TPW Commission

Work Session, March 23, 2016


TPW Commission Meetings


March 23, 2016




COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Moving the chairs around.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: I know. We're all confused. Mine didn't change.

COMMISSIONER GALO: Mine -- I just -- my partner's not here. I need her.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Good morning, everybody. There's been sort of a development here. I'm filling in today and with Carter's help and everybody else's help, we'll get through this.

With that, I'd like to call the meeting to order at 9:10 a.m. I believe Mr. Smith has a statement to make.

MR. SMITH: I do, Mr. Chairman. Thank you.

Public notice of this meeting containing all items on the proposed agenda has been filed in the Office of the Secretary of State as required by Chapter 551 Government Code referred to as the Open Meetings Act.

Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, I would like for this fact to be noted in the official record of the meeting. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: The next order of business is the approval of the minutes from the previous Work Session held January 20th, which have already been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?


COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Great. Chairman -- Commissioner Scott and Commissioner Lee.

All in favor say aye?

(Chorus of ayes)

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

Work Session Item No. 1, Update on TPWD Progress in Implementing the TPWD Land and Water Resource Conservation and Recreational Plan, Mr. Carter Smith.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. For the record, my name is Carter Smith. Good morning. Thanks for the opportunity to share a few words with y'all this morning about various and sundry updates.

First things first, just a quick update on the Internal Affairs Team. Obviously, when we promoted Jonathan Gray to lead that unit, that left a vacancy behind with respect to our Assistant Commander. Jon has gone ahead and posted that position. We've got some very talented and eminently qualified applicants for that. So the good news is is Jon is going to have a touch choice in terms of identifying his successor; but we'll obviously keep you posted on that process and I look forward to that team being completely rounded out with four investigators in terms of the Chief, the Assistant Commander, and then our two Captain Investigators and, of course, Patty Vela, the assist -- Administrative Assistant who is the literal glue that keeps that team together. So we'll keep you posted on that front.

We've had a chance over a couple of meetings really, I think, to let y'all know that our Inland Fisheries Team has been diligently working on developing a statewide catfish management plan.

As I understand it, Craig, the first one we have done for the State.

Obviously, we know what a critically important portal fishing is to getting kids and families into to the out of doors. What we also know is about a third or more of our freshwater anglers specifically target Channel and Blue and Yellow cats, and so catfish are obviously a very popular quarry. Also, they're pretty easily assessable in most water bodies around the state. And so our team has done a terrific job putting together this vision and plan.

They provided an executive summary for y'all that really kind of articulates that vision. And so if you have a chance over the next couple of days or when you get home to read through that, I hope you will. You know, there's really two overarching goals as part of that. You know, one is to help ensure that we create a very high quality fishery for catfish and the ten or so species that we have in the state; but certainly the most popular game species. And then secondly, we want to make sure that we're doing everything we can to create both an abundance and diversity of opportunities statewide in our lakes and reservoirs and streams and urban ponds and so forth and this is a great opportunity for us to be able to reach out to really a very diverse set of anglers as well as we expand our outreach.

So our team is excited about that and kudos, Craig, to you and the team for getting that launched and we look forward to implementing that and updating with you on our progress as we go forward with that in the next couple of years.

Certainly all of y'all are acutely aware of, you know, our regulatory responsibilities over the commercial oyster related industry and we've talked a lot about various oyster issues over the last year or so. Just as a little reminder, the commercial oyster season in Texas starts the 1st of November and runs through the 30th of April. And for a lot of reasons, this has been a pretty tough year for the oyster industry. You will recall following Hurricanes Ike and Rita that, you know, roughly 50 -- maybe as much as 60 percent of the oyster reefs in Galveston Bay were covered up with sediment. Following that, we went through a period of drought and so we had very elevated salinity levels in the bays. That also had a very detrimental impact on the oyster community and then it rained and with that proliferation of rain, which obviously was a great thing for the bay systems in the state, but it also brought, you know, high bacterial loads, etcetera.

And so when commercial oyster season opened up this year on the 1st of November, we had Red Tide that extended all the way up the coast. We had high bacterial loads, and roughly 96 percent of the oyster reefs that were available for commercial harvest were closed. Now, they didn't stay closed all the time during the season because as the weather cooled and things stabilized a little bit more in the bay, those bacterial counts went down and the Red Tide went away; and so more of the oyster reefs were opened up. It also meaned though, however, that they didn't always stay open. And I just want to remind the Commission of that, that working with our Oyster Advisory Working Group, we have a series of triggers by which our Coastal Fisheries biologists will monitor the health of those oyster reefs and they really look at two things. One, the abundance of juvenile oysters that they find in their trawls when their monitoring those reefs and also the relative abundance of market size oysters. And so working with the industry working group, they've agreed on a series of triggers for closures and so we've had a series of kind of openings and closings during the year.

That oyster fleet is very mobile and so when you have areas, say, shut down in Matagorda Bay or Galveston Bay, then they may all move all to Copano Bay; and so you can see areas get hit pretty hard. So those triggers are really important. Right now, roughly 20 percent of the oyster reefs are closed because of concerns about, again, a preponderance of either juvenile oysters and/or a lack of market size oysters on those reefs and then there's another 12 or 13 percent that are closed because of human health concerns by the Department of State Health Services. So just a quick update on that and a reminder that in May, we'll be coming back to the Commission to articulate our thoughts on a proposal for how we advance these public/private sector partnerships to help expedite oyster planning along the coast to help bring back our oyster reefs and that will be another evolution of our work with industry in the state and look forward to sharing that with you.

Talk a little bit about safety for a minute, and I think this is really important. Maybe as a quick point of departure, too, I want to make sure that y'all know we have just hired a new Safety Coordinator for the Agency, Cornell Richardson, and he comes from the corporate and private sector. He's got 20 years of experience in this field. Is just topnotch and really bringing a lot of expertise and professionalism and wisdom to our safety program inside the Department and obviously it goes without saying that there's nothing more important to all of us than making sure that our colleagues come home at the end of the day after a hard day's work to their family and friends.

And as all of you know, danger cannot be eliminated from the jobs that our employees do all throughout the states and in all their disciplines and -- but we can do everything we can to help promote safety inside the workplace and be assured that we're pushing hard on that.

To that end, a big part of what we do is promote safety in the out of doors and we just wrapped up our 2015 Hunter Safety reports. Steve Hall, who's head of our Hunter Education Program, is with us today. Steve, again, is a -- really an internationally recognized expert in this field. And here's the good news with respect to this report: Since 1966, which is when really we started reporting hunting accidents, we had the lowest number of incidents in 2015 going back to 1966. We also had the lowest number of accidents and fatalities per a hundred thousand license holders, and we believe that is absolutely a direct reflection on the emphasis that we have put on hunter education and safety.

This also comes on the heels of record numbers of hunters being certified in hunter education. So that program is working. There are some important lessons learned that our team has drawn from the accidents that we've had this year. You know, roughly 60 percent of those accidents were from folks not being as cognizant of their field of fire and swinging on dove or quail and not being completely knowledgeable about where their hunting partners or others were. And so Steve and our crackerjack team of Hunter Ed. instructors and volunteer Hunter Ed. chiefs are going to make that range-of-fire issue a little more prominent as we work to cut down on that.

We see a lot of these accidents occur in low light, not surprisingly. We see a fair amount of these also being self-inflicted and concerns about the proper handling of firearms. So that's an issue that obviously we remain very concerned about and a fair amount of these accidents are from people that haven't taking Hunter Ed., not all of them. We had a very, very tragic accident in March in which a young man around Weatherford, 17 years old on his very first hunt with his family, accidentally shot himself while hunting hogs and killed himself and he had completed Hunter Education literally a week or two before.

So we want to continue to emphasize just the criticality of Hunter Ed., hunter safety, having a good mentor out in the field, self-awareness, and reflecting on, again, on these lessons learned and trends that we can help promote in our safety efforts throughout the Agency.

April is National Volunteer Month, and that's a big deal for us. We simply can't run our business without the nearly 9,000 volunteers around the state that help us with everything from crab trap cleanups in the bays to work in state parks, our Boater/Aquatic Ed. chiefs, our Hunter Ed. instructors, our volunteers and docents at state parks, that wonderful coterie of volunteers at Sea Center and other hatcheries, wildlife management areas. I mean, they just do extraordinary work and do tasks big and small that we couldn't ever otherwise do. And you can see in these stats the story. I mean, giving us roughly 600,000 hours of volunteer labor. Roughly equivalent to almost 285 FTEs, and so it is just remarkable.

Kris Shipman, who's with us today -- I think I saw Kris. Hi, Kris.

Recently promoted to our Statewide Volunteer Coordinator. She ably ran our Coastal Expo Program in Coastal Fisheries for a dozen or 13 years. She, too, is a state expert on volunteerism and is leading this program and we're proud of her leadership and next month is really an opportunity for us to very publically thank our volunteers that help make this place go round and so I know you'll help us do that when you see and meet folks that are volunteering in the parks and the hatcheries and the WAs and through our various education and outreach programs.

Speaking of education and outreach, always nice to be able to celebrate one of our own when they receive a very distinguished award and this is a picture from a luncheon here in Austin of the Camp Fire Central Texas, who each year honors an individual for their commitments to getting family and youth into the outdoors and exposing them to nature and conservation. And the lady on the right of the photo, Gigi Bryant from Austin, was last year's honoree. The lady to her left was this year's and that's Nancy Herron, who is our Director of Education and Outreach. And she doesn't look it, but Nancy has been doing this for 30 years and she has just done a masterful job reaching out to kids and figuring out new and improved ways to connect them with outdoors and all of the things we do.

She, too, is a National Thought and Practice leader, Richard Louv, who literally and figuratively wrote the book on getting children into the out of doors, is regularly consulting with Nancy on, you know, where the rubber hits the road and how to make these things work and we're very proud of her for getting that Camp Fire award. It just reflects very well on the Department and our extensive education and outreach efforts. So kudos to Nancy.

The last thing that I want to mention, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, is an update on the nonresident disabled veteran's super combo license. And some of you will recall an extensive conversation and decision that the Commission made back in November in 2013 in which we proposed a new license for nonresident disabled veterans. You know, we had the disabled resident veteran super combo, which allowed them to hunt for free; but what we were seeing was a lot of organizations -- Wounded Warriors and others -- that were bringing in vets from out of state and exposing them to the world class outdoor experiences that we have here in Texas and obviously, that came at significant cost -- the transportation, the special accommodations, all of those things. And our discussion with the Commission was about making that free for nonresidents.

And one of the bits of feedback that we got from the Commission was to, you know, look at putting a temporary sunset date on this of three years while we tried to work with other states on reciprocity related issues. Meaning, you know, we want to do this; but let's make sure that the Texas vets are also treated accordingly if at all possible in other states.

Here's the report on this -- and Commissioner Morian -- Chairman Morian can speak very directly to this. I mean, we went to the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies to talk to our counterparts and all the other states about it. We even helped provide a lot of input on a bill that was proposed in Congress by a Congressmen to help look at the reciprocity issues for this very issue. The bottom line is the license structures in the states are apples to oranges. You just can't really compare them. The other states don't have things like super combos. They may have something that's close to that, but they have a wide variety like we do of licenses and permits, etcetera.

Some states are already providing either free licenses or discounted licenses for both resident and nonresident vets. Other states, to be fair, as Commissioner Morian and I learned, are diametrically opposed to it. And so the short answer is there wasn't really any way for us to be able to synchronize the reciprocity with other states and so our proposal at the staff level is to remove the sunset date and to essentially just make permanent that exemption for nonresident vets.

Let me give you the numbers just so you have them. Again, up until really license year 2014, we didn't have this option for nonresident vets. But once we put it in place -- and I'll share with you the three years, recognizing though that in the 2014 license year, we didn't put this in place until January. So part of that hunting season, this wasn't available. We sold 2,035 nonresident disabled veteran super combo licenses or we gave them away essentially for free; 2015, 3,318; and then in 2016, again, year to date 2,687. So we're looking at, you know, roughly I'd say 3,000 of these licenses a year.

Our proposal, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, is to go ahead and propose that. Publish that proposal, get feedback, and then come back to you in May for a decision on that.

So with that, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, let me stop and see if there's any questions about any of that.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Can you start over again? I'm sorry.

MR. SMITH: You may be shot by some of your other Commissioners.

Mr. Chairman, I guess without any other questions, then I will stop there and we'll precede. Thank you.


I meant to lead off my remarks by saying Vice-Chairman Duggins is in court today and Chairman Friedkin is under the weather and he finally decided last night that it would be better for him and us if he stayed in. He wanted to be here. Commissioner Jones is just late.

Work Session Item 2, Financial Overview, Strategic Plan Update, Mr. Jensen and Mr. Goldsmith.

MR. JENSEN: Good morning, Commissioners. My name is Mike Jensen. I'm the Division Director for Administrative Resources Division.

At the last meeting, Chairman Friedkin had asked if in this presentation I could give you a little bit more background as to the revenue streams that the Department has. We have the three primary revenue streams. So my presentation will do that for you. You have to look backwards to appreciate where we are today. So some of this is going to be looking at the prior fiscal year and how we compare to the prior fiscal year.

So I'll have slides that show the state park revenues, the boat revenues, and the license revenues. Then I'll have a slide that shows the adjusted budget. Then I'll have a recap of three slides that talked about the Fund 9 diminishing balances for the unrestricted portion of Fund 9, just to summarize what we talked about in January. And Michael Goldsmith will then have a presentation for you about the strategic planning process. So I'll go ahead and lead that off with my portion.

The first slide I have for you is going to be a recap, just so that I can give you the cyclicalities -- the cycle trends of the state park revenue. This is Account 64, the State Park Account. It also partially funds all those divisions that support state parks. So my Division, Communications, Infrastructure, and a few others. But it primarily supports the State Parks Division.

And so if you look at this, the last fiscal year we closed down with about 46.3 million in state park revenue. The first six months, accounts were about 39 or 40 percent of the revenue. The last six months, accounts were about 60 or 61 percent of the revenue. So my slides that show you the current fiscal year that I'm going to show you, show you for the first six months through February. We're doing very well so far. But I do want you to see that the trends -- you can see it on this slide. The strongest three months are July, which is about 12.2 percent; March is about 11 percent for spring break; and June at about 10 percent. Those three months account for one-third of the revenues.

Looking at this slide -- you'll see the others that mirror this -- the red on the bottom represents the entrance fees. We had -- that's about 33 percent of the revenue during the course of the year, 15 million. Facilities, that's the dark blue down there on the bottom, 37 percent, about 17 million. Concessions is the next group. It's green, light green. It's about 12 percent of the revenue, 6 million. Park passes are about 7.7 million, 17 percent, there in the light blue. And the miscellaneous revenue is about 1 percent, 357,000.

Looking at the current fiscal year on a month-to-month basis, we're comparing very well because year to date we're already 10.7 percent ahead. That's 1.9 million. We had two poor months. October and November were poor months, but the rest of the months were very good. September was outstanding, as is January and February. You can see September at 3.8 million. It's almost 25 percent better than the prior year. October was 5 percent behind. November was 10 percent behind. December at 2.64 million is about 11 percent better than last year. January at 2.9 million is 30 percent better than last year. February at 3.4 million is 31 percent better than last year. But as I pointed out, having a high percentage, it's a high percentage for your lowest revenue fee period. So the fee period that we're about to encounter, if we continue at this, we're going to have a banner year and that's what our staff has been projecting all along with the rain and water that we've had. I'm expecting an outstanding March with spring break.

This next slide is going to show you year to date through February, the first six months compared to the prior four years. You can see at fiscal year '16 the 19.85 million. That's about 11 percent better than fiscal year '16. It's about 20 percent better than fiscal year '14, 21 percent better than '13, and about 42 percent better than fiscal year '12. So over the years, we're trending up. It's a very good trend, positive trend. The last two years were very good years at about 46 million per year. This may be a banner year if we continue to have a strong summer. We may even approach 48 million. We'll see.

MR. SMITH: You know, Mike, I do think for the Commission, it's worth noting that, you know, the fact that we had a record year in park revenue in spite of the fact that we had, you know, extensive flooding throughout the whole park system and some of our biggest and most popular parks were closed for most, if not all, of the summer. So, obviously, a good harbinger of things to come, as Mike said, assuming we have the right weather to help support it. But Brent and his team just did a terrific job of hosting visitors under some very difficult circumstances with a lot of our parks closed partially or in full during really the busy season. So kudos to them.

COMMISSIONER JONES: What do you account for that, Carter? I mean, was --

MR. SMITH: You know, I --

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- it marketing? Was it --

MR. SMITH: I think yes, yes, absolutely. Josh Havens is nodding his head vigorously, of course, the Communication's Director. Yeah, all due to marketing.

You know, I think Mother Nature definitely played a role. I mean, one of the things that we definitely see -- compared to '15, you bet. I mean, when it rains, people get outdoors and we see that on the water, in the parks, etcetera and those improved weather conditions definitely helped us. If you had a place to go, you'd go.

