TPW Commission

Work Session, January 21, 2015


TPW Commission Meetings

January 21, 2015



COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Good morning, Bill.



COMMISSIONER JONES: Good morning. What's going on? Why is everybody here?

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Good morning, everyone. This meeting is called to order January 21st, 2015, at 9:08 a.m. Before proceeding with any business, I believe Mr. Carter has a statement -- Mr. Smith has a statement to make.

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


Next order of business is approval of the minutes from the previous Work Session held November 5th, 2014, which have been distributed. Is there a motion?



COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Commissioner Jones, Commissioner Lee. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

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

Work Session Item No. 1, Update on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Progress in Implementing the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Land and Water Resource Conservation and Recreation Plan. Mr. Smith, please make your presentation.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Carter Smith. Good morning to everybody. Just as a point of departure, I want to do one thing and that is introduce the new member of our Leadership Team here, Craig Bonds. Our new Director, Inland Fisheries. And Craig has been a Fisheries biologist with us for 16 years. He's worked in all regions of the state. He is incredibly well respected inside and outside the Agency. We could not have a better leader to help lead the next generation of Inland Fisheries in the state. I think the highest compliment that I can give Craig is he had very, very stiff competition and we had some fabulous candidates for this job and so very, very proud to see Craig take on this leadership role and so this let's welcome him to that new role.

(Round of applause)

MR. SMITH: I thought, Mr. Chairman, I'd provide a quick update on where we stand with the Land and Water Plan. You and the Commission had approved a series of 30 benchmark measures and you-all should have a handout of that in front you that summarizes these measures. Just as a reminder, obviously, this is by no means all inclusive of everything we do. It's simply a snapshot of a variety of the most salient things that we're involved with, whether it's programmatic, outreach, acquisition, restoration, good business practices, etcetera.

And really what I want to do is give you a quick quarterly update of where we stand with respect to these measures, and this slide right here gives you just a graphical representation of all that. We are on target for 22 of those measures of where we projected we would be in the first quarter of the year. We're ahead on two particular measures. One measure we've actually completed. That is all the baseline surveys that we committed to do from an archaeological and natural resource perspective on the Devils River site. And then there are five in which we are behind where we had projected to be. I have visited with all of the responsible Division Directors who have those areas within their purview for those five. They assured me that we have good reasons for why we are behind and expect fully to be able to get those back on track and so I don't have any concern or consternation about where we stand on those five and if you want any more detail on that, I'm happy to -- happy to elaborate.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Would you identify the five?

MR. SMITH: Yep, sure will. So there are five particular measures in which we are behind where we projected to be. Looking again at your handout, Item No. 4, Completing the Public Use Plan for the Palo Pinto Mountain State Park by the end of December. We had to pull our planner off to work on another project, and that put us behind; but we will have this plan done by the February 23rd event that we've got at the state park. So that one will get completed very soon.

No. 11, Adding 1 Million Acres Under Active Wildlife Management Plans. We had projected that we would -- let's see on this. I forget our acreage goal that we would have -- we projected that we'd have 300,000 new acres planned by the end of the quarter. We're actually at 139,000, almost 140,000. Talking with Clayton and the team and looking at historical patterns, there really isn't a good quarterly pattern to predict how that's going to fall out over the course of the year. In other words, so the 300,000 acres that we had predicted in the first quarter, if you look back in past years, some years we've exceeded that, some years we've been way below it. So I'm not sure we have this measure as well refined from a quarterly perspective; but in terms of our capacity and ability to meet that goal as the year progresses, Clayton is confident that we're going to be able to -- be able to meet it.

The third one that I'll bring up is Item No. 18. On an annual basis, 15 million fingerlings will be stocked in Texas rivers and reservoirs to provide quality fishing opportunities. We had projected at the end of the first quarter, we'd stock about a quarter million fingerlings. We're at 170,000 fingerlings. I guess what I'd say talking with Craig and the team, the third and fourth quarters are really the telltale time for this in which we have projections to stock, you know, 6.7 million and then another 6 million fingerlings. So the first quarter measure is not a big number, and the team has got a good explanation of why we're a little behind on that front. And by the way, I should have said this. We track all of these in a very comprehensive spreadsheet and I'm happy to share this with y'all if you want if you want more detail. But, again, it's really the third and fourth quarters that we'll need to pay particular attention to on that one.

Item 21, Collaborate with Existing Partners to Deliver Outdoor Education Programs to 2,500 Houston Residents by the end of August. That's a State Park related measure. We had projected that we would meet or that we would reach 600 people in the first quarter and we reached 574, so we were off by a little bit.

The last measure is a Law Enforcement one. Sponsor Outdoor -- Operation Outdoor Event Statewide and attract a minimum of 30,000 participants from underrepresented communities by August 31st of 2015. We had estimated that we would reach 7,000 participants by the end of the first quarter. We're at 4,300. In talking to Craig, you know, to be fair, our Law Enforcement Team has simply had other higher priorities they've had to focus on and so it's just, you know, we've just so much resources that we have to allocate. Craig's talked to the team and I'm sure by the end of the year, we'll be able to meet this goal. But candidly, we've just had other priorities on that front.

So what I'll ask the Commission is if you want more detailed information on where we stand and what our quarterly projections are with these measures and what our estimates are, let me know and I'll provide you that detail. Obviously every Commission Meeting, we're going to provide an update as to where we stand. Any questions on that?

Okay, moving ahead. Internal Affairs update. You know, that team led by Major Carter, John Gray, Johnny Longoria, Brad Chappell, continues to do an exemplary job in all of their myriad of responsibilities inside the Agency. You know, they completed 160 investigations last year. Obviously, we're early on in this fiscal year. Not a whole lot to report. I will brag on John Gray who is a newly meted graduate of the Governor's Executive Development Program and we're excited about that. Both he and Clayton Wolf were selected to represent the Agency in that prestigious leadership development program and so I want to compliment John and Clayton -- wherever Clayton is -- for their participation and success there. Proud of both of those for going through that program.

I think y'all are aware that we launched, you know, the first ever joint Game Warden/Park Police Academy in January and so the Academy is off to a great, great start. I'm very proud of those cadets, incredibly professional, and look forward to y'all helping us commission them in August at the end of their seven-month tenure at the Academy. Internal Affairs has already been out there to train the cadets on the important role that Internal Affairs plays in Law Enforcement related investigations, complaints against peace officers, as well as the ethics process inside the Agency. And so, again, Internal Affairs will be regular participants and instructors out there as the Academy proceeds.

Next thing I want to present is a new web based mobile app in Law Enforcement. Effectually known as Pocket Cop. This is just a fabulous technological advancement. I want to compliment Gary Teeler and Mike Mitchell with the Law Enforcement Program. This allows our officers to be able to use an iPhone app that is only for their State phones to be able to run background checks on people, guns, property, vehicles, boats. Give them instantaneous information on all of that information. It's linked to our databases so they can access citation history, both on the Game Warden side and the State Park side. Any emergency alerts that may be available for outstanding arrest warrants are also flagged for those individuals. Our folks can do this very discreetly. Very, very conveniently. Again, giving them realtime information and so a fabulous application. Our Law Enforcement Team is in the throes of training our officers how to use that. They expect to have everybody on the Law Enforcement side trained up by April. We've got about 125 officers that are now trained and using this in the field now.

Now, this does not mean that we're not going to continue to use our dispatchers, which play a critical role in helping to run other background checks and provide important information to our officers when they call in. So it does not substitute for that. But, again, in terms of discreetly and quickly getting information that they need in the field to check things, this mobile app is a huge operational advancement for us and so really proud of the team for developing it.

There's another feature on here that I would be remiss if I did not mention, and that's a safety feature. There is a GPS feature associated with this app that allows us to be able to know exactly where an officer is in time of duress and so there is a simple call button that they can hit if they get in a situation in which they need help and that will send out an alert to colleagues to come and so a really important feature for our officers out there in the field that are, as all of you know, some very vulnerable and dangerous situations. So, great advancement. Real proud of the team for it, so.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Can this app be used for suspicious Commissioners?

MR. SMITH: No comment, Commissioner.

COMMISSIONER JONES: I have do a serious question.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, sure.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Do all of our officers have State issued iPhones?

MR. SMITH: All of our officers have State issued phones. Whether it's iPhones or a Verizon phone, I guess we probably have a mix there, yeah. But they certainly have State issued phones. Most of them are iPhones.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Well, my question is will this application work on android units as well as iPhones?

MR. SMITH: Let me get Mike Mitchell to come up, who's been the architect behind this, and answer those questions. Mike.

MR. MITCHELL: So, if you'll recall --

MR. SMITH: Mike, if you'll introduce yourself, sorry, for the record. I'm sorry, I know. Somebody has to set the rules here, Mike.

MR. MITCHELL: Lieutenant Mike Mitchell from the Law Enforcement Division. So, there's two different groups using this. In Law Enforcement, we are all standardized to iPhones or 99 percent and it is made only for the iPhone. In State Parks, their Law Enforcement group, some have iPhones, some have other devices, and we're still working through moving forward on how we're going to get everyone on the same platform for that. State Parks has bought ten licenses so far, and we're just starting to roll that out to them.

COMMISSIONER JONES: So does the Department pay for Law Enforcement phones? Not parks, I'm talking now just Law Enforcement.

MR. MITCHELL: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay. And that -- and those are all iPhones? Those are --

MR. MITCHELL: Yes, sir. 99 percent. We have five right now that aren't.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay, but that's my question. Why are five not on iPhones? Is it a personal choice or do we have a Departmentwide mandate that, look, we've got to get consistent, so everybody get an iPhone?

MR. MITCHELL: It's the latter. We're getting consistent on it. We just have a few that we just haven't renewed the contract, changed them over.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay. The reason I'm -- Joe Carter and I in AT&T getting our phones updated not too long ago. About a week ago actually, about a week or two ago. And so it just made me think in terms of is that a personal phone that you have to get and then you use it for the Department or is it a Department --

MR. MITCHELL: No. Unfortunately, because of the FBI requirements, because of the amount of data that's coming from 50 states and 7 territories, we cannot allow anyone to use a personal phone. It's a prohibition by the FBI.


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Ralph, do you have a question?



COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Carter, when you said that the app has access to our database, I assume you mean Parks and Wildlife?

