TPW Commission

Public Hearing, May 21, 2015


TPW Commission Meetings

May 21, 2015



COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Good morning, everybody. Welcome. This meeting is called to order May 21st, 2015, at 9:04 a.m. Before proceeding with any business, I believe Mr. Smith has a statement to make.

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

Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, I just want to join all of you in welcoming everybody today. We've got a full house. Welcome. Delighted to see everybody. Thank you for coming and thank you for bringing the rain. Both are welcome. We are going to kick off the morning with some special awards and recognitions and I know a number of you have come in just special for that and we're delighted that you've chosen to join us. This is a special time for us at the Department.

After we conclude that part of the morning's really ceremony, the Chairman will take a brief break and those of you that want to leave can certainly do so and then he'll reconvene the meeting afterwards and start the regular meeting. Just as a reminder, we will have a few action items on the agenda this morning and for those of you that are here to speak on those items, just would respectfully remind you to sign up outside. At the appropriate time, the Chairman will call you forward. He'll ask you to come to the microphone in the front and state your name and who you represent and what your position is on the matter.

And just as a reminder, you've the got three minutes to share your position with the Commission. We'll keep track of the time with the light system. Green means go, yellow means please start to wind it down, and red means eject. So if y'all could help us with that, that would be great. Last but not least, just if you've got a cell phone, if you don't mind putting that on silent or vibrate, that would be great for the meeting. So thank you.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Thank you, Carter. A couple more items here, and then we'll start the presentation. Next is approval of minutes from the previous Commission meeting held March 26th, 2015, which have been distributed. Do I have a motion?


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Commissioner Jones and Commissioner Martin. All in favor say aye?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Opposed? Hearing none, motion carries.

Next is acknowledgment of donations, which have been distributed. Do I have a motion for approval?


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Commissioner Duggins and Commissioner Scott second. All in favor say aye?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Opposed? Hearing none, motion carries.

Next, consideration of contracts, which has also been distributed. Do I have a motion for approval?


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

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Opposed? Hearing none, motion carries.

Now, it's time for special recognition, retirement, and service awards. Mr. Smith.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Carter Smith. Nice to see everybody this morning. Yesterday, we had a pretty lengthy discussion about just the criticality of water safety in our state and doing everything we can as a Department to educate our swimmers and boaters and lake goers just about the importance about being safe on the water. And as you know, we are going to be actively working and aggressively working to educate boaters and anglers and outdoor enthusiasts about acting safely and responsibly and lawfully on the water.

Also, our game wardens will be out in full force and really have been; but certainly Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day is a busy, busy time for them. We're very thankful, obviously, that many of the lakes and reservoirs now have more water to attract folks to get on it; but, again, we want them to be safe. And so it's very fitting this morning that we get to recognize one of our colleagues, Braxton Harris.

Braxton has been awarded the Boating Officer of the Year Award by the National Association of Boating Safety Law Administrators, a very prestigious award across the country as you know; and we couldn't have a better honoree than Braxton. Braxton got his bachelor's degree there from A&M Corpus with a degree in criminal justice. Went through the Game Warden Academy in 2008 and originally stationed right here in Travis County and for a game warden, I'll tell you that's interesting. About half the people you check for hunting and fishing licenses work for Parks and Wildlife. You've got to go a little further to find a Commissioner out by Camp Wood, I think. But Braxton stayed busy.

I used to love seeing him in and around Austin. I come into work every day and cross the Montopolis bridge over the Colorado River coming and going and let me tell you, for a game warden, that's a little honey hole and illegal fishing is about the nicest thing going on under that bridge. But Braxton, pretty regularly I'd just sort of zip in to see what's going on and, you know, serve as Braxton's backup down there. Braxton, I think, grew weary of a fairly unreliable backup partner and moved on to Burnet County to bigger and better things.

And in regard to this, you know, Braxton has some of the really biggest responsibilities when it comes to lakes in the state. He's got parts of five Highland lakes, Inks and Buchanan and Marble Falls, LBJ and Travis. He's on the water as much or more than any officer in the state. Really in his relatively short tenure with the Department, he's just had extraordinary success and done a masterful job helping to engage and ensure compliance out there on the water. He's -- you know, he's already made almost 1800 cases, 15 BWI. He's part of the Blood and Alcohol Task Force for Burnet County. Very well respected there in the county as one of our officers. He really also is a go-to guy across the state on boating accident reconstruction and whenever we have a high profile boating accident around the state, Braxton is one of those folks that we call.

Very difficult incident that got national news in Lake Conroe a year or two ago and Braxton was on point helping to lead that and we're very, very proud of those efforts. He also, like our game wardens, very active in making sure that he does everything possible to help get kids into the out of doors. And just in the past year, he helped to initiate almost 3,000 kids being introduced to outdoor activities in and around Burnet County and he's been awarded -- given many awards. The Hundred Club, the Hill Country -- Hill Country Hundred Club honored him with their Officer of the Year and the Department had a chance to recognize Braxton in the last year or so with the Director's Award for a lifesaving effort. And so we're awfully proud of Braxton, and he's our NASBLA Officer of the Year. Let's welcome Braxton. Braxton.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: We have some extraordinary partners across the state and really at the top of the list is the Battleship Texas Foundation. Really, we could not manage and steward and take care of the Battleship without BTF. They are just tireless in their advocacy and championship for that ship. They know that ship backwards and forwards. Really, I mean they're -- in no small part -- really the ambassadors for that ship.

And, again, they just do an extraordinary job and last year was so emblematic of that when we celebrated the centennial of the ship. The Battleship Texas Foundation took the lead and really organizing a yearlong series of activities honoring and celebrating the very proud history of that ship. You know, it culminated with bringing as many of the surviving World War II veterans that had served on that ship for a big ceremony that just was absolutely spectacular.

They recorded the oral histories from that so that we're able to preserve that in posterity and just really helped us tell that story of that magnificent bit of our country's history and heritage in ways that hadn't happened. But also, I want the Commission to know how much the work to help fundraise to help cover the cost of the ship. We all know stewarding that ship is not cheap and when we have needed help, they have always been there. In the last round of repairs, the Battleship Texas Foundation committed to raising $4 million to help the ship, which they have completed that. We're very, very proud of it. On the last final repairs we were making, it looked like we were going to go almost $200,000 over budget to get it done. Fortunately, that amount was only a little bit less than 70,000; but there was the Battleship Texas Foundation to cover that cost and very, very happy for that.

And they've got a check to present to the Commission today. Tony Gregory, the Chairman of the Board is here. Tony is a dear, dear friend. A long history with the ship. His grandfather was involved in actually bringing the ship to Houston. Mom served on the Board. He carries on that proud tradition. And then Bruce Bramlett, the Executive Director is with us today.

And before we do a picture, Tony, do you want to say a few words or Bruce? Both of you? Both of you. Okay, all right. Yeah, yeah.

MR. GREGORY: We appreciate being here. We love our partnership with Parks and Wildlife and anything we can do to get the Battleship Texas, an icon of our history, into a permanent and stable position where it can be in access to everybody in the state, that's what we're about. So we're glad to be here and glad to be your partner.

MR. BRAMLETT: Commissioners, I'd be remiss -- thank you for having us by the way this morning. I'd be remiss if I didn't add to Carter's thoughts about this last round of repairs. It's not two words that collide in the same sentence often in my experience -- ahead of schedule, under budget. We were ahead of schedule and under budget, and that can only be attributed to the great job of the folks that are on Carter's staff -- Justin Rhodes, Neil Thomas, Andy Smith, Travis Davis, their staff on the ship, it goes on and on and on.

We are delighted to present you with the $69,000 to finish off that round of repairs and I will be quick here; but that's not the only thing we brought. Carter, we have something else for you guys at Texas Parks and Wildlife. We -- I have in my hand a piece of steel and if you'll just give me a couple seconds, it's an incredible piece of steel. This piece of steel has been across the Atlantic and the Pacific. It's over 100 years old. It's been to North Africa. It's been to Southern France. It's been to Cherbourg. It has been to Okinawa and Iwo Jima and it watched the flag be raised on Mount Suribachi and it was at D-Day.

Carter, we have a piece of the original Battleship Texas steel and we have marked the ship's service on that steel and we can think of no better place for that piece of steel to reside with -- than with our partners at Texas Parks and Wildlife and to say thank you for allowing us to be a part of this and the great job that you guys do. Thank you again.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Everybody on this dais knows that one of the most absolutely special and most pristine places in our beautiful and fair state is the Devils River, the spring-fed river that just comes coursing out of the limestone there at the Hudspeth River Ranch that the head waters just courses through those beautiful limestone canyons and through the sycamore and live oak and pecan studded gallery forest and ultimately empties into Lake Amistad about 60 miles away.

Scientists consider the Devils River the cleanest, purest, and most pristine river in the state of Texas. And in the 1980s, this Commission authorized the acquisition of about 20,000 acres to create the start of the Devils River State Natural Area, just a magnificent ecological and cultural jewel that really showcased the riches of that area, the river and the coming together of the hill country and the brush country and the Chihuahuan desert and all of extraordinary archaeology and history, Native American tribes and others in that very, very unique and special area of the state.

In 2010, as many of you will recall, we were presented with this amazing opportunity to acquire another 18,000 acres downstream of the original -- the first unit, the Del Norte Unit at the Devils River State Natural Area. And like most things at Parks and Wildlife, our appetite was a little bigger than our wallet; and we came to the Commission with dreams and aspirations about how we might acquire this special jewel, 10 miles of frontage along the Devils River and Lake Amistad, these extraordinary deep limestone canyons, beautiful mesas, desert grasslands, extraordinary ecological diversity with archaeological treasures and pictographs and just some of the state's, again, most amazing cultural and ecological riches.

We had no money and we worked with the landowner to consider a bargain sale, which he was amenable to; but only if we could raise roughly $11 million, and we had six weeks to do it. And out of that effort, came one of the most extraordinary fundraising efforts that I've ever seen and in no small part by Dan A. Hughes, Sr., who's with us today. Mr. Hughes had a visit with his son, who all of you know well, about this and Mr. Hughes, who's a lifelong South Texan, a very prominent businessman and oilman in our state and one of the great innovator in that industry, rancher and steward, lifelong hunter and angler and outdoor enthusiast, knew the value of that special part of Texas and the river and made the lead gift to get the fundraising started for that campaign.

After that, he and Chairman worked tirelessly to talk to friends and other family members to help us meet the goal to raise the money to acquire this spectacular tract of land and what made it so compelling for people were not just the fact that this was one of the most special landscapes in all of our state, but people were honored to be a part of something that Mr. Hughes had seen the wisdom in and was excited about giving to the state for generations to come. And today, it's our great privilege to honor Mr. Hughes with renaming that south unit the Dan A. Hughes Unit of the Devils River State Natural Area. And so, Mr. Hughes.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. HUGHES, SR.: I want to thank you. It's a real honor to have a beautiful piece of Texas named after you. I can't talk very well. Anyway, thank you.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, we're going to move on into the service awards and we're going to start off with a colleague that -- Art Morris who's been with us for 35 years. Started out his career on the coast. Has stayed there ever since. Started out as a Fisheries Technician out of Rockport office there working in Aransas Bay and Saint Charles Bay, working to help with stocking redfish and assessing redfish and trout stocks.