COMMISSIONER JONES: I also think that people heard when we put the message out about how bad everything was and that we needed people to get out and help, you know, I think a lot of people also went out because they understood that we needed support.

MR. SMITH: Yeah. I don't disagree with that, Commissioner. And I, in all seriousness, I do think Josh and his team do a great job of making sure that they're advancing appropriate messages, you know, seasonally and so forth to help encourage folks to get outdoors and I do think that's a big part of it.

MR. JENSEN: Speaking of the growth, I mean if -- '11 we had a drought. We were about 36 million. So the last year for them to be at 46 million is pretty significant. State park staff have done a wonderful job, fantastic job.

So if we look at just a real quick comparison to the prior fiscal year, we're at 19.85 million this year compared to 17.93 last year. That's a 10.7 percent increase or we're up 1.9 million. The variances are on the next slide. So you can see the entrance fees are ahead 17.7 percent; facilities up 11 percent; concessions are up 17.4 percent; park passes are slightly behind, almost 1 percent; and miscellaneous fees are down about 15 percent, but those don't account for a large amount of volume of revenue. Park visitation, total visits are up 12.8 percent. And the paid visits are up 14.7 percent. I don't have a slide that backs you up and compares it to the prior years; but if you look at the paid visitation, compared to '14 we're up almost 23 percent, '13 we're up 20 percent, compared to '12 we're up about 33 percent. So the state park has started off strong. I'm very curious to see how we're going to wind up in March because that's typically the second strongest month of the season going into the summer months.

Here's what the boat revenue looks like when it comes in over the course of a year on a month-to-month basis. Boat revenue is Fund 9. And for those of you that want to know what the three digit is, we typically call that nine -- 0950. The cyclical nature of this, it's very strong in the months of April through July; but we've actually started off very well this year. Each month in a month-to-month comparison has exceeded the same month from last year.

Whereas state parks, most of their revenue comes in the last six months. It's very similar with boats. But the last six months for boat revenue is 71 percent. The first six months only accounts for about 30 percent or 29 percent. Best months being June, July, and April. Those three months account for 40 percent of the fees that are collected.

I do want to point out that on the sales tax that we collect, on this chart here down there on the bottom, the pink. During the course of a year, we actually -- in '15, we collected about 53.9 million for the state as a whole. The way this works, the Department is only appropriated 5 percent of that and that's 2.69 million that's represented in the pink. Titling is 4.34 million; and registration fees, 4.7 million. So these three sources of revenue -- the sales tax is the least amount, it represents about 12 percent of the revenue that comes in. Titling is 20 percent, and registration fees are 68 percent. So registration fees are very important for the health of this fee stream.

If we look at the current year month-to-month comparison, you can see September and February are pretty close together; but each month has exceeded the month from the prior year. September is 15 ahead of the prior year; October, 6 percent; November, 13 percent; December, 9 percent; January, 8 and a half percent; and February, 9 percent. So we're 10.4 percent ahead or 653,000. And, again, this is the first six months, which is only about 29, 30 percent of the revenue. So if we continue strong, which we anticipate we will, we're going to have an exceptional or extraordinary year for boat fee revenues.

Looking backward, the current fiscal year we're about 6 million 939 thousand. That's 10 percent better than '15, 13 percent better than '14, 12 percent better than '13, and about 16 percent better than '12. Looking at a real quick view of a year-to-prior-year, we're at 6 million 939 thousand compared to 6 million 287 thousand. Revenue is up 10.4 percent, 652,000.

Here is where the variances are. And if you look at the volume on the bottom of this slide, that's what the volume is by, registrations and titles. You can see that sales tax is up 14.5 percent. Titles are up 13.2 percent. Registration fees were up 8.6 percent. With respect to the volumes, the second table down there on the bottom, registrations cumulatively are up 9.2 percent. New registrations are up 15 percent; transfers, about 14 percent; renewals, about 7 percent. Titles are up 14 percent. And as I mentioned before, the total tax that we've collected year to date for the State is 19.43 million. Of that, 95 percent remains in the Treasury for the State, 18.46 million. And our 5 percent is reflected in this table at 971 and a half thousand. And I'll have another slide at the end that I finish with that's more in the context of Fund 9; but we also have a statute in the Parks and Wildlife Code that requires us to transfer 15 percent on a monthly basis of boat fee revenue into Account 64, the State Park Account. That transfer to the point in time through to February is almost $900,000 that we're moving into the State Park Account.

License revenue is a very significant source of revenue. You can see in the last fiscal year, we're almost $101 million that came to the Department. So it's hard to even put in a graph because most of this revenue comes in the first month because we have a license year and over the years, we've trained the hunters and anglers, "You need to come and get your license as soon as you can on August 15th," and that revenue rolls into the first month. So you can see the first month accounts for 43 percent of the revenue. It's 43.1 million. The first six months accounts for 75 percent of the revenue. The last six months accounts for 25 percent. And the cyclical nature of this revenue stream, you're going to see the combination licenses and the hunting licenses really hit very strong that first month; and then for the next three months, they make up 64 percent of the revenue stream pretty much. And then you'll see the very bright tangerine, those are fishing licenses that pretty -- end up pretty strong March through July.

If we look at this fiscal year comparatively, you can see that we started off very strong, 44.58 million, which is 3 percent better than the prior year. October we fell behind about 14 percent. However, in November we were ahead 15 percent. December we were ahead 18 percent. January we were ahead 19 percent. In February, we were ahead 49 percent compared to the prior February; but you've got to look at the graph. Those -- we're comparing very small amounts comparatively to the prior months. So this February had 3.58 million. The prior year, that amount was 2.14 million. And most of that is attributed to a very extraordinary spike in fishing license sales. We hope that continues.

The current fiscal year through February, the first half of the fiscal year, our license year is 79.7 million. That's 5 percent better than license year '15; 7.3 percent better than '14; 10 percent better than '13; and 15 percent better than '12. So you can see we've had pretty steady growth in all of our revenue streams; and for the boat revenue stream and the license revenue stream, we have not had a fee increase. So this is basically increase in volume sales.

Comparing the two years, we're ahead 3.9 million, 5.1 percent. The variances are on this page here. You've seen this slide before in the past. I've changed it up a little bit. About five years ago, I threw in there a line to segregate the lifetime licenses and I wanted to do that just so you could see what's happening here. The first line, you can see resident fishing licenses. It's banner time. It's almost 20 percent. It's 2.3 million ahead of where we were in the prior year. Nonresident fishing licenses are ahead 10 percent, 201,000. Resident hunting is down 2 percent, $196,000. Nonresident hunting is up 2.3 percent, 213,000. Combination licenses are up 3.8 percent, 1.3 million. Other licenses, which includes commercial, is up 1 and a half percent, 105,000. The lifetime licenses are down slightly at 7.5 percent.

When someone purchases a lifetime license, the fee from that sale does not go into the Fund 9 stream. It's goes into the Lifetime License Endowment, and that Lifetime License Endowment is expected to grow by the end of '17 to about $28 million. I mention that because the slide I'm going to end on, I'm going to refer that Lifetime License Endowment. I just -- that's why I wanted to segregate that on this slide for you.

So you can see that we are 5.1 percent in total revenue, 3.9. If you want to just look at pure Fund 9 comparison, if you pull that lifetime out, we're ahead 5.3 percent, almost 4 million. So we're expecting a banner year in license sales. I hope the fishing continues, and it should. There's no reason. We have plenty of water.

The budget summary, if you recall back in January, we had the adjusted budget approved through November of 556.19 million. We have four line item adjustments that represent tons of transactions. We've categorized them into four different categories for subtotal adjustments of 37.47 million. The adjusted budget is 593.6 million. The federal and UB is 25.32 million. It has 20 summary projects for us. The top three are wildlife restoration, 18.8 million; recreational trail grants, 3.2 million; sport fish restoration, 1.1 million.

The second adjustment on there, appropriated receipts and UB, has 72 summary projects that are really broken down into two subcategories. Donations accounts for 733,000. Most of that's artificial reef at 507,000. The second category of other appropriated receipts is 8 million 905 thousand. The top two are capital construction. Galveston Island at 6.37 million. Those are funds that came into the Department from BP. And then we a border security interagency contract with DPS that we mentioned briefly in January, 933,000. That's in the Law Enforcement Division to support the effort along the border that's ongoing right now.

The third adjustment, construction UB, has 76 different projects that compromise this total, 1 million 93 thousand. And they represent projects such as -- the highest one, 743,000, coastal fisheries. It's a Dickinson Bayou wetlands restoration. Caprock Canyon State Park, state park's trailway resurface and repairs, about 58,000. At the Chap, they've done some work on the visitor center garden and a blind replacement for about 43,000. Matagorda Island, there's a hunter check station and office building work that was done, about 43,000. And at Big Bend, they replaced the public water system for about $24,000.

And the fourth adjustment there is just to true up the actual costs for employee fringe and employee through February of 1.42 million.

Now, I wanted to just kind of re-summarize what we talked about in January about our concerns about the cash balances for Fund 9, the Game, Fish, and Water Safety Account. The Game, Fish, and Water Safety Account has an unrestricted piece, then it has the piece that has restrictions, all the stamp funds. The stamp fund balances are very good and they're substantial. They're probably about 70 percent of the balances that are available. But what is being spent down over the past four years is the unrestricted piece of Fund 9.

After we had the budgetary restriction and reduction of appropriation authority, those balances grew considerably. The Legislature did appropriations and targeted some very good things for staff and that's what this table represents. It reflects the additional salary, fringe, any of our shared cash costs that were approved for appropriation authority and cash hit to support the Department. However, during that same period where we have an increase of about 12.8 million per year in personnel and shared cash costs, we have not had any fee adjustments. So as time has gone by, we have spent down the balances that existed.

We should be good to make it through this biennium without any issue, and that will be on one of the following slides; but you can see that we have about 10 million in addition to salary and fringe costs per year and we have about 2.8 in shared cash costs without an increase in our revenue streams.

On this slide, you can see -- we mentioned this -- Julie Horsley mentioned this last time when we last met. The expenditures reflect a 2.3 percent growth since fiscal year '14. That's simply appropriation authority that allowed us to spend down balances. But our revenue streams have steadily grown and you've seen the boat and the license streams have grown, but our expenses are higher than the growth rate because haven't had a fee increase. So expenditures will continue to exceed revenues until the general unrestricted Fund 9 balances are exhausted, and that's not going to happen in this fiscal year for a variety of reasons.

The third bullet on here, some short-term action that the Department has taken. We done a -- implemented a hiring chill, a four-month delay in hiring staff. You'll have some salary lapse that will be available for strategic needs for the Department, but it also ensures that we will not go below the nonrestricted Fund 9 balances. We're also maximizing use of stamp and revenue balances where we can, and we're continuing to coordinate with Oversight as to what our fee analysis is. In fact, today we have our LBB analyst sitting back here, Michael Wells, I'd like to recognize. He works closely with our staff, and we coordinate with the Legislative Budget Board Office pretty much on a monthly basis.

But you've also seen the order of presentation. Our revenue streams for boats is very good and licenses for exempt boats are up 10.4 percent. If we continue through the peak months, the last six months, and if licenses continues at 5.1 percent ahead, that in and of itself alone would ensure that we wouldn't exhaust our balances. So we have the chill that's going on, plus we have an extraordinary year with revenues for Fund 9. We are not going to have an issue with unrestricted Fund 9 balances this biennium, but we are going to have to plan for the future biennium and get that in the strategic plan and in the LAR.

That's why I have this last slide here. Some of the things that we're going to consider will include -- within the strategic plan -- is looking at the unclaimed refund of motor boat fuel tax. So statutorily, that's created -- it's a calculation that's done by the Comptroller's Office. We do have appropriation authority out of these funds, but there's an additional nine point million a -- 9.1 million a year that could have been appropriated to the Department. So as we go into the strategic plan and the LAR, we can request that the Legislature look at the full amount of that and maybe do a method of finance swap or some other option that would assist us -- that would alleviate the strain on nonrestricted Fund 9.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Yeah, go that one more.

COMMISSIONER LEE: One more time.



MR. JENSEN: The Unclaimed Refund of Motor Boat Fuel Tax, that's a method of finance source that the Comptroller creates a revenue estimate and it's -- they have a methodology for calculating that, and we're supposed to get our full share of that; but it's subject to whatever they appropriate. They didn't appropriate the full amount for the Department. So they left $9.1 million on the table in the Treasury that they had discretion to appropriate.

When we come into the next appropriation cycle, we're going to recognize that and we're going to ask them to give us the full amount from the BRE, from the Comptroller's estimate. And if all things are being equal, it's going to be roughly $9 million a year that could be appropriated to the Department above what they've already appropriated.

COMMISSIONER LEE: It's not a $9 million cash balance. It's $9 million of revenue or some sort of income from a source. What's the source?

MR. JENSEN: The source is when folks buy fuel for their motor boat -- and I almost want to have Michael Wells come up, but I won't make him do that -- there's a reimbursement process for folks who buy fuel for their boats, and many people don't go through that reimbursement process. So the cash that's collected by the Comptroller, they have an estimate that they make on a two-year basis and they -- I don't remember what the full amount was, but --

COMMISSIONER LEE: What happens to the money now?

MR. JENSEN: It -- right now that money is in Fund 1 at the Comptroller with the Treasury. It's not part of our accounts.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Is it -- is it accumulating?

MR. JENSEN: It's accumulating in Fund 1. It's a Fund 1 -- a sub -- subdivision of Fund 1 General Fund. It's similar to sporting goods sales tax. Sporting goods sales tax is really a subset of Fund 1, and it's also a calculation; but they're both subject to the appropriation authority and the level, whatever the Legislature chooses to give us. But there is a statute that says when the Comptroller follows its methodology and comes up with an amount, if they appropriate it, we can get the full amount that they've done in their methodology; but they don't have to give us the full amount.

MR. SMITH: So I guess, Commissioner, to your original question, one of the things that I think we want to work with the Legislature on is looking at could we essentially use other revenue streams in lieu of the unrestricted Fund 9 license dollars so that we relax the pressure on that particular funding stream. And so we've got several options here that we want to try to work with the Legislature on. At the same time, we also know that there are some additional costs that we have got to figure out how to pay for and these are going to be revenue streams that we can look to potentially helping to fund those. So, obviously, that will be an important conversation with the Commission as we finalize our Legislative appropriation's request going into the next biennium.

COMMISSIONER LEE: When we went over this in January, staff was going to go back -- if I recall correction -- and look at options. Is this what this is --


COMMISSIONER LEE: -- this presentation of options?

MR. SMITH: Yeah, so you're exactly right. I mean, we talked about a wide variety of options, what we could do internally to help manage this, what we would need to do looking forward working with the Legislature to help resolve, and then also looking at even the possibility for a license fee increase. What we've really decided to do for now is to manage this internally and continue to work with the Legislative leadership on options both from a statutory perspective to see what possibilities can be opened there and then also resolve -- to be fair -- you know, concerns that have been raised about potential fee --

COMMISSIONER LEE: Sounds like the short-term answer is through '16, '17?

MR. SMITH: Well, '16 and '17, we're going --

COMMISSIONER LEE: We're still -- it's up 10 million, right?

MR. SMITH: Yeah. We're going to be able to manage through the end of this biennium. Obviously, we're not going to drive those balances into the red. So through our own actions, we're going to be able to manage it to make sure that we stay in the black. That will give us time to get in the Legislative session to be able to talk further about --

COMMISSIONER LEE: Options beyond '17 --

MR. SMITH: That's right.

COMMISSIONER LEE: -- is what we're talking about?

MR. SMITH: That's right. Yep, yep.

MR. JENSEN: These bullets represent items that need to show up in the strategic plan and that need to show up in the Legislative Appropriation's Request, the LAR. And one of the things I glossed over really quickly is we were doing fee analysis to see, at some point in time, we would have to very closely look at increasing fees. And our Oversight with the State, the Lieutenant Governor's Office, just on principle alone -- not because of Parks and Wildlife -- they don't like increasing fees for anybody. So we need to coordinate more with that office and with Senate Finance, House Appropriations; and we're going to coordinate with our government relation folks to do that, to provide them the information.

They wanted to make sure before we truly presented to everybody a recommendation for a fee increase, that we've looked under every rock, that we've looked at every option; and these are some of the options that we're looking at. The second bullet on here is -- I'd mentioned on the boat fees, we -- in the Parks and Wildlife Code, we transfer 15 percent of the monthly revenues that come in to the Parks Account. Over the course of the year, that's roughly $3 million. So if we're able to change that statute, it's simply one word from "shall" to "may," then we could permissively retain that $3 million per year in Fund 9.

Lifetime License Endowment, it's going to grow to approximately 28 million by the end of '17. And that has grown. Last year the revenue for that was about 1.34 million. So there are different things that we can do to the Lifetime License Endowment. We can seek authority to attach some portion of the corpus or very important one-time purposes or we can look to open it up to the anticipated revenue stream that comes on an annual basis and try to get that as a recurring appropriation, about 1.1 to 1.3 million per year. There are opportunities there to look at that strategically to see how we can alleviate some of the burden on unrestricted Fund 9 as a short-term measure and long-term, too.

