TPW Commission

Public Hearing, March 27, 2014


TPW Commission Meetings


MARCH 27, 2014



COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Good morning, everybody. The meeting is called to order March 27th, 2014, at 9:03 a.m. Before proceeding with any business, I believe Mr. Smith has a statement to make.

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

I also want to join the Chairman and the Commission in welcoming everybody today. We've got a full house. As some of the veterans of this meeting know, we're going to start off with service awards and recognition of colleagues who are being honored for their time and tenure at the Department, as well as special awards and so that's a special time for us as a way to start the morning.

After we finish that up, the Chairman is going to call for a short recess and so that will allow those of you who have come specifically for this part of the meeting to go ahead and leave and then we'll come back and start the regular meeting. A couple of things on that front I'd just ask. Just as -- and out of courtesy to the Commission, if you've got a cell phone, if you don't mind making sure that that's on silent or vibrate. If you've got a conversation you need to have, if you don't mind stepping out in the hall and just having it quietly so that it's not disruptive. The acoustics in here are not great.

When we get to an action item and the Commission is going to be taking public comment, I want to make sure that those of you who want to speak on any of the items have signed up appropriately. At the proper time, the Chairman is going to call you by name, ask you to come up. You're going to have three minutes to tell the Commission who you are and what your position is on the matter. Again, out of courtesy to other folks that want to talk about this matter, we're going to have a green light/red light system and so green means go, yellow means start to wind it down, and red means eject. So if y'all can just help us honor that, that would be great; but delighted you joined us this morning. Thank you.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Thank you, Carter. Next order of business is the approval of the minutes from the previous Commission meeting held January 23rd, 2014, which have been distributed. Is there a motion? Scott, Commissioner Scott. Commissioner Duggins. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Next, the acknowledgment of donations, which have been distributed. I want to point out there's been almost a million dollars worth of donations, 973,000. Very nice donation from CCA, $500,000 for oyster reef rehabilitation. Also, some very nice donations from many other constituents, along with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation.

Do I have a motion for approval?



COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Commissioner Friedkin and Commissioner Morian.

(All in favor)


Next for consideration is the contract amendments, which has also been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?




COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Duggins. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Now, we'll have the retirement and service awards. Mr. Smith, please.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman Commissioners. For the record, my name is Carter Smith. Nice to be with y'all today. Just as a point of departure, I want to reintroduce one of our colleagues that's been working in the Executive Office; but she's moved roles recently, Lana Daniels. Lana on the end, you may remember her for her work in the Land Conservation Program. She worked on a project there at Palmetto State Park, a land deal that was very important to us. Had a chance to present that to the Commission. She's now joined Michelle and Dee's team and she's going to be helping to support the Commission in that regard. Also helping to support Josh Havens, the guy here in the burnt orange University of Texas tie, I see, wearing proudly there. I get a soft clap from the sole Longhorn up on the dais. It's a -- stand proud, Commissioner Lee, it's -- you're badly outnumbered up there. But Josh is with you.

So the other thing I'll say about Lana is she's a third generation Parks and Wildlife employee. Her granddaddy was the Director of Law Enforcement, Dexter Harris. Her mom worked for the Agency in Wildlife, Susan. And her Uncle Paul is the Superintendent at Tyler State Park, so we're proud to have her as part of the family. So, Lana, congratulations and welcome to your new role, so.

(Round of applause)

MR. SMITH: Each year the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies recognizes officers from around the country for their very proud and exemplary service. This will be the 44th year that we've had officers recognized and I couldn't be more pleased to let you know that this year's Texas Honoree is Game Warden Chelle Mount.

Some of you know Chelle from up in Tarrant County. Chelle graduated from the 49th Academy. In 2003, started her work for the Department. Has just done an extraordinary job. You may also remember in 2012, she was honored as the Midwestern Association Officer of the Year. So nice to be able to have her back in front of the Commission for this award.

She's really one of our experts in law enforcement on laws relating to threatened and endangered species, rare species. Recently made a case in which there was a proposed importation of literally thousands and thousands of fish coming in illegally from China. Obviously a concern that those fish would be released into public water. Some great cases made on that with respect to Lacey Act violations, etcetera. Chelle is also very active out in the community there as a hunter ed. instructor, youth related events, women in the outdoors, just a great face for the Department in that part of the world.

She's also one of our experts in GIS and so she's very adept at putting together maps on cases and incidents that are used on making cases in court and just helping our Wardens and prosecutors do their job. We're very proud of Chelle for getting this award and we're recognizing her today as the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Officer of the Year, Chelle Mount. Chelle.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: All of you know how important the Edwards Aquifer is. Sole source of drinking water for San Antonio. Over 2 million Texans that depended upon it their lives and their livelihoods. Critically important for industry, agriculture. Also very important to the environment and fish and wildlife and particularly for spring flows in the Comal and San Marcos River, the two springs. The Comal springs and San Marcos springs, two of the biggest in the state that are dependent upon the Edwards Aquifer to help sustain them. There's a whole host of species that depend upon the health of that system.

And back in 2006-2007, a whole series of partners began working together on a very unique habitat conservation plan to help protect the Edwards Aquifer, all the species that depend upon it; but also candidly all the lives and livelihoods that depended upon it and I'm very proud of the role that Parks and Wildlife played in that. And we're very fortunate to have with us Adam Zerrenner with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Adam is here with two of his colleagues from the Service. He's going to be presenting an award from the Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell honoring the Department as part of a group that worked on this Edwards Aquifer recovery implementation program and I want to welcome Adam to the meeting and ask Adam to come forward to make his special presentation. Adam.

MR. ZERRENNER: Thank you, Carter. Appreciate it. Thank you, Chairman. Thank you, Carter. Thank you, Members of the Commission, for having me here to present this very significant award on behalf of Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell to Texas Parks and Wildlife and the Commission.

As Carter mentioned, you know, the recovery implementation program has been a tremendous effort on the part of more than 40 stakeholder groups over the last seven years to balance the needs of spring flow, water needs in south central Texas, for San Antonio, for agriculture, for recreational purposes, with downstream interests, and also with the endangered species. Texas Parks and Wildlife staff played a critical role in that process.

Myself, I've been involved in it with -- for about six, seven years. And during that time, I saw Texas Parks and Wildlife staff at every meeting playing a tremendous role. One item that stands out is the development of the memorandum of understanding that layed out the ground rules where all these stakeholders wrastling with controversial water issues had a means by which they could solve their problems working together. Also, Texas Parks and Wildlife staff played a critical role on the Science Committee, providing critical information for endangered species and flow needs.

That was a key part where Parks and Wildlife played a role, and then also the designation of scientific areas for the springs. Those -- that designation provided a -- you know, demonstrated the importance of the springs, as well as protected species such as the Texas Wild Rice. We all know that water is our most critical and precious resource, especially here in Texas. This effort where Texas Parks and Wildlife played a key lead role I believe serves as a model for how people can come together and really work through competing needs with water resources and you just make it all that much more challenging with endangered species and be successful for balancing the needs of people, species, with the scarce resource, and provide that certainty that businesses/communities need and maintaining spring flow for our fish and wildlife resources.

So with all that said, you know, it is my honor, it is my pleasure to give this award to Texas Parks and Wildlife from Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell. Just as an aside, this award was ranked out the number one Fish and Wildlife Service nominee to the Department of Interior amongst 15 other awards. Our Regional Director, Benjamin Tuggle, would like to be here. He's caught up in other endangered species issues -- Lesser Prairie chicken, the oil spill down in Houston. So on behalf of the Department, our Director, our Regional Director, it's my honor to present Texas Parks and Wildlife this award from Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell, Partners in Conservation Award.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: All of you have heard a lot about our partnership with the National Wild Turkey Federation. They're just one of our very, very best partners whether it's working on Eastern turkeys or Rio Grandes or Merriams, they're just always with us. We've had a long-standing relationship working on promoting hunting, our outdoor heritage, getting youth into the outdoors, stocking turkeys, helping to enhance habitat on private and public lands. They're just a phenomenal partner and today we're very honored to receive an award that they've presented to the Department at their annual convention here in the last -- in the last couple of weeks and we're very proud to have Dick McCarver with us.

He's the president of the Texas State Board for the National Wild Turkey Federation. Dick has had a long, long history in agriculture and natural resources in Northeast Texas. Worked for the Extension Service for over 30 years and when he retired running his family farm and ranch and wildlife operation up there in Red River County and has just stayed very active in the National Wild Turkey Federation. Not only at the regional level, but really at the state level. And also Shawn Roberts, who's been with them for a long time both as a volunteer and on staff. Shawn is currently their Area Manager for the Southern U.S. and so we're very proud to welcome Dick and Shawn here today that are going to present an award to the Department on land stewardship and so I want to ask Dick and Shawn to come forward.

MR. ROBERTS: Do you want to say anything? Well, I do. Being a native Texan and being part of the National Wild Turkey Federation and working so well with the staff for the Texas Parks and Wildlife all across this state, it's an honor to bring this award home to y'all. I've been here many times recognizing individuals that work for the Department and there's many of them that work with us in our chapters.

But this one recognizes the entire state, the entire staff of Texas Parks and Wildlife all across this state for the WMAs and even the landowners that our -- that your staff works with making all the habitat right. So as we go forward with the Save the Habitat, Save the Hunt and putting aside land for us to hunt and conserving the habitat and making hunters so we can make all this be a perpetual thing, the partnership with Texas Parks and Wildlife, the National Wild Turkey Federation is in lockstep and couldn't be prouder for y'all and a little bit proud for myself on this one. So thank y'all so much in the Land Stewardship Award. Dick?

MR. MCCARVER: Say one thing very briefly. It is a pleasure to work with any organization who is so easy to work with as are Texas Parks and Wildlife. We here in Texas are the envy of states all across the country because of the working relationship that we have with you, Texas Parks and Wildlife, and it's -- we're very pleased that we can make this presentation today and have you realize that there's only one state in the union picked out to receive this award each year and I'm proud, as Shawn, to say that Texas Parks and Wildlife was selected to receive the award.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: I'd be terribly remiss if I also didn't acknowledge a couple of former Parks and Wildlife biologists that now work for the National Wild Turkey Federation. Dear old friends, Terry Turney right here in the front and Gene Miller there and so delighted to see them. A little different hat, a little different emblem; but still doing the Lord's work and so nice to see you guys. Thanks for joining us today.

It's now time for our service awards in which we have a chance to, you know, recognize colleagues for just longstanding and very proud service to this fine Agency and we're going to kick it off with Paul Hammerschmidt. Paul has been with us for 40 years in Coastal Fisheries and literally has just come up through every job imaginable and really knows our operations from top to bottom. He's such a great exemplar of our mission in so many ways.