MR. SMITH: Yes, yeah.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Does it also have access to DPS database?

MR. MITCHELL: Yes, sir, it does. We have 700,000 citations from both Game Wardens and State Parks that we access right away. The system also looks into DPS -- if somebody is wanted, it gets their driver's license, their license plate, that type of information. It does not bring their criminal history into the iPhone. Our feeling is that's a lot of information. We'd want that officer to make a phone call to the dispatcher at that point.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I just want to make sure it wasn't just limited to Parks and Wildlife.

MR. MITCHELL: No, it goes all the way across 50 states, 7 territories via the FBI. It's a really complicated path, but we're doing all of it.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: To Bill's point then, you will be able to find Scott. I'm only jesting. I'm only jesting.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Can you talk a little bit the backup in instances where we don't have cell coverage? I mean presumably that's why we have the --

MR. SMITH: Yeah, dispatchers and radio.

COMMISSIONER LEE: -- dispatch and --

MR. MITCHELL: You've hit the nail on the head and that's always a concern, especially in remote areas or out in the Gulf beyond eight or nine miles.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Where we operate, right. Yeah.

MR. MITCHELL: I wish I had a great answer. We are looking at different boosters, and there's pros and cons to those. You may have seen TV commercials. Unfortunately, they're not all they're set up to be.


MR. MITCHELL: And sometimes they're really cost prohibitive. We're also working on -- we have a -- kind of a lead at the table of a nationwide phone network that the Government is looking at building called FirstNet and I'm real proud of Assistant Commander Gary Teeler who actually represents all State agencies and that's kind of a whole other discussion. But we're constantly looking at how to solve that, and I wish I had a quick answer on it; so a frustrating point admittedly.


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Good question, Jim.

Any other questions?

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mike. Good work on that. He and Gary really have done a phenomenal job bring that forward and, you know, this Commission has been very, very consistent with respect to direction to us to help look at how we modernize our communication and we use more social media web based platforms to help operationalize our activities, as well as communicate externally. So excited about this development. A lot more ahead. So, thanks for the opportunity to share their good work.

I'm going to talk a little bit about re-establishment of the Guadalupe bass to the Blanco River. This is a great project and certainly want to provide recognition to Tim Birdsong and others inside the Agency that have been working on it. You know, Guadalupe bass are our State fish. Native Black bass. Little fighters found in these Hill Country streams from the Pedernales to the Llano. And one of the challenges that our Fisheries biologists have dealt with in these Hill Country rivers is the hybridization of the Guadalupe bass with introduced Smallmouth bass in those rivers.

And so in the drought of 2011, our biologists saw an opportunity there in the Blanco River where large stretches of the river went dry between the state park and a very prominent feature on the river called "The Narrows" in which there were just a few kind of residual, extant pools. They were able to go in, remove all of the Smallmouth and the hybridized fish, and then come back in and stock Guadalupe bass that had been reared at the A.E. Wood Hatchery there in San Marcos. And so it was a great success and even better, we're seeing naturally occurring reproduction of those fish in two years. So, again, excited about that, about that work there in that Hill Country river, as well as others. Great partnership with Texas Tech and the Nature Conservancy, which have been intimately involved in this. So very, very nice public/private collaboration. A lot of excitement by communities and fishing guides, too, in these Hill Country rivers that really see Guadalupe bass as a great tourist attraction for fly fisherman and others in these communities. So, good work on the Inland Fisheries side.

Mother Neff State Park, on Friday we're going to reopen that state park. You know, it has been, for all practical purposes, under renovation since the last big flooding event in 2008. Many of you know the history of that park. Donated to the State by Governor Pat Neff in honor of his mother. Hence, the name Mother Neff State Park. Sits right there on the Leon River just kind of northwest of Fort Hood. Beautiful, beautiful bottomlands along the river and also some really nice upland areas.

In flooding events when Belton Lake will flood, it will back water all up that river channel. Would flood the bottomlands where we had camping loops and a group use facility. We had a rather poor headquarters complex and so after the latest flood in 2008, the Legislature provided funding to the Agency to go back in and address issues that occurred here and at places like Palo Duro Canyon that also had major floods and, of course, parks impacted from the hurricane, Sea Rim in Galveston.

But terrific work done here by our Infrastructure Team to build a new headquarters and visitor complex, a new maintenance barn, a new camping loop, and they have built something that I think we'll all be very proud of and that absolutely will also withstand another 50 years and also give us a little room to grow. I mean that's the real problem in many of our parks that y'all have been in, you see these little pillbox type structures that serve as the headquarters and office complexes that were built in the 70s. Not very well built at all at the time because of resources and also almost after immediately they were open, they became too small. And so they actually thought through this and thinking ahead about future use. So we're excited about the reopening of that this Friday. Anybody who can join us, we'd love to see you at the state park on Friday at 10:00 a.m.

Discounted state park passes, this was a great partnership between State Parks, Communications, and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation in which they took advantage of the holiday season to help promote getting folks outside. They essentially paid for vouchers to the state parks and then marketed those to their various audiences and basically raised about $50,000 to the state parks with this promotional event in December and one of many, many things that the Foundation is doing to help support the work of the Department and I know our State Parks Team, in particular, was very pleased with the outcome of this and kudos to Jay Kleberg and others with the Foundation that worked very hard on this.

Last, but not least, a quick update on Hunt Ed. I know that's been a topic of great interest to this Commission. Last year, our Hunter Ed. Team and Communications certified a little over 67,000 students. That's another record year. 44 percent increase over the previous year, which is a record in that year. So the previous yeah, Josh, I think was around 46,000 students that were certified. This past year, 67,490.

You'll be interested to know that 47 percent of those students completed their Hunter Ed. through the online only option. So we're seeing a lot of folks use that who are eligible and so we're proud of making that available and accessible to folks. So we'll continue to monitor that and report to the Commission on that and we'll obviously also be looking at safety related considerations and see if any issues pop up there. We're not expecting them to, but we certainly know that's been an issue to the Commission. But excited about these record numbers of hunters being certified on the Hunter Ed.

With that, Mr. Chairman and Commission, that completes my presentation and happy to address any other questions that you or the Commissioners may have.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any questions? Thank you, Carter.

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

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Before we move forward, move ahead, I'd like to announce that Agenda Item No. 8, Land Sale, Brown County, will be pulled from today's agenda.

Work Session Item No. 2, Financial Overview, Mike Jensen.

MR. JENSEN: Good morning, Commissioners. My name is Mike Jensen. I'm Administrative Resources Division Director. I have a brief presentation to walk you through the first quarter budget for the Department and the three primary revenue streams.

If we look at this first slide, this gives you a summary through November 30th of the state park revenues that have come in. The facilities revenue you can see is 6.4 percent ahead of last year; entrance fees 11.8 percent ahead; concessions, 14.9 percent ahead; park passes, 4.7 percent ahead; and miscellaneous fees 2.2 percent ahead. So we're 8 and a half percent, about 831,000 ahead of last year.

I reminded y'all at the annual meeting that '13 was a good year and '14 was a very good year. So I think the Comptroller has noticed that. The standard that has been set in our BRE now, they expect us to hit about 45 million a year in revenue. Chairman Hughes, when you started here, when I started here in 2009, state parks revenue was closer to about 38 a year. So the Department is doing very well there.

We're also doing well with visitation. Paid visits are up compared to last year by nearly 10 percent, and year-to-date total visits are up nearly 12 percent. So the Parks group is doing a great job. And if you look at this year month to month, September was 3 percent ahead, October was nearly 15 percent ahead, and November was 8 percent ahead.

With respect to boat revenue, you can see here we're slightly ahead of where we were last year, a half percent or $15,400. You can see sales tax are up by nearly 7 percent. Titles are up by almost 2 percent. The registrations are tracking behind, but that's a seasonal/cyclical issue there. As far as accounts, new registrations and titles this year are ahead of last year; but registration transfers are behind. What you don't see on this slide, this Department collects sales tax. This slide only shows what's retained by the Department and we retain about 5 percent.

What we've collected for the state as a whole in '14 was 9.26 million, and this year we've collected almost 9.9 million. Again, this slide only shows what we retain for the Department, that 5 percent. So the Agency has been doing a pretty good job with that respect, and I think Law Enforcement has been pushing that issue as well.

License revenue comparison, we'll just walk you through this slide. Overall, you can see that there's been a shift this year from resident hunting licenses to combo licenses. If you combine the fishing resident and nonresident, we're ahead about 95,000 or 2.8 percent. Hunting, if you combine the resident and nonresident, we're ahead by about 1 percent, 42,000. The combos are up by 1.2 million, which is almost 3.9 percent. That's pretty significant. The fishing accounts, we've sold 1,923,000 licenses this year compared to 1,884,000 licenses last year.

As far as the adjusted budget, the last time we presented a budget was at the annual meeting that you approved. This represents the first quarter. Most of these adjustments all reflect unexpended balance forward from the prior fiscal year. You can see the -- we start with 371.35 million, which was approved by the Commission, which at that time included some estimates and some fringe. The first item there was Federal Grants and UB of 23.45 million. That comes from about 22 different sources. The top eight account for 87 percent, with wildlife restoration being the majority of it, about 45 percent, 10.6 million. There's additional funding from National Recreation Trail Grant there of 1.8; Outdoor Recreation, 1.6 million; Port Security Grant of 1.5 million; Sport Fish Restoration of 1.3 million; Joint -- JEA is 1.2 million; SWG, State Wildlife Grants is what we call it, is 1.2 million; Public Assistance Grants of 1.1 million.

The second line there, Other Appropriated Receipts and Contracts with UB, that's a combination of about 19 different sources. The top five make up 96 percent of that 15.35 million, with artificial reef being 8.8 million, which is 57 percent. We have Fund 64 donations that make up 1.9 million; Fund 9 donations, 1.6 million; Fund 9 reimbursements, 1.7 million; and the shrimp buy-back, 656,000. The third line you see on there is Rider 31. That allows to UB within the biennium from the first year to the second year. 3.1 million is capital nonconstruction, 27 percent, and the remaining 73 percent is operational funds that are removed -- moved from 2014 to 2015, 8.3 million.