I mean, we should really figure out what is most strategic for that endowment. It has never been -- the corpus has never been touched because statutorily it can't. The only thing that has been spent out of that fund has been some interest. Several years ago, there was a good balance of interest that had been generated. We have authority to spend that. Most of that has been exhausted. So now we need to look at that as 28 million, what could we do for that that's strategic for the Department?

And the bottom bullet is some of the dedicated accounts, subaccounts within Fund 9. You have Sand, Shell, and Gravel that has a 2 million balance that we could tap into. That does have a recurring stream of revenue; but because of the flooding, not as much has been done. So it hasn't generated as much this year as it has done in prior years. We have the Shrimp Buy Back. It has a balance of about a million. And the Freshwater Stamp had a projected balance of approximately 22 million; but if fishing license sales continue to be what they're going to be, that balance could grow as much as to 26 to 28 million, depending on if we have a continued strong push of license sales for freshwater fisheries.

So these are the types of things that are middle term to short term that we're looking at. The very short-term thing that we did to address the balances was the hiring chill; but the hiring chill and the context of the current fees that are coming in on boats and licenses, well, we're not going to go negative or we're not -- we're not where we want to be. To where we want to be is going to have to get some assistance with the Legislature in making some of these changes and at some point in time, we'll probably have to do some fee adjustments on the boat side and on the license side.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Remind us -- or, Carter, perhaps this is to you. If the Commission were interested in a fee increase, is that something within the authority of this body?

MR. SMITH: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER LEE: And if we're doing an analysis on it, wouldn't we want to make sure that it's dynamic? You know, we increase fees, it's going to affect demand. And so it would be interest -- you just don't raise fees. Your traffic is going to be adjusted. So we would hope if that's being prepared, that you look at it dynamically.

MR. SMITH: Yeah. We've done an extensive market analysis on that in the past, you know, looking at what are the most price sensitive customers and how our customers react and respond to various fee increases and so we have a lot of historical data to draw upon. Also, data from other states. So, you know, if we go down that road, obviously we're going to have that information for y'all to consider.

At this juncture though, I want to be real clear. We're not proposing any fee increases and, you know, we have pledged to the Legislative leadership to continue working internally and also to give them some time to work with the Agency to help try to resolve this and to get into next Legislative session. So really just wanted to give you an update from the last presentation -- yeah -- and how we propose to manage this in the short term to get us into the session. So really the genesis for it, but we look forward to talking more about it.

MR. JENSEN: We do have an Interdivisional Team that's been looking at this very closely for probably about a year and a half now. So we do have data that we share with Carter, that we've shared with some Oversight committees, and we're going to continue to share that with them until -- until we feel more comfortable of bringing a full package and a recommendation that y'all can consider. At this time, it's not the right time for that.

That's all I have. If you have any questions, I'd be happy to try and answer them with respect to the budget adjustments and the fee streams. Otherwise, Michael will walk you through the strategic planning process, what the Department's doing this year to get ready for that.

MR. GOLDSMITH: Good morning. For the record, my name is Michael Goldsmith. I'm the Strategic Plan and Performance Coordinator in the Administrative Resources Division. Today, I'll be briefing you on updates to the Agency's strategic plan. At TPWD, this takes the shape of the Natural Agenda.

Just at the outset, I kind of wanted to make a quick distinction between the Natural Agenda and the Land and Water Plan. That's the Agency's other document that outlines a broad vision for conservation and outdoor recreation. So the Land and Water Plan articulates a general vision for the Agency. Unlike the Land and Water Plan, the Natural Agenda has an appropriation's focus. It establishes our budget structure and our funding needs and serves as the basis for the Legislative Appropriations Request that starts funding discussion for the next Legislative session.

The strategic planning process was established for Texas agencies by the Legislature in 1991. Today, all State agencies are required by the Government Code to prepare and submit a five-year strategic plan every two years. So for this round, we're working on the plan for the years 2017 through 2021. The LBB and the Governor's Office give instructions for what information must be included in the plan and the role of the plan in the budget process.

So, for example, strategic plans must include a statement of Agency mission and philosophy, goals, objectives, and strategies, an assessment of internal and external factors that affect the Agency, and a set of performance measures used to assess progress. And although there are specific instructions about the type of information that needs to be included, the Agency can use this plan as an opportunity to communicate what we think is important and what factors are affecting our ability to be effective. The issues raised in the plan about funding needs and other areas of concern will set the stage for funding requests later in the process.

The quote at the top of this slide is from the strategic plan instructions issued by the LBB and the Governor's Office. The strategic plan defines what an agency is and intends to be, as well as the principles guiding it. The strategic plan is intended to set direction for all of the Agency's operations, communicate goals, directions, and outcomes to the Legislature and stakeholders, and guide budget preparation and establish performance measures as a basis for measuring success in meeting these goals.

The strategic plan guides budget preparation in two ways. The goals and strategies in the plan comprise the budget and planning structure for the Agency, which provides the framework for requesting and receiving Legislative appropriations. Identified funding priorities also establish potential areas for exceptional item funding requests in the LAR. In other words, decisions made now about the strategic plan structure will have implications on how budgets are set up in the future.

The strategic planning process is part of the budget cycle configured by the LBB and the Governor's Office. The cycle begins at the upper left of this circle, with the strategic planning phase. After that is budget development. This is where we create the Legislative Appropriations Request based on the budget structure and the strategic plan. We will begin working on this in the spring, with the final submission due at the end of summer.

After the LAR is implementation phase. We will be given a certain amount of money from the Legislature and the GAA and have to figure out exactly how to spend it. We will use the GAA framework to create an operating budget and implement action plans in support of our goals and strategies. The final phase is monitoring. We report on performance measures, check expenditures, and evaluate our progress to make decisions about our needs and operations in the future.

These next two slides show the milestones for developing the 2017 through 2021 Natural Agenda. Note that these due dates are tentative because instructions have not yet been issued by the LBB and the Governor's Office. We anticipate the instructions will be fairly similar to past guidance and should be available fairly soon. You can see that our progress is well underway. In February, we began soliciting input from divisions on proposed changes to budget structure and performance measures, as well as strategic priorities, funding needs, and budgetary limitations.

In April, proposed changes to budget structure and performance measures will be due to the Governor's Office and the LBB. In May, Executive Office and divisions will be able to review the compiled draft of the plan and provide feedback. In June, we will seek the approval and signature of Executive Director Smith and the Chairman of the Commission. The final submission of the Natural Agenda will occur in either late June or early July.

Having discussed the background, the purpose, and the timeline of this plan, I'd like to outline a summary of proposed changes to the budget structure that will be submitted at the LBB in April. These changes were proposed by Communications Division to add emphasis to a wider range of activities and interests engaged in by the Division and add emphasis to overall goals and increasing participation and revenue.

The specific proposed changes follow: The first proposed change would add the words "participation" and "revenue" to Goal C to more broadly reflect the range of intended outcomes associated with Communication's efforts. The next proposed change is to Objective C 2, increase awareness. This change would clarify the connection between increased customer awareness of conservation and recreation opportunities, continued customer participation, and Agency revenue.

Next is Strategy C 2.1, outreach and education programs. This proposed change would include language to better reflect the current scope of education programs and add emphasis to the importance of reaching new users, as well as recruiting and retaining volunteers.

The final proposed budget structure change is to Strategy C 2.2, provide communication products and services. This change would add language to emphasize conservation and revenue generating efforts.

Divisions have proposed one new performance measure and proposed revisions for five measures that would either change the scope or the name of the measure. The proposed new measure is number of renewal e-mails sent to TPWD transactional customers. This measure would identify the number of e-mails sent to remind customers to renew hunting or fishing licenses, park passes, or boat registrations that are set to expire. These renewal e-mails can generate additional revenue by reducing the number of customers who otherwise might fail to renew. This measure reflects the effectiveness of target marketing as it's currently being utilized by the Agency.

For a number of major repair and construction projects completed and percent of major repair and construction projects completed, the proposed revision would count master planning and preliminary engineering reports within the defined -- within the definition of completed projects for both measures. For number of hours spent managing, treating, surveying, or providing education on aquatic invasive species, the proposed revision would clarify that this measure only counts activity hours conducted by Inland Fisheries staff.

For a number of subscribers to the TPWD e-mail subscription service, the proposed revision would clarify that the types of e-mail subscription services and customer subscribers that are counted. For amount of fee revenue collected from state park users, the proposed revision would add "in millions" to the measure name to be consistent with other Agency measures that are counted in millions.

To recap, these are the immediate next steps. Over the next few weeks, we will continue producing the strategic plan document. This will conclude -- this will include a rigorous internal review of all sections. We will provide internal drafts for review in May, with the intention of submitting the final version of the Natural Agenda in late June or early July.

This concludes my presentation, and I would be happy to answer any questions.


COMMISSIONER LATIMER: How were the state park revenue collected accounted for before if it was in millions?

MR. GOLDSMITH: Oh, it's -- it's been in millions. We're just adding "in millions" in parenthesis to the end of the --

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Oh, just to clarify.

MR. GOLDSMITH: Right. Because we have other measures that are accounted that way that have that at the end of the measure name.


COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Are these the only changes you're making?

MR. GOLDSMITH: There are a couple of other things where, you know, there has been a mistake to the fund name in the actual document and we're just clarifying that, the actual fund name, or adding commas or things that are very, very minor.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: No fundamental other --

MR. GOLDSMITH: But no other changes.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Yeah. All right. Well, thank you.

MR. JENSEN: All right. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Work Session Item No. 3, Internal Audit Update, Ms. Hancock.

MS. HANCOCK: Good morning. For the record, I'm Cindy Hancock, Internal Audit Director; and I'm here today to update you on the fiscal year '16 internal audit plan and any ongoing or closed external audits.

Since my last update in January, we've issued reports for two of three of our carryover projects; and I hope you have all received the reports we've been sending out this month. We've been catching up. The state park recreational grant section provided adequate controls over their co-op grants, with no significant findings.

In dedicated funds audit, we reviewed expenditures for four funds: The artificial reef, oyster shell, and recovery and replacement; the Texas Lions Camp plate; and the off-highway vehicle and trail decals. All expenditures reviewed were found to be appropriate and were spent for the intended purpose. However, we did find one issue regarding the off-highway decal inventory process. We're still working on the fuel card transaction audit and that -- once we finish that, we'll be through with our carryover projects.

For our new projects, we audited fiscal controls of five Law Enforcement offices, resulting in no significant findings. Our audits of fiscal control at five state parks had good results, with only one problem regarding inventory counts at Colorado Bend. For the remaining audits on the fiscal year '16 audit plan, the travel voucher audit and property audit are in their planning phase and the remaining three are in the various stages of fieldwork. The follow-up audit, of course, is ongoing throughout the year. And to report on the follow-up audit for January and February, out of nine internal audit recommendations due to be reviewed, three were implemented and of the three external audit recommendations due to be reviewed, two were implemented. This leaves ten external, as well as 26 internal recommendations in progress as of the end of February.

As far as any ongoing or closed external audits, the Department -- the Department of Interior Office of Inspector General is conducting a U.S. Fish and Wildlife grant audit. This is a federal grant audit and is still ongoing at this time.

The Comptroller conducted a compliance audit of our hotel tax payments from November 1st, 2012, through December 31st, 2015, and found no issues or amounts owed. A Comptroller letter directed to Justin Halverson, our Revenue Director, even commented him on his diligent and successful efforts with -- to comply with applicable Texas laws.

And to end on a happy note, that concludes my presentation. If you have any questions, I'll be glad to answer.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Mr. Chairman, I have a couple of --


COMMISSIONER JONES: -- comments and then a couple of questions. Back to the original -- or the first part of the presentation, I just want to make sure that we point out, we don't want to run over this or at least not understand the significance of it, but when the audit group goes out and conducts these audits -- for instance, in the Law Enforcement offices that they indicated and the state parks -- and they come out with the complete audit with no major findings or maybe one or two, that's significant because what that says is that state parks or the Law Enforcement Division are doing what they're supposed to do in these areas that they've checked. That's not insignificant. Obviously, if there was a problem, she would point it out to us that there's a problem and then we would point out to Carter, "Carter, there's a problem," and then Carter would point out to the Colonel or to Brent, "Brent, we have a problem." And I just want to make sure everybody understands the significance. We were breezing through this, and I don't want to hold up the show; but we do need to hold up the show to understand everybody's doing what they're supposed to be doing on these particular audits that were pointed out today, and that's a big deal.

MS. HANCOCK: My job is to provide you assurance that things are going well or not going well and this series of audits that we've just pumped out to y'all just indicate we're doing really well right now.


MS. HANCOCK: That may not always be the case; but for right now, that's good.

COMMISSIONER JONES: When the weather is nice, we want to enjoy a little sunshine.

MS. HANCOCK: That's exactly right.


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: When it's raining, we run.

COMMISSIONER JONES: I do have a question probably for Dawn. I don't know. Maybe you know, but I do have a question about the audit implementation report. I think I've gotten to the point to where I can't -- maybe I don't understand it or don't -- or I'm not reading it right. But it -- according to your letter, it seems that there was only -- uh-oh -- that there was only one outstanding internal audit issue, but it looked to me like there were several implementation dates that were moved and I'm trying to reconcile those two things.

MS. HEIKKILA: Okay. Of the 28 internal audit -- I'm sorry. For the record, my name is Dawn Heikkila. I'm the Deputy Executive Director for Parks and Wildlife. Of the 28 internal audit findings that were on the reporting list, we had four of them that were due for a follow up this period, two of them were implemented, and two of them had their implementation dates revised. And so the ones that had revised implementation dates were noted on here, and one of them -- I'm sorry for flipping.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Well, I guess I was looking -- when I was looking at it -- and maybe you and I need to get together after --


COMMISSIONER JONES: -- after the meeting, but it looked to me like there were ten or so implementation dates that were moved; but perhaps one of them was relating to the same audit issue that -- sorry about that. The Comptroller's Office issue that went -- it had like several items -- I'm sorry, under the public hunting program issue; and I can't determine if you're treating these separately or as one.

MS. HEIKKILA: It's one big audit, and it has several phases.


MS. HEIKKILA: And so the -- like, there may be one issue that has three different implementation stages.


MS. HEIKKILA: And so some of those, like, you could have part of it implemented and part of it still ongoing.


MS. HANCOCK: And, Commissioner Jones, this month I'm following up on many of those and so we'll have a better answer. They have put together a manual. They've done substantial work, and I'm in the process of reviewing that for the March follow-up.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay. So which one of these is the one that -- well, you don't have to tell me now. But what I'm asking is: Which one of these is the one -- you said it was in bold print and I -- either I can't see very well or I can't tell which one of the bold prints is the one that you're pointing out.

MS. HEIKKILA: And I apologize. This is a PDF and so when I'm looking at it, it is hard to distinguish which one is bold. And so I will go back and print it as a Word document.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Well, no. Just later on, point out to me which one is the one that's --


COMMISSIONER JONES: -- in bold print that needs to -- that didn't get the implementation done.


COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay. That's all, Mr. Chairman.

MS. HANCOCK: All right. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Good comments. Good questions. Thanks. Thank you for your presentation.

With that, we'll move on to Work Session Item No. 4, which is the Implementation of Legislation During the 84th Texas Legislative Session, Senate Bill 20, State Agency Contracting. It's recommended that we adopt the proposed rules.

Does any Commissioner have any questions? If not, I will place this on -- this item on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

MR. SMITH: Maybe, Mr. Chairman, just if I add just a little bit. You know, we had a pretty extensive presentation on that at the last meeting from Ann and Tammy on the proposed rules and so we're prepared to bring those rules to y'all tomorrow for ultimate decisions and so if you're not interested in hearing any more about it today, then what the Chairman is saying is we'll just put it on the agenda for tomorrow and deal with it then. Okay.


We'll move on to Work Session Item No. 5, 2016-17 Statewide Recreational and Commercial Fishing Proclamation, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Rules. Ken, welcome.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Good morning, Commissioners. My name is Ken Kurzawski with Inland Fisheries Division and I'm here today to go over, once again, our proposed regulatory changes and give you a summary of the public comment that we've received since the January meeting.

First change, if you remember, it was on Meredith Reservoir. We did -- we were -- had a Smallmouth bass population there that was decimated by drought and Golden Algae and we had -- we are proposing to change the current limits there which is a 12- to 15-inch slot to the 14-inch minimum, five-fish bag, which are the statewide limits. If we do decide to reintroduce Smallmouth bass into that population, the 14-inch minimum would be a good regulation to start off that effort with.

Next on Saugeye, we had an 18-inch minimum length limit there. We were stocking that to prey on Stunted Crappie populations. Other states have had some success with that. We didn't have much success with that here. We've discontinued that program and no longer are stocking it and we're going to remove that 18-inch minimum and combine the regulations here with Walleye regulations, which is a five-fish bag and only two fish over 16 inches could be harvested.

