TPW Commission

Work Session, November 5, 2014


TPW Commission Meetings


NOVEMBER 5, 2014



COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Good morning, everyone. The Chairman asked me to go ahead and start. He had to take a phone call. I would like to call the meeting to order November 5, 2014, at 9:12 a.m. Central Standard Time. Ann, you left that out of the minutes or the notes rather.

Before proceeding with any business, I believe Carter Smith has a statement to make.

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

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you. The first order of business is the approval of the minutes from the Commission retreat held Augusts 19, 2014, and the portions which reflected Commissioner Scott's conduct have within been extracted. I'm only jesting for my dear friend.

Seriously, the minutes from the Commission retreat held August 19, 2014, have been distributed. Are there any corrections? If not --

COMMISSIONER JONES: Move for approval.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Motion Commissioner Jones. Second, Commissioner Scott. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Motion passes, and I'll turn it back to the Chair.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Okay. Good morning, everyone. Sorry about that. I had to step out for a quick call. I guess we're approving --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: We've done the minutes.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: We've done all the minutes?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yes. No, we haven't. Let's see, right here.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: All right. Next order of business, approval of minutes from the previous Work Session held August 20th, 2014, which have been distributed. Is there a motion? Commissioner Martin?


COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Morian. All in favor say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

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

And lastly is approval of the minutes from the Annual Public Hearing held August 20th, 2014, which have been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?


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

(Chorus of ayes)

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

Work Session Item No. 1 is going to be an update from Texas Parks and Wildlife on the Texas Parks and Wildlife progress in implementing the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Land and Water Resource Conservation and Recreation Plan. Mr. Smith, please make your presentation.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission. For the record, my name is Carter Smith. Nice to be with everybody today. Deer season has opened, dove season opened, duck season opened, and it's raining outside. I'd say life is pretty good in Texas.

So a couple of quick announcements that I want to make. We've got a couple of new members of the leadership team that I hope everybody has a chance to meet and welcome and I'll tell you, they're a product of a very, very competitive pool of applicants. I want you to know that really at all levels, all positions throughout this Agency, we're getting just some phenomenal applicants that are wanting to come work for your Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and so we continue to work hard to try to recruit the best and brightest and most talented and the two that I'm going to introduce now are certainly no exception to that.

First, David Buggs. David, where are -- you there on the front row sandwiched between Robin and Ann. David's our new Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer. David's had a great career in this field with FedEx and American Airlines, among others. Graduate of Southern and Baylor and UT. Don't hold it against him, he hails from that other state to the east, Louisiana across the marsh, Commissioner. And so we're tickled to death he's joined the team. David came to work for us September -- is that when you started?

MR. BUGGS: September 1st.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, September 1st. So, David, welcome. Delighted to have you as part of the team. Been a great member already.

Then also immediately behind me and next to Brent Leisure is Jessica Davisson. Jessica is our new Infrastructure Division Director, and Jessica came to the Department back in 2009. She had a long career with Pulte Homes. She's a native Floridian. Graduate from the University of Florida. Degree in construction management I guess, Jessica, and been a branch manager with us in Infrastructure and just made the decision yesterday to promote her to our new Division Director in Infrastructure and so let's welcome them with a big, warm round of applause.

(Round of applause)

MR. SMITH: The other thing we got yesterday was a couple of new Parks and Wildlife babies. And Carly Montez in our Communications Division. Carly has presented to y'all a time or two and she welcomed little Brady Montez into this world. Mom and baby are doing well, and so excited about that. And then Josh Havens and Angela had a little baby last night, little Brooks Joshua Havens. And so excited about those two little bushwackers joining the Parks and Wildlife nursery and you'll see them crawling around I'm sure at the next meeting. So anyway, keep them in your thoughts. It's -- but moms, babies, and dads are all doing well. So excited to announce that.

I want to introduce another colleague that's with us today, Michael Wales from the Legislative Budget Board. Mike's in the second row. Mike's our new Budget Analyst and so we've had a chance to work extensively with Mike already on budget policy related things and obviously as we go forward in the Legislative Session, Michael is going to be intimately involved in kind of all things Parks and Wildlife and so I think this is Michael's first Commission meeting to attend and so welcome, Michael. Appreciate you taking the time to join us today.

I'll run through a couple of things. Kick it off with our quick Internal Affairs update. You know, that team is fully staffed as of now. You know, led very ably by Major Joe Carter, Assistant Chief Jonathan Gray. We've got two Captains. I see Brad Chappell right behind me. He is -- he is here as well. And so we've got a great team there. You know, four -- four investigators in total and an Executive Assistant as well and that team is doing very, very well.

I'm going to have an end of the fiscal year report from Joe soon. You know, they responded to about 177 calls last year in incidents. A wide range of activities as you know. They've been very busy. Also on the training front, just led training for new supervisors on training related to ethics, collecting written statements, and also domestic violence which is something our folks sometimes have to contend with. So our Internal Affairs folks doing a great job just on helping with training out there in the field and so I want to applaud them for that.

As is customary, you know, we usually at this time talk about the Agency Dashboard and provide kind of a series of financial workplace performance metrics and how we're doing. One of the things that I think the feedback we've got from the Commission is that that tool is just really not serving its purpose the way we originally intended. I think we got off to a good start with it, but the feedback we got is it's too busy, too much. And so we're going to take a look at kind of the key measures that we're reporting back to y'all on.

The Chairman has approved kind of those new specific Land and Water action items or measures and so probably going to look at how we present updates on those to the Commission much more regularly and keep better track of that and better engagement of the Commission on that. So we'll be working with him on that going forward, and in January we'll roll out kind of another iteration on that front.

I believe we passed out to you a copy of the fiscal year 2014 stocking report. You know, this is one summation of one facet of the many, many things that our Fisheries and Wildlife biologists and technicians do. You know, obviously stocking fish and game is certainly not a surrogate for all of the habitat and extension and outreach and regulatory and enforcement work, but it is a very important part of how we manage fish and game across the state. This gives you a summary of all the activities associated with Coastal Fisheries and Inland Fisheries and Wildlife on that front over the last fiscal year and it's extensive.

Our Coastal Fisheries biologists stock upwards of 26 million Redfish and trout and flounder in Texas bays and estuaries. That is a lot and that means a huge deal to those coastal communities and anglers that depend upon healthy fisheries. Our Inland Fisheries team, in spite of some pretty tough drought conditions and being down one hatchery, helped stock a little over 20 million, 20 and a half million bass and catfish, Striped bass and so forth on inland lakes and waterways all around the state. I'll also point out that 21 state parks were stocked with fish produced by Inland Fisheries, so that's a great partnership when we think about free fishing in state parks. And you'll hear just a minute also some of the important work they're doing on the Neighborhood Fishing effort to help take fishing to where the people are in stocking in urban lakes to promote that.

Our Wildlife team, this is a great shot of Eastern turkeys being released. You know that story and the important work that our biologists are doing in East Texas on trying to bring back Eastern turkey to the woods and pastures of East Texas and experimenting with new techniques. We've had great cooperation from Southeastern and other states with Eastern turkeys to be able to get us birds to restock and look forward to that program continuing. Also, you'll see summaries of work they've been doing to bring back Bighorn sheep to mountains that hadn't seen them in 50 to 100 years and also to help transplant Pronghorn from the Panhandle where Pronghorn are generally doing pretty well or at least stable over to areas around Marfa and Marathon, where as you know they've experienced precipitous declines in the Trans-Pecos. So Wildlife biologists have a lot on that -- along that front. So please take a look at that report. Ross worked to compile that with the Division Directors and the PMO and it's a good summary and I think you'll enjoy reading through that.

I wanted to highlight this. Commissioner Morian, this building will look familiar to you. You and I made a tour of it one time out at Sheldon Lake, our new regional office facility out there. And I think we're highlighting it because it just received the gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council and so from a lead certification, that's pretty special. And when we think about our conservation mission, not only does it extend to lands and waters and fish and wildlife, but it also extends to the built environment that we manage and we've got to be thinking about how we manage our water or wastewater and energy use.

It's consistent with our mission. It helps to advance important statewide plans like the State Water Plan and how we work to model the conservation of water, to help advance the Comptroller's State Energy Plan and how we save energy and also it's good business. When we can save money by being more efficient and using the materials and the resources we have more wisely, it frees us up for other things. And so I see this really as an important business driver, a mission driver; but also advancing important state goals and this is a fabulous building recognized by the Green Building Council for really important integrated elements on passive energy design, shaded glass, natural day lighting, reuse and recycled materials, solar panels, use and reuse of water and wastewater. So it's a great leading example for the kind of construction we want to have going forward in our facilities to help advance and speak to our conservation mission.

Neighborhood Fishing, I mentioned that earlier. Y'all are, I think, most of you familiar with this program. This is where our Inland Fisheries biologists are working to create opportunities for families to fish in urban and near urban areas. You can see here that we've got 14 lakes that we work on in communities around the state. We've had about 82,000 participants. Put that in perspective, 2006 -- Ellen, I guess we had maybe 30,000 participants. So we've come a long way.

I think what's most interesting is the types of anglers that are using those. A lot of them, 50 percent of them are new anglers, don't have a fishing license or ones who have a lapsed fishing license. Meaning that they purchased a fishing license, but they let it lapse. And that's been a big issue with our fishing licenses when we think about that turnover and, you know, we really want to push on the retention issue as opposed to always trying to acquire new customers. It's a lot cheaper on the retention front.

Also what we see in these communities, that they are also heavily utilized by Hispanic families and that's a very important target for us in those urban lakes. And so great opportunity for families to get outdoors. Well supported by a host of partners -- Toyota Texas Bass Classic, Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, among many. So great work of our Inland Fisheries team and excited about that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Carter, before you --

MR. SMITH: You bet.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: How do we identify the lakes that -- you say there are 14 Neighborhood lakes. How do we select those and what do we do to target new potential lakes and --

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I mean I'm thinking about one in Fort Worth on the west side of town. It's Como Lake that is in that -- frankly, it's in the middle of an African-American neighborhood; but it would be a fabulous target I would think for this.

MR. SMITH: You bet.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That's what I'm curious about.

MR. SMITH: Well, we certainly want to know about that. I'm going to ask David Terre to come up to help me with this. One of the things our team has used is business analytics to -- through SAS and some pretty sophisticated tapestry analysis to identify very targeted demographic groups that we want to do a better job of reaching in urban areas and use that to help drive lakes that they select so we can reach, you know, some specific audiences that maybe we haven't done as good a job reaching before and I know that's been a very important tool, Dave, that you and your team have used; but please elaborate.

MR. TERRE: Yeah. Dave Terre, Chief of Fisheries Management and Research for Inland Fisheries. Yeah, the lakes are picked in a very strategic fashion. You know, we have been with the program since the early 2000s and have learned that this program is most effective on smaller water bodies in these cities. Generally, three acres is about -- three to six acres in size is a good size because the fisheries are supported through put-and-take catfish or Rainbow trout stocking done throughout the year. Matter of fact, every two weeks.

And larger reservoirs really are not cost feasible to do that type of effort, but the lake's got to have good facilities. You know, they -- we like to -- first of all, they need to be in a metropolitan area that's 100,000 people or more. The DFW area, we have a huge footprint in the DFW area right now with Neighborhood Fishing; but we're trying to target these urban areas. We want there to be a willing partner. Usually it's a city or a county government partner who controls access to the park. These -- we want the park to have restroom facilities, adequate parking, good bank access, lots of different factors.

And what Carter was talking about too is we do look at the tapestry of neighborhoods in the area and based on the science, we are trying to target Southwestern families which is a largely Hispanic group, under represented group in our traditional fishing license sales. But what we find is that group, that tapestry group, is highly attracted to Neighborhood Fishing. So it's a way for us to reach, so it's very efficient in that way. But it's very strategic.

We're, of course, open to every and all opportunities to expand the program and it's really funds that, you know, limit the -- its expansion right now.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Do you mind checking to see whether Lake Como in Fort Worth is in the group or has been considered to --

MR. TERRE: Absolutely.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I think it fits the parameters you've described and --

MR. TERRE: Absolutely. We do have a list -- yes.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: African -- African-American and Hispanic neighborhood and it seems to me that would be a great opportunity to give kids there as opposed to doing other stuff that we don't want them doing.

MR. TERRE: Absolutely, happy to.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And I think Richard Zavala from the Fort Worth Parks and Rec Group would be -- would be interested in working --


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- and partnering with. So I would just like to know when you get a minute if that's --

MR. TERRE: Absolutely, would love to report back to you on that for sure.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Luther Lake is another one that's only a mile or so west that is exactly that size --

MR. TERRE: Okay.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- that would be ideal.

MR. TERRE: Okay.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: I've got a couple of questions. Do we rotate the lakes, I mean, or are they the same 14 lakes annually? And secondly, do the participants require a fishing license or is this just to try to introduce them to fishing and get them interested in the outdoors?

MR. TERRE: What we've done is some of the statistics that Carter mentioned was a -- was an evaluation of the program to make sure that we're meeting the goals of the program. One of the big goals of the program is to meet -- that the programs involve about 50 percent of our constituents as new anglers or lapsed anglers. So that's really important.

But we continue to monitor the success of these and if they're not performing or not meeting the goals, we'll rotate out -- we'll use that as information to rotate out and move to a different lake where we can achieve these goals. It's very strategic, and it's all based on science. You know, we did a big evaluation in -- I guess it was around 2006, 2007, and then again here just recently the numbers that Carter reported and I'm happy to say that, you know, we're bringing more and more people to these lakes and I think a lot of it has to do with the great work of our -- us working with our Marketing department in promoting these lakes.

But I think it's important, this is not the kind of program that you can put on one lake and just except it to -- you know, it's something you want to establish a customer base. You know, we want to place that close to where people live, is easy to access, and a place that people can count on to have good quality fishing and to be honest with you, the only way we can provide quality fishing and these small systems are so small, is through this put-and-take stocking program. So we want these places to be safe, very strategic.

But, yeah, generally when we get them, we have -- there was a lake in Houston just recently that was underperforming and so we decided to move it. It was in Tom Bass Park. We ended up moving it to Missouri City and are now doing that and are evaluating that. But, you know, we're -- we're all about meeting our goals and making fishing convenient and close to home for families.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any more questions? Thank you.

MR. SMITH: Thanks, Dave. Perfect, thank you.

MR. TERRE: Thank you.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Chairman, Vice-Chairman. Just August 15th, we rolled out the new Outdoor Annual App. I hope all of you have downloaded that on your smart phone. It is a fabulous tool for getting the most up-to-date information that you need while you're on the land and on the water. As of November 3rd, we've had more than 50,000 downloads of that and I'll tell you the reviews of this have just been effusive. Folks have just really loved the accessibility of this, the convenience.

You know, you can pull up hunting or fishing and it will geolocate where you are and tell you where there's opportunities to fish or hunt on public lands and public waters near where you are and so it's a great way for folks that are looking for places to go, but incredibly convenient and just another one of our pushes to help make more information available through mobile technology and mobile access. So anyway, help us get the word out about that. This is a great, great tool.

The attack of the Zebra mussels. Do we have video here? What are we doing here? So, you know, we just finished up our fourth year of our Memorial Day to Labor Day campaign and we continue to push hard on this and the message hasn't changed. You know, clean, drain, and dry your boats when you're moving from one lake to another and that's become particularly important as Zebra mussels have spread out of North Texas and into Lake Belton and as of the end of September into Lake Waco and that was very disconcerting to say the least when a work barge moved from Lake Belton into Lake Waco and all of a sudden we've got Zebra mussels now in that basin. So our Fisheries biologists continue to work on this very, very closely. They have great partnerships with river authorities and other water managers that have helped us fund this campaign.

Our Communications Marketing team, Inland Fisheries have really made this a priority. Law Enforcement has certainly been a key here too as of late and we're going to continue to push hard on this. But wanted to let you know this is still very much a priority for us, but the -- that discovery of mussels in Lake Waco was admittedly a blow. A very interesting experiment underway right now with the City of Waco and Inland Fisheries and Corps to try to see if we might be able to localize that and they've put black tarps down on all of that area that was impacted in the hopes of really smothering all aquatic life there, including Zebra mussels, in the hope that maybe we'll be able to control it. I guess -- how long are we going have those black tarps? Is that a three-month experiment, Alan?

Three months, okay. And so anyway, very, very, very unfortunate; but again, we're going to continue to do everything we can to help educate the importance about not spreading this.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Is there anything moving on the deal with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife on that stuff that actually will kill them?

MR. SMITH: You know, I have not heard anything more -- yeah, no, on a biocide that's -- yeah, yeah, yeah. I'm afraid we're a long ways off from something that we can be able to use in any kind of a scale, Commissioner. Good question. Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Am I right that the contamination at Waco occurred because an individual brought a work barge in from Oklahoma or -- no. Okay, well --

MR. SMITH: My understanding is a work barge that had been on Lake Belton -- yeah, yeah, and then moved over to Waco. Yeah, very unfortunate. And, you know, that individual company was cited appropriately; but just very, very disconcerting given all of the educational efforts in that area and obviously the City of Waco very, very disappointed by this finding, so.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Do we need to pursue any type of legislation that might create some criminal penalty for people that are just completely indifferent to these rules?

MR. SMITH: You know, right now my understanding is the -- it's a Class C, Colonel?


