TPW Commission

Work Session, May 20, 2015


TPW Commission Meetings

May 20, 2015



COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Good morning, everyone. This meeting is called to order May 20th, 2015, at 9:05 a.m. Before proceeding with any business, I believe Mr. Smith has a statement to make.

(Commissioner Jones enters)

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Welcome, Commissioner. Now, we've got quorum. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: I told you ten minutes.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Well, I just want to make sure I'm still loved.

MR. SMITH: Why are they picking on you?


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

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Next order of business: Approval of the meeting from the previous Work Session held March 25th, 2015, which have been distributed. Is there a motion?




COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Commissioner De Hoyos, second. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Opposed? Hearing none, motion carries.

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

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Carter Smith. I will confess, awfully nice to be looking around a table of all of you as opposed to dais of Legislatures. So the morning is off to a good start, I'll say.

Probably the most important thing I'm going to say this morning and the only thing you're probably going to pay attention and I've been carrying around my drought monitor map for the last week because for the first time since 2010 on the U.S. Drought Monitor Index, we no longer have any part of the state in the most severe drought conditions. So let it rain. Pretty nice, to say the least.

You can see a group of colleagues here in -- dressed in khaki behind us. They're with the Texas A&M Forest Service, and I hope all of you know just what an important partner the A&M Forest Service is. They're experts in emergency response, disaster relief, forest management, prescribed fire, invasive species control, education and outreach. I mean, they are a wonderful, wonderful partner to the Agency. Recently have opened up a number of their State forest lands to the Public Hunting Program. We're excited about that partnership. Clay Bales, who oversees their Private Lands Programs in Central And west Texas, is with us today and he's brought in a bunch of their foresters that came on board -- I guess, what, a couple years ago started, Clay; is that right?

MR. BALES: That's right.

MR. SMITH: And it's -- and most of them are based in East Texas and the goal was to give them exposure to issues in and around Central Texas that their colleagues are having to deal with from oak wilt to urban sprawl, urban deer management. You know, whether you like Franklin's barbecue or Salt Lick barbecue the best. And they have added the Parks and Wildlife Department on the agenda this morning to have a chance to hear the Commission deliberate and talk about some issues and just a great opportunity for us to introduce our colleagues there at A&M Forest Service.

And, Clay, appreciate you and Tom arranging this and welcome to all the -- I say "new" foresters. Some of them I know have been on board for a couple years, but thank you for all you do.

(Round of applause)

COMMISSIONER JONES: Carter, I echo -- as being a former member of the Texas A&M Board of Regents, the Forest Service is integral part of what we do here in Texas and it is -- they are often overlooked and not really given their due until something bad happens and as you all know, prior to your map reading on the drought conditions, in the last several years -- and I mean "several" meaning ten or more years particularly -- we've had some pretty awful fires and some substantial issues that these guys have had to deal with. And I know for a fact that they don't just show up when the fire breaks out. They are proactive in what they do, trying to educate people about the hazards and prescribed fires and doing things to help prevent something bad from happening; and that means they're doing their job, also. So I just, again, want to echo what you said about them; but they do a lot more than what people know of and showing up when the fire breaks out.

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER JONES: And, of course, when the fire breaks out, they show up.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, yeah, well said. Well said. Some of our unsung heros in the state, no doubt.


MR. SMITH: And another one of their many areas of expertise is, you know, incident response and management. No body does it better than the Texas Forest Service in terms of helping to manage and oversee emergency response and just make sure lines of communication authority decision-making are open and clear and they just do a masterful job on that. And so, yeah, thank you for adding that, Commissioner. And so we're very, very fortunate to have them as a very close partner.

I want to share a few words with you this morning just related to Land and Water related things, chairman; and then I believe I'm next on a Legislative update, and so I'll go through this as quickly as I can. You know, first and foremost, Internal Affairs Team, you know, continues to function at a very high level. You know, they've got a very active caseload. We continue to provide opportunities for our investigators and lieutenants and captains, their assistant chiefs to go through professional development opportunities. We've got two right now at the FBI Command College. Assistant Commander John Gray and Captain Brad Chappell are there, another great leadership development opportunity there working through the FBI. A lot of that has come about because a relationship that Craig Hunter has developed over the years with the FBI.

Craig, I think we've got nine or ten officers at the Command -- okay.

COLONEL HUNTER: We've got nine. Two from State Parks and seven from Law Enforcement.

MR. SMITH: Great, great. Yeah, two from State Parks and seven from Law Enforcement at the FBI Command College right now. So we're excited about providing those professional development and networking opportunities to our officers and glad that from two from Internal Affairs are participating in that.

Next update is a quick update on where we stand with respect to implementing action items with the Land and Water Plan; and as you know, we track these quarterly. Dee is going to pass out -- or I think she already has --

MS. HALLIBURTON: Yes, those are on their desk.

MR. SMITH: -- a spreadsheet of our Land and Water measures, and where we stand. Just as a reminder, this covers through the end of the second quarter of the fiscal year. So this basically is through the end of February. So it's a little dated, and we'll have this updated obviously in June to reflect the end of May. For all practical purposes, again, 20 of these measures were either on target or ahead.

There are nine measures, however, that are highlighted in kind of a tan or beige or peach color -- I'm not sure what that is -- that indicate that we were behind with respect to our second quarter metrics. We've had a chance to visit with all of the Divisions about individual measures that are under their auspices and where they stand and really for all practical purposes, you know, they expect us to catch up and still be able to meet our target end-of-the-year milestone or end-of-timeframe milestone for completing those measures.

There are a couple, as you read through them, that have to do with outdoor-related engagement -- you know, getting kids and families into the out of doors -- that are suffering because of weather-related issues. Obviously, a good problem to have when things get rained out. But that may affect our ability to meet a couple of those measures, again, related to outdoor-related engagement and education activities. I'll let y'all just take a second and look at those. If you've got any questions now, we can address them; or, obviously, we can talk about them during the Commission meeting offline. But I'll give you just a second to look at those.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Remind me what DIR stands for.

MR. SMITH: Department of Information Resources, yeah.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any questions for Carter? I think you can continue, Carter.

MR. SMITH: Okay. Great, thank you. And, again, as you look at it over the course of the next day or two and have any questions, don't hesitate to talk to me or, you know, appropriate Division Director if there's a specific measure and a group that you've got any questions about where we're at or why we're not further along or what some of the issues are; but we'll continue to keep you closely apprised, and we'll have an update on the third quarter sometime in June.


MR. SMITH: The next item that I want to talk about relates to the Federal duck stamp. Certainly as all of you know that if you're going to hunt waterfowl, you've got to have both a State migratory bird stamp and also a Federal duck stamp. The cost of a Federal duck stamp is set by Congress. U.S. Congress sets the price of the Federal duck stamp and they have not changed the cost of the Federal duck stamp since 1991 and so it's been fixed at $15.

The states that really serve as the agent for selling those Federal duck stamps to hunters, are allowed by law to collect appropriated administrative fees for overseeing the collection and disbursement of those funds and stamps. And so, you know, the cost to a Texas hunter has been $17 total. This year -- again, for the first time since 1991, with strong support from sportsmen's groups like Ducks Unlimited -- Congress authorized the escalation of the duck stamp fee to $25. So a $10 increase in that fee.

What congress also said is any funds resulting from that additional $10 fee could only be used by the Fish and Wildlife Service to purchase conservation easements on private lands for the benefits of waterfowl and wetlands. So in the past, those Federal duck stamp funds have been all used for the acquisition of land to add to the National Wildlife Refuge System; but now that extra $10 on top of it, at least the funds resulting from that, can only be used to buy conservation easements. So they're still going to be able to use part of that funding to acquire land to add to the Refuge System and the use of those funds and any acquisition of land in the state has to be authorized by the Governor and so that's a process that we participate actively in, but I wanted to let you know about that changes.

We're also looking, obviously, at some additional costs associated to the Department in terms of our administration and processing of that and it's likely we'll be coming back to the Commission in August to talk about our administrative fees for that. So I just kind of want to pre-stage that.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Carter, just to make it clear, this is -- this is a Federal raise to this duck stamp and state -- we're not -- we're keeping our duck stamp or migratory bird stamp the same price; is that correct?

MR. SMITH: That's correct.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: It's pretty -- this is out of our control.

MR. SMITH: That's correct.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Probably not a bad thing, though.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, absolutely. Again, you know, no changes since 1991. The duck stamp program has been incredibly popular by hunters. They want to see more wetlands and waterfowl habitat conserved and protected for the benefit of the resource and the outdoor heritage. So they're the ones really that pushed this in Congress. But, again, you're right. To be abundantly clear, no change being proposed in the State migratory game bird stamp. This is a Federal duck stamp only, as authorized by Congress.


MR. SMITH: Yep, yep. Next thing I want to do and just a chance to, again, recognize some of our colleagues for their extraordinary achievements. We don't get a chance to say thank you enough and Lord knows nobody deserves it more than Russell Fishbeck, our Deputy Director in State Parks. You know, he's the brains and brawn behind the State Park System. Brent's the beauty. But we're proud to see Russell get an award from his alma mater, the Leslie M. Reid Outstanding Alumni Award. Dr. Reid was really one of the pioneering professors in the Parks and Recreation and Tourism Department at A&M, really built that program up. It's got national prominence. Each year, they recognize an outstanding alumnus and we couldn't be more happy that it was Russell Fishbeck and so well-deserved, Russell, and proud to honor him in front of the Commission today and just let you know about that. Good stuff.

Along those lines, also wanted to highlight just some of the scientific contributions that our biologists around the state are making in terms of adding to the body of scientific literature; and recently some of our Wildlife biologists were recognized for their participation in various scientific papers and technical papers germane to wildlife management. Recently, the Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society awarded the best scientific paper to a collection of authors, including District Biologist in Jasper, Gary Calkins, for a paper they wrote on using a GIS-based landscape scale model to look at habitat suitability for the Louisiana black bear.

And so the Louisiana black bear, a subspecies of black bear, has gradually moved back into East Texas largely around the big river bottoms and bottomland habitats. Our biologists have wanted to get ahead of that to look at, again, what are those priority areas that the bears are likely to occupy. And Gary and a number of colleagues were honored for the best scientific paper and we're proud of it. Just as an aside, today in Louisiana there will be an announcement with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and Fish and Wildlife Service about the proposed delisting of the Louisiana black bear. So taking it off the endangered species list, and we see that as a very positive development in the work to recover that subspecies of bear. So our colleagues in Louisiana, in particular, have been working hard on that Texas; but, obviously, that has implications for us in Texas. So just as an aside, something to look forward to here in the near future.

In addition to a number of Wildlife biologists, Gary again; Jason Hardin, who all of you know for all of his great work on Eastern turkeys; and Jay Whiteside, a Wildlife biologist up in the Blackland Prairie area east of Dallas, the three of them and others from Texas A&M AgriLife were honored for their paper on Eastern wild turkeys biology and management as the best technical paper and so excited about seeing Jason and Jay and Gary honored by their peers again for that important scientific contribution. So kudos -- kudos to them.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Who did you say gave them that award?

MR. SMITH: The Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society.


MR. SMITH: And, yeah, professional society of wildlife biologists. So a great, great, great peer recognition for them around the state.