Next on Lake Naconiche, that lake was opened in 2012 with an 18-inch minimum. We believe that that bass population there is still developing, and it has some good trophy potential. Our staff has surveyed the anglers there, looked at the population; and based on some of that work and comments from the anglers, we're proposing to go to a 16-inch maximum and that would be a 16-inch maximum limit, length limit, with a five-fish daily bag. You wouldn't be able to harvest any fish over 16 inches; but if you did happen to catch a fish greater than 24 inches during the ShareLunker season, you would be able to retain that fish and donate it to the ShareLunker program. Otherwise, you would have to release that fish. We have similar regulations on a couple of reservoirs there, Nacogdoches and Kurth. Anglers seem to have accepted them well, and this would be a similar regulation to that.

Next, looking at coastal estuaries of Southeast Texas. There was increased interest there in bass fishing in tournaments and also a local desire to recruit more tournaments to that area. Our staff did an extensive look at the populations in those area. We found few bass over 14 inches. Mortality was high, and growth was slow; but the fish were in good condition. Looking around some of the Gulf states, we saw similar conditions to bass populations in similar estuarine situations. So what we're proposing there is to reduce the minimum length from 14 to 12 inches and return -- retain the current bag limit, which is a five-fish bag except for the Sabine River where the bag is currently eight.

We have some standardized regulations with the border waters with Louisiana, and we're going to keep the bag at eight at that time. And this was the regulation option favored in recent angler surveys in that area and this is the area that that regulation would cover. It's noted it would cover the Sabine River from Toledo Bend Dam downstream to the Sabine Pass and it would be in effect in all the public waters in Chambers, Galveston, Jefferson, and Orange Counties and it would include any of the public waters that form boundaries with the adjacent counties. We are working with -- we met recently with Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to work on standardizing the regulations on the Sabine River and we believe we'll be able to work with them and get that 12-inch implemented on that stretch of river also.

If you remember back to some of my earlier presentations, the genesis of this regulatory change was a bill that was introduced in the last Legislative session to reduce the bass limit, the length limit on bass a couple inches in that area. We have worked with Representative Phelan in interest of that bill and his staff on that and we appreciate the support of their staff and giving us -- giving us ability to work through this. Our staff -- our staff took an extensive look and, you know, from the information we found, we could do this and have some benefits to the populations down there.

And I would note that we did have a public hearing down there. Representative Phelan showed up and expressed his support for this proposal and so we're working with him and have kept him in this process.

Finally, on Lake Tawakoni, we currently have a 12-inch minimum and a 25-fish daily bag for catfish in that area. There's been excellent catches of large Blue catfish in that area and anglers and our staff have been concerned about some of those catches and we want to look at that fishery to make sure we can sustain that population and in excellent condition. We did include the anglers. Angler input was important to this process and we surveyed the anglers to gauge their interests and a variety of regulatory options for that reservoir. What we have settled on through some public meetings and looking at -- and modeling of our data, we're going to remove the 12-inch minimum, retain the 25-fish daily bag, which is for Blues and Channels combined; but within that 25-fish bag, we'll allow anglers to harvest seven fish over 20 inches, but of those seven fish, only two can exceed 30 inches. Blue catfish are the focus of this regulation. Most of the Channels -- Channels will be minimally impacted.

And to go over the comments that we received on all these proposals, mostly in support. Just to characterize some of the comments in opposition, on Meredith, nothing substantial there. There were some people who wanted higher or different limits. Some comment on -- one comment on shouldn't be stocking Smallmouth bass or wait until the population rebounds in that reservoir to make some changes.

Naconiche had a few comments on allowing more harvest of fish or that no change was needed or that there was some concern that allowing the harvest under 16-inch would impact the population. Southeast Texas, just had a couple comments on leaving it at 14 inches, impacts of tournaments down there, or there was even one change to change to a 15-inch minimum.

The most comments that we did have in opposition was at Tawakoni. There was a few comments about limits would impact -- negatively impact the fishing, maybe only benefit guides, or only good for trophy fishing. Interestingly, we only received one comment that mentioned that the proposal seemed too complicated. We were a little bit concerned about that. And actually the bulk of actual written comments we received, six of that group were people asking for more restrictive regulations in various ways. One over 40 inches. Just a variety of combinations, boat limits, tags. So based on these comments on all our proposals, staff would not recommend any changes to our proposals as we've issued.

And with that, I'd be happy to answer any questions or take any comments.


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yeah, Ken, on the Southeast Texas -- of course, I don't if there's any fish left in the Sabine River after this last flood. They may have all washed out into Lake Sabine or the Gulf. But you commented that you're having to work with the State of Louisiana's Fish and Wildlife Department on the limit?


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: How is that progressing or --

MR. KURZAWSKI: We met with them. They were in agreement. You know, we've been working with them as you know over the last few years to try and get our regulations standardized. We met with them three or four weeks ago, and they're going to go through their process once they -- once we -- probably once we tell them today if it gets -- or tomorrow if it gets approves, they'll work on getting it changed and we should be able to coordinate it and have those come in about the same time.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I know a bunch of them; but I don't know the process, if they have to go back through the State Legislature after they come up with a deal. Do you know the answer to that?

MR. KURZAWSKI: I don't believe they do for something like this.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I don't think they do. But anyway, that's --

MR. KURZAWSKI: I think they can get it done in time.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: If you run into any sticking points, you know, let me know because we can -- just they want to be in lockstep with us more so than ever after the Red snapper snafu. So we've got some friends. So anyway --

MR. KURZAWSKI: Yeah, that's standardization for --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: -- if things get balled up, let me know.

MR. KURZAWSKI: -- for our anglers and enforcement is definitely something we work to do for the Sabine, Toledo Bend, and for Caddo. So we're committed to keeping those.


COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Where is -- curiosity, where is Lake Tony?

MR. KURZAWSKI: Tawakoni?

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: How do you say it?

MR. KURZAWSKI: Tawakoni.


MR. KURZAWSKI: It's a little bit east of Dallas, kind of -- actually, just a little bit west of Lake Fork. So near Emory.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: And how big -- how big a lake is it?

MR. KURZAWSKI: It's a good size. I believe it's about 38,000 acres when full.


MR. KURZAWSKI: It is fulled out. All the reservoirs in that area are at 100 percent.


MR. KURZAWSKI: So a good sized reservoir.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Any other questions?

MR. KURZAWSKI: Okay. Thank you, Commissioners.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: All right. Jeremy, good morning.

MR. LEITZ: Good morning. For the record, my name is Jeremy Leitz with the Coastal Fisheries Division; and I'm here to present the 2016-17 statewide items for both Coastal Fisheries and Law Enforcement. There's four things that we have in front of you today. The first is to clarify the recreational maximum length limit for Black Drum, increase the minimum size limit of Greater Amberjack, and then clarify the definition of foul hooking with a pole and line, and then House Bill 1579 regarding sharks I'll touch on at the end.

First with Black Drum, just a little bit of the recreational regulations right now. There's a five-fish daily bag, 14 inches is the minimum length limit for that fish; but one over 52 may be retained as part of that daily bag. And up until the current license year, there was a 30-inch maximum length limit as well. However, that maximum length limit was accidentally omitted in our Administrative Code when the bag and size limit tables were converted to a text format. So we're proposing just to reinsert that maximum length limit of 30 inches where it currently says there's no maximum length limit, to go back to the way it was prior to this year.

Greater Amberjack, a little history here; but prior to 1990, there were no minimum size limits or bag limits. In 1990, a 32-inch minimum size was established, along with a three-fish bag. That would -- the minimum size was increased in 2008 to 34 inches, yet the bag was reduced to one fish. And also in 2008, the captain and mate bag limits were eliminated.

Just a couple months ago in January, NOAA raised the minimum size of Greater Amberjack to 34 inches and it's important to note here, they use fork length, which measures the fish from the tip of the snout to the center of that fork in the tail. Texas uses total length and that's just for consistency sake with all other species and that measures the fish from the tip of the snout to the furthest tip of the tail. But to mirror that regulation, we use a formula. So we're proposing to increase our minimum size limit to 38 inches to match their 34. And just to give you a little bit of information, just a little over a third of our trips land fish less than 38 inches right now; but really the mean size of those fish is closer to 44 inches.

Public comment for these two items, Black drum, we had 49 total comments as of yesterday. About 43 agree, and six disagree. Greater Amberjacks, 43 comments, of which about almost 80 percent agree with the proposal and nine disagree.

Moving on to foul hooking with a pole and line, all we're proposing here is just to modify the definition that currently exists in an attempt to clarify that using a pole and line to take a fish by foul hooking or snagging is unlawful. There's been some comments provided to us by game wardens from the constituents they run through that -- or they run into that say that definition right now is a little confusing. So we're proposing just to eliminate some language in there to clean that up. It wouldn't change anything. It's just an attempt to clarify it. This does apply to both fresh and saltwater. 95 comments so far. 90 percent of those are in agreement, and 10 percent disagree.

Lastly, House Bill 1579 regarding sharks. This was one that was enacted by the most recent Legislative session just back in 2015. This will prohibit anglers from possessing any finfish besides Broadbill swordfish and King mackerel that has the tail removed until it's finally processed and the definition of finfish does include sharks and based on how that bill was passed, this becomes effective July 1. And since this was a legislatively mandated item, we did not seek comment on it; but wanted to bring it before you here today.

And that's all I have, and I'll be happy to address any questions or comments.

COMMISSIONER JONES: What is that -- what is that last one trying to accomplish?

MR. LEITZ: It's -- House Bill 1579, it essentially ties back to the sale and purchase of shark fins, making it a criminal offense in Texas. And the tail is considered a shark fin. And so right now, you can tail that shark; but this would make it illegal to do so until it's finally -- until it's at its final destination and processed. So you could still have the shark. You just couldn't tail it.

COMMISSIONER JONES: What were people doing? Just hacking the tails off and then throwing them back?

MR. LEITZ: Yeah, and it's one way to bleed the fish out is you take the tail off and discard that fin in some way. And so that would make it illegal starting July 1.


COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Any other questions or comments?

Then this item will be -- if there's no further discussion -- do you have any comment?

MR. SMITH: No, I don't.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: This item will be placed on the proposed rules regarding the 2016-17 statewide recreational and commercial fishing proclamation on Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Work Session Item No. 6, 2016-17 Statewide Hunting Proclamation, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Rules, Alan Cain and Mr. Dave Morrison. Good morning.

MR. CAIN: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Alan Cain. I'm the White-tailed Deer Program Leader. This morning we'll review the White-tailed deer harvest regulation proposal that staff has. These are action items. So we'll bring them back tomorrow for your consideration for adoption.

The first proposed change, as I presented in the past, is elimination of antlerless deer -- antlerless and spiked buck deer control permit. Just quick review, this permit allows designated harvesters to remove deer from September 1 through the end of February. It started back in '93 and we saw some increased utilization through about 2003, then that declined in '04 and that coincided with changes to our Managed Lands Deer Program where we give away bonus tag requirements and also extended the season for Level 2 and 3 under MLD. And so most folks that were on ADCP moved to that program.

Since 2012, we've only issued four ADCP permits each year and so there really hadn't been much use -- utilization of that permit. Staff are obviously proposing to discontinue this permit. By doing so, we'd eliminate significant expense that would be necessary to incorporate the ADCP process into our TWIMS redesign when we go forward to do that for the MLD Program changes. Simply, there's no demand. And those few individuals that are under ADCP would have the option to utilize the current MLD Program, Triple T, or TTP Program.

Today, we've had 309 public comments. 299 of those supporting the proposal and ten opposed. There was no written reasons given for those that opposed the comment.

The next change concerns the definition of a legal buck during the special late season. Currently, there are 136 counties in the state of Texas with a late antlerless and spike season. There's been considerable confusion among hunters and landowners in counties where antler restrictions are in effect and also late antlerless and spike season. For example, if you're a hunter in a antler restriction county, during the general legal season, a legal buck -- one of the legal bucks is defined as a buck with at least one unbranched antler. So obviously, the spike in the photo on the right would be a legal buck; but also that three-point. The confusion comes into play during that special late season for a number of these individuals in the antler restriction counties where only a spiked buck is legal for harvest, but not a deer with an unbranched antler. And we've even had comments like they already thought that an unbranched antler deer was legal during that special late season. So there's a fair amount of confusion.

Staff propose to amend the definition of a legal buck to include any buck with at least one unbranched antler. This will hopefully reduce the confusion among the hunters and reduce possible unintended violations. It also will provide consistent regulations with the definition of a legal buck in antler restriction counties, as well as with the new MLD changes whereas under the harvest option, folks may harvest a buck with an unbranched antler during the early part of that season as well.

We've had 393 comments. 383 support the proposed change. Ten oppose. Some of the reasons listed for opposition to the proposal were there was concerns that we would be harvesting bred does during that special late season. It's really not relevant to the actual proposal. Spikes should be allowed to age and become branched antler bucks, and then that special late season should be limited to antlerless only.

The next change staff are considering or proposing is to open a deer season in 14 counties in the west -- in the Panhandle. This is on the western range of the White-tailed deer; but they are expanding towards the New Mexico border there, and we're having a number of requests from landowners in a number of those counties to open up a deer season. We've had reports of crop depredation damage over there and some folks just want the flexibility to manage those White-tailed deer populations. Especially where they overlap with the Mule deer populations over there, landowners are concerned about hybridization and just a growing White-tailed deer population in that region.

Staff are proposing an archery and general season with a bag limit of one buck and two antlerless deer for those counties in blue. And then for the county in green, which is Winkler County on the map, we're proposing an archery and general season with a bag limit of one buck and two antlerless for all seasons combined; but antlerless may only be harvested during the archery season. And the reason that regulation is just a little different is we wanted to be consistent with the counties that surround Winkler County, such as Loving, Ward, Ector, Crane, and those counties there.

We have received a total of 297 comments on that proposal. At the request of the Commission at the last meeting, we did hold a public hearing in Lynn County, which has been a concern. That's one county that does not have a deer season up there. And those comments at that public hearing are captured in here in the summary. We did have 38 folks show up to that public hearing in Lynn County. There was 279 individuals supporting this proposal.

I believe y'all have a copy of a letter from the County Judge of Lynn County in your packet. It may be under the catfish handout at the bottom there or something. Anyway, the Judge had talked to a number of residents in the county and they were positive or supportive of the proposal and/or just neutral. They didn't have any opinion one way or the other. We did have 18 folks comment either at the public hearings or through the e-mail or the web that opposed it. Some of the concerns was they were worried there wasn't -- wouldn't be enough law enforcement present if we opened up a season, there would be an increase in trespassing or poaching. They were worried that there would be harvest mistakes made. Folks would harvest Mule deer, mistaking that as a White-tail. We had some comments that this is government overreach or a power grab. If hunting was open in the county, we'd have an increase of property values because of hunting and as a result, property taxes would go up. We've also had some folks indicate there's a lack of White-tailed deer in those areas, specifically Lynn County; but also some of the surrounding counties there.

Y'all, I believe, also received a petition requesting the Commission to not support or adopt this proposal; but the petitioners recommended that only a portion of Lynn and Lubbock County where season would be desired by some of those landowners be opened, but every else it remain closed. There was 105 signatures on that petition there.

The next proposed change is the expansion of doe days in the Post Oak Savannah Ecological Region. That's the area in red on the map. Obviously, we're seeing an increasing deer density in that part of the state and antlerless harvest still comprises a minority of the harvest and we have a skewed buck-to-doe ratio over there and we've also seen the utilization of our MLD Program increase by 50 percent in the last six years. And so by expanding the doe days, we hope to reduce impacts that the deer have on that native habitat; provide additional hunting opportunity; and provide flexibility for landowners to manage the deer population in that area.

Staff are proposing the following: So for the counties in orange, we're proposing they expand from zero doe days, which is currently in effect, to four doe days. And for those counties in green on the map, we're proposing to expand from four doe days, which are currently in effect, to 16 doe days.

We've had 443 comments provided. 402 in support, 41 oppose. Reasons for opposition include that some folks believe illegal hunting has reduced the deer population in that area and so doe days are not necessary. Some were concerned doe days would decimate the deer population. Others indicated a lack of deer on their properties or in the area they hunt. Some suggested that they wanted doe days, but they wanted a longer season. Others would like to add a few additional counties to the doe day proposal, and one individual commented that the regulation was too complicated to understand in the Outdoor Annual.

The next proposed change concerns the expansion of a muzzleloader season in 32 counties in that Post Oak Savannah Region, which is the area outlined in blue. Staff are proposing muzzleloader season open the first Monday following the first Sunday in January and runs 14 connective days and that would be concurrent with late antlerless and spike buck season that's currently in effect in a majority of counties that don't have a muzzleloader season.

Just a quick note for the Commission. The counties in the blue at the very bottom of the map, there's Comal, Hays, Travis, and Williamson. Those are split by I-35. And so the muzzleloader season would apply to areas east I-35. West of I-35, we already have a late antlerless and spiked buck season in effect there. So again, just to clarify, that's for east of I-35 for those few counties.

COMMISSIONER JONES: What's the policy reason for a muzzleloader season?

MR. CAIN: Policy reason?

COMMISSIONER JONES: Yeah. Why would you have a muzzleloader season in this county, but not in these counties over here that are in all white?

