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TPW Commission

Work Session, March 27, 2013

Transcript

TPW Commission Meetings

TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION

MARCH 27, 2013

TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT
COMMISSION HEARING ROOM
4200 SMITH SCHOOL ROAD
AUSTIN, TEXAS 78744

WORK SESSION

REPORTED BY: PAIGE SLOAN WATTS

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Good morning everyone. Chairman Friedkin asked me to go ahead and begin. He'll be here in 20 or 30 minutes, I think. I would like to call our meeting to order March 27, 2013, at 9:07 a.m.

Before we proceed with our business, I believe Mr. Smith has a statement to make.

MR. SMITH: I do. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Public notice of this meeting containing all items on the proposed agenda has been filed in the Office of the Secretary 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. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you, sir. Okay, we'll officially call our work session to order. And the first item of business is the approval of the minutes from our previous work session held January 23, 2013, which have been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?

COMMISSIONER HIXON: So moved.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Motion Commissioner Hixon. Second Commissioner Scott. Any opposed? Hearing none, motion carries. Thank you.

Okay, let the record reflect that our colleague Mr. Jones is joining us, thank you. He's just -- let's see. I guess we need to mention that the Item 7, the Sand and Gravel Regulations has been withdrawn from the agenda at this time and will be probably put on the May agenda.

Let's see. Item 19[sic], Land Acquisition, Anderson County, 118 and a half acres at the Engling Wildlife Management Area has been withdrawn from the agenda. Item 16, Land Acquisition, Yoakum County, approximately 4,500 acres as an addition to the Yoakum Dunes Preserve has been withdrawn and this item will also be withdrawn from the Thursday agenda.

So the first item today will be an update on the progress of implementing the Land and Water Resources Conservation Recreation Plan, Carter.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Commission. For the record, my name is Carter Smith. I'm going to try to get through this. Mr. Chairman, I've sort of lost my voice. Stacy says it's a sign from God that I need to listen more, so I suspect there's a lot of truth to that.

As I think the Commissioners know, Scott and the Project Management Office have been working with the Chairman and the Vice-Chairman on updating our proposed action items and deliverables in the Land and Water Plan. We're getting close to finalizing those and hope to have a final draft to y'all to review before you leave the Commission meeting today. So in the absence of that, I just I want to give a general overview of some things that are going on throughout the agency.

Let me start with Internal Affairs as required by the past Sunset Bill last session. A quick update on that front. First, let me just brag on Captain Chris Davis who just graduated from the FBI National Academy. One of a succession of our officers that have gone through that very prestigious program. It's a great advancement and professional development opportunity and we're awfully proud of Chris for completing that very arduous training there.

In addition, I want to remind you that we have two positions open in Internal Affairs. Major Carter is working on filling those. They're currently posted for an Assistant Chief and then another Captain Investigator and so we look forward to getting those filled hopefully in the near future and introducing those individuals to you. It's another opportunity for promotion within our officer ranks, and so we look forward to filling those.

Awfully proud to announce the selection of our new lieutenant in Law Enforcement, Chief of Recruiting. This is a new position that was established. There was a very competitive pool of applicants that competed for this. Kevin Malonson, who's been a Game Warden for us in Harris County for 9, 10, 12 years, something like that, just done a masterful job. I think Kevin is with us today perhaps. Kevin, are you here anywhere, Kevin? Well, bring him in so we can embarrass him, George. Okay, it's -- I maybe hear his voice over the loud speaker. He's taking his time I see. Okay, all right. Yeah, yeah. Let's pick up the pace, Kevin. Yeah, yeah. Kevin Malonson, our new Lieutenant and --

(Round of applause)

MR. SMITH: Very, very proud of that promotion. So congratulations, Kevin.

MR. MALONSON: Thank you, sir.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, great. Thank you. Kevin has got a lot of charges on his plate and we're confident that he's going to work very diligently to help us on our recruiting efforts. Very focused right now on some of our diversity goals and working with our Law Enforcement recruiters in HR.

March is the time in Coastal Fisheries in which our Coastal Fisheries biologists and technicians are doing the annual Creel surveys along the coast. These are annual surveys that go back to 1974. So it's an extraordinary data set that allows our Coastal Fisheries biologists to get a sense of fishing intensity, pressure, where fishermen are coming from, what they're catching, different species, size, bag limits, etcetera. So just invaluable data for us and again, part of a longstanding commitment of our Coastal Fisheries team to get the best possible science to help us with the management of those important coastal resources.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Will we get reports on that -- on those surveys?

MR. SMITH: Absolutely. Yeah, yeah, we'll make sure that we provide those.

When do you think we'll have those, Robin? I know we're going to be doing them through the end of March on the Creel survey?

MR. RIECHERS: Yeah, this is just a special survey that compliments our other boat ramps survey; but this a weigh bank survey where we're basically doing a snapshot in time this year that allows us to have that comparison between those two and set that ratio as we estimate how many recreational fishermen and fishing pressure they put on the coast.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Right.

MR. RIECHERS: We bring those to you every time we give you a species update.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Robin.

Bastrop State Park, our State Park team has been very, very busily working to restore and revegetate the state park. We finished up the tree planting season at the end of February. As you can see there, we had an impressive number of volunteers that came out to help us. Over 1,500 volunteers that helped plant, you know, well over 32,000 seedlings in areas that we needed it the most. And so our team is working on a five-year plan to revegetate the park.

I want to point out that very distinguished gentleman at the podium that some of you recognize as your fellow Commissioner Bill jones who led an A&M day of service at Bastrop State Park along with Chancellor Sharp and Senator Watson, brought out 270 Aggies to come out over really two week -- I heard the whoop. I know, it's -- we just can't resist ourselves. That came out to help with the tree planting effort. I think it was a great day and, Commissioner, I don't know if you want to say a few words about it.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Oh, no. Other than next time we might have Chancellor Sharp leave his dog at home.

MR. SMITH: A little inside baseball there, but there was an accident. Everybody -- I'm not sure they all walked away; but everybody is now back on their feet, thank goodness. So new rules about holding pets closely, right, Commissioner? Is that the message?

COMMISSIONER JONES: That's the message. Thanks, Commissioner, for coming out and helping to support it. You've been a very, very strong proponent of all the work at Bastrop ever since you've come on the Commission and we appreciate that very much. Fun to see all those Aggie students out there.

I want to say a few words about the Pronghorn restoration out in West Texas and our West Texas staff have provided a lot of updates to the Commission about the concern about the decline in Pronghorn populations in the Trans-Pecos. Y'all are aware back in 2011, we experimented with a transplant of Pronghorn from up near Dalhart. Immediately following that transplant, you know, we obviously had drought and the wildfires out there and so survivorship of those animals really has fallen to about 20 percent or so. So very, very difficult range conditions and climatic conditions following that initial release.

In January of 2013, our biologists successfully executed another transplant of 125 Pronghorn, again, from herd units up in Dalhart. They were all ear tagged. About half of them were fitted with GPS collars so that we could track their movements. They were released on a herd unit over near Marathon. Range conditions in much better shape this time and so -- and we also suffered considerably less capture myopathy. So we're very optimistic about this. Commissioner Morian had a chance to travel out to West Texas to meet with our team out there with the foundation and I know he came back pretty enthused about that effort. And so, Commissioner, I don't know if you want to say anything about that.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: No, other than it was a very impressive group though out there. It was fascinating.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, thank you for traveling out there to see it. I know that meant a lot to our team.

We've had a chance in the past to brief y'all about really the five-year effort directed by the Legislature to bring together really a wide variety of stakeholders from river authorities to cities, San Antonio, San Marcos, New Braunfels, river authorities, groundwater districts, various pumpers, State and Federal agencies to work on a recovery implementation program or plan for the Edwards Aquifer. That plan is directed by the Legislature. Directed us to help try to find the preverbal balance with how we managed pumping over the aquifer and also protected the rare and imperiled species that depend upon the aquifer for their survival. Really a Herculean effort led by Robert Gulley that we're able to come to an agreement on a plan that I wanted to share with you. It was approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the 15th of February and that marks a very positive milestone in water management and conservation of the state and just shows that how these deliberate, collaborative based efforts can help define those balance with the stakeholders.

I'm very proud of our team that worked on that effort. That was a very, very difficult process and I know they were glad to see the Fish and Wildlife Service ultimately approve that plan so we could go forward with those conservation actions.

As y'all are also aware, we have been working diligently over the last couple of years to focus our efforts on protecting the health and vitality of the Devils River. Arguably the most pristine river in the state of Texas. As you know, we've been working to help conserve additional land along the river, expand the State Natural Area System, collaborate with private landowners there on their stewardship.

One of the areas which we have briefed the Commission on in the past was an effort to try to manage the recreational use along the river to help manage the numbers, but also to help attenuate some of the conflict that we've seen historically between landowners and river users. And so starting February 1st, we implemented a pilot system, the Devils River Access Permit System, which basically requires anybody that launches a canoe or kayak from any of the Department's three units, including the Baker's Crossing which is a highway crossing where 163 crosses the Devils River where most people put in along the river now, to get a permit from the Department to put in there and to take out on one of the units.

Individuals that pursue that permit, required to have a safety video and also instructional information about respecting private property rights and obviously the sanctity of that river. We have experimented with this and put in place measures in which we'll only permit 12 multi-day passes a day or 12 one-day passes. Again, to try to manage the frequency. We're going to study that over the next year and see how it works out. Get feedback from kayakers, paddlers, private landowners, and others that are very concerned about the health of this river and so look forward to reporting more to y'all on the -- in the future of that, but an exciting evolution of this program. Yes, sir?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Can I ask you a question on that? You say 12 passes. Is that 12 people or 12 passes up --

MR. SMITH: Twelve people.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Twelve people. And then how do you -- how do you monitor whether somebody who is permitted today applies tomorrow or a week later? I mean is it limited to one per month per person?

MR. SMITH: I don't think we have a limit on per month, Scott, do we? So, no, we don't. But you have to have that permit. I mean, you know, if you're checked by one of our officers, if you're putting in there at Baker's Crossing, you have to have one of those permits and then if you take out at either our Del Norte Unit of the Devils River State Natural Area or the Big Satan Unit, which is further downstream, you have to produce a permit that shows that you've been licensed to be able to take there.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Is it first come first serve?

MR. SMITH: It is. It's first come first serve. It's $10 a permit.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Acquired through the call center.

MR. SMITH: And acquired through the call center, yeah; so we manage it that way. So you have to call in and make a reservation for it.

Winter months are a busy time for our Inland Fisheries team that really works hard, Gary and his colleagues, to create additional opportunity around the state, which they do a lot of Rainbow trout stocking. It's a very, very popular program. Inland Fisheries team has partnered very successfully over the years with our State Parks team to try to create opportunities and so we had recent event out a Brazos Bend State Park near Houston that was incredibly popular.

The one I really want to talk about is over near Mexia at Fort Parker where for 23 years the Mexia Bass Club has partnered with the State Parks and Inland Fisheries to create opportunities for families to come out, they provide meals, they provide free rod and reels. We're now having second generations of families participate in the program after two decades and so it's just a wonderful opportunity for us to continue to provide opportunities for youngsters and their families to get out and enjoy the out of doors and the sport of fishing in our state parks. So really appreciate the collaboration between our Inland and Coastal Fisheries Team and particularly our partners at the Mexia Bass Club. Just a very, very impressive commitment over the years.

Last but not least on this front, I want to brag on our Communications team that were selected by the Austin American Statesman as one of the top ten social -- for one of the top ten social media awards in the city. Whitney Bishop and her team at the Agency have really been pushing hard on using these various communication vehicles from YouTube to Facebook and Pintrest and Twitter and so forth and it's been a wonderful evolution for us and really proud of our communications team for that award. It was announced during South by Southwest in the technology part of that conference, so there was a lot of interest in that and so kudos to our Communications Team on that front.

With that, Chairman, I think that concludes that part of my Land and Water update.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay, Great. Any questions on that update from Carter?

All right, Item 2 is a Legislative update. I think we're still with you, Carter.

MR. SMITH: Okay. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'm calling this up. Well, as all of you know, we're in the throes of the 83rd Legislative session and what I thought I would do is provide an update as to where we stand based on really what we know today with respect to the various budget deliberations that are going on.

I want to talk about the proposed Legislative appropriations for next biennium. I'll also share a few words about the proposed supplemental bill to provide additional funding for key emergency items this fiscal year and then I'll share an overview of a number of the bills that we're tracking that have some impact on the operations of the Agency.

Just as a reminder, when we submitted our Legislative appropriations request for next biennium, we had requested a base amount of a little over $507 million and then we had asked for six categories of additional exceptional items above and beyond that base totaling $103 million. This slide and the ones following it, basically depict what we were asking for on the left-hand side of this column and then the specific amount in the second column. On the third column, the House Committee substitute shows what is going to be proposed in the Appropriation's bill going to the House floor on the 4th of April. And then in the last column, the Senate bill shows what has been approved by the Senate. So again, there's still a long way to go.

The budget still has to be approved by the full House and then ultimately it has to go to Conference Committee where representatives from both chambers will meet to convene on a final bill to put forth to both chambers. But this is what we know now and I want to share with you that the Legislature and the leadership there has been very supportive and receptive of the requests by the Department. We've had just a great deal of receptivity and support for the request of the Agency and I can't highlight that more strongly.

Just to go over it in -- rather quickly. First item, State Park funding and we had asked for 18.99 million. You can see in the House, they proposed to allocate 18.59 million and the Senate a little over 16 million. I guess what I will say about that, that assuming these amounts are appropriated at these levels, this would give us the necessary funding to be able to operate and keep open the 91 state parks and historic sites and natural areas that are currently open. So this a very positive step forward.

The one caveat I'll make to this and certainly have conveyed this to both the House and Senate leadership is that assumes that we don't have another wildfire like we did at Bastrop or we don't have some catastrophic hurricane event. So absent any of those, a significant catastrophic -- catastrophic disturbance regimes, we think this funding will allow us to keep state parks open. So we're very appreciative of that and then you can see the additional funding that is proposed to be provided for additional priority items.

Our second exceptional item and this is really the guts of the Agency, this is the capital equipment and transportation that we need to really run the Agency. Everything from vehicles to boats to trailers to computers to weedeaters to lawn mowers, all of that capital equipment that we need to take care of our Wildlife biologists that are working in the field, our Fisheries biologists at the hatcheries, our State Park staff, and our Game Wardens while on patrol.

You can see that we had asked for 11.91 million. The House has proposed almost 10 and a half million, and the Senate about 9.61 million. And so you can see within those categories, for instance, transportation which basically is replacement trucks, the -- both the House and Senate have proposed to fund that in full, which is very, very important particularly in our Law Enforcement Division; so we appreciate that support on that front very much.

I'll skip to the third item, capital construction repair. You know, this is our Infrastructure program. These are the requisite funds that are needed to take care of utilities, major infrastructure, replace buildings, water systems, wastewater treatment facilities, build new buildings when we need them. We had asked for $40 million, 32 million in general obligation bonds or some other source of funding largely for State Parks and then we had asked for $8 million to help fund necessary infrastructure in our Fisheries and Wildlife and Law Enforcement needs.

Now, I'm going to show these numbers; but you're also going to see in a subsequent slide that both -- that in the Senate they've added some more funds elsewhere to add to this total. So a little misleading this slide. But as you can see at least here on the House, they've proposed $19 million of funding towards that effort over the biennium, 11 million in bonds, $8 million in Fund 9. And then on the Senate side, $28 million in bonds. I'll come back on another slide. They have also included in their bill additional cash to meet the $32 million request that we had for State Parks and the funding that we asked for Fund 9, so I'll come back to that in a minute.

Item No. 4 has to do with the necessary funding for Fish and Wildlife. Funding for hatcheries, wildlife diversity, our Upland Game Bird stamp funds that we've asked for, for example, to help address quail research and turkey work. Some funds out of our Saltwater stamp to continue to fund additional research and monitoring work there in our Coastal Fisheries team. You can see here that the House has proposed to fund that in its entirety and the Senate has proposed fund 11.83 million towards that goal.

Item No. 5, this is our request to provide $15 million to bring back funding for our Local Park grant funds. Those are the funds that y'all approve to match with local communities to invest in the acquisition and development of local parks, a critical, critical part of our program. Regrettably at this juncture, there is no funding at least at this time provided in either the House or the Senate bill for that effort.

Our last item has to do with our IT program and also the continuing escalating costs associated with the data center consolidation efforts. We've asked for -- we asked for 3.73 million. You can see the House and the Senate have provided -- the house a little over 2 million, and the Senate almost $3 million for that effort. I'm going to come back to that slide a little bit later because there are some adjustments that are being proposed in another part of the bill. But at least in this part of the bill, you can see that both the House and the Senate have really made an effort to address most all of these exceptional item requests, with the House proposing $63 million towards our $103 million request and the Senate proposing $69 million towards that.

Now, there's more funding in the Senate bill later on that I'll point out. But let me stop there and see if anybody has any questions over any of those slides. Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Any clue why Local Park grants didn't get a better reception, at least initially?