Last year with considerable fanfare, we launched the Outdoor Annual Mobile App. Obviously, part of our continued push to amplify our efforts using all kinds of digital and social media. Josh and his team tell me we've had about 80,000 downloads, I guess, of the Outdoor Annual. We've got a target of around 100,000 after the first year. We're about nine months into it, so I think that's going pretty well.

Obviously as fishing season really kicks back in earnest over the summer, we expect more downloads of that app. But the other big priority was to create a state park mobile app. and our Communications and State Parks Team working with IT, have been preparing for the launch of our State Park app. They've done just exceptional work. It will be launched like the Outdoor Annual. Sometime, you know, mid to latter part of this summer, we'll do it through android and the Apple stores and so we'll be, you know, kind of subject to their discretion as to when it actually comes out.

The team is just kind of currently working out the last few little issues with the app.; but it's fabulous. Great searchable app. You can look at all of the parks in the state. You can look at maps. It tells you about the amenities, the infrastructure, natural and cultural resources. You can download trail maps at each one of the parks. You don't have to have wi-fi to be able to use it. Very, very user friendly and also has a direct link to making a reservation. If you want to go stay in, you know, one of the cabin, say, at Buescher here just east of Austin, you can pull that up on your app. and then with a click of a button, it will connect you to our Call Center to make a reservation. So we're excited about bringing this online and look forward to announcing that to you later this summer.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I can't remember whether it was the -- which meeting it was; but recently we talked about -- I think we talked about a gentleman who had written a complaint about making reservations. How does this address his or her concern -- it may have been a couple -- but about making online reservations and being able to select the particular --

MR. SMITH: Campsite.


MR. SMITH: Yeah. This does not address that directly. You know, I think we talked about we're working on a pilot program at Lake Livingston, Brent, and maybe a couple other parks, experimenting with allowing campers to specifically reserve specific campsites and that's certainly something that we see growing in the future.

You know, this app. is really designed to provide convenience, just information right there on your smart phone about the parks, what's there, what's present. It doesn't get at that issue specifically, Commissioner. But, you know, we're looking at that through other ways and are going to continue to improve upon the opportunities for park users based on that kind of feedback. You know, one thing that we probably don't do as good a job of as we should and we'll work on that, I'll just tell from in my office, for every complaint -- constructive or otherwise -- we get on, you know, the State Park Reservation System, there's another 50 that are just singing the praises of the Park System.

In this case though, I think that's very constructive feedback and we've heard that from users that, you know, when you're going with a family and you'd like to be able to use campsites adjacent to one another. Having the ability reserve campsites is -- would be a welcome addition to the program. So we're very advertent to that and looking at it.

Brent, do you want to add anything to that? Please, yeah. Please, absolutely.

MR. LEISURE: Commissioners, Brent Leisure, Director of the State Parks Division. To address that, Commissioner Duggins, we have used the feedback that we've received from the public. 8 million users of parks, so get a lot of feedback from them and opportunities to improve and build those types of enhancements into the system, the requirements for the new system that we expect to come on board in January of 2017. This current contract ends in December of 2016 and so we'll be seeking a vender to develop the new Reservation System, the Business System that we use in Parks, incorporating those ideas and enhancements.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And there's no way to advance that schedule?

MR. LEISURE: No, there's not. I mean, we've talked to our vender about it and they have been working steadily to meet the requirements in the past contract and have recently done that. And as a matter of fact, they're no longer in a position to support the system beyond 2016. So all of our attention and efforts have now gone into the next version of the system, and they're not prepared to make any additional code enhancements or changes to the current program.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. And as you look at the design of the new system, will there -- are you looking at whether to charge a fee to reserve a particular spot or some cancellation charge if they don't show up, things like -- things of that nature?

MR. LEISURE: That is one potential model that's being explored right now and as we go through all the fee process and interview the vendors that respond, submit proposals, we work our way towards a contract negotiation, how we finance that system -- whether it's driven by user fees or a percentage of revenue that's generated through the system -- then we'll explore all opportunities and certainly come back and visit with you about that and gain your thoughts on how that system -- that contract could be structured.



MR. SMITH: Thank you, Brent.

Any other questions on that? Okay. We'll keep you posted on the launch. So we're very, very excited about it and kudos to the team that's been working on it -- Josh and Bill have just done a fabulous job.

You know, with spring break and the advent here of the Memorial Day weekend, it's really time for folks to be thinking about recreation on the water. That means a couple of things to us: Concern about the proliferation of aquatic invasive and exotic species, and also water safety. And so I want to talk about a couple of those.

Our Communications Team and our Inland Fisheries Team have been busy, once again, getting prepared for the launch of what has now become our annual Zebra Mussel Public and Boater Awareness and Education Campaign. The team has raised a little over $400,000 from 14 partners across the state that I'll highlight in just a minute to really remind again boaters the very, very simple thing and steps they can do to help preclude the spread of these harmful invasive exotic species and that's clean, drain, and dry your boat. It's real simple -- clean, drain, and dry your boat.

We launched the campaign with our partners at the Lower Colorado River Authority right there on Lake Austin, I guess, a week or so ago -- last week, Josh? Two weeks ago, okay. And, of course, right now we don't have Zebra mussels in the Highland lakes and the Colorado River, but we don't want them there. We do have them at Lake Belton. We do have them at Lake Waco and then five other lakes in North Texas. And so Zebra mussels are so easy to spread by boaters, and we just want to make sure that we're all doing our part. So we're excited about this multimedia campaign. Again, active use of digital and social media, public service announcements, bill topper -- or pup toppers, billboards, direct mailings, you name it. We're working to educate boaters about what they can do in the fight against the spread of this very, very harmful organism.

Just a list of some of the parters. As you can see, really all of the river authorities in the state -- LCRA, GBRA, Sabine River Authority, San Jacinto River Authority, Trinity River Authority, etcetera, and then also the Lady Bird Wildflower Center. We're excited about them being a partner this. So great help from the water managers around the state here.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: How are these fund -- what you call partners/funders selected?

MR. SMITH: We reached out to them just because they have a direct role in managing lakes and reservoirs and rivers around the state. They're -- you know, have long been a part of efforts to try to address invasive species issues, primarily plants. And, obviously, when we discovered Zebra mussels, all of those water managers became very, very concerned about the spread of that organism and so really through an effort that Ross and Inland Fisheries and our Communications Team have led, working largely through the Texas Water Conservation Association, have reached out to all of the water managers and river authorities around the state asking them to participate in it.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, I ask because I see Dallas and Grapevine and Houston on here and the, of course, Tarrant Regional Water District; but I don't see the City of Fort Worth, and I don't see the City of Austin. And I'm curious, were they asked to participate and declined?

MR. SMITH: You know, I can't speak to that. Ross or -- Ross do you -- or, guys, do you know the answer to that or if you do, you know, I --

MR. HAVENS: I don't know about Fort Worth and -- I don't know about the City of Fort Worth. I know the City of Austin, we've been working with them; but they have not joined as an official partner, and I don't have an answer for why they have not. But I can look it up, and I can get back to you with.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: It seems to me they ought to both be on there. At least those two and probably more involved. San Antonio should on here, but certainly Fort Worth.

MR. HAVENS: Well, we would definitely take them on as partners.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yeah. If there's anything I can do with Fort Worth, let me know. I think that --


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- they've been very active with the Tarrant Regional Water District. So I can't imagine they wouldn't -- the council wouldn't want to participate.

MR. HAVENS: Thank you very much.


MR. SMITH: Thanks, Josh.

Also, again, no more important time to be thinking and talking about water safety than right now prior to Memorial Day weekend. Across the country, it's Safe Boating Week. Also, Governor Abbott has declared this week Safe Boating Week in Texas; and, again, we want to encourage everybody to be safe and lawful, responsible and ethical out on their waters. And so we're excited about lakes and reservoirs filling up again in places, not all places; but a lot of places. And so we expect more folks to take advantage of that and get out on the water.

But there's some real simple, precautionary measures that everybody can do to make sure that folks come home safely from a day on the lake and encouraging everybody to take boater education, reminding everybody to wear or have a personal flotation device, to keep close watch on their children, and to remember to have a kill switch on the boat. And so these simple measures, along with making sure that everybody has learned how to swim is critically important to making sure that folks enjoy their water safely.

Our Communications Team, working with Law Enforcement, will be aggressively promoting Safe Boating Week. Y'all saw the videos last year that we prepared. "Never Happens," very powerful, very poignant. We will be replaying those again to help get the attention of our State's boaters and our Law Enforcement Team will be out en masse over Memorial Day weekend making sure that we have a strong and visible presence on the lakes and reservoirs. So appreciate all of your help in helping to get the word out about that.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Carter, remind me. Are boaters required to have life jackets on their person or simply in the boat?

MR. SMITH: In the both.

Craig do you want to elaborate on that? They're required to have them on the boat.

COLONEL HUNTER: Craig Hunter with Law Enforcement. They have to have them readily accessible for everybody on the boat and so they do not have to wear them unless you're underage, then you have to have them on when the boat is under way.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Under the age of?




COMMISSIONER JONES: So kids 13 and under have to have them on?

COLONEL HUNTER: When the boat's under way.

COMMISSIONER JONES: When the boat's under --

COLONEL HUNTER: If they're anchored up or they're docked, they do not have to have them on.

COMMISSIONER JONES: And so I suppose then our officers are particularly looking for kids in boats --


COMMISSIONER JONES: -- that don't have their life jackets on?



COLONEL HUNTER: Looking for BWIs, any kind of behavior that would lead to an accident or drowning or some sort of incident.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay. I read this week about a man drowned saving his kid -- not boating, but apparently the kid -- I can't visualize where they were; but apparently the kid was playing in, on, or around a dam which had increased water flow because of the --

COLONEL HUNTER: It was in downtown Round Rock, a four-year-old, and he jumped in and saved her and he got swept under the dam right at downtown Round Rock at one of the low-water crossings that's not low water right now.

COMMISSIONER JONES: So do we -- and I know we wouldn't typically have an officer at that location; but is that something that we would see -- or you visualize two people out playing in, you know, a heavy flowing stream, that we would say, "Hey, wait a minute. You know, get out of there," or --

COLONEL HUNTER: Absolute -- absolutely, yes, sir.


COLONEL HUNTER: And we work very closely with our local and county and state partners, and we are this weekend particularly.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay. Well, I mean, the reason I'm bringing that up is obviously that's a horrific accident that happened; but it doesn't look like the rain is going to stop for another 40 days.

COLONEL HUNTER: Yes, we believe that.

COMMISSIONER JONES: So we may have to adopt some program to use that wood in Bastrop to start building an ark; but with all the water flow, just heightened awareness, I guess, to everybody.

COLONEL HUNTER: Yes, sir. And I think you guys know this. The State Operation's Center has been activated for the last couple of weeks. They're still activated. We have personal 24/7 with all the agencies down there --


COLONEL HUNTER: -- in the bunker. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER JONES: If we do build an ark this time though, there are a couple species I would like to leave off.


COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: Fried chickens come to mind.

MR. SMITH: You know, on a serious note on that, I think one of the most difficult things that our officers and also our state park staff have to do is to recover somebody who's drowned; and that is a very, very difficult, difficult thing for them to endure. At the same time, they are able to provide some level of comfort and peace in terms of recovering the bodies; but we can only imagine how difficult that is for our folks that have to do that each and every day, both in Law Enforcement and State Parks.