MR. CAIN: All white? Those counties already have a late season, a late antlerless and spike and so it runs the same time as the muzzleloader season; but those muzzleloader counties, which the ones in yellow or the blue there, don't have a late antlerless and spike season. In those counties over there, most of them have -- already have doe days or does by permit only. So we're limiting the harvest on does. And so if you were to open up a late doe and spike season over there, it would -- a lot of counties it would be applicable because we already have doe days in effect that limit that doe harvest or does by permit only. The rest of the state, the majority of that area already has that late doe and spike season or if you're in South Texas, you're still hunting during that late doe and spike season.

Again, 359 total comments. 330 support the proposal, 29 opposed. Reasons given for opposition include additional hunting is not needed to manage the deer population through the muzzleloader season. Some individuals believed that the muzzleloader is obviously a gun or firearm and so it should be restricted to the general season and that we don't need a muzzleloader season. One individual didn't want the general season reduced, but that's not the case. This will be in addition to the general season. Another individual or several actually, commented they'd like to see the general season extended into the season date that would run for the muzzleloader season. Some individuals want us to add a handgun and shotgun season, and a few others want us to restrict muzzleloaders to antique muzzleloader weapons. So those are those comments.

Next proposal is -- concerns antlerless harvest on U.S. Forest Service lands. Under the current rule, antlerless deer permit is required to harvest antlerless deer on certain U.S. Forest Service properties, mainly in East Texas there. We've had requests from the U.S. Forest Service to exempt youth from that antlerless permit requirement, and we agree that that's a good thing to promote youth hunting and get young folks outdoors hunting. And staff, therefore, propose to allow for the take of antlerless deer without a permit on U.S. Forest Service lands during any youth only season and it would obviously provide additional youth hunting opportunities.

We had 333 total comments for that proposal. 315 in support, 18 opposed. Some of the reasons for opposition include some individuals that didn't want that season limited to -- or that change limited to youth only, but include disabled hunters. One individual said youth only season is discriminatory against other adults. And then some folks had concerns that adults are already harvesting deer in the youth season, and so this would exacerbate some problems there.

And then lastly, staff have a couple of clarifications or housekeeping items. One is to clarify in Section 65.9 that White-tailed deer antlerless deer harvest during the archery only season does not require a permit. Currently, it just specifies deer. It doesn't make a designation between Mule deer and White-tail. White-tail doesn't require a permit, but Mule deer do and so we're clarifying that. And then also on Section 65.42, clarify that the harvest of antlerless deer during youth season is restricted to persons 16 to 8 years of age or younger, including on properties issued Level 1 MLDs. And, again, we've had some adults that were wanting to harvest during the youth season; but this clarifies that it's youth only.

That concludes my presentations. I'll be happy to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Just a quick one. Pardon my scratchy throat. Going back to the slide about the proposed deer season.

MR. CAIN: In the Panhandle?


MR. CAIN: Okay.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: It says we received a petition. Who was the petition from?

MR. CAIN: There was -- Frank McLelland, I believe, is the individual that sent the proposal. He had a list of --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: That answers that question. I didn't dig through here. Either you or Craig, I guess, trying to split that up up there would have to make Law Enforcement's job considerably more difficult. I'm just addressing the petition. I don't agree with busting it up anyway. But logically, to me, if they already say there's a lack of LE up there, how would anybody be able to figure out the exact property lines and anything?

MR. CAIN: Well, and I'll let Kevin Davis respond. Before he does that, just to clarify for the Commission, we monitor deer populations, whether it's White-tail or Mule deer, at least White-tails on a resource management unit scale and the Mule deer on a monitoring unit that they have defined. And so try to apply our regulations at that scale so all the counties that kind of fit within the RMU -- for example, RMU 33 there -- we want similar regulations so we can monitor the impacts of that regulation on that deer population.

If you start to carve out counties or parts of counties, it's just impossible. And we've tried to get away from doing that. Upton County was a county that had a little split out of there and we consolidated that back years ago. So, yep.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: And I thought we had some of that same issue in some East Texas stuff, and that was the same reason for that; but go ahead.

MR. DAVIS: Yes, sir. For the record, my name's Kevin Davis with Law Enforcement Division. And speaking to your question about the enforceability, I mean, obviously we phase in strategies and we move assets where we need to move them to. We have a relationship with our landowners and, you know, we'll make the adjustments needed as this regulation is proposed.

MR. SMITH: Alan or Kevin, I mean, is there an obvious break in Lynn or Lubbock County that where it could be partitioned off or is there not a clear and apparent break?

MR. CAIN: Carter, I hadn't looked at it. I mean, you know, part of that, you're talking about the Caprock; but there's nothing that's easy to define for a hunter. And then again, even if you break something out there, you've got to worry about the other counties that are in this proposal, too. And like I said, just the monitoring the RMU.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: What basis was the objection? Is it because there weren't enough deer or --

MR. CAIN: There was multiple reasons like -- so some folks said there's not -- there's a lack of White-tailed deer in that --

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I'm talking about in Lynn.

MR. CAIN: It certainly depends --


MR. CAIN: In Lynn -- in Lynn and Lubbock County --


MR. CAIN: -- but specifically Lynn. Some folks says there's a lack of deer, but that depends on where you are in the county. There's some folks that are -- we've gotten calls saying, "We're having crop damaged." The only avenue they have a depredation permits, and that's certainly an option; but if we can provide a hunting opportunity for those individuals to remove those deer, we cover lots of things from recruiting hunters to access.

And I just also make the comment that if we -- if the Commission decides to adopt this and put in the season, then landowners still have a choice. If you don't want hunting to happen on your property, you don't have to. It's essentially closed. But those that need to hunt for whatever reason, they have that opportunity. But if we don't open a season, they don't. And then, you know, things like the poaching concerns -- and, again, poaching occurs whether there's a law in place anyway. Those people are breaking rules. The harvest mistakes, again, mistakenly taking a Mule deer for White-tail; but we've got a number of counties where we have Mule deer and White-tail season in the same county overlapping the same time. So if that was going to be a concern, we would -- would have seen that in those counties and I don't expect that to be an issue there, so.

MR. SMITH: Alan, maybe the other thing, too, in that farm country, as you know, you've got miles and miles and miles of farmland. You don't have obvious delineations of property boundaries.

MR. CAIN: Exactly.

MR. SMITH: You've got people moving from farm to farm to farm and that speaks to that trespassing concern, just because you don't have those farm fields fenced like you do on traditional range lands or ranches.

MR. CAIN: Certainly, certainly.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: And to me, the simple solution is if you're a landowner in Lynn County that doesn't want a hunting season, you just don't allow hunting on your property. Am I missing something?

MR. CAIN: That would be a good solution for those landowners and then, yet, providing flexibility for others. So, yes, sir.


MR. CAIN: That's it. And, you know, Kevin would know better; but I think our Law Enforcement up there do a good job of reaching out to those landowners and if there is trespassing or poaching issues in specific areas, I'm sure that your guys can target that appropriately.

MR. DAVIS: Absolutely.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Any other questions? All right.

MR. CAIN: Thank you.


MR. MORRISON: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commission Members. My name is Dave Morrison and I'm the Small Game Program Director and this morning, I'm here to talk to you about the 2016-17 migratory bird regulations and also request that you take this forward as the final proposal and rule adoption tomorrow.

Before I get started though, I would like to point out that at the last meeting, we did discuss that this is a new cycle. Fish and Wildlife Service has changed the process by which they establish regulations and so what we're doing now is we've basically collapsed both the dove and the waterfowl into a single timeline and that allows us -- it allows the Commission to adopt these proposals now and, in essence, it's really a good thing because it takes both our resident and migratory and puts them all in the same timeline and hopefully makes our regulation process a little bit simpler.

And before I get into those details, I would like to also point out that the staff proposals that are being presented today were taken before the Migratory Game Bird Advisory Committee and they adopted this package in its entirety or support this package in its entirety.

MR. SMITH: Dave, I'd just add on to that, Migratory Advisory Committee, for our new Commissioners, is one of our committees. It's appointed by the Chairman and that committee is particularly active and they take their responsibilities very seriously. We've got great representation around the state and in different kind of areas of hunting and they just really take it seriously and just want to thank them publically, Dave.

MR. MORRISON: Not only was there change in the process, but there was also change with respect to dove season in that -- in that we now have a season length that went from 70 to 90 days, which is a pretty good thing for Texas dove hunters. Because of that increase in the season length, it also gives us an opportunity to have different closing dates for the North and Central simply because there's been a lot of discussion in the past about late, straight, what have you. So it does give us some added benefits with respect to how do we have those seasons set.

In the North Duck Zone, we are proposing a shorter split. In the past, we've had a 12-day split. We're looking at five days just as a method by which we can increase the amount of weekends in December and January when the bulk of the harvest seems to appear. We also have proposed that we change and modify the South Duck Zone just a little bit, move it a little bit later. Maintain the 12-day split; but by doing this, we can also run to the end of the framework that the Fish and Wildlife Service has established. In the West Goose Zone, there appears to be some information that suggests that geese are arriving a little bit later and in an effort to provide hunting opportunity when maximum number of geese are in the state, we have proposed to shift that goose season one week later.

Okay. Now, I'd like to begin the proposal for the 16-17 related to dove, teal, rail, gallinule, snipe, and woodcock. Starting with dove, dove is very important in Texas. So in the North Zone, we would propose that season opens on September 1, which is the earliest the framework will allow, add a few days to the first split, close on November the 13th, reopen it December 17th, close on January 1st. Basically, put a few days on the front end with those additional 20 days. In the Central Zone, also open on September 1, proposed date of November 6th for closure, reopen on December 17th, the same as in the North Zone, and run until January the 8th. In the South Zone, it's a little bit different simply because the framework -- the earliest we can open this year would be September the 23rd. So we are proposing to open as early as the Fish and Wildlife Service will allow and run that season to November the 13th, reopen on December 17th, same opening date statewide for that second split, and run through January the 23rd. All these zones -- all of these areas will have a 90-day season with a 15-bird daily bag limit.

Now in the Special White-winged Dove Area, which is actually just a piece of the South Zone, we have been offered opportunities for probably over the last 50 years to have early September hunting in this particular area. The original season was to take advantage of White-wings, still the intent; but we did get four days in early September. This year we're proposing to open those -- that season structure the first two weekends, which would be September 3rd and 4th and 10th and 11th. During that first four days, we do have a little bit different bag limit. It's 15 in the aggregate of which no more than two of those could be Mourning dove and White-tipped. This is no different than it's been in the past, but I just point that out for consideration.

We have proposed to open the first real split on September 23rd -- again, the earliest it can open -- and run through November the 13th, close in concert with the South Zone as a whole, reopen the season on December the 17th, and run through January 19th. And essentially because you use those four days in September, you've got to lose four days on the backside to maintain the 90 days. This is what it looks like on a calendar for the North Zone, just so you can see more visually how it would look, seeing how those seasons would be structured in the North Zone.

In the South Zone, very similar structure, September 1; but you are closed a little bit earlier in the Central Zone, reopens on the 17th just like everywhere else, and runs through the 8th of January. In the South Zone, again, the 23rd is the earliest allowable according to federal frameworks this year. So they open the 23rd and run through November the 13th, reopen on December the 17th, and run to the 23rd.

And in the Special White-wing, the yellow dates are the first two weekends in September. The season structure is very similar to the South Zone, with the exception that you're closing it four days earlier on the backside. This is a whole new territory for us. We've got those additional 20 days. We're not really sure how all this is going to work in. We may get some comments next year about overlap with deer season, not overlap with deer season. So it's going to be a learning process for all of us trying to move forward with these additional days, but I do believe it's something that the sportsmen and women of Texas will certainly enjoy.

COMMISSIONER GALO: I have a question. I've been asked on the early weekends of White-wing, there's a holiday on Monday and they all ask me in South Texas why they don't -- they can't -- I think it's -- what is the holiday?

MR. SMITH: Labor Day, that Monday.

COMMISSIONER GALO: On Monday, why can't -- why isn't it extended into the holiday if they've got that day off? They -- I've had that question.

MR. MORRISON: Well, we allow four days.


MR. MORRISON: And I'm not -- I'd have to -- if you give me a minute, I'm going to back up and look at a calendar. So the holiday this year would be on the 5th.


MR. MORRISON: Yes, ma'am. That's certainly an option. We have historically tried to have the weekend -- two days one weekend, two days the next weekend. But with respect to federal frameworks, it just says four days in early September. So, yes, we do have that opportunity. But if you were to take that day, then you would have to take one off of Saturday or Sunday and so you're kind of breaking up the weekend there.

We hear that all the time. It really is bad whenever the 1st falls on a Sunday and then you've only got Sunday, Monday. Then, they want us to go back into August, which we can't because of federal requirements. But it is certainly possible; but trying to cobble together those two weekends is certainly something that we try to take advantage of and, yes, it sits a little bit tricky because you do have that day as a holiday.

Moving on to teal, because of this new process, the information that we're using to establish teal season is last year's information. We're going to be using that framework from now on. And because last year teal numbers are so good, we are well above the target -- the trigger mechanism. So we're going to be allowed and offered a 16-day teal season again, and we've always tried to take advantage of the last three full weekends in September when we have a 16-day teal season. So the proposed dates this year would be September 10th through the 25th, with a six-bird bag limit.

Rail, gallinule, moorhen, snipe, and woodcock, some of the lesser know migratory birds a lot of people don't really take after much; but for rail, gallinule, and moorhen, we try to tie that season in with the September teal season, close it, reopen it on November the 5th, and run out the total allotted days of 70 to end on December the 28th. For snipe, October the 29th through February 12th, takes up the full 107 days. And for woodcock, basically we're allowed 45 days and the end of the framework is the 31st. So we do try to take advantage as late as possible, go from the end of the framework back for 45 days. That's essentially the same season it was last year.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I have a question for you.

MR. MORRISON: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: That -- those 45 days, that is dictated by the federal?

MR. MORRISON: Say again, sir?

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: The -- on woodcock, those days -- the number of days, again, is --

MR. MORRISON: The 45 is the framework established by the Fish and Wildlife Service.


MR. MORRISON: Yes, sir. And January 31st is the last day of the framework. So that's the reason why we pretty much settled on December 18th through the 31st of January.


MR. MORRISON: Now I'd like to go into the other side, what used to be the late season process. So our waterfowl: Ducks, mergansers, coots, geese, and Sandhill cranes.

In the High Plains Mallard Management Unit, that area in orange or gold -- depending on how your screen looks -- essentially a calendar adjustment from last year. We actually have a much longer season up here because it is a management unit. And the youth season would be October 22nd and 23rd. The regular season would open on a weekend, the 29th and 30th. We'd have a four-day closure; reopen on Friday, November the 4th; and run through January the 29th.

Fish and Wildlife Service has, again, implemented a moratorium for five days at the beginning of the season on mottled ducks or black, dusky ducks, which is mottled duck, black duck, Mexican-like duck, or their hybrids. And so that season would delay for five days until November the 7th and run through January the 29th. This is how it looks on a calendar, just to give you a complete overview. The green is the September teal season. The 22nd and 23rd, youth season. The more -- I don't know what blue that is; but the more vibrant blue, if you will, is the regular season. And the four days in red would be the proposal for the split between the two seasons.

Moving on to the North Zone, I did mention that this is one of the changes that we have proposed compared to last year. We are suggesting moving the season a little bit later. So that means that the youth season would move -- would move a little bit later to November 5th and 6th. The regular season would move basically a week later, run from November the 12th to the Sunday after Thanksgiving, which is November the 27th. Instead of a 12-day closure, we're proposing a five-day closure, losing that weekend closure; and that would open up from December 3rd to January the 29th. The dusky duck season would just have the first five days closed and run concurrent with the remainder of the season. We've got a lot of comments from this. We do believe that this provides a season structure to maximize hunting opportunities in December and January when it appears that to be the bulk of the harvest at that time.

This is what it looks like on a map. Same color scheme, if you will. The 16 days in green would be September teal. The red being the split; and the blue, the deeper blue, being the regular season.

For the South Zone, again, we'll push -- we are proposing to push this season a little bit later with the youth season being on October 29th and 30th; the regular season from November 5th through the Sunday after Thanksgiving, it's the 27th of November; reopen on December the 10th and run to the end of the framework, which is January the 29th. Again, the dusky duck closed the first five days of the season and then it's open concurrent with the rest of the season.

And, again, how it looks on a calendar. Please note that we do have a 12-day split in this area noted here in red. So that is same as last year, but we have shifted that season a little bit later and it does go to the end of the framework. Because, again, we're basing all of our information on prior year's information, we really don't have any new biological data on breeding populations. So the bag limits will be the same as last year with six ducks per day, which five mallards, only two can be hens, three wood ducks, three scaup, two redheads, two pintails, and once again we will have two canvasback again this year, one dusky duck like, which is basically a mottled duck. All other ducks is six. Mergansers are five per day, no more than two hooded. Coots, you can take 15. And possession limit for all migratory game birds is three times the daily bag limit.