He ended up moving to be part of our Upper Laguna Madre -- Laguna Madre Ecosystem Team. Finished his college degree there at A&M Corpus and then Art moved into the position that really he's held ever since and Art is our -- really our extension biologist and outreach biologist on the coast, the liaison for all the recreational fishing and commercial fishing interests. Whenever the Commission and Coastal Fisheries is contemplating regulation changes up and down the coast, Art is on the front lines for gauging attitudes and perspectives, holding public hearings, meeting with stakeholders, making sure that we round up good public input to bring back to the Commission so that y'all know where our stakeholders stand on those issues. Also, Art has overseen our very successful abandoned crab trap removal program; and y'all know that those are just death traps out in the bay. Those crab traps will be abandoned, catch all kinds of marine life.

Each year, Art organizes a major clean up with CCA and boaters and our Fisheries staff and game wardens and other volunteers that will pick up all of those abandoned crab traps and it's been enormously successful since its inception. The team has removed over 30,000 traps to date; and so no doubt sparing the life of a lot of marine fish in the process. Art has been very active in professional societies, past president of the Texas Chapter of the American Fisheries Society, named not surprised the Outstanding Worker by the same body; biologist of the year by the Corpus Christi Chapter of the CCA, been honored by the Coastal Bend Bays and Bays Foundation. He's one of our natural leaders alums. Also, an award-winner writer and so Art has many talents and we're awfully proud that he's on our team. Thirty-five years of service, Art Morris. Art.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: We're going to now honor some of our colleagues in the State Parks Division. We're going to start out with Carrie Sanchez, who works there at Garner State Park and has for 30 years there in that state park. And I love Carrie's story. She started out as a seasonal custodian for us and so, you know, her responsibilities were making sure all of the grounds were kept clean, the bathrooms were clean, the offices, fixing signs, doing painting, light maintenance. I mean, the kind of things that literally make the very first impression on a visitor when they come into a park and you know when it's well stewarded as soon as you come in and Carrie absolutely knew the value of it. Did a fabulous job there.

About 11 years later, she began working in the office there at Garner. Was promoted to really our lead supervisor at night. You know, Garner really one if not the most popular state park in the system. Folks are coming from all over the state, really country. They get there at all hours to check in and Carrie had the night shift for a number of years working that 4:00 o'clock to midnight shift to make sure that folks after a long drive could find their way to their campsite easily and get checked in very smoothly without any kind of a hassle.

She did a great job there. Moved her way up to various administrative assistant positions and where she is now is our Administrative Assistant Three position and we couldn't have Garner State Park without her. Today we're honoring her for 30 years of service, Carrie Sanchez. Carrie.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague, Susan Taylor, she's at Brazos Bend State Park over in Needville. You know that park well. It's just amazing bounty of wetlands, Brazos River, giant sprawling moss-draped live oaks. You know, more alligators than you can count. Just a neat, neat part of the world. And she started her career there at the state park 25 years ago. Started as a fee collector. Again, I mean, she's the first person that people meet when they come into the park and those first impressions absolutely matter as you know in your state park system.

She did a great job there. She was advanced to a Classified Reservation Clerk, moved up on into Assistant Office Manager, and then was promoted to Office Manager and just does a great job of setting those exemplary standards for how we run the business in the office to the standards that you would expect of us; but also helping to emphasize the criticality of customer service inside your parks, and Susan just does a wonderful job. She tells a great story on herself.

She knew nothing about wildlife and nature when she came to work for the park and she said early on, they had this reservation system where if you'd make a reservation, they had this little kind of slot system where, you know, the Duggins' family was coming in and they'd put a little piece of paper and kind of wad it up and stick it in this little slot as to where their campground was and this elderly couple came in one day asking when the Spoonbills were going to arrive and Susan turned around and kind of went through the -- checked all the papers looking for the mysterious Spoonbill family. Finally, a little bird tapped her on the shoulder and said they'll be flying in around March. So, yeah, she's done a great job and learned a lot in the process. Twenty-five years of service, Susan Taylor. Susan, please come up.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague, Norman Snipe, and this is fitting. Norman is our Maintenance Specialist at the Battleship and so it's wonderful, Bruce, that you and Tony are here to see he get honored. Just has done an extraordinary job. Norman worked at Todd Shipyards when the ship was originally taken over there in the late 80s, early 90s to dry berth; and so he had his first exposure to the ship working on it for a couple of years while the State was working to help address hull issues and the kind of things that we contend with in the ship and so fell in love with it and decided he wanted to pursue a career with Parks and Wildlife.

And so when the ship went back to its berth there at San Jacinto, Norman began looking for a job at Parks and Wildlife; and we were very privileged and candidly blessed to hire him on as a Park Ranger. Moved up that ladder, Park Ranger Three, Park Ranger Four, Park Ranger Five. He's now our Maintenance Specialist Five there on the ship. He's a mechanic, lives nearby with his wife; and they've got several kids that are nearby as well in Santa Fe. He can fix about anything, which as you might imagine on a hundred-year-old ship comes in handy. And so just loves that ship and does a great job representing us on that and awfully proud of him today. Norman Snipe, 25 years of service. Norman.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: We're going to now honor one of our Coastal Fisheries Biologists, Rodney Gamez. Rodney has been with us for 20 years. Grew up in the Corpus area, big angler. Grew up wanting to be a marine biologist, a fisheries biologist and thank -- nope. What did I do? Yeah.

MS. HALLIBURTON: Rodney is not coming.

MR. SMITH: Rodney is not here. All right. All right.


MR. SMITH: All right. Okay, enough of Rodney. It's -- okay. Okay, regroup here. Lori Kreitner, Lori are you here? It's okay, Lori. Okay. Good, good. Thank you. Lori is with our IT Program. Actually started out in State Parks. She's been with us for 20 years. Started out as one of our Call Agents, I guess, there in the Call Center, didn't you? And so when folks were calling in to make reservations, you know, Lori would help get them situated and fixed. Did a great a great job on that and then she was really instrumental in developing the precursor to what you know as TexPark. You know, that's our automated revenue and registration system. And prior to that, we had a system called a Park Office System and Lori did a masterful job of helping to train colleagues to be able to use that and work it and also to help support it to make sure that it functioned just as flawlessly as it could and really helped make the transition of bringing a system that was all manual -- I mean, imagine all those reservations for all of the state park system across the state, moving it from a manual to an automated system and Lori was on the front lines of that. And today she's providing critical support to that TexPark System. So she's, you know, one of wizards behind the scenes that make our state parks run. We're awfully proud of her work with our Information Technology Team. She does a great job. Lori Kreitner 20 years of service. Lori.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: All right. I got it. The boss. All right. Robert Davis, another one of our State Parks colleagues, 20 years of service. Worked at some of the -- really two of the most spectacular parks in the state park system, Garner and Lost Maples. He started there in Garner in 1995 working as a seasonal there. Quickly promoted to our Utility Plant Operator and certainly this Commission absolutely knows just how important that our water and wastewater systems run and run well and run always in state parks.

I mean, state parks are like running little cities as all of you know and lots of compliance related issues and Robert was on the front lines for making sure that that infrastructure worked and functioned and could support all of the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of visitors that come to Garner each year. Spent eight years in that job and did a great job helping to report on things associated with that system and put in place a new monitoring and reporting system there.

Then he went over to Lost Maples and then back in -- in 2004, transferred back to Garner as our Utility Plant Operator and has been on the front lines with helping with a lot of infrastructure management and development there at the park. Did a great job and proud of him out in the field. Robert Davis, 20 years of service to this Department and your state parks. Robert.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, that concludes my presentation. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Thank you, Carter. At this time, I would like to inform the audience that everybody is welcome to stay for the remainder of the meeting. However, if you wish to leave, this would be a good time to do so. We're going to take a very short intermission and be back -- start up here in less than five minutes.

(Recess taken)

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: All right. We're going to continue. First order of business is Action Item No. 1: Approval of the Agenda. Do I have a motion?


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Commissioner Morian.


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Second Commissioner Duggins. All in favor say aye?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Opposed? Hearing none, motion carries.

Briefing Item No. 1: Monarch Butterfly Update. Ben Hutchins, please make your presentation.

MR. HUTCHINS: Well, good morning, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Ben Hutchins. I'm the Invertebrate Biologist for our Nongame and Rare Species Program, and I would like to use this time to talk about the conservation status and conservation actions concerning the Monarch butterfly. So we feel that this is a timely brief because for several decades, researchers have been documenting significant declines in populations of the Monarch butterfly east of the Rocky Mountains. Actually, a 92 percent population decline. So a pretty significant decline and that -- this has really come to a head beginning December of last year when the species was petitioned for listing as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reviewed that petition, and they released a positive 90-day finding. That means that listing of that species may be warranted, so they're going to implement a 12-month review to determine whether or not that listing is warranted. Although in all likelihood, no decision will be made for a couple of years on that petition.

So the Monarch butterfly is really a fascinating species and this animation shows the northbound migration of the species over time through North America. So the Monarch butterfly undergoes the longest migration of any invertebrate that we know of on the planet. This migration is about 3,000 miles beginning in overwintering sights in Central Mexico and then moving as far north as Canada and this migration occurs over about four generations beginning in the spring and ending in the late summer. You'll notice in this animation the importance of Texas. Texas really serves as a funnel for those eastern populations, right?

So those individuals that have been spending the winter in Mexico will stop in Texas and some other south central states and they'll reproduce and so it's that first generation that's produced in Texas, that then moves on and populates the rest of the country. You'll also notice there's a western population along the Pacific coast. That is also migratory population, but they don't really seem to move down into central Mexico. There are also some resident butterflies in Florida and other parts of the southeast, but the majority of this population does this mass migration. And, again, this is multiple generations that are moving north, about four generations; and those generations live for somewhere between two and six weeks.

And then in the fall, a single generation does the reverse migration, doing that entire 3,000-mile trip south through the United States back to those overwintering grounds. So this is really unusual because you'll recall that those four northbound migrations live for about two to six weeks. The southbound migrate population or the southbound generation lives for nine months during this entire migration, overwintering in Mexico, and then coming back to Texas. And, again, I would just like to emphasize, you can see in this animation the importance of Texas. Again, these populations or these -- this migratory generation is funneling through Texas and Texas is really crucial for the biology of the species because the southbound Monarchs are going to be fueling up, feeding on nectar-producing plants in Texas, and getting the energy that they require to make it the rest of the way into Mexico and to survive the winter there in Mexico.

So Texas is really a focal point both for northbound and southbound migrating Monarchs. And so they overwinter in Oyamel forests in central Mexico where the densities of Monarchs is truly spectacular. You can see on the picture on the left there, those Monarchs that are overwintering on the trunks of these trees, they're on the branches. Descriptions of this population is really interesting. They talk about these branches just being weighed down by Monarchs dripping off of the trees. And, in fact, the densities are so great, that you can see these roosts from an airplane and that's what that picture to the right shows. That big orange blotch in the forest there, those are those winter roosts in Mexico.