MR. SMITH: For possession and transport. You know, I'm not sure what a deterrent that is.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That's like a traffic ticket.

MR. SMITH: Yeah. So I think the issue is, you know, it could be that the gravity of that penalty and consequences of that may need to increase to help serve potentially as more of a disincentive for that.


MR. SMITH: Sure.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Expound a little bit on that barge. Did they not know they were supposed to clean and do all of that, or did they know and just simply drop the ball and didn't do it?

COLONEL HUNTER: It's my understanding they knew.

MR. SMITH: Come up, Colonel.

COLONEL HUNTER: Craig Hunter with Law Enforcement. I read the case; but it's been a while, so I'm not up to date. But it's my belief that the suspect or the defendant in the case actually knew and that was part of when he was interviewed by our employees. He was subsequently filed on.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, that's the reason I -- that's my understanding from the paper, too, that he just --

COLONEL HUNTER: And I'll verify that and get back to y'all with some updated information.


MR. SMITH: Thanks, Colonel. Nonetheless, not withstanding that, I do think this campaign is having an effect. We're getting a huge number of impressions and I think we would see this probably mussel spread even further without the effort that's being put here by our Communications team and Inland Fisheries and so we need to keep this campaign up in earnest and we will and I want to assure you of that.

Votes are in, the people have spoken, the election that I know you've all been waiting for is here and that is the new Wildlife Diversity license plates that we put out for public vote. As all of you know, we had gone out to ask the public about a new state park's plate and you remember that the camping plate was selected by the masses. That quickly became the fastest selling plate that we've seen in the state. Our team had proposed six possible plates that are addition to the Horned lizard plate. Again, the most popular specialty license plate and we're keeping that one. But folks had a chance to choose from a hummingbird, a rattlesnake, a mountain lion, a cactus, a dragonfly, and a butterfly and folks told us they really liked that hummingbird and rattlesnake and so we're adding that to the list. And so add that to your fleet and help support a good cause, Wildlife Diversity in Texas. They need every dollar.

Since 2000, these plates have raised almost $7 million for conservation programs in Texas; so it's a great way to help raise funds to help support fishing and hunting and wildlife diversity and other important conservation needs and so we're excited about the addition. Great job with Communications and Wildlife on this front.

COMMISSIONER JONES: We ever consider combining the two and showing the rattlesnake actually hitting the hummingbird?

MR. SMITH: Mother Nature is cruel, isn't she, Commissioner. It's -- yeah. People need to learn sooner rather than later. It's --

COMMISSIONER JONES: I guarantee you we'll double those sales.

MR. SMITH: You heard it here first, Darcy. It's -- all right.

MS. BONTEMPO: We'll take that into consideration.

MR. SMITH: Okay, good, good, good. Really excited about another leadership academy that's got established across the country. This was really the brainchild of group called NACLEC, the National Association of Conservation Law Enforcement Chiefs, which obviously Craig is a member and that group came together with other conservation leaders who felt like that a specialized leadership development program for law enforcement professionals around the country to be held at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, would a great opportunity for colleagues working in that arena.

And so we just had the inaugural class, went great. We had three of our leaders participate. Scott Jurk, a Captain over in the Belton and Temple area and Assistant Chiefs or Commanders Kevin Davis and Cody Jones, both of whom that you know that work out of the Austin headquarters were three of the first class. And so excited about them having a chance to participate and just another manifestation of the professional development that we're investing in for staff and I want y'all to know what an important priority that is for Kent and really all of our Division Directors in terms of investing in our people and these three are the future of this Agency.

So with that, Mr. Chairman, I'll wrap it up and see if the Commission has any other questions I might be able to answer.

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

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Work Session Item No. 2, Internal Audit Update for Fiscal Year 2015 Internal Audit Plan, Cindy Hancock. Good morning.

MS. HANCOCK: Good morning. I am Cindy Hancock, Director of Internal Audit, and I'm here today to update you on the completion of fiscal year '14 internal audit plan and any ongoing or completed external audits. In addition, I want to brief you on the methodology used in developing the proposed fiscal year '15 internal audit plan and provide a recommendation for adoption.

Okay, this is a summary of the internal audit projects approved for fiscal year '14, including a few fiscal year '13 projects that carried over well into the fiscal year '14. We had 20 projects to complete. In addition this year, we devoted over a month's worth of work in assisting staff and researching or reviewing information and conducting an external peer review for TCEQ. During fiscal year '14, we completed 15 of the 20 projects. The two fiscal year '13 advisory projects required more work than was anticipated, but the information provided to management should help them in their endeavors.

All the state park audits showed proper fiscal control processes being performed and the public hunt audit resulted in some issues regarding their revenue handling, but management is taking some corrective action on this. The follow-up audit ended this year with 34 outstanding recommendations being implemented.

I would like to express my appreciation to all of those managers who closed those issues this year. Of the five audits still in the progress, two are in the reporting stage -- the BIS audit and the procurement card audit -- with the reports to be issued very soon. The federal grant audit is in the quality assurance review stage. The infrastructure project is in the fieldwork, and the data integrity audit is in planning stage.

For completed external audits during fiscal year '14, we had seven separate audits or reviews from other government entities. I've mentioned some of these in previous updates, but I would like for you to see the entire list right now. NOAA visited our Coastal Law Enforcement staff regarding their performance in a fiscal -- in a financial and performance agreement to enforce federal regulations in federal waters. No major findings resulted from the NOAA review.

The State Auditors Office performed their annual financial portion of the statewide single audit. NSAN noted a reconciliation issue, and they're currently following up on that right now. Shortly after the SAO report came out, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services asked for an update through the Governor's Office on the same reconciliation issue and TPWD provided that update. SAO also conducted an audit of our contracting process. The audit resulted in several findings and recommendations, which have been added to our follow-up tracking database. And the Governor's Office also performed a desk review of a grant purchase of Law Enforcement computer equipment, and there were no major findings during that review.

TCEQ conducted a desk review for a pass-through grant for a construction project at Starvation Gap, which resulted in no findings. And finally, Experis completed their overpayment audit. This was a very long audit. I think it was about 18 months and I've updated you before, which resulted in a couple of findings; but resolution to these issues are being made or have been made.

Currently, we have several external audits being conducted. Ernst and Young was hired by the Texas Department of Emergency Management to perform a statewide compliance audit, looking at the documentation process for Hurricane Ike expenditures. This was for several agencies across the state and that's still ongoing.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I'm sorry. Would you repeat that last statement? You said it was for federal agencies?

MS. HANCOCK: No, it's -- they're looking at -- it's statewide. The -- Ernst and Young is looking at several state agencies on their expenditure documentation for Hurricane Ike.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: There's no auditing of federal expenditures?

MS. HANCOCK: Not on this one.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Sorry, I thought I heard you say that.

MS. HANCOCK: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with our Land Conservation team to reconcile our records with their records regarding lands purchased with federal funds. That should be settled pretty soon, hopefully in December. The Department of Interior Civil Rights Division has conducted a desk review resulting in 17 issues. The Department is working on delivery of missing information or completing required action and those responses are due in February.

This summer, DPS and TDEM had scheduled a desk review of FEMA funded projects resulting from Hurricane Ike; however, that was delayed. So it's still pending. Last week we just had an entrance conference with the Department of Interior Office of Inspector General who has begun -- now here's your federal grant audit. And they're looking at our General Johnson and Pittman-Robertson funds. I'll keep you posted on these as they progress.

And this concludes the audit update and I would like to shift gears now and talk about the internal audit plan, but I would like to know if there's any questions before I proceed.


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: On the DOI audit, the Civil Rights Division, you said there were 16 identified?

MS. HANCOCK: Seventeen, yes, sir.


MS. HANCOCK: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Is that anything that you think you should share with this group or not?

MS. HANCOCK: There's many very -- there's quite a few of just missing information, so that just needs to be gathered and presented to them; but there's several issues. There's a committee. Dawn is working on that, Errol Hardin, I'm sitting in on it, Scott Stover. There's some pretty big issues that -- and required actions that need to be performed, but I'll be glad to give you that list.

MR. SMITH: Cindy, and a lot of that has to do with ADA related issues, don't they?

MS. HANCOCK: Yes, yes.

MR. SMITH: Yeah. So as she said -- and, Dawn, I don't know if you want to come forward to just talk about the response; but as she said, we've got a group that's working on that. You know, they've asked us to put together a plan about how we will survey all of our facilities for what kind of improvements need to be made to help address compliance issue with that and then what that would look like, estimated timelines, estimated costs, etcetera. You can imagine with the volume of facilities that we have across the state, that is no small chore.

So, Dawn, do you want to elaborate any more on that?

MS. HEIKKLA: Dawn Heikkla for the record. Yeah, and when we're looking at facilities, it's not just the structures. It's camping sites, it's boat docks and boat ramps and parking lots, it's just -- it's phenomenal the amount of information that we have to provide for them and so we're working. We've got a group that is addressing the Civil Rights desk review findings holistically and then there's a subgroup working specifically on the self-assessment, the transition planning for addressing accessibility within our facilities, as well as, you know, what -- identifying what skill sets are necessary to name an ADA Coordinator.

An ADA Coordinator is actually the individual that's going to be responsible for looking and managing the transition plan, as well as, you know, making sure that we stay on target for making the corrections that need to be made based on the self-assessment. One of our biggest challenges is going to be funding some of these things. It was brought to my attention yesterday and when we were -- the subgroup was sitting there talking about assessability in these facilities, we have a boat dock in one of our locations where we have to have some new railings put on the boat dock. Well, the boat dock is in a state of repair where it's going to need more repairs and if you address the railing issue, then you have to address the boat dock. If you address the boat dock, then you have to address the ramp. If you address the ramp, then you have to address the parking lot. So it's just we're trying to get kind of a comprehensive transition plan and not just specifically say, you know, a check box, does it meet, you know, the requirements on the assessment or not.

So it's going to be a pretty lengthy process and what we're proposing for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with regard to this desk review is our transition plan and our plan going forward, a process of how we're going to evaluate this and a process for how we're going to address the specific findings, as well as putting in something in future LARs going forward that, you know, requesting funding to address these things.

COMMISSIONER JONES: And this is -- this -- as I recall, this Civil Rights desk review has been going on for some time, hasn't it? This is not new.

MS. HEIKKLA: That's correct. It's a requirement because we receive federal funding.


MS. HEIKKLA: It's something that they do. I think it's a five-year cycle.

MS. HANCOCK: Uh-huh. They do a desk review once every five years and an on-site review. Our next on-site review will be 2018.

COMMISSIONER JONES: When did this desk review start?

MS. HEIKKLA: I think it started in January.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Last -- it was either last year or the beginning of this year, wasn't it?

MS. HEIKKLA: It was in '14.


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Those are the -- is that a fair summary of what you've described as the major issues?

MS. HANCOCK: That's one of the major issues.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, I mean what -- are there others?

MS. HANCOCK: Some of them are -- the notifications on all our publications is a big one. A small one was to get their address right, the reporting address.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I'm not talking about minor or anything. I'm talking about what -- I'd like to make sure you spell out for the group what are the major issues that at least the Department of Interior thinks are significant. I'm not saying we necessarily agree with them; but if you could at least tell us what you believe are the major issues aside from ADA, which you've just -- Dawn's just talked about.

MS. HANCOCK: That's -- right now, that's the one that strikes me as the most important and getting an ADA Coordinator.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Wanting the Department to hire an ADA Coordinator?

MR. SMITH: Yeah, they want an individual with the Department that's specifically identified as an ADA Coordinator to help oversee and monitor and evaluate and lead our progress on this and I -- I mean I -- that's the -- I mean the three issues that I think are probably the most pressing is, you know, somebody that's going to be the lead on this and is the target and has been identified to work with all of the divisions. The issue on the publications is making sure that we have the required federal language on any publication, pamphlet, document, in which we're using federal funds that it talks about obviously we're not discriminating against anyone and that's a longstanding requirement; so we just need to have obviously better consistency.

But the first one really, this comprehensive review of all of our facilities to look at ADA related compliance, that is huge as Dawn said and so that's the big one that I'm most focused on.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, I get that. But I mean are they -- but are we being told or advised that we need to hire a -- to create a position for somebody that does nothing but --

MS. HANCOCK: No, they just want us to appoint one. It could be someone within the Agency.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So this would just be a new set of responsibilities to a current employee?

MS. HANCOCK: Al Bingham was our contact before. I talked to our regional coordinator at DOI and said the audit didn't start out real well whenever she found out that the person that was the appointed ADA Coordinator had left and there had not been one appointed. So when Al Bingham left, that just got dropped I suppose; but...

MS. HEIKKLA: If I may, we actually have someone acting in that capacity. It's not an official designation. And so what we're doing is we're going back and we're looking at according to how the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, how that code of federal regulations defines the responsibilities for this position and we're creating a job description so that we match the right skill set so we have the right individual performing these tasks going forward. And by the time we are expected to respond, which is February 1st, we will have that individual identified or we will have a solicitation out for somebody to do that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And because we receive federal funds, the feds are taking the position that we have to be compliant in their eyes with all of our facilities, not just the facilities that were acquired or maintained with federal funds; is that right?

MS. HANCOCK: There's different -- for buildings that were built prior to '91, there are different standards for buildings that -- or additions and modifications that were done to buildings between '91 and 2010. There's different ones, and then there's new standards that came out in 2012. So it's a series of different standards and it depends on what you've done to your building and some -- they say safe harbor, some that are built during that period, a period between '91 and 2010, it's okay if their standards meet the '91 standards. So it's different stages and there's also a special for historic buildings, the architectural -- Historical Architectural Barrier Act.

MS. HEIKKLA: Barrier, right.

MS. HANCOCK: So we have a lot of different facilities, and I know that not all of them will become compliant; but we do have to notify anyone with a disability about the challenges that they may encounter as they come to that building or provide them with an alternate -- alternative experience.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Is there a way to track how much we have to spend to comply with these various directives?

MS. HANCOCK: I'm sure there is.

MS. HEIKKLA: That's -- excuse me, if I may. That's one of the components of the self-assessment and the transition planning is identifying what needs to be addressed at each facility and then trying to estimate a cost for that and that's part of the information that we'll be returning to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.


MS. HANCOCK: Thanks, Dawn.


MS. HANCOCK: Okay, the Texas Internal Audit Act requires that the audit plan should be developed using a risk-based approach consisting of Executive Management's review of Agency functions, processes, and activities. The risks should be ranked on their probability of occurrence and impact to the Agency and the financial, managerial, compliance and information technology areas.

Starting in September, I compiled financial and other information into a risk workbook. I then sent the risk workbook along with questionnaires or surveys to 101 staff, including Executive Management, Division Directors, and other key personnel. The surveys or structured to obtain top concerns within the Division, Agency wide, external to the Agency, as well as concerns regarding information technology systems and fraud, waste, and abuse. Twenty-one staff responded, and these concerns were scored and ranked based on their responses.

Once the responses were ranked, I sent the top ranked concerns to Executive Management to be scored by priority. Once prioritized, I estimated the work hours needed to complete each project and compare it to the total number of yearly work hours available to our audit team. All top priority concerns or high risk areas were able to be captured in this year's internal audit plan. I sent the proposed internal audit plan to my Commission audit contact -- commissioner Jones, thank you very much -- for comment and the plan will be finalized upon Commission approval.

Final results are included in your books in Exhibit A, showing our fiscal year '14 carry over projects and our new proposed projects for fiscal year '15. The exhibit also includes the number of hours estimated to complete these projects. Also included in the fiscal year '15 internal audit plan are the lists of alternative projects in no particular order. They can be substituted to or added to if time permits.

Therefore, staff recommends the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission approves the TPWD fiscal year 2015 internal audit plan as listed in Exhibit A.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any questions for Cindy? Thank you.

MS. HANCOCK: All right.

COMMISSIONER JONES: I move for the adoption or motion as presented.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Oh, oh, yes. Let me continue on. Thank you, Commissioner Jones. I was looking at the next item. I'm sorry. If no discussion -- if no further discussion, I will place the approval of the fiscal year 2015 internal audit plan on Thursday's Commission meeting and agenda for public comment and action. Thank you, Commissioner.

Action Item No. 3, Managed Land Plan Deer Permit Update, Alan. Thank you.

MR. CAIN: Thank you. Good morning, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. For the record, I'm Alan Cain, the White-tailed Deer Program Leader. This morning, I'll brief the Commission on the status of the Managed Lands Deer Program, as well as possible changes that staff are considering.

Over the last several years, the Wildlife Division staff as well as stakeholders have discussed the need for change. Before I discuss some of those changes, I think it would be important to provide an overview of the history of the MLD program, as well as where we are today with the program and the challenges we face with the MLD program and that would help to put into prospective the need for change.

Okay, Managed Lands Deer Program was enacted by regulation in 1996. Initially the program was designed to issue deer tags to properties under a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Wildlife Management Plan and it provided enhanced bag limit during the general season. Over the years, more levels were added to the program with each level having different requirements, seasons, bag limits, and harvest criteria and a Mule deer MLD was also added in 2005. MLD program has experienced phenomenal growth over the last 18 years and in -- excuse me. In -- enrollment has increased from 813 properties and about 3.1 million acres in 1999 to nearly 9,500 properties and about 24 million acres in 2013.

