TPW Commission

Work Session, January 22, 2014


TPW Commission Meetings


JANUARY 22, 2014



COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Good morning. This meeting is called to order January 22nd, 2014, at 9:05 a.m. Before proceeding with any business, I believe Mr. Carter has a statement to make. Mr. Carter Smith has a statement to make.

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

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Thank you, Carter. First order of business, approval of the minutes from the previous Work Session held November 6th, 2013, which have been distributed.

Do I have a motion?


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Commissioner Martin and Commissioner Scott second. All in -- all in favor, aye?

(Chorus of ayes)


Before proceeding, I want to announce that the Work Session Item No. 4, Year-From-Purchase License, has been withdrawn from the agenda at this time. The Work Session Item No. 11, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Rules for Use of Noxious and Toxic Substances to Capture Nongame Wildlife, has also been withdrawn from the agenda at this time and will be withdrawn from tomorrow's agenda.

However, I want to -- I would like to let the Commission know that tomorrow, Representative Susan King is going to come and she would like to address the Commission on this item. In withdrawing this, we have several public comments that what we posted in the Texas Register was too broad and could be construed to more animals than just snakes. And we've asked the -- we've asked the staff to go back, limit the scope of what we're going to put in the Texas Register, resubmit it to the Texas Register for comments, and then bring this back to the Commission in March for our next meeting.

We'll republish it in the Texas Register, look at it in March. And in addition, I've asked the staff to reach out to persons and groups that have commented on it and particular Representative King who's going to be here tomorrow. I wanted to have it taken to the Private Land Advisory Group to make sure they're in agreement and also the Texas Wildlife Association. So with that, we'll look at it again in 60 days.

MR. SMITH: That makes sense, Mr. Chairman. We'll proceed accordingly.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Work Item No. 1, Update on Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Progress in Implementing the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Land and Water Resources Conservation and Recreation Plan, Carter Smith.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Carter Smith. Thank you for the opportunity to visit with y'all this morning. As the Chairman said, I'll provide a quick overview of some topics that I think will be of interest to the Commission with respect to the implementation of our Land and Water Plan. I'm going to go ahead and pass out a handout that I've got that I'll refer back to in just a minute.

Just as a point of departure, as required by law I want to provide a quick update on a couple of matters in Internal Affairs. I think all of you are aware that we now have a full complement of officers on that team with the addition of Brad Chappell as a new Captain Investigator on the Internal Affairs team and Brad is stationed over in East Texas, works statewide on a variety of issues. In keeping with our commitment to providing professional development and advancement for, you know, all of the employees that we can -- in this case, particular officers -- recently we've had a chance to send Brad and also Assistant Chief Jonathan Gray through the Internal Affairs School that's sponsored by one of the Law Enforcement associations.

We also sent them through a computer forensics training that was put on by the Georgetown Police. Great training to help give them insight on tracking internet social sites and analysis of photos for evidence that they're able to get off the internet, assessing metadata that comes off the internet. So some tools that I think will be invaluable for them as they perform their responsibilities as part of our Internal Affairs team.

Also, I think all of you are aware about that very, very, very unfortunate shooting of one of our Game Wardens, Chris Fried, over in East Texas that was bow hunting on the Cooper Lake Wildlife Management Area. Just a report on Chris' condition. Chris is out of the hospital. He's back home. He's in stable condition. Obviously recovering from some very, very serious wounds and may have to and likely will have to face future surgeries and so keep him in your thoughts and prayers. I want to compliment our Law Enforcement team. Just like all of the people of the Agency do when somebody in this Agency is hurt or injured, they take care of their own and that team has done a remarkable job of looking after his health and welfare and that of his family.

Also, I want to let you know that our Criminal Investigation division inside Law Enforcement, along with Internal Affairs, very quickly were able to apprehend the two suspects that were involved in this shooting incident. A 21-year-old male and 18-year-old male both from Illinois. They have both been charged. They are out on bond. One was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The other one was charged with failure to report a felony. So two very serious charges against those individuals, and we'll keep you posted on that as we proceed. So I wanted to give you an update there.

The next item and this is what I've essentially passed around to you. I think y'all will remember that, you know, each year we have a series of fairly routine renewals of easements and surface use agreements. Again, these are agreements that either you or prior Commissions have approved for a period of time. Those come back up for renewal. Per the Commission direction, that authority was delegated to the Executive Director to enter into those renewals, provided however that we share with the Commission an update of the schedule of proposed renewals for the coming year.

Ted Hollingsworth from our Land Conservation Team has put together this list of I think roughly eight items that are coming up for renewal in the coming year, and so I wanted to share all of that with you. Some of these go back to the 60s and 70s. Some are a little more current. What I'd simply ask is take a look at that list. If there's any items on that list that you have questions about or want to talk further about, if you'll let either me or Ted know, we'll get back with you on details and issues and so forth. But just wanted to make sure you had a copy of kind of what's on the slate, Mr. Chairman, for the coming year.

The next item I want to talk about is this is a new Palo Pinto Mountains State Park right there in Palo Pinto County and Stephens County, new almost 4200-acre state park there west of Fort Worth. As you will recall, this was essentially the replacement for the former Eagle Mountain Lake State Park site. We have a superintendent on site, John Ferguson, who's in charge there.

Our State Parks team has been really spending the better part of the last year and a half on conducting baseline inventories of that park, wanting to make sure we have a good handle on the natural and cultural resource features of that site, as well as the public use potential. There's a public use plan that's under development that's slated to be completed I believe at the end of this year, Brent; but wanted to let you know that that park is there.

Obviously we've got a long way to go to get that developed, but we're in our formative stages and excited about what we're seeing there and what the potential is for future generations of Texans now to come at that site.

Yes, Mr. Vice-Chairman.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: What's our anticipated or what's our projected or optimistic open date for the park?

MR. SMITH: Yeah, that's a great question. Well, you know, first and foremost we really need to get that public use plan which is going to define the types of uses, where those uses can occur, what are the necessary facilities and infrastructure to be able to support that. That will in turn give us a better conceptual sense of what it might cost to develop that site in full or in part as we go forward.

It is my understanding that State Parks is providing some opportunity to groups that work with the superintendent to make reservations to come out there and whether it's, as I understand it, astronomy groups or hiking groups or nature study groups, there's been some kind of limited access like that. In terms of when we might open that fully to the public, you know, I'd say we're, you know, several years away at least and all going to be contingent upon how much funding it's going to take to be able to accomplish that.

I do know that, you know, in terms of the foundations capital campaign, looking at being able to help raise some funding to help with the capital development of this site, hopefully coupled with existing of future State investments is something that they're contemplating. I can't give you a date on that really until we complete that public use plan and have a much better sense of what the cost is.

Brent, is there anything else you want to share on that?

MR. LEISURE: That's basically it.

MR. SMITH: Okay. Any other questions on that, Mr. Vice-Chairman?


MR. SMITH: Okay, all right. Next item I want to share with you and I think this is a very important milestone in the Agency's Law Enforcement history. As it now stands, cadets, officers that are going through training to be commissioned Game Wardens and Park Peace Officers go through separate academies. Beginning in September of this year, we're going to have a combined training academy for our Game Warden cadets and Park Peace Officers.

We think this is a smart thing to do and the right thing to do and that all of the officers inside this Agency ought to have the benefit of the same high and exacting standards of training. I want to particularly compliment Craig and Brent; also Wes Masur, Director of our Park Police Operations; Tracy Davis, who's our Major there in charge of the Academy about moving this forward.

You know, this will be an experiment. It will be new for us running through it; but we're going to give them the same grounding in Parks and Wildlife Code, the Penal Code, provide that resource based training to those -- to those officers. There will obviously be some specialized activities that we'll need to train our Park Peace Officers for and others for Game Wardens in which they will be dealt with separately; but for the most part, they're going to be going through this entirely together through the seven-month Academy and we'll look forward to then graduating them and getting them out into the field to help protect our fish and wildlife and parks as we go forward.

So it's a very exciting development in Law Enforcement and, again, I really commend State Parks and Law Enforcement for taking this step forward. I think it's going to reap huge dividends for the officers throughout the entire agency.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Carter, I think it's a great idea. You know, we know that our Park Officers and our Game Wardens, from time to time, are working together. Being trained together, you know that they're going to -- that they're going to have each other's back if they get into a tough situation and they know what's coming up. I think it's a wonderful idea.

MR. SMITH: Yes, sir. Yep.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Do we have the same entrance requirements for both sets of --

MR. SMITH: We do not.


MR. SMITH: There are different entrance requirements for our Park Peace Officers and our Game Wardens, so there is some difference there. And, you know, that will be one of those issues that, you know, our Major and Lieutenants there at the Academy will just have to work to bridge; but, you know, rest assured that both Craig and Wes are committed to hiring the best and the brightest and the most qualified for their respective police officers and will continue to just improve on that going forward.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And will our recruiting efforts that are underway with respect to diversity on the Warden side apply with equal effort on State Park Police side?

MR. SMITH: Yes. Yes, sir. We will absolutely pursue that with vigor. Both Brent and Craig will provide a presentation a little later on this morning about some of our work on diversity and inclusion measures here inside the Agency and part of that obviously is looking at our workforce and how we can improve those opportunities to attract qualified, diverse candidates; so absolutely. But exciting development and, again, we'll have our signal class start in September; so we'll deep you posted of that.

Next thing I want to share is some work on Eastern Turkey restocking over in the eastern part of the state. You know, this is one of our flagship species over in the Piney Woods and Post Oak, Savannah. We've struggled in parts of the state to be able to keep large and robust populations of Eastern Turkey and our wildlife biologists have been working very diligently on addressing that. Some of you will recall that the Commission took action I believe it was two years ago to close the turkey season in 15 or 16 counties in East Texas, in which essentially there was almost zero or negligible turkey harvest and that really was helping to set the stage for some of these restoration efforts.

We've been very fortunate to have the cooperation of our sister states -- Missouri, Tennessee, West Virginia, South Carolina, and Alabama -- to provide Eastern Turkeys from those states to be able to use for our restocking efforts. We have three tracts identified in East Texas that are being stocked imminently. In fact, I think there were birds on a Delta flight yesterday coming from somewhere in the southeast, so let's hope the flight attendants handled them with great care.

And so a couple of things about it. I think, you know, one what our biologists will tell you is they have done a very extensive habitat suitability index to assess, again, what are the most suitable habitat and properties where we're likely to have the greatest success for restocking Eastern Turkey. Second, they're using a supersaturation technique in terms of stocking more birds than what we have historically done. So when we're looking at a release site, you know, up to 80 turkeys per site; whereas in the past we were doing 15 or so, 20 birds. So we think that's going to give a much greater probability for success. And then our biologists using pretty sophisticated GPS tracking. They're going to be able to look at movements, habitat utilization, mortality, survivorship, provide some windows on reproduction, etcetera. So we're very excited about this development over in the eastern part of the state and look forward to reporting more on that.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Carter, back I guess about two years ago, I was contacted by some of the -- a couple of very large landowners down in that Liberty/Dayton area.

MR. SMITH: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: And I visited with some of our biologists up in Jasper, the guys kind of over that.


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: And I was told then that the Rio Grande Turkey does not survive past Chambers County, you know, or past Anahuac I guess for lack of a better deal. So I'm just curious. They've got some pretty large acreage down in that Trinity River bottom. If we're doing this, I'd like to get data so that I could report back to them.

If that habitat is good, we may want to extend the program over into that, if that's the case about what habitat is good for them, so.

MR. SMITH: You bet, you bet. Thanks, Commissioner. Yeah, definitely we want to have Clayton and Jason Hardin, our Turkey Biologist, take a look at that and look at the suitability for that, the size, the quality of habitat, etcetera. So let us follow up with you on that, Commissioner.


MR. SMITH: I think the first two counties we're looking at are Anderson and Rusk Counties for this initial -- for initial stocking. But definitely want to take a look at that down in the bottomlands, so. Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Out of curiosity, we've got Missouri and we don't have Arkansas, which is contiguous to the area we're talking about and a contiguous state and I know has a lot of turkeys and it's obviously contiguous to Missouri.

Is there any particular reason why Arkansas is not working with us that we can talk about?

MR. SMITH: Yeah, they're a little chintzy with their turkeys, I'll tell you. You know, it kind of hurt my feelings. We -- in all seriousness --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And one more question before you answer. Are they having similar problems along the...

MR. SMITH: You know, let me -- I'll answer the first part about the call out and then I'm going to ask Jason Hardin -- where is Jason? I'm going to have Jason come up and answer the technical question.

Just so you know, we sent out a request to really all of the southern states that have Eastern Turkeys. Told them about our timeline, told them about our process, and we asked them that if you have excess birds in places that you think you can reasonably trap and are willing to provide those to us, we'd love to -- love to work with you. We got a great response and so I really don't know the rational behind Arkansas.

Jason, you may have some insight on that. I was obviously kidding. I don't know the reason for it.

MR. HARDIN: Jason Hardin, Upland Game Bird Specialist for the record. We make a request to all the southeastern states and kindly asked them to provide us with support on the restocking efforts. Some of them come forward and help us out, and some don't. There is a southeastern decline study going on with Dr. Mike Chamberlain. He's out of Georgia State and they are seeing some declines based on their surveys --


MR. HARDIN: -- hand-held surveys, so long-term declines, harvest is declining; so there is some concern there. And considering that, there's probably less interest in providing birds at this time. Same think with Oklahoma's circumstance --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Are we -- sorry. Are we -- are we conversing with your counterparts in Arkansas? Are --

MR. HARDIN: Absolutely. We hosted --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- we sharing data and that sort of thing?

MR. HARDIN: We hosted the Southeastern Turkey Decline this past year here in Texas or the Southeastern Wild Turkey Working Group. All those states come in, we share data, we converse with those folks, we compile all that. We're participating in the Southeastern Turkey decline in Texas, along with those other southeastern states. Yes, we work closely with those folks.


MR. HARDIN: Thank you, sir.

MR. SMITH: Jason, maybe just a quick update. So have we got any of those turkeys on the ground yet?


MR. SMITH: Okay.

MR. HARDIN: We received ten birds from Alabama last week. We released those birds several days later after they passed all their tests. We received another 28 birds this week. Those birds have arrived, they're at our facility in Tyler, and we're waiting to get our test results today and tomorrow we'll release those birds.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: They come from Alabama, too?

MR. HARDIN: Ten birds from Alabama. These birds that we've received this week were from West Virginia and Missouri.


COMMISSIONER JONES: Those birds from Alabama, can we at least take off that big A that they have on the front their --

MR. HARDIN: I think they're happy to be in Texas.


MR. SMITH: Don't paint them maroon, Jason. It's...

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Just add an M to it, and then they'll will be okay.

MR. SMITH: All right, great. Thanks, Jason for that update.

Robin Riechers had a chance to update y'all on kind of the progress with the implementation of some of the Deepwater Horizon funds that have come or are expected to come to Texas as part of the various pots of money emanating from that spill. One of the ones that we're most involved with is the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation who is the fiduciary for roughly 2.3, $2.4 billion from BP as part of a criminal settlement. 203 million of that is allocated to Texas coastal projects over the next five years.

The Parks and Wildlife, along with the General Land Office and TCEQ and the Attorney General's Office are advising the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation on the highest priority projects to be able to invest those dollars in and specifically to help protect, restore, enhance the kinds of resources that were affected by the spill. So there needs to be some kind of a connection to the type of resources that were impacted.

Two things I want to report on. One, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Board approved this first tranche of projects totaling 8.8 million, as you can see, largely focused on the upper coast -- dune restoration at Sea Rim, marsh restoration, protection of a very unique coastal prairie site there off of Galveston Bay, some oyster reef restoration, and also some important work with Ducks Unlimited on enhancing wetland habitat on private lands for waterfowl and wading birds.

Also as some of the Commissioners are aware, we had a chance at the staff level to meet with many of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Board members last week in Houston. Commissioner Morian came to a social with some of those Board members last week. We then had a chance to take them on a tour of the Jefferson County marshes; take a look at the Salt Bayou Hydrological Restoration Project; get them out over the J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area to look at that landscape scale; the marsh restoration project, which is a huge priority for us, Jefferson County, and many, many other partners; and then we had a chance to fly them down the coast basically to Port O'Connor. So they got a good sense of the upper coast, and seemed very excited about the opportunities to continue working with us in that regard; so I wanted to share that update with you.

In addition, as y'all know, we are one of the trustee agencies that's parts of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment Program, again, along with GLO, TCEQ, and the Attorney General's Office. As you will also recall, there was an agreement between the states and certain federal agencies and BP to provide a billion dollars for early restoration projects that would help to mitigate the impacts for the spill.

I just wanted to let you know that the trustees are going out with a draft early restoration plan and a draft programmatic environmental impact statement for public comment along the coast this month and I think we've got hearings in Port Arthur and Corpus and I think one or two other communities along the coast.

Texas is proposing to be allocated with this round a little over 18 million for projects. Again, some really important ones. Facilities at Galveston Island State Park, which as you will recall was almost completely wiped out as a function of Hurricane Ike and so finding funding to help rebuild that park infrastructure is a huge priority and you see a fairly significant investment there. Same thing at Sea Rim.

In fact, I think in April, Brent, we're going to be having a dedication of some facilities there at Sea Rim State Park and want to make sure the Commission gets an invitation to come to that. That's going to be an exciting development and also the creation of three new artificial reefs, which we're excited about in terms of habitat opportunities; but also recreational fishing. So just wanted to let you know that's still moving forward and we plan to provide y'all with very regular updates on our involvement with this at the Agency and how that's progressing. So any questions on that, please let Robin or Ross or me know and happy to help address anything you're interested in.

Last but not least, I want to talk a bit about where we stand with the Agency's Dashboard. I had a chance to send y'all a copy of that prior to the Commission meeting. Also, I think that we've given you a handout of that. Again, this is at the Commission and the Executive level, you know, looking at key fiscal programmatic and people priorities inside the Agency in a way for us to measure progress against those priorities.

We presented this Dashboard at the November meeting. This is an update for the first quarter of the fiscal year and it gives you a sense of how we're doing on these various metrics both against our annual or yearly goal; but also our year-to-date goal, which various programs and divisions that are responsible for some of these measures have put together timelines and plans and, again, it gives us a benchmark as to where we're ahead, where we're on schedule, and where we're a little bit behind. So I wanted to share that with you.

I'm not planning on going through that in any detail; but if you have any questions about it, I want to make sure you've had a chance to talk to me either now or later about that and can report on any of these items.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Carter, I looked it over. I think we're getting there. I think we still maybe have a little bit of work to do.

MR. SMITH: Okay.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: But I think we're putting together something that's useful. You know, it's -- well, we'll talk a little more about it; but I think it's a good idea and it sure streamlines everything right here for us to look at and evaluate. So, thank you.

MR. SMITH: Okay. No, that's good feedback, Mr. Chairman. One thing we plan to do, I mean for instance, you know, this is updated through the first quarter; but we're going to be having, you know, monthly updates to the Dashboard and I just plan to share that to the Commission as we get them and are looking through it. You know, any feedback that you or other Commissioners have on if there's other ways you want the information presented or streamlined or if there are other measures that are important to you that we want to add to this or some that you think are less important, you know, just give us this feedback. It's a work in progress.

Rich McMonagle has done a great job of quarterbacking this and want to acknowledge again his hard work and efforts on this. I found it just, you know, a very useful tool so far from my perspective on being able to monitor where we are with key things.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: Will this just be an internal document?

MR. SMITH: It's designed to be an internal -- yeah, an internal management document. You know, absolutely. You know, we have performance measures that we are tracking for the Legislative Budget Board and other Legislative measures that we keep track of; but these are kind of key management ones that, you know, we feel are ones that we want to make sure that we're able to keep track of, one place, get a quick snapshot of, you know, where we are, where we're headed and what's working, what's not, etcetera, so we can -- we can take action if we need to address something.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Mr. Chairman, might I just say something? While it's not on this particular Dashboard metrics, we're doing something similar to this in the audit function to whittle down the numbers and the reporting in the audit function so that we can more quickly understand and get a more concise view of what the Agency is doing regarding the audit function and to redefine the audit function from a policing sort of internal department to a department that can make suggestions on how we make the Agency better.

I don't want people to cringe when the auditor shows up. I want them to go, oh, okay, they're going to help me do what I do better for the State of Texas and to be more efficient, so that we don't have, you know, the negative articles written about, oh, you -- you know, didn't overlook this one function or whatnot. So we're doing the same sort of thing on the audit function and we're going to meet this afternoon to sort of whittle it down even a little bit more.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, yeah.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Bill, thanks for looking out for that for the Commission. Thanks for you input into it.

COMMISSIONER JONES: More than happy to, Mr. Chairman. Thank you.

MR. SMITH: Thanks, Commissioner. Mr. Chairman, unless there's any other questions from the Commission, that concludes my presentation.


Okay, Work Session Item No. 2, Financial Overview. Mr. Mike Jensen, please come up.

MR. JENSEN: Good morning, Commissioners.


MR. JENSEN: I have a high level summary presentation to walk you through the primary revenue stream for the Department and the budget adjustments. It should be fairly quick, and I'll go ahead and get started.

I'll start with the State Park revenue receipts. This is through the end of December of this fiscal year. It's important to note and I think many of you remember back, it was a very icy, cold December that had a severe negative impact on safety of people being able to get out and about; so a lot of events that were scheduled in the month of December actually had to be canceled because of public safety because of icy roads. There were a couple of events that I wanted to take my daughter to, I couldn't go because there were icy roads. So that did have a negative impact on the revenues.

And as you'll recall back, fiscal year '13 was actually a very strong year. So our State Parks division and their efforts this year, it's going to be -- I'd love to see them equal it or surpass it, but it's going to be a difficult challenge. Up here, you see a lot of red on these numbers. You can see we're behind on our facilities and our entrance fees, about 214,000, 145,000. And we're slightly behind on concessions -- park passes, renewals, and folks who are first time buyers of our passes, that's doing well and that's ahead. And the miscellaneous revenues is behind.

But if you compare that back to fiscal years '12 and '11, we're actually ahead of those two over the past four years; so just keep in mind as we monitor this through the year, that '13 was a strong year. If we can equal that, we're doing very, very good.

Visitation because of the weather has been down as well. It's been -- paid visits are down about 7 and a half percent. With respect to our boat revenue, there's a lot of red up here as well, except for sales tax. I've been with the Department for about five years and this is the highest performance, at least year to date, on sales tax that I've seen. Sales tax is doing very good so far. But an important note for the Commission, while the offices all across the state collect this, we only retain about 5 percent to operate our budget. So this figure up here represents the 5 percent that's retained by the Department on the sales tax. Through December, we're ahead of last year by about $50,000. The other 95 percent, that goes to the Comptroller's Office and that's part of the Fund 1. Our titles in our --



COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- stop there. Is that -- is that 95 percent that's going to the Comptroller's Office, is that considered part of the so called sporting goods sales tax?

MR. JENSEN: No, that's just going to fill -- give them revenues that would be considered Fund 1. Now, it gets blended in. Sporting goods sales tax itself is really part of all tax revenue, so it's kind of commingled. Sporting goods sales tax is a calculation that the Comptroller does and based upon the total revenues that come in, they have a big formula that's tied to percentages of different types of products that are purchased that are used in outdoor and recreation.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, I guess my question is are boating sales -- sales tax from the sales of boat considered sporting goods sales tax?

MR. JENSEN: No, they're not.


MR. JENSEN: So titles are behind. Registrations are behind. On this slide, the top half, you get an opportunity to look at where we are with the revenues and if you look down below, you can see the counts of titles. We're behind on new ones by about 1.4 percent. Transfers are behind about 6 percent. Renewals are behind about 2 percent, and total titles are behind almost 3 percent.

Commissioner Duggins, you'll probably be interested to know that on February 4th, they have a plan to do an e-mail blast out to remind folks to register their boats and that will be done by all the e-mail addresses that we have on record. That will go out in February. And the past couple of years, we've had a small grant that helps us cover the cost of postage for also hard copy paper mail out that go out. We're going to be doing that again this spring.

These numbers should improve as we get into the spring where more and more people will become interested in getting back out on the lakes. I think over the past four years, the big issue here has been the drought. If there's not water in certain lakes, then some folks are not going to register their boats. They let them lapse.

If we look at the license revenue comparison, last fiscal year was a pretty good year, too; so we're doing very well this year if you look at these figures. If you look at the resident and nonresident and add that together, that's about 575,000 that we're ahead of the same period last year. However -- I mean actually we were behind, sorry. But in the hunting and combo licenses, you add that up, that's 1.77 million. So when you compare the hunting and fishing, we had a very strong kickoff for hunting. If you graph that out, hunting tends to start pretty high and then it levels off and gets low throughout the year. Fishing starts low, and then gets pretty high during the spring and in the summer; so we're expecting the fishing license sales to take off in the spring and to get pretty hot early in the summer, but it is something worth monitoring and noting.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So is the 10.9 shown for 2013 for resident fish, is that year to date or entire year?

MR. JENSEN: That's year to date. That's through December. All the revenues that you see on this slide are through December 31st.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So we are off from last year on fishing?

MR. JENSEN: We are off from last year and the trend is it, for some reason, seems to be a slight decline at the beginning; but you get a bigger peak in the summer. So it's something we need to monitor and look at. I know we had an item on here that dropped off the agenda item, year-from-purchase fishing licenses, and that is one license type that has taken off.