He started out as a technician in Rockport working on an Aransas Bay hydrology project. Moved over to Corpus working with the management and harvest team there. Then he went over to San Antonio Bay as the ecosystem team leader. Moved the office from Seadrift to Port O'Connor. As I think y'all are aware, you know, we're just in the throes of finally finishing a new office there in Port O'Connor and I now Paul and actually Norman Boyd, our team leader down there, is happy to see that come to fruition.

Paul was also our Blue Crab Program Leader. Worked with the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission and the Gulf Council representing us in that capacity. He was a director of the Perry R. Bass Marine Fisheries Research Center, which does, you know, cutting edge research on life history and biology and ecology on all of the fish species that our fisheries biologists are responsible for managing there in the coast. Produced millions and millions of Redfish. Moved to Austin in '93 and working on the oyster and shrimp fishery management plans. Also, the rigs-to-reef programs. Been involved reefing the Texas Clipper. He's been recognized by many, many, many folks for his contributions. He's one of those great ambassadors. You see him at all of our outreach events engaging kids and people really from all ages in nature and the out of doors and just the wonders of the Gulf of Mexico and all of our bays and estuaries.

In addition, I'll say this. Typical other duties as assigned, more than anybody in this Agency, I see Paul Hammerschmidt -- actually, his picture. It sits proudly on our refrigerator at home. You may not know this, but Paul doubles as Santa Claus during our Christmas party and so I've got this great picture of little Ryland looking up at Santa with these eyes about that big and so I really appreciate Paul doing that every year for the kids. It's just great. So 40 years of service, Paul Hammerschmidt. Paul.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague, Gary Self, has been a Game Warden with us for 30 years and Gary started off his career right there on the New Mexico border there in Yoakum and Hockley Counties. Had responsibility also for Cochran. A lot of that sand dune country up there. Very gamey part of the state, if you don't know it. Transferred to Childress in 1994, where he's represented us as our State Game Warden in that county for many years.

He's been recognized with a number of awards. Gary got the Award of Valor from the North American Wildlife Enforcement Officers Association in '96. And in 2012, he received the Director's Lifesaving Citation Award and could not be more proud of him for his service. He gets along great with the ranchers and hunters up in that country. I know that's a point of great pride to him. We've got some friends that ranch up in that area and they say they also happen to see him at church and tell every once in a while. So we know he's an important part of the fabric of that community.

His son, Jared, is also a Game Warden in Collingsworth County and so we're proud of that father/son team. We're going to recognize Gary today for 30 years of service, Gary Self. Gary.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: You know, our next honoree, I've to tell you I was very impressed by him. I didn't know who he was. The -- 30 years and I -- and so I was looking through this this morning, Forrest Craig, and I'm looking at it and, God, you know, he's got this degree, he's got this advanced this degree, he's been awarded this award, that award, this with Governor Perry, this with Governor Bush, FBI Academy, he's made all these cases. I'm thinking who is this? And I read -- and it's quite an autobiography. It keeps going and I think 30 years service and I didn't even know this guy. You know, who the hell is this Forrest Craig?

So I thumb back and I -- you know, I get back to the six or seven pages that he's written on himself and there at the bottom, Forrest Craig, the last name in little -- Hunter. And so and I -- and, Commissioners, I need to apologize. I mean I really understand that one of your expectations of me and I get it, it's unequivocal, I ought to know the first name of my direct reports and I didn't and so I feel like today is as good a day as any to clear this up and so I -- do you want to be called Forrest or Craig?


MR. SMITH: Forrest it is. And so of all the employees in the Department, I've had a lot of firsts. No more so than with Colonel Hunter and so if you will indulge me for a moment if I could tell one story of a first on our esteemed Colonel and this was a weekend in December. Some of you will remember it as the first of the -- excuse the peanut gallery. There have been folks waiting for this, I think, for a long time. There's even buttons with his picture on it if you want to get one. I think this was one of the first maybe of the, you know, 16 e-mails we've had to send you that we're, you know, shutting down the Austin office because it's going to get 31 degrees. And in this case, I think there really was actually ice.

And so but, you know, amazingly this little merry band of Game Wardens and I had this deer hunt and somehow we were able to brave the ice and get to Rocksprings. We couldn't get to Smith School Road, but we managed to get to Rocksprings. Don't know how that happened. And so take something off your worry list on these Game Wardens, they know how to pull the trigger and their sole goal that weekend I think was to shoot more deer and hogs than the little merry band of biologists that had been out there and shot up the place the weekend before.

So that's how we started this off. Until Saturday afternoon, these two Game Wardens -- this one rookie, and one with a few years of service -- come barreling into the ranch house and they're just breathless about this story and it's -- some of you up on the dais know this. This is the infamous black Hummer Camp Wood incident in which two Game Wardens were notified of this alleged poaching ring that was going on at Camp Wood and, boy, they're hot. I mean they've got a tip that the two suspects are on this ranch over there in Montell and so they work the leads and they follow it out there, drive along Montell Creek, drive back through these ranches. And as the story had made the way around the cafes there at Camp Wood and Leaky and Uvalde, these two guys in this black Hummer were shooting all these deer. I mean it sounded like it was like a transnational poaching ring by the time they get it.

And so they finally make it out to the ranch. To cut the story way short, when they find the two suspects, they happen to be two of your fellow Commissioners who were described as two very, and I quote, unsavory and suspicious looking characters driving a black Hummer. Of course, the other side of the story, you know, these two guys who I won't identify, I'll let them identify themselves, you know, they slow down once on a county road to look at a deer. Next thing you know, they're leading this poaching ring out there. And so anyway, our Game Wardens are very deflated; but obviously terrified that some ramification is going to come of this big investigation on the two Commissioners.

Find out Craig and I are over there and they come barreling in breathless and they tell this story, clearly looking for reassurance that their jobs are going to persist and Craig is, you know, calm. Kent, you'd be so proud of him. I mean calm, inimitable way he listened to them just tell this story breathlessly and, God, they're wanting reassurance. Craig said, "Oh, don't worry about. With those two guys at the very least, they're going to finish up their hunting trip before they call Carter and tell him to fire you; so get back out to work."

So they're still a little rattled by all this. It's 15 degrees and Joe Carter and I are the only ones that have any sense not to go hunt, so we volunteer to cook that afternoon and we drop off Craig and all these other guys off at the blinds. Well, about 5:00 o'clock the phone rings and it's Forrest and so Forrest calls and says "Hey, I need you to come pick me up."

And I said, "Well, you cold or what?"

"No, no, no, but just come on."

I said, "Did you get something?"

"Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, I got something."

I smell a rat there and I said -- these words will go down in memory -- "Well, Craig, what did you get?"

Long, pregnant pause from the Director of our Law Enforcement Division, "I don't know." So we pile the two Game Wardens in the truck and I said, "Well, you're in luck. If you can't make a case against two Commissioners, let's try to make one on the Colonel. No telling what he's shot. We'll all go down in a blaze of glory." So anyway, the good Colonel had shot a Spotted Fallow buck and so perfectly legal; but we had quite a chuckle out of that and obviously you know Craig has given us a lot of levity over the years. Thirty years of service with this Agency, nine years as a Detective with the Bell County Sheriff's Department, worked on homicides and gang related narcotics, brought all that experience.

Got out of the Game Warden Academy. He was stationed in Montgomery County. This was an interesting fact that I learned about him for the first time. He was one of the first to use the decoy deer to catch illegal road hunters and on the first night of this -- first night, East Texas, first night using this decoy, made 100 cases in East Texas; so anyway, I hope they've cleaned up the woods a little bit since then. If not -- and he wasn't in the black Hummer, let me just tell you.

Craig was promoted to Lieutenant in the Mount Pleasant Regional Office. He was our Internal Affairs Director for five years. Served under Governor Rick Perry's Special Operations Group on Homeland Security Council. Ultimately promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, and ultimately promoted to Colonel. Craig has just been such an extraordinary leader for this Agency. He just embodies the spirit of this Department, a great collaborator, and just brings a wealth of experience, personal and professional to this job and he's just a dear friend to so, so many and just a wonderful, wonderful individual to work with. I'm very proud of him. Thirty years of service, Colonel Craig Hunter. Craig.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: All right, sit down Forrest. Our next colleague and y'all know him well, Russell Fishbeck. Russell has also been with us 30 years, and Russell literally grew up in the state park system. Started working at Blanco State Park as a seasonal when he was in high school. Worked all the way through college. You'll never guess where he went to college. Proud graduate of Texas A&M.

And in 1987, when he got out, got a job as a Park Ranger there at Brazos Bend. Then he moved over to Cedar Hill State Park, where he was commissioned as a Peace Officer. His talents were quickly recognized. Moved over to the -- as the Assistant Park Manager and then the Park Manager there and then the Complex Manager at Lake Ray Roberts State Parks. You know, one of the absolute busiest parks that we have up in the system. And then in 2000, Russell was promoted to be our Regional Director on the coast and in South Texas where he oversaw parks from Mustang Island all the way down to the Valley through Falcon Lake and Lake Casa Blanca there in Webb County.

Very involved in the establishment of the World Birding Center and just provided great leadership for us in that part of the world. 2013, Brent promoted him to be the Assistant Director, Division Director of the State Parks Division, where again he has just done a great, great job. Russell has been married to his wife Randi for almost 26 years. They have two kids. Kyle who was a football star there at Gregory-Portland in high school, went on to the University of Incarnate Word. Their daughter Kelsey is about to graduate. She too is going to be going to Texas A&M and so following in her dad's footsteps and so we're awfully proud of Russell Fishbeck, 30 years of service. Russell.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: It's catching on. I like it. Way to go, Russell. Our next colleague, Leah Huth, has been with us for 25 years in State Parks and she has another great background. She started out at Mission San Jose, the historical site, after she completed her bachelor's degree there at -- well, it was in Southwest Texas. Of course now Texas State. And at the time she thought it was sort of an entree to doing something better. As she like to say, 25 years later she hadn't found anything better than working in our state park system and she embodies that every single, single day.

After leaving San Jose, she transferred over to the Guadalupe River State Park and very involved in helping to open that up and set up the new standard operating procedures. She was then transferred over to Landmark Inn in Castroville, which is now under the auspices of the Texas Historical Commission; but she was our manager there. She then took a little time off to raise a couple of kids. As she said, help indoctrinate them in the importance of our outdoor heritage and cultural natural resources and at least with one of them, it paid off. Her daughter Chrissy is a State Game Warden for us, and I know that Leah was very proud to see her get commissioned a few years ago. She worked in the Communications Division before that and she's just been a great member of the team.