Trends in enrollment in the MLD program do not appear to be declining. The MLD program remains very important to the Department, as well as private landowners in Texas. The Department recognizes the development -- developing and maintaining long-term relationships with landowners is critical for fostering conservation on private lands. For lander owners and hunters, the MLD program has provided flexibility to manage deer populations, improve habitats, and provide more hunting days.

For the Department, it's provided our biologists the opportunity to engage and educate private landowners about the importance of management in promoting healthy habitats and wildlife populations, since the MLD program has opened the gates to millions of acres of land in Texas for us to talk about conservation and promote that. Habitat management is the basis of support for the Managed Lands Deer program and remains the core element of the program today.

While the MLD program is very important, we do face challenges. Growth in the program presented significant challenges for our staff to meet the increasing number of requests from landowners for technical guidance and simply administering the MLD program. Currently, 78 district and technical guidance biologists handle the approximate 9,500 properties, in addition to other job responsibilities. To put things in perspective, the MLD program has increased tenfold over that time period; but the number of staff has relatively -- remained relatively unchanged in that time period. So incredible growth, and not much change in the number of staff.

The growth in the MLD program limits staff's ability to provide technical assistance. In 2009, the Wildlife Division went through a strategic planning process and ubiquitous comments. We heard from staff during that process we're to streamline the MLD program to meet the demands of the growth of the program. Because TPWD personnel and resources are limited and there's an increasing demand for our assistance, technical guidance efforts must be prioritized to those seeking site specific recommendations for wildlife populations and habitat management. However, staff must be able to issue deer tags and provide general correspondence to those seeking less guidance from our employees and focusing on the deer harvest aspects of the program.

Additionally, changes to the MLD program have resulted in a more complicated program, leading to misunderstanding of the rules, misunderstanding of program intent, lack of consistent application of the MLD program, and has reduced staff's ability to monitor compliance of the MLD program. In looking for ways to address these challenges, the Deer Committee felt it was important to take a step back and really examine the key tenets of the MLD program that support the Agency's mission. The Deer Committee felt that identifying these key tenets were important to help guide the citizens now and in the future when we make changes to the MLD program and to clearly articulate the most important aspects of the MLD program to our participants.

The Deer Committee identified three core tenets that not only support the Department's mission, but were commonly referred to by us and our stakeholders during discussions over the last decade or so about MLD and changes that we made. The tenets identified by the Deer Committee are to foster and support habitat management, wildlife conservation, and hunting and heritage on private lands in Texas, our efforts to focus on the management and enhancement of native wildlife and habitats through education, site visits, written and verbal recommendations, and lastly recognizing the appropriate deer harvest is an important habitat management practice necessary to sustain and enhance native habitats and wildlife population.

With these tenants in mind, the Deer Committee has identified several strategies to address the challenges we face with the program. Simplification of the MLD program is one strategy commonly suggested by stakeholders and identified by our staff during our Wildlife Division's strategic planning process. Simplification of the MLD program could be accomplished by reducing the current levels of the MLD program and including Mule deer MLD in with that, as well as combining the LAMPS program with MLD, which LAMPS is another antlerless deer tag issuance program we have in the eastern third of the state for folks to use, so it would be simplifying those together.

Simplification could also occur through the reduction of data collection requirements and reporting requirements under the current MLD program. And lastly, simplification could occur through reporting requirements and moving to a fully electronic reporting and permit issuance system. Another strategy to improving MLD would be to create an attractive alternative for those participants most interested in the deer harvest tools of the Managed Lands Deer program.

And lastly, we need to change the metric for measuring success of the MLD program for the number of Wildlife Management Plans or acres under Wildlife Management to metrics that measure habitat management. Since habitat management is a cornerstone of the program, quantifying habitat management practices conducted each year on MLD properties would provide a more appropriate metric for program success and that information should be used to help us guide MLD changes in the future and further refine our technical guidance efforts that promote habitat conservation. We currently have three levels --


MR. CAIN: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- go back. What is -- what's -- what did you mean by number -- second bullet point, create an attractive alternative for those most interested in deer harvest tools, what does that mean?

MR. CAIN: So I'll talk about a little bit more of that in a minute, but currently we have folks that are that -- we have three levels of MLD and the highest level, Level Three, provides those participants the opportunity to harvest bucks and does with a rifle from October 1 through the end of February; so they get an early season and the tags are issued to the property.

And so some folks come to the program and seek to get into those levels because they're interested more so in the deer harvest aspects of the program, the tag and the season, the benefit if you will. And because we have people looking for that, they're not necessarily seeking assistance from us or maybe not be ready or interested in habitat management practices, which is really the focus of the program. Especially those higher levels because there is habitat management practices required at those upper levels. And so we have a lot of people -- and I shouldn't say a lot. But we have a number of folks that get into that program just seeking the tag and the season.

So to help address some of this issue with the growth in the program and focus our staff's efforts on providing technical assistance to those folks that really want to do habitat work, we need to offer an attractive alternative for those people that are really looking for that season and tag so we can address their needs and desires while we can still focus our efforts on the conservation aspect of the program.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I guess I'm Level Three, and it takes three years roughly to get there. Are you addressing that timeline as well under that -- under the category that Commissioner Jones is talking about or is it still going to be a three-year process to get to Level Three?

MR. CAIN: There's going to be some entry requirements for the new options and, Commissioner Scott, it may -- I'll come back to that question. It may be answered here in a minute as we go through some of the potential changes. I think it will address some of your concerns and if it doesn't, I'll be glad to follow back up with you if that's all right, sir.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: I heard the presentation yesterday and a lot of these questions I think will be answered as we get -- we might -- obviously if you have a question, well, ask it. But we might get to the end and then see, if that works for the Commission.


MR. CAIN: All right. Thank you, sir. Okay, again -- where we at -- currently we have three levels in the MLD program. We have a Mule deer MLD and we also have the LAMPS program. After our Deer Committee has spent much time discussing the best approach to simplify the MLD program, we believe that collapsing the existing programs into a two-option MLD program would be the best approach.

The proposed changes would include a harvest option and a conservation option. So the following table we're fixing to go through provides a high level overview of these two options, and hopefully it will address some of your questions. The two options were developed with some similarities, but were different enough to address the needs of our stakeholders with different motivations for participation in the MLD program.

The harvest option would be most attractive to those individuals needing less technical assistance from TPWD and who are primarily focused on that deer harvest aspects of the program, that tag and that season. The harvest option requires minimal time from staff.

The conservation option on the other hand would be attractive to those stakeholders that are seeking customized, site specific deer harvest and habitat recommendations for their property. The harvest -- so the harvest option as far as how you get started with the program, it just requires an annual application with some basic information such as the landowner's contact information, whether the property is fenced, high fence, low fence, maybe the acres in the property, the acreage of each general habitat tied in the property so we can use that information later to make harvest recommendations. The conservation option on the other hand would require a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department approved Wildlife Management Plan, much like the current MLD program works today.

Proposed application deadlines the Committee would consider for the harvest option is August 1 and for the conservation option is June 15th. Proposed season dates for White-tailed deer would be approximately October 1st through the end of February for both options. The Deer Committee does not propose a Mule deer season under the harvest option because there's no biological need at that level. But under the conservation option, would propose a Mule deer season running from approximately November 1 through the end of January.

Under both options, hunters would be able to use any legal means to harvest deer -- firearm or archery -- during that entire season. Deer harvest recommendations under the harvest option would be through an automated process in TWIMS. Again, minimal time of staff. It's an automated process. The tag issuance rates would be determined using information provided from the annual application from the landowner and the estimated deer density that's derived from our Department regulatory deer surveys that our staff conduct each year. That information would essentially go into a formula in TWIMS and allow on automated issuance or a harvest recommendation.

Harvest recommendations, again, under the harvest option do not require staff input other than to set an issuance rate for the formula that's to be used in TWIMS to create the harvest recommendation. Deer harvest recommendations under the conservation option would be site specific and customized to the property using deer population data provided by the landowner. These harvest recommendations will be created by our cooperating Parks and Wildlife biologists much like the do now for the Managed Lands Deer program, regardless of what level you're on.

Participants may chose tags to be issued for bucks, does, or both sexes. The Department is also considering allowing MLD participants to print their own tags as a way to address issues with printing and mailing tags and to provide better customer service and eliminate considerable expense for the Big Game program. We mentioned this idea, it's received widespread support when discussed with other stakeholder groups.

Under the harvest option as far as harvest criteria, those properties in a county where antler restrictions are in place, would be required to follow the antler restriction criteria for buck harvest, which means they could only harvest bucks with an unbranched anter or an inside spread of 13 inches or greater on those properties. Under the conservation option, there is no buck harvest criteria and any buck would be legal for harvest. There are no individual bag limits for either option. The bag limit is tied to the property rather than the hunter, and it functions the same as we have now under the MLD program. The bag limit is tied to the property and the recommendation we make for that property rather than the individual hunter.

As far as entry requirements, the harvest option has no entry requirements for participation. However, the conservation option requires the two preceding years of deer population data, the two preceding years of the number of bucks and does harvested, and the two -- during the two preceding years, the landowner must have conducted two habitat management practices for entry into the program.


MR. CAIN: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Why -- on this last item, why the -- why do you need the data for two preceding years?

MR. CAIN: I'll answer that in a minute, but I can --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That's all right. All right, that's fine. I thought -- I just didn't want to -- I don't want to get ahead, so go ahead.

MR. CAIN: I've got a slide that addresses that. That was a concern we heard from some folks in -- so.

Under the conservation option, no -- once you're in the program and you're under the conservation -- harvest option, no deer population is required. Again, we're going to use data provided from our staff and our regulatory surveys to make harvest recommendations. However, the conservation option would require annual deer population data to be provided by the MLD participant. Under the harvest option, no habitat management practice is required; but through the TWIMS system and other automated processes, the Department would -- could provide general habitat management recommendations or management tips. Basically, monthly newsletters, things like that, to educate landowners about conservation on a periodic basis and kind of keep them in the loop since it is -- since habitat is a core element of the program.

Under the conservation option, the Deer Committee proposes that three habitat management practices be conducted or maintained annually and supplemental feed would not be included as a practice. But I just want to remind the Commission that under the current Level Three MLD program, participants are required to conduct four practices. We're talking about reducing that to three practices right now.

Site visits to the properties under the harvest option are not required. However, participants under the conservation option would be required to allow staff to conduct site visits to the property to assess and discuss habitat conditions and to evaluate management progress for that property and to simply provide technical assistance and help landowners understand what's going on with their property and how to improve it. Under both options, mandatory reporting of data would be required and must be completed in TWIMS, an electronic reporting system essentially.

Reporting requirements would be the responsibility of the participant and harvest data, which includes just the number of bucks and does harvested, must be reported for both options. We're not requiring additional data collection like we do currently under the MLD with age, weight, and antler date. We're just asking for the number of bucks and does to be harvested. Under the conservation option, the three habitat management practices must be reported for each year simply to help address that metric so we can measure the success of the MLD program and how many acres are actually being managed rather than just under a plan that may not be conducting actual practices. The recommended reporting deadline would be April 1 of each year.

So that kind of is a high level overview of the basic changes of the program and what staff would like to bring forward in January, an official proposed change for the MLD program. Over the last year --

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Commissioner Scott, you've got a question.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Quick question. Under this scenario, are game biologists going to be the ones coming out to do the visit or is it done by the game wardens?

MR. CAIN: The biologists. It's just a technical assistance program; so our biologists would be out there to advise you on your place, make a site visit, look at your habitat conditions. You know, they may be able to provide additional management recommendations to improve the habitat for nesting cover for quail or habitat enhancements for deer, that sort of thing. It's not a law enforcement.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: That being the case, which I assumed, do we have enough biologists available to do this scenario? Because I know it gets backed up now. You know, there's no many. It's grown so rapidly. Do we have the resources people wise to do what you're trying to do here?

MR. CAIN: That's a good question. I guess what we're hoping is providing this attractive alternative under the harvest option will move some folks that might be under Level Three, you know, they may find that other option attractive and move over there, which doesn't require staff's time or a management plan or site visits. So it's only those folks under the conservation option. How successful that change will be? I don't know. I mean if we had pie in the sky, yeah, we would have a biologist in every county; but that's not likely to happen. So we've got to find a way to address these issues and I think providing some alternatives to help some folks meet some of these harvest tools that they need use, the tag, the season.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: That's the crux of my statement.

MR. CAIN: So we'll -- we don't know, you know, how many. But I can give you examples of folks that are under -- currently under Level Three MLD that have, you know, small places. They're receiving two or three buck permits, two or three doe permits, and they're really in it for the extended season. They can -- and they're in five-year bag limit counties and so they could use a hunting license and take all those deer. They just like the extended season. So those kind of folks may find the harvest option more attractive and move over there if they desire. But it's not to say we're not going to stop providing technical assistance with those folks either.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Right. Anyway, you're addressing what I'm --

MR. CAIN: Okay.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: -- what my concern is.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Alan, I've got a question along that line. Does it have to be a Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist or can conservation option landowners use a private biologist and then give the data, supply the data to our biologist for site visits?

MR. CAIN: We haven't discussed that option, I guess, of a consultant or a private biologist doing that work; but -- and I guess the way I would address that is that's our staff's job to be out there providing technical assistance. And not that we're necessarily collecting data. We're just out there to provide a recommendation, to give you the best guidance we can to improve your property. They -- and certainly landowners do that now. And it's not like we're going to have a schedule to be out there checking everybody on a, you know, two-year period or something. We physically can't do that.

But as we have those folks that are seeking site specific recommendations, what we're hoping is that changes to the program will allow us to focus our efforts on those individuals that really need that assistance or want that assistance. And so it gives us a limit bit of flexibility in how we prioritize our site visits and our time with those landowners. But that's something we can bring up with the Deer Committee again.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Well, my thought is surveys, game surveys, that type of thing and we -- and I think that's going on right now.

MR. CAIN: It is.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: We do private game surveys and supply the data to the biologists and then they come up with a recommendation on -- and harvest numbers; is that correct?

MR. CAIN: Yes, and that's how this -- that's how the Committee would envision this still to function. If you've got a private biologist on your property or ranch manager and they do the survey, they'll still provide us the harvest -- or the survey data and we can make a harvest recommendation. But when it comes to officially coming out and looking at your property, maybe doing a browse survey or a habitat evaluation, there's a lot of folks that don't have that expertise that our staff do as far as evaluating a habitat and some do so and so it's certainly something we could consider.


MR. CAIN: Anybody else have any questions real quick so before I move on? Okay.


MR. CAIN: Okay, thank you.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Ralph, you don't want to get your hand slapped again.

MR. CAIN: Hopefully I'll answer some of them in just a minute. Anyway, over the last year or so, the Big Game Program Director Mitch Lockwood and myself had the opportunity to present these possible changes to a number of stakeholders and staff for input. These groups include the White-tailed Advisory Committee, the Texas Deer Association, the Private Lands Advisory Committee, our Department staff, a few landowners that are currently under MLD, and the Texas Wildlife Association's Deer Committee have also seen an early version of this with similar two-option concept. It had some different names and a few little minor changes, but essentially they saw what was presented today.

As you can imagine, there are numerous and diverse opinions about how the MLD program should be changed and restructured and it's clear through that process that there's no single change or solution to address the individual needs or desires of our stakeholders. And on the screen are some of the input we received through our discussions, but there's a couple of them that I want to address that have garnered more discussion and more thought in the process and so I just want to take a few minutes to review those and hopefully this will answer some of these questions.

So a comment we heard during several discussions in these groups was: Why isn't supplemental feed included as a habitat management practice? The Deer Committee notes the number of practices currently required under Level Three MLD is four practices and under the conservation option, we would be reducing that practice to three requirements. Addition to the reduction of the number of practices reduces burdens of having to conduct four practices for those landowners that don't want to feed or can't -- maybe can't afford to feed. The Deer Committee also considers supplemental feed to be a practice that does not benefit the native habitat. As the name indicates, supplemental feed is a supplement and it's intended to keep deer on a high nutritional plane during stress periods. It's not to replace habitat and it certainly doesn't grow more native plants.

We received input that the entry requirements were too restrictive for the conservation option, and participants should be able to get started with minimal or no information. Staff notes that as long as current Level Two and Level Three MLD cooperators today are following their existing Wildlife Management Plan, they should qualify for the conservation option if they choose that option. They may not. They may find the harvest option more attractive.

Those entry requirements will primarily affect brand new MLD cooperators that have never been under the program. Staff contend that in order to make responsible harvest and habitat recommendations, a history should be established with that property. The entry requirements also ensure staff's time and efforts are focused on properties that are seeking site specific recommendations and invested in managing habitat and deer populations.

For cooperators not meeting the conservation option, entry -- the entry requirements for that option, we'll still provide technical assistance to them. The harvest option is still available for those folks as long as they meet that application deadline if they're still needing to utilize some of the deer harvest tools of the MLD program. We've also received input for -- or concerns about allowing buck harvest under the harvest option or allowing the harvest of a buck with a firearms in the month of October under the harvest option. Some stakeholders believe that the early buck harvest under current MLD Three is a privilege and should be afforded only to those conducting habitat management practices. However, we don't currently have any other options for early buck harvest.