And moving into the West Zone goose season, I mentioned to you earlier that this is one of the areas that we have offered up a proposed change from last year. All the dark and light geese, we're proposing to move to November the 5th -- a little bit later than it has been in the past -- and run through February the 5th. The conservation order would open the day after. The goose season would close on February the 6th and run through March the 19th. Here the bag limit is five duck -- five dark geese, with no more than two White-fronted geese at the time and 20 light geese with no possession limit.

Again, this is how it looks like on a map. Several years ago -- well, this has always been a very easy map. So you can see the gold color would be the regular season and the blue being the light goose conservation order.

In the East Zone, we again are going to be offered an early opportunity on Canada geese. So we're going -- we have proposed to run that concurrent with September teal season. And then after this early season closes, then the Canada, White-front, and light geese will all run concurrent from November the 5th through January the 29th. On January the 30th, the conservation order would kick in for white geese and run through March the 19th. The bag limit is five dark geese, to include no more than two White-fronted geese except during that September teal season when it would be five Canadas only and, again, 20 light geese with no possession limit.

This is what it looks like on a calendar. Again, the gold being the regular season. The brilliant green being September teal -- or excuse me, the early Canada geese concurrent with September teal and the blue being the light goose conservation order.

Sandhill cranes, these are basically calendar adjustments from last year with Zone A being October 29th through January the 29th, with a bag limit of three. In Zone B, we purposely delay the opening on that trying to get those Whooping cranes through and beyond this area and get down to their wintering grounds before we do open the Sandhill crane hunting and that's November 18th through January the 29th, with a bag limit of three. And in Zone C, we do take advantage of the maximum days allowable under framework, which is 37 and that would be from December the 17th through January 22nd, with a bag limit of two.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Have you ever eaten a Sandhill crane?

MR. MORRISON: Excellent. By far some of the best there is.


CHAIRMAN-EMERITUS BASS: The pie of the sky.

MR. MORRISON: Yes, sir.


MR. MORRISON: It's hard to beat.

Moving on to the falconry seasons, there is a change for Mourning, White-tipped, and White-winged dove. That change is in response to the additional 20 days. We're only allowed a maximum of 107 exposure days when you take the 20 -- I'm not going to bore you will all those details -- but it did reduce the special falconry days by 20 days. And so for dove, you would have a special falconry season November 19th through December the 5th. For woodcock, moorhen, gallinule, rail, and ducks in the North and South Zone, that would be from January 30th through February the 12th. There is no special falconry season in the High Plains Mallards Management Unit because we use all the 107 exposure days we're allowed by the migratory bird creed.

And public comments. Dove always is an interesting topic when people start looking at this. I've broken it down by zone. In the North Zone, we had 101 comments online and 83 percent agreed with the proposals, 17 percent disagreed. Those that expressed a specific reason, they wanted to limit the conflict with deer. Others wanted to increase the season length for the second split, and others wanted to add all the days to the first split. So basically, they covered all the bases.

With respect to the Central Zone, we had 95 online comments, one letter, and two e-mails and 92 percent in support of our proposals and 8 percent disagreed. Again, very similar comments to the North where they wanted to limit conflict with the deer season, increase the season length for the second split, and also add all days to the first split.

In the Special White-wing Dove Area in the South Zone, we had 92 percent that agreed with our proposals and 8 percent disagreed. There was comments about eliminate the half day hunting in the Special White-wing Dove Area and make it just full day and they wanted some additional days in the second segment. So it's kind of, again, one of those six in one and half a dozen in the other.

With respect to ducks, mergansers, and coots in the North Zone, we had 86 comments in total in -- 86 total comments, of which 87 percent agreed with our proposal, 13 percent disagreed. Some liked the 12-day split, want to maintain it. Some of them want an earlier opening date, which would have kept the 12-day split; and others wanted to eliminate the split altogether because it was only five days. So, again, it's all over the board.

In the South Zone, 81 comments; 90 percent in agreement, 10 percent disagreed. They wanted to shorten the split to five days just like the North Zone, and others wanted an earlier opening date.

And lastly, public comment on geese. We had 62 online comments; 95 percent agreed with our proposal, 5 percent disagreed. One of them said he just wanted a moratorium on light geese altogether simply because there's not enough light geese now, and others wanted an earlier light goose conservation order.

And tomorrow, I will present this for your consideration. It's the recommendation slide, which will be presented tomorrow for your consideration. And with that, I will be happy to end this presentation and take any comments you may have.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Dave, there's been some talk about Special White-wing zone dates and let me go back to that --

MR. MORRISON: Yes, sir.


MR. MORRISON: Bear with me one moment, and I'll get you there. There's North Zone -- I'm almost there, sir.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I'm doing the same thing.


MR. MORRISON: This one.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: You beat me. I believe some thought to take the October -- let me see here, where I am -- 13th -- I mean, November 13th, Sunday, and lop four days off there --


COMMISSIONER MORIAN: -- and add those to the January dates -- wait a second -- so you'd end on the same day. The North Zone -- I mean, the Special White-wing Dove Area and the South Zone end on the same day.

CHAIRMAN-EMERITUS BASS: In the second split?

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: In the second split.

MR. MORRISON: That is certainly allowable under the framework. One of the things that we did consider when we did this, that actual season structure was actually in place two years ago whereby the Special White-wing Dove Area closed ahead of the South Zone and because this is -- I'm not going to get into the semantics, but it is a little bit different the way the Fish and Wildlife Service looks at it. But we try to structure the seasons so they all close the same day because when we did have offset where we did close the Special White-wing a little bit earlier -- four days in early September -- unfortunately people didn't pay attention and there's a whole bunch of citations written. They were warning citations. But ending that one, we -- historically, we have ended the Special White-wing in the South Zone, that first split, the same day and you lost them on the backside because there's not as much hunting opportunity; but that is certainly within the frameworks and it is allowable under the frameworks and that is something that is certainly up to this Commission to do.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: It seems to me that in the Special White-wing Area, you do have more opportunities in January than you do in the middle of November, from my experience.


COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I don't know how everybody -- anybody -- we can talk about this more tomorrow, but it's something to think about.

MR. MORRISON: Again, it is allowable under the frameworks. So that is certainly the prerogative.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: And that would just change it to ending the same as the other --

MR. MORRISON: It would end the -- it would end on 23rd and --


MR. MORRISON: Yes, ma'am. It would end the same, but that first split would be where it would be offset. And our data, just if you want to use a little bit of science --

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: You're going to have an offset because of the four days somewhere.

MR. MORRISON: You're going to have an offset somewhere. There's no question.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: So the question is: Where do you put it? Now, you gain a long weekend; but you lose a weekend. So it seems like it's a fair trade.

MR. MORRISON: Just from what we know from harvest, just to hang what little science I can throw at you here, the bulk of the harvest for dove -- and I don't care if it's North, Central, South, Special White-wing -- upwards of 90, 95 percent occurs in that first split. And when that second split opens, the remainder of that happens in the first six or eight days. So by the time you get to that backend, there's very little harvest going on. But again, it is -- it's a timing issue, however you guys would like to move forward. We -- again, it's six in one, half a dozen in the other. We're -- we are working to try to fix this. I am working with the Service trying to address some of these issues more long term.

COMMISSIONER LEE: If you go back to the South, does it stop on the 22nd or the 23rd?

MR. MORRISON: 23rd. Sorry, wrong way.

COMMISSIONER LEE: I thought it stopped on the 22nd. I might have misread it.

MR. MORRISON: It's 23rd.



COMMISSIONER LEE: Yeah. All right, you're right. Reed --

CHAIRMAN-EMERITUS BASS: I know one benefit when we've had lean quail years down south, that a lot of the commercial quail camps really benefited from having dove hunting the maximum number of weekends because it took pressure off of them putting quail in front of their hunters that were -- that the corporations were sending whether there were birds or not. So I know it was very popular, and adding another weekend there in January would be well received by that community. And as you say, you're going to have an offset somewhere. You know, one segment or the other is going to be uniform and the other one's not, so.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Well, all I know is in Central Texas out there by mine, I can't believe how many White-wing the last two years we've had after December, you know? So to me, it would make a lot of people happy in the Hill Country and that part of the country. Same thing, I don't even care about looking for a deer either with this many White-wings. You just don't get a shot at them like you -- like they are anymore. I'm amazed the last two years.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Well, you're taking the four days off the end of the seven-week run. So everybody should be happy I would think.

MR. MORRISON: Again, this is a year of unknowns --


MR. MORRISON: -- because we did get those extra 20 days and we are going to run a dove season that actually is going to run into the deer season probably for the first time in a very long time. So there's a lot of uncertainty about how any of this is going to be received because we did get those 20 days and however you gentlemen and ladies would like to do it, as long as it falls within the framework, we're good. The only thing I do caution is that the one time that we did close that Special White-wing --


MR. MORRISON: -- there was a lot of people out there hunting, thinking that season was still open.


MR. MORRISON: That's no excuse. I agree.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Well, I'm going to propose --

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: What you were recommending would address that issue because it would coincide with the other South Zone regular dove.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Well, you can -- there will be fewer people at the end of the season that are in their field that shouldn't be.

COMMISSIONER LEE: That is correct.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: So maybe leave it as proposed.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: So I'm going to propose that we change it, unless there's -- today or tomorrow unless --

COMMISSIONER LEE: It should be presented this way tomorrow though, right, with the change?

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: With the change, that's my --

MR. MORRISON: And with your approval, what I will do -- if you're going to create that, I will put another slide in the presentation tomorrow to show the two options.


MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman, if I could, just for the Commission's benefit. You know, this 20 days extra in dove season, it's a really good problem to have; and I want to publically thank Dave and Shaun. This doesn't just happen overnight or by accident. I mean, they've worked very diligently on this with the Fish and Wildlife Service and the various Flyaway councils to get this through. There was a lot of work put into gaining this extra 20 days for dove hunters, and I just want to thank our team for their extraordinary diligence and persistence on this. This is really, really good. So thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN-EMERITUS BASS: Yeah, Carter, I'll second that because back in the 90s, there was a lot of effort by the Commission and trips to Washington by Commissioners, etcetera, and the Service was just dead stuck on 70 days and 12-bird bag limit or 60 days and 15 and come hell or high water, they would not give us any flexibility and now we've got a 15-bird bag limit and 90 days. So good work. I know that Washington doesn't change just of its own volition.

MR. MORRISON: No, they don't.

CHAIRMAN-EMERITUS BASS: So there was a lot of chipping away; but to all of you involved, that's hard work and well done.

MR. MORRISON: Appreciate it.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: And I think -- I'm sure --


COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Yeah, I want to echo that. But I'm sure next year you will have additional feedback from people that are affected, the deer hunters, the quail hunters, so --

MR. MORRISON: Yes, sir. And again, this year is just -- it's because it's an unknown.


MR. MORRISON: And we will find out next year how this is received. They may come back and say, "Hey, look, quit that fooling with the deer season and put all those days on the backside," for all we know.


MR. MORRISON: It's a crapshoot this year. So we're doing the best we can do.

CHAIRMAN-EMERITUS BASS: Yeah. Well, the other thing I've learned about setting dove season is no matter what you do, there will be somebody that's happy and somebody that's not.


MR. MORRISON: That is true.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: That means we must hitting the middle of the road --


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: -- which is what we're supposed to do.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Now, if we can just get the people in Washington to focus on the Red snapper issue.


MR. MORRISON: Thank you very much.

COMMISSIONER LEE: They're doing so well, Bill.


COMMISSIONER JONES: There's always work to do.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: He says, "I ain't got nothing to do with Red snapper."


COMMISSIONER MORIAN: All right. If there's no further discussion, we'll place the proposed rules regarding the 2016-17 statewide hunting proclamation on tomorrow's Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Now, we'll go to Work Session Item No. 7, Chronic Wasting Disease Response Update and Rules, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Register. Mr. Clayton Wolf, welcome.

MR. WOLF: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, for the record, I'm Clayton Wolf. I'm the Director of the Wildlife Division; and this morning, I have several items related to Chronic Wasting Disease that I'd like to cover with you. Briefly, I'm going to cover a summary of CWD samples collected since the end of June of 2015, also going to talk about the discovery of CWD in a breeder deer release site that occurred since the last Commission meeting and in addition, the discovery of CWD in a free-ranging Mule deer in Hartley County. But the bulk of my presentation is going to cover CWD regulation proposals.

As y'all recall, there was a lot of rulemaking last year and we had a -- we had committed to come back and relook -- take a new look at all of those rules and so I have quite an extensive presentation and I have to tell you, I thank you in advance for your patience. There's no -- there's no quick way to get through this. I'm going to try not to get too far in the weeds on anything that we don't have to get in the weeds on, but thank you for your patience in advance. And then finally, we'll briefly talk about our intent to come back in May with another -- with permission to publish rules related to CWD zone designations.

First off, I can't miss the opportunity again to brag on staff and what they did this year, our staff did in collecting in CWD samples. A quick reminder, our previous goal -- our pervious annual goal was 2400 samples a year and we more than tripled that goal this year. Looking to collect 8,000 samples out there in the entirety of Texas and as of March 1st, we were at 10,569, which is 138 percent of our goal. So kudos to our staff for, you know, for everyone putting in the extra effort and the long hours to -- and they're still looking. You know, still picking up road kills and obviously still looking for more CWD samples.

Also, I want to note that because of the implementation of the rules which really enhance CWD sampling for many of our deer programs, the sample collection and submission to the diagnostic lab at A&M also went up for individuals that were non-TPWD folks submitting samples. So if you wanted a Triple T permit, the new breeder release site rules required more testing and so the diagnostic lab reports to us that since June 30th, for all of those non-TPWD samples submitted, the number is 9,945. So the diagnostic lab has had quite a challenge dealing with everybody submitting a significantly higher number of samples this year.

Just a little bit about CWD locations in Texas and where we stand today. Everyone, I believe, is aware that in 2012 we discovered CWD in West Texas in the Hueco Mountains. So our current count of CWD positives out there is at eight. That's one more from this hunting season, not a surprise. Obviously, you know, we don't want to see any extras; but it's in that same population and in and amongst the other positives out in the Hueco Mountains.

More recently, what precipitated events starting in June was a discovery of CWD in Medina County in a breeding facility. The first one was routine surveillance and then subsequent testing came up with the other three. So we had four positives in that breeding facility. And then tied to that, transfer of animals from the same cohort, same age bucks coming from the same pens that went to a Lavaca County facility, there was a CWD discovered in one of the mortalities there and then subsequent testing revealed two more positives. So ones that were all close related and all from the same cohort, age and pen cohorts.

And then in early February, I believe it was February 4th, we confirmed CWD in a deer breeder release site. The ranch actually spans Uvalde -- Uvalde and Medina Counties. Mostly in Uvalde, but the release site pasture is in Medina County. And this discovery was a result of our release site testing that this Commission adopted. So hopefully we discovered it early. Normally, I would go through and talk about the trace-in data. You know, how many herds contributed animals, how many herds received animals. We talk about hold orders and whatnot. But because of the length of my presentation, I'm going to forego that. However, we do have Dr. Susan Rollo here with Texas Animal Health Commission. She's a field epidemiologist. Y'all may remember Dr. Schwartz. He's now the interim director. So Dr. Rollo has -- at least on a short term -- taken over some of these tasks. So at the end of my presentation, I will remind this Commission that Dr. Rollo is here and if there's any questions related to any of these breeding facilities, she's prepared to provide some statistics on that.

And then the Hartley County discovery in late February, this is in a free-ranging Mule deer. The conventional wisdom would have been that we would have put -- that Director Smith would have imposed a CWD zone -- a containment zone, buffer zone, high risk zone. But the uniqueness of this situation allowed us a different mechanism to mitigate risk and since we were in the middle of our rulemaking and modifying rules, we felt like this was the best strategy. It's a strategy to mitigate risk without imposing unnecessary regulations on everyone else in the Panhandle. And so the situation is when we did the assessment of data, within 100 miles of the Hartley County positive, there was only one breeding facility -- one facility of any kind that was allowed to move deer. That facility was 35 -- is 35 miles from the Hartley County facility. It's in Oldham County.

And in that particular case, I have talked to the ranch manager and also the landowner and their business model is simply to take animals from their rather small breeding facility and put them in a release site on -- in a release site pasture on that ranch. And so we came up to a mutual understanding. We put the facility under a not-movement-qualified status. So without us changing that, they can't move any deer. But we will coordinate with them, they will coordinate with us, and if they want to move some deer out of their breeding pens and only onto a ranch site, we can activate a permit specifically for that purpose and, therefore, we've got a safety net where deer can't be moved out of that region until we can get the new zone restriction regulations implemented.

And just as a side note as well, that facility in Oldham County was established in 2014. They did not release any deer until 2015, and so it's very unlikely that really they're a contributor to this discovery of a CWD Mule deer that's 35 miles away.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: And it's a White-tail deer?

MR. WOLF: And that is -- and the facility is a White-tail facility, yes, in Oldham County. Good question.

CHAIRMAN-EMERITUS BASS: What's the nearest positive in the neighboring states?

