Public Hearing, November 7, 2013
TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION
NOVEMBER 7, 2013
TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT
COMMISSION HEARING ROOM
4200 SMITH SCHOOL ROAD
AUSTIN, TEXAS 78744
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. Good morning, everyone. The meeting is called to order November 7 -- meeting is called to order November 7, at 9:05 a.m.
Before proceeding with any business, I believe Carter Smith has a statement to make.
MR. SMITH: I do, Mr. Chairman. Thank you. Public notice of this meeting containing all items on the proposed agenda has been filed in the Office of the Secretary of State as required by Chapter 551 Government Code referred to as the Open Meetings Act. I would like for this fact to be noted in the official record of the meeting.
I just want to join all the Commissioners in welcoming everybody. We've got a full house. This is one of the few times in this room I think I've been here when you can actually hear a pin drop. So what I'm about to say I think probably doesn't need to be said; but the acoustics are not great in here and so as we go through the morning, if you've got a phone call to take or a conversation to have, I'd ask respectfully that you go ahead and step outside. Also, if you've brought your cell phone, if you don't mind just putting that on silent or vibrate for the duration of the meeting.
For those of you who are staying beyond the employee recognition and service awards and you're here for a particular action item for which the Commission will be taking a vote on, at the appropriate time the Chairman will call you by name. If you wish to come up and speak on an item, you should have signed up in advance. He will call you by name. At that time, we'll ask you to come up to the microphone. You'll have three minutes to respectfully address the Commission and let them know who you are and where you stand on that particular item.
We'll keep track of it with a simple lighting system. Green means go, yellow means start to wind it down, and red means we need to close it up. And so thanks for joining us this morning.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you.
All right. The next item is to consider approving the minutes from the previous Commission meeting held August 22, 2013. The minutes, of course, have been previously distributed. Do I have a motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER JONES: Move for approval.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. Motion Commissioner Scott[sic]. Second Commissioner Morian. All in favor?
(Chorus of ayes)
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries.
Next item is the -- is to acknowledge the list of donations. That list has also been distributed. Do I have a motion for approval? Commissioner Scott. Second Commissioner Hughes. All in favor?
(Chorus of ayes)
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries.
Now we are turning to the retirement and service awards, Carter Smith.
MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Carter Smith. Let me just apologize in advance for a couple of omissions yesterday that I should have taken care of. I'll tell you, there's a lot of advantages of having a newborn at age 45; but I tell you being well-rested ain't one of them, and so don't ask me a second and third question on anything today.
But two oversights yesterday, and I just want to introduce a couple of colleagues that are going to be working very closely the Commission. To your right is Dee Halliburton. Dee is no stranger to all of you. She's been with us for 26 years inside the Agency. We're going to be helping Carole Hemby celebrate her retirement very shortly, but Dee has worked in the Executive Office in the past. Most recently, she was a very exemplary and capable Executive Assistant for Robin and Gary in Coastal and Inland Fisheries and so we welcome her to the Executive team and so, Dee, nice to have you back.
Also, and I think we had a chance to announce this to all of the Commissioners; but after a very extensive and exhaustive search for a new HR Director, we landed on just the right individual, Kent White. And Kent comes to us from a very, very proud long-standing and exemplary career in the Air Force where he served our country for 26 years and was a colonel at the time of his requirement. Oversaw as the HR Director, a huge team of professionals throughout the Air Force, very geographically dispersed workforce, and brings a lot of expertise and talents to this Agency and we're excited to have Kent on the team. So, Kent, welcome.
We're going to start off this morning with a couple of awards and we've got some partners that have come in to help us celebrate the accomplishments of some of our colleagues from around the state. We're going to start off with one of our longest standing partners, our colleagues over at the Shikar Safari Club and we've got Joe Haynes and Herb Stumberg and the famous Danny Butler from Ramondville, Texas, with us today to help celebrate this.
But really for the last 30, 34 years, Shikar Safari has honored one of our Texas Game Wardens for Officer of the Year and this year's winner, they couldn't have picked a better winner, Johnny Jones. Johnny got out of the Game Warden Academy in 2002. His first duty assignment was in San Augustine County, which is candidly not the easiest place in the world for a Game Warden to be stationed.
Johnny integrated himself very, very well into that community and known for being a great ambassador, working closely with the landowners and the Sheriff's Office, local and state and federal law enforcement authorities. In fact, we recognized Johnny with one of our employee awards just a couple of years ago for his exemplary service over there.
In 2012, Johnny transferred to Bexar County and where he served proudly there. He and his partner, Kathleen Stuman, have made some great cases in short time. A couple of high profile ones on a deer poaching one that got a lot of media attention, as well as a very prominent businessman there in San Antonio that was caught with a few too many doves and Johnny and Kathleen handled that courteously, professionally, and respectfully; but reminded us all that nobody is above the law and we're proud of Johnny for how he conducts himself wearing that blue badge.
Johnny is also a member of the Agency Dive Team. Really talented group of professionals that are involved in very difficult body recovery related activities, as well as evidence recovery. He's a great ambassador for this Agency, an extraordinary colleague. We're awfully proud to see Johnny recognized with the 2013 Shikar Safari Award. And I would like to ask him to come forward and Herb and Danny and Joe to come forward as well with the Chairman for a picture. Johnny Jones.
(Round of applause and photographs)
MR. HAYNES: Well, we're really happy to be here. We do this in all 50 states every year and we've been doing it for over 30 years and to recognize a Wildlife Officer of the Year is really important to us and our organization and we're thrilled it's Johnny. Congratulations.
MR. JOHNNY JONES: Thank you, sir.
MR. HAYNES: We've got a few little things here for you. There's a plaque.
MR. JOHNNY JONES: All right.
MR. HAYNES: Herb has got a deal there.
MR. SMITH: Our next award is going to recognize three very distinguished colleagues inside the Agency and it comes from the Texas Environmental Law Enforcement Association. This is a professional association. A local, federal, state law enforcement officers, prosecutors, environmental scientists, forensic scientists, that worked together just to help continue professional development and helping to advance those working in the professions of helping to protect our air and land and water.
And that organization has been around since 1997 and one of the things they do is recognize outstanding colleagues for their accomplishments in the field and we couldn't be prouder that today three of them are getting recognized by TELEA. Robert Waggett, who's been a Game Warden with us for 20 years; Pamela Hamlett and Gary Steinmetz.
Robert, like a said, started 20 years ago. He's based over in Houston with our Environmental Crimes Unit. He's know for his great teamwork working with Houston PD, Harris County, TCEQ, EPA. Made some very high profile cases against environmental polluters around the state; but particularly in that area known as just being a consummate team player and just an exemplary Law Enforcement officer.
That Law Enforcement team has also been very well supported over the year -- over the years by Pamela and Gary. Both exceptionally well-noted chemists not only in the state, but across the country. They have provided critically important services of training our Game Wardens on proper evidence collection and handling, how to deal with toxic and hazardous substances, helping them make sure that we're getting the most legally defensible cases that will hold up in court.
They've been called upon to help with things in the middle of the night, holidays, weekends, you name it, on search warrants in very difficult situations going to help collect evidence to make sure that we can build the best cases. So they've been a great team. Robert Knight, who's the Vice President from TELEA, is here with us today and as we honor Robert and Pamela and Gary, I want to ask Robert to come up and join us for the picture. So let's give them all a round of applause.
(Round of applause and photographs)
MR. SMITH: We're going to now honor some of our colleagues that have retired after decades and decades of very proud service to the Agency -- and what did I miss back here? It's -- I've got watch my back here. I'm going to just move around.
The first one is really one of those pioneering woman scientists inside the Agency, Paige Campbell, a biologist with our Coastal Fisheries Division. We talked yesterday about San Antonio Bay and the new fishery station down there that was constructed. That was not there, let me assure you, in 1977 when Paige started as a technician helping us develop creel surveys in San Antonio Bay.
As one of our stars, she rapidly moved up the ladder. She moved over to Rockport working in Corpus Christi and Aransas Bay. Promoted to a biologist there working on harvest monitoring strategies and data collection there in that very important mid bay complex. And then she became in August of '92 a program specialist and in charge of really overseeing all of our commercial fisheries database and worked with us to help improve the quality of our data collection, all of the commercial landings. She helped transition us to the Trip Ticket Program, which has given us much better and higher quality data. Known for working closely with all of our commercial constituents and fishermen along the Coast.
Paige also very active in terms of publishing scientific papers, peer review journals. She also is one of the coauthor of the State Shrimp Management Plan, which helped give really the Commission the foundation for being able to make informed decisions about how we regulate that fishery. She's represented us proudly at the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission on a variety of committees, as well as the Gulf of Mexico Council. And so we're honored to have had Paige Campbell work for us for 35 years of service, Paige.
(Round of applause and photographs)
MR. SMITH: Our next colleague comes from State Parks. Roger Shelton, been with us for 34 years. He started out in arguably Texas most hallowed ground there at San Jacinto as a seasonal worker. Quickly promoted to Park Ranger. Was there a couple of years. Moved over to Varner-Hogg Plantation, now under the auspices of the Historical Commission where he assumed the role Lead Ranger.
And then Roger, as he just continued to progress in his career, came over to Bastrop and Buescher State Parks as part of that whole Lost Pines Complex. Took on the role of Assistant Complex Manager and then later was promoted to our Complex Manager. Roger has been a Law Enforcement officer for a long time and as our State Parks Law Enforcement team created Regional Lieutenant positions to oversee our Law Enforcement operations within the regional parks, Roger took on that role. A very, very distinguished career in Law Enforcement and park management and very proud to honor him for 34 years of service, Roger Shelton. Roger.
(Round of applause and photographs)
MR. SMITH: Our next colleague is also from State Parks and, again, one of those pioneering women leaders inside this Agency, Ellen Buchanan. Grew up there in the Piny Woods and really proudly worked most of her career for State Parks in that area.
She started 1981 as Park Superintendent over here at Monument Hill and Kreische Brewery over in La Grange and, Ellen, I'm going to digress just a second. As we're getting closer to the holiday season, something that I hope all the Commissioners will think about, there's a whole litany of things going on to celebrate Christmas and the holidays in your state parks and Monument Hill and Kreische Brewery has a wonderful celebration with a trail of lights. It's just a delightful place to be on a winter evening before Christmas and if you have a chance to make it over to La Grange to see that, I encourage you to do it.
Ellen moved from there over to Martin Dies State Park. Again, there in East Texas. Just a beautiful, beautiful site there in the Piny Woods. She was promoted to Regional Director in 2003, where she oversaw all of our State Park operations in East Texas. Ellen has always been known for her passion for the mission and her exceptional loyalty in service to the people that work for her. Very proud to recognize Ellen Buchanan, 32 years of service. Ellen.
(Round of applause and photographs)
MR. SMITH: Our next colleague that we're honoring for 26 years service, Roy Kleinsasser. One of our Inland Fisheries biologist. Throughout his career, very noted aquatic scientist. Started out in Resource Protection working on water quality and water quantity issues. Roy became a Program Leader, oversaw our Fish Kill Investigative Team. Later became Program Leader for River Studies Team, which is just doing some extraordinary work on the 200,000 miles of rivers and creeks and streams in the state and making sure that our fisheries and aquatic life stay healthy within those aquatic systems.
A few years ago, he moved back wanting to get a little closer to the field as a Field Biologist, just again working more closely with the resources that he loves. He's been involved in a lot of issues, helping to make the scientific case and argument about the benefits of keeping our rivers and creeks and streams healthy to preserve these very diverse fish populations that we have in the state. Very proud of his 26 years of service, Roy Kleinsasser. Roy.
(Round of applause and photographs)
MR. SMITH: Well, our next colleague certainly needs no introduction, Lydia Saldana. You know, Lydia came to work for us 24 years ago after being in TV for ten years as an anchorwoman really I guess was what she did. I remember -- reporter. And she had a very distinctive voice that I remember very, very vividly. Worked for WFAA up in Dallas, you know, in the Nation's fifth largest media market. But when she walked through the doors of Parks and Wildlife 24 years ago, she'll tell you she thought it was like coming into a foreign country and -- but nobody adapted better than Lydia Saldana.