And before the MLD program was enacted or in its early stages there, staff were responding to numerous technical guidance requests by those motivated to manage wildlife and habitat populations out there and enhance their habitats; so they weren't coming to us for a tag or a season. They were coming to us because they truly wanted to manage their properties and this is before MLD started. However, since we tied the Wildlife Management Plan or that assistance to the benefits or the tools of the MLD program -- the tag, the season, and method of take and the bag limits -- we have many people motivated by the benefits who are not necessarily motivated to listen to the technical guidance information we provide or the requirements, technical guidance requirements of the program. And quite frankly, we've got to solve that problem if we're going to use staff's time efficiently and staff have to engage those folks.

So by allowing buck harvest option under -- allowing buck harvest under the harvest option, this will help to prioritize and focus staff's time on habitat conservation to those seeking site specific recommendations, to provide an alternative to those who are just more interested in the deer harvest aspects of the program. So looking forward, staff intends to come back to the Commission in 2015 with a complete proposed regulation changes for MLD and if adopted, we're looking for a potential implementation in 2016 season and that gives us time to make some updates to our TWIMS system that would be required if we're going to make these changes or the Commission decides to adopt these changes to the MLD program and it also gives us time to educate our customers and stakeholders for their transition in the new program.

So I know that's a lot of information and so I'll open it up to questions and I appreciate your time this morning.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: My question is to the Colonel. How does this play in to LE's position on everything? Does this complicate or simplify or...

COLONEL HUNTER: Kevin. Craig Hunter with Law Enforcement. I also have Kevin Davis, our Chief Wildlife of Enforcement Program and I'll turn my seat over to him. From what we've discussed, we don't see any problems whatsoever. In fact, I've personally been contacted by some landowners who really like the aspect of printing their own tags, saving money, and that kind of stuff. They're very happy with wildlife and, of course, on the enforcement end; but we see it as a positive and I'll let Kevin take over.

CAPTAIN DAVIS: Kevin Davis, Law Enforcement for the record. Yeah, taking the -- taking the program from five basic programs down to two is going to really streamline things in the long run. Obviously with any new program, you're going to have some issues where people are getting on board and learning the process; but we see this as a benefit in the long run from a Law Enforcement standpoint.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: As follow-up -- excuse me, as a follow-up, I'll assume then that we'll do kind of the same process like we did when we changed some of the fishing rules and regulations. There will be at least a year of easing into this situation so that we get everybody kind of up to speed since it looks like it's a pretty significant change from what we've done in the past.

CAPTAIN DAVIS: Yes, sir. With broad, sweeping changes, we want to make sure that we get the public informed and educated and we do want to be reasonable in our approach.

MR. CAIN: Commissioner Duggins, did I answer your questions earlier?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: (Shakes head negatively).

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: But he's afraid to ask.

MR. CAIN: Well --

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: He's got two pages full of questions.

CAPTAIN DAVIS: That's good.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I'm going to -- to Dan Allen's point, I do have several -- some are observations and some are questions. To start with, I'd ask what is the big picture goal of this program? Is it to get more deer or is it to improve habitat from a holistic perspective for upland game birds and waterfowl and everything else? I mean what is it seems to me --

MR. CAIN: I think that when we -- those three tenets I kind of laid out are kind of the core parts of the MLD program when you hear discussions in all these different groups and it includes some of what you -- all of what you talked about. It's improving habitat. That's always been a cornerstone of the program from many years ago, and so that remains the core focus. But at the same time, we have to find ways to be able to focus our efforts when we're providing conservation. On the other hand, when you look at hunter heritage and they're harvesting deer for White-tailed deer, population is growing at a relatively slow rate. But I just did the numbers the other day and we're at 3.9 million White-tails. We need to get some deer killed.

MLD is a way to help us do that and especially in counties where you have restricted bag limits, say East I-35 and you can't harvest a doe without an MLD permit or a LAMPS permit or you may have restricted harvest regulations on your bucks in those counties. The other thing is when you look at some surveys conducted by TWA back in 2007, one of the comments they heard back from the landowners that responded was that it -- because the MLD program, it provided more hunting opportunity and they saw an increase in the number of youth hunters out there.

And so when you start to look at all these aspects of the MLD program, it's not just about habitat. It's about habitat, it's about removing mouths from the ranch, it's about providing hunter opportunity, and finding a way for us to be able to provide that best customer service through technical guidance to those landowners.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, you confirmed what I believed, which is we have too many deer and need to -- you said we need to get some deer killed. So the less we do in the rewrite of this to restrict the things you just mentioned -- enhancing interest in youth hunting and providing more opportunities that take deer -- it seems to me the better. So I would suggest as you -- to take a step back. Try to round the edges on a number of these things to make it easier and not include in it requirements that make it more difficult or that provide another step that a landowner has to take to take a deer. And I think this is a -- you've got some great ideas on there. I'm not -- I'm not in any way being critical of that. But I'm just suggesting that as you look at some of the things you had in here, like we have harvest versus conservation. Do we really need two, or can we just get by with one?

I mean it's a pretty simple goal. Take more deer, enhance hunter opportunities and habitat improvement. Why do we need two different programs --

MR. CAIN: Part of -- if you don't mind me answering this. Part of the reason for the two programs is we've got a workload issue. With 78 biologists trying to handle 10,000 properties out there, it's almost impossible. So we've got to have one option, like the -- or harvest option that's more of an automated process that doesn't require staff time. Now under that option, quite frankly, you might -- because it's automated and you might receive less permits, you know, because it's based on regulatory data.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Hey, Alan, would you explain -- excuse me. Because I didn't understand this yesterday. I had to ask this question. If I'm a landowner with -- or a landowner has 500 acres in South Texas and they want to go under the harvest option, how do we -- how is it determined how many tags they're going to get? We don't send a biologist out there, so how do we determine the number of tags that would be presented? Because that wasn't clear to me until I asked it yesterday.

MR. CAIN: Sure.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: And maybe that's not clear to the Commission.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That's where I'm -- no, that's where I'm kind of --


MR. CAIN: So under the harvest option, the way it would work, it would be very similar to what the LAMPS program is today. But the way it works is you're a landowner, you apply online in TWIMS, and you have your information entered -- acres in the property, whether there's high fence, low fence, some other parameters we may consider in there -- and then we'll have our deer population data that we estimate for that resource management unit where your property falls within and there will be a formula in TWIMS that our biologists will set an issuance rate based on whether we want that population to go up or down and then plus the information you provide and then it will spit out a harvest recommendation.

It's an automated process. Our biologists set that harvest rate early in the summer based on the population data and it is going to issue you permits. So you might receive on your 500-acre ranch, you might receive two buck permits and five doe permits or you may choose -- remember, one of the tags may be issued, you may chose to receive tags for bucks, does, or both sexes. You may choose that I only need doe tags under my property to reduce my deer population, but I want to use my license tags to harvest bucks on my property and I don't want to receive buck tags under the harvest option. So you have some flexibility there as a landowner.

If you find out the harvest recommendation or the harvest option is too restricted, you may say, well, I'm just going to use my license tags and I've got some friends that are going to use theirs, but we do need that extended season to get our doe numbers down and so in the tags. So that would be a way to address that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I still think though that you could automate more of this and we've got -- we don't have a risk that we're going to harm the resource with 3.9 million deer and I don't know why we couldn't with -- we have 78 biologists. It's not feasible to have those people have hands on visits and site specific recommendations. It's just not -- it's not doable and I don't think it's necessary and that's why I would automate more of it and then the landowners who are -- have got more property and have more resources, to your point, are going to access a private biologist.

I'm not trying to put the 78 people out of business, but I just don't think it's feasible to have -- with as much land and as many people that are participating in this, to have that process be in place. So I would suggest we try to automate more of it and set basic rules and basic habitat recommendations that everybody has to commit to follow and I mean at least would consider this as opposed to having two different categories, again, to make simplify it and make it easier.

Another observation I had is on the tagging, is it possible to do an electronic tag or something, like you do a boarding pass with your iPhone?

MR. CAIN: That's something we've discussed, and I'll let Mitch address that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Things like that as opposed to --

MR. CAIN: Sure.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: You've got an immediate report that we might do through our website or through the Outdoor Annual App or may have another app where somebody immediately reports that and then if -- if the Warden stops Dick Scott, checks him out.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Why is Ralph always picking on me?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Stops an individual and says "Where's your tag for this?" You pull it up on your phone and you -- or you can look on the Parks and Wildlife website and you can see that Dick Scott reported that kill this morning at 8:00 o'clock.

MR. CAIN: That's certainly something we would like to consider.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, I would suggest that. I think it's -- I would encourage us to look hard at doing one program and having the -- still trying to do visits where requested, but just follow some fundamental rules. I mean we've got 4 million deer. We're not in danger of harming this resource that I can see.

MR. CAIN: But we have to be careful in some areas of the state. We've got 4 million deer, but 2.1 million of those are in the Texas Hill Country. If we open up a season where we just kind of automate it, for example, in the eastern part of the state where deer populations are much more sensitive to harvest pressure when you've got the small acreage sizes and high hunter densities, it's easy to deplete or depress a population very quickly over there.

And so we have to find a balance and that's where those two options allow some flexibility. For those folks that are just looking for a few permits, the harvest option might address it. But somebody over there in the eastern part of the state may need some site specific, customized recommendations with a longer season.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Why couldn't it just be automated? If it's in the -- if it's in a certain area of the state that you've identified as sensitive to harvest pressure, you just have a lower number of tags.

MR. CAIN: But -- so if you're a high fence property, maybe. Or a large acreage landowner in the eastern part of the state, you may have the best habitat in the world in a river bottom and have a very high deer density in that particular area over there and under the harvest option, our formula and our issuance rates are going to be bit more conservative to ensure we don't deplete that resource or depress it enough and so -- but on that particular property, that may not provide enough tags to address his needs under --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All you've got to have then is an option to get more and you just request it and then somebody has got -- you've either got to supply data that's sufficient to convince you to issue more tags --

MR. CAIN: And that's essentially what the conservation option is now. That's kind of the difference between the two.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But I mean how many people are really going to need to take advantage of an entirely different set of rules?

MR. CAIN: We don't know.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I just think it could -- you could --

MR. CAIN: It's certainly something we can consider.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Yeah, I think we ought to let the -- go back and let's discuss this a little bit. You've brought up some good points.

MR. CAIN: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: I think again the way I understand it, we're thinking a lot of the -- a lot of the ranches and landowners that are on the conservation option now are going to move to the harvest option. But if you want to be on the conservation and you want to manage your land more and you don't want to just say, okay, I've got 500 acres in this county and you're going to give me six tags. I really need 28 tags because I've got a lot of deer inside a high fence. That's what the -- if I understand it, that's what the conservation does as opposed to just saying I want to be in the program. And anybody can choose to opt out of the -- what would be the conservation into the harvest; is that correct?

MR. CAIN: Yes, you can go back and forth provided you're meeting the requirements of either.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, my goal is to get the landowner -- give the landowner more discretion because I think they're going to -- most of them are going to do the right thing. They're going to protect their resource and I just don't think we need to have as much -- as many hands on as we have and so I guess that's my overarching suggestion is to simplify it, make it easier for the landowner to harvest more deer without going through bureaucratic steps and tapes, red tape.

MR. LOCKWOOD: And so, Vice-Chairman, Mitch Lockwood, Big Game Program Director. You know, one -- one alternative may be -- one idea out there may be, well, why don't -- if we were to do that, then why don't we just open deer season statewide on October 1 and run it through the end of February with a five deer bag, no more than three bucks or a ten deer bag for that matter.

But the fact is we've learned through time, through history that some local populations are exploited for lack of a better phrase. We have seen overharvest. We've seen overharvest on bucks for 30, 40, 50 years in the eastern third of the state, which is why we have antler restrictions now in 150 some odd counties in the state and so we have seen over-utilization of the resource and so we think an automated system, we couldn't agree with you more. We think that's very important to provide the flexibility, to increase some hunting opportunities, to allow our staff to re-prioritize their efforts to be spending time with those who are truly seeking habitat management recommendations on the ground; but we do believe that option won't be attractive to a lot of the individuals out there because it will be a more conservative harvest because populations are highly variable throughout a resource management unit or a deer management unit.

And so we do have a statutory obligation to not allow depletion of a resource and so obviously we would -- we would need to be a little bit more conservative when issuing at that scale. However, when John Doe who has a very low deer population has a nextdoor neighbor with a high fence that has allowed the deer population to increase to a very high density of deer, we need to make sure that individual does have the tools he needs to reduce that population to benefit the habitat. In order to create a more site specific recommendation, that would require the data for our biologists to analyze and then provide those recommendations.

Well, now as the Chairman mentioned, that's where we start evolving into this conservation option. This is an individual who's requesting more of our time, more of our assistance to cater to his needs and so we truly believe our Deer Committee really believes that this is a really good step in the right direction towards going from five different options out there down to two to really try to streamline this, with one of them being truly an automated approach; but the other addressing the needs of those who need more site specific recommendations because their population is not the norm or perhaps they have a more aggressive culling program. You know, that's common practice in the state and a buck culling program under a selective harvest program may be a more appropriate term to use; but somebody who has an aggressive selective harvest program following a Wildlife Management Plan may harvest more bucks than someone without a management plan, but he's harvesting the right types of bucks, so to speak. So he's not affecting the age structure out there, so he's -- but he's also improving the quality of that herd in the process.

So, I mean, I think there's many examples we could give; but the bottom line, you asked early on, you know, what is the big picture. We could spend quite a bit of time talking about the many, many goals that we really are trying to address here with these changes. I think Alan's slide covering the three tenets did a very good job at a high level, providing -- trying to encapsulate the -- you know, summarize those different goals. But if I could pick one, probably the most important one of all, it is trying to provide a way for our staff to address the demands out there.

We have a lot of landowners who truly want us out there to teach them about prescribed fire, teach them the benefits of disking and our biologists are sitting in an office administering this program as it currently exists. They're not able to get in the pasture as much as the landowners are demanding or wishing that they could spend. So we're trying to provide -- meet the needs of those demands out there with these changes; but while still providing that tool to harvest deer for those who aren't seeking that same assistance, but need to harvest more than what the general county regulations would allow.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Well, speaking both to the Chairman and Vice-Chairman's deal and being a property rights person from the get-go, the deal that will jump out at me is I want to see what the discrimination is between high fence and low fence. I want to understand, you know, how y'all are delineating. If you're going to be having one set of data for a high fence and another set of data to establish tags on a low fence, I want to understand what y'all are trying to accomplish there because the big picture to me is that everybody -- everybody's dirt is their dirt. So I just would like to understand how y'all are going to delineate that.

MR. LOCKWOOD: And I'll be glad to make the first attempt, Alan. Give you a break here. There's -- the -- for the harvest option, the harvest recommendation will be established, as Alan said quite well, the deer population data that we have for that whole resource management unit. Our surveys include land that have a high fence and land that don't. It's -- to put it simply, we end up with an average deer density for that whole resource management unit and we would issue permits or tags for that average number.

We have landowners, whether it's low fence or high fence, that will have a very different deer population within that particular resource management unit. Whether they're in a river bottom or they have a high fence and haven't been very aggressive with the harvest for a few years and they feed a lot. For example, in cases like that, they may want more tags, they may need more tags, and those are the individuals that we're ready, line up, let's visit with you, let's help you get the tags that you need to harvest those deer and those would be the ones that are seeking the more site specific recommendations under a harvest -- a conservation option rather that would be similar to the Level Three that they may currently be enrolled in.

And as Alan said, those who are currently in Level Two and Three, if they're abiding by their wildlife management plan, they're going to qualify for this conservation option and so their needs should be met quite well.

MR. SMITH: Maybe if I could y'all, because this is the -- kind of the breadth and depth of a dialogue that our biologists have had for the last year with folks that are very interested in this program and so there's a ton of interest in this and probably there's a million pathways to try to get to a particular pace -- place. I think maybe, maybe we could just take the feedback that we've gotten today from you, let us reflect on that versus the concept that we've laid out today and I think what we've heard you say is that you want us to continue to look for simplicity in the program, you want us to continue to look for flexibility in the program where, you know, biologically supported; but, you know, we recognize the importance of that to private landowners. You've advised us that you want us to continue to look at maximizing the use of technology so that we can make the best possible use of that going forward and that, you know, you obviously respect these capacity demands that we have on our biologists and making sure that we're utilizing their talents, which are extensive for the highest and best use.

And so if we could take that macro feedback I think that you've given us with these particular questions and go back and take a look at what we've proposed and see what kind of re-alignments we might have to address them. Is that a fair encapsulation of the big picture stuff that you've covered?

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: Yeah. Carter, Dan mentioned earlier the last question of will a private biologist be allowed --

MR. SMITH: Uh-huh, yep.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: -- to do the surveying or the numbers. Should we, you know, try to encourage that more and try to, you know, release some of the, you know work that our biologists are having? I mean is there a way that --

MR. SMITH: Sure.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: -- we should look into, you know, making some sort of a stimulus to using a private biologist for those who can afford it and want to, you know, as an option --

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: -- that would allow, you know, the freedom of some of our internal resources to focus on those that may, you know, not choose to do so. But I think he brought up -- I mean brings out a very good point. If there are people out there willing to, you know, invest their own resources on hiring, you know, a few consulting companies or whatever it is, you know, out there who will do it, then we should explore that too, you know, and --

MR. SMITH: Sure.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: -- make it more efficient.