The fourth line that you see on there is the Supplemental Appropriation Bill we had during the last session. And all of that represents capital construction projects. We have out of that, 7.6 -- out of that amount, we have bonds at 42.8 million; federal funds of 8.2 million; appropriated receipts at 2.6 million; and Fund 9 is 1.9 million and Fund 64 is 958,000.

The fifth line item on there, it shows net increase of 4.88 million. During the last approval process, we approved -- the Commission approved 51.53 million, but we had actually 4.8 that was actually realized that we're moving into the budget. And you can -- the last three items on there, the Stateside Cost Allocation Plan, every State agency provides funding to the Oversight to run the Oversight Departments. That's 969,000. Employee fringe benefits, that's 430,000. And that last line item, it's a negative because that's the DPS Chauffeur's Account that the cash is not available, 825,000. So the subtotal is 63.27 million, and the adjusted budget as of the end of the first quarter is 434.62 million.

I'd be happy to answer any questions that you might have about the first quarter, if you have any.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any questions for Mike?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: What's the status of the effort to be reimbursed for the additional border security costs that we've been forced to incur as a part of the border security ramp-up.

MR. SMITH: So the costs that we incurred up until, I guess, really the first of November, we will look at trying to get addressed through the Supplemental Appropriations Bill this session. Legislative Budget Board, you know, is committed to providing the funding that we requested really from November 1st -- for December 1st, I'm sorry, onward. So we're taking care of it this juncture. The funding in the past that we had to expend, again, that will be something we hope to get addressed in the Supplemental Bill this session.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So expenditures prior to December 1, we're hoping to get remedied in the current Legislative session?

MR. SMITH: Certainly if possible, and I'd say certainly focused on those expenditures particularly in this fiscal year.

MR. JENSEN: You'll see an adjustment next time we meet in March because this only goes through November. There was about a 3.7 million adjustment that took place in December that was committed to by State Oversight, it's going to increase our budget. It did increase our budget in December for Law Enforcement.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That's why I was asking.


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I didn't see any adjustment for it on here.

MR. JENSEN: Well, this is only through November.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Only through November.

MR. JENSEN: Yes, sir.


Work Session Item No. 3, Internal Audit Update. Cindy Hancock, please make your presentation.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Before -- sorry. Before Cindy starts, I wanted to ask for one correction from the minutes. This is very picky, but since the comment I -- attributed to me, I want to change the word "pervading" to "predating," which is what I said on page 25 when we were talking about Alligator Gar. So I make a motion that the minute be adjusted -- so adjusted.



COMMISSIONER JONES: What do those words mean?

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: Yes, can you explain what that is, please?

COMMISSIONER LEE: Just to move on.

COMMISSIONER JONES: I still don't know what the hell you were saying.


MS. HANCOCK: Good morning. I'm Cindy Hancock, Director of Internal Audit. And I'm here today to update you on the completion status of the Fiscal Year '14 and '15 Audit Plan and any ongoing or completed external audit.

This is a summary of the internal audit projects approved for fiscal year '14. The checkmarks indicate that we have issued final reports or completed fieldwork for all audit projects except for the data integrity audit with fieldwork to begin next week. Since my last update to the Commission in November, we've completed fieldwork for four projects. We're in the process of obtaining management responses for the BIS audit. The payment card audit report is ready to be submitted to management for responses, and the federal grant and infrastructure audit are going through their quality assurance reviews.

For fiscal year '15 internal audit plan, the checkmarks indicate that we've begun the following projects: Audit of the State-owned housing charges, audit of the travel advance account, and a follow-up of internal and external audit recommendations. The follow-up audit is in its fieldwork stage and will continue to be in fieldwork stage through August of this year. Since last September, management has implemented 13 internal audit recommendations with 16 still in progress and management has also implemented two external audit recommendations with 22 still in progress.

Currently, we have several external audits being conducted, as always. Ernst and Young was hired by the Texas Department of Emergency Management to perform a statewide compliance audit looking at the documentation process for Hurricane Ike expenditures. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with our Land Conservation Team to reconcile records regarding lands purchased with federal funds.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Wait. Say that again, please.

MS. HANCOCK: They're doing a reconciliation of lands purchased with federal funds.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Was there some issue that led to that, or is it just a routine --

MS. HANCOCK: They've been working on it for several years and the lady that was doing it, that was performing it -- I believe she retired, and somebody else took over. So it's been delayed. It's been ongoing for several years. I think they're down to one tract of land.


MR. SMITH: The audit is certainly normal. I'm sorry, I'm not familiar with the specific item, Cindy. Maybe we could get that information and get it to the Commissioners. I'm sorry, I can't speak to it.



COMMISSIONER LEE: How about a little more color on the E and Y project for Hurricane Ike documentation? Is it -- is that focused on state reimbursements or --

MS. HANCOCK: Yes, it is and it's of several agencies throughout -- several agencies that they're looking at and they're trying to determine if there's a more efficient way for agencies to retain documentation and improve the accuracy of that information.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Okay. So there wasn't an issue that they were brought in to pay particular attention to. It was just an overall efficiency --




COMMISSIONER LEE: All right, thank you.

MS. HANCOCK: Okay. The Department of Interior Civil Rights Division has conducted a desk review and the Department is working on delivery of missing information and completion of required actions. Our responses are due in early February of this year. The Department of Interior Office of Inspector General is conducting a federal grant audit of our Dingell-Johnson and Pittman-Robertson funds. And finally, as of yesterday, we just had an entrance conference with the Texas Workforce Commission Civil Rights Division, who will be conducting an audit of our personnel policies and procedures. This is an audit required by Texas Labor Code to be conducted every six years for all State agencies, and I'll keep you posted on the outcomes of these audits as they are completed.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Cindy, before you move, to follow-up on Jim's point. On these first two external audits, is there anything that led to those or are they just routine?

MS. HANCOCK: They're routine. They're routine, and they were scheduled in -- this was our lucky year.

That concludes my presentation. Are there any questions?

COMMISSIONER JONES: Cindy, can you comment on the -- I know we sent the notice out to all of the Commissioners over the holidays. But the DPS external peer review audit and the results of that? You know, we always talk about what's upcoming and routine or others that might be generated by other reasons; but I just would like to occasionally talk about the results of some of these audits, particularly when they're good.

MS. HANCOCK: Well, that's good. Yes, we're required every three to five year -- three years to have a peer redone -- peer review done on our audit teams, the auditors audit the auditors. And we had a peer review team from the Department of Public Safety and TDI and they came in and looked at several of our audits and interviewed several Commissioners and many staff and concluded that we pass and that our audit work meets the audit standards. So, I was very -- I'm very proud to have that off my plate.

COMMISSIONER JONES: I understand and with flying colors. That was a very good result, so.

MS. HANCOCK: Well, thank you.

MR. SMITH: Commissioner, if I could, and I'm going where you went. They were very complimentary of Cindy and her team in the exit interview. They could not say enough good things about the quality and the substance. They have appreciated the heightened engagement of the Commission on the audit functions and that was well received by the external auditors and duly noted. But, again, you know, Cindy's words "meets an adequate," which are, you know, sort of typical words by an auditor; but they used --

COMMISSIONER LEE: That's as good as it gets.

MR. SMITH: That's as good as it gets from an auditor, exactly. That's the gold standard, absolutely. Well said.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Well, it's also important as we go into a Legislative session to make sure that what funds we are given, we have others who are suggesting that we're handling our funds appropriately and that we're not wasting State resources and that we have checks and balances and whenever we find something that's not up to standards, we fix it and we have an ongoing process by which we keep up with what we're doing and continuously improve. So those kinds of things are real important right now when we go to ask for more State resources.

MS. HANCOCK: One thing I would like to mention is we have been without an IT auditor for several years now and we have promoted one of our auditors, who now has become certified as a Certified Information System Auditor, Kim Thiel. So now we have a qualified, a very good IT auditor on our staff, so.


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Thank you, Cindy. Thank you.

MS. HANCOCK: All right, thank you.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: All right, moving forward, Work Session Item No. 4, 2015-16 Statewide Hunting Proclamation, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Register. Jason Hardin and Kevin Davis, please make your presentation.

MR. HARDIN: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners.


MR. HARDIN: For the record, my name is Jason Hardin, Upland Game Bird Specialist with Texas Parks and Wildlife. Joining me is Assistant Commander Kevin Davis with Law Enforcement. We're here today to present proposed changes to the Statewide Hunting Proclamation.

These proposed changes are recommended by TPWD's Resident Game Bird Technical Committee and have been reviewed by TPWD's Upland Game Bird Advisory Committee. Texas offers two fall turkey zones for Rio Grande wild turkey hunting. The fall season runs concurrently with the White-tail deer season. However, as you can see from the calendar, the late youth season in the North Zone is only offered the third weekend in January.

Staff proposes extending the current youth-only season to run concurrently with the youth-only White-tail deer season. Providing a total of 14 consecutive days of youth hunting opportunity following the close of the general fall season. TPWD estimates a population of 88,000 wild turkey hunters in Texas, 10,000 of whom are youth turkey hunters under the age of 18. Texas offers four spring turkey zones. Three Rio Grande wild turkey zones and an the Eastern wild turkey zone. In total, spring turkey hunting is available in 191 counties statewide.

Staff proposes closing 11 Eastern wild turkey counties shown here in the green and white striped areas. These 11 counties meet TPWD's decision variable for county closure, which states that an Eastern wild turkey county will be proposed for county closure if the three-year average harvest reported at TPWD's mandatory Eastern wild turkey check stations equal to or less than one bird per season and the biologists within those districts consider the county unsuited to provide adequate harvest potential.

Staff also proposes modifying Wharton and Matagorda Counties shown here along the Texas coast in the orange and black striped areas to conform with the adjacent special one-gobbler only Rio Grande wild turkey zone located to the north and west. Staff believe the birds in these two coastal counties, as well as the habitat and climate, to be more representative of the special one-gobbler only Rio Grande wild turkey zone than the Eastern wild turkey zone. This will maintain a one-gobbler only, 30-day, spring only season; but it will remove the mandatory harvest reporting requirements and alter the opening date from April 1st to April -- from April 15th to April 1st.

In addition to closing Angelina County, one of the 11 counties currently proposed for county closure, and in coordination with the U.S. Forest Service, staff proposes closing those Angelina National Forest Service lands falling within Jasper County. No harvest has been reported on the Angelina National Forest in recent years. Closing the Angelina National Forest will support forthcoming turkey research and an associated super stocking scheduled to take place in 2016 on this specific site.

