’m not butchering that name ‑‑ I think congratulations is in order. And then I’ll digress a bit further ‑‑ and let’s see, there wasn’t any falling floor when that red light came on a while ago.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: No, we won’t pull any traps.
MR. ROST: Parrie Haynes was special to a couple of my nephews that had some outdoor experiences there a number of years ago, and they had done some outdoor stuff with Parrie Haynes and had done some survival type training. Shortly thereafter they were found in Colorado where a gentleman suggested that they could cover a particular distance very quickly which ended up through a lightning storm and a hailstorm. End of the story is that distance was not coverable in one day and back to the tent and the nephews ended up in an unexpected night out at about 15 degrees with no tent, no heater, but what they had in their backpacks from the Parrie Haynes experience taught them that they could very quickly make a shelter and a bow bed and stay warm ‑‑ and warm is a relative term ‑‑ but alive, and I’m very thankful for the fact that they had the experience at Parrie Haynes.
Back on my topic. Historically, airboats have been around for approximately 80 years. In the time frame the owners have always loved the outdoors and have realized that they have the ideal craft for shallow water without damaging the environment. Of course, with both the motor and the propeller out of the water, the craft is very capable of accomplishing its goals without any damage to the environment. Along these years almost all airboat owners have been very favorable to volunteering their craft in times of need. What type of craft do you see most after a hurricane strikes the coast of the U.S.?
I’d like to go over how much volunteer use and impact airboats have to this state’s environment and economy and I’ll bore you with a few numbers here, so bear with me. The airboat is the choice of folks working in shallow waters, shallow rivers and bays all over the world due to both its ability and its friendliness to the environment. Restoring America’s Estuaries has chosen the airboat as its vehicle of choice while replanting and restoring estuary bays, and that’s says a lot.
Texas hosts an annual crab trap cleanup hosted by TPW that relies on volunteers ‑‑ you’re aware of that, you’re the board. This year alone, in a quick survey, we’ve provided for 84 boat hours volunteered at a value of approximately $8,400, approximately 288 man hours in that cleanup were also involved. TAA has partnered with Coastal Bend Bays Foundation in providing them with airboats on their estuary reclamation project in Nueces Bay in Corpus Christi. In the course of three months we have volunteered over 64 boat hours and 384-plus man hours.
As noted by some other speakers, the Brazos River is the one of the rivers that involved an airboat in its cleanup recently. That boat was very instrumental in hauling off more than 250 tires alone. The airboats can maneuver in the shallow water and no water and carry a heavy payload which allowed us to be more than happy to help the kayakers picking up the tires and taking them to the shore for the kayakers. We expect more airboats to join in cleanups in the future.
Airboats are also very often volunteered for search and rescue or recovery missions. This year in a handful of search and rescue requests, we can document over 30 hours of airboat use and 64 man hours of use in search and recovery. There’s a very well-known group of airboaters on the Brazos River that would have been affected by House Bill 408 that Governor Perry thankfully vetoed for us. That group has been there for over 70 years. They’re often called out by local law enforcement and game wardens to assist in search and rescue missions. They also take out the local game wardens whenever requested to check out complaints and calls as needed, and this group has also replaced the poly which is the slick surface on the bottom of an airboat that provides a frictionless surface that does not damage the environment, has been replaced on one of the game warden’s boats at no charge to the state in our effort to help TPW.
I know of many folks that volunteer help on an as-needed basis wherever they are. I know more than a few that have given out water and food, and actually, because of whatever time constraints when other boaters come down the river cannot make it from point A to B in a timely manner and strap the boat on top of the airboat and haul it back to a launch point for them.
You can’t talk search and rescue without mentioning floods, and as I mentioned earlier, hurricane-induced floods. What other craft is out there that will show up, often bringing along barrels of their own fuel, manpower and a craft that is capable of being launched from a ramp, a road, a ditch a pasture and transition to water without having to worry about depth of water or obstacles under the water once you’ve entered the water. They do not destroy habitat in the process, as could other boats and motors. We provide feed to stranded animals, rescuing stranded individuals and getting and giving damage reports and checking on residences after an occurrence.
TAA is also actively working with LCRA to be of assistance up and down the Colorado River Basin where the need arises. We look forward to officially being able to work with the Brazos River Authority. We have volunteered our services to TCEQ in shallow water studies. TAA is also very interested in the education of boaters. TPW recently enacted boater education to become mandatory in the state and we applaud that effort. We are currently arranging for many of our members to become volunteer instructors across the complete State of Texas.
Bottom line, in the first six to seven months of 2011 alone we can document over 178 boat hours volunteered at a value of almost $18,000, we can document over 746 man hours volunteered, and at least $10 an hour, we would assume for man hour for a licensed captain and crew very much higher than that, not even taking into account fuel costs on an average of $35-plus per hour for us, boat/ trailer maintenance costs, food and lodging costs for all of our volunteers. I don’t know of any other group of sport persons that owns a specialized craft with the ability and environmentally friendliness that our craft provide and volunteer so many hours to the service of the state for the benefit of its citizens.