Also, I just can't tell you how many folks end up getting saved by our game wardens and park staff out there. We had one recently in Dimmit County of an elderly man whose truck had been flooded and was able to get rescued literally right before he went under water. And next year when we have our Law Enforcement Division awards ceremony, I hope that all of you that can will take the time to come. We get to recognize officers all over the state for really extraordinary and heroic actions and a good number of those have to do with lifesaving efforts around the state and the stories are simply remarkable and so just a wonderful, wonderful bit of work that our folks do. So thank you for supporting them in that regard.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Well, I want to make sure -- I want to make sure I get a heads up on invite on that --

MR. SMITH: You bet. You bet.

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- because I want to -- I'd like to attend that.

MR. SMITH: Yep. So, Commissioner, one other thing -- and that's a great segue into something. One of the things that Michelle and Josh have done is put together an event calendar for the Commission that lays out all the events coming up. We ask each Division to identify those so that we can get those to you, you know, really once a month so that you see what's out there three months, six months, nine months. All of you have busy schedules; but, obviously, you know, your attendance means a great deal to all of us and staff and we're working on improving our process just so we can give you as much advanced notice of those kinds of events so that hopefully you can fit it in your schedule. So, yeah, thanks, Commissioner. Appreciate that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Isn't that Law Enforcement award's ceremony typically mid August?

MR. SMITH: It is in the summer. You know, we just had it last -- two weeks ago or three weeks ago, Craig. Yeah.

COLONEL HUNTER: It's normally been in August, Chairman; but we moved it until -- to April. It will be in April every year.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, is there a way to move it to a night before a Commission meeting?

COLONEL HUNTER: I'm sure we could work something out, yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I think you would get better -- find you get much better attendance from the Commission if we could have it like -- I think it's been the week before the August Commission meeting is the last --

MR. SMITH: I think that's when we've had it in the past, Craig. Yeah, yeah.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And it's tough to make both of those, but --


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- I think if we could try to fit it where it's -- excuse me -- during a Commission meeting, you might find we get -- because I would like to -- I'm like Bill. I would like to attend it, but there's just so many times you can make it to Austin.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, absolutely. Let us take a look at that and see if there might be a way for us to adjust that. Another thing that we've done, which as been very, very special, is inviting all the families of the wardens to come -- spouses, parents, grandparents, kids. And so it really has evolved into a family-related affair.

This will probably be the last time we'll be able to hold it here in this room because of the size, Craig. So we're going to need to find another venue for it. So it's always a great time for us to be thinking about, again, how we might change the date or whatever to make it to a schedule that's more conducive for y'all's participation and then, obviously, the families. It's very, very meaningful to them. So thank you for your interest in that and we'll continue to keep you apprised of all of those kinds of activities around the state.

Mr. Chairman, that concludes my presentation on the Land and Water related matters; and my next one has to do with Legislative updates. So --

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Hang on a second, Carter.

MR. SMITH: You bet.


Work Session Item No. 2: Legislative Update, Request Permission to Publish Rules Needed to Implement Legislation Passed During the 84th Texas Legislature, Carter Smith.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Again, for the record, my name is Carter Smith. And so I want to provide an overview for you with respect to where we stand with the Legislature, and so we'll kick it off and really talk about where we are on appropriations. You know, obviously, all of you are aware that we had an ambitious request to the Legislature to help, you know, address core needs in a variety of disciplines across the -- across the Agency. All of you where obviously aware, too, that both the House and the Senate have passed their own respective appropriation bills and the budget conferees from both chambers are busily hammering out the final details.

You know, as is depicted in this first slide with respect to kind of the base budget for Parks and Wildlife, the House had appropriated a little over $655 million a year over the biennium; the Senate 756.7 million. A big difference for that really, and we'll talk more about that in just a minute. The House has had proposed a fair amount of contingency funding to address Department needs contingent on the passage of certain Legislation. Also, the Senate came out strong with trying to address the priority need we have in deferred maintenance in capital repairs; and so, again, we can talk more about that. I'll also say that both chambers have worked very diligently to try to ensure that all of the sporting goods sales tax is appropriated for state and local parks, and that's been a priority topic of discussion this session.

More specifically, here are the seven very broad categorical items; and I don't have any detail on these and don't plan to go into detail. But as you will recall, seven broad categories that we asked for additional funding in from state parks operation to law enforcement to fish and wildlife. Agency modernization a big part of that. Obviously, capital construction repair and so forth, local park grants, Battleship repairs, and then a couple of tourism and recreation related priorities.

This table depicts our exceptional item ask. And, again, under each one of these categories were a lot of needs. It also shows what we proposed in the House and Senate budget, and so I'm not going to go through that line by line. I will point out that on both the Agency modernization line and the local park grant's line in the House where you see very little appropriated, the way the House chose to handle that was through some contingent riders -- contingency riders that would go into effect if certain legislation passes, and we'll talk about that in just a minute; but, again, conferees now working to see if they can reconcile the differences in the proposals here.

There were a number of other things that were added to the budget, some of which I think are particularly notable that we just wanted to highlight and make sure that y'all were aware of outside of the specific exceptional items that we requested. You know, one has to do with maximizing the full allocation of the sporting goods sales tax again, that 94 percent that we hope will soon become law that will be dedicated for state and local parks. You can see the Senate had added an additional 33.6 million there. Article 9 Schedule C increase, this addresses a relatively small compression issue between certain law enforcement pay grades and provides us with a half million dollars over the biennium to be able to address that.

The Fort Boggy Rider in the House of a half million dollars over the biennium, this is to help with the continued development of Fort Boggy State Park. This has been an underdeveloped park that sits right on Interstate 45 halfway between Houston and Dallas and provides a lot of opportunities for us to create more recreational opportunities along that corridor. It's a beautiful park, roughly 1500 acres, nice lake; and so this would help us with some other park development if that were to come to fruition.

A plate adjustment for the new rattlesnake and hummingbird related plates to help support our Wildlife Diversity Program. Those are amounts estimated to be received from the sale of those plates. The next one, new game wardens, 30 game wardens. I don't think it will be 30, but we certainly have made the case very strongly that we need more capacity in our Law Enforcement Team, not just on the border; but off the border as well. The Senate, under Senator Hinojosa's leadership, has proposed an additional $5.3 million that would allow us to add, we believe at that level, roughly another 19 new game wardens that would be focused in and around the border and, again, conducting all the normal and customary law enforcement activities that our game wardens do irrespective of where they're stationed.

I mentioned the contingency riders in the House. You see $47.7 million there. Those are contingent upon the passage and signature into law by Governor Abbott that would appropriate all the residual amounts of sporting goods sales tax. It would be appropriated to support state park needs, primarily our Local Park Grant Program. As you recall, we had asked for an additional $14 million there to bring that up to its historic full funding level; but also funding to address our capital construction and repair. So that $47.7 million was predicated on the passage of Senate Bill 3766, Mike; is that -- 3766 and 158. So, yeah, so both of which are headed to the Governor for signature.

And then the last one, general revenue dedicated appropriations matter relating to Rider 27. In the Senate, they had recommended that if we realize more revenue above and beyond the Comptroller's biennial revenue estimate, that we would have to restrict the use of that revenue for two of our high priorities. One, invasive species related control or management on the Fund 9 side; and then on the state parks side, capital construction and repair and deferred maintenance. So that extra $9 million of appropriation authority would be contingent upon us realizing it; and for us to be able to access it, it would have to be restricted for those two uses. So that was proposed in the Senate. So those are some other items of import to the budget that are being considered by the House and Senate.

Obviously, as the conferees have been busily deliberating all the various appropriations related things, including ours, there were a number of priorities that we had identified with the Commission that we hoped to see addressed in some part, all or in part by the conferees. You know, first among them, the full allocation of the sporting goods sales tax. You know, obviously, Parks and Wildlife has been eligible to get 94 percent of that. This year, that generates about $135 million a year. It's growing at about a 3.8 percent clip a year. 94 percent of that would be about $127 million that would be available for state and local parks, and certainly our hope is to see all of that allocated. Also, since 2007, I know -- yes, please.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Are they allocating -- does this bill allocate the full flow of the 97 percent, or are they putting a cap on it?

MR. SMITH: No. The -- and we haven't started really talking about those bills. This is just the appropriation deliberation about really appropriating that amount. The way -- you know, going back to HB 12, which was passed in 2007, subject to appropriation -- and that was always the key. That was the limiter. Subject to appropriation, 6 percent of the sporting goods sales tax could be appropriated to the Historical Commission; and 94 percent could be appropriated to the Parks and Wildlife Department for use for state and local parks. We've never seen a full allocation of that since 1993 when the sporting goods sales tax was put into place to help fund state parks and really looking back I guess to 2000, I'm not sure we've ever seen more than about 50 percent of that funding and so trying to see all of that appropriated to help meet the important needs for state and local parks is a need not only in the next biennium, but obviously biennia to come and HB 158, which we'll talk about in just a minute, would help us achieve that.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: But you used the term "full allocation." Is it really kind of a full appropriation?

MR. SMITH: Yes. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I wanted to make sure I'm -- okay.

MR. SMITH: The second bullet here relates to a rider that has stipulated that each year since 2007, that we transfer $11 million a year that's been appropriated for state parks to the General Land Office for coastal erosion work. The funding strength of that has been the sporting goods portion of the sales tax. The Chairman and I have had a lot of conversations with the General Land Office and the Legislature about this matter, and I think we all agree this is a very important program carried out by the General Land Office; but we think it makes a whole lot more sense for the General Land Office to have its own revenue stream outside the sporting goods sales tax and for those funds to be appropriated directly to the General Land Office as opposed to being appropriated through Parks and Wildlife and depicted as for state parks when really they're going for another important use, and that's coastal erosion. But that really has nothing to do with state parks. So we're hopeful that that will be resolved this session as well going forward, and we appreciate the Chairman's work and Commissioner Bush's and the Legislature on those discussions.

Obviously, capital construction and repair, we know what a priority that is. I don't need to talk to you about just what a huge list of needs that we have across the state. There's been a lot of discussion during the Legislative session. I want to compliment Jessica for her hard work and leadership, in particular, on -- in working with the Legislature to make sure they really understand the extent and scale of the repair needs that we have across the system; but also the consequences of not addressing them. And I think for the first time really we've had really good luck in engaging the Legislature and helping them understand the criticality of that need and I want to compliment Jessica for her leadership and thank her and her team for the work there.

Sport fish apportionment match shortfall, this is looking at being able to ensure that we're able to maximize our access of Dingell-Johnson funds. As you recall, that's the essentially Inland Coastal Fisheries equivalent of Pittman-Robertson, the federal excise taxes that are paid on boat motor -- purchase of boat motors and fishing related equipment. And when the budgets came out in both the House and Senate, we didn't have enough state funding to be able to access all of that federal match; and that's very important to us as a funding source for running our hatcheries and our Inland and Coastal Programs across the state that do such an extraordinary job taking care of our fisheries and aquatic resources. So this has been a big issue for us in conference.

Law Enforcement funding, both on and off the border, is a huge priority for us. And while we expect to see some funding likely to help support all of our important border and border-related work, we've also tried to be abundantly clear that we've got huge needs in the 240 counties that are not on the border and making sure that we have adequate operational funding and funding to replace aging and antiquated boats and trailers and vehicles and also to provide more operational flexibility for our wardens as they are called upon to do more and more and more and more, we have got to see the funding stream increase accordingly and we also have to see that funding diversify from hunting and fishing licenses to general revenue. So that's been a big priority for us.

