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TPW Commission

Work Session, May 22, 2013

Transcript

TPW Commission Meetings

TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION

May 22, 2013

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

WORK SESSION

REPORTED BY: PAIGE SLOAN WATTS

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Good morning everyone. This meeting is called to order May 22nd, 2013, at 9:11 a.m. Before proceeding with any business, I believe Mr. Smith has a statement to make.

MR. SMITH: I do. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. Public notice of this meeting containing all items on the proposed agenda has been filed in the Office of the Secretary of State as required by Chapter 551 Government Code referred to as the Open Meetings Act. I would like for this fact to be noted in the official record of this meeting.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Terrific.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thanks, Carter. I also want to take an opportunity to welcome our newest Commissioner, Jim Lee from Houston. Jim has a long and distinguished history of service to this state, so we're lucky to have you and appreciate your willingness to do this. It'll be great for the Agency and great for the Commission. Thanks, Jim.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Thank you very much.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Welcome.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: All right. First order of business is approval of the minutes from the previous Work Session held March 22nd, 2013, which have already been distributed. Motion for approval?

COMMISSIONER MARTIN: So moved.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Moved by Commissioner Martin. Second by Commissioner Scott. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any opposed? Hearing none, motion carries.

And now we will go into Work Session Item No. 1, which is an update on the progress implementing the Parks and Wildlife Land and Water Resources Conservation and Recreation Plan, Carter Smith. Carter, this new format has you working a little harder on the presentations, doesn't it?

MR. SMITH: Yeah, you're making me work for my supper, Chairman. It's no more lollygagging back there with Margaret. I noticed we were separated, so we have to be a little more discreet about how much fun we were having over there.

COMMISSIONER MARTIN: I know.

MR. SMITH: Thanks, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Carter Smith. It's nice to be with y'all. Scott -- this is hot off the press, the new Land and Water Plan. And so Scott and the PMO and a lot of folks worked very, very hard to update that plan and so obviously a lot of things are the same as the old plan, but some of the deliverables have changed and so when you have a chance to peruse that, please do so. That's our strategic guiding document and that drives our Division operating plans, our performance plans inside the Agency. Everything rolls up to support those four primary goals, so appreciate the hard work on the team on that. Nice to see that come to fruition.

Mr. Chairman, I'll provide an update just on a couple of key things before we go into the next item on Legislative update. Just quickly with respect to Internal Affairs, I had reported at the last meeting that we were opening up two new positions in Internal Affairs -- an Assistant Chief and a Captain Investigator position. Both those positions have been posted. We've had a lot of interest in them internally. We have I think almost a dozen applicants for the Assistant Chief position and 36 for the Captain Investigator. So we're real pleased and excited about being able to fill those and have some officers join that team certainly by the August meeting.

At the last Commission meeting, there was an update on migratory bird proclamation and the early season proposal relating to dove and teal. Certainly for the Commissioners that have been there for a while, you will recall that the Fish and Wildlife Service has ultimate approval over these regulations and their timetable is a little later for decision making. Right now we're not hearing anything from the Service that would suggest that they plan to deviate from the recommendations that we shared earlier with the Commission on this front.

But in order to meet the needs of being able to get the final regs in the Outdoor Annual, as soon as we know them from the Fish and Wildlife Service, as is customary, I'll call the Chairman and share those decisions from the Service, make sure the Chairman is still good with them, and if so then we'll go forward with publishing. So I just wanted to remind everybody of that process.

Similarly on the late season proposals for geese and the big ducks, just as a reminder we'll come back in August to the Commission with a request to get your approval on the seasons and bag limits. I think just one kind of minor heads up that I wanted to share with you on this front. As you will recall, we had talked about the specter of pushing back the opening of the season for the Specklebellies, the White-fronted geese, to two weeks after the season opens for ducks and light geese and Canada geese in the eastern part of the state. We had had a fair amount of hunter interest in seeing that happen. Maybe not surprisingly we've heard from the other side of the tortilla from the hunters who aren't so excited about that proposal. So I think we're likely to get some good feedback here in the interim on that proposal, and we'll certainly have that suite of public comments ready to bring back to y'all in August for an ultimate decision on that front.

Y'all received a pretty extensive briefing at the last Commission meeting on the transition of the license sales system from Verizon to Gordon-Darby. I want to take this opportunity again to just brag on our internal team that's been working on this. They really have been at it nonstop testing this system to make sure that we're going to have as seamless and smooth a rollout. We do not want our hunters and anglers to notice any difference whatsoever when they go to purchase their licenses through whatever point-of-sale process they use or online.

Gordon-Darby, the new vendor, has just been great working with our team. We're really, really pleased and happy with their progress and their implementation. At the last Commission meeting, we had indicated that we were going to make a go or no-go decision about transitioning to Gordon-Darby before, you know, really the launch of the new license year, which is August 15th and we said we were going to make that decision depending on where we were in the development of the system and the testing by the 15th of May. We've got a little bit more latitude for that decision and so we're actually going to make it on the 3rd of June.

We feel good about it. Either way, Verizon is contractually obligated to provide the services through the end of December; so we're going to be -- we're going to be good on that front. But come the 3rd of June, we'll make a decision as to whether or not we're able to move over completely to Gordon-Darby and we'll base that decision just on obviously data integrity, customer service, making sure all of the fiscal controls and finances and accountability stuff are in shape. So that will be something that I'll be communicating out to the Commission in June, first of June; so just wanted to let you know our timeline had changed a little bit for that decision.

We've followed the Battleship Texas very closely over the years and our progress there. I think we're very pleased that our Infrastructure team is under contract with Taylor Marine to perform some critical structural repairs on the ship. These will be the first major repairs done on the ship really in two decades, and Scott let me know this morning that Taylor Marine has mobilized. They ought to start their repairs next month. We hope to have them wrapped up by late in 2014. Some of you may hear depending upon, you know, the schedule of the repairs, there may be times when parts of the ship have to be closed just to account for public safety and we'll make sure we communicate that as actively and aggressively as we can; but we're very pleased that this is moving forward to help address some of the critical structural repairs to preserving this special Battleship.

Memorial Day weekend is coming up and so our Game Wardens and fisheries biologists and outreach specialists are very busy getting ready for, you know, the real kickoff to the summer boating season. This is the time of year in which we, you know, launch our public education campaign reminding boaters about the problems of inadvertently picking up these exotic Zebra mussels up at Lake Texoma and Ray Roberts and inadvertently moving those to other lakes and so we're launching the third year of our education and awareness campaign. You know, the "Hello Zebra Mussels, Good-Bye Lakes" and reminding boaters to clean, drain, and dry their boats and their trailers.

We've had great support and partnerships and I really want to highlight this, with all of the River Authorities up in North Texas and many other parts of the state who are obviously very concerned about the spread of these exotic species into lakes and reservoirs that they manage and so they've been very supportive of that. A number of municipalities, Corps of Engineers, and others. So we really appreciate the broad and diverse financial support that we've had to launch this and our Communications team working with Inland Fisheries and Law Enforcement has really done an excellent job dealing with this issue and trying to work with our boaters and anglers, so you'll start hearing more about that right now.

I want to brag a little bit on Gary and his team in Inland Fisheries. Where are you, Gary? Oh, you're not sitting where you're supposed to be. So our Inland Fisheries biologists and technicians have been working up at Lake Conroe since 2005 on a very ambitious effort to control exotic plants up there. There's a lot of interest in that lake from a lot of different stakeholders and they're not always on the same page about what they want done and so it's been an interesting project for our team to navigate.

They've done a masterful job helping to educate the public about the value of replacing those exotic plants, which some, you know, want to contain for structure for fishing, with native plants. And so our Fisheries biologists have set up a native plant nursery there. They've partnered with Bass Club, San Jacinto River Authority, local communities and implemented a wonderful project there and they were recognized by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality this year and Governor Perry with an Outstanding Environmental Excellence Award for civic and community service and so really proud of Gary and his team for that. Just an excellent representation of the Department.

All of you know just how important again our education and outreach efforts are throughout the state. All of our divisions have, you know, various programs that support the leadership of our Communications team in helping to promote more outdoor activities. I'm going to brag a little bit about -- on Brandi Reeder in Law Enforcement, who y'all know is our Assistant Chief in charge of Marine and Fisheries Law Enforcement.

When she was a Game Warden down at Rockport, she started an event called "Women in the Wild" and it was designed to really focus on women and giving them an opportunity to learn outdoor skills -- fishing, shooting, canoeing, and kayaking and have a suite of women instructors and create an environment in which women felt comfortable learning and it's grown over the years. They celebrated the fifth one this year, 67 participants. They raise money and then give a scholarship to a deserving graduate, a female graduate, from Rockport-Fulton High School who provides the most kind of compelling statement about how outdoor experiences have shaped her life and how she wants to help pursue and support that in college.

So wonderful event. Kudos to Brandi and the team for doing it. She highlighted a couple events or comments that she heard that I'm going to share with y'all from participants this year. One of which was "Who knew there were so many chick game wardens" was one comment that was made and then "Who knew that all this manly outdoor stuff was so easy when with the right people." So, Commissioner, I'm afraid they're on to us. So kudos to Brandi for this. It's a great event and awfully, proud of that effort.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Well, it's a good thing they're not called "Women gone wild."

MR. SMITH: Yeah, right. Yes.

COMMISSIONER JONES: That's an entirely different meaning I think.

MR. SMITH: Yes, yes. Absolutely. You know, on a more somber note our country and state has suffered a lot lately from the tragedies in Boston and West and Granbury and of course recently in Oklahoma and I thought I might just take a minute and highlight for everybody the really important emergency response and public safety role that our Law Enforcement -- Law Enforcement officers play in times of these tragedies. They're part of the State Operation Center.

When that's activated at a time of emergency, they go. And, you know, we had nearly 40 percent of our force serve up in West working on public safety emergency response. Just did an extraordinary job. You can see this 8,300 man-hours up there. Absolutely indispensable to the effort. I was very heartened to hear Commissioner Lee tell us yesterday in his orientation that he had seen pictures of our wardens in the paper and news and so forth and so nice that they're getting some recognition for that critical role that they're playing and so awfully proud of them for that public response at a time when a community needs it most and we've heard from a lot of members of that community just how grateful they are for the -- really the -- not only the work and the presence of our officers, but also the attitude by which they approach it. They're there to help and everybody recognizes that and we appreciate that, Craig and Scott and everybody there. Just a shot from again just the devastation of that scene.

With that, Mr. Chairman, that concludes my kind of update on sort of key Land and Water Plan matters and I'm happy to answer any questions if you have any.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any questions for Carter? Thanks, Carter.

Okay, Item 2 is Legislative update, permission to publish, Carter.

MR. SMITH: Okay. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Well, we're deep into the 83rd Legislative session. I guess we're not exactly sure when it's going to be all said and done, but we're certainly hoping that it will wrap up sometime in the near term. I thought we'd take a few minutes just to update you where we believe we are from a budgetary perspective and also a little bit of a bill perspective on what we know has passed to date.

Why don't we start first with kind of the appropriations process and I would be remiss if I didn't do two things, Chairman. First, I just want to compliment our Intergovernmental Affairs team. Harold Stone, Lacie Peterson, as you know we also brought back Gene McCarty and David Sinclair to work during the session and those four individuals, along with many others inside the Department, have just been very steady, very effective, and done an extraordinary job.

Chairman, I also just want to thank you and the Commission for your leadership. Y'all have been very actively involved in this process and it shows and I want to thank everybody for the support and leadership that y'all have given the Agency in this and we feel really good about where we believe we are right now and let me share a little bit about that with you if I could.

And so I want to walk you through next biennial budget, at least as the House and Senate Joint Conference Committee has recommended it in the Budget bill that ultimately will go before both chambers and ultimately to the Governor for his consideration. This table, which Mike and his team put together, basically depicts a couple of things. In that second row, you'll see the LAR base amount. That's just the based -- base funding and as you can see, the Conference Committee has recommended essentially everything that we asked for there.

After that are the -- and this is primarily for Commissioner Lee's benefit. These are the exceptional item requests. The special requests we made of the Legislature. Six major items totaling $103 million in the aggregate over the biennium and as you'll see, the response and support for the vast majority of these was -- is most appreciated, assuming that this all gets passed.

State park funding, that was top of the mind for the Agency going into the session. We asked for almost 19 million in the aggregate and you'll -- and as you can see there, the Conference Committee is recommending almost 18 million, so the only real discrepancy there is in cyclical maintenance where they basically split the difference between what the House and Senate recommended. Otherwise, everything that we asked for is proposed in the bill.

The next one, the restoration of capital, again, this is the guts of the Agency. These are the trucks and trailers and boats and computers and the tools essentially that all of our field staff need to do their job. By and large, we're very, very pleased with these recommendations. Letter C, Information Resources, the Conference Committee recommendation of 830,000. Basically what they decided to do there was fund all of our computer needs where they had money in Fund 9. In state parks our request for funding was not granted and so we're going to have to look at some creative ways to address antiquated computer needs. We've shared with you in the past we're trying to get on a five-year replacement cycle for our computers. We're not going to be able to do this with this budget and so we may look at some leasing arrangements and some other way to try to address that so that where we absolutely need new computers and the most functional ones, that we'll figure out a way to get it done.