If airboaters are banned from more locations that are prime operating locations for their craft for recreation and sporting use, then they won’t be available for all the volunteer efforts we undertake for the state or for the environment. Think of the cost to the state to have to provide that many craft, insurance maintenance and man hours. In closing, we hope that TPW will help us to ensure that no type of vessel will be discriminated against in the State of Texas. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you very much.
Chuck McKinney up next, and Bonnie Basham standby.
MR. McKINNEY: Hello. My name is Chuck McKinney. I’m here to speak to the issues that were brought forth by Texas Wade, Paddle & Pole also. In starting, I’d like to make a comment on Mr. Myers’s statement a very vocal minority can be pushing things that the majority really don’t want. In the case of Wade, Paddle & Pole there’s very few members involved, five or six people that are pushing the agenda, maybe a couple hundred that have signed on to their ideas. There’s over 900,000 users of our Texas waters, there’s a small minority trying to take advantage of a very important asset in our shallow bays. One that was mentioned was the Lighthouse Lake Trails. That Lighthouse Lake area is a very sensitive area, it can be used safely. We heard in that Sharing our Bays Conference and the report that came forth out of that that the Redfish Bay scientific area has been very effective. They continued it without any changes, that is a good thing.
The low impact fishing areas that they’re speaking of, they’re trying to take public waters and use for private use. There’s very, very few people that are pushing this agenda and those people are pushing an agenda right next to their homes, they want a nice private use area, they don’t want boats in the area, they want specific devices. They’ll tell you that we’re not wanting to outlaw boats, you can push them, you can pole them, you can paddle them, but the truth is it takes several miles to get into some of these areas, and because of the need for getting back, yes, you can drift downwind, but most of them are pretty much like a box canyon, when you get in there you’ve got to figure out how to get out. And they’ll say, well, no, you can use your boat, and you can, but the truth is you can’t use them the way they say they’re going to use them.
If you’re familiar with South Texas, the wind blows pretty hard most of the time. Springtime if I’m drifting downwind, maybe a 20-mile-an-hour wind, I can go to two or three, maybe even four miles in an hour. Can you imagine trying to pole back four miles into a 25-mile-an-hour wind. Effectively what they’re asking you to do is ban the use of motorized vehicles in this area.
This uses and conflicts area, this workshop that was put forth, the name of it tells you what they were looking for. They’re looking for somebody to admit there’s a conflict. Obviously if they ask you if there’s a conflict you’re probably going to get some answers. Sure if somebody cuts you off or did something wrong out there in the water, they consider that a conflict. But there’s already laws that exist. Aldo mentioned that earlier, he mentioned several laws to you that exist on the books that regulate the uses of this area. They’re adequate.
As far as the environmental issues, I think they’re straw men. They mentioned sea grass, birds. Those weren’t mentioned last year, they probably weren’t mentioned the year before. They’re just uses that people can always reach out and grab that environmental thing and pull it out of the air and use that as an argument. The bottom line is this group is out for one selfish interest and that’s to get what they want and not have to deal with others.
The use and conflicts workshop, their plenary studies, the plenary people that came in and did their discussions, they asked questions on that at the end of the deal and we did a survey that followed that. The positive statements that they came forth and brought to you were out of their plenary speakers that they personally picked, brought in and then they asked questions on that so they could get the results they wanted. The things they were looking at in their breakout committees were voted down consistently in all four groups. Those groups were overloaded with individuals from Wade, Paddle & Pole, each one of them brought up the same exact issue with the same exact answers to these conflicts over and over again, and over and over again they were voted down.
What Dana brought up earlier is true. It was all voted down, it didn’t make the study and then they came back and added it. Dr. McKinney added that afterwards and I think it was an underhanded deal. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: And I appreciate it and certainly obviously your group has come in and made comments. I can assure you we will look at things open-mindedly.
MR. McKINNEY: Thank you very much. I really appreciate it.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: That’s our job and we will take the time and effort to do that, no matter whose agenda it is or isn’t. But I do appreciate everybody who has spoken on both sides of this. We do have two more speakers, it looks like, Bonnie Basham, and then I’ve got Elizabeth on standby.
MS. BASHAM: My name is Bonnie Basham and I’m one of your stakeholders and I flew here from Tallahassee, Florida to speak with you regarding generally airboat issues in general.
I am the lobbyist for the Florida Airboat Association, I’m also the editor of the Marsh Rider Magazine that you have been handed. We are the voice of Florida airboating and we are the voice of Texas airboating. It’s a magazine my husband started and when he passed away I kept it going. You’ll see that we’re very involved as airboaters in youth hunting programs, we’re very involved in wounded warrior hunts. The other folks who have spoken are absolutely correct, wherever you find airboaters in whatever state we’re more than willing to help. We’re a family and we like to involve people in our family events.