MR. SMITH: You know, that's a very, very good question. What I have heard from various Legislators is that they were very concerned about making sure that the requisite funding was provided to keep state parks open and to provide funding for the necessary operations of state parks and so they were very focused on that. There have been a number of questions from individual members that have come up about that program because I think they are hearing a fair amount from constituents who recognize the importance and value of this program around the state.

Ultimately, as it's been explained to me, it's just a function of competing priorities and having to make difficult choices. Obviously, we would like to see funding in that program. We think it's an integral and essential part of our effort, Commissioner, and highly leveraged and essential to trying to get Texas families outdoors in their communities and this is a great way to leverage it. So obviously, we're disappointed at this juncture not to see any funding there.

Okay, I'm going to move forward with some additional appropriations that were included in the bill that affect the Agency. These are various riders that were proposed in either the House and Senate bill. These will likely be discussed in -- not likely. They probably will be discussed in Conference Committee, and so we'll see what comes there.

The Oyster Shell Program, that's basically the fee per sack of oysters that's harvested. That's something the industry wanted. They want these funds then for the Department to be able to use to go back and restore oyster reefs. This rider would essentially then allow those funds which have accumulated as fund balances to be appropriated to the Agency and then we could use them to go help restore oyster reefs. So there's about $220,000 there; so an important part of the program.

The Youth's Sports Recreational Program, I can't share a lot detail on that. That was a rider that was included in the House bill that would provide essentially a grant program to help fund youth sports. And the third item was a request from A&M for $2 million in Upland Game Bird stamp funding to help fund specific Bobwhite quail research. The fourth item are riders that would provide funding in the House, $3 million for a new visitors center out at Franklin Mountains State Park in El Paso and then half a million dollars to provide some capital development at Fort Boggy State Park, which is a wonderful park between Houston and Dallas right off Interstate 45 that is really underdeveloped and we've been trying to find some funding to help develop that park there because we think it's got a lot of potential.

The fifth item has to do with some endangered species funding that the Senate has proposed, a little over 4 and a half million dollars. As I understand that funding, it would help us do a couple of things. One to add some additional capacity to manage our database of information about endangered species so that we can provide information to TxDOT and other developers that were required to consider that information as they were planning that -- their projects. Second part of that funding would go to provide additional biological capacity so we could have more biologists out in the field to work with landowners and communities on endangered species issues.

As y'all know, we have been stretched absolutely to the max by the settlement that the U.S. Fish Wildlife Service entered into with the Center for Wildlife -- or Center for Biological Diversity and Wild Earth Guardians in which there is a five-year review process to consider over 110 species per listing in Texas. As the State Agency responsible for those species before they're put on the list, we're being asked to provide biological information on all of those species and quite frankly, we just don't have the capacity to do it.

Our goal, of course, is to keep these species under State management and to do everything possible to put forward responsible conservation, initiatives, and plans to keep those species from ever getting listed. And so in order to help the State achieve that, we need some more capacity. In addition, I believe there's some funding there that would go to help sponsor existing research and data collection in partnership with universities so we can learn more about distribution and abundance of a number of these species, many of which are very cryptic and haven't received a lot of biological studies; so we don't know a lot about distribution and abundance and, therefore, oftentimes it puts us in a very difficult place to be able to address concerns about whether or not they should be put on the endangered species list.

The last item in the Senate side proposes to add $200,000 to fund a master plan at Big Springs State Park out in West Texas. The bottom items there, those are simply technical adjustments to the -- by the Legislative Budget Board. Don't read too much into those, and I'm not going to spend any real time on -- yes, sir, Commissioner.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Who's carrying that Senate bill on No. 5?

MR. SMITH: Senator Seliger had proposed a rider to add to that; so they talked about it in Senate Finance, Commissioner, and ended up adding that as proposed funding to the bill.

Okay, keep moving to the next slide. Additional Legislative appropriations request, and remember I mentioned some of these capital things that would come back on the Senate side. This is in Article 9. On both the House and Senate side, there are proposed across the board pay raises for State employees. The senate has proposed a 3 percent increase for all State employees. We don't know yet how much that would cost or where those funds would come from. The House, I believe, has proposed a 1 percent merit pay raise for State employees and, again, we don't know the cost of that.

Both the House and Senate have proposed pay raises for Schedule C employees inside the Department. Those are our Game Wardens. Those are also Schedule C DPS troopers and TABC troopers and a few officers with, I believe, the Office of Attorney General and a few with TDCJ, but mostly DPS and Parks and Wildlife and TABC. Item No. 4 -- yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Carter, just a quick question. Is a Game Warden entitled to get whatever the across-the-board pay raise happens to be as well as Schedule C pay raises?

MR. SMITH: No. The Schedule C would be separate.

COMMISSIONER JONES: They're one in the same, okay.

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER JONES: All right.

MR. SMITH: Schedule C is a big issue for us, Commissioner. We believe very strongly that our officers ought to have the same parity as the DPS troopers. We think those positions are every bit as important, every bit as dangerous and so we want to make sure that whatever happens on that Schedule C is equitable across that. But, yeah; no, it would just apply to that Schedule C.

COMMISSIONER JONES: If not more so dangerous.

MR. SMITH: If not more so.

COMMISSIONER JONES: All our constituents have guns.

MR. SMITH: That's right. Yep, yep, yep, absolutely. I mentioned the data center consolidation. As you will recall, one of our exceptional items had requested additional funding to handle the increase in the data center consolidation costs. The Department of Information Resources released a report to the Legislature that suggested that with new measures they were putting in place, that they were actually going to be able to save agencies likes Parks and Wildlife that are participating in the data center consolidation program money. And so according to their accounting, they believe that they can actually save us $2.4 million in costs and so that is being proposed in both the House and Senate to actually take that out of funding.

To be fair, DIR's numbers do not match those of our IT team and so we are having discussions with the IT right -- or with DIR right now about that. We're very concerned about seeing diminished funding. Everything associated with the data center consolidation effort has ended up costing the Agency more, so we're concerned about any diminution there and so this is something that we're paying a lot of attention to.

You can see in Items No. 5 and 6 on the Senate side where they sought to provide additional funding to address the capital construction repair needs, $8 million for Fund 9; and then six is State Parks capital repairs, 3.92 million in cash in addition to the $28 million in bonds they had proposed. So again, a very favorable receipt of that critical part of our infrastructure program; so I wanted to share that with y'all.

I'm going to move on now to House Bill 1025. This is the second of what's called the supplemental appropriation bills. These are essentially supplemental appropriation bills which would add funding in the current fiscal year. So, for instance, part of House Bill 1025 is a very significant amount to reimburse the Texas Forest Service for the costs of dealing with all the wildfires around the state.

We have a number of items that are being considered in that bill that may be heard in House appropriations later this week or next week, we're not sure. It's an additional proposed 889,000 for State Park operations. This represents essentially the delta or difference between what was believed to happen in terms of the million six a year that was going to be donated by individuals who made the $5 contribution when they went in to go register their vehicles.

What we have seen over the two years of this program, I think in one year there was 500,000 generated and another year 700,000 generated; so not met that target. This would seek to make up that difference, so that would be a big help to State Parks. The second one has to do with almost $4.9 million to aid in the continued recovery of Bastrop State Park. We estimated -- not counting the cost of labor, opportunity cost, the cost of the trees, ecological damages, but somewhere between 10 and $11 million of quantifiable damages at the State Parks. I think it was really much higher; but in terms of what we specifically quantified, we still have almost $4.9 million of unmet needs there to address remaining infrastructure, natural resource programs, including the revegetation efforts to continue to fund that, and also to address needs to our regional office complex that was damaged in the fire. And so you can see here we believe that that supplemental will include the remaining $4.9 million.

I appreciate very much Chairman Pitts and others receptivity to this and I also want to comment, if I could, Senator Watson who's been a very, very strong advocate for this and appreciate his leadership on that front.

I think also all of you are aware that we had a very near tragic helicopter accident out near Van Horn when the rotor on our helicopter broke. Thankfully due to really just the Herculean efforts of our Law Enforcement pilot Bryan Reed, he was able to get that helicopter put down safely, everybody walked away from that accident. But the long and short of it is we've essentially grounded all of our aerial fleet, save and except one 2009 Cessna Station Air fixed-wing aircraft. Our other helicopter which is a 1970/1971 military surplus model, we've grounded that and so we've asked for additional supplemental appropriation for additional authority to replace that helicopter that was lost.

That aerial fleet is very, very important to our Law Enforcement, Wildlife, Coastal Fisheries, Environmental operations and without it, we're at a significant disadvantage and so we appreciate Chairman Pitts considering this and so we'll share with you more once we hear the final decision on that.

At this juncture, I'll very briefly mention a number of the key bills that we are tracking across the Legislature right now. Literally, there are several hundred out there that could impact the Agency and so just made an attempt to highlight some of those by category. Now, this first one has to do with legislation likely to impact State Parks.

As you will see, a lot of these address the issue associated with the sporting goods sales tax and desire by individual Legislators to try to see the Agency receive the full share of that as proposed by House Bill 12 back in 2007 when it was contemplated that the Agency would get 94 percent of the collected sporting goods portion of the sales tax. So there's been a lot of discussion on that front.

House Bill 1937 by Representative Farney, that proposes to mandate that the Commission waive all hunting and fishing license and park entrance fees for those individuals who are 65 years and older. Right now, the Commission has the authority; but is not required to waive park entrance fees for residents at least 70 years of age and we do have a reduced rate for those senior citizens that are eligible and for hunting and fishing license fees for residents 65 years or older and again, right now the Commission does have a reduced rate for those individuals that meet that age criteria.

House Bill 332 by Chairman Guillen has to do with trying to address volunteer liability when operating a Parks and Wildlife vehicle. Y'all know how essential it is or central it is that our volunteers are to the operations of our state parks and wildlife management areas and fish hatcheries. Last session we were directed with the Attorney General's Office to do a study on tort liability for volunteers operating State vehicles when they're volunteering. This bill would propose to essentially provide them the same liability protection as a State employee, so there's a fair amount of discussion going on around that bill.

The next suite of Legislation -- excuse me -- has to do largely with wildlife. To be fair, most of it surrounds the Deer Breeder Program. There are, I think, upwards of 12, 13, maybe 14 individual bills proposing to address that program. They address a wide variety of topics. Everything for how breeder deer are identified to putting in place a proposed multiyear permit. Right now, our permits are for just one year. The proposal is to look at three or even five years. And then also proposals for how -- changing the way that a breeder could contest the fact if the Department either refused to issue a permit or did not renew the issuance of a permit.

Right now, we have an appeals process inside the Agency that a breeder can pursue. There's been concern among the breeder community about whether or not they feel that's an appropriate process or if they ought to be afforded additional opportunities, for instance, through the State Office of Administrative Hearing in order to be able to contest that. It's often called the due process bill.

Also, some proposals addressing our deer disposition protocol that we occasionally have to use when we find breeder deer whose origin cannot be determined, either through tracking that through permits or through DNA testing. House Bill 2469 by Chairman Guillen, oftentimes referred to as a deer breeder omnibus bill. This was an effort by Chairman Guillen to try to really bring all these various parts of the deer breeder bills into one bill and to work with all of the parties to see if he could get concurrence with the parties and just move forward one bill, as a bunch of -- as opposed to a bunch of individual bills. That effort is still underway. Obviously, a lot of discussion there between stakeholders who have a strong interest in these various bills.

House Bill 2092 by Representative Kuempel, that's a proposal that would move the deer breeder program away from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to the Animal Health Commission. I guess the last bill that I'll mention on this slide, House Bill 2150 by Representative Nevarez. This bill would essentially remove elk from the list of exotic animals in Chapter 43 and 62 of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Code. Right now, they are listed by the Legislature as exotic hoof stock and the bill would propose to authorize the Commission to consider whether or not elk are wild animals and whether their status should be changed to a nongame animal. So that's another bill that has an impact on the Agency.

I'll move now to Coastal and to Inland Fisheries. House Bill 3279 by Representative Morrison there on the coast. This would basically propose to establish statutory language that would protect seagrass from destruction, essentially by gasoline, combustion, outboard motor propellors. Be very similar to the current regulation that we have in Redfish Bay State Scientific Area, but would essentially apply to the entirety of the coast and would purport to make it a Class C misdemeanor for someone who uprooted seagrass with the propellor of an outboard.

There's a number of exceptions to that bill. For instance, a boater that's trying to get up on plane. So our Game Wardens would have the discretion to consider that. Also, individuals for instance who had a permit from GLO to drill for oil and gas. Obviously, they would be exempted from this, too; so there's a number of proposed exemptions there.

House Bill 597 by Chairman Guillen, basically this would codify what we're already doing, which is essentially have information, educational information, on invasive species in our boating ed. program. So it basically would just put that in statute and then would require us to do that.

I'll now talk about some legislation that would propose to affect hunting and fishing, various license related bills, and so forth. Probably the biggest package has -- comes from Senator Lucio, who has proposed a number of bills that would propose to change the fees for nonresident hunters and anglers and to offer discounted fees on that front from what they are now. For example, Senate Bill 373, that would propose to designate the fees charged for the general nonresident hunting license at no more than twice the general resident hunting license fee and to place the nonresident license fee at no more than $10 more than the current resident license fishing fee. And so there's a number of bills that address the definition of residents.

In addition, Senator Lucio had proposed SB 375. The purpose of this bill would be to convert essentially all recreational and commercial hunting and fishing licenses, stamps, permits, and tags, except for lifetime licenses and temporary hunting and fishing licenses from a license-year basis -- as you know, our licenses start September 1st and go to August 31st -- to basically a year-from-purchase basis. Right now, we only offer one option on that front. That's the all-water fishing package in which you can buy that license in a year from purchase basis. So you could buy it today on March 27th or 28th, whatever today is, and that license would be good for 365 days and then you could renew it as opposed to it expiring on the 31st of August.

I'd remind the Commission that the Commission has the authority to set resident and nonresident hunting and fishing license fees. You also have the authority to consider year-to-date license related considerations. And one thing I guess I would bring forward for your consideration, we already have again this option for individuals/residents who buy the all-water package to do a year-from-purchase option.

Maybe one of the things we could do is look at all of our fishing licenses and see if it makes sense to come back with proposals on year-to-date options there for the Commission to consider. We could bring back information to the Commission in the May meeting if that was something that y'all would like for us to look at.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Great, I certainly would support that. I think it would be good to take a look at it and see if we could come up with some recommendations for the commission.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Me too.

MR. SMITH: Any other -- okay. All right, I'll take that direction and move forward.

COMMISSIONER JONES: And I suppose that would coincide with our new licensing technology that we're getting which is rolling out about the same time, isn't it?

MR. SMITH: Yeah, I think we have to be real careful about that because that -- in fact, we'll have a presentation on that, Commissioner. That's still under development. As you'll hear from our team here shortly, we're going to make a decision by mid May whether or not we're ready to roll out that system mid July, so it's really up and running August 15th when we start selling licenses for the next license year or the if we want to delay that a bit.

It's really been an extraordinary effort. Really, this Gordon-Darby has just been a phenomenal company to work for. I think it would be a mistake to introduce any changes at this juncture. I just don't -- candidly, I don't think we could do that and so I think we'd really need to be looking at some implementation date. My recommendation would be a year from now, to be fair, a year from the implementation of the new license system.

We're really at a critical time right now in the development of that new license system and adding any new changes to that would really set us back and I think that would -- that would be a mistake would be my recommendation.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: We're getting a little ahead of -- obviously, we have a presentation on this; but my understanding is that this new licensing system would allow for flexibility to introduce those kinds of changes later on.

MR. SMITH: In the future.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Yes. Would be more adaptable than the current system?

MR. SMITH: I think that's right. And again, I think our partners at Gordon-Darby and Jay Darby from the company is here with us today, is -- or Jay Gordon, I'm sorry -- is -- can certainly speak to that. But, yeah, I think they believe that after we finish the development of this new system, that in the future we absolutely would have the ability to be able to development those kind of changes and build it in in a very thoughtful, methodical fashion. So, absolutely.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Good.

MR. SMITH: All right, so we'll come back in May looking at all those fishing licenses and see what recommendations we might have for you.

House Bill 263 and Senate Bill 239 from Representative Flynn and Senator Van de Putte, propose to essentially just amend the Parks and Wildlife Code to address that we could provide free combination hunting and fishing licenses for all military personnel. Right now, active duty military personnel either in the Armed Services or the State and National Guard who are on active duty -- meaning that they've been called up for service by the Governor -- if they're residents, they're eligible for a free super combo license. This would essentially expand to it to members of the Texas military forces and so we've been working with the authors on that.

A Joint Resolution 113 by Representative Ashby is a proposed Constitutional Amendment relating to the right to hunt and fish. By law, as all of you know, essentially hunting and fishing are privileges that one obtains through the acquisition of a requisite license or permit from this Agency. This would essentially take to the voters a Constitutional Amendment declaring hunting and fishing essentially a right to citizens.

