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TPW Commission

Annual Public Hearing, August 19, 2015

Transcript

TPW Commission Meetings

TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION

August 19, 2015

TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT
COMMISSION HEARING ROOM
4200 SMITH SCHOOL ROAD
AUSTIN, TEXAS 78744

Public Meeting

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: And now the Annual Public Hearing. Good afternoon, everyone. The Annual Public Hearing is called to order August 19th, 2015, at 2:09. Will everyone please rise for the posting of the colors by the Texas Buffalo Soldiers.

(Presentation by Texas Buffalo Soldiers)

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Please be seated. For those of you in our audience who may not be familiar with the Buffalo Soldier Program, Buffalo soldier was the name given to the African-American troops of the United States peacetime army in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Since 1995, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Buffalo Soldiers Program has served as an outreach program of the State Parks Division dedicated to sharing a unique and often overlooked piece of African-American history. The program aims to provide educational and interpretive experiences that connect under-represented populations with Texas State Parks through heritage interpretation.

So this is our Annual Public Meeting. And before proceeding with any further business, I believe, Mr. Smith, you have a statement to make and some general comments about how this meeting operates. Thanks.

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

I want to join the Chairman and the Commissioners in welcoming everybody. This is a wonderful opportunity for us to hear from stakeholders and constituents and partners from around the state. I want to thank all of you for traveling from near and far to join us today.

A little bit of housekeeping with respect to how we'll operate the Public Hearing, particularly for those of you who have come to your first meeting. All of you who wish to speak, I hope you've already signed up outside. At the appropriate time, the Chairman will call you by name and ask you to come forward to the microphone and you're going to have three minutes to present any on item that you wish to speak to the Commission. We have a green light/red light system and green means go, yellow means start to wind it down, and red means please stop just out of respect for, again, others behind you who have come to speak to the Commission.

For those of you who need to have a conversation or use a cell phone, we'd respectfully ask that you step out during the course of the meeting. There are bathrooms here down the end of hall and if you need any help with anything while you're here at the Department's headquarters, please don't hesitate to ask any of our staff. Thank you and welcome.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you, Carter.

Okay. Now we'll hear from those who are signed up to speak. You'll have three minutes to speak, as Carter mentioned; and if we can just have the next person on deck when your name's called out. I think you'll call a couple -- we'll call a couple of names. So for the Brigades, Stetson Dierlam -- I hope I'm pronouncing that correctly -- and Jonathan Gray is next.

MR. DIERLAM: Do I just start or...

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Fire away.

MR. DIERLAM: Okay. Good afternoon. My name is Stetson Dierlam. I'm proud and honored to be here today to represent Texas Brigades. I would like to start by taking this opportunity to thank Texas Parks and Wildlife for their support of Texas Brigades. The value of what Texas Parks and Wildlife brings to the table in partnership with Texas Brigades is really hard to put into words, but I'm going to try to give it a shot by telling you a little bit about my experience.

In my lifetime, I've been privileged to attend summer camps since I turned eight years old. I've been blessed enough to experience, see, and hunt some of the most beautiful places in the world. No summer camp experience on earth, however, has passed my time with Texas Brigades. When I was first introduced to Texas Brigades, I have to admit I was skeptical. The camp site I attended in the past offered hunting and fishing experience. Texas Brigades offered hands on learning and opportunities to earn hunting and fishing experiences. I knew that Texas Brigades program offered leadership and opportunities to explore careers. So I gave it a shot. Wrote the essay and applied to camp.

I got lucky and got in. I applied and attended South Texas Buckskin Brigade as a cadet in 2014. I conducted programs and projects in my community and was selected as Assistant Herd Leader this summer. I also was selected for this year's Bass Brigade. The landing facilities were topnotch, but the true value is its organization personnel. That is where Texas Parks and Wildlife steps in. It makes camp stand out like no other in which I have ever been involved in.

From the moment I arrived at camp, I was immersed in learning and hands on activities. For the first time in my life, I had access to more than a hunting-and-fishing experience. I was surrounded by some of the State's leading wildlife experts and land managers. This is you guys, along with NRCS, AgriLife Extension, and other professionals. The experts took the time to help someone like me understand the big picture, to look beyond the hunting-and-fishing experience, and learn so much more.

Attending Texas Brigade camps have given me a whole new idea and respect for wildlife and land stewardship. The hands on activities and expert guidance have given my an in-depth understanding of the delicate balance of nature ethics and how to use my leadership skills to better myself as a future conservationist. The camp was challenging, exhausting, intensive, and one of the best times of my life. I left the camp with a model of how to go out and make a difference in my community and I've put my new skills to work by providing hands on demonstration and informational programs.

Texas Parks and Wildlife support Texas Brigades as a dimension to hunting and fishing by bringing valuable lessons on wildlife conservation and habitat management. I do not have the words to communicate the large role Texas Brigades in conjunction with the support of Texas Parks and Wildlife have contributed to my future, education, and career choices. I thank you for your support of Texas Brigades. Because of your strong partnership, I'll make a difference in the environment and doing what I love as a career. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: That's great. Thanks, Stetson. Appreciate it. Good job. Thank you.

Jonathan Gray and next up is Christopher Childress.

MR. GRAY: Good afternoon, Chairman, Commissioners. My name is Jonathan Gray, and I attended this year's 10th Battalion of the Texas Bass Brigade as an Assistant Leader. I would like to start off by thanking the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for their giving of support and resources to the Texas Brigades program. Much of your support is evident in almost all -- every aspect of all seven Texas Brigades camps.

After hearing about the Texas Brigades two years ago, I quickly submitted my -- quickly submitted my application to Bass Brigades the following week. Upon applying to the camp, I thought I was going off for a week of fishing; but by the first hour of camp, it was evident I was about to receive a whole lot more. Through Texas Brigades, I've been able to learn through experts in the fields of fisheries management and resource protection and whether -- and we've been given a glimpse into exactly what it takes to pursue a career around these fields, whether it be in the public or private sector.

Along with getting an in-depth look at careers and fields in environmental protection in fisheries management, much of our day at Texas Brigade's camp incorporated life skills such as leadership, cooperation, and time management. We developed these skills in the forms of leadership activities, team building games, and personal projects that we completed throughout the day. All these skills that we learned were ones that we can take with us no matter what careers we decide to pursue, and much of them were introduced by Texas Parks and Wildlife staff and volunteer personnel.

I would again like to thank the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for their contributions to the Texas Brigades program and for allowing me the chance to speak before the Commission today. I know that I and my fellow cadets are truly and forever grateful for all the Department has done for us here at the Texas Brigades. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thanks, Jonathan. Appreciate it.

Christopher Childress and Helen Holdsworth is up next, please.

MR. CHILDRESS: Hello. My name is Christopher Childress and I would like to thank the Texas Parks and Wildlife for their support of the Brigade program, along with all the individuals and businesses that spent their time and resources for the program.

The Texas Brigade means a lot to me because when I first moved here from Houston, I was really -- had negative light on hunters and people that were outside a lot and didn't -- weren't like-minded like me. And so when I moved out here, I saw a few other people that hunted and fished, like my neighbors, were really nice people and great. There's nothing wrong with them just because they shot Bambi -- yeah, yeah, little deer. They only -- there's laws, believe it or not, about hunting. You can't shoot baby deer. You have to wait until they're adults and there are many set regulations and laws, which really proved my point.

The Texas Brigades program really helped me because a lot of the Texas Parks and Wildlife employees came and taught, were mentors at the camp. And because of them, they really helped broaden my span and because of them, I want to be a wildlife biologist when I get older -- not a wildlife biologist, a wetland biologist and help take care of land management. The brigade motto is "Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I understand."

And in the five-day camp, I was shown and involved so much that the camp's five-day courses compared to a college/high school science course. Do you guys have any questions?

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: That's great.

MR. CHILDRESS: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Appreciate it, Christopher. Thank you.

Helen Holdsworth and Faith Antley is up next.

MS. HOLDSWORTH: Good afternoon. Thank you for the opportunity to be here today. I wear two different hats. I work for Texas Brigades. I also work for the Texas Wildlife Association. I'm going to let the kids speak for the Brigades because they do a much better job than I do.

But for Texas Wildlife Association's Conservation Legacy Program, I wanted to extend my thanks to the Commission and Carter Smith for their support. Texas Parks and Wildlife is a valuable partner in many of our educational endeavors. Our Conservation Legacy Program spans programs for kindergarteners up through fifth generation landowners. Parks and Wildlife biologists and education staff serve on our advisory committee and planning committees and also serve as instructors on our field days, workshops, seminars, and field investigation days across the state.

In 2014, Parks and Wildlife helped us reach over 500,000 Texas youth and adults about Texas wildlife. And on behalf of Texas Wildlife Association and the Conservation Legacy staff, I would like to thank Parks and Wildlife for their support and participation. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you, Helen. It's a great program. Appreciate all your help.

Faith Antley followed by Jan.

MS. FAITH ANTLEY: Hello. My name is Faith Antley and I would like to start off by saying it is a great honor to have the opportunity to speak today. So thank you.

About two years ago, I learned about Texas Brigades through my involvement in 4-H. Since my family enjoys fishing in the outdoors, I chose to attend the Bass Brigade. After graduating the 9th Battalion, this year I attended the 10th Battalion as an Assistant School Leader. Texas Brigades motto is "Show me -- Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I understand."

Bass Brigades has taught me so much. Each day was a new educational experience. Watershed analysis, population sampling in local lakes, fishing anatomy and dissecting, and aquatic -- and aquatic plants were many of the activities. I also learned casting skills, how to tie my own flies, and make spinner bait.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife, along with professional anglers, were so kind to give their time and help teaching us each day. Because of the Brigades, I have learned life skills such as leadership and public speaking. I've been able to bring those skills back to my community. I enjoy sharing how Texas Brigades has changed my life and how it will change others, too. Thank you-all so much for supporting the Texas Brigades.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you, Faith. Appreciate it.

Jan Antley.