The other reason I’m here is because we were very concerned in Florida ‑‑ and what happens in Texas and what happens in Nebraska and Utah affects Florida and what happens in Florida affects you guys ‑‑ we were alarmed at Senate Bill 408, I won’t go through all the machinations of it, but we felt as though we were starting to develop a good relationship with all different kinds of user groups on the river and that bill came out of nowhere, that language came out of nowhere, and we were very glad that the governor vetoed it.
I’ve been a lobbyist for about 30 years, a little more than that, and one of the things I’ve learned is that you can’t legislate courtesy and you can’t legislate common sense. Ninety-nine percent of all boaters, no matter what kind of craft they use, are good people, they don’t want to harm anybody else, they care about that environment, it’s the environment we all play in, we want it pristine and we want to get along. And last year one of the folks at the Wade, Paddle & Pole meeting, one of your TPW folks commented that there’s plenty of area out there, you guys just need to know how to get along.
And as a person from Florida, I would say yes, we just need to do a little bit more of getting to know each other and kind of working our things out together. I’m not a person who thinks that rules and regulations and legislation is the way to solve problems. I don’t know that there’s as big a problem as people say there is, but we don’t think that rules and regulations are the way to go.
You’ve heard about the fact that the boats have nothing hanging out below to harm the seagrass. Stan Floyd has brought a perfectly beautiful Air Ranger search and rescue boat. It’s outside, parked with its companion Toyota pickup truck, and that was just happenstance.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Pretty good lobbyist.
MS. BASHAM: I just thought I’d throw that in. I wanted to work the crowd. We’ve been working with the Friends of the Brazos, we’ve developed a really neat relationship with them. They pick up the tires, we take them to the shore.
We want to get along. We don’t want to see discrimination against any type of user group or any type of vessel. There are some studies that are out of U.S. Fish and Wildlife, closed a very small portion of Florida Bay and the Everglades to anyone except pole and paddle. It is not the kind of study or regulation that you can take from a very small several hundred acres and expand to the whole Gulf Coast of Texas, it just doesn’t work.
There’s also a report out in the ’80s that said that airboats were quite noisy and that we did cause destruction and disturbance of birds. As the lobbyist for the Airboat Association, I can tell you that the Airboat Association went to the legislature, we said we want to regulate ourselves, we want to mandate flags on the tops of our airboats so that you can see us when we are in that tall sawgrass and we can see each other. And we, quite frankly, like flags for all types of vessels that are on the water because it is a way to see each other.
The other thing we said was we want to mandate mufflers to go on our boats, we want to quiet those boats down. We have a quiet airboat contest every year and it’s a really neat thing to see those guys out there trying to be quieter than this other guy over here. So we’re doing a lot to police ourselves. And I appreciate it and I appreciate being in your great state.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you for coming all the way over from Florida.
MS. BASHAM: Oh, yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you very much.
MS. HAIR: I guess you figured out I’m another TAA member. I know, I’ll try not to go over, I’ll speak really, really fast. Actually I’m kind of nervous because everybody has been running over.
The green piece of paper that’s included in your Marsh Rider Magazine there is the Airboaters Code of Ethics. Now, the majority of us airboaters do try to uphold our code of ethics, to us it’s very important. And actually on the airboat that people have been saying did the tire work with the Friends of the Brazos on the tire removal, that was actually me and my husband, Tom, and that was quite a wonderful deal and I want to share a little bit of that with you.
We had found out on Friday night about it and we had called Mr. Ed Lowe and he said, Well, we’re doing it Saturday morning. And it was like all right, we’ll just jump up and go, and we did, we just grabbed out airboat and we ran down to help, and this is a total spur of the moment thing. We threw the airboat in and we pulled up by the canoers and the kayakers and they’re looking at us like what are they doing here. And we said, If you’ll throw your tires in our boat, we’ll haul them down to the drop-off point. And they’re like oh, cool. A canoe can only hold three, maybe four tires at the most, and if they get a big truck tire, two if you’re lucky.
And so we’re going along from bank to bank as they’re pulling these tires out and they’re throwing them in our big boat and we can hold between 30 to 35 of the tires. We had them actually arguing among themselves over who got to ride in the airboat to go unload 30 to 35 tires. They all had a lot of fun doing it, we had a blast doing it and we did in three hours what it takes them a whole day to do on their annual cleanup. In three hours we hauled 250-something tires in three hours and did a beautiful section of the river, and we still had more tires to take out only they didn’t have any more time. And I think that when we have our larger crew of airboaters next year to come help us do it, we’re going to have a great time doing it, we’re going to get a lot more of that river cleaned up of them tires and other junk that’s in there, and it’s going to be a great time with canoers and kayakers and airboaters all working together cleaning that awesome river up.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Good.
MS. HAIR: That’s what we want to do, and Ed Lowe is looking forward to working with us next year so it’s going to be great. And that’s where I think all of us different boaters can work together.
Also, I wanted you to realize that we don’t make a lot of miles with our airboats, we average 2-1/2 miles to a gallon and we have 50-gallon tanks in airboats. When we say it’s expensive to have an airboat, we’re not kidding you. And the expense of having an airboat is a benefit to Texas because we pay a load of money out into items that we pay a lot of tax on, like fuel tax is a lot, so we help in your budget because we pay Texas a lot of money in taxes. So keep us in mind when budget time comes around, don’t let us go.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: I like that working together, that’s great. Thank you very much.