MR. DAVIS: Good morning, Commissioners.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Before we leave the turkey, can we -- I have a question for you, Jason.

MR. HARDIN: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Why do we have -- if I'm reading this right. Why do we have a different North Zone for the fall and the spring? Why not just have one North Zone and the same for the South? I mean why change -- why have four different -- why have a different South Zone, you know, whether it's fall or spring?

MR. HARDIN: Yes, sir. I believe a part of that for the fall season is falling in line with the White-tailed deer season. And for the Spring Zone, we try to address some of our -- the biological nesting season and when those birds historically would initiate nesting activity. So that's the alteration on that, I believe, and again --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Have we -- how long have we had that?

MR. HARDIN: Since before my tenure. I've been with the Department for eight years, and I believe it's been well before that. Close to a decade at least.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: It seems to me like that's more complicated than it needs to be to have two different North and South -- really, have four zones --

MR. HARDIN: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- at a certain time of year. I mean we're always talking about simplification. I would encourage us to look at that, whether we might be able to just come up with a North and a South.

MR. HARDIN: I'd be glad to work with our technical committee and look into that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I'd like to suggest we look into it.

MR. HARDIN: Absolutely.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I've got a question. Going back to page 13, you're closing the season for Eastern turkey in 13 counties, including Matagorda and Wharton, and then you're implementing a limited season for Rio Grande turkeys in Matagorda and Wharton. Are there no Eastern turkeys in those two counties?

MR. HARDIN: We don't have genetic data from there, but all the birds in that vicinity are dominated by Rio Grande wild turkeys. So we feel that the location in the state, which has implications from historic research showing earlier nesting activity in that part of the state; as we move further north, that nest initiation period tends to go up on the calendar. So that would impact one reason why we want to be in that zone, but also we believe that the birds in that area to be more representative of the Rio Grande wild turkey.


MR. HARDIN: We did have a history of stocking Easters in that county, but we know that there are Rios in there as well.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: So there's not going to be an issue of a mistake or a misidentification?

MR. HARDIN: No, sir.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: And that -- in that -- is that for the spring season?

MR. HARDIN: Yes, sir. There is only a spring season. That's a special, one-gobbler only, 30-day spring only season.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Spring season for Rio Grande turkey.

MR. HARDIN: It will be almost the exact same regulations. Spring only season, one-gobbler bag limit that is in those two counties now. Again, the season date is the primary change and the mandatory reporting requirements go away.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Yeah. Okay, thanks.

MR. HARDIN: Yes, sir.

MR. DAVIS: Good morning, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Kevin Davis with the Law Enforcement Division. Staff is also proposing a clarification to the archery only Mule deer regulations. This clarification is simply a wording change to make it clear which counties do and do not need a permit for the take of does during archery only season. That is -- that is the only thing L.E. is proposing at this time. Any questions?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I have a question again on the zone. We're add -- we're purporting to add zone nomenclature for deer?

MR. DAVIS: Yes, sir. So the -- I can speak to that some. There are some non-substantive changes in the statewide proposal that create zones for deer, havalina, and turkey. Those zones do not change the reg as it's currently written at all. Does not change season dates or bag limits. All it does bring the clarification in line with how we have it posed to the public in our Outdoor Annual and in our Outdoor web applications.

So we already state in Outdoor Annual on the first page what the seasons are by zones; but it's confusing when someone goes and looks at the Outdoor app, which is very popular right now, and it says North Texas right under the caption for Llano County, where the person knows he's not in North Texas and he doesn't understand why it's saying North Texas. That's -- the zone language is creating a mechanism for everybody to be on the same page.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Was that run by the White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee?

MS. BRIGHT: For the record, I'm Ann Bright, General Counsel. The -- to clarify, it didn't actually change the zones. All they're doing is the way the rules were structured, there was a list of counties where the regulations were a certain way and then there was another list of counties where the regulations were a certain way. However, those -- though -- and if you looked at the counties, you could see that these counties were more north and these counties were more south. However, we never actually used the words in the regulations "North Zone" or "South Zone." So these don't really change anything, other than adding the words --

MR. DAVIS: That's correct.

MS. BRIGHT: -- "North Zone" and "South Zone." Does that make sense?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Are the seasons and the bag limits for the counties in the proposed zones identical?

MR. DAVIS: Yes, the seasons are. Yes, sir, the season dates are.

MS. BRIGHT: And if I could just clarify. These are really not proposed new zones by -- at all. All we're doing is identify -- labeling -- labeling the areas that were listed. In other words, we're saying, okay, these regulations -- the regulations -- and you can kind of see that in your book, the zones are all -- I mean the counties have just been listed. So I mean I just want to emphasize it's not new zones.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Well, I come back to my question. Was this discussed in the White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee?

MS. BRIGHT: I don't know. I doubt it was because it's not a substantive change.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: When -- do you know when their next meeting -- does anyone know when their next --

MR. SMITH: I don't think that's been scheduled yet, Mr. Vice-Chairman; but it will be soon. Those members have been appointed, they've received their letters from the Chairman, and I believe that Mitch and Clayton are going to be looking at setting up a meeting posthaste with that committee.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I would like to suggest this be put on the agenda for their feed back; good, bad, or indifferent.

MR. SMITH: Sure.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: The committee's feedback.

MR. SMITH: Yes, we will do that.

MR. DAVIS: With that, that concludes the presentation from staff. We're seeking permission to publish these proposed changes to the Statewide.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Thank you. Any more questions?

COMMISSIONER JONES: Ralph, you are referring just to the Mule deer regulations?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: No, the White-tailed deer.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Oh, the White-tailed deer. But not the turkey or the Mule deer?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: No, just the White-tailed deer.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay. Yeah, all right.


Work Session Item No. 5, 2015-16 Statewide Recreational and Commercial Fishing Proclamation, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Register. Ken and Jeremy, please make your presentation.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Good morning, Commissioners. My name is Ken Kurzawski in Inland Fisheries Division, and I'm here today to go over the freshwater proposed changes to the Statewide Recreational and Commercial Fishing Proclamation. I might note that these changes closely track what we previewed to you in November and these proposed changes were presented last week to our Freshwater Fisheries Advisory Committee and they supported all the changes, as we will go over with you today.

The first couple of changes to three water bodies are changes that were -- we had a special regulation and are simplifying them and going back to the statewide regulation and the first two of those are on Braunig and Calaveras Reservoirs. They're cooling reservoirs. Have unique environments with the heated water, high caloric content, abundant Tilapia populations. We've taken advantage of some of those conditions there to stock Red drum, which do well in those reservoirs. You'll notice Largemouth basses in a prominent portion of that fisheries. The population there, we have been managing it with an 18-inch minimum length limit since 1995. We did see some -- with the abundant prey base and heated water, we did see some good growth in the Largemouth bass and we had hoped to match that as a trophy fisheries.

We did encounter some problems in that bass population in the 90s. Competition with Tilapia, just the heated water, a variety of habitat issues. We implemented some stocking and habitat improvement; but since that sign, we've collected few bass over 18 inches in our either caught or sampled and the bass abundance has -- hasn't responded. Because of that lack of quality in the bass population, we are proposing to move that length limit for bass back to the 14-inch minimum length limit or five-fish daily bag, which are the statewide regulations.

The activities that we undertook there, were ineffective to improve that population. We've discussed this with some of the local bass clubs in and around the San Antonio area. They approve of this these changes because they've -- as fishing that lake over the years, they recognize the limitations in the current bass population there.

Another change back to statewide on O.H. Ivie Reservoir. We initially stocked that with Smallmouth bass hoping to develop a quality population out there. We put an 18-inch minimum length limit on there. Very few Smallmouth are caught by anglers. We don't capture any in our samples. The Largemouth just have -- Smallmouth just haven't developed much of a population out there. So we're proposing to change that back, once again, to the statewide limit, 14 inches and five fish.

On Lake Nasworthy near San Angelo, it's a kind of a rarity for West Texas, constant level reservoir. It has abundant habitat and it has good bank and shoreline access. Fisheries comprised of bass, Crappie, and catfish and the bass are currently under a 14-inch -- under the statewide limits, 14 inches, five fish. That relatively stable water level has resulted in stable and consistent recruitment in the bass population, but what we've seen over the years is that growth and the size structure are unsatisfactory. The fish aren't growing all that well, and they're not to the condition level that we would like to see.

What we're proposing to do there is implement a 14- to 18-inch slot length limit for the bass. We're hoping to increase the harvest of the overabundant fish under 18 inches, get a little turnover in that population, hopefully improve the size structure and growth rate and a lot of the anglers harvest the small bass. Information we've received from local anglers, they're supportive of this change and are supportive of trying to harvest some of those smaller fish to improve the population.

Taking a look at the Alligator Gar in Texas. As you know, we implemented a one-fish daily bag limit in 2009. That was due to concerns about the range reduction overall in the U.S. Texas was one of the last strongholds of Alligator Gar and we had some unique trophy fisheries centered on the Trinity River there in East Texas where that was receiving a lot of notoriety as a place to go to catch large, trophy Gar.

After that regulation was implemented, we've undertaken to study numerous populations around the state. We've continued to look at the Trinity River. We've investigated populations in Choke Canyon and the Brazos River. Since that time over the last few years at Falcon Lake, we've reports -- received reports of boons on bass and very abundant Alligator Gar population. Over time as -- coinciding with the water level going down there, angler concerns have escalated and this has received some Legislative interest. Randy Myers who was here in November and his crew instituted a survey of the Alligator Gar populations and anglers in 2004 to take a look at that population.

Just to briefly go over that -- some of that information that Randy and his crew collected. As you know, Falcon is a unique reservoir. It has a unique location. It's a very remote reservoir. Not close to many large population centers. It fluctuates quite a bit. Is currently 27 feet low at about 31 percent capacity. It has always produced -- been a very productive reservoir. Produced an excellent bass fishing when the water levels are up there. Frequently it gets listed as one of the top bass lakes in the U.S. On the Mexican side, we know there's some commercial gillnet fishery that are mostly targeting Tilapia and based on the information we have, there's minimal harvest of Alligator Gar.