Exceptional Item 3, if there's an area where, you know, I think we're going to have to step back at the end of this session and figure out a way to approach this in the interim and next session working with the Legislature, it's this one. It has to do with capital repair and construction budget. As y'all know, we just have, you know, a long litany of deferred maintenance and major repair needs throughout the infrastructure and state parks and fish hatcheries and wildlife management areas and so forth and we had asked for 40 million over the biennium. The Conference Committee is recommending 19 million and so that's another area that we certainly want to spend some time with the Commission thinking about as we get through the session because there are going to be some business implications on that front.

The fourth item, as you can see, restore Fish and Wildlife funding. They've recommended what we asked for. One of the things we're very pleased about that was put back in in conference was what we asked for on Local Park Grant fundings, 15 and a half million dollars and so very pleased to see that important program get some sustainable funding added back onto it so that the Commission can consider grants to local communities for the acquisition and development of parks and communities throughout the state. Just an essential part of our mission.

And then certainly last, but not least our capital IT and data center cost increases. Didn't get quite what we asked for there. We did get the costs necessary to cover our -- what we believe to be our data center costs and also to fund our Help Desk and TxParks, which is where people call to make their registrations to reserve campsites and spaces in state parks; so that's a very, very important part again having that Help Desk to support our call center there. Some of the other initiatives were some new things that we wanted to do in IT, and so we're going to have to put those on hold.

Moving to the next slide, some additional things in Article VI that were added to the budget. I won't go through all of those. I'll just -- I'll focus on the last one. This was an emergency request that we made, you know, towards the tail end of the session because of the accident we had with the helicopter out in West Texas. Had strong support from the Legislature on adding some funding back in to allow us to purchase another helicopter.

As a reminder, after that issue with the tail rotor and the helicopter crash in West Texas, we grounded the entire fleet except for one 2009 Cessna. We worked very closely with the Chairman on kind of looking across the fleet there, and making sure that we were doing everything possible to ensure the safety of our employees who have to fly as part of their jobs; but right now, we essentially have only one fixed-wing aircraft to conduct all of our law enforcement, fisheries, and wildlife missions and so the helicopter will certainly help in a big way and so very thankful that that funding looks like it's going to come to fruition.

In addition though, you know, in the future we will be looking for another fixed-wing plane and another helicopter to bring that fleet back up to really where it should at capacity to support the mission and business needs of the Agency. So I wanted to just share that with you.

Article IX in the Appropriations bill, the Conference Committee had a number of recommendations that affect the Agency in some form or fashion. The first one there is an across-the-board pay raise for all non-Schedule C State employees. Amounts to about a 3 percent raise. 1 percent in the first year of the biennium and then a 2 percent raise in the second year and so I know State employees are very appreciative to see an increase there.

In addition, there's a pay raise planned for the Schedule C officers -- our Game Wardens, DPS troopers, agents with TABC, and a few other law enforcement officers I think with the Attorneys General's office. And so that was built into that and so we're estimating about a $9 million cost to the Agency over the biennium to help fund that and so those were two key items on that front.

House Bill 1025 is the supplemental appropriations bill, the second supplemental appropriations bill for this fiscal year being carried by Chairman Pitts in the House and then Senator Williams in the Senate. There are a couple of things in here that are very important to us. One of which was an 889,000 for state park operations to account for revenue that was not generated from the voluntary donations through the vehicle registration program and then as y'all recall, we still have about 4.8/4.9 million dollars left to fund our overall restoration needs following the big fire at Bastrop State Park.

And so, Commissioner Lee, for your benefit, not counting the value of the natural resources that were affected or the value of those trees, you know, we had roughly $11 million in kind of infrastructure damages at the park. We've had a lot of support from the philanthropic community, as you might imagine; but we still have some needs here and so the Legislature has proposed -- it's proposed right now in this bill to help shore up that remaining amount.

And then lastly there's a proposal coming in from the House for $7 million to fund the dredging and opening up of the Cedar Bayou Fish Pass, and so that's an issue that's under discussion between the House and the Senate.

Those are the major highlights from the Appropriations and the Conference Committee as we know them, and so I wanted to share that with you. In addition, you know, there's a number of bills that have passed both the House and the Senate that are on the their way to the Governor's desk for his consideration as to whether or not he wants to sign them into law. This is out of some of those bills that affect the Agency, and so it provides a summary there. If I'm going to point to one of them just to highlight, I'll point out HB 3279 by Representative Morrison.

This was a priority of the Commission. Commissioner Hughes, in particular, worked very hard on this relating to statewide protection of seagrass. You know, basically that's the foundation for the health of the bays throughout the state along with oyster reefs and so this provides some additional protection to seagrass and penalties for deliberately damaging them through prop scars and so forth and there's some specific language that we've got to work through with our Law Enforcement team on that; but we're glad to see this protection hopefully put into place. We think it will be very helpful.

One of the things at this time of the year, at the end of a Legislative session, as a reminder that there's pieces of legislation that are passed that require that the Commission implement specific rules to be put into effect by September 1st and so one of the things that we're asking, Mr. Chairman, as is customary, is your permission to publish rules in the Texas Register so that we can get those out there for public comment and then we can bring them to the Commission in August for your consideration and so we're asking for that blanket permission to deal with legislation that requires that rules be implemented by the Commission again effective the first of September or shortly thereafter and so I wanted to ask your permission or guidance on proceeding on that front.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Yes. No, I think that's consistent certainly with how we've done it in the past and in terms of the timing requirements, we need to do that. So that's permission granted.

MR. SMITH: Okay, all right. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, that concludes my update and I'm happy to answer any questions that you may have.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Sounds good. Any questions for Carter? Carter, I just want to -- I want to thank you for your efforts through this process, too. It's been -- obviously, we've worked closely together; but I've had the easy job and you and the staff and the Agency and everyone who's had interface and interaction with the Legislature has really worked very hard to do a terrific job of representing the interests and the position of the Department and I also want to thank the Legislatures -- Legislators. They've done a tremendous job of stepping up and so it's been good for the Agency and I just want to add our thanks as a Commission to you and to the staff for all of your efforts and all of your energy.

MR. SMITH: Well, thanks for your kind words, Chairman. Our team has just done a phenomenal job. They're up there late nights every week and just literally pounding the halls and they have just worked assiduously the whole session and so thank you for those kind words. I know that means a lot to everybody who's been working on it. We really appreciate the support and your leadership.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: We appreciate it. Thank you.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Carter?

MR. SMITH: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Could you go back to the...

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Second one.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: The slide on the other Article VI appropriations.

MR. SMITH: Uh-huh.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Rider 27, seven and a half million dollars. I'm just -- I'm sure I'm wrong, but I was under the impression that we were only getting two and a half million year one.

MR. SMITH: You know, I'm going -- I probably -- I want to make sure I get this right. Mike, can you -- is there Gene or you around? Where is -- all right, Gene, you're never off the hook. You're always on duty. Let's make sure we get the details right on this one, so.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Are you prepared to talk about that, or should we --

MR. SMITH: No, we -- absolutely. We can talk about what this does in terms of moving funding from one biennium to the next. I'll let Gene describe the details.

MR. MCCARTY: Gene McCarty with Intergovernmental Affairs. That number, the 7.5 million, is all inclusive of both Fund 9 and Fund 64. The 2.5 that you and I have been talking about quite a bit is only the Fund 9 piece. The Fund 64 piece of that, which is UBable from FY '14 into '15 is 3 million and then you also have some additional authority in both Fund 9 and Fund 64 that come in in FY '14 and '15.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But it's to Fund 9. It's still two and a half in year one and 200,000 in year two?

MR. MCCARTY: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That's all I wanted. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you. Appreciate it, Carter. Thanks.

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

COMMISSIONER MARTIN: I would like to add something to -- I wanted to add something to what you said earlier, Carter. Thank you and the whole Legislative team and staff and everybody that was engaged down at the Capitol and as well as the Legislators. But it was also noted, the individuals at the Capitol, the integrity and the ethics and the way that everyone conducted themselves and approached Legislators and their staff with incredible dignity and respect and just want to make note that it was also noted by individuals at the Capitol and staffers really appreciating just how things were delivered and how individuals were approached and I think it was really kudos and just makes the Department and everybody just shine and I think that's what makes the whole Department so unique. So just thank you.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Commissioner, for that comment on our professionalism. We appreciate that very much. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: That's great. Thanks, Carter. Okay, I'll authorize staff to publish the proposed rules needed to implement Legislation in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.

Item No. 3 is a financial overview, Mr. Justin Halvorsen. Good morning.

MR. HALVORSEN: Good morning. Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Justin Halvorsen. I am the team lead of the Budget Section and I will be going over the financial overview for fiscal year 2013 as of the end of April.

So we're going to start with the state park receipts. Now before I get into the specifics of this slide, overall year-to-date 2013 has been very strong compared to this time last year. We had a very solid fall and winter and so far a very robust spring, although the fall and winter of fiscal year 2012 was comparatively weak coming off the fires, drought, and record heat.

With regard to the specific categories you see in this slide, facilities -- which include fees on the cabins, campsites, and dining halls -- increased 1.5 million or 18.3 percent year over year. We've been consistently running in the high teens year over year for all of 2013. Entrance fees have increased 767,000 or about 10 percent year-over-year. That figure is down from the year-over-year comparisons we reported to you in the last two Commission meetings, when that figure was closer to 20 percent. However, that drop is more of a reflection of the weak fall and winter in fiscal 2012 that I mentioned earlier, followed by the very healthy rebound that spring.

Concessions, the bulk of which include fees charged to concessionaires for operating a store or providing a service have increased 252,000 or about 9.2 percent year-over-year. This figure has been consistently around 10 percent year-over-year for the entire fiscal year. Park passes are running about 17.3 percent higher year-over-year and we've been consistently running in the high teens in this category as well for fiscal year 2013.

The miscellaneous category includes donations, off-highway vehicle permits, and also truly miscellaneous items such as livestock sales, cancellation fees, etcetera. Those have increased just under 5 percent year-over-year and this figure is down slightly from earlier reports. The next slide is boat revenue. As a broad overview, the State charges a tax of six and a quarter on boat and boat motors. As a collector of that tax, TPWD is allowed to keep 5 percent of the total amount of taxes collected, which is deposited into our Fund 9 Game, Fish, and Water Safety account. That is the figure you see in that first line of 1,000,175 and is running about 14 percent higher than last year.

Boat titles are relatively flat at 1.4 percent growth year-over-year and registrations are down slightly. Boat registrations are good for a two-year period. If we look back historically at the last five years or so, you can really see the two-year cyclical fluctuation and the impact of the drought and the economy. For example, at this point in time in 2009, our registrations were only 6.8 million. In 2011, it was 7.1 million. Compare that to what you see on this slide here of 7.8 million in 2012 and 7.3 million in 2013.

As an attempt to offset some of the impact of the drought and the economy over the last two years, the Agency has received a grant from the nonprofit Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation to help push those renewals up by sending an additional renewal notice. 68,000 notices were sent out in 2012, generating an additional $320,000 in revenue. Approximately 78,000 notices were sent out in 2013. I don't have that 2013 revenue data at this time, but it will certainly be something that we monitor closely as we close out the year.

One other noteworthy item concerning boats that you don't see in this slide is the $5 optional donation to support state parks when renewing a boat. For 2013, this has generated about $80,000, which represents about one in seven boat renewals. That participation rate is significantly higher than the $5 donation for motor vehicles.

Moving on to licenses. Overall license sales are very consistent. Year-over-year variances are fluctuating within a very narrow plus or minus 5 percent and this is the trend that we've been seeing for all of 2013. On the resident fishing component, part of that decline can be attributed to a surge in licenses sold in the spring of 2012. The other category consists of about 110 different permits and licenses. The most significant contributors year to date for the 8.08 million that you see on the slide includes the lifetime licenses at about a million, wholesale fish dealer license at just under half a million, and the shrimp boat license at 335,000.

And finally we'll take a high-level look at our budget. At the last Commission presentation, our ending budget was 424.7 million. In the last two months, our budget has increased by 11.64 million, with the bulk being in three new federal grant programs -- 6.2 million in the Coastal Impact Assistance Grant Program, primarily consisting of three projects; 3 million for oyster restoration in the East Bay near Galveston; 2.6 million for a bulkhead replacement at the San Jacinto Battleground; and 500,000 to construct a breakwater at the Lower Neches WMA near Beaumont.

There was also an increase of 1.8 million in federal land and water conservation funds, most of which was used for land acquisition at Government Canyon State Park. As well as a $1 million grant from the Coastal Wetlands Protection Act for Bird Island Cove restoration, which is located on Galveston Island.

Finally, on the appropriated receipts and interagency contract component that you see of just over 1 million, the most noteworthy items are two donations -- $160,000 for the Game Warden Training Center and 135,000 for the Artificial Reef Program. That concludes my prepared remarks, and I'm happy to answer any questions that you may have.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Questions for Justin? Commissioner Duggins.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Yeah, can you start over again. I'm sorry, I stepped out just for a second.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Justin, you mentioned that you got a grant -- we have a grant for sending out additional renewal notices.

MR. HALVORSEN: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: How do we send out the renewal notices? By mail or by e-mail or how is that done?

MR. HALVORSEN: I believe that's by mail, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Have we considered doing it by e-mail?

MR. HALVORSEN: I don't have any more information, but I can get that information if we need to.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: It seems like we ought to look into that. I know that's a little bit out of your area, but I -- you mentioned it, so I thought I'd ask.