Leah went back to school and completed her master's degree. Went back to Guadalupe River State Park. Then was the Assistant Manager over here at McKinney Falls, then was down at Goliad. Again, one of the great sites there in the state parks system. Played a major role overseeing that critically important piece of Texas history there. Responsible for helping to open up a paddling trail there on the San Antonio River and then a few years ago, she was promoted as Superintendent, or transferred over as, at Mother Neff. You know, the first state parks system -- our first state park in our system donated in honor of Mrs. Neff by her son Pat Neff, who was the Governor and the first Chairman of the Texas State Park Board.

And so Leah is doing a great job there stewarding that site, helping to rebuild it after some floods a few years ago and awfully proud of her 25 years of service, Leah Huth. Leah.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague, John Davis, some of you have had a chance -- I think all of you had a chance to meet John. He's one of our Wildlife biologists. Really one of the most effective communicators that we have inside the Agency.

John started off his work in the 90s doing survey work on Black-capped Vireo and Golden-cheeked Warblers there at Kickapoo Cavern State Park and also Lost Maples. Ultimately joined the team full time as one of our Urban Wildlife Biologists up in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Did a wonderful job working with local communities on wildlife and conservation issues up in the North Texas area.

Recognized that it would behoove him and the Department if he went on to get another master's degree, which he did in regional planning and after getting that, stayed up there. He was instrumental in helping to form the Texas Master Naturalist Program, which is really one of the most effective citizen science programs that we have across the state and it inspired a lot of folks to do things similar across the nation. In 2008, John was promoted to our Conservation Outreach Program Leader here in Austin and asked to look over or oversee the Urban Program and the Nature Trackers and the Wildscape Program and all of our interpretive programs.

And then in 2011, John was named Director of our Wildlife Diversity Program where he oversees all of our nongame and rare and threatened and endangered species initiatives, community based outreaches -- outreach efforts. John has been with us for 20 years. He's also a proud new father, and I know that's one of the proudest things he is. And so 20 years of service, John Davis. John.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Last but not least is really one of our creative geniuses inside the Agency and I think all of you know Bruce Biermann. He's been with us for 20 years inside the Communications Division really overseeing all of extraordinary video efforts and just amazing production team, really creative.

Bruce started in '94 as a Producer with us for our award-winning and highly acclaimed PBS show that comes out and as Bruce liked to say, you know, to produce his stories about conservation, he's hung out of multiple helicopters, he's climbed mountains chasing black bear and Bighorn sheep and mountain lions, he's made over 100 dives in the Gulf of Mexico recording ocean life and the artificial reef program, he's climbed into the bat caves with millions of Mexican Free-tailed bats dropping their excrement on him from above, wading through the flesh-eating beetles in the ankle deep guano. It's all the romance that the job of our video producers bring with them.

He's been to the tiptop of the San Jacinto Monument and the bottom of Kickapoo Caverns cave. I -- you know, you see Bruce in here just always perfectly dressed in his tie, looks like the nice guy that handles all the AV stuff in here; so who would have thunk it in terms of all of the things Bruce does to get his story. He's won over 40 industry awards for his production skills and, again, just an extraordinary creative genius.

Last year he became the Manager of the Media Productions Department, that group of storytellers again that just does an amazing job telling the mission and programs and story of this fine Agency. Bruce wrote a little 20-year poem about his time here and I'm going to read that to you. You know, the creative people. It's -- and so work with me here.

To work in television in the Texas Outdoors, Parks and Wildlife offers me the chance to explore. The people I've met, the places I've traveled, learning so much and being totally dazzled. I've photographed from helicopters and been diving with whales. I've been airsick and seasick, let's skip the details. Telling important stories, teaching of conservation has been wonderful and fun and a fascinating vocation. From El Paso to Beaumont, Brownsville to Dalhart, I'm fortunate to have seen our Texas' art. I gratefully say to all of you thank you for the experiences I've received. Another 20 years, sure, there's more to achieve.

Twenty years of service, Bruce Biermann, bravo.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman and Commission, that concludes my remarks. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Thank you, Carter. At this time, I would like to inform the audience that everybody is welcome to stay for the remainder of the meeting; however, if anyone wishes to leave, now is the appropriate time to do so.

(Recess taken)

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: All right. Let's move along, please. Item No. 1, Approval of the Agenda. Is there a motion for approval? Scott and De Hoyos. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Opposed? Motion carries.

Action Item No. 2, Permit to Sell Nongame Fish Taken in Public Waters, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Rule Change, Monica.

MS. MCGARRITY: Good morning, Mr. Smith, Chairman, Commissioners. My name is Monica McGarrity. I'm in the Inland Fisheries Division and I coordinate permits for the sale of nongame fish taken from public freshwaters.

Any person who wishes to harvest and sell nongame fish taken from public freshwaters is required to obtain a permit from the Department and the rules regarding these permits specify which species can be sold, reporting requirements, and of course each permit holder must also hold the applicable commercial licenses. The current rule specifies an absolute bar to issuance or renewal of a permit for any violation of Parks and Wildlife Code or regulation of the Commission, including pending and unresolved citations; but at the same time, it does not allow for permit denial for offenses more than 12 months prior to the application.

Concerning appeal, the current rule does not provide the applicant the opportunity for a Department review of a decision to deny a permit issuance or renewal; but instead requires a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. The proposed changes to these rules set forth criteria for permit denial such that a permit may not be issued or renewed for an activity that would be biologically detrimental or inconsistent with Department management goals or objectives or if the applicant has failed to comply with the requirements of the subchapter. Furthermore, a permit may not be issued or renewed if the applicant has a violation of Parks and Wildlife Code or regulation of the Commission and this criterion was modified at the Commission's suggestion after the January meeting to retain the discretion for the Department to consider any violation and not only those that are related to aquatic resources or are major offenses.

Lastly, a permit may not be issued or renewed if the applicant has a Lacey Act violation. The proposed changes allow the applicant to request review of a permit decision by a Department panel, which is more consistent with the appeal process for other permits and the proposed changes also combine the appeal rules into the section on permit issuance. The proposed changes allow Departmental discretion and decisions to deny permit issuance or renewal, which is more consistent with other permits and that discretion allows consideration of all circumstances surrounding violations in making denial decisions.

And finally, the proposed changes provide a consistent procedure for review of a Department decision to deny a permit. The proposed changes were publish in the Texas Register. Ten respondents supported the proposed changes, one opposed, and there were no specific comments. At this time, are there any questions?


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: We used -- in the proposed language, we use the term -- for example, when referring to a violation of the code, we say the applicant or assistant. But I don't know where the term assistant is defined.

MS. MCGARRITY: With these permits, they are allowed to have two assistants. The assistants cannot be listed on any other permit and we do background check those assistants as well.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So should we specify or should we somewhere make clear that when we use the term "assistant," you're using it in that sense?

MS. MCGARRITY: There's not a definition for assistant.

MS. BRIGHT: We can make sure that that's defined either in the regulation or elsewhere. I'll need to -- we'll need to check and see if there's someplace elsewhere it's defined.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I would suggest we -- since it could mean a number of things, let's make sure it's tied to the -- to that -- to the use of the term in the application.

MS. BRIGHT: We do address that and we'll make sure that it's cleaned up whether it's through this rulemaking or a separate rulemaking.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. My next question is this would give the discretion -- the Department the discretion to deny it for a conviction. What if -- why shouldn't the Department have the discretion to deny it if a person is under arrest or indictment for a serious violation like Class A misdemeanor or higher?

And I'm thinking of the example of one of our cases that the Department is in the courthouse over now with a deer breeder where there were enormous difficulties in serving process on the defendant and this process dragged out over months. It would seem to me that the Department should have the discretion if there's -- if it's a serious -- meaning Class A misdemeanor or higher or felony, that the Department should have the discretion to deny a permit in those circumstances and so I'm asking for feedback on that, I guess.

MS. BRIGHT: One of the issues is just the whole concept of innocent until proven guilty. I mean that's going to be one of the issues there. One of the other options that we have that we have done in the past is under the Administrative Procedure Act, if someone files a timely application for renewal of a permit, it's -- they can -- the person who does that can continue to operate under the permit, under the previous permit, while the Department evaluates the new permit.

So one of the things we can do in some of those instances is just not renew the permit, but they would be able to continue to operate. It would just be under the previous permit, and we could just hold the permit until there's been a disposition of the criminal charges.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, does the -- do the current rules provide for the revocation of a permit where somebody is under arrest or indictment and then a permit is issued under the innocent-until-proven-guilty concept and then later convicted, seems to me that's a -- there ought to be grounds for immediate revocation.

MS. BRIGHT: That's something that we tend to handle administratively. You know, we could come back to the Commission with a rule that specifically spells that out if you would like so that it's clear that we may hold a permit application until the criminal charges are disposed of.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, I'm okay with the concept of innocent until proven guilty. I get that. That's the law. But I do think if after a permit is issued somebody is convicted of a serious felony or a Class A misdemeanor or any of these on the list, that that ought to be grounds for immediate revocation.

MS. BRIGHT: And there is a whole separate statute on revocation. It's in Chapter 12 of the -- I think it's Chapter 12 of the Parks and Wildlife Code; so, yes, absolutely.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So that authority is there now?

MS. BRIGHT: That authority is there now and that would go through the State Office of Administrative Hearings and there's a whole process for revocation.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Last question is should we include in this laundry list any crime involving moral turpitude?

MS. BRIGHT: We could. I haven't looked at the -- and you may know better than I would about the law involving moral turpitude. I mean that tends to become a little bit of a slippery slope. You know, for example, there may be somebody who's convicted and that's just a policy call for the Commission about -- a theft, I mean they're -- that really is just a policy call. I mean there are offenses that have -- that are really unrelated to their activities under the permit and I think we've been trying to sort of make them a little bit more tightly tied.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, I think integrity ought to count on a permit. It's a privilege and I think we ought to look at that next time we go around to see whether a crime involving -- a serious one. I'm not talking about a Class C misdemeanor, but Class A or higher crime involving moral turpitude. I think the Department ought to be able to take that into account because that goes to the applicant's character and our ability to trust him or her to comply with the conditions of the permit.

MS. BRIGHT: We can definitely in future rulemakings come back to the Commission with something on that. This is consistent with the language sort of across our Permit Program and that may be something that we would want to look at holistically.

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


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right, thank you.


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Thank you, Ann. Thank you. Any more questions for Monica? Thank you, Monica.

MS. MCGARRITY: Okay. If there are no further questions, staff recommends that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the repeal of Rule 57.384 and 57.385 and new 57.384 concerning the permits to sell nongame fish taken from public freshwater, with changes as necessary to the proposed text as published in the February 21st, 2014, issue of the Texas Register.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Thank you, Monica. We have nobody signed up to speak on this issue. Is there a motion for approval? Commissioner Scott.