Our survey had a couple components. We looked at the anglers. Tried to determine the characteristics, where they're coming from, what they like to fish for, what are their harvest -- what the harvest, especially focusing on Alligator Gar and how they feel about the management of Alligator Gar on that reservoir. We did an extensive study of the Alligator Gar population itself. We collected the life history data of various types to determine the impact of harvest and any potential changes of harvest on that population.

Alligator Gar anglers, most of those were locally based. Unlike the bass anglers. We have probably about 50/50 on anglers fishing for other things coming from other parts of the state. It was a consumptive fishery. Actually, bow anglers are harvesting all those fish and 77 percent of the rod-and-reel anglers are keeping Gar out of that when they harvested them. Looking at the harvest over the study period and previously, it's judged to be at the low level. Population harvest was probably around 1 percent. Most of the anglers when asked, did express a desire for more harvest. There was some indication that they like to try to harvest some large trophy fish, but there was a good segment of the population that were interested in harvesting a few more fish.

We took a look at the diet of the Gar in the reservoir. As we found in many other -- in other situations where we looked at this, the Gar, they're an opportunistic predator, top predator, and their diet primarily focuses on the -- whatever the abundant prey fish are in their particular system. In this case, it's common carp and Tilapia. Naturally, we would anticipate they did -- would prey on some Largemouth bass a percent here. In other studies we've done, for instance, at Rayburn it was around 4 percent and others even less than that.

So if you remember from Randy's presentation in November, there was one outlier, Lake Guerrero in Mexico. A food habit study done there. They found 50 percent of the diet was composed by Largemouth bass, but we haven't seen anything like that in Texas. And I would note that Lake Guerrero has been known for years as an excellent bass lake and continues to be a good bass lake in the face of -- in competition with the Gar population there. We also collected information on the growth of the population, and what we see in Falcon is that the Gar there are growing excellent growth there. We've got some of the fastest growth we've seen documented. They're maturing at a fairly young age and this gives us a good indication that we have a healthy population in that reservoir.

Very importantly, we looked at the population age structure. This is a primary concern when looking at the reproduction in the system. We see that recently, we've had strong year classes tied to some of those water level increases and we've had at least some reproduction in eight of the last ten years. This is in contrast to what we saw in the Trinity River where we saw fewer -- fewer successful reproduction and spawning of the Alligator Gar over time. And I might note as we've mentioned before that Alligator Gar being a long-lived large species, we don't expect those fish to spawn every year. Their life history isn't such that they need to spawn every year. But we do like to see, like here, that they have been having successful spawns over the recent time to continue the strength of that population.

We looked at the life -- we used all the life history data in a fin fishery simulation model to determine the impact of what -- of a possible higher harvest rates on the population and on the bottom horizontal axis, we have the harvest rate and on the vertical axis is an index of the lower fishing. We're looking to keep that below 0.35 and after that, we would -- the population could be considered being overharvest and it would cause a decline in the population.

The current harvest rate is about 1 percent, which would equate probably about a .8, .9 on the overfishing index and even if we -- the bag limit to the harvest rate isn't necessarily a one-to-one with one bag to 1 percent harvest; but even if we moved up as we proposed earlier to five, we'd still probably be somewhere around zero point -- 0.2 on lower fishing landings would give us a sufficient buffer before we have any concerns about reaching an overfishing situation in that population.

To sum up some of the things we've looked at on the population, we do have a very unique population there in Falcon Lake. It's less vulnerable to overharvest due to a number of factors such as that fast growth. We have abundant spawning population. They're maturing at an early age, and we have more frequent strong year classes. So we feel that we have a population there that is a good, stable population and could withstand some additional harvest. Harvest rate is low at this time, but the anglers have expressed a desire to be able to take a few more fish out of that system. We did see that Gar preyed on bass, you know, at levels comparable to what we've seen at other Texas reservoirs and just like on Lake Guerrero, Falcon Lake, Sam Rayburn and other reservoirs, we've had -- there's a number of instances in Texas where we have abundant Gar populations with excellent bass fishing. So those two things aren't mutually exclusive, as we've seen over time in Texas.

So, in summary, our proposal is to increase that bag limit, what, from one to five fish per day. We feel looking at the life history data and our simulation models, there's minimal risk to the population. That's really our primary concern here when we're making any changes is to protect those Gar populations and this would also go in and support the local anglers' desire for a bag limit increase. Additionally, one thing we need to add here is a reservoir definition for Falcon Lake to establish an upper limit for enforcement purposes for the five-fish to one-fish bag and we'll set that at the -- upstream of the reservoir at the Zapata/Webb County line. That are all the freshwater changes that we are proposing at this time and if you have any questions, I'd be happy to answer those.


COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I've got one, just a clarification. When you're looking at your overfishing index, is that just based on pounds harvested or do you take into account that these are trophy fish that are being harvested? I mean what I'm interested in is what's the impact of going from one to five a day harvest of trophy Gar on the population at Falcon Lake?

MR. KURZAWSKI: Well, that index, that takes account of all those parameters of overharvest -- harvest of adult fish, the growth of the fish, reproductive success. So that is factored in there. We did do -- Randy presented a separate thing on looking at the -- just the harvest of the trophy fish and that was -- we would be at a little higher level and we see the same thing that we have a pretty substantial buffer there between the current harvest and to where we'd run into an overfishing population, even just segregating out those trophy fish.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Okay, and I guess I'm following that. Because, to me, overfishing is just the poundage you take out versus --

MR. KURZAWSKI: Well, that's one factor. It's also, you know, if you're overharvesting a certain segment of your larger, spawning fish and you reduce that number, even though there might be poundage in smaller numbers, it's not straight poundage. It's more of where those fish are in their reproductive potential in the population, so.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: But in this case, people are just targeting the trophy Gar.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Well, that's not -- not necessarily. There is some interest in trophy, but there are a lot of people who are the more consumptive oriented. They're not necessarily targeting trophy fish. They're just trying to catch a Gar of any size and in many cases, it's easier to catch some of those smaller fish that are more abundant in the population and they're happy to harvest those, also.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: And we have a -- we're going to monitor this to make sure that the -- we're not overharvesting of trophy Gar?


COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I suppose you have that program in place or --

MR. KURZAWSKI: Yes, our -- right.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: -- are prepared to do that?

MR. KURZAWSKI: Our staff typically when, you know, any -- any -- really, that's part of any regulation change. We have ongoing efforts to look at to see if that regulation change is having the effect reaching our goals. Just like early in the presentation, we had some instances where we put some regulations on, they weren't received -- achieving their goals, so we moved them back.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Well, I'm going to go along; but reluctantly because I still think jumping from one to five when you've got such a unique resource where are primarily the target of bow hunters who are going to harvest the biggest, oldest fish. Seems like that's a big jump, but I look forward to your report back on the impact. Thank you.


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I want to follow-up on Reed's comments and go back to our November 5 discussion about this where Reed shared the concern that a jump from one to five was aggressive and Randy said we will monitor it and let you know the -- and he said the difference between three and five was more of a social issue than a biological issue. So I think it's on that assurance from -- Ken, from your group -- that I, too, reluctantly go along with it. But I think, again, this follow-up is going to be critical and I'd like to make sure we get some feedback later this year in a meeting about it.

And I also have some questions about some of the changes in the book starting at page 32. It looks like there's page after page of what appear to be changes and I can't tell whether numbers actually changed or not; but in my book starting at page 32, with Amberjack, then bass, it's all highlighted and --

MR. KURZAWSKI: Right. That's just a formatting change to those. All that information was previous -- if you go back to some of the previous proclamations, it was in sort of a table format and that was a little onerous to handle when we did the Register submissions. So we've just put it in in sort of a text version.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So there are no --


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- substantive changes to --


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- any of those numbers?

MR. KURZAWSKI: No. The only changes that we would -- that we would make were for some of the minor changes to -- that we made as part of our proclamation at those changes.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Then on page 34, where we talk about Alligator Gar and focus on May and Texoma and that area where we know it's a prime spawning habitat --


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- if the water conditions are right. I think I would like to suggest we -- this is, again, some wordsmithing. But instead of saying "shall take," I think the concept here was to keep people from seeking to take them or from fishing for them at all, was to stay out of that spawning area period. At least that's the way I intended it and thought that's what we were doing.

So I would like to suggest instead of saying "shall," insert "may fish for, seek to take or take" and make that -- also add that over on page -- there was another spot where it appeared -- page 50. I'm not sure why it appears there again, but it does.

And then I have one other question. On page 49, under Black drum under statewide daily bag limits for commercial fishing, do we really have -- I know you're not doing saltwater, but do we really have no bag limit at all?

MR. KURZAWSKI: Yeah, that would be for -- yes, sir. You know, based on that, I would interpret that as there would not be any.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Well, whoever is going to present on that, I'd like to discuss it --

MR. KURZAWSKI: It's Jeremy on that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- at the appropriate time.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any more questions?

You know, Ken, in light of the concerns of the Commission on raising the Gar limit from one to five, it seems to me it might be appropriate to sunset this; so it's brought back to the Commission in five years. Because we're not going to be here. Well, some of us may, but probably not still doing the Commission. I know the staff will do a great job of monitoring it, but I would like to make sure personally that it does come back to the Commission and, you know, we've been talking about Gar for ever since I've been on the Commission. Have it looked at one more time, and I'm just throwing that out as a -- we're all a little concerned about increasing the limit so much.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I think that's a good idea.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Sure. That will be -- you know, we'll be monitoring any -- we'll be doing that activity anyway, and that would be fine.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Okay. Can we change the proposal to have a sunset in a five-year from implementation?

MS. BRIGHT: Ann Bright, General Counsel. Yes.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Thank you, Ann. I like it.

MR. SMITH: You like her brevity, do you?

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Very efficient use of time.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: May I make the move? May I move to amend it --




COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Great idea, Mr. Chairman. Thank you.


MR. SMITH: Before Ken goes, if we could. Ken, it's his turn in the barrel to lead the public hearing process by which we've got to go out and get feedback on these proposals of which, you know, y'all will obviously take action in March. We've got some fairly substantive changes to that process that we think are for the better. And, Mr. Chairman, if I could, may I ask Ken just to share with you a quick summary of that?


MR. SMITH: Thank you. Ken.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Thank you, Carter.