MR. WOLF: You know, my understanding is Kansas is the closest. The -- but it is also our understanding that the monitoring effort in Oklahoma and New Mexico and that part of the world is pretty limited. There's not many samples, and so there very well could be animals in Oklahoma and New Mexico; but those parts of the -- of those states are not well monitored at all. Southwest Kansas would be the closest, and I think that's about 40 miles from the state line to the north.

So everyone will remember that as I had talked to this Commission about the interim rules and the emergency rules, we had committed that during this cycle, we would take another look at all of our CWD rules and really the starting point for that in January was our CWD antemortem testing symposium or our live animal testing symposium. We had a lot of comments. Folks out there wanted us to try to use some of the live animal tests to incorporate into our rules if possible. So we hosted this symposium in conjunction with Texas Animal Health Commission. Very well attended.

Commissioner Latimer was there, as well as Chairman-Emeritus Bass. Mr. Smith was there, and also Vice-Chairman Duggins. We had Commissioners from Animal Health Commission. We had biologists from other states. But more importantly, we had the experts really in the nation. The nationally recognized experts on live animal testing presenting to the crowd and giving us the current science and it was really -- a really good starting point. A good sound, scientific basis for the discussions that were to follow.

So after that symposium, Mr. Smith designated a group of stakeholders, about 36 stakeholders that really are names and organizations everyone would recognize. They're organizations that represent deer breeders, wildlife enthusiasts, wildlife biologists, our CWD task force. Really anybody that has a stake in the game, any organization was a part of this larger stakeholder group. And on February 2nd, we convened that group here in this room really for a listening session, you know, as opposed to our normal process where we lay out a proposal and let folks take a shot at it. In this one here, we basically covered some of the science and then we had a listening session, taking input from everyone.

We also as a -- had made a decision at this point that going forward, we we're going to do something a little bit different in that we were going to contract with an outside facilitator to help facilitate the negotiations as we move forward. We knew we had to pare this group size down and so Carter then selected a subset of members from this group of 17 and we contracted with the Center for Public Policy Dispute Resolution at the University of Texas Law School and hired Ms. Susan Schultz to be our outside facilitator. Ms. Schultz is actually here right now in the room, and I'm going to ask her to come forward to help -- to share some thoughts.

We held four meetings, February 16th and 17th, the 24th and the 10th; and actually had another conference call Monday afternoon. And before I get into the details of the proposals that have come forth from this negotiated rulemaking, I would like to ask Ms. Schultz to come forward and really talk just a little bit about the process. She's the expert facilitator, has been running these meetings ever since the 16th, and share some of her observations about these particular rules that I'm going to share with you in a minute.


MS. SCHULTZ: Good morning. I'm Susan Schultz. I'm with the Center for Public Policy Dispute Resolution at the University of Texas School of Law, and I've been hired in this particular case to be the facilitator. The Department decided to have a different approach to this rulemaking and decided to have what we call sort of facilitated negotiation, where stakeholders, affected parties and organizations were invited to come and really start from scratch as far as listing issues that need to be addressed to implement the CWD strategies and then start developing from that some of the options that would be relevant in addressing solutions to these issues.

And so this group of 17 people met four times, as Clayton indicated, and really went through all the issues or a lot of the issues -- I know that some issues are still going to be developing -- but a lot of the issues that needed to be addressed to look at what needed to be done for CWD strategies. And so basically, the process was, as a facilitator, I was upfront and proposals and options would be discussed and then once it looked like a proposal was gaining support, I would write it down on the easel chart that was in front of the room so everybody could see and we would come up with a proposal that everybody could support and so then I would go around the room and confirm that we had consensus on this.

So one of the things that the group did on the very first day is to adopt a set of operating procedures by which they would have these negotiations, and one of those operating procedures was a definition of consensus. And so what consensus means in this particular case was that stakeholders concur in the decision because their major interests have been taken into consideration and addressed in a satisfactory manor. Furthermore, they also agree that given the combinations of gains and trade-offs and given the current circumstances and alternative options, the resulting agreement is the best one that stakeholders are likely to make.

So it was an important discussion that they had as far as what that meant, of course; and what the commitment was to that process. So essentially, if the group committed that this was a consensus decision, then that's what they would commit to support. Certainly, then the staff was also at the table; and so we had a lot of input about what was feasible, what was doable, what was implementable and good discussion and really a lot of back and forth on how to develop these options and how to reach these solutions.

And so this process, really the benefit of it is to get good input, good information, and good discussion from these stakeholders so that the staff is really not creating rules in a vacuum or in a bubble and they're getting really input as to, you know, if a -- let's say one option, how that scenario would play out; and then how those different stakeholders would be impacted. And so their responsibility is really also to come and then say, "Well, no, that's not really something, you know, in the industry that we could live with because X, Y, and Z," and then we tried to address those concerns. And so we did create a list of consensus items at the end of these four days and throughout -- at the end of each of those days, I would send out a facilitator summary to, again, so that they could visually see what we had written down on the board and they could have that to share with their organizations and then we would come back on the second day and do the same thing.

So the last meeting was on March 10th. So the last summary was sent out on March 12th. And when we had our last conference call on March 21st, just this past Monday and we were just confirming everything, we had two outstanding issues that we wanted to really pin down because we knew that the staff was going to start developing rules and drafting rules, we found out at that point that there was one organization that indicated they could not bound their organization to the consensus agreement.

I've had conversations with them since then, and essentially what they're saying is that they have -- although they certainly came in and negotiated and believed that they have a better outcome than if they had not been at the table, they believe that their organization has a fundamental opposition to stricter regulations on deer breeders because of CWD.

I encouraged them to follow up with the Department. To -- I'm not here to certainly speak on their behalf. So, but that's where we are and they will, you know, continue I think to communicate with the Department and I will keep working with all the stakeholders as we progress through this process. I'm happy to answer any questions.

MR. WOLF: Okay.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Is there any questions?

MR. WOLF: Thank you, Susan.

I just want to say that in a way, it's liberating. I got to serve as a stakeholder, as opposed to running the meeting and so I was in a new role. I don't know that everybody necessarily appreciated that. But Susan -- I mean, as y'all know, negotiating these rules is extremely tough and I really appreciate her leadership and try to keep folks focused.

I also forgot to mention that Chairman-Emeritus Bass is a member of the stakeholder group. We had, you know, obviously folks from different advisory committees and user groups and everyone had to take quite a bit of their personal time to help us come to resolution.

So with that, I'll go ahead and get into the rules with the understanding that I'm going to use the term "consensus" and it's going to be, you know, that -- it will be defined just as Ms. Schultz said, with some -- at least the -- a few reservations from one group, but I'll go through this and use the term "consensus" and try to identify those items that clearly were consensus and there are some other things that were really kicked to the Department to make a decision and I'll try to make sure that I differentiate that.

I do want to talk a little bit about terms. First, Texas Animal Health Commission Herd Certification Program, I will refer to this program. We recognize this program in our current rules and in these proposed rules. It's obviously a program that is run by Animal Health Commission so that the participants that are certified are able to move these susceptible species interstate. And so -- and in order to be in this program, they have to monitor 100 percent of their mortalities for five years and once they're in their sixth year, then they are considered a certified herd. And so we recognize that status, but that still is an independent program under Animal Health Commission.

I'll also use the term "eligible mortality," and so that is defined as the death of a deer that is 16 months of age or older. However, if we are referring to a herd that is in Texas Animal Health Commission's Herd Certification Program, that's 12 months or older. There's a valid reason for that difference; but I'm not going to go into that in detail right now just because of all the other things I have to cover, but I'll be glad to answer that later if someone has a question.

And then, of course, I think it's already obvious. Antemortem test is equivalent to a live animal test and is a -- has been a big part of the discussions as we talked about -- as we negotiated these rules. The other thing I want to talk about is just some important aspects. Mr. Bass knows this. We looked at a lot of different model outputs. You know, we had -- I have to say thank you to folks from -- for Mark -- to Mark Fisher from our Coastal Fisheries Division, Warren Schlechte and Sarah Haas from our Inland Fisheries Division. They are our biostatisticians, our biometricians and they sacrificed their time to run models for us to try to get some grasp of the predictability of detecting CWD. And so any time we thought of a new scenario, we were running to them to run these models.

But, you know, as everyone probably knows, models have limitations. You know, they're only as good as the input and they're only as good as their ability -- or the assumptions fit the real world. And in many cases, you know, we understood there were some limitations in the models and the model output; but it was still pretty valuable for us for comparison sake. So I'm not going to give you a lot of those models, but I am going to talk just a little bit about some of the aspects that became apparent as we talked about these models and CWD surveillance.

The most important is that sample size is important. You've got to get your hand on a large number of CWD tests if you want to have more confidence that you have -- that you found the disease if it's. And postmortem modeling -- postmortem sampling, which has been our only model up to this point, produces a small number of samples. So in your average herd of 100 eligible aged animals, our data shows you're going to have about four or five of those die annually. And so that's not a large percentage of that herd; and so in any one year, that means there's a low predictability -- low chance of predicting if CW -- or actively predicting if CWD is in that herd.

But the thing the group recognized is those postmortem samples have value. And so you can only imagine if you went into your herd and you sampled an animal that apparently looked healthy versus one that just fell over dead and you're trying to figure out if a disease is present, the more important sample is probably the animal that died. And so the group recognized that although we were transitioning to incorporating live animal tests, we could not abandon postmortem samples as a critical part of any sampling strategy.

Antemortem samples are less sensitive, and that was a lot of what we saw at our symposium was looking at the sensitivity of those samples. And particularly when I talk about the rectal biopsies, those are probably the easiest samples to obtain; but there are the least sensitive. But because someone can access a large number of live animals, the lower sensitivity can be offset and we can still have much greater predictability using the live animal sampling.

So instead of showing a bunch of tables, I'm going to show one very simple explanatory chart as kind of an example, if you'll look at this chart here, and the scale there is the percent probability detection on the lower left side. That's really our -- it's kind of our conventional model. If someone were to sample 100 percent of their eligible mortalities in a herd in one year -- and I've got to put that caveat, this is a one-year look -- the probability of CWD if there's a positive in that population is less than 4 percent.

Now, understand if you do that year after year after year and specifically if you have a closed population and you're capturing all your mortalities, your probability after five years goes way up. It goes way up. And that's the premise for the Animal Health Commission Certification Program. But given a one-year snapshot and if you're not abiding by all those other caveats, the independent probability for one year is low.

So let's move up one and look at that 50 percent of the herd. That acronym there, RAMALT acronym, it actually stands for rectal -- or it means rectal biopsies. And the current data we have and the data that was presented at the symposium was that if we sampled 50 percent of the herd, we'd have a 24 percent probability of detecting the disease. So in that one year, significantly higher. And then if some were to get valid samples on 100 percent using rectal biopsies, that would increase to 62 percent probability detection.

So you can see nothing is 100 percent. There's no guarantees, at least right now with the current live animal and postmortem testing strategies that we have; but there are some options here that significantly improve our probability of detecting that disease and, of course, our strategy is early detection and containment.

So let's talk about the specifics of the rules with those understandings. First is some terminology. The current breeder terminology, the classification nomenclature, I think folks will remember is we have a Transfer Category 1, 2, 3 and we also use this term Tier 1 herds in the Transfer Category 3. Remember, Transfer Category 1, those are our certified herds. They're are our safest herds. Transfer Category 3 had these Tier 1 herds. These are these herds that were directly associated with a CWD positive facility. And what we learned through the process and through discussing is that since Tier 1 sounded a lot like TC 1, folks were getting this confused and they're obviously on opposite ends of the spectrum. Folks were sometimes using the term -- the terms interchangeably when they should not have been and that caused a lot of confusion.

The other thing though we recognized because we were considering just completely abandoning the existing terminology was that folks were getting used to it. When we were meeting in this room and meeting in other places and negotiating new rules, folks were using TC 1, TC 2, TC 3. So the industry and stakeholders had gotten used to that. So our proposal in our regulations moving forward is to maintain similar classifications, but we want to replace the term "Tier 1" herd with "CWD exposed" herd. And we found when we were discussing it, if we said "CWD exposed" and we weren't using "Tier 1," folks were a lot less likely to get confused.

We look again and we have to look at the release site classifications. So just as a quick reminder, the TC 1 herds, when a deer was transferred out of that for liberation, it resulted in a Class I release site with no testing requirements. TC 2 releases resulted in Class II release site provisions, which were moderate testing requirements. And then, of course, TC 3s resulted in Class III release sites with the highest testing level.

And the thing that we heard probably more clearly than anything was that the deer breeding industry wanted us to figure out pathways to have more deer breeders, have sampling strategies that would avert release site testing. If you will recall, prior to August 18th and the adoption of the emergency rules, there was no release site testing. All the testing took place in the breeder pen. So this was a significant change for everyone and deer breeders that were selling TC 2 or TC 3 deer to folks for release sites, those owners were taking on release site testing obligations that, to that point, had not had those obligations. And so a lot of emphasis on trying to look at sampling strategies that the group felt were sound enough in the deer breeding pen that release site testing would not be needed.

And that's where -- our transfer categories and a lot of our time was on TC 1, on that -- the TC 1, the facilities that did not require release site testing. And so the proposal that I'm going to go into a little bit more detail on, really created four pathways to a TC 1 status. So in other words, how can I get to the point, if I'm a deer breeder, where I don't -- where my customers do not -- the people that buy deer for liberation, do not have to test at the release site. And so we developed four pathways and actually, I'm going to estimate we probably spent 70 to 80 percent of our time on this particular -- on these four pathways.

The Transfer Category 2s, it's going to look very similar to our current -- to our current provisions, not near as complicated as are the Transfer Category 3 provisions.

So let's talk about Transfer Category 1. No. 1, as the current rules -- the interim rules already indicate -- we're going to recognize if a herd is fifth year or certified status in the Animal Health Commission program. That's what we recognize right now. There are about 70 herds that are certified; and when they release their deer, there are no testing obligations on those release sites. And so we're going to continue to recognize those certified fifth-year herds.

There's another postmortem pathway that the stakeholder group came to consensus on, and that was to test 80 percent of the eligible mortalities each year for five consecutive years. And so if you think about the Animal Health Commission program, that's 100 percent for five consecutive years. So this allows for a little bit of room for error and to be honest, if someone is going to be testing 80 percent of their mortalities, really they're going to be striving to capture all of their eligible mortalities in their pens because occasionally they're going to miss one. And so not as high as the Animal Health Commission certified status bar, but still significantly higher than what was our previous 20 percent testing of eligible mortalities.

And then the next two options I'm going to talk about are our antemortem or our live animal pathways to getting to the TC 1 status. The group consensus for one of those pathways was to test 80 percent of the herd antemortem and then 80 percent of the eligible mortalities each year thereafter. So in this case, it's really -- it's a one-time snapshot. If you go in there and get all your test eligible animals, you're probably going to have to test closer to 100 percent of them to get 80 percent valid test results. But if you -- if someone can achieve that bar, then basically they can move up into this TC 1 category upon confirmation from the Department and then each year thereafter, they maintain that status with postmortem monitoring only. And so it's a bigger investment up front, but -- on the front side, but then they go to conventional postmortem sampling after that to maintain that TC 1 status.

And then the other pathway, it's an antemortem pathway that we finally came to consensus, was to test 25 percent of the herd antemortem, while also testing 50 percent of the eligible mortalities. And so, you know, on the surface you might say, "Why would I test 80 if I could do 25?" But this is going to be an annual requirement. So once someone tests 25 percent of their herd and they also tested 50 percent of their mortalities, if they want to stay in that TC 1 status, they're going to have to do that each year thereafter. And so through time, the confidence in predicting the presence of CWD goes up and it gets pretty significant, particularly once you get to year three plus.

Transfer Category 2 basically is a lot simpler and it's the new floor for CWD testing and that's to test 50 percent of the eligible mortalities annually. If you recall right now, the minimum is 20 percent. If someone tests 20 percent of their mortalities, they're movement qualified. But this -- so this would be the new minimum; and the group came to consensus on this, as well. And then from those corresponding release sites where release site testing would have to occur, the stakeholder group agreed that these release sites must test 50 percent of the harvested deer, if there are no liberated deer in that harvest or 50 percent of the liberated deer in the harvest. So it's whichever is less.

And I'll have you just think about or remember the term "liberated" deer. We're going to talk about that a little bit more. But basically if there are no liberated deer in the harvest, then it's 50 percent of the harvest. If there are liberated deer in the harvest, then it would be 50 percent of those animals.

And then Transfer Category 3, the group basically agreed that we should keep the same standards that we have now for TC 3 categories. And remember, these are exposed herds. They're under a hold order with Texas Animal Health Commission and so they must test 100 percent of their eligible mortalities, at least until that hold order is released and then the corresponding release sites must test 100 percent of the hunter harvested deer or a number equivalent to the number of deer released, whichever is greater. Additionally -- and this is -- these are provisions within the herd plans; but because of the higher risk level, the current rules and the rules that we are proposing is that all liberated deer liberated from these TC 3 facilities must be tagged with an RFID tag or National Uniform Ear Tagging System tag. Those are a -- those are recognized as official forms of identification by USDA.