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Mr. Friedkin. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any opposed? The motion carries. Thank you.

Action Item No. 3, Local Park Grant Rules, Recommend Adoption of Proposed Changes, Dana and Darlene. Good morning.

MS. LAGARDE: Good morning. My name is Dana Lagarde. I'm the Local Park Grant Manager with the State Parks Division. I'm here today to request adoption of proposed changes to Chapter 61 of the Texas Administrative Code.

Programs reviewed include the Urban and Nonurban Outdoor Recreation Grants, the Urban and Nonurban Indoor Recreation Grants, the Small Community Grants, and the Community Outdoor Outreach Program Grants. The Texas Recreational and Parks Account or TRPA and Large County Municipality Recreation and Parks Account or Urban Parks Account are funded through a dedication of a portion of the State sales tax on supporting goods as codified in the Tax Code.

Chapter 24 of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Code requires adoption of rules and regulations for grant assistance and gives the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission the authority to adopt such rules. The proposed changes are necessary due to the actions of the 83rd Texas Legislature restoring funding to the TRPA and Urban Parks Account. Public input included six statewide public meetings with 171 in attendance, an online public survey with 285 responses, and published in Texas Register in which we received seven comments, six in agreement and one disagreeing.

For the Local Park Grant Program based on public input, we are proposing to reduce the TRPA Outdoor Recreation Grant ceiling from $500,000 to $400,000. No reduction for the Small Community Grant ceiling or the Urban Outdoor Recreation Grant ceiling is being proposed. We are proposing to continue the suspension of funding for the TRPA and Urban Park Accounts Indoor Recreation Grant Programs. Funds appropriated to these indoor programs by the 83rd Legislature do not meet the threshold of 14 million per year required for funding under the Parks and Wildlife Code.

The categories listed on the screen are the areas in which we made scoring system changes that were published in the Texas Register. The Commission was briefed on these previously. For the Community Outdoor Outreach Program, we are proposing to reduce the grant ceiling to -- from $50,000 to $40,000. Again, the categories listed on your screen are the areas in which we made priority ranking system changes that were published in the Texas Register and the Commission was briefed on these previously.

TPWD staff request that the proposed revisions to Subchapters B through E of Chapter 61 Texas Administrative Code be adopted. I'd be happy to answer any questions at this time.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Commissioner Duggins.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: One request I make is that we make clear in the change that this is only applicable to the current biennium.

MS. LAGARDE: For the -- for the entire thing or the funding ceilings?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: The ceilings, funding ceilings only.

MS. LAGARDE: That is -- we can do that, absolutely.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: With that clarification -- I mean with -- I modify the recommendation in that respect and move approval as modified.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any other questions? All right. Motion for approval, Commissioner Duggins. Second?


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Commissioner Scott. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any opposed? Thank you.

MS. LAGARDE: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: The motion carries.

Moving on to Action Item No. 4, 2014-2015 Statewide Hunting Proclamation, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes, Clayton Wolf.

MR. WOLF: Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, Mr. Smith, my name is Clayton Wolf and this morning I will be presenting -- I and also Kevin Davis of the Law Enforcement Division will be copresenting the proposed changes, which you -- to the statewide hunting proclamation.

This is a little bit more abbreviated version then you've seen before since we've gone over this several times. The first proposal deals with proposed changes to our Mule deer regulations. And as you can see on the screen there in front of you, we are proposing a 16-day Mule deer season in Knox County there on the eastern side of the Panhandle. In this next slide, of course, following a discussion from yesterday where the original proposal was to have a Mule deer season for Castro, Hale, Lubbock, and Lynn County, we have modified that proposal to exclude Lynn County at the direction of this Commission.

Relative to public comment and some questions yesterday and we did get a few more comments in, so I want to remind you we have 148 comments in support of the seasons, 156 in opposition, 118 of the 156 came in on a single petition from Lynn County. That would be Lynn County landowners and residents. Also in follow up to a question in the support category, what Department staff could tease out was two individuals from Lynn County in support of the proposal.

I'll move on to general season antlerless Mule deer permits. These permits may be issued for the general season, but these are unlike Mule deer MLDP permits in that they're not valid during an archery-only season and individual hunters are restricted to the county bag limit. The proposal that we're asking you to consider for adoption would sever the antlerless permit bag limit from the county bag limit and make these permits valid during an archery-only season. Public comment on that particular proposal was 168 in support and 20 in opposition.

Relative to Desert Bighorn sheep hunting season, the current season is September 1 through August 31st. And in an effort to avoid some potential and actually some conflicts, limited conflicts we've experienced in the past relative to surveys during August, we would propose that the Mule deer -- I mean, I'm sorry, the Desert Bighorn sheep season run September 1 to July 31. We had 167 individuals support this proposal and have 11 in opposition.

Relative to mandatory harvest reporting for Eastern Wild turkey harvest, the proposal is to allow for websites and mobile applications as an approved means for fulfilling these mandatory harvest reporting requirements. In addition, in the follow up to a discussion with Vice-Chairman, just to make clear in the Register, we would also suggest the language that's there before you on the slide that the Department will publish the internet address and information obtaining -- on obtaining the mobile application in a generally assessable location, including the Department's internet website there. So that would just make clear where this information can be found. We have 195 that are in support of this proposal and 17 in opposition.

On squirrel seasons, we are proposing to consolidate seasons and take those 12 seasons that are there north and south of the Dallas/Fort Worth area that have no closed season and a ten-squirrel bag limit, consolidate those with all the seasons, all the counties that are in green there on the slide that have a no closed season and no bag limit. And in addition, extend the fall/winter season in East Texas to -- which currently ends the first Sunday in February and we would suggest that run to the last Sunday. We had 266 individuals in support of this proposal and eight in opposition. And at this point, I will turn this over to Kevin Davis to conclude the presentation.

MR. DAVIS: Good morning, Chairman, Commissioners, Mr. Smith. For the record, my name is Kevin Davis with the Law Enforcement Division. Staff is proposing a regulation change with regard to the possession of Desert Bighorn sheep skulls and horns found in the wild.

Current requirements require certain parameters be met for persons who find these horns and skulls in the wild, including notification to the Department and obtaining a plug for identification purposes. One of the requirements under that section places a burden on the landowner to provide an affidavit attesting to where these skulls and horns were located in the wild. This burden on the landowner is quite taxing and sometimes because, in some instances, because the landowner may or may not be present when this activity occurs and may not reside on the property where these horns were found.

Our Desert Bighorn restoration program has been going quite well and we feel as a staff that we can obtain the information we need without placing this burden on the landowner. We did receive public comment on this issue, 176 in support and 12 in opposition. Any questions?

Okay, we're also making a proposal to allow airguns as a valid method of take for squirrels. These airguns would have to be fired from the shoulder. They would have to have a minimum caliber of .177 and a minimum muzzle velocity rating of 600 feet per second. And again we did take public comment on that, 292 in support and 19 in opposition. Questions there?

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Yeah, Commissioner Duggins.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Can you tell me what the statute of limitations is on airgun use for squirrels? That's in jest, sort of.

MR. DAVIS: Staff is also proposing a change in the regulation that would prohibit possession of firearms in certain situations, specifically during the archery-only season, while someone is engaged in hunting deer or turkey. In looking at this regulation, we felt like it was a better service to regulate the method of take and not regulate the possession of certain things while engaged in a sport. We did take public comment on this also, with 261 in support and 36 in opposition.

And lastly, we needed to clarify one portion in the regulation relating to tagging requirements. Currently, holders of lifetime licenses are issued a card and then get their tags in the mail annually or go by to a lot point-of-sale and get their tags. There was a small language issue there that seemed to exempt holders of lifetime license from the requirements of tagging. That was not the intent of that regulation and we're simply cleaning that up to show that when tags are required, lifetime license holders are required to use them. And we received no comment on that.


MR. DAVIS: Staff's recommendation would be that Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt amendments to Section 65.8, 65.10, 65.11, 65.32, 65.42, 65.46, 65.48, and 65.64 concerning statewide hunting proclamation, with changes as necessary to the proposed text as published in the Register, February 21, 2014.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Thank you, Kevin. We do have one person signed up to speak on this. Jerry Cooke, PhD.

Jerry, do you want to come forward? Jerry, you'll have three minutes to speak.

DR. COOKE: I won't need that. I'm Dr. Jerry Cooke. I'm a resident of Caldwell County, a private citizen, and I represent no one but myself. I have previously commented on the antlerless permit proposal, and I came here today to make two points. First is I want to thank Director Wolf and his staff for taking time out when I know they don't have time to take out to answer all of my questions and address all of my concerns.

The result of that is I understand now that there are more than adequate safeguards in place to protect the safety of the Mule deer population. And having known Clayton as many years that I have, I should have known that was the case; but I didn't, and that's my bad. So I would like to withdraw my opposition to the proposed change to the statewide hunting and fishing proclamation that would do away with the season personal antlerless Mule deer bag limit on properties where antlerless permits are issued.

If you have any questions, I would be happy to try to answer them at this time and I promised to be brief and I was.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any questions for Mr. Cooke? Thank you, Jerry.

DR. COOKE: Thank you, sir.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any other questions for Clayton or Kevin? Clayton, I have one question on the Lynn County Mule deer season. Did I see something that the majority of the petitioners on the petition were from outside of Lynn County?

MR. WOLF: To be honest with you, I haven't gone through in detail to know that. I know on the top of the petition, it indicates that they're -- or maybe it was in the correspondence that was sent with the petition, it indicates that it was residents or landowners in Lynn County, so --


MR. WOLF: -- but I cannot speak to each individual address. Nor do I know, aside from Tahoka, which of those other towns are in Lynn County. I'm sorry.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: All right. Okay, all right. Thank you. With no further discussion, is there a motion for approval?


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Duggins. Commissioner Friedkin to second. All in favor, say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any opposed? Motion carries.

Action Item No. 5, 2014-2015 Statewide Recreational Commercial Fishing Proclamation, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Good morning, Commissioners. My name is Ken Kurzawski in Inland Fisheries Division and I'll be joined shortly by Brandi Reeder. We'll be going over the changes, proposed changes to the freshwater fishing regulations and providing a quick summary of the public comment.

Go over those quickly again. The first change was for harvest regulations on our Texas/Louisiana border waters. That involves Caddo, Toledo Bend, and the Lower Sabine River. Currently, we have our catfish, Blue and Channel catfish regulation that allows five fish take over 20 inches and the proposed change there is to move that up to 30 inches. Based on public comment there and the population abundance, we believe this is a change that the population there can handle and it's particularly applicable on Toledo Bend.