She's not only become part and parcel of the culture at the Agency, she is the culture of this Agency and we've seen that throughout the entirety of her career. She started out hired overseeing our Video Production Team. Just an extraordinary group of videographers that Lydia had the privilege of leading. She was then promoted to our Media Services Branch Chief and really saw -- oversaw the transformation from what at that time was a very traditional information and education unit inside a State agency to a much more global, media savvy communications division.
She worked on developing, you know, the award winning programs from the PBS TV series to Passport to Texas to video news stories and -- God, when was that? '96? When did she get promoted to -- when did you get promoted? '96? '96, 1996 promoted to Communications Division Director and has just been an extraordinary leader and you just watch that whole transformation of things happen again as she's just continued to modernize that work.
She led the effort to get Parks and Wildlife involved in social media. Really the first State agency to do that. I can't count the number of times that other colleagues from State agencies ask if they could borrow Lydia's expertise to help them develop their social media programs. Website has just been a huge, huge priority for her. Very instrumental in helping to push on marketing related initiatives, helping to brand the Agency and our logo, recognizing the huge value that that had. Developing, pioneering partnerships with corporations to help them find ways to sponsor our work through cause related marketing initiatives.
The ten year State of Water series, which one of those seminal efforts that has told the story of Texas' springs and lakes and rivers and bays and estuaries and gulfs like no other was launched and led under the auspices of her leadership. As you will recall, had Walter Cronkite narrate a number of those, just a real coup. And so she and her team have just contributed so significantly to this Agency, and so there's so much we could say about Lydia; but, again, she's just been a fierce keeper of the culture.
You can always count on her to do the right thing and she's just a passionate advocate for doing what's right for everybody and keeping us on the straight-and-narrow as we think and contemplate and work on these issues of relevance to all 25, 26 million Texans. Lydia has always been at the forefront of making sure that we're thinking about how this Agency not only maintains our relevance, but continues to grow it and awfully proud to recognize Lydia Saldana, 24 years of leadership inside this Agency. Lydia.
(Round of applause and photographs)
MS. SALDANA: Can I say something?
MR. SMITH: Yeah, of course, of course. Make your parents proud. Here, I'll hold this.
MS. SALDANA: Wow, thanks. I think the first thing that I should say is thank you. Thank you to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission for all of your support over the years. As Carter knows, I've been in a very reflective mode the last couple of weeks and one of the things which is very out of character for me, I've been thinking about numbers.
My brother is the math brain, but I've been thinking about numbers. And since I walked through the door in 1990, I have served along side 44 different Commissioners, seven Chairmen, four Executive Directors, and an assortment of Division Directors along the way. Another number I've been thinking about is the number of folks that I've media trained because I was thinking about some of the things that I've done that I think will have an impact going forward.
And Tom and I developed the media training curriculum back in the early 90s and we've trained, at this point, over 400 Game Wardens, over 300 State Park staff, dozens of Fisheries and Wildlife biologists to help them be better communicators about our fish and wildlife conservation and our conservation mission. And, you know, when I started here, the unofficial media policy for the Texas Game Wardens was if you see a television camera, run as quickly as you can in the opposite direction. And now they're doing Tweet alongs, so I think it's safe to leave.
Another number that I've been thinking about is 70 and there are 70 employees in the Communications Division and they're incredible. I don't need to tell you that. I mean we've got -- they're just an incredible team of committed communications, education, outreach, creative, amazing people and you see their work every, every single day and I'm really going to miss them.
You know, this has really been an incredible experience and I've been reflecting on all the different things that I've experienced over the years. I was thinking just this morning on the drive in about the reception at the Governor's Mansion with Governor Richards where I got to meet Perry R. Bass for the first time and the Parks and Wildlife Foundation was born and being with Governor Richards as she released a Bald eagle over the Rio Grande. Being with Governor Bush the time that we opened the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center with a mob of media. John, do you remember that? John remembers that.
A mob of media and the paint literally wasn't dry. Gary remembers that. I mean it was just absolutely amazing. Being with Governor Perry on the first run of the Governor's Run on the Texas State Railroad. Just some incredible memories. And then, of course, the people and the conservation work that is done here every single day. You know, riding with the Game Wardens, which I've had the privilege to do. You know, being with the Wildlife biologists on the Kerr Wildlife Management area as they wrestled with the deer. You know, being -- catching Striper with the Fisheries biologists. They call that "fishery management." Yeah, right. And just visiting every wonderful corner of the state.
But I think the thing that I will take with me and I was talking to Carter about this and some of y'all know my story, that when I stumbled through these doors, I had never hunted, I had never fished, I had never been camping. My Daddy is here and we -- Dad worked hard and he's a contractor and built houses and I think the last thing he would have wanted to do was go camping in a state park with six kids on his one day off. But, you know, when I got here and got exposed to it, it's just been an incredible experience and it really truly is part of me now and that I'm going to take with me and that memory will last a lifetime and the friendships I've made here will last a lifetime, too. Thank you.
MR. SMITH: Lydia mentioned that she didn't exactly come by all of this outdoor stuff naturally. You could not find a pair of hiking or hunting boots among all those high heels, let me assure you and -- but just to make sure that we keep her honest and she remembers her newly acquired roots over the last 24 years, Parks and Wildlife Foundation has given her a lifetime hunting and fishing license. So we'll see you in the outdoors, Lydia. Bravo.
(Round of applause)
MR. SMITH: Well, we've had a lot of good things that have come out of San Antonio over the years and Paul David Fuentes grew up there and served our State Park system very proudly for 23 years. When he was about to graduate from The University of Texas at San Antonio, he was at a career day where he met somebody from Parks and Wildlife who encouraged him to think about a career in State Parks and he immediately started going that direction and a trip up Enchanted Rock sealed the deal.
Paul David started out as a Park Ranger at Inks Lake. Went on to Lake Livingston as the Assistant Manager. Moved over to Cedar Hill there in the Dallas/Fort Worth where he had the privilege of opening up Penn Farm, which is a great interpretive farm of the old history of agriculture in that area. And in 1998 though, he was promoted to Superintendent there at Hill Country State Natural Area near Bandera and I think all of you know that area as being billed as the cowboy capital of the world and dude ranches all over the place and people on horseback looking for places to ride and so Paul did a great job of making sure that the State Natural Area helped serve that destination and supporting that local community and economic development there in the Hill Country. Developed a great trail system. Very involved with the Bandera County Chamber of Commerce, the Boys and Girls Club, the Local Master Naturalist. Really tried to integrate himself into that community.
He's retired from the Department and started a new career working on landscaping, focusing on native plants and rainwater catchment; so all that conservation ethic that he learned at Parks and Wildlife, he'll continue on. So we're proud to recognize Paul for 23 years of service, Paul Fuentes. Paul.
(Round of applause and photographs)
MR. SMITH: Well, our next colleague is no stranger. We mentioned earlier Carole Hemby, and Carole retired after 17 years of proud service to this Department. Has played such an integral role of working with the Commission over the years. She started out in 1993 as a secretary for Gene McCarty. Is Gene here? Did Gene come? Is Gene not around? I thought he would be roaming the halls. Sometimes Gene, you can kind of see him skulking around. Not exactly sure what he's up to.
But anyway, he must have made her mad because no less than a year, Carole jumped ship and moved over to Wildlife and so that's where I had the pleasure of meeting Carole. I was working as an intern and Carole sat next to me. I've got to tell you, she's a little disruptive. You know, yeah, she really was. A lot of joke telling and just kind of awfully hard to get any work done with her and, boy, was I surprised six years ago to see her up in the Executive Office. I don't know what Bob Cook was up to; but Carole Hemby, my goodness.
Carole has had a great, great, great career. She's, you know, worked Coastal Fisheries, Wildlife, Executive Office. She left a couple of times for very short periods of time, but she always came back to her Texas Parks and Wildlife family. Carole is just such a wonderful, wonderful friend and public servant and helped so many people and so many people here have helped her and we just love her. She's going to be moving to Colorado likely at the end of the month to be with her Mom and brothers and so we're going to encourage her to come back often. Seventeen years of service, Carole Hemby. Carole.
(Round of applause and photographs)
MR. SMITH: We're going to now honor colleagues for their longstanding service to the Agency and we're going to start off with Albert Flores. Albert's been a Game Warden with us for 25 years. As soon as he got out of the Academy, he was sent down to the Coast at Ingleside in San Patricio County and he's been there ever since and so we've had a wonderful benefit of him as just part and parcel of that community.
Involved in all kinds of Coastal Fisheries and Wildlife and Law Enforcement issues. Albert is the Senior Warden there in his district. He's very involved and active in youth related outreach programs. He's a master hunter. Very involved in the Texas Youth Hunting Program. He's been an instructor as part of the Max McGraw Conservation Leaders for Tomorrow Program, which is a really innovative program that several of our colleagues have had the privilege of going through that focuses on State agency personnel right now that didn't grow up with a hunting or fishing background and help teaches them about that and the conservation ethic and how sportsmen help fund our fisheries and wildlife and Albert has been one of the great instructor there.
He's also an instructor in firearms and standardized field sobriety. But I suspect he's proudest with his wife Jill of their two twins, Aiden and Tessa, who recently graduated from Ingleside High School. One of them was valedictorian, and one of them salutatorian. Well done, Albert; 25 years of service.
(Round of applause and photographs)
MR. SMITH: Another colleague who's a Game Warden down in the mid Coast area, Marty Martin started out 25 years ago. As soon as he was done with the Academy, also sent down to the Coast there in Rockport where he's proudly served us for all of this time working on, again, a wide variety of Coastal Fisheries and Wildlife issues.
He's been recognized by the Midwestern Association of Law Enforcement Officers as the Officer of the Year. He's received two Director's Awards for the Law Enforcement Division for his exemplary service. He was one of the first 50 State Game Wardens to go to New Orleans to help with Katrina and you know how proud we were of that special service and he is, too. He's also very involved in the community and one of the programs that he started early on was a program called "Go for Fish, Not Drugs" fishing tournament, which gets kids involved and teaches them the value of spending time in the outdoors and to use that as a way to avoid other temptations that are inevitably out there.
That tournament has grown over the years and now attracts over 300 kids that participate every year. Marty has just been a great representative for us down in Aransas County, 25 years of Service. Marty.
(Round of applause and photographs)
MR. SMITH: Our next colleague, Donnie Frels, has really been one of those thought and practice leaders in the field of wildlife biology and management and he comes by it honestly. His Dad was one of the great leaders in the Wildlife Division, oversaw our South Texas Program and Coastal Program. But not only is Donnie following in his Dad's footsteps, but he has more than made and left his own during a 25-year very proud career as a Wildlife biologist for this Agency.
He got a good start as a Wildlife biologist working for the San Jose Cattle Company on one of the coolest barrier islands in the state overseeing that Wildlife program on the Coast. After a few years, he came back to the family business, Texas Parks and Wildlife, and went up to the Panhandle for four or five years where he worked on a wide variety of issues from stocking Pronghorn antelope into Gray County from Utah, working on pheasant trapping issues, Mule deer, White-tail, turkey issues.
Maybe perhaps where Donnie really started to really make his mark was in the early 90s when he was transferred over to the Gus Engling Wildlife Management Area in Tennessee Colony, East Texas. One of our flagship WMAs in the Post Oak and Piny Woods country. Some really innovative and exciting research work going on there and habitat management that's carried on this day and Donnie did such a good job with starting so much of that. And whether it was vegetation mapping on pitcher plant bogs or bottomland hardwoods or very innovative deer management related program, overseeing a 300-inmate work camp -- not sure -- sort of one of those other duties as assigned in terms of helping to herd that volunteer labor -- working on Eastern turkey restoration.
Donnie was promoted in 1998 over the Kerr Wildlife Management Area. Again, one of our flagship sites that I hope all of you have a chance to see, just like Gus Engling and so many of our other State Wildlife Management Areas. He now oversees our ecosystem work there in the Edwards Plateau. The Wildlife Management Areas under his auspices are the Kerr and Mason Mountain and then the Muse up near Brownwood and the projects that are going on in those places are just phenomenal.