MR. SMITH: Well, why don't we -- why don't we take that feedback too addressing that capacity and how we're maybe able to extend it and expand it through our partnerships with private biologists, which our State biologists work with extensively now. I want to make sure folks are aware of those, the depth and breadth of those relationships. But let's look at that question as to how we might, you know, continue to implement this and enhance what we've proposed here. So I think we captured that, Commissioner. I -- we hear that point from you.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I'm not clear how this simplifies things, but...

MR. SMITH: Yeah, I think --

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Is the burden on our biologists? That's what jumps out at me. And does this simplify that by reducing their number of visits? Well, I think you've addressed that. But the paperwork is not overburden for a landowner.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, I think the -- I think the -- I think the question is -- I mean I think the -- under the bifurcated option that we have now proposed here, which again is the concept, you know, the landowner gets to make the choice with input and insights from our team, from maybe a private consultant or however to decide what potential option to go and then can make an informed choice about which direction that he or she wants to go.

I think it is our firm belief that if this program were implemented as is or some permutation on it, that it absolutely is going to free up time for our biologists. You know, we believe that.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: You've got -- you've got 5,000 Level Two and Level Three ranches and if you're going to require a visit --

MR. SMITH: But I don't think we set a required site visit every year on any kind of -- that just --

MR. CAIN: It's just that they -- right now under the current MLD system, if you're a Level Two or Three cooperator, you're required to allow the Department to come out to conduct a habitat evaluation to make sure you're compliant with the rules. And under this conservation option, it's just putting in rule that you can't keep the gate closed, you're not going to not let us come out there. We need to be able to come out and assess habitat and provide a recommendation to you if you're going to address site specific deer harvest recommendations or site specific habitat management and so we want to be able to provide that opportunity to those folks.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: What I would like to do -- I think we had a pretty good discussion and presentation. I would suggest maybe some of these questions be asked of Mitch or Alan later today. I mean if y'all want to visit with them. I spent a lot of time with him yesterday, and I'm very comfortable with the program that's presented. I wasn't. I had a lot of these questions before I sat down and actually asked them all of them, but I think they've come up with a good plan. I think it does streamline it. I think once y'all understand it, and it is kind of hard to maybe pick up all the aspects. I think that something like the plan we're talking about or something modified is going to work.

I want to point out that there's 30 million acres in Texas under a Wildlife Management Plan. That's 20 percent of the state of Texas. So this program -- these programs are immensely successful. But I -- we have an extremely long agenda today and I think we should move on, unless there's -- go ahead, Reed. Do you have another?

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: No, I'd just like -- I'd just like just a more quantification on how this is going to simplify and streamline.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Just real briefly, I'll try this attempt here. Is right now if we cut to the chase, everybody in the MLDP program is required to have a Wildlife Management Plan and to follow that Wildlife Management Plan, to follow the recommendations in that plan. And as Alan said, you know, in so many words, there's some people who are more interested in the harvest aspect of the program and just, quite frankly, what he means is that there are some people who want tags. Don't necessarily have as much interest in engaging in the other practices of the Wildlife Management Plan.

We recognize that it is important for those individuals to get tags because deer harvest in much of the state is very important. It is an important habitat management tool. We want them to have the ability to still get some tags through an automated process, a more simplified process, without policing a program, so to speak, without making sure they're following all this Wildlife Management Plan that, quite frankly, they're not very interested in participating in.

I can't really quantify that to you, but that is one of -- another one of the main goals of these changes is to still provide them those needs, while allowing our staff the time to spend with those individuals who are very passionate about engaging in the practices in their Wildlife Management Plan. Hopefully that helps some.


MR. SMITH: Yeah, yeah, why don't we do that and we may set up some other, you know, small meetings and discussions on this and so I'm going to get with Mitch and Alan. Yeah.

MR. CAIN: All right, thank you.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Thank you, that's a good presentation. I'm not going to ask if there's any more questions. I'm going to move to the next one.

Okay, Item No. 4, Alligator Gar Update, Falcon Lake. Randy Myers and Dave, please make your presentation.

MR. TERRE: Great. Let me -- let me get started. Good morning, Commissioners and Executive Director Carter Smith. Appreciate this opportunity. My name is Dave Terre. I'm the Chief of Fisheries Management and Research for the Inland Fisheries Division and it is my pleasure today to introduce to you Randy Myers. Randy is a Senior Level Fisheries Biologist stationed in San Antonio that is responsible for the management of waters on our border waters. Specifically Lake Falcon and also Lake Amistad and a great district and he has Neighborhood Fishing lakes, too; so he covers a very large area.

Randy served as our Division's lead on a project which involved an Alligator Gar project that involved multiple staff across multiple divisions and partners in the community and today he's going to present the results of this very intensive study. This study was undertaken because a constituent and Legislative concerns regarding an expanding population of Alligator Gar in Lake Falcon and what impacts they might be having on that fishery. But we also used this study as an opportunity to gather more information about the species to help fine -- refine our current management practices for Alligator Gar at Lake Falcon.

What's cool is that some of the data that Randy will present today, have never been collected in Texas before and so it provides a great opportunity for us to add to our knowledge database on Alligator Gar and I think you'll be very impressed with that. But we believe that the results of Randy's study, the study that he led, will have implications for our conservation and management of the species going forward; but it also has broader implications I think for management of Alligator Gar in the United States or throughout their native range.

So with that said, I'm going to go ahead and turn this presentation over to Randy and he's going to deliver this work that we've done on Lake Falcon and then at the conclusion of his presentation, I'll speak to you again briefly and also to help Randy answer any questions that you might have. Thanks.

MR. MYERS: Thank you. For the record, Randy Myers, Inland Fisheries Division Fisheries Biologist. Thank you, Director Smith and Commissioners, for giving me this opportunity to inform you about our study that we did this year at Falcon Lake.

Alligator Gar are highly adaptable species. They inhabit rivers, reservoirs, and estuaries in our state. As many of you probably already know, they're the largest freshwater species. The Texas state record is 302 pounds caught from the Nueces River back in 1951. Where they occur, they're the apex predator in our freshwater systems. Unfortunately, there's -- as Dave eluded to -- there's limited life history and population data for the species, particularly in the reservoirs and in an abundance of caution in 2009, the one fish bag limit was passed, daily bag limit was passed to conserve our Alligator Gar populations until we could further study and identify those.

Lake Falcon, Falcon Reservoir is located on the Rio Grande. It's situated in a remote part of the state. It's about four hours from San Antonio, an hour from Laredo, and an hour and a half from McAllen. It experiences wide water level fluctuations, up to 15 foot per year on average; and it's one of our larger reservoirs, 84,000 acres when full. Currently, it's 31 feet low at this time. There's a substantial commercial gillnet fishery on the Mexico side of the reservoir that primarily targets Blue tilapia. We believe there's minimal harvest of Alligator Gar on the Mexico side of the reservoir. Our game wardens regularly confiscate gillnets that are illegally placed on the Texas side and they report to us that they very rarely find a net designed for holding Alligator Gar and that the nets they do find made to hold tilapia are too fragile to hold adult Alligator Gar.

Our study had two parts. The first part was an angler survey in which we identified characteristics about the Alligator Gar fishery. We also quantified angler opinion on harvest regulations and we estimate an angler harvest of Alligator Gar for the reservoir. The second part of our study, we determined the life history data for the species at Falcon specifically, such as growth, mortality, and diet, and we also evaluated the impact of angler harvest on the population.

We interviewed 141 Alligator Gar anglers at boat ramps at Falcon. These individuals told us that they had fished previously for Alligator Gar at Falcon. Most, 88 percent, were local. Residing within 1.5 hours of the reservoir. The breakdown of the type of gear they used, about a quarter of these anglers used rod and reel exclusively, roughly a third used bow exclusively, and then 42 percent of the anglers used a combination of rod and reel and bow, a small fraction used jug lines. We consider in Fisheries, we would term this fishery as consumptive. Meaning there's little catch and release activity going on. In fact, 77 percent of the rod-and-reel caught fish according to our survey were kept by anglers. Not released back into the lake.

We asked the interviewed anglers to rate their fishing success as either always, frequently, sometimes, rarely, or never catching or shooting an Alligator Gar on their trips. As you can see in the chart, the most common answer was "Sometimes" at 39 percent. These data tell us that maybe half, roughly half of the Alligator Gar trips at Falcon are unsuccessful at catching or shooting a fish. It's not a guarantee to get a fish when anglers are go on an Alligator Gar trip at Falcon.

Harvest of Alligator Gar from Falcon is very low. According to our angler survey, from April to September, a six-month period this year, only 147 fish were estimated harvested. A previous survey done in 2011 for the first six months of the year showed a harvest of just 52 fish. These are very low harvest numbers given the large size of Falcon. Thus, we estimate the population harvest rate to be about 1 percent. In other words, one of every 100 fish in a population are removed from the lake by anglers each year.

Most Falcon Alligator Gar anglers consider a trophy sized fish to be 7 feet and larger and harvesting a trophy sized fish is -- was an important motivation to about one-third of the Falcon anglers. A new record size Alligator Gar is pending for Falcon as we speak. This fish weighed 249 pounds and was taken about two weeks ago. For the picture there, despite the urging from local game wardens, the gentleman there did not get a certified weight on his fish, which was actually four inches longer than the current world record. That photo was taken by one of the Starr County game wardens.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Why wouldn't he have wanted the record? I'm just curious.

MR. MYERS: I would like to know the answer to that question, too. I don't know. The gentleman is from Roma, south of the reservoir, a small community. Don't know. We tried very hard.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Just a good thing he wasn't swimming.

MR. MYERS: You know, one issue with these large fish is finding a certified scale, you know, that you could put a fish on it that weighs 300 pounds and here this year we have managed to get a certified scale that has that capacity located in Zapata to get a certification on this type of fish.

Both Alligator Gar anglers and non-Alligator Gar anglers overwhelmingly support it -- I went too many there -- support increasing the bag limit for the species at Falcon, 74 percent and 82 percent in favor of increasing the bag limit. Now when we polled anglers about bag limit, we didn't specify an actual bag limit number. However, we did iterate to anglers the potential consequence for each of the choices shown there. For example, we stated that increasing the bag limit may lead to fewer and smaller Alligator Gar in the reservoir.

We inspected the stomachs of 392 Alligator Gar and found seven different species that they had consumed. The two most frequently consumed were common carp and Blue tilapia and together these fish represented 67 percent of the diet. Largemouth bass, as you can see, compromised about 8 percent of the diet of Alligator Gar in Falcon. This 8 percent diet composition value for Largemouth bass falls within that wide range reported for other systems. This high variability across these five different reservoirs likely corresponds to changing in abundance of prey species from -- for example, a Largemouth bass abundance was probably very high at Lake Guerrero in Mexico there compared to other prey species when that study was conducted. Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Quick question. In one of our meetings when all this started coming up on Falcon Lake, the fishermen was talking about the White bass that it used to be so famous for, right? I don't even see White bass listed on here. Is that all inclusive under Largemouth?

MR. MYERS: No, sir, it's not inclusive under Largemouth. If we would have found a White bass, we would have listed it in that chart. The White bass population has been very, very low for probably -- probably up to 15 years. At Falcon just in the last couple of years, their population is starting to rebound and we're seeing folks catch White bass. So again back to the point, probably why we didn't see them in their stomachs is because there weren't many there in Alligator Gar stomachs.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: That's what -- but that's what that lake was famous for for a long time, right?

MR. MYERS: It was, yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: So basically the people that were making that argument, they have no scientific data to back that argument up?

MR. MYERS: That the Alligator Gar impacted the White bass?


MR. MYERS: Making that argument?


MR. MYERS: No, I don't think there's any scientific data to back that up.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Okay, thank you.

MR. MYERS: Female Alligator Gar at Falcon were sexually mature as early as age five. At age seven, all the females we collected were mature and at age seven fish in Falcon, females, average about six feet in length. Sexual maturity was age three for males, and age three males averaged about four feet.

Fecundity, that is the number of eggs produced by a female, range from hundred to 500,000 per fish. And, again, the larger the female, the more eggs it contained. Over all, the sexual maturity was earlier at Falcon, earlier in life at Falcon and fecundity was greater at Falcon than reported for other studied populations. Alligator Gar exhibit sexually dimorphic growth. Females grow faster and larger than males. On average, females reach five feet in five years and males five feet in ten years. The maximum length is about two feet longer for females than males, and growth of Alligator Gar at Falcon was more rapid than growth documented at other systems. Hundred pound females averaged nine years old.

Strong year classes were produced on three occasions at Falcon during the last decade -- 2010, 2007, and 2004. Substantial water level increases during late spring through summer occurred during each of those strong year class years. Reproduction was successful in eight of the last ten years. The oldest fish we collected from Falcon was 56. He was born in 1958, which is four years after the reservoir was impounded.

We compiled all of the life history data that we obtained for Falcon Alligator Gar into a fishery simulation model and we used that model to determine the impact of higher harvest rates on the population. On the bottom horizontal axis is population harvest rate and percent and on the vertical axis is an index of overfishing. Overfishing can cause a decrease in fish abundance. The threshold value for overfishing is .35, which is represented by the dashed line you see.

The current estimated harvest rate is 1 percent at Falcon, which corresponds to a .8 to a .9 on the index, meaning overfishing is not occurring. As you can see there, harvest rate would need to be sustained at 7 percent or higher for overfishing index to fall below the .35 value and for the population abundance to, in turn, decline. We used the same model to assess harvest rate impact on trophy size Alligator Gar. Harvest rate again is on the bottom axis there and percent and on the vertical axis is percent of the population that are trophy size and we use seven feet or longer. At a 7 percent harvest rate, 12 percent of the population would be trophy sized fish, which is an exceptional fraction of the population.

So in summary, the Falcon Alligator Gar fishery is locally based. It's consumptive. The vast majority of anglers desire an increase in the daily bag limit, and Alligator Gar harvest and population harvest rate are currently very low. The Falcon population is less vulnerable to overharvest compared with other studied populations because Alligator Gar at Falcon exhibit faster growth, earlier maturity, higher fecundity by a large margin compared to these other populations and they also produce frequent strong year classes. Our fishery model show that the population would maintain at its current structure up to a 7 percent harvest rate. We believe a bag limit increase to five fish would be an appropriate harvest regulation for you to consider. Our data show that raising the bag limit to five fish would result in minimal risk to the population and trophy fishing opportunities and at the same time meet angler desires. I'll pass it back to Dave for some concluding remarks.

MR. TERRE: As we -- since 2009, I was the one with Phil Durocher sitting at the table when we came to y'all and asked for the one fish per day daily bag limit in 2009. And since that time, we had some concerns about there was a lot of promotion of Alligator Gar fishing across our state and also in our country and we wanted -- were anticipating droves of people coming to Texas and overharvest our Alligator Gar population at that time.

So we needed to kind of conserve those populations. We stood up here and advocated, you guys supported it for us to do that until the time that we could go out and study, further study our populations, and perhaps come to the point where we could come to you and start talking about regulations that were specifically designed for an individual water body for a specific population. And really the Lake Falcon data here that Randy's presenting is an example of that. You know, what we're suggesting for Lake Falcon is not necessarily a good fit -- matter of fact, it would not be a good fit for a place like the Trinity River or the Brazos River or others because each situation is a little bit different.

But the level of data that we collected in this Lake Falcon study really gives us -- about the anglers, you know, what the needs and desires of our anglers are and what kind of harvest we could sustain and still keep a good population of Gar. This is what we believe would be appropriate.

Now, we're going to continue our studying of Alligator Gar across the state. We've launched an enormous effort, huge effort. I mean we've got studies going on at the Trinity River. You guys have heard that. We're doing them on the Lower Brazos. We're doing them Choke Canyon Reservoir. Even working with our Coastal Fisheries Division studying the fish in the bays and estuaries and how they move up and down the river. I mean there's so much great science. I mean Texas is a key leader in the collection of this information across the country and we're really the -- looked at very highly because of that in the southeastern United States.

But at Lake Falcon here, we feel comfortable about -- the biology tells us that we feel real comfortable with a five fish daily bag limit here. Okay? And our anglers seem to be telling us that they want more harvest. Okay, we think that a five fish bag limit based on Randy's and our study is sustainable through time. The lake right now is producing large, trophy size Alligator Gar; but our anglers want opportunity for more harvest for a variety of reasons and so we would like to provide that.

And if you think about this customized fisheries management approach strategy, you know, it's worked really well for us for Largemouth bass and for catfish and other species where we've managed and been able to produce high quality fishing. First and foremost we want to protect our populations, make sure they're secure. Second, we want to provide the fishing opportunities that local constituencies desire and so that is the reason why we came up with this. But in the end, I want to tell y'all how much our Division and our Agency really appreciates your concern for Alligator Gar, your support of our research and all those things. That means a lot to us.

This was no small task at Lake Falcon. This issue has been very contentious from many different spectrums. There's been Legislative concerns, constituent concerns, angler concerns. People who have nothing to do with fishing, you know, would like to maybe see an increase in the bag limit so they can draw more people to come down to South Texas. With all the border issues -- we heard that from our Culture, Recreation, and Tourism Committee that they've looked at this way as just -- it's just a -- a one fish today daily bag limit wouldn't be a deterrent for people coming to South Texas to enjoy this thing.

And Lake Falcon is unique. We only control 50 percent of the reservoir. You know, it's -- it fluctuates highly and, you know, there's some safety issues or concerns for that. I don't think there's a whole lot of night fishing that goes on here. We don't have that many concerns at all about the ongoing commercial fishing and on the Texas side, there basically is no commercial fishing going on right now at Lake Falcon. All the commercial take of Alligator Gar currently occurs in the eastern part of the state based on our best information.