The authors have worked with this to ensure that nothing in the language of that resolution or the proposed amendment would in any way compromise our ability to enforce all Fish and Game laws and so I want to make sure that a Constitutional right would not supercede the Commission's authority to set seasons, bag limits, and so forth and so that's built into that language.

COMMISSIONER JONES: I'm a little confused by that, and I don't want to get into the weeds on that bill; but a right as opposed to --

MR. SMITH: A privilege.

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- a privilege extended by an agency of the State of Texas --

MR. SMITH: I think it just --

COMMISSIONER JONES: Let me just finish.

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Which then give you the ability to do what?

MR. SMITH: It would still give you --

COMMISSIONER JONES: Hunt without a license?

MR. SMITH: No, it would not give you that right. There's been a movement across the country, Commissioner, to essentially take to the voters to essentially validate that hunting and fishing is a right of citizens. Again, subject to State Fish and Game laws --

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay, I know where it's coming from. Okay.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, okay. Yep. Senate Bill 1684 by Senator Zaffirini, this would direct Parks and Wildlife to work with DMV on an MOU that would allow us essentially to register boat trailers. Something that we can't now do, so that would provide some additional services to our customers that come to register boats and get licenses and so forth.

With that, Mr. Chairman and Commission --

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you, Carter.

MR. SMITH: -- I'll stop and see if you've got any questions.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any other questions or discussion on Legislative update for Carter? Appreciate the thoroughness of the presentation.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Commissioner.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you very much. That was very helpful.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I'm just glad there wasn't more bills to swallow.

MR. SMITH: That was about a tenth of them.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: All right. Next item is a Financial Overview, Mike Jensen. Good morning, Mike.

MR. JENSEN: Good morning. Good morning, Commissioners. My name Mike Jensen, Division Director of Administrative Resources. I have a brief presentation for you this morning. I think you may have already received the monthly financial report, so some of this information is going to be familiar. I have four slides for you, and I would like to review them with you this morning.

The first three slides are going to go over the primary revenue streams for the Department. If you can see this first slide on the State Park receipts, this current fiscal year is a very strong year with respect to the revenue that's being generated compared to last year. Four of the six months have exceeded by 25 percent or greater when compared to last year, and the best month that we had was November. The gain in revenue was 684,000. So if you look at the facilities and entrance fees, growth of 18 percent, 20 percent respectively. Concessions are up 10 percent. Park passes are up even 19 percent, and miscellaneous is up 20 percent.

This all ties to another underlying statistic. If you look at visitation and Brent's staff keeps track of that, paid visitations are up 11 and a half percent and you can see that in the revenues. Total visitations are up 6 percent, so we're doing very good. The only thing to factor in, remember here is last fiscal year, the last six months were very, very strong; so the challenge is and I think our State Parks Division is up to the challenge, is to meet or exceed on a month-to-month comparison and if they do, we're going to be looking very good by the end of this fiscal year. Hopefully, Mother Nature will rain where it needs to rain, which will take us to the next slide.

The boat revenue is contingent and hinges a lot of weather. If you look at these statistics, you can see that boat owners, they're actually buying and selling boats; but there is a little bit of reluctance and delay in renewing their registrations on their boats. I think some folks are waiting to see what the lake levels are going to look like. They're waiting for rainfall. The good news is even though we're behind by about 2.7 percent, last month we were behind by 5 and half a percent; so we're seeing some gains there.

The other good news is the public is continuing to buy and sell boats and we benefit from the revenue that comes to the Department from those transactions. So overall, we're up about 3 percent. We're engaged in the very busy peak periods for boat registrations and renewals; so we'll see these numbers -- hopefully, all the red will go away when we come back in May. I can't guarantee that, but that's my hope. It has rained, even though it seems dry in a lot of areas. It has rained at least in the State Parks where it needs the rain. For boats, I don't know. That's yet to be seen.

Now the heart of the revenue, aside from the Fund 64 user fees, we have hunting and fisher fees. We're doing very good overall. We're up 3 million, about 4.4 percent. And as Carter mentioned, we're going to have another workgroup presentation after Internal Audit presentation that we'll talk about the current project to transition from Verizon Business to the Gordon-Darby system; but you can see from where we're at today, this is critical to our operations to have a smooth transition. We're doing very good this year. Resident fishing is up about 566,000 and if you can look at the combination license sales, we've had gains over last year of almost $1.6 million, which is great.

Just to remind you, most of the combination sales take place in the first quarter; so we're not going to see that number dramatically increase in the remaining six months of this fiscal year. The good news is resident fishing is up 4.75. I expect if we have the rain the way we need to have it, that that number may actually go up; so our license sales Fund 9 revenue is looking very good so far year to date.

If you recall, we started the fiscal year, we presented the budget and y'all had approved an initial budget of 357 and a half million. At the last Commission meeting, we went through a number of adjustments, so the adjusted budget was 410.6 million through the end of December. This slide shows a number of adjustments to take us to an adjusted total of 424.7 million. On the Federal grant side, that's 7.9, almost 8 million. That's 13 plus sources of unexpended balance from Sport Fish Restoration, Wildlife Restoration, State Wildlife Grants, and a few others that are being moved from '12 into '13.

The next line, other appropriated receipts and interagency contracts. That's primarily donations. There is a piece in there that's an interagency contract for border security, which this Department utilizes for Law Enforcement, for Game Wardens in the those impacted areas. And we have some artificial reef donations that make up a piece of that.

Article 9, Section 14.03 UB of capital, that's predominantly capital construction. The next line you see on there, Rider 34 unexpended balance, our appropriation's bill pattern allows us to move unexpended balances from '12 to '13; so you can see that we've done that. We've moved in the past two months about $1 million from the last fiscal year into the current fiscal year. The last appropriation, Carter had mentioned this earlier. We have a rider, I believe it's Rider 25, which is the opt-in donation. When the public registers their vehicle, they have an opportunity to donate and those donations go to fund State Park operations.

When this was enacted last Legislative session, the projection was about 1.6 million per year. We're not at that rate. We're projecting about 500,000; so what we're doing is we're removing 1.1 million out of our budget. If that should materialize, we'll put it back in the budget; but we're trying to true up this budget to make it a realistic, true budget. And the Legislative Budget Board last Legislative session also had some other appropriation authority that was tied to program income, about 500,000. That's sort of a complicated topic, but basically program income is if we're using Federal funds and there's a Federal interest in a project and we have an activity that generates revenue, the Federal government expects us when we request reimbursement, they're going to reduce our reimbursement by the amount of revenue that comes in.

In our case, for example, timber sales, when we get that revenue in, we have to record it using a revenue object that's unappropriated. It goes into Fund 9, but we don't have an opportunity to spend it. Last Legislative session we were trying to get that corrected, and it didn't get corrected. Basically, our budget has the authority in it; but we still have to put it into Fund 9 as unappropriated. So we're removing that authority out because we really don't have a mechanism or a vehicle to spend it and that's why that -- you see a red there of 1.85 that's tied to the DMV, appropriation authority that's not going to be realized and it's tied to the program income.

We also have a 200,000 increase in fringe benefits. Basically, that's 192,000 for employee fringe benefits and about 12,000 in unemployment benefits that have been paid out. So if you look at it, at the end of February our adjusted budget is 424.7 million. And as I mentioned, I was going to try to be brief and quick. If you have any questions, I'd be happy to try to answer your questions regarding this presentation or the monthly financial report you received last week.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any questions for Mike? Okay. Thanks, Mike. Appreciate the update.

Next is Internal Audit Update, Ms. Cindy Hancock.

MS. HANCOCK: Good morning.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Good morning.

MS. HANCOCK: For the record, I'm Cindy Hancock, Director of Internal Audit and I'm here today to update you on the fiscal year '13 internal audit plan and any ongoing and completing external audits.

This is a summary of the internal audit projects approved for fiscal year '13, and I'll talk a little bit about each -- the status of each of these projects as we go through this briefing. Our completed projects so far include an audit of Section 6 Federal Grant Program, 20 of the 21 State Park audits, all nine of the planned Law Enforcement audits and this totals 30 audits completed so far.

The 20 State Park audits showed compliance with the fiscal control plan and resulted in no findings. Of the nine Law Enforcement audits, five audits resulted in no findings. Of the remaining four offices, we found that supervisors were not periodically performing surprise cash counts and two offices were having problems performing proper reconciliations of the petty cash accounts. The Endangered Species Grant Program was in compliance with Federal regulations concerning the grant expenditures, financial reports, and performance reporting.

We did find though that the Agency had not implemented a sound process to ensure monitoring or sub-recipient single audit financial reports as required. We also noted that three of the four grant contracts reviewed were missing documentation of the certain -- or certain required provisions, but management has already taken action to address these problems.

This is a list of the projects we are currently working on. Agency retirement payout audit as well as the Customer Service Center audit are in the planning stage. The BIS audit, the remaining State Park audit, the Fleet Safety Drug and Alcohol Testing audit and one advisory project are in fieldwork stage and we have two advisory projects in the reporting stage. So we have eight projects right now in progress.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Cindy, before you go on, what do you mean when you say an "advisory" project.

MS. HANCOCK: These are agreed upon procedures between a Division or Division director. Their management request, and they're internal distributed reports. It's not publicly distributed to the State Auditor's Office or any of our oversight and it's to add value and improve operations.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay.

MS. HANCOCK: So its an opportunity to look at specific items at the request of management and provide them recommendations without it being an actual audit.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you.

MS. HANCOCK: This is the list of the projects that we're current -- I did that. Now, this is a list of the projects that have not been started. I currently don't see any problem that would prevent us from completing the remaining projects by fiscal year end. We've been very busy dealing with external auditors this fiscal year.

Experis was -- started in October and they were contracted by the Texas Comptroller and they're conducting a recovery payment audit. They're still working, and it's an ongoing audit. The Governor's Office completed a desk review of a grant regarding one of our grants and records management system smart phone project, and that report should have been issued to you already.

KPMG and SAO do an annual Federal portion and financial portion of the statewide single audit. Those have been completed and the reports have been issued. The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts has conducted a post-payment audit. We should be exiting with them next week, and you should be receiving a report shortly after that. Gartner is a -- also a well-known IT consulting firm and they're conducting an information security assessment covering 60 or 70 agencies on behalf of the Department of Information Resources and they were conducting interviews of our IT staff and I was in on that last week and they're going to put together some proposals and identify gaps in IT security and -- for DIR and I believe that that is going to go to the Legislative -- Legislators this year to see if they can possibly appropriate more money because of the security risk that they're looking at.

So once these external reports are completed, each of you should get one and if you have not received one, let me know and I'll forward it to you. This concludes my update. Are there any questions?

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any questions for Cindy? Commissioner.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Maybe to Carter rather than you. Does that tie into the IT stuff that you were talking about in the Legislative appropriation process?

MR. SMITH: No, that's separate.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Separate.

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Okay.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any questions? Cindy, thank you. Appreciate it.

MS. HANCOCK: All right, thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Item 5 is License Sales System Update, Mr. Craig Richlen.

MR. RICHLEN: Good morning, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. I'm Craig Richlen. I'm the Revenue Director of Parks and Wildlife. I'm here to speak this morning a little bit about our license sales system. The license sales system is TPWD's single largest revenue producer. It's sold through a network of internal and external agents throughout the state of Texas.

We sell a wide variety of the licenses, tags, and other items through the license sales system. We're currently replacing our license sales system provider after about 12 years. Spring of 2011, Verizon gave us informal notice that they'd be leaving this line of business and would no longer support this business. We didn't receive actual formal notice until June.

We immediately got to work on a request for offer, got it published. From that request, we got seven vendors responding. Four were evaluated and considered to have met minimum qualifications. Oops. In March of 2012, Gordon-Darby was selected as a new license sales system vendor based on what we considered best value. The initial contract expires in 2018, and has two five-year extension options. So where are we now?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Before you go forward, are the options --

MR. RICHLEN: Sir?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Are the options options of the vendor or our options to extend? Who has the option to extend?

MR. RICHLEN: Both, I believe. Ours? Okay, ours.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So they're bound for 15 years if we want them?

MR. RICHLEN: Yes, yes. And it may seem like a long time; but because of the complexity of writing a license system, it's not something we want to do. We were very disappointed when Verizon pulled out because we considered that we had the best license system that was available and so it's not something we want to do often.

MR. SMITH: Craig, if I can just add to it. I think what, you know, we -- and Jay and I have talked about this. I mean what we want and are both seeking is a long-term business relationship. We want the Agency and the company to prosper in this and so we can work through issues as they come up, so we're very hopeful that this just keeps on keeping on.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That's why I asked the question.

MR. RICHLEN: So our current status, from April to December we spent a lot of time in joint application development sessions to define exactly what we needed in the system. Currently, we've got five modules are coded and are in user acceptance testing. Our people are in Building D right now testing sales and a number of the other modules. We've got three additional modules that we're going to need before go-live, and that's scheduled to be in our user acceptance testing in the next 45 days.

Our former vendor, Verizon, is cooperating with Gordon-Darby and TPWD to ensure that we have a smooth transition during this time. We expect agent training to begin in June. The benefits of the new system for the license agents are we're expecting this process to be simplified, that they'll be able to pull up a current customer quicker in order to find them in the system and sell them a license. We're going to have a new point-of-sales printer that actually prints the license. Our old printers miraculously have made it for over 12 years.

Consumers, they should be -- they shouldn't notice a difference. The license will look the same. The process is pretty much -- they're going to have to give pretty much the same information; but we'll have some advanced, enhanced rather, security features. For TPWD, we expect improved efficiency. We expect to clean up our legacy data from the old systems and have better data management going forward.

Now the big one, decision to implement. June 2013, is our planned go-live date.

COMMISSIONER JONES: July.

MR. RICHLEN: Excuse me, I'm sorry. July 2013 is our planned go-live date. May 14th, by May 14th we have to give a 60-day termination notice to Verizon. This will be based on the results of our user acceptance testing on these core modules.

If we make a no-go decision and put off implementing the new system, we have until December 31st of this year with Verizon before the contract ends. This is really important because, as you know, close to 75 percent of our revenue from the license system is gathered in the first three or four months of the license year. At this time, I would like to introduce Mr. Jay Gordon. He's president of Gordon-Darby.

MR. GORDON: Good morning.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Good morning. How are you?

MR. GORDON: Mr. Chairman --

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Nice to see you.

MR. GORDON: -- Commissioners, good to see you guys. Thank you. This is an exciting project and to give you a recap, we have had a -- it's been a -- it is a complex project. There's no -- first off, did I say I'm Jay Gordon, president of Gordon-Darby for the record? Okay.

MR. SMITH: We coached him. You see how well we did.

MR. GORDON: Got to be official. I learn quickly, but remember not very long. So, it's been exciting project. It's been a complex project, but it is absolutely successful. And as Carter had said, this is -- we are not going anywhere. We look forward to changes and that's what keeps it fun if you go year-to-date with licenses and we know some of the challenges, they're not technical; but if you ever considered hunting, some of the overlapping season issues, that sort of thing as year to date.

But we're here to understand -- we think we understand your needs. We've accommodated your needs. We have not -- it's been a great marriage. I don't think we have had -- I was thinking sitting there, I don't think we've had a single disagreement with y'all's staff implementation team. You know, we've had work things, you sure you want to do that or, yeah, let's do this, that sort of thing; but not a single disagreement. It's been great, and I will say -- and nobody coached me on this, but two of the folks here on your team, Bridget and Jamie, I -- and their folks, I have never in 30 years seen a harder working State team and that's the truth. So that's -- they are key to the success of this. It would not -- their decision making -- I don't want to take all your time, but their decision making is so quickly, their feedback is so quick, it really has changed the nature of this project. It's been great and we look forward to the rest of it.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Jay, thank you and thanks for making the effort to be here today. We appreciate it and look forward to the partnership and appreciate all your efforts. Thank you.

MR. GORDON: Thank you. All right, look forward to it. Thanks.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Jay, before you leave, could I ask a couple of quick questions?

MR. GORDON: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Are -- do you feel confident that you'll be ready by the proposed July trigger?

MR. GORDON: Way north of 50 percent, but not 100 percent. And one of the reasons is, as they mentioned, they have three modules to go. And I'll be careful not to be the engineer who tells you how to build a watch. But one them is a -- it's really two systems. There's the average hunting and fishermen in Texas that goes and buys a recreational license. It's the vast majority of the sales. That's done, and that is 95 percent of your licenses.

There's this -- there are -- they're very small percentagewise, but an important part is your commercial complex. What we call the ugly part of the system and that's what we're working on now and it just depends on how many surprises when we get through the iterative UAT process, how many surprises, did we misunderstand something. That's really the risk that I see is -- and we won't know. That's why May -- that's why we'll -- that will unveil itself over the next 45 days.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Is it possible to separate the two and go live with the noncommercial and if you have any concerns about the commercial side of it, push that off a bit?