MR. SMITH: Yeah. I think, Commissioner, anytime if we've got somebody's e-mail address and permission to use that for communicating with them, we absolutely could look at that in the future. So let us take a look at it and talk with our AR and Communications team about what's possible there.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I think we ought to ask them for it when they register initially so that we do have it and --

MR. SMITH: Capture it.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- can do it more quickly and assuredly get in touch with them.

MR. SMITH: You bet.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Try to grab their e-mail address.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And save the money that you're spending on postage.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Well, and increase our --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That's the bottom line, increasing registration.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Hit rate, right.

MR. SMITH: Absolutely. Let us follow up with you on that and come back and talk about what our options are.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Terrific. Any other questions? Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

Okay. Item 4 is year-to-date fishing license update with Mike Jensen. Good morning, Mike.

MR. JENSEN: Good morning, Chairman, Commissioners. My name is Mike Jensen. I'm the Division Director of Administrative Resources. I'm also the CFO. I would like to remind Commissioner Duggins a couple years ago you passed a note to Carter and said "Who are those three men in dark suits?"

One of those men was Justin Halvorsen, who just presented to you. Another one is Lance Goodrum; but I think he just left the room, who's the Budget Director. And our other analyst is a pretty sharp guy. He's not here. He works for Julie, who's over here in the corner. We've got some great staff who are supporting the Commission. So as I think Carter told you, they were friendly, don't worry.

MR. SMITH: Don't shoot, don't shoot, yeah.

MR. JENSEN: I wanted to give you quick run-through of year-from-purchase fishing licenses, and maybe give you a quick history of what happened. Back in the 70s, 1974 through about 1977, our fishing licenses were a year-from-purchase, all of our licenses were. During that period, over that period of about four and a half to five years, the volume and -- which is -- correlates to the revenue, dropped by about 20 percent and the Legislature noted that and so the 65th Legislature actually -- they enacted a fixed license year and that became effective September 1st, 1977.

Back in about 2005, the 79th Legislature, Senator Lucio passed -- or he filed a bill, Senate Bill 1288, which recommended a number of changes to our licensing program and one of the outcomes of that legislation in 2005 was we reimplemented a year-from-purchase license. The year-from-purchase license that we offer for the Department is an all water license and it's $47 a license.

This Legislative session, Senator Lucio filed Senate Bill 375, which was recommending that all of our licenses be year-from-purchase, which would pose some challenges for the Department with respect to the hunting side because of the seasonality, the different change in regulations, and the tags. But this -- this presentation is going to focus more on the fishing.

Just to give you a context of where we are, I think you're used to seeing this type of slide. Justin just went through it. If you compare the annual license revenue that comes into the Department, we put combination at the top even though it's a slightly lower percentage of revenue. Generally, it's a little bit higher; but the combination licenses tend to the bread and butter for the Department. It tends to be purchased by very avid hunters and fishers -- fisherman. Resident fishing licenses account for about 33.2 percent of the revenue, and you can see the slides up here. If you lump them together -- all fishing licenses, resident and nonresident -- it's about 38 percent. All hunting is about 21 percent and the combos are close to 33 percent and all other licenses about 9 percent.

Our biologists, before I arrived in 2009, they looked at the license year data from 2003 to 2008. In that particular analysis they were doing, they were looking at an analysis on aging. The population, the type of anglers and hunters who were purchasing those licenses. And what they realized from the combination licenses in particular were the participation rate in fishing is extremely high and in hunting. These are your avid hunters and anglers. The participation rate in fishing is about 87 percent. The participation rate in hunting is about 94 percent.

And the odd thing is when you look at the seniors, it kind of drops off a little bit. You wouldn't expect that to happen, but that happens. That's not on the slide. One of the things that that group told the Division Directors back in 2009 is, well, why are the combo licenses so avid, why are they so dependable and loyal, per se. Well, some of them look at it as an opportunity to save money. Some of them like the simplicity of knowing that I'm going to buy this license so I can be prepared in case I need it, and many of them support conservation.

So if you look at -- we're going to see some slides further on down the road about fishing, about loyalty rates. We're not saying that fishermen are not loyal, but they're not as loyal as the hunters tend to be with respect to renewing licenses.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Mike, do you mean year-to-year participation? That from year to year the same anglers or hunters are buying licenses? Is that what you mean?

MR. JENSEN: Yeah, I'm going to get more on the next slide. It's not really on the slide, but I want to get you to the next slide is the volume. If you look at the volume, 40 percent of all the licenses are fishing licenses by count, 25 percent of all licenses are hunting, and the combos are only about 21 percent. So you can see the volume is smaller for the combos, but the impact on revenue is pretty significant and that's why I say it's the bread and butter.

With respect to the question you have, Commissioner Hughes, on loyalty of license holders, this same group of biologists and Wildlife biologists who looked at aging on it, they looked at anybody who buys a hunting or fishing license and then buys any hunting or fishing license the following year. If they bought a super combo, the probability was 79 percent they were going to buy another license of any type. With respect to fishing, it was 55 percent. So you can see they're loyal, but the hunters tend to drive this thing.

With respect to an angler or a hunter who buys the exact same license, the loyalty rate on the super combos is about 60 percent. If you buy it this year, you're probably going to -- 60 percent probability you'll buy it the next year. For fishing, that's 27 percent. And the reason I want to put this in is I want to talk a little bit about fishing licenses and the impact if we actually went to all fishing licenses being year-from-purchase, what that might cause with respect to our revenue streams.

And in Texas we have 15 fishing license options and it includes resident, nonresidents, and seniors and a special license at Lake Texoma. The freshwater fishing license is about a $30 fee. The saltwater fishing licenses, $35. The all water is 40. The year-from-purchase is $47. So that is a premium price, but I'll explain why that is in a moment when we go through some of these slides.

If you look back through license year 2005 through 2012, you can see this chart and see the general trend. The blue line that you see on there, at least on this screen -- I don't know what it is on your laptops -- it shows you a decline in freshwater fishing between 2009 to present. But you're also seeing a steady increase in the year-from-purchase. So when Senator Lucio looks at this, he's thinking, hey, this is a great license, people love it. But we're also saying it may be -- it's probably cannibalizing some of our freshwater license users, which from a revenue standpoint is okay because they're paying $47 as opposed to 30; so that helps long-term.

However, what you don't see on this graph also is the growth in our population is about 2.6 million over this same period. So we may be recruiting some new people who are new to Texas who are buying the year-from-purchase license as well. Maybe they're coming from one of the other states who have it, and that's what they're familiar with.

These four primary license types that account for about 77 percent of the fishing revenue, the freshwater license has a peak in September, then again in March, April, and May. If you just look at that peak, that may be why some of these folks are transitioning from freshwater to the year-from-purchase. They're actually waiting to buy the license until they go fishing, as opposed to a hunter who says I'm going to go ahead and buy that up front in case I need it, I know I'll have it, I won't have to worry about getting it later.

The saltwater license tends to peak in September and November. The all water peaks in September and November and the year-from-purchase peaks May, June, and July. And the year-from-purchases have the largest increase, you saw it in that previous slide, over the past five years.

There are ten states who offer year-from-purchase license, and I'm not going to give you a real comprehensive overview because each one of these states does something differently. Most of these states -- nobody does anything apples for apples. They may have -- a lot of these have year-from-purchase hunting licenses as well and what they do with those, they sell tags and other things separately. It's not tied to the license, as opposed to the way that we do it.

So Texas implemented ours in 2005 and you had Georgia in 2004, Florida in '98, and Utah in 2006. Some of these states provided data to our fisheries biologists and to Tom Newton who's our manager in Administrative Resources and most of them were saying that the revenue tended to level out with time. The initial problem was when you transition, it creates reporting issues with Fish and Wildlife.

We do get a federal funds allocation based upon the number of licenses that we sell to hunters and to anglers, so that may throw a wrench into some smaller states when they report to Fish and Wildlife and so that they can do that calculation for the excise tax because we get sport fish restoration money based upon the number of licenses that we have. But since Texas is a maximum, we're capped out in the federal statute of what we can get, that's less of an issue for us. It's more of an issue for someone like a Georgia.

When Georgia implemented this, their analysis indicated to them that there was going to be a renewal gap. They anticipated that those folks who purchased a year-from-purchase license, they probably would be okay in the first year; but in the second year when they renewed, they were probably going to wait until they actually had a fishing trip to go on. So they planned for a renewal gap in the out years and in planning for that, they suggested and they've implemented a renewal discount to encourage people to renew early so that you would mitigate the impact of that gap and they have actually realized that renewal gap and what they do, they've done what Commissioner Duggins is suggesting, that the sales agents, they try to harvest e-mail addresses so that they can electronically remind the anglers and hunters, hey, your license is going to expire next month, please renew, or they may even do some ticklers early on. Say, hey, there's a discount if you renew early.

It's not a significant discount, but it's important to try to alleviate that gap because the next slide -- this slide has what I have on it. If you go down to the bottom of this slide, you can see based on the Texas median license purchase and those anglers and hunters -- in this case, we're focusing on anglers -- those who had a fixed license year purchase, on average the renewal interval is approximately 380 days. So that means over a period of ten years, they are probably buying one license per year.

With respect to the year-from-purchase license holders, the data that our biologists have analyzed, the renewal intervals are approximately 512 days. That means over a ten-year period, you're actually only selling seven licenses; so we're losing the revenue. Even though it's a premium priced license, we're losing revenue. So the issue that arises is if we were to switch all fishing licenses to year-from-purchase, what would the appropriate price point be so that we wouldn't have a negative impact to our revenue.

For example, if somebody switched from a year-from-purchase to a freshwater license, per head that would be a $17 per person drop in revenue and so these are the type of things that are going to be important for us to look at. And on this final recommendation slide, while Senator Lucio is encouraging us to consider in doing this as soon as we can, Carter has already briefed you that we were moving from the Verizon license agent to Gordon-Darby and there's no way that we can implement something that significant of a change between now and an implementation date hopefully of early in August.

So in order to not jeopardize that license transition system, we would not want to implement that this fiscal year. But what we would want to do as a second bullet is to have our statisticians and scientists analyze the data. We have great fisheries and wildlife guys who know statistics much better than I do who will look at that data. They've already done some analysis based on the aging trends and to look at price modeling to see if we were to convert all of our fishing licenses to a year-from-purchase license, what would the appropriate price point be to hold the revenue neutral so that we don't have a drop in revenue.

And the reason that's important to do this analysis, we obviously have a new Appropriations bill that Carter walked you through and there are some increases in there that the gift that keeps on giving when you take care of staff and you give them salary increases, that's going to be a cost to the Department for perpetuity until the Legislature gives another pay increase. So you saw that Schedule C had about a 9.3 and Schedules A and B had about a 3.2. When you add that up, we have to sustain that from here on out; so we need to factor that in the analysis that's going to be performed as well to make sure that the revenue streams that come in can sustain the work that we do to support the mission.

And for your benefit, Commissioner Lee, you're new. We have two primary revenue streams, and most of what we do is fee based. If you work in a state park, we call that Fund 64, the state park account. Half of the state park funding is from user fees, from the people who visited. You saw the slide that Justin presented. The other half comes from a sporting goods sales tax transfer; so it's important to get that money in and we did get some relief this Legislative session on how that is handled, so it's going to be improved.

And then we have Fund 9, which is what most of these slides were about is the Game, Fish, and Water Safety account and that pretty much funds everybody else. And we have the indirect divisions like my division and a portion of Communications division and IT, we're split funded because we support both the state park's folks and we support the fisheries and law enforcement components and wildlife components of the Department.

So what we're recommending is that we work with the statisticians who are here. We have some great folks who worked with on this presentation from Coastal Fisheries, Inland Fisheries, and within my division, Administrative Resources, that we work together, we give you some data at a time that you want to receive it. I don't know what your timeline would be, so we'll need some feedback from you to Carter. Let us know when you want that, a more detailed briefing as to what the impacts would be and we'll bring that back to you for consideration to determine what we'll need to do. And once we get feedback from you, then we'll have to return back and talk to Gordon-Darby, the license vendor, to see what implications, what timeline it would take to do some programming changes.

For example, the year-from-purchase license we do right now because of the current license contractor that we have, if you buy -- if I bought a year-from-purchase fishing license on May 2nd, it expires May 31st of the following year. I would like it to just be year-from-purchase like the other states. I mean 365 days, but that's a programming issue that would have to be factored in. The reason it's done that way is that's how Verizon programmed it and our specifications for the new successor were to let's at least do what the current Verizon system does; but do it in a better way. So we have to give them an opportunity to come live, be successful, and then we can take your recommendations and our statisticians' recommendations and figure out if we should do this and what the appropriate price point should be.

That's pretty much the core of what I was trying to present today. If you have any questions, I'll be happy to try and answer them.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner Jones.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Mr. Chairman, I have some questions. Does Senator Lucio have the statistics that you just shared with us regarding the effect of year-to-date licensing over a ten-year span of time?

MR. JENSEN: We tried to explain it to his staff member. We can -- we can provide -- this presentation, we just prepared this in the last -- about the last week. We can provide him the data that's behind this presentation. But we did meet with his staffer during this Legislative session and --

MR. SMITH: So we've shared --

MR. JENSEN: -- we shared the information.

MR. SMITH: -- with their staff as much information as we had on that front, Commissioner. And our last communication with the Senator was that we were going to bring this presentation to y'all today to give you this information. You know, we also let him know about the transition on the license sales system and given the criticality of that from a business perspective, we really couldn't do anything until after that was completed, hopefully in August.

COMMISSIONER JONES: But I'm specifically asking about the statistics showing the effect over a period of years on the revenue.