Last, but not least, there's a budget rider in both the House and Senate proposed budget bills that would require any State agency that realizes a million dollars or more from any of the Deepwater Horizon sources funding through the Restore Act through the Natural Resource Damage Assessment Settlement process or the criminal settlement that's overseen by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, any agency that would receive a million dollars or more for a project would have to receive approval from a Legislative Budget Board before it could be -- be allowed to expend those dollars and that creates some very significant complications for all three of those funding streams and so there's been a lot of discussion on that matter as of late.

I'll keep going and talk about some of the priority legislation and where that stands. We just could not be more pleased, Chairman and Commissioners, to see that the House on a vote of 138 to 1 and the Senate on a vote of 29 to 1 passed HB 158 by Representative Lyle Larson and Senator Estes that ensures that the sporting goods sales tax will be dedicated for the use of state and local parks in future legislatures. And, obviously, that is a herculean accomplishment and a lot of support by the Legislature. We want to acknowledge both the Speaker and Lieutenant Governor, Chairman, for their strong support and leadership and also for your leadership and the Commission and our partners George Bristol and Clyde, great work, Harold Stone, many that made this come to pass.

I want to also give a shout out to Mike Jensen because when we started this process to try to look at securing that funding, we had really contemplated a constitutional amendment. Mike has been very focused on how we address potential diversions of that sporting goods sales tax, and it was really his idea for this kind of language in a bill that the Legislature choose -- ultimately chose to proceed with. And so been a great team effort, Chairman; and we're awfully excited about where this stands.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Well, getting the sporting goods sales tax dedicated to state parks has been a priority of the Commission since I've been on it and really since 1993 when the State -- when the sales tax was passed, but not -- it's not dedicated to state parks and we think it's extremely important to the park -- the future of our parks and couldn't be more pleased with the team effort that it took from former Commissioners, current Commissioners, and the whole Parks and Wildlife Department staff to have this passed and it's going to be a game changer for our parks going into the future.

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: It's the right thing to do and that's what both the Speaker and the Lieutenant Governor told me several times and it's the right thing for Texas. So thank everybody.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, yeah. Good stuff for sure, Chairman, no doubt. And, again, kudos to everybody that worked on it. A lot of folks have really pulled that sled and thanks to all of you for your support on that front and, again, special thanks to Harold and his work there at the Legislature. He's been very active on this, Chairman, as you know.

Next bill, SB 1366 also kind of relates to this, by Senator Kolkhorst. Going back to HB 12 when that was passed, what it put in place was if all the sporting goods sales tax were allotted to the Department, it was required to be allocated according to a certain formula for state park operations, capital repairs, large municipality grants, and then small and midsize community related grants. And what the Legislature realized is that really there wasn't any kind formula that, you know, looking ahead that really could predict what the needs would be across those various sources of needs in state and local parks.

And so this was a bill that Senator Kolkhorst passed that essentially eliminated those formulas with the passage of 158 calling for the dedication of the sporting goods sales tax. 1366 then allows for the Legislature to have the appropriate discretion about where they put those funds, so how much goes to support state park operation, how much goes to support capital construction and repairs, how much goes to support large municipality local grants, how much goes to support small and medium size communities and their local park needs. So it gives the Legislature the appropriate discretion and that was a big, important part of this effort and want to acknowledge that as well and it, too, is headed to the Governor for his consideration.

Senate Bill 381 by Senator Uresti, another priority that we have been working on now for the last couple of sessions. This would, again, extend the same level of liability coverage to volunteers while operating a motor vehicle on a state park, a hatchery site, or a wildlife management area and would give them the same liability protection as one of our employees. And this has passed both chambers, and is also headed to the Governor. So an important priority for us. Y'all know how important our volunteers are in managing our sites across the state.

Next couple of bills that I'll mention, Senate Bill 1132 by Senator Perry and then also Representative Murr in the House. This has to do with strengthening our intellectual property related considerations. This came about, obviously, as we have been working to develop the toxicant to help control feral hogs at the Kerr Wildlife Management Area and, again, this would just help ensure that we're able to strengthen our authority as products might be ultimately commercialized and brought to market. It's passed the Senate. It's gotten out of House Culture, Recreation, and Tourism and it sits on local calendar or general, Ann?

MS. BRIGHT: Local.

MR. SMITH: Local calendars and so hopefully will go to the full House eminently for a vote. Senate Joint Resolution 22 by Senator Creighton and Representative Ashby in the House, this is the constitutional right to hunt and fish. That bill in its House form passed the House. Senate form passed the Senate. It's been passed over to the House. Voted out the Culture, Recreation, and Tourism Committee and it sits on the House calendars awaiting a vote; but we expect full passage of this and if signed into law by Governor Abbott, then would go to the voters in November to vote on this. So this is something obviously we want to keep a close eye on.

House Bill 1189 by Chairman Guillen, this was one of the few instances in which the oyster industry as a whole came together to support something; and this was to help create an oyster license buy-back program very much like our very successful shrimp and crab license buy-back program. And this bill was passed out of House Culture, Recreation, and Tourism. Brought to the full House floor and unfortunately, it was killed by a point of order by a member who brought that up who had another issue with the Chairman and nothing related to this bill. So unfortunately this bill as it currently stands, will not go forward; and so we'll continue to work with the oyster industry on that as we go forward because that is an important one for us for coastal fisheries.

Next couple of bills, HB 1466 by Chairman Bonnen in the House, you know, this really adds some important process related improvements that are very commonsensical. This now allows us, which we needed by law amazingly enough, to be able to send boat registration renewals by electronic means as opposed through the U.S. mail; and so this gives us the authority to do. It also requires for the first time for anybody that is selling, transferring, leasing, bequeathing, or taking a boat or motor out of the state, it requires them to notify Parks and Wildlife about that change in title and requires -- and implements penalties if they don't and this is a big issue. As y'all know, we spend a lot of time in our Administrative Resources Division working through title issues and at our Law Enforcement offices and so we're excited about these process changes and think that they will help make this a much more efficient process for boaters around the state.

House Bill 1584 by Representative Farias, this bill has passed both chambers and been sent to the Governor. It now provides the ability when somebody is purchasing a hunting and fishing license, they will be able to decide whether or not they want to make a voluntary donation to support veteran's assistance programs in the state. So when you go to a store to buy your hunting and fishing license, you'll now be asked if you want to make a voluntary contribution to support veteran's assistance funds and so --

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Is that veteran's assistance fund, is that -- is that a hunting and fishing item fund or it's just a general --

MR. SMITH: No. It would go to another agency that would administer that. We'd essentially just collect those funds and then transfer those. Again, on a purely voluntary basis. It would not be -- would not use hunting and fishing license revenue. It would be a philanthropic contribution somebody would elect to make at point of sale. It's similar with the vehicle registration now when you go to renew your vehicle registration, you know, you're asked if you want to make a voluntary contribution to a couple of things, one of which is state parks. It's similar to that in concept.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Don't we have a -- you may be getting to it -- a couple of bills that are out there or at least that are being kicked about where we're being asked to waive the licensing fee for veterans or their children or their -- maybe I'm getting --

MR. SMITH: Yes, yep.

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- it mixed up.

MR. SMITH: Nope. We do, and I'm going to talk about that in just a minute.


MR. SMITH: So, yeah, yeah. You want to jump there now?


MR. SMITH: Okay.

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- because it just seems to me we -- again, we may have to keep this in mind for the next go-around; but if we're collecting fees for veterans when they pay, when people apply for licenses, I know one of the issues was the impact that allowing free licensing for veterans or children of veterans or whatever, it's going to have an impact on us.

MR. SMITH: Yeah. Yeah, you're right. There's a number of bills out there; and I'll jump into those now, Commissioner, that have moved forward in the process that are, you know, under deliberation. One that has passed -- let's see where is that -- passed both chambers -- let's see. No, I'm sorry. Passed the House. Set on Senate intent is House Bill 721 by Representative Farias and this is one that our staff has worked very closely with him on. Right now, if you're a disabled resident veteran with a disability rating of 60 percent, you're entitled to a free hunting and fishing license.

This bill would change that percentage to 50 percent. So if you're a qualified resident disabled veteran with a documented 50 percent disability or more, you would be able to receive a free hunting and fishing license; and we've worked very closely with Representative Farias on that. There is a fiscal impact to that bill, but we've tried to work very closely with him on that to address it. If you've got any questions about that, Justin Halvorsen is here with us who's been our lead on addressing that. Do you want me to get Justin to come up?

COMMISSIONER JONES: If it's okay with the Chairman.


MR. SMITH: Yeah. Justin, come up.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: You know, Carter, we want to make clear that we absolutely support our veterans and what they've done for our country and what they continue to do for our country; but at the same time, we need to look at the fiscal impact of these bills and what it would do to the Department. So that's -- and I think that's where we're going; is that right, Commissioner?


MR. HALVORSEN: Justin Halvorsen, Revenue Director. And I guess to answer your specific question, the fiscal note that we had supplied to LBB was a couple hundred thousand dollar loss and basically -- so that's associated with 50 percent disabled -- 50 to 60 percent disabled vets that are currently paying full price for their hunting and fishing license that now would be getting it for free.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: This percentage number is dictated by whom? Who decides? Is that the federal government or --

MR. HALVORSEN: Yes, sir. It's actually determined by the V.A. So it's actually -- it's a disabled service connected disability. So in order --

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: So it's their official --

MR. HALVORSEN: Exactly. It's actually -- it's in increments of 10 percent and you actually get that letter from the V.A. that says your service connected disability is 10 percent, 20 percent, 30 percent, 40 percent, 50 percent; and then when you go to get your hunting and fishing license, you have to have that document in order to get that free license.

COMMISSIONER JONES: What's the revenue stream anticipated for the veteran's fee under HB 721, Farias' bill, to collect this fee to send to some other veteran's administration or veteran's --

MR. HALVORSEN: I think you mean 15 --

MR. SMITH: Different bill. Different bill.


MR. SMITH: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

COMMISSIONER JONES: I wrote down the wrong number.

MR. SMITH: It is --

MR. HALVORSEN: I think it's 1584.


MR. SMITH: 1584, yeah.


MR. SMITH: The voluntary donation. What's it going to cost us to collect that and send it over to --

MR. HALVORSEN: As far as the cost to the Agency, it's relatively minimal because it's just programming costs.


MR. HALVORSEN: If you're asking about the revenue estimate, I don't know how much --

COMMISSIONER JONES: I want to know what the revenue estimate is.

MR. HALVORSEN: Yeah, that's a really difficult estimate. We can't really make that estimate. In the hearings that we've had, they have talked about that the -- a similar setup that's on the motor vehicle registration, I believe last year it collected 700,000. That's the number that they're floating around; but, again, that's for registering a motor vehicle as opposed to a hunting and fishing license. So we actually -- since it didn't have a direct fiscal cost on us, we don't have -- we don't have any way to really make a good estimate; but, again, to give you a rough idea, the Veteran's Commission was throwing around $700,000. That's how much was collected last year on a voluntary donation when people made a donation for the motor vehicle.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: But to make it clear, the -- 1584 is a voluntary donation. It doesn't come to the Parks and Wildlife anyway. That's -- it really doesn't cost anything I don't think to implement that. It's just Walmart asking the person buying the --

MR. HALVORSEN: There's going to be -- that's correct. There's going to be some minor programming cost, but the Agency isn't going to be incurring any cost on that. That's correct.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: But the other one, it would cost us from loss of license sales about $200,000 annually; is that correct?