As you know, we typically -- after you approve these changes and we send them to the Register, we schedule -- we open it for public comment and that usually involves scheduling a number of public hearings around the state and we've seen over time at those public hearings, unless there's a hot issue, nobody shows up anymore. We get the bulk of our comments over the internet and we're spending a lot of staff time to go to a lot of places and just not getting any valuable public input from that.

So we're kind of looking to try a little different model. Sort of a -- still have a couple of public hearings where we know we have some significant public interest. We have one in Lufkin to talk about the Eastern turkey changes, and we'd also have one down in Zapata to let people comment on the Falcon changes; but other than that, those would be the only actual public hearings we would have. We're going to implement a couple other opportunities for people to give us public input. So after this meeting, we're going to post narrated versions of our presentations on our website, on the public comment page where we always typically allow people to comment, to sort of enhance that a little bit. And then also we're proposing in March to have some live webinars where we do -- would do the similar, kind of go over our presentations individually by hunting and fishing and allow people to comment sort of in realtime at that time to see -- to see, you know, how the public take -- you know, looks at that and, you know, we still -- still, you know, their input is very valuable to us. But if they don't show up, we have a hard time getting their input on that.

So that's what we're proposing to do for this year. So if you have any comments or suggestions relative to that.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any comments? I talked with Carter and staff quite a bit about this and these public meetings are getting less and less attended. Sometimes, a lot of them, zero attendance. And with communication now and internet and everything that we have, it just seems like a more efficient use of time. They've assured me that if we have hot topics, we're still going to have public meetings. So I think personally it's a better use of our staff time and probably get more good feedback information than we're getting at the public meeting.

I would ask you that when you have the March webinar, let the Commission know.


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Some of them will listen in, see what topics are brought up. Is this going to be just a general, anybody can come on and ask a question or --


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Okay. I would like -- if I'm available, I would like to listen in on part of that.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Yeah, we'll be putting news releases out on this when the public hearings and when those webinars and that will be scheduled, so. This has been a -- you know, all the Resource Divisions and Law Enforcement and we've worked with Josh Havens and the Communication staff and try and think this over and come up with something different to, you know, still give people an opportunity to comment and get that input that we need on these changes. So we're hoping this will be a good step in that direction.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: All right, thank you.

MR. LEITZ: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Mr. Smith. For the record, my name is Jeremy Leitz with the Coastal Fisheries Division. I'm here to talk today about our 2015-2016 statewide regulatory items.

Really all we have before you today is clarification to a couple of existing rules related to crab and finfish. Right now, each of those fisheries has a rule that states basically that no more than one set of commercial fishermen display plates may be on board that vessel at any one time. However, it can be interpreted to allow for more than one license to be fished as long as the one displayed plate is visible at a time.

And so what we're proposing to do to kind of clear that up, as that was not the intent, was to add some language that says that only one set of commercial fishing licenses, be it the crab or the finfish, be on board when the vessel is engaged in that activity for which the license is required. And also when the plate is required to be aboard the vessel, that that plate number much match the license that they're fishing as well and that will hopefully get rid of some of the fishing that's going on where they're using multiple licenses as long as there's one display plate being shown. That's all we've got right now.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any questions? Thank you.

MR. LEITZ: Yeah.

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

Work Session Item No. 6, Commercial Shrimping Regulation, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Register.

MR. ROBINSON: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Mr. Smith. For the record, my name is Lance Robinson with Coastal Fisheries Division and I'm here today to request permission to publish two proposed changes in the Texas Register that deal with commercial shrimping.

As you may recall during our November meeting, I shared some information about some of the history of the license management program that's been implemented in that fishery. It was Senate Bill 750 implemented in mid 90s, put a cap on licenses and created a voluntary buy-back program. Over the course of the last 18, 19 years, the number of licenses in that fishery have been reduced by about 75 percent -- that's both bay and bait licenses -- either through natural attrition or through the license buy-back program.

Correspondingly, we have seen a reduction in landings of shrimp in the bay. And I want to point out that, you know, the landings drop, although it can be tied back to the reduction of our licenses, there are other factors that can affect that effort, an effort reduction. During the month of December, we held a total of seven scoping meetings with commercial shrimping interests up and down the Texas coast. Had about 125 participants total at those meetings. During those meetings, we received a lot of recommendations, options brought forth by the industry. It covered the gamut of various options dealing with both seasons, spring and fall seasons, shrimp seasons, both bay and near-shore Gulf fisheries.

And what we did was kind of looked at those recommendations and the four that you see on the screen were the four that we heard most consistently across the coast, up and down the coast. So what we are proposing here today is to look just for the spring season, which would begin May 15th, and that would be taking the two that we heard that were specific to the spring. To extend the 2:00 p.m. closure and to increase the daily bag limit for the bay shrimp fishery from 600 pounds per day up to 800 pounds per day.

A little information about the fishery. This the time period, May 15th through July 14th, is the period of time for the spring season. This is the daily bag distribution that's being reported through our commercial trip ticket program to date and as you'll see, about 73 percent or so of those landings that are reported today are 200 pounds or less. Less than one half of 1 percent of the reported landings fishermen are reaching the 600-pound limit that we see today. That's on the record today.

The bait shrimp fishery, during that same time frame, we're not -- it's a 200-pound daily bag limit. But you can see that in that same period, May 15th through July 15th, we're seeing about 80 percent of the landings reported daily of 100 pounds or less. So the proposal that we have before today to go to the Texas Register, would be to extend the 2:00 p.m. closure for the bay and the bay -- bait and bay fishery. For the bait, that would include April 1st through August the 15th. The bay fishery would -- May 15th through July 15th. That would instead of a 2:00 p.m. closure, it would read they could legally fish from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset, during that period of time. And then the second one would be to increase that daily bag limit during the bay shrimp season from 600 pounds per day to the 800 pounds per day as proposed.

And moving forward just to follow up and in closing, what we are proposing to do is to continue our dialogue with the commercial shrimp industry, as well as other interested groups that we know have issues and questions about the shrimp fishery and also to continue evaluation of our data for possible changes to look at in the fall season. And with that, I'll be happy to take any questions.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: Lance, I guess we all have heard from the shrimpers by now some way or another. Remind me -- and I spoke to Carter a little bit about this. Remind me the licensing. I remember during our open meeting in August, I guess it was?

MR. SMITH: In August, uh-huh.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: Some of the shrimpers were complaining about the fact of having to travel during the season to actually acquire a license, if I'm recalling correct. I may not. But how are those licenses sold at this point? Remind me what -- walk me through the process a little bit for acquiring a license.

MR. ROBINSON: Okay. The inshore licenses, they can start by purchasing them by August the 15th.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: That's, what two weeks before the --

MR. ROBINSON: Well, the season in the fall starts August the 15th. Okay. And so the reason that we are set up now that they have to come to a Law Enforcement office and present documentation, vessel documentation, license, the license so that -- and identify themselves, is that those licenses are a commodity. They have value. There's a limited entry on those licenses and so we try to track those licenses very closely to make sure the vessel and the license match and we're trying to look at original documents in order to verify that there's a match there. That the individual who is renewing that license is, in fact, the owner of the vessel.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: That makes sense All right, now you mention the licenses starts at the same time of the season; is that --

MR. ROBINSON: For the inshore fishery, the bay inshore fishery, that's correct.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: Well, why is that? I mean why don't we sell the licenses two weeks before? Three weeks before?

MR. ROBINSON: I'm not sure I could answer that.

MS. REEDER: With the inshore fishery -- sorry. My name is Brandi Reeder with the Law Enforcement Division, for the record. The inshore fishery comes back to the dock daily. It's not a huge imposition for them to make it to the office. We start selling those licenses same as we do any of the recreational licenses two weeks before the end -- before the lapse of their license. So they have two weeks in which to conduct their business.

For the Gulf licenses, which is what I believe that the individual who had made the complaint about having to come to an office, I believe that was her main boat that she was conferring -- or referring to a Gulf license. To where some of those folks will go out for 30 to 45 days and shrimp and so that's what she was referring to. My understanding, however, is that we sell those licenses as early as -- I believe it's May. So they can actually get those licenses well ahead of time.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: It's offered before, okay.

MS. REEDER: Yes, sir. Before the main -- before the main season really gets kicked off in the Gulf. And as Lance alluded to, the asset value that these limited entry and moratorium licenses have outside of the fee that we charge, has ended up with fraud occurring. We actually had a case this past year to where we filed upon an individual who actually split his license and had we not had the diligence of the face-to-face customer interaction to where our clerk actually caught it, she saw that that looked familiar and so then, otherwise, that license would have been split, it would have brought another license forward, and would have caused issues.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: I understand. No, I'm clear on the reasoning. I was just trying to understand the timing, you know.

MS. REEDER: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: That they were not having to stop fishing one of the days during the short season to come and do the license. So that was my -- I understand it; but, yeah.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Brandi, let me make sure that I understand this. Now, we've been talking about buying licenses back and we've bought 75 percent back. When you talk about going to get a license, it's two different things. I guess the license buy-back gives you a permit or permission to go buy a license to shrimp for that year; is that correct?

MS. REEDER: What it is, is that Coastal Fisheries staff develops an eligibility letter and passes that out to those that are eligible to continue to buy their license. They then take that to our office to then purchase their license. So like in this case that happened this year is an individual had that eligibility letter. They sold the license to another individual. That person had to wait until he changed the boat over into his name. It was through Coast Guard, it's a lengthy process. And in the interim, before this new owner was able to renew that license in his name, he then bought it or renewed the license that he no longer possess. Therefore, effectively splitting the license.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I'm not sure I'm following you. If we're buying back the licenses, are we selling those same licenses again?

MS. REEDER: No, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Are we trying to permanently retire the licenses?

MS. REEDER: Correct. But the license sales system is not completely bug proof. They do a very good job; but if something pops up in the license sales system, then it's not necessarily caught.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: So, again, when we talk about buying licenses back, we're talking about buying a permit back to get you the right to go get a -- purchase a license for that shrimping season.

MS. REEDER: Correct.

MR. RIECHERS: For the record, my name is Robin Riechers. Let me try to help clarify just a little bit here. Brandi is correct, is that when the program started, we basically issued license to anyone who had been previously in the fishery based on a historical perspective. As long as they purchased that license each and every year from the Department, which is the timeframe we're talking about, they can continue and have that license in perpetuity basically.