When you look at the deer work, you look at the hunter work that they're doing, the feral swine research that is really innovative and pioneering there. Endanger Species grazing, landowner outreach, watershed work, Donnie is just at the forefront of it and his colleagues speak so highly of his leadership and his servant leadership and working to enable and empower them to do good things for our lands and waters and fish and game. Awfully proud of Donnie Frels, 25 years of service. Donnie.
(Round of applause and photographs)
MR. SMITH: Our next colleague, also so proud of all of her service, Linda Campbell; 20 years of service to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Came from Florida, got a master's there at Texas A&M and so it's -- and so I know she's proud of that. I don't think I've met any Aggie who's not proud of that pedigree.
Worked for USDA and NRCS for 11 or 12 years before we hired her here at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in '93, where she was working in Wildlife Diversity and Education and Outreach. She was the author of a book on endangered and threatened animals of Texas, which you still see in many a coffee table around the state today at many a ranch. She was our Wildlife Diversity biologist in Central Texas, also oversaw the Nature Tourism Program and Linda played a huge role in all of the creation and establishment of the wildlife viewing trails around the state and helping to get those driving trails started in Central Texas and the Panhandle and East Texas.
In 2003, she was promoted to head up our Public Hunting and Private Lands Program, where she's just done a great job serving our private landowners and public hunters at Lone Star Land Steward Awards Program, which is just such a special way to honor the State's most exemplary land stewards. Linda has just worked with our Private Lands Advisory Committee to help grow and grow and grow that. She's a steward herself with her husband. They own a ranch there in the Rolling Plains in which they're active stewards of the habit and you can rest assured it's in good hands under her watch. Twenty years of service, Linda Campbell.
(Round of applause and photographs)
MR. SMITH: Our next colleague that we're going to honor may very well have the hardest job at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Clayton Wolf. You know, we've got a million hunters around the state and all million of them think that they are the expert on wildlife and wildlife management and Clayton gets to hear from every single one of them frequently.
Clayton has had a great career in Wildlife. Started off working for Temple-Inland back when Temple-Inland, you know, owned and stewarded several million acres in the Piny Woods and were known for their very, very active and proactive management. Clayton left Temple-Inland to come to Parks and Wildlife in '93 as our District biologist over there in Jasper, where he was involved in a number of new management projects and hunting related things, establishing either sex hunting for White-tailed deer, involved in Eastern turkey restoration. Very instrumental in that kind of seminal White-tailed deer breeding chronology study that was done around the state.
Clayton was promoted in 2001 to the White-tailed Deer Program Leader, where he just, you know, worked very, very diligently on our State's most popular game animal. Was involved in helping to implement the antler restriction experiment in seven Post Oak Counties. The 13-inch rule that the Commission has now expanded to over 100 counties in the state and has been so well received in terms of helping to improve the age structure in those counties where a disproportion number of the bucks were harvested at young ages.
2003, promoted to Big Game Program Director and overseeing MLDP programs and dealing with CWD issues and just a range of hunter and hunting and wildlife issues. He's got a wonderful wry sense of humor. Those of all of you know, Clayton -- and in November of 2009, we promoted him to the Wildlife Division Director where he says and I quote, he naively took the position of Wildlife Division Director and has lasted longer than most expected. Twenty years of service, Clayton Wolf. Bravo, Clayton.
(Round of applause and photographs)
MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, that concludes my presentation. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. The first order of business is Action Item 1, approval of the agenda. Before I ask for a motion on that, I want to note that Item No. 11, right-of-way easement, Burnet County, Longhorn Cavern State Park has been removed from the agenda. The intent at this point is for this item to be considered at the January meeting at the time the Commission hears and presumably will act on a policy with respect to request for easements through the state park. But with that adjustment or modification, I'd like to ask for a motion for approval of the revised agenda. A motion, Commissioners?
COMMISSIONER JONES: Second.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Commissioner Martin. Second Commissioner Scott[sic]. All in favor?
(Chorus of ayes)
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries.
Time for a little levity, election of a Vice-Chairman. It's your chance to fire me, but we've got to elect a Vice-Chairman. So anybody that wants to speak on this is welcome to speak.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I'll make the motion. Since you've demonstrated enormous capacity to execute the duties, I'm going to move that we re-elect you Vice-Chairman, Commissioner Duggins.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Motion by Commissioner Morian. Is there a second, or is it failed for a second? Apparently it does. Okay, we've got to have another motion then. Paybacks are tough. They are tough.
COMMISSIONER LEE: I'll make the second. This is painful to watch.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I'll remember that. I will remember that. All right.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Next time, breakfast tacos.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And I recognize there's been a request from one of the colleagues for breakfast tacos and refreshments, which I'll leave it at that which we'll take up. Anyway, there's a motion by Commissioner Morian. Second by Commissioner Lee that Ralph Duggins be appointed Vice -- or elected Vice-Chairman. All those in favor say aye.
(Chorus of ayes)
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. The record may not reflect it, but there was a reluctant vote in favor of the motion; so we'll go to Action Item No. 3. Thank you very much everybody. I appreciate -- on a serious note, I appreciate your giving me the chance to continue to serve as Vice-Chair.
All right. Item 3, Adoption of Minor Rule Amendments to Implement Legislation, General Counsel, Ann Bright.
MS. BRIGHT: Good morning, Commissioners. For the record, I'm Ann Bright, General Counsel. After each Legislative session, we go through Legislation that we've tracked or that is passed and come to the Commission to do rule amendments. This -- these are very, very in terms of the grand scheme of things probably insignificant rule amendments; but these are truly clean-up items.
Modifying the location of registration numbers on vessels. There was a -- we have a rule on that. There was a Bill, HB 115, that modified that. There's now a requirement that Boater Ed. include information on invasive species. We need to change our rules on that. The Battleship Texas Foundation no longer exists. Hasn't existed for many years. There was a Bill that cleans that up and now -- I mean there was a Battleship Texas Commission that no longer exists and they've changed the name to Battleship Texas Foundation.
Construction contract claim process, this is a process that applies to all State agencies. The Legislature enacted an amendment that actually waives sovereign immunity for construction contract claims and so we had to modify our rules on that. There were some cross-references that we've got that were inaccurate, including references to the Transportation Code and to the Parks and Wildlife Code. One of the things that was passed this session was a provision that allows nonresidents who are terminally ill to acquire a license at the in-state rate or authorize the Department to do this and this will implement that.
We really got very few comments and I've -- we've kind of adjusted these so you can kind of see. Really very little comment. Anybody people -- anybody that opposed any of these didn't comment specifically. And this is the motion that we would ask the Commission to adopt, and I'm happy to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Anybody have questions of Ann? All right, is there a motion for approval? Motion by Commissioner Morian. Second Commissioner Hughes. All in favor?
(Chorus of ayes)
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries. Thank you for that item.
Action Item 4, Disabled Veteran License, adoption of rule amendments.
MS. BRIGHT: All right, this is the item that we discussed yesterday. We've received requests, informal requests, to modify our rules so that to allow disabled veterans to more easily acquire hunting and fishing licenses in Texas in support of some of the Wounded Warrior type events. Qualified disabled veteran is defined in the Parks and Wildlife Code and that's the definition we would use.
The rule amendment will expand the definition of resident to include a nonresident qualified disabled veteran and would allow both resident and nonresident qualified disabled veterans to obtain a super combo at no cost. Currently, residents can already do that. From yesterday, based on yesterday's discussion, the amendment will expire -- or recommendation is the amendment will expire August 31st, 2016.
We've received 15 comments in favor and one opposed, no explanation. And so we would ask that the Commission adopt the motion to adopt the rules as published in the Texas Register with changes as necessary to the text, including the addition of an August 31, 2016, expiration date. I'd be happy to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Thank you, Ann. I think Commissioner Scott has a comment to make.
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: One thing I would like to request --
COMMISSIONER JONES: Mic.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Turn your mic up.
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Oh, oops. I think I know how to work that thing. Am I on yet? I would like to request as per Carter was stating the other day and everybody that within 12 months when we get the data about some of the other states and everything, that we bring this item back up and try to make it permanent within the next 12 months.
MS. BRIGHT: Okay, we can do that.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Anybody else have comments? Jim. Commissioner Lee, sorry.
COMMISSIONER LEE: That sounds just right to me. I think what this Commission needs to send the message that in no way do we want to disadvantage the disabled vets. We're trying to trigger some reciprocity with the other states and if we have specific instructions to staff with the approval of this proposed amendment to come back within a year with the data on their feedback for reciprocity, then we could accomplish both. So I support the motion as amended.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Any further comment? Motion for approval? Commissioner Scott.
COMMISSIONER LEE: I'll second.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Second Commissioner Lee. All in favor?
(Chorus of ayes)
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries. Thank you, Ann.
All right. Action Item 5, Approval of the Parks and Wildlife Department Fiscal Year 2014 Internal Audit Plan, Cindy Hancock.
MS. HANCOCK: Good morning. I want to apologize in advance. I'm battling an illness of some sort; so if I cough or sniffle, please, I apologize. For the record, I'm Cindy Hancock, Director of Internal Audit and I'm here today seeking approval of the Fiscal Year '14 Internal Audit Plan.
As required by Texas Government Code 2102, each year the Internal Auditor must develop a risk-based audit plan consisting of Executive Management's review of the Agency's functions, activities, and processes. Financial managerial compliance and IT risk are evaluated on their probability of occurrence and their impact to the Agency. As part of the risk assessment process, Internal Audit provides various financial and nonfinancial information to Agency staff for their review.
We then interview or survey these staff to gain a perspective of their top concerns in areas within their vision, Agencywide, external to the Agency, IT systems, and fraud, waste, and abuse. Responses are then assimilated into a hierarchy of priority concerns. Executive Management then reviews these risks or concerns and ranks them according to their top priority.
I evaluate our audit resources needed to perform these projects and then present lists to the Commission for their input and comment. The final result of the Annual Risk Assessment Process is the Internal Audit Plan, which then needs to be approved by the Commission. So here is our proposed audit plan for fiscal year '14. We have some carryover projects, which is not unusual. Each year we will have carryover projects. There's 17 new audit projects, along with the estimated number of budgeted hours that we estimate it will take to do the projects.
Of allowed time, about 400 hours to prepare and coordinate our external peer review, as well as special projects or investigations that may come up during the year. For those of you who are not familiar with the peer review process, auditors from other State agencies get together and come and review our audit working papers and processes to ensure compliance with audit standards. So someone really does audit the auditors. In addition, the main -- in addition to the main plan, we have listed some alternative projects, which when approved as part of the plan, can be performed in addition to or in exchange of one of the projects if needed.
So this is our proposed Fiscal Year '14 Internal Audit Plan and at this time, I would be happy to be -- to address any questions you may have.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Any -- yes Commissioner Jones.
COMMISSIONER JONES: Just a quick follow up. I know we had a e-mail exchange on the -- I believe it was the -- remind me, the follow up of internal and external audit recommendations.
MS. HANCOCK: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER JONES: And I believe -- just I'm asking you actually to remind me. There was a -- you notched that up a little bit --
MS. HANCOCK: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER JONES: -- to the 400 hours for that follow up of internal and external audit, right?
MS. HANCOCK: Yes, sir, I did.
COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay, all right. I just couldn't remember what the number was before.
MS. HANCOCK: It was budgeted at 350 and --
COMMISSIONER JONES: That's what it was.
MS. HANCOCK: -- we went ahead and added some additional hours.
COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay, all right. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Anybody else have questions? Cindy, remind me. It's not GAS standards that we follow, is it? I mean do we have a slightly different...
MS. HANCOCK: GAGAS?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: GAS, Generally Expected Audit Standards?
MS. HANCOCK: Yes, Government -- a Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards, GAGAS.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So when the external auditors come in to look at your audit processes, do they use GUS or whatever the acronym is for the government equivalent to GAS?
MS. HANCOCK: Yes. In our Agency, we're required to follow Yellow Book and Red Book, which are -- is the Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards and the International Framework for Auditing Practices and those are the two standards that we actually have to follow, so they use both.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. The next question is do you do this same external audit review for other agencies?