MR. HALVORSEN: That's our best estimate right now. That's correct.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Okay. I think that's -- any more questions, Bill, on that? Are you clear?

Maybe you should continue, Carter, and then at the end there may be some other questions.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Yeah. No, I don't have any more questions on that.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, that's correct. And I'm going to ask Justin to stay up with me just as we talk about a couple of these other bills on this page and I'll go in reverse order. HB 3431 by Representative Goldman, this bill, which passed the House, would waive essentially the fishing license fee for any resident 65 years or older. And the fiscal impact to the Agency if that were pass and there were no adjustments made, would be 2.9 million a year estimated in the first year and then that's going to grow with each passing year just because of the obvious demographic of our fishermen in the state. So looking at an initial $2.9 million a year diminution in funding would have a very significant impact on our Fisheries, Wildlife, and Law Enforcement operations across the state.

Our Vice-Chairman has spoken personally with Representative Goldman about this bill and obviously has made him very aware of what our concerns are from the fiscal impacts of this bill and obviously we're monitoring it closely.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: Where is the bill at this point?

MR. SMITH: In the Senate. My understanding, I don't think it's been referred to committee yet. Do you know? Or it has -- it has. Okay, I'm sorry.

MR. HALVORSEN: It's been referred to committee on the Senate side, but --

MR. SMITH: On answer, Agg., Water, or Rural Affairs?

MR. HALVORSEN: Agg., Rural Water --

MR. SMITH: Affairs, yeah. Okay, thanks. Don't think we've got a Senate sponsor yet, do we? Has anybody picked it up, Justin?

MR. HALVORSEN: I don't know.

MR. SMITH: Okay. I'll ask Harold, and I'll make sure the Commission is aware of that. Am I correct on the fiscal note on that, Justin?

MR. HALVORSEN: Yeah, 2.9. That's correct.

MR. SMITH: Okay.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Almost $3 million a year.

MR. SMITH: $3 million a year and growing with each succeeding year. House Bill 3057 by Representative Murr, this is an interesting one. It would create a new program under the auspices of A&M AgriLife and Parks and Wildlife to provide or create a pilot program to provide grants to nonprofits or local municipalities for the control of feral hogs and coyotes. The bill as it was originally authored, it looked to a statewide implementation of this, with a half-a-million-dollar-a-year original cost. That bill got modified in a committee substitute, was conceived and ultimately passed the House that restricts this program to Edwards County, Edwards County only in the state. So it would create a new program for Edwards County. There is a contingency rider in Article 11 on the House side that if this bill were then to be passed by both chambers, that there could be a required appropriation for this program of anywhere from zero up to a maximum of a million dollars over the biennium. So the exposure to the Department in terms of a fiscal impact could be as little as a -- you know, just sort of administrative costs associated with setting up a program with no funding, to having to reduce funding in Fund 9, again, an impact to Wildlife and Fisheries and Law Enforcement to come up with funding of up to potentially a million dollars for a grant program for Edwards County. So that's an interesting bill, and one that we've obviously had a lot of discussion on.

Justin, did I explain that correctly on the -- okay.

If no more questions on that, I'll highlight two others. Justin, I think you're good here if I get too far out of bounds, I'll call you back up. So thank you. Appreciate it.

Two other bills, HB 801 by Representative King relating to liability/sovereign immunity, waiver there of relating to prescribed burns by the Department. We had a lot of discussion at the last Commission meeting. I want to thank Commissioner Jones who is engaged very directly on that and working with the bill sponsors and Ann Bright and really following the direction from the Commission about doing everything possible to make sure that the limit of the waiver of sovereign immunity was as restricted as it could be. I think we all agreed that everybody understood the merits of the proposed bill and the concept and why it was being considered and etcetera, but the whole issue of waiving sovereign immunity obviously is a very significant one.

And an amendment has been added to the bill that would essentially limit the waiver of sovereign immunity to the amount that would be paid by an insurance company under a claim and so I think we see that as a very positive addition to the bill and I'll let Commissioner Jones or Ann elaborate on that if they want to expand on it or if you have any questions about it.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Just a side note on that, we actually made sure the Governor's Office weighed in on this because any time you talk about waiver of sovereign immunity, people's antennas go up, particularly in the legal arena, as you well know, Ralph. So I appreciate Ann and her diligence and, Carter, I tried to jump in front of that car to keep you from getting run over. About the only thing I was able to do was get you sideswiped.

MR. SMITH: I'll show you the scars, Commissioner; but no worries.

COMMISSIONER JONES: I think the injuries were minimal.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Well, Commissioner Jones, thank you for your leadership on behalf of the Commission and I think it sounds like we've got a good outcome here, so.

MR. SMITH: We did. We did. We did. Nominal damage. Nominal damage. So, yeah, thanks, Commissioner. It was a valiant effort. I want to give him credit.

Last bill here by Chairman Geren, House Bill 1925. This has now passed both the House and the Senate and if signed into law by Governor Abbott, this would transfer the Farm and Ranch Protection Program from the General Land Office to the Texas Parks and Wildlife and that would be a new program that we would have here that essentially would provide for the purchase of conservation easements and acquisition of development rights on qualified agricultural lands around the state and, obviously, we've got a lot of expertise with our Land Conservation Team, the Wildlife Division, Private Lands Advisory Committee, and have worked closely with the Texas Agricultural Land Trust and General Land Office and others on this and so assuming the Governor signs that into law, we'll be working with the Commission on the setting up of the Farm and Ranch Council, which would be the governing body for this entity. It would be chaired by the Chairman of the Parks and Wildlife Commission or his or her designee. So that's a program, obviously, we're going to want to talk more to the Commission about if that gets signed into law, so.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Now, those conservation easements wouldn't be held within the Department. They'd be held by one of our partner groups --

MR. SMITH: That's correct.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: -- is that correct?


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: If it does that, we -- I don't think we want to own conservation easements.

MR. SMITH: You know, we hold a number of conservation easements around the state. Not a whole lot, Chairman; but we hold some, you know, on properties around state parks or wildlife management areas where it makes sense. You know, again, it's adjacent to some other property that we have an interest in. You're right, we do not have the capacity to be engaged extensively in monitoring conservation easements, a bunch of them around the state; but there's some for programmatic reasons, geographic reasons that make sense that we hold, but those tend to be the exception.

So, yes, the State's Land Trusts -- of which there are 40 -- would primarily be the eligible partners which would hold these easements. Entities like the Texas Agricultural Land Trust or the Nature Conservancy or the Texas Land Conservancy or the Rice Industry Coalition for the Environment, those -- Katy Prairie Conservancy. Those would be the likely holders of those easements. So you're right.


MR. SMITH: You bet.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: This bill, as I remember at one point, there was some discussion about carving out a portion of the sporting goods sales tax to fund that; but that -- at the end, that didn't happen.

MR. SMITH: That's correct, yes. There is a rider in Article 11 in the -- at least the House side of the appropriation's bill that if adopted by both chambers, would propose to appropriate $30 million over the biennium to support this program. But with the passage of House Bill 158, Legislature would not be in the position to do that.

Last thing that I want to just bring up and this is a reminder every two years that we have to do -- and as you know, there's legislation that gets passed each session that requires the Commission to engage in specified rulemaking and because of the construction of that legislation, oftentimes those rules have to go into effect immediately in the new fiscal year. So after September 1st.

And so to prepare for that, we always ask the Commission for advanced permission to publish proposed rules relating to the implementation of legislation passed during the session so that then we're in a position to bring those proposed rules to the Commission for consideration in August for consideration and adoption so that we can meet the Legislatively required timetable. We've provided a list of some possible bills that may get passed that we would have to publish proposed rules on. I've provided this list here. Also, I believe Dee has passed out a handout that provides a little bit more detail on those; but this is pretty perfunctory.

And if any of you have questions about a specific bill, either I or Ann will do our best to address them. If not, I'd respectfully request your permission to publish rules in the Texas Register as necessary to implement legislation passed by the regular session of the 84th Texas Legislature.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any more questions for, Carter? Okay. Carter, thank you for your presentation. If no further questions, I'll authorize the staff to publish the proposed necessary -- proposals necessary to implement legislation enacted by the 84th Texas Legislature in the Texas Register for the required public comment period. Thank you.

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

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Work Session Item No. 3: Financial Overview, Mike Jensen.

MR. JENSEN: Good morning, Commissioners. I'm Mike Jensen, Division Director for Administrative Resources. I have a short briefing for you on the revenue streams for the Department through the end of April of this fiscal year and the budget adjustments through March 2015.

If you look at this first slide, this reflects the state park receipts through the end of April 30, 2015. As I mentioned in the last couple of Commission meetings, fiscal year '14 and '13 were very good years. '15 continues to be an even better year. Hopefully, we'll have a strong summer with all the rain events that we've had. Year-to-date revenues are up 5.5 percent or 1.43 million. You can see the largest gain is from entrance fees. That increase is 7.3 percent or 564,000.

Facility revenue is up 4 and a half percent. Concessions are up 4.8 percent, and park passes are up 5.3 percent. If you look at it from a month to month comparison, every single month -- with the exception of two -- have exceeded last year. The two that were a little low were March and January, but they weren't that low. Visitation is up by about 4.8 percent. That's paid visitation. Unpaid visitation is up by about 5.4 percent. So the total visit -- that variance for total visits is about 235,000 more visits this year than last year.

And comparing to fiscal year '13, we're up 6 and a half percent for revenue. We're 22 percent ahead of fiscal year '12 and about 20 percent ahead of fiscal year '11.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: That's excellent news. That's good.

MR. JENSEN: Very good news. The boat revenue comparison in the next slide, you'll see that total revenue is up 1.2 percent, 131,000. The first line on here is sales tax. It's up 6.6 percent. So we're up about 83,000. I would like to remind you that this function for the State collected so far this year, 26.91 million in sales tax for boat transactions; however, we're only allowed to keep 5 percent of that for our operations. So that's what that 1.3 million represents, the 5 percent that we retain for Parks and Wildlife. The other 95 percent goes to the General Revenue Fund for the State of Texas.

The second line, Titles are up 3.9 percent, an increase of about 84,000. Registrations are trailing about a half of percent. If we look at the bottom portion of this slide, the counts, you can see that the registrations cumulatively are down about 1 percent; but new registrations are up 3.3 percent. Transfers are up 1.24. Renewals are down 2.36 percent; but if we continue to have prolonged rain across the state, some of these folks with boats who haven't registered, if they've done the renewal, they may do the renewal. And titles are up 2.81 percent.

Total license revenue is up 2.36 percent to 1.97 million, nearly 2 million. If you look at the line, resident fishing is up 2 percent. If you combine resident and nonresident together, it's up about 1.6 percent. If you combine the resident and nonresident hunting, it's about .4 percent higher. It's about hanging even. We've noticed a trend that this year resident hunting licenses are down, but they've probably switched to the combination licenses. Combination licenses are up 3.7 percent, about 1.25 million.

And just for a perspective, we expect by year end typically the combination revenue license represent about 34 percent. Through April they represent 40.6 percent. What that means during the next third of the fiscal year, more and more anglers are going to be buying fishing licenses. So right now through April, resident fishing licenses represent 22 percent revenue. By the year end, we expect that to be about 32 percent.