Tradinghouse Creek Reservoir, a reservoir near Waco. We have been stocking that with Red drum. The power plant there has ceased operations, and the stocking has been discontinued because conditions are no longer conducive for survival of Red drum. We propose to remove the 20-inch exception that we have, that we put on when we have -- stock Red drum in freshwater lakes and that would revert back to the statewide limits.

On Lake Kyle, a 12-acre lake south of here in the city of Kyle, we currently have a 14- to 21-inch slot for Largemouth bass in the community fishing lakes. That's a community fishing lake, so we have the community fishing lake regulations on there. We're proposing to change that to catch-and-release fishing for bass, catfish, and sunfish. We have a unique opportunity there in this park to try and provide a little different fishing experience, provide some quality catch-and-release angling for these species. So we're going to -- hopefully with these changes, that's what we're -- we'll be working there to evaluate that.

Guadalupe River below Canyon Lake, we have -- currently have statewide limits there on a portion of that, which is five trout of any size and we also have a special limit on trout for a section of that river, which is 18 inches, one-fish daily bag, and harvest of trout by artificial lures only. The proposed change there is to a 12- to 18-inch slot limit and allowing anglers to retain five fish and also using the harvest trout by artificial lures. We propose to implement that on a stretch of the river which is 800 yards below the dam release to the upper easternmost Highway 306 bridge crossing, which is the upper limit of our current special exemption. That area of the river, we see the most consistent water temperatures that are conducive for oversummering survival of trout. We want to take advantage of that and try and build up survival in that section of the river and hopefully that will provide some increased survival, increase the size of fish, and we also want to maintain the opportunity for some harvest in that section.

That -- this is the way that -- if those changes are -- proposed changes are implemented, how the regulations would fall out on the river. And once again, we have that area right up below the dam, which is a very popular spot for people to catch and keep five fish and that will be maintained. We stock up in that area, and that's one of the more popular spots on the river.

Had a couple of cleanups to our rules. We changed some rules on Canyon Lake Project 6 in Lubbock last year to make those rules similar to community fishing lakes. We didn't get those implemented correctly, so we have to go back and enact a fish bag there for Channel and Blues and implement the two-pole limit. We also have a couple sections of the North and South Concho River within San Angelo that have community fishing like regulations and we want to implement the two-pole limit to make those consistent there, also.

To quickly go over to summarize some of the comments on those. We did receive quite a number of comments in support of most of these. The bulk of all these comments on these are from online comments. We did -- the only exception to that is for the Guadalupe River, we did receive a number of e-mail comments in support of that and as I mentioned yesterday, we did receive quite an influx of comments over the last 24 hours. Some were on the order of, you know, a couple thousand; so that bumped a lot of those numbers up on these.

And to go over the information on the proposed change on Alligator gar, at the January Commission meeting, the Commission over concerns of the harvest of spawning Alligator gar directed us to take the public comment. This change, that would allow the Executive Director to temporarily prohibit the taking or attempting of Alligator gar in designated -- in a designated area or conditions. Such as water temperature or flooding would be conducive for those spawnings. We -- you know, we'd plan to implement this in those limited selected areas that are of high -- we have high value gar populations and to provide some additional protection there. This -- the way this rule provides, that we could close a specific area for a period not to exceed 30 days. We probably -- the way we would -- that would work, we'd probably go in there based on local conditions of rain and flooding, we would just look to be closing a particular section of a river and the metric set we would use to implement that in that particular area would be the water temperature in the spring that we know gar spawn at and also we have looked at information available from the USG -- USGS river gauges and we would -- we've decided to use the moderate flooding events as a predictor of the likelihood of spawning activity of Alligator gar and the measure also provides for public notice of this.

We know that would be a challenge to do, to provide that notice and get to many people. So we'll use all available means that we could if -- in the rare instances when we would probably invoke these closures. To take a look specifically of some of the information we have to base this on, we have a gauge at the Trinity River Highway 7. We know that the last -- one of the last good years of spawning of Alligator gar was in 2007 and that was the last year at that the -- at that particular gauge it has gone into the moderate flood stage. There's a gauge just upstream of this at -- on the Trinity River and we have some information there that shows when it -- the flood levels reached the moderate flood, we're going into -- to inundate 60 to 70 percent of the bottomland and bottomland areas around the river, which would -- which is what we're looking for for the spawning of the gar.

We know that they use those habitats during floods, during the spring floods. We get those connections that would flood into those optimum spawning habitats. And, you know, those would be off-channel oxbow lakes and floodplains. So, as I said, we'll be monitoring these conditions in particular areas and if we see in a particular area a stretch of a river where we -- where those conditions might do that, we could implement that into those limited areas.

And just to give an example of how these areas are used by gar, we have a little video that was shot in Oklahoma of some spawning gar back in 2007. This was taken in the wildlife management area on the Oklahoma side and you see a picture of a gar, probably at least a 6-foot gar swimming by the biologist who was taking those photos and you could barely see his head there and you could see how close those gar were swimming. Swimming to the staff that was out there. They weren't paying attention, any attention to the people there in that instance. And in that instance, you could see that they -- those fish will probably -- would be very vulnerable to harvest. You see -- you know, typically there's quite a few fish that would be involved in these areas. When the water would come up, those fish would get in there and spawn on those rising water levels.

As I said, we'll just -- we would monitor this. What we know, for instance, on the some of the gauges on the Trinity River, those moderate flood events happen one to six years on average and areas other one to four years. So this is would be something that we would not use certainly on a statewide basis or every year. It would be very selectively used to just protect those high value populations that we have.

We did have some suggestive wording changes to one part of the regulations that Commissioner Duggins suggested, and those are on your screen right now. And to go to our comment summary, we had quite a few comments on this, as you can see. That included a couple petitions there. One petition in support that had 353 signatures and a petition and a letter from Texas Bow Fishing Association in opposition to it with 464 signatures, which as I note are included in those totals. Some of the reasons -- try to categorize some of those reasons that were listed in opposition. There was a number of people comment on the situation on Falcon Lake. Not really -- would really be applicable in this case. They were more commenting on the desire to harvest more gar year round there and then the impacts to gar on bass populations. Certainly there's a lot of concerns expressed by bow fishing, bow fishermen about impacts to bow fishing, closing of the take or attempting to take bow fishing during these areas.

Some of the other comments were the -- questioning the research on this. Many people said that they feel the daily one -- the one-fish daily bag is doing an accurate job at this time. Some of the other things are difficulty of enforcement and that problem with notification of closures. So that is all the information I have on my portion. Do you have any questions on that?

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any questions for Ken? Okay, Ken.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Okay, Brandi is next.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Good morning, Brandi.

MS. REEDER: Good morning. Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Mr. Smith. My name is Brandi Reeder. I'm with the Law Enforcement Division, the Fisheries Law Administrator. Okay. I'm here to request the amendment of the recreational jug line buoy color requirement.

As we've said before, staff has request -- or has received many requests to change and allow different colors. The noodle floats have become increasingly popular and we have received comments as to the white floats are difficult to find and more expensive. The original white color requirement for buoys for jug lines was implemented because it was a specific gear type requiring gear tags. Now that all devices are required to have tags to be left out, gear tags to be left out, then this is no longer a necessary requirement. Our only request is that the color orange be reserved for commercial use.

Staff has received a 1,097 comments in support and 77 in opposition to this proposal. White buoys, some of the opposition had mentioned that white buoys were what was anticipated for that specific device and so they had requested that to remain. Another common request in opposition was that they felt that brightly colored floats should be used and that that should be specified. And do you have any questions for me at this time?

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any questions for Brandi? Thank you, Brandi.

MS. REEDER: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: And Lance Robinson and Jeremy Leitz, please come forward.

MR. ROBINSON: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Mr. Smith. My name is Lance Robinson with the Coastal Fisheries Division and Jeremy Leitz will be joining me shortly to complete the presentation. We're here today to present three proposals for consideration.

They are the temporary closure of public oyster reefs in east Galveston Bay and Half Moon Reef in Matagorda Bay and the extension of the two-fish bag limit for flounder into the first two weeks of December and finally, the extension of the five-fish bag limit for Spotted seatrout through the FM 457 bridge near Sargent, Texas, in Matagorda County.

Regarding the oyster closure, the Department is looking to temporary close public oyster reefs in east Galveston Bay and Half Moon Reef in Matagorda Bay for the purpose of restoration activities. Private leases and public reefs in the east Galveston Bay area would not be affected by this proposal. This slide depicts the four areas that would encompass a total of 434 acres that would be designated for closure. Each corner would be marked with a buoy and a marked buoy that this is a restoration site and no harvest would be allowed. This is a map showing the Half Moon Reef area. Four buoys would be used to mark the corners there as well.

Public comment on this proposal includes 1,405 in support of the closure, 60 in opposition. The proposal has also been endorsed by the Coastal Resources Advisory Committee and the Coastal Conservation Association.

MR. LEITZ: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, and Mr. Smith. For the record, my name is Jeremy Leitz with the Coastal Fisheries Division and I'm here today to talk about the Southern flounder proposal. As I indicated yesterday, this is one of the key species along the coast that we routinely monitor through various sampling techniques and some results from those techniques is what brings us back here before you today and I'll share those here in a second.

Just to take a step back, if you recall back in 2009, we reduced both the commercial and recreational possession limit for flounder by 50 percent. Recreational was reduced to five. Commercial was reduced to 30. However -- and then again in November, we implemented some special regulations where all possession limit for both commercial and rec was reduced to two fish and also no gigging was allowed during the month of November. And these were really put in place to counter this downward trend in abundance that we were seeing in some of our sampling techniques that I mentioned a second ago.

This here is a graph of our gillnets, which really is a measure of abundance of fish in the population. You can see that long downward trend going back to the early 1980s and the different regulations put in place throughout the years, including the November regulations there in 2009. We did see a little bit of a bump after the 2009 regulations in the 2010-2011, back to pretty good numbers. A little bit of downward trend there in '12 and in 2013 there in the fall at all time lows, which brings us back before you today with this proposal to extend the two-fish bag limit that's currently in place in November into those first two weeks of December.

However, during these two weeks, take would by any legal means. You can gig or pole and line or any other legal means. November regulations would stay as they are. We did some modeling to show what landings -- how landings would be impacted during this time. You can see there that we anticipate landings would go down by about 5 percent under this proposal and the spawning-stock biomass would go up by about 10 percent. Received quite a few comments on this. Again, the bulk of these came from online, similar to the other proposals. A little over 1800 in support, and about 556 in opposition.

Should note that we did receive a couple late comments. I believe you have one copy there from Rory Starling. It has been endorsed by the Coastal Resource Advisory Committee, the Saltwater Fisheries Enhancement Association, the Coastal Conservation Association, and those three bow fishing or bow hunting organizations you see there on the bottom. Not noted here, but we did receive a letter in opposition from the Coastal Bend Guides Association to this proposal.