MR. JENSEN: We met with his staffer and we tried to walk him through it a couple times. He --

COMMISSIONER JONES: They didn't get it?

MR. JENSEN: He didn't really get it, but we did not personally talk with Senator Lucio. I know that Gene McCarty and Harold may have been talking with his staff person as well. He has a new staff person. He has some other staff people that I've worked with in the past that this Legislative session, they had some health issues; so they were standing to the side. I think this person is returning to health and we can revisit with whoever Senator Lucio wants us to provide the information to.

MR. SMITH: If I could, Mike, I guess what I'd add to it, out of respect to his desire, I think he really is thinking about how do I make this as easy on the customer as possible and how do I make that opportunity to buy a fishing license seamless and that's really where he's coming from and so I think we continue to communicate with Senator Lucio and his team and let him know that we're trying to move forward on his wishes to the extent that we can and continue to inform him as we have more information to share.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Right, okay.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Mike, are we able -- can we -- in the existing system, can we differentiate between retention? In other words, the existing buying base and new purchases I mean because you mentioned we don't -- we don't currently capture that, but are we able --

MR. JENSEN: We were able to calculate that. We have PhDs who know numbers better than I know them who can do the modeling can tell you. I mean I think John Taylor may be back here. He's one of the resources who assisted --

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I'm wondering if we have a system currently that captures that or not. Not --

MR. JENSEN: We have the tools to do that.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Not whether we can model it going forward.

MR. JENSEN: We use SAS as a tool so we can pull the data into SAS and then we can do all sorts of things.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: But we haven't -- but we have not delineated at this point between the two?

MR. SMITH: We have actually. I'm looking at John back there and we have, yes.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: We have, okay. Thank you. That's information I would be interested in for the different license types.

COMMISSIONER JONES: You know, on that point and maybe I didn't understand your statistics, you said 27 percent of fishing licenses are sold to repeat customers or did I misunderstand that?

MR. JENSEN: This is a person who bought the same license. Say you bought a fishing license this year, there's a 27 percent probability you're buying that same fishing license next year. However, if you bought the super combo, there's a 60 percent probability the next year you're going to buy a super combo.

Now if you change that to if you buy, for example, a super combo, then you buy any other type of hunting or fishing license the following year, that's 79 percent. If you bought a fishing license, then you buy any other license, that's 55 percent.

And one of the statistics that John shared with me is an attrition rate. Suppose somebody buys one license and they never buy a license again and what the statistics are showing us there, the attrition rate on the year-from-purchase license is about 29 or 30 percent as opposed to a fixed-year fishing license of 15 percent. Some of that may be due to the fact that someone made a mistake. They bought the wrong license. But, however, we were looking at the population of who only bought one license and never bought again; so it could have been a mistake, it may not have been. But that's an interesting -- it's twice as much, the attrition rate when you look at it that way.

And John and the Coastal Fisheries, they have all sorts of way to answer the questions you might have from a statistical perspective. We can provide that for you, just let us know what you need.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Just that --

MR. JENSEN: Okay.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: -- in particular right now. I just want to know what our real growth or shrinkage is in that -- in those license categories versus what we're pumping in from people coming into the state or new growth basically.

MR. JENSEN: Okay.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: That's great. Thanks, Mike. Any other questions? Commissioner Duggins.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Just a couple of comments. I think as we -- as you move forward and staff move forward looking into these various issues, that it would be very helpful to hear from all these other states that have implemented the year-to-date license. What the pros and cons have been, hear it anecdotally. I would like to know that. You've got about ten states here and we heard back from Florida, Mississippi, and North Carolina; but not the others.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I think that's a very good point. If we could benchmark and get some information back to the Commission on how other states are, you know, doing with it.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: What happened with it. And I think to Carter's point, it is going to be important as we finalize the data and the analysis, that we seek an opportunity to meet with Senator Lucio once we have distilled into a reliable product so that we can show him things like over time apparently seven -- excuse me, three fewer licenses are sold if you go to year-to-date. I mean that's a big deal in ten years.

MR. JENSEN: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So that's just a couple comments on that.

COMMISSIONER JONES: And I'm happy to help out with Senator Lucio. I mean I know him fairly well. Not well, but at least can get an audience with him and make sure he understands that. We just wouldn't want him firing off in a direction simply because he didn't realize the effect it may have over the long term.

MR. JENSEN: We'll work with Carter and you'll work with Carter and I'll be happy to work with Carter and you and whoever wants to help us to come to the right type of license, the right pricing.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner Duggins.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: What I was going to say is can you get back to us when you come back in November with the -- in the traditional proclamations?

MR. JENSEN: Yes, sir, we can do that. That would probably be a good time, yes.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Perfect.

MR. SMITH: That's good. I think we can do that easily. I think that timing actually really works well from the business perspective on our end; so, yeah.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I don't think we can take any chances with the transition, for one. That just is a no-brainer. To not mess with the switchover and that gives you one more meeting to finalize and make sure we've got good data.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I agree with that. Commissioner Scott.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: The only comment I would have is that we need to make sure that the Senator is up to speed and that, you know, he understands the progression that we're working through --

MR. SMITH: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: -- so that he doesn't do -- like Bill said, we don't want him thinking we're not doing something and he's going to get over here -- you know, what he might do; so --

MR. SMITH: Sure.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: -- just as long as he understands what our timetable is and that will take, you know, any of that chance out.

MR. SMITH: No, I think that's a great suggestion by all of you. And, Commissioner, what I'd done, my last communication with him, we had visited about it in person and then I had sent him a letter that, you know, outlined that we were going come to y'all with an update on this and get some guidance and I told him that we'd report back after this meeting. So I'll let him know the direction that y'all have given us and then when we're ready to sit down and kind of go through it again, we'll do that. So that's good, thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any other questions for Mike? Thanks, Mike. Appreciate it.

Okay. Item 5 is Red Snapper, discussing the recent actions by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council relating to the management of Red Snapper stocks within the EEZ off of Texas and we will hear this item in Executive Session.

Item 6, commercially protected Finfish reporting requirements, Brandi Reeder. Good morning.

MS. REEDER: Good morning, Mr. Chairman is bailing on me; but Commission members, Mr. Smith. My name is Brandi Reeder. I'm the Fisheries Law Administrator for the Law Enforcement Division and I'm here today to request an amendment to Proclamation 57.372, packaging requirements.

Currently, Finfish import license holders must submit a copy of each shipment invoice related to commercially protected Finfish to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Regional Law Enforcement Office by the 10th of each month following the month of the shipment via fax or overland mail. The requested changes to Proclamation 57.372 packaging requirements would require mandatory electronic reporting of each imported, exported, or intrastate shipment of commercially protected Finfish to the Department within 24 hours via Department approved internet application.

This rule change will increase efficiency for Law Enforcement and license holders alike. It will ensure that data is readily available to staff. It will help to reduce reporting errors, as well as provide a tool to ensure compliance. A web based commercially protected Finfish database has been developed for the Department and tested by a subset of the industry who approve of this system and appreciate the streamlined reporting process.

That being said, staff requests permission to publish the proposed amendment in the Texas Register for public comment and I'm happy to answer any questions at this time.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Any discussion or questions?

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: I've got a question for Brandi. Are we talking about live Finfish, or are we talking about packaged Finfish?

MS. REEDER: We don't distinguish between live or dead. However, it's mostly going to be your dead product and it's going to cover any transactions in our commercially protected Finfish. A lot of that's like Bass, Red Drum, some of these commercially protected Finfish are include -- that include those species. And so this database allows for -- it's actually built up to where it's a live -- they produce their invoices in this system. Whereas right now it's overly burdensome that they have to save all their invoices and after a month worth of shipping, send the invoices to the Parks and Wildlife Department office that's closest to them, then they have to be inputted.

This streamlines it all. As a matter of fact, the recipient, there's a QR code at the bottom of the invoice. It will be -- it does streamline it considerably.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Anybody else? Okay. If there's no further discussion, I'll authorize staff to publish the proposed changes in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.

MS. REEDER: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you, Brandi. Major Larry Young is now going to present a -- present topics -- excuse me, discussion on use of dogs to trail wounded deer and request permission to publish changes, proposed changes.

MR. YOUNG: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. I'm Larry Young, Law Enforcement Division Headquarter Staff. I'm here this morning to request permission to publish in the Texas Register proposed changes to regulations pertaining to trailing -- there we go -- pertaining to trailing wounded deer with dogs.

In all counties, it's lawful to trail wounded deer with dogs with the exception of the 22 counties highlighted on the map. Current regulations are -- and again, you'll see the highlighted counties. Those are the 22 counties from East Texas on the previous slide. Current regulations allow for not more than two dogs when trailing a wounded deer in all counties except for the 22 counties highlighted. Also in the 22 counties highlighted, it's an offense to be on property not your own and be in possession of a shotgun and buckshot or a slug and have a dog or dogs in your possession.

It's also important to remember that statewide it's unlawful to use dogs or dogs in hunting, pursuing, or taking deer in all counties. Last year the Department received a request to allow the trailing of wounded deer with dogs in all counties. After a discussion with Wildlife Division, Law Enforcement, and field staff in these 22 counties and after vetting this request with the Whited-tail Deer Advisory Committee, all parties concurred with the proposal reducing the number of counties from 22 down to 10. This county reflects the 10 core counties we still would like to restrict the use of dogs in.

The new regulation would read it's simply lawful to use not more than two dogs in trailing wounded deer in all counties except for the 10 counties now highlighted, reducing that down from 22 to 10. And then the 10 counties highlighted, it is an offense to be on property not your own and be in possession of a shotgun and buckshot or a slug and have a dog or dogs in your possession. So all we're simply seeking to do is reduce the core counties from 22 down to 10.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Dan Allen.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Larry, how do we -- how do we come down to these 10 counties? What's -- when you go from 22 to 10, how did you choose these 10 counties?

MR. YOUNG: We -- after talking with the Law Enforcement staff and the Wildlife Division and the White-tail Advisory Committee, it's -- we feel there's still enough law enforcement concerns in these 10 counties that if we opened it up to trailing wounded deer with dogs, that it may open the door to the illegal dog -- illegal deer hunting. We were comfortable in the 12 surrounding counties of those 10 counties that the problem has subsided to the point where it's not a law enforcement concern.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Notice these counties are adjacent to Louisiana, so.

MR. YOUNG: No comment.

MR. SMITH: That's stating the obvious.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: You know, you just cut to the chase. That's where I was headed, too. It does border the Sabine River, right?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Good question. Anybody else a question or comment?

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I've got a question.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Reed.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: If you're only -- if you're hunting deer with dogs, would you use a shotgun? I guess you could have a rifle according to this and dogs and not be on your own property, is that...

MR. YOUNG: Yes, sir. And the primary reason of that is the shotgun is that's the primary weapon of choice arguably for people who choose illegally that run the deer with dogs. But also if it included all firearms, we would have the unintentional consequence of somebody out there squirrel hunting with a rifle and having a dog, they would be in violation. A hog hunter would be in violation.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Uh-huh, thank you.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Well, in that vein, I'm pretty familiar with these 10 counties and there's a lot of squirrel hunters and hog hunters and everything else, where -- and this may be directed more to you. Who is going to get unhappy when they figure out that they're in one of ten and don't appreciate being one of ten or whatever? You know where I'm headed.

MR. YOUNG: Yeah, that's a good --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: What is that going to -- what are we creating by doing this I guess is to cut to the chase.

MR. SMITH: Well, I think in one case, we're cutting down by half the number of counties that were restricted by this regulation. So we are relaxing the regulation, and so I think that's a positive movement forward. The hunters in these counties are already used to these rules and so, you know, ostensibly they've been abiding by them.

We've also talked about doing some public hearings this summer and getting out there and talking about these changes along with some others. Larry, do you want to add anything else to it?

MR. YOUNG: Yeah, along your reasoning on that is actually back in 1990 when this was first implemented, we started with 35 counties and slowly reduced it as the problem subsided down to 22 and now we're seeking to go to 10. So it's obviously good faith on our part that we recognize that there's more compliance in the area, and we're going to work with them the best we can.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: So conceivably some point in the future, these 10 could come off of the list, too?

MR. YOUNG: Conceivably.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, you know, one of the things we hear a lot, Commissioner, just so you know, we do hear a fair amount from landowners in this area that have some real concerns about the possibility of folks getting involved in running deer with dogs again and so there's a real concern on that side about property rights and that issue and so that's another issue that we're very sensitive about over in that area.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: That's actually where I was headed to because that's -- that is a big deal right in that particular part of East Texas.

MR. SMITH: Yes, sir. Yep, yep.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I would like to come back to Reed's point because I agree with you. I question why we should limit it to shotguns. Now maybe take out rimfire for squirrel hunters, but I don't know why you wouldn't have pistols in there. If you've got a dog that runs a deer into a -- runs it down, the deer is just out of gas on the ground, why couldn't you shoot it with a pistol?

I think you ought to consider whether that ought to be expanded beyond shotguns and as I say, maybe you exclude rimfire for the squirrel hunters. I don't know how the rest of you think about it. I'm just -- anybody else agree or disagree?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Well, most of the squirrel hunters are going to be using --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Rimfire.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Well, or .410 or, you know, 20-gauge shotguns. You know, a lot of people are using them.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, they're already -- I mean they're already -- they can't do it anyway because they've already got a shot -- it's just any shotgun.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Right.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Except buckshot or slug.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Buck shot and slugs.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yeah, so that takes care of pretty much all that.