Jo Nell Haas up, and Connie Barron on standby.
MS. HAAS: Hi. My name is Jo Nell Haas and I’m representing the Citizens of Blanco State Park. First, thank you guys for not closing Blanco State Park. We appreciate that a lot.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: I’m from that area, you would have killed me.
MS. HAAS: Yes, I would have killed you.
I’ve been fortunate to work with TPWD the last few months and with our state employees in the Blanco State Park and it’s been great, learning a lot of ins and outs, some of them not so great, some of them are better than the others. And I know I don’t ask a whole lot ‑‑ right, Brent? ‑‑ but a couple of things that I would like to ask you to consider. One is in our community, the park is within the community very much, downtown, and I’m sure several other parks are pretty close to it.
Part of the problem is we’re not getting some of the local support financially, and a lot of people in our community cannot afford the large pass for their family, and at one time we had a local pass ‑‑ and I’m dating myself a little bit ‑‑ we had local passes to where you could buy just for your local parks that was a lot less, as well as the regular large pass for any park in the state. So I’m asking to consider something like that for our community. I think it would help. It would give us a leg to stand on to say what can we do, Blanco? Because our community wants that park, we have made it clear we want it, and we will do everything we can to keep it. But I think that’s an area that you could turn around and help us because we need to work together on this to keep that park going.
And the other thing is make it easier for fund raising. I have a sample of a fund raiser that we have done and we’re selling like crazy. I’m going to send one around for you to see, because you have to buy the others if you want them, but we can’t sell it in the park because it’s not from your vendor, we have to sell it within the community. And so I’m asking to look at other ways that we can make funds. Our community is ready, it’s stepping up, what can we do to make money, but our hands are tied in a lot of areas.
So I’m asking those two things to please just look at things to make it easier for the communities to step up and raise money and work for the parks and to keep them financially going. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Well, you did a wonderful job. Thank you.
Connie Barron, and next up after Connie is Marjorie Farabee.
MS. BARRON: Thank you, Commissioners. Thanks to all of you for all your time and effort protecting the stewardship for our wonderful natural resources in the state. I’m also from Blanco and have been involved also in the fund raising, so I will say much of what Ms. Haas has said in that since I’ve been involved in the park in the last two years we’ve raised the money to put into place and volunteers have built a bird blind and wildlife viewing area in order to attract members of Audubon Societies from around the state into our little park. We started Third Grade Day in the park to get kids out of classroom and into the park. This year we’re going to expand it to schools surrounding the area so we’ll be doing it hopefully for third graders throughout. And we’re now in the process of trying to begin a Stars in the Park program, an astronomy program to get visitors into our park. We’re equidistant from San Antonio and Austin, and some people in those two cities, as you know, haven’t seen stars beyond the first three or four that you can see at night in a very long time.
But we are running up against obstacles because of policies and procedures that are in place about fund raising and about money and about who can handle that money and who can touch it and who can be open late and who’s allowed to raise it. And we have a lot of ideas and things we want to do. I used to run a very large corporation and we have a saying that if we put a policy in place to protect against abuses by potentially 5 percent of your customers that inconvenience 95 percent of your well-meaning customers, it’s probably not a very good policy.
So I know there are reasons to do these things. I’ve been involved in public policy for a long time, there’s always a reason, but with tough financial times and communities and volunteers and citizens who want to help, it might be a nice time to reevaluate how much local discretion you can give to your park staff to make some decisions to modify those things and to look at them. So we would ask you to help us help you. We really do want to help a lot.
And speaking of rules, this is on a side note, just personally I’m an angler educator and a master naturalist and involved in lots of education for kids doing more and more. If you haven’t read Last Child in the Woods, please do. But I know that you’ll be promulgating rules for corporate sponsorship on parks, and yea, I know we need the money, I love corporations, I’m from the private sector, however, when I get those kids through that front gate into the park, I want them to be close to nature and not close to corporate logos and sponsorships. So please be as nard-nosed as you can be in saying we want your money but we want those kids to experience nature and to be really out where they need to be when they’re in our parks. Thank you very much for all you do.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Great. Thank you.
Marjorie Farabee up, and Bob Nunley on standby.
MS. FARABEE: How are you doing today? Long afternoon for you, I’m sure.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Welcome. No, that’s all right.
MS. FARABEE: Earlier this year I made a trip to Big Bend Ranch State Park and Big Bend National Park to investigate the ecosystems of these parks with Craig Downer, a well known wildlife ecologist. Our purpose was to investigate stories from locals who insisted that the shootings of burros had not halted after Burro Gate. After 71 burros were inhumanely gunned down in 2007, it was widely believed that the shootings had stopped. Unfortunately, we discovered since that at least 46 more of these remarkable animals have also been wasted.