As new residents move to Texas, they tend to go get that one. Then you have other people who are moving to that one. That's actually a license that has a premium, so that helps the revenue stream. But they tend to buy them more in the spring and then in the summertime. So hopefully these numbers will significantly improve as we come back in March and in May for fishing licenses.

But the number on the combination licenses is spectacular. That's sort of like the bread-and-butter license for the Department. And most of the hunting licenses peak around November for deer season. You have dove season, that gives us a good start for the license year. Then the deer season really spikes up the sales, and so now those are going to be on the decline.

This page gives you a summary of the budget adjustment to the budget. In August, Justin Halvorsen was here. He presented to you the operating budget, which was approved, of nearly $380 million, $379.89 million. From August 31st through the end of November, we had a significant number of budget adjustments.

If you look at this slide, you can see on federal grants we had brought in 25.43 million. There are 29 primary sources of those federal funds. The top six are Sport Fish Restoration, 6.3 million; Recreational Trails Program, 3.2 million; Coastal Impact Assistance Program, 3.1 million; Wildlife Restoration, 2.9; Outdoor Recreation, 2.3 million; State Wildlife Grants, people refer to that as SWG, 1.8 million; and then we had Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act of about a million; and then there are more than 20 more other sources that contribute to that 25.3, but those are the top six.

Other appropriated receipts and contracts, that's mostly donations and it's third-party funds that come in that are nonfederal funds. That's 17.59. We have the supplemental appropriations bill that was House Bill 1025, if you recall. We UB'ed that fund forward. That's 889,000 state parks operations; about 4.9 million for Bastrop State Park recovery; 3 million for Cedar Bayou restoration; and 5 million for state park repairs.

We have a construction UB. When we develop the original budget, we start with an estimate. Our estimate was 47.72. The actual is 53.8. So the difference is what we're adding to the budget from the estimate. SWCAP stands for Statewide Cost Allocation Plan. That's the methodology that is pulled together by the Governor's Office and the Comptroller's Office where all state agencies pay a cost recovery fee to the oversight entities for the services that they provide. So we have about a $900,000 adjustment there.

The appropriations bill, I think maybe we mentioned this before, it does not include employee fringe benefits. So that when we create our operating budget, we usually line item that out so you can see it. So we have an adjustment there of about 630,000. Our appropriation pattern had Rider 27 that allowed us 5.5 million of UB. We've UB'ed 5.2 million. There was another rider there. It was a contingent Rider 36 related to sporting goods sales tax. Because a favorable bill for the Department was passed, that contingency rider, we have to lapse that money. The cash is actually being transferred for fringe benefits sporting goods sales tax; so it's a good thing. The Legislature was trying to help us. They weren't -- at the end of the session, they don't know if something is going to get signed by the Governor or not or if it's going to make through. So we had Legislation bills going through, but we also had this rider going through in case the bill didn't get through. Fortunately the bill got through.

So our subtotal of adjustments is 63 million, which means our adjusted budget on November 30th is 442.89 million. We'll probably have you the monthly financial report through December probably by the end of next week, so we'll mail that to you once we've had a chance to review it. That's all that we've prepared for you. If you have any questions, I'd be happy to try and answer them for you.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any discussion? Thanks, Mike.


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Next item for -- Work Item No. 3, Commission Consideration of Contract Amendments, Ann Bright and Tammy Dunham.

MS. BRIGHT: Good morning, Commissioners. I'm Ann Bright, General Counsel, and I'm here with Tammy Dunham, our Department's Manager of Purchasing and Contracting. And we just wanted to give you an update on some recent legislation that's going to affect part of the Commission meeting, something that you will see tomorrow, and this has to with HB 3648, which requires the State agency's governing body to hold a meeting to consider a material change to certain contracts for goods and services.

And the statute specifically refers to contracts awarded under Chapter 2155 of the Government Code, and those are limited; so it's not all contracts. Defines a material change as a change that extends the length of the contract for six months or more or increases the consideration by at least 10 percent.

As I mentioned earlier, it doesn't apply to all contracts. It applies to certain contracts for goods or services. You'll see the definition of goods there from Chapter 2155 of the Government Code. Services, skilled or unskilled labor. But then there are also a number of things that this provision does not apply to. Professional services, and those are limited to the ones listed in a specific statute, the Professional Services Procurement Act and you can see those listed there.

Consulting services, again, those are defined and heavily regulated by the Government Code. Public utility services, interagency agreements between State agencies or State agencies and universities, between interlocal agreements or Federal/State agreements. Also doesn't apply to construction contracts. There's different law governing those, like same with concession contracts and grant agreements. And also contracts where the original contract anticipated the extension or the increase.

A lot of times contracts will say, for example, this contract may be renewed one year for successive one-year terms for a period of time or a successive five-year term; so this wouldn't apply to that. In order to make this process as efficient as possible, we've got a proposal which is at each Commission meeting, the Commission would be provided with a list of contract amendments that have to be considered under this new bill.

The process will be similar to what you've currently used for acknowledging donations, which happens every Thursday of the Commission meeting process, and then staff would be available to answer any questions the Commissioners may have about the contracts. And you will see in your materials for tomorrow's meeting under "Contracts," there's one contract that fits this criteria for this meeting and this is the form that we're proposing to submit to the Commission each meeting so that you can look at these. If you've got any questions or comments, we're happy to answer those and we're here to answer questions. If you want to know the guts of contracting, Tammy is here.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any question for Ann or Tammy?

COMMISSIONER JONES: Ann, what types of contracts that we have now do you think would be most affected by this? But I mean just -- and I understand we have tons.

MS. BRIGHT: Right.

COMMISSIONER JONES: But is there one or two or a certain category of contracts that pops into your mind as, oh, my goodness, this is going to affect that kind of contract more so than others?

MS. BRIGHT: I'm going to let -- I'm going to let Tammy answer that.

MS. DUNHAM: I think the majority of the contracts y'all will see are the internal repairs, emergency contracts. Most of our contracts for multiple years, long-term services have built in CPI price increases already allowed; so they would be exempt from this or renewal options. So it's our internal repairs where we can't anticipate how long it's going to be. If it's longer than a six-month delay, you'll have to consider it for approval.

And then there's no dollar limit to this, so there could be small dollar goods purchases if there's extensive delays or even large -- a lot of our ammo is delayed beyond six months you'll see.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay, okay. So contracts like the one we just did with the online licensing service provider, those types of contracts probably aren't covered by this, are they?

MS. DUNHAM: No, because they all have renewal options built in --


MS. DUNHAM: -- or price increases built in.


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Ann, the way I recall or I understand it, this is going to be presented in our Commission book in similar form that we already get the donations and it's not going to be something that's going -- other than we approve, it's not going to be brought up unless there's some big item that we want to visit about.

MS. BRIGHT: That's correct, yes.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any more -- oh, go ahead, Dick.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yeah, just a quick question. How does this -- and I guess this applies to Craig, too. I'm just curious knowing how much ammunition and stuff like the LE uses has gone up. Those multiyear contracts that cover that, because I would assume that they get caught in this 10 percent deal, I mean is that an accurate assumption?

MS. DUNHAM: Well, the ammo contracts are done by TPASS; so they're term contracts, so the price increase wouldn't be affected by the 10 percent. The delay of delivery, we have a lot of problems with ammo being delivered as scheduled; but that shouldn't come to you. If they are delayed, then we allowed them to do spot purchases to make sure they have enough ammo.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any more questions? All right. Ann, Tammy, thank you.

MS. DUNHAM: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: All right. Work Session Item -- well, No. 4 Item has been withdrawn, year-to-purchase license, a fishing license.

No. 5 is Diversity and Inclusion Efforts, Brent Leisure and Craig Hunter, please come forward.

MR. LEISURE: Good morning, Commissioner. My name is Brent Leisure, Director of the State Parks Division and it's a pleasure to be here today to talk about a topic that is on the forefront of our minds and something very important, we believe, strategically for this Agency and I'm joined by Craig Hunter, who will follow me with some additional information relative to the Law Enforcement Division.

You know, those of us that are in this Agency, have been associated with Parks and Wildlife, or partnered with this Agency for a number of years have recognized long -- for a very long time now the value in a diverse and robust ecosystem. There are many contributors to that system, flora and fauna, and we manage for that every day in our work in the field in managing the State's land and wildlife and fisheries resources.

That same concept holds true with the constituents that we work with and those that we partner with in executing the mission of this Agency. They come in many forms -- both public, private, organizations, individuals -- all contributing to help us in advancing the conservation and recreation goals of the state. I would like to point out a few things that we think that we've discovered that are particularly relevant to this issue with regard to our state's population. Population in Texas is growing rapidly and we have seen this and heard about it for a number of years. The 2010 census has indicated that our population now is over 25 million people in the state.

Texas is one of the most rapidly growing states in the United States. Six of the 20 highest populated cities throughout the country occur right here in Texas, with Houston being our most populated city ranking No. 4 in the country, San Antonio at seven, Dallas at nine, and then Austin, Fort Worth, and El Paso following suit in making up some of the Texas cities that -- in that short list of the nation's largest cities.

It's important to note I think and certainly noteworthy that Rice University has completed an analysis and determined recently that the city of Houston now surpasses New York City in the city in the United States with the greatest diversity. I point out there's three issues that I would like to illuminate and talk about relative to our population and how it's changing and shifting over time.

This particular map indicates there's many different colors applied to various counties across the state and suggesting that there is tremendous growth in the last 40 years within Texas. Those darkest areas -- obviously communities that we recognize, Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth Metroplex, San Antonio, and Austin, that I-35 corridor, the Rio Grande Valley and El Paso -- are rapidly growing communities. You'll see the growth that has occurred from 1970 until 2010.

According to that census, we've experienced more than double our population in that length of time, in that 40-year period, and that growth continues. Another important point and slightly different take on this is how the population is not -- where is it growing and where is it moving, migrating from within the state. This slide depicts three different colors. Green indicating those areas that have experienced the highest rate of growth in -- from the period from 2000 to 2005, greater than 10 percent. Blue areas, blue counties indicating those counties that have experienced growth; but less than 10 percent rate. Interesting thing is those red counties where they have actually experienced a decrease in the population of those counties. I think we can conclude that our population is not only growing, but it's migrating from rural to urban settings.

The third point I want to make about our changing demographics and population within the state has to do with the demographics, the composition of that population. These are current numbers or at least referring back to the 2010 census that suggests that the white segment of our population comprises 43 percent of the total population of Texas. Hispanic and Latino segment of our population comprises 41 percent, a very close number. Blacks represent 11 percent of the state's population, and a combination of the remaining ethnic groups combined account for the remaining 5 percent of the state's population.

This particular graph is projecting what changes might occur over the next several years. It's extending out to the year 2040. The black line on the graph is the total population change over time and the colored lines below representing the White, Hispanic and Latino, Black and other categories within our populations, composition. And you'll see that in 2020, we anticipate at that point that Hispanic and Latino communities will overtake the White as the majority segment of our population.

I think these issues and I think it's been discussed for a very long time -- not just by Parks and Wildlife, but other conservation agencies across the country -- that there is an adaptive challenge that this information presents to us. It's one that we need to recognize and focus on. Our adaptive challenge is that we should reconsider our methods and strategies and how we engage the communities and the residents of Texas with the mission of Parks and Wildlife to more effectively reach a broader audience and for sustained success over time. Engaging these diverse audiences that reside in urban areas, oftentimes without that connection of the lands and waters of this state that we probably grew up with ourselves and were connected with and as a result, we formed a lifelong relationship with the outdoors, engaging with the mission of Parks and Wildlife through hunting, fishing, outdoor recreation in many different forms.

A very relating issue to this need to enhance our efforts in reaching a broader constituency and the people that we serve is the workforce that we employ. And our hope and goal is over time to employ a workforce that reflects the population of this state and the communities where we exist and this is a very important issue for us as we move forward.

There are two -- essentially two different, but very related projects that are underway. And one Colonel Hunter will speak about here in just a minute and then one I will elaborate on before and that is there is tremendous need for us to put this on the front burner in the forefront of our minds as we plan for future success in this Agency. Beginning back in September of 2012, a group was formed that included both internal and external members who analyze and contribute and make recommendations to the Law Enforcement Division to reach a greater diversity in their workforce and the constituents that we serve. Craig will speak about that here in just a minute; but I want to let you know that in January of this past year, we recognized that this issue is not unique to the Law Enforcement Division. In fact, it's not unique to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Conservation organizations across this country are battling with this very same challenge and we want to be on the cutting edge of that, be proactive, and work in a visionary way. We assembled back in January of last year a cross-divisional team that represents many different perspectives within this Agency to analyze the diversity and inclusion topic and make recommendations to the Agency and executive management on how we should best proceed. That -- the report of their work was submitted in November, just a couple of months ago, to the Executive team in the Agency. I believe you each have a copy of that report, but I'll be glad to share another copy if you need it. Please let me know.

But essentially, they made six recommendations with 26 recommended action items. Those action items have been looked at, analyzed by our Executive team and our leadership within the -- across the Agency, our Division leadership and reflected upon that and what steps might we take immediately to see progress in this area. There are essentially three things that we have done in this short term that we've committed to and one is to establish an office of diversity and inclusion.

The office of diversity and inclusion is something that is often done in the private sector, more so now in the public sector. We don't know of any other State agencies within Texas that have -- although some may have an office of diversity and inclusion, but committing to a fully dedicated Chief Diversity Officer for the Agency is new ground for us and so we have committed to recruiting a Chief Diversity Officer for this Agency to help provide that daily guidance and focus on this very important issue for us.

We've initiated a recruiting search. We've got a request for proposal on the streets right now as we seek a professional recruiting firm to help us in this nationwide search that we're going to identify someone that we think is going to help lead us in this very important issue. Related to that, we also see the need to commit to another recommendation made by the Diversity Working Group and that was to create a cross-divisional committee that -- with representation from all divisions working collaboratively and working with the Diversity Officer for the Agency to identify new strategies and new methods to reach a broader constituency and then also to achieve greater diversity within the workforce that we employ.

And then I -- although not one of the recommendations of the Diversity Working Group, but I wanted to let you know about a survey of employee engagement that is taking place next month. This occurs every two years, administered by The University of Texas. All state agencies use this survey to help gauge and understand the perspectives of their workforce and ways that they might improve their workforce and their work environment and so we've taken that opportunity to reach out to the workforce of Parks and Wildlife to gain their perspective on this important issue and so we look forward to doing that and getting the results over the next several months.

I want to point out something that I think that you-all know very well certainly, but I think it's important that we not lose sight of. Parks and Wildlife has been long committed to diversity. We have continued to establish programs and services that reach out to all Texans. Unfortunately, not all Texans have taken advantage of those services and programs and so I wanted to highlight just a few. This certainly -- this list is not complete, but these are few of the programs that we have had over the years that have been successful in some measure in reaching new audiences and introducing them to the outdoors: Becoming an Outdoors-Woman, the Master Naturalist Program that is so important for our wildlife and our State Parks divisions, our Internship Program in which we develop the pipeline that we might provide opportunity for people to join our workforce and commit to a life of a lifetime career in the outdoors, Neighborhood Fishing Programs, Youth Hunting Programs, all intended to introduce people to our mission at a young age and that might affect and shape their lifestyles. The Buffalo Soldiers Program, a very high-profile and important program for Parks and Wildlife front and center bringing light to the contributions of black officers and soldiers in the Buffalo Soldiers Program. And a recent program that we developed last year is the State Park Ambassadors Program, where we've tried to employ -- not employ as employees but through volunteerism -- acquire the help of high school and college aged kids to help us reach other high school and college aged kids into the outdoors. They've done some very creative things that I'd love to share with you at some point.

And then obviously the Texas Outdoor Family Program. A flagship program for our Agency and one that you're familiar with and the demand to get into and participate in that program has been very great. We've been limited only by our own capacity and the resources that we've been able to apply to that and the leadership and execution of events where people with no experience can be introduced to the outdoors, equipment provided, and we teach them the skills that they need. And I want to highlight this one program as an example of how we are adapting existing programs to reach a broader audience.

We were successful about a year ago in receiving a $300,000 grant from the National Recreation Foundation for a very focused effort over the Texas Outdoor Family Program in Houston. Happens to be our most diverse city in the United States. It's a great setting for this to occur. And the idea is that we take our trained staff, and we train trainers. We establish partnerships with government and private entities and organizations that have overlap with our mission, that have an interest in advancing the goals of conservation/outdoor recreation, and that work is ongoing right now in Houston and it's pretty exciting. I'd love to come back and tell you about the results of that. You know, the fruits of our labor is going to be measured over time; but our hope is that we're going to grow the five events that used to occur in Houston annually to 250 events utilizing state parks in the neighboring area, surrounding area of Houston, as venues to introduce people to the outdoors.

And there is a targeted focus. There is a -- it's certainly our intent to not only reach more people in our mission, but diverse audiences and certainly we have that opportunity in Houston. These are just a few pictures of some of the activities that have taken place in Houston over the last several months. We're excited about this program; but it is just one of many and with the help of a new Diversity Officer and a cross-divisional team and the commitment of the leadership within the divisions within this Agency, we believe that we can make tremendous headway and chart a course for success with this Agency moving forward.

So with that, I'll turn it over to Craig and he'll talk to you a little bit about the Law Enforcement program and we can answer questions.

COLONEL HUNTER: Thank you, Brent. Good morning, Commissioners. I'm going to run through from our perspective in Law Enforcement what we've done in the past year and a half or so to try to meet this issue.

Currently, that will show our Division demographics. Just give you some idea of where we are today for approximately 642 or 45 employees. By the way, these numbers include our noncommissioned employees, approximately 123, and we have 532 commissioned Game Wardens across the state.

We've got a class starting, as Carter told you earlier, September the 2nd of 2014. We've already gone through the hiring process. Actually at the time that we opened the process up, one of the recommendations from our task force was that, you know, our guys were underpaid, our officers were underpaid, and the Legislature took care of that. Our recruiters and Game Wardens would go to someplace like Sam Houston State University at a job fair and were competing with the DEA or the Houston PD or the Austin PD and most of those places were paying 20 percent more and so money is not the only issue, but it certainly makes us more competitive and so we -- that has been fixed.

And we, at the time because of the raises, we have very few Game Wardens leaving due to retirement; so therefore, at the time that we opened these jobs up for the 59th Academy that starts this coming September again, we had 902 applicants for nine vacancies at the time. And so we're -- you see the number 762. The 762 down there are the ones that were minimally qualified. Twenty-one years old, citizens, a bachelor's degree, and so we're getting some diverse applicants out there.

The Selection Committee or the applicant selection, it will show you the numbers and the breakdowns there and the next slide will kind of -- kind of show you where we are with this. We've already made some conditional job offers. We were up to 19 Game Warden cadets that will start September the 1. We do have some alternates, if you'll see on the right, that if some -- one of those candidates backs out before the school starts September the 2nd, we'll have somebody to go in their place.

Again, September 2014, 762 applicants, 104 females, 658 males. The 19 conditional job offers have been made. All 19 have accepted employment, which we understand it's a long process and it's difficult to get in, very competitive. We're very proud of the fact that we have 3 females, 16 males, 42 percent gender/ethnic diversity. Highly qualified military background, education, prior law enforcement. We -- and I'll say this publically. We've been known to steal Coastal biologists, Wildlife biologists, and Park Rangers and this school is no different and so why somebody would want to go into those fields is beyond me.

But the task force, our task force -- between the Law Enforcement Diversity Task Force and also the Davis Kaufman report, there were about 66 recommendations or findings. Most of them focused on recruitment strategies, how we hired, our practices, how we promote, and how we retain people. Retention has never really been a problem, honestly. I've been here 30 years. Most of our people come here, and they never leave. We have a few; but, again, retention is not a problem.

Policy and procedure, some things we'd look at were not like any other Law Enforcement agency. I can get -- just pick a town -- Houston, Austin -- I can be with a partner, I can have a supervisor on any scene, you know, within a few minutes. That's not us. We're mostly rural. It's going -- you're going to be working by yourself and you're not going to have a supervisor show up within five minutes and so it's not for everybody.

And some of the examples of the hiring practices of PRT, which is our Physical Readiness Test, interview process, outdoor experience, those kind of things, and we didn't depend on ourselves. We went around and talked to many other states, conservation agencies in other states that are similar to us -- Florida, Oklahoma, Arkansas, some of those -- to see how they do things. The task force and the Vice-Chairman of the task force was Joe Patterson and Joe Patterson's son is Ty Patterson, who we lost in a drowning incident in 2007. And during the Physical Readiness Test -- and I believe this, that there -- we lose a lot of applicants that are afraid of the water or they can't swim and so when you look at the line-of-duty deaths in our state and nationally also, but just particularly our state, we've had 18 Game Wardens killed in the line of duty and drowning is the number one cause of that. We've lost six.

And so we're not ready to pull swimming as a -- to get in, you need to know how to swim to go to work for us. But we did make some changes. In working with the task force and with our training staff, if -- you know well in advance when we open the process that you know what the swimming test is, what it requires, and so you can contact our staff or some of our recruiters and we're going to try to -- if you're in Houston, we're going to try to get you in with a YMCA or a list of certified swimmers to get you where you're ready to pass that test.

And then also we've -- and again, I'm just using this as an example of one of the hiring practices. We'll let you fail it the first time and then early in the process, because the process takes a long time with backgrounds and psychological and everything that we have to go through that are required to be a Peace Officer and so we'll give you a second chance on that and so working with the task force and with our process, that's just an example of some things that we're trying to do to improve the diversity in our ranks.

Outdoor experience, a lot of states -- many -- most of those states, I can say that, rely heavily on outdoor experience. When you come interview to be a Game Warden, that you know about hunting and fishing and water safety. And so the task force asked us to look at why it's important to understand. I mean we're going to put you in harm's way, that you understand why you're getting in harm's way. That you know something about law enforcement or you know something about conservation and at least it's not heavily weighted. We're going to teach you in the seven-month academy and the subsequent training, we're going to teach you how to be a Game Warden. You don't know how to be a Game Warden, but we'll teach you how to do that. But you have to some interest and know something about what you're getting into and conservation because there's a lot of -- there's a lot of young people out there that don't have the opportunity that most of us had about hunting and fishing and those kinds of things.

Promotion and retention, we've done this way, way in the past. We've always included diversity on our hiring and we've also included it on our promotion process. We'll have diversity on those interview panels and we've done that way -- for many, many years. Professional development, we're trying to more inclusive on targeting younger officers when they come through the ranks of all ethnic and gender, to try to see what areas they're interested in, whether it be the teams or promotion or whatever.

Policy and procedure, that's been a tough one for us. A lot of agencies that have a lot of vacancies can tell you when you start the Police Academy -- obviously if you're going to the Houston Police Academy, you're going to be in Houston, Texas, right? You go to work for us, there's no telling where we're going to send you and it depends on the priority of the Division and the needs of the State. And so it's really hard for us to -- obviously if you were born and raised in urban Houston and then all of a sudden you go to our seven-month Academy and end up in Alpine, Texas, or Zapata, I mean it's a culture shock and so we realize that and we want you to be prepared for that.

We tell you from day one that, you know, your station is going to be assigned based on your background. Obviously if you're 22 years old right out of school, we're going to try to put you somewhere where there's other officers and a supervisor fairly close. If you've got some military or previous law enforcement, you may end up in one of the more rural or on the border or someplace like that. We are -- we do have a new policy that we've proposed where our station assignments, when you get out of school and you get a duty assignment, we require you to stay there two years and after two years, then you can transfer to any vacancy in the state based on seniority. We're going to lessen that to one year and that's in -- being reviewed right now by HR and Legal, but we think that will help some.

Light duty policy, we've had one informally. This is going to formalize the light duty policy. Recruiting practices, one of the recommendations were that we have a more robust recruiting effort and we've done that. And, in fact, they're all here and I would like to introduce -- and I want to tell you this about recruiting. Recruiting is a responsible -- is a responsibility of everybody in the Division, from me to all 532 Game Wardens, we're recruiters. But I talk to kids all the time. Some I know. Some find me on the website. Some are assigned projects through their universities and stuff like that. We always take the time. And, in fact, it's on the evaluations of every Game Warden that we will be involved in recruiting and so we think that's important.

I want to introduce our recruiters, our -- in charge of recruiting is Major Tracy Davis. Tracy, stand up please. And also with him is Lieutenant Kevin Malonson and Senior Game Warden Eric Howard. Major Davis is stationed at the Game Warden Training Academy, Lieutenant Malonson is stationed in Houston, and Eric Howard are here -- or is stationed here. Thank you guys for being here.

These guys, recruiting is their job. They're not the only recruiters. They help coordinate with all the 532. They work very closely with the Department Recruiter, the Foundation Recruiter, and hopefully soon with the Chief Diversity Officer for Recruiting for Law Enforcement. Eric and Kevin have been to seven or eight different states meeting with other conservation agencies and recruiting at different colleges, some minority or diverse colleges and stuff like that and we think that in the long run that that's going to pay off for us.

Our recruiting team, also we're trying to -- social media is a big deal with the youth, college age and high school age. So we're reaching out with website, Facebook. We even had a Tweet along this year during dove season. It was highly successful and also there were some Tweets going on during the Halloween floods. The Governor himself Tweeted us during the Halloween floods. By the way, it was our first rescue of a sitting Commissioner during that process. He was a very cool customer though, I'll say that. And so -- but that's how young people see things on Facebook. They ask us questions, recruiting, hiring. We respond to those people.