MR. GORDON: I don't know. We'd have to -- I think it would be tough. Not for us. It would be really tough I think because for TPWD folks to have to use a separate system. I'm not sure how we would accommodate that. I mean I think it's more logistical, not technical, in terms of doing it and I -- part of the rest of it, contractually actually we talked about a -- the contract all speaks about an August 15th start and I think we've mutually agreed it's awful scary to start a new system the day your sales start peaking, which is why we backed up a month to July 15. But we have infinite possibilities between July 15th and the end of the year, so.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Good question.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Good. All right, next is Item 6, Red Snapper, discuss recent actions by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council related to the management of Red Snapper stocks within the EEZ off of Texas.

MR. RIECHERS: Commissioners --

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Robin, good morning.

MR. RIECHERS: -- Chairman, my name is Robin Riechers. I'm Director of Coastal Fisheries and I if I may, as Mr. Gordon just indicated, I told you how to build a clock in response to your question regarding when can we deliver the results of that supplemental survey instead of just answering the question what time is it, that survey needs to run one full year; so I believe we could probably bring you those answers and give you those estimates probably late summer or early fall of next year. So I just wanted to clarify that.

Next, I want to just update you briefly on what is transpired in regards to Red Snapper since we last visited on the subject about a month ago. As you recall, the emergency rule that was passed by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council meeting basically granted the authority to the National Marine Fisheries Service Southeast Regional Administrator the ability to shorten the season in the EEZ for states inconsistent with Federal rules for Red Snapper.

What that has done basically is taken what was a 46-day season last year and the projection with Texas being inconsistent and all the other states consistent, it would have led to a 27-day season in the EEZ. With the emergency rule however, that would take the days off of Texas and I'd reported to you last time 11 days in the EEZ off Texas. They've sharpened their pencil, and we are now up to 12; so -- and I'm going to give you the results of that with the other states here in just a second.

If all the states, the three states that have talked about being inconsistent and they just gave a blanket season in the Gulf like they've been doing where we all got equal days, we would be at a 22-day season.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I'm sorry, Robin. Can you repeat that for me?

MR. RIECHERS: If Florida, Louisiana, and Texas were inconsistent as they propose to be right now.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Yes.

MR. RIECHERS: And they open Federal waters for all states to participate equally, it would be 22 days is what the estimate is at this point.

Next, this slide basically indicates to you the findings of the emergency rule and what was published -- that was published in the Texas Register on Monday -- or Federal Register on Monday. Basically would do as far as seasons go and what the states are currently talking about. Obviously, I'll go from west to east. Obviously, we've talked about a 365-day season in our State waters and with our recreational bag limit and size limit, we would have a 12-day Federal offshore season.

Louisiana given the 88-day season that they have proposed and they started their season this last weekend on Saturday, they will have a 9-day season. Mississippi and Alabama are the two states that are consistent in their regulations at this time and so they would have a 28-day season in their inshore waters as well as in their offshore waters. And then Florida has proposed a 44-day season in their inshore waters and that would give them 21 days in their offshore or their Federal waters.

Basically, that's really the update to this point. That's the thing that has transpired since we last met was that rule actually publishing in the Register on Monday and with that, I can just update you on the comments that we've received to date on this issue. I think we were in the 1,800 range last time we visited. We're now at about 2,300. The percentage in favor or disagreeing with the recommended emergency rule is holding at about 97 percent, with 3 percent agreeing with that. We've had more than 230 e-mails, almost all of them in disagreement. They're probably running about that same percentage and then we've had letters from three organizations -- Saltwater Fisheries Enhancement Association, the Recreational Fishing Alliance, and the Charter Fisherman's Association.

Certainly, the first two were against the emergency rule. The second one brought up some issues that are particular to the charter boat fleet as they're a Charter Fisherman's Association and asked us to look at those. With that, that concludes my presentation and I'd be happy to answer if I may.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Robin, whatever the length of the season is going to be, do we have a -- do we know what the opening date will be?

MR. RIECHERS: The opening date as it stands now would be June 1st.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Through the whole --

MR. RIECHERS: For all -- for the EEZ waters in any state that is opening, yes.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner Scott.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Have we had any success dealing with this whole group? What we talked about previously, we were looking at trying to get other states to maybe change some of their stuff. Has there been any further discussion on that?

MR. SMITH: We certainly continue to have active discussions with the state, just to talk about what are some options that might be out there for improved management of the stocks and so those discussions are very much ongoing and so can share more about those later, yeah. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay. Robin, thank you.

Item 7 was -- has been withdrawn. Item 8 is 2013-14 Migratory Game Bird Proclamation, request permission to publish proposed changes in the Texas Register. Kevin, good morning.

MR. KRAAI: Good morning. I know this everyone's favorite topic for no other reason than simplicity and ease.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: We just have to have our calendars out to understand it.

MR. KRAAI: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. I'll try and make it as painful as -- painless as possible. For the record, my name is Kevin Kraai. I am the Waterfowl Program Leader for the Wildlife Division, and I am here today to request permission to publish the 2013-2014 Migratory Game Bird Proposals that staff has developed pending your approval.

As I said, these proposals were developed by our Migratory Game Bird Technical Committee a couple months ago and recently, as recently as last week, supported by our Migratory Game Bird Advisory Board with one small exception dealing with special the White-winged dove area that I'll mention or talk more about in a minute. It's also important to note that some of these changes are more than just calendar shifts from last year, so we'll have to kind of get in the weeds on those.

We'll start with the early season regulations. Those species being Dove, Teal, Rail, Gallinules, Snipe, and Woodcock. And to begin with, we'll start with the statewide regular Dove seasons. As usual, by Federal law we're allowed a 70-day season with a 15-bird daily bag little, aggrate daily bag limit across the state. As you can see the North and Central Zones, staff proposals have identical season dates.

When staff proposed these dates and looked at this calendar for this year, they saw some unique opportunities to take advantage of some holidays, some weekends, and as well as some overlap with existing youth seasons. They also saw the opportunity to have some, as you can see here from this map, some consistent opening and closing dates that they thought was important. To begin with for the North and Central Zone, earliest day that we can open as allowed by the Fish and Wildlife Service is September 1. So staff proposes to open on September 1; run through October 27th; reopen on December 24th, which is Christmas Eve; and run out the allowable days in those two zones. In a minute we'll look at that on a calendar and we can discuss that more.

Regards to the South Zone, the earliest date that we're allowed to open in the South Zone is September 20th. So staff has proposed to open on September 20th. And similarly to the other two zones, run to October 27th, as well as reopen on December 24th for the second segment and run to January 24th.

Real quickly, we'll look at the special White-winged dove area. There's a couple of interesting things here. One, staff proposal is to open on September 1, which is actually a Sunday. If you have looked at the calendar, the September 2nd is actually Labor Day this year; so this -- through public input and human dimensions work, we've gotten good comment over the years saying they want to open as early as possible whenever and this is an opportunity for us to open September 1 and take advantage of that holiday weekend. With the two extra days, additional days, being the 7th and 8th. Staff proposals are then to reopen on September 20th, run to October 27th, again the same as all the other zones, reopen the 24th, and run out the allowable days, that being January 20th.

Before we look at that calendar, there's one other special area of interest especially to this group is if you recall last year, we went before the Fish and Wildlife Service and asked for the ability to expand the special White-winged dove area to take advantage of the growing population of White-wings. They have looked at that, and they have granted us the ability to do that. Here is a map basically depicting that potential expansion to I-37. Ideally, that would have extended much further east; but Fish and Wildlife Service has great concern over Mourning dove harvest and they are not interested technically anywhere in the nation of increasing Mourning dove harvest. So effectively since we doubled this area or are proposing to double this area, our existing Mourning dove bag limit in that area was four. So their attempts to not increase Mourning dove harvest, they've asked that our maximum Mourning dove harvest be two; so they effectively cut that in half.

So let's look at some of these on calendars, and we can discuss further --

COMMISSIONER JONES: But that's only in that expansion area?

MR. KRAAI: It would be for the entire special White-winged dove area, both the old one and the new.

COMMISSIONER JONES: But I'm sorry. It will be in the South Zone in that special zone?

MR. KRAAI: Yes, sir.

MR. SMITH: But, Kevin, just for the first special season. That wouldn't extend on into the -- okay.

MR. KRAAI: Exactly. Just for those first four days.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Got it. One and two --

MR. KRAAI: When the regular season opens, it's a regular 15-bird aggrate bag limit after that.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Got it.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: What does our science show or research?

MR. KRAAI: Actually, they used our science and research to set that boundary.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: So Mourning dove is actually is short?

MR. KRAAI: Yeah, Mourning dove populations looking at national data or call-count survey, have shown continued significant declines over the years and as we went further east, they actually used our information that we collect, you begin to see an increasing number of Mourning dove showing up in our call-count surveys and so this was basically as far east as they were willing to bite off at this point.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Interesting.

MR. KRAAI: So to look at this real quick on a couple calendars. Again, the North and Central Zone proposals are identical, with a Sunday, September 1st opener, run to October 27th. One interesting note there is the 26th and 27th also happens to be similar youth seasons for waterfowl and deer. We have gotten input from some of our human dimensions work that constituents want as many possible days in October for that first split and considering that youth season in there, staff thought that might be something that would be of interest. And then proposal there with a 24th reopener and running out our allowable days effectively ending on a Sunday, January 5th.

To look at the South Zone dove. Again, the earliest day we're allowed to open is the 20th. So staff has proposed to open the remainder of the South Zone on the 20th; like the other zones, reopen or close on the 27th; reopen that second segment on the 24th. And we also have some human dimensions work that says the -- our constituents like as many days in this zone in January as possible, so that's why we have proposed that many days in January and then we run out of allowable days on the 24th.

It also is important to note that January 25th is the latest date we're allowed to hunt dove, so we get really close to that Federal framework there.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Before you go forward. Can't we take January 21st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th and move those days to begin December 20, 21, 22, and 23?

MR. KRAAI: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I propose we do that.

MR. KRAAI: In the South Zone?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: In the South Zone.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: I agree and I think we ought to think about the Central and North Zone also opening on December the 20th for the second season and take four days off the first season and add them to it; so you have consistent December 20th open --

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Right.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: -- for the second season throughout the state. I don't know what the other Commissioners think, but I think it would create more hunting opportunities.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So that would make it consistent with South with December 20th start and we pull it from the end of October, four days. I like that.

MR. KRAAI: You're looking at a 23rd closure?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Simplify things.

MR. SMITH: Yes. And closure on a Wednesday, Kevin.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Close on the 5th, Central.

COMMISSIONER HIXON: Now, (inaudible) those four days.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: No. You're adding them to the start of the second split. Not to the end of the second.

COMMISSIONER HIXON: Oh, I'm sorry. Okay, okay. Sorry, sorry, sorry.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: You pull them off the end of the first split --

COMMISSIONER HIXON: Right, okay.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- and start the second split four days early.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: My feedback from hunters and I've talked to quite a few about this is that usually by the end of October, the dove have migrated out. But about the middle of December or early December, they come back and I've had multiple hunters I've visited with say they think it would create more opportunity and that's why I'm proposing this, along with you, Ralph, I agree with your proposal.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: It would also make sense on all the MLD hunters, they get to start on October the 1st on deer. So, you know, people kind of swap over from bird hunting into that anyway; so it makes good sense to me.

MR. KRAAI: Just to be clear. The North and Central Zone, take four days off. Basically effectively close on the 23rd, put those four days to reopen on the 20th, correct?

MR. SMITH: Yes.

MR. KRAAI: Okay. And the South Zone, take four days off the back, the 24th -- or the 21st through the 24th and put those in front of the second segment, begin the 20th?

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Yes.

MR. KRAAI: Very good.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Like you said, it's simple.

COMMISSIONER JONES: You shouldn't have told us it was simple because that was a challenge.

MR. KRAAI: All right. Now to get complicated.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Now you're confused.

MR. KRAAI: Yeah. Here's a calendar, a look at the calendar of what staff has proposed for the special White-winged dove area and as you can see as denoted by the first -- the early days there in purple, staff thought that with that Monday being a holiday and potentially take advantage of those birds when they're most abundant, that we would propose to open on the 1st, which is a Sunday, reopen on the 7th, and run out on the 8th.

Now this is the one place that I mentioned earlier where our advisory committee did not agree with staff proposals and they felt that we should maintain the tradition of the first two full weekends in September, so.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: That would be the 7th and 8th, 14th and 15th?

MR. KRAAI: Yes, sir. We have -- just for your information, we have had input from hunters and landowners. Some even say sometimes that they are fearful that they're even booking hunts after the 12th because they can't guarantee they'll have birds and so that was kind of what helped feed some of our staff decisions. But historically, we have typically opened the first two full weekends and historically, we do have -- mind you, it was many years ago -- we do have an example where we did open on a Sunday similar to this.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any thoughts or discussion on that point?

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: What was the -- you know, what was the rational by the advisory to want to do the first two weekends and not do what the staff recommended?

MR. KRAAI: It was a couple things. One was they felt that there was this era, you know, about opening days and for a traveling hunter, there might be the opportunity to have multiple opening days with the North and Central Zone opening on the 1st and then you can also have a second opening day on the 7th a few days later. The second was there might be some concern for existing outfitters that may have already tried to predict what we were going to do and may have already booked hunts for the first two full weekends.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: My reaction, I respect their views on that; but I think that having Labor Day hunting opportunities is a tradition and it's socially important and I think your studies seem to support that.

MR. KRAAI: Oh, yeah. That was one of the things that was most clear in our special White-winged dove area is there was great interest in opening as early as we possibly could. So.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I'd --

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: We know there's no negative resource impact, so I would --

MR. KRAAI: This would ultimately take most advantage of White-wings when they're most abundant.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I don't see any reason to alter that.

MR. KRAAI: And as far as the remaining days in the South or the special White-wing area, we would be looking at a potential open the earliest date we're allowed again, which is the 20th; run to the 27th, which was also the proposed on the other areas; reopen on the 24th; and run out those allowable days to January 20th, which is also a holiday. There are comments regarding that considering the suggested changes to the other areas.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: There's really nothing we can do to avoid the fact that the second split cannot start on the 20th like it does in the -- that we're proposing in the South Zone because we're using those four days in September. We're either going to have to give up the end of the second split or the start of the second split, correct?

MR. KRAAI: In order to get those four days to get us to the 20th, you would have to back off the back end, which would put you at the 17th or the 16th or do it off the back of October, take four days off which would put you closing on the 23rd.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. So then I pose this question for you and the rest of us. Should we pull a few days off the end of October and start the second split December 20th instead of the 24th? It would be four days if we were going to be consistent with that part of the state.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: I think to me, Ralph, that maybe the most consistent thing would be to start the second season on the 20th and pull four days wherever days you need to off the first season instead of have -- I think it would be inconsistent to have -- well, pulling days -- having part of the South Zone closes on the 20, what -- you know, to have different closings. It's going to also close at the end. Well, it wouldn't close at the end. Anyway, I think make it consistent and balance it.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So to do that, that's what I'm suggesting we consider is we pull the 24th, 5th, 6th, and 7th of October and add that to open the second split on December 20th instead of the 24th.

MR. KRAAI: And technically if you recall, that's the same time that we would be closing the North and South -- or the North and Central Zones as well, so.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Make it consistent, the second split would be consistent statewide.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Simpler and consistent.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: That's good.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Is everybody all right with that?

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I like it.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: A lot of people have already started the holidays, so they would be able to utilize the hunt times. Yeah, that makes good sense.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Yeah.

MR. KRAAI: Very well.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Good.

MR. KRAAI: See, not too terribly painful. Change gears here for a minute, and we'll go into early Teal seasons. Again, one of the important things to note about a lot of these proposals is these things can change over the next few months. A lot of these species we're about to talk about, in order to set Federal regulations, a lot of data is still forthcoming later this summer; so these dates can -- and bag limits -- can change by Federal law from what we're proposing.

Historically when we have or allowed a 16-day Teal season, we have typically just gone to the end of the last Sunday in September and backed up those 16 days. We expect that, again, have a 16-day Teal season considering the populations. So if that does come to fruition, staff proposal would be to open on September 14th, run that 16 days to Sunday the September 29th. And if it were a 9-day season, which is unlikely, it would be September 21 to 29. Bag limit is expected to be four, but we're hoping to change that. More to come on that front.

Moving on to Rail, Gallinule, and Moorhens. Rail, Gallinule, and Moorhens, we are proposing to open concurrent with Teal season September 14 through 29; reopen November 2nd, which also happens to be when we're proposing to open duck and goose seasons; and run out the allowable number of days, which is December 25th.

Snipe season, we're allowed a 107-day season. We're proposing to open on November 2nd, concurrent with duck, goose, and Rail and Gallinule seasons; and run out the 107 days February 16th. Woodcock, we're only allowed a 45-day season. Historically, we've just gone to the last day in the frameworks, which is January 31st and backed up those 45 days as our proposal.

Moving on to the late season proposals, which is primarily waterfowl. We'll start with the High Plains Mallard Management Unit. In this instance, this is a simple calendar progression, our staff's recommendations from the previous year with a proposed youth season being October 19th and 20th; reopen the regular season on October 26, 27th; close for an abbreviated split, 4-day split to reopen on November 1st and run through January 26th, which is the last day allowed by frameworks.