Well, why do I use the word wasted? Several reasons. Firstly, promoting the burros positively is a win-win for the park’s image, the local economies and the burros. After meeting with several parks directors here in Austin, I made a decision then to find solutions that would benefit all involved. Since that time I’ve put together a team of professional people to research and develop the solutions we all need to move forward in a mutually beneficial manner. The dedication of these people who sincerely want to preserve, protect and promote burros in the Chihuahuan Biosphere has been truly inspiring.
We can find solutions that will put the park’s image in a positive light, preserve the historic and cultural heritage of the region, and will add to the economic well-being of the local businesses who benefit from the tourism dollars these widely loved animals generate. Most importantly, mutual cooperation allows our national heritage species to maintain its presence in the ecosystem that it has called home for centuries. It’s important to note that the heritage of Texas is equally enriched by the contribution of the wild burros.
The Wild Burro Protection League is a consortium of individuals, businesses and animal advocacy groups and scientists who have been working diligently on this issue. We sincerely hope that our most supportive partners will be Texas Parks and Wildlife Division and both the Big Bend parks. We are dedicated to working cooperatively while independently funding a community-wide effort as much as possible, however, we are also actively seeking state and local grants. We hope that Texas Parks and Wildlife will support our applications for this very reasonable effort to end the park’s present zero tolerance policy for burros. Clearly, the locals do not want them shot while they peacefully graze in their ancestral home.
With the help of the local support we have garnered and the additional financial support we have cultivated, our goal is to assist in the development of a strong community supported program. The Wild Burro Protection League envisions a partnership with the parks that puts emphasis on our common goals. We want to conserve the land and its diverse inhabitants, including the big horn sheep. We want to have the park work with us on studies to determine actual conflicts and find creative non-lethal ways to mitigate these conflicts. The Wild Burro Protection League will help with these efforts through grants and other funding.
We would like to put emphasis on studies at this time to determine fact from opinion. We have inquired and have discovered that the park has never done a single study on the burro. It is a startling oversight considering the importance of this animal’s presence to the fabric of this park as a longstanding resident and the burro’s standing as a beloved national heritage species. Moreover, it’s clear that without appropriate investigation that the animal causes damage is thus nothing more than opinion. Without scientific data to back Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s claims of damage, it is clear that Texas Parks and Wildlife Division’s zero tolerance policy towards burros needs to stop.
The Wild Burro Protection League is receiving ideas and pleas from around the world to find solutions. We are looking to our future partners at Texas Parks and Wildlife for a cooperative and mutually beneficial effort toward solutions. Local businesses from the towns surrounding the park are growing in awareness about what is happening to the animals that represent the future of their little towns. The burros are part of the tourist appeal and they are concerned at the thought of losing them. They would be listed as partners in our efforts to save the burros too, businesses such as Mi Tesoro, Jackassic Park, Emily’s Nice Bread Bakeries, Refresco, Front Street Books, Rachel’s Art Studio, Red Horse Nation, Johnson’s Feed, Kiowa Gallery, Ivy’s Emporium, The Apache Trading Post, Gallery on the Square, and so forth.
The Wild Burro Protection League is looking forward to working with our future partners at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as we cooperate in finding reasonable solutions that will benefit the many over the few, keeping land stewardship and community involvement foremost in our future efforts to save our national heritage species, the burro. Please do not continue to waste this naturally occurring resource with which the parks have been blessed. Cultivate the burro culture and develop strategies with us that will be a win for us all. Thank you so much for your time.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, Ms. Farabee, and I appreciate you’ve obviously put a lot of time and effort into this. As much time and effort as you’ve put in, I hope the one thing you’ve learned, we haven’t found a simple answer. So we’re willing to work with you and others, there’s no doubt about that, and we’ll continue to do that, for obvious reasons.
MS. FARABEE: Okay. Well, thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, thank you.
Bob Nunley up next, and Nicole Paquette.
MR. NUNLEY: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, thank you for giving us this opportunity. I’m here to discuss I believe it’s called a deer depredation permit, and I’d like to ask for a more equitable solution to that problem, more equitable to the neighbors.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Can you raise it up a little bit? My hearing isn’t very good.
MR. NUNLEY: I’m asking for a more equitable solution to the farmers’ deer problem, more equitable to the neighbors. As you know, right now South Texas is fairly dry and a green crop will draw in deer for many, many miles, and when you’ve built a program, managed your deer for many years, protected your younger animals, all that, and then to have your neighbor exterminate them, it’s very difficult to keep a business going that relies on hunting and it seems like our needs are not addressed when these permits are issued. I know that’s not one of your rules, it was forced on you, but still we would like some help.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Have you talked to local wildlife biologists?
MR. NUNLEY: They were the ones who notified us of the problem. They were pretty concerned because our local biologist is the same one that does our wildlife management programs, and we have this in various parts of the state, not just where we live.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Well, the drought has exaggerated it, obviously.
MR. NUNLEY: Exaggerated, yes, sir. That’s all.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. Thank you very much.
Yes, sir. We have a question.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Have you talked to your area representative and senator?