MS. HANCOCK: I did. And this year, one of the reasons why we were a little bit behind is that I performed one for the Department of Family Protective Services.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right, thank you. Anybody else, questions or comments? All right. Is there a motion for approval? Commissioner Jones. Second Commissioner Scott. All in favor?
(Chorus of ayes)
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries. Okay, thank you very much.
MS. HANCOCK: Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Action Item 6, Exotic Species Rule Amendments Regarding Draining Water from Vessels and Portable Containers, recommended adoption of proposed changes, Ken Kurzawski. Ken.
MR. KURZAWSKI: Good morning, Commissioners. My name is Ken Kurzawski, Inland Fisheries Division and these are some additional rule changes we need to make based on the last Legislative session.
As outlined yesterday, HB 1241 gave the Commission additional rule making authority. This gives us more -- would give you more authority to require persons to drain vessels when leaving public water, gives some inspection authority, and additionally this applies to freshwater. It's not saltwaters.
Some changes that we need to make to address this, we -- creating some -- two new sections in Chapter 57, moving some existing language to one and then addressing the information about draining water in the other section and this is the section that currently contains the rules that we have in place on those reservoirs and water bodies. Specifically, the proposed changes would require water to be drained from vessels when leaving or approaching water and it would apply to any areas where boats could be launched, public water improved or unimproved areas, and it would include any containers or boater systems, other parts of the vessels that would come in contact with public water and could take that water onto those vessels or containers.
We do have a few exceptions written in there. We'll allow travel between access sites during the same day on the same water body. We do have some exceptions for governmental activities and emergencies and based on Commissioner Duggins' suggestion yesterday, we could modify the language in that to reflect our intent, which on governmental activities when they're doing water sampling activities, just make it specific to those containers for the water, not the vessels and other items.
Marine sanitary systems and also for commercially purchased live bait, when those people have a receipt for that purchase. This would apply to water bodies not -- allow this to apply to water bodies currently not infested and currently we can only apply the rules to water bodies where we have found adult Zebra mussels and our strategy there is to encompass the current infestations in a buffer zone and would apply to all the public water bodies within those listed counties.
And at this point, these are the counties that we are proposing for this -- these rules to go into effect. There's 17 counties up in the -- up around the Dallas/Fort Worth area that encompass most of our known populations, except for the ones in Bell County and Lake Belton. There will be some impacts to boat anglers and boaters. They will have to remember to drain and -- before any travel.
One of the big impacts is live fish cannot be transported off the water body or caught in the water. This will eliminate any off-site tournament weigh-ins if transporting live fish in that lake water. Live bait personally caught can only be used where caught. We did have some public meetings in there. Didn't have a lot attendance. The comments we did receive at those were in favor of it. We received 75 -- actually, 76. We had one more comment. Split kind of 50/50. But as I mentioned yesterday, probably about half of the ones that disagreed with these rules made the comment they should be stronger or misinterpreted some of the portions of the rules.
Some of the most significant comments there are that some of the impacts -- it will impact tournaments and it also will impact people taking live fish home. They will have to put those in the cooler before they leave the reservoir. And those are all the comments received on that and if you have any questions, I'd be happy to answer those. Otherwise, this would be the recommendation -- the recommend motion. We would modify that one section of the rules to address Commissioner Duggins' comments.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Ken, on the slide that shows the -- the restrict -- the 17 restricted counties. Is -- does the -- is the proposed restriction recommended to apply in Bell County where --
MR. KURZAWSKI: No, no, that was not on the -- not on this initial -- the proposal we presented yesterday would encompass those other counties, including Bell County. We do have Bell County or Belt -- Lake Belton and Lake Stillhouse are covered under the emergency rule and we could have that in place until we make action on the proposal from yesterday's meeting.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. So the way it will work is in January, the Commission will have the opportunity to extend this proposed rule to Bell County and --
MR. KURZAWSKI: Right.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- make the emergency ruling permanent.
MR. KURZAWSKI: Right. And we would do that under this, if this -- if you approve this today, we could do it under this authority. Rather than the previous rule.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay, I just wanted to make sure I was right on it. Anybody have any questions? Okay, we have one speaker on this, Mr. Rick Smith from Temple, Texas. Mr. Smith, please come forward. Welcome.
MR. RICK SMITH: Thank you. I am Rick Smith. I'm from the Temple, Texas. I'm a boat dealer in Temple. I have Marine Outlet, but I'm here representing the Central Texas Marine Association, which is a group of boat dealers that do put on tournaments periodically. I'm also the Director on Fishing for Freedom that is a military appreciation bass tournament that we have in Central Texas every year. I'm very proud of that. We typically -- just this last month, we had approximately 400 participants in that.
Gentlemen, rather than stopping all off-lake weigh-ins to control invasive species, I recommend that we instead approach the issue with a series of protocols that would allow such weigh-ins and still protect the bodies of water in question. Much research has been done regarding Zebra mussels and their larva and with proper controls, we masters can make such sure that no larva are transported to another body of water.
One suggested group of protocols is the following. Boats loaded on trailers at tournaments, then bilges and trailers drained at the lake. Catch and release by Sure-Life, which you have a copy of their story about their product or equivalent product added to the live wells to eradicate any larva. Boats trailered to the off-site weigh-in. Fish handled with care, weighed, and placed into properly treated water in a catch-and-release tank. Live well water retrieved and placed into the catch-and-release tank as an extra precautionary measure. This is live well water in the live well of the boat. Chlorine mixture or equivalent is placed in the live well and in the bilge to, again, ensure no transportation to other bodies of water. Catch-and-release tank hauled back to the lake where the fish were caught and the fish released, which is what we do now.
Bill Taylor, Director of Tournament Operations for FLW, the world's largest tournament organization, estimates that the economic impact of their series of Texas tournaments -- that by the way, have all off-lake weigh-in -- is over $5 million. That was this last year. There are expect to be more for 2014. For 2014, they've scheduled 12 events for Texas -- pardon me -- which include three college tournaments. Without the off-lake weigh-ins, it would be difficult, if not impossible, for them to acquire the sponsorships needed to host these tournaments. Plus, by having the events in metropolitan areas, they bring fishing to a whole new audience resulting in new generations of Texans looking for the Texas outdoor experience.
Texas Parks and Wildlife itself has experienced some of these successes in off-lake weigh-ins with the Toyota Texas Bass Classic, which has raised over $1.5 million for Parks and Wildlife projects. Other tournaments for 2014 that are planning weigh-ins are the Bud Light Trail, BASS, and Tuff Man. Bill Taylor was not able to be at the meeting today, but he suggested that if you would like to contact him, I have his contact there in your paperwork.
The tournament Directors that I have talked to are willing to work closely with Parks and Wildlife to ensure the best possible practices in controlling the proliferation invasives. You have those copies there. Thank you for your time and your consideration of this proposal. Any questions?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Do the members have questions? Ken, I -- Ken, could you come back up? Do you have any reactions to Mr. Smith's thoughts?
MR. KURZAWSKI: Well, we certainly -- I talked to Mr. Smith earlier and, you know, we realize this is a situation there. There are some ways if you drain the water from the boats before you leave the lake and you have some other water there, that would be one option rather than transporting the fish in lake water and if that water is from a different source, treated water from a different source, that would be one way they would be able to have these off-site weigh-ins.
There is a -- any time we make an exception to allow people to leave the lake with water, that's just another opportunity for that water to go someplace else; so that's our concern on that.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: You're welcome to respond, Mr. Smith.
MR. RICK SMITH: I totally agree with him and the last thing any of us want to do is contribute to this invasive being spread throughout the state. We could also -- one other protocol would be to take the water out of the live wells the same time that we're doing this other process and put treated water that does not come from that lake in the live well. That would allow us to then transport the fish to the weigh-in site, which is typically never more than about 10 miles away from the tournament and then have the weigh-ins and then take the fish back.
We could use treated water, you know, city water and then use a product such as Sure-Life to make sure that the only thing that we would be transporting then would be the fish in treated water.
MR. KURZAWSKI: That would be -- yeah, that would be acceptable. That's -- that would be allowable under the rules, and that would be a way to get around that issue.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Carter, do you have any thoughts on where we should go, whether we should adjust this or should we --
MR. SMITH: Well, I think it's a very legitimate concern and we have enough fishing tournaments around the state that certainly we want to be mindful of that. And as Mr. Smith noted, we do have a couple of examples recently where we have worked very well on that. Toyota Bass Classic being one of them, but also one up at Lake Texoma recently in which we worked through a solution.
I guess what I might suggest is if you could give our team a little time to work with some of the fishing tournament directors and boat dealers on these kind of solutions and come up with a recommended set of best practices for it that we consider either in rule or as just best practices, I think that would be beneficial. But I'm confident that our Inland Fisheries team can do that and we can work on that posthaste. I don't think that we're looking at a lot of fishing tournaments right now and so I think we've got a little time, Chairman, to do this before the spring busy season kicks up. So it's probably a timely opportunity for our Fisheries biologists to be able to do that.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So to summarize, your thought would be to go ahead and implement the rule for now and then over the next few months, try to work with alternatives and maybe tweak the rule in the spring or before the spring.
MR. SMITH: Yeah, that's my recommendation. I want to be sensitive to what's being proposed here and I do think, you know, our team is mindful of this issue and we want to come up with viable solutions that don't adversely affect the tournaments. We're all in favor of trying to preclude the spread of Zebra mussels and other exotic organisms to other lakes and I think we can find that balance.
He's presented some good ideas. Our team probably has some others. If we could just have a meeting of the minds and, again, use a couple of months here to sort of sort through that and come back in January, I think that would work. Gary, does that...
DR. SAUL: Yes.
MR. SMITH: Okay, that would be my recommendation.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. Any of the Commissioners have comments? Yeah, Mr. Scott.
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: No, I support that.
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: I agree. I agree with Carter.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right.
MR. KURZAWSKI: Certainly we would have the opportunity to do that based on the proposed -- rule we proposed yesterday to expand this. We would be able to go in there and tweak those rules if we had to and bring it back to you in January.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right.
MR. KURZAWSKI: So that's a -- that would work out well timeline wise.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. Thank you, Ken. And thank you, Mr. Smith, for your comments and interest in this. So at this point, I would entertain a motion for approval of the staff's recommendation.
All right, sorry. We've got a motion by Commissioner Morian. Second by Commissioner Lee. All in favor?
(Chorus of ayes)
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries and we'll look forward to hearing more on this I guess at the January meeting. Thank you.
MR. KURZAWSKI: Thank you, commissioner.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right, good. We are at Item 7, Rules Concerning Implementation of Senate Bill 820, Deer Permits, recommended adoption of proposed changes, Mitch Lockwood. Welcome.
MR. LOCKWOOD: Thank you. Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. As we discussed yesterday, the 83rd Texas Legislature enacted Senate Bill 820, which requires the Department to issue a deer breeders permit with a duration of one year, three years, or five years.
Well, we already had the authority to issue a deer breeders permit for multiple years; but as I discussed yesterday, we had opted to limit the duration of those permits to one year and one reason for that was to try and not remove an incentive to submit annual reports in a timely fashion. But I admit that it did not prove to be a very effective incentive.
Nonetheless, Senate Bill 820 did amend Parks and Wildlife Code to ensure that we do issue a three-year or a five-year permit to someone who meets a couple of criteria. But the rule -- the statute also gives the Commission the authority to establish some additional criteria, which is the purpose or the intent of this proposal. In essence, we're proposing only one additional criteria, which is that we would issue a multiyear permit to someone who has been in substantial compliance with the deer breeder regulations and statutes for the previous three years.
The idea behind this is to try an prevent invoking or at least minimize the risk of invoking a very lengthy and inefficient permit revocation process. You know, there may be some instances in which some permitted individuals just refuse to comply with annual reporting requirements, which we find to be very important in order to reconcile these herd inventories that affect the entire industry. And so in the event someone does refuse to comply with those requirements, it may give cause to revoke this longterm or multiyear permit.
We think we can avoid implementing or invoking that lengthy process if we can ensure or at least issue this permit to someone who has demonstrated for the previous three years that they have complied with that reporting requirement and with some other regulations. Again, we don't propose any change to the annual permit fee of $200 and so a three-year permit would that $200 times three years at $600 and a five-year permit would be a thousand dollars.