You'll also notice in that picture big patches of deforested landscape there, which is one of the big causes of concern for this population. And so these overwintering roosts in Mexico are really convenient for biologists because they allow biologists to estimate the entire population, this eastern population, since all of those Monarchs are congregated in one area. So they look at the size of that area of those overwintering roosts and can then back out population estimates for the Monarch butterfly and this is how researchers have been documenting decline in population.

They've shown a decline in the area that those Monarchs are overwintering in Mexico; and, again, this represents about a 92 percent decline since monitoring began in 1994. So there are several reasons for this decline researchers currently believe. Some of those are manmade. Some of those are natural. Some of the natural causes include La Nina weather cycles. So those are dry periods where you would have fewer nectar-producing plants, fewer milkweed plants that the larval Monarchs need. And so that's what you see going on in 2000, 2001, that drop.

Also, major storms there in central Mexico can wipe out large portions of the overwintering populations. So that's what you see in 2004, 2005. So for invertebrates, it's not uncommon to see these large population fluctuations; but what's concerning about the Monarchs is that you don't see recovery, right? Those drops aren't followed by recovery. They're nested within this continuous decline and so we're not seeing any evidence that this is a natural cycle and that they're going to rebound.

So in the picture you saw a few slides back, you saw examples of deforestation; and that's what we see in the left. This is a map of the biosphere reserves in Mexico where the Monarch overwinters. If you zoom in on particular areas within that reserve, you see in red areas of illegal logging. So they're reducing the amount of habitat available for the species to overwinter. I've already mentioned that drought plays a major role in population numbers for the Monarch; and that's what the picture on the right shows, just this multi-year drought that we've been experiencing -- that we've been in experiencing in the United States that's resulted in fewer nectar-producing plants and fewer milkweed plants for the Monarch.

Another major cause for concern is loss of prairie and grassland habitat, particularly in the Midwest, Central United States, and the Corn Belt Region; and this loss of habitat has occurred primarily due to the expansion of large-scale monoculture agriculture. So like these corn fields that you see. And so these eliminate the natural nectar-producing flowers and milkweed plants that would be on that prairie and grassland landscape, and so it's reducing food sources for the butterfly. Additionally, with the advent of round-up ready corn or round-up ready crops, these genetically modified crops, those crops allow increased use of glyphosate.

So glyphosate is a broad spectrum herbicide and so if we have these round-up ready crops, that means that we can spray large amounts of this glyphosate herbicide over the landscape and that further reduces any nectar-producing flowers or milkweed plants in would be in those crop rows or along the margins. So that's what that graph on the right shows is just the increased use of that glyphosate over time.

I would like to note, as I mentioned earlier, this is a major cause for concern in the Midwest and Iowa and other states. We're not sure that this is so significant here in Texas because this agriculture represents a relatively small portion of our landscape here in Texas. And so I've eluded to the fact that the Monarch butterfly needs milkweed for the caterpillars. So the caterpillars are very specific. They essentially only feed on milkweed, whereas the adults feed on a number of nectar-producing flowers. And so these milkweed and these flowering plants are really representative of prairie and grassland habitats in the United States. So because of these declines, there's been an enormous amount of interest both at the national level and the tri-national level really and so in February of last year, President Obama and his Mexican and Canadian counterparts really emphasized that Monarch conservation should be a priority for our three countries, for Canada, the United States, and Mexico. And they made that announcement at the Three Leader Summit.

A few months later, as I mentioned, the species was petitioned for listing. And then in November of last year, we saw the formation of what's been called a high level working group. So this high level working group consists largely of upper level staff representing federal landholding agencies. So agencies such as the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, USGS and USDA. Our Executive Director Carter Smith also serves on this high level working group as a representative of State Fish and Wildlife Agencies. And so the goal of this high level working group is really to provide a national strategy for identifying and implementing conservation actions that benefit the Monarch butterfly and I had mentioned that through various organizations, federal agencies, nongovernment agencies, nearly $10 million has been allocated towards Monarch conservation and if you expand that out to pollinator conservation in general, we're looking at tens of millions of dollars being allocated to conservation of those species in the United States and several million of that has been really earmarked for Texas because there's large-scale acknowledgment that Texas is really important for Monarch butterflies, as we've seen.

So because of that large-scale interest, we here at Texas Parks and Wildlife have been developing our own state Monarch conservation strategy. So the idea is that we would develop our strategy that would compliment that national monarch strategy and also compliment this larger tri-national North American Monarch strategy and so we're shooting to have our strategy completed here in a couple months. That larger North American Monarch conservation plan is slated to be finished sometime in late fall.

So I would like to spend a little bit of time talking about what our strategy looks like, what's going into our Monarch conservation strategy; and a huge component of this is really keeping an open dialogue and developing partnerships with other entities that are working on Monarch conservation in the state. And I've just listed a few examples of the partners that we've been working closely with. Those include U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service, the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, and also some nongovernmental organizations as well. And so one of our big goals is really to identify what are the threats facing the species here in Texas. So I mentioned that that large-scale agriculture may not be as significant here in Texas, but we may have other issues related to land management and resource availability.

So the idea is first to identify research needs to understand what threats are facing the species here in Texas and to develop targets that we can work for here in Texas. So on a population level, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has set up a target of producing 225 million Monarchs by the year 2020. That equates to about 15 acres of overwintering habitat there in Mexico. So that's an ambitious plan. We really don't know what that means in terms of what we can do or what we should be doing here in Texas. So one of our first really lines of actions -- and we've been working with the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts on this -- is to really develop a status assessment for milkweed and nectaring plants within the state. Do we have a problem with availability of these species and is the abundance and distribution of these plants tied to particular landscapes? We're also working on developing best land management practices for the species. So these are land management practices that we could implement on state parks or our wildlife management areas. They're also practices that we could make available to other landholding agencies and also significantly to private landowners.

Now, obviously, these are voluntary land management practices; but just to highlight as an example of some of the practices that I'm talking about, we're looking at basically tried and true land management practices that are known to benefit a wide suite of species such as upland, game birds, other pollinators, and our native plant and prairie communities. So we're talking about land management practices such as the wise use of prescribed fire or brush clearing or cattle grazing rotation regimes, removal of invasive species, etcetera. So these are practices that are -- they're not new. They're practices that we're familiar with.

And an example of some of the action items within our state strategy include trying to provide incentives for implementation of these practices through our agricultural tax evaluation for wildlife management program. So landowners have been able to qualify for agricultural tax evaluation for their private property for decades. We would like to be able to expand that program so that landowners, if they wish to do so, could manage for Monarchs and other pollinator species.

Texas Parks and Wildlife will probably not be heavily involved in propagation and distribution of milkweed species, but -- or I'm -- yeah, milkweed species, the plant that the larval Monarchs depend on; but there's a lot of interest from other agencies and so that's an additional action that may occur within the state and that's working out the details of how do you collect seeds, how do you propagate the species, and how can we make these seeds available on a large scale to folks that are interested in using them.

So to conclude, I would like to say that we have good evidence, good scientific data that the eastern population of the Monarch is undergoing a significant decline and that there's a lot of interest in the species right now, both at the state, national, and tri-national level. And because of that, Texas Parks and Wildlife has a great opportunity and we're well placed to really affect some positive conservation for the species within the state of Texas through our state Monarch conservation strategy. Thanks very much, and I'll answer any questions at this time.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Very interesting, Ben. Thank you. Any questions? Commissioner Duggins.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Get this thing to work. Would you explain why the upward spring migration, why they're -- they die off? You say they -- I thought that you said they have -- there are four stages or four generations?

MR. HUTCHINS: Yeah. So what happens is that first generation gets to Texas and all of a sudden, we have milkweed available and we're not sure exactly what the cue is; but the availability of those plants causes them to start reproducing and so they're laying their eggs and they're laying their eggs on that milkweed and after they lay their eggs, they don't live very much longer. They die after that, but then those eggs hatch. The caterpillar starts to feed on that milkweed. They pupate into adults, move a little bit farther north, reproduce, and the cycle starts all over again. So this is -- you know, there's some variability in their lifespan. It's two to six weeks, but that's -- there -- we don't understand exactly what the cues are; but that's just a natural part of their biology is that they live for two to six weeks, reproduce, die, then the next generation moves forward a little bit more.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Then the picture you have, I think it was penultimate picture that has the caterpillar --


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- on it. That looks remarkably similar to caterpillars that I see on my dill weed. Will they feed on dill weed?

MR. HUTCHINS: No, but there are a couple of other caterpillars that look quite similar to the Monarch caterpillar, and so there are actually -- so there are actually guides that you can find to see these kind of Monarch caterpillar lookalikes. So the Monarch caterpillar is obligate on asclepias species and a couple of other milkweed vines. Those vines are probably not too important. So there are about 37 species of milkweed in the state of Texas. The Monarchs don't use all of those, but you can bet that if you see a -- if you see a Monarch caterpillar, it's feeding on some sort of milkweed. Yeah.


MR. HUTCHINS: And so if you've got something on a different plant, if it's eating that plant, it's not a -- not a Monarch.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: No, it eats the dill weed.

MR. HUTCHINS: Yeah, yeah. So you can get -- so you can get rid of it. It's not a -- it's not a Monarch. You don't have to worry.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And then the dill -- the -- excuse me, the milkweed is most easily generated by prescribed fires and cattle grazing, just rotational grazing?

MR. HUTCHINS: So this -- so this is a great question that we've been dealing with, is what is the most effective strategy for generating milkweed on the landscape. You drive down certain roads in Texas right now, and you'll see milkweed everywhere; but you look in one -- you look in one property, and you'll see lots of milkweed. And another, you won't see any. So we know that land management practices affect it, but we're not sure exactly what the best management practices are.

There has been some research that has shown that prescribed fire can really help generate those milkweed and part of that is through knocking back some of the other taller vegetation that may shade it out or outcompete with it. Grazing cattle rotation, we're not quite as sure how that's going to work; but from folks I've been talking to in some other agencies, they seem pretty confident that that can be a successful strategy for getting these milkweeds to come up.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, this is a fascinating presentation. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER JONES: I have a couple of quick questions.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Commissioner Jones.

COMMISSIONER JONES: I don't -- and maybe I missed it. But I was flipping through all of the slides. I didn't see a slide that had the number of Monarchs that were Monarch -- the number of Monarchs there are, and the number that you're expecting it to be if something isn't done.

MR. HUTCHINS: Yeah, so --

COMMISSIONER JONES: I mean, the one slide you have here shows the habitat declining; but I didn't think that was the actual number of -- I didn't think that referenced the number of Monarchs.

MR. HUTCHINS: You're right. Although -- and I don't know what the relationship is, but the researchers that look at these overwintering populations, they have a relationship between the area and the population size. So we could get those numbers and say, you know, ten -- ten acres of overwintering habitat equals X millions of Monarchs. I don't know those numbers off the top of my head, but there's a pretty well defined relationship between this overwintering roost size and total population.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay. So your second -- I think it's second to the last --

MR. HUTCHINS: With the --

COMMISSIONER JONES: That one. Well, the one that's got the Monarch hanging on the -- the worm hanging on the milkweed.




COMMISSIONER JONES: Just to make sure I'm clear, the target is 15 acres of overwintering habitat?

MR. HUTCHINS: Yeah, and that's roughly five times what we have this year, if that -- if that -- so right now --

COMMISSIONER JONES: 15 acres in Texas?