And then looking at those comments regionally, as was requested back in January, we broke the coast into three sections -- the Upper, Middle, and Lower, which is where the bulk of our online comments came from. You can see the red numbers here represent the percentage in support of the proposal and then we also looked at the Dallas/Fort Worth area, the Austin area, and San Antonio. And I'll turn this back over to Lance to conclude the presentation.

MR. ROBINSON: Okay, for Spotted seatrout just to kind of bring you up to speed and reminder, the current regulations for Spotted seatrout include a ten-fish daily bag limit, 15-inch minimum size, and a one fish over 25 inches per person per day which counts as part of the daily limit. You also may recall that in 2007, there was a special regulation implemented for the Lower Laguna Madre which reduced the daily bag limit for fish to five and the possession limit equaled the bag limit.

This is, again, some of the relative abundance data as Jeremy alluded to with flounder. This is that same type of data, but for Spotted seatrout. You'll see also that there is a lot of variability from year to year. That variability is oftentimes due to recruitment success. Some years are often better than others, but no one year is ever an exact duplicate of another. Landings will also influence abundance. With high abundance resulting in high landings. And high landings reducing abundance.

The proposal that we bring before you today is to extend the five-fish bag limit from the Lower Laguna Madre through the FM 457 Highway in Sargent, Texas, and that the possession limit would be equal to the bag limit or amended by the Commission on March 26th by making the possession limit twice the daily bag limit and this proposal would also carry a five-year sunset provision.

Predicted effects of the extension, the Department modeling has shown that landings would be decreased by 13.6 percent, spawning-stock biomass would be of increase by almost 16 and a half percent, and the number of fish greater than 25 inches would increase by almost 42 percent. However, it should be noted that these large fish make up less than 1 percent of the entire population.

Public comments on these proposals, it showed 1820 comments in support, 706 in opposition. Some of the key comments that we heard from constituents were to make the possession limit twice the daily bag, to carry a regulation coastwide, and that the data does not warrant expansion of the regulation or that the regulation only serves to create a trophy fishery. Again, we broke out the comments somewhat geographically to get an idea of the coastal community, as well as some of the inland constituents and you'll see here, as Jeremy indicated, the numbers in red indicate those in support of the proposals.

Public comment that we received were endorsed -- additionally from public comments, we had endorsements from the Coastal Resources Advisory Committee, Saltwater Fisheries Enhancement Association, the Coastal Conservation Association, with all of these groups recommending that the Commission consider making the possession limit twice the daily bag. And as Jeremy mentioned, we also received a letter in opposition from the Coastal Bend Guides Association. And that concludes the presentation.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Commissioner Morian.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I have one question. Would the bag limit in the Lower Laguna Madre remain the same?

MR. ROBINSON: No, the proposal is --

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: As the possession limit?

MR. ROBINSON: The proposal is to carry the twice the daily bag limit, possession limit, throughout the whole -- from the Lower Laguna all the way up to 457.


COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: Mr. Chairman, I have a question. Remind me again how did we chose the limit, the 457 Matagorda County line? Or remind me how did we -- why did we choose that versus statewide or...

MR. ROBINSON: We communicated with Law Enforcement to find out where a good boundary would be and they chose -- decided that that would be a good enforceable boundary, is the Highway 457. Does that...

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: Well, no. I guess my question is more specific. Why didn't we include the upper coast?

MR. ROBINSON: Oh. Oh, I see. The proposal -- some of the data that we have I mean certainly shows that populations are relatively stable in those areas and so although there would be benefit by going coastwide, we certainly would see increase in spawning-stock biomass by carrying it coastwide. At this time, it wasn't --


MR. ROBINSON: -- determined that that was necessary.


COMMISSIONER JONES: Mr. Chairman, can I ask a question? I'm looking at a letter in opposition, and I'm just wanting to make sure I'm understanding at least the chart that I saw. This says that our gillnet surveys do not show a decline in the population of Speckled seatrout, but I thought I just saw a graph that you presented here earlier that did show a decline or what does it show?

MR. ROBINSON: The graph that you see before you is broken out by geographic areas. The upper coast being Sabine and Galveston Bay. Middle coast being Matagorda, San Antonio, Aransas Bays. Lower coast, Corpus Christi, Upper Laguna, and then of course the Lower Laguna. And what you see -- and actually if you look at the graph there, each one of those points is a measure of relative abundance within those regions. So it is a fairly stable population as you see depicted by the graph.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay. Stable is not the same as decline.

MR. ROBINSON: Well, I mean if you look at the last three -- the last two points there, I mean you're looking at 2013, 2012, and from 2011, there is a decline in all three of those points. Slight that it may be.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay. So there is a decline?

MR. ROBINSON: There is a slight decline on the last three years. What's that? Oh, that's right, yeah. And Jeremy reminded me, we also -- not depicted in this graph; but in other sampling gear that we have, we also show recruitment, juveniles coming into the population has also declined over that same timeframe. So the recruitment of young individuals into the population has declined, is declining in Spotted seatrout.

COMMISSIONER JONES: What does that mean?

MR. ROBINSON: Recruitment is the measure of juveniles coming into the population. It's tied very closely to spawning-stock biomass. The larger -- the more females you have in the population, the goal is to get a higher recruitment. More juveniles in the population. One of our sampling gear that we measure, it looks specifically at juveniles. Shoreline back seine surveys will capture that information and from that -- those data, we do see a declining trend in Spotted seatrout recruitment, juveniles in the population which translates into fewer numbers of adults into the future.

COMMISSIONER JONES: So I guess that's what I was confused about is -- and I'm just reading that this person has written that our surveys do not show a decline, but I'm -- from what you're telling me and what I'm seeing, it does show a decline. At least in middle -- actually lower and upper coast.

MR. ROBINSON: There -- yes, sir. There is a decline there, and more specifically with the recruitment.


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any more questions? We have several people that signed up to speak today. First to speak is Tony Reeves.

Tony, he's going to -- he wants to talk about Alligator gar. And following Tony, we have Everett Johnson; so, Everett, will you please be ready. And, Tony, as I said earlier, you'll have three minutes to address the Commission.

MR. REEVES: Right. Thank y'all for allowing us to speak today. My name is Tony Reeves. I'm the president of Texas Bow Fishing Association. I'm here to represent them as well as the Texas Bow Hunting and Bow Fishing Coalition. I'm speaking against the Alligator gar proposal. But first I would like to verify that all the Commissioners received my package that contained our petition against the proposal and other data. Did y'all receive those in the mail?

I would like to comment on a few remarks that was made at the November Commission meeting. The first was a question by Commissioner Morian about bow fishermen taking 73 percent of the Alligator gar. I want to be clear to the Commission, that number reflects the percentage of reported tags turned in. 73 percent of 11 tags were turned in by bow fishermen. That's not 73 percent of Alligator gar taken by bow fishermen. The next comment -- sorry -- was by Commissioner Duggins about his son catching a six foot four gar that was shown in a picture. That's a great achievement, by the way. But I would like to ask, sir, that if your son has ever tried to take the same sized trophy with a bow in his hand? If so, I would like to know which method he found more exciting. Soaking a bait to try to catch a fish, any fish that would bite, or actively pursuing a trophy fish?

The actual hunting of an animal and see it roll over here and roll over there just out of reach, you know, for hours on end, you finally take a break and reach down and grab a drink out of the cooler and that fish rolls right at boat side. That big, huge lazy eye just kind of looks at you it seems like for eternity. But about the time you gather your wits rather, picked up your bow, that gar is gone and you stay there for another several hours trying to get that gar to roll up in that position or within reach of your bow anyway.

But by taking that away for us during the spring spawn, is you're taking the excitement away from us at our best time of the year to shoot a trophy Alligator gar. According to your biologists and our biologists that this is the best time when they're at their most vulnerable, as you've seen on the video -- which by the way is a very rare event -- but even then the studies show that it takes an average of 50 hours for a fisherman to get a fish. If you consider 12-hour days, that's roughly -- that's over four days of daylight-to-dark fishing just to get that one fish.

You know, it's definitely not shooting in a barrel as some of the -- shooting fish in a barrel as some of the comments have been made for us. Also pertaining to comments by Commissioner Duggins in January, sir, we can tell if we're shooting a 2-foot fish or a 9-foot fish. We can tell by the size of its head, width of its back, size of her tailfin, etcetera. Since we're talking about studies, the men and women we fund to find this data, by their own admission admit that there's not enough data. The knowledge is still incomplete. And I'd also like to say -- my time is running out -- that the sport is growing for sure; but feel like by numbers in the TBA, we think we can put that altogether and reflect that the number of bow fishermen is actually not as high as most people like to think they are and we'd like to work with y'all on that to try to get that data accomplished.

In closing, I would like to state again that the current limit of one a day is sufficient. The population is doing well, and we're taking a number that is well below the sustainable level. The regulation is unjustified without science to back it, and I'd ask you to please vote no to this proposal. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any question or discussion with Mr. Reeves? Commissioner Duggins.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Mr. Reeves, other than the trill of killing one of these big fish, what's the point of shooting one?

MR. REEVES: Most people that shoot Alligator gar eat them.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: One a -- and you think you need to do that once a day?

MR. REEVES: Well, once a day on a Saturday. Most of these guys are weekend warriors. They're not going out seven days a week and shooting these fish. So it would one a day. But the one-a-day problem we had with that is people coming in from out of state or planning weekends over that. You know, you come down, the conditions are wrong for it. You can spend all day and then the last day of the hunt, you have to shoot one and go home.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But do you -- would you agree that there is a finite number of these large fish available and if we keep taking them, if we take them at a greater rate than they're being recruited, then eventually the resource will be depleted?

MR. REEVES: If we're taking more than there is going to be there, then I surely agree with that.


MR. REEVES: But I don't agree that we're taking more than there is.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, do you understand that the Department has extensive studies in progress right now to try to determine that? You don't have any science to suggest the other way, do you?

MR. REEVES: No, I'm going -- I'm planning on your science.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I know. But do you have any science to suggest that we're -- that the resources is not being depleted?

MR. REEVES: No, sir. I'm using your science by your biologists that says that we're not depleting it and we're not taking as many as they say. We're under sustainable limits.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I haven't heard that science from our staff and I think that --

MR. REEVES: It's in several media releases and other documentation.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, I think that staff's here if they want to respond to that. But I just want to make clear to your folks, we don't -- we're not trying to denigrate what you do, but we are here to try to make sure we don't lose this valuable resource because once they're gone --

MR. REEVES: We don't want it gone either.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. Well, then I'm asking you -- and I don't know whether this will pass or not. I'm going to support it. But I'm asking you to work with us as we get science that's where we can determine whether we might even lift the one a day to some higher number; but right now, we don't want to err on the side of risking a loss of the resource.