We do expect again the Dusky duck season, if you will; basically, a shortened season. Five days off the front end of all our zones, and that season would look like November 4th through January 26th. If you look at that on a calendar, green denotes the early Teal season, darker blue denotes the youth seasons, light blue is the regular seasons with red depicting the abbreviated split.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: What again is the split, Kevin?

MR. KRAAI: 28th through the 31st.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I know. But what occurs on the split?

MR. KRAAI: All seasons are -- all seasons are closed for that 4-day period.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That's what I'm -- it's a closure.

MR. KRAAI: Yes, sir. That just allows us to open -- take advantage of weekends and we're not closing on strange dates --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Right.

MR. KRAAI: -- because of the amount of days we're allowed in that unit.

Moving on to the South Zone. Again, like the High Plains, this is a simple calendar progression from last year with a youth season proposed October 26th and 27th, a regular season to open on November 2nd and run to our more traditional Sunday after Thanksgiving, close for two weeks to allow for rest, reopen on December 14th and run to the end of allowable frameworks. In this zone because of the Mottled duck, the Dusky duck season is of high importance where we do expect a 5-day closure at the beginning of that season. To look at that on a calendar, again, green denoting the Teal seasons, dark blue denoting the youth seasons with our split denoted in red.

The North Zone, as I mentioned there was a few changes that we are proposing that aren't simple calendar shifts. And this year staff got to looking at the zones and decided to try and take advantage of those two zones and create some more opportunity for hunters by manipulating those splits differently that we'll talk about. So youth season will be a calendar progression, which is 26th and 27th similarly to the North -- the South Zone. The regular opener would be the same as the South. It'd be November 2nd, but the closure would be a little different. In the North Zone, we would go one week later than our proposal in the South Zone and thus, opening up that -- the second time for the second segment a week later as well, with the similar closures of the 26th.

To look at that on a calendar so you can kind of see what we're talking about, again, green Teal seasons, youth seasons in light blue being the regular seasons. The split here is actually one week later in the North Zone than in the South Zone. So effectively we've increased the amount of time that someone can hunt in the state for waterfowl if they're willing to travel or live up close to that line. So whereas in the South zone, will be closed on the 2nd. You can see there's opportunity for South Zone hunters to travel to the North Zone and hunt that week. They'll have a similar closure the week of the 9th and the South Zone will reopen on the 14th, whereas the North Zone remains closed for North Zone hunters to potentially hunt in the South Zone.

As far as bag limits, what we expect -- again, this is identical to last year. We expect a six-duck daily bag with three Wood ducks, two of which -- no more than two can be Hen Mallards, two Redheads, one Canvasback, and then one Mottled or Dusky duck after the first five days. All other species we expect a six-bird bag, Mergansers five per day of which two, only two can be Hooded Mergansers. The elusive Coot, we expect a 15-bird per day bag limit.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Do we have many people that hunt Coots?

MR. KRAAI: No.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: I don't know of anybody that's ever shot 15 Coots.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Well, you know, it's funny you mentioned that because that's part -- we were chuckling. I asked him, I said, "Bill, has anybody ever shot a Rail, Gallinule, or a Moorhen?" If one of them jumped up and hit me, I've got to find somebody to show me -- I've got to shoot one just to say I have, but anyway.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Who can identify them.

MR. KRAAI: Most of those species are, you know, inadvertent to other hunting activities. Few people go out with malice and forthought after those species.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I'm quite sure of that.

MR. KRAAI: Moving on to geese, we'll start with unfortunately complicated Eastern Zone where we do have some regulatory changes from last year to propose. As far as Light geese, proposing a calendar progression from last year, November 2nd to January 26th. If you recall, that's also the opening and closures in duck seasons, with a conservation order beginning the next day running out through March 23rd.

Canada geese, you also may recall that a couple years ago we enacted an early September season to overlap with Teal seasons and we are proposing that again. That has been very a successful season and well received by your constituents over the last couple years and so we are proposing that again with identical open on the 2nd, run to January 26th for the rest of the season.

As far as White-fronted geese, White-fronted geese proposing a unique management challenge considering that their management plan requires an abbreviated season compared to the other geese. We're allowed a 72-day season, which historically we've opened all species together the same day. We've gotten quite a bit of public input over the last few years, basically saying that there might be some migratory changes, some delay in migration for various reasons, and as well as there's not a lot of Light geese in that part of the country at that time of year. So there's not a lot of goose hunting going on that time of year, so they -- staff has looked at that and concurred and is now proposing to keep that season closed for the first two weeks instead of the last two weeks and we think we could increase opportunities on White-fronts when there will be more people out there, you know, chasing all species of geese. So our proposal is to open November 16th as opposed to the 2nd and then run to the end of allowable frameworks being January 26th.

As far as bag limit in the East Zone, we expect a three-bird Canada goose bag limit, two White-fronted goose Canada -- or two White-fronted goose bag limit and 20 Light geese with no possession. To look at that complicated calendar, the maroon or purple depicts the early Canada goose only season in the East here, the gray boxes indicate the Canada and Light goose seasons for the remainder of the year, with the gray boxes with the maroon lettering depicting the White-fronted goose season, which shows that, you know, abbreviated season there, blue denoting the conservation order.

West Zone geese, much less complicated and it is a simple calendar progression from last year as our proposals with an opener on November 2nd to run out the allowable days being February 2nd, reopen on February 3rd for the conservation order, run to March 23rd. Dark geese, identical to Light geese; November 2nd to February 2nd. The difference being in the bag limit. For Dark geese we're allowed five Dark geese in the aggrate of which no more than one can be a White-fronted goose in that zone. We expect -- again, we expect the bag limit of 20 Light geese in that zone. To look at that much more simplistic calendar, with gray denoting the Dark and Light goose seasons and the blue denoting the conservation order following.

As far as the proposed dates for Sandhill cranes, these -- for all zones are calendar progressions from last year. Where you see in Zone A, identical seasons to the goose seasons, we're proposing a November 2nd to February 2nd with a bag limit of three. Zone B is a special management area for our state. Basically, we delay that opener to allow for Whooping migration, Whooping crane migration through that area. Our proposal this year is a November 22nd, I believe which is a Friday, opener and to run to February 2nd. Again, a bag limit of three.

With our Coastal Zone or Zone C, we're only allowed -- we allow fewer amount of days there. Again, with a calendar progression from last year being December 21st to January 26th and we're expecting a bag limit of two.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Is the reason we have a bag limit of two instead of three because there's a greater concentration of the greater -- the greater species with --

MR. KRAAI: The best way to answer that question, I believe, is that what used to be our knowledge. That information is old. We have some new information that we're looking at as the last couple years and we hope to address that inconsistency soon because some of the new information we have shows no difference between those populations and they're mixing equally with -- across the state.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Good.

MR. KRAAI: We hope to address that soon. As far as our proposed falconry seasons for this year, our staff proposals for Mourning, White-wing, and White-tipped doves is November 16th through December 22nd. We may have to look at these considering some of the changes that you have proposed so that we don't overlap with some of our regular dove hunting. So I'm not sure without looking at the calendar right now what that would look like; but as of right now, that's our staff recommendations. We will take a look at your new recommendations and make sure that those dates do fit in that split period.

Woodcock, Moorhen, Gallinule, Rail, and ducks in both the North and South Zones, as you recall, the High Plains Mallard Management Unit, we use up all of our days already; 107 available, so we don't have any extra days available for that area. Those species we're proposing a January 27th through February 10th.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Kevin, do we have any idea how many falconry participants there are? How many -- is that popular? Are there a lot of people that utilize this season?

MR. KRAAI: We have a -- in our audience Matt Reidy, a staff member who is an avid falconer and I think he could answer that question for you.

MR. REIDY: There's about 203.

MR. KRAAI: We're going to talk about that some more.

MR. REIDY: For the record, I'm Matt Reidy, Wildlife Biologist with the Parks and Wildlife. Just got that number today. There's about 230 falconers in the state.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Is it growing or...

MR. REIDY: It is. It was in the 180s probably five or six years ago, so there is a growing number. I can't tell you why, but there is a growing number of falconers.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: There seems to be an interesting number -- an increasing amount of interest in young people. I think it's fascinating that they seem to be taking up it, at least up in the north part of the state.

MR. REIDY: Great.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Have they created an association or anything yet?

MR. REIDY: We do have a state organization called the Texas Hawking Association. We have a website and there's also a national club and so it's the North American Falconers Association.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Just a quick question. Are most of these hawks that are used in falconry, are they in the wild and called in when needed or once captured, they remain captured and used?

MR. REIDY: They remain captured once captured. There's some captive bred raptors as well that are used, so both wild caught and captive bred.

COMMISSIONER JONES: But they go catch the prey, bring it back to you, and stay?

MR. REIDY: No, they catch the prey with every intention of eating it and we go there and we assist the falcon or the hawk with their prey; so they don't bring it back.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: With very thick gloves I'm sure.

MR. REIDY: Well, I mean it's a great sport. I've been a falconer about 16 years and I recommend y'all, if you get a chance, we have a -- Texas Hawking Association has a state meet in Waco every year around the Martin Luther King weekend and then there's also falconers around any of the major metropolis -- metropolitan areas that would love to show their falcons and their hawks, so.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Quick question. How does it work if you trap one in the wild, how does that affect our game wardens? Don't hawks come under either us or U.S. Fish and Wildlife?

MR. REIDY: They do. We actually have -- we're allowed with a falconry permit to trap birds of prey.

MR. KRAAI: It's a small number.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Obviously, I find this very interesting myself. I'm thinking about getting my a dang falcon. Save a lot of money on shotgun shells.

COMMISSIONER HIXON: Frustration level goes up.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Does it? You're familiar with it? That's pretty cool.

MR. REIDY: It is later on the agenda as well, so.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Appreciate it, thank you.

MR. KRAAI: With that being said, that concludes my presentation. Are there any questions or --

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner Morian.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: The Woodcock, it's 45 days and the Federal framework ends the end of January.

MR. KRAAI: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: And do they also determine the bag limit or is that...

MR. KRAAI: Yes, absolutely. The bag limit is, if I'm not looking wrong, eight.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Three.

MR. KRAAI: Sorry, I should know that.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: So they -- was it our data that they used to come up with three or...

MR. KRAAI: We currently don't have a lot of Woodcock monitoring going on in the state of Texas, but there is elsewhere. We just have a national Woodcock management plan.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: So it's just a number?

MR. KRAAI: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Okay.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Kevin, are their numbers declining with the drought?

MR. KRAAI: I believe --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Are we seeing evidence of that?

MR. KRAAI: That as well as, you know, continued deforestation and human growth. Yeah, Woodcock remain a concern.

MR. MALONSON: If I could?

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Please.

MR. MALONSON: I'm not sure if you've had any dealings in the Houston areas that -- yes, sir. My experience as a Field Game Warden in the Harris County district, I've had encounters with some of the bird watching groups in the Addicks and Barker reservoir area and they've observed an increase in numbers of Woodcock in that particular area and I believe it encompasses about a 20- to 30,000-acre tract, both sides of Interstate 10 in the Houston area; so that's something you might want to look at.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you. Any other questions for Kevin? Thank you.

MR. KRAAI: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Appreciate it. Okay, I'll authorize staff to publish the proposed changes in the Texas Register with the changes that we requested to the dove seasons for the required public comment period.

Item No. 9 is an update on LPC, Clayton Wolf.

MR. WOLF: Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, for the record, I'm Clayton Wolf, Wildlife Division Director and that's not a mistake. I'm going to be giving a presentation on Lesser Prairie Chickens for you. The intent of my briefing here is to focus on the rangewide conservation plan for the Lesser Prairie Chicken, but I believe I probably need to cover a little bit of background information on the Lesser Prairie Chicken and also talk just briefly about the listing process that the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service has engaged in because it is relevant to our rangewide conservation plan.

First just briefly, you know, the Lesser Prairie Chicken is a member of the Grouse family. If you look at that map, which actually comes from our draft rangewide plan, the dark line there encompasses what was the historic range of the Lesser Prairie Chicken. It's a Grassland bird. And then, of course, the green area highlighted is our current estimated occupied range of the Lesser Prairie Chicken. That encompasses about 19 million acres.

A unique characteristic of this Grouse is that during breeding season, which is about now, they gather on leks or booming grounds and the males do a little courtship display to try to attract females for breeding before they head off into the grass to nest. And so then -- and like many other gallinaceous or ground-nesting birds, they have large clutches and relatively high mortality. And it's probably important that I interject whether it's a Prairie Chicken or a quail, Bobwhites, or turkeys, you know, the persistence of these animals on the landscape is really due to their high reproductive potential. Not the ability of those adults to survive.

And so any time you're looking at conservation strategies, what you're trying to do is create the ideal habitat for chick or poult production as opposed to trying to keep those adults alive because naturally they have such high mortality rates. Historical accounts indicate that around the turn of the 20th Century, Lesser Prairie Chickens were quite abundant; but in 1937, the Texas Legislature ended hunting. And if you'll think back to that map that I just had up on the page there and your history lessons about what happened in that area, the Plains, during the late 30s, it was the dust bowl. The Dust Bowl era.

And so as land was plowed up and the drought hit, obviously the countryside was not producing any kind of vegetation. In fact, many people thought that the Lesser Prairie Chicken was extinct at that time. Of course, it's not. So in '52, in 1952 annual surveys began in Texas and in '67 and 1970, we had a permit only harvest and then initiated in 1987 up until 2009, we had continuous harvest with harvest either with permit or without permit. In 1995 was when the Lesser Prairie Chicken was petitioned to be put on the endangered species list and, of course, we had harvest with permit from '97 to 2005 and in '98, the species was listed as a candidate and then through from 2005 to 2009, we actually had harvest with a permit and a wildlife management plan.

And it's important to note that our harvest during this time was almost nonexistence; but because this Agency and the Commission saw the imminent listing proposal coming forward, they chose to -- the Commission chose to harvest -- I mean to suspend the harvest of Lesser Prairie Chickens until we could get those numbers back up. But definitely in those discussions, everyone acknowledged that hunting was not the reason for the decline of Lesser Prairie Chickens where it is declining and we have every intention to turn this boat around and hunt those birds again some day.

And then in -- in December of 2012, Fish and Wildlife Service proposed a rule and they will make a decision in September of this year. So when folks are contemplating petitioning to have a species listed as a candidate species and when Fish and Wildlife Service is looking at making that determination, oftentimes what they're looking at are the threats to the Lesser Prairie Chicken. What are those threats out there? And so I want to take a moment to talk just briefly about some of the threats.

Some we haven't -- at least one we have no control over, and that's drought. And so even when you have good habitat conditions, Lesser Prairie Chicken populations boom and bust through that high reproductive potential during good years; but there are some impacts to the landscape that are man-made, fragmentation, and some incompatible land use. Some of those include row crops and also grazing can be good for Lesser Prairie Chickens or it can be bad for Lesser Prairie Chickens if not done properly and you'll notice in some of my slides there and that one on the top page that I'm not a Prairie Chicken expert, but that's not a Lesser Prairie Chicken dropping in that slide there. So cattle can be beneficial as long it's appropriate grazing.

What's interesting about the Lesser Prairie Chicken is even research has shown even when in an ideal habitat conditions, if there's a vertical structure that is erected in that place, Lesser Prairie Chickens will avoid that habitat and there's been several cities -- studies done on this and so for whatever reason, habitat that would otherwise be suitability or even excellent habitat becomes unsuitable when vertical structures such as oil derricks, transmission lines, wind turbines, anything vertical those birds will avoid even good habitat.

So just briefly about the listing process, and don't be alarmed by the next slide. We're not going to go through all the details of it. The only reason I put that up there is to kind of to display the complexity of the listing process. I think we've gone through this once at least with Commissioner Jones and we've developed this slide since then to try to condense it down to one page; but it is a complex process. But for the purpose of the Lesser Prairie Chicken, just quickly I said it was -- as I said, it was petitioned in 1995 and there were some budgetary constraints where Fish and Wildlife Service actually didn't look at that for a couple of years.

But ultimately, it ended up on the candidate list with many, many other species and it was put in a category of warranted but concluded. And as Executive Directer Smith had indicated, as a result of a lawsuit -- or Fish and Wildlife Service was sued because of all these species accumulating on the candidate list and Fish and Wildlife not going to the listing process and so the Courts compelled the Fish and Wildlife Service to start going through that listing process and that puts us where we are today.

As I said, on December 11th, the Fish and Wildlife Service published their proposed rule to list the Prairie Chicken as threatened. The typical 60-day comment period was extended and that closed on March 11th. They had public hearings throughout the range of the Lesser Prairie Chicken and by the end of September 2013, unless there's a 6-month extension that is granted for scientific disagreement, they will have to make their decision by December of this year.

And so while all this has been going on and prior to this, the States have not been sitting on their hands. It was back in April of this -- of this -- of 2012 when the States and the Directors of the States, the five states of the Lesser Prairie Chicken range got together and decided we were going to engage in an effort to keep the Lesser Prairie Chicken off the endangered species list. And the mechanism to do that or at least the management plan or the playbook for that was going to be the rangewide conservation plan for the Lesser Prairie Chicken.