MR. YOUNG: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER JONES: I don't know that I would have a problem with expanding it to include pistols.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: What do you think? I mean I'm -- is it -- are people using pistols?

MR. YOUNG: I don't have any personal knowledge of that. It's been my experience that shotgun is the weapon of choice.

MR. SMITH: I think we're getting most of it with that to be fair.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yeah, buckshot.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay, maybe we leave it as is then. The only other suggestion, I would change the word "shall" in Paragraph C to "may," just nitpicky; but where dogs may not be used to trail wounded deer instead of shall not be.

MR. SMITH: Okay.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Of course, if anybody is paying attention, we may have just given them an idea.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I wouldn't think it would hurt; but if nobody feels very strongly about it, no big deal. Any further discussion or comment? Okay, I'll authorize staff to publish the proposed changes in the Texas Register for the required public comment period. Thank you.

MR. YOUNG: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Work Session Item 8, exotic species rule amendments regarding the transport of Tilapia and Triploid Grass Carp, request permission to publish, Ken Kurzawski. Welcome, Ken.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Good morning, Commissioners. My name is Ken Kurzawski in the Inland Fisheries Division and I handle regulations coordination for the Division and today I'm going to talk about some proposed changes to the transport rules for Tilapia and Triploid Grass Carp.

Our regulations on the possession of exotic fishes, we regulate those by a prohibited list. We have the harmful and potentially harmful fishes that are on those lists. That includes all the Tilapia and Asian Carp, the Bighead Carp, Silver Carp that you see in the Midwest jumping out of the water. Those are on the prohibited list and what that does, we -- basically, the possession of those is prohibited or restricted. We do allow possession of some species. Three species of Tilapia and Triploid Grass Carp with an exotic species permit, and that exotic species permit has certain conditions.

Most people have to have an aquaculture license from Department of Agriculture. We require an inspection of their facilities before you get the license, so we have some control over how those animals will be possessed and controlled for escapement. We do have some minor differences for Mozambique Tilapia specifically and Triploid Grass Carp. On those, we do allow those to be possessed for use in private ponds and facilities.

The uses people use those for, vegetation control. Specifically the Triploid Grass Carp is used for controlling vegetation in ponds, various types of vegetation. Forage fish, that's what originally the Tilapia was requested to be used for. They're Mozambique Tilapia stocked in the ponds, especially if you're trying to produce large bass or a good forage fish. They're cold intolerant; so when the weather gets cold in the winter, gets in the 50s, they'll -- the cold will kill them and you'll have to restock those fish. Limits their chance of escaping. And recently as food fish, I mean you find Tilapia in most grocery stores. People have requested to use those in private ponds and facilities to grow some fish for their own use in those situations.

Currently if you were have -- wanting Tilapia or Grass Carp for your private ponds or facilities, those can only be transported to you by those exotic species permit holders. They're the ones that have control over those and they have to deliver them directly to the location where they'll be used.

We have received a number of requests recently, including some Legislative requests, to consider allowing transport to the private ponds and facilities by persons other than the exotic species permit holders. That means if you're requesting some of those you would want for use in your pond, you could go pick those up directly from the exotic species permit holder.

What we're -- we looked at that, and we're proposing some changes that would allow transport by those nonexotic species permit holders. There's -- a transport invoice would be issued by the permit holders to cover those -- cover those movement of those fish. The possession of those fish at the destination, at the private pond or lake, is covered by a -- would be covered by the transport invoice. In the case of Tilapia, the private person would have to maintain that invoice. And we also and additionally for Triploid Grass Crap, we require a Triploid Grass Carp permit, which has some conditions for possession of those and some inspection of that -- those facilities.

Once again, we would specify that none of these fish going to these private facilities could leave live to eliminate the chances of them escaping or being transported around and we think by implementing this one minor change to the rule, we think we still will maintain control of the spread of those fish and allow a little bit more flexibility for people, people wishing to do these in their private areas.

Staff would -- we would seek permission to publish some of the changes to Chapter 57 that would implement these minor changes that were discussed and if you have any questions, I'd be happy to answer them.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Questions for Ken? Commissioner Duggins.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: What -- in the first -- in 57.113(G) where you've got some of these proposed edits, we've added "facility." What is meant by "facility"? Why is it in the first part of the sentence and taken out in the second?

MR. KURZAWSKI: Well, facility would be to separate -- we have in the rule itself, we have private facility. That would be like a tank or something, not a pond. If you were -- in the aquaponics they usually have some, you know, round tanks, circular tanks that they're raising fish and that would be to capture that rather than a private pond.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So it can be a commercial facility?

MR. KURZAWSKI: No, they wouldn't be able to sell. If you're selling, if any of these -- if you would be taking Tilapia and wanting to sell them, you would have to have a aquaculture permit from the Department of Agriculture. It's just for private --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So you're saying -- I'm sorry. Go ahead.

MR. KURZAWSKI: It's just for private use.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So is "facility" a defined term in the regulations?

MR. KURZAWSKI: Yes, we do have -- I believe we have that -- well, private facility is a pond, tank, cage, or other structure capable of holding cultured species and confinement wholly within on or on private land or within or on permitted public land or water.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Well, then my next -- so it is defined. My next question is if you look at the second line, you've struck the word -- oh, I see what you're saying. I mean I see what you're doing, sorry. Okay, thank you. I just wasn't sure because that term wasn't -- didn't appear to be defined.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay. Any other questions for Ken? Thanks, Ken. Okay, I'll authorize staff to publish the proposed changes in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.

Item 9 is a revised environmental MOU with the TxDOT, request permission to publish proposal to adopt the TxDOT MOU.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good morning. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This item is sort of the next step in a process that's been going on quite a while to revise the environmental review MOU between TxDOT and Texas Parks and Wildlife.

You were briefed on this MOU back in November of 2012. Not much has changed except that we're now to the point that we're going to ask you for permission to publish a notice that the Agency intends to adopt that rule by reference. We are required to have this environmental MOU by Legislation by rule under 201.607 of the Transportation Code. The last rule is, in fact, the first rule that was adopted back in 1998. Several efforts to revise that rule since then have not been successful.

We believe this one is going to be successful. Periodic revision is required by the Legislation. There are really two goals to the revision, two goals that Texas Parks and Wildlife and TxDOT have. The first -- the first goal is to make this whole process more efficient. It's to encourage review of the project a little earlier in the project phase so that our staff has more of an opportunity to make comments that can actually be incorporated into the design of the project. It's to reduce the number of projects that get sent over for review.

A lot of projects that come over now are really minor in nature -- adding shoulders to roads, widening shoulders, replacing minor bridges. And a lot of staff time and energy gets consumed, there are no changes made to the projects, and so there's not much of a net benefit to Fish and Wildlife resources. We'd really prefer to concentrate staff effort at TxDOT and TPWD on those projects where our comments can actually affect, positively affect Fish and Wildlife resources.

And then the other part of this goal to increase efficiency is to reduce turnaround time when those projects do come over to Texas Parks and Wildlife. The other goal is to increase the value of those reviews for Fish and Wildlife resources. And again as per the last slide, we want to focus staff effort on those projects where staff effort to review projects and to make those comments is going to have an impact and again, that early review process will allow us to have that input at a point in project where engineering changes or route changes or other changes to the project can be made that will have a positive benefit on Fish and Wildlife or at least reduce the negative impacts on Fish and Wildlife resources. We want to see more of our comments incorporated into the actual project design.

There is currently an MOU that was passed in 2005 that was intended to require TxDOT consult TPWD on all compensatory mitigation needs, and they do that. But because we don't -- often don't know about a project, especially a large project early enough in the process, we have not been very effective in steering that mitigation to projects that have the greatest Fish and Wildlife benefits and so this MOU is intended to encourage more of that.

And again in terms of taking a holistic approach to project mitigation, that may involve aggregating projects in a given county or a given area, so that we can affect one larger mitigation project rather than several small projects. It may involve working closely with district engineers in TxDOT to see that there is some mitigation done for impacts to resources other than federally regulated resources.

TxDOT is amenable to that. We've seen on other projects that there's ways to do that at no additional cost to TxDOT, and yet affect just better mitigation in response to those projects; so that's something we want to encourage with this new MOU. The way we're going to do that is by establishing several programmatic agreements. One of which is to establish thresholds below which those projects wouldn't be sent to us and those are based on area. In high value habitats, the area may be very small. Maybe a hundredth of an acre for very rare, high value habitats. For habitats that are quite common or where we're not as concerned about those impacts, they may be two or three or five acres before the impact is sufficient to trigger the project being sent to Texas Parks and Wildlife for review.

TxDOT is going to fund two staff positions at Parks and Wildlife. One of which will do nothing but those project reviews. That will free up other project review staff to concentrate on some of the other projects we do review. It will also give TxDOT the opportunity to sort of prioritize those projects they want reviewed, which will again minimize that turnaround time for their high priority projects.

And the other thing that they'll do, one of the other things that the MOU will do is we'll have them fund some work on the Texas Natural Diversity Database, which is where we maintain all those county records of species of concern and which is the primary database that TxDOT goes to to determine if a project footprint is going to have impacts that are of concern to this Agency. We're behind in incorporating field records into that database. This would help us get caught up.

And the other thing, one of the other things it will do is it will create an interagency team that will meet every quarter. We'll take a look at all those projects that were sent over. If projects are still coming over that we agree really didn't need to be reviewed or that the review had a minimal positive impact, we'll look at what's triggering those reviews and if it's a particular species that's very widespread that we can replace with best -- we can replace the trigger with best management practices, if it's a threshold that's really set too low that we can raise, then the interagency team will do that.

The goal again being to reduce the number of projects that comes over to Texas Parks and Wildlife by at least 50 percent and I could see -- easily see that going to 60 or 70 percent. Again, allowing staff to concentrate their efforts on those projects that have the most impact to Fish and Wildlife resources. That 50 percent that would not come over, probably doesn't affect 5 percent of the those Fish and Wildlife resources that are affected by transportation projects across Texas.

The status is that TxDOT published the rule in February. Received two comments, one of which was non-substantive, the other of which was from Williamson County. Those concerns have been addressed with some minor revisions to the rule. The TxDOT Commission will take action on the draft rule next week and assuming that rule is adopted by Texas Department of Transportation, we would propose to publish a -- we would request to publish a proposal to adopt the rule by reference and then we would propose to come back to you in August to request that you take action adopting the rule by reference and I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have about the MOU or about that process.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner Scott.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Perhaps not a question. I have personally been involved when these two Agencies could never get along or get anything accomplished, so I applaud the effort to try to get people and I do like the plan about them having somebody over here because that always takes away the he's across town, you know. So I really like the idea of people being held accountable and --

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: -- you know, if there's somebody dragging their feet or doing something, now you've got a means to cut through it; so I really think a lot of this whole idea.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you. Commissioner Martin.

COMMISSIONER MARTIN: I was going to say the same thing. I was also seeing -- is this going to create any extra costs to the Department financially in adding any of this or, you know, it's just...

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: It should actually do the opposite.

COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Okay.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Because they're going to fund those two positions. That won't directly save us money. What it will do is it will allow our existing staff to put more time and effort into reservoir projects, power line projects, other kind of projects that also have those impacts.

It actually will save money because fewer projects will be coming over and even now, our field staff that often reviews local transportation projects will be reviewing fewer of those projects; so it should not be any cost to us.

COMMISSIONER MARTIN: A lot of positives there.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: A lot of positives. And, you know, the irony is that our staff and TxDOT's staff has been able to see that it's possible to do this. I've been working on this directly for eight years now. The struggle has been finding a way to institutionalize that and without compromising our mission or TxDOT's mission and we think we're there now.

COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Great teamwork.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thanks, Ted. Okay, any other questions? I'll authorize staff to publish the proposed changes in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.

Item 10 is hunter education course requirements, request permission to publish proposed changes in the Texas Register.

MS. HERRON: Good morning, Commissioners.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Good morning.

MS. HERRON: I'm Nancy Herron. I'm the Outreach and Education Director and I have with me this morning Robert Ramirez, our Hunter Education Manager. We're going to do a little tag team this morning.

We're here to request a change to Rule 51.80 and propose -- excuse me, to post these in the proposed -- to post in the Texas Register. I'm sorry, I'm not my best this morning. Excuse me. 2013 marks the 25th year of mandatory hunter education. We will sometime this year train our 1 millionth student and over the years, we've enhanced hunter education. We have added home study and a field day option. We have put online instruction and added a deferral option and even mentored hunts.

We've done a lot over the years and as a matter of fact, we've brought our hunter education book so that you can see what's in the content of the course at this time. If you were to look in on a class, a hunter education class at this time, what you would see is perhaps a nine-year-old with Mom and Dad in tow and you might see a teenager in an Ag. Science class or in FFA. You might see an experienced hunter, 60 years old; but he's getting ready to go big game hunting in Colorado.

The types of our students vary widely in our class and with that, we understand or we feel like we really need a suite of options to serve those students. With that in mind, we convened a task force that included staff -- some of our staff, some of our outstanding instructors, volunteer instructors and partners in hunter education to look at the content and the length of our course.

What they discovered is there are some opportunities to offer some additional options for hunter education, and I'd like to turn it over to Robert to tell you about that.