MR. REEVES: I agree.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And this would be as Ken Kurzawski said, a very rare circumstance where the Executive Director might exercise this discretion and we've got these studies in place right now and we hope by the end of this year to have more data to see exactly how dangerously close we are or if we're not close to falling off the cliff with these large fish.

MR. REEVES: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But we're the only state in the Union, as you probably know, that has these big, big gar. Nobody else --

MR. REEVES: That's not true.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. What other state?

MR. REEVES: Louisiana has a very, very abundant Alligator gar population and no regulation.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Do they have a very abundant population of 6-foot and above gar?

MR. REEVES: Yes, sir, they do.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Well, that's contrary to what staff -- what we've been told by staff. But the point that I'm asking you to work with us on is to understand we're simply trying to avoid a loss of the resource until we get more science in.

MR. REEVES: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And this would be a very rare circumstance that --

MR. REEVES: We've worked with you since 2009, as you can tell, with Craig Bonds and Dan Bennett hand in hand giving them all the information they need, since 2009. We want to help y'all. We want to have a voice in these regulations when it comes to our sport.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And you're certainly entitled to that voice and we appreciate your help and I think we've come a long way.

MR. REEVES: I agree.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But when this was first brought up, there were very troubling reports of bow fishermen just shooting these at will and leaving them laying in the river or throwing them in a Dumpster after they were -- took them to a contest. And that's no -- that's not sport in my view.

MR. REEVES: I agree, sir. Well, the sport is still the sport. But putting them in public view, that's nonsporting. I agree with that. We do not condone that. We try to educate our new sportsmen coming up to, you know, to take care of their fish. Take them home, utilize them somehow; but do not leave them in public eye. Don't let them float down the river. Don't put them on the sandbars, etcetera.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: We appreciate your comments, and I thank you.

MR. REEVES: Thank you, sir.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Thank you. Any more comments? Questions?

We have next to speak is Everett Johnson on Flounder seatrout.

MR. JOHNSON: Executive Director Smith, Commissioners, thank you for the opportunity to come here today. My name is Everett Johnson. I live at Seadrift, Texas, right on the edge of San Antone Bay and I am here in support of the bag limit reduction to five trout. In my editing and publishing work with Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine, I have tried to champion this cause for quite a few years.

I'm a member of the Coastal Resource Advisory Committee. I'm also a state level director with the CCA. I think that your proposal to reduce the middle coast bag limit will have a very positive effect on our Spotted seatrout fishery. I'm very thankful that you have put an amendment in it to make the possession limit two times the daily bag and I also think that the flounder proposal will be a great step toward helping that fishery recover.

So with all that said, I thank you for the opportunity to speak, take one second. And I also want to tell you how much I have enjoyed working with Robin Riechers and the Coastal Fisheries staff. Lance and Ed Hegen down -- recently retired down at Rockport and all the ecosystem leaders. Especially want to thank Norman Boyd at Port O'Connor San Antonio Bay Ecosystem Leader. He probably gets tired of trying to educate me, but he's been very helpful and I appreciate that. So I thank you and I hope to see that measure pass into regulation.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Thank you, Mr. Johnson. Any questions? Comments? All right, thank you.

Next up is Scott Murray. Following Scott is Robby Byers.

MR. MURRAY: Honorable Chairman, Commissioners, Carter, good to see you. My name is Scott Murray and I live on Baffin Bay, near Riviera, Texas. I am a biologist and I have served in a lot of different capacities with the Nature Conservancy, Executive Board of CCA Texas, Coastal Bend Bays Foundation, Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program, and of course both trout and flounder workgroups and the Governor's advisory committee on coastal zone management.

I, along with many others like Everett, have spent considerable time advocating for the conservation of Spotted seatrout in Texas. Most recently I've wrote a book dedicated to Texas trout, World Class Texas Trout Tomorrow. We're just kind of summarizing where we've been with trout conservation efforts in the last several years. In 2002, Texas Parks and Wildlife saw the need to re-examine trout regulations and formed a 23-member workgroup made up of guides, marina owners, conservation groups, and private fishermen. We recommended, among other measures, lowering the bag limit for trout; but for whatever reason, it didn't get adopted. The 25-inch rule we recommend and the no guide limit did get adopted in 2003.

In 2007, fishermen on the lower Texas coast supported lowering the trout limit and possession limit to five trout in order to restore their trout fishery to its former excellence. It was adopted and as y'all know, it's proven to be a real success story. In 2011, Texas Parks and Wildlife held public meetings once again to consider lowering the bag limit on trout coastwide. It wasn't adopted. So here we are again in March 2014 and Texas Parks and Wildlife is giving all of us Texas fishermen and related interests a real opportunity to substantially improve both our trout and flounder fisheries.

Being a biologist, no one believes in good science any more than I do; but let me ask every interested party here to consider three basic nonscientific questions. One, can any of us fishermen honestly say that their home bays are now better trout and flounder fishing than they once were? I think not. Two, the number of Texas saltwater fishermen and guides has increased exponentially over the past several decades. Have our Texas trout and flounder populations increased at the same rate to meet the growing fishing demand? I think not. Three, Texas Parks and Wildlife has stated unequivocally, quote, a reduction in landings would result in an increase in more and larger fish in the population. Well, isn't that what we all want? A better quality fishery and more available fish in the population to catch? I think yes.

Our current Texas regulation governing bag limits on trout has not changed since 1989, some 25 years ago. Let's try to get it done this time. We salute the Commissioners and Coastal Fisheries staff for developing timely and important proposals designed to conserve and grow our Texas trout and flounder fisheries. The Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program, the Coastal Bend Bays Foundation, and the friends of Baffin Bay strongly support both of Texas Parks and Wildlife's proposals for trout and flounder as written because we believe it will change the course of our fisheries and fishing for the better. Thanks a lot.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Thank you, Mr. Murray. Any questions? Comments? Thank you.

Next up, Robby Byers. Followed by Captain Moon Shelton.

MR. BYERS: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Carter, my name is Robby Byers. I'm the Executive Director of the Coastal Conservation Association of Texas and certainly appreciate y'all letting me speak today. I thought I would just read you our statement, if that's okay.

I know that all regulatory changes are difficult and even within our own CCA membership, it can be very divisive. But I applaud the Commission for your vision in the conservation of Texas coastal marine resources. Coastal Conservation Association's mission since inception has been to conserve, promote, and enhance the present and future availability of our coastal resources for the benefit and enjoyment of the general public.

We support the Coastal Resource Advisory Committee and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission in their proactive approach to conservation and potential resource enhancement of Speckled trout by reducing the limit to five fish per day south of Highway 457. With that we stress the need for regular review of the conservation impact to this regulatory change and support the sunset of five years to measure its effectiveness.

Additionally, CCA also supports the two-day bag limit and possession limit of Speckled trout on a statewide basis. CCA continues to encourage an October, November, and December closure to both commercial and recreational flounder gigging and are pleased with the Commission's proposal of additional changes in December. We are encouraged to see the continued attention toward the conservation of this important recreational species. And finally, CCA also supports the two-year closure to certain identified oyster reefs during restoration efforts. This is a vital conservation measure to ensure the habitat restoration projects are successful. Thank you very much.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Thank you, Mr. Byers. Any questions or comments? I want you to know that we do appreciate CCA and all the work you and your members do and thank you for coming today.

MR. BYERS: Thank you and just one comment. You know, CCA has 17 states and we all get together and I just want to compliment Parks and Wildlife. You guys have the best data of any of our CCA states, so we appreciate all the work that y'all do.


All right. Next up, Captain Moon Shelton.

CAPTAIN SHELTON: Good morning. I'm Moon Shelton. I live in Rockport, Texas, and I'm here representing Coastal Bend Guides Association. The past two days, I've kind of been the elephant in the room and I realize that. Y'all all have this letter. I'm not going to bore you with reading it, but I will use it as just kind of an outline and based also on some of the information from the two days I've been here.

It shows a lot of people that had voiced their opinion on this came from inland areas. They may or may not be educated one way or the other. They may be just following popular opinion. Also by doing this in just one area, you will be lowering the potential for tourism income in that area. Whereas, just take an example, a guy in Houston wants to fishing. He can ten trout in Galveston. Why is he coming to Corpus Christi or Port Aransas, Texas?

Same thing with the flounder. I think that it -- I think and the Coastal Bend Guides Association thinks if it is going to be done, it should be done statewide. We do not agree with it being done based on the science that we have seen up until some of what I have seen today; but we do feel that if it is going to be done, it should be done statewide from one end of the coast to the other and the boundaries should be Louisiana and not Sargent, Texas.

And that's basically all I have to say. Y'all have the letter. There will be -- you know, naturally there's more for than against and we happen to be against, myself personally. I commend CCA. I'm on the board with CCA. I have -- kind of have to ride a fence here. So basically that's what I have to say. If y'all have any questions for us, hopefully I can answer them.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Thank you, Captain Shelton. Anybody have a question for Captain Shelton? We appreciate you coming today, thank you.

CAPTAIN SHELTON: Thank you for your time.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Okay. Is there any more discussion amongst the Commission?

COMMISSIONER JONES: Mr. Chairman, could I --

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Oh, we read the -- we have not read the --

MR. ROBINSON: I have not read the recommendation in. Shall I go ahead and do that?



COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Please read the recommendation, I'm sorry.

MR. ROBINSON: I'm sorry. Staff recommends that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts the repeal of 57.977, amendments to 57.973, 57.983, as amended by the Parks and Wildlife Commission to make the possession limit for Spotted seatrout twice the daily bag limit, Chapter 57.992 and new Chapter 57.977 and 57.978 concerning the statewide recreation -- recreational and commercial fishing proclamations and an amendment to 58.21 concerning the statewide oyster fishery proclamation, with changes as necessary to proposed text as published in the February 21st, 2014, issue of the Texas Register.


COMMISSIONER JONES: I have a question. Let me just make sure I'm clear on something. We're lowering the -- you're asking us to lower the daily bag limit for lower coast for trout, seatrout, right?

MR. ROBINSON: From 457 south, yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Is that considered lower coast?

MR. ROBINSON: Middle coast and lower coast.

COMMISSIONER JONES: That's middle and lower?

MR. ROBINSON: Correct.


MR. ROBINSON: Correct.

COMMISSIONER JONES: So we're not lowering the upper coast; but I'm looking at my chart here, and the upper coast seems to be going down as well.

MR. ROBINSON: There is a decline on that data. That's true, but --

COMMISSIONER JONES: And why -- so why are we not lowering it for upper coast also?

MR. ROBINSON: Well, that certainly is an option. That was one of the options that we scoped out in -- during scoping was a coastwide implementation of the regulation and certainly that's -- that's certainly a possibility if the Commission so chooses.