MR. NUNLEY: Not yet.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Because my recollection is the legislature passed a bill requiring the department to issue these permits.
MR. NUNLEY: Yes, sir, I understand that’s correct.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And there are a lot of issues associated with it, but it seems to me you and any others who share your view of this might want to pass those concerns along to your representatives and senators.
MR. NUNLEY: We intend to, yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Good. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Great. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: I think it might be valuable for this commission to get a report from staff on how many of these depredation permits have been issued, location, how many deer are being reported being harvested on depredation permits, and just get an update. I know this came up last year, we were all concerned about it when it came through the department. I think an update would serve the commission well.
MR. SMITH: Sure. We can absolutely do that, it would be a good time for that. So let us follow up on that in November.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay.
Nicole Paquette, and Joe Turner up next.
MS. PAQUETTE: Hi, good afternoon, Commissioners. My name is Nicole Paquette and I’m the Texas state director for the Humane Society of the United States. And I just want to first thank you for this opportunity to speak, and I’m representing our almost 500,000 members here in Texas.
I just wanted to take some time just to introduce you all to our work on our anti-poaching program, and I know the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife has been a leader in combating poaching here in Texas and we commend the Operation Game Thief which offers rewards for information leading to arrests. The HSUS has worked in collaboration with various other states and federal wildlife agencies to combat poaching, and one of the ways we have done this, just like Operation Game Thief, is to offer rewards of up to $2,500 for information leading to arrest and conviction of poachers. These rewards are in lieu of using state resources from the various states that we’ve worked with. Since the program’s inception in 2008, we’ve offered almost $350,000 in rewards.
The Humane Society of the U.S. has a long history of working closely with law enforcement and we had this in mind when we launched our anti-poaching program. Just to give you a couple more examples, in addition to rewards we’ve partnered for three years with the California Fish and Game and the Californians Turn In Poachers or CalTIP to fund the care of five rescued shelter dogs who have been trained to assist California Fish and Game wardens in cracking down on poachers. We’ve partnered with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to air radio advertisements, and we’ve also partnered with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to support their Friends at Crimes Unit. In addition, we’ve donated robotic decoys to various state wildlife agencies. In addition, we support legislative efforts to increase penalties for poaching and we also work on the various Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact in various states which obviously Texas is a member of.
But the real goal for us is to partner with wildlife and law enforcement agents and we would love to partner with you all and offer our assistance to you in any way we can, offering rewards or anything. So I’d love to meet with whoever wants to meet with me. And also just on that note, I know my time is almost up, I do want to echo some of the concerns that Ms. Farabee has also raised with the wild burros and hoping that we can come up with a humane solution to the burro problem. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Carter, you’re the man.
MR. SMITH: Yes, sir. I’ll follow up on it.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: I would love to have some help.
Joe Turner, you’re up, and Will Kirkpatrick on standby, and then Evelyn Merz.
MR. TURNER: Chairman, how are you today?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Good. Joe, how are you?
MR. TURNER: As you said, when you said about eight years, I think I’ve been coming here almost eight years.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, I was going to say. You and I have gotten gray together.
MR. TURNER: We’ve gotten here together.
I come to give you my annual Lake Houston Wilderness Park report very quickly. This is the beginning of year six for the park, of a 5,000-acre park that was transferred to us and the City of Houston. Currently we are completing a new entrance off 1485 which has been one of our goals, a new gatehouse, cabins, trails and utilities, and we have spent approximately $6 million at that park.
Our visitorship this past year was right at 40,000. We have doubled the amount of people coming in the last five years. We operated four camps this summer up there. We had 60 of our kids get to become Texas Parks and Wildlife Junior Anglers, we had 47 of them become Texas Parks and Wildlife Master Anglers. Paul Hendrix, our parks manager, we just completed in July a hunters education course, we have one this weekend at the park. I’d like to recognize Dan Jones, our regulatory wildlife biologist in Montgomery County, for all his assistance with the park, and of course, Justin Rhodes who we work with a lot.
We have scheduled October 22 and 23 ‑‑ they say flattery is the best you can do, so we have going on on October 22 and 23 we have the Family Wilderness Adventure Get Outdoor Program which is pretty closely copied to the Texas Family Outdoor Program. I will tell you on the way up today we were notified that Academy Sports and Outdoors Company just funded everything we need to run that program so we’re very happy with them, with all our tents, everything we needed, and we do appreciate that.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Congratulations.
MR. TURNER: One of the handouts I gave you, October 22 ‑‑ I want you to save that date ‑‑ 2012, we have the actual opening of the park, the new entrance into the park which really changes it.
As commissioners, one of your duties is to approve grants in the grants program that is run so effectively by Tim Hogsett. I have two notebooks you can look through that are going to pass around that will show you the impact of those grants, particularly for the Houston Parks and Recreation Department over the past five years. Those ten grants you see in there represent $5.2 million in grants to us as a department, and they total projects worth $15.4 million is what those projects are worth. The last grant we received was the Sam Houston Park grant last August here. That’s our oldest city park which was 1899. I’m sad to say that with the cuts Texas Parks and Wildlife received during the last legislative session, we will not have an opportunity for an urban indoor grant on Moody Park in early 2012. This park was acquired in 1925 and is a great asset to our urban community.