MR. HUTCHINS: No, no. I'm sorry. That's 15 acres of overwintering habitat in Mexico. So those wintering roosts. So this year, they had about 3 acre -- the Monarchs that were overwintering in Mexico, occupied an area of about 3 acres and so --

COMMISSIONER JONES: Well, I guess that just doesn't seem like that much.

MR. HUTCHINS: It isn't. Yeah, you're right. But, I mean, that represents several million individuals because if you remember, they're really densely packed into that small area; but that's one of the causes of concern. That's such a small area, that a really bad hailstorm could totally decimate that population. And so the Fish and Wildlife has come up with this number of 15 acres and the idea being that 15 acres equates to about 225 million Monarchs in that overwintering population and the idea being that that's probably enough for them to rebound or that if some catastrophic event happened in Mexico, it wouldn't totally wipe out the population.


MR. HUTCHINS: Yeah, 3 acres is really -- is -- people were really gasping at that when they found out how small that area in Mexico was.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay. One last thing and this is just sort of a side note. I think I sent an article to the Chairman and to -- what's your name again?

MR. SMITH: Yeah, I'm off the radar screen. I like it.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Carter, about the Endangered Species Act and there appears to be movement in Congress to change the Endangered Species Act because as you all know from my first time on the Board, I've sort of had my eyeballs on that because I don't think it's done right. I don't think it's done fairly. I don't think it's done appropriately, and I think it's costing the country way, way, way more than the good that they're doing and apparently some others think that as well. And so the President has actually tried to short-circuit Congress' action because apparently there's enough interest generated to change the way a species is listed, to change the burden of proof on which party actually has to prove this, that, or the other. And the President is trying to jump ahead and say, "Hey, why don't y'all -- U.S. Fish and Wildlife, why don't y'all adopt the rules that accomplish some of what they're trying to pass to keep them from passing what they're trying to pass because it goes further than what I want."

So I'm just mentioning that because that's part of your presentation is that this species is -- they've been requested or looking at listing it, and I'm just sensitive to listing things prematurely.

MR. HUTCHINS: Well, so I'm going to tread carefully on this subject. What I will say is that from my meetings with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other entities, nobody wants to see the Monarch listed. We don't want to get to that point of having the need for listing of the species. And so in a lot of ways, we consider ourselves fortunate that that -- that no decision is going to be made for several years because that gives us an opportunity to really enact some proactive measures and really protect the species before we get to that point.

And that's why I think you see so much action right now is that, you know, it would be beneficial to the species. It would be beneficial to everyone if we can enact measures right now to protect and conserve the species before it ever gets to that point and --


MR. HUTCHINS: -- I think Fish and Wildlife would agree with that.


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Commissioner Morian, do you have a question?

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Well, just following up on Commissioner Jones. I wanted to make sure I had my numbers right. That slide showing the hectares --

MR. HUTCHINS: I should have changed it to acres.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Well, no. You've got three -- we have got three acres of habitat in --

MR. HUTCHINS: Yeah, rough -- something like that, yeah.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: How hard is it -- do they go back to the same area, or is it a big area? How hard is it to protect 25 acres or 15 acres?

MR. HUTCHINS: Yeah. So my understanding is that Mexico is starting to get a handle on curbing that illegal logging, that it's not happening to the extent that it was. So there is better protection now in that overwintering habitat than there has ever been. And my understanding is also that the Monarchs don't exhibit perfect site fidelity. They don't go back to the exact same tree that --


MR. HUTCHINS: -- their great-great-great-great-grand Monarch went to, but that where they roost is dependent on climatic factors. So they want to get out of the wind out. They want to get in an -- out of the rain. And so they want to have the right temperatures and so where they go within that forest varies a little bit to try -- depending on the climate that year to try to get their kind of sweet spot.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I just had no idea that all those butterflies were in that small of an area. It's amazing. Thank you.


COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Fascinating presentation.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Ben, I have one question. Can we go back to the bar graph showing the wintering habitat? And I'm just -- I'm just asking this. If you look at it, really where the big -- there's been a steady decline; but 2006, 2007 still seem to be fairly okay or fairly stable. Then you see a pretty good crash. Would that coincidentally kind of correspond with one of the most severe droughts in Texas that we've had? I mean, a lot of people liken it to the 1950s.

MR. HUTCHINS: Right. Yeah, that certainly is a big --

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: I mean, do you think now that we seem to have a changing weather pattern that we -- I guess it will be interesting to see if we do start rebounding and see larger nesting areas, but it is quite coincidental that really this very steep or very consistent decline also corresponds to extremely dry conditions in the southwest and particularly Texas.

MR. HUTCHINS: Yeah, yeah. No, I think that a lot of folks are predicting that we will see some rebound; but that, you know, that drought is just one kind of -- one of the negative impacts on them and that I don't think anybody is expecting them to rebound to some of those kind of earlier -- those population sizes from the 90s, without some more extensive action, particularly in the Midwest and other parts of their range. So, but you're absolutely right that some of the stuff we've been seeing in the last few years, certainly drought has been a big player in that.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Thank you for your presentation. It was very interesting. Thanks for the work you're doing.

All right. Moving forward, Action Item No. 3: 2015-16 Statewide Recreational and Commercial Fishing Proclamation, Recommended for Adoption of Proposed Changes. Jeremy, please make your presentation.

MR. LEITZ: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, and Mr. Smith. For the record, my name is Jeremy Leitz with the Coastal Fisheries Division, and I'm here to present our items for the 2015-16 statewide regulatory process. Really, all we have before you is just a couple of clarifications to existing rules related to commercial crab and finfish.

Right now, the current rule states that no more than one set of commercial plates may be on board the vessel at any one time. However, it's been -- kind of being interpreted to allow for more than one license to be fished as long as one display plate is being shown, essentially fishing multiple licenses under one display plate. That wasn't the intent of that rule. So what we're doing is proposing clarifications to both those sections, saying that only one set of commercial display plates may be on board that vessel while they're fishing and the license associated with that must match that display plate.

So, again, just one display plate and the license must match that number as well. We did seek on -- or public comment on this. All these came online. We received 30 in support of this proposal and one against. It was also endorsed by the Coastal Resource Advisory Committee. So what we're recommending is that Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt these two sections concerning the statewide recreational and commercial fishing proclamation. And with that, I'll be happy to address any questions.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any question for Jeremy? We do not have anybody signed up to speak on this subject. So is there a motion for approval?


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Commissioner Duggins. Commissioner Scott second. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

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

MR. LEITZ: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Action Item No. 4: Public Hunting Program, Establishment of an Open Season on Public Hunting Lands and Approval of Public Hunting Activities on State Parks. Kelly Edmiston, please make your presentation.

MR. EDMISTON: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, I am Kelly Edmiston. I'm the Public Hunting Coordinator for the Wildlife Division. I'm standing in for Justin Dreibelbis who is not here today with the birth of his first child.

Each year in May, the Commission is asked to adopt an open season on public hunting for public hunting and approve the public hunting activities on state parks for the following year. In order to provide public hunting activities on public hunting lands, the Commission must provide an open season. The open season is typically from September 1st to August 31st each year. The Commission is also asked to approve specific hunting -- public hunting activities on units of the state park system, which are included in your briefing materials.

Staff proposes hunts on 48 units of the state park lands for the 2015-2016 hunting season. There are a total of 1,633 hunt positions of which 394 are youth positions. This year, Palo Pinto Mountains State Natural Area and Lake Colorado City State Park will hold public hunts for the first time. Preliminary proposals were developed earlier this year through a joint effort of field staff of the State Parks and Wildlife Divisions. Public hunt program staff maintain close communication with park staff to confirm the public hunt recommendations and make needed adjustments.

Most of the recommended state park hunts address management needs to control deer numbers, remove exotic animals and feral hogs. However, some of the hunts are proposed to provide additional recreational opportunity. Staff is requesting approval of the following motions: One, that Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorizes an open season on public hunting lands to run from September 1, 2015, to August 31 of 2016; and, two, that Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorizes the public hunt activities contained in Exhibit A to take place on units of the state park system.

This concludes my presentation. I appreciate it, and I'd be happy to answer any questions that you have.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any questions? Commissioner Duggins.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Do we do any kind of surveying of the people who participate in these public hunts after the season and then track that over time to see whether the same people are the ones who are taking advantage of these hunts or what comments they may have? I'm just curious if we do any follow up with the folks who use the hunts.

MR. EDMISTON: We don't do any program overall kind of survey. In other words, coming from Austin. However, many of our public hunting areas and wildlife management areas in particular and some state parks do exit surveys of our public hunters to gauge an interest on how their hunts are working and some of that sometimes factors into their proposals the following year. The public hunting program does an annual survey of the people who purchase the annual public hunting permit. So we can gauge where they're going and how our areas are being utilized through the walk-in program.

With the implementation of our new public online draw system, we have been doing a survey to see how that was received by the people who used our system. That analysis should be done shortly.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And are the persons -- the people trying to take advantage of this and apply for it, are they going up? Staying the same? Going down?

MR. EDMISTON: Well, it's a little difficult to say. We -- like I said, we did launch a new online system this last summer for the first time as we transitioned from the old paper system to the new online system and so we are in the process of trying to compare apples to apples to find out if there was an increase. I can tell you that because the new online system used a customer's TLC number, the license sales system number, we can more accurately track exactly how many unique individuals applied for hunt this past summer and that was approximately 31,000 unique individuals.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: For how many hunts?

MR. EDMISTON: For about 5,000.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Six to one then roughly.



MR. EDMISTON: You're welcome.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any other questions for Kelly? Okay, we don't have anybody signed up to speak on this today either. Is there a motion for approval? Commissioner Scott. Second by Commissioner De Hoyos. All many favor say aye?

(Chorus of ayes)

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

MR. EDMISTON: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Action Item No. 5: Commercial Oyster Regulation, Recommendation for Adoption of Proposed Changes. Jeremy, you're back up.

MR. LEITZ: Thank you. Good morning again. For the record, my name is Jeremy Leitz with the Coastal Fisheries Division and I'm here to present this time changes -- proposed changes to the oyster fishery.

What we have before you is really two items. One is to -- the ability to count dead shell of at least three-quarters of an inch in that 15 percent allotment of undersized oysters per sack. And in doing so, we would need to amend that definition of a sack of oysters to include that dead shell that's greater than three-quarters of an inch. Right now, only oysters count in that undersized allotment of which no more than 15 percent can be undersized; and any undersized oysters must be returned to the reef from which they were harvested at that time.

Of course, as this shell is being brought up with those oysters and it's not being returned to the reef, those reefs are being depleted of that material that those juvenile oysters or spat need to attach and grow into maturity and so it poses a severe risk to those young oysters. So what we're proposing is to require that each dead oyster shell greater than three-quarters of an inch be counted as an undersized oyster and included in that 15 percent allotment and shell measuring greater than three-quarters of an inch that's brought up, must be returned to that reef right at the time of harvest. So it goes right back into that substrate from which it came.

And then again in doing so, we would need to amend that definition of a sack of oysters to include dead shell greater than three-quarters of an inch. We did hold public hearings along the coast, four of them -- Bay City, Texas City, Rockport, and Port Lavaca. We had online comment as well and including e-mails and phone calls. Overall, we received 36 in support and 16 in opposition.