MS. JAN ANTLEY: Thank you for offering me the opportunity to speak to you today. My name is Jan Antley, and you just heard from my daughter Faith. As a parent, I've seen how Texas Brigades has impacted youth and I had no idea how one week of camp would change and benefit my daughter.

Faith has attended several camps in the past and workshops, but nothing compares to Texas Brigades. The week following camp, she was asked to interview with the Galveston County newspaper. Being a little nervous, she was reluctant; but she agreed. When the reporter called to talk, I was in the kitchen and I heard her speak to him for over 30 minutes nonstop all about what she learned at camp. It was just a true eye opener. It was just then that I realized that there was something different about our daughter. She had an excitement in her, a passion that is truly contagious.

Following camp, Faith immediately began to initiate projects such as making trifolds. She created a PowerPoint presentation, and she set up appointments to go and share her experience. I have to tell you now, that's not normal behavior in our home for summer break. Bass Brigade taught Faith so much. She learned about conservation, fishing, and the importance of lake and pond management, which she loves.

However, there was so much more instilled in her just that my husband and I both noticed. Life skills that will continue throughout her life regardless -- what you've heard other -- the Brigades say. No matter what career you choose, they're going to follow, her life skills that she's learned through the Texas Brigades. Numerous times we've observed Faith excel in leadership roles in 4-H competitions and when complimented by others, she's always quick to say "Texas Brigades did that for me. You should go."

The Texas Brigades staff and their adult volunteers are wonderful to work with. They're always prompt and eager to help and encourage and their desire to see each -- they desire to see each cadet succeed in life. As for our home, Texas Brigades is an organization we hope to continue to be affiliated with. Because Texas Brigades cares about our youth and generations to come, more children will be able to enjoy our beautiful state of Texas and its wildlife.

We came here personally today just to say thank you to each one of you because you've made a difference in my home. You are changing lives, and I just thank you so much.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you. That's really nice to hear and, Jan, thanks for coming as a parent. It's nice for us to hear the perspective of a Texas Brigade parent and to get that view point. But we really appreciate everyone taking the effort to be here and tell us a little bit more about the program. I think it's a highlight for everyone on this Commission to hear about it at this Annual Meeting. So thank you-all very much. Appreciate it.

Next up is Joe Turner. Okay.

MR. TURNER: Commissioner, how are you?

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: How are you? I'm well. How are you?

MR. TURNER: Commissioners -- great. Carter, how are you?

MR. SMITH: Well. Thank you.

MR. TURNER: I'm here today to thank you for all the work that was done this last Legislative session to get a funding budget moved forward for Texas Parks and Wildlife and particularly in that process, the grant program, particularly for local parks and I just wanted to touch base a little.

I know you'll be looking at some tomorrow, but to give a little background into what those urban grants mean. We had a grant program that was approved the last session -- through the last process called Busby Park. And we're an urban park system. I'm the Park's Director for the City of Houston. And so to make you have a little better understanding, this park is 5.83 acres. It's in an area of town 67.4 percent the median household income is $24,221. 31 percent of the families live below the poverty level around this park. The demographics of this park is 54 percent African-American, 40 percent Hispanic, and 6 percent Asian.

This park is the lifeblood of this community and the grant we that we will be processing here and starting fairly soon, makes a difference in this world. All our trail -- all our projects are playground; outdoor activities; trails; where we can, community gardens and what we change in the lives of that neighborhood.

Tomorrow -- I'm thanking you in advance, I hope, for approval of a grant tomorrow which is called Squatty Lyons Park. And to give you some input into that park, that park is 19.79 acres. It's off the Hardy Toll Road up above Little York. And some background into that park, 100 percent of this population base here is $26,489. 47 percent of the families in this area live in poverty, at the poverty level. And this park is 86 percent -- area is 86 percent Hispanic, 13 percent Caucasian.

And I just wanted to bring to your attention what you do when you approve these urban grants, particularly for the urban cities. They make all the difference in the world. They help us multiply our dollars and this grant program is so important. That's why we fight so hard for this grant program to keep it in the budget of Texas Parks and Wildlife. And to that, I'd like to just say thank you. I'd like to say to those that didn't get grants this time, as I tell people, getting turned down once just means you got turned down one time. You keep applying until you get a grant. So to y'all, thank you for what you do and thank you for the work Tim Hogsett does in the grant program and Carter with Texas Parks and Wildlife. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Joe, thank you. Appreciate it.

Andrea Hance, you're up, please. Followed by Ted Venker.

MS. HANCE: Good afternoon. My name is Andrea with the Texas Shrimp Association and I have two topics of discussion to discuss really quick.

Texas Shrimp Association would like to grant access to non-Texas boat owners who do not currently hold a Texas state fishing license, commercial shrimping fish license. And you guys know that we're currently under a moratorium, so they can't go out and buy a license. We estimate that that would bring in an additional 7 million pounds of shrimp. And considering on which year you look at -- this year it may be not worth much, but last year it was. So we anticipate that to bring an additional 110, $120 million of economic impact coming into the state of Texas.

And these boats come in for a various number of reasons. Could be they might be able to get a better price for the shrimp. They may have engine problems, cooler problems that they need to come in. But right now those boats cannot come into Texas state waters to unload at a Texas processing facility.

The second thing that I'd like to bring up real quick is the Texas Shrimp Association would like to ask that a captain's license not be mandatory when the boat comes up to the dock to unload the shrimp. Evidently, the boat owner who pays the $495 license, it's not sufficient enough currently and if that captain is not there -- maybe he takes off when the boat gets to the dock, that happens a lot; and if that boat pulls up and the -- even the boat owner that is there, if the captain is not there, the Law Enforcement has the right to confiscate the shrimp and that's an additional $50 for the boat owners to actually have to go pay for an additional captain's license that they technically don't need.

So right now with our boats tying up right now because we're at a 40-year low, shrimp prices just hit that low, we ask that -- we need all the help that we can get. So hopefully this will help a little bit with our economic impact to the state. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Great. Appreciate that input. Thank you very much.

Ted Venker and then Scott Hickman.

MR. VENKER: Good afternoon. My name is Ted Venker. I'm the Conservation Director for the Coastal Conservation Association. It is an honor to be here today to speak to this group. I simply wanted to come here and applaud this Commission and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department staff and, in particular, Robin Riechers for the leadership that all of you have shown and displayed during this incredibly difficult period of federal management of Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper.

As everybody here knows, this has been a chaotic issue. Federal management of Red snapper isn't working for the recreational sector. It has not worked for the charter-for-hire sector and the federal management's plan to privatize more of this fishery is what we think is the wrong path for a wild, natural resource. This group's leadership and determination representing recreational anglers and Robin's tenacious presence and leadership and work for both the resource and anglers participation in it has been priceless.

TCA as 70,000 members in the state of Texas. I know how important this issue is to them and to all anglers in the state and I just want to commend, again, this group in the face of what has probably likely been some vocal opposition for your leadership and your thoughtful steadfast approach. So thank you for the work you're doing.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you.

MR. VENKER: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Scott Hickman and then Shane Cantrell.

MR. HICKMAN: Good afternoon, Mr. Director Chairman and ladies and gentlemen of the Commission. My name is Captain Scott Hickman. I'm a 30-year professional Texas charter boat and commercial fisherman from Galveston, Texas. I also sit on Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary Council and I also sit on a very appreciative -- was happy to serve on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Migratory Bird Council.

Listening to Mr. Venker talk, as a federally permitted charter captain, I do agree that the State of Texas is better suited to manage its own recreational fishermen. But having a federal permit on a business that takes people from all over the country, I think that I'm better suited as an industry person that I can run my business better than government can and I think that my industry coming up with solutions to run our industry is better than either the state government or the federal government and we've got that opportunity to do that industry-wide.

Our charter boat association, the Charter Fisherman Association, is the largest association in the Gulf of Mexico and industry ground-up approach and we've got some real good ideas on how to do this with hopefully the blessings of the state and the federal government. There's an amendment called Amendment 39 moving through the council process. That amendment would give the states the ability to manage its own share of Red Snapper. I applaud that amendment. And as a charter boat operator, I do not want to be included in that. Our industry would like to be able to run our own industry and manage our own fishery.

So that being said, we would like the Commission to support the charter boat fleet in Texas. It's federally permitted and let us develop our own business plan and exclude us from Amendment 39. Our association also has very strong views on the five-fish Speckled trout limit up and down the coast. We think it's working in most of Texas and now the fishermen in Galveston -- especially my marina, Galveston Yacht Basin which is the largest marina in Texas -- would like to see y'all follow through and give us a five-fish limit in Galveston in the upper coast. And on that note, y'all have a great day and thanks for having us. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you.

Shane Cantrell.

MR. CANTRELL: Good afternoon, Chairman and Carter and members of the Commission. I appreciate the opportunity to come speak with y'all today. I am Shane Cantrell. I'm the Executive Director of the Charter Fisherman's Association. We're the largest federally permitted charter boat association in the Gulf of Mexico. Got a big following here in Texas. A lot of members in Galveston, Freeport. A lot of permit holders.

First things first, I want to ask that y'all allow the charter boat industry to continue moving forward. We've got some good work going from the industry, ground-up approach through the Gulf Council process. Although that process may seem broken for the private anglers, it's working very well for the commercial fishermen. It's working very well for the charter boats. We hold federal permits. We have to answer to that higher authority regardless of how it's managed and we would like to continue that opportunity working with the council representation there and moving the charter boat industry forward as we have that opportunity.

As Scott stated, we would like to see the Speckled trout limit extended to five per person across the state. It makes -- something like this year whenever trout are easy to come by with a lot of freshwater, they're abundant. But you come back to last year whenever it got late in the season, there wasn't a lot of -- there wasn't a lot of freshwater. Those fish were hard to come by. You get a lot of people fishing up in that area. It really put the hurt on the population over time. We want to have that a sustainable level. A lot of people can enjoy it. A lot of people can go catch those fish. It's a great resource to have, and I appreciate any ability we have to continue working with the Commission or with the Parks and Wildlife Department. Working with Robin at the council level is something that we're interested in doing, and we'd like to see that relationship move forward.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Great. Thank you.