MR. ROBINSON: The data --

COMMISSIONER JONES: I know we can. I'm asking why aren't we being asked to?

MR. ROBINSON: Well, then the resource would certainly see a benefit from extending that proposal coastwide. We would see an increase in spawning-stock, that would put more fish in the population, increase opportunity for anglers to harvest those animals. So there would be a benefit coastwide. At this time the data that we're looking at, at least recruitmentwise, is not quite as down on the recruitment side in the upper coast as it is on the other parts of the bay -- or parts of the coast.

COMMISSIONER JONES: All right, so here's my deal. I'm looking at these -- I'm looking at -- I'm going by the data. I'm looking at my charts.


COMMISSIONER JONES: And I've got to make a vote on what you tell me and what the chart says and I'm seeing the decline in both upper and lower middle. I don't have any charts on the recruitment. So if you want me to consider that in my vote, I've got to see that. I've got to see the data so I can justify to the people who spend their time and money and come here to advise us on their view, why I'm voting the way I do.

So I'm just -- so I'm just -- I'm trying to discern why is it that we're being asked to lower the daily take on the lower and middle, but not the upper?

MR. RIECHERS: For the record, my name is Robin Riechers, Director of Coastal Fisheries. And, Commissioner Jones, and we apologize because we shortened the presentation some this time; but those recruitment numbers we brought to you in November and January and they were showing that downward trend. They ticked a little bit down. When we did this in '09 -- or '07, I'm sorry. We had this discussion '09. I'm getting my flounder and Spotted Seatrout discussions mixed up here.

We had this discussion regarding the middle coast at an earlier time. We had that recruitment that was lower in those mid coast regions. We told you at that time as we got to final decision, that we thought we would have that recruitment raise again based on what we were seeing in our recruitment and that that would sustain the population for a few years. We did that. We saw those populations increase, and we saw that recruitment come up to a point; but now it's decreased again.

And so we brought that to you. We laid out proposals at the last meeting that would take us statewide as well as we talked about several junctures where we could maybe step this up the coast or at least consider those other bay systems where we were seeing those most problematic issues go on and that's where the 457 boundary came in at that point in time.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay. That may be something for future reference. That may be something that you'd want to present to the public again when it's time for us to vote because those -- quite frankly, I didn't recall that discussion; but now that you mention it, I do recall it. That may be something that you want to bring so that when the public is here watching us make a vote on something you want us to do, we can explain why we're cutting off at a particular road or 457 or whatnot and not look arbitrary in our decision.

MR. RIECHERS: And I certainly take full responsibility for having abbreviated the presentation some today, and we'll make sure next time we provide you with enough of that background so that we don't shortchange that discussion in any way.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Well, and look, we're all for abbreviated presentations; but there was a key element in the presentation that we needed to show the public that they don't see today. If they only arrived today to see what we're doing --

MR. RIECHERS: Yeah, yeah.

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- and so that just one key element on the recruitment was something that they needed to see, as we needed to see as a reminder now why are we doing this again.

MR. RIECHERS: Understood, Commissioner Jones. We'll take care of it next time.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Thank you, Bill. We did see that at our January meeting. It's been discussed, so that has been -- but thank you for bringing it up.

Commissioner Lee, do you have a comment?

COMMISSIONER LEE: Quick clarification. Help us understand the mechanics of the five-year sunset provision. Does it sunset back to the current take? I mean how does the sunset work? What if we're wrong?

MR. RIECHERS: You know, we review our rules as you all know every year and so in this particular case, they're -- even though we certainly indicate to folks that, you know, there's a process we go through every year, you certainly are well aware of it. Most of our -- as you can tell by 2500 comments, most of our anglers are well aware of it and follow it closely.

But in this case, they wanted some assurance that there would be another decision point. And so the way the mechanics of the way we've proposed this rule is that it will go away if we do not take another action.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Meaning it reverts back to the limits that we have today?

MR. ROBINSON: Correct.

MR. RIECHERS: That is correct.

COMMISSIONER LEE: If it just expires.


COMMISSIONER LEE: Perfect, thank you.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Yes, Commissioner De Hoyos.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: I have a question about the Alligator gar.

MR. KURZAWSKI: You have a question?

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: Yes. Has there been any reports or seeing of Alligator gars in private lakes, privately owned lakes?

MR. KURZAWSKI: Well, what do you -- if there's -- if you're in the floodplain and on occasions the -- you know, you had a lake down there, an old oxbow lake and gar could get in there and you could see Alligator gar in private waters. But, you know, there had been at some point in time some connection to a river system or one of our...

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: Will this regulation affect private landowners?

MR. KURZAWSKI: No, no. If you have a private -- you know, a private lake, we don't regulate private waters. You don't need a fishing license to fish on private waters, so.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: Excellent, thank you.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Thank you. Any more -- Commissioner Morian.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: It's just a comment on the trout. Let's watch the -- work with the Coastal Bend Guides and CCA. I would like to follow if there is any movement from the middle coast up to the upper coast and if the guides -- if it does affect the -- because that would have some impact on the takings in the upper coast and I think it would be good information.

I don't know if the Lower Laguna, if that solved -- when we passed those rules, if fishermen moved up the coast. I certainly didn't, but do we have any data that would indicate that?

MR. ROBINSON: There were -- those same concerns were heard when the regulations for the Lower Laguna were put in place. That has not materialized. We've seen no -- and even anecdotal information from guides, they're doing quite well and, you know, making many trips and stuff. So we heard the same concerns voiced by constituents in that area. It just never materialized, and we suspect that will be similar in this case; but we will certainly watch that very closely.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: You will watch it.

MR. ROBINSON: Absolutely.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: That's what I'm asking you to do.

MR. ROBINSON: Yes, sir, we will do that.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: And let's see what kind of impact it does have on the guides.

MR. ROBINSON: Sure, sure, absolutely.


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any more comments? All right. With that, is there a motion for approval? Commissioner Scott. Commissioner De Hoyos second. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any opposed? Hearing none, this motion carries.

Action Item No. 6, Acceptance of Land Donation, Presido County, Approximately 20 Acres of Land as an Addition to Chinati Mountain State Natural Area, Mr. Corky Kuhlmann.

MR. KUHLMANN: Good morning, Commissioners, Chairman. For the record, Corky Kuhlmann with the Land Conservation Program. This is a land acquisition donation of sorts, Chinati Mountains. Chinati Mountains being southwest of Marfa, Texas. The Chinati Mountains is a beautiful range. The fourth largest range in the state.

Parks and Wildlife accepted a donation of about 3800 acres in 1996 to form Chinati Mountain State Natural Area. Access is limited to staff and public only with staff. This is an overview of the park, the donation area. A close-up shows you -- the blue polygon is land we expect to acquire from a private landowner. The yellow polygon is the remainder of his 200-acre tract.

In addition to us receiving the donation or the acquisition of the acres, acreage, we will allow him access to the remainder of his property and I don't know if I brought this out yesterday or not; but his property, as we speak, is landlocked. He has no legal access to get there. We will certainly pursue a right of first refusal on his property if he ever decides to sell. I'm thinking he would be agreeable to that.

And having said that, Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorize -- or the staff recommends that Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorize the Executive Director to take all appropriate steps to accept the donation of property approximately 20 acres of Presido County for an addition to Chinati Mountains State Natural Area. And I will take any questions.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any questions for Corky? We have nobody signed up to speak. So is there a motion for approval?


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Commissioner Jones. Commissioner Morian. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any opposed? With -- hearing none, the motion carries. Thank you, Corky. I believe you're back up.

MR. KUHLMANN: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Action Item No. 8, Land -- oop, I think I got ahead of myself. Action Item No. 7, Land Acquisition, Presido County, approximately 960 acres as an Addition to the Chinati Mountains State Natural Area, Corky, thank you.

MR. KUHLMANN: Again for the record, Corky Kuhlmann. This is pretty much a repeat. At the beginning of the presentation is pretty much a repeat of what you just saw. In this case, it's still the Chinati Mountains. All the statistics are still the same. Especially the part about no access for public. This acquisition, even though we are getting around 900 acres which would be a great asset to the park, will include a type of county road.

This again is the overview proposed acquisition area. In this acquisition, we would -- like I said, receiving about or acquiring about 960 acres with county road frontage that will link us with both transactions to the State Natural Area. The seller will reserve the right to access his property at two or three sites along the southern boundary, the tract we will purchase for him, for access to his remaining and currently we are resolving some survey issues before we continue with the deal. We'll make sure that we have a good, tight deal before we do anything.

Staff recommends that Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorize the Executive Director to take all necessary steps to acquire approximately 960 acres as an addition to Chinati Mountains State Natural Area. And I'll be glad to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any question from the Commission? Thank you, Corky.

Is there a motion for approval?


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Jones and Morian second. All in favor, say aye?

(Chorus of ayes)

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

Final action item for today, Land Acquisition, Stephens County, Approximately 450 Acres as an addition to the Palo Pinto Mountains State Park, Mr. Ted Hollingsworth.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good morning. My Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This item pertains to a proposal to add approximately 450 acres to the fledgling Palo Pinto Mountains State Park. As you know that, we've been for about the last four years have been acquiring properties to piece together a tract that will make our next destination park about 70 miles west of Fort Worth.

Each time we acquire a piece of property, we back up and look at the entire resource for its natural resource values and its recreational values and this particular tract is the next priority for acquisition because it includes about a mile of North Palo Pinto Creek, which is one of the real gems of this new state park is the creek. We've been working with this landowner for some time, and we now have a contract with him to acquire that property at appraised value. You can see from this picture that it really is a very, very pretty -- very pretty creek and again part of it would make that park a destination location.

We received no comments for or against this proposed acquisition. And with that, the staff would like to recommend that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorize the Executive Director to take all necessary steps to acquire approximately 450 acres in Stephens County for addition to Palo Pinto Mountains State Park. I would be happy to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any question for Ted? There's been a motion to approve by Commissioner Duggins. A second? Commissioner Scott. All in favor, say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Opposed? Hearing none, motion carries.

And, Mr. Smith, this Commission has completed its business and I declare us adjourned.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

(Commission Meeting Adjourns)

In official recognition of the adoption of this resolution in a lawfully called public meeting of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, we hereby affix our signatures this _____ day of ______________, 2014.

Dan Allen Hughes, Jr., Chairman

Ralph H. Duggins, Vice-Chairman

T. Dan Friedkin, Member, Chairman-Emeritus

Roberto De Hoyos, Member

Bill Jones, Member

James H. Lee, Member

Margaret Martin, Member

S. Reed Morian, Member

Dick Scott, Member



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 23rd day of April, 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. 179350

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