MR. RAMIREZ: Good morning, Chairman. Good morning, Commissioners. We'll go ahead and get started with the hunter education certification requirements, or for persons born on or after September 2nd, 1971, age 17 and older. This graph illustrates the number of hunting incidents in hundred thousandths, a hundred thousand participants illustrated in red and we're at 2.2 per hundred thousand for 2012 and in blue, we have the hunter education student certifications and again, set a record in 2012 with over 45,000 students certified in hunter education.

The mandatory hunter education, as reflected there with the -- in the graph of 1989, you can see the spike there with students being certified in hunter education at that point. Currently, we have a two-day, 10-hour course option along with an online home study with a 4-hour field day. The content of that home study is available on our website as well as International Hunter Eds website, which also offers it in Spanish. And there is additional fee, fee based vendors, which if someone feels they want to access this content, they have that liberty. And then we offer the one-time deferral for those who want to try hunting before they go afield.

The program goal is to maintain the integrity of hunter education. We want to ensure that hunter education is accessible, flexible, and convenient and we want to align with the International Hunter Educations Association standards to ensure reciprocity with other states and countries.

The proposed amendments are in orange and would include a one-day, 5-hour classroom course or an online home study course with a field day, change to reflect the number of students, the skills assessment, live fire, and testing. Again, the content is available free through TPWD and International Hunter Ed. Texas Parks and Wildlife is translating the content for that home study in Spanish to be completed in July. Hopefully have that posted on the web by August.

We want to propose an online instruction only for ages 16 and up and to include the one-time deferral. Nancy.

MS. HERRON: Yes, and I did want to bring to your attention some discussion that we did have on the online and only instruction and certification through that and we have a minimum age here of 16. You may want to consider a minimum age of 17 in that. That would be more consistent with the rest of the code. At age 17 is when we require hunter education. If they were to accompany another hunter, one with a deferral or one who does not -- a younger person who doesn't have hunter education certification, age 17 is the time at which they can do that. Age 17 is also the age at which they can buy a deferral. So, you know, either way; but we did want to bring that to your attention. You can go with 16 or 17, however you direct us.

MR. RAMIREZ: The benefits are to focus on the basics of hunter education. We want to offer advanced hunter education workshops for those who have taken hunter ed., are now seeking more education with regards to whatever species they want to pursue and offer them mentored hunts also for those who are seeking, you know, now that I've taken hunter ed., now what, and so we'll be able to utilize our volunteers to offer more participation in those events.

We want to ensure that it's compatible with smart phones and tablets and it's mobile and we want to utilize the current technology and formats that are available. The next slide is an illustration of some of the formats that are available online. And in this slide right here, in this video, it's the importance of blaze orange while out in the field. And so at this point, if you would look at the screen and see if you can identify the hunters and we'll go ahead and play and start the video.

MS. HERRON: You'll need to look at the monitors to see that video. Test yourself.

(Video is played)

MR. RAMIREZ: Again, those are some of the formats that are available that will be on our website, inserted on our website as far as the online, as well as the vendors. And at this time, I would like to run through the proposed rule changes and ask for permission to be post on the Texas Register.

The first one adds required content of a hunter's personal responsibility as it applies to the discharge of a firearm. This is in reference to House Bill 801 with regards to hunting activity around a school. Currently, I believe it is in the Senate at this point.

MS. HERRON: Committee.

MR. RAMIREZ: In Committee. The next one is, of course, delivery to be offered via classroom instruction not to exceed five hours or a culmination of online instruction, home study, with a field day exercises and then online instruction only for persons 16 of age or older.

The next item allows for duplicate certification or certificates to be provided by a Department approved provider. We send out approximately 10,000 paper replacement cards. This will allow for a more durable plastic card to be provided to withstand the vigors of the field, as well as the laundry at some time. It does not prohibit anyone receiving additional hunter education instruction either in a classroom setting or an extended camp. They would still have that option to utilize the content that is in the textbook.

Last item on this slide clarifies the recognition of the hunter education safety course, the volunteer course prior to June 1st, 1989. It removes the 10-hour requirement, accepts the online instruction only certification. It revises the passing score to 75 percent. This is a consolidation of online home study and under the supervision. We had a discrepancy of 80 percent -- excuse me -- for online and home study and 70 percent under the supervision of a certified instructor. This is just to consolidate it and alleviate any confusion and then restricts the online instruction only to persons 16 years of age and older.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Can you explain -- sorry, I missed that I think on the passing score. That it's a hybrid of the field and the online score?

MR. RAMIREZ: It would be the test at the end of the curriculum at the -- at the end of the course, whichever option they choose.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: For online for 16 or over as proposed currently, it would be 75 minimum online test score?

MR. RAMIREZ: Correct.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: And younger than 16 or a combination of field and online --

MR. RAMIREZ: Or classroom.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: -- it would be -- it would still be 75 only and then the other part is the -- how do we define the field component to this?

MR. RAMIREZ: The field component, again what we're going to do is interject the skills assessment in the classroom. For instance, with the firearms training, we're actually going to have them physically be involved and have it more dynamic than a lecture. There's no grading of those skills. It's the actual administration of the test at the end of that curriculum and those skills assessment.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay, thanks for -- and then the only other question I have right now is going back to the beginning, I just -- the metric that we have for -- how is an incident defined?

MR. RAMIREZ: I believe the incident is defined if someone's in a hunting activity and they're involved in an accident where someone was injured or killed.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So it would also -- yeah, okay. Incident or accident or...

MR. RAMIREZ: Uh-huh.

MS. HERRON: Yes, they're interchangeable words.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay. Commissioner Scott.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Having been required to take this course when I was 51 to go elk hunting and I actually had trouble finding a place to take it, which I really didn't need to. I could have passed it without even, you know -- but I mention all that because on your certification options, on the online home study course and field day scenario, how are we going to have -- who's going to set up and monitor and have enough places to where people can get in and out? Because I can see that being the most popular one pretty easy.

So, you know, my concern is I remember how much trouble I had finding a place that was even teaching the course at the time. I didn't know I had to have it and so I was down to the wire and so I'm just trying to figure out how we're going to set up enough places or people or how that's going to work.

MR. RAMIREZ: Well, again, you know, offering another option of the online instructions for individuals 16 years of age and older, that will be through a vendor and so it's going to be available 24 hours a day for, you know, for those --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Right.

MR. RAMIREZ: -- who need that to go to Alaska, Colorado, things of that nature. Go ahead.

MS. HERRON: Yeah, but the field day is already in place. So we do have people. A lot of our instructors are teaching that, and you're correct. That is very attractive. It's fun. It's fun. It's out there and you're doing a simulated blood trail and you're, again, looking to see if you can find the hunter in the -- in the -- in camo and then in blaze orange, etcetera. And they are finding places. They can -- it can be done in a very small area. It can be just in a wooded area nearby or it can be done in a classroom in a simulated fashion. So our instructors are very clever, and we've actually had good luck with that.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: But is that by a vendor as well?

MS. HERRON: No, that's done by --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: That's strictly by our people?

MS. HERRON: Yes, by our instructors.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: So I guess I'm still curious as to how we're going to -- the state's a big place. You know, a lot of people.

MS. HERRON: Uh-huh.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: A lot of people are going --

MS. HERRON: Uh-huh.

MR. RAMIREZ: We have 27,000 certified hunter ed. instructors and that tends to be the most popular option that they want to offer is that home study with the field course and so we have regional staff --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: They're finding -- they're finding enough places to go do the field day?

MR. RAMIREZ: To my knowledge. You know, I mean obviously, you know, as the time compresses and we get closer to the opening dove season, you know, those volunteers are avid hunters as well and so --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yeah.

MS. HERRON: We've done those in parks and at camp facilities. I just want to make a quick correction. It's 2,700 instructors. But the -- yeah, it doesn't necessarily take a large physical area to do it. It's just if you have a few trees, you can do something on tree stand safety and being outdoors. What you want is a little area so you can have three students walking abreast. One walks a little ahead of time. Okay, is that safe to swing because -- safe to shoot, swinging on game, etcetera. That's part of the field day skills demonstrations. So it's a very good question. We've not heard a lot of problem with it so far.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So if you're 15 and you complete the online portion and then you want to obviously schedule your field portion, what's the -- what's the minimum amount of time or the maximum amount of time spent in the field with an instructor and how do we define that currently?

MR. RAMIREZ: Currently, it's defined as a minimum of four hours to include skills trail, live fire, ethics and game laws, and the test. With honorably discharged and active military, they're exempt and so the field day, they would be exempt from a live fire. So if they came and did the home study and went to the field course, they could -- the instructor could administer the test at the end of skills trail at that point if they decided and so based on -- so based on class size, obviously if you have five students, you're -- you know, you're going to be able to expedite that curriculum a little bit faster than you would if you had 25 in that class.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay. I guess given the fact that you've got different class sizes and environments and, you know, rates at which people assimilate all this, you know, we probably can't define a maximum amount of time; but I'm a little concerned about getting into the same scenario we're trying to avoid on the -- in the current system. But I don't know. You spent a lot of time on this, Ralph. I don't --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I think we ought to be able to cap it. I mean given --

MR. RAMIREZ: Well, current -- excuse me.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: No, you go ahead.

MR. RAMIREZ: Currently, it's four hours. Well, that's the minimum.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: It's capped at four.

MR. RAMIREZ: That's the minimum that the instructor --

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: That's the minimum, but we're talking about a maximum.

MR. RAMIREZ: Uh-huh.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I think -- yeah, and I agree. I think we need to have a max. You've got a minimum. We don't want it dragging out ten hours again.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Or two days.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yeah. What would you propose there?

MR. RAMIREZ: I would propose for the field day, let's -- you know, having done the field day with volunteers and supervised them, not including registration it takes, you know, five hours to get the field day. Again, you know, you've got the skills trail, which, you know, on a home study, you know, they bring proof of their -- you know, that they've done the curriculum at home at their own pace and so they literally go out on the skills trail and that usually takes about 45 minutes. The live fire, again about 45 minutes. And then the ethics and game laws is typically where the Game Warden will come in and actually impart, you know, the Outdoor Annual and some of the ethics with regards to that and that's about 30 to 45 minutes and then the test. So five hours as a cap, you know, should suffice.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So a minimum of four hours, not to exceed five hours and then you think that that's -- accomplishes our objectives of increasing opportunity and not losing more youth to hunting?

MR. RAMIREZ: Agree.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: And fishing and outdoor activities, okay.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Let me ask --

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: How was that?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I agree.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Can I ask a question? So if I wanted to go to Colorado hunting, I've never taken hunter safety. I'd have to go take hunter safety and have to do a 4-hour class; is that correct?

MR. RAMIREZ: Well, you would have the options.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: But you wouldn't -- not required?

MR. RAMIREZ: Well, you could choose from the -- a classroom course, the home study with the field day, or the online instruction only.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Okay.

MR. RAMIREZ: In which you could receive your certification to go out of state.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: So you would not have to take the field course, also. You can do it all online.

MR. RAMIREZ: Correct, correct.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That's the really beauty of this is for Dick's case, your case you're talking about, you just take the online class and it's not to exceed four hours. I think we had one of your colleagues took it who knows it well obviously, as you two would, and I think it took, what, an hour and a half to complete it. So it's a very reasonable curriculum to accomplish what you need to accomplish and not have to go find an instructor or find a class and sit through it for a day or two days as it currently reads.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Right.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And these rules, if we pass them, it would be at the August meeting to take effect for this fall's hunting season. We really -- I want to commend Nancy and Robert for really stepping up to the plate and Lydia and others in getting this -- moving this along. Because in my experience, I've heard from a number of people that this has been a real barrier. Kids just won't -- youths won't take two days to go take these courses.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Or can't.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Or can't.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Can't take two days, that's one of the issues --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yeah, that's what I'm saying. So this is a huge --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Five hours is more than enough. So I mean, yeah, that's the whole deal.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: This a huge improvement in my judgment and --

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Agreed. Commissioner Martin.

COMMISSIONER MARTIN: I had a question. On the 16 years age or older and then prior, the requirement is 17 years. Was there --

MS. HERRON: And it still is. Yeah, it still is for hunter education being required at the age of 17. So what we're talking about is just for the opportunity to be certified through an online only course, no field day, no in-person. It could be -- if you're 16, you'd be able to do that and the question was did you want to make that 17 to be consistent with the rest or just stick with 16.

COMMISSIONER MARTIN: And what's your opinion on...

MS. HERRON: I think either can work. You know, 16 can be a preparation year. 17, they're -- I think for convenience and consistency, there maybe some less confusion with the age of 17; but both can work.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Well, given that our goal is to increase outdoor recreational opportunity and we don't see a safety issue or a correlation with certainly 16 or 17 and we're tightly managing this program, my recommendation is 16.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Agree.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Because I as I get it, as I understand it, it gives them the option to take it at 16. They have to take it at 17, right? So they can get a year ahead, a little jump-start.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: I have one more comment, a little bit off the -- this subject, but -- well, pertaining to it. The certificate that a hunter receives, is there any way that once a certificate has been issued that we could -- it couldn't show up on their hunting license year after year where they don't have to carry a certificate or do we already do that or do we have any way to track that?

MR. RAMIREZ: We do it right now and again, it's that data transfer with the license vendor, as well as our information; but it does print out on the hunting license. The issue we have a lot of times and it's prevalent in my case, when I took the class way back when, just wanted to fill out the Scantron sheet and get it -- you know, get registered.

Well, my legal name didn't reflect that. Okay? So my legal name is Roberto Ramirez, Jr. Well, in my haste, I put Robert Ramirez and so it doesn't match; so mine does not print on my hunting license, so. But if they're diligent and register correctly, it will reflect on their hunting license.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay, thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Good point.