If we look at license counts, we're about 2.2 percent ahead with respect -- we sold about 56,000 more licenses so far this year. So we're having a good year. Hopefully, this rain event will be good for not just state parks and boats; but also for license sales for fishing. The final slide we have for you reflects the budget adjustments that took place in February and March. We basically have five adjustment lines up here.

January 31st, the adjusted budget was 464.39 million and the first item we have on here is federal grants and UB and that's the largest item, 28.5 million. It comes from 13 primary sources. The top four comprise about 98 percent and that's wildlife restoration, about 16.85 million; sport fish restoration, 7.3 million; habitat incentive program, about 2.25 million; and cooperative endangered species, about 1.5 million.

The second line item on there is a 1.26 million adjustment for other appropriated receipts, contracts, and UB. It comes from 16 sources, and the top five comprise about 96 percent. It's basically Fund 9 appropriated receipts, Fund 9 donations, Fund 64 appropriated receipts, and Fund 64 donations. The third item we have is a 1.94 million adjustment. It's a Rider 31 UB. 7 and a half percent, 145,000 for capital nonconstruction UB. The other 92 and a half percent is operational UB at 1.8 million.

The fourth line item on there represents 113.9 thousand of construction UB. It's above the original estimate. We started the year with an estimate of 51.5 million. We did adjustments in November of 4.8 million and another adjustment in January of about 350,000. This is just a small adjustment of 113,000. So the UB for the year for construction is about 58 point -- 56.87 million. The final adjusted item on there is employee fringe benefits of 298,000. So the adjusted budget through the end of March is 496.55 million. I told you this briefing would be short. That's all I have for you. If you have any questions, I'll be happy to try and answer them.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any questions for Mike? Thank you.

Next up, Work Session Item No. 4: Internal Audit Update. Cindy Hancock, please make your presentation.

MS. HANCOCK: Well, if Mike's was short, mine's going to be shorter. I always sit in his chair and his legs are so long. I'm Cindy Hancock, Director of Internal Audit; and I'm here today to update you on the completion status of the fiscal year '14 and '15 internal audit plan and any ongoing or completed external audits.

For the fiscal year '14 internal audit plan and since my last update to the Commission in March, we have three projects remaining. We're in the process of coordinating responses for the federal grant and infrastructure audits and the data integrity audit is ongoing and well into the field stage. For the fiscal year '15 internal audit plan, we're in the planning phase for three projects: The dedicated funds, local state park grants, and field card audit. We're in the fieldwork stage for three projects, also: Audit of the state on housing charges, audit of the travel advance account, and the follow-up audit.

Since my update in March and on the following -- on the follow-up audit, management has implemented one internal audit recommendation with 16 in progress; and management has also implemented eight external audit recommendations with 14 in progress. Currently, we have several external audits being conducted or just completed. Ernst and Young was hired by the Texas Department of Emergency Management to perform a statewide compliance audit looking at the documentation process of Hurricane Ike expenditures. I expect that final report sometime in June or July. It is winding down.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has worked with our Land Conservation Team to reconcile records regarding land purchases with federal funds, and final sign-off and agreement to those records has been performed. The Department of Interior Civil Rights Division has conducted a desk review assessing our adherence to Federal civil rights laws. The Department has delivered responses -- response updates to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and our Agency is continuing to work on the required actions identified in audit.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Before you leave that, was there anything in there that you think we should know about? Any findings by the federal government?

MS. HANCOCK: There's quite a bit of work that needs to be performed, and I will be glad to detail those out and send them to you if you would like.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, I mean, we know that the audit occurred and you say there are a number of items you're working on to address findings and I just -- I guess I'm asking you to make the Commission aware of anything that you would consider significant or material with --

COMMISSIONER JONES: Ralph, I've been looking at those and most of them --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: If you've been watching it, that's all I need to know. That's fine.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Yeah, yeah. Most of them deal with a few ADA violations of small but insignificant ADA violations of restroom access and --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I just want to make sure somebody on this group knew what the bottom line was and if there was anything significant in there. If not, then I'm not worried about it.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Yeah, I've had by eyeballs on it since the inception, so.


MS. HANCOCK: Many of these will be ongoing and for many years.


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Appreciate your staying on top of it, Bill.


MS. HEIKKILA: Commissioners, also for the record, my name is Dawn Heikkila. I'm the Deputy Executive Director for Policy Administration. I did want to point out that in your audit status monitoring report, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service civil rights audit findings that we're tracking are also in that report. Those are highlighted in purple. So you can check the status of those through that report, as well.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Thank you, Dawn.

MS. HANCOCK: The Department of Interior Offer -- Office of Inspector General is conducting a federal grant audit. The federal auditors are conducting a very thorough review of our U.S. Fish and Wildlife Grants. An exit conference as been scheduled for the 22nd of July. So that one should be winding down, also. The Texas Workforce Commission Civil Rights Division completed an audit in late January of our recruitment, hiring, performance evaluation, disciplinary action, workplace accommodation, and equal employment opportunity training. We have not received a report yet. I have been in contact with that auditor. He is behind, but I will keep you updated on all these external audits as they conclude.

That concludes my presentation. If you have any questions, I'd be glad to answer them.

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

MS. HANCOCK: All right, thank you.

MR. SMITH: Chairman, I do just want to acknowledge Commissioner Jones. He has been incredibly responsive in terms of anything that Cindy or Dawn has sent out with respect to it and so just wanted to echo what was said and so that's helped us a lot. So thank you, Commissioner.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Thank you, Bill, for your leadership.

COMMISSIONER JONES: More than welcome. Happy to do it.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Because we have quite a long agenda today, we're going to -- there are going to be a few items we're going to -- if we don't need to hear them today, we heard them last meeting and we'll hear them again tomorrow, we may skip the presentation. And the first one of those is Action Item No. 5: 2015-2016 Statewide Recreational and Commercial Fishing Proclamation, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. Does anybody have a -- would anybody like to see this presentation?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: We've heard it before.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: We've heard it before, yes. If not, we'll place this item on Thursday's Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Work Session Item No. 6: Public Hunting Program, Establishment of Open Seasons on Public Hunting Lands and Approval of Public Hunting Activities on State Parks. Kelly, please make your presentation.

MR. EDMISTON: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, I am Kelly Edmiston, the Public Hunting Coordinator. I am here today and tomorrow pitching in for Justin Dreibelbis, who is not here. He had his -- he and his wife welcomed their first child yesterday. So he will not be here this week, so I'll be doing this today and tomorrow.

Each year in May, the Commission is asked to adopt the open season for public hunting and approve the state 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 September 1 through August 31 season. The Commission is also asked to approve specific 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 season for a total of 1,633 hunt positions of which 394 are youth positions. This year the Palo Pinto Mountains State Natural Area in Lake Colorado City are having hunts for the first time. Preliminary hunt proposals are developed last fall and earlier this year through a joint effort by field staff of the State Parks Division and the Wildlife Division. Public hunting staff maintain close communication throughout the process to confirm hunt recommendations and make needed adjustments.

Most recommended state park hunts address management needs to control deer numbers and remove exotic animals and feral hogs. However, some of the hunts are proposed to provide additional recreational opportunity for like dove and quail and waterfowl and whatnot.

Tomorrow, we will probably request approval of these two recommendations to establish the season and to approve state park hunts. My Commission -- my presentation is very short. Like I said, we'll be going over it again tomorrow. So this concludes it for today and I appreciate it and if you have any questions, I'll try to answer them for you.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any questions for Kelly?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Kelly I have a couple.

MR. EDMISTON: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: You started off and said that this involves public hunting on state parks. Does it also include WMA hunts?

MR. EDMISTON: Yes, yes.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay, I thought it did.

MR. EDMISTON: In other words, the whole process starts collectively and we basically solicit proposals for state parks and wildlife management areas at the same time.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. And then you mentioned that this year you're going to offer -- you're proposing to offer hunts at Palo Pinto.

MR. EDMISTON: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: How are we publishing the availability of those hunts to residents in the North Texas area for --

MR. EDMISTON: Palo Pinto will be having some youth deer hunts through our new online draw system. So when that new system comes online this summer, that hunt will be there along with all the other youth hunting offerings.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But are we doing anything to advise nonprofit groups? Like Sportsmen's Club is one group that comes to mind.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, Fort Worth Sportsmen's Club, uh-huh.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Something or Boy Scouts up in -- people and their potential users. I mean, I love that we do it online. Everybody knows I promote that as much as anybody, but I just am concerned that we're only a couple months away from this and --

MR. SMITH: I don't -- Kelly, let me jump in.


MR. SMITH: But I don't think we're going to have a problem with a lack of interest, is my guess. And I guess my only concern about promoting it too much is how many spots do we have open?

MR. EDMISTON: Because this is their first time, there is a limited number of spots coming in. I believe they're probably only going with maybe six to ten.

MR. SMITH: Yeah. So --

MR. EDMISTON: Hunt positions initially anyway.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: So it won't be an issue.

MR. SMITH: Yeah.


MR. SMITH: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any more questions for Kelly? Thanks, Kelly, for filling in for Justin and this Commission does encourage all the hunting opportunity we can biologically sustain on our state parks and our WMAs. So we appreciate Brent and your team, Kelly, for doing that.

MR. EDMISTON: I appreciate it.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: I'll place this item on Thursday's Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Work Session Item No. 7: Commercial Oyster Regulation, Recommendation Adoption of Proposed Changes. Do any Commissioners have any questions? This is an item that we will put on the Commission agenda for tomorrow for comment and action and act on it at that time.

Regarding Work Session Item No. 8: Commercial Shrimping Regulations, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. Does any Commissioner have any questions or want to see this presentation today? If not, we'll place this item on Thursday's Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Work Session Item No. 9: Managed Land Deer Permit, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Rules in the Texas Register. Clayton Wolf, Alan Cain, please make your presentation.

MR. WOLF: Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, for the record, I'm Clayton Wolf. I'm the Director of the Wildlife Division and with me is Alan Cain, our White-tailed Deer Program Leader. This morning we're going to copresent some proposed changes to our Managed Lands Deer Program.

You may recall that back in November of last year, Alan gave a briefing kind of previewing our thoughts on some proposed changes and soliciting some input from this Commission. We had the intent to come back in January with the permission to publish; but in that interim period between November and January, we had a few of our partners that came forward, had some -- voiced some concerns about some of the rules that we were proposing.

This program being as important as it is and as popular as it is, we chose to hit the pause button. I believe at the last Commission meeting, in fact, Executive Director Smith updated everyone about a small working group that we put together to help us refine some of the -- and address some of those last-minute concerns and so I will talk about that in a minute and really provide you the context and a little bit of history and then Alan will go into the details of the proposal.

So with that, I'll start first; and I think this slide right here really kind of depicts the issue that the Wildlife Division is dealing with. It shows the growth of the Managed Lands Deer Program from 1998 through 2014. An important point to note is that much of the decision making and our policies and the philosophies that we decided -- that we decided upon in administering this program were really developed around 2001 and 2002. And I would say that if we'd had nominal growth in the program, we might not be dealing with the issues we're dealing with today; but the simple fact of the matter is because it is such a popular program, we've had phenomenal growth. And so the mindset we had in 2001 and 2002 and our approach is simply -- are not sufficient to deal with the capacity issues that we have today and that was really the impetus for us initiating some proposed changes to the program.