So with that, staff recommend that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts amendments to 53.14 concerning deer management and removal permits and 65.603 concerning application of permit issuance, with changes as necessary to the proposed text as published in the October 4th, 2013, issue of the Texas Register.
We have received two public comments, in addition to some input I received from the breeder user group who is supportive of this proposal. Again, they did want to qualify the term compliance by stating "substantial compliance" and so with that, they're supportive of this proposal. Of the two comments we received, one was in favor, one was in opposition; but the comments that accompanied the opposing view was -- really were not germane to this proposal. He was opposed to the practice of deer breeding altogether.
And so that concludes my presentation, and I'll be glad to entertain any questions you might have.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Anybody have questions or comments? Discussion? All right, thank -- I'm sorry. Commissioner Jones.
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Second.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Second Commissioner Hughes. All in favor?
(Chorus of ayes)
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries. Thank you, Mitch.
All right, Item -- Action Item 8, Request for Easement, Orange County, crude oil transmission line on the Lower Neches Wildlife Management Area, Mr. Ted Hollingsworth with a bright tie.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: I will tell Mrs. Hollingsworth that you approve of my tie.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I didn't say I approved of it. I said it was bright.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Well, okay, okay.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Actually, I do approve of it.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Okay, okay. Thank -- I appreciate that.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But our fashion boss is Commissioner Jones, so you've got to ask him.
COMMISSIONER JONES: It's a great tie.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioner Jones, Commissioners, my name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program and I will be pleased to let Mrs. Hollingsworth know that she did very well this morning.
This item is a second reading of an item that you saw in August, resulting from a request from Shell Oil Company, Shell Oil Pipeline, to install a 36-inch crude oil transmission line across the Adams Bayou Unit of the Lower Neches Wildlife Management Area in Orange County. You've seen this item before.
We told you at that time that we would take a careful look at their alternative routes analysis, which we've done. Staff is convinced there are no reasonable and prudent alternatives to this route. The caveat here is that much of this pipeline will have to be placed into a conventional open trench. We've not permitted a conventional open-trench pipeline in a number of years on any of our sites; but because of the location of this route between the Adams Bayou and the Neches River, there simply is not room to string pipe for directional drilling in both directions. So a portion of it will be directional drilled. A portion of it will be installed in a conventional trench.
The good news is it's in an area of the Wildlife Management Unit that is not hunted and it is not particularly sensitive in terms of nesting Mottled ducks or any other species that are of great concern to us down there. We will work with Shell on the timing, of course, and access and other issues to minimize their impacts.
Eighteen miles of the pipeline will be in Texas. We are working with Shell now to see if we can't aggregate all those impacts and turn those into a mitigation project that would add land to one of our Wildlife Management Areas in Southeast Texas. We haven't arrived at that mitigation yet; but we are working with them and whatever we do, it will more than compensate for those impacts to fish and wildlife resources on the Adams Unit.
And, again, based on the fee table and damage rate schedule that y'all have approved, that will set that minimum and we'll significantly increase that because it is an open-trench installation. Again, our effort will be to leverage that into fish and wildlife mitigation that benefits fish and wildlife in Southeast Texas.
And with that, the staff does recommend that the Commission adopt the resolution that you have attached as Exhibit A. I'll be happy to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. No -- doesn't appear we have any Commissioners with any questions, but I have one. Is the -- the area that goes -- that's shaded in gray.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Is that marshland? I mean what kind of country is it?
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: All of that area that has that grayish tone to it is very, very -- it's either very, very wet prairie or it's immersion marsh. It's -- there's very little topography on this country. It's all quite wet. Some of it's a little brushy, but --
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: How are they going to get equipment to not sink in that?
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: It'll -- the entire -- the entire route for the track hoe will be boarded and the access will actually be from the bayou. They have permission now from the Corps of Engineers to put in a little barge landing where they can pull the barge up and unload the equipment directly on to the easement so that there will be no need for an access road of any kind and then they will literally board the entire route and they'll double -- they'll double trench. They'll take the topsoils and set them to one side, dig the trench, put the soil to the another side, lay the pipe in, and put the soils back in reverse order.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But isn't this going to be a nightmare from a maintenance standpoint because of that issue?
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Actually, it's pretty easy from a maintenance standpoint. Because of the vegetation, there's not a requirement that they keep that easement mowed or maintained. It will come back in marshy or wet prairie vegetation.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Is it going to be plastic or steel? What kind of material will the pipe be?
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: It's a steel pipe. It's a 36-inch.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So won't there be a corrosion -- I mean over time, won't there be corrosion with that much moisture with the soil?
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Well, my understanding is with these pipelines, that the steel gets a special coating and all of these now are protected by cathodic protection systems so that as metal is lost to the environment, it's replaced. But they have coatings on these pipes now.
We have -- there are a lot of pipelines in this marshy country in Southeast Texas, as you can well imagine, and so the art of keeping them from corroding -- and they other thing is they run Smart Pigs through these at regular intervals so that if there's been any breach of that coating and there's any corrosion beginning to take place, they're aware of it pretty early in the process.
COMMISSIONER JONES: Mr. Chairman, they actually run pipeline in water in some instances. They actually put the pipeline in -- suspend it in the water or support it, but literally in rivers and in water type environments similar to this so that the entire pipe is in the water, so.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Well, I just -- as you look at the map, you wonder if there is a -- first, just the cost of installation would seem to be -- I mean just huge in that kind of territory and you wonder why it wouldn't be cheaper to go what looks like north through the -- whatever that other area is to the -- it says go drive or -- anyway, it looks like a residential area. That's why I was just questioning whether they considered trying to avoid the marsh and the wetland area.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir. The routes analysis was actually, that we got from Shell, was actually quite thorough. It's very problematic taking a 36-inch pipeline through a neighborhood because of all the property issues, because of the safety and health issues. I mean if you're going to have a leak, you'd really rather have it not in the neighborhood.
To the south, to the south of the unit, there's even more bayous. There's some refineries and tank farms. There's more marsh. And, again, staff looked at this one pretty carefully and concluded that this is the best route from a health and safety standpoint and from a net impacts to fish and wildlife habitat standpoint.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, I know you've done your job. I was just making an observation. Well, another question that's slightly off topic. When's the last time you presented a rate schedule for consideration of possible adjustments?
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: That would have been Spring of 2012.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I would think we should look at that on a nearly annual basis. I don't know how everybody else feels about that, but on our...
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir. And the Commission has asked me to go back and try to upgrade those annually. I'm behind schedule. Just quite frankly, I'm behind schedule. But you have asked that we try to do that annually or close to annually. I am gathering some rates now, in fact; so that when I do have the opportunity to go back and upgrade that, we'll know which of those rates need adjusting.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, I'd ask that you try -- I know you're very busy, but if you try to get that before the Commission either in the January or March meeting, let's look at updating and making any appropriate adjustments.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: I'd be pleased to do that, yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Good, all right. Anybody else have any comments or discussion? All right, motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: So moved.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Motion by Commissioner Scott.
COMMISSIONER JONES: Second.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Second by Commissioner Hughes[sic], I believe. All in favor?
(Chorus of ayes)
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries. Thank you.
Let's see, Item 10, you stay up there. This is Cherokee County, Texas State Railroad Remnant Tracts to the City of Rusk.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Are we going to come back to Item 9?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Did I skip nine? Sorry.
COMMISSIONER JONES: The Orange County one.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Oh, let's do -- oh, yeah, let's do -- no, that's Item 9 on my book and then it goes to 10. What am I skipping?
MR. SMITH: You don't have an Item 9 on yours?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I just gave you Item 9 in my book.
COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: We just did eight.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Oh, sorry.
MR. SMITH: Yeah.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Sorry, they're very similar. Request for Easement, Orange County, gathering line on the Lower Neches Wildlife Management Area.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. Sorry, my fault.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good morning. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This is another second reading of an item that you saw in August, an unrelated request for a pipeline across the Adams Bayou Unit of the Lower Neches Wildlife Management Area. This item is actually a gathering line, a 4-inch gathering line, and it is for the purpose of taking product from wells off site, crossing our property to get those products into a transmission line that is also off site.
Normally, we do not entertain requests for pipelines to -- for gathering lines to cross our property to move minerals where we don't own a mineral interest. In this case, the minerals are owned by the General Land Office and so the royalties from those interests do accrue to the State and in this case also there, we are in agreement with the applicant that there's no reasonable and prudent alternative.
All of this line is to be directionally drilled under the Wildlife Management Area. We're still negotiating whether or not there will be a bore pit on the Wildlife Management Area for that turn in the pipeline, but the impacts are being minimized. Again, it's a 4-inch diameter gathering line and Lake Ronel has been quite cooperative with us. We feel that directionally drilling that pipeline, of course, will minimize impacts to the Wildlife Management Area.
And with that, the staff does recommend that the Commission adopt the resolution that you have attached as Exhibit A. I'd been happy to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Anybody have questions or comments? I neglected to ask this a minute ago. I think when we last tinkered with the easement agreements, we asked that our agreements give the Department the option upon -- when the life of the pipeline is ended, to either leave it in the ground or remove it.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir, that's correct.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Am I correct about that?
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. So we'll have that option with respect to the one we just approved, as well as this one if approved?
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir. That's actually been in all of our pipeline easements for several years, that we have the option of requiring removal or requiring purging and leaving in place.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. Is there a motion for approval? Motion by Commissioner Lee. Second by Commissioner Scott. All in favor?
(Chorus of ayes)
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries.
Item 10; is that right?
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: I'm ready if you are.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Land Transfer, Cherokee County, Texas State Railroad Remnant Tracts to the City of Rusk.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good morning. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This is a housecleaning item on a matter that you actually took action on in May.
You authorized the transfer of two tracts just off of the eastern terminus of the Texas State Railroad to the City of Rusk. Under the arrangements made for us by the Texas Legislature for the management of that railroad, we actually retained ownership of the real estate and the tracts. Because of the history of the railroad, there were some odd tracts that were just in that bundle of property rights we acquired. Including some tracts that we -- not only does the Railroad have no operational use for, but that quite frankly have been liabilities to us because people have historically used them to dump trash and abandon cars and things over the years.
In the resolution that you passed in May, there was a reference to the two tracts actually being in the City of Rusk. When I mapped those tracts out as an exhibit for the exchange or for the disposition of these tracts, I discovered that one of the tracts actually passes out of the City limits and back into the City limits. The City would really like to have that entire tract and has requested that the Commission consider taking action on a resolution that would authorize the transfer of that entire tract, including the portion that's not inside the City limits.
You can see that tract in orange in this map. So it's essentially the same action that you took in May. It's only clarifying that a portion of this tract is not inside the City limits of Rusk.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So you're not asking us to authorize the conveyance of additional fee, are you?
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: That's correct. This -- you've already authorized the transfer of two tracts. This is the two tracts that you authorized the transfer of, but that resolution indicated that those tracts were inside the City limits when, in fact, a part of one of those tracts is not.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So it's a clarification of a prior approval.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: That's exactly what it is, yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: And with that, the staff recommends that the Commission adopt the resolution that you have attached as Exhibit A. I'll be happy to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Are there any questions or is there any discussion? Hearing none, I'll entertain a motion. Commissioner Scott. Second by Commissioner De Hoyos. All in favor?
(Chorus of ayes)
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries. Thank you, Ted.
Okay, Action Item 11 has been removed from the agenda. So that takes us to Action Item 12, Acceptance of Land Donation, Hidalgo County, Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park, Corky Kuhlmann.
MR. KUHLMANN: Good morning. For the record, Corky Kuhlmann with the Land Conservation Program. This is in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, a donation to Bentsen Rio Grande State Park.
Bentsen Rio Grande State Park is one of the world birding center sites in the Valley and probably the best known and kind of the headquarters of the World Birding Center down there with over 340 different species of birds just within that one site being recorded. We've been approached by a landowner to donate two tracts, totaling about 35 acres at the entrance of the park.
This makes a lot of sense to us and we're very grateful for the opportunity to get this land through a donation. The donation, like I said, is approximately 35 acres. It will protect the entrance of the park from development and also add habitat to the park.