We're going to try to have a mentoring program and it is something when we take you out -- it's not like living in a college dorm. You know, you come to a police academy, a residential police academy. There's only two in the state, us and DPS. And you live with us seven months. It's an attitude adjustment and so we're going to have mentoring for those -- for those cadets out there. It may be a Game Warden they know, or some they don't know; but they can call if they're having problems academically or any other problem.

We know there's personal problems when you're gone away from home seven months and so we really think that that is going to help once you get into school. We've already spent a year getting you there, so we don't want you to leave; but we also want you to pass academically and physically and all that. So we think that's going to be really an asset.

You've met the recruitment team again. We've talked about "Ask a Game Warden." You can write in, call in, ask a Game Warden any question. We try to get those -- that information out and we get some good -- really good questions, especially about the ones interested in us. We've talked about the mentorships.

I would like to mention the internships. Internships is a big deal. I didn't even -- I didn't even know the number was this high until we looked for this presentation, but we currently have 71 Game Wardens that were interns from the years 2000 to 2013, hired as full-time Game Wardens. That number contributed to 34 percent of the total Agency for interns hired. And so the 2013 interns were hired by our recruiting team that you just met. Again, you look at the diversity, two Hispanic, five Blacks, one Native American, and one White, three females. They come from a variety of colleges and locations throughout the state. It's really a great program.

There's benefit to them. Not only are these interns paid; but if they do a good job, they're evaluated by Game Warden supervisors just like our regular Game Wardens are. They get a good evaluation, then they get to bypass the interview process and begin the hiring process and so there's a benefit to that. It's been very successful. I want to thank the Parks and Wildlife Foundation and the San Antonio Rodeo Committee helped fund some of these. The Law Enforcement Division or the HC did not fund all those by ourselves. We're partnering with other -- we'll partner with more and I know Dick is trying to help us on the Houston Rodeo.

I wanted to mention that, you know, really we've been around -- the Game Wardens have been around since 1895. Our mission has not changed very much. It's been public safety, resource protection; and so we wanted to get that message out there. We wanted to show our history. We're not getting away from fish and game and conservation and water safety, but we also wanted to show that we have a new team approach and that we are -- we want to be inclusive in diversity. We do have diversity within ranks and we want more.

And so Cody Jones, one of our Assistant Commanders who's a Boating Law Administrator, put together just a short video that we want to show. And again, this is targeting high school students and college students that we can go and say, hey, in a nutshell, here's kind of what we do for a living and if you're interested. And I'd like to just take a couple of minutes to show you this short video.

(Video is played)

COLONEL HUNTER: That gives you an idea --


COMMISSIONER JONES: Where do I sign up? Do y'all take Commissioners?

COLONEL HUNTER: We do. And, in fact, Commissioner Martin was down there for that -- for the last scene and thank you, Commissioner, for being down there. But that just gives you an idea, but we're trying to see the audience and we're trying to reach. If you're interested in Law Enforcement with a conservation approach, then we're the place to go.

Again, we're committed from top to bottom. We appreciate the support of the Commission and the EO. We look forward to working with the Agency task force. We have some of our own employees, Law Enforcement employees on that task force and committee and, again, working with the Foundation, Human Resources, those various recruiters and the new Chief Diversity Officer, we think we're going to make some real progress to come back and show the Commission. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any question for Craig or Brent?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Just one quick one, Dan.


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Do we have the date yet for the graduation classes? Is it March?

COLONEL HUNTER: It will be a year from March. Around the first of March. Don't have the exact --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: We don't have one this year?

COLONEL HUNTER: Not the exact date. Not this year, no, sir.


COLONEL HUNTER: Yeah, we delayed the school until September. Yes, sir.


COLONEL HUNTER: And for a lot of reasons, and we like it.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Other questions? Martin.

COMMISSIONER MARTIN: I just have a -- having videos like this is crucial because, you know, I brag about you guys all over. Not just the state of Texas, but everywhere I go. And how -- in going back and looking at different videos and YouTubes on our website doesn't show the new face of Game Warden and as I would go around and bragging and talking about this amazing new opportunities that we have, people have no idea.

So having these particular type of -- and maybe several and many will help in diversification. I know if I -- well, I want to sign up right now. And, well, I guess I kind of already have. You took me along whether you want to or not, I'm coming along. But having this type of information, social media, it is crucial and it just lets everybody know new face and since then, the K9 Program which is another really exciting --


COMMISSIONER MARTIN: -- opportunity and puts you again shoulder to shoulder with absolutely every other Law Enforcement agency in the state and around the country and just want to say thank you and, Brent, too as well with the other aspect of our Agency, what great teamwork. And as we move forward, I think it's going to be a much easier task and everybody is on board and, you know, you've got great support and you have great enthusiasm and passion and certainly appreciate all the efforts in moving forward and all this excitement coming along and I can't say that, you know, the list is going to be become larger and larger of people that want to come in and participate and be part of this truly amazing family that we have. So thank you.

COLONEL HUNTER: Thank you. And we hope to update the video continuously. I know we need to like -- and I'm glad you brought up the K9s. We need those in there and I thank for your words about the Park Peace Officer. It is a partnership. We're very excited about them being in our -- in the Academy and, again, we look at it as a pilot program; but not really because we believe it's going to be successful because of -- and by the way, just so you know, I mean their Law Enforcement Staff, they've got a great bunch of instructors and those kind of things and they're actually teaming with our Law Enforcement staff to teach at the Academy. So we're very proud of that, thank you.

COMMISSIONER MARTIN: I participated with the Outdoor-Women and that's just another great -- you get, you know, mothers and wives and girlfriends and sisters involved and the whole family comes along. I've not participated with the Outdoor Family. I've gone to visit during the day during them and I think it's another just awesome opportunity of getting individuals that normally don't have that opportunity, the children in nature. We lose the children, we might as well just pack up and go home. So getting them on board and getting children in high school and college individuals participating and I think all the tasks in front of us is going to be a lot easier.

MR. LEISURE: Commissioner, I know that the teams that are responsible for putting those programs together appreciate your comments. I think you can look for more work ahead. There's going to be some creative solutions to some of the challenges we face and we've encouraged that amongst our teams and it's exciting to think what could be in the years ahead.

COMMISSIONER MARTIN: You know, I would like to visit further. Sorry, Mr. Chairman. I'm talking.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Keep going, Margaret.

COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Visit further on how we can partnership with maybe other opportunities of gaining moneys because I know that's a big issue of not big able to withstand the demand of the Outdoor Family, Outdoor-Women Programs, some of the other outdoor -- Children in Nature and other programs. You know, public/private partnership and how we partner up with other individuals and grants to help ease the burden of some of this and be able to have more of these events.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Mr. Chairman, might I -- along those lines, I was -- as you were making your presentation, Brent, it occurred to me just a couple of things and I'm throwing this out there for food for thought. This is not a directive. But as you pointed out and I know you guys have probably already identified, the way you get Game Wardens when they graduate from college is plant the seed when they're in junior high, high school, and whatnot. And most of us sitting in this room got exposure to the outdoors from our parents or our families.

I was forced outdoors. I didn't have a choice. I grew up in the rural and so I was outdoors all the time by force, working and working cattle and fixing fence and occasionally, you know, taking a shot at a rabbit or whatnot for what we did. So the exposure was organic for most of us. It was natural. It just happened.

The demographics that you're talking about and particularly with the shift in the demographics to the urban society, it's not organic. It's not going to happen unless there's some interference, there's some thing that causes a child, a kid, a high school kid to look at the outdoors. We don't even have a reality show about Game Wardens. You know, there's reality shows about policemen. There's reality shows about all these other things, but we don't really even have that. As silly as that sounds, it at least gives exposure to kids to some of these other as Law Enforcement agencies.

So I applaud what you're doing and I think you're absolutely doing the right things and on the right track. But to add a little flavor to Margaret's point, one of the things that you might look at or at least throw in the mix is something for -- something to get the kid's attention other than just, hey, let's go camping out. And by the way, that's cool. That's good and particularly for kids who have never had exposure to it, they're just excited about it.

But I'm thinking in terms of, you know, we sponsor -- we have, you know, our name associated with all kinds of competitions out there where people pay to participate and it's all good, bass tournaments and whatnot. What if we could get sponsors to look at sponsoring competitions for junior high, high school kids in shooting, skeet shooting or sporting clays or archery or -- you take the same demographics, the same group of kids and you put them in an environment where they can actually learn to do some kind of thing that you use outdoors together with all the other things that we do.

And maybe that already happens. I know there are -- I know we've been presented with entities that sponsor sporting -- shooting and sporting clays and other such things, but what I'm talking about is a little bigger. I'm talking about, you know, a statewide, something -- and you're going to have to have private foundational funds to do this. There's no way we can do it with our budget. I know that. I understand that. But I'm just thinking in terms of something that we get to sponsor or partnership with those who might -- you know, a grocery store chain or, you know, whatever, who says hey, yeah, I'll put my name on that kind of environment where this day and this shoot or this archery, you know, competition is sponsored by da, da, da and Texas Parks and Wildlife and you get the kid outdoors, he's learning how to do something he'd never even thought they could do and, you know, you advertise it in the junior high and high school, you know, learn how to shoot legally.

But you see my point. And by the way, this is just food for thought. I'm not -- I'm not -- I hadn't thought this all the way through yet to come to the final conclusion from beginning to end. I'm just thinking in terms of something to interrupt, in addition to what you're already doing, to grab a kid's attention, to get the financial resources to get the kids out and into an environment where they can learn to do something that they would not otherwise do or organically simply because they don't live in a place where that's normal.

MR. LEISURE: I think you're exactly right, Commissioner. And we have many programs that touch on that, but there's opportunity to expand those ideas and tweak the existing programs and create new ones. We have discovered the solution is in partnership. It's not -- we can't be limited to the resources that we have here in --


MR. LEISURE: -- our Agency either. And that partnership comes in many different forms: In money, volunteerism, and helping us to broaden our footprint and we're going to make a bigger mark. And the Outdoor Family Program, the expansion of that in the Houston area is an example.

The other thing I'll comment on very quickly is you're very perceptive in that we need to start at a younger age in our recruiting efforts. We understand that and I think that's some of the fruits of the work that's going to be coming forward in the next several months. I mean we're going to see a concentrated effort to develop internships perhaps with high schools or even younger. Target younger kids before they make a career choice going into college and want to study this or that or whether they go to college or not. I mean there's a number of opportunities available and many, many disciplines within this Agency that we can place people and encourage them and help them and so we look forward to exploring all those options.

MR. SMITH: Commissioner, if I could just add one other thing is, you know, we also have a really successful program that has been existence since 1996 called the Community Outdoor Outreach Program and it provides strategic grants to communities and nonprofit partners that aim at getting underserved audiences into the out of doors and helping teach them these kind of skills, participate in these activities, and a little later on in the program, you're going to have a chance to hear from Tim Hogsett who oversees all of our Park Grant Programs and Co-op Grant Programs and talk about that and he'll bring that up.

And what all of your comments made me think is one thing we might do is work with our Communications team and State Parks and come back with maybe a more formal briefing to the Commission on some of these synthesized programs that we have, the partnerships that we have, talk more substantively about your idea and how we can advance on the foundation that exists here now.



COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: Yeah, Mr. Chairman, if you'll allow me, I have a couple comments and then also a couple questions. Unfortunately, you know, I'm sorry I have the title of the only Commissioner rescued. I'm sure my fellow Commissioners will never let me forget that, and I'm fine with that.

With that, the privilege also came from the fact that I got to see the Game Wardens firsthand working in a way that no book or video or, you know, paper can ever describe it and that definitely has given me a different perspective of how your guys or guys work and I am very, very appreciative of what they did. Not only for me, but for the entire community. As I understand, I wasn't the only one. Obviously, we saw it. And I think what you guys did is phenomenal. You did a terrific job and I want it to be in the records. I think I mentioned it last November, but I think I will never be tired of mentioning how great of a job --


COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: -- your guys did. Not only coming to me; but, you know, to everybody in my area, my neighbor, Central Texas, phenomenal job.

With that said, I do have a couple questions. You mentioned college requirement --


COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: -- on the recruitment?


COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: Is military time served accepted in lieu of college?

COLONEL HUNTER: It is -- it is not. That is one of the things that we have discussed with the task force that we hire, the Law Enforcement task force, and that is prior law enforcement, prior military, two years of college, a four-year degree would be required; but if you don't have a four-year degree, then two years of military service or two years of college. That would be -- that's where we're at today about if we should make that transition or not.

And to be honest with you, you know, the numbers still look good to us. The numbers still look good to us, the number of applications. Also, we took into consideration that when all the issues started, good or bad, good and bad, that majority of our employees -- I'm talking about Law Enforcement employees and Game Wardens specifically, including our diverse employees -- do not -- do not diminish the requirements in any form or fashion. And again, some of that is a business decision that we might have to make. To be honest, we've had that plan for a while because I know a lot of agencies have fought -- including here in Texas -- have fought getting enough people to fill their positions, including the other State agencies. And so we have not had that issue, but we have planned for that long term and it's good and bad.

Could we get some good Game Wardens with an associate degree or two years of college that had military? Absolutely. Do we also think that having a four-year degree builds that foundation for a very complex job? Absolutely. And so that's a decision that, you know, obviously I can't make by myself; but there's two pretty good arguments on both sides of those and right now during this next process, we opted to keep our requirement of a degree and we still have a few Game Wardens that work for us that came in under the old system where a degree was not required and those people are considered for promotion, you know, with experience in lieu of.

But that's a discussion that we may have to have in the future or, you know, with some guidance from the Commission and the Executive Office; but we made that decision in the Division not to do that based on a majority of our own employees that said don't do that and the business aspect again of the numbers were still high, really high, about per vacancy.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: I understand. I was just asking that because --

COLONEL HUNTER: No, no. Yeah, that's a very legitimate question and we talk about it at a national level. I was in South Carolina with 15 other colonels last week and I was in Portland with all states represented, including the Fish and Wildlife Service, and that was a very -- some states don't require a degree and many do and so that's a debate, yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: Yes, sir. I have another question for you, and it's probably mostly because I'm the new kid on the block here. When you were talking about diversity, you mentioned that a crew was formed to do an analysis and present its own recommendations. Who was part of that group? I just want to understand better what --

MR. LEISURE: It was a cross-divisional group. What you're referring to is the Diversity Working Group within Parks and Wildlife. These were all employees within the Agency. They represent -- there was a great deal of diversity within that group, but also their perspectives and where they came from and where they're placed within the organization and representing all divisions. Their work lasted from January of 2013, and their final report was presented in November of 2013. There were -- I'll get you a copy of it because you might have missed copies since you're a new appointment, so. And if anybody else needs an additional copy of that report, please let me know.


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I want to follow up on a comment, a couple of comments Bill made because I agree with him wholeheartedly that first, I guess let me say I want to commend both of you and those working with you for your commitment to this worthwhile effort. It's obviously something that's been ongoing for years; but it's now perhaps getting sharper focus from all of us, which it needs. But we appreciate what you're -- what you and the others are doing. I think we've made a lot of progress here and it's going to require some patience, but we'll get there I think with this kind of commitment and focus.

But Bill made a great observation that we can't wait until these young men and women are graduating from college. We've got to start earlier, and so we've got -- I can't imagine two better ambassadors than Kevin and Eric to go in and -- for example, to a high school class and see -- to talk to some kids who maybe it's a career counseling class or maybe it's some kids who are taking a law enforcement or I can't think what the class is called when you get some law enforcement --

COLONEL HUNTER: There is law enforcement programs in many high schools now, yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- in high school. But I also would encourage you to take advantage of the Commissioners' potential contacts. For example, in Fort Worth our superintendent of Fort Worth Schools is Walter Dansby, who's an African-American, great guy. I represent them. I would love to get Kevin and Eric an audience with him to try to get you into some of the Fort Worth Independent School District high schools and junior highs to try to expose more people, particularly a more diverse group to the opportunities.

Because unfortunately like it or not, too many minorities don't get exposed to the outdoors like we all -- you did. You said your dad had you out there shoveling whatnot and putting out hay and, you know, it's -- but too many -- and it's sad. Too many urban kids are stuck in apartments and out on city streets and they see basketball or they see football or they see the bad side of life, but they don't see camping out and a lake where you can learn the incentive to learn to swim, for example. Which also to me heightens the importance of our Outdoor Family Program.

And I know we've all -- Margaret has been great in leading this; but we ought to, in my opinion, get our Chief Diversity Officer to really become involved in our LAR this year and in presenting, not just drafting appropriations requests, but in presenting this forcefully to some of the minority members in the Legislature. I went and saw Senator West about this and I left him that DVD that Lydia had done, which was so compelling about minorities who had been exposed to this and were so appreciative and for those of you who don't know, that program is -- for $50 I think it is, a family of five or six can be taken to any state park by our people and all you've got to bring is your food. We provide all the other equipment, and we teach people how to -- parents how to not be afraid of going to a park and how to pitch a tent and how to cook a meal on a campfire and what is that sound, it's an owl up there.

So instead of having no exposure, you get exposed and these kids and parents write back this is unbelievable. But they're intimidated by it because their parents didn't show them the way and so I think that program is critical to getting to kids earlier, which is Bill's point and is so on the mark and so I hope that our Chief Diversity Officer will really focus on that because we ought to be ramping up that program and the community outreach program as well to try to expose more urban kids, particularly minorities who tend to be -- not have the ability to find a lake to go fish or don't have a fishing pole to go try to catch a fish, that sort of thing.

So I -- anyway, this has all been I think a very positive discussion and I love the commitment and progress here, but just a few suggestions that I think you ought to take into account and I'm happy to help in Fort Worth. I don't know whether I can do any good elsewhere. I'm sure, Bill, you could help in Austin and everybody else around this table would be happy to open doors with school districts if you're willing to go in there. I think you're willing to go there in there, aren't you?

MR. LEISURE: I'm taking note of your comments, Commissioner. We appreciate that and certainly we need to keep you well informed so you're aware of the programs and see ways that you might marry up with us and assist us in that work. So, thank you.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Let me also just say that anecdotally that just be aware that your wardens are on the job. They are taking care of their business. A couple of your Commissioners were suspects in a poaching incident, and they found us; but fortunately for us, they didn't find us poaching, but that's a longer story. I'll tell you about it later, but I ain't going to say who the other Commissioner is; but his last name ends in De Hoyos.

COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Did you have your license?

COMMISSIONER JONES: I did. I had my license and my badge. Although when they saw the badge, they didn't believe that I was actually a Commissioner. So we've got to talk about that badge, Carter.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Well, any more comments from Commission? I think as we've heard this morning and we've heard in the past that this Commission takes diversity very serious and it's a high priority to us. I commend what we're doing right now. Let's -- you know, a couple of things I'd suggest. I think this Diversity Officer we're hiring is a great idea. I think he's going to have to get out. I don't think it's an office job. He needs to be out and moving around and of course that's for you guys to call.

Let's talk to all our interagency and Law Enforcement people that are working. I rode in today with Jonathan Gray and Eric. They had some great ideas, and I'm sure you're doing that; but let's use our resources and -- anyway, I think -- I appreciate what y'all are doing and thank you and it is very important to us.

COLONEL HUNTER: Thank you, Chairman.

MR. LEISURE: Count on that, thank you.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Thank you. All right, that brings us to Work Session Item No. 6, Local Park Grants, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Rule Changes in the Texas Register, Tim Hogsett. Hello, Tim.

MR. HOGSETT: Good morning. Mr. Chairman, Members of the Commission, I'm Tim Hogsett, Director of Recreation Grants in the State Parks Division. I'm joined by Dana Lagarde, who's the head of our Local Park Grant Program.

We are here this morning to present to you a package of potential rule changes for the administration of our Park Grant and Community Outdoor Outreach Program Grants. These are the programs that are under the umbrella of the sporting goods sales tax. Funds that are appropriated to us by the Legislature from sporting goods sales.

We're requesting permission to publish and receive comments for the rule administrative updates. The authority to do this rests within two places within the State Code. Funds are appropriated to us in two separate accounts known as the Texas Recreation and Parks Account and the Large County Municipal Recreation and Parks Account. These are separate funds, both receiving dedication of sporting goods sales tax under the Tax Code.

Chapter 24 of the Parks and Wildlife Code gives the Commission the authority to adopt rules and enforce rules for administration of these grant programs. Two reasons that we're needing to get changes to these rules and presenting this to you this morning, one is that we were successful in the request that we made of the Legislature to restore funding to the Local Park Grants and Community Outdoor Outreach Grants and we also have not done this since 2008. So we feel in fairness to our customers and to the Commission who have the opportunity to re-review this on a regular basis, about every five years it's been our practice to come back and make changes.

The urban and nonurban accounts as they're known are provided in law and the law provides that 40 percent of appropriated funds be reserved for urban park grantees only. We define urban as being cities and counties of population of 500,000 or more and nonurban, basically the balance of the state. And these programs are independent of one another, they have independent scoring systems; and therefore, there's no competition between urban and nonurban sponsors. And actually that 60/40 split, the reason for that in law is that that represents very closely the actual population of where folks live within the state. These are the urban park systems and basically the balance of the state, any local government who's not listed would be eligible for the nonurban or TRPA Account as we all it and these urban sponsors would compete for the Urban Park Account.

As I said, this is the -- the last time that we went through this process was 2008. Beginning last summer, we went through a process of interdivisional inter-internal coordination. We worked with the fisheries, wildlife, communications, and infrastructure division to get input. We also did some staff work prior to, to give the expertise that we have as staff to areas that we felt needed some adjustment. We went through a process of six public meetings around the state, including one that was specifically for the urban grantees. Tried to pretty much go around the state.

We had a total of over 170 folks attend those hearings. Subsequent to those hearings, we then also had an online survey available for anyone that desired to comment and we publicized that through our newsletter that has over 2,000 subscribers and also through some of our partners like the Texas Municipal League and the Texas Recreation and Parks Society. The public survey yielded 285 responses. I'll tell you that in every case of proposed rule changes, whether they be administration or scoring system, the majority of those responses were in favor and when I say majority, at least 75 percent. In most cases, more than that. They agreed with the proposals that we made.

We're asking today that you give us the permission to publish in the Texas Register. Given that permission, we'll publish for 30 days, receive formal comments through that process, return to ask you for adoption of the new rules in March. That then requires a 20- to 30-day -- I can't remember -- I believe it's 20-day publication and then we will then go out and request applications for new grants for these programs in early May.

The issues that we review include administrative rules and practices and also our priority ranking systems. Every one of these programs has a ranking or a point scoring system associated with it. If you adopt these scoring system changes, the new scoring systems will go in place and they will be the tool by which staff brings back recommendations to you for funding for the various grant programs. Essentially, the way that operates is each application -- each program receives applications up until the deadline. All the applications received for that program by the deadline are reviewed together as a group. They're scored using that priority scoring system, rank ordered, and then the rank order list becomes the recommendation that we bring back to you for approval. Basically going down the list as far as funds will allow, drawing a line and recommending that all projects above that line be funded and then all projects below that line have the opportunity to maybe come back and work with us and resubmit in subsequent review.

As far as administrative rules changes that we're proposing, we were -- we are receiving, again, funding from the Legislature. Not quite to the extent that we received prior to the last two years' suspension of funds. We had no grant money available through the sporting goods sales tax for the last two years. But prior to that, we were receiving about $15 million annually for these various programs.

Legislature restored about 7,250,000 or about half of what we were receiving in prior years; so as a result of that, one of the things that we proposed in our outreach effort was looking at the reduction of what had been past benchmarks for accepting amounts of applications. So in the case of the Outdoor Urban and Nonurban Programs, we're proposing a slight reduction, the amount that folks would have the opportunity to apply for and the same for the Community Outdoor Outreach Programs. Essentially, we hope that this would allow us to take a little bit less money that we have from past history and spend it a little more wisely and let it go a little further than it might with higher funding ceilings.

And again, this -- these -- this proposal was very popular among our partners as we went out with our outreach other.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Tim, can I stop you there?

MR. HOGSETT: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: In view of the discussion we just had about our efforts on diversity and the importance of the Community Outdoor Outreach Grant, should we rethink whether to lower that?

MR. HOGSETT: We're kind of coming back in a converse way, and I'll show you this in a minute in a chart. We're actually proposing to take money away from another program and enhance the amount of overall available money for Co-op. So it would provide more grants with a lower ceiling, but we would have more money to work with.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But don't you -- wouldn't you still have the discretion to allocate only 30 instead of 50 if you wanted to spread the money around?

MR. HOGSETT: Absolutely.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I just -- I think you have more flexibility if you kept the 50,000 cap in there. It's still up to you to make the determination and we have great confidence in your judgment and integrity.

MR. HOGSETT: I think what we would then want to do is take that on maybe a case-by-case or review-by-review situation.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That's what I'm suggesting.


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: If you determine that this particular application justifies 50,000, then you can recommend that. It doesn't mean the Commission would approve it. It doesn't mean you would necessarily recommend it, but I just -- this would tie your hands at 30, and you might have a great project that merits 50. I --


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: It's just a suggestion.

MR. HOGSETT: Point well taken. I think that's a good suggestion and we would -- you know, we would welcome the flexibility, for you to have the flexibility to make decisions like that; so I think we can make that change pretty easily.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: What do you think?

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: I think that's a good point. Gives you flexibility. You don't have to use it; but if you do have the right project, that's --

MR. HOGSETT: So would you --

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: It's available, the fund's available, not having to come to us.

MR. SMITH: So maybe -- let me interject here because, you know, this is a unique situation, the Community Outdoor Outreach Programs, which by really longstanding policy we have made those decisions with respect to which grants to award for that part of the grant program at the staff level. A lot of that is an artifact of the timing of the need of a lot of our nonprofit and community partners and so we've just been able to act quickly when there's a need out there.