Our voluntarily buy-back program buys those licenses from those individuals and retires them. So basically that license then is removed from the fishery.


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So what licenses are we selling?

MR. RIECHERS: We sell to anyone who is eligible a bay or bait and we also have a moratorium on the Gulf shrimp license as well, but we basically will sell them any one of those three licenses if they purchased it the year before and we had not retired it.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So you've got to have this threshold license to then buy an annual license?

MR. RIECHERS: You have to renew that license every year, yes, sir. You have to have had it in the previous year to renew it into the next year.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay, all right. Next question, what's the difference between the bay and the bait?

MR. RIECHERS: The bay and the bait are license differences that were in statute many, many years ago and they've been carried forward in proclamation. The goal there was the bay licenses are structured around a fall and a spring food shrimp season when there's a larger pulse of shrimp coming through. And the bait license itself is really a year-round license that was for the sole purpose of trying to catch and provide bait for recreational anglers.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. What data do we have on the resource itself? I mean I know that we were shown the slide that shows that landings are down, but what about the -- what's the situation with the resource over a 10- or 15-year period?

MR. RIECHERS: I'm going to let Lance get back up here. I don't mind answering the question, but since he's trying to do this one for us.

MR. ROBINSON: Again, for the record, this is Lance Robinson. Looking at our data, fishery independent data, the resource has maintained pretty stable over the years and over the timeframe that these licenses have dropped. The resource has maintained stability in that fishery or in the population.

What we have seen occur is that bycatch species have increased in numbers throughout the bay up and down the coast and there has been some reports from the -- on the Gulf side that the shrimp stocks are more abundant and larger.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So if we -- if these proposed changes are made, is there a concern about even more bycatch?

MR. ROBINSON: We don't believe there would be. We're talking 75 percent reduction in the number of licenses, a similar reduction in effort. Similar -- in addition, we -- in the early 90s -- or the early 2000s, we've also required bycatch reduction devices to be pulled in bay trawls to help remove finfish species from the nets and we believe that has also been effective in cutting down on bycatch numbers and, you know, the bycatch species are up, populations are up and -- but we don't believe the amount of effort in the fishery now, even increasing the time and that bag limit in that spring, is going to have any adverse effect on bycatch species.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. And the last question is what reportings are required by these license holders when they come in? Are there any on a daily basis? Monthly? Weekly?

MR. ROBINSON: Yes, sir. When a trip ends and that fisherman sells his product -- shrimp, crabs, whatever it is -- to a certified licensed dealer in the state of Texas, the dealer is required to report that trip, that actual day's catch/landings and the X vessel value, what the dealer is paying to that fisherman through our commercial trip tickets program on a daily basis and so that's reported to Texas Parks and Wildlife. We collect that data, and that's where some of the data you saw on the slide comes from.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So every one of the current license holders has to turn in a daily trip ticket when they go out --

MR. ROBINSON: Correct.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- acquiring shrimp and then selling it?

MR. ROBINSON: Correct.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And we have those records?

MR. ROBINSON: Yes, sir.


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: To follow up on that, is that both bait and -- or the bait and the bay license?

MR. ROBINSON: Yes, sir. That's all commercial fisheries, including the bait and the bay.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: I've watched those bait guys come in with buckets and just dump them in there, but I guess they're measuring it and --


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Okay, all right. Any more questions? Bill?

COMMISSIONER JONES: One follow-up. Do you have any data on what you anticipate the effect of this change would be? Particularly the 600 pounds a day to 800 pounds a day and the 2:00 p.m. closure. I mean we've got the charts that indicate historic catch and numbers, but -- I just lost it -- but do we have something that says as a result of these rule changes, we think that the percentage will go up whatever percent or --

MR. ROBINSON: Well, the graph that you're referring to showing the daily landings, that is current. I mean that was an average over the most recent years; but it includes what they're harvesting as of 2013, I think is that data or 2014 that data was valid through. So that's what happening today.

With the proposed increase in bag limit and the extension of the 2:00 p.m. closure, we believe that there may be some increase in those landings; but we don't believe based on the amount of vessels in the fishery, we don't believe it's going to be significant. In fact, we have the number of -- just as an aside, in 2013, we had 378 bait licenses sold statewide. But in that same year, we had 118 that actually reported landings. Bay shrimp, about 380 licenses coastwide; 274 reported actual fishing one day, at least one day over that calendar year. So we don't believe there's going to be a significant increase in that landings.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Well, and I understand that. I guess all I was asking is there a -- typically, if you're going to have this kind of a rule change, you have some anticipated impact. It may be negligible. It may be that small amount and you may use historical data to come up with that to say, well, if we extend it by a certain percent, we're going to get an increase, a bump, a take of blank percent based on historical data. I mean I'm just asking has that analysis been done?

MR. ROBINSON: We haven't calculated a percent increase for those for that time period, but -- and that's something we'll be watching pretty closely as Ken alluded to when they make the regulations. These are things we track very, very closely to see if there's -- if the effect is what we anticipate. But we haven't put an actual percentage on what we -- because there's a lot of variables that can affect that harvest. Weather, a lot of things that we have no control over in projecting that percent. We'll look at our fishery independent data, what we actually collect, and see if there's any impact there and then track the landings from the fishery.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Right. And I guess all I'm saying is I would like to -- I don't really care what the analysis is. I'm not good enough at math to do it. But I would like to just say we project that the impact will be blank and then you're right, we continue to look at it and we'll analyze it and then see how closely -- how closely we came to hitting those numbers or exceeding those numbers or whatever. I just...


MR. SMITH: Commissioner, we can definitely look at that and we understand what you're asking for from a modeling perspective.

I think, Lance, if I could, maybe one of the mitigating factors here on Coastal Fisheries and looking at historical records, remember only half of 1 percent of those licensees have realized the 600 pounds per day.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Yeah, right, right.

MR. SMITH: So it's a tiny, tiny fraction.

COMMISSIONER JONES: So it will be negligible. Right, it will probably be negligible.

MR. SMITH: That's the -- I think that's the perspective, but let us try to do what we can to do some projections and see if we can bring something forward in the March meeting.


COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I'm going to follow up on Commissioner Jones. We know what the total bay harvest of shrimp poundage-wise, I assume. We have all that data?

MR. SMITH: We have the landing information.

MR. ROBINSON: We have landings data, yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Because what I'm thinking of is what's the impact going to be, you know, on our annual take? Because, you know, buying the licenses back and yet the harvest continues to decline, is that a function of the health of the shrimp fishery or is that strictly resulted in fewer boats and limited hours?

MR. ROBINSON: The drop in landings that you see -- that you saw in the graph there, is certainly a factor associated with reduction in shrimping effort and that's also tied to reduced number of licenses in the fishery. I mean there's also environmental factors that play into the biology of the animal. It lives a year, so environmental impacts can affect them in one year and then they'll recover from that very quickly the next year. But, yes, it is certainly tied back to the number of boats in the fishery, amount of effort that's being exerted on that fishery as well and the landings.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: So the fish -- the shrimp fishery itself has responded and you think to less -- lessoning of the pressure of commercial harvest?

MR. ROBINSON: We've seen a -- we've seen a stable population of shrimp with these reduced numbers. The population of shrimp has remained stable, which is where we would like to see it. And as I alluded to earlier, bycatch species numbers have increased, which would be expected when you're not harvesting them or collecting them in the course of shrimping activities.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: All right, thank you.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any more questions? Thank you. If no further discussion, I'll authorize the staff to published proposed rules in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.

Work Session Item No. 7, Rules Governing Buoy Standards, Request Permission to Publish Proposed changes in Texas standard. Cody, please make your presentation.

MR. CODY JONES: I love these chairs. Good morning, Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Cody Jones. I work for the Law Enforcement Division as a Boating Law Administrator. I'm here to present the proposed changes to regulations governing systems marking some public waters of the state. Currently, the Texas Administrative Code Section 55.304 references the uniform state waterway buoy marking system, which historically was contained in Title XXXIII of the Code of Federal Regulations under Section 62.33.

In 1998, there was an effort that was underway to move toward a one uniform system of markings on public water and ultimately in 2003, the United States Coast Guard replaced the uniform state waterway buoy marking system with the U.S. Aids to Navigation System to derive consistency with inland and coastal markers on the water. Under proposed regulation changes, references to the obsolete uniform state waterway buoy marking system are replaced with current aids to navigation system and additional references to 33 CFR Section 62.33 are amended to encompass the entirety of Section 62 as it applies to the public waters of the state.

At this time, staff requests permission to publish proposed changes to the buoy standards proclamation in the Texas Register for public comment. With that, I have no further information and I'll answer any questions that you may have.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any questions? So basically all we're doing is making our code uniform with the Coast Guard's code?

MR. CODY JONES: Correct, sir. It's just clean-up language to a point of language that's specific to the U.S. Coast Guard.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Okay, thank you. If no further discussion, I'll authorize staff to propose to the rules to the Texas Register for required public comment period.

Action Item Number -- or Work Session Item No. 8 has been scratched for today, withdrawn.

Item No. 9, with regard to Work Session Item No. 9, Land Acquisition Nacogdoches County, 133 Acres Adjacent to Alazan Bayou Wildlife Management Area, does any Commissioner have any questions or comments? If not, I'll authorize staff to begin the public notice for the input process.

MR. KUHLMANN: Thank you.


Work Session Item No. 10, Land Acquisition Matagorda County, Approximately 267 Acres on Matagorda Peninsula, Request Permission to Begin Public Notice and Input Process. Ted, would you please make your presentation?


MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: I think Corky got the long end of that stick. Chairman, Commissioners, good morning. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This first item I want to bring to your attention regards Matagorda Peninsula in Matagorda County. Matagorda Peninsula is a thin strip of land that separates East Matagorda Bay from the Gulf of Mexico. The peninsula itself is about 22 miles long.

East Matagorda Bay has long been a real conservation target for the conservation community in Texas because it is -- arguably, it's the most intact bay system remaining on the upper or mid coast. It varies in width from 800 feet to a mile and east half of peninsula -- and I kind of want to get to that. The east half of that peninsula is actually owned by the General Land Office. At one time it was Matagorda Peninsula State Park and Legislation in 1995 returned that property to the GLO in exchange for mineral interests under Franklin Mountains State Park.