COMMISSIONER JONES: I might know -- I know some people who can correct that for you if you would like to get that done.

MR. RAMIREZ: I've tried.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Uh-oh.

COMMISSIONER MARTIN: I'd like to -- I want to make a quick comment. I've had several individuals as they are going to get ready to go elk hunting or going to these situations, have really complimented the program and have -- you know, they come back and they've said, you know, I've been hunting for a few years and thought I knew everything, but came back and really had enjoyed the class.

I have not taken it and which I will do so, so I can know what I'm talking about. But anyway, I just wanted to make that comment. That, you know, people have found it interesting.

MS. HERRON: Thank you, Commissioner Martin. There is really excellent content in the book and so what we're hoping is that with this change, we don't lose the wonderful work that's already been done; but offer this in advanced courses, advanced workshops. So after you take your basic hunter education, let's take a workshop on waterfowl hunting or on deer hunting or small game. Let's take -- go on a mentored hunt and refer back to the great information in the book and this will allow our instructors, we hope, to offer more.

We can e-mail additional information. We can do a lot more I think with this opportunity. So we're hoping that that will actually do a little bit more in terms of best practices of learning, also in recruitment and retention. We give them additional opportunities, vary the content a little bit, and I think it can be an excellent move forward.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Can you -- you may have mentioned this already. But as we develop the online, you know, revision or the online system, you know, I think we'd like to see that, be a part of it and take a look at it. I presume we're going to have some exponential kind of learnings and videos and something that's a little bit better than just a static sort of PDF type presentation, right?

MR. RAMIREZ: Right.

MS. HERRON: Yes, uh-huh.

MR. RAMIREZ: Right.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I'd personally be interested in that.

MS. HERRON: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: And I think it would be good to focus group that with some people in that target age group.

MS. HERRON: Uh-huh.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Get their input.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: They've done -- you've done all that, haven't you?

MS. HERRON: We've done that with -- in some instructors and we've -- we did one pilot, if you want to...

MR. RAMIREZ: We actually have the footage in the can that we're making that transition to alleviate that static webpage where it is going to be dynamic to be able to, you know, have it highlighted, have a link to show that video and then bring it back to the content.

MS. HERRON: And the online providers that we have now, we already have three commercial vendors who offer a hunter education as well as the addition of our course and International Hunter Education Association and they've been very good about bringing in animations and different things. So we do want to have shoot/don't shoot type scenarios and others because fundamentally what we don't ever want to lose is that our graduates hunt safely, that they hunt legally, and they have the knowledge and skills to hunt responsibly and ethically and we are committed to that. So we're going to be very diligent in those courses being able to make sure that we can test that.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: One more question, and it may have been covered. But what's the cost currently of hunters education and then what's it going to be going forward for the one-day or the online?

MS. HERRON: Do you want to take it?

MR. RAMIREZ: It's $15 currently and --

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: However you take it?

MR. RAMIREZ: Correct. And with the online, it would be -- you know, we have to get with the vendors and see what they would charge. Obviously, we -- the fund -- the $5 per student that comes back to the state is vital that we receive that, so we'll be looking at that as we discuss with our vendors.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Great.

COMMISSIONER MARTIN: So there's soon there will be the millionth?

MS. HERRON: Yes.

COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Any plans on big splash for that millionth person or --

MR. RAMIREZ: Actually, Terry Erwin has -- we -- he purchased the Henry Golden Boy's .22 Rifle and the shadow box for the 1 millionth student, as well as the instructor who certifies that 1 millionth student, so. And as of yesterday, I think we're about 14,000 shy of getting there; so it's going to be -- oh, it will get here, yeah.

MS. HERRON: It will be soon.

MR. RAMIREZ: It will be soon.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Great. Any other questions? Appreciate all your efforts on this very much. It's great. It's exciting, thank you.

MS. HERRON: Thank you very much.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: All right. All right, I'll authorize staff to publish the proposed changes in the Texas Register for the required public comment per.

Item 11 is land acquisition, Yoakum County, approximately 4,500 acres as an addition to the Yoakum Dunes Preserve, Corky Kuhlmann. Good morning, Corky.

MS. KUHLMANN: Good morning, sir. Good morning, Commissioners. For the record, Corky Kuhlmann with the Land Acquisition -- Land Acquisition -- the Land Conservation Program, Parks and Wildlife. This is a land acquisition in the Panhandle and actually this -- this acquisition is in Cochran County as you see there. Here is an area map about 45 miles southwest of Lubbock. It's at a place called Yoakum Dunes. Y'all first saw this item to proceed with looking for properties in the January meeting of this year.

Yoakum Dunes is for the preservation of Lesser Prairie Chicken habitat. Currently, the -- it's about 7,200 acres. We're going to bring to you today a request to approve one tract, which is 3,041 acres and we will look for the other parcels in the future.

Here is something called a CHAT map, a Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool of the area that everybody is looking at -- New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas. There's a lot happening with the Prairie Chicken in those areas. A lot of areas trying to get preserved. Here is another map that kind of shows in relation to where we're looking in Texas just west of Lubbock. The red being the crucial area.

This is by county. You can see that the counties that we're mainly concerned with, west of Lubbock. If you look at this map, the green polygon or shaded area you see is the 7,200 acres. Outlined in red is already under contract, around 3,000 acres. The lighter blue, we've had some contact with the owners and are currently evaluating the habitat in those tracts. If you could look at the lower right-hand corner, you can see that not only Yoakum Dunes, but all the tracts we're talking about including the one that we have under contract, is all in the high priority or crucial area to preserve.

I've seen maps that says irreplaceable habitat for the red, so we are looking in some very good areas. We'll -- if we make a deal on one of the other tracts in the future, we'll bring it back to you in August. If you can see, there's two of them that are kind of detached from the main unit. They're both good habitat. If you look at the one up and to the left from the red polygon, it's about 6 miles from the area itself. And then up right on the New Mexico border just to the left of the Cochran County sign, that is -- that's very good habitat.

One of the reasons we would consider pursuing that one is that they're -- and I wished I had a map. I didn't get it. There's a large Prairie Chicken conservation area in New Mexico. So it is adjacent to that, and that would be a -- it's looking now that that might be a tract we're really going to focus on because it's continuous with a large area in New Mexico with quality habitat.

So this is a recommendation that you will see before you tomorrow. The -- that we will be getting approval for the 3,000-acre tract that is under contract and then bring another tract to you in August hopefully and I'll be glad to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Questions for Corky? Commissioner Jones.

COMMISSIONER JONES: I just -- for my information purposes, I may have some more questions tomorrow; but just for now, so let me make sure I'm clear on what we're doing. We buy land to provide a habitat for the Lesser Prairie Chicken.

MS. KUHLMANN: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Do we -- what do we do once we get the land? Do we put Prairie Chicken on it, or are we suggesting they're already there?

MS. KUHLMANN: They are -- they are there in limited numbers. I don't know that -- the species is being considered as we speak for endangered -- endangered species classification.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Right.

MS. KUHLMANN: And so we're doing hopefully -- well, with the lands that we're purchasing and with the conservation efforts that are going on in the Panhandle or not only in the Panhandle, but that four-state area, we're kind of hoping that that would put off getting them listed a little longer. That we can do the work in front of them listing it.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay. And so...

MS. KUHLMANN: And so some of this -- some of this habitat needs to be restored to something that will work a little better. When I say a little better, more suitable for what they like. The habitat that we're buying, the habitat that we're currently looking at needs very little work. It all is prime -- as you can see by the map, prime Lesser Prairie Chicken habitat that's never been under plow, that is in their native range, and that they are using. I mean there are numbers of Prairie Chickens in those areas now.

COMMISSIONER JONES: So -- and again, I don't want to take up all the time on this.

MS. KUHLMANN: That's okay.

COMMISSIONER JONES: But let me just ask a couple more questions. So we buy the land, Prairie Chicken are already there; but they're not in the numbers, of course, I guess we would like to see. But so with the hopes -- I guess we buy the land in the hopes that they will increase in number.

MS. KUHLMANN: Right.

COMMISSIONER JONES: What if they don't? Do we still get credit for having at least made an attempt to --

MS. KUHLMANN: If they don't, when you look at the preserve that we're putting together, it is a -- it's -- at some point in the future, it will fall in the hands of Parks and Wildlife and it will be managed not only for Prairie Chicken, that's our goal is to preserve the Prairie Chicken habitat; but when you manage it, it's also going to be managed for all the other -- White-tailed deer, for quail, for Pronghorn. It will be managed as a WMA primarily being purchased for habitat for Lesser Prairie Chicken, but we are still going to manage it as a Wildlife Management Area for all the native species that exist in that area.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay, then let me -- but my question is specific to native Prairie Chicken. Do you get credit for setting up a habitat for the bird if -- even if the bird doesn't thrive in the habitat?

MR. WOLF: Commissioner Jones -- for the record, Clayton Wolf, Wildlife Division -- that is -- that is our hope. In the plan and what Fish and Wildlife Service has to consider as we try to reduce the threats to Prairie Chickens, the term Fish and Wildlife Service uses is strongholds and so the strategy that the interstate working group is putting together is kind of a hybrid strategy where a portion of the land, they're looking at the most crucial areas and looking at basically tieing up those lands in permanent conservation, whether the State has it or it's a permanent conservation easement and then a portion of the conservation efforts would be more temporary, term contracts.

But ultimately, you know, what we hope to do when Fish and Wildlife Service makes their decision, they're not just necessarily looking at the status of Prairie Chickens today. Because, you know, one thing you may recall is with all ground-nesting game birds, the populations tend --

COMMISSIONER JONES: Fluctuate.

MR. WOLF: They fluctuate quite a bit, and it's very dry up there. I mean we had some rain, we're going to get some more chickens. But so they're also looking down the road into the future and so I would say, yes, in general terms we will get credit for protecting that land in perpetuity and managing it for Prairie Chickens and all the other associated species, even if the population at the time we acquire it or when the Fish and Wildlife makes that decision is not necessarily at its highest.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay, all right.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner Martin.

COMMISSIONER MARTIN: With this land -- so this land is going in as a WMA, or how else will this land be utilized?

MS. KUHLMANN: This land, the 3,000 acres and then the tract that we hope to purchase in the future, it will all come to Parks and Wildlife in deed. For a short time period, the rest of the tract except for a small portion in the southern section belongs to the Nature Conservancy and they are currently managing the property and probably will continue for some undetermined amount of time.

When we purchase this tract and then the future tract, it will come to deed to Parks and Wildlife. Ownership by Parks and Wildlife. And at some point beyond that, we expect that the whole preserve will be managed and owned by Parks and Wildlife.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Last -- I promise you this is the last question.

MS. KUHLMANN: Oh, that's okay.

COMMISSIONER JONES: But when we purchase land like this for this purpose, do we get the mineral rights typically?

MS. KUHLMANN: Mostly -- mostly -- mostly in Texas these days, the answer is going to be no. But in this particular case, the minerals were severed long before the current owners. I think there is a slight possibility of some mineral interest, but I wouldn't count on it and they've been severed. Most have all been severed.

And in answer to that question on a little broader scope, probably it's going to be difficult to get land with mineral rights in the future; but what we do is we negotiate with -- and have been very successful to give the seller's minerals rights with the condition of no surface use to explore or recover those minerals and that's how we're --

COMMISSIONER JONES: But that was my -- that was my question. So in this instance if the mineral rights are somewhere else, I guess belong to someone else, can they come on the land and search for minerals?

MS. KUHLMANN: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay. So it's not -- the Prairie Chicken is not going to affect the ability of the oil and gas companies to come in?

MS. KUHLMANN: Well, when we acquire this property and acquire it for a listed or endangered species, if it comes to that, it gets -- the companies have a little bit more difficult time coming onto something we're preserving than a private ranch. They're going to have to jump through some more hoops to destroy habitat.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Well, that's my question.

MS. KUHLMANN: Sir?

COMMISSIONER JONES: That's really where I'm going with my question.

MS. KUHLMANN: Yes, sir.

MR. WOLF: Also, Commissioner, it's possible, you know, in this five-state plan we're working on, although the mechanism for sign up has yet to be determined, whoever owns those mineral rights, that company could choose to voluntarily enroll in a plan that has standards. And you may recall the -- you know, the basic concept is to try to incentivize doing the development off site or away from the most critical zone.

So, you know, whether the mineral rights owner or the person that leases those rights actually has -- you know, signs up in the plan has yet to be determined; but there are several different strategies and there are advantages to sign -- or at least the way the plan is constructed, there are advantages to doing that because at least they have some operational assurances in the future by the terms of the plan.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Well, I just want to be -- I'm not at this point suggesting one way or the other. I'm just thinking this through. This is me, and I'm not speaking on behalf of the whole Board; but I'm just concerned. I have to be concerned if we -- that we balance our conservation mantra from impact on economic development in the state.

MR. WOLF: Definitely, definitely. And it's -- you know, it's -- you know, the course -- if the Prairie Chicken is listed, then -- and there are no mechanisms, if someone has not agreed to -- if there's not a habitat conservation plan or a CCAA, then basically the terms of operating are much more onerous and, of course, that's the business decisions oil and gas developers have to make is, you know, do we sit back and just wait and see if it's listed or do we, to be honest, pay a little bit more to sign up in a plan, but have some operational assurance. You know, we know the rules of the game.