I'd also like to mention this was supported by the Oyster Advisory Work Group and actually, it was recommended to us from them and is supported by them as well. So we would like to recommend that the Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt changes to 58.11 and 58.21 concerning the statewide oyster fishery proclamation. And that concludes my presentation, and I'll be happy to address any questions.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any question for Jeremy?

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: I have a question Mr. Chairman. You said it was 16 people that opposed?

MR. LEITZ: Correct. Oops, sorry. Correct.


MR. LEITZ: Thirty-six in support.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: 40 percent or so. What was their main argument opposing?

MR. LEITZ: In honesty, a lot of them didn't give a reason. They just filled out a card saying they did not support the proposal. There was a couple that said that the burden should also be placed on the fish houses and the dealers to not accept those undersized oysters, oysters or shell, instead of having it be the anglers that are out there fishing for them; but, again, that was just a couple folks. Most people just indicated opposed and didn't give a reason.



COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Ralph. Commissioner Duggins.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: On your proposal slide, you say that oysters -- dead oyster shells measuring greater than three-quarters of an inch should be counted as undersized oyster; but that assumes they're keeping it, doesn't it?

MR. LEITZ: Correct.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But then your next -- the next bullet point or sub-bullet point, you say they should be returned to the -- to the --

MR. LEITZ: Right. Well, we're seeing -- sorry. The --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I'm confused by that.

MR. LEITZ: The three-quarter inch shell can be included in that 15 -- each sack gets 15 percent allotment to be undersized. There's kind of a cushion faction -- or factor in there. And we're saying these shells that are greater than three-quarters of an inch up to 15 percent can be included in that sack. Everything else has got to go back to the reef.


MR. LEITZ: Uh-huh.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any more question for Jeremy? Let's see, we have nobody signed up again to speak on this. So is there -- is there a motion for approval? Commissioner Scott.


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Commissioner Morian. All in favor say aye?

(Chorus of ayes)

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

Moving forward, Action Item No. 6: Commercial Shrimping Regulation, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. Mark Lingo, please make your presentation.

MR. LINGO: Good morning, Commissioners. My name is Mark Lingo, and I'm with Coastal Fisheries as well. We have three items coming we're coming with you today. The first is to eliminate the size count requirement for the fall bay bait shrimpery and then we have two clarifications or clean-up items. It's an update to the citation date within code and then update the rules to clarify that TEDs are required in all waters, not just outside waters and I'll get to that here in a second.

Like I said, the first one is to eliminate the size count for the fall bait shrimping season and currently, there's a 50-count heads on for shrimp that are harvested during that time have to be at least that size. What happens to the rest of those, they come on board, they're dead, and probably 95 to 98 percent of those shrimp are dead when they come on board. They're shoveled overboard and that's -- could be considered as a waste of the resource. So we heard that as one of the recommendations last year, to do away with this requirement; and that's what we brought forward.

Like I said, these next two items are clean-up items. The first one is just to update the date of a citation to match the Federal Register. And the next one is -- both these were TEDs for Turtle Excluder Device things. But currently within our code, it says outside waters that TEDs are required. Federal regulation state it's all water. So we just need to include that in code to change -- make that change from outside waters to all waters.

We also took this to the public hearings and received online comment. You see 82 percent approval for the 50-count, 79 percent approval for the TED citation update, and the -- for the waters update, there was an 80 percent approval for this as well. So our recommendation is that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts those sections concerning the statewide shrimp fishery proclamation. That concludes my presentation. Is there any questions?

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any question from the Commission? Commissioner Jones.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Let me -- I just have one question on the shrimp size issue --

MR. LINGO: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- size count requirement. So if currently, before we change this rule, if we vote to change it, a shrimper has a bunch of shrimp in his catch that don't meet the size head requirement, they have to make a self-assessment, I guess, once they get all the shrimp in the boat and what you're telling me is that most of those shrimp are dead once they make that assessment?

MR. LINGO: They cull the shrimp that are bigger than that, they keep those. And then the ones that are smaller than that size, you know, studies have shown that those shrimp are dead, you know, trawl times over an hour. So anything that's in there is dead, and they still have to shovel those overboard.

COMMISSIONER JONES: And so what we are being asked to do is allow them to keep those shrimp in any event, regardless --

MR. LINGO: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- of the size?

MR. LINGO: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER JONES: All right. So what was the purpose of having the rule in the first place, the size rule?

MR. LINGO: That period of time that we're talking about, you know, from August until October timeframe is kind of like the run for the white shrimp. Earlier in the season, we have the brown shrimp and that was just to help protect some of the white shrimp, letting more of those to escape. Along with that, there's also a mesh size requirement, an increased mesh size during that period of time that's going to remain in effect. With the reduction in the amount of effort that we're seeing due to the shrimp license buy-back program, you know, effort is slow enough now that we believe that incidental take can be handled well within the fishery.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Right. One last question.

MR. LINGO: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER JONES: If a shrimper chunks a -- shovels a bunch of shrimp back in the ocean, do those shrimp not provide food for the fish that are down there floating around?

MR. LINGO: They're -- they will provide some nutrients back into the ecosystem, not just to the fish but to some seagrasses as they decompose. A large portion of those are actually harvested by the birds that follow the shrimpers, the seagulls and stuff following along behind them.

COMMISSIONER JONES: All right. And did you weigh that into your recommendation?

MR. LINGO: Yes, sir.


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Thank you. Any other questions? We do have two individuals that signed up to speak this morning. First one is Ron Galloway.

CAPTAIN GALLOWAY: Good morning, Carter Smith, Commissioners. My name is Ron Galloway. I'm from Baytown, Texas. I'm a commercial shrimper. I've been doing this for 45 years. So if you have any questions when I get through, I'll be happy to answer your questions. I'm also the vice president of our local shrimping association PISCE. I represent approximately 150 of the remaining shrimpers that's in this business. Four-fifths of us are out of the business now. So there's very few of us left, but I am the vice president of our organization.

And I'm here to ask you to vote to remove the count on the shrimp in the fall season because I believe it is a total waste of the resource to throw away perfectly good shrimp that could be used for bait for thousands of fishermen that fish our bays and our lakes. These smaller shrimp can also be eaten in gumbo, salad, etouffee. You can boil them, and you can fry them as popcorn shrimp. We believe it has always been a solid waste of perfectly good resource to throw these away and I want to thank you all for the people in the Texas Parks and Wildlife who work with us to make these much needed changes in some of the regulations and I believe it will be better for not only the people who harvest it such as me, but also for all the people who enjoy it and all the many ways that they use it, whether they eat it or fish with it or whatever. But it's always been our contention to get these shrimp on board and if they're supposed to make a 50 count and they count 65, well, we have to pay a deckhand to throw those back in the water and they do feed the fish and stuff like that; but people could eat them, you know. Fishermen could fish with them. It's just kind of, in our opinion, a waste of the resource. So that concludes mine. If you have any questions, I'd be happy to answer them.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Questions for Ron? Thank you.

CAPTAIN GALLOWAY: Thank you very much.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Second speaker is Muriel Tipps.

MS. TIPPS: Good morning, Commissioners. My name is Muriel Tipps, Matagorda County Seafood Rep. I want to just thank you for these considerations on the regulations, and hopefully they'll be ongoing. This count removal does save a lot of the resource in the way that -- you know, remember, we don't target the smaller shrimp; but sometimes, you know, we're catching a good size shrimp and then the next day they'll be scattered with some of the smaller shrimp and it just saves a lot of enforcement type situations and then, you know, we can use those for bait. So we do thank you for that.

And while I'm up here, too, I would like to reiterate that we need to address streamlining our regulation renewals to eliminate the license derby at our offices to try to renew our licenses, both in the gulf fishery and the bay and bait fishery. We all have to go get our licenses and take off work during the beginning of a good season and we cannot send anyone to get our licenses. We have to go ourselves, which means taking off work, bringing our boats in; and it's pretty antiquated. So I'm going to get with Carter and Lance after this and we do have an affidavit that we can get signed right now if we would allow someone else to bring it in to get our licenses. So, you know, it could be streamlined pretty quickly in that regard; and I do thank you once again.

And also, Commissioner Jones, November 1st the count comes off those shrimp anyway, so; but we do thank you and we look forward to working with you in the future. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any questions? Carter, refresh my memory. But we're working to move this licensing renewal to a more online; is that correct?

MR. SMITH: You know, I know we're looking at it. There's some unique things associated with that license and, Muriel, thank you for your comments and for being here and we absolutely will work with you on it. I -- Lance or Brandi is here and, again, I don't remember the particulars on this one, Chairman; but we have committed to working with Muriel on this.

Lance, do you want to address this?

MR. ROBINSON: Good morning. For the record, Lance Robinson, Coastal Fisheries. Part of the issue, as I understand it with licensing, is with the -- is that the vessel information has to be verified. You have a unique license, there's a limited -- it's a controlled license structure. One license for this particular boat. It's under our moratorium license buy-back and so they have to make sure that the license and the vessel match and so having all of that documentation and having the individual there that have those two documents that they can present to Law Enforcement to verify that that license is going on that vessel, is my understanding. But we'll certainly get with Ms. Tipps and see what we can -- see if there's ways that we can streamline that process.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: All right. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: I have a question, Lance. Can they obtain this license before the season is open?

MR. ROBINSON: For the inshore fishery, I think they can start around the 15th of August to buy those licenses; but as Ms. Tipps indicated, the fall season in the bays opens the 15th of August and so it does coincide with when the season opens. They do allow the offshore vessels, the gulf boats, they're able to buy them I think as early as 1st of August because those boats when they get to sea, they're out for, you know, weeks at a time. So I think there is a little bit of difference there between those two types of licenses, which begs the question to see what we might be able to do for the inshore fleet.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Thank you. All right. Is there a motion for approval?

COMMISSIONER JONES: I have one more question of the first speaker, the shrimper. I just -- no, no, no. The shrimper, the man.



CAPTAIN GALLOWAY: Ron Galloway. Yes, sir, how can I help you?

COMMISSIONER JONES: Give me just an idea of the percentage of shrimp that you typically have to throw back when you're in that season? Would you say it's half, a quarter of your catch?

CAPTAIN GALLOWAY: Oh, no. No, it wouldn't be that much.


CAPTAIN GALLOWAY: Let me try to explain it. Right now, the count size is 50 count. So let's say this is -- this kind of shrimp right here, the count is 50. But if you have some smaller shrimp mixed in there when they count them and everything, it might make it go to 65, maybe 68 or something like that or whatever. But so it would be like, you know, 10 percent, 15 percent would be --


CAPTAIN GALLOWAY: Would make it illegal for me if the game warden boarded me. Then if he made a count -- let's say they're supposed to count 50. If they're 55 or 60, he could ticket me, take my shrimp and, you know --


CAPTAIN GALLOWAY: -- fine me. So I'd have to pay a fine, a restitution, and a ticket and lose my shrimp. So, you know, typically, I pay as much as four deckhands to pick those out and just throw them in the water. But it's nothing but like 10 to 20 percent, you know. That depends on the weather, too. Like if the cold fronts come, the bigger shrimp leave the bay first and then the smaller shrimp start showing up more and more as they come out of the tributaries and the estuaries and the rivers and lakes and so forth and so on. So more of them will show up. So that number would probably increase further into the big net season we get, you know, so.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Got it. Okay. That's good to know. Appreciate that.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Thank you, Captain. All right. Is there a motion for approval?