So when the Directors of the states made this decision, basically our Lesser Prairie Chicken Interstate Working Group, which is a working group within the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, was tasked with developing this plan. One of the first tasks was to hire a consultant to help draft this plan and they hired Ecological Management Research Institute. We're working with a gentleman named Jon Haufler and also they recognize there are many, many components of this plan and so numerous teams were put together to work on the numerous aspects of the plan and that includes a science team, a voluntary offset committee, a banking and credit trading working group, and a conservation implement -- and a conservation implement -- and conservation implementation teams in each state.

And our deadline is actually we intend to submit this plan to the Service no later than Monday and this will be the third version, I believe. There's been a lot of public input on that and so I would like to take a few moments just to talk about some of the major components of this plan.

Obviously, one of the first things our science team had to do was establish population goals. We need to establish goals that could sustain the Lesser Prairie Chicken in perpetuity and so that map there on the right side of your screen is actually from our draft plan. Some of the text may not be legible. But there in the western Panhandle, the area in pink, that's the Shinnery Oak Ecosystem and our science team has proposed a target of 8,000 birds in that area. I will say for all these targets and the total is 67,000 birds, that's a 10-year running average target because these are -- these populations are subject to boom and bust, we can't hold those static and so that would be a 10-year average. In some years it would be much higher than that, and some years significantly lower.

And so you might ask yourself so what does mean relative to where we stand today? You know, how far do we have to go to get to that 67,000 birds? As you see on the screen there, that is two times the 2012 population estimate. And it was in 2012 that we first embarked upon a rangewide, a consistent rangewide aerial survey of Lesser Prairie Chickens across their entire range. And, in fact, those surveys have initiated here recently. We're doing it again this year.

But what's interesting to note is based on our previous surveys and our -- although be -- albeit they are ground surveys, we have estimates that go back less than ten years and we believe we're at this level less than ten years ago in all parts of Prairie Chicken range. For instance, there in the Western Panhandle in 2006, we estimate we were at 8,000 birds during that time frame. So it hasn't been that long ago that we had 8,000 birds in that ecoregion.

If you go to the Northeast Panhandle, we don't have as much survey data; but we did have a research project going on up there and in 2004, the estimate in that area was ten birds per square mile. To get the 24,000 bird estimate for that ecoregion of the mixed grass prairie, Texas' contribution would have to be five birds per square mile. So in 2004, we estimate we had twice as many birds as we need. And the reason I say the Texas estimate is because in that particular ecoregion, the expectation of bird density would be higher as you move up into Kansas.

So the point I'm trying to make is we're not looking at 1900 level estimates. You know, we're looking at population estimates we believe we had out there in the last decade and so this is not an insurmountable goal. So how do we achieve that?

The plan contemplates the strategic delivery of conservation on the landscape. You've got 19 million acres of Lesser Prairie Chicken country and you can easily dilute your conservation dollars; but what our -- the drafters of the plan contemplate is to intensify that management on focal areas first. So on the slide there, you have green areas that are identified as focal areas and the plan contemplates achieving 75 percent of our population goals on those green areas and that's 35 percent of the range.

So we're putting a lot of our effort into a third of the Prairie Chicken habitat, but expecting to get 75 percent of our population goals from that one-third area. And so these areas weren't -- obviously weren't selected random, in a random fashion. We have a lot of GIS layers to include habitat quality where Prairie Chickens are; but our staff also considered other infrastructure and development out there to try to cut down on conflicts. So if we saw areas of high wind potential, areas that we knew were going to be developed for oil and gas, we tried to avoid those areas if we could and select other areas just to cut down on the amount of conflict with industry.

The gold areas on the map are what we are -- are referred to as corridors or connectivity zones. And these simply are to promote stability within our habitat focal areas, just to provide some travel corridors. The habitat goals in these corridors are -- have a much lower standard. We're basically looking at if we can get 30 percent of the area in these corridors to manage for Lesser Prairie Chicken, that will suffice to serve as a corridor between our focal areas.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Are you saying put the other -- are you saying you're looking to populate the other 30 percent in those corridor areas?

MR. WOLF: Not necessarily in the corridor areas. Inside the red circles there, so there's a lot of -- I'll have a slide later on. There's a lot of Prairie Chicken conservation going on around outside those areas, so we're really just talking about new conservation and the delivery of the new conservation strategies.

And so probably the most complex part of our rangewide plan is the mitigation system or you may hear this referred to as the metrics. And basically for any kind of a system where you're trying to recover an animal, you have to quantify the impacts. And so basically what that means is, for example, if you were going to put in a 1,000-acre wind farm, it obviously means different things to the Prairie Chicken depending on where you put that wind farm. If you put it right in the middle of some of those green areas, the impacts are going to be much greater. If you can move them out toward that red boundary or outside the key focal areas, the impacts won't be as great.

And then you have to be able to convert that to good things for the Prairie Chicken. But ultimately one key component of the plan is to encourage avoidance of minimization. We want to try to develop some mechanisms whereby folks who voluntarily enroll, will be encouraged to develop outside the key areas so that we cut down on the number of threats to the Lesser Prairie Chicken. But then we have to be able to deliver conservation and we have to do that by paying landowners for conservation delivery. These are primarily private lands where these chickens exist and if we're going to be successful in that, it's going to be because our private land partners are doing good things, additional good things for the Lesser Prairie Chicken in addition to what they're doing today.

And, of course, to pay for that, it means we need voluntary enrollment by industry. And you might ask yourself why in the world would industry want to enroll in something where it's going to cost them more to develop, whether that's a -- whether that's oil and gas exploration or wind or it's transmission. And the bottom line is to get that extra net conservation benefit, industry would get operational certainty and so that's what they're looking for. Because obviously if the chicken is listed, there are some regulatory birds that go with that and we believe there would be less operational certainty; whereas if folks can sign up in advance in a formalized agreement and basically get a promise, then they at least know the rules they're playing by as they move into the future.

And so this next slide here, there's a lot of acronyms. I apologize, but basically I want to emphasize two things. First, all the good things that have been going on for Lesser Prairie Chickens already. This one thing that we cannot overemphasize in our message to Fish and Wildlife Service is all the good work that is occurring out there on the range already through farm bill programs like the Lesser Prairie Chicken Conservation Initiative, EQUIP, CRP, and we also have State and Fish and Wildlife programs like the Landowner Incentive Program, Partners for Fish and Wildlife.

But here more recently there on the center of the screen if you've been engaged in this discussion, you'll hear about things like CCAAs, CCAs. There's a lot of different instruments out there. Most of these are negotiated with the Fish and Wildlife Service and participating parties are basically issued incidental take permits under Section 10 of the Endangered Species Act. There's a lot of process that goes with that. The National Environmental Policy Act requires that an EA or an EIS be conducted and that takes time and, of course, remember we're looking at September 2013 for a listing and so Fish and Wildlife Service has signaled to all the states that we really need a coordinated effort. They can't have a bunch of different individual efforts coming to them because they just won't be able to process it at all -- all of them.

And so one very clear message that the States are carrying and Fish and Wildlife Service is reinforcing is there's going to be one rangewide conservation plan for the Lesser Prairie Chicken and our goal is to involve all the stakeholders, landowners, industry, to get them at the table to use the same set of metrics, the same management plan, the same strategic delivery of conservation, ultimately to keep the Lesser Prairie Chicken off the list.

This next slide here basically just shows you some things that have been taking place so far. I'm not going to go in detail, but we're proud in Texas to have a -- almost 323,000 acres in CCAAs and we have, I'm told, about 160,000 in the pipeline; but basically 9.2 million acres right now in some form of Lesser Prairie Chicken conservation. And once we get our rangewide management plan constructed and we have industry show up, oil and gas or wind, we hope to have many millions more acres signed up in some of those agreements; so that ultimately when we go to the Fish and Wildlife Service and when the Fish and Wildlife Service looks at this in September, we've got to be very clear. Even though this plan contemplates some regulatory assurances or some operational certainty, our goal is to keep the Lesser Prairie Chicken off the endangered species list and that's our first and foremost goal.

And so we have not lost sight of that. It's all hands on deck with all the states. We believe we've got -- we will have plenty of people, additional people come to the table to sign up to keep the Lesser Prairie Chicken off the list and so that's our goal. That's our message. We haven't changed that; but we will have an instrument there, the rangewide plan and all those mechanisms underneath it that folks can join up and help conserve the Lesser Prairie Chicken.

And so with that, I will -- I'll end my presentation. I'll be glad to take any questions you might have.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Great. Thanks, Clayton.

COMMISSIONER MARTIN: I just wanted to make a comment. I really -- I appreciate the efforts in putting it all together like this where you can follow it, see it. It's an area that I've been questioned on, and it's been brought up to me numerous of times; so this is really helpful to see what's being done and the process of how it's being handled and all the participation of everybody involved. So I really do appreciate --

MR. WOLF: Thank you. It's been quite a chore. I mean everybody is -- has the same goal, keep the Prairie Chicken off the list; but obviously even within oil and gas, some folks feel like a CCAA is the best instrument, some folks believe habitat credit trading. The States have really taken the stance that we ought to have as many options out there as possible so that people can pick and choose. That's going to get more people enrolled. It's going to get more conservation delivery.

It is a greater challenge when you have to try to, you know, bring in all the different parties; but we're up for the challenge. It will be all be under the rangewide plan and hopefully, we'll have enough different options out there that it's going to work for not just all aspects of industry, but also landowners out there will have many options to choose from as well. And by that, I mean you could choose a permanent conservation easement or some kind of a term agreement if you want to just enroll in habitat credit trading.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Just a question on your timing. You said that we've got to present all this in September. They're going to rule on it I thought in September.

MR. WOLF: They will rule on it in September. Actually, we have already -- March 11th was the deadline and so through that cumbersome process, there are several opportunities where we provide data and so we also did that by March 11th. And so now is the time for Fish and Wildlife Service to take that data and start digesting it.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Okay, so they've got that 6-month period.

MR. WOLF: That's correct. The other aspect is this rangewide plan, we -- it will be also put out for public comment again. I believe we're submitting the third draft. Fish and Wildlife Service will publish that and then in the meantime, we will try -- we -- the attempts will be once it's proved, to get as many acres enrolled so that by September 13th, we can -- or by September of 2013, we can present enough information to show that a lot of conservation is taking place since, you know, since many years ago; but particularly now here in recent months.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Before the - before the --

MR. WOLF: Before the listing decision. That's correct.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner Duggins.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Can you go back to the slide that says acres under conservation agreement?

MR. WOLF: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: What's the difference -- well, first question. What do you mean when you say CRP occupied rangewide five and a half million acres?

MR. WOLF: That is CRP acreage that is within the occupied range of the Lesser Prairie Chicken. So there's a lot -- you know, CRP -- CRP programs are all throughout the U.S.; but that's acreage within the occupied range of the Lesser Prairie Chicken.

MR. SMITH: Conservation reserve programs.

MR. WOLF: Yes, yes, conservation reserve.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: What was I going -- where I was trying to get to though, does that five and a half million or the 323,000 that's shown under Texas ranching, do those include lands that are already -- that already have wind turbines on them?

MR. WOLF: I don't know the answer to that. The -- what I did ask of Sean Kyle is, the question I had of him is that land what's in those green areas. I can tell you that the ranching CCAAs, probably not. Because part of the agreement is when someone signs up for a ranching CCAA is to get in a management plan and there not be infrastructure development that would be negative for the Lesser Prairie Chicken. So unless the neighbors have done something, if it's in a ranching CCAA, whatever infrastructure they had on the site is what they enrolled.

If it already had vertical structures, it's not going to be suitable Lesser Prairie Chicken habitat; so my guess would be it would not be counted and if they developed infrastructure on that, then basically they would -- they would -- they would basically have to opt-out of their CCAA because it would not be consistent with the -- with their agreement. But I don't know the details on CRP.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That's really what I was getting to is can you -- is it possible to have appropriate habitat for one of these categories and still have wind turbines on there?

MR. WOLF: You know, in the CRP -- on the CRP one, wind turbines or transmission lines, I'm saying it is possible. I believe that to be the case. We can get back with you and get some information, but I don't believe we necessarily excluded transmission lines or wind turbines on neighbor's property. So the amount of acreage that a Lesser Prairie Chicken could utilize might be reduced some by infrastructure either on a neighbor's property or something bisecting that country.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And do you --

MR. SMITH: That's a good question.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- in your judgment, do you think the Service understands the impact that wind turbines have on this bird?

MR. WOLF: I believe they do. I believe they do. I think they're -- although in one of the comments that we made in our letter to Fish and Wildlife Service is, you know, there are some studies; but we believe we could enhance that science on the aversion to structures by some more analysis and some GIS analysis of our current occupied range and infrastructure that's out there now. And so we have -- what we have suggested is that we be allowed the time to consolidate that information to better inform ourselves and to enhance the science on the aversion to these structures.

Because it is -- and we had a meeting here in this room and I think there are some folks that don't necessarily believe it and obviously, it's -- you know, there's -- I've been told four or five studies that definitely indicate that there's an aversion. But ultimately when the scientists sit down and have to decide what that distance is, they use the best information at hand. We can always get more, but there's no doubt there's an aversion to vertical structures.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Clayton, thanks.

MR. WOLF: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Appreciate it.

Item 10 is Public Lands Proclamation, request permission to publish proposed changes in the Texas Register. Good morning, how are you?

MS. CAMPBELL: Good morning, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. For the record, my name is Linda Campbell. I'm the Program Director for Private Lands and Public Hunting. I -- today, I will be seeking permission to publish changes to the Public Lands Proclamation.

First, we would like to remove Old Tunnel and Walter Buck Wildlife Management Areas from the proclamation, as these units have been transferred to the State Parks Division. Excuse me. Staff also recommends removing the WMA designation from Granger, Ray Roberts, and Somerville properties operated by the U.S Army Corps of Engineers. Due to budget and personnel constraints, habitat management practices are no longer being implemented on these areas by TPWD. However, these Corps properties will remain in our public hunting program and under a new agreement that we're currently working on with them, will continue to be managed and open for public hunting.

In addition, we have a number of housekeeping changes involving the naming of certain U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineer units and also we would like to make changes to eliminate certain duplicative language in Section 65.193.

Staff is requesting a new regulation that would define the term "unattended" and prohibit public hunters and other users from leaving personal gear and equipment or floating conveyances unattended on public hunting lands, except as specifically authorized by the site manager. These regulations are needed to prevent user conflicts that result from people leaving unattended personal property on the areas as a way to reserve preferred hunting locations.

Staff is also requesting a regulation to specify that it is an offense to use a dog to hunt on public hunting lands, unless the use of dogs to hunt is specifically authorized. The numbers, means, methods, and conditions for taking wildlife resources on Wildlife Management Areas and public hunting lands are prescribed by Executive order in the Department publications entitled the Map Booklet for Public Hunting Lands and also the Applications for Drawings book, which contain language addressing the use of dogs on public hunting lands.

Currently, dogs may be used for hunting squirrel, rabbits, hares, furbearing animals, predatory animals, and game birds other than turkey on most units during open seasons. However, for clarity, staff have determined that it has become necessary to explicitly state by rule that unless the use of dogs to hunt is authorized, such use is prohibited. So with that, I'll answer any questions that you may have.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner Scott.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I want to make sure I understand what you're asking for here. So if I go out on some public land and want to hunt doves, I've got to have permission to have a dog to get the doves?

MS. CAMPBELL: No. Where this is coming from, as I understand it, is Law Enforcement is telling us that having the language, it's already in the books by Executive order, but having the language in the rule, in the proclamation, will help them in assisting with prosecution when it comes to offenses.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I'm not sure that --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yeah, that doesn't answer it.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Because, you know, I'm just sitting here thinking anybody that has a badge that's a Game Warden that chooses to look at a dog that he's -- if he's on the land and he can't pick up the bird; but if he is out there, how do you get a permit? How do you -- seems like it's awful complicated to me.

MS. CAMPBELL: Well, in our books, you know, each of the areas of public hunting lands talk about how you can hunt, the means and methods and whether or not you can use a dog; so that's already in there, and so that will not change. That will still be in our public hunting books, the rules of how to use it. You know, how to use dogs if you can use them on public hunting lands at certain times. This just puts it in the proclamation that it is an offense to use them unless permitted.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: But doesn't this make it illegal to have a dog on public land without having a permit? So if you're dove hunting -- I use dove hunting because that's an easy one. Everybody -- lots of people --

MS. CAMPBELL: Well, you would have to -- this is for -- this is for our walk-in hunting program, so you would need to have an annual hunting -- annual public hunting permit to be on these public lands anyway.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Right, right.

MS. CAMPBELL: And so you would get the book that would tell you whether or not you can use a dog for that particular open period on that public hunting --

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Dick, you raise a good point there. We're going to get to that.

Ann, do you have...