As we talk about these proposed changes for several years actually, since 2009/2010, we have been working with partners to -- in contemplation of revamping the program. There's a couple of key components that we all knew that we wanted to preserve or resurrect. One of the primary components is that expanded hunting opportunity. MLD provides a significant amount of hunting opportunity. Texas has been able to maintain and increase actually hunters through time; and we believe that our deer hunting, which is a big part of hunting in Texas and our MLD Program have been integral to maintain that hunting opportunity and providing a longer season and more opportunities for landowners to get folks on their country to enjoy hunting.

The proposal -- the proposed -- the components that Alan will present to you will clearly show that we actually propose to expand that hunting opportunity even more. However, as far as opportunity for TPWD biologists to engage landowners and provide technical assistance, we have really -- we've failed a diminution of our effort there because we have focused our effort on addressing the capacity and getting our permits out the door and unfortunately, our technical guidance and that meaningful conversation with landowners has really been sacrificed.

I talked about the MLD working group. Just a little brief background, the MLD working group was composed of four members from our White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee and four members from our Private Lands Advisory Committee, really designed to be a nimble group that we could pull together quickly and refine these last couple of issues and we have been reporting back to the respective advisory committees, as well as some of our other stakeholder groups. One of the main things or recommendations from our MLD working group was that we maintain the Managed Lands Deer Program brand.

Alan will present to you the harvest option and conservation option, which are monikers that you heard back in November; but many of our partners because of the notoriety of our Managed Lands Deer Program moniker, we wanted to preserve that and make sure that folks didn't -- that folks realize that we were just enhancing our program and we weren't doing away with the popular program and so those -- the harvest option and conservation option that Alan will talk about will be under the umbrella of the Managed Lands Deer Program.

The working group also recommended that we disallow the harvest of fork-antlered bucks in the month of October in the harvest option. When Alan presented this in November, basically the -- well, essentially, harvest and conservation option allowed for the harvest of all bucks; and it was this one key component that really caused some our partners to come to us and voice their concern. But they also recognized that this was a part of the staff proposal because staff felt like this was probably the one component that would help us address our capacity issues. Fortunately, the working group and many of our partners recognized that. So they didn't just give the recommendation that we disallow the harvest of fork-antlered bucks in October, but they also provided some alternatives to help us address these capacity issues and that really was recommended in the form of charging a fee for MLD tags and participation.

Charging for MLD tags has been a notion that was talked about in the past and to be honest with you, one of the key concerns was whether the Agency would be able to get those funds appropriated and dedicated to the program. So at the second meeting of the MLDP working group as we were looking at the various funding models that we might use if this Commission chose to charge for tags, that the recommendation was further refined and we were -- it was suggested that we pursue dedicated funding and FTEs during the 2017 Legislative session. And, of course, if we got that, then on the heels of that, we could ask permission from this Commission to charge a fee and make sure that those resources go to the program, go to biologists on the ground to provide that technical assistance.

MR. SMITH: I just want to add on to what Clayton said. I mean, this is something we very much need. Helping to build capacity or additional capacity into this program is essential if we're going to make it a success. As you have seen the growth in this program since it was implemented in the 90s, you know, we've gone, Chairman, to affecting 2 or 3 percent of the Texas landscape now to almost 20 percent of the landscape through the work of our biologists and their landowner partners; but our number of biologists have stayed flat. And so a critical part of this really is addressing that capacity issue, and this is probably the only viable way that we see to try to find a revenue stream to help bring on additional capacity. So please know that's something we're going to want to work closely with all of you on in advance of the next session.

MR. WOLF: Thank you, Carter. And just finally as far as my part of the presentation, a little bit about implementation and timeline. We're here today because there are significant program -- significant programming that would need to take place; and, obviously, if we're going to negotiate a contract with someone, we need to understand what those rules are so we can include that in the contract. And so thus, the advance notice.

Our intent is that the proposed effective date be September 1 of 2016. However, since we had the delay to engage our partners, that window for negotiating a contract and really negotiating all the processes that it takes -- we have to work with DIR, with our IT Team, with purchasing and contracting to make sure we get a contract executed and then get all the code written, that window has shrunk. And so we definitely do not want to deliver a program prematurely. We want to make sure we're successful when we deliver this program.

So we have -- we just want to notify every one of the Commissioners that if we do not believe in the upcoming months that the contractor can deliver a suitable product basically about a year from now, then we would come back to this Commission with a -- and ask for a proposed change in that date, the contingency being September 1 of 2017. But we've got all hands on deck. George's team in IT is working with us. We have people in Purchasing working with us and in Contracting and so we're going to do all we can, but we definitely do not want to push launch unless we are confident that we've got a quality product out there that all our users can use.

And with that, I'll turn that over to Alan and let him present to you some of the components of the proposal.

MR. CAIN: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. I just wanted to -- as Clayton said, I'll go over the proposed changes to the MLD regulations. But before I do that, I just want to let y'all know, after we had a chance to work with MLD working group and come up with a final proposal and work out these differences on some of the concerns they had, I did have a chance to visit with the Private Lands Advisory Committee, present this proposed change to them. The Texas Wildlife Association and the Texas Deer Association, they've all seen this proposal and we've also e-mailed an update to what the final proposal will look like to the White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee. So those groups are aware of what we're proposing today, just to keep you in the loop.

Staff intend to consolidate the current MLD Programs. That would propose to consolidate these current programs, which include three levels of MLD for White-tail, Mule deer MLD, and the LAMPS Program. The proposed would consolidate those programs, as Clayton mentioned, under the Managed Lands Deer Program with the harvest and conservation option being the two options available.

The harvest option would be designed to be an automated system that would administer tag issuance, harvest recommendations, and general correspondence regarding wildlife and habitat management to the participants with minimal oversight from our Parks and Wildlife biologists in the field. This option would be attractive to those individual landowners that are seeking flexibility of the managed deer harvest beyond what the county regulations would allow, but not necessarily seeking the site specific assistance from our staff. This is applicable -- the harvest option is applicable only to White-tailed deer and the harvest recommendations are intended to be automated through our TWIMS System. So it wouldn't involve staff's time, except that our staff would set harvest rates for bucks and does based on our deer population data that our staff collect statewide at the different resource management unit levels, plus property information such as the amount and the specific types, the habitat, whether it's fenced, things like that would figure into the formula. And then that would automatically determine tag issuance rates for the property that might be enrolled in that system.

I will note that even if a person chooses the harvest option to receive tags, but they wanted assistance from the -- we can provide that. It's just that the automated process of administering MLD under the harvest option, it would be automated.

COMMISSIONER JONES: But the system would still generate a paper tag or the -- it may not be paper. It's plastic or whatever.

MR. CAIN: Yes.

COMMISSIONER JONES: It would still generate the tag that you could attach to --

MR. CAIN: Yes.

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- the harvested deer.

MR. CAIN: And I'll talk about that in a minute. One of the concepts we want to go to is a system where landowners print their own tags, but you'll essentially get a harvest recommendation and then tags associated with that. So wrong way, okay. Tag issuance, the way we envision this happening is that a potential applicant can get online and enter some basic information, a map of his property and then TWIMS would generate what the potential tag issuance is. So they could see what they possibly would receive before enrolling in the program, which gives them a little bit of heads up and then if they choose not to utilize the harvest option, they could potentially enroll in the conservation option or use the county regulations there.

Tag issuance under the harvest option could be for bucks only, could be for antlerless only, or could be for either sex. And if there is a harvest -- if the person enrolled chooses to receive buck harvest recommendations, that's going to include tag issuance and a recommendation that can be used on any buck and then will have another set of tags and recommendations that can be used only on bucks with one unbranched antler. And then for any sex of deer in which tags are not issued, the county regulations would apply. The harvest option does require the applicant to complete an annual application online in our TWIMS System and the application deadline would be September 1 of each year.

Under the harvest option, we would allow land -- multiple landowners to combine continuos tracks of land owned by different folks to create an aggregate acreage for program enrollment, which would ultimately allow them to meet tag issuance rates or requirements. Obviously, if you have a ten-acre place, you're probably not going to qualify for a tag for a doe or a buck; but you could combine your property with several of your neighbors to meet that minimum acreage requirement that we would be issuing tags at. And that's extremely important, especially if you look at eastern third of the state where land fragmentation rates are increasing and we're going to need to find a mechanism to address those issues and issue tags to landowners across that area.

Season dates for the proposed harvest option for antlerless and bucks with one unbranched antler would run from Saturday closest to September 30th to the last day in February and harvest would be by any legal means, including firearms. However, for any buck from the Saturday closest to September 30th or the 35 consecutive days, harvest would be by -- proposed to be legal archery equipment only and then from the first Saturday in November through the last day in February, staff propose -- would propose that with any legal means of harvest.

So moving on to conservation option. This option would be attractive to participants seeking site specific customized habitat and harvest recommendation and it would also utilize our staff to work one on one with these landowners or program participants to provide technical assistance and recommendations. The conservation option, staff would propose that it requires an approved wildlife management plan and that plan would include the two years of deer population data immediately preceding the year of application, the number of bucks and does harvested for the immediate two preceding years prior to application, and two Department approved habitat management practices must be conducted in each year prior to the -- in each of the two years prior to application, and it could be the same two practices in each of those years.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Alan, can I stop you there for a second? What happens if I buy a property and I had no control, no use of the property for the preceding period, I can't enroll in this for three years?

MR. CAIN: Yes. I mean, if you don't meet the requirements, you know, especially with the habitat practice or you didn't have population or survey data, you wouldn't be able to enroll until the third year. You'd have to collect that information.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Has there been any discussion about that? I mean, it seems likes that punitive to somebody that wants to come in and really get after habitat management practices and managing his herd; but because he didn't own the property, he can't. He's powerless to comply with this.

MR. WOLF: Yeah, so if I might, Commissioner. Yes, there has been some discussion. We've heard some feedback along those lines. You know, one of our -- one of our issues related to our capacity issue under the current philosophy is folks coming in and I guess with a -- I guess, if you will, with a promise to do something and to engage in those practices. It has been very good to get program enrollment, but it's created capacity issue and in many people's minds, there are individuals then that really don't engage at the level that they should. Yet, we don't want to put our staff in the position of being a policing and enforcing. We want them to be providing technical guidance.

And so for the normal person that doesn't just buy a ranch, we see this kind of as a testing grounds to make sure that that person really wants to engage at that level. I mean, because it does take a -- it does take a level of engagement that some folks don't realize, but it -- just to be honest, it doesn't address, you know, the individual that buys a new ranch.

Now, we have had instances where folks have purchased ranches and they were able to get the data, you know, from the former ranch manager or we have the data. You know, if they've been working with us and we have that data, then that data record is still there. And so in some of those cases, even though there was no history by the new landowner, we've got the information. I would say though in the rare instance where there's not any deer management record and there's not a history there like this, the program -- at least as we contemplate it -- we would have to work through things like the harvest option first, working with the landowner, getting those harvest tags out there or the county regs and then soon thereafter getting them -- you know, getting them in the conservation option as quickly as possible.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I just think there ought to be some mechanism for some exception for the circumstance where a first-time landowner wants to take advantage of our expertise, that maybe you don't give them the full amount that you might give somebody who's got the data for two years, previous two years; but I don't -- I think they should be able to get started as soon as possible and not have to wait for the third year.