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Commissioner Jones. Second by Commissioner De Hoyos. All in favor say aye?

(Chorus of ayes)

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

Action Item No. 7: Recreational Trail Grant Funding, Recommended Approval of Trail Construction, Renovation, and Acquisition Project. Tim Hogset, please make your presentation.

MR. HOGSET: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Members of the Commission. I'm Tim Hogset, Director of Recreation Grants Program in the State Parks Division. This morning, I'm bringing you recommendations from your staff funding for the National Recreational Trail Grants Program. These are federal funds provided through U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration.

The current Federal Highway Bill will expire at the end of this month. So we're bringing you a contingent recommendation on a part of these projects. The 2015 apportionment is approximately 2.6 million and that's 67 percent or through the month of May. We anticipate that the Highway Bill will either be extended through a continuing resolution or will be reauthorized and when that occurs, we anticipate the receipt of about $1.2 million additional.

We take 186,000 for project administration. We have savings of approximately 600,000 from projects that either were canceled or had project savings associated with them. 30 percent of these funds are required by law to be used for off-highway vehicle motorized projects. That's as a result of the source of the funding, which is the off-highway vehicle federal gasoline tax. We had 78 applications submitted for our February 1st deadline in the amount of approximately 11.9 million.

We have a state trail advisory board that reviews these applications. That's required by the Federal Act. These are user members that are trail users of various disciplines and the main factors that they look at in their review and recommendations are quality of applications, the cost effectiveness of the work that's proposed, the recreation opportunity impact, and also a geographic distribution.

The 600,000 in savings, we plan to program for use in the state park system in the following ten state parks. And our recommendation for you this morning is that funding for 17 projects recommended in Exhibit A in the amount of $2,376,733 and state park trail improvements in the amount of 600,000 is approved. In addition, upon receipt of the anticipated 33 percent annual National Recreation Trail fund apportionment for the next eight projects in priority order as shown in Exhibit A are contingently approved. And I'd be happy to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Are there any questions, or is there any discussion from the Commission? All right. At that point -- at this point then we'll allow our -- those who have registered to speak to come up. We'll start with Tony Eeds, and then be followed by Grace Todacheeny. I hope I pronounced that correctly. Mr. Eeds.

MR. EEDS: Good morning, Commissioners. Thank you very much for this opportunity. Thank you, Carter, as well. I'm here as a representative of White Rock Studio. I've stood before you many times before as the past -- now past president of Texas Motorized Trail Coalition. We've worked long and extensively with Texas Parks and Wildlife staff -- Tim, Steve Thompson in particular that manages the program, the OHV program, to produce these riding areas. And we're proud that we're here before you yet again.

I'm representing two of them today, the White River Municipal Water District application, as well as the Central West Texas Trail Coalition application. In both cases, they're important opportunities to provide legal, safe, family recreation in Texas for groups of people that live in a state that's 97 percent privately owned. So this is a real opportunity to provide it and it gives us opportunities to educate people. As y'all all well know, you rarely go a week or two without seeing some accident that's happened in a -- on an ATV with some young child. You require education as part of the process of getting the license to ride one as a young child. Well, I appreciate that; but it also goes to, as they get older, continuing that by the rules and regulations that we use when we operate these facilities.

In any case, that's -- I'm here to just support that and the economic development that it brings to various and sundry towns across the state of Texas. I know that there's a lot of people behind me that will tell you all about their individual projects. So I'll allow them to do that; but I'm here to just, in general, support the program and I'm really -- I'm blessed to be the first one to get up here because that's basically what I wanted to say, and I'll be glad to answer any questions. I did spend six years on the grants committee. So I've seen a lot of these things come to fruition across the state and am really proud of everything we've produced.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any questions for Tony? Thank you, sir.

MR. EEDS: You bet. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Next up is Grace. I'm not really sure how to pronounce your last name, Grace. I'll let you let us know.

MS. TODACHEENY: Well, good morning. My name is Grace Todacheeny. It's spelt just like it --

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: That's how I would have pronounced it. Thank you.

MS. TODACHEENY: I'm the secretary treasurer for the Central West Texas Trails Coalition there in Robert Lee, Texas. I have been designated to speak with you today, and I'm fully knowledgeable of the lack of resources in my community. I will be describing the needs for resources that will benefit surrounding community, as well as mine. I will also be addressing the needs for safe recreational activities.

Allow me to start out by addressing how we can start achieving this goal in the long run. By receiving this grant, our local community will become a central common place for other communities who can appreciate the natural resource of the OHV recreational park that they currently do not possess in their communities. OHV enthusiasts in our county and surrounding areas will be able to access the park without the long drives and time away from home. We have already been receiving positive feedback from the Midland-Odessa areas, San Angelo and surround rural towns, Abilene and also the Colorado City chapter.

We would like to encourage our local youth population with an opportunity of an outdoor recreational experience. This grant will also benefit the families of these communities and promote the overall appreciation for nature at its finest. We will also make efforts to improve our existing bird watching program for those who enjoy observing nature. As part of this effort, a bird watching path will be paved out. And as part of this collective goal, there's an expectation of a safe environment. An emergency access route will be incorporated into the park's design and by receiving this grant, resources will be applied to the safety and education.

I personally will be receiving the safety training. I will be facilitating safety training for visitors of our recreational park, as well as volunteer personnel. In order to summarize our needs, sharing collective resources with surrounding communities will benefit everyone. The natural beauty of nature should be appreciated. Providing safety for our nature's parks remain a constant concern and a high priority. Once again, I do thank you for your time and attention. I'll answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any questions? Thank you.

MS. TODACHEENY: All right. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Next speaker is Nancy Wilson, followed by Stacy Newman.

MS. WILSON: Yes, I would like to thank the Commissioners. If you'll bear with me, I've had laryngitis. Thank you, Carter. My name is Nancy Wilson. I'm the president of Central West Texas Trails Coalition. On behalf of Central West Texas Trails Coalition, I want to thank Texas Parks and Wildlife for the Texas Recreational Grants Program. It has given us an opportunity to develop this park in Robert Lee for the benefit of Coke County and the OHV users across the state.

The park will be a great asset to our area. We originally proposed this park around the Lake Spence area at the Colorado River Municipal Water District where the facilities were already available. After nine months of planning it, everybody on board, including the city council commissioners, the Colorado River Municipal Water District told us they weren't interested in this type of recreation at this time. Which put us on a path to find a new location, which Steve Thompson of Texas Parks and Wildlife found a location around the old city lake and we were able to get a 20-year lease for that property.

Our signs coming into Robert Lee say "Playground of West Texas" and there used to be one of the largest lakes in the state of Texas, Lake Spence, which is all but dry. It has -- it might have got some rain now. It may have like 3 percent in it. The most I've seen in 20 years, the most water it's had is 18 percent. And CMWD owns anything from 1900 and below, which they haven't released any of. So anyway, this put us on the path to find this new location.

The park has a lot of potential to restore economic development to this area. We're a small county. We only have two towns that aren't ghost towns -- Robert Lee and Bronte, Texas. Sanco, Tennyson, they're all ghost towns now. Not only that, the OHV riders, there are so many that are buying these, the vehicles, that don't have the property to ride them on. So they're riding them illegally. We would like to provide a safe, controlled environment for them to use these vehicles without having to travel, you know, so far and we've got a lot of interest from the Midland-Odessa, Colorado City, San Angelo area.

We first started to develop -- we wanted to see how many people were interested. We put petitions out. Our first public meeting was in December '14. Most of the concerns were for bird watching, which we quickly addressed with a Black-capped Vireo that Tony's dealing with at Escondido Draw. We had our next public meeting -- we also posted papers. We put it in the courthouse, the city hall, the courthouse digital sign, and for the April 17th meeting -- I'm sorry -- we also sent out certified documents to all the adjacent landowners and leasers, and we only had two opposed. Thank you.

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

All right. Our next person who would like to speak to us is Stacy Newman, followed by Shane Jones.

MR. NEWMAN: Good morning, everybody. My name is Stacy Newman. I'm the current president of Texas Motorized Trails Coalition that some of the other speakers mentioned. TMTC is a nonprofit, all volunteer run organization that we formed in 1999 specifically with the goal of bringing off-highway motorized recreation riding areas to the general public of Texas. I'm happy to say that we have been able to do that with the help and support of Texas Parks and Wildlife through grants from the National Recreational Trail funds and also state OHV programs.

This year, we have two grants that we are requesting funding for. One is for our original park in East Texas named Barnwell Mountain Recreation Area. It's over near Longview, and it's been in operation since 2000. The second one is for some needed continued construction on our second park for our Escondido Draw Recreation Area in West Texas in Crockett County located near Ozona, Texas.

Barnwell Mountain has been a huge success story for TMTC. Not only has it seen many local riders from across the state, it's also become a premier venue for two national vehicle specific clubs, specifically one is a Toyota based club and the other is a Range Rover based club. These bring in folks from all across the entire nation to visit Barnwell Mountain and our state of Texas. It's also been a testing and a demo ground for at least two manufacturers. One of which was Hummer, which were formally built in Shreveport, Louisiana area; and the second one is Polaris.

BMRA has become so popular, in fact, among families that in 2014, it was named as a top -- as a top five riding area for not just Texas, but two additional states as well. So this was a survey conducted by of over 1100 people and we were in the top five for Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. That's quite an accomplishment and that's all due to the funding that this Commission has helped us get and what we've done as a volunteer organization building that park.

On the other hand, we have Escondido Draw, which everyone knows it's no secret that's taken a very long time to construct this park and get it open. When I took over as president TMTC two years ago, my number one goal was to get EDRA open and functioning as it should -- as it should be and as we do at Barnwell Mountain. We faced some uphill battles with working with just raw land that's located very far away from any existing utilities; and but even so, we've been able in the last couple of years to make quite a bit of progress. We've drilled the water well. We've managed to get some electric service poles to the property, completed all of our engineering plans for utility infrastructure, received TCEQ conditional approval for water and septic and so on and so forth. We've accomplished quite a bit.

So we still have a lot to go and I wish to just make everyone aware and hope that everyone understands that even though there's been some administrative change in the way that the National Recreational Trails funding approval program works, that we are -- we're doing everything possible to get our park open as quickly as possible because I know that's always a question is when's it going to open and I wish to thank you guys for your support. If there's any questions, I'm happy to answer them.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any questions for Stacy? Thank you.

MR. NEWMAN: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Next is Shane Jones, followed by Judge Lee Norman.

MR. ASHLEY: Good morning, Chairman and Members of the Commission. I hope you don't mind, but I'm stepping in front of Shane Jones.


MR. ASHLEY: My name is Victor Ashley, and I'm Chairman of the Board of Directors for the White River Municipal Water District.