Staff recommends the Texas Parks and Wildlife adopt the following motion: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorize the Executive Director to take all necessary steps to take a donation of approximately 35 acres of land in Hidalgo County as an addition to Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park.
I'd be glad to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Is there any discussion by the Commission? Is there a motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: So moved.
COMMISSIONER JONES: Second.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: By Commissioner Hughes and by Commission Scott[sic]. All in favor say aye.
(Chorus of ayes)
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Any opposed? Hearing none, the motion carries.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Action Item 13, Land Acquisition, Cochran County, approximately 1,640 acres at Yoakum Dunes Preserve.
MR. KUHLMANN: Good morning. For the record, Corky Kuhlmann. Oop, passed by one in a hurry; but we've seen this enough. This is an addition to Yoakum Dunes Preserve.
Yoakum Dunes is a preserve that's being created with the Nature Conservancy and Texas Parks and Wildlife as a partnership for the preservation of Lesser Prairie chicken habitat. The preserve consists of approximately 1300 -- 240 acres -- and staff is negotiating with a willing seller for approximately 16 to 1700 acres more, depending on the final survey.
This is a CHAT map, Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool. It covers the states involved. If you look at it, there's the counties that -- a break out by county of the red, which is the crucial habitat. If you look at this diagram at the lower left-hand corner, the little yellow rectangle is the property in question and it is right in the middle of the crucial habitat.
This tract is not adjacent to the Yoakum Dunes Preserve. It has been put together. It is some miles to the west, easily accessible by a county road, and is good habitat with chickens present on site. The landowner will reserve water rights to that 240 acres for irrigation purposes for his field. He will furnish water to the tract from his private well and Parks and Wildlife will reserve the right to drill wells not only on the portion that we're getting the water rights to, but also on the portion, if ever necessary, on the portion that the owner is reserving the water rights on.
And I might add on this tract when these tracts are appraised, the 240-acre tract will be appraised separate. Then the remainder tract, which is approximately 1400 acres like I said, depending on the survey. So we'll have two different appraisals for these tracts, even though it's one purchase.
Staff recommends that Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorizes the Executive Director to take all necessary steps to acquire approximately 1,640 acres of land as an addition to Yoakum Dunes Preserve.
And I'll be glad to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Commissioner Morian.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Just the 240-acre water reservation, that is for the seller's use to the north or is he --
MR. KUHLMANN: Yes. Yes, sir. He -- if you see that one pivot area, he owns that field and then he has one a little further to the north and he can use the water rights associated with that 240 acres as an addition to what he's keeping on the property he owns for irrigation water. Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: And has he reserved that in perpetuity, or does he have to use it or lose it?
MR. KUHLMANN: You know, the -- that water conservation district, I'm not really sure if he has to lose -- if he loses it if he doesn't use it or not. I couldn't answer that question.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: So it doesn't -- we don't know if it reverts back to us under certain circumstances?
MR. KUHLMANN: No, sir, I do not have that information. I can --
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I'd be curious.
MR. KUHLMANN: -- find out for you.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: All right, thanks. That's my question.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Anybody else have questions? We talked yesterday about clarifying the right to use the water. Are you going -- would approval include you working on that?
MR. KUHLMANN: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. I will visit with the gentleman about -- there will be an agreement that we'll have. We'll have a surface use agreement with him on some other things and that will be included and I will try to get that with his -- and I don't really see any reason he wouldn't be -- he would be opposed to do that, but...
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. The second question I have is I assume the goal would be to ultimately fill in the 3.6-mile gap between the subject tract and the existing preserve?
MR. KUHLMANN: The goal is to do that and the -- there's only one owner -- well, actually two owners between there. One of them being the GLO. The GLO owns a half section -- well, a little bit over a half section directly south of this subject tract and there's one owner that owns the land in between.
I do know that the Nature Conservancy has made contact with that owner and he owns quite a large ranch there that extends south of the little county road that runs from Yoakum Dunes to the subject tract. But as far as visiting with him about buying everything north of that county road to connect the two, we think that's a very real possibility.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Very good. All right, is there a motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: So moved.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Commissioner Morian. Second Commissioner Scott. All in favor?
(Chorus of ayes)
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries. Thank you, Corky.
MR. KUHLMANN: Thanks.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. Having finished an ultimate item, we're now at the ultimate item, Briefing Item 14, which I'm excited to hear, the Alligator Gar Update, Dan Daugherty.
MR. DAUGHERTY: Good morning, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Dan Daugherty. I'm one of the research biologists at Heart of the Hills Fisheries Science Center with our Inland Fisheries Division and I'm pleased to be here this morning to provide you guys this update. I apologize in advance because I'll be pointing at this screen back here because it's the only one that we all can see from time to time.
I know a number of you are new to the Commission since the last briefing, which I believe was in November of 2010; so I just wanted to begin by briefly mentioning why Alligator Gar are really an important fisheries resource here in Texas. First, the species has undergone a significant range reduction. You can see in blue the historic range encompassed 14 U.S. states and the Gulf Coast of Mexico. Yellow you see here is the current distribution of the species, including eight states in the U.S. and the Gulf Coast of Mexico.
So most of the Midwest drainages they're now extirpated from. Fortunately, Louisiana and Texas are two definite stronghold states for Alligator Gar that remain in the United States; but really what makes Texas unique is that we have continued trophy fishing opportunities in Texas. Louisiana, while they're ubiquitous throughout the state, they are commercially fished and remain recreationally unmanaged. So we're the only state that really provides both a large number of populations and the trophy fishing quality.
So in an effort to keep that trophy potential here in Texas, we began managing Alligator Gar actively in 2009 with the institution of the one per day regulation. Within our Inland Fisheries Division, we prioritized Alligator Gar as a species for research and management and we identified the particular data needs that we really needed to address going forward with our management, what the critical data needs were.
Some of those are what I'm going to talk about today. They include estimating harvest, quantifying reproduction of Alligator Gar in our systems, understanding habitat use and movement patterns in our systems, and determining the appropriate geographic scale of management. That's a new area that we're getting in to, and I'll talk about that at the very end.
To this end, we've conducted a number of experiments in a number of systems, number of studies, special management projects with our management staff, research projects within our research program to address these data needs and that's what will be the focus of the talk today. So the first thing I want to talk about was estimating harvest. The first thing you need to do though is to put harvest into some kind of context so we know what is sustainable. So the first thing we had to do was develop a population model and so what we're doing is taking information like life span, the rate at which the fish die, the growth rate of the fish, and then also harvest, fecundity, the number of eggs produced, the survival of those offspring, so on and so forth and we put that into a population model and if we keep everything constant except for harvest, we can simulate what happens when we change harvest on the population.
And you'll see here in this picture -- well, I'll come back here. You have time and years here across the X axis and the number of fish in the population across -- along the Y. The three trajectory lines that you're seeing on that graph are showing the change in population abundance at three different harvest rates and those are 5, 10, and 15 percent. You can see that if we harvest at 5 percent per year, the population is able to maintain itself. Essentially, that's a harvestable -- sustainable harvest rate.
Whereas when you increase harvest to 10 and 15 percent, we see appreciable declines over time in those populations and we're talking at 10 percent harvest, that's about a 50 percent decline in fish numbers over a 25-year period and at 15 percent harvest, we talking about over a 70 percent decline over a 25-year period.
These are very low harvest rates. When you think about bass, you think about Crappie, you think about other species, catfish, typical harvest rates for those species are 20 to 50 percent. So we're showing really very, very sensitive -- that Alligator Gar are very, very sensitive to overharvest and so maintaining a sustainable harvest level is very important.
So given that graph was showing us that our harvest goal was 5 percent or less, that was a rate that was sustainable. With that, we can now go out into the populations and determine what our harvest rates are currently and how we do this is typically tag release return studies and you can see in that upper picture, that's an Alligator Gar with the -- with what's called Floy tag or a spaghetti tag and we go out and we tag a large number of fish, release them back into the population, and then solicit our anglers at -- through the media and through boat launch signs such as you see in the lower picture, to report tag returns -- or to report catches of those tagged fish back.
And so for every 100 fish that we have tagged out in the population, the number of fish that come back reported from anglers gives us an idea of harvest or exploitation. We've conducted those estimates in three systems -- the trinity, both in the Middle Trinity and the Lower Trinity; the Middle Brazos; as well as Choke Canyon Reservoir. And you'll that all of our current rates of harvest are below that 5 percent threshold that we were talking about before. The Trinity is 2 to 4 percent, Brazos is right around 2 percent, Choke Canyon is at 2 percent.
So currently, we believe that our one Alligator Gar per day limit is effective at the current rates of harvest. However, that doesn't mean that future harvest rates are going to continue to increase. We know that our popularity of our fisheries is increasing. Excitement and popularity of Alligator Gar as a species, as a destination fishery in Texas. We know that our current -- our harvest levels in the future may continue to rise, so it's very critical that we continue to monitor harvest rates as we progress in time.
The next thing I wanted to talk about was quantify and reproduction and what we really need to know related to that is how often are Alligator Gar spawning, how variable are those spawning events from year to year, and what kind of factors, environmental factors, in the system are influencing the success of those year classes or that reproduction effort in a given year.
And so over the last few years, we have developed the techniques. I'm not going to talk in great detail about this because I don't have time, but we've developed the techniques to be able to accurately age Alligator Gar and when you can accurately age Alligator Gar, you can take a sample of fish, you can age each individual fish, and you can put that -- you can put that into a year class. So a three-year-old fish caught in 2013 was produced in 2010. So we can put -- you take a sample and you can compartmentalize each individual based on the age into what year class it was part of.
And what you're seeing here is essentially an age distribution that's compartmentalized into what year those fish were produced and so the larger -- you start to -- you can take this and turn it into a reproductive success measure. So the larger bars are showing years there was really good reproduction going on. The small bars, obviously very weak production going on. Somewhere in the middle is an average over time.
And so we've done this for the trinity River. We've aged over 100 fish in that system and there's some really interesting data to point out in this illustration, which I'm going to talk about now. The first thing I would like to call your attention to is this is a 46-year chronology. So the oldest fish that we've aged in this sample was 46 years old and that's bringing you back into the 1960s. And what you can see first is there are 17 missing bars on that graph out of the 46 years. So 37 percent of the time, either reproduction did not occur or reproduction was completely unsuccessful. So four out of every ten years, Alligator Gar in the Trinity River, based on our samples so far, have not had successful reproduction.
The next thing I would like to point out is that if you look kind of over time --
COMMISSIONER JONES: Say what you just said again. I'm sorry. Just say that statistic.
MR. DAUGHERTY: The last point?
COMMISSIONER JONES: Yeah, one more time.
MR. DAUGHERTY: Okay. There's 17 missing year classes on here. If you look at the graph, there's 17 times where there's no yellow bars. So what that's telling you is, is that based on our sample, no reproduction -- either no reproduction occurred in that year or the reproduction that did occur was unsuccessful. So four out of every -- that's 37 percent of the time, which is roughly four out of every ten years on average.
COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay.
MR. DAUGHERTY: The next thing I would like to point out is that if you look over time, trends and time, you see that prior to 1990, we had a rather abundant string of strong year classes. From 1964 to 1990, there was -- there were nine strong -- very strong year classes produced. If you look in the 23 years since then, which is roughly about the same amount of time, we're talking about two and particularly one really strong year class produced in 2007.
So what that's telling us is that in recent history, we've had frequently less strong reproduction. The last 20 years or so has been really supported by one strong year class of Alligator Gar in that system. The other thing I pointed out was it's important for us to look at influential factors of things that we think are influencing the spawning success of Alligator Gar.
One thing that we noticed is there appears to be some pretty strong links to hydrology in the system or how often the system is flooding or water levels in the system. You can see here is a couple illustrations in recent history. 2007 was that very strong year class that I talked about that's pretty much supported the population over the last 20 years in terms of new recruits to the stock. That was the year we had very high water levels in the spring and spring is the spawning time for Alligator Gar. We show that as a very strong signal in the population age distribution. However, the years that follow -- '09, '10, and 2011, drought years we're all quite familiar with that. We have very, very, very little production of Alligator Gar. So it alludes to strong links between hydrology and reproductive success of Alligator Gar.