MR. WOLF: So they -- yeah, so they would -- so our expertise would be available and, obviously, that's a critical part of the program and something that I spoke we could do a better job of marketing out there. But if we do have an individual that did specifically meet these requirements, what we would do is contemplate the -- whether the county regs would be the best option or the harvest option because you can enroll in the harvest option immediately without the --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I understand that. But, I mean, there's some large -- people that buy large ranches that have been in the family hands for a long time and the owner didn't want to do any of this and said I'm -- I'm not going to mention any names, but we all know ranchers who've just done -- they've just let nature take its course and then somebody comes in and really wants to make a difference in a positive way. I think they should be able to take advantage of the conservation option without having to have this data. I think we should look at that is what I'm saying.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Let me ask a question, Ralph. Is there any flexibility under the harvest option if they do ask our assistance, they are in the situation that Commission Duggins talks about, new ranch owner or lease owner -- good morning, Margaret.


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Can -- is there any flexibility in the harvest option? Could our biologists say, "Okay, we're going to give you more doe permits than what you would get under just signing up under the harvest option because we see that you need to harvest 100 or 50 or 20 or whatever the does are," has that been contemplated?

MR. WOLF: Not really. I mean, it's been talked about a little bit; but the fact of the matter is if we want to use the harvest option to help us with our capacity issues, it really needs to be automated. And so now, that being said, there has been a lot of discussion about how to make those harvest rates as liberal as possible; but still be appropriate for the tract of land, and so that's the reason for those couple of buck tags. And so folks out there, we obviously want the harvest option to be attractive from a flexibility standpoint and staff has been looking at that.

But as far as any kind of engagement by our biologists to have a site specific recommendation or change, we don't think it would necessarily address the real -- or it might undermine the real purpose of the harvest option, which is not involving that engagement on all those properties.


MR. WOLF: So we can -- I mean, we can definitely -- well, I'm not sure at this point where we stand with going to the Texas Register. I think we can try to contemplate what we could do.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, maybe -- maybe we -- can we take that feedback -- I suggest we try to go forward with the proposal as presented now.


MR. SMITH: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: As we think this through, I encourage us to consider that circumstance because I don't think it's -- I think there ought to be an exception in those very limited, narrow cases we ought to look at it.

MR. SMITH: Let us -- sure, fair enough. Let us reflect on that and have more conversations about that and talk more with you about it. I do think there's some very good reasons why they have set that bar where they have with the conservation option to incentivize and encourage landowners to have a couple of years of documented history before they are eligible for that --


MR. SMITH: -- irrespective of whether --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- get it and I don't disagree with it, but there are circumstances where that just didn't happen and the new landowner cannot possibly comply with it.

MR. SMITH: Sure, yeah.


MR. CAIN: Good point. Just to clarify again, there is a June 15th application deadline for application into the conservation option. The requirements -- or once enrolled in the conservation option, requirements for continued participation would include the current year's deer population data; deer harvest data for the current season, which is just the number of bucks and does taken; and we would propose that the participant implement three habitat management practices and each year they are specified in the Wildlife Management Plan.

Season length under the conservation option, the proposed dates for White-tailed deer -- this is for either sex -- would be Saturday closest to September 30th through the last day in February. Harvest could be by any legal means. For Mule deer, the proposed season dates will be Saturday closest to September 30th for that 35 consecutive days. Harvest would by archery only. And then from the first Saturday in November through the last Sunday in January, harvest could be by any legal means, including firearms.

Staff would also propose a provision to allow wildlife management associations or cooperatives to enroll in the conservation option and a single -- it would require a single wildlife management plan addressing all tracts of land within the association and that would basically include all the members of that wildlife management association, their acreage and properties would have to be reflected under that plan. The co-op as a whole would be required to complete the three habitat practices and other requirements of the conservation option, as directed in their wildlife management plan. The cooperatives may receive tags for either antlerless only or issuance for either sex, and the tags would be issued to individual landowners within the co-op and valid for that specific tract of property for once they're issued.

Participation in either option of the MLD Program requires mandatory reporting of the number of bucks and antlerless deer harvested both under harvest and conservation option and the mandatory reporting of the habitat management practices implemented under the conservation option and it's an annual requirement and the deadline is April 1 of each year. Staff also intend -- and that's a hard deadline. If you don't report by then, then you wouldn't receive tags after that date; but we do intend to provide lots of e-mail reminders early on starting in January through that process through up until that deadline there.

And then I have a few general provisions that apply to both options. The program participants under both options would be required to maintain a daily harvest log on the property enrolled in the MLD Program and the hunter that harvest the deer on this property would be required to enter the harvest in the log on the same day of harvest. Staff are also proposing to allow program participants to print their own tags from the TWIMS System and those harvest log requirements would facilitate that process, as well as provide Law Enforcement a record of harvest for each property on a -- for the property to ensure tagging compliance. Also, the harvest logs may satisfy requirements to the cold storage record book and this would help reduce recordkeeping redundancy for those landowners. Instead of having to maintain two different logs -- a harvest log and a cold storage record book -- they could do that on one log.

And the Department may also refuse enrollment or continued participation in the MLD Program for reasons similar to deny participation in other deer permitting programs such as Deer Breeder or Triple T and those could be things such as delinquent reporting or violations of Parks and Wildlife Code concerning live game animals. That concludes the proposal. Staff do request permission to publish in the Texas Register for public comment and with that, Clayton and I will be happy to answer any additional questions you-all may have.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Questions for Clayton or Alan? Thank you.

MR. WOLF: Thank you.

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

Work Session Item No. 10: Recreational Trail Grant Funding, Recommended Approval of Trail Construction, Renovation, and Acquisition Projects. Tim, please make your presentation.

MR. HOGSET: Good morning. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. I'm Tim Hogset, from the Recreation Grants Branch in State Parks Division. This is our annual presentation to you -- there he is -- of grants from the National Recreational Trail Grant Program. These are federal funds that come to us from the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration. Our -- this is incorrect. 2015 appropriation apportionment thus far is 2.6 million. That's about 67 percent. The reason I'm using these percentages is the Federal Highway Bill is slated to expire. The current Federal Highway Bill is slated to expire at the end of this month.

So we're actually asking you tomorrow to do a contingency recommendation for some of the projects on our list and a hard recommendation for the others. So we anticipate that hopefully Congress will either extend the Federal Highway Bill through the end of the fiscal year or pass a new bill. I think the extension is much more likely. So with that, we would anticipate an additional 1.2 million to come to us to fill out our 2015 apportionment.

We are going -- requesting to hold back 186,000 for project administration. We have approximately 600,000 that are available from savings on previous projects and a few projects that didn't come to fruition in the past and we propose to use that for funding of some state park work with Recreation Trails Grants. And 30 percent of these funds are mandated by law to be used on off-highway vehicle motorized trail recreation projects. That's as a result of the -- where the funds come from. We received 78 proposals for --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Before you go to that, I have a quick question.

MR. HOGSET: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Where does the other 70 percent go?

MR. HOGSET: It can go either -- 30 percent is -- has to be spent for off-highway vehicle projects, 30 percent has to be spent for nonmotorized projects, and the other 40 percent is discretionary. It can be used either way.




MR. HOGSET: Yes, we have that discretion. So we received 78 applications for our annual February 1st deadline, requesting almost $12 million. We are required by law to have a state park advisory -- a State Trail Advisory Board formed. It's a user-based multidisciplinary trail user board and they evaluate the applications, rank them, rank order them, and that results in our attachment that's attached to the agenda item. And basically the factors that they look at are the quality of the application, the cost effectiveness, the recreation opportunity impact, and then also we try to look at a geographic distribution of those funds.

As I mentioned earlier with some savings we're proposing to use -- set aside $600,000 for the next year for the development of state park trails, redevelopment and expansion in these 12 -- in these ten state parks. And the recommendation that we will be bringing to you tomorrow are that we fund 17 projects in the amount of 2.3 million and then set aside 600,000 for state parks. In addition upon the receipt of the anticipated additional 33 percent of the trail fund apportionment from Congress, that we would then fund the next eight projects in Exhibit A. With that, I would answer any questions you might have.


MR. SMITH: I guess, Commissioners, if I could, I do want do compliment Tim and Steve Thompson who have done a lot of work with perspective recipients on the off-highway vehicle funds that you'll hear about tomorrow. They've really worked hard with those proposed grantees to address, you know, just a myriad of issues that have to be addressed either when you're starting a new park or you're expanding upon an existing one. And so, you know, you'll hear about one in particular that we've talked about in the past up in the Lubbock area, the White River Lake Municipal Water District, and our team has gone to great lengths to work with the local municipal district there, which is the sponsor, and to try to address all of the reasonable concerns that they could from leasehold interest in and around the lake, as well as neighboring landowners. And so I really appreciate the extra work that's gone into that, and I just want to acknowledge that for the Commission before you hear about that tomorrow.


MR. HOGSET: Thank you very much.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: If there's no further discussion, I'll place this item on Thursday's Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Work Session Item No. 11: Land Acquisition, Bastrop County, Five Acres Totaling -- Five Tracts Totaling Approximately 220 Acres at Bastrop State Park. Do any Commissioners have any questions or comments? If there's none, I will place this item on Thursday's Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Work Session Item No. 12: Land Acquisition, Limestone County, Approximately 2.3 Million Acre -- 2.3 Acres at Fort Parker State Park.

COMMISSIONER JONES: We might have to discuss that.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: 2.3 Acres at Fort Parker State Park. Do any Commissioners have any questions or comments? If not, I'll place this item on Thursday's Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Work Session Item No. 13: Land Acquisition, Cochran County, Approximately 557.5 Acres as an Addition to Yoakum Dunes Preserve. Do any Commissioners have any questions or comments?

MR. SMITH: Chairman, just for the record, 357.5 acres I believe is --

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: What did I say that time?

MR. SMITH: Well, not quite 2 million; but it was -- I think you said --

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Okay. It's 300 -- 357.5 Acres as an Addition to the Yoakum Dunes Preserve. We'll place this on the Commission agenda for tomorrow for action.

I'm going to try to get this one right. It's a hundred acres. I can see that. Action Item -- or Work Session Item No. 14: Acceptance of Conservation Easement, Nueces County, Approximately 100 Acres at Mustang Island State Park. Any Commissioners have any comments or questions? We'll place this item on Thursday's Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Work Session Item No. 15: Oyster Lease Legal Issue, will be heard in Executive Session.

Item No. 16: Red Snapper, Discuss Recent Action by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Council, I believe that has been scratched; is that correct? That will not be heard today.

Action No. 17: East Texas Wildlife Management Area, Conservation and Public Use Strategy, this will be heard in Executive Session.

At this time, I'd like to announce that pursuant to the requirement of Chapter 551 State Government Code referred to as the Open Meetings Act, an Executive Session will be held at this time for the purpose of seeking legal advice under Section 551.071 of the Open Meetings Act and deliberation of real estate matters under Section 551.072 of the Open Meetings Act. We will now recess for Executive Session.

(Recess taken for Executive Session)

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: We will now reconvene the regular session of the Work Session of the May 20, 2015, at 1:16 p.m. With regard to Work Session Item No. 15: Oyster Lease Legal Issue, there's no further action at this time.

Action -- Work Session Item No. 16: Red Snapper, was not discussed.

And with regard to Work Session Item No. 17: East Texas Wildlife Management Area, Conservation and Public Use Strategy, there is no further action at this time.

I declare this session adjourned.

(Work Session adjourns)




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

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

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my

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

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