Jeanie Donovan and Tom Goynes.

MS. DONOVAN: Good afternoon, Chairman, Commissioners, and Director Smith. For the record, my name is Jeanne Donovan. I'm a legislative aide to Senator Judith Zaffirini. The Senator couldn't be here today, but sent me in her stead to read a letter into the record.

Dear Chair Friedkin and Commissioners, thank you for your dedicated service to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission and the people of this great state. This letter is to inform you of challenges faced by many of my constituents who live along the San Marcos River in Caldwell and Guadalupe Counties. An extraordinary number of recreationists visit a small section of the river every summer primarily to float down the river on inflatable tubes.

The tubers, as they're called, mostly are young persons, including some who drink alcohol in excess. This results in disruptive, unsafe, and illegal behaviors such as trespassing on private property, public indecency, underage drinking, and public intoxication. What's more, the beds and banks of the river are often littered with cans, clothing, and other trash left behind by the thousands of tubers.

A group of advocates, many from Senate District 21, will attend this public Annual Public meeting of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission on August 19th. They will present ideas regarding how the Commission can reduce illegal and unsafe behaviors on the river. I urge you and your fellow Commissioners to consider the facts and ideas presented and develop a plan for improving conditions on the river. Especially because it is the mission of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to manage and conserve the natural and cultural resources of Texas for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.

Please let me know if there are specific ways that I can support your efforts. Feel free to call upon me or my staff regarding this issue or whenever we may be of assistance. May God bless you. Very truly yours, Judith Zaffirini.

And I'm happy to relay any questions or comments to the Senator that you may have.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: If you just assure Senator Zaffirini that we'll take this seriously and look into it and quickly. So we appreciate that and appreciate your comments and hers. Thank you.

MS. DONOVAN: Absolutely.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any questions? Input?

MS. DONOVAN: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you.

Josh de Leon -- Diaz-de Leon.

MR. GOYNES: I think I'm next. Tom Goynes.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I'm sorry. You're right. I called you, but you were -- you were on the same line as Jeanne Donovan. I'm sorry. My apologies.

MR. GOYNES: No problem. I thought I've wasted --

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Tom, you're up.

MR. GOYNES: -- this effort of getting up early.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I thought we got -- we got one out of two. Okay, thank you.

MR. GOYNES: Well, first of all, I just really want to thank y'all for letting us do this. My name is Tom Goynes. I'm the President of the Texas Rivers Protection Association and my wife Paula and I own a campground on the San Marcos River. We serve primarily youth groups and church groups. So it's exciting for me to see all these young people coming up and how greatly they appreciate what y'all have done for them.

Our problem is we are closed this summer. We tried to be open last summer. We hired our own security. We tried to keep our campground open, but it's just impossible to have youth groups with all these drunk tubers going by. We're right on the section of river that's affected, and we talked to y'all last year. Last year we asked y'all to consider establishing a linear state park, and I understand it hadn't been done before in Texas. It's been done in other states. But we've had some people say, "Hey, don't ask for that again. Try something different."

So we thought what about establishing -- what about you guys establishing a special task force to look into the problems that we've got? I served on the Devils River Working Group, and I think it's done very well. I think Joe out there has done a fantastic job. I think they've changed out there a little bit. Things are -- things are working out. I think we can do it. I think together we can work with you. Maybe you will come around and say, "Well, we need a linear state park."

Maybe you can extend the scientific study area to include this section of river. We're concerned about these floating boomboxes. What's the effect on that noise to the fish on the river? Because we can hear it in our house with our air conditioner going, and we're several hundred yards from the river. So the boomboxes are affecting wildlife.

We had 10,000 tubers on July the 4th. We normally have about 5,000 on any Saturday and it's insane the number of cans that are thrown out; but mostly the language and the activity. Had a rape in our campground last year. It's out of control. So we definitely need help. I think a task force would be a great idea. I did want to ask, if I could, if we could see a show of hands. Anybody that's here for this problem, if you can raise your hand?

Okay. We've got a few people. And I will say keep your comments brief and don't be repetitive, so for your sake.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Appreciate that very much.

MR. GOYNES: Thanks.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you.

MR. GOYNES: Thanks a million.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: That's very helpful input. Thank you.

Now we're onto Josh Diaz-de Leon. Good afternoon.

MR. DIAZ-DE LEON: Commissioners, good afternoon. I won't take up too much more of your time since Ms. Donovan and Mr. Goynes have basically covered the issues that I was prepared to discuss. They stole my thunder. However, I will bring to your attention some of the photographs that document the issues that they mentioned. I believe I gave those -- presented those to the folks outside and they -- we're passing them around. Okay.

So that's just basically photographic evidence of some of the issues that they discussed about the litter along this 3-mile stretch primarily of the San Marcos River. The problem extends further downstream because, as you know, litter floats downstream. So it goes -- it extends much further than this 3-mile limit. I am a homeowner and have been a homeowner along the San Marcos River for about 18 years and I've paddled the San Marcos River off and on quite frequently since the late 70s. So I've been there during the good times and now unfortunately some of these bad times.

So there's been some discussion about creation of a linear park, perhaps a paddling trail. I don't know which one will work. I know which one I favor, but we're asking for your assistance and try to gain some control over this increasing problem. It's gotten worse over the past five to eight years and I expect it will only continue to worsen as, you know, the amount of tubers that come in. I think it's about -- one of the accounts I heard is four to 8,000 tubers on many summer weekends. So that's the volume of people that we're dealing with on just this very short stretch of the river.

So, again, we're just asking for your assistance in trying to control this problem on the river and I'm sure many of these other homeowners have similar issues that they could bring up as well. Anyway, thank you very much for your time.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you.

Jeff Pine.

MR. PINE: Yeah, I'm another landowner on the San Marcos River. I really appreciate the chance for us to address you here. You're obviously involved in some very important things. These young Texans that came up here to open your program today show that they've got a -- they're learning a lot. They've got a lot of pride in what they have gotten from you, and it's going to affect their future on.

We also feel like we have something pretty special. We also recognize that you have a lot of power and a lot of say-so. If you could make that happen for those kids, maybe you could offer us a little help, too; and we'd sure appreciate it. It's a huge problem that's not going away until something changes. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you very much.

Paula Goynes. And, Duane, you're up next. You're going to help me with your last name when you get up here, please. I'm going to learn something. Thank you.

MS. GOYNES: It's TeGrutenhuis. You can say it.

Okay. I'm Paula Goynes. I'm Tom's wife. We've owned a piece of property on the San Marcos River -- well, where we're at right now for 25 years. So we've been there a while. I want -- this is not my words. I'm going to quote to you from the Special Purpose District on May the 20th of this year Senate Bill 224 Hearing. This is from Craig Coleman who is maybe the manager at Don's Fish Camp. And this is a quote. These are quotes.

We understand that there's a significant public safety, law enforcement, and litter issue. Our businesses -- which he's talking about his business and Texas State Tubes -- have helped create that. We understand they exist, and they need to be fixed. We know we need to be better neighbors and stewards of the water by making changes in our business operations and by working collectively to address in earnest the security and safety concerns of the area residences and landowners to maintain -- excuse me -- the natural beauty and sustainability of the San Marcos River.

He goes on to talk about how he doesn't believe the WORD, the Water Oriented Recreation District, could do much because of the money issue.

One of our main concerns is it -- the WORD -- could put in a state park which effectively would ban alcohol, effectively a can ban, which would put us out of business. Bottom line, we understand there's this problem, and we're committed -- we're committing financial resources to fix it, end of quote.

They know what the problem is. They know how to fix it. If you have a business on public property, which the State of Texas owns the water, and it depends solely on alcohol, then you've got a problem. Their answer to this problem is to hire bouncers and maids. Bouncers being law enforcement to stand on the bank and maids to clean up the river. That does not solve any of the problems.

Let's find the best way, the most cost-effective way to solve the problem and just asking y'all to help us. We need help desperately. We are not going to be there another 25 years. I also want to thank y'all for Parks and Wildlife state parks. They're wonderful. We love them. We go to them all the time. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you very much.

Duane, you're up.

MR. TEGRUTENHUIS: Yes, sir. TeGrutenhuis. TeGrutenhuis.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you.

MR. TEGRUTENHUIS: Are we good on that?

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you.

MR. TEGRUTENHUIS: It means the "big house."

Thank you for the opportunity of being here, folks. I think we're getting passed some distribution. You can follow along if you like. My name is Duane TeGrutenhuis. My wife Evelyn and I have owned and operated TG Canoes and Kayaks near San Marcos, Texas, for the last 30 years. We cater to Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, church groups, family groups, workgroups, and individual people that enjoy being outside and especially love our San Marcos River and the amazing experience it offers to all who paddle it.

To maintain the integrity of our business, the safety of our guests, and the stewardship of this incredible natural resource, TGCK -- that's us -- does not allow alcohol, glass, or styrofoam on the river. We have seen this policy be completely beneficial to all who participate on our river trips and, of course, in keeping the San Marcos River pristine. We sponsor and participate in two San Marcos River cleanups each year. Up until the last several years, most all trash collected during these cleanups was from rain events, cleaning the streets of San Marcos, and the bar ditches along its route.

Up until the tubing concessions arrived to do business on the San Marcos River, the river was bottle and can free. Since their arrival, the river has become a garbage dump for tubers' cans, etcetera. Along with the terrible littering of this Texas treasure, the rowdy yelling of expletives, the amplified four letter word induced music easily heard over 100 yards from the river, lewdness, trespassing, mass public intoxication, underage alcohol consumption, open drug use, and more is the daily event from just above County Road 101 bridge to Sculls Crossing.