MS. BRIGHT: For the record, I'm Ann Bright, General Counsel. If you actually -- the text of the rule talks about unless the dogs are authorized. So I think we're using permitted; but I think we're really meaning authorized, if that makes any sense. It's really going to be -- the difference is -- I think it's going to be exactly the same as it is now, it's just that rather than having the restrictions on, you know, what WMAs or what hunts do and do not allow dogs just in the public hunting booklet, it's also going to be in the proclamation.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Do you have the text? Can you read the text?

MS. BRIGHT: Yes, it says -- well, I had it. Okay. It's prohibited to use a dog to hunt unless the use of dogs to hunt is specifically authorized.

And the specific authorization would be in the public hunting booklet.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I think it's a -- all due respect, I think it's too vague as written.

MS. BRIGHT: Okay.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I think we need to work on that to make sure where -- exactly what we're trying to preclude, what type of hunting. I mean are you using dogs to actually hunt? Are you using dogs to retrieve? Where is it authorized? I just --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: That's where I --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I get what you're trying --

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I think that --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I think nobody has an issue with where you're trying to go. It's just that language can be --

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Tightened up.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: It needs to tightened up, I believe.

MR. WOLF: For the record, I'm Clayton Wolf, the Wildlife Division Director and I may ask Scott Vaca to come up. But my understanding of this is essentially, you know, we allow dogs for our dove hunts, duck hunts, etcetera, and we are going to continue to allow that. This issue came up during prosecutions for the possession of dogs not associated with that and so, you know, that's -- it was really originated from Law Enforcement in the fact that prosecutors were not comfortable with just having that by Executive Order, but needed it in the proclamation.

So I think -- I think Scott Vaca could do a better job of explaining the types of violations and the situations that this is intended to fix, if that's okay.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Great, thanks.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I still think what you said, you said it better than me.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yeah, I'm with you.

MR. VACA: For the record, my name is Scott Vaca. I'm Wildlife Law Administrator. And as you mentioned the term vague, by having rules adopted by Executive Order in the booklet, that was the problem we were having with prosecution. Trying to prosecute cases where, for example, somebody was hunting deer with dogs on a unit in East Texas, being able to show a prosecutor in rule, Texas Administrative Code Section, whatever the section would be, it wasn't there. It was trying to explain the process of this is the rulebook, it's adopted by Executive Order; so that's -- it's really a technical need for prosecutors in parts of the state.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But is it -- is it driven by abuses using dogs to hunt deer? Is that the principal focus, or is there more to it than that?

MR. VACA: It's really hog hunters.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Boy, I sure got a question now then.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: But this could also be interpreted, and correct me if I'm wrong, but that using dogs to retrieve in WMAs, for example, requires -- could require special authorization.

MR. VACA: Well, that would be done in the inverse way that currently the prohibition on dogs. It would be allowed for all those species, which would be whether it's, you know, the retrieving or...

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: And it's currently listed that way? The species are --

MR. VACA: In certain legends it's allowed -- it lists what is allowed for that unit.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: It's on a unit-by-unit basis?

MR. VACA: Currently, but there would also -- this change, we would -- we're looking at putting in some language that says for these species, the use of dogs is allowed.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, I mean the whole goal ought to be to simplify this it seems to me. Why wouldn't we specify you may not use a dog for A, B, C, and D and you may otherwise use a dog when hunting -- lawfully hunting in a WMA and let's absolutely outline what you may not use a dog to do rather than have this general prohibition.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Rather than having an the umbrella requiring authorization and then exceptions to that. Let's --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I think we've got backwards.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: -- flip it around.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: We ought to do it the other way.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: This may make it real easy for the prosecutors, but I perceive it's going to make it extremely difficult for the hunters in Texas because how are they going to even get all this information? They're probably going to get the information when they get the ticket written on them. So that's my point, too, is that it needs to be simple.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: It would be simpler written the other way.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And do it systemwide if we can where we don't have it on a unit-by-unit basis.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Try to get it -- yeah.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Just easier to follow and people to know and be prepared, I think.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yeah, that's where -- that's what I was trying to get to. You said it better than I did.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Can we look at --

MR. VACA: And we can work with legal to --

MS. BRIGHT: Sorry.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Ann has rewritten it already.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: No, she's going to tell us why we can't do it.

MS. BRIGHT: I'm sorry to evict Scott. We can absolutely do that. I mean I want to make sure that we're real clear on one thing is that right now, hunters do know. I mean it's in the booklet. I mean so it's not like a situation where a hunter only knows when they get a ticket. I mean right -- it's in the public hunting booklet, and it should be clear.

I completely understand what you're talking about though and I think that we can go back and try to clean up this language so that it tracks a little bit more specifically some of the prohibitions that we have in the public hunting booklet. I think that's a completely fair comment.

MS. CAMPBELL: And I just do want to say that in the public hunting booklet, you know, our public hunters that are hunting on these public lands do understand when they can use them and when they cannot because it's very clear in the book that they get, so.

MR. SMITH: How do we want to proceed, Ann? Can they authorize --

MS. BRIGHT: We can do -- absolutely. This is just a -- this is just a first reading and so the Commission --

MR. SMITH: We'll come back.

MS. BRIGHT: It wouldn't be up for adoption until May anyway, so we can definitely go back and work on that language over the next week before we send it to the Texas Register.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner Jones.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Can I just ask a follow-up question to the wardens? Is it illegal to hunt feral hogs with dogs on private property? Oh.

MR. VACA: Scott Vaca, Wildlife Law Administrator. No, sir.

COMMISSIONER JONES: But it is on State owned property?

MR. VACA: On certain properties it is prohibited and listed in the legends of each of the different units and there's -- I believe there's about four different versions of allowing or disallowing in the legends based on what parts of the state.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay. And I assume there's really good reasons for having those four or five different policies in the various sections of the state?

MR. VACA: Well, each --

COMMISSIONER JONES: And the only reason I'm asking that is -- I'm not trying to get into the weeds. Obviously, if there's different rules for different areas, there's more opportunity for confusion; so I'm just asking I assume there's a justification for having the various rules for the various --

MS. CAMPBELL: Well, and in our books we try to be as consistent as possible in our legends so that it is less confusing to people so they know very clearly what they can hunt, when they can hunt, what means they can use, and what are the prohibited acts for that unit.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Got it.

MS. CAMPBELL: So, yeah, we always look at that language and try to make it as simple and as consistent as possible from unit to unit.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But, Bill, isn't answer your question really why do we preclude hog hunting in certain parts?

COMMISSIONER JONES: Right, right, I was really just trying to get to is there -- I assume there's some real good reason for -- given the feral hog issue we have all over the state.

MS. CAMPBELL: In our public hunting program, we have a very liberal policy on hunting feral hogs, both for drawn hunts, which hogs are generally just thrown in as a part of the bag limit for our drawn hunts and also for our walk-in hunting program. So we've tried to do as much as we can to provide opportunity and also to address the population issues in those areas.

COMMISSIONER JONES: I'm just curious though. Just give me an example -- give me an example of why you would not want to allow dogs for hunting feral hogs in an area.

MR. SMITH: So, Commissioner and Linda, if I could, if you don't mind.

MS. CAMPBELL: Sure, yeah.

MR. SMITH: We may have some properties that simply don't lend themselves to it. They're oddly configured. They're small in size. We're worried about dogs getting off the WMA and dispersing onto a neighbor's property. We may be concerned about disturbance of some other wildlife on that Wildlife Management Area. And so we leave it up to really the discretion of the individual Wildlife Management Area manager to decide whether or not that's an appropriate or compatible use based on a variety of different extenuating circumstances.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Got it, okay.

MS. CAMPBELL: Each property, you know, has their own way to handle the hunt and so the way they handle the hunt would dictate how they place hunters and how -- what is appropriate.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Well, just to follow -- just to follow Ralph's comment. If that's the case, if each one is individual, then I don't see how we're going to have just one broad statement that covers everything unless it's defined like you said, Dan, and if we say, okay, this is what --

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Yes.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: -- you can do. Make it -- get it -- yeah, yeah. So I just reiterate that point.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Plans to come back with language that's very specific. Great, thank you. Okay, no further discussion, I'll authorize staff to publish the proposed changes in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.

Item 11 is Raptor Proclamation, request permission to publish proposed changes in the Texas Register, Mr. John Davis.

MR. DAVIS: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commission. For the record, my name is John Davis. I'm the Wildlife Diversity Program Director. After these previous conversations, this should be a slam dunk; but I don't want that to be considered a challenge.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Too late.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: You pay attention.

MR. DAVIS: Very simply, coming to you today with some proposed changes to our Raptor Proclamation. It's important to note that these changes were brought to us by our falconry and raptor council. They've been vetted through staff. We don't believe that these cause any kind of a natural resource issue, and so I'm going to bring these forward.

First, proposed changes to clarify some requirements for the apprentice. For the apprentice to move to the -- to become a general permitted falconer. The general rule is that the falcon -- the apprentice must trap and maintain and the way it's currently written, in parenthesis, to include capture from the wild, they are to train the birds, fly the birds, hunt them, etcetera, for at least four months within the previous two years, each of the previous two years.

We've come to understand this is not the best way to word this sentence. That we can kind of clear this up. We want to then propose that the applicant has maintained, trained, flown, and hunted the raptor trapped from the wild by the applicant for at least four months within each of the last two years. So simply rewriting that sentence.

Additional changes we would like to propose simply align our regulation with the Federal regulation and streamline or administrative process. In 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service overhauled the falconry regulations and they removed a prohibition on apprentice falconers possessing unsterilized, hybridized raptors. When we overhauled our regulation shortly thereafter, we inadvertently did not take out that prohibition. We simply would like to do that now to align our regulation with the Federal regulation.

We would also like to streamline our process by eliminating the trapping reciprocity requirement. Currently when trappers come from out of state to trap a falcon in the state of Texas, they have to get an out-of-state nonresident trapper's license. And currently, our staff has to go and look at the home state of that person, the applicant, to check to see if their state allows nonresident trapping. If they do not, then we cannot allow the permit.

The Falcon and Raptor Council has come to us and said they don't believe that that particular requirement is necessary. It would save us staff time if we did not have to go and make those checks and so we would simply like to eliminate the trapping reciprocity requirement.

Finally, we would like to clarify requirements for falconers that are relocating to Texas. Currently when a falconer brings a bird into Texas, the statutory requirement is they have ten days to let us know they have the bird and to begin that permitting process. However, the regulatory requirement says 30 days. That causes some confusion. We would simply like to align the regulatory requirement with the statutory requirement of ten days.

And then finally there's an odd blackout period, so to speak. When a falconer relocates to Texas, they let us know they have the birds, they intend to be a resident here, they intend to get a permit here. However, for them to get a resident permit, they have to prove that they are a resident of Texas and irrespective of this permitting process, that takes six months. And what we're finding is they have the birds in Texas for six months. They cannot practice falconry during that time. What we would like to do is simply allow their permit from their home state, the state from which they relocated, to cover them in that 6-month period, provided that they purchase a nonresident hunting license until they can get permitted in the state of Texas.

And with that, staff requests permission to publish.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Questions? Commissioner Duggins.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Can you turn to that new proposed paragraph 2? It says if the person hunts by means of falconry, the person possesses an appropriate, valid nonresident hunting license. Can you put that language up? Can you put it up on the...

MR. DAVIS: I'm not sure which...

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Just go back a few...

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: For the record, I'm Ralph Duggins.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: You just wanted to get up there and say your name.

MR. DAVIS: I didn't want this to be a challenge, but I guess it is.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: This language -- on our books, it's the bottom of page 56 and it's new proposed 65.270(F)(2). And my question is what do we mean by appropriate, No. 1; and, No. 2, nonresident hunting license issued by whom? Is it by Texas?

MR. DAVIS: Yes, sir. I'm afraid these questions are going to have to be answered by Legal. I'm not sure what appropriate means.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Ann.

MS. BRIGHT: For the record, I'm Ann Bright, General Counsel. And I don't really have an answer. I do see what you're talking about. We can make this a little bit more specific.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I think that might -- play with that, too.

MS. BRIGHT: And these are -- yeah. I think this is the language -- there's also some changes to the current language that we can definitely make and then come back in May.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: We still have some questions for you.

MS. BRIGHT: For the record, I suspect appropriate was intended to mean the license that would allow them to engage in the activity in the other state; but we can definitely clarify that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Because that's a vagueness.

MS. BRIGHT: Absolutely.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Good points. Thanks, Ralph. Okay, any other questions? All right, I'll place this item on Thursday Commission meeting agenda. Where am I? Oh, sorry. Excuse me. I'll authorize staff to propose -- to publish the proposed changes in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.

Item 12, 2013-14 Statewide Hunting Proclamation, recommended adoption of proposed changes, Mr. Shawn Gray.

MR. GRAY: Good morning, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Commission. For the record, my name is Shawn Gray and I'm the Mule Deer and Pronghorn Program Leader. Tomorrow I will be seeking adoption of changes to Mule deer and Pronghorn regulations.

If you will recall, the Commission last year asked staff to investigate the potential of extending the Mule deer MLDP season. Staff then prepared and sent out an opinion survey to landowners and hunters, the results of which were shared with you at the March, November, and January meetings. As a review, this graph depicts statewide Mule deer MLDP landowner participation and associated enrolled acreage.

Participation has increased by over 350 percent and associated acreage has nearly quadrupled since its beginning. A total of 647 questionnaires were sent out to all MLDP cooperators who received permits in 2010 and to a comparable number of non-MLDP landowners in proportion to MLDP participation within the Panhandle and Trans-Pecos regions, as well as to a similar number of Mule deer hunters, roughly one-to-one ratio of landowners to hunters.

Participants were asked ten questions concerning demographics, reaction to possibility of season extension, desired length of extension, hunter opportunity, biological concerns, and antlerless harvest. A total of 354 questionnaires were returned with a response rate of 57.2 percent. Mean respondent rate for supporting an extension given the season would begin on the first Saturday in November, which is the current opening day, with 60 percent. An average of 26 percent said they would not support an extension. The average for undecided respondents was about 14 percent.

Based upon data collected from our survey, the majority of participants supported an extension to the existing Mule deer MLDP season. Given several choices of extension dates, most respondents strongly favored a January closing over dates in February. Overall average preference and landowner preference were very similar for closing either the third or last Sunday in January. During the November meeting, this Commission discussed closing dates in January and preferred extending the season to the last Sunday in January. Staff have no biological concern extending the MLDP season to the last Sunday in January.

Therefore, staff recommend lengthening the Mule deer MLDP season by changing the closing date from the first Sunday in January to the last Sunday in January. The opening date would remain the same.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Shawn, before you move on. Do you mind summarizing the basic objection of the 25 percent of the respondents that had an issue with that?

MR. GRAY: Sure. There was a whole wide range.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: No one reason stood out?

MR. GRAY: Not really.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay.

MR. GRAY: And most of those folks were non-MLDP cooperators.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay, thank you.

MR. GRAY: You bet. Okay, on Pronghorn. Over the last 10 to 15 years, Pronghorn populations in the northern Panhandle have increased steadily and continue to expand their range. As a result, permit demand has increased, which has resulted in increased staff time spent on population survey intensity, permit issuance, and complaint resolution. To address these issues, staff would like to propose an experimental season that would allow a landowner controlled buck harvest in three herd units in the northern Panhandle.

Under the current system, the Department determines available surplus for harvest within each herd unit and issues permits for both bucks and does to landowners in proportion to the acreage they own. Permits must be used on the tract of land for which they are issued and must be attached to harvested Pronghorn. The experimental season would allow landowners to determine buck harvest, and the Department would no longer issue buck permits for those properties. However, doe permits, when issued, would still be given by the Department to the landowners.

Staff reason that because herds in the northwest and northeast Panhandle are healthy and have stable reproduction, that a landowner controlled system for bucks might work in these areas. Such a season would decrease workforce commitments and increase hunter opportunity by allowing landowners to determine their own harvest strategy. Another benefit of the experimental season is that -- it would allow landowners and hunters to book hunts earlier in the year. Permits are currently issued no earlier than mid August following the annual summer population surveys.

Each year, staff in the Panhandle spend many hours on Pronghorn surveys and the permit issuance process. This includes many activities associated with permit issuance, such as landowner interaction, recordkeeping concerning acreage and ownership changes, as well as landowner/agent contact information. Eliminating the need to issue buck permits directly to the landowner -- directly to the landowner would not only save time and money, but would allow biologists to shift time and resources to providing increased technical guidance to landowners and land managers.

Although Pronghorn herds in these areas are healthy and current buck harvest is conservative, intense utilization of the experimental buck season could result in a buck harvest that is beyond what is biologically acceptable. Therefore, the experimental season affects only three herd units and staff would closely monitor populations for three years. This map illustrates current Pronghorn herd units in the northern Panhandle. The herd units in red are the herd units proposed for the experimental season. These herd units are representative of habitat, landownership, Pronghorn population parameters, and permit demand and utilization throughout the northern Panhandle. Each represent different Pronghorn densities from high to low. However, they share similar sex ratios and fawn production.