And so that's really the -- you know, that's really the -- you know, the big question for these C -- whether it's an oil and gas CCAA or it's the interstate plan, it's to have a mechanism to have some -- you know, know the rules if the Prairie Chicken is listed; but obviously, the other aspect is if we get enough folks signed up to promise to play by those rules, ideally the Chicken won't be listed and that's -- that will be a win-win for everybody.

So if we can get enough folks signed up to agree to play by those rules and the Chicken is not listed, really then everybody wins and we don't have all of those -- the regulatory burdens associated with the listing.

MR. SMITH: Commissioner, if I could, maybe just one other thing to add a little context as you're thinking about this issue that might help. Part of the funds too that are going to be used to acquire this tract if the Commission directs us to do that, are being donated by an oil and gas company that's active in this area and so -- and I think part of that calculus, in addition to supporting the Department's efforts in that area, but is that proactive effort that Clayton is talking about to do everything we can to try and keep that bird from being put on the endangered species list.

And so they see this as part of that bigger plan, bigger strategy to try to make the most compelling case possible that we need to keep this bird under State management and State stewardship and hence, their willingness to invest in this is part of a much bigger five-state rangewide strategy. So I wanted to make sure you had that bit of -- or all the Commissioners had that bit of information as well as you're thinking about this.

COMMISSIONER JONES: All right, thank you for that. Appreciate it.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any other questions? Thank you. Thanks, Clayton. Thanks, Corky. Okay, I'll place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Item 12 is land transfer, Cherokee County, remnant tracts to the City of Rusk, Mr. Ted Hollingsworth.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good morning. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This is essentially a housekeeping item. You may know that starting in the mid 1970s, Texas Parks and Wildlife owned and operated the Texas State Railroad at the direction of the Legislature and that several years ago, the Legislature directed that a -- that the operation of the Texas State Railroad be transferred to a private entity developed for that purpose, the Texas State Railroad Association.

The Texas State Railroad runs 25 miles between Palestine and Rusk. That Legislation that affected that transfer from Texas Parks and Wildlife left us owning the right-of-way and the iron rails on the tract. I assume the Legislature wanted there to be some hook, some nexus by which we could assure that the Texas State Railroad continued to be operated responsibly; but that hook is that we do own the right-of-way.

As you can imagine, the right-of-way was assembled in the 1880s and it wasn't just one 25-mile long strip of property. It was a number of properties. It was acquired from a number of landowners and what we inherited, so to speak, includes rail -- includes right-of-way beyond the terminus of the railroad at both ends.

The title research required to identify those tracts is rather onerous. We have not done it. We find out we own tracts when we're contacted by adjacent landowners who say "Did you know you own a 200-foot wide, 800-foot long piece of property that's next to my house and, you know, I sure would like to acquire it" and we have actually liquidated a couple of those tracts over the last few years at both ends of the -- at both ends of the railroad.

This is what the end of that railroad looks like in the city of Rusk. Rusk has approached us, the City of Rusk has approached us and asked us to transfer to them any of those remnant tracts that are not needed for Texas State Railroad operations that are within the city limits of Rusk. There's one in particular that falls inside what they -- an industrial park that they would like to develop.

They think there's at least one other tract in the city limits. We don't know. Again, the amount of research that would be required to identify those is rather onerous and the City of Rusk has agreed to do all of that. To do all those title runs to identify those tracts if we will quitclaim what we own that's not needed for operation of the railroad and it's inside their city limits to the City of Rusk.

Staff thanks that's a good idea. Quite frankly, we've had problems with some of those tracts from people abandoning cars on them, dumping trash on them. Staff considers them more of a liability than an asset. As far as we know, none of them have any real fish and wildlife value and we did solicit public comment and received no comments. Staff does recommend that the Commission adopt the following motion: The Commission adopts the resolution attached as Exhibit A, and I'd be happy to answer any questions that you might have.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any questions on this item for Ted? Commissioner Duggins.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: If I understand you, you're saying that these remnant right-of-ways exist on either the east end -- on both the west -- excuse me, the east end and the west end of the line that the train is run on?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: We sold one in Palestine a few years ago. It could have been the last one. I don't know. But, yes, sir, we did at one time own remnant tracts at both ends.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But I'm saying if the railroad were to go out of operation and I think the last report we got was they were struggling with making this thing work, wouldn't we want to have the ability to use that as a -- or at least consider using that as a trail, walking trail or a biking trail like so many rail lines have been converted to do and if we did, why couldn't we just lease this to the City for a dollar a year and let them have the benefit or give them a long-term lease on it and still retain eventual ownership in the event we wanted to -- if the line were decommissioned and you wanted to turn it into a biking trail, it seems like it would be a spectacular walking/biking trail. I just...

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Well, all of these tracts are beyond the terminus at both ends and those terminuses are fairly -- are several acres. They're fairly large pieces of property that are really the logical trailheads if you were to turn that into a trail system. As far as I know and I don't know for a fact, but the tracts that we've sold so far have not even been contiguous with the right-of-way. They've just been literally isolated tracts of land and not --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I thought you said these two though did -- were contiguous. That's what I was trying to get at.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: The two that have been identified for my benefit by the City are not contiguous.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. So there's just a random right-of-way that's not tied to the current line?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: The tracts we are aware of are just random and are not tied to the current line. There could be tracts tied. I'm unaware of any of those, and those have not been identified for us. They could exist, but the ones that have been specifically brought to our attention in each case have not been contiguous with the right-of-way.

MS. BRIGHT: I'm (inaudible).

COMMISSIONER JONES: And why are you here?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Who's Ted, right?

MS. BRIGHT: I'm Clayton Wolf. I'm Ann Bright, General Counsel. And just to follow up on what Ted is talking about, back in 2007 when this was actually transferred from Parks and Wildlife to the City of -- to the Texas State Railroad Authority, there was a lot of work done in connection with that transfer and one of the things that we did is we transferred -- there are kind of two ways that the land was transferred.

The properties at both ends were actually turned over -- transferred in fee to the Texas State Railroad Authority. So those are no longer owned by Parks and Wildlife. Now there were reversion provisions in those in the event that they stopped being used for a railroad. Because of some of the issues that Ted mentioned regarding really the titles to those properties along the right-of-way, I think the Legislature in their wisdom realized that that was going to be very difficult to just transfer that and so we leased the right-of-way, kept ownership of it, and the part that's actually used for the railroad is currently still used by the Texas State Railroad Authority and we're really not talking about any of those.

What we're talking about are pieces of, quote, right-of-way that are really not being used by the Texas State Railroad Authority and we've also contacted them to make sure that these pieces are not being used by them.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Is it possible if the railroad were to stop operating and it reverted back to us and we decided to convert it to a trail that we would need these tracts?

MS. BRIGHT: I can't imagine that we would. The other thing about these particular tracts is the City of Rusk is planning on using these for economic development, sort of industrial center within the City of Rusk. If anything, if we ultimately got the tracts back, I would assume that that -- that that development would probably enhance any trail efforts as opposed to interfere with it.

Isn't that your understanding, Ted, about the use of it?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, that is. And again, what we do know is contiguous starts at those terminuses which have -- which have split tracks. There's a roundtable at one end, there's buildings, there's facilities, and really are the logical location for a trailhead if that were to be used for anything other than train tracks.

MS. BRIGHT: One more thing. If this was being transferred to an individual, there might be a different consideration as well. This will be transferred to the City of Rusk.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I mean, okay. And then is there anything that we might ask the City of Rusk to do from a park -- city park perspective in exchange for this? I mean it's -- we're always trying to promote parks. We just got a discussion about park grants and just -- it may not be a sufficient size to have any value; but if it does, it seems like we might ask them to --

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Several years ago --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- do something. A basketball court or --

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Several years ago -- I'm sorry.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: No, no, that's all right.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Several years ago, the Commission actually authorized us to sell every one of these remnant tracts that anyone asked to buy and we've been selling them at appraised value, which is a few thousand dollars a tract. The only thing that's different here is that the City is asking us to simply quitclaim those and we're not trying to collect a few thousand dollars from the City for this transfer.

MS. BRIGHT: But one of the things we might be able to do between now and the meeting tomorrow is maybe see if we can contact someone in the City of Rusk and get some details on their planned use for use because their plan and use for it may be consistent with some of our outdoor recreation activities. I just don't know.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay, thank you.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I've got a question, just make sure I understand. You're talking about two tracts that the City has identified; is that correct?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: (Nods head affirmatively).

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: But there are others that we don't know about. Are you going to -- are you going to transfer those under a blanket agreement, or are they going to come back after they identify them and ask us to transfer them then?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: The request is any tracts that are disjunct that are not serving any operational purpose for the Texas State Railroad that are inside the city limits. So it could be three tracts or four tracts, we simply don't know. And part of the tit for tat is that they're going to do all the homework and all the research and all the title runs and all those surveys and they're going to spend more I suspect than the tracts are worth to identify those tracts and delineate them.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: So any tracts that are identified by the City in the future, you would not come back to us for approval of transfer. Is that what you're asking for?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: That is how the resolution is written.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: All right.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That's what I'm saying. You'd be quitclaiming anything we owned inside the city that is not in connection with the current railroad.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: What is it? Unknown knowns or whatever it is. Okay, I'm clear. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you. Any other questions? Thanks, Ted. All right.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Would you like us to see if we can get more information about -- I mean we know one of the tracts is inside the footprint of an industrial -- industrial -- industrial park. They've identified that tract. They were very specific about what they want to do with that one, but I can see if I can get more information about what they might do with any other tracts.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I think it would be helpful to know that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I think we do that.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Sure.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I mean I think Reed has raised a great point is why wouldn't we just give them the one they've identified and if they -- and we say we're open-minded if you identify others, we'll give them up.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Identify more --

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: As opposed to --

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: If that's the direction of the Commission, we can certainly do that.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: That old -- those old railroad easements, you know, they've got alternating sections left back and that's why we had so many railroads all through East Texas for timber and everything and I'm pretty familiar with this piece. I looked at taking over this deal that operated between these two. The economics, I can't ever -- I couldn't ever figure out how they worked, and I still don't; but to me, it's kind of -- I don't know that we're doing our fiduciary responsibility just to give them an open-ended deal because I -- I mean if we're giving them these other, they ought to be able just to come back to us and just ask us. You know say, okay, we've identified these. Unless there's something onerous there, you know, then it shouldn't be a big deal and it would be a rubber stamp anyway.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Well, I will go back to the comment I made that one of the reasons that staff has made this recommendation is because historically we find out about these segments because they are liabilities. We find out about them because cars get abandoned on them and the City contacts us or because a neighbor calls us and says we think you ought to have to come pick up all this trash that people are dumping on your piece of property.

We did -- we had an incident that we resolved last year on an operational segment of the tract where an underground storage tank had leaked a considerable amount of diesel fuel and the remediation cost was several hundred thousand dollars. Again, staff has concerns about potential liabilities on these tracts, especially since we don't know where they are and can't identify them. So that was part of our incentive for simply quitclaiming those to the City; but again, we can proceed however the Commission instructs.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Quick question. Just one quick second.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: That's another reason I don't wear heels.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: No, we're on it. I agree. That's a very good point. Okay, so we're going to amend it and limit it to those two tracts, identified tracts.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Very good.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: And gather some more information about intended use as well, just if we can.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: May I indicate to the City that if they'll do that homework and research and identify those tracts and bring them back to us, we'll take them to the Commission for consideration?

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Well, that's -- yes, or we -- we can still place it on -- you're saying we can still place it on our --

MR. SMITH: Well, I think what we --

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: -- agenda for Thursday, right?

MR. SMITH: Well, I think what we understood you to say is that you wanted to limit the consideration for this meeting Thursday to the tracts -- the specific tracts that have been identified. And then Ted is asking we could go back to Rusk and say but if you identify other tracts through your due diligence --

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Yes.

MR. SMITH: -- that the Commission is open to at least considering the possible quitclaim of those tracts to the City.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: And, Ann, you're -- okay, got -- and, Ann, you're confirming that we don't need to -- with this amendment currently limiting it to these two tracts, we don't need to go back to the City first?

MS. BRIGHT: I don't think so. I don't know what -- no. I mean I think -- I think they'll be happy with this.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay.

MS. BRIGHT: I mean they'll probably be happy with more, but I don't think this is going to --

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Are you clear on that?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir. We'll work on that resolution and have it in good order when we bring it tomorrow.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you. So with that amendment, I'll place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action. Thanks, Ted.

Item 13 is the update on surface use negotiations, Dimmit and La Salle Counties oil and gas development at the Chap. Wildlife Management Area, which we will hear in Executive Session.

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 advice under Section 551.071 of the Open Meetings Act and deliberation of real estate matters under Section 551.072 of the Texas Open Meetings Act. We'll now recess for Executive Session. Thank you.

(Recess for Executive Session)

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: All right, let's see. This concludes the Executive Session -- oh, okay, we did that. Here we go. We will now reconvene the regular session of Work Session, May 22nd, 2013, at 2:00 o'clock, 2:00 p.m. Regarding Work Session Item No. 5, Red Snapper, discussing the recent actions by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council related to the management of Red Snapper stocks within the EEZ off of Texas, no further action is required at this time.

Regarding Session Item No. 13, update on surface use negotiations, Dimmit and La Salle Counties gas and gas development at the Chap. Wildlife Management Area, no further action is required at this time. This Commission has completed its business, and I declare us adjourned.

(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 17th day of June, 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. 106701

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