I will pledge to you that if we're allowed to go forward with whatever increase you guys see us going forward with, we will continue to monitor this population and other populations through the state. We have a tradition is that once we change a rule, we always go back and evaluate it and look at it and see how it's performing long term and if there's an issue or a problem that comes up, we're not adverse to coming back up here and changing that or making a different recommendation. So that's all I have to say. I'm real proud of Randy and his team. Many, many hours of effort into this study. It was a huge accomplishment.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Commissioner Morian.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Well, I'll just go first. I assume on your -- this slide, this No. 4 slide, there was a boat load of people there.

MR. TERRE: Which one was that?

MR. MYERS: Four.

MR. TERRE: The four slide? Is that the one?

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: From the beginning.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: The one with a boat load of fish.


MR. MYERS: That's one of our staff.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Well, he had a good day. My only question is the fish I'm interested in protecting and I think this has been discussed with other people, are the big fish and how do you -- how do you protect those 7-foot fish, female fish, with a -- going to a five fish limit? Are you going to put one trophy fish in there, or is there some program for doing --

MR. SMITH: If I hear you, you're particularly concerned about the sexually mature fish and so can y'all comment on that or what we might look at, Dave or Randy?

MR. TERRE: I can comment, Randy, or whatever. But, you know, basically to get them that big, they've got to live long enough to get that big and you have to have adults in the population that create those strong year classes, you know, for that to happen. So, you know, based on our modeling for Lake Falcon, we think we can achieve that. We can achieve what we have right now with a five fish bag limit conservatively. I mean -- I mean data would suggest we could even go higher on the bag limit there and still stay under that overfishing amount.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: If everybody is taking -- if everybody is taking the big fish, you're saying -- I think was it 12 percent was going to be --

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: 12 percent was trophy was what you said, wasn't it?

MR. TERRE: Yeah, but we'd never -- we, you know -- you know, we'd never want to hit -- even get close to that 7 percent factor because that, as an average through time, could lead to overfishing. But if we -- at that level, 12 percent of the population would be of this trophy size, you know, that's defined roughly seven foot.


MR. TERRE: Basically they have to live a long time. Now, you know, we considered -- considered lots of different options. I mean, you know, length limits are an option. Length limits though, you know, there are some difficulty in that for sure from the standpoint is that, you know, that this is also -- this fishery is also used by bow fishermen, too, and it's very difficult to judge the length of a fish when its shot by a bow; so, you know, that's an issue.

So but, you know, in Lake Falcon our goal was to try to keep the regulations as simple as possible and monitor it. Our data shows that this population would be secure under a five fish per day daily bag limit. Right now harvest is minimal in this -- in this thing.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: You mean whole poundage in the lake. I'm talking about protecting through here slot limits, length limits, or some of these large fish that you can kill out.

MR. TERRE: Absolutely. I mean, you know, if about 50 percent of our anglers are successful when they go fishing for Alligator Gar, right now the limit is one fish per day. Some people are choosing to take these big, huge -- these big, huge Gar. That's within their prerogative. We estimate that we could -- what the data shows is that we could increase the current level of harvest by five times, okay, and still stay under that -- still stay below that threshold --

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: And still take that trophy level.

MR. TERRE: -- and still have some, big, big, big fish. Now, we're not advocating that that happens. We're not advocating that that happens. We're going to continue to work to promote catch and release, the -- you know, the importance of these large fish in the reservoir; but people have got to care about it.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Well, I just -- it seems like a big jump from one to five and if everybody -- which, you know, the Gar people I know, they want the big ones. Throw the little ones back. It just seems like a big step, but...

MR. TERRE: Just one more comment. The -- if I may, you know, our -- it show -- our surveys of our anglers show that 31 percent of our anglers, Gar anglers there during our survey, value the trophy aspects of that fishery. But the predominant group of them, you know, see harvest as being -- and it's a consumptive fishery. I mean that's the important, you know -- oh, we agree. I mean, believe me, I went down there. We talked about selling the possibility of just keeping the bag limits really, really low and creating this wonderful, huge, trophy Gar fishery that would be wonderful. But guess what? You know, the local constituency doesn't want. They really don't want it. Some do, but not all do.

So we're trying to find a regulation package that gives them more opportunity for harvest. We're starting at five fish, that's where we're starting. To us that's the maximum that we would recommend. We also think that that one is something that most anglers that we've talked to and people around the lake would accept. I mean Randy during the survey, you know, we did have to sacrifice numerous Alligator Gar to get the information we needed to be able to make this recommendation on this; but we had, you know, pickup lines of 20, 30 people in line waiting for those fish after we worked them up. So, you know, people are very interested in eating Alligator Gar on Lake Falcon and so we're trying to provide -- attempt more in that area.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any other questions?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: A seven footer is a lot of Gar balls.

MR. TERRE: Yeah, it is.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Commissioner Duggins.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I assume that your projections -- well, let me ask this question. Do your projections assume that the number of anglers will not increase?

MR. MYERS: Yes. Yes, steady state fishing effort and that's a fact of life, any time we consider changing a fish harvest regulation, is we don't know what the response is going to be in terms of fishing effort. Will it increase, or will it decrease? We just -- it's very, very difficult to predict that response in fishing effort or response in actual harvest number after a change is made.

As Dave pointed out, it's very important to us, you know, given the Alligator Gar at Falcon that we would monitor that situation and follow up with evaluations, you know, probably every two to three years or we'd come -- we'd devise a good plan to do that.

MR. TERRE: We routine -- the crew down there, Randy's crew, routinely do -- I think it's every three years I think, do a creel survey. It's a survey where we go out and look, you know, at fishing pressure and harvest and our standard survey. So we're monitoring. We'll be monitoring those fishing -- that fishing pressure. Plus, we hope to here in a year or two be able to come to you with a proposal considering the option of possibility of an Alligator Gar permit and that's a whole other issue. But I think long term, that helps us really get a handle on numbers of Alligator Gar in our state, what the needs and desires of our anglers are, and where we need to be working most efficiently.

You know, these creel surveys take an enormous amount of effort. We could gather a lot more information by having some permit system and my staff just recently completed a white paper which looks at those options of permits and tags, what's being done in other areas of the state, and I would be happy to share that with you as a future management direction; but we'd want to do that right. Take the time necessary to do it right and I think we spoke about this here in years past, but...

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, I'm not sure it's reasonable to assume the number of fishermen, bow fishermen, whatever, won't increase. Particularly if you make the kind of significant jump that's proposed, for what that's worth. I think you will see an increase in anglers. Not that that's bad. I mean it's more opportunity for people.


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But I guess one thing your -- that does come out of your survey, which I think is important, is that it -- your research -- is that it doesn't support the notion that we heard from several people that Gar were predating the bass population and having a material adverse effect on bass fishing. Because that was sort of the excuse we heard from several people who thought there was a change, so I think that's good that your research confirmed their suppositions were not scientifically valid.

Two, you made a statement that I think is really important and that is Falcon is significantly different from other areas of the state. So because if the Commission goes along with the recommendation, I don't think that should be some sort of signal that we're going to similarly open up fishing and takes, particularly of these large fish to Reed's point, in the Trinity or the Neches or other watersheds where they're not in this kind of shape that you say you're seeing them.

MR. TERRE: Absolutely.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I do think it would be good -- and that kind of comes back to your tagging -- if we could continue to noodle how we might get reporting, voluntary reporting, even if it's on again an iPhone app, just so we know when we're taking a fish above six feet or seven, whatever is an appropriate benchmark. I would encourage us to look at that.

And then I had one question is -- I think I asked this last time. Is it not possible to shock and transport some of these big fish that we're -- if we have an abundance that you say we do at Falcon and move those to areas where they're in trouble?

MR. TERRE: Can I answer that? We actually have done some of that, too. We actually have transported fish to actually our Heart of the Hills Fisheries Science Center in Kerrville and I will tell you that that can be done; but it's a very labor intensive, expensive process to do that for sure, you know. But, yes, it can be done. And other researchers around the country, particularly Louisiana, are also looking at culture methods for Alligator Gar. A possibility of down the road, you know, can we -- what would be the culture techniques to be able to stock and using stocking as a management tool down the road. But, yeah, usually a seven-foot Gar is going to take a pickup and a lot of water and, you know, and...

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But I would love to see us look at trying to move some of those to the Trinity and the Neches and the Colorado.

MR. TERRE: Yeah. Moreover, what we need at the Trinity River is we need to pray that this rainstorm blesses us with a good amount of rainfall in the watershed this year so that we can enact the rules that we spoke about last year about the -- you know, the protection of the spawning period. And so but moreover, so that we get a strong -- another strong year class in the Trinity River. It would be difficult for us to produce a year class of that magnitude through stocking. I mean I don't want to tell you, it would be impossible to do.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, that brings me to my last point. I think we should make certain that people are aware of the potential that if spawning conditions do exist, that we're likely to close down the fishing so that we don't have a -- have all these large, really large mature fish vulnerable during that four -- two- to four-week period.

MR. TERRE: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So just we need to understand that's -- that will likely happen.


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But I do share Reed's concern that five seems to be an aggressive jump. I don't know whether three might be a better number. I don't have a --

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Well, we're going to monitor it.

MR. TERRE: We will monitor it and to us, you know, the difference between three and five is more of a social issue and than a biological one and that, you know, is how -- we tried to give you a proposal that we feel gives us cushion, protect this population under current levels of pressure and harvest through time.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: But we can always raise it.

MR. TERRE: And we'll continue to monitor it; but, you know, it's largely a, you know -- it's -- that fine tuning like that, it needs to be low obviously. So three to five? That's, you know, more social than it is biological I think.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Well, Dave, Randy, thank you for the presentation. We did have numerous anglers and operators in the Falcon Lake that are concerned about the number of Alligator Gar. We had some of the State Representatives from South Texas in the Falcon area that are also concerned about the number of Alligator Gar. So I think it's a great presentation, a good study, and we look forward to y'all coming back to us I guess in January, January and then March for a vote.

MR. MYERS: Okay.


MR. TERRE: Thank you for your support.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: All right. Work Session Item No. 5, Commercial Shrimping Update. We've got a lot of presentations today.

MR. ROBINSON: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, and Mr. Smith. For the record, my name is Lance Robinson. I'm with Coastal Fisheries Division and I'm here this morning to kind of give you a briefing of shrimp regulations that, if you recall, came about as a result of comments we received at our August Public Hearing in Houston from constituents asking about -- asking the Department to look at commercial shrimping regulations and so I'm here today to kind of bring you up to date on where we are in that process.

To start with, if you'll indulge me for a minute, I'd like to give you just a very brief biology lesson a little bit on -- because I think it's important as we talk about how we manage shrimp. Shrimp, there are basically three species that are commercially harvested -- brown, pink, and white. They live for about a year. They all spawn in the Gulf of Mexico. Larvae will then hatch and move back into the bays and estuaries, where they grow up and as they grow and mature, they then migrate back out of those bays back to the Gulf where they spawn and then basically most of the stock will die at that point. So it's basically an annual one-year crop.

The -- they partition themselves offshore where they spawn. Brown shrimp and pink shrimp spawn further offshore; talking 150, 200 feet of water. White shrimp closer to the beach and we have some regulations in the Gulf and our timings on seasons reflect that or target some of that. So with the three main species that we -- that are fished upon in Texas, there are three primary fisheries that target those stocks. There's the bait fishery, which is providing a resource for recreational fishermen, live and dead shrimp. Those boats are working in the upper reaches of the bays, secondary bays, smaller bays, and some of our management strategies include designating some bays as strictly bait bays. That they only can harvest shrimp for bait out of those water bodies.

The bay fishery tends to focus on shrimp as they move further down the system into the primary or major bay systems. They're a little larger in size and they will fish on that resource, again, as it's moving toward those passes and toward the Gulf of Mexico. And then finally we have a Gulf fishery that targets the resource when -- once they've reached out into the Gulf with various seasons that kind of protect those animals so that they do spawn and provide the next generation.

Shrimp management in Texas is somewhat unique. It was managed by the State Legislature until 1990, when it was transferred to Parks and Wildlife and the Commission has that authority now to manage shrimp. Many of the regulations that we have on the books today on shrimp were actually generated in the mid 80s and a lot of them haven't changed very much, other than maybe it's changes in bag limits or things like that. But basically the bag -- the regulations we have today are pretty much what were on the books, with a few exceptions, of what we saw back in the mid 80s.

Those few exceptions include the 1995 shrimp management -- license management program that came about through Senate Bill 750 and some regulations that we implemented in 2000 dealing with bycatch reduction devices, turtle excluder devices. We designated some areas in the bays a nursery areas where all shrimping was prohibited to allow that shrimp resource to grow before they start moving out and then some offshore zones for management.

A little more specifically on Senate Bill 750, it created the first commercial license management program in the Gulf of Mexico, and what it did was limit the sale of bay and bait shrimp licenses in that fishery. It created eligibility rules; some rules regarding transferability, when you could transfer that license to another vessel; vessel upgrades; limited how big the fleet could grow, kind of kept a cap on some of that effort; and it also had some rules in place to prevent antimonopoly conditions from coming, some small group of people accumulating all of the licenses and holding them.

The funding for the program -- again, the program was voluntary. It brought -- the process is, is that fishermen wishing to get out of the fishery submits a bid, what he's willing to accept for that license and then we run it through a series of checks based on size of the vessel and how long it's been in the fishery, number of things like that and then that will give us a range. If his bid falls within that range, then we will try to accept that bid and buy that license and permanently retire it.

The funding for the program has been provided by support from industry, from funding from saltwater stamp, and also donations. Over the 18 years that this program has been in effect, we have -- we've retired about 75 percent of both the bay and bait licenses individually at a cost of about $14 million is what was expended to date. Correspondingly, when you look at the commercial landings of shrimp, it has also declined over the same timeframe. The -- the -- certainly a lot of that reduction is a result of the reduction in licenses. But there are other factors that drive shrimping production and effort. Not the least of which is the cost of imports driving prices down and which serves as a disincentive for fishermen sometimes to go and fish, as well as high fuel costs which raises their cost of doing business and also will keep boats tied at the dock.

Because we have three main fisheries -- bait, bay, and the Gulf fishery -- the regulations that we have in place are somewhat specific to those particular fisheries. There's no -- in a lot of cases, there's no real regulation that meets the needs of all the -- each fishery group and so it has created a very complex and in some ways complicated suite of regulations.

On the screen before you are the regulations in place for the bait fishery. It's a year-round season. They can fish from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minute after sunset, except for that window between April and -- April 1st and August, whereby they have to stop fishing at 2:00 p.m. It's a 200-pound daily limit. Half of that product has to be maintained in a live condition. It is bait. And then in the fall season, all of the shrimp have to have their heads attached and we'll discuss that in just a minute. They're also limited to a 32-foot net, and we also look at net size. In addition to net size, we also look at the size of the webbing in the net. And in this case, they're allowed to us an inch and three -- three-eighth inch stretch mesh, which is a mesh opening.

By contrast, the bay fishery which kind of picks those shrimp up after they move out of those bait bays is -- we have two seasons. A spring season and a fall season. Spring season runs from mid May to mid July. It's under a 2:00 p.m. closure, so they start at 30 minutes before sun -- sunrise, apology, and have to stop at 2:00 p.m. They're under a 600-pound daily limit. Under our current trip ticket program looking at data to date, they rarely catch 600 pounds. It's an odd occurrence that they even hit that daily bag limit. They're also constrained to a 32-foot net with also the same mesh size that's in the bait fishery, an inch and three -- three-eighths is the smallest. They can go larger, but they can't go any smaller than an inch and three-eighths.

The fall season -- let me back up a minute. The spring season is primarily targeting the brown and pink shrimp. The fall season then picks up on the white shrimp as they're moving out of the bays. The fall season runs mid August through the end of November. Again, 30 minutes before sunrise until 30 minutes after sunset. There is no daily bag limit in the fall, but there is a count size. They have to measure 50 count -- 50 shrimp to the pound, which is about a 4-inch shrimp and so they are constrained to meeting that count size. They can pull, as you see, a much larger net; 70-foot net in the fall. The mesh size is much larger, inch and three-quarter inch, through the end of October and then they could go and pull a smaller mesh for that last month of the season.

After the meeting and certainly we heard it at the Public Hearing in Houston in August and since then, we've had some contact with members of the industry. These are a few of the options that they have brought forward for consideration asking us to look at. Under the bait fishery, they're asking us to revisit the 2:00 p.m. closure. They also look at increasing the daily bag limit and they also have talked about us looking at some changes in some of the croaker regulations by weight or increasing the number of croaker allowed per day, which is currently 1500.

On the bait, again, they focus on increasing the daily bag limit during the spring season. They also are speaking to look -- or asking to look at a standardized net. If you recall in the spring season, the bait fishery -- or the bay fishery is under a 32-foot net limit. In the fall, it's a 70-foot net. That certainly involves expense, additional expense to put those different nets on the boat. The industry is asking for a standard net size that might be used year-round. Some of the numbers we've heard around the 50-foot range and as such, you see under the next option is removing that 50 count size and opening the fall season two weeks earlier somewhat of a concession to getting rid of that 70-foot net and going to a smaller net to look at maybe making those other tweaks. And then the other option that we've heard from at least a small group is the ability to renew licenses electronically or by mail. There are some issues related to being able -- because this is a commodity, the license has value and so there is a need on the part of enforcement to be able to see the documentation to make sure that the individual who is renewing that license, they are, in fact, the correct person and the vessel is documented either through the Coast Guard or through Parks and Wildlife in the proper name.