Obviously the larger local park grants have come to the Commission for approval and so, you know, something that Tim and I have talked about is if, you know, the Commission is interested in revisiting that and taking responsibility for approving those Community Outdoor Outreach Program Grants, we need to talk about that because that's not how we've done it in the past. And, again, I think what we've tried to do is be as responsive to the needs of those communities. We want to make sure that we have a scoring system that's very transparent, that ensures the integrity of the program; but that may be something that y'all give a little thought to.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, from perspective, I'm just one person here; but I would -- I have total confidence in Tim's judgment and integrity and I would be happy continuing the current process. All I'm suggesting we do is not tie your hands at $30,000.

MR. SMITH: Give us flexibility to go up to --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: It's the Chairman's call on whether to bring it to the Commission.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: I think that's a good point. I think -- again, I think -- well, the staff, too, makes the decision to -- the right thing to do and give yourself a little more flexibility if the rest of the Commission agrees.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Yeah, I mean I think you have already pointed out that you're sensitive to the limitation on the budget. So I think ultimately it's your call on how -- whether you give another dollar here or take another dollar away from over there, but flexibility is -- I have no problem with that.

MR. SMITH: Okay.

MR. HOGSETT: Each review kind of takes a life of its own in any of these programs. You've got a group of projects that are competing against one another and having some flexibility, particularly with these program grants to maybe reach down and take another one by having a little bit lower ceiling or conversely move the line up a little bit, I think that would be helpful.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Tim, can you give us an example? What falls in the Community Outdoor Outreach Grants?

MR. HOGSETT: Community Outdoor Outreach Grants, first of all, they're the only program that we have that does not require a match. These are program grants as opposed to construction grants. They're trying to help with local governments and nonprofits that want to help get underserved populations into the outdoors. We buy the materials. You know, hunting, fishing, camping equipment can be purchased. We provide funds for transportation. We provide funds to help find interpreters and instructors.

It's basically about, again, trying to introduce underserved populations to outdoor experiences and, frankly, quite often these involve our facilities like state parks as a venue. An example might be a fishing project that a community might want to do, a kid fish project that the -- or intercity kids, take them to a state park and have a camping experience for a weekend. We want it to be a sustainable situation. We don't want it to be a one-time-only; but we want to offer the opportunity for these groups to have a positive outdoor experience and then hopefully, you know, go back and tell their family about it, tell their friends about it.

But these are grants that provide various kinds of conduits through financial assistance to help get underserved folks out of doors. It's very popular.

MR. SMITH: So examples of beneficiaries might be Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCA, you know, those kind of nonprofit partners that provide those services in communities big or small around the state.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, Lena Pope Home in Fort Worth I think -- which is a home that -- or an institution that serves children and youth from abused backgrounds, took them on a kid fish.

MR. HOGSETT: I think they've gotten at least a couple of grants.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yeah. And as an example, I think Boy Scout -- a Boy Scout troop can apply for camping --


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- equipment or assistance, which is good because there are several of those we could be helping in urban settings.

MS. LAGARDE: State Parks Friends Groups are also eligible and we've had a couple of them apply.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Would you speak up?

MS. LAGARDE: I'm sorry. State Parks Friends Groups are also eligible, and they have been involved in a couple of instances.

MR. HOGSETT: A significant proposal that we're making this morning in terms of administrative practices, we're proposing that we continue to suspend for the next two years funding for indoor recreation grants. A number of reasons for that, but primarily it has to do with the amount of money that would be available. Given that the law requires that only -- only requires that if we get more than $14 million appropriated to us a year for all sporting goods sales tax grant programs, that we're required to do an urban -- an indoor recreation program.

We're saying that given the smaller amount of money that we have available at seven and a half million a year and given that that then is apportioned over several programs and would result in less than a million dollars a year for the urban and nonurban programs for indoor, we suggested to our -- in our outreach to our partners that that might not be really efficient use of those funds and predominantly they agreed with that.

So we are proposing basically to do this with the overall amount of available. If you look at the bottom left-hand total, that's 7.3 million is the amount that's appropriated to us per year for the next two years from the Legislature. You divide those funds 60/40 into the urban and nonurban categories, with urban being 60 percent at 3. -- 4.38 million and urban being 40 percent at 2.9 million and then apportioning those grants as we have done historically among the various opportunities under those umbrellas, leaving out an indoor and enhancing both the urban outdoor and nonurban outdoor a little bit and enhancing by about 150,000 the Community Outdoor Outreach Program, that -- this is how basically we'd be coming back to you for the next couple of years with funding proposals.

And, again, the idea of not doing indoor was vetted with customers and they felt okay with that. It would have actually only given, for example, if we'd done an indoor apportionment at a 15 percent level, it would have only given a nonurban account about $650,000 and the nonurban account for indoor about $439,000. That would be about one grant for each of those programs and we just didn't feel as a staff and apparently our partners agreed with us that that was really a worthwhile exercise when we did have -- do have the flexibility by law to not do indoors if we so choose.

Now to get into the ranking systems. As I mentioned, all of the grants that we do involve a scores system associated with them. All the details about the specific changes that we're proposing are incorporated within the attachment, rather lengthy attachment and technical attachment. What I'm trying -- going to try to do for the next couple of minutes is just summarize some of the major proposed changes and most of these in the outdoor -- in the local park area are across all of the programs. In other words, outdoor recreation, small communities, and we're going ahead and making proposed changes in the indoor scoring systems even though we're not proposing funding for those programs.

Under local parks, underserved population, we're proposing to scale back the points. Eliminate actually points for serving elderly. Surveys and input that we've gotten, show us that the current trend is that elderly folks don't really have different recreational needs or desires than the rest of the general population. In place of that, we're proposing to add new points for projects that meet the needs of physically and mentally challenged citizens.

Sustainable design and development, we're proposing that we provide incentive and reward for priority based on the significance of the proposed sustainable design and development. Local park master plan, one of the things that's always been for a number of years that's been in place for our outdoor and indoor recreation grant programs is additional priority has been given to sponsors who had a locally produced and locally adopted systemwide master plan for their parks and recreation system.

We're not proposing to eliminate those points, but a slight reduction. Because one of the things that has -- that we've heard is that -- or a change and not a reduction, but a change -- is that when a sponsor was meeting more of their local master plan needs, are going further down the list on their local master plan needs. They weren't getting as many points as they thought that were appropriate, so we're proposing to make a change basically to go from giving -- rewarding the top five to the top three, right?

MS. LAGARDE: From the top three to the top five.

MR. HOGSETT: From the top three master plan needs to the top five, giving additional flexibility to local level for them to propose a project that meets more of their master plan needs.

Partnerships, we're proposing -- and this has to do primarily with match; but also over match when you're providing more than a 50 percent match for some of these projects, awarding points based on the number of non-sponsor partners, rather than the activities. The idea there is is that you're bringing more partners to the table as opposed to just providing outside match that is for different activities.

Recreation diversity, we're changing the point -- we're proposing to change the point award from a group set of categories to individual opportunities. Essentially, the way the scoring system currently works is if you're asking for a ball field, a tennis court, a ball field or a baseball field, a softball field, and a tennis court, those are all incorporated within a category known as sports and play fields and you only get one point for each -- instead of getting three points for each of those individual activities, you're only getting one point for meeting that category.

And we're suggesting that we move away from those categories and actually go to giving for each individual opportunity that you're providing, one single point credit per facility. Also, with those categories, it doesn't give us the opportunity as needs, for example, spray parks weren't a popular activity 10 to 15 years ago; but they've come on the scene now and yet they weren't contained with any -- within any of those categories. So give us the opportunity to be a little more flexible in terms of providing for more projects that provide more diversity, more recreational diversity.

Water based recreation, in the past we've been giving priority points based on a hierarchy of water. And what that means essentially is that we were categorizing water based on importance, based on its size. We started with Gulf coast frontage being the most important, working you're way down through a hierarchy of river, stream, pond, all the way down to wetlands. We didn't really feel -- and our -- and, frankly, input from our partners said that they didn't feel that that hierarchy was necessarily fair or appropriate. It's hard to have beach frontage in West Texas, for example.

So the proposed change is that we eliminate that hierarchy and in its place, give credit and promote projects based on their overall importance, based on aquatic habitat, providing new water access in places that it's currently limited, and providing linkage to water bodies. Funding history, we're proposing that if you've not ever had a grant in the past, that you are now -- we're proposing that you be awarded a few points. Hopefully, this will promote grantees that we've just never had any experience with and give them the opportunity to have a little higher priority than those who have had past experience.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Tim, can I make a comment on the --

MR. HOGSETT: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I have a concern. I think we should be concerned about awarding a point to a sponsor that's never received a grant before because there are some potential applicants out there who just don't take the time to take advantage of this process and I don't know why that entity, for example, ought to get a point, preference point if you will, simply because it sat back for years and get -- have that project elevate over an equally valid project from a different county just because the other county has been an active participant.

And instead, I'd like to suggest we perhaps consider some point that's just subjectivity with you and your team that maybe gives you a reason to bump somebody up on a subjective basis, rather than a objective -- not objective, but an automatic preference point just because the group has never applied. Am I missing something there?

MR. HOGSETT: Well, I think situations and conditions -- I think we're mainly talking about really small places here, first of all. I doubt if -- I can pretty much categorically tell you that the major metropolitan areas and most of the major communities in Texas have at one point or another received a grant, so they wouldn't qualify here. But in the really smaller places, administrations change, city councils change, Commissioner's courts change. This was just to not -- frankly, something that's been requested in some of our outreach efforts to give folks an opportunity that haven't been -- but do you have any, Dana, to --

MS. LAGARDE: Yeah. We've had several -- several cities and counties request this scoring criteria because they haven't been successful in getting a grant and the reason we did decide -- it's two points. And the reason we decided to put it out there was because two points isn't enough to bump up a poor application that wouldn't be a very good project, but it is enough to give that person or that county or city the bump that it might need to get funded.

But I like the idea of having some sort of different criteria that's a little more subjective, but I don't know how our partners would feel about that; but --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I don't -- and, Tim, you said well virtually every county and city has received a grant and we have administration changes. Well, just because the administration changes, that doesn't apply here. That just says you've never been funded before.

MR. HOGSETT: I don't think making a change here is going to hurt anybody's feelings. It won't hurt our feelings and staff's feelings, but --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I don't know how everybody else feels, but I'd rather see you have a point that you can -- you can add a point or two based on subjective criteria rather than have a mandatory point given just because this county or state has never before gotten a grant.

MR. HOGSETT: And I appreciate the idea of subjectivity, but I also want to be very careful in any appearance of subjectivity in this program. I think that's one of the features of the scoring system being really black and white that's been so successful about it. But point well taken and let us give a little thought to that and let us reach back out to -- through our process during this public review posting period and see if that is an issue for anybody.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Maybe if you presented it as a subjective point or two determined not just by one person. Maybe it's three or four people or a committee in your department where there's some representation.

MR. HOGSETT: That's --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I would feel better about it. But I think you should have some subjectivity to take into account this factor, but I just -- I'm not sure it ought to be automatic is all I'm saying. I'm asking us to think about this.

MR. SMITH: Okay. Well, I think we heard you on that. Let us contemplate it and maybe we can talk more about that, Tim and Dana, and then come back and visit with you on that.

MR. HOGSETT: Land acquisition, we're proposing a slight reduction in land acquisition priority. I think it's a misconception, but it seems to be a popular belief that in the current scoring system, that you have to do a land acquisition element of your project as well as a development element to be able to be successful.

We do have -- it is becoming rather rare with the existing scoring system to see a project funded without both acquisition and development being involved; but that's something that we've heard from a number of sponsors, that we really only need a development project and we don't have the need for land acquisition. So we're proposing to adjust slightly the amount of priority given for a land acquisition element of the project.

And finally linkage, slightly adjusting priority to encourage trail linkage of parks and natural resources that are in close proximity. Moving over to the Community Outdoor Outreach scoring system. Again, these are those program grants that provide opportunities to serve under -- introduce underserved populations to outdoor experiences. Project description, award points for an application that provides a detailed description of the scope of the project, goals and objectives, a risk assessment.

Essentially, although it may sound that that's something that is and it always has been required, we're proposing that we reward those projects that are very explicit about and provide very much specificity to our staff, for us to be able to better measure the outcomes and success of the projects. It's to encourage grantees, grant applicants, to be very, very careful about their thinking about how they're going to use these limited funds and to be very explicit.

We've found that, frankly, some of the grantees -- this is one -- this is an area and the area of a budget are the areas that we have to go back and ask the most questions about and get the most -- try to pry information out of grantees. These -- a lot of these sponsors are nonprofits, small nonprofits, and they're not as skilled and not as knowledgeable in terms of putting grant applications together and being able to articulate their needs. So the hope is here that it will reward folks that are really, really giving us a thorough description of what they're proposing to do and it will enable us to better measure the outcomes and successes.

Each application requires a resolution. That's basically the governing body endorsing the application and appointing someone to be the representative. We're proposing that if you don't have a resolution, that you're ineligible; but that if you are also within your resolution specifically calling out what the financial contributions are going to include and the governing body is adopting that, that we give you an additional point for doing that.

Priority for underserved population, this slightly increases the priority points awarded for projects targeted to serve ethnic minorities, females, and low income citizens. It's just furthering the objective, overall objective, of the Community Outdoor Outreach Program. Youth at risk, our grantees have told us that they have a hard time defining what youth at risk is. It's different things to different groups at different times. So we're eliminating the requirement that they define youth at risk and instead directing them towards things like projects that facilitate career development and mentoring programs, particularly in the natural resource field. I think this will help us and help our grantees in the diversity part of our mission, frankly.

Project action plan adds priorities for a detailed action plan. This is similar to what I was talking about previously. It rewards specificity to enable staff to better measure outcomes and successes. Budget summary adds a little bit of priority for a detailed budget summary, including itemized costs and enumerates any sponsor contributions that are above the grant request. As I mentioned, co-op grants do not require a match; but very often a sponsor will bring more to the table than what they're requesting from us and if they itemize that in the budget and give us a clearer picture of the overall scope of their project, we're going to reward them with some additional priority points.

And finally, similarly to what we talked about with the Local Park Program, awarding a point for sponsors that have never before been funded. One more thing I want to tell you about that we're really excited about, starting as early as this next review round, which will be announced, as I'd mentioned previously, in or around the first of May, we're going to have a new online system that will enable our grantees to apply for grants online, be able to actually manage their projects when they've been a successful applicant, and interact in many other ways with our staff. It will also be a tool that will replace a 20-year-old plus monitoring system that we've had in place that, frankly, crashes frequently, to be able to internally manage and update our grant administration.

Having said all of that, be glad to answer any questions; but our recommendation for you today is that you allow us to publish these proposed changes as found in Exhibit A in the Texas Register for public comment.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any questions? Ralph.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Tim, on page 30 of our booklet where you've got the drafting.

MR. HOGSETT: Uh-huh.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I don't understand --

MR. HOGSETT: I don't have page numbers on mine.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Let me bring it over to you. This is the -- under Section 61.134, we don't end with a -- usually it ends with citizens and I don't -- you stop at underserved. Underserved what?

MR. HOGSETT: Okay. Let me find that, and I'll give this back to you.



MR. HOGSETT: Thank you, sir.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: I've got a couple of questions, Tim.

MR. HOGSETT: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: And maybe I didn't understand. We talked about partnerships and I assume that's matching grants and you talk -- the partnership, you talk about the more partners that are involved, the more points they get; is that correct?


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Do we give more credit to for -- let's say, for example, we have a million dollar project and the community has raised $800,000 of that million out of different -- from the community, whether -- however it might be and they're asking for 200,000. Does that get more points than say somebody that's raised half of the amount, which I think that would require a dollar for dollar match normally?

MR. HOGSETT: All of the local park grant programs are 50 percent match, and what we -- what we look at is the scope of a project that they're requesting us to do within that match. Your example of a million dollar project, let's say they're asking for 500,000 for a 50 percent match for a million dollar project and they're bringing 500,000 to the table. It could be a combination of city funds, it could be donated land, it could be donated equipment and materials and then over and above that million dollars, they're bringing another couple of hundred thousand dollars into that.

We really don't have the means to quantify anything over that million dollar project that they're asking us to support. So I guess the short answer to your question is the partnerships that we're talking about within the existing and proposed scoring system are those which incorporate that match, as opposed to additional contributions over and above. I must say though it's very infrequent, particularly for larger development projects, given the kinds of constraints we have and the ability to fund projects, especially if we go, for example, with the outdoor nonurban grants from a 500,000 to a $400,000 match. There's very few $800,000 park development projects out there when you get to the end of the day.

Most of them are going to be multimillion dollar projects of which we're a smaller partner. But we don't have -- right now in our scoring system, we do not have any points associated with or the ability to give additional credit for a sponsor that goes over and above project plus match.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Well, it just seems to me that if the community or the county or whatever is asking for this grant has enough support locally that they've come up with a -- again, using a million dollar number where they've been able to get $800,000 through contributions and local -- that, you know, they're only asking us, let's say, for 200. To match 200 of their 200. There should be some -- obviously the community or whoever is asking for it has a lot of local support and I think that should be considered if they're able to raise a significant amount of the money locally and maybe that's not -- maybe it's not applicable. Maybe it doesn't happen.

MR. HOGSETT: We would call that overmatch, and we don't really account for that in the scoring system; but we could.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: It seems to me that gets back to the subjectivity option that would be able to help out what the Chairman is bringing up here.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: And, again, I don't know if it happens; but I could imagine that it could, from time to time, have a lot of community support. Just needs a little bit or a smaller portion to get it -- to get it to become reality. And that's just something to maybe think about. I don't know how the other Commissioners feel; but to me, community support and community dollars coming in is -- it would be -- I think we should consider.

MS. LAGARDE: Currently the two ways they get points for partnership is if they -- their match, their actual match is -- like if the entire match is raised in donations, then they get I think it's like 15 points and it's based on a percentage of the budget. So if they have half of their match come from donations, there is points associated with that.

The other way is that -- and what Tim was talking about here is the partnership letters, and those letters are for above and beyond the grant. So if they're doing a parking lot, but it's not part of the grant funds, we are not paying for that and they have a partnership letter from the county -- this is a city and the county is going to pay for that. Then they would get one point for that partnership, but it's not based on money. It's only based on the actual partnership.

So am I hearing that you would like to see it based on the amount of money that's above and beyond or...

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: I don't know. I just think it should be considered. I think it's something that -- I don't know if you should get points or not; but, again, I think it's -- if the community or the municipality or whatever, if they're -- if they bought in and they're putting money in and say some of the private citizens are donating land or whatever, I think -- and they just need a little bit to get over, I think, to get to where they need to be, I think it should be considered.

And maybe you do. You say you're giving 15 points for having more outside participation as opposed to the municipality that's asking?

MS. LAGARDE: Correct. If it's donated or raised money, non-city or non-county funds, then there's points associated; but that's just part of the project, the actual match. And if they're above and beyond the match, like they're putting in a million and they only needed 500,000, then right now we're just limited to the actual partnership letter. Not -- we don't take into account the amount of money that's over and beyond.

MR. HOGSETT: I think I would want to err in the direction of the -- if we're going to give overmatch credit, that it be based on contributions other than cash from their treasury. Because I would hate for it to be points associated more with their affluence as a community and their ability to tax their citizens at a higher rate and be able to have more -- or because of their development and their growth, be more affluent than others.

But let us think -- let us -- let's -- the idea of giving credit for communitywide support and additional contribution, I think that merits us giving some thought to.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Let's think about it, and maybe you and I can visit at some point in time.


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any other comments? Okay. I think that the proposed recommendation, the only change I heard is on the community outreach grants, leaving it at $50,000, as lowering that $30,000 proposed. Is that -- is that correct? Does the Commission agree with that change? Giving you a little more flexibility. Okay, with the -- where am I right now? Okay.

Okay, if there's no further discussion, I will authorize the staff to publish the proposed rule in the Texas Register for the required public comment period. Thank you.

MR. HOGSETT: Thank you very much.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: All right. Work Session Item No. 7, 2014-2015 Statewide Hunting Proclamation, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Register, Clayton Wolf and Kevin Davis.

MR. WOLF: Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, I'm Clayton Wolf with the Wildlife Division and with me this morning is Kevin Davis, the Law Enforcement Division. We're going to tag team this presentation with proposed changes to the statewide hunting proclamation, where we'll be requesting permission to publish in the Texas Register for your consideration at the March meeting.

This presentation will basically be an overview of what we presented in November. The first regulations deal or proposed regulation changes deal with Mule deer. You may recall from November, we have three Mule deer season structures in Texas. In the Panhandle, we have two seasons. A 16-day season and a 9-day season. They both begin on the Saturday before Thanksgiving and then in the Trans-Pecos, we have a season that begins the Friday after Thanksgiving and runs for 17 connective days.

And just like we did several years ago, our staff has identified some counties out there that have some small numbers of Mule deer. They're huntable populations. Particularly when you consider that the regulation would basically be buck only and our staff believes that those counties can sustain a buck-only harvest and so if you'll look there on the east side of the Panhandle, the county Knox County is highlighted in blue.

What we are proposing to go to the Register with is to propose the 16-day Panhandle season in Knox County. And then if you move to the west of that, the tier of counties there including Castro, Hale, Lubbock, and Lynn Counties, those counties we would propose to have a 9-day Panhandle season.

In November, I believe I got a question about, you know, what were we hearing from folks up there or had we heard anything as far as receptivity to such a proposal and so we put some feelers out there. We haven't officially scoped this at any kind of a scoping meeting. We would do that at public hearings. But the feedback we're getting from both our Law Enforcement and Wildlife staff is that this season would be well received. Not to say that there might not be some opposition to it, but we believe more folks in favor than opposed.

The next proposed change relates to our general season antlerless Mule deer permits. These permits may be issued for general -- for the general season for antlerless Mule deer. These are not MLD permits. In fact, some of the provisions related to these permits are that they may not used during the archery only season and they are -- and individual hunters are restricted to the county bag limit. Because our staff issue these permits in areas that can sustain additional antlerless harvest, what we're suggesting is to change a couple of those provisions to make them more similar to MLDs in that we would propose to sever the antlerless permit bag limit from the county bag limit. So in other words, if a hunter has that permit on them, they can -- as many permits as they have is as many Mule deer, antlerless Mule deer that they could shoot and then also we would propose to make these permits valid during the archery only season.

Our next proposed change is related to Desert Bighorn sheep. You may recall in November, I talked about how we survey Desert Bighorn sheep. We do that a little bit differently in where we actually go and look at specific mountain ranges and traverse those at different altitudes, basically trying to get a complete count of sheep on that mountain range. Obviously, we miss some. But when we see a harvestable ram, a ram that is of older age class, a mature ram, we denote that and we issue permits for that ram to the landowner that owns the property where the ram is standing.

Those permits are valid for the entire 12 months of the year. However, most folks try to capitalize on the cooler temperatures and get out there early and do their hunting. Occasionally, we will have someone that, for whatever reason, doesn't get to utilize that permit until August and historically this has resulted in a couple of minor conflicts. As you might imagine, if our staff is out there surveying a mountain range and we're in there really close to the cliff faces looking for sheep and we're not aware that someone is hunting sheep in there, that's going to disrupt a hunt and we obviously do not want to do that.

But also if you think about this, if someone is hunting say in early August and we have yet to survey that property -- I mean if we are surveying early August and they have yet to hunt out there yet, it is possible that we could see a ram that they're going to hunt later in the year and actually issue two permits for the same ram. And so what we would suggest is to simply remove -- take one month off the season. Take the month of August off of that season. It is -- it is -- it is utilized very little for ram hunting already and then this will alleviate this conflict of us surveying during the hunting season.

The next proposal I'll turn over to Kevin Davis.

MR. DAVIS: Good morning, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Kevin Davis. I'm with the Law Enforcement Division. Today we're seeking to relax the regulation a little bit regarding the possession of Bighorn sheep horns or skulls found in the wild.

Basically right now the way the regulation reads, it requires the person who finds those horns or skulls to communicate with the Department within 48 hours and obtain a plug that is used to identify that horn or skull as lawfully obtained from the wild. And part of that requirement places a burden on the landowner to provide an affidavit attesting to the fact that the -- where the skulls were found and the date they were found.

This requirement was placed in effect in 2003 in an effort to give the Department some data surrounding the overall status of population. However, the Bighorn sheep are doing so well at this time with their restoration effort, that we do not feel that it's necessary to place this burden on the landowner who may or may not be present at the time that the skull is located. So we're seeking to just remove the portion of the regulation that requires the affidavit from the landowner.

MR. WOLF: Our next proposal relates to mandatory check stations. Of course in Texas, we do not have very many mandatory check stations like some of the other states do for reporting harvested game. We do have -- you may be aware of our special season that we're -- our experimental season we're running on Pronghorn right now which is a mandatory check station and we also have mandatory check stations for CWD collection out west.

But other than that, the only other mandatory check station that we have is for the harvest of Eastern Wild turkeys and this has been in place since 90s in East Texas. But just as in other states, other states are recognizing or desiring to use mobile technologies. Because right now when someone kills a turkey in East Texas, they have 24 hours to check that bird -- to self-check that bird at a check station, which on the average is about two locations per county and they basically fill out a duplicate form. One they leave at the site and one they take with them and that's their proof that they have registered that bird.