MR. ASHLEY: With me today are Joe Heflin, Board member from Crosbyton; Shane Jones, the General Manager of the district; and Lee Norman, the county judge of Garza County. We are here to thank you for your past support and financial assistance through the Recreational Trail Grant funding for our Rio Blanco off-highway vehicle project. I'm happy to report that work on the project is progressing.

Construction was recently completed on an outdoor pavilion, along with the accompanying parking lot and access road. We're in the process of acquiring property for the main access road for the entrance to the park. We have additional funding needs as we continue with the environmental and archaeological studies and trail construction. So we would encourage you to consider us for approval for additional funding. Our water district provides water to the residents of four cities -- Crosbyton, Post, Ralls, and Spur and the counties of Crosby, Dickens, and Garza. We also own 6,000 acres of prime West Texas real estate in Crosby County, which includes White River Lake.

The Rio Blanco Park will be restricted to about 900 acres in the northeast portion of our property. There has been some opposition to the park, mainly from a few of our lot lessees around the lake. We've tried to address their concerns of noise and dust pollution, fire hazard, location of facilities, and access to the park. We thank you for your support and encourage you to continue to support this project as we continue to develop the park. Our name, as well as that of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, is on the entrance sign. So we want the park to succeed as much as you do. Thank you very much.


Now, we'll hear from Shane; is that -- and then Judge Lee Norman.

MR. JONES: Chairman, Commissioners, sir. We appreciate the opportunity to come in today and speak with y'all. We just want to, again, reiterate what Victor said. We want to thank y'all for the partnership that we have so far with y'all. This is going to be an ability for us to control a off-road vehicle that has been happening already at our lake. We have a lot of trails out there now that residents and people have come in and built that are not sustainable.

By our partnership, we feel that we'll be able to control that aspect and build sustainable trails and have a family oriented activity out there that will be good for the future. We've already constructed the pavilion. We're looking at trailheads in the next process. We would like to continue the funding that we have where we'd be able to have best management practices out there and the partnership with y'all is what we're after. Thank y'all.

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

Judge Lee Norman, followed by Joe Heflin.

JUDGE NORMAN: Thank you, Commissioners and Mr. Smith. I want to thank you also from Garza County's perspective, from Crosby County and Dickens County, what this means to West Texas and our part of the world. I think a few weeks ago we had 5 percent water in the lake and today, I'm proud to say it's over 30 percent. Boating is a lot of fun in West Texas and while we haven't had a lot of that, this is a partnership I think that works very well with the boating activity.

Just an hour away is Lubbock, and they are very supportive I understand of these type projects. So as we began a few years ago looking for disaster loans to help supply our water, our three counties and our member cities came together and I think we will do that as well with this endeavor. So I appreciate your support and ask for continued funding. Can I answer any questions from anyone?


JUDGE NORMAN: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Joe Heflin, followed by Scott Swiggert.

MR. HEFLIN: Good morning, Commissioners, Scott -- or Carter. I'm here today in support of this. As a member of the Board of White River, we worked diligently to address all the issues that have been raised on this project. We have vetted out different trails, different sites. We think we've done a thorough job because we believe this is going to be good for our recreation area and for our lake and for our communities. I appreciate Parks and Wildlife on all that you do, not just this project. I was talking to Carter. Devils River, as a State Legislator, I got to visit that project and it's -- you do good work. You're appreciated in the state of Texas. And I just thank you for your consideration of this and to ask for your approval of this project. We're looking forward to moving forward. Thank you.


MR. HEFLIN: Any questions at this time?


MR. HEFLIN: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: And final speaker is Scott Swiggert.

MR. SWIGGERT: Thank you, Commissioners and Carter, for letting us come here today. And I just wanted to first off introduce myself. I am Scott Swiggert. I'm the Parks and Recreation Director in Deer Park, which happens to be the birthplace of Texas and the home of the Battleship of Texas, as well as the San Jacinto Battleground and Monument. And so I am also the legislative chair for Texas Recreational Park -- or the Texas Recreational Park Society, as well as the president elect. So the future president of that organization, and I want to speak on behalf of both of those today just briefly.

First, thank you for your wonderful partnership with local parks, including the City of Deer Park. We've got a lot of great programs that we have been able to implement and to provide our citizens because of the grant programs that you've offered, as well as being able to have some great capital development, including one that we have before you today which will be our first hike-and-bike trail.

Also, I want to thank you for the partnership that the state park has with our city. It's been a huge resource. Bill Irwin and Andy Smith that you heard earlier about the Battleship and the battleground has been a huge success and been really resourceful for us, but we feel we give back as well. We give back money to those -- that park for special events and different activities, as well as our department has provided transportation for different of those special events, free to the park so that you can provide access and resources back and forth through the park for those events. So it's a great partnership that we have with our local state park, as well as our local parks.

Also, I want to say on behalf of the TRAPS, thank you for the local grant program and everything you do with the local grant programs. You've got a great staff through that department. Tim Hogset and his crew are outstanding to work with. Very helpful when you're going through the process, as well as administering that process. So thank those guys and that staff that you have down there for what they provide to us. And I also want to take just a few minutes to say thank you for your partnership as we've been working through legislation this year, and also to take a few minutes just to celebrate.

We've been successful this year and it's part of because of the great partnership that only state parks and local parks have had together and the coalition that we provided together as we walked the halls to be able to get that legislation, get the sporting goods sales tax; and it looks like we're going to have some great success. We're not there, but we're getting close and thank you for that and we'll continue that great partnership. Again, just want to thank you for the opportunity for the hike-and-bike trail grant that we have before you. It could be our first one. And then I want to finally conclude by letting you know that we did open up our first splash park this week. We opened it up on Tuesday and it was done with our all city funds, but our feature monument in the center of our splash park is a 12-foot replica of the San Jacinto Monument. And so as we bring people into Deer Park, we are spreading the good news and the history of Texas and we've got this great replica that has water shooting out the top and out the bottom that the kids are coming to and so we're bringing that partnership once again through what we do and our work together. So with that, just thank you.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Thank you, Scott. Any questions?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Not particularly a question, Mr. Chairman; but just a comment. If you would pass it along to all the Legislators you deal with that we pay as much attention to the big cities as we do being out all over the state. You know, we just try to do the best we can with what resources we have and we certainly appreciate that y'all appreciate it. Thank you.

MR. SWIGGERT: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Thank you. Any more comments? Commissioner Martin.

COMMISSIONER MARTIN: I just wanted to make a comment to Tim Hogset and his staff. This is obviously a complicated process and a lot of people do put in for these applications and these grants and so I want to thank you and your staff for always handling this with the utmost expertise and professionalism. So thank you. It certainly helps a lot of people around the state and visitors. Thanks.

MR. HOGSET: Thank you and thanks on behalf of my staff as well.


Is there a motion for approval? Commissioner Martin. Second by Commissioner Scott. All in favor say aye?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Opposed? Hearing none, motion carries.

Action Item No. 8: Land Acquisition, Bastrop County, Five Tracts Totaling Approximately 220 Acres at Bastrop State Park. Corky Kuhlmann, please make your presentation.

MR. KUHLMANN: Good day, Commissioners. For the record, Corky Kuhlmann with the Land Conservation Program. I would like to make a small clarification about this agenda item. Actually, we're still pursuing other tracts, the five tracts; but this item you're going to approve today or disapprove today is for only two of those tracts that we currently have under contract.

They are a Bastrop State Park and we have negotiated with two willing sellers. We already have contracts on them. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife has designated these tracts as a known Houston toad habitat. We'll be partnering with Bastrop County with funds they've collected for toad habitat restoration. Two tracts. Tract One is approximately 77 acres, and Tract Two is approximately 33 acres. They're both adjacent to the park and, of course, they can be managed with existing staff.

Having said that, staff recommends that Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorizes the Executive Director to take all necessary steps to acquire two tracts of land totaling approximately 110 acres in Bastrop County as for an addition to Bastrop State Park. And I'd be glad to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any questions for Corky? Thank you. We have nobody signed up to speak on this. So is there a motion for approval? Commissioner Duggins. Second by Commissioner De Hoyos. All in favor say aye?

(Chorus of ayes)

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

Action Item No. 9: Land Acquisition, Limestone County, Approximately 2.3 Acres at Fort Parker State Park, Corky.

MR. KUHLMANN: Again, for the record, Corky Kuhlmann. This is at Fort Parker, Limestone County, kind of east/northeast Texas. This is a small acquisition. The park was very happy to get it. It's only 2.3 acres. It's outlined in red. If you look at it, it's along the park road and the acquisition will prevent additional residential development along Park Road 28, provide some extra recreational opportunities. The park land-wise, dry land-wise, isn't that big. About 480 feet of common boundary and, of course, will be managed by existing park staff.

With that, the staff recommends that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorizes the Executive Director to take all necessary steps to acquire approximately 2.3 acres of land as an addition to Fort Parker State Park.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any questions? We need to wait just a minute. I think we need a quorum here to -- unless Ann and Carter --


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Thank you, Commissioner Jones. We now have a quorum convened.

COMMISSIONER JONES: There was a discussion about brakes. I'm not sure -- I won't go into it.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: We don't have a whole lot more left.


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Is there a motion for approval? Commissioner De Hoyos. Second by Commissioner Martin. All in favor say aye?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Opposed say nay? Hearing none, motion carries.

Action Item No. 10: Land Acquisition, Cochran County, Approximately 357.5 Acres as an addition to the Yoakum Dunes Preserve, Corky.

MR. KUHLMANN: Again, for the record, Corky Kuhlmann. And I'm going to make a small clarification here. When this agenda item was put out about three weeks ago, it was the Yoakum Dunes Preserve. As of last week, it's now the Parks and Wildlife's newest wildlife management area. It was transferred last week and now it is, as the slide show will show, it is Yoakum Dunes Wildlife Management Area.

Y'all are very familiar with it. The management area covers three counties shown -- Yoakum, Cochran, and Terry Counties. This tract is a joint -- well, Yoakum Dunes, as y'all know, is a joint venture between us and the Texas Nature Conservancy. When they transferred it to us last week, they did keep a conservation easement on the portion of it that they owned outright. Parks and Wildlife already owned some.

This tract is about 357 acres that belongs to the GLO. We negotiated a deal with them, and the tract as been identified as high priority chicken habitat. Y'all have all seen these maps. It's in Cochran County, and it's the highest priority habitat that's left in the area. The subject tract is shown in red. It is not connected to the actual Yoakum Dunes Wildlife Management Area; but there again, as scarce as the high priority habitat is, it is worth acquiring. It is located adjacent to the Tommy Lewis tract, which y'all have heard about before, which will -- should be coming into our inventory sometime in the near future, also.

Having said that, staff recommends that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorizes the Executive Director to take all necessary steps to acquire approximately 357.5 acres of land as addition to Yoakum Dunes Preserve. And I'll answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any questions? Commissioner Duggins.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Corky, what about the -- I assume we're not acquiring any minerals, but what are our risks that this tract gets developed?