The ultimate tragedy is the lives that have been lost, and there have been several. The San Marcos River has become more dangerous for our guests. Many of our guests, both young and old as well as adults, are constantly offered beer and marijuana. Some women have been propositioned. Boys are flashed. Many of our guests are purposely turned over when paddling close to tubers, leaving them to self-rescue while trying to collect their watercraft and move to a safe place where they mount and continue their trip. It is bullying mentality.

After experiencing this, paddling is a frightful endeavor for both the young and old alike. Many of our guests and groups have decided not to return to the San Marcos River unless the situation changes and becomes Scout, church group, and family friendly once again. We have adjusted our schedule to attempt to get our guests off the river before 2:00 p.m. to avoid the tubing masses. To protect our guests, we will be closed for our 5- to 7-mile trips during the August 29 and September 7th weekends, as a giant tubing event is scheduled on the 29th, followed by Labor Day tubing crowds.

Financially, TGCK will take a large hit; but the safety and enjoyment of our guests is paramount. We cannot -- we absolutely cannot and will not put our guests in harm's way. We desperately need help from law enforcement entities. Laws are broken by the hundreds, even thousands every week on the San Marcos River. They come to tube the San Marcos River because there's very little law enforcement. The tubers declare it is a place they can do anything they want, and they do. That's a sad statement, but true.

I believe the best option for protecting the San Marcos River and all the Texans of -- all Texans that love and enjoy it would be Texas Parks and Wildlife linear state park, including the area from Cummings Dam to Sculls crossing or further down the river as protection is needed. Texas Parks' rules and regulations applied to this extreme section will protect the San Marcos River and all citizens who wanted to enjoy this 72 degrees masterpiece of creation. I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this with anyone interested at TP and W. My phone number is (512)353-3946. Please get involved with this extraordinary San Marcos River. Its future depends on Texas Parks and Wildlife. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you very much.

David Wendel. Stephanie Langenkamp is next.

MR. WENDEL: My name is David Wendel. I live in San Marcos, Texas, for a very long time, for over 40 years. I've lived in this area and haven't seen anything that is worse than what is happening in Martindale. The degradation of that river has gone -- it's horrible. I've lived -- like I said, I've lived in this area for 40 years and we moved to this area. Our parents told us this was the most pristine spring water that you will ever see in your life. They filmed the Tarzan movies there in the 1940s, I believe, with Johnny Weissmuller.

We need a task force to handle this situation. The tubing operations are there to make profits and bear none of responsibilities. In San Marcos, we're fixing to have another situation. They've built on Cape's Camp -- it was sold to a Savannah, Georgia, company -- to put 1,000-bed unit in there, which translates to 1,000 cars as well. Student -- this is a student housing project that got put in into the last piece of pristine land on the -- in San Marcos that's on the San Marcos River.

The fire department didn't want this. The police department didn't want this. They knew that this was going to be a hazardous situation. Now, this was put in -- this was zoned in as multifamily. And there was one apartment complex that they were able to justify doing this with. However, this is single-room occupancy and by definition, this is not family oriented. It's not -- it's not sold to families. It's there for student housing only. And make no mistake about this, this is going to be year-round spring break behavior there. That's what it's there for.

We had an incident probably in the last two years at another single-room occupancy called The Retreat where 2,000 people showed up for a pool party and I think they had to send in a SWAT team to get rid of this. This is going to be happening on the river on weekends and in the summer, the entire summertime on the weekend business. Nobody is going to be able to pass through there. Please put a task force in to get control of this situation. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you.

Stephanie.

MS. LANGENKAMP: I actually did not sign up to speak, but I would just like to say that I second all these comments about the task force and thank you very much for your help.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you very much.

Mike McClabb and then Phillip Hicks.

MR. MCCLABB: I'm Mike McClabb. I'm an avid paddler and I have a house on the San Marcos River in Martindale, Texas. And I don't want to repeat myself, but I did send an e-mail to Ann Bright and here's what it stated. This is in October of -- October of last year.

I am Mike McClabb. I have a house on the San Marcos river, and we are having large amounts of beer cans littering our precious San Marcos River. Myself and other citizens have great concerns that large sections of the San Marcos River will be overtaken by drunk tubers that sink beer cans in our river, trespass on private property, play boomboxes at extremely high volume, and prevent families, fishermen, and canoers to enjoy the pleasure of the beautiful San Marcos River.

Moreover, Texas State Tubes, Don's Fish Camp, and Cool River Ranch pay a small amount of property taxes compared to the combined property taxes being paid by other remaining river-front landowners. Therefore, due to promoting excessive alcohol consumption, they use a large amount of county resources, including law enforcement, EMS, search and rescue personnel, and are damaging roads because of using heavy school buses to transport tubers. Therefore, taxpayers are subsidizing these tubing businesses that are destroying our precious San Marcos River.

Also, there has been multiple deaths on the river due to excessive alcohol consumption and countless young adults leaving these tubing facilities in their cars totally intoxicated, which has also resulted in DWI deaths. In fact, we were attempting to enact our own can ban on the San Marcos River since it was so effective on the Comal River in New Braunfels. Unfortunately, the can ban ordinance was overturned by the court.

Therefore, I plead with you to support this designating the San Marcos River as a linear state park in order to preserving the San Marcos River for all citizens of Texas who enjoy the use of the river and to protect this precious asset of the state of Texas. I will gladly donate my time and money to assist the Texas Parks and Wildlife in designating the San Marcos River as a linear state parks. If no -- if no regulations are enacted, the rude and drunken behavior of young adults on the San Marcos River, I am concerned this will open the floodgates for drunk tubers to totally trash large sections of the San Marcos River; therefore, preventing many citizens to enjoy the pleasure of the San Marcos River.

So I sent that to Ann and then she said -- this is dated -- she responded, said: Thank you for your e-mail. We are extremely appreciative of the confidence in Texas Parks and Wildlife, the ability to address the issue you've raised and your desire to develop a -- work towards a creative solution. However, there are -- there are proposed solutions of a linear state park, not withstanding those limitations and restrictions. We are closely reviewing your concerns and are -- continue to discuss these matters internally and consider possible solutions. As you are aware, Texas Parks and Wildlife Commissioners have been aware of this issue through a recent letter and as a result, information provided by concerned landowners are noted.

That was in -- that was October 14th of 2014. And basically what she said, it was going to go to the Legislature and to develop the WORD and that was going to take care of the problem. But guess what? You guys know the outcome of the WORD. It was defeated. So we're pleading with you. You're our last chance. We really need help. Thank you very much.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you.

Phillip Hicks.

MR. HICKS: Good afternoon, Commissioners. Thanks for having us. I don't have much to add to what other people have said, but please help us get some tools to work out the problem. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you.

Harriet Bates, followed by Patricia Hemsell.

MS. BATES: Thank you so much for hearing all of us. We -- as you know, the San Marcos River is the jewel in the crown of Texas and I've lived there since 1991. I spent the last two floods picking up beer cans, twelve sackfuls out of the back of my yard. The Fountain Darter is in the river where we are. Seven to 10,000 people on the river with no toilet facilities. We beg you to do something. Something has to be done, or we're going to have to move. We can't stay. And more are coming, more tubing. More tubers are coming, and there's nobody doing anything. And you don't step up, who will? Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you very much.

Patricia, followed by Gus Bates. Please.

MS. HEMSELL: I'm Patricia Stephenson Hemsell, proud Texan. I have a hunter and fisher husband. I also own the second farm down from County Road bridge on 101 on the river. I have 94 acres of farmland. We also have about 1600 feet of riverfront and a big gravel bar, and I just want to reiterate everything everyone has said before.

I will just say we had our grandchildren from Kentucky/Louisiana here two weeks ago. Thank goodness they were here during the week because then they could go down the river. On the weekend, it's packed and they get out -- I don't even know why they get out so soon on our gravel bar. Maybe just to get a fresh can of beer. I'm not sure. But we've had a young man come up to the house who was lost. His group had left him. He didn't know where to go. He didn't know where he got in. He was so inebriated and definitely underage. So this is a serious problem.

We're all proud of the growth of Texas State, but I think a lot of our tubers probably come from there with not the best wishes for the river in their mind when they come down it. Thank you for all your consideration. Thank you for everything you've done for the state.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you.

Gus?

MR. BATES: Yes, sir. My name is Gus Bates. I'm a senior at San Marcos High School, and a lot of my friends tube the river. The problem is not the tubing. It's the trash. When 7,000 people come down the river at one time, I go out every year on the San Marcos River Cleanup and I pick up boatfuls. There's islands made of cans everywhere and this has happened since I was ten years old and it's getting worse every single year. I can't go on -- with my little brother and my little sister, I can't go on the river anymore. There's nowhere on the river where it's family friendly anymore. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you very much.

Steve White and then Bruce Jennings.

DR. WHITE: Good afternoon. My name is Dr. Steve White. I'm an orthopedic surgeon, practice in Sequin for 31 years. Currently building a house on the San Marcos River about a mile below the take-out and everything you've heard is true. I would like to relate a story I heard this morning.

A fellow physician took their family to the Frio River and said that they had to take their children off the river. There was a tubing problem on the Frio. Last year, I paddle the South Llano. There's been a problem on the South Llano. There's been a problem over the years on the Guadalupe. Now, the San Marcos. So it's certainly not an isolated problem to the San Marcos and I would like to encourage the Commission if you look at a task force, to look at statewide. Let's develop some guidelines and regulations that will take care of our rivers in Texas.

I would really like my children and my grandchildren to enjoy the rivers of Texas. The Devils River has now got some guidelines limiting the number of people. Grand Canyon, only a certain number of permits are given per day. I think we need to study the human impact, not only on the river but on the wildlife. You know, the San Marcos River has many endangered species near the headwaters. It also has Bald eagles nesting about 5 miles below this area. So it is a very unique body of water in Texas and, you know, welcome to water politics; but here we go, but we're willing to help. I would be willing to serve on any task force, take the time to come up from Seguin, put my money where my mouth is, so to speak; but we appreciate your time. Thanks so much.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Great. Thank you. Appreciate your time. Thank you.