But we are -- what we are contemplating doing, in fact, we're already working with programmers in our IT Division to develop web applications and mobile apps that basically would allow folks to check their birds online or with their smart device and what so we would propose is that websites/mobile applications be an approved means for fulfilling the mandatory harvest requirements for Eastern turkeys.

And just as a side note, as programmers are working on this, we recognize the need for data collection for many other species, even if it is voluntary. And so they are also adding many other modules to this so that hopefully we can get folks that have this application to report their White-tailed deer harvest, Pronghorn harvest, etcetera.

And the last proposal I will cover relates to squirrel season in Texas. We basically have three seasons in Texas. Out west, we do not have a season. The majority of the state, the central part of the state, we have no closed season and no bag limit. And then there's about a dozen counties or actually a dozen counties there in the Blackland Prairie where you no closed season, but a bag limit of ten. And then the most popular area of the state for squirrel hunting is East Texas, and we actually have a split season. We have a May season and then our fall season, which begins in October and runs through the first Sunday in February for ten days. And so to add opportunity and to simplify the regulations, what we would propose is to consolidate those 12 counties into the season or propose that they have no closed season, no bag limit. And then in the eastern part of the state to expand opportunity, extend that season from the first Sunday in February to the last Sunday in February.

As I said, squirrel hunting is quite a tradition in East Texas; but with the success of deer restoration, we have a lot more deer hunters in the woods than we had several decades ago and obviously squirrel hunters are more mobile. Many of them have dogs for chasing squirrels and they don't want to disrupt deer hunters and deer hunters don't want to be disrupted. So generally speaking, those folks that are out there chasing squirrels with a dog will wait until the general season is closed and so they don't get out there until after the first Sunday in January, generally speaking, and so this would add a few more weeks to their hunting season.

And I'll turn this back over to Kevin.

MR. DAVIS: Okay. We're also responding to a petition from the public seeking the ability to hunt squirrels with air guns and so we have visited with surrounding states and with the industry that makes air guns and come up with some reasonable standards for allowing the hunt of squirrels with air guns.

Now, those parameters are basically an air gun designed to be fired from the shoulder, .177 caliber, and a minimum muzzle velocity of 600 feet per second. And we're good with that proposal there.

We're also seeking to clarify some rules regarding the possession of firearms during archery only open season for turkeys and deer. And basically current regulations prohibit the possession of firearms while hunting those species during archery only open season. Traditionally, we have enforced -- we have allowed people to carry concealed weapons during the archery only open season and handled that in an in-house policy setting in Law Enforcement.

We have actually had that in our Outdoor Annual for some time, specifying that persons carrying a concealed handgun license and operating under that license could carry those weapons while during the archery only open season hunting those species. The original proposal was strictly to place that into the regulation based on comments we were getting from the public that were asking where is that in the regulation.

However, under the auspice that discussion surrounding guns in Texas generally generate more discussion, we have floated that out a little bit. We actually visited with the White-tailed Advisory Committee -- White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee yesterday and floated this proposal out there to them and received some response and some of the response was positive. Some of it was negative.

But Chairman Bass actually voiced a suggestion, if you will, on the fact that he does want to clarify the regulation; but would suggest that we might look at removing the prohibition of possession weapons from the wording and just clarify that lawful hunting -- hunting with archery -- lawful archery equipment is what's allowed during lawful archery only open seasons. So having said that, I wanted to share that with you guys and seek input from y'all today on that proposal.

MR. WOLF: And that concludes our presentation. We'd be glad to take any questions.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: What did -- what did Chairman Bass say again? What was he -- he didn't want people carrying concealed weapons while they're bow hunting?

MR. DAVIS: He -- oh, he wanted to remove the prohibition from carrying weapons. He -- what he was suggesting was to just remove the wording and define lawful archery equipment for the take --

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: For anybody, whether they have a concealed handgun or not --

MR. DAVIS: Uh-huh.


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Did you-all consult with our resident squirrel expert, Mr. Scott, on these squirrel hunting changes?


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any thought on the concealed handgun versus just allowing anybody to carry a gun in the field? That's the way I understand it. Any archery --

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Chairman Bass, his suggestion was just eliminate any prohibition of carrying a firearm?

MR. DAVIS: Basically, he laid out a scenario. I'll be glad to share it with you if you'd like. So he laid out a scenario for personal protection. In other words, he's out there hunting and worried about something that might go wrong out there and wanted to be able to lawfully carry a firearm on private property basically is what he's speaking of in this situation and what he suggested was would it limit Law Enforcement's ability to enforce a means and methods if we just remove the wording about guns -- about the prohibition of guns altogether is basically how he worded that.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Now I do have a question. You said on private lands. So does that mean we're excluding WMAs and everything?

MR. DAVIS: If we were to adjust the regulation, I believe what we would do is just adjust the regulation and not include language about guns at all. Just define the means of take during archery only open season.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: That's what I'm getting at. I don't know how you -- if you've got such a broad spectrum, you know. And, okay, I can't do it here, I can do it there. If we're going to do it like that, I think it needs to be uniform.

MR. WOLF: Right. And the public hunting regulations are a different set of regulations; but generally speaking, you know, we try not to create any confusion by having --


MR. WOLF: -- varying regulations. I mean obviously our public hunting lands are -- they are different scenario, you know, and we do require hunter orange, etcetera. But in this particular case, I think we would have to seriously consider any confusion that might be added and if Law Enforcement -- you know, obviously it's a matter of enforcing the means of take. So we would have to consult with them and see if that created any additional complexities on public hunting lands that would require maintaining the regulation when we didn't do that on private lands.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: That would be my only concern.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: With some of the border security issues now, I can see where there may be landowners in some parts of the state that feel like it may be necessary along with a bow and arrow in your hand to maybe have a pistol in the event some unlikely situation occurred. So I can sure see where that could be a situation in some areas, so I don't have a problem with it.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I've got -- would that impact your ability to enforce the rules during archery season? I know you run across cases where an animal has been shot and an arrow is stuck in it. Does this cause you any concern?

MR. DAVIS: We're not concerned with our ability to enforce the method of take. We feel like we can investigate that thoroughly, and let the investigation take us where it leads us.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I've got no -- I've got no problem with it.


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Okay, if no more -- any more discussion?

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: You can area carry any kind of firearm?

MR. DAVIS: We're not going to limit what you carry with you. Just what you take. What you use for means of take.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Sounds like the Commission is good with that change.

MR. SMITH: Then I guess, Commissioner, let us take a look at your suggestion about making sure we don't have, you know, confusion or ambiguity on the public lands, WMAs and state parks, that may present a little different scenario. So maybe if you could just give us a little latitude to look into that and come back and talk to you about that.


MR. SMITH: Okay, thanks.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Okay. If no further discussion, then I'll authorize the staff to publish proposed changes in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.

MR. WOLF: Thank you.


Work Session Item No. 8, 2014-15 Statewide Recreational and Commercial Fishing Proclamation, Request to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Register, Ken, Lance Robinson, and Jeremy Leitz.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Good morning, Commissioners. My name is Ken Kurzawski at Inland Fisheries Division, and I'm here today to go over our proposed changes to the freshwater fishing regulations. Most of these are -- track what we presented in November when we were discussing our thoughts on what would be coming up for this year.

First one is the harvest regulations on our border waters with Louisiana. We standardized numerous regulations there in 2001. This contains the waters Caddo, Toledo Bend, and the Sabine River. At that time, we changed the catfish regulations. We put a 50-fish bag for Blues and Channels and we had the limits of only five Blues over 20 inches that could be harvested.

Since that implementation of that regulation, we've noticed that Toledo Bend due to an extensive fishery for Blues by anglers using trotlines, they're harvesting a number of the large fish. They're catching a high proportion of Blues longer than 20 inches. Both staffs on both sides of the reservoirs have gone out there and sampled those populations and sampled the anglers and confirmed the situation that's out there and received a number of comments from anglers that believe the limits are too restrictive in this situation.

Our staffs have gone back over there and made a -- we've proposed a change that we would move that limit of five fish to -- from 20 inches to 30 inches. We believe the Blue catfish abundance can support the additional harvest and that anglers seem to have a preference for going to the 30 inches, five fish, rather than allowing them to take ten fish over 20 inches. We think the results there will be we'll be able to provide some additional harvest with no detriment to the Blue or Channel catfish populations. These limits really weren't impacting the catfish, Channel catfish populations. They don't get up -- basically up to that size in large quantities and it would have minimal impacts on Caddo and the lower Sabine River.

Next, we have Tradinghouse Creek Reservoir, a reservoir near Waco. It had in the past been stocked with Red drum. In those situations on freshwater reservoirs that we've been stocking, we had put a special 20-inch minimum length limit. The power plant has ceased operation. The stocking has been discontinued because the conditions for survival of the Red drum no longer exist. There's few, if any, Red drum surviving there; so we're going to just basically remove that exception and have it revert back to statewide limits.

Next on a small lake near South Austin, Lake Kyle, a lake in the City of Kyle Park. Currently, we have some -- a 14- to 21-inch slot in Largemouth bass and it's also under the community fishing lake regulations, which is a catfish limit of five fish, no minimum length, and pole and line only. When that was initially opened a few years ago, our goal was to protect an excellent bass population that existed there. When it opened, we did -- it opened with that excellent bass population and Sunfish. We experienced a pretty substantial use. The slot limit did a good job of maintaining the bass population, but the Bluegill and Redear sunfish populations were overharvest. We had a situation there where we had some control of access by the -- as part of a city park and this could provide an opportunity to manage for a unique fishery to focus more on catch than harvest.

So our proposal on that is to implement a catch-and-release fishing for bass, catfish, and sunfish and our goals and benefits there is to provide sort of a unique opportune -- unique fishery for the Austin area to catch some large sunfish and catfish along with the large bass and this would sort of -- we're looking at this as sort of a new way to create a sustainable fishery in smaller urban areas. This is different from our Neighborhood Fishing Program where we're basically stocking fish in there, hoping people to catch and harvest them in short order.

Next on the Guadalupe River below Canyon Lake, we have a couple of different regulations there. We have the statewide limits for Rainbow trout and Brown trout, five trout of any size, and we also have a special limit there, an 18-inch minimum length limit with one fish daily bag and in order to harvest a trout in that -- in this section, you would have to catch it on artificial lures. This is a map depicting the stretch of the Guadalupe River below Canyon where most of the fishing occurs. We have that zone of statewide harvest up near the dam, right below the Canyon Lake dam. It's a very popular spot for anglers to fish and harvest Rainbow trout. The 18-inch minimum is on that section in the middle and then after that, the statewide comes into play again.

Most years, water from Canyon Lake stay below 70 degrees and this allows some oversummer survival of trout. Looking at that situation there, the temperatures remain optimal for -- downstream for about 4 miles, which is just above where our special regulation zone currently starts. And staff believes that reducing harvest in that stretch above could potentially enhance the development of a year-round fishery to keep some more fish in that -- over the summer and increase oversummering survival of trout.

What we're proposing to do is enact changes in a section 800 yards below the Canyon dam release. We're going to leave the area where the -- a lot of anglers go up and harvest fish, leave that. Not change the regulations there and continue that down to the upper end of the current regulation zone at the Highway 306 bridge. We plan to implement a 12- to 18-inch slot limit, retain the five-fish bag, and also retain the one fish over 18 inches and the harvest by artificial lures only.

This is that map updated with the proposed new section, which shows that area and also maintaining the area of the statewide limits in yellow right below the dam. We think this has the potential to increase the size and survival of trout where temperatures are most conducive for that oversummer survival, which we're looking for, and we will maintain an opportunity to harvest in that section with using the 12-inch -- 12- to 18-inch slot. Many of the trout that we harvest are below 12 inches. People will -- those will still be eligible for harvest. The Guadalupe River Trout Unlimited stocks a number of fish in there and those tend to be larger and they would -- they would most -- most of those would fall within the slot limit.

We do have some concerns there about restricting the harvest and methods of use in that section, which previously weren't -- it does sort of increase -- it does increase the complexity of regulations; but certainly if you've ever fished trout in any of the mountain states, you that trout regulations tend to be a little -- tend to be on the more complex side; but for Texas, this is a little different.

We do have one additional item that we didn't talk about last time. We have some rules to clean up. Last year if you remember, we made a change on Canyon Lake Project No. 6 in Lubbock. We enacted regulations to mirror community fishing lakes. There's a series of other lakes within Lubbock there that fall under the 75-acre limit for CFLs. Canyon Lake Number -- Project No. 6 was above that and we wanted to standardize the regulation. We didn't get those correctly entered into the proclamation, so we need to go back there and enact the five-fish bag for Channel and Blue and add the two pole limit and then also we had some -- a similar situation in San Angelo. We had enacted some CFL regulations there a number of years ago and we wanted to go back in there and add the two pole limit to those -- to that -- those sections of the river, also.

Before I take any questions from you, at our briefing in November, the Commission expressed some concerns about the possible overharvest of Gar. Especially during the spawning periods. As you know, we have made Gar research a priority and have made great strides in our understanding of Gar since we implemented that regulation in 2009. We recognized even with all these efforts, our knowledge is still incomplete. There is still much we need to, you know, learn about Gar populations and to maintain those and protect them into the future. We're committed to continue to work on those and staff have been actively working on that and also been actively working with other states to try and get information on that.

There's a technical committee for Alligator Gar among other states that we are active -- active in and our staff has contributed much to that. Among some of our major data needs is finding a way to identify the universe of Gar anglers and to obtain information on their harvest. Our first step in that direction would be to create a permit to identify these anglers, which would create a mean to obtain some harvest data from them. Such a permit would be required if an angler, for instance, wishes to harvest a Gar.

Arkansas has recently implemented a similar permit system and we are discussing with them and other states the pros and cons of such a permit system. The Commission also asked us and discussed ways to explore ways to limit the harvest of Gar during the spawning when aggregations of spawning fish would be most vulnerable. We do not yet have the information to identify specific spawning locations or the specific time of year when Gars spawn, but are actively working to obtain that data.

We could devise a regulatory strategy similar to what we have in place on the coast where we have closures of fishing that are triggered based on the potential for freeze events. Based on our work on the middle Trinity River, we would use such metrics as river stage and time of year as a surrogate for the temperature to estimate when spawning could have potential to occur. If water levels exceeded or predicted to exceed predetermined levels such as high water or flooding events, we could use this information as justification to mandate a catch-and-release of Alligator Gar for specified length of time to protect the spawning fish from harvest.

If someone additionally was to observe some spawning fish and we were able to verify that in a particular area, we could also use that as a consideration for a closure. This closure would only be invoked when those conditions are favorable to be spawning and years that when those conditions wouldn't occur, we wouldn't necessarily invoke that.

Again we, you know, appreciate the Commission's great interest in Alligator Gar and, you know, we seek your input on how to proceed for some other additional measures to protect Gar and I would like to answer any questions or take your comments.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Commissioner Duggins.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I think that the reports that we've received recently and then going back several years, illustrate that we only get a recruitment of this fish three to four years out of every ten and we don't appear to have had any recruitment since, what, about 2007?

MR. KURZAWSKI: At least on the middle Trinity, Dan Daugherty's information.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So, you know, we've got seven years of age structure completely missing with this fish and given that these fish, the spawn -- to spawn, have to be mature adults that are 20, 30, 40 years old, and those are the biggest fish, I think we should authorize the Executive Director by emergency rule to, if he chooses based on data from his staff, to implement emergency closures in any area of the state where spawning conditions might exist this spring so that he can then determine based on hydrological data if it's appropriate, for example, to use an example, Lake Texoma, where the state of Oklahoma, as I understand it, already by rule closes all Gar fishing during what it declared to be a spawn season.

But since we don't know exactly when that might occur, in order not to unduly limit any closure, I would say let's give the Executive Director the authority to use the emergency rule to close it should those conditions exist and make it statewide in terms of the potential area of closure. It doesn't mean you would close it statewide. You might only -- should you choose to close it, do it in a section of the Trinity or in Texoma, depending on where rainfall has sufficiently occurred to flood vegetation. But if you see the video of these fish that we were shown, it was at Texoma --


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- I mean the backs of these fish are out of water. And I wouldn't limit it to -- I would say all fishing is closed so we're not segregating out bow fisherman from rod and reel. Let's just protect the fish during the spawn. That's just my suggestion.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Well, we do -- we do mirror that closure on Texoma in our rules. So in the upper end of Texoma during the month of May, harvest of Gar is prohibited; so we did --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, I wasn't aware of that. But I still stand by --


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- my recommendation that we --

MR. KURZAWSKI: And you're suggesting that we would eliminate, you know, taking or attempting to take?


MR. KURZAWSKI: Not just harvest?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Just eliminate all fishing, Alligator Gar fishing, for whatever week, period of time or day's period of time the Executive Director may determine is appropriate if the spawning conditions are present.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Would we be -- are you suggesting we do that on our current -- the authority we have in Chapter 12 to issue like we're doing with the emergency orders on Zebra mussel?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Let's ask Ann, because I think she can specify what we're talking about where the Commission directs it or authorizes -- delegates it rather to the Executive Director.

MS. BRIGHT: We can do this under probably both authority. I mean just the authority to set seasons and bag limits, as well as the emergency rule making authority. Kind of -- it's like the same belt and suspenders. So, yeah, I do think we have that authority and we can do that.



COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: I do have a -- quite a deal of concern with, you know, all establishing or stopping the harvest or the means of capture when we have not yet seen the data or the research that actually proves this is absolutely necessary. In other words, I do not disagree with the Vice-Chairman on the fact that, you know, the proper measurements have -- or should be established. But I do disagree on establishing or stopping ways of capture, ways of means, whatever we want to call it based on not, you know, substantiated information. Am I being clear?

I think we need to -- I mean Alligator Gar, we all have or may have different opinions. I mean they've been here forever, and I'm sure they will be here when we're all gone. Most of the people that I talk to, I have gotten several calls actually since I got into this Commission regarding this. Mostly anglers, you know, concerned about Alligator Gar, you know, eating the other fish, the game fish.

So I would suggest that before we decide to, you know, stop the fishing, the capture, the taking by any means, we are able to substantiate that this is a step that needs to be taken, you know. And by that I mean substantiate that with thorough research that, you know, doesn't leave any doubt on that; but just a comment.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Let me react if I may to that. I mean we do know that if you take a Gar with a bow and arrow, it's fatal.


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And you do know if you take a 5- or 6-foot fish out, that's a 40-, 50-year-old fish. You can't replace that, and we're not -- if we don't have recruitment every year, you're going to lose an entire age class and so when -- we do know that they are very vulnerable. If you can see this video, unfortunately we didn't have it today; but if you saw the video, you could see unmistakably how vulnerable the fish is during the spawn.

So I don't know that you need any more data to know it's vulnerable during the spawn and that if you take out -- you don't know which fish you're shooting. You can't tell whether you're shooting a 2-foot fish or a 9-foot fish because you can't -- you just can't tell. It's slightly underwater. And so I don't think we need more data to know it needs protection during the spawn. We're not -- I'm not suggesting that we cut back on the one-a-day limit at this time. I think that's what Ken is saying we're going to look at trying to getting further harvest data perhaps through some sort of permit system or a Red fish tag, something like that.

But in terms of trying to protect this fish during the spawn, this is the only way you can do it and just to shut it down for a very short period of time --

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: I agree with you on that. What my point was, you know, assuming we know when the spawn is, I thought I agreed with you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, we won't know -- first of all, we don't know whether there will be a spawn unless we have enough rain to flood vegetation because what we do -- we've heard from Ken and his colleagues is you've got to have flooded vegetation to have the appropriate spawning conditions and that only -- as they've said, it only occurs about three out of every ten years. So first, you've got to have it and then they'll have to determine where it occurs.

It's likely to be in the May timeframe, but it could be late April. It could be as late as early June, but it would only be for a few weeks where the Executive Director, based on input from Gary's department, would close it. And it may not be statewide. For example, you referred you've gotten calls from people about Gar depredating bass. I think we've all gotten those, and that pertains to Falcon Lake I'm not sure that can be biologically demonstrated, but you might leave Falcon Lake alone on this.

I think we're more concerned at this point about the Trinity, which is a prime watershed and you've got the Neches, what, the Sabine --

MR. SMITH: Sabine.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- areas. So I mean it's not a done deal. It would just -- it would allow them that flexibility if those conditions arise and I do think it's important that we protect these big fish when they're so easy to take.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: No, that part I don't disagree with you. I think I -- I'm completely on board with that. Again, my only concern is making every possible effort to know when the spawning time is, you know, before we just decide to start shutting down a season or here or there because we believe that may be the case. That's my point.

COMMISSIONER JONES: One of the things -- maybe what we -- one of the things that we probably should do is maybe a combination of two things. One, along with our study of the spawn, the spawning season, the effect of the take and the research that we're currently doing, do some additional research on some of the concerns that we've been getting about some of the specific areas, like Lake Falcon and some of these others, so that we can make sure that we address both sides of the issue. Because as we all know, there are those in the state of Texas who feel pretty strongly the only good Alligator Gar is a dead Alligator Gar and I don't know whether that's based on scientific research or just a thought.

So I personally would like to have a bit more research on are these claims substantiated. I mean there's fear out there that the Alligator Gar is going to decimate the bass population of Lake Falcon and maybe other lakes. I don't know. And that -- any time I say "I don't know" and I'm getting ready to make a vote about something, it makes me a little nervous. So I would like to have a little more information one way or the other to substantiate whether or not we're getting accurate reports of Alligator Gar attacking bass and other such game fish.

And then at the same time, while we come up with a permanent, more permanent solution for the spawn and whether or not, you know, there is take in the spawn, maybe we should allow some flexibility. But I would say before there's -- before there's action, we need to be alerted that this is about to happen and this is the substantiation that we have for it because it may not wait until the next meeting. And that's all I'm saying, and I understand what Ralph is saying. If something happens before we meet again and we come up with a more concrete rule or regulation, then I'm okay with that; but I would like to know ahead of time because if we adopt that, we're going to get phone calls and people are going to wonder what's going on and what are you doing and you haven't -- you know, you haven't come to -- you haven't gone through your full process for a rule or regulation.

So I'm okay with the concept, but I would like to have a heads up.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: If it happens you mean?

COMMISSIONER JONES: If it happens. If the spawn doesn't happen, then there's no rule. There's nothing.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: The point of making it public now would be to give everybody a heads up that it's like -- that it could occur this spring should we get spawning conditions in hopefully the entire state. I hope the whole state gets deluged with rain. But we -- just to give everybody a heads up this could occur and so they've got some notice. In the meantime, we continue to work on long-term studies about do we need to continue to allow people to kill one of these a day. I personally have some concern over how long that's going to last before the fish are gone. Just all you've got to do is some simple math. There are not many 40-, 50-, 60-year-old Alligator Gar if everybody out there takes one a day and kills it.


MR. KURZAWSKI: We certainly have heard from the anglers down at Falcon about the Gar, and our staff has been working down there. They're embarking on study to get some of that information and I've been with the Department long enough that we had concerns on Sam -- Lake Sam Rayburn in the 80s. Anglers were concerned about the Gar were eating the bass there and we did an extensive food habit study on those and they took some -- they're a top predator. They certainly take some Gar, but they're primarily eating what's abundant in those prey fishes, gizzard shad, carp, other things. And as the Commissioner mentioned, they've been around here for a long time and they're part of the ecosystem and, you know, top predators don't typically wipe out their prey species. So our concerns there, there may be some limited effects; but that's not -- you know, the studies that have been done have shown that's -- they do take some bass, but they're taking most abundant prey species, so that's not a major concern; but certainly the anglers down there at Falcon and the people who'd like to harvest some more Gar have other concerns.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Do we need to do anything at the Commission to give you the -- issue an Executive Order to close areas for limited periods of time in spawning of the Gar?

MR. SMITH: So, Chairman, I think what you need to do is to author us -- authorize us to go forward with the proposed rule that would allow for the opportunity to implement that Executive Order, you know, based on obviously good data from, you know, Inland Fisheries and subject to notification of the Commission ahead of time. And so I think that we can put forward a proposed rule on that front, get comment, and then we'd come back in March for your consideration of a final rule.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: This is just on the spawning?

MR. SMITH: I was just talking about spawning. Obviously, you've got other issues here to authorize us to go forward as well.

Ann, do you have any suggestions how we might specifically word that either with the statewide or independent of that?

MS. BRIGHT: What we could probably do is sort of go on dual tracks where there would be a proposal that would set some parameters and essentially authorize the Executive Director to through Executive Order close harvest in certain areas of the state or during certain periods of time. So that would be a proposed rule.

At the same time, I think that the Commission has been very clear that the Executive Director should be authorized to close harvest in the event -- in the event we have a spawning event before the Commission has an opportunity to adopt these rules. Under the current authority, the current emergency rule making authority, the Executive Director I think can do that. Especially when he's got the backing of the Commission. So we can -- I guess what I'm saying is I believe we have a way to deal with the situation in the event that a spawn occurs before the Commission is given the opportunity to adopt the rules.

MR. SMITH: And so then what --

MS. BRIGHT: Does that help?

MR. SMITH: -- I'd think we would add to that, Ann, and not, you know, whether that's in rule or not is that we'd notify the Commission of that planned action, just like we've done on other issues associated with, you know, closing fishing on the coast during freeze events or when we discovered Zebra mussels in Lake Belton, there was an emergency order enacted there and so that's obviously an easy addition to this.

MS. BRIGHT: And it sounds like that's really sort of a stopgap.