MR. KUHLMANN: I think the tract -- the risk that it gets developed for minerals is slim and none. There is -- on the adjacent Tommy Lewis tract, there is a dry hole. I think there's two dry holes on that tract. So, you know, you really hate to say it in this day and time if it was there, they would have been exploring for it; but I doubt seriously -- and for anybody to come in and try to develop a pad site on that high habitat -- that important habitat would be pretty difficult to mitigate for. They would have to mitigate for it. So I think that -- we did get the General Land Office -- generally, they reserve everything; but we did get them to waive reserving wind rights on this tract. So that was a -- you know, that's -- that was a huge success for the chicken habitat for them to waive that and that was the most critical thing for them to not reserve and they didn't reserve wind rights.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But if a lessee does want -- does lease the minerals, do we have any right to require a surface use agreement?

MR. KUHLMANN: You know, as far as right, the Wildlife Division has been very good at keeping people off and making it so difficult for them to get on the sites, usually they go away; but as far as somebody --

MS. BRIGHT: For the record, I'm Ann Bright, General Counsel. There is some stuff in the Parks and Wildlife Code about the Commission's authority over minerals and we have been very successful at requiring a surface use agreement any time anybody wants to come onto our property. We base that in large part on the accommodation doctrine, which says that they have to accommodate the surface use. In addition, as Corky mentioned, the other issue that anybody that wants to do any kind of oil and gas exploration is going to have to deal with is the fact that now the Lesser Prairie Chicken is listed on the threatened species list.

MR. SMITH: And if could just add something to that, Commissioner. Under the Range wide Plan that was developed by the five states to protect the Prairie Chickens, there's some very important measures put in place that would affect lands enrolled under that plan that would address surface use protections and the plan really was designed to encourage oil and gas development in less sensitive habitats and so were someone to go forward with drilling a well in an area in this case, the highest priority habitat for Lesser Prairie Chicken, there's a lot of disincentives to do so. And so we think that those minerals could be accessed through off-site drilling or horizontal drilling, but with as little bit of surface disturbance as possible.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Well, I just -- I would have some concern if we didn't have any ability to protect the surface and -- surface in the event of an oil and gas exploration lease.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, I don't think we can say that we can completely eliminate that risk; but I think there's a lot that we have, you know, short of having the executive rights and the minerals that will help attenuate that risk considerably.


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Okay. Any more questions? Is there a motion for approval?


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Commissioner Jones. Second by Commission Scott. All in favor say aye?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Opposed? Hearing none, motion carries.

MR. KUHLMANN: Thank you.


Action Item No. 11: Acceptance of Conservation Easement, Nueces County, Approximately 100 Acres at Mustang Island State Park. And who's going to give this presentation today?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good morning. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. We're pretty excited about this item. This is a conservation easement, but it is adjacent to Mustang Island State Park, right across the bay from downtown Corpus Christi.

The Mustang Island State Park was acquired or we started acquiring it in 1976 with an initial acquisition of over 3500 acres. In 2000, the Nature Conservancy acquired the Francine Cohn Preserve, which is some critical wetland habitat. It's in a bird nesting island about a mile from the state park and literally, literally from the day of that acquisition, the conservation community has been trying to figure out how to acquire all of the undeveloped lands between the preserve and the state park. There was -- you can see in this photograph what that looked like until recently.

There is an error in your printed Commission agenda item. The polluters whose fines we've taken advantage of here are actually Encycle and ASARCO, but for decades they discharged heavy metals and other pollutants into the bay system. And in 2005, suit was filed and that was settled through the court system and that settlement -- the NRDA trustees, the Texas NRDA trustees used those funds to accomplish some conservation goals around the bay, including some oyster habitat and acquisition of the two tracts that were necessary to connect the preserve and the state park.

A couple meetings ago -- in fact, last year -- y'all authorized us to acquire a 690-acre tract and the other tract being a little over 100 acres and being adjacent to the Francine Cohn Preserve, it was determined that for operational and management reasons, it made sense for the Nature Conservancy to own that and to add it to the preserve. The trustees want to be absolutely sure that those properties are managed in perpetuity for the purposes for which they were acquired to offset those impacts to the bay and so they are requiring that the -- in order for the Nature Conservancy to own the surface of that property, that Texas Parks and Wildlife hold a conservation easement. We had a brief discussion yesterday about conservation easements, and this is one of those cases where our holding that conservation easement makes a lot of sense for operational reasons and management reasons. It's in our interest to make sure that property is managed consistent with the management of the state park; and it's in the Nature Conservancy's interest for us to be partnering on monitoring that property, having staff on the ground for enforcement, and so forth.

So it really is a win-win situation where we're taking advantage of each others eyes and ears on the ground and expertise to manage those properties in the best interest of conservation and public recreation. So, again, we're really excited to be able to complete this corridor after 15 years of effort. The conservation easement, it was fairly standard. Conservation easement would prohibit any subdivision, would limit the construction of infrastructure. Although, it would provide for infrastructure that would be associated with low impact recreation trails, perhaps a parking area, that kind of De minimis infrastructure to accommodate the public. And, again, the chief thing would be that it would be designed to protect the coastal ecosystem values of that tract.

We've received no comments on this proposed action. And with that, the staff recommends that the Commission authorize the Executive Director to take all necessary steps to accept the donation of a conservation easement on approximately 100 acres adjacent to Mustang Island State Park. And I'd be happy to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any questions for Ted? Is there a motion for approval? Commissioner Martin -- Morian. Commissioner Martin, second. All in favor say aye?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Opposed? Hearing none, motion carries.

Sorry, Reed. I was looking one way. Action Item No. 12: Pipeline Easement Expansion, Armstrong County, Approximately .24 acres at Palo Duro Canyon State Park.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good morning. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. You saw this item back in March. It's a minor item, but it's significant for the protection of two pipelines that cross the Palo Duro Canyon. Those pipelines were in the ground when we acquired that property. They are steel pipelines. The addition of cathodic protection system will increase the safety and longevity of those pipelines.

Rather than require a fee payment for that, we've asked the pipeline owners to allow us to combine these all into a new easement that would require that any future disturbance, any future work done in the park, would require them to then come in and get a surface use agreement under the terms and conditions of our standard surface use agreements for groundbreaking activities in state parks. They've agreed to that. In fact, they agreed to that when they assigned the license, which has allowed them to go in and to get started to work on this cathodic protection system.

And so today what we're asking is that you authorize us to proceed to turn that license now into an easement that would include those two pipelines. We've received no comment on this item. And we recommend that the Commission adopt the resolution that you have as Exhibit A. I'd be happy to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any questions for Ted?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Ted, your bullet -- fourth bullet point said it would require Mid-America to seek an SUA should there -- it conduct any future surface activities. But is the easement assignable? I mean, all -- I ask that because I think that covenant or that restriction should apply to the holder of the easement if it's assignable. If it's no assignable, I don't guess it matters.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: We're going -- we're going to set the new easement up so that it runs with the pipelines. If the pipeline -- if the original easements are assign -- and it won't be an original easement. This will be a new -- brand new easement with Texas Parks and Wildlife. And so if it is assigned, it will include all of those covenants, including the requirement for surface use agreement.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, that's what I'm saying. It should bind the holder of the easement, not just this one, the current holder.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: That's correct, yes, sir.


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any more discussion? Is there a motion for approval? Commissioner Scott.


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Second Commissioner Jones. All in favor say aye?

(Chorus of ayes)

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

I believe, Commissioner De Hoyos, you would like to make a statement?

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: Yes, sir. Mr. Chairman, Commissioners -- Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, staff members, I would like to inform you that I received a call from Governor Abbott's office last week informing me that my name will be withdrawn from the confirmation process. As you all know when this happens, my term is set to expire at the end of the month. So, therefore, I have decided to submit a resignation to Governor Abbott for this Board and I want to thank everybody here present today for all the help and all that you have taught me over the last two or so years now.

I can't believe, time flies when you're having fun. I particularly want to thank Governor Perry for giving me the opportunity to serve on this Board. What an incredible two years, you know. My resignation will be effective May 29. I was going to do it today, but I was afraid Carter would send me walking back home since I don't have a car. And so I decided to do it the 29th so I can catch a ride back home since I flew into Austin today.

But again, I want to thank everybody for the incredible support for the last two years. You know, I took my responsibility very seriously. I never miss a day. Never miss a meeting, and I'm proud of that. I forgot what else I was going to say. Great two years. You know, started by my house flooding and the game wardens coming to rescue me. I don't know where Joe is; but thank you for that, Joe. Then I got married. That was interesting. I got to hunt the Apache Ranch thanks to Dan Allen's generosity.

You may want to delete that. If my wife knows that I put hunting and her on the same equation, I may have to add divorce to this list. Anyhow, great time. Just want to thank everybody. Great learning experience. Looking forward to continue working with all of you. You're great friends, and I'll see you soon. I'll be around.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Roberto, thanks for your service. Any other Commissioners like to make a statement?

COMMISSIONER JONES: Well, I would just like to say personally, I'm going to miss having another Commissioner to share interesting hunting outings with. Now there will only be one lone suspect, poaching suspect.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: You'll be guilty. You'll be guilty.

COMMISSIONER JONES: So but in all seriousness, Roberto, really enjoyed the time spent on the Board and going to miss you.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Again, Roberto, thanks for your service.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: Thank you, Chairman.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I'll just add to that, Roberto, it's been a pleasure these last two years. Your enthusiasm has an infectious, and it's a pleasure to serve with you.


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I join Bill and Reed, Roberto, in telling you it has been a great pleasure to work with you and we'll miss your spirit and your contributions; but we know you'll -- as much as you have to offer, that you'll serve us soon in another capacity; but it has been a good ride, and we appreciate all of your contributions.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: And I will reiterate what everybody else said. You know, we all -- you have to enjoy this high paying job that we all have and you have to enjoy it and love it to spend the time and effort, which you have done; and it's been a great pleasure working with you.

COMMISSIONER MARTIN: And I as well, Roberto. We had a few adventures along the path here pre this Commission, but I know that we all continue moving forward in the same friendship and adventures.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: May I say one more thing, Chairman?


COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: One thing that I never got used to it and, you know, I keep asking some of the members of Law Enforcement, states or game wardens to call me by my first name, you know. They never did, of course. Probably afraid of Carter firing them or something. But I'm not going to miss that part. You know, I really never enjoyed it. Especially with, you know, some of them are, you know, old enough to be my father. Hunter comes to mind. Where is he? Is he around?

But anyhow, I appreciate you always carrying this and respect, again, I didn't think I deserved it; but I'm not going to miss that part. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: You know, I want to close by saying in August, this Commission is probably going to look a lot different and it's -- whether I'm here or not, it's sure been a pleasure to be a part of this. It's really been important, so. Closed.

(Commission Meeting adjourns)

In official recognition of the adoption of this resolution in a lawfully called public meeting of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, we hereby affix our signatures this _____ day of ______________, 2015.

Dan Allen Hughes, Jr., Chairman

Ralph H. Duggins, Vice-Chairman

T. Dan Friedkin, Member, Chairman-Emeritus

Roberto De Hoyos, Member

Bill Jones, Member

James H. Lee, Member

Margaret Martin, Member

S. Reed Morian, Member

Dick Scott, Member




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

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

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my

hand and seal this Turn in date _____ day of ________________, ________.

Paige S. Watts, CSR, RPR
CSR No.: 8311
Expiration: December 31, 2016
DepoTexas - Firm Reg. No.: 17
Sunbelt Reporting - Firm Reg. No.: 87
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