Bruce Jennings, followed by Patricia Hunt.

MR. JENNINGS: Hello. My name is Bruce Jennings. I am recently retired from the public schools after 35 years of service to the children of Texas. I have a home in a rural area of Caldwell County between Martindale and San Marcos. I've been in my home 31 years. So half my life has been spent on the banks of the San Marcos River. I love the rivers of Texas. They are the crown jewels of Texas.

However, we have a situation that I'm here to ask your help because private companies are making profit off of a natural resource in Texas and have very few rules to have to deal with. Our situation is unique. From my home, I can see and hear three different tubing companies within eyesight. The area where we live, most of us here, three different counties come together. Because of the river and the three counties that bump up to each other, law enforcement has a ridiculously difficult time trying to determine who has authority in what area.

They have tried and tried to come together with agreements and with us giving access on our property to the land for them to come and monitor what's going on. As reported in the San Marcos Daily Record -- all through the summer they've been giving weekly totals -- we're averaging six to 10,000 watercraft each Saturday. I'm really concerned. Having lived there for 31 years, the degradation of the San Marcos River is just unbelievable.

I personally am picking up over 2,000 pounds of trash just on my 500 feet of frontage. 2,000 pounds a year is what I'm averaging minimum. I'm 62. I can't keep it up, folks. I need your help. Okay? Please, please pay attention to what's going on out here.

Throughout the state, private companies are making money off a state resource. They need to follow state guidelines of some kind. All right? Thank you. If you need help, come on out any Saturday. We can sit in my backyard and look at what's going on. Okay? Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Appreciate it. Thank you. It's very valuable input. Thank you very much.

Patricia Hunt and Lynn Williams is next.

MS. HUNT: My name is Patricia Hunt, and I'd like to thank you for letting me speak. I'm old. So I can remember when there were Blind salamanders in the San Marcos River. There were freshwater prawn, lots of wild rice. The river is dying, and we need your help.

It's not just the little area in Martindale. It started in San Marcos years ago with the Lions Club. Though, it is horrific in Martindale as you've heard today. I hope and pray that you will help us. I hope and pray that you will make the entire river a national park to protect it. And as the one gentleman said, we protect all our rivers. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you very much.

Lynn Williams and then Stephen Tittle.

MS. WILLIAMS: I'm Lynn Williams. I live downstream of a part of the river, the San Marcos, we're talking about. And first, I want to thank you for the ranger you've posted there and I -- and if you don't do anything else, please send us about eight more just like her.

Since this problem, since all this tubing -- and it's not the tubing, per se. It's the intoxication of people that's posing the danger and ruining the river. We had ten deaths in the space of one year. That is according to Caldwell County's Sheriff Daniel Law, who apparently could not be here today. You can't fish on this stretch. Don't even -- don't try to canoe down it unless you're really good you have a cool head because you're going to end up in a fight. Thank you for what y'all do and please, please consider a linear state park.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you very much. Thank you.

Stephen, followed by Elizabeth Gray.

MR. TITTLE: Yes, thank you. My name is Steve Tittle and I'm a homeowner and President of Riverbend Homeowner's Association and it's just upriver of Martindale, Texas. Many of my property owners are here, have already spoken with you.

Our association has over a half a mile of riverfront, and we support your effort to help solve this problem. I've been at -- I've lived there for over 20 years and I saw it in its pristineness and I see it now and there's a world of difference and it's mainly the tubing businesses and the trash, subsequent trash. And it's not just beer cans. The tubing businesses say they're trying to help. They may or may not be. But a lot of the trash is with their logos. They're inflated -- deflated tubes, their logos, coolers, things like that. Sorry about that.

I will make one other point. If this was happening along a state road or a county highway, it would end immediately. And it's my understanding that the state rivers are navigable waterways, similar to a roadway; and if this was happening on I-35, it would just stop just like that and we're asking for your help to put a stop to it. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you.

Elizabeth Gray and then Todd Votteler.

MS. GRAY: Good afternoon. My name is Elizabeth Gray. I didn't actually sign up to speak, but I have led dozens of canoe trips for youth and families in Texas on nearly all the Texas rivers. We can't take kids or families on the San Marcos anymore. It is horrific what has happened to that river, and I appreciate any help Parks and Wildlife can offer to help solve this situation. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you.

MR. VOTTELER: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Mr. Smith. For the record, my name is Todd Votteler. I work for the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority. As you've already heard, there's a serious problem on the San Marcos River. We've worked closely with Senator Zaffirini's office during the last session to create -- try to create, I should say, a water oriented recreation district, similar to the one which already exists on the Guadalupe River upstream of New Braunfels and has been in place since 1987.

Unfortunately, the bill made it through the Senate; but didn't get all the way through the House, and we are struggling to figure out what the next step is. And I think that the creation of a task force is probably a good idea to try to develop some potential solutions. One of them might be to try again for the district; but it seems like there's really a need to do something sooner, if at all possible to do so.

If you have any questions, I'd be happy to try and answer them for you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you. Any questions?

So we've had several signed up. I may have missed -- have I missed anyone who signed up or would like to speak on this issue?

Okay. Can you please come up? Thank you.

KVANLI: Hi. My name is Ben Kvanli and, you know, I've got to thank you guys because I wouldn't have this little one and I certainly wouldn't have the great life that I've had if it wasn't for Texas state parks and particularly Tom Goynes, you know, the -- I'm one that grew up under those guys' tutelage and I trained and got to go to the Olympics as a result and when I've come back, I've started a program for kids and that kind of evolved into a program for wounded veterans there on the San Marcos.

And so now this little one's got a house on the San Marcos, too. We really love it and, you know, honestly think that it makes a huge difference in a lot of people's lives. The guys that are coming back from the war, they really appreciate the peace that they get from getting out there on the water. And the kids, you know, the focus that they get and the goals that they can achieve, you know, just by having that opportunity, you know, it really does make a big difference in their lives. And hearing kids this morning really, you know, encouraged me. It's like, yes, there are still good kids out there.

It's easy to lose sight of it when we're seeing a lot of kids that are just kind of throwing things away out there on the river. You know, we get out there early and so we make sure that our kids don't see any of the mess that's going on; but it's just impossible to go out in the afternoon. The fact of the matter is, is that the -- you know, everyone should have access to it and I think that that's fair.

You know, it isn't fair that we don't have enough to enforce our laws there. And, you know, the neighborhood that I live in particularly, we have John J. Stokes Parks. It's a state park that's managed by the City of San Marcos. And, you know, in my neighborhood, which got hit pretty hard with the flood, it's the only place that we really have to get out and cool off. And, you know, a lot of my neighbors, we don't have air conditioning and that makes a big difference in the summer to be able to get in and get into a river that, you know, is as cool as the San Marcos. And so we'd really like to ask that you guys would open that back up again.

I know that people are thinking that it's going to, you know, kind of hurt the college kids from getting in if you keep the park closed; but it's really hurting our kids to keep that park closed. And so we'd really appreciate the attention to the area. And, you know, the task force, there's going to be a lot of issues that they can face. I think that, you know, smart, creative people like you can really make a difference in creating something that, you know, is going to allow for the future, you know. It's not just something that's a problem today. This is a problem that's not going away and so if we can figure out some solutions for the future, we would really appreciate it. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Great. Thank you.

MR. FAIRCHILD: Good afternoon. My name is Jack Fairchild, and I thought maybe I'm being discriminated against because of my age. I signed all the things, but I'm not on the list somehow. Anyhow, I'm representing myself and an informal group which I like to call the "River Vigilantes." We're trying to protect the river. So I wanted to just fill in a few exact facts for you so you'll know the magnitude of the problem.

I have determined the appraised value of all the riverfront property from Highway 1979 to Highway 266, which is this area from where the tubers put the -- or where the tubing companies put the tubers in. And just to Martindale, Texas, it's worth $26 million in appraised value. These riverside -- these are just the riverside landowners. They pay $87,000 a year in county taxes. If you include the two additions that are just outside of Martindale, Bell Vista and Martindale Falls, it goes up to $123 million. The county -- the total county taxes paid by the three tubing companies who are destroying our river and using the free state resources, is just $3,100. So you can see that's a bargain for these companies to utilize free, almost free, the resources of the river.

The last two years, I checked to find out how many emergency calls there were to the local EMS. The result was in the summer of 2013, there were 13 calls. This last summer in 2014, there were 26 calls. These are calls where EMS had to send their EMS trucks out to rescue people and this does not count the multiple people of landowners who pull people out of the river every day.

It's already been mentioned that traffic on the river last July was about 10,000 people. The word oriented -- or water oriented recreation district legislation was killed in the calendar committee in the Texas Legislature in 2013 and '14 and '15, in spite of unanimous passage by both House and Senate committees. This is their idea of democracy, I guess. This has also had an adverse effect on commercial tubing -- or the adverse effect on commercial tubing on property values is growing. And we have tried over the years to get Parks and Wildlife interested in helping with the problem, to no avail so far.

So the Texas Parks and Wildlife Code says in Section 13.002: Development and acquisition of outdoor areas. The Department may acquire land, water, and interest in land and water for outdoor recreation areas.

I'm asking you to do something within this power to help us solve our problem. Thank you very much.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you very much.

MR. HOHN: Good afternoon. My name is John Hohn, H-o-h-n. My telephone number is (512)557-5432. I am -- I stand before you as an expert in the use of the rivers of the state of Texas while floating in a circular device, inflated device, which we used to call an intertube. I have floated on most of the moving waters in the state of Texas, but primarily most of my experience is on the upper part of the Guadalupe and San Marcos Rivers.

I have written a book about this. And trying to weed through all of the things that are true that the individuals who have spoken to you on this subject earlier today, to the best of my knowledge, they are all correct. And the point I want to -- one point I want to add that I think most people are missing is I look at the sign above yourselves that says "Texas Parks" and what -- and I've been thinking as these people have been speaking about how probably most of the parks in the state of Texas have been created and that is probably through use. An asset of the state of Texas has been identified generally by people's usage as a place that they want to be and they want to enjoy.