MS. BRIGHT: Just to get us through the point in time when the Commission can adopt a proposal.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I think I'm hearing what I want to hear because I share Ralph's concerns. But the notification, are you asking for approval? Because I'm on the Trinity and if there's a -- there hasn't been a flood event in the lower Trinity in years and I hope there's one soon, but you're not going to have time to get around to everybody and ask for their approval, so. But if there is a flooding situation which would cause spawning, I would sure like to see the season closed during that event.

COMMISSIONER JONES: What I -- I think what -- and if I'm not mistaken, I think we have to vote on giving you the emergency authority, don't we?

MR. SMITH: I think that would be the most prudent thing do, Commissioner --


MR. SMITH: -- in March.

COMMISSIONER JONES: So our vote -- what?

MS. BRIGHT: In March.

MR. SMITH: You would vote on that in March. This is not -- this is simply a proposal that you would authorize us to go forward with, get public comment, and then come back to you in March with a vote on this broader emergency rule making authority.

COMMISSIONER JONES: What happens between now and March?

MS. BRIGHT: Okay. Can I address that?

MR. SMITH: Sure.

MS. BRIGHT: There's really kind of two things going on here. One is something that would be in a rule that would talk about spawning seasons and all of that and that would be what the Commission would adopt in March.


MS. BRIGHT: Similarly to how we've handled other emergency rule making matters, if there is a spawn between now and then, there is some authority for the Executive Director to enact an emergency rule, obviously with notification to the Commission. So it would be -- there is independent emergency rule making authority if required to protect a species.

COMMISSIONER JONES: So they don't -- we don't need to vote on giving him the emergency rule authority. He's already got it.

MS. BRIGHT: That's correct. And what the proposal that would -- that the Commission would be asked to consider in March would do, would be to help put some parameters on that and allow him to close the season without actually doing an emergency rule; but just through Executive Order.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Right. So the only issue that we're discussing is between now and March, if something were to happen, rain --

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: That's why I'm hearing two different things.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Right. If something were to happen, he's already got the authority to issue an emergency rule. What my suggestion was if before he issues that emergency rule, just make sure he sends notice to us so we know he's about to issue an emergency rule. I wouldn't want to find out --


COMMISSIONER JONES: -- about his issuance of an emergency rule in the paper the next morning. I would just like to get an e-mail or something that says, hey, we got rain, it's flooding in the Trinity or whatever, our scientists have discovered that the conditions are right for spawning and they are, in fact, are spawning or whatever, I'm issuing the rule.

MS. BRIGHT: And for clarification --

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I'm comfortable with that.


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Well, that's the same thing that you were talking about. We've -- you've got the same deal for the Red fish. When we have a freeze and they're --


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: -- living in them deep holes.


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: And, you know, but you did notify us two years ago before you did it. So I'm agreeing with what you're saying. You know, we at least need to --

MR. SMITH: You bet.

COMMISSIONER JONES: A little heads up.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: We need to know, but we don't need him to wait for our feedback is my point.


MS. BRIGHT: And just for clarification on -- any time that there's been an emergency rule adopted, there's always been a notification of the Commission or at least in my tenure. You will recall recently when Zebra mussels were discovered in Lake Belton, there was an emergency rule to impose some of the draining requirements and notify the Commission; but again, that was necessary to protect the species.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Thank you, Ann. Thank you Ken. Ann, by the way --

COMMISSIONER JONES: The difference is -- the difference is everybody is against those mussels, but not everybody is against those Gar.

MS. BRIGHT: Duly noted.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: I would like to point out, Ann, I really like the color of your jacket. It looks very lovely on you.

MS. BRIGHT: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: It's very nice. Because I think that there's going to be a lengthy discussion on saltwater fish, particularly flounder and Speckled trout, and it's already almost 12:25 and my stomach has been growling for a while, I would -- well, we are going to --

MR. SMITH: If we could, if we could authorize this --


MR. SMITH: -- to go forward with the proposed rules --


MR. SMITH: -- on the Inland Fish part.

MR. KURZAWSKI: I thought we were going to -- we typically do that at the end.

MR. SMITH: At the end? Okay, right. Perfect, perfect, perfect.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: So, Ken, thank you.

Okay, with that being said, Work Session No. 14 Item is permitting a driveway across Texas Parks and Wildlife land, it's going to be heard in Executive Session. So at this time, I would like to announce that pursuant to the requirement of Chapter 551 Government Code referred to as the Open Meeting 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 deliberating real estate matters under Section 551.072 of the Texas Open Meeting Act. We will now recess for Executive Session. Thank you.

(Recess taken for Executive Session)

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Okay, we're going to start up again. First of all, I would like to say that we're now reconvening the regular session of the Work Session on January 22nd, 19 -- 2014, at 2:03 p.m.

Regarding Work Session Item No. 14, no further action is necessary. And I believe we were in Work Session No. 8 and we're going to Coastal Fisheries now, Lance and Jeremy, please come up.

MR. ROBINSON: Good afternoon, Chairman and Commissioners. My name is Lance Robinson with Coastal Fisheries and with me today is Jeremy Leitz. We're going to kind of tag team this presentation. The first -- we have two items, I guess, to bring for you today. One is a proposal dealing with temporary closure of public oyster reefs in two areas along the Texas coast. And the second items are discussion items dealing with the expansion of the November Southern flounder regulations and also the possible expansion of a five-fish bag limit for Spotted seatrout.

We're going to start with the oyster proposals. The area that we're looking at is the same closure area that we used in 2009. It utilizes existing shellfish markers that are maintained by the State Health Department. They're readily acknowledged and known by the industry, so it's a clearly defined boundary. The area on the slides that's depicted in red, the rectangles, those represent about 170 acres of restoration sites that we're going to be doing some habitat oyster restoration using about a 4 -- a little over a $4 million grant and other funding options/sources that we had.

The other side is in half -- Half Moon Reef in Matagorda Bay. It's an historical oyster reef. It's been there for many, many years; but commercial fishing and production off of that reef has really not be existent in recent history. A lot of that is due to the loss of cultch from storm impacts and also the rerouting of the Intercoastal Waterway along that shoreline.

The restoration effort on Half Moon Reef would be conducted and is being conducted by the Nature Conservancy through a grant that they've received from several -- a couple of different sources. The proposed area would encompass 54 acres. The corners would be marked with buoys that would be set by the Nature Conservancy and maintained by the Nature Conservancy to clearly define the closure boundaries.

We held two scoping meetings on these topics. One in Port Lavaca where we had 63 attendees. There was no opposition voiced during that meeting, nor did we receive any written opposition. Verbally, we had seven that supported the proposal and a number of individuals that actually went further suggesting that all of Galveston Bay be closed for a period of time.

In Dickinson, we had about 32 attendees and at that meeting, there was pretty much unanimous opposition to the proposed regulation of closing all of East Galveston Bay. Instead, they did provide an alternative proposal whereby we would be asked to buoy the corners of the restoration sites out there and only close those restoration sites, leaving the rest of the Bay open for commercial harvest.

COMMISSIONER JONES: What do you think of those suggestions?

MR. ROBINSON: They're doable. We could certainly put buoys on those sites. What they're looking for -- the reason that we put the two -- the boundary that we originally proposed, is that it's a known boundary. It's already there. It's maintained by State Health Department. Industry is aware of it. If we buoy the corner markers on all of our restoration sites, we're talking about seven distinct areas within the Bay and each of those then would have unique boundaries and would be -- under the closure.

We also received 631 online comments. Of those, the majority were supportive of the proposed closure of all of East Bay and the Half Moon Reef area. We had two e-mails received. One supporting the closing of the restoration, only the restoration areas; and then the other one in support of the proposal as originally listed here. We also received unanimous endorsement from the Coastal Resources Advisory Committee.

And I think that's the end of this one. I don't know if there's any questions we want to take on oysters before we move into flounder and trout.


COMMISSIONER MORIAN: What was the -- eighty-five opposed? What was the opposition?

MR. ROBINSON: There was 85 opposed to the online. They were opposed to any closure of East -- of East Galveston Bay.


MR. ROBINSON: Any closure, uh-huh.



MR. SMITH: No, no, go ahead.

COMMISSIONER JONES: There was an e-mail we got yesterday and I was trying to find it, relating to -- there were a couple of alternatives thrown out about -- I'm not saying this right, but seeding or replenishing in one area and then checking it after the summer to see if there's been a taking of the spat; is that right?

MR. SMITH: Oyster spat.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Right. And then coming back again next spring or whatnot to -- and it was sort of a gradual approach to -- it was sort of a processing or replenishing and then check and then a replenishing and check, versus a complete shutdown. And I didn't -- again, I know nothing about the oyster industry. This person seemed to -- seemed to know a little bit about what they were talking about, but I don't know.

I mean were any of those proposals with any merit?

MR. SMITH: Go ahead, Lance. Why don't you comment on it?

MR. ROBINSON: Sure. The proposal that you received was actually from the same individual who made the recommendation during the public scoping meeting and what he is -- what they were asking, the industry is asking that in that area, they -- at least right now, that they feel that that section of the Bay is producing the most oysters within Galveston Bay. So there's a lot of product, a lot of resource out there that's available for harvest.

Their concern is that by closing it for two years would -- if something else happened in the Bay where we had a freshwater event that resulted in a closure by the State Health Department because of bacteria in another area where there's production, it would have an adverse impact on industry because there would be nothing available for them to harvest from.

The alternative that he suggested was to place buoys around just the restoration sites that we would be doing. There's seven sites, specific sites totaling about 134 -- 160 or 70 acres. And then we -- what -- he went -- he goes further and suggests that we come back in and monitor those sites, which we would be doing anyway, but monitoring those sites and once a percentage of those oysters reached marketable size, that the sites be opened up for harvest, the restored sites be opened up for harvest, that we continue to monitor them and once they fall below a certain level, that we step in and close it again and let the oysters kind of recover and then kind of do that ongoing to kind of monitor it, open it when it can support some harvest, and then close it when it's been overharvested. So that's what he was proposing in that letter.

COMMISSIONER JONES: And we do or do not like that idea?

MR. ROBINSON: We -- what we're looking to do -- part of our obligation is with the funding agency, the funding sources we have have a requirement that we document success in a final report. So that's part of the reason for maintaining a closure for a period of time. Oysters take about 18, 24 months to reach a market size. So we're going from basically nothing, restoring habitat that was lost as a result of Hurricane Ike, so there's nothing there now.

In 18, 24 months, based on previous restoration projects that we've done, we've seen a considerable improvement in production there. So we would be monitoring that. The idea of going in and then doing a strategic opening and closing is somewhat based on a emergency closure criteria that we have in place now that where the Department can close an area if it's been determined that it's being overworked or not. And so that's what he's kind of exploring, is seeing if that's something that we could use those sites to experiment with basically.

COMMISSIONER JONES: But I don't know whether -- I can't tell by your answer whether we like his idea or not.

MR. ROBINSON: We could do it, it would just additional manpower and additional effort to monitor at that level.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay. So it's doable, but not desirable because it takes more manpower to do it that way.

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

MR. RIECHERS: For the record, Robin Riechers, Coastal Fisheries Division. It is doable, but we would prefer to go ahead and have our closure and set the closure at the two-year mark. We're going to be monitoring those reefs and assuming we do make the change to go to buoying them individually, that basically solves part of the problem he brought up, which is if it's open or closed for other reasons in surrounding reefs, he would still have the ability to harvest or industry would have the ability to harvest there.

But what we would want to do is monitor and if we see that those oysters have grown more rapidly and we could open at an earlier time, we would then want to come back to the Commission and open, as opposed to going through this kind of notion of closing when we hit a certain ratio or opening and closing. The other part to that conversation is if we go ahead and do it two years now, as the year goes on and as we're doing the restoration project, we can have some of these discussions with industry and try to figure out the best way to go about this, also.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: All right, thank you. I guess we'll continue on with flounder. Any more oyster comments? Go ahead, Ralph.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I have a question. For the areas that you're recommending we close in East Galveston Bay that are marked in pink on the map, would those be flagged or buoyed?

MR. ROBINSON: They would be marked by buoys on the corners, correct.


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: All right, thank you. Continue.

MR. LEITZ: For the record, my name is Jeremy Leitz. I'm with the Coastal Fisheries Division, and I'm here to talk about Southern flounder. Certainly one of our key species that we routinely monitor along the coast and based on some of our sampling efforts, it's one species that over the years has been giving us some biological concern, which is why back in 2009, as I'll discuss here shortly, there were some special regulations implemented. We brought it back to you again this past November, a little update on it, and that's why we're here again.

If you recall back in 2009, we reduced both the recreational possession limit and the commercial possession limit in half. Recreational went to five fish. Commercial went to 30 fish. Except in November when everybody gets two fish and only by pole and line. There's no gigging allowed during the month of November. And this -- these were really done -- and you'll see here in a second under gillnet data, due to this downward trend in abundance that we've been seeing for quite some time.

These have been in place now for a few years. Like I said, they came online in September of 2009. We certainly see numerous benefits from these already. Just in that first year alone, we've seen about a 30 or 32 percent reduction in both commercial and recreational landings, just in year one. Certainly helped to stabilize the market price throughout the year for flounder. Of course, this is dependent on other things such as other commercial harvests; but certainly the regulations helped play a role in getting rid of that what's called a market glut that typically occurred in November.

Reduces the opportunity for the support gigging fishery to illegally enter their catch into those commercial chains. By just saying there's no gigging allowed during that month, that's easier to enforce. And then from 2008 to 2011, we saw about 180 percent increase in our flounder population. And you'll see here that that's certainly taken -- that trend has not continued upward. You'll see here in a second it's come down a little bit; but those first three years, we saw good success.

And not noted here on this slide, but we've also seen an increase in the number of people targeting flounder. Both in our creel surveys where is was about 1 to 3 percent before these regulations, it's now about 8 to 10 percent. So we've seen quite a significant increase in people going after this fish. It's mirrored in the mail surveys we do with anglers. The percent of people targeting this fish has gone up in those results as well.

This is the gillnet stuff I was referencing earlier. You can see this goes back to 1982 in that downward trend that I was discussing that had been persistent there for a while, which led to those special regulations in November, starting in September of 2009. You can see that increase there in '09, '10, and '11. However, you start to see that even though '12 is down a little bit, it's still a very high number; but then we have a new data point there that we didn't show you in November for 2013 where you see really our lowest on record since 1982.

These November regulations were put many place really to -- because that's typically when the first cold fronts arrive, which trigger the flounders to leave the bay systems and spawn in the Gulf. And by putting this around November, we felt we captured the majority of those cold fronts. But, of course, cold fronts can arrive before that or they can arrive into December as well. So really what we're looking at here is some different options that would extend those November regulations, either back into October or further into December.

It wasn't mentioned at the November Commission meeting, but it got brought up during scoping about putting the sunset provision on these. Currently the November regulations do not have a sunset. They're there. And, of course, we always have the option of maintaining status quo or of no action. These are the different options we looked at and you can see here, they're kind of expanding that closure time either into the last week or last two weeks of October, the first week of December, the first two weeks of December, or the entire month of December, or some combination thereof such as the last week of October and first week of December.

They're listed in order of effectiveness based on the affect on the landings and the affect on the spawning biomass that that closure would have. So you can see, for instance, the last week of October had the least amount of affect with about a one and a half percent decrease in landings and about a 3 percent decrease on the spawning biomass. And as you go through there, you see those numbers go up all the way to the closure of December, which gets you a 14 percent decrease on landings; but about a 29 percent increase in the spawning biomass.

We held seven scoping meetings just this month from -- ranging from Port Arthur all the way down to Port Isabel and including San Antonio. We had good attendance. We had about 500 total people show up at these seven meetings. In regard to flounder specifically for people who either voiced or gave us a written comment, we had 37 in support of some kind of expansion of the regulations into those adjacent months and 166 opposed. A lot of that opposition came from one meeting and specifically in Dickinson where they actually took a recorded vote and about 140 of those people are represented there in that total. And that was really -- they preferred status quo and it really dealt with the equity issue of expanding these no gigging regulations into the adjacent months.

In general for scoping meetings, the further up the coast you went, the less support you got for expansion of regulations and the further south along the coast you went, people were amenable to possible expansion. We also took comments electronically, both by phone, e-mail, and our website. You can see it's about a pretty close to a 50/50 split with a little over 700 in support and just a little under opposed.

Our Advisory Committee meeting group met last week and endorsed additional measures for flounder. They didn't specify what those measures should be and felt that best left to the discretion of the Commission and the Department, but certainly endorsed those additional measures. The Coastal Bend Guide Association recently came out in support of status quo for flounder, but also indicated they would be supportive of whatever decision the Department makes moving -- Department or Commission makes moving forward.

In addition to the public comment that we've done, we did something different this year. We did an e-mail survey to 10,000 licensed resident saltwater anglers to get their input as well. This occurred just the beginning of this month right after the new year. It was open for about ten days for people to respond to. Typically not a great time to survey, but we did it and we actually got a very good response rate. We had about 1700 responses in that short timeframe, and you can see here the -- about half -- when we aggregated all those results, because we did ask what basis when they fish most frequently, what species they target; but when we aggregated all the results to show you the overall numbers, you can see about 52 percent supported status quo for flounder.

The next favorable options you see there -- and, of course, these won't sum to 100 percent because we asked these independently of one another. First week of December was about 47 percent. First two weeks was about 42. Last week of October, down to a little less than a third; and then the least two preferred options were closing the last two weeks of October and the entire month of December at 27 percent.

And since we asked by -- we asked where the fished most often and we looked at this by Bay system as well to see if there's any differences there and what we found was that it really followed kind of the scoping meeting comments that the further up the coast you went, the less support you had for expansion of regulations; the further south you went, the more support you had for those regulations.

So just to reiterate the different options we talked about. Again, the option of status quo, of no change or possible -- or expanding those November regulations into those adjacent months, either back a week or two into October, a week or two into December, a combination thereof, or the entire month of December. And that's what I have for flounder, and I'll be happy to address any questions some of you may have.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any questions? I think we should probably have discussion of this item before we go on to trout or do you guys want to hear trout and then talk about both of them?



COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Well, I think that there are two kind of independent talks and since flounder are fresh on our mind, I think we ought to discuss flounder before we go to Speckled trout.

Jeremy, what's the biological data tell us? What would be -- what would be ideal? What would the ideal situation from a -- knowing that the stock came down some this past year, which is surprising, and I don't know -- do you have any reason or any conclusion on why that might have happened?

MR. LEITZ: There could be a couple things going on there. One is that we've had some warmer winters recently that have maybe reduced recruitment of those juvenile flounder. The second thing, as I noted before, we've seen an increase in pressure on this species, you know, from that 1 to 3 percent to 8 to 10 percent or more than that even. Some of that increased pressure could lead to increased mortality, bringing that number down; so it could be certainly a combination of a couple different things.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Again, what would the biologists think would be the best for the stock?

MR. LEITZ: Well, we certainly think that November was the key month for closure and that's why we did those regulations back in 2000 and that allows us to capture a lot of the arrival of those first cold fronts. But, of course, we've got such a large coastline that those cold fronts can arrive sooner, for instance, on the upper coast and later on the lower coast. So if you wanted to look at kind of attacking that from both sides, go back into October maybe a week and then into December as well by one week. It would allow you a little more flexibility, depending on when those first cold fronts arrived, to capture both of those. That would be one.

You could co incrementally as well if you wanted to. Maybe, for instance, that first week of December would get you a little bit more effect than the last week of October and come back and look at that. So there's a couple different options there. But really November was that key -- was that key month for us. So really just expanding from there in either direction would certainly be beneficial.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: You say when -- I'm sorry.


COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: You say when this was implemented back in 2009, you saw an increase in flounder of about 180 percent?


COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: Does that still apply? Is that number still accurate?

MR. LEITZ: No, that -- on that gillnet slide, what you see there was that peak there in 2011 and then since then, that's kind of -- you know, 2012 was still a very good year when you look at kind of that long-term trend and then in 2013, we've certainly seen that drop off as well. So that 180 percent was realized from '08 to '11 and then since then, it's come down a little bit and then a significant drop there in 2013.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: So can you -- would you say that, you know, the goal was accomplished?

MR. LEITZ: Well, certainly you see that downward trend going from 1982 on and it picked up a little bit. Really through 2012, it certainly had -- it certainly had a great effect. 2013 is a down year. We're curious to see what happens in 2014 and moving forward. But really through 2012, we're starting to see that abundance come up to where we hadn't seen it before since, you know, the late 1990s, early 2000s.

MR. RIECHERS: Sorry to step in here, Commissioner. But, you know, what I think we would have to say about that is that we -- and we're really looking at the kind of orange or pink line there, the fall gillnet surveys. We had achieved tremendous results, but I would say now what you have so see by looking at that graph is the results that we achieved went away in the last two years. So we're now back at a point on that fall gillnet survey where we're actually below some of the points that kind of called us to action before.

So, you know, in that kind of context, we were achieving our results. We were very proud of those results. But because of conditions in the fishery, as well as some of those environmental factors that Jeremy brought up, we're back down to a point where obviously that was a call to action last time and so that's where we are as far as abundance. Those proceeds, if you will, of those regulations have now been minimized back to where they were.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: So I guess in the long-term, we were not successful.

MR. RIECHERS: In the long-term, unfortunately we have not been successful.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Is that what you're hearing from anglers and from fishermen along the coast, also, or is this just -- this is just our survey data?

MR. RIECHERS: This is our gillnet survey data and certainly -- you know, normally we -- our data typically lags behind what we hear from folks out there. I don't know that I've heard a lot anecdotally that we've had issues with flounder, but you can see quite a bit of difference between 2012 and 2013 there. So I would suspect if we are going to start hearing that, we will start hearing that pretty loudly into next year.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But you've got the landings at an all time low, right?

MR. RIECHERS: The gillnets or abundance trends.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That's what I'm saying, all time low. And the trends continuing, in spite of the spike up '12, the trend continues downward and Jeremy says we've got a noted increase in fishing pressure that coincides with this. I mean I think it's -- I think we've got to do something in the two -- of the two weeks, if you look at your two-week option as opposed to closing all of December, I mean you project a 14 percent affect, positive affect on spawning biomass if you did the first two weeks of December. Which to me suggests that would be preferable to the prior option where you'd only get 10 percent, but I think one of those two are certainly -- seems like we ought to be looking very strongly at one of those two options.

MR. RIECHERS: No, and -- go ahead. I'm sorry.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: No, I was going to say just to be clear, we're looking at expanding an unsuccessful measure.

MR. RIECHERS: Well, and your question is well put. We still believe that measure will achieve success for us in the long run. In the previous discussion when we did this in 2009, we did point out that we may be trying to rebuild this fishery to a level that we may not achieve because of the general warming trends that we've seen along the Texas coast in some respects and we know that there's a correlation between recruitment and winter temperatures.

So with that in mind, we were very hopeful when we saw that first bounce. Obviously, that has been somewhat taken away in regards to our last survey data. Now this survey data, you know, it doesn't go up in a straight line, it doesn't come down in a straight line. We would like -- we would much prefer to see it going back up. We think this will -- this is the key part of protecting this fishery and we still think protecting them in November or surrounding those cold fronts, protecting that escapement is one of the ways of protection of this fishery. You could consider other things such as further reducing bag limits and other tools that are available to us as well.

It's just that given where we were in November when we presented this, this expansion of that November closure is what we had really focused in on.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: It looks like you have to do something. Just the 30-year trend line is still down. I think the question is what's -- if you choose two weeks, what two weeks? You get the biggest bang for your buck the first two weeks of December. With this -- if you want to cover yourself our here, you're saying you might want the last week of October and the first week for the migration of coastal cold fronts.

MR. RIECHERS: Yeah, I mean it could be -- and we don't really have the complete answer to that variation because you -- as you know, we don't get to dictate when those cold fronts come down upon us. You know, it could be two weeks of October and two weeks of December. You know, this part of the discussion is one which if y'all can help provide us with a little guidance, we can certainly do that.

We think that protection on both ends though might be helpful because of that gradient that we have from upper coast to lower coast. You know, we -- again, we hear anecdotally sometimes that we hit it just right and we hear also that the fish have -- you know, you miss some in October because we got those early cold fronts. So it's just difficult as we deal with Port Arthur to Brownsville.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Well, if you choose two weeks, just -- because we can always come back and I hope we don't -- we aren't back here in three years looking at two more weeks on -- but somebody has got to -- I mean would you recommend a week on each end, or would you recommend two weeks in December?

MR. RIECHERS: Well, I mean it's clearly -- and this is what we have discussed. Clearly December is where you seem to get a little bigger bang for the buck. Now part of that -- and I'm going to be absolutely frank. Some of that is an artifact of our modeling and it's also an artifact of how that pressure distributed itself when we closed November because more of that pressure moved into December it seemed and so as we take away, now when we model that again, it's showing that that has a bigger impact.

As we make this next closure, I can't tell you exactly where that pressure is going to shift to. Whether it's going to shift to October, or it's going to shift to later in December. So, you know, that's partly the artifact of the way the data is collected and the modeling that goes on. But, you know, I think both ends of the spectrum are good or two weeks in December are also good. It's just which options we want to consider for a public hearing if you want to move forward with this as a proposal.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Well, what I'm hearing is I think that there's still a concern about flounder amongst the Commissioners and I agree with what Duggins said that two weeks in December looks like, according to our models, you're going to get a bigger bang.

I guess there's one more question I want to bring up on it. You know, we've banned gigging for the month of November and gigging is a kind of tradition in Texas. I mean there's a lot of people that grew up gigging flounder. It's a pretty important part of our cultural coastal culture. And it seems like to me we're kind of discriminating against a way of harvesting fish that's legal the rest of the year.