So kind of the timeline that we're looking at, we've been looking at the stock data, shrimp stock, our biological data. We will continue to do that through the rest of this month. We have tentatively scheduled meetings with industry up and down the coast to get -- to make sure that the options and the ideas that have been brought forward thus far are consistent up and down the coast and see if there's any other issues or other options that maybe we haven't thought about or the industry hasn't brought to us that we can hear about. Those meetings are scheduled the first week or so of December. After which we will get back together with our staff and data and look at it and see what might or might not be possible in moving forward.

The plan would then be to come back to the Commission in January with possible options or proposals and then with a possible final vote in March. The goal would be looking at a target implementation of May 15th, which is the start of the spring shrimp season. And so with that, I will answer any questions you may have.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Commissioner Scott.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: One quick one. I've gotten quite a few calls and visits from a lot of the guides and everything on the croaker deal. What is the limit on croaker now? There's not a limit, is there?

MR. ROBINSON: On commercial harvest of croaker or recreational?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: What would you qualify or what would you say that those professional guides, you know, that are doing it are? Are they commercial or are they just -- you know, what do they fall under I guess is my question.

MR. ROBINSON: The guides or -- well, I'm not sure I understand the question.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: The report or the information that has come to me from quite a few people actually, is that they think that the croaker harvest is extremely large and that the guides, they'll go out and they'll go out and fill up the boat with croaker. I haven't really heard much about shrimp as much as I have about croaker, so I'm just --

MR. ROBINSON: Croaker as -- well, croaker a bait? Are you talking about harvesting croaker or fishing?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: No, no. I'm just talking about fishing.

MR. ROBINSON: Well, certainly what we -- one thing that we have seen over the years with the implementation of bycatch reduction devices in shrimp trawls, one of the biggest components of the shrimp bycatch were croakers and other drum species, Spotted and some other smaller drum species. So certainly with the requirement of bycatch reduction devices in all shrimp trawls and the significant 75 percent reduction in the fleet and the number of licenses in the bay, it has reduced the take of or incidental take of croaker in the shrimp fishery and we are seeing increases, corresponding increases in croaker populations throughout the coast, all along the coast.

So, yeah, we're hearing -- historically we used to hear about the croaker runs. We're beginning to see that now. I mean I know one of our staff in the Galveston system this season picked up in one of their net surveys a croaker that was pushing 20 inches, which almost, you know, looking like a Red drum without spot.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Okay. So it's making a good comeback?



COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any more questions? Thank you for your presentation.

MR. ROBINSON: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: All right. Work Session Item No. 6, 2015-16 Statewide Recreational and Commercial Fishing Proclamation for Preview. Ken and Jeremy, please make your presentation. Ken, please make your presentation.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Good morning, Commissioners and --


MR. KURZAWSKI: -- Mr. Smith. My name is Ken Kurzawski of the Inland -- better check. Yep, it's still morning, good; so we made it under the limit there. And I'm here to present to you the proposals that were considering for your consideration and just like we discussed with the Alligator Gar, we'll come back in January and make the formal proposals to you.

I have some changes on four reservoirs and three of them are exist -- are modifying existing special regulations. As Dave mentioned, our staff go out and are continuing monitoring populations and we go back and if a regulation isn't meeting our goals for that regulation, we'll recommend to try and do something else with those regulations.

First couple of reservoirs, Braunig and Calaveras down in the San Antonio area. They're operated as cooling reservoirs by the local utility. They're unique environments. They have hot water, high chloride content. They have abundant tilapia population. Currently the fisheries are composed of primarily Red drum, which we stock. Hybrid Striped bass are also stocked and Channel catfish. The Largemouth bass population there, in 1995 we put a 18-inch minimum length limit with a five fish daily bag and we were trying to use some of the growth characteristics there. We were managing -- trying to manage that as a trophy's fisheries.

We encountered some problems with the population, low reproduction in the population, some other things, and we worked to implement its additional stocking and some habitat improvement in that reservoir to try and improve the bass populations. Looking at the populations in those two reservoirs since '99, Braunig, our electrofishing surveys, over a course of 12 surveys we've only captured 28 bass over 18-inches. And in Calaveras, we haven't collected any bass over 18 inches, so clearly that -- our effort there to try and increase fish over 18 inches hasn't been succeeding there. So reviewing that bass population status there, we've implemented those regulations, tried some stocking and habitat improvement, and then unfortunately those all were proved to be ineffective. So staff has recommended changing the regulation there, that 18 inches back to 14-inch minimum and five fish daily bag.

Local bass clubs, we've contacted some of the ones in San Antonio. They approved of the changes. We -- they all kind of -- we all kind of recognize the limitations of the current populations and don't believe there's any benefit to leaving the 18-inch on those populations.

Next, O.H. Ivie Reservoir. A reservoir near San Angelo. When we -- when that reservoir was opened, we initially stocked it with Smallmouth bass. Put an 18-inch minimum length limit and a five fish bag in 1990 on that reservoir, which is typical of what we do when we're trying to provide a good Smallmouth bass fishery. Unfortunately, the population really hasn't developed to any degree. Very few are captured by anglers. We haven't captured any in our recent surveys. So staff has recommended just reverting back to the statewide limits for that population to 14 inches and five fish.

And finally, Lake Nasworthy in San Angelo. It's a shallow lake there and one thing which is unique for out there, it is constant level and has good bank and shoreline access. Currently there's bass populations cropping Channel catfish and the bass population there are -- is under our statewide limits of 14 inches and five fish. The bass population due to the relatively stable water level there results in a stable and abundant recruitment. Unfortunately that's led to some growth in size structure that are unsatisfactory. We're only seeing very few fish exceed 14 inches. Average age at 14 inches is four plus years. Typically we'll see two to three years. And looking at a weight index, which 100 is our target there, they frequently fall below that which means is another indication of poor growth in the population.

We also look -- talked to the anglers there that use the reservoir. We conducted an online survey of those and they were generally supportive of change, recognizing the state of the population. They were supportive of 14- and 18-inch slot limit and then almost half said they would be willing to harvest a bass below 18 inches. So what staff has recommended there is a 14- to 18-inch slot for bass with -- leaving the bag limit at five and we're going to have -- we would have potential there for some of those harvest -- harvest of smaller bass and bass anglers have indicated that they would support and try and harvest some of those fish and anglers there are generally ready to try a new approach with that reservoir since the quality of the bass fishing there has been very poor over the last two years.

Some of what we're expected to do there, if we can increase the harvest of some of those overabundant small bass, we'll decrease the interest specific competition among the bass and hopefully produce some -- for more larger bass in the population and that should improve the overall size structure and growth rate in the population and since there's a lot of good shoreline access, it would also give the bank anglers an opportunity to harvest a few fish.

And those are all the changes that we are considering at this time and if you have any questions or comments, I'd be happy to try and answer those.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: On quick one. Ken, on that last one, the -- where you proposed the 14- to 18-inch slot.


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Why not just have it anything under 15 inches that you can take and nothing above that? I mean it seems to me that's a -- puts a lot of burden on an angler to know it's in between 14 and 18 and you're saying that the problem is an abundance of small fish, which is typically the problem.


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Wouldn't it be just as helpful to say under 15 or under 16 you can take, everything else you put back?

MR. KURZAWSKI: Well, this is typically the -- you know, we've tried to go to regulation that we have that anglers are familiar with. We have a number of slot limits. There are various ways to attack it, and we wouldn't want to -- you know, this would allow us if we do start to turn the population around, allow them to harvest some fish over 18 inches if we would improve the growth there.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So if you had an under 16, you still could raise it and allow them to take it. Under this they couldn't take an over 18.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Yes, they can harvest the fish over 18 inches. I mean that --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: What you're saying here, you would only be able to take them 14 to 18 inches.

MR. KURZAWSKI: No, no. Our slots in freshwater are under 14 inches and over 18 inches. No bass -- no harvest bass --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't the second one down.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Yeah, so that's why. We're trying to -- we're trying to direct that harvest. There's abundance of fish under 14 inches, and we're trying to get anglers to harvest some of those.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any more questions for Ken? Thank you.

Jeremy, make your presentation, please.

MR. LEITZ: Good morning. For the record, my name is Jeremy Leitz with the Coastal Fisheries Division and I'm here to talk about our 2015-2016 scoping items. Really what we have before you today is two clarifications of existing definitions for saltwater fishing.

The first one relates to the fish guide deckhand definition, which currently states that a deckhand is a person, the employee of a fishing guide who assists in operating a boat for compensation basically to accompany or to transport people who are fishing. It's been brought to our attention that sometimes this definition is interpreted to allow for that deckhand to operate a second vessel basically for the transport of those paid clientele with a licensed fishing guide. So what we would like to do is craft some language to address this that basically says that the fishing guide deckhand must remain on the vessel of the licensed fish guide while they're out in the water.

The second one relates to crab and finfish rules. Both of these have a similar rule, 205(b) for crab and 302(b) for finfish, that basically says no more than one set of commercial display licenses may be on board a fishing vessel at one time. Again, it's been brought to our attention that sometimes this rule is interpreted to allow for more than one license to be fished as long as they have one license displayed. So they'll have one displayed, but fish other licenses at the same time.

So what we would like to do here again is to craft some language that would basically say that only one set of commercial fishing licenses may be fished at one time on this vessel. And that's all I've got. I'd be happy to address any questions.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any questions? Nice job, thank you.

All right, moving right along. Work Session Item No. 7, 2015-16 Statewide Hunting Proclamation Preview. Jason Hardin, please make your presentation.

MR. HARDIN: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, for the record, my name is Jason Hardin, Upland Game Bird Specialist with Texas Parks and Wildlife. I'm here today to present proposed changes to the statewide hunting proclamation. At the end of my presentation, Kevin Davis with Law Enforcement will be presenting housekeeping on Mule deer regulations.

I would like to begin with an update on our efforts to restore wild turkeys in East Texas, if I could. In recent years, the Commission has been presented updates on field staff efforts to reopen the Eastern wild turkey stocking restoration program from 2007 and 2012. The Department funded research examining a super-stocking model for restoring Eastern wild turkey populations among other turkey population demographics. In 2010, staff initiated development of new habitat evaluation protocol.

Now after seven years of research and development, this past winter staff conducted the first Eastern wild turkey restoration effort since 2003, releasing 247 wild turkeys into three sites in Anderson and Rusk Counties. I'm pleased to report that turkeys were observed at all three sites this past summer. Five sites were evaluated for potential restoration this past fiscal year. A single site passed that evaluation protocol and is scheduled to receive a super-stocking of 80 birds this coming winter. Another seven sites are scheduled for an evaluation this fiscal year.

In an effort to work more strategically, staff are developing focal landscapes for Eastern wild turkey restoration. This strategy moves the Department towards a more proactive approach to restoration. Rather than waiting for landowners to approach the Department, staff will actively recruit landowners and other partners within these focal landscapes. Current average of focus within the Sulphur River and Neches River watersheds. These landscapes were identified through a TIS model designed to identify key landscape features deemed important to wild turkeys. These focal areas are concentrated along bottomland hardwood corridors, which allow for population expansion into contiguous forested landscapes and both landscapes offer a good mix of public and private land holdings.

In conjunction with the recent restorations, staff are conducting research to examine the success of the restorations and to direct future efforts. Twenty to thirty hens were marked with GPS transmitters at each of the three release sites. Another four hens were captured and GPS marked at one of 2007 super-stoking research sites. This site has experienced considerable population growth since that research seven years ago.

The research goals are continuing to test the super-stocking model and evaluate the Department's new habitat evaluation protocol. Staff are also evaluating trail cameras as a tool for estimating turkey density. All turkeys released into previously unoccupied habitat were uniquely banded with color leg bands. Staff have a known density consisting of our released birds and no mortality rate and known distribution based on our GPS data. Analysis is ongoing; but with the recent growth and use of trail cameras, staff are hoping to provide land managers with a technique for monitoring turkey densities on their property.

Research is also ongoing on Rio Grande wild turkeys in the cross timbers region. To date, 185 wild turkeys have been fitted with VHF and GPS transmitters in this region. These transmitters have provided over 350,000 unique turkey locations and so far, seven publications have resulted from this research.

And now our proposed changes to the statewide hunting proclamation. These proposed changes are recommended by TPWD's Resident and Game Bird Technical Committee and have been reviewed and endorsed by TPWD's Upland Game Bird Advisory Committee. Texas offers two fall turkey zones for Rio Grande wild turkey hunting. The fall season runs concurrently with the White-tailed deer season, but the late youth season in the North Zone is only offered the third weekend in January.

Staff proposes extending the current youth only season to also run concurrently with the youth only White-tailed deer season, providing a total of 14 consecutive days of youth hunting opportunity following the close of the general fall season. TPWD estimates a population of 88,000 wild turkey hunters, 10,000 of whom are youth turkey hunters under the age of 18.

Texas offers four spring turkey zones. Three Rio Grande wild turkey zones and an Eastern wild turkey zone. In total, spring turkey hunting is available in 191 counties statewide. Staff proposes closing 11 Eastern wild turkey counties shown here in the green and white striped areas. These 11 counties meet TPWD's decision variable for county closure, which states that an Eastern wild turkey county will be proposed for closure if the three year average harvest reported at our mandatory Eastern wild turkey check stations is less than or equal to one bird per season and the biologists within the district consider the county unsuited to provide adequate harvest potential.

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

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

This concludes my portion of the statewide hunting proclamation. Thank you for your time. I welcome any questions now, or we can wait until after Kevin has presented on the Mule deer.


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: One quick one. You're proposing to close Angelina and Trinity and you've already closed Tyler and San Jacinto, why wouldn't you close Polk?

MR. HARDIN: Polk County has seen pretty steady populations that are mostly concentrated along the center of that county and we want to continue to provide that hunting opportunity since the population within Polk County is fairly strong.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So that would be you're going to have every contiguous county around it closed?

MR. HARDIN: But we are working to restore those populations in those counties around that area.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That seems incongruous to me.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any more questions? Thank you.

CAPTAIN DAVIS: Good afternoon, Commissioners. For the record, my name's Kevin Davis with the Law Enforcement Division. Contrary to my colleagues in the Wildlife and Fisheries Divisions, I only have one slide in this presentation.

We noticed just a little discrepancy in a regulation regarding the take of Mule deer during archery only open seasons. We have 61 counties in Texas offering archery only open season for Mule deer. Of those 61 counties, only three of those allow the take of antlerless Mule deer without a permit. There is some ambiguity in the regulation the way its written which would confuse some people to think they can take antlerless deer in those other counties without a permit and we just simply want to clean up that language. Any questions?

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any questions? Thank you, gentlemen.

Moving right along, action -- or Work Session Item No. 8, Texas Resident Active Military Hunting and Fishing License, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Register, Ann.

MS. BRIGHT: Good morning, Commissioners. For the record, I'm Ann Bright. And this is really a clean-up item. The Parks and Wildlife Code requires that the Commission waive the hunting license fee and the fishing license fee for a resident that's on active duty as a member of the military or certain Texas military members.

When this was enacted I believe a number of years ago, rather than have two separate licenses, what the Agency did was just create an active super combo, which includes hunting and fishing and all the tags and stamps and it's available for no dollars and this is what all is included in that. We recently had an issue that came up that pointed out sort of a little bit of an issue here.

If somebody comes in to buy a license who qualifies for the active military license and the person already has a hunting or fishing license, there's really no license that we've set up to sell to this person. So without a workaround, it creates some problems. And I will just tell you when this came up, our great folks in Administrative Resources did create a workaround for this particular situation; but we wanted to go back and clean this up. And so what this would do is create in addition to the super combo, it would have an active military hunting and an active military fishing and so we're just requesting permission to publish this in the Texas Register and then we come back in January and request approval.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Ann, I have a quick question about it.


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I was contacted, the group, that Patriots and Heros that we sponsor to come out to my ranch and we hunt every year. They contacted me last week and asked -- somewhere they had heard that you had to have a letter that said that you had a 60 percent disability to get a hunting and fishing license in Texas, whether you're a resident of Texas or not.

My understanding back when we did this deal, Carter, was that, you know, active military or injured military would automatically qualify for a hunting and fishing license whether they were residents or not and I don't know where this 60 percent deal came from, so I'm just -- I'm trying clarify what the deal is.

MR. SMITH: It's in statute, but let Ann -- Ann, do you want to touch on that?

MS. BRIGHT: I can respond on that if you want. That's actually a different license than what we're talking about here. What we're talking about here is a license for active -- Texas residents who are on active military.

You're right. The Commission did -- there is a -- there has existed for a number of years a resident disabled veteran's license and that one was actually established in statute and it -- the statute requires a 60 percent disability.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: By a Texas statute.