The next study that I want to talk about, which also has some links to hydrology, is a habitat moving -- habitat and movement study that we conducted in the Lower Trinity River in 2009. The Lower Trinity River being, just for clarity, being the Livingston Dam tail race to the Coast. So 180 kilometers or 110 miles roughly of river there. We tagged 51 fish with these telemetry tags you can see in this picture. That allows us to follow the fish around in the system for the duration of the study, and we did that for a 22-month period.
And what we found, a lot of the behavior and movement that we saw of fish, habitat use behavior and movement that we saw for the fish that we had tagged was really related to flows. And so there's another, you know, mention of hydrologic links. In normal -- under normal flow conditions, main channel pool habitats, so the deeper water. You can see here in yellow on these channel bends and so on and so forth, were very important habitat for Alligator Gar. An individual would move between pool habitats over a home range of roughly 37 miles of river or roughly a third of the river reached.
The interesting thing was in the winter in the cold water period, those fish would also use main channel pools during normal flow conditions; but they would select a single pool and pretty much spend the entire winter there. So it shows the importance of these pools for over wintering habitats. Fish are very lethargic. Probably not moving around, not feeding. These are areas that are providing them protection from current and so on and so forth at those low metabolism periods.
During high flow, we saw a completely different pattern of habitat use. As you can see in the picture, those fish would use the highlighted habitats in yellow. When the water would -- when the water levels would increase and the banks would flood, it would flood old channels like this Oxbow lake here in yellow. Those fish would move out of the main channel and utilize those Oxbow habitats or off on the floodplain. And what those really provide is velocity refusal. The velocity in the main channel of the river under flood conditions is very, very high. Those fish would move to the off channel areas where the flow rates were reduced. Another thing important in terms of reproduction is when those flow rates occurred in the spring and those habitats would flood in the springtime, they provided important connections to optimal spawning habitat and in this inset picture, you can see what really kind of constitutes optimal spawning habitat for Alligator Gar.
These back water areas, low velocity, flooded vegetation, that occurring during a warm water period in the spring when the temperatures are optimal for spawning are absolutely important. And likely, this is what the scenario was in 2007 when we produced a strong year class. Likely, these areas that you see in the picture now would be dry when we don't have high flow events.
The last thing I want to talk about is a new area of research for us that's come kind of as a result of some of the results of the studies that I've talked about already, is the management scale for Alligator Gar. I mean the question we're talking about specifically is at what geographic scale do we need to manage these populations?
We can use some of that information I just talked about to kind of illustrate why this is important. If you look at the distribution of the fish that we had tagged in our telemetry studies, so each of these little black dots that you see is a location that a fish was tagged in that study, tagged and released. We had essentially a Upper River Group and a Lower River Group and those fish pretty much stayed in the those areas for the entire 22- month study period.
So essentially, the Upper River fish never interacted with the Lower River fish. Conversely, the Lower River fish never really interacted with the Upper River fish. So one question we have is do we have distinct groups within -- along that river continuum such that we would want to be managing those groups independently?
The other interesting thing that we came across is these few fish that were tagged, I think there were six individuals total that were tagged in the very lower portion of the Trinity River, 78 percent of those fish ventured out into Trinity and Galveston Bay at some point during the study. That we thought was kind of curious since we think of Alligator Gar is a freshwater fish for the most part, they appear to be using the saltwater habitats. And so we started investigating this a little farther talking to the Coastal Fisheries folks and Coastal Fisheries, as you know, has a long-term gillnet data set that they collect in the spring and fall every year and low and behold, the gillnet efforts in Galveston Bay have netted over 2,000 Alligator Gar in the coastal habitats over the last 25 years.
And so we started looking beyond that. Well, what did we see on the other -- you know, all the bay systems. They've netted over 24,000 Alligator Gar in the coastal bays in the last 25 years. So there's a lot of Alligator Gar in our coastal habitats. Not just our freshwater rivers and reservoirs as well. And so in our lower river systems that are directly connected to these bay habitats, you know, we don't know how -- we don't know how the -- these river fish and these bay fish are interacting.
It may be that they are distinct populations. It may be that the river fish are utilizing habitats in the bay that are critical for the river populations to persist or vice versa. So we're very interested in trying to figure out what scale of management we should be working with here. Is it a whole system level or some localized level related to that?
So going forward, we're going to continue to monitor harvest of Alligator Gar. That's critical to maintaining our trophy fishery quality. We're going to work -- continue to work on determining the flow rates in our river systems that ensure periodic successful reproduction of Alligator Gar and the results of that study I just talked about, which by the way is going to be conducted in another system that we'll be able to characterize, we're going to do that in the Lower Guadalupe and San Antonio Bay system. That will address our needs to be able to understand managing at the proper geographic scale for Alligator Gar.
And with that, I really thank you for your time and interest and I'll be happy to answer any questions you have.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Commissioner Scott.
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Just a quick comment. Whenever y'all go to catch some of these and stuff, I grew up down there in that part of the world. I'd be interested in going out. I might drag another Commissioner.
MR. DAUGHERTY: Okay.
COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: How old do these Gars get to be? What's their natural life pattern, I guess?
MR. DAUGHERTY: Well, interesting enough, a couple years ago there was one that was -- it was actually caught in a gillnet in Mississippi and they sent the -- well, let me back up a second. The way you have to age these fish is using the otoliths and so what you do is you have to sacrifice the fish and you essentially cut the skull open. It's essentially the inner ear bone, equivalent to the inner ear bone. Take that piece, take that structure out. You section it. You look at it under a microscope and they have what are called annuli, just like tree rings. And so you have to count up the tree rings and it gives you the age.
This fish I was speaking about in Mississippi was caught in a gillnet. I can't -- does anyone know the length on that? Nine, eight, close to nine feet in length, 346 pounds or something like that. It was just huge. And they actually sent the otoliths to our Heart of the Hills Fisheries Science Center to have it aged and we aged -- two individuals aged it. One aged it at 90 years old. One at 94.
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Wow.
COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: Wow.
MR. DAUGHERTY: So, yeah. Independent ages, so we know it was -- it was a geezer. There's no doubt about that. We have aged fish in Texas up to 60, but they are definitely one of the most long-lived fish out there.
COMMISSIONER JONES: A couple of questions. Have you done any study or are you doing any study of the fish in inland waters? Not rivers, but lakes --
MR. DAUGHERTY: Yes.
COMMISSIONER JONES: -- and ponds and whatnot?
MR. DAUGHERTY: Yes. If you recall from the slide that I gave on that different harvest estimates, Choke Canyon Reservoir was on that list. We have just completed three years of market capture on Choke Canyon Reservoir. We tagged I think 676 fish in three years in that system.
COMMISSIONER JONES: Do they -- are they a predator to other fish in -- particular on inland waters and ponds and whatnot?
MR. DAUGHERTY: Alligator Gar are definitely are piscivorous. Meaning that their diet is other fish and probably small mammals and ducks and all kinds of things. They are an apex predator. You know, similar to a shark in a marine environment. The information -- I mean, you know, this is not a well-studied species. You know, this interest in Alligator Gar has really kind of ramped up in the last 10 to 20 years; so we don't have that really long, long, long history like Largemouth bass management or research.
However, there have been three or four studies of diet for Alligator Gar and the credible research out there suggests that they are an opportunistic feeder. And really what that essentially means is, is that they are feeding -- their diet is consisting of what is available in the environment proportionally speaking. So if you have a large number of forage fish and very few sport fish, which is typically -- you know, there's typically a large base of forage and a lower base of sport fish. You would see that in the diet. The Alligator Gar would be eating a large number of foraged, relatively few sport fish. They're not targeting any particular species. They may -- there have been some data out there on White bass in the springtime when White bass congregate in the upper portions of reservoirs, you may see an uptick in the diet in White bass; but it's just an opportunity thing.
So to answer your question, yes, they do -- I mean they obviously do eat fish. The favorite diet items based on research has been rough fish; so carp -- nonsupport species, carp, buffalo, sucker, freshwater drum are probably the top four species that Alligator Gar are known to eat.
COMMISSIONER JONES: And I guess to follow up, have we determined one way or the other whether if you stock, for instance, a private tank, pond, whatnot and there's Alligator Gar present, whether they will consume what you've stocked, whether it's catfish or bass or whatever, I mean?
MR. DAUGHERTY: I can't say that we would know that for sure. I don't think there's been any data out there to say one way or another in that particular instance. If you're talking particularly about our State stockings of reservoirs, I doubt there would be much issue between Alligator Gar and the stocked individuals because of the fact that usually our stockings are conducted into complex habitat; so it's providing cover to the -- let's say, for instance, we stock, you know, fingerlings of Largemouth bass. Those individuals are stocked into cover. So Alligator Gar typically are not found in the dense cover. They're found out in the open -- more open pelagic water and so likely the fish being stocked into the habitat, the complex habitat, they're not going to interact that much.
COMMISSIONER JONES: Well, I'm curious about this because during the last -- during the -- well, I guess we're still in a drought. But during the summer, couple of summers ago when we got literally no rain and lakes, ponds, and whatnot dried up all over the state, the pictures that you-all have in the hallway out here, I have a lake that did that in my hometown on my family's place and the last fish standing were the Gar.
MR. DAUGHERTY: Right. Doesn't surprise me in the least. I mean you --
COMMISSIONER JONES: And what's interesting about that is I was particularly interested when you were indicating that, you know, you were discovering that they -- we thought they were freshwater, but now looks like they may be able to survive in saltwater, brackish, and freshwater.
MR. DAUGHERTY: Uh-huh, right.
COMMISSIONER JONES: And, again, during that drought, they were the last fish in the little puddle as big as -- as big around as that --
MR. DAUGHERTY: Right.
COMMISSIONER JONES: -- area of the --
MR. DAUGHERTY: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER JONES: -- floor, probably 3 feet by 4 feet and the water was only --
MR. DAUGHERTY: Inches deep.
COMMISSIONER JONES: -- 2 inches deep, 3 inches deep. You could see their backs, you know, and very little oxygen in there obviously; but they were surviving.
MR. DAUGHERTY: The other interesting thing is Alligator Gar do breathe atmospheric oxygen.
COMMISSIONER JONES: I believe that.
MR. DAUGHERTY: Yeah. Oh, yeah.
COMMISSIONER JONES: Because there was a trail. There was -- I think they walk because -- I'm not kidding you. There was a trail in the mud about 2 inches deep from where one apparently was outside of this little puddle of water and --
MR. DAUGHERTY: He made is way back in?
COMMISSIONER JONES: -- he made his way. You could see the trail where he made his way over to the little mud puddle. So I'm sitting there thinking how did he get from there to there because there's no water? But you could definitely see the trail that he made to get to the water source.
MR. DAUGHERTY: Yeah.
COMMISSIONER JONES: So they are a fascinating fish.
MR. DAUGHERTY: They are. They are.
COMMISSIONER JONES: But I am concerned because if -- I'm concerned about whether if they populate a lake, a pond, a whatnot, will they eventually consume all of the fish, the other fish that are in there?
MR. DAUGHERTY: Just thinking primarily from a biological standpoint, typically that doesn't occur because essentially it's -- I mean it's detrimental to the stock of fish. If they eat themselves -- literally eat themselves out of house and home, you know, they're just -- they have nothing else to eat, so typically that doesn't occur. In a small, very enclosed --
COMMISSIONER JONES: Well, if you would like a place -- if you would like a place to study that, I've got a place for you because I have no doubt that when the rains came back, the first fish that popped out of wherever they hid their, you know, larva or whatever it is they do --
MR. DAUGHERTY: Right.
COMMISSIONER JONES: -- I have no doubt they're back in there.
MR. DAUGHERTY: I believe it. I believe it. I mean, well, and you know as we've talked about before, you know, the -- when you have a high flow event or you have connection of things like ponds to, you know -- where did the water come from that filled your pond? I mean it must have -- it came from a stream or --
COMMISSIONER JONES: There's an artesian well.
MR. DAUGHERTY: Okay.
COMMISSIONER JONES: But the evaporation of the drought zapped the water.
MR. DAUGHERTY: Oh, okay.