And what has happened is that these -- the volumes and the tubing -- I don't know what you want to call them -- tube rental businesses have usurped or in the process of usurping your responsibility. They have, in fact, created what is a park in this stretch of the river. So how about you guys getting together and getting that back to us, the citizens of the state of Texas and yourselves? Thank you very much.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you.

MS. CONDIE: Hello. I'm Virginia Condie and I live outside of Martindale, south of the tubing issue. And I just wanted to let you know of a couple more specific incidences because I know you're hearing about the trash and the devastation to the landowners; but I canoe a lot on the river and my friends and I have personally witnessed guns being drawn, fights breaking out, a whiskey bottle being thrown at a seven-year-old girl in a canoe, four-person orgy on a visible gravel bar, not to mention the thousands upon thousands of cans and trash tracker.

Needless to say, this is not a safe environment to take children, adults, anybody. In my opinion, it's not safe for one female park ranger to try and go up against a group of 20 guys who are wasted, much less three to 7,000 tubers on a weekend. And those counts have been done a lot recently, so we're getting those numbers pretty consistently. It's not just 4th of July. It's a random Saturday.

If you haven't seen it with your own eyes, I would like to personally invite you. I will personally paddle you down this river. If it's not compelling enough with the numbers that we've brought today, I'd like for you to come and see it because it's -- you can hear about it; but until you've seen it, you just really don't know what's going on.

I have spoken with the following, who are very interested in joining a task force and I have a lot of faith in you guys in leading a very successful task force. Bill West agreed that he would definitely be willing to be a part of a task farce. As you can see, he sent, you know, a representative from GBRA. I've spoken with Martin Ritchey of Caldwell County, the Emergency Manager. He says that this is one of, if not his most, important issues that he'd like to tackle. He'd like to be a part of this. I've spoken with the Caldwell County EMS Director.

And if you don't know, Guadalupe County EMS is located in Schertz and by the time the call comes to Guadalupe County, they're not close enough to get to the river and so they often call on Hays or Caldwell and they just -- there aren't enough people to deal with the number of incidents, missing persons, accidents, etcetera.

I know that the sheriffs would like to be involved. Of course, park rangers, land owners, possibly the tubing companies, possibly Senators, House Members, and I would love to be a part of the task force. So if y'all need anything holler. If you want to come canoeing, holler. And I really am looking to you for a great solution. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

Is there anybody else who I may have missed who's -- who would like to speak on this topic?

All right. Obviously a very, very significant big issue that needs to be dealt with. I just want everyone who took time out of their busy schedules today to be here to know that you've been heard and we've -- we're listening, and we'll take it very seriously. I think Commissioner Morian wants to speak and anyone else on the Commission.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

We've certainly heard this now for several years and I was going to propose -- with your -- the Commission's and Carter's agreement -- that we facilitate some sort of task force. It's going to take numerous parties to have any effect on this problem. Senator Zaffirini has certainly said she's willing to help. So with the Commission's approval and Carter's acceptance, I was going to say let's have a -- let's facilitate a task force to see if we can at least identify some path towards improvement.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Great. Commissioner Duggins.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I want to second Chairman Friedkin's statement about "We've heard you." This is very distressing to know that a natural resource is being trashed like it is. And I know that -- I know this team up here, and I can assure you that we're going to do what we can. I don't know what we can do; but Commissioner Morian's suggestion is a good one, and we might even explore asking the Speaker and Lieutenant Governor Patrick to consider an interim study on this because it may take some legislative action.

There are limited options we as a Commission and the Department have. We'd like to help, but there are limitations. We have to act within the authority the Legislature gives us under the code. But I just want to assure you that we've heard you and we're going to darn sure look into this and see what we can do to try to help with this problem and thank you-all for taking time to come.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you. Any other comments on this?

Thank y'all very much appreciate it.

James Seabolt.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Don't be surprised if we take y'all up on that offer to come to your backyard though and explore the problem firsthand.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: I've got a canoe with a seat in it for you.

COMMISSIONER JONES: All right.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Help us, please.

MR. SEABOLT: Hi, Commissioners. Thank you. I represent 700 petitioners across the state of Texas and 500 Comal County residents.

Who regulates hunting in the state of Texas? Is it hundreds of degreed, experienced experts at Texas Parks and Wildlife? Nope. It is and can increasingly be a County Commissioner's Court with the overwhelming amount of zero experience in wildlife diversity, breeding, habitat, hunting means and methods, or for that matter, any common sense when it comes to wildlife management, specifically White-tailed deer.

Comal County is only one of two known counties in the state of Texas to adopt an ordinance specifically banning bow hunting on 10 acres or less within a subdivision in the unincorporated parts of the county. This ordinance was passed in 1993 by the Comal County Commissioner's Court. In reaching out and researching the minutes, interviewing the sitting county judge at that time, none of them can recount the discussion or real purpose why this ordinance was enacted by the county. Only two people after over 35 interviews of county officials, employees, and residents were able to recount the story.

A single citizen came in and complained about that a family had hunted a deer on 5 acres and ate it and fed it to their family on an adjacent property in a subdivision near hers. This particular resident, now deceased, had a personal relationship with Commissioner Jumbo Evans, now deceased, and convinced him to use Local Government Code 235.042 by the state of Texas allowing counties to regulate bow hunting on 10 acres or less. The only place in the entire local Government Code that even has the word "hunting" in it is this section in any way, shape, or form.

This ordinance limits the right of a property owner to protect their investments, costs the county of Comal and Bandera hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer funds and causes private party depredation of landscapes and poses a major threat through vehicle/deer, vehicle/human, human/deer, pet interactions, and disease transfers. There is also the overwhelming issue of the health of the deer, many of which are starving and diseased, causing profound crisis against the deer population caused by humans.

Texas Parks and Wildlife needs to step in and take a stance to correct this wrong. It is you, Texas Parks and Wildlife, that regulate hunting and are deemed with the stewardship of the wildlife in Texas, not a bunch of elected county commissioners with their own agendas and influences that don't know the first thing about deer management or public safety. There are also huge holes in the ordinance. I can go out on my 6 acres in Comal County, and I can shoot my target a thousand times with my bow; but I can't shoot the doe standing next to it and I can shoot the axis that walks across it because in the firearm's ordinance, there's a hole that says I can shoot a varmint, but I can shoot that axis with my .270, but not my bow.

It is time for Texas Parks and Wildlife to take a stand here. Go to the Legislature and get this provision regulating bow and be removed from the Government Code. You, the Commissioners, please have your Executive Director call these counties and tell them to repeal these ridiculous ordinances. Texas Parks and Wildlife is the one that handles when, how, where a person may bow hunt, not a County Commissioner's Court. My e-mail address and phone number is on a box of jump drives that have mountains of research on this issue, all chronologically ordered so you can look for it. And I know you have some questions for me. Thank you very much.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you very much.

Okay. Patrick Tarleton.

MR. TARLETON: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. My name is Patrick Tarleton. I'm the Executive Director for the Texas Deer Association. I have been on the job a total of two days and I hope that the next time we meet is over a cup of coffee or tea and not me talking to you at the dais.

As a matter of background, the Texas Deer Association and its members are faithful advocates for the Managed Lands Deer Program. The current MLD program has been extremely successful in encouraging best practices in deer management, harvest, and habitat conservation. Many of our members utilize this program to effectively manage their herds and private property. The MLD program has been an incredibly valuable tool for landowners of all shapes and sizes.

Recently, Park staff proposed to make changes to the current system. Our members were overwhelmingly supportive of this. The original intent of the changes seemed to stem from the increase in administrative workload placed on field biologists. No longer were biologists focused on the management of herds and habitat and the resources in the field, but they were seemingly saddled with more and more paperwork in the office. Our members saw the proposed changes to the rule as a way for field biologists to once again return to their duties in the field and outside of the office working hand in hand with landowners across the state.

However, through the course of the proposed changes to the rule, Parks formed a working group designed specifically to handle the management of these rules changes. From our perspective, the working group -- when the working group was formed, all transparency ceased. From that point forward, public participation and small landowner interest diminished. The product from that working group is different from the perceived intent of the rules changes. We believe that proposed changes will not alleviate administrative workload for field biologists. In fact, the proposed changes create a disincentive for landowners who had hoped to use automated system for faster and more efficient tag processing.

The automated system option -- the automated option penalizes small acreage landowners by not allowing for early season buck harvest. It also does not consider factors such as deer densities when calculating number of tags to be issued. In our opinion, the automated system must consider early buck harvest and allow small landowners to carry heavier deer densities when necessary. Additionally, we urge the Commission to keep the original October 1st to February 28th deer harvest dates by any legal means and methods.

These dates should not be changed and the proposed archery-only requirement should be removed. We would also like to ensure that all approved survey methods under the conservation option are consistently and equitably applied throughout the state. These surveying methods should not be based on local field staff bias and in every -- and every private property owner should have the right to use them, regardless of whether they live in Fort Stockton or Beeville.

And we must also stress that the application deadline should not be moved earlier. We would like to continue the date of August 15th. We cannot stress enough the importance of continuing to allow private property rights, particularly small owners the ability to manage their herd and habitat. Thank you for your time.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you very much. Thank you. Appreciate it.

All right. I may need some help with this. It's like Kirby Brown or something. Did I pronounce it right?

MR. BROWN: You did, but I was not going to speak today.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay. Well, you're signed up to speak, Kirby.

MR. BROWN: I said no. Sorry.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: It's nice to see you. It's good to see you.

Rusty Legg and then Evelyn Merz.

MR. LEGG: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Mr. Smith. My name is Rusty Legg, and I am the State Chairman for Ducks Unlimited. I see some smiles already. That is my real name, Rusty Legg. My mom had a good sense of humor evidently.