Now, tomorrow you will be reviewing urban outdoor grants and Houston has one for Emancipation Park. You have a flyer for it too. This park has an amazing history. These ten acres were purchased in 1872 by four freed African-American slaves, and that ten acres has been sitting there since 1872, it was purchased for $1,000. In 1916 it became a city park and we’re in the midst of a program to redo it. I’m thanking you in advance of your approval of our grant that you will review tomorrow.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: You’re sure of yourself.
MR. TURNER: No, I’m just thanking. As always, thanks to Scott and Carter and Brent for their assistance. They’re always greater partners, as the staff at Sheldon State Park, and particularly Diana Foss who we call the Bat Lady who works with us of our bats at the Waugh Street Bridge. And then lastly, on behalf of Mayor Parker and our city council members, the citizens of Houston and especially the Houston Parks and Rec Department, Chairman Holt, we appreciate the time that you have been a Texas Parks and Wildlife Commissioner and Chairman. You’ve been a great asset to Texas Parks and Wildlife and all the citizens of Texas. You understand the importance of urban parks to our state system. I say thank you for all that, for the past, for now and for all future Texans who will enjoy all our Texas parks because of your work. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, Joe, and I appreciate that because I know how much hard work you’ve done in the years that I’ve worked with you, so it’s been great.
MR. TURNER: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you very much.
Will Kirkpatrick, and then Evelyn Merz.
MR. KIRKPATRICK: Carter, it’s already red.
MR. SMITH: We’ll get it restarted, don’t worry about it. I haven’t pushed the go button.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: We will give you your minutes. We’ve always been fair to you, Will.
MR. KIRKPATRICK: My name is Will Kirkpatrick. I’m only one of a group of freshwater anglers who have kept in touch with each other over the past 30-plus years. While most of the group consists of recreational anglers, there are also professionals, guides, and outdoor writers. We were all sure the new hatchery would be the ultimate waste of angler dollars when it started out at $13-1/2 million and now exceeds $33 million. Well, we were wrong.
Chairman Holt, during a November 2, 2006 meeting, you queried Phil Durocher about a specific Jasper hatchery contract item. Mr. Durocher stated yes, they had a contract. Your response was: Contract is legally binding, that’s the end of the story. Do you remember that?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, I do.
MR. KIRKPATRICK: Well, the permanency of the $5 freshwater fishing stamp is a direct violation of a verbal contract between the department and freshwater anglers. Prior to the initial enactment of this $5 stamp, our Freshwater Advisory Board members and anglers fishing Texas waters were guaranteed this stamp would be in effect only ten years and would end October 31, 2014. That verbal agreement, according to my local Texas district judge, would constitute a legally binding contract for everything except land sales or land transfers. So while the department is scrambling with legislators to keep from losing a couple hundred dollars in license fees if anglers over 75 are exempted, you’re going to reap in over $5 million extra annually on the stamp beginning September 1 of 2014.
During another meeting I brought up the issue of fishing tournament events and the amount of revenue this generated for sponsors and participants while using Texas waters free of charge. Following that meeting, a seated commissioner, Phil Durocher and myself had a hallway discussion about using tournament events as another source of available income. I felt that setting up a fee schedule addressing for-profit fishing tournaments would help offset department increases rather than mom, pop and the kids carrying the load. Mr. Durocher explained that should we begin charging fees for using our state’s waters, those events would not be held here. The commissioner then explained that I had no idea how much money a sponsoring vehicle manufacturer paid into the department coffers and felt it would be inappropriate to apply additional costs.
At your Fort Worth commissioners meeting I presented the commission members with documentation stating that in federal waters tournaments were required to pay an event fee, yet several premier bass tournament trails have held events there and the fees were paid. Since I never give you testimony without documentation, I’ve attached copies of items appearing in recent magazines which illustrate our contention that these tournaments involve big bucks. The top 14 anglers have earned during their careers $29,742,774 as of April of this year. By June of this year that had increased to $30,457,524 which averages out to just over $51,000 per angler for one tournament circuit in two months, not counting sponsorship or endorsements. The top angler in this group who has current earnings of well over $5 million probably receives more in sponsorship and endorsement fees than Texas Parks and Wildlife does.
On a final note, one young angler won $14,000 in Toyota Bucks in three months, and Carter, what we talked about was Scott Martin, and he’s Roland Martin’s son, won $600,000 in one tournament up at Lake Ouachita in Arkansas. And we just got it announced that we’re going to have two more tournaments generating $500,000 in prizes, that includes money and mostly products, next year using our public waters again.
The magazine is a local magazine. Each one of you has a separate one, it’s not all the same month, each one of you has a separate month, and there’s a lot of money in there that we’re not touching. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Well, I appreciate it. It is something we discuss and wrestle with all the time.