COMMISSIONER JONES: It couldn't -- it couldn't sustain the lake.
MR. DAUGHERTY: Right. Well, you get a -- you know, like we said before, when you get a high flow event, rain event connects, you know, rivers and ponds and backwater areas and so on and so forth, that is a key a lot of times for fish like Alligator Gar to move up into those areas. A lot of times they get -- they move up in those areas. They stay there. They may spawn. They may just take advantage of those areas for the low velocity that -- you know, getting out of the high flow event in the river. And then they lose the connection when the water goes back down and they're essentially stranded and that's -- I'm sure that's exactly what you've seen and maybe some young fish, too, if the spawning -- if the high flow event occurred during a spawning period.
And they will -- I will put my last paycheck on the fact that they'll be the last fish in the water if you don't get another connecting event. No doubt.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Bill, are you sure yours were Alligator Gar and not Longnosed or Spotted?
COMMISSIONER JONES: No, I think they were -- they were Alligator Gar. I'm positive.
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: How much wine was involved on that?
COMMISSIONER JONES: No, no. I've got --
COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: Before the fish started walking, how much wine was involved?
COMMISSIONER JONES: I've got pictures to prove it. I'm telling you that fish -- I thought somebody had taken a motorcycle and driven out across the -- I said, well, who's been out in the middle of this lake and I look in the little water.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Commissioner Morian I think has comments or questions.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I've got a couple of questions. Are you monitoring the method of harvest at all?
MR. DAUGHERTY: We are doing some. Dan Bennett, who is one of our management biologists over in Tyler, conducted -- has been working really close with a lot of the boat fishing clubs over there on the Trinity River over the last four to five years and he's collected some pretty interesting data. He conducted an angler survey -- well, he conducted a survey, an angler survey, over there and based on the results of his survey, suggested about 70 -- 77, I want to say, percent of the Alligator Gar harvest was by bow anglers. The remaining --
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: 70 percent?
MR. DAUGHERTY: 77 percent. The remaining 23 percent was hook and line, jug line, so on and so forth, yeah. So the majority of our effort is definitely coming from the bow angling community.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Well, I've seen an increase in traffic on the Trinity River where the bow hunters are looking for the trophy Gar and, you know, harvesting the oldest. I don't know enough about them to know if that's sustainable, but it looks like there's going to be a problem at some point if you can take one Gar a day and all you're taking with a bow, obviously it's a terminal event. But taking the oldest fish, it seems like that's going to be a problem sooner than later; so we need to look, at some point, look at method of harvest I would think and then also look at the size and the number.
MR. DAUGHERTY: Right.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: And be interesting to see what your studies, the future. I find it very interesting, which leads to my next question. It looks like putting this data out to the fishing community as we learn about these fish, would be an important component because people don't know about them. I mean they don't know that fish might be 60 years old.
MR. DAUGHERTY: We've done a lot of out -- we've tried our best to do a lot of outreach events.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Yeah.
MR. DAUGHERTY: It came from the very start, even the ones that I did myself, the personal experience I can speak from, a lot of people didn't even realize there was a difference between an Alligator Gar and Longnose Gar and Spotted Gar. I mean they thought a Gar was a Gar was a Gar and, you know, they're very different life histories. You know, we never -- well, I shouldn't say never. But we have not seen any issues in terms of spawning success or population declines for the Longnose and Spotted Gar; but, you know, Alligator Gar are a completely different beast.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Completely different, yeah.
MR. DAUGHERTY: And people don't realize there's a difference between the species is where we were really running into problems. Because a lot of times with people -- you know, we'll say, you know, they don't reproduce successfully every year and we might get a year class every, you know, ten years or whatever and they say, oh, I see small Gar every year, every year I'm not fishing I see small Gar. And I'm like, yeah, but, you know, they're not Alligator Gar probably and --
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Well, I can see putting out printed material into the fishing community that -- identification, the difference in life span.
MR. DAUGHERTY: And people are very interested when you start talking to them about it.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Yep.
MR. DAUGHERTY: It's amazing, you know. They show an appreciation for it, definitely.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Okay, that's my comment. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Commissioner Scott.
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: When I grew up down in Port Arthur, we had Alligator Gar in the bayou and it ran between the Texaco and Gulf Oil refinery and that was way before there was any Water Quality Act or anything. So that bayou was actually -- I mean there was crude oil flowing down and the only thing alive was Alligator Gar, so I actually was joking. They are tough critters.
MR. DAUGHERTY: Yeah, yeah, they definitely are.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Anybody else have comments or questions? If you go to your slides, you've got the one of my son in there, which I want to --
MR. DAUGHERTY: Oh, did we? I didn't...
MR. SMITH: Yeah, sure, Dan. Feign surprise.
COMMISSIONER LEE: How did that get in there?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Go to the Alligator Gar.
COMMISSIONER JONES: Is there a lawsuit to follow?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: No, no lawsuit. But I want to mention this because of Reed's I thought very on the -- to the mark comments. This is my son Phillip last June and this was a trip on the Lower Trinity and that's about a six-and-a-half foot Gar that he caught with a rod and reel and we released it, of course. But what was interesting was the guide who took us, used to be a bow guide and once he got educated to Reed's point about that fish being somewhere -- Craig Bonds, who was along as an observer to make sure that we didn't break the law, estimated that fish to be 40 to 50 years old.
Well, you can't keep killing fish like that and not eventually have this thing collapse. Particularly where your spawn rates show from '07 forward, we haven't had a spawn and the spawns between '07 and before were very weak going back for almost ten years.
MR. DAUGHERTY: Yeah, to about 1990.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So I think your comments, Reed, are really important that we remain very vigilante about killing these by bow. Catching them with a rod and reel is -- I mean it's fantastic fun, and these are beautiful fish. This doesn't really give you the color of this fish. I mean it is a beautiful fish. It's a prehistoric looking creature and it's -- why kill these fish just to kill them?
It just doesn't -- I have a real concern that that's sports -- that's what we ought to be promoting and so I -- and also it concerns me given the spawn, the difficulties of Alligator Gar spawning, that we really stay on top of this so we don't find ourselves like Louisiana is now where they've got a lot of Gar; but they're all 2, 3, 4 feet and nothing in the 5, 6, 7, 8 feet and on range.
And another thing that when we got our first major presentation on this, which I think was in May 2009, one of the things that Phil Durocher talked about doing was identifying spawning habitats and coming back with recommendations about whether we essentially make those off limits. And your presentation, this isn't a criticism, didn't really deal with that; but if you go to the slide, I want everybody to look at this, it's the one that says management goal, maintain existing...
MR. DAUGHERTY: This one?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: It's got two photographs on the right, one of the spawn -- that one. No, back up. Right there. You see if you've got it on your -- pull it up on your computer screen, you see what looks like four Gar in 2, 3, 4 inches of water. And to me, if we're going to maximize the chances of a spawn given that it's so critical and happens four out of ten years we've seen it happen, then I don't know that we ought to permit bow fishing -- I call it bow fishing, killing them by bow in a spawn month.
I mean I just question the sport of that when you're walking up on a fish that's not moving anywhere and it's in 2 to 3 to 4 inches of water, it's just shooting fish in a barrel.
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Literally.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So I would like to ask that we -- that you come back at the January meeting and have some further thoughts on whether we ought to eliminate a take by bow during May, which I understood is the -- generally the spawning season. And I realize it may not happen.
If we don't have flooded vegetation, there's no chance it happens from what you-all are saying. But I think we should look at whether we tighten that up on the spawn, given the troubling spawning numbers that you just showed and the lack of recruitment over the last roughly 15 years.
MR. DAUGHERTY: We can certainly -- we can certainly discuss that.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And then the other final comment --
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Can we expand that to --
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Sure, go ahead.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Can we expand that just to question taking by bow, period?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Fine with me.
COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Let's discuss it at least.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And then the other comment, I think we have been advised that some bass fishermen in Falcon Lake believe that the -- they've got a Gar, an Alligator Gar problem in the sense that they perceive that the Gar are somehow diminishing the trophy bass fishing at Falcon, which to me cannot be -- I'm not a biologist and I haven't seen the numbers, but Falcon Lake has been in the top five or ten -- what is it, Carter -- fishing lakes in the bass lakes in the country and they continue to take record bass.
Now I realize that water levels are dropping at the time, but I don't know that I -- that I -- I guess my first point is I can't say I agree particularly since you say the fish tend to focus more on rough fish -- carp, buffalo and we saw them take mullet in the lower level of -- lower area of the Trinity. But the point is, can those fish -- assuming that we have a large number of Alligator Gar in Falcon, are we able to trap them and actually move them to another watershed? Is that -- is it feasible, and is it doable?
MR. DAUGHERTY: Physically, yes. Biologically, probably not a good idea and the reason I say that is there's been a lot of genetics work done and the population I believe -- I'm not a geneticist, but based on what I've read. It's come out of the Coastal Fisheries Division. Bill Carroll has done a lot of the genetics work on all the drainages for Texas. And I believe that the -- correct me if I'm wrong, but the Rio Grande drainage is relatively unique genetically. So, you know, the Rio Grande River, Amistad, Falcon, down to the Coast is kind of a very genetically unique population.
So if we trap and transfer those fish into another system and release them, we could be potentially doing deleterious effects genetically if those individuals interbreed. That would be one thing right off the top of my head that I would have a little concern about myself.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But isn't there a way to test that by putting two fish together in some small, controllable environment? Maybe you can't. I don't know.
MR. DAUGHERTY: Well, it's more of just the long-term fitness of the genetics. You know, local watershed level genetics are typically tailored for that system over time. So if you bring in new genes into a system that have not been there before, you're likely to reduce the offspring's ability to -- well, not necessarily reduce their ability. But bringing in the new genes is not necessarily a good thing because it could reduce their fitness through adaptation to the system that they're in.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Well, I just wanted to ask that. I guess my final comment again is to echo Reed Morian's suggestion that we really get the -- get this information, which you've done a very good job of laying out today, out to our -- the people that are bow guiding. Because as I said, the guy that took my son and me, completely said I don't do it anymore after I realized what I was doing, all I'll take now is fishermen, no -- and a number of people were converting. Friends of his said we're not doing it anymore. But it takes educating them that -- you know, this thing will crash if you keep killing one a day of these giant 50-, 60-, 70-year-old fish. So anyway, so thank you for letting me ramble on here.
MR. DAUGHERTY: Appreciate your time, thank you.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you very much.
All right. Mr. Smith, everybody is going to like this.
COMMISSIONER JONES: Before you say it, might I --
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Of course.
COMMISSIONER JONES: -- compliment one of our staff members?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: You bet, have at it.
COMMISSIONER JONES: While Carter was off trying to learn how to play dad, Ann Bright stepped into the breach and during a difficult time quite frankly because we had a few things going on here that y'all know about. But I just wanted to compliment Ann for the good job that she did and for the Agency having people like Ann that can step in when the flag bearer goes down, somebody picks it up and continues to move to the front of the line and I just wanted to compliment. I thought she did a good job.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Good point, Bill. Yeah. Ann, very well-done.
All right, famous words. Mr. Smith, this Commission has completed its business and I declare us adjourned.
(Commission Hearing 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.
T. Dan Friedkin, Chairman
Ralph H. Duggins, Vice-Chairman
Alberto De Hoyos, Member
Dan Allen Hughes, Jr., Member
Bill Jones, Member
Jim Lee, Member
Margaret Martin, Member
S. Reed Morian, Member
Dick Scott, Member
C E R T I F I C A T E
STATE OF TEXAS )
COUNTY OF TRAVIS )
I, Paige S. Watts, Certified Shorthand Reporter in and for the State of Texas, do hereby certify that the above-mentioned matter occurred as hereinbefore set out.
I FURTHER CERTIFY THAT the proceedings of such were reported by me or under my supervision, later reduced to typewritten form under my supervision and control and that the foregoing pages are a full, true, and correct transcription of the original notes.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and seal this 19th day of December, 2013.
Paige S. Watts, CSR, RPR
CSR No.: 8311
Expiration: December 31, 2014
Firm Registration Number: 87
1016 La Posada Drive
Austin, Texas 78752
Job No. 113533