Is there any type of modeling we have that would show that say we limited everybody to two fish from the first of November until the end of the second week in December, that we allowed gigging as a means along with rod and reel, do we have any modeling that could indicate that that's going to change the harvest at all? Do we have any...

MR. LEITZ: Well, we don't really have any direct modeling that would show that. We would assume that those who were gigging before that are now using rod and reel during those months would possibly go back to gigging. So that would essentially, I guess, kind of be a wash in that sense. If you allowed both, there could be a potential increase in harvest. Some people that use rod and reel during the day and then gigging at night. But, you know, we don't have a model that I guess would actually provide you with a number for that.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Well, I guess if you're going to break the law, you can do it lots of different ways. I mean if that's a concern there.

MR. LEITZ: Well, and I think the bigger question when talking about that, the no gigging during that timeframe was one of enforcement. Of actually trying to enforce that ban during that closure.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: We're talking about all of November regulations, not just gigging, are we?

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: I'm not sure I follow what you're asking.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Well, we reduced the limit from five to two.


COMMISSIONER MORIAN: That's included in your...

MR. LEITZ: Yes. That's what we've discussed, yes.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Just make sure I --

MR. LEITZ: Just taking those exact November regulations and expanding them out into those adjacent months.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: If I -- oh, go ahead.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: No. I was just going to say I think what your question asked is if, for example, we extended the November to the first two weeks of December, rod and reel fishermen could take two and what Dan Allen is asking, I think, or suggesting we consider is not only allowing rod and reel to take two, allow gigger to take two. Am I right, Dan?

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Correct, correct. I mean you're -- again, you're discriminating against a segment of the population and there's lots of -- I don't know if there's lots. I don't know what the number of gigger are. Do we have any -- do we have any idea how many gigger -- how many people gigging flounder or --

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Recreational gigger?

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Recreational. I'm not talking about commercial.

MR. RIECHERS: No, we don't really have a good handle on the number who are gigging as opposed to rod and reeling. Again, the answer to that question, as Jeremy indicated, is we don't really have a good handle on, I think as I indicated in November, if they just shifted their activity, but were doing it with a different gear, then the mortality is the same. If some didn't choose to participate in that season because they are gigger and don't rod and reel and they actually now will go, then we're going to have increased mortality. But we really do not have a way to estimate what direction that's going to move.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Well, as an Aggie, I don't think we should discriminate against anybody who gigs.

MR. RIECHERS: As an Aggie I would agree with you, Commissioner Jones.

COMMISSIONER JONES: That one was -- that was -- kind of small, like waist high.

COMMISSIONER MARTIN: The Chairman may agree with you.



COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Yep, okay. I think where I am and then we'll let the other Commissioners, I guess we're talking about two fish from November 1st until the end of the second week in December --


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Across the board. No, we're talking recreational. Well, it's commercial, too.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: The commercial would be two as well.


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But allow gigging to take two.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: So let gigger take two. And one thing about gigging, I've done a little of it. It's very weather dependent. You can go rod-and-reel fishing every day almost any time, but gigging is really dependent on having some pretty nice weather. The water has to be clear and the conditions. So it's not -- even if you have a six -- or six week gigging, a lot of nights do not lend themselves to be -- to gigging. It's -- that's what I think I'm hearing, but any more -- any comment or is that --

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Let me ask one question. The reason I remember we eliminated gigging in November is it was -- the fish were so vulnerable.

MR. LEITZ: Correct.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Now are they just as vulnerable the first two weeks of the December?

MR. RIECHERS: And again, it definitely depends on how that weather -- those weather patterns hit. But, you know, those cold fronts trigger them into moving from the bays to the Gulf to spawn and so they --


MR. RIECHERS: That's when they aggregate and move out; so, yes, if we have later cold fronts, you would have them more in December or later November December as opposed to earlier.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Maybe the way to do it is to break it down into two -- to two parts and say the first part would be to extend the bag limit of two for the first two weeks of December and the second part would be to extend the benefits of two to gigger in November and the first two weeks of December. There are two separate topics, if that's a concern of yours.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: No, I just -- it was -- the reason in November, the gigging ban was that that's the easiest time. And what was your proposal?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: No. I think what the Chairman said was let's look at extending the November reduction to two through the first two weeks of December.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Both recreational and --



COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And then the second suggestion he made was change the November rule, if you will, to permit gigger to take two in November and first two weeks of December.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I thought he just said the first two weeks of December.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, maybe I misheard him. I don't -- you could be right on that. I think he was talking about --

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Yeah, I would be uncomfortable changing the November gigging ban just because of the reason that we passed it.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So leave the gigging ban for November in place, but allow them to gigging in the first two weeks of December?

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: That's what I thought I heard Chairman --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: He's asking you about clarification.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: No, no. What I said is, again, I think you're discriminating against a culture and a way of fishing that's gone or for years and years or for decades in Texas. I said November 1st to the second -- end of second week in December, two fish recreational or commercial taken by any legal means, which is gigging or rod and reel.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I guess you would have to go back and model that, wouldn't you.

MR. RIECHERS: Again, I don't know that the model is going to tell us anything different. Mark, am I correct in that? Because we really can't differentiate between how that fish was captured. The model is not going to tell us anything different than what we have here.

If your fishing pressure goes up for any reason, then some of the benefits that we're estimating here will go down. That much we know. But we won't -- it won't change what we show you here.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: What -- it will go down because you'll --

MR. RIECHERS: You're taking more fish.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: You're going to have more fish taken; so it will go down, right?


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: What was the CRAC Committee -- what was their -- did we -- is that in here? Did we all see that? Maybe we'll --

MR. LEITZ: Yes, that was in here. They unanimous -- they unanimously endorsed additional measures for flounder, but decided to leave it upon the Commission and the Department to figure out what those measures should be.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Several of them commented to me that they definitely hoped we would reduce the take in either late October or early December or both.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Dan Allen, let me make a suggestion. Why don't we extend the November regulation to the first two weeks of December, but allow gigger to take two.




COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Yeah. That way I think you'll have better data next time, but you won't have that fluctuation now of November gigging. That's...

MR. SMITH: So thinking about the enforcement side of this, they can gigger two the first two weeks. Brandi, come on up.

MS. REEDER: Good afternoon. Brandi Reeder, Law Enforcement Division.

MR. SMITH: So they could gigger -- under this proposal, they could gigger two the first two weeks of December and then after that it would be how many?

MS. REEDER: After that it would be five, correct?

MR. SMITH: It'd be five, right, exactly. And so from an enforcement perspective?

MS. REEDER: With the closure for two fish -- you know, from previous history whenever the bag limit was ten, with enforcement efforts it was very difficult to detect violations because you can't -- you know, you wouldn't get good descriptions from the public. They couldn't really visibly see the TX number and all. So it was very difficult to follow up on violations. It required very diligent patrol during that time because we did receive many reports of folks, as they call it tripping, going out multiple times in the evening in order to go in excess of the bag limit.

With two fish -- like right now with the current regs with it being completely shut down to gigging, it's very easy to patrol. You look out there and you don't see the lights. You know that in all likelihood the behavior is not happening. With the two fish, from our experience I would say that you would have more encouragement or more tendency for folks to pursue more than just the two fish.

MR. SMITH: Okay.

MS. REEDER: And it would be more difficult to detect because of it being at night.

MR. SMITH: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Okay. I guess the proposal on the table now is to close them to two -- or limit it to two fish by all methods from November 1st to the second week of -- end of second week of December, allowing gigging the first two weeks of December, but continue to close gigging for the month of the November.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I think you -- no. There's none allowed in November. That won't change.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Yeah, none in allowed in --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: It's totally closed November.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Yeah, did I say something different?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yeah, you said all -- you said November.


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Closed November and they can gigger the first two weeks of December, so gigging the same period you're gigging now. We're just cutting the limit down for everybody.


COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Seems like a good compromise.

MR. ROBINSON: Okay, we're going to move into Spotted seatrout. Just as reminder, current regulations for Spotted seatrout are ten fish per day, 15-inch minimum size, and fishermen are allowed one 25 -- over 25-inch per person per day, but it does count as part of your ten-fish daily bag.

There was a special regulation put in place in 2007 for the Lower Laguna Madre, whereby the bag limit was reduced to five fish per day and the possession limit was set to match the daily bag. The effects of that five-fish bag limit in the Lower Laguna, we have seen reduction in landings. Party boats or charter boats have seen about a 12 percent reduction in landings, while private boats about 5 percent.

We are seeing more and larger trout in the population. The -- when we made that management measure at that time, our predicted success, what we were predicting that would be successful, we've met. We've met those goals. We are seeing larger fish and more fish of spawning biomass. We are getting reports of high grading occurring or culling of fish as they continue to fish and we also have some evidence that noncompliance is occurring.

This is a graph of the gillnets by region and for the purposes of this, the upper coast is defined as Sabine Lake and Galveston Bay. Middle coast would be the Matagorda, San Antonio, Aransas Bay System. Lower coast is going to be the Corpus, Upper Laguna, and then of course the Lower Laguna with the five fish. The top -- that line, that yellow line on the top where it's kind of peaked up in the last year, that's the Lower Laguna. So you can see that we are seeing increases in our gillnets in our abundance numbers, abundance measures for trout in that section of the coast.

The two options that we were looking at were to extend the five-fish bag limit coastwide or to some other area. In this case, the Upper Laguna Madre through Matagorda System. And as -- same as Jeremy indicated, this is the result of the modeling. It's using that first example going coastwide. If that were implemented, we would expect to see about a four -- almost 5 percent increase in the population of Spotted seatrout. Spawning biomass, which is the number we really focus on, which is the weight of the mature females in the population, we would see about a 16 and a half percent increase in that biomass.

We would also expect to see about a 42 percent increase in fish greater than 25 inches, but kind of take that with caution because those fish represent a very small segment of the entire population and the next column there indicates that you would see about a less than a 1 percent increase in the overall population of fish over 25. And then also that regulation would result in a reduction of landings to recreational fishermen of almost 14 percent and you can see the same numbers if you cut it back to the Matagorda.

We held seven scoping meetings, as Jeremy indicated. The folks that chose to comment, we received 42 comments in support of some change in the management measures for Spotted Seatrout, 157 opposed that, and again there was a geographic difference in the responses of individuals where there was less support for any change or more support for status quo from Galveston and Sabine than further down the coast. Electronic comments, we had 882 in support, 693 opposed. Percentagewise, a little bit more in support of some change in management measures.

Coastal Resources Advisory Committee unanimously endorsed a five-fish bag limit. They also went further and suggested a five-year sunset date be set if chose to go forward with that one. Coastal Bend Guides Association also provided comment on this proposal, and they supported status quo; but also indicated that they would support Parks and Wildlife's decision.

The anglers survey that Jeremy mentioned, the e-mail survey that was submitted, we had about 55 percent returns that indicated some support or support for status quo. The next favorable options that we saw were the five-fish coastwide, about 49 percent; and then you can see through Matagorda Bay less support for that. So again, the management options that were being considered were to extend the five-fish bag and possession limit along the entire Texas coast, like is currently in place in the Lower Laguna, or to extend the five-fish bag and possession limit along the coast from the Upper Laguna Madre to some other designated boundary along the coast.

Also included here was the idea of a sunset provision, whereby you would set a date certain where it would be revisited and if we weren't achieving the goals, it could be, you know, rescinded and then, of course, the status quo, no action. And I think that's...


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yes, thank you. Let me find this slide. On the one where you show the comments where you've got on those seven scoping meetings, how many of those meetings were what we would call I guess the upper coast as opposed to the middle coast and then out of that, out of the electronic comments, what percent of that was based on each of those areas?

MR. ROBINSON: Okay. On the scoping meetings, we held meetings in Sabine, Galveston Port Lavaca, Rockport, Corpus Christi, and the Lower Laguna, and San Antonio. So upper coast, you're talking Sabine and Galveston. Middle coast would probably be in the Rockport and Port Lavaca region. And then we had Corpus.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: How do these numbers break down?

MR. ROBINSON: The breakdown was that -- the opposition, the 157 opposed, was just about all those numbers came from the Galveston/upper coast section of the scoping meetings. It was pretty well overwhelming opposition to any change from Galveston north.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: That's just from my conversations, which were pretty numerous, the guides that I fish with, the other people, that is the read that I got is that the middle third was not opposed. As a matter of fact, they were pretty much supportive of going to the five-fish deal. But the deal in -- whatever the demarcation line is, whether it's the Brazos River, I'm assuming somewhere along there probably would be the break between the upper coast and the middle. Is that -- would that be kind of what you're thinking?

MR. ROBINSON: That could be -- that could be a possible, yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Whatever it is, just Law Enforcement, got to make it easy for them. But anyway, long story short. I overwhelmingly was hit with the deal about not doing the upper third. They particularly -- you know, but the middle one, I was really surprised how many supported it. We had heard that that might be the case, but that is the information and the conversations I had. So just for the record, you know, that's where my main constituents called and were telling me.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: You mentioned to us when you were far from the coast, opposition typically increased, is that correct, to any sort of change?

MR. ROBINSON: Northern part of this coast, yes.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: Northern part of the coast, okay. So safe to assume if one of the scoping meetings were to be conducted inland or, you know, away from the Gulf, opposition would be significantly greater?

MR. ROBINSON: It really would depend on if it's inland, where the anglers typically fish. We held a meeting in San Antonio, but there was general support for change there. But again, it depends on where the anglers are going --

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: I got you. I just like to understand where the cities were.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: So as to -- I guess reading between the lines, not having it all broken down, is it fair to say that with the scoping and then electronic comments indicate that the Central Texas coast would like to see a reduction in seatrout limit; but the upper Texas coast wants to keep it status quo. Is that -- is that --

MR. ROBINSON: That's generally what we heard, yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: So I think with that -- of course, any comments any Commissioners have -- we should look at reducing the limits for Speckled trout to five from the Lower Laguna Madre all the way to the Central Texas coast and then wherever that demarcation is, that's kind of more for Law Enforcement and for the biologists to determine and I guess we put that out for public comment; is that correct?

MR. ROBINSON: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: And then it comes back to us in two months and we decide then if we're going to act on it, is that -- any of the Commissions have any input or any comment on this?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, I was looking at -- I think you're right. The biology and the science justify as a cutback for the benefit of the stock and Dick's absolutely right that there is, in terms of angler comment and probably some guides, that sentiment in the Galveston area or upper coast is overwhelmingly opposed to it. But the -- so it seems to me the point -- the question might be where would you draw the line and in the slide we've got, you've got Brazos River as on option, San Bernard River, and then FM 457, which to me -- I don't know whether that's intended to be an option or not because it's -- I don't know how you know it out on the water from there.

Are those -- are those the two lead options from your perspective? The San Bernard River and the Brazos river?

MR. LEITZ: Those are options that we kind of looked at in our conversation with Law Enforcement to kind of get their input on what would be the best line from an enforcement standpoint. Either -- any one of those lines would achieve the goal.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Are we getting into Brandi's presentation?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Oh, we are? Oh, sorry.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: I think we jumped -- I think we jumped ahead to Brandi's presentation.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right, I didn't mean to do it. I just was sort of reacting to what you said.

MR. SMITH: No, she wasn't going to give a presentation on this; but if we want her feedback on that, it would be an opportune time to ask her for that and I'd suggest we bring her forward from a Law Enforcement perspective.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: And while she's coming up, one observation I would make. I'm pretty familiar with that San Bernard. I've got a bunch of property up it and since they've shut down just about any barge traffic up and down it, it is silting in extremely rapidly and I'm not sure you're getting enough flow to even justify at looking at it. That would be an observation because I'm pretty familiar with that river and --

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: How about the Brazos?


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: How about the Brazos?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Oh, no, the Brazos is -- the Brazos is pretty -- you know, it's pretty healthy and pretty good. But the San Bernard is going to continue to become less and less active. Particularly when you get up about three-fourth -- about a mile up it, it's 2 or 3 feet deep now. It used to be barge depth and now it's not anymore. It's -- but anyway, so I'd just make that observation. I don't know how it looks on your side of it, but that's just an observation on the rivers that I know.

MS. REEDER: Right. I had spoke the Captain of the area who obviously is -- his folks are boots on the ground and based upon his constituents and his feeling of the area of familiarity, he believes that enforcement would be best at the 457 line, which I believe lines up with Canyon Creek or -- it's right in that area. But the 457, there's a bridge there is what I was -- what I understood in the conversation and so it would be an understandable marker for the users to be able to identify with.


MS. REEDER: Uh-huh.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: He's talking about on the Intercoastal.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: The bridge, it goes over the Intercoastal at that point.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Oh, okay. It's not shown on this. How close is --

MR. SMITH: Yeah, it is. It's on the lower end of the map. You see that FM 457 down at the bottom of the map?


MR. SMITH: It's back to the -- back to the -- well, it's in Matagorda County.


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Oh, so you think at that point?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So you're folks are suggesting that would be preferable from a Law Enforcement perspective to the Brazos?

MS. REEDER: And for ease of understanding for their users, yes, sir, in that area.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: You can see the bridge from over the Intercoastal? There's no --

MS. REEDER: I'm not familiar with the area. I was relying on experience --


MS. REEDER: -- from that area. So like I said, the Captain believed that that would be pretty easy for them to be able to distinguish.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Well, you've also got -- what's that little -- it's an old little old bunch of beach houses that's been there forever. Sargent's Beach, that's pretty close to where he's talking about I think.

MS. REEDER: And I believe he is also said Mitchell's or Mitchum's Cut. There's a cut there as well.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Mitchell's Cut, yeah.

MS. REEDER: Mitchell's Cut, that would make it distinguishable.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: I think in order to simplify enforcement and kind of look at a middle ground, I mean will it be possible to do a statewide and reduce the amount that we got from ten to somewhere in the middle? Seven? Six? I don't know. And do a, you know, statewide reduction in limit; but obviously will simplify enforcement and it will simplify regulation? Just a comment, just an idea. I don't know.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: I would think from an enforcement standpoint, Brandi, it's easy -- it's -- it needs to all be -- I mean whatever it is, it needs to be five or seven or it needs to be up -- wherever we close, it needs consistent. Is that fair to say?

MS. REEDER: Well, and we've made lines work before. Like Lower Laguna Madre, you know, that has been a successful venture as well. So, you know, either way. But, yes, we need to be consistent so that that way the users can understand; but we would be able to make work either at the 457, FM 457 or whatever is discussed and we can make work or the statewide. I mean statewide would obviously be the easiest, but we could work with whatever your direction is.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I need to study this for approval of those three items.


COMMISSIONER MORIAN: The 457 -- 457 is a good option.


COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Yeah, it's the end of Matagorda --

MR. SMITH: Bay, East Matagorda Bay.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: And there, that bridge is prominent and...


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: The pushback levels are going to become gigantic if we get up into Galveston Bay.


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I'll just tell you that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, it sounds like 457 then is the spot.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: And we've had a line before, and it's worked. I mean you got to keep it simple. Don't you think so?

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: Oh, no, I understand that. But it can as simple as statewide.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: But then you have a whole new constituents --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Then my phone starts ringing a lot more.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: That's all my comment.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: If that comes with the territory, I don't want it.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: We make it simpler for the end user, which is the fisherman at the end of the day.


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: It doesn't matter to me.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: You know, some of them may be from different geographical regions and it's hard sometimes to keep up with the regulations. That's all I'm saying.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: What I think I'm hearing the Commission say is that we would like to I guess put it in the Texas Register, is that what we do now between now and March -- the -- lowering the Speckled trout limit to five from 457 South to the Rio Grande River and also sunsetting that at a five-year period, have it bring it back and of course it could be brought back sooner if it needs to be, if the Commission or the Department thinks it needs to be looked at sooner, but have a five-year sunset and have it revisit. Is that -- is that good?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yeah. I would like us to just observe and I think Dick made a real good point that in the future, it would be helpful to break these results of meetings down by region where we're looking at a regional issue or a potential regional issue. I think I'm speaking just for myself, but I think Dick raised a real good issue that if we could do that in the future, it would be -- it might be easier to make more sense of it.

MR. LEITZ: We do online comment, is broken -- they do list county of resident, so that is -- we have a --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, when you make the presentation though, show it by -- if you can, if there's a way to do it, show it by region. Like you might on a county-by-county basis on a deer issue, for example.

MR. LEITZ: Sure.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Brandi.

MR. LEITZ: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Okay. Where are we? Okay. If there's no further discussion by the Commission, I hereby authorize to publish the proposed rules in the Texas -- oh, oh.

MR. SMITH: Sorry. We do have Brandi. I'm sorry, just on a different topic.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Oh. Oh, yeah. Come on up Brandi.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, yeah.


MR. SMITH: Quit while you're ahead, Craig, is that what you're trying to tell her?

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Sorry, Brandi. Go ahead.

MS. REEDER: It's okay. I'm getting used to it. Okay. Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman Commissioners, Mr. Smith. My name is Brandi Reeder. I'm the Fisheries Law Administrator for the Law Enforcement Division. I'm here to bring before you a proposal regarding recreational jug line buoy color requirements.

Current rules require color-coded buoys. The color requirement is now superfluous because all fishing devices are required to have gear tags to be lawful. In order to provide more flexibility to recreational users, Law Enforcement proposes to remove the white buoy color requirement and allow any color other than orange, which is reserved for commercial use. I would be happy to -- oh, and then if you have any questions at this time, I'd be happy to answer those regarding that proposal.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I might give her a pass. I don't know about y'all.

MS. REEDER: Okay. And with no further questions, then --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I'm just saying me.

MS. REEDER: Do we have any questions on the buoy?


MS. REEDER: Okay. And with no further questions, staff requests permission to publish statewide recreational and commercial fishing proclamations to the Texas Register for public comment.


MS. REEDER: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: And if there's no further discussion, I'll authorize the staff to publish the proposed rules in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.

Moving on. Work Session No. 9, Exotic Species Rules Amendment Regarding Draining Water from Vessels and Portable Containers, Ken Kurzawski, please come up. Thank you.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Good afternoon, Commissioners. My name is Ken Kurzawski, in Inland Fisheries Division and I'm going to go over the proposal to add counties to the rules that are water draining rules that mainly are designed to impact the spread of Zebra mussels.

At the last Commission meeting, you approved the set of rules that were resulting of HB 1241 and those rules became effective in December that requires water to be drained from vessels leaving and approaching public water. This includes live wells, bilges, and any other receptacle -- receptacles that could come in contact with public water and this applies to all the public bodies in the listed counties and there were 17 counties at that time and it covers all areas where boats can be launched.

We did have some exceptions associated with that. You are able to travel between access sites on the same water body during the same day. Governmental activities that are collecting waters for say water sampling, things like that, those would be exempted. And any sort of emergency situations would also have an exception. Marine sanitary systems, those are typically closed systems on boats and they're treated -- treated systems which would -- the chemicals added would have the impact of killing Zebra mussel veligers and also we wouldn't want those people dumping those waters on the boat ramps when they're leaving the water bodies. And also for commercially purchased live bait, if you buy some minnows at a bait shop and you have the receipt for that, you could bring the water and that live bait onto the public waters in these areas.

And as we discussed last time, the discovery of Zebra mussels in Lake Belton in September kind of changed our equation a little bit, our initial thinking. Those were discovered on September 18th by a volunteer. We confirmed those and since that time, we have had Lake Belton and Stillhouse Hollow Lake and Bell and Coryell Counties covered by emergency rules to prevent the movement of water off those reservoirs. We -- as we discussed with you, we initially proposed to make the rules permanent and add those 17 counties, but based on what happened there at Lake Belton and we started looking at some of the major reservoirs in and around Belton, some of the travel corridors like I-35 and the Trinity River, which led us to the conclusion that we probably needed to expand that and we proposed to you at that time adding 28 counties.

We have since added two additional counties, Bastrop and Fayette, to include some LCRA reservoirs in those two counties in and around the Austin area. So those are -- as it stands now, those are the counties we're proposing to add to these rules. As I said, there's 30 of them. We're -- we have Bell and Coryell, Coryell Counties included in those and also at the November meeting, we had a gentleman who came up who operated a fishing tournament on Lake Belton and Stillhouse Hollow that an off-site weigh-in.

Under the current rules, taking fish directly from those -- from a water body to a weigh-in would not be allowed because you wouldn't be able to transport the water. After discussing this among staff and discussing it with the gentleman, we have an exception here that would allow an off-site weigh-in, if it's confined to one lake and going to one weigh-in location and the tournament organizers would have to give those tournament anglers some sort of document to show where they're coming from, where they're going, so Law Enforcement would have some way to know that that was taking place, that would be over the course of one day. And further discussions with Mr. Smith, he's amenable to this and he thinks that will solve their problems on that.

Going to some of the public comment, we did have two public meetings on that in Waco and Austin. Only had two attendees. They were fishing guides. They were opposed to this about this proposal because it would impact them moving bait fish from one lake to the other in water. We did have a number of additional counties, most of these were online, in general support of adding the counties and also of the off-site weigh-ins and some of the -- both on -- people on both support and oppose made the comment that we should probably look into expanding this further and the comment in opposition about moving bait, some of -- a number of fishing guides are concerned moving -- this would limit their ability to move -- collect fish in one lake, move them in lake water to another, which really is a significant problem for us because of the movement of the water.

They would be able to -- one way to get around this, if they move -- caught fish in one lake, put them in a tank with clean water, and then transfer them to another lake, that would solve that problem for them. If you have any questions...