MS. BRIGHT: By Texas statute. The Parks and Wildlife Code requires a 60 percent disability in order to qualify. What the Commission did was based on that same language, broaden that to include also nonresidents. There was some authority that the Commission has to determine to designate individuals as residents for purposes of the super combo license and so the 60 percent for purposes of license is actually a statutory requirement.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: So what is it right now then? So in January if I have vets that come in from Washington -- pick a place --

MS. BRIGHT: Uh-huh.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: -- they won't qualify for a free hunting license? I mean but my point is is that if it's by statute, we went through this deal, you know, and so I'm trying to -- you know, we get a lot of vets that are from all over the country, you know, that come into San Antonio to the hospital or go into Waco, you know, to the hospital and so I'm trying to figure out how to make this easier. Not more difficult.

MS. BRIGHT: No, I hear you. And I'm assuming you're talking about disabled veterans?


MS. BRIGHT: Yeah, I mean I think it would require -- I mean we can look and see if there's some options short of legislation. But given that there's already been a legislative effort in this arena, it may require legislation.

MR. SMITH: But why don't we look at that, Commissioner, and let us -- now that you've raised this issue, let us explore the options and see if there's something we can do if we can.

MS. BRIGHT: Absolutely.

MR. SMITH: Let's talk to you about the kind of statutory history and options.


MR. SMITH: Okay.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: You know, I'm already getting questions and --

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: -- I've already got hunts lined up, so --

MR. SMITH: Okay.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: -- I need to understand. At the end of the day, I'll buy the licenses if that's what ends up having to happen.

MR. SMITH: Sure, sure.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: But I would hope that we would take care of our vets a little better if we can and I understand if we can't, then that's just the way it is.

MS. BRIGHT: And I'm assuming that these are individuals that do not meet the 60 percent disability qualification?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: As you can imagine, trying to get a letter from the VA or somebody saying that they have percent a 60 or a 50 -- whatever the percent is. I mean, you know, some of these hunts get put -- and a lot of people do it. It's not just us. I mean a lot of people do this, you know, and so, you know, it may be they get a -- they get an appointment. We've all heard about our wonderful VA issues. It may be a week before or even a few days before they come into San Antonio or they come into Waco for a doctor's appointment that -- and so, you know, you're not going to get anything out of the bureaucracy that quick. I'm trying to figure out a way to address that.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: Is there any definition for a disabled vet? I mean I'm sure there's some sort of guidelines by the feds, right?

MR. SMITH: There is. There absolutely is.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: What qualifies and...

MS. BRIGHT: It is -- there is a definition and we can look into all of those issues because it sounds like there's an additional issue of the documentation that's required.


MS. BRIGHT: Happy to do that.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any more questions for Ann? Thank you, Ann.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: Let's push it when the Vice-Chairman is not here.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: No. 9, Promotional Drawing, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Register. Darcy, please make your presentation.

MS. BONTEMPO: Good afternoon, Chairman and Commissioners, and my name is Darcy Bontempo. I'm the Marketing Director for the Department and I'm here today to present a proposed rule that would allow the Department to be able to conduct promotional drawings as an incentive for individuals to provide us with their e-mail address. This is a mechanism that is widely used and successfully used by the private sector and as a way to gain more e-mails in order to market to individuals and, of course, we'd be looking to do that in order to communicate with our customers about opportunities that exist, about conservation issues, and of course also to support the Department's mission and drive revenue.

E-mail communication is one of the very most effective communication vehicles that we have. It's extremely cost effective. We pay about $25,000 a year, which give us an unlimited ability to reach as many subscribers as we'd like. So very cost effective. Also, very targeted. We can target lists to state park visitors, to anglers, to hunters, to boaters, and so forth. So it allows us to be very targeted in the kind of content we provide.

It also allows us to increase engagement with our customers because we're able to do ongoing communication. It's not once -- necessarily once a year. We're able to communicate on a more ongoing basis. And as I mentioned earlier, it's proven to be very effective at increasing Department revenue. I'm going to show you some examples in just a moment.

First, a look on the outside as far as e-mail. I just want to give you a couple quick bullets here related to e-mail. There are actually 2.9 million e-mail accounts in the world that is three times the number of Facebook and Twitter accounts combined. It's definitely the most widely used digital medium in the world. In the U.S., about 90 percent of consumers use e-mail every day and according to the Direct Marketing Association, there's an average return on investment of $44.25 for every dollar spent on e-mail marketing.

And then just finally, there's been a number of studies that show that the daily revenue for companies is higher on the days that they send e-mail versus the days they do not send e-mail. About 20 percent is actually the -- what the study has shown to be the increase.

So what does our e-mail communication look like currently? We do a number of e-newsletters. I've listed here the primary ones that we do -- State Park Getaways; a Hunt Texas, Fish Texas; Life's Better Outside, which is kind of our general broader nature Department e-newsletter, and our magazine. That's only a sampling of some of the e-newsletters that we do.

The State Park Getaways e-newsletter that you see here, goes out to about 150,000 state parks visitors and it's a very, very successful e-mail that we send out. In fact, it has an open rate of about 28 percent. Just for reference, the industry average is about 20.1 percent. And it also has a click-through rate, the number of people that actually open and click through, of 7.5 percent versus an industry average of 3.3 percent. So the content we're providing is relevant to the individuals that we are targeting.

I also mentioned I would like to give you a couple of examples of sort of the timely and targeted ways in which we motivate action using e-mail. Here you see a state parks pass e-mail. This is a renewal e-mail effort. We work with our state park colleagues to develop a full year test actually on this strategy and after a year of sending out monthly e-mails to state park pass holders whose e-mail was about to expire, we actually saw that we increased the response rate or the lift 3 percent and we generated over $56,000 in revenue just from this one particular strategy. We use it to market our magazine, subscriptions for promotions for holidays and for Father's Day. The holiday subscription we did last year brought in about 1,200 subscriptions just from sending that e-mail out.

We do fishing and we do hunting renewal e-mails as well. The Department partners with the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, as well as with the National Shooting Sports Foundation and we found that anglers and hunters who received an e-mail reminder along with a direct mail postcard, had by far the highest response rate. Response lift of about 1.2 percent for anglers and 1.91 percent for hunters. So again, e-mail increases the effectiveness of direct mail as well.

Big Time Texas Hunts, here's a reminder to enter and we saw that people that received both the direct mail and the e-mail for Big Time respond at a 33 percent response rate. That's twice the percent response rate for those who received direct mail only. And just very quickly, here's some graphs that demonstrate how e-mail can drive online sales. You see those peaks in sales also relate to exactly the timing when e-mails were sent. Same here with the Lifetime License drawing sales. It's very, very clearly driving sales of our products.

So, you know, we see a lot of opportunities if we can increase the number of e-mails. At this time, we have really a relatively small number of customer e-mails. As you can see listed here, all of these are well below what we would like to see in order to be as effective as we could be. What are some of the limitations with collecting e-mails? We think there's several. It's not a priority for license retailers. I don't think there's anything that we can do and believe me, we have tried and we've brainstormed, to ever make a Wal-Mart clerk want to get e-mail addresses and correct e-mail addresses. They have other priorities and the same is true for many of our other sales agents and staff. It's just not a priority.

Nor arguably is it priority for customers and as you know, some customers do not want to give a valid e-mail address. They may feel they receive too many emails. So we have some limitations that we're trying to overcome and to that effect, we would -- the proposed rule that we are seeking Commission approval of is in order to allow us to conduct promotional drawings as incentives to work for customers as well as constituents to provide their e-mail address as a consideration in order to win a promotional event package.

And basically here we break down what we mean by a promotional event package. It could consist of two or more of the following, it can consist of goods or services that are donated by a third party; it could consist of some Department products, whether it's a magazine or a state park pass or even a lodging at a facility; a hunting or fishing privilege on a Department land or recreational hunting or fishing license. But in order to enter, we would require in addition to providing a valid e-mail address, that the individual take one of the following actions as listed here.

In addition, as we began to draw up this proposed rule, we felt it was important in terms of our fiduciary responsibilities and legal guidelines to put some parameters around these promotional drawings. First and foremost, each drawing that we develop would need to be approved by the Executive Director. We would need to demonstrate that the benefit would be greater than the cost. We would also want to set some sideboards that the cost would not exceed $5,000 a year in Department goods or services. And we would clearly list the terms and the conditions on our website as we do for other similar drawings and also specify that the winnings could not be transferred, sold, or exchanged and very importantly we would indicate that the winner could only be notified by e-mail. That is a way in which we're trying to guarantee a valid e-mail.

And so in summary, today the staff is seeking Commission approval to publish the proposed Rule 53.60 to authorize the Executive Director of the Department to approve drawings for promotional hunting, fishing, and special event packages among persons who provide the Department with valid e-mail address and satisfy certain additional conditions. That concludes my presentation. I'd be happy to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any questions for Darcy? Yes, sir, Commissioner Jones.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Let me -- I just want to make sure I'm clear. So the promotion is an incentive to gather the e-mail address?

MS. BONTEMPO: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER JONES: So how do you get the promotion out? What medium do you use to reach the people to get the e-mail address?

MS. BONTEMPO: We'd be using -- as in most of the things we do, we'd be using a lot of our internal communications. Social media would be one of the ways we would be doing that. We'd also be looking to do press releases as well. Things that would not cost a lot of money. But the advantage of a promotional drawing is it's the kind of thing that people get excited about pretty quickly and they share pretty quickly, so we'd be using some of those vehicles. We would not anticipate spending media dollars to do this.


MS. BONTEMPO: And also I might -- if I could just mention, we're trying to increase the number of customers. So, for example, at state parks. You know, at state park sites would be one very easy way in which we would promote a drawing to state park visitors right there at site.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Right. All right. So again, this is probably in the business of marketing realm; but so if you're trying to get them -- if you're ultimate goal is to get the e-mail address so that you can have communication and whatnot --

MS. BONTEMPO: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- is there a disincentive to make them also purchase -- you know, do one of those other things? Purchase a license or pay $25 or...

MS. BONTEMPO: Well, that's a very good question and I think we'd have to weigh out very carefully that the -- there would be the prize package, if you will, would be motivational enough for us to include one of those things. We -- you know, we may have a prize package that we think getting current anglers or hunters who are going to purchase a license probably anyway or are considering it, that that would not be a disincentive. They're going to -- we're going to reach -- increase the number of customers we currently have who are buying licenses, who are -- as I mentioned earlier, we only have five percent of those. If we can get those that are buying licenses, just those to actually give us a valid e-mail, that would be a huge step forward.

I think we're going to have to look at each one case by case and determine, you know, what we think is the best approach. But we certainly would be balancing out the -- a disincentive like requiring purchase or not. So we would weigh all that out very carefully.



COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Are you finished?

COMMISSIONER JONES: Well, the only thing I was about to suggest is I don't know -- I saw your promotional packages of goods or services provided by third party, magazine subscription, and all that. I mean to me --

MS. BONTEMPO: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- what motivates a hunter or a fisherman or whomever to -- is the good stuff that they really would like to buy, but they can't afford.



MS. BONTEMPO: And we'd be looking -- we'd be --

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- really cool guns or really cool fishing equipment and stuff like that --


COMMISSIONER JONES: -- to me is that's like, oh, man, you know, all we've got to do is get our hunting license and give them my e-mail and I can get this, you know, nice --

MS. BONTEMPO: Absolutely. I mean that would be definitely what we'd be trying to do is seek partners, sponsors if you will, that would help us put together a package and the benefit is that they would be recognized in all of the promotion that we do. So that would definitely be the idea is to seek partners that we have to provide things that we can't provide in order to make it as attractive as possible. So absolutely. We want to make sure that you are interested in entering, even if you're not allowed to.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Are Commissioners allowed to --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: No, no. I can answer that one.


MS. BONTEMPO: No, we want to make it --

COMMISSIONER JONES: I mean if it's really cool --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: We want to make you wish that you could enter it.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Can we get family members or cousins?

MS. BONTEMPO: I'm going to defer to our general counsel.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: You can get your credit card out and hand it to them.

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: Everything's possible, Bill.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Darcy, I guess the only question I have --

MS. BONTEMPO: Yes, Chairman.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: -- under those circumstances we require them to give an e-mail address to buy a fishing license or to buy a hunting license or to enter a state park, it's going to be an optional program?

MS. BONTEMPO: That's correct, sir. There is absolutely no mandatory requirement.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Okay, thank you for your presentation. Any questions?



MS. BONTEMPO: Thank you very much for your support.

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

Ted -- however, before you come up here, hang on a second. Carter has told me about a little very seldom used rule that we don't have to hear all of Ted's presentations or any presentation -- they're going to be read again tomorrow -- today. So I'm going to go down the list of these items and if any of y'all want to have Ted come up here and discuss them, we'll sure do it. Otherwise, we're going to hear the same presentation tomorrow by Ted.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I'll buy the duck tape.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: This meeting has ran a bit longer than normal, so. Okay, action -- Work Session Item No. 10, Acceptance of 10,635 Acres of Land Donation and Creation of the 14,037-acre Yoakum Dunes Wildlife Management Area, Cochran, Terry, and Yoakum County. Is there any discussion or would anybody like to hear this presentation today or are we satisfied to hear it tomorrow?

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

Work Session Item No. 11, Request for Easement, Harris County, 2.3 Acres at Sheldon Lake State Park. Is there any questions or discussions?

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

Work Session Item No. 12, Acquisition of Land, Goliad County, 88 Acres for an Addition to Goliad State Park Historic Site, Request Permission to Begin Public Notice and Input. Is there any questions?

If there's no further discussion, I'll authorize staff to begin public notice and input.

Work Session Item No. 13, Conveyance of Abandoned Road Right-of-Way, Brazoria County, .69 Acres at the Sea Center Texas Fish Hatchery, Request Permission to Begin Public Notice and Input Process. Any additional questions?

If there's no further discussion, I'll authorize staff to begin public notice and input process.

Delegation -- No. 14, Delegation of the Authority to Enter into Easement that Serve Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Is there any discussion?

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

Work Session Item No. 15, Request for Telecommunication Easement, Bastrop County, Approximately Half an Acre at the Buescher State Park. Is there any discussion?

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

Action Item No. 16, Appointment of Members of the Citizens Advisory Committee and Biological Advisory Team of the CPS Energy Habitat Conservation Plan. We need to hear that one, don't we, or not?

MR. SMITH: I think that's up to you. Michael Warriner is here. He's also prepared to give that presentation tomorrow. He's going to just give a little bit of background on that process and also he's going to have recommendations of who ought to serve on it. So I think you're going to be fine hearing it to tomorrow; but if you'd like, Michael is certainly prepared to give it now.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Commissioner Scott, do you want to hear it today?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Tomorrow is fine.

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

Work Session Item No. 17, Texas-Mexico Border Security and Deployment Personnel, this item will be heard in Executive Session.

Item No. 18, Personnel Matters, Annual Performance Evaluation of Texas Parks and Wildlife Executive Director, this item will be held in Executive Session.

Nineteen, Red Snapper, Discuss Recent Actions by the Gulf Coast Fishery Management Council Related to management of Red Snapper within the Exclusive Economic Zone off Texas, this item will also be heard in Executive Session.

At this time, I would like to announce that pursuant to the requirement of Chapter 557 -- 551, excuse me, Government Code referred to as the Open Meetings Act, an Executive Session will be held at this time for the purpose of seeking legal advice under Section 551.071 of the Open Meetings Act, deliberating -- deliberate regarding the duties and reassessment of public employees under Section 551.074 of the Texas Open Meetings Act, deliberating the deployment and specific occasions for implementation of security personnel or devices under Section 551.076 of the Texas Open Meetings Act, and deliberating the evaluation of personnel under Section 551.074 of the Texas Open Meetings Act. We'll now recess for Executive Session.

(Recess taken for Executive Session)

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: All right, looks like we have -- we probably have a quorum here now. Let's finish this out, and we'll all head home. Okay, we're now going to reconvene the regular session of the Work Session, November 5th, 2014, at 3:35 p.m. Work station regarding -- or the Work Session regarding Texas-Mexico Border Security Development and Department Personnel, no further discussion is required regarding this item.

No. 18, Personnel Matters, Annual Performance Executive Director of Texas Parks and Wildlife, no further action is required.

Work Session Item No. 19, Red Snapper, Discussion of Recent Action by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council Related to the Management of Red Snapper Stock within the EEZ off the Texas Coast, I have a statement to make that's -- this statement comes from the Commission. All the Commissioners have read it, and they're in agreement.

We continue to be disappointed in the management of the Red snapper fishery in the federal waters by the National Marine Fishery Service and the Gulf Council. We're especially concerned with the most recent action to divide the recreational sector into charter for hire and private recreational sector, with the private recreational sector possibly being allowed only one day of fishing for Red snapper. In taking this action, National Marine Fishery Services is ignoring the wishes of the Fish and Game Agencies of all five Gulf states. We believe that this recent action does not serve the interest of all recreational anglers. We continue to believe that the National Marine Fishery Service should work with the Gulf states and all interests and stakeholders in implementing a regional management approach to the Red snapper fishery that takes into account the interests of all anglers.

And with that, there's no further action required on this issue. Mr. Smith, we're adjourned at 3:36.

(Work Session Adjourns)



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

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

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and seal this Turn in date _____ day of ________________, 2014.

Paige S. Watts, CSR, RPR
CSR No.: 8311
Expiration: December 31, 2014
DepoTexas - Firm Reg. No.: 17
Sunbelt Reporting - Firm Reg. No.: 87
1016 La Posada Drive, Suite 294
Austin, Texas 78752
Job No. 197936

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