The peninsula is completely undeveloped. Access is difficult, but --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I'm sorry. You said completely undeveloped?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: There are no -- there are no structures. There are no roads. It's an undeveloped piece of property, yes, sir. But it has extremely high biological values. Sea turtles nest on those beaches. It's really important over -- or stopover habitat for migratory shore birds, migratory waterfowl, Piping Plovers, a number of species use that in particular again because it is so remote and so undeveloped.

The portion owned by the GLO shown in yellow there is about 11 miles of that frontage on both the Gulf and Matagorda Bay. It is a high enough priority that it's been included in the early restoration proposal for the NRDA trustees for the BP spill settlements. It's also been scoped and presented to the Restore Council as a possible project to offset, again, the impacts from the BP oil spill. And it is certainly the hope of the conservation community that at some point, that property will come back into public ownership for permanent conservation.

A couple months ago, we were contacted by a church in Angleton that had inherited two tracts within the GLO property and they were interested in selling those. They wanted those sold by the end of the year because the County has tripled the tax valuations for those properties. We were unable to get this in front of the Commission in that timeframe and so we've made arrangements -- we've worked with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation to make that acquisition. Those two tracts are shown here. It's 267 acres in interest.

Our concerns, staff -- concern of staff, concern of the conservation community was that if the church sold those into the private sector, then again at whatever point the rest of that Matagorda peninsula GLO property is acquired, there would be two more private inholdings that would just create, you know, management -- potentially create management problems. And so Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation is in the process of closing on that acquisition. Staff does recommend that we accept that as a transfer from the Foundation to the Agency. Again, in anticipation that the entire peninsula at some point being in conservation.

And with that, staff would request permission to begin the public notice and input process. I'd be happy to answer any questions.


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Ted, are there any other private inholdings on the peninsula?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir. If you'll look at -- if you'll look at the map where it's outlined in yellow, you can see there are some gaps in the GLO ownership. There are also some tracks in the GLO ownership where the GLO owns 50 percent, which was the case with one of the church owned tracts. So there would be some other -- some other private interests within that ownership, yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So are we making any efforts to try to acquire those gapped areas? Have we considered that?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: We have certainly considered that. We are not -- we are not actively exploring that at this time for a couple of reasons. One of which is until this BP oil spill, we didn't -- hadn't really identified the means of acquiring the peninsula. I think secondly, we wanted to present this to the Commission and make the Commission aware of this conservation effort before we got out too far ahead of the Commission in making contacts and potentially acquiring tracts. But that would certainly be part -- at the time we decide to move forward with this and make it an acquisition -- again, with the authorization from the Commission -- we will certainly begin to identify those individuals that have inholdings and try to acquire property that's 100 percent owned for conservation.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, I guess I want to say again how -- particularly since Anne Brown is here -- how appreciative we are of the efforts of the Foundation and Anne, the Board, once again coming through here on this and I do think we should move forward and I don't think it matters whether it's 100 percent or not. I think we should go ahead and try to acquire as much as a willing seller would turn loose of, as many interests as we can because of the way you described the resource and East Matagorda Bay.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir. And I have made contact with some of the brokers down there. I think we can very discreetly let it be known that as people approach brokers and say I have a tract I'm interested in liquidating, that we're notified of that. I will tell you that my personal biggest concern about the peninsula, I mean ostensibly it's not very much at risk right now. Except that -- except that we worked with the GLO to get them to strike the reservation of wind development from any proposal to acquire that through BP settlement tracts.

If that were to be developed for wind, that would be a tremendous impact for bird flyover, bird stopover, and even turtle nesting, you know, with the noise that the turbines make and the lights associated infrastructure and so forth. So, again, the conservation community feels pretty strongly that getting this into permanent conservation would be huge for the resource.


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: All right. Thank you, Ted. If no further discussion, I'll authorize staff to give the public notice and input process.

With regards to Work Session Item No. 11, Acceptance of Donation, Bexar County, Approximately 22 Acres at Government Canyon State Natural Area, does any Commissioner have any questions or comments? If not, I'll place this item on Thursday's Commission Meeting for public comment and for action.

With regards to Work Session Item No. 12, Land Acquisition Harrison County, Approximately 3.4 Acres Caddo Lake State Park, does any Commissioner have any questions or comments? If not, I'll place this item on Thursday's Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Ted, thank you.


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Final item for this portion of the Work Session is State Park Public Opinion Survey Update. Kevin Good, please make your presentation.

MR. GOOD: Good morning, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Kevin Good. I'm with the State Parks Division. I was asked today to give a brief overview of a public opinion poll that was recently completed. I think several of you have a great interest in this, and you may find this information useful in some future conversations. Here we go.

The survey was conducted by the Hill Research Consultants out of the Woodlands. This is the fifth iteration of this public opinion poll. The first one was done back in 1999. The survey was commissioned by the Parks and Wildlife Foundation, with some support from the Hershey Foundation, the Knobloch Family Foundation, and other interested individuals, including some of our state park advisory committee supporters.

So a little bit about the survey. It's going to be released to the public today. It was a random sample of 600 active voters. The interviews were conducted on December 2nd, 3rd, and 4th of this past year and it's estimated there was a margin of error of about plus or minus 4 percent. The results of the poll are not really surprising. They generally conform with previous polls that have been done, but a couple of the key findings I wanted to go over. First of all, 92 percent of the respondents saw parks as being especially important to families in tough economic times; 88 percent of the folks see parks essential to a healthy lifestyle for Texans; and 84 percent of the respondents expressed support for the need to protect natural areas for the future.

I'm going to go into a couple of those a little bit more deeply. First of all, concept that parks are valued for family recreation. When asked specifically "Do you agree with the statement public parks are especially important to families needing an affordable recreational outlet," 92 percent of the respondents agreed. That support was pretty consistent across the state. Perhaps surprisingly, the highest support for that concept was in the High Plains in the West Texas area, where 92 percent of the people agreed with that statement. It was consistent across party lines and even 83 percent of the folks that said that they never engage in outdoor recreation, agreed with that statement.

When asked if they agreed with the statement "Unless we protect Texas' natural areas, we will lose the very things that make Texas a special place in which to live," 84 percent of the people agreed. Again, the support was high across the state. Four out of five percent -- or four out of five of the respondents identified themselves as republicans and identified with that or agreed with that statement and 82 percent of those, again, that said "We don't ever recreate," agreed with that statement.

The attitudes expressed in this opinion poll have not changed a lot over the years. As I mentioned, the first time this poll was conducted was in 1999 and the findings of the poll have not really changed a lot over the years. It's been very consistent as you can see by this graph. As the poll went on, it asked specifically about the sporting goods sales tax and pollsters explained the basic concepts of the sporting goods sales tax to the people and asked "Do you approve or disapprove of acquiring, maintaining, and operating state and local parks with revenue from the funding mechanism known as the sporting goods sales tax?"

The largest percentage of folks, 43 percent said that they approved of that strongly. Only 18 percent disapproved of that statement. So less than one in five of voters disagreed with that concept. When asked specifically "If an election were held on the matter, would you vote yes to approve a constitutional amendment to dedicate that sporting goods sales tax for parks and prohibit the use for other purposes," 70 percent said that they would approve. Only 26 percent said that they would reject that concept. Over two-thirds of the people approved of that amendment regardless of party affiliation and 83 percent of those that said that they didn't recreate in the outdoors, said that they would approve of that -- excuse me, 63 percent.

So the takeaway messages from this poll. First of all, conservation is a core value of Texans. The fact that the support has been consistent over time and has maintained a stable level of support, shows that this is not some flash-in-the-pan public opinion that might rise and fall over time. It's also supported all across the state, people in all areas and all socioeconomic backgrounds. Voters have continued to be supportive of parks and conservation. In fact, the folks that said that they were strong supporters of the constitutional amendment, actually ticked up a little bit in the last couple of years. And we have seen continued support for this, again, since the beginning of this polling was done in 2009.

This poll is going to be released I believe today by the Parks and Wildlife Foundation and will be available to the public in the future. And that is -- will close my presentation and I'll answer any questions if you have any.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any questions? Ralph.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Kevin, you said that the poll results were that eight percent of those who responded did not agree parks were important to family recreation?

MR. GOOD: Yes, sir.


MR. GOOD: You know, I could only speculate on that. Perhaps they're just generally curmudgeons, or perhaps that they never go outside. I -- yeah.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: The poll didn't ask why?

MR. GOOD: They did not -- not in the information that I have; but I don't believe they asked follow-up questions on that, no.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay, then the answer may be the same on the -- I think you said the poll reflected that 18 percent of the respondents disapproved of the sporting goods sales tax and 26 percent would reject it as a constitutional amendment. Again, I suppose we don't know why they -- those people purportedly felt that way?

MR. GOOD: That's correct. I could speculate that there's some folks that would just oppose any type of constitutional change on a philosophical basis or something of that nature.


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any more questions? I just want to say -- comment that I think this poll reconfirms what we've known, that parks are very important to the people of the state of Texas, the voters. And it's very important to this Commission that we find a more permanent and consistent way to fund state parks. And, you know, we're growing our park system. We have just 95 parks right now. We have more coming online and it's just very important that we come up with a mechanism to fund them and this Commission is going to work very hard on that and I thank you for your presentation. It's good news.

MR. GOOD: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: That's pretty fast this morning. Work Session Item No. 14, Cross Timbers Wildlife Management Area Land Acquisition Strategy, this is going to be held -- this is going to be heard in Executive Session.

So at this time I would like to announce that pursuant to the requirement of Chapter 555 Government Code referred to as the Open Meetings Act, an Executive Session will be held at this time for the purpose of seeking legal advice under Section 551.071 of the Open Meetings Act and deliberation of real estate matters under Section 551.072 of the Open Meetings Act. We will now recess for Executive Session. Thank you.

(Recess taken for Executive Session)

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: We now will reconvene the regular session of the Work Session, January 21st, 2015, at 12:05 p.m.

With regard to Work Session Item No. 14, Cross Timbers Wildlife Management Area Land Acquisition Strategy, I authorize the staff to begin public notice and input process.

And with that, we've completed our Work Session business. Adjourned.

(Work Session Adjourns)



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

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

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and seal this Turn in date 11th day of February, 2015.

Paige S. Watts, CSR, RPR
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