I have one more, Evelyn Merz. Evelyn.
MS. MERZ: Good afternoon. It’s a pleasure to be here again, Mr. Chairman.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Hello, Evelyn. How are you?
MS. MERZ: Very well, thank you. Please send some rain over to us.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: In that case we’re all greedy, we want to keep our own, what little we’re getting.
MS. MERZ: I’ll share as long as you give me some.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Fair enough, fair enough.
MS. MERZ: I have several comments to make on various topics. First of all is with regard to the newly proposed state park at Strawn, Texas. The Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club greatly appreciated the willingness of Executive Director Smith and his staff to discuss the matters relating to this new acquisition with us, and in light of that information, the executive committee adopted the following position:
The Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club supports the acquisition of approximately 3,300 acres of new state parkland near Strawn, Texas by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and urges the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission to approve the action item to proceed with the acquisition. The Lone Star Chapter recognizes that this acquisition opportunity was unexpected and that certain contractual items must be completed by August 31 to meet biennial budget requirements set by the Texas Legislature. Because of the compressed timetable, there was inadequate tie to fully inform the public before the commission meeting under 30-day guidelines, however, the chapter does see opportunities for departmental improvement of its public notification and comment solicitation process. The chapter urges the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, with the approval of the commission, to adopt a formal policy of public notification and document regarding land transactions prior to the commission vote on such transactions.
We also wanted to note that we’re aware that you’ll be voting on two additional items of acquisition of significance, the 520-acre in-holding at Big Bend Ranch known as the Tapado Canyon on the river, and also 320 acres in Yoakum County that would be used for the Lesser Prairie Chicken habitat, and these are both very good news items, we think.
With regard to the land transaction policy, we do know earlier this year Parks and Wildlife Department and several conservation organizations did discuss modifications to the land transactions policy, and there are further discussions scheduled for next month. Last year at the height of the discussion with respect to the Devils River State Natural Area transfer, we were told that the policy was simply an internal policy and that it had never been presented or approved by the commission, and we believe this policy which relates to transparency and public trust is much too important to be relegated simply as an internal policy without the scrutiny and approval by the commission. So we are recommending that the commission request a presentation of this revised policy, and subject to your review and approval. That is what we would request that you consider.
We also would request that you support in additional way the Wildlife Diversity or Non-Game Program of Parks and Wildlife. The budget was slashed, we know that, along with every other program of Texas Parks and Wildlife which was a tremendous blow, but we believe that the situation could be improved with the education of state legislators about the importance of this program and how efficiently the program works to utilize a very small amount of state money. I visited a number of state offices this spring during the legislative session and I found a lot of interest and a lot of ignorance, quite frankly, about even the existence of the Wildlife Diversity Program, they didn’t know what it was, and that’s too important for them not to know about it. And I believe that it would be taken, I think, more seriously if some of this information came from you all as well.
We do believe that, of course, the parks get most of the lion’s share of attention because they are a very visible public asset and any diminution of their care or hours of operation gets a lot of attention, but the Non-Game Wildlife Program doesn’t get that because people don’t see what’s happening out there. And so what we’re asking is that the Parks and Wildlife Department and the commissioners, when you get in contact with legislators, actually bring up the Wildlife Diversity Program and what it does and how important it is. We think this would be a tremendous help.
We also would like to discuss two very quick items. We would request that you extend your invasive species control efforts to terrestrial species. You’ve done a lot of work recently on invasive aquatic species and we would request that you begin a program of identifying and managing terrestrial invasive species, especially in the parks, and even if there was a very small line item in the budget just to get started, this would be a start for standard procedures in handling terrestrial invasive species.
And lastly, we would appreciate knowing perhaps from the staff later on about the status of plans to actually allow the public to visit Chinati Mountain State Natural Area in West Texas and also the Davis Hills State Park in Southeast Texas which is close where I live. I would love to know about plans for those two parks. Thank you so much. Appreciate the opportunity.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, and thank you for your continued support.
MS. MERZ: Oh, I’m sorry. I meant to say that in addition to the Lone Star Chapter, the Greater Fort Worth Group of the Lone Star Chapter passed a resolution emphasizing that there’s also local support for the new property at Strawn, and I’m going to give you copies of this.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Wonderful, good. I think we’re going to get a chance to vote on that tomorrow.
Well, thank you very much, and I appreciate everybody’s patience, including our commission. Is there anyone else that I may have missed who would like to speak? I just want to make sure everybody gets a chance because I know people travel long distances.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: We really do appreciate everybody being willing to speak up and speak their minds. With that, this commission has completed its business and I declare us adjourned. Thank you all very much.
(Whereupon, at 4:35 p.m., the public hearing was concluded.)
C E R T I F I C A T EMEETING OF:
Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Annual Public Hearing
LOCATION: Austin, TexasDATE: August 24, 2011
I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 100, inclusive, are the true, accurate, and complete transcript prepared from the verbal recording made by electronic recording by Penny Bynum before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.
On the Record Reporting, Inc.
3307 Northland, Suite 315
Austin, Texas 78731