I'm here on behalf of Ducks Unlimited and our over 750,000 members and supporters, including over 50,000 members and supporters in the great state of Texas. We want to thank the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Commission for your efforts and those of the staff to secure $2 million per year authorization for the Migratory Game Bird Stamp Fund this biennium to fund critical migratory bird work. This is a huge step to enhance habitat for ducks and geese, as well as dove, cranes, and other migratory game.

We know how hard it can be to ramp-up and spend that kind of money on proprietary projects and DU stands ready and willing to assist in project planning and implementation as needed. We also appreciate the Commission's long-term recognition that waterfowl are a shared resource and that waterfowl habitat conservation has to take place not only here in Texas, but also on the breeding grounds that produce our waterfowl. Ducks Unlimited matches every dollar the Department contributes to the State Grants Program and we thank you for your continued commitment to the ducks and the wetlands.

As you heard last March, through DU efforts, Texas annual commitment from the Texas Migratory Game Bird Stamp Funds, we leverage a minimum of four times for waterfowl habitat conservation in Saskatchewan, where banding data shows us a large portion of the ducks harvested in Texas actually come from Saskatchewan. Thus, investing the State's dollars through DU in this region clearly provides the greatest return for Texas waterfowl hunters.

The Department also provides up to $150,000 annually to the Texas Prairie Wetlands Project, which provides cost-share assistance to help privatized landowners restore and enhance wetlands. This is a 24-year wetland conservation partnership with the Texas Parks and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA, Natural Resource Conservation Service, private landowners, and Ducks Unlimited working cooperatively to deliver wet bird -- water bird habitat along the Texas Gulf coast. The Department's contribution is leveraged with other partner funding to secure additional $1 million that provides over 3,000 acres of wetland conservation annually on the Texas Gulf coast.

Since 1991, together we have helped private landowners restore or enhance over 68,000 acres of wetland habitat. Through programs like this with this Commission and our many other partners, DU has conserved, restored, or enhanced over 13 million acres of wetlands in North America. Our special thanks go out to you, your staff, and your Texas waterfowl hunters for the partner -- for your parts and the impressive accomplishment of your conservation.

I know I'm out of time. Just one more second, please. We'd like a special thanks to Mr. Carter Smith, Ross Melinchuk, Clayton Wolf, Dave Morrison, Kevin Kale -- Kraai. I can't -- I didn't bring my glasses. Sorry. Jeff Raasch and the entire migratory bird staff, the wetland wildlife area managers, and coastal resources staff for partnering our regional joint ventures where the planning and science for waterfowl and wetland wildlife takes place. Thanks from the bottom of our heart. You have done a worldwide -- or a nationwide help to the ducks, Ducks Unlimited, waterfowl, and all the migratory game bird. And tomorrow, you know, if you don't mind, kind of look at that little extra Canvasback and the modification to duck and the geese. I appreciate it. Thank you very much. Greatly appreciate everything.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you very much. Appreciate your sponsor -- your partnership. Thank you so much.

Evelyn Merz.

MS. MERZ: I'm speaking for two groups today, and I'm having two handouts. The one on top for the East Texas Black Bear Task Force will be the first one. The second is only for the Lone Star Sierra Club.

Okay. Mr. Chairman, Texas Parks and Wildlife Commissioners, Carter, good afternoon. My name is Evelyn Merz, and I appreciate the opportunity to offer a perspective on the critical juncture we are at with the conservation and management of wild black bears in Texas. Black bears continue to naturally move from Texas and surrounding states in Mexico.

I represent the East Texas Black Bear Task Force of which the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club is a member. It's a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation and management of native and wild free-roaming black bears in Texas and their habitats, especially the forest of East Texas. At this time, it's imperative that the Department continue its efforts to enforce State laws against the killing and harming of wild free-roaming Texas black bears, since black bears are a state threatened species in Texas.

The removal of the Louisiana black bear subspecies from the federally endangered -- excuse me, federally threatened species list under the Endangered Species Act has recently been proposed. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also proposed eliminating the protection of black bears in East Texas under the similarity of appearance clause of the Endangered Species Act. At this critical moment in the recovery, we urge the Department to aggressively continue to document bear sightings and its enforcement efforts against poachers and others who would otherwise kill, maim, harm wild free-roaming black bear in Texas.

East Texas Black Bear Task Force also strongly wishes that the Department would finalize updates and extend the current ten-year East Texas black bear conservation and management plan document that will expire at the end of this year. It has been in effect since 2005 when it was signed by previous Department Executive Bob Cook. The Commission has received this request in the past, and there is still no updated draft East Texas plan prepared for public scrutiny. The East Texas Black Bear Task Force appreciates the opportunity to testify.

I will continue with additional comments and other issues that are solely that of the Lone Star Chapter. I have five topics and more detail is in the handout. I would just like to note that there things that -- five things we think would be important. Improving revenue from specialty license plates by facilitating sales. In the 83rd Session, the Legislature set up the trust fund accounts for all specialty plates. The funds were removed from general revenue and could no longer be used to balance the state budget.

There was a glitch and the funds in the old accounts, as of August 31st, 2013, weren't moved and stayed there. However, during the 84th Session, those funds were appropriated. It's important to turn attention to facilitating the purchase of specialty license plates by the public. This is especially important for the funding of the wildlife diversity program. This could be accomplished by deleting a provision of the Transportation Code that allows 50 cents credit to county who assess or collect for each specialty license plate issued.

Second, please look at the investigating additional options to fund the wildlife diversity program. They're vastly underfunded, and the specialty plates are not enough; but it is possible perhaps to modify an existing permit system so people could use the wildlife areas.

I'll skip over the invasive species and the minimal budget. There's one thing that's extremely important, that's the education of the Legislature on the sporting goods sales tax. There were two potentially damaging bills that would have decreased the amount of sales tax revenue flowing to the sporting goods sales tax this session. Fortunately, they were both defeated. The Legislative Budget Board and its financial analyses did not point out the connection to the sporting goods sales tax, but only noted the effect on the general revenue. Many Legislators who supported these bills, even the ones that have been strong advocates of state park funding.

The Chapter did its best to try and educate Legislators; but similar bills may well return in the 85th Session. It's very important that Texas Parks and Wildlife get out in front of the issue and let the public and the Legislators know where the sporting goods sales tax money comes from and the importance of not chipping away at the source. The Lone Star Chapter appreciates the work of the Commission and the Texas Parks and Wildlife on behalf of the State's parks and wildlife and I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you today.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you very much.

MS. MERZ: Wow. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay. I'm going to quickly -- be right back.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Next speaker is Maria Torres, followed by Jack Fairchild.

MS. TORRES: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman. And good afternoon, Commissioners. Good afternoon, Mr. Carter Smith. We are a Indian tribe nation. We are the original founders of San Antonio de Valero. We come through San Juan Bautista and basically we brought you the last correspondence of the first one follow-up letter. Again, our concern is that HemisFair Park is one of the most important archaeological anthropological site of the southwest, the state of Texas, and internationally. And right now because the urban renewal land bank under Chapter 26, the municipality of the City of San Antonio did not qualify, did not have the acreages of dedicated public parkland to destroy it and even a brewery, a beer brewery on top of the cultural resources of the Madre Acequia, 300-year Acequia that was built by my ancestors, Indians, and as well as the Camino Real.

I brought you only -- to be very short, the 1850 survey of the Madre Acequia with the Camino Real de la Bahia del Espiritu Santo and I brought -- it's five copies because, you know, I brought you the letter and cover several pages. I brought you the survey that they conduct in 2013 and then the one -- oh, the 2004. And it barely has less than 14 acres. We ask you kindly to make an investigation.

We also claim tribal sovereign immunity. No government of United States qualify when we, the tribe, request tribal sovereign immunity under the 11th Amendment. And also ex parte. All the government have spoke between themselves and, again, our position is that you have failed to us and other ones. I mean, other tribes. We have spoke with the Comanches. We have spoke with the Pan Apaches, and Tocahuas. And many of our people -- Coaguitecas, of course. We build the missions. It was blood and sweat. And to turn it in a Sea World -- since last October of last year, they carving the turkey. They're destroying it. It's wrong.

It will never be the people able to understand and comprehend any -- the history of the archaeological physical site being destroyed for a, you know, Sea World like common -- commercial commons where the people are going to get drunk. The people -- that's for interpretation and you already know that we were able -- I'm part of the inscription of the world heritage.

I do have the letter here if you need it. Needless to say, I can e-mail it. The, you know, interest part is Secretary out of Paris, France, give us party status. And I was one of the leading writers in correcting the draft, the final drive for the inscription of the prestigious world heritage of the five missions. So we ask you to please -- thank you for, again, giving me -- I see the red light.

Conduct an investigation. And it does qualify under Chapter 26, and our Indian history is being destroyed. We are just heartbroken that the people will miss the true story as they walk through the Camino Real, and this is about the Camino Real. One of those signs, the City of San Antonio and as well the Department of Interior refused to recognize the alignment of the Camino Real right there in front of your eyes. It's a living museum, and it's been destroyed already. We're losing it. They will put also -- and I finish, thank you -- multiuse mixed apartments, a corridor, that will demolish the old convention center and it will be no longer dedicated public parkland under Chapter 26. And thank you so much and, again, I urge you to read this letter and I also urge you to give us a response because basically your team -- your legal team, our position as a tribe is -- and the other tribes, they just pass it under the rule and, yes, you have jurisdiction.

And, again, it's the most important anthropological archaeological site that people of Texas owns and have the right to know. Combine it with the textbooks, children can come and -- amazed the Acequia Madre is still there, you know?

They just destroy the one -- and I finish -- and the (inaudible). They destroy it to the ground to make a multiuse apartments. They sell it for 5 million -- it was, of course, on private property -- to make $300 million. What is more worth? To keep our history and understand the connectiveness of our history -- and I will finish -- or ancient Coaguiteca language. Spoken in Coaguiteca, "Kawa Makalo Ate, Xawayo, Tupayo," and that means: Love your family relationships and the time of the weeping. The creator will deliver us.

Thank you for listening. Do you have any questions, Mr. Chair and Commissioners?