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: On this map that's got the yellow line, for surrounding counties 17, and then added Bell and Coryell and then it's got a yellow line that runs down to Canyon.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Yeah, that's just I-35 running down. Essentially looking at a travel corridor for major reservoirs along that.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I'm trying to draw the -- I'm trying to draw the deal on where we get all the way down into Hays County. That's where I live, so I mean --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: -- I'm fairly familiar with that. That's why I'm trying to draw the --

MR. KURZAWSKI: Well, Hays is --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: -- logic on getting that far down from Belton.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Well, that is another -- you now, you've got Highland Lakes there, Travis and Buchanan and Canyon would be the next biggest reservoir. It's a pretty good size reservoir where you have a fair amount of boat traffic that people are using some of the large reservoirs. What we kind of see is so far these -- where we've seen the problems reoccur with Zebra mussels, it's larger reservoirs with people taking a lot of boat traffic to them.

We didn't -- we're essentially including counties in between to make it contiguous. There's not a major, you know, problem if -- you know, there's not a lot of big reservoirs in Hays County; but --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Well, no, there's not any. That's a big problem, as a matter of fact. But, you know, Canyon Lake of course is in Blanco County.


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: And the Highland Lakes, you know, are further east.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Right, and those are included there.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yeah, what I'm -- what I'm -- I guess the big picture I'm getting around to here, I'm thinking as I'm looking, I mean if we're going to pick up the Highland Lakes and we're going to pick up Canyon Lake, at the rate we're seeing this stuff, I mean I'm curious if we don't broaden it even as we're doing it right now.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I think we ought to go statewide. I mean why would we not do it? It's such a --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Well, even if you don't -- if you don't even do it statewide, if you just come down from where it's been found up Texoma and everything, I mean everything kind of east of these colored pictures, I mean it's dang near halfway in the state. I mean I'm just throwing it out.

I mean if we're going to do it and that mussel, we don't seem to be having any luck stopping it, why wouldn't we go ahead and pick up some of the other reservoirs?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, there's also the consistency point Roberto made and the Law Enforcement ease of enforcement. This is not a big imposition and I don't know why given that it's spreading and we've already got on the slide it shows DNA showing up in East Texas, it's a matter of time before it's going to, I predict, unfortunately it will show up there, I just -- I think we ought to --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Well, Belton, when it got to Belton and made that big jump from where it was up there in the north to Belton, that tells -- that just to me indicates that it's making -- it's going to get in all the rivers. You know, you've got the three or four major -- the Sabine, the Neches, you know. So I'm not sure what all that means, but I'm just throwing it out.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, I think we ought to seriously looking at republishing and going statewide -- excuse me -- going statewide with it. This is not a big imposition on boaters. And with all the boat traffic we have, fishermen going from lake to lake, anything we can do to retard the spread of this horrible invasive, I think we should do.

MR. SMITH: So if you elected you wanted to go statewide, obviously your right, we would have to republish this and go back out for comment. Another opportunity would be to move ahead with the proposal tomorrow and take action on that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I'm fine with doing that. I'm just suggesting that as soon as we can, we ought to go on expand it to be statewide.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: For sure the major watershed rivers from that central picture to the east. I mean I don't know how it doesn't get in the Sabine deal which get in Toledo. I don't know how it doesn't get into Rayburn, you know, and I mean if it gets to those two, all the power plant -- all the stuff that's below those is gigantic.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, seriously impact the --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: That's where the real misery level is going to --


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Well, it's going -- and if it gets into Travis and Buchanan, you know, with all the power generation around here, I mean we're in a -- you know, so I don't -- you know, I just -- an observation.

MR. SMITH: And that's why -- and you'll get this immediately. It's why we've had such strong support really from the River authorities here locally to expand that in Central Texas from both LCRA and GBRA. I think if we do what you're suggesting and go back out, it would give us an opportunity to talk to all those River Authorities, talk to effective Legislatures, etcetera to look at expansion across the state.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I mean it's a big deal, and I certainly agree that that's a big issue; but don't forget what the Sabine River Authority and the L -- the Lower Neches --


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: LNVA and all them, they're feeding all of the refineries, the chemical plants. I mean, you know, you're dealing in a big deal pretty quickly --

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: -- because all that cooling water and even into Houston, Trinity Bay, you know, I mean all that water comes down Trinity Bay. So if it gets into the Trinity watershed, that gets Houston.

MR. SMITH: Yeah.


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All the more reason to go statewide in my --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Well, yeah, I mean that's -- I sure think we need to hit the major riverways that are -- you know, I mean we're going to have enough trouble getting people to pay attention I think. So if we get it started earlier, we've got a fighting chance of maybe, you know, getting enough people paying attention. Anyway, that's my observation.


MR. KURZAWSKI: Just a couple -- just a couple points as part of the when HB 1241 was going through the Legislative process. We did hear some comments from some of the Legislatures on some of the committees concerned about initially going statewide with this. So we -- you know, we did -- we did stress to them that this was a proactive thing and we didn't want it to spread a little wider than we were able to with our previous rules, but we did say we initially would be somewhat judicious and not immediately go to statewide. So that's probably why, you know, initially that has been our -- that has been our approach.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: We followed through as you said. We didn't go statewide initially, but the -- the thing keeps showing up and we've got to be proactive here for the good of all of Texas, including these River Authorities and utilities and chemical plants and anglers, too. I mean this is a -- this affects everybody in a bad way. There isn't anything positive about the Zebra mussel that I know about.

MR. SMITH: Nothing. There's no redeeming values. Let me be bluntly clear, yeah.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Kind of like a raccoon.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, I've seen -- you know, Craig put them on nachos; but, you know, that don't get them very far, so.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: So I guess what the Commission is saying, we'll vote on the proposed changes, rule change tomorrow. Will we have it brought back to us in either March or May to look at expanding it, whether it's statewide or east or, you know, what the recommendation and then we may decide, whatever the recommendation is, we can talk about it at that time? Is that where we are?

MR. SMITH: I think that's great. I think we hear the direction that you want us to look at it as broadly as possible, up to and including statewide. We may have a reason just to give ourselves little flexibility to come back and say we think it might behoove us to look at this area as opposed to statewide. I don't know if that's the case.

But why don't we take the direction that you want us to look at it as broadly as possible above and beyond this and we'll come back in a meeting or two on that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I'd try to get it in March giving that we're coming up on prime boating and fishing season.

MR. SMITH: Okay.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: You know, Carter, what you'd look at in my book is, you know, you're going to go from right to left. Sabine River Authority, LNVA, Trinity River Water --

MR. SMITH: Trinity.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Trinity River Authority, CWA that feeds Houston --


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: And Coastal Water Authority.

MR. SMITH: Yep, and BRA.


MR. SMITH: Uh-huh.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: And, you know, those five water --


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Those five River Authorities cover most all we're talking about right here.

MR. SMITH: Right, right.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: And I can help with three or four of them pretty quick --

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: -- as far as just getting a contact.

MR. SMITH: Absolutely.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Y'all tell us what you think, but that's --

MR. SMITH: Okay, I think that's a good direction.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Again, I think what the Commission is saying, we want to be a little more proactive instead of reactive as we've been up to date. And so with that being said, with no more comment, I will place this item on Thursday's Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Thank you, Commissioners.


Work Session Item No. 10, Rules Regarding Permits to Sell Nongame Fish Taken from Public Freshwater, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Register, Monica.

MS. MCGARRITY: Good afternoon, Mr. Smith, Commissioners. My name is Monica McGarrity and I coordinate issuance and renewal of permits for the sale of nongame fish taken from public waters.

Chapter 67 of the Parks and Wildlife Code delegates to the Commission the authority to regulate the take, possession, sale, importation, exportation, and propagation of nongame species of fish or wildlife. And today I'll brief the Commission on proposed changes to the regulations in Chapter 57 E of the Texas Administrative Code pertaining to permits for the sale of nongame fish.

Any individual who wishes to sell nongame fish taken from public waters is required to obtain a permit from the Department and the rules pertaining to these permits specify the species that can be taken and the reporting requirements and, of course, each individual permit holder is required to possess all applicable commercial licenses. The current rule regarding permit issuance or renewal specifies an absolute bar to issuance or renewal of a permit for any violation. For example, a water safety violation. And this includes pending and unresolved citations.

At the same time, the current rule does not allow for a permit denial based on a conviction that's more than 12 months prior to the permit application. The current regulation regarding appeal, require a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge in accordance with the Administrative Procedures Act, but do not provide the applicant with the opportunity for Department review of a decision to deny permit issuance or renewal.

The proposed changes would set forth criteria for permit denial. The proposed rules would retain the current stipulation that a permit may not be issued for an activity that would be biologically detrimental to the target species, to a threatened or endangered species, or to other aquatic species or for an activity that would be inconsistent with Department management goals and objectives. This allows us to ensure that activities authorized by these permits are in line with conservation initiatives.

Similarly the proposed rules retain the requirement that a permit may not be issued if the applicant fails to comply with the requirements of the subchapter. For example, the permit reporting requirements. Furthermore, the proposed rules would allow the Department to refuse permit issuance or renewal if the applicant as demonstrated a disregard for the laws that are intended to protect the State's aquatic resources and that would be evidenced by a violation of Parks and Wildlife Code that relates to aquatic resources or threatened or endangered species, any violation of Parks and Wildlife Code that is a Class B or Class A misdemeanor or a felony or a violation of the Lacey Act. And here it is worth noting that the current rules pertaining to nongame fish permits were last updated in 1997. Whereas over the last several years, the Commission has adopted rules to more clearly establish criteria under which the Department can refuse to issue or renew certain permits and these proposed changes are more consistent with the current rules for other permits that are issued by the Department.

Similarly in recent years, the Commission has adopted rules for other permits that establish a process whereby the permit applicant can seek review of an Agency decision to refuse permit issuance or denial. The proposed changes would modify the rules pertaining to appeal of a permit decision to be more consistent with the appeal process afforded for other permits by allowing the permit applicant to seek Departmental review of a permit decision by a Department panel.

The review panel would include the Deputy Executive Director for Natural Resources or his or her designee, the Director of Inland Fisheries Division or his or her designee as appropriate, and a Department employee designated by the Director of the Inland Fisheries Division. Additionally, the proposed changes would combine the appeal rules into the section on permit issuance.

Under the proposed rules, the denial of issuance or renewal of a permit will not be automatic; but it will be within the discretion of the Department. And, again, this is more consistent with rules for other permits. The proposed rules would also allow the Department to consider history of violations, rather than only the previous 12 months. Our Administrative procedures will ensure a thorough internal review prior to a decision and thereby ensure that decisions which could impact the livelihood of a permit holder are made only after consideration of all of the circumstances surrounding violations.

The factors considered by the Department in determining whether to issue or renew a permit would include, but not be limited to, the nature and seriousness of the offense or offenses, the number of offenses, the existence or absence of a history of offenses, and the length of time between the offense and the permit application.

Finally, the proposed new rules provide a procedure for internal review of Agency decision to deny that is consistent with provisions for other permits. However, internal review does not supplant other legal remedies that are available to the permit applicant, which includes the hearing before an Administrative Law Judge.

With that, staff seeks permission to publish proposed repeal of Sections 57.384 and 385 and propose new Section 57.384 in the Texas Register for public comment.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Thank you, Monica. Questions?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Craig, what kind of violations of the Code constitute a Class C misdemeanor?

COLONEL HUNTER: I'll let Brandi...

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Colonel, would you answer that question, please?

MS. REEDER: Once again, Brandi Reeder. As far as -- most all of our violations are Class C misdemeanors if you're talking about --


MS. REEDER: Most of our violations are Class C misdemeanors if you're talking about in regards to fishing itself, the activity that --


MS. REEDER: You're talking about -- okay.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Just give me an example of a hunting violation --

MS. REEDER: Oh, a hunting violation.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- that's Class C misdemeanor.

MS. REEDER: Okay. That would be no hunter education, no license. Most of our violations are Class C misdemeanors.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So if an applicant commits those kinds of violations under this proposed rule, we couldn't consider that?

MS. MCGARRITY: This approach does specify certain chapters of the Code that would be grounds for permit denial, yes. That is a similar approach to what's taken under deer breeder permits and nuisance alligator permits. Of course, if you have other guidance, we'd be happy to consider that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, I think when we were looking at -- I think it was deer breeder permitting and Lacey Act violations, the initial proposal was a Lacey Act violation pertaining to deer and Reed Morian suggested why would we limit it to just that and so the Commission broadened that to include any violation of the Lacey Act in that regard. And so on this one, I don't know why we would not give the Department the discretion to deny the permit if the applicant violated the Parks and Wildlife Code period. And it's discretionary. Presumably staff is not going to unreasonably exercise the discretion and if they did, you've got this new appellate process where senior people could say "Wait a minute, you're denying this guy because he didn't have hunter ed.?" And it's going to get granted. He's going to get his permit.

So I think we ought to expand bullet point five and just say any violation of the Parks and Wildlife Code. At least have that as a ground. Because the person might have ten violations. The same thing, he might never get a hunting license and that would be no basis to deny them this permit.

MS. MCGARRITY: I agree. The discretion is the important point here, that this is -- the discretion is more consistent with the other rules. Whether we choose to list chapters that, you know, are grounds for denial or just leave it open.

MR. SMITH: So when we had that -- and I agree with that. I think when we had this discussion last time, you know, there was direction from the Commission, you know, look at the history, look at the severity of the offense, look at the frequency of the offense, look how long ago it happened, look at rehabilitation. If somebody had been, you know, an inadvertent offender or even an advertent offender, but 25 or 30 years ago and look at the record to date. And so that's what you had tasked us with last time, is look at the totality of the picture, use reasonable discretion.

If somebody disagreed with the decision of staff, it would come to the review panel, who then would review it and render a decision. If they upheld that decision, then you still had legal recourse to take it to an Administrative Law Judge.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Right, but this doesn't cover the totality. It's limited and --

MR. SMITH: It's limited in the parts of the Code. You're saying open it up to --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I think it ought -- because it's discretionary and you're right, we did say if it happened 25 years ago and it was a one-time offense, you wouldn't do it or if it was an inadvertent failure to have a hunter ed. certificate, I don't think you would do it.

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But I think it might be that it's multiple violations over a consistent period of time; but if they're still at the lower level, you wouldn't be able to rely on it as an integrity issue and I think you should be able to at least have the discretion to consider that.

COMMISSIONER JONES: I have a practical question. What species of fish are we typically talking about that are taken for sale, nongame fish that are taken for sale, and who wants to buy nongame fish?

MS. MCGARRITY: There are --


COMMISSIONER JONES: I'm just curious. Just -- we're addressing an issue on a problem here.

MS. MCGARRITY: There are a large number of individuals around the Houston area or who fish in and around -- or sorry, Dallas/Fort Worth area who catch shad. I believe these are for cut bait. There are a large number of individuals down around San Antonio who fish in Calaveras and Victor Braunig for Tilapia, cast netting, who sell those as a food fish. There's some individuals out in Liberty County who catch mainly buffalo, also some drum and carp, and those are sold for food. Then here and there, there are a few folks who catch minnows and sell those for bait.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay, okay. So -- okay. So would the majority be -- and I know this may be anecdotal and you may not have any empirical evidence on this; but are the majority of people we're talking about bait salesmen or are the majority of people we're talking about, they buy this -- I mean they catch this to sell for food or is --

MS. MCGARRITY: I think there's kind of an even split in there.

COMMISSIONER JONES: About half and half?

MS. MCGARRITY: Some catch a little of both. They catch some shad for bait and they catch buffalo and things here and there when, you know, opportunities...


MS. MCGARRITY: I'd say that buffalo is probably the --


MS. MCGARRITY: -- most popular. Right.


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Okay, we need to make any changes? Are we good with the way --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I would like to suggest that it be expanded to any violation of the Parks and Wildlife Code because it is a discretionary process with a new review step that was not in there before that protects the applicant from unreasonable Agency action and I have confidence in our staff not doing unreasonably or arbitrarily denying something. If they do, we'll hear about it and we'll fix the problem.

MS. MCGARRITY: I agree. The main intent was that this is going to be discretionary and we're going to allow them opportunity for review. The intent with selecting specific chapters was to establish a correlation between the activity that's being permitted and the violations, the nature of the violations. However, I agree that opening it up would be advisable and we'll work with Ann to make that change.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: If no other comment, I authorize staff to publish rules in the Texas Register for the required public comment period. Thank you.

Action Item -- or Work Item -- Session Item No. 11 has been withdrawn. That was dealing with Noxious and Toxic Substance for the Capture of Nongame Wildlife, but it will be put back on the agenda for our March meeting; is that correct, Carter?

MR. SMITH: I think that's your intention, yep.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Work Item No. 12, Grant Conservation Easement to the City of San Marcos Along the San Marcos River as Part of a Bank Restoration Project, Corky Kuhlmann.

MR. KUHLMANN: Good afternoon. For the record, Corky Kuhlmann with the Land Conservation Program. See, I brought you one from Hays County.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yeah, don't worry. I'm looking.

MR. KUHLMANN: This is along the A.E. Wood Fish Hatchery in Hays County, more specifically along the river there, the San Marcos River. The picture of the hatchery, the question of the easement area is going to be between the red line and the bank. It's probably the -- what would be the flood prone area of the hatchery. Top bank to that area, approximately 12 acres.

The City of San Marcos is trying or working with Corps of Engineers to get a Grant 206 Project to do river bank restoration throughout the city, everything in the city limits. And in order for them to do that, they have to have a vested interest in the property to qualify for the grant, which usually means fee. In this case, the FAA -- I mean the FAA, different project. The Corps of Engineers is willing to let us grant the City of San Marcos an easement. It may be a conservation easement or we may be just opt for a flood easement or just a regular easement giving them rights and perpetuity to the property.

And basically what they're going to do is bank restoration. They're going to come in -- and they've started within the city in places already -- take out all of the nonnative species and replant native species and keep it thick, keep people from getting it to short, stop erosion. In this easement, we have about, what, 3500 feet of river. We would craft the easement as to it would not negatively affect any operation of the hatchery and the only thing we can -- it will be thought out well; but in the future, we might need another fallout to discharge from the hatchery to the river. But we will make sure that that easement is crafted so it won't adversely affect the hatchery.

The San Marcos River is pretty unique. A number of endangered species. The one pictured here, which is probably the most prominent, is the Texas Wild Rice. And the City has gone through some other measures to cordon off areas where people were entering where there were large stands of rice and they're doing quite a bit to protect the river.

Here's the goal of the project, to enhance the river integrity and protect endangered species' habitat planning through -- through planting native vegetation and increasing density and width of the river parian corridor. This will stabilize the bank, make for a lot less pollutant, which is the -- I mean sediment, which is a common thing in the river. And this -- we'll be asking you adopt the resolution, and I'll be glad to answer any questions.


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: You know I'd have some, Corky.


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: First off, who's paying for the study? I see that they're applying for a grant from the wonderful Corps. I'm used to dealing with them. How -- are we inheriting any -- since we are a willing participant y'all say on here, have we got any financial obligation in this deal?

MR. KUHLMANN: We don't have any financial obligation. And as a matter of fact, quite the opposite. Once we give them that easement, in the easement for that floodplain area, any time there's a flood or any damage to there, the City will be responsible for any clean up. The City did offer -- ask us if we wanted to be a partner in the project, which means if we were a partner, we'd be a partner in the total project, everything within the city limits and then past a little bit and we declined on that because we didn't want a -- we didn't -- you know, we weren't going to put our name on something that we only own 3400 feet of. So we did decline on that. There will be no financial obligation to us of any sort. No money is out of our pocket for any of this.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Who did we get the -- did we get the deal from City Council? I mean has City Council already signed off on that?

MR. KUHLMANN: The City Council has signed off on it. I think Rodney Cobb is the lead on this. We're working with Melani Howard, who is their River Resource person; but I think Rodney Cobb is their lead on this.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yeah, okay. County judge. Let's see. Of course, nothing happens if they're not granted the funding, if the Corps of Engineers doesn't grant the funding to the City of San Marcos?


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: So our deal becomes null and void if they don't get the grant from the Corps?

MR. KUHLMANN: Yes, sir. Yes, sir.


MR. KUHLMANN: It would be -- it will be -- well, I'll make sure.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Please do. Like I said, I've dealt with them a lot and I'm in -- we're in the middle of a couple of them right now.

MR. KUHLMANN: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Where those moneys and who's obligated for what has to be spelled out extremely clearly.

MR. KUHLMANN: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Man, they're tough.


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: So we're not going to inherit any -- my point right now, I'm wearing my TPW hat. We're not going to get on board for owing any money.


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Good point, Dick. Ralph, do you have comment?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yeah. Yes, sir. I assume the easement will specify that it will terminate if the City doesn't materially comply with its covenants?

MR. KUHLMANN: Yes, sir. And that's one of the reasons we would have to explore which type of easement would be the best to grant them. We've talked quite a bit about being a conservation easement, but generally you like to see those in perpetuity and we may not go that route. And I'll work closely with Legal and Bob Sweeney, who's already been involved in this, to make sure that there is a reverter in the easement. That we can have a reverter in the easement if the City doesn't follow through.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Right now the way the Corps is going, that's why I asked that, too. You know, they don't have a lot of money to throw around; so this thing could drag out for -- so we need to nail it down, in mind --

MR. KUHLMANN: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: -- how long their -- how long ours and the City of San Marcos' obligation is.

MR. KUHLMANN: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I think Dick raised a good point is that it also ought to be contingent upon the Corps funding this and the project being started in a -- by some date. I'm not telling you what that date should be, but I would make that clear.

And then my next question is are we giving them -- if we give them an easement, is it going to be exclusive or do we have the right to use it, too? Because we should retain the right.

MR. KUHLMANN: Well, we -- we will have the complete right to use it and actually the granting of the easement is more of a formality in the grant requirements, being that the grantor -- I mean the person applying if the grant has to have control over the property. But whatever easement we do, it will just be on paper and we will keep full rights to do whatever it takes to run the hatchery.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So will it specify that we have the right to cross it or use --

MR. KUHLMANN: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Or use the land in connection with any future Parks and Wildlife operations?

MR. KUHLMANN: Yes, sir. Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. I would make sure that Bob puts something in there to that effect, that we have right to --


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- erect an improvement or whatever we might -- if we might need to do that, whether it's in connection with the fish hatchery or otherwise. And I'd also specify there's no development by the City, to be no development or improvements except as mandated by the --

MR. KUHLMANN: Well, actually that part has already been -- the no development by the City other than the planting of native habitat and also no public use by the City. It can't be opened up to the public. Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I just think those -- we want to get those protections in there since we have to find under the statute that there's no reasonable or prudent alternative to basically -- what, there's 30 something acres? How many acres?


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Twelve acres, sorry.


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: To doing this without compensation.

MR. KUHLMANN: Yes, sir.


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: All right. With no further discussion, I'll will place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action. Thank you, Corky.

I believe it's the last item. Wow, that's good. Item 13, Acceptance of Conservation Easement Donation, Bexar County, 32 acres at Government County State Natural Area, Ted Hollingsworth.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Go ahead, tell us your name.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good evening. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. For the record, I'm with the Land Conservation Program. I am delighted to wrap up this delightful meeting we've had today.

This item pertains to a proposed action at Government Canyon State Natural Area, which is actually inside the city limits of San Antonio on the northwest side. One of our premier state park resources. 9,000 acres of really, really spectacular property in the city of San Antonio. And you may remember that last spring, we added the MaBe-Canyon Ranch, 461 acres. In so doing, we added an inholding to the property. Basically a doughnut hole in the center of that MaBe-Canyon Ranch that was not a part of the property. We were not able to acquire it at the time.

The owner of the largest portion of that inholding, Mr. Khersonsky, contacted us almost immediately wanting to just establish good neighbor relationships with us. Chris Holmes, the park superintendent, has done a wonderful job of maintaining a good working relationship with Mr. Khersonsky and Mr. Khersonsky has contacted us recently proposing that he donate to us a conservation easement on that 32 acres.

It would be a standard conservation easement with typical terms in it, including no subdivision; no additional structures besides the one house, the one residential structure that he's already built; home-based business only, no additional commercial operation of any kind; landscaping limited to the existing landscaping; no introduction of nonnative species; no agricultural activity; and, of course, we would retain the right to monitor that and enforce that should there be any violation in the future.

It's -- he's offering it as a gift to the Department at no cost to the Department. We think that that's a terrific way to protect that property that might otherwise be subdivide and had developed in the future, further compromising park operations. We already are working on a draft conservation easement pending your approval. We've collected baseline information. Mr. Khersonsky's attorney does have a draft conservation, a conservation easement that staff here drafted, and he is ready to proceed with this transaction pending your authorization.

And so tomorrow -- there's been no public comment. We have published this. But tomorrow pending your approval, we'll bring this to you in public meeting with a recommendation that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorize the Executive Director to take all necessary steps to accept the donation of a conservation easement on approximately 32 acres in Bexar County within Government Canyon State Natural Area. I'd be happy to answer any questions.


COMMISSIONER JONES: Didn't I read there was some conversation with the owner of the 12 acres, also?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir. We are -- we have a good working relationship with him as well. He is not in a financial position to donate, so we are -- we are discreetly exploring potential options for purchasing that inholding, and would love to think I can come back to you at some point in the future with a proposal to do that.


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Okay. Any other questions? If no further questions, I'll place this item on Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.

And, Mr. Smith, this Commission has completed its Work Session business and I declare we're adjourned.

(Work Session Adjourns)



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 25th day of February, 2014.

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. 174053

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