In order to effectively monitor and assess hunter behavior and harvest impacts during the pilot project, as well as to facilitate compliance with proof of sex and tagging requirements, the proposed rules will require hunters to obtain a Department issued experimental permit. At the time the experimental permit is acquired, the Department will obtain the hunter's contact information, name and hunting license number, which will allow the Department to gather follow-up data during the experiment, making the permits available at local stores in the Amarillo, Dalhart, and Pampa areas and/or at TPWD offices is -- offices in the Panhandle is a preferred option.

Since the annual person bag limit is one Pronghorn, only one experimental permit would be given to each licensed hunter. These permits will be available to hunters from August 15th to season close. Staff will use mandatory check stations in the area of the experimental season to collect harvest data on the total harvest and age structure of the harvested bucks. Hunters would be required to present Pronghorn at a check station within 24 hours of harvest. Of course, annual population surveys will also continue in these herd units to acquire population trend, reproduction, sex ratio data, which will be compared to data from other similar herd units to determine the effects of the experimental season.

If after three years data suggests minimal or no decline in Pronghorn numbers, sex ratios, average buck age structure, and hunter success, then staff believe no negative biological impacts would occur with the landowner controlled system for bucks. Staff would then recommend retaining the landowner controlled buck harvest structure on a permanent basis in the three herd units and would investigate the suitability of adding additional herd units in the northern Panhandle. However, if data at any time indicate that the experimental season is causing negative biological impacts, staff recommend termination of the experimental season.

Public comments that were germane to the proposed Mule deer and Pronghorn regulation changes taken from public hearings and our website indicate that over 90 percent of the respondents supported both proposed regulation changes. And at this time, I'd be happy to address any other questions that the Commission might have at this time.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you, Shawn. Any questions? Okay, appreciate it.

MR. GRAY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you. I'll place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Item 13 is the 2013-14 Statewide Recreational and Commercial Fishing Proclamation, recommended adoption of proposed changes. Ken, good morning. How are you?

MR. KURZAWSKI: Good afternoon, Commissioners. My name is Ken Kurzawski with Inland Fisheries.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: One minute.

MR. KURZAWSKI: One minute. My stomach was growling a little bit, so it reminded me. I'm here today to go over -- to lead off on any proposed changes to the fishing regulations that we'll be asking you to adopt tomorrow and I'll just go through those again that we're proposing.

First is Lake Jacksonville, which is a 1,200-acre reservoir near Jacksonville. We currently have a 18-inch minimum length limit on -- for Largemouth bass there, no limit on Spotted bass, and a combined five-fish daily bag for the Black bass species. That regulation was -- 18-inch for bass was put on in 2000 and we have seen some increase in the 14- to 18-inch bass there. Anglers on that lake were desiring to be able to allow to harvest some of those bass within tournaments, so staff worked with the anglers there to explore some alternatives.

The change we're suggesting, proposing there is to retain that five-fish bag for Largemouth bass; but allow the harvest of two bass less than 18 inches. A similar regulation that we have on Alan Henry and Ivie. And the goals there are to -- would allow the anglers to harvest some of those bass 18 inches in tournaments. This may increase the opportunity for some tournaments there, and it would allow some additional harvest; but would still be less harvest than what we had prior to 2000 under the 14-inch limit.

Next on Lake Kurth, the 700-acre reservoir near Lufkin. Currently under statewide regs for Largemouth bass, a 14-inch minimum, five-fish bag. It's an excellent Largemouth bass fishery, a good Sunfish population. Local anglers and staff believe the lake has trophy potential; so we're going to modify the bass regulations there, proposing a change to a 16-inch maximum. There would be no harvest over 16 inches. We would allow five fish under 16-inch to be harvest, but we would allow anglers in the event that they would catch a large fish over 24 inches, they would be able to possess that for weighing or submission to the ShareLunker Program. And the goal there on that smaller reservoir is to protect that developing quality bass population and increase potential for trophy bass.

Next handfishing, which was made legal during the last Legislative session. We are just proposing some changes there to add the definition of handfishing to our proclamation, clarify some of the restrictions associated with that activity, and also modify the definition of trapped to comply to what -- how it's being enforced. And this will aid the anglers understanding and the enforceability of regulating this activity.

Next, there's Canyon Lake Project No. 6. An 82-acre lake which is part of a series of lakes in Lubbock. The others are community fishing lakes, which are lakes 75 acres or less that have -- CFLs have special regulations and no minimum length limit, five-fish bag for Channel and Blues and pole line fishing only, two poles max. We're basically trying to manage those to provide opportunity for people to catch -- spread the harvest out among as many people as possible. And because the other lakes are -- have those CFL regulations, there was confusion about the regulations on No. 6. Law Enforcement staff and the Local Parks staff, we would -- we could change the regulation there to mirror -- No. 6 to mirror CFLs, so that would aid in understanding of those regulations there.

And finally as part of some rule review changes, rule review process, we modified some of our language on pole and line only angling and device restrictions and that was just to kind of clarify that and make the rules easier to understand. And to summarize the comment, not a lot of comments on any of these proposals. Most were in support. Only one in opposition on Lake Jacksonville. It was a general comment that they just didn't like to harvest the smaller bass and all of these except three at Lake -- for on Lake Jacksonville, which were obtained at the public hearing in Jacksonville, all the rest came in through our online comments.

If there are any other -- any questions or comments?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Thank you, Ken. Robin.

MR. RIECHERS: For the record, my name is Robin Riechers with the Coastal Fisheries Division and I'm here to present you the 2013-2014 Coastal Fisheries Statewide Proclamation proposals. All of these proposals are as you saw them in January and with the clarifications that you asked for and in addition to that, we have added an amendment or we've changed the definition of residence or proposed a definitional change to resident that Commissioner Duggins referenced at the last meeting. We were able to get that into the proposed register item.

With that, the first one is a -- basically a migration of the rule regarding possession limit. The definition was overlooked in the restructuring process, and we're moving that definition over to Chapter 57. It would still -- it was still in effect; but by placing it over here in Chapter 57, we believe that it adds more clarity for people who are looking for that in regards to that fishing section.

In addition, we have the rule regarding fish harassment. Again, that was recommended to us from the Coastal User Working Group where considerable discussion surrounding that definition occurred. We worked with our Legal team and Law Enforcement to basically modify that definition as it now reads where it now reads: It's unlaw for any person to use any vessel to harass fish.

The proposed amendment basically removes the word "harass" and replaces it with harry, herd, or drive and then goes on to talk about the operation of the vessel as well. Again, we believe this will help in enforcement of being able to prosecute some of these cases as they see them.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Any questions on that?

MR. RIECHERS: The third one then is possession of Red Drum and bonus Red Drum tags. Currently, it's illegally -- it's illegal to simultaneously possess a Red Drum tag and a bonus Red Drum tag. We're basically going to remove that provision. We think that will make it easier on the anglers. We believe that due to the small numbers of fish that are caught of these larger Red Drum and the abundance that we see in our sampling surveys regarding those fish, that we can do this.

This is one we want to watch closely, but we believe we can do it and there will be no negative impact to the population.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Robin, does that mean that if you have two permits, you can go out on one trip and catch two oversized Red Drum on the same trip?

MR. RIECHERS: That's what it means current. Yes, that what it would means. If you went ahead and bought your bonus Red Drum tag at the time you bought your license, then you would be able to do that. Yes.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: But you only -- we only allow one bonus tag per angler per year, is that correct; or can you buy all you want?

MR. RIECHERS: No. You can -- it's up to two. You can get the first one and then the way it now is, you basically get the first one, have to go back in after you've tagged a fish and buy the second one. So there's only two that are allowed.

Okay. Lastly, given that discussion regarding definition of residence, basically we still believe the intent of the current definition to prevent use of temporary residence where someone might use that to avoid compliance with possession limits or other documentation requirements, we believe that still needs to be there. But we also believe that the current definition that we're going to propose to you recognizes the fact that anglers may have more than one residence and so we -- we're trying to basically change the rule because we believe it was unintentionally restrictive.

The rule now would read basically it defines a residence as a permanent structure where a person regularly sleeps and keeps personal belongings such as furniture and clothes while retaining the current prohibition on temporary abodes or dwellings. It basically changes the notion away from a temporary basis, but changes the notion to an accommodation of a permanency of use kind of notion. So we believe it's only -- well, it does only apply to the fishing regulations; but we believe this fits the current situation of our anglers better than the previous rule or the previous definition.

Lastly, we had several rule review changes that Ann is going to cover tomorrow in context of the rule review. We included them in the Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation so as not to confuse our public as they're looking at our rule makings. For Coastal Fisheries, those non-substantive items would include amendment to scientific names that have been updated through time. We included definition of crabs, which had been inadvertently left out during a reorganization. We're clarifying the bag possession and length limits and when I say that, we're basically accurately reflecting that there's no commercial limit for some of those species and it was confusing in one of the tables that we had. And then lastly, we're relocating some sections just for clarity.

Our comment summary, as you can see here, is fairly low overall. Basically, we have some level or some fairly significant level of support for all the items. The two that basically have some level of folks against it in the fish harassment, I believe some people are suggesting that the current rule would allow us greater flexibility and somehow they're fearful that by adding that language, we're even not going to be able to enforce it as well as we're doing now.

Obviously, we visited long with Law Enforcement and Legal about that; so we believe we still have the availability the way it's worded to enforce what was being considered last time as harassment, as well as this new circular motion, repeated circular motion notion.

And then the Red Drum tag, the basic no comments there are it's working now, you know, why do anything with it. It must be noted also that the Coastal Resource Advisory Committee passed unanimously all of these proposals on to you-all or supported them unanimously last week at their meeting.

With that, that concludes my presentation. I'd be happy to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Robin, thank you. Okay, Brandi.

MS. REEDER: Get a little ride there, okay. Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Mr. Smith. My name is Brandi Reeder. I am the Fisheries Law Administrator for the Law Enforcement Division. I am here to speak with you today about the Law Enforcement Statewide Proposal.

As mentioned in the August meeting by the public, individuals commonly travel to Federal waters where they will harvest aquatic resources in violation of Federal regulations and return to our State waters in possession of those same illegally taken resources. While patrolling in State waters, State Game Wardens frequently encounter evidence of these violations of Federal regulations, which they now refer for Federal prosecution.

Typically these violations include possession of undersize fish, exceeding bag or possession limits, failure to obtain or possess a required federal permit, and others. During the meeting, the public requested a State venue for prosecution of Federal regulation violations found in State waters. Due to the overcrowded dockets found in Federal courts, to enable this request Law Enforcement proposed to create a violation for possession in State waters of aquatic products taken in violation of Federal regulations in the Exclusive Economic Zone.

The Law Enforcement proposal -- or the Law Enforcement has proposed to amend the current rule, Parks and Wildlife Proclamation 57.976 related to the possession of wildlife resource importation to read as currently proposed: Is no person in the state may possess an aquatic wildlife resource taken in the Exclusive Economic Zone, A, during a closed season provided by federal law; B, within a protected length limit or in excess of a daily bag -- that was a misspelling, I apologize -- daily bag limit established by Federal law; or, C, with any gear or device prohibited by Federal law; or, D, without a required license or permit required by Federal law.

Comment summary, public comments received reflected 21 in support of the rule and 19 in opposition. It is to be noted that 11 comments to include the SEA letter that was sent to Robin Riechers in reference to Snapper, the 11 comments in opposition -- or 11 of those comments were actually opposing any enforcement of a state -- I mean any enforcement by State Game Wardens of Federal regulations. The public did not seem to understand that Game Wardens have enforced and will continue to enforce Federal regulations. The rule would merely provide a State venue for prosecution when Federal dockets are overcrowded. That concludes my -- well, wait a minute. Yeah, that concludes.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner Hughes.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Do other states in the -- have the same regulations or laws?

MS. REEDER: They have venues for which they are able to prosecute Federal violations in State courts already. Yes, most of the Gulf states already do.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Do we get a portion of the fine moneys collected from prosecution?

MS. REEDER: If it goes to State court, yes, sir. It would fall under a regular Class C misdemeanor. Therefore, we would receive 85 percent of the fine.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Ralph.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, that was -- you raised a point I hadn't thought about, is why do we necessarily classify it as a Class C misdemeanor?

MS. REEDER: That is just what we determined was reasonable. It --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Should we give the prosecutor the discretion to take it up a notch if they --

MS. REEDER: That would have to be proposed through the Legislature if we were going to look for any kind of higher penalty.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Than Class C?

MS. REEDER: I believe so.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Well, if that's the case. What about on the -- going to the proposed rule, why couldn't we instead of the A through D, just say any resource taken in violation of applicable law in the EEZ?

MS. REEDER: I think we were just trying to make it as simple as possible. You know, to spell it out. We --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: You have, but you've limited it and if you say in violation of any applicable law, you've got the discretion to determine things more than these four.

MS. REEDER: This is --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: It seems to me we ought to just say no person in this state may possess an aquatic wildlife resource taken in violation of the applicable law in the Economic -- the Exclusive Economic Zone.

MS. REEDER: Okay, this is what was sent to the Texas Register. I believe if we were to change this, then we would have to pull this item from adoption for tomorrow.

MR. SMITH: I don't think so, Brandi. Let's -- let me get Ann to weigh in on it just to make sure.

MS. BRIGHT: I'm Ann Bright, General Counsel. You know, this to me looks like it's pretty much in a way just sort of restating maybe in a little bit more general way what's in the rule. I suspect it's probably -- it would probably be considered a logical outgrowth of what was proposed, and so I think we could probably go ahead with that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I -- you know, I'm just thinking that maybe there's something else in Federal law that we haven't put in here that we would want to prosecute and if we limit it to these four, we couldn't prosecute it. But if say taken in violation of any applicable law, we've got more flexibility and discretion.

It kind of goes back to the discussion we had a year or so ago when Reed brought up the bit about the Lacey Act. I mean it's the same concept. If you're violating the law out there, you're violating the law. So it's just a suggestion. I think it would give us more flexibility to state it that way rather than this way, but I don't feel real strongly about it. Whatever y'all want to do on it.

MS. BRIGHT: Yes. I mean any time we publish something in the Texas Register and then we change it or the Commission changes it at adoption, we always kind of want to look at it carefully; but while I can't exactly predict how a Court would rule, I think we would probably be okay.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Do you think that we do have greater -- I don't want to say flexibility -- that we have greater coverage if we used the language I suggested?

MS. BRIGHT: I think it will -- obviously as you stated, it would include more violations. Hopefully, these are all of the violations that we would normally see; but I suppose that if there were say some new Federal regulation that's -- we could enforce that without having to come back to the Commission.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Ann, does this appear anywhere other -- currently anywhere other than Parks and Wildlife Code? Or would it? Where else would this appear?

MS. BRIGHT: This would appear -- these are going to be in the Texas Administrative Code, which is where all of our rules are. I'm assuming something about this would also be put in the Outdoor Annual. Does that answer your question?

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Yes. So that drives a little bit towards -- I agree with you; but I do think at least for purposes of Outdoor Annual, this helps identify or reinforce the obvious ways one would be in violation.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: How about if we said taken in violation of applicable law and including, but not limited to, these four.

MS. BRIGHT: Absolutely.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Because Ann's point was a good point.

MS. BRIGHT: Great, that would be an easy change and we'll make that change for consideration for adoption tomorrow.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you.

MS. REEDER: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So --

COMMISSIONER JONES: You might -- you might want to change that daily gab limit because there may be some people in violation.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: All right. I'll place this item on a Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.

With regard to Item 14 regarding interstate transportation of deer and Item 17 regarding a Pipeline at Franklin Mountains State Park, if there is no objection, I will place these items on the agenda tomorrow for public comment and action.

At this time, I would like to announce that pursuant to the requirements of Chapter 551 Government Code referred to as the Open Meetings Act, an Executive Session will be held at this time for the purpose of seeking legal action under Section 551.071 of the Opening Meetings Act. We will now recess for Executive Session.

(Recess taken for Executive Session)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay, we will reconvene the regular session of the Work Session, March -- on March 27th, 2013, at 2:10 p.m.

Regarding Work Session Item No. 6 on Red Snapper, Executive Session to discuss recent actions by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council related to Red Snapper stocks within the EEZ off Texas, no further action is required at this time.

So since the Commission has completed its business, I declare us adjourned. Thank you.

(Work Session Adjourns)


C E R T I F I C A T E

STATE OF TEXAS ) COUNTY OF TRAVIS )

I, Paige S. Watts, Certified Shorthand Reporter in and for the State of Texas, do hereby certify that the above-mentioned matter occurred as hereinbefore set out.

I FURTHER CERTIFY THAT the proceedings of such were reported by me or under my supervision, later reduced to typewritten form under my supervision and control and that the foregoing pages are a full, true, and correct transcription of the original notes.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and seal this Turn in date _____ day of ________________, 2013.

__________________________
Paige S. Watts, CSR, RPR
CSR No.: 8311
Expiration: December 31, 2014
Firm Registration Number: 87
1016 La Posada Drive
Suite 294
Austin, Texas 78752
Job No. 106703

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