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you. Thank you very much.

MS. TORRES: Thank you so much.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Jack Fairchild and then John Hohn.

MS. HALLIBURTON: Jack already spoke and John has, too.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Oh, he has?

Okay. Karen Hadden?

MS. HADDEN: Good afternoon, Commissioners, Chairman Hughes, and Director Smith. I want to start by thanking you for your work with the state parks. I use and appreciate the state parks, and it's a wonderful thing that we're able to have this land.

I come here with a serious concern, and it's hard to talk to you about this. I want to see our Texas parks' lands protected, and I also have a request for information from you in this regard. Right now, there are two companies in Texas that are seeking to bring high level radioactive waste into our state. They're waste control specialists that has an Andrews County site now and also a company called AFCI.

And I think it's important. I'm sure that you guys are aware that AFCI is reportedly owned by one of your Commissioners, Bill Jones, Mr. Bill Jones. The news reports also say that Chairman Dan Hughes is reportedly selling or considering selling 2,000 acres of Apache ranch land in Kent for this purpose. I'm very concerned because I think that this is a dangerous pursuit, that it puts our land and health and lives at risk, and that includes state park lands.

The closest state park is Balmorhea, which is one of my favorites, about 30 miles away roughly. But the transportation routes for this high level fuel -- which is the spent fuel rods from reactors. It would come from 100 reactors around the nation, many of them on the East Coast -- would bring this on our state highways and I would like to know how many of our state parks are within, say, 300 miles of what believe would be the most likely transportation routes?

The reason I use that figure, I went out to a public meeting June 11th in Van Horn and I heard Mr. Jones speak and he referred to the accident at the WIPP site and at the WIPP site, you know, one source speculated that the winds may have blown some of the release of radiation -- that was supposed to be the safest site in the nation, by the way; and within 15 years, there was a major leak. But reportedly, the radiation may have spread as much as 300 miles. So I would like to know how many of our parks would lie in that sector?

There's about a hundred thousand metric tons of irradiated fuel and if you separated it out, there would be a thousand metric tons of plutonium. Which if you were to make bombs, would create 120,000 nuclear bombs. There's a risk of sabotage on our highways, acknowledged by our state environmental agency, the TCEQ. Accidents, DOE says there will be accidents. If even one of them was serious enough, it could contaminate 42 square miles of land, costing anywhere from 620 million to 9.5 billion to clean up, according to DOE.

So I ask your help and consideration. I don't think it's appropriate for Parks and Wildlife Commissioners to be involved in such a pursuit, and I ask you to put the safety of our health and lives and of our state parks ahead of anything else. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you very much.

Debby Ally and Meg Davis is next.

MS. ALLY: Thank you for having us here today. My name is Debby Ally, and I represent Texas Equestrian Trail Riders Association. The acronym is TETRA. We appreciate the ongoing relationship our organization has had with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for over ten years, which has resulted in construction and maintenance of equestrian trails in state parks across the entire system.

Due to recent flooding, many equestrian trails are closed; but TETRA is organizing to assist with recovery efforts in the earliest possible timeframe. Currently, recovery projects are scheduled at Lake Sommerville Nails Creek Unit in November, new trails are underway at Abilene State Park, and ongoing development of trails continues at Palo Pinto Mountains State Park.

Nails Creek trails and equestrian camping area were an early project of TETRA, and the local riders have worked closely with park personnel over the years to maintain and improve that facility. Recent flooding has rendered the trails unavailable and our regional director has arranged assistance with repairs to the trail as soon as access to the park is restored. We also are providing volunteer leadership at Abilene State Park to develop equestrian trails in a previously unused portion of the park. Environmental and archaeological surveys are completed and mapping of trails is underway. Local volunteers through the Friends of Abilene State Park are eagerly working to complete an extended set of trails.

At Palo Pinto Mountains State Park, members of TETRA are working with the park staff and several groups to construct hiking and equestrian trails throughout the park. To date, we have cleared and connected approximately 25 miles of trails in the 4500-acre property. We have coordinated with North Texas Range Riders, Brazos Valley Hounds Riding Group, Brownwood Riding Club, and local riders; and I would like to add this is a first for several groups to join together in one state park.

We've held six trail workdays since 2013 and have offered invitational trail rides for those workers and groups four times. Each time we've had these trail rides, the money for the ride has gone to the park to help with costs. A fifth ride is planned for October 2015.

The Palo Pinto Partners Group is being organized and TETRA has two representatives on the proposed board of directors. Public interest is intent for completion and opening of Palo Pinto Mountains State Park and for continued improvements in these other sites. TETRA sincerely appreciates your work during the recent Legislative session, which resulted in significant improvements for funding the state parks. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you.

Meg Davis.

MS. DAVIS: Hi. I'll just kind of pre-apologize for some duplication of the previous conversation. But I represent myself and a number of landowners and residents in Culberson County in West Texas and we are concerned about Balmorhea State Park in regards to the high level radioactive nuclear waste storage facility that is being proposed 32 miles northwest of the park.

TPWD's mission is to manage/conserve the natural and cultural resources of Texas and to provide hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation opportunities for the use and employment of present and future generations. Surely this mission requires some action to be taken by the Committee to protect Balmorhea State Park from this risk. A Texas state park that is the world's largest spring-fed swimming pool. It's defined as precious water for the area on TPWD's website, serves as the habitat to an impressive list of endangered species -- sorry -- and a pure genetics, such as a pure genetic strain of the Headwater catfish, the Comanche Springs pupfish, the Pecos Gambusia fish to name a few. While ducks, geese, doves, quail, javelinas, Mule deer, White-tailed deer, and Pronghorn antelope that live in the region also provide hunting opportunities.

We are concerned about what appears to be a conflict of interest of two TPWD Commission members who are actively working to create this facility near Balmorhea State Park, with the plan to bring in tons of high level radioactive waste from around the country. They are Bill Jones, co-owner AFCI Texas, the company that is proposing the facility; and Dan Allen Hughes who owns the land that would be purchased -- that is believed to be purchased to -- and used for the dangerous purpose of this facility. Both serve on this Commission whose mission is protect and conserve the natural resources of Texas.

If even a small amount of radioactive material is released, it could contaminate a 42-square mile area, which Balmorhea State Park clearly falls within. It would also cost millions to billions of dollars to clean up. The WIPP, or the Waste Isolation Pilot Project site in Carlsbad, New Mexico, takes federal radioactive waste and was supposed to be the gold star standard for safety and the flagship facility. It only took 15 years to have two disasters within nine days.

It is clear that high level radioactive waste storage is still in its infancy stages and has lots of growing pains to go through. Please don't allow these growing pains to be to the detriment and possible demise of Texas' most wonderful state parks.

Mr. Jones, Mr. Hughes, we ask that you consider halting pursuit of the high level radioactive waste storage near Balmorhea State Park since damage to the park is not if, but when in our opinion; or consider resigning as Parks and Wildlife Commissioners so you will no longer have the conflict of serving the public by protecting these lands.

We do think you-all for all of your work, and we appreciate your time.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you.

Any chance I've missed anyone who would like to speak today?

Okay. We've completed our business and I declare us adjourned. Thank you.

(Annual Public Meeting adjourns)

(Mr. Roy Leslie's handout follows below)

MR. LESLIE: My name is Roy Leslie, 110 Canyon Drive, San Antonio, Texas 78209.

Late on August 2nd, I was watching a canyon and thinking about CWD. I was bothered by the fact that most exotic cervids can be shipped anywhere in Texas with no regard to quality of habitat, White-tail density, or the possibility of disease transmission.

I share a fenceline with an exotic importer, and it is of direct concern to me that I can throw a rock over the fence and hit a non-native cervid.

I was also frustrated with the term "Stakeholder." Didn't seem "Stakeholder included the normal hunters, ranchers, lessors, and lessees that make up the 700,000 that hunt Texas every year. I had three bars on my iPad and thought, "Hell, why not put together a petition." So, I did.

Last week on my way to Hondo, I got an e-mail. A reporter had seen the petition and asked David Langford for help in finding Roy Leslie. He asked if this Leslie guy was operating on his own or was affiliated with any organization. David answered "Solo," followed by my phone number, then "a cousin and best of friends." I don't remember David being wrong in the last 30 years, but he was wrong in that e-mail.

When I hit SEND on that petition site, I was operating "Solo;" but when the first signature appeared, I became "affiliated." I became a spokesman for under- or non-represented "stakeholders." I have many fears, ideas, suggestions, and concerns about CWD, as some of you know. But today, I represent over 1,500 stakeholders who were concerned enough to sign this petition. The defining statement of the petition reads: "We, the undersigned, are not willing to take the risk that CWD is not transmissible through the exotic herds to our free-ranging deer."

How can we afford to assume that transmission from confined White-tails to Axis and Sika is unlikely or impossible? Some blame the CWD jump on elk. Some suggest the original Colorado transmission source was sheep. Why is the transmission from White-tail/elk/Mule deer to Axis/Sika so difficult to imagine? Because there is "NO DATA." I fear those two little words. We've heard them so often from people in a hurry whenever caution is urged in the introduction of exotic flora and fauna. The phrase that inevitably follows "no data" is "Sorry, it's way beyond our control."

The last paragraph of the petition states: "The Texas hunting heritage and our wildlife management efforts of the last 50 years are at risk. Our Texas White-tail deer need no help in breeding, nor do they need any genetic enhancement. They only need us to have the will to stop CWD in its tracks."

(End of handout)

C E R T I F I C A T E

STATE OF TEXAS       )
COUNTY OF TRAVIS )

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

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

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and seal this Turn in date _____ day of ________________, ________.

___________________________________
Paige S. Watts, CSR, RPR
CSR No.: 8311
Expiration: December 31, 2016
DepoTexas - Firm Reg. No.: 17
Sunbelt Reporting - Firm Reg. No.: 87
1016 La Posada Drive, Suite 294
Austin, Texas 78752
(512)465-9100
Job No. 244714

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