So just some notes on antemortem testing criteria. The group agreed that a deer must be 16 months of age or older to be eligible for antemortem testing and that the base population would be all of those eligible aged animals. So when we say 80 percent, we're going to take a look at that herd. We're going to only at the number of animals that are 16 months of age or older and if someone wants to meet that 80 percent model, they're going to have to get positive or not detected test results from 80 percent of those animals, not the animals that are 15 months of age or younger. And that's simply because this disease and the detection of those prions, you may recall some of the previous presentations, it takes a while for the disease to progress and as an animal gets younger, detection of prions in the obex or any of the live animal tissue is a lot more difficult to find, if not impossible.

And then this particular item here -- oh, let me back up a little bit. The Item 2 in Bullet No. 3, these weren't consensus items that were openly discussed with the group. The group basically punted these to the Department and asked the Department to use the best science to come up with these additional criteria. And so we worked with Dr. Rollo and our veterinarian Dr. Dittmar, to come up with some criteria for antemortem testing standards. So the 16-month-of-age or older was one of those. Well, actually that was a group decision; but the other one was a residency requirement.

And the department is proposing that deer introduced from another herd must have at least 18 months of residency in the herd to qualify for testing. And so what I mean is this: If you choose that you're going to go into your herd and do a live animal testing option, that animal -- those animals have to be 16 months of age or older; but also, they have to be there a while. If you just -- if you had just brought in some animals, two things could possibly happen. That animal could have CWD and not had time to expose the rest of the population you're sampling or vice versa. Your population may have a CWD positive animal and the new animal hasn't been exposed. And so when you bring new animals in, there has to be some time for exposure if those animals are going to qualified -- if we want them to qualify for antemortem testing.

And then the same for Bullet 4. This was a decision that was punted to the Department. But if someone is going to do the 25 percent testing on some of their animals, we didn't want them to go back to that same 25 percent every year and test the same. They needed to be able to go to new animals in the herd. And so we're proposing a provision where a deer can be tested no more frequently than every three years to meet the requirements of an antemortem test.

The group also agreed for -- this is kind of a new twist -- a postmortem testing substitution. And so the proposal that has consensus is that a permittee may substitute on a two-for-one basis an antemortem test for a postmortem test. So if a deer dies, and you have to provide a certain number of tests; but for some reason, you didn't get out to your breeder pens and you couldn't get a valid test and you're going to fall below that threshold, what this proposes is that to a limited amount, you can do two live animal tests to make up for that one postmortem test that you missed. However, remember we talked about not wanting to get completely away from postmortem testing because of the value of postmortem testing and so the Department is proposing that no more than 50 percent of the postmortem tests may be substituted with antemortem tests.

Release site testing provisions, the Department is proposing that all breeder deer release sites must be high fence. This was not a consensus decision. There were a couple of items that the stakeholder group kind of agreed to disagree on, but we did have a number of our stakeholders that felt very strongly that deer breeder release sites should be high fenced and that's actually how it is in our current rules.

A couple of reasons voiced by those that had this strong opinion was that, for whatever reason, if you're a neighbor to a facility that is receiving release site deer and, for whatever reason, you don't want those deer on your property -- whether it's genetic aspects or it's potential for disease -- that you shouldn't have that decision, quote, forced upon you. And so by having a fence requirement, that keeps those animals on that site.

Additionally, when we think about testing requirements, if testing -- if there are testing requirements on those release sites, we want to get some animals -- we want to get some samples from those animals that were released there, and so keeping them on that specific site through a high fence helps make sure that we're sampling from that population that was moved there.

A current provision and one we propose to take forward is that all the deer harvested must be entered in a harvest log on site. That's for places that have release site testing requirements. The TC 2 are the Class II and Class III sites. And that any harvested deer tagged or tattooed -- that is tagged, tattooed, or showing evidence of tattooed or tagged, must be counted as a liberated deer. Now, this is a new twist. It's something we've really -- it's become more apparent with our release site testing.

Our current release site testing rules are predicated on released deer; but when you fill out your harvest log, you have to get the unique ID and put that on your harvest log. And what is a real world scenario is some of these tattoos are faded or they were improperly applied and so folks are harvesting animals that clearly came from a breeding facility, but they are not uniquely identifiable. And so this provision basically makes sure that if there's any evidence that that animal was previously marked, that it's going to be counted as a liberated deer because you'll recall one of those release site testing provisions is predicated on whether liberated deer are shot.

And then the group also talked about our current release sites. We actually asked the question because what happens if we have some release sites that were created during this past season and those release site owners do not comply with the law and the provisions. And recommendation of the group was that if someone is not in compliance, then they're not going to be eligible to receive deer in the future and our rules should maintain those release site testing provisions until -- basically, move -- you know, kick the can down the road another number of a years so that testing does occur on those properties.

However, the group also agreed that if release sites that were created with our interim rules are in compliance, that they're essentially going to get to start over. So if you've got a TC 2 deer and you have release site provisions, what our proposal would indicate is as long as you comply with the law, you're going to get to start over. And so in the future, if you only get deer from TC 1 breeders, you wouldn't have to test anymore. And so it's a -- it's basically because we had to figure out how to transitions some of those existing herds that are testing into an era where a lot more people are going to have options where their customers did not have to release site test. And it will be a little bit of a challenge for our staff to deal with the transition here, but it was a -- this was a consensus decision.

COMMISSIONER JONES: After what period of time?

MR. WOLF: So that's a very good question, Commissioner. The group -- the group recommended that release site testing provisions be in place for a period three to five years, and then left that range open for the Department to pick a number. We are proposing that that be for five years and the reason we're proposing that is we know there are sites where folks try to harvest out the native deer and then they get a stocking of breeder deer and they do not immediately start harvesting those animals. And so we felt like the longer period of time was necessary so that, ideally, by the time the five years is up, they have started to harvest some animals and those animals have been on site to expose other animals. So if -- if in the unfortunate case CWD was put there, we are still going to be able to sample from the animals that were exposed to or came from that population. So five years is what we're proposing moving forward as the release site testing standards and then if you comply for five years, then basically the clock resets after that -- five years from your last shipment of TC 2 breeder deer. And, of course, exposed herd -- TC 3s -- you know, would not get to start over. If they are -- if they are receiving deer from a herd that is still currently exposed, those rules would still apply.

Yes, Commissioner.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: So all deer that are released from a breeding facility going wherever -- to a Class I or whatever it is -- all are tagged or tattooed or marked so you can keep track of the -- in the harvest logs.

MR. WOLF: That is correct. So those provisions are actually specifically in statute, and that statute has two requirements. By March 31st of the first year that a deer's born, they must have a tag put in their ear and that tag must have a unique identifier that we supply through the Department. So it's like a serial number for that deer. When any of those deer leave a breeding facility and go -- either go to release or they go to another facility, that same number has to be tattooed in their ear. And so they all -- they all must have tattoos. And the fact of the matter is, the statute -- the regs -- require that it be legible. But the truth of the matter is, we are running across a few animals where it's not legible; but the animal -- someone clearly made that attempt.

CHAIRMAN-EMERITUS BASS: So the tattoo stays with them, but the tag does not necessarily?

MR. WOLF: That is correct. That is correct.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: And the illegible tattoo is just because it's poorly executed?

MR. WOLF: That is my understanding. Folks that pick the right die size -- and my understanding is if you get the wrong size, particularly if you're putting it on fawns and that ear grows, it becomes too distorted. But if you get the right die size and you imprint it sufficiently and you get that ink impregnated in there, then there are plenty of people that can put a tattoo on that is readable, you know, many years down the line. But just the fact of the matter is, is we also discover deer where the tattoo, for whatever purpose, was not properly applied and it's illegible or it's only partially legible.


MR. WOLF: And that -- and to Mr. Bass' point about the tagging requirement, that was another one of those options that the parties agreed to disagree on in our stakeholder group meeting as far as kind of mandatory, external, visible ID. It's one of those things that the group knew they would not get consensus on. So we didn't spend a whole lot of time talking about mandatory ear tagging on any other animals except for those TC 3 animals.

And so on to deer management permits. Hang with me. It gets quicker, and we're closer to the end. A Deer Management Permit is a permit. You have to have a high fence around the ranch to get a DMP; but then you can trap animals off the ranch, put them in a breeding pen temporarily, and then release those animals. And you can also introduce breeder deer into those facilities. And so our current rules really have the same release site testing requirements and so the proposal, as it stands right -- the proposal that has consensus is that DMP facilities that utilize breeder deer from TC 2 facilities must conduct release site testing. We won't -- we will disallow the use of TC 3 animals in these facilities, and obviously TC 1 animals have no release site testing requirements. And the proposal is that CWD test results be provided for 50 percent of the hunter harvested deer on an annual basis at that DMP release site if there's a TC deer that has a nexus with that DMP pen. Triple --


MR. WOLF: Five years.

Triple T, this is a -- these are -- a Triple T Permit is a permit to trap free-ranging deer and move them to another ranch and release them. Those release sites have to have wildlife management plans that are approved by the Department. And then the TTP is a permit to trap the deer and then process them and have the venison donated to needy organizations or individuals.

The proposal that has consensus is that at the trap site, the permittee would have to provide 15 samples from each trap site prior to permit approval. You may recall that the current provisions require -- require that that be 10 percent of the animals moved, a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 40. And the fact of the matter is we ran a bunch of scenarios on population sizes of these trap sites based on the sample size of ten and the probability of detection was pretty close and by the time you ran that up to 15 samples -- irrespective of ranch size -- on those population sizes, the probability of detection was very similar. And so it seemed like an elegant solution and an opportunity to have a regulation that is fairly simple and just require 15 samples from these trap sites.


MR. WOLF: Those are postmortem samples that must be provided prior to receiving the permit.

A new twist -- and this is one proposed by the Department -- is that each deer being transplanted be tagged with an RFID tag. Right now, they're required to have a tattoo put in the animal; but it's a batch tattoo. It's the same tattoo for a permit. And so in the unfortunate case where we might have to use a Triple T deer to help solve some -- an epidemiological investigation or provide some evidence, a unique identifier would be much more useful. So this would be a new requirement, and we would require that those tag numbers be reported to the Department at the end of the season.

And then another new twist -- and this was -- this is based in the -- a notion that there was -- there was a call for parity. In other words, whether it's breeder deer or Triple T deer, to try to have testing requirements that are similar. And so you have the postmortem testing at the trap site. And so we are proposing that Class II release site provisions apply at Triple T release sites. So just as a reminder, you catch a bunch of deer. You put ear tags in them. You take them to a Triple T release site. Then in the following years, they would -- the release site owner would have to do some CWD monitoring and it would be 50 percent of their hunter harvest. If there are no Triple T deer in that release or 50 percent of the Triple T deer if those are in -- if those deer are in the harvest. So really the same structure as we have for TC 2 releases and Class II release sites.

And then the Department is proposing -- and this is clearly not a consensus -- was not a consensus decision -- that there be no Triple T trapping from breeder deer release sites and this is -- this is relevant to the discussion about high fences because as you might imagine, if someone wants Triple T deer contained on a site for testing purposes and also to -- if a neighbor doesn't -- or I'm sorry, breeder deer on a site and doesn't want those deer on their property, then a way that that notion could be violated would be to trap those animals by Triple T and move them to the next pasture or move them somewhere else down the road.

The stakeholder group talked about some options like possible high fence to high fence and low fence to low fence. And I'll tell you, it got very complicated quickly. And so staff is proposing just to -- in order to avoid additional complexity in an already complex set of rules, that there be no trapping from -- no Triple T trapping from breeder deer release sites.

The TTP, although the risk is much different, what the group recognized was that there are some TTP permits issued in areas of the state where we don't get a lot of CWD samples. And so as opposed to a risk mitigation strategy for the movement of animals because these animals, you know, they're going to a terminal location and so you don't have the same risk as live animals; but simply from the standpoint of getting potential samples from places that are undersampled, the stakeholder group recommended that those that receive a Triple T Permit, provide 15 CWD samples from the trap site. And, of course, that could be done after the fact and after the deer have been euthanized. And the failure to comply with that could result in the permittee qualifying for a TTP in future years.

And so just a couple of other consensus items that are not in the rule package that we want to take to the Texas Register this time. These were caveats brought early in the process. These areas that have CWD in the state or these zones that we're going to talk about, there was a consensus recommendation that we have mandatory check stations in this zones and also that we have mandatory carcass movement restrictions.

Since those are going to be closely tied to the zone regulations, what we're proposing to do is bring those particular consensus items back to you in May as a part of a more complete regulation's package for CWD zones in Texas. So looking forward, we're seeking permission to publish these rules in the Texas Register.

We do plan to reconvene the small stakeholder group. I'll tell you this: These -- as you've already heard, these rules are complex. And once you try to put them on paper and once you talk with programmers about -- and programmers ask questions about, you know, how are we going to handle this, you start running into questions that haven't been asked. And so clearly when we get these in text and everyone gets to look at them, we may find some unintended consequences. We may find some fatal flaws that have to get fixed, or we may just find some tweaking. And so our -- it is our intent to take these back to the small stakeholder group after we have them crafted so that we can use this same group to help us tackle any issues and then also they can identify -- you know, if they identify what they may perceive as problems or unintended consequences in the rules once they're all in print.

And then we intend to convene our CWD Task Force. Remember, this is primarily -- these are wildlife veterinarians, Agency veterinarians, and producers -- to obtain recommendations for CWD zones in Texas. This is the same group that helped us establish our zones in the Trans-Pecos. And then we plan to take that to other stakeholders, the recommendations from the task force. And then in May, we hope to come and seek adoption of the proposed rules, these deer breeder rules -- Triple T, DMP, TTT -- and also seek permission to publish rules for CWZ -- for the CWD zones in Texas.

And with that, that concludes my presentation. Thank you for your patience. I do want to remind you that Dr. Rollo is here if there's any questions about any of that trace-in or trace-out information on any of these positive herds and also Susan Schultz is also available if there's any follow-up questions about the stakeholder process.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Commissioner Scott.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: One thing that jumps out at me. I can see some things and I can foresee what some of the questions are going to be from different stakeholders. We have no -- or you have no timelines of any sort in here for how far before the May meeting is all these things that are brought to our attention to or y'all's attention. I think you need to clearly define some timelines on -- because -- and just as an example, if y'all don't have all the different comments sorted out by a month after this meeting or 40 days or something, there's not going to be time.

And if it hits this Commission a week before, to me, that's not acceptable. I mean, there's going to -- there needs to be an ample amount of time for all the stakeholders to give their opinions and revamp and address. And who is going to handle that? How, in the Department, is that going to be handled in a timely manner so that we have information way before the may meeting?

MR. SMITH: Yeah. Well, first, it will be handled in a timely manner. You can assure -- be assured of that. And we absolutely will make sure that we have a fully fleshed out proposal that is put out in the Texas Register for all of the parties to review, look at, and provide commentary about back to the Department --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Before the May meeting.

MR. SMITH: -- well in advance of the May meeting. Yeah, there's a whole process that we have to go through. Anne can speak to the details of it.


MS. BRIGHT: Good morning. For the record, I'm Ann Bright, General Counsel. A rule is not even eligible for consideration by the Commission unless it has been published in the Texas Register for at least 30 days. So we are required by law to have a 30-day publication period.

The other thing is that those rules, there's about a week and a half -- actually, almost two-week lead time on getting those to the Texas Register. So the rules would be published in the -- I think our deadline for getting these rules to the Texas Register is April 11th. So we will have to have a fleshed out proposal by no later than April 11th.


MS. BRIGHT: A fully fleshed out, complete proposal by no later than, I believe, it's April 11th.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: April 11th, okay. That's a good thing.

MS. BRIGHT: So, right, right.

MR. WOLF: Right. And we've already put the stakeholder group on notice that we're going to reconvene them and since we've got to meet that April 11th deadline, you know, we'll work with Ms. Schultz to schedule a meeting soon thereafter so -- you know, give everybody enough time to obviously read the text of the rules and digest them; but we definitely don't want to let too much time elapse because it's going to -- you know, there's going to be a lot of information there and a lot of what ifs. And as I indicated, you know, it's -- Ms. Schultz has agreed to continue to facilitate that process and so we'll be able to use the stakeholder group and obviously anybody in the public that, once those are published in the Texas Register, also gets a look at them as well.


COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Clayton, I have one question. Did everybody that wanted to participate in the stakeholder groups participate?

MR. WOLF: No. No, they did not. We had -- obviously, a lot of folks wanted a seat at the table. The larger stakeholder group -- and I'm going to have -- I'm going to work off my weak recollection, but I don't think we had any issues accommodating that group. But when we narrowed it down to the 17, we did have some folks that expressed their concern that -- an organization -- that they were not on that smaller stakeholder group. But it was a challenge to get this group down to a size that was nimble enough that we could -- that we could engage in negotiated rulemaking, if you will. And so to answer that, at least for the smaller group, no.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: In the large group that you started off with, everybody that wanted to be there was there?

MR. WOLF: That's correct. That's correct. And it's our intent -- you know, the -- with the conference call that just happened Monday -- and Ms. Schultz is going to prepare a final report and then we will roll that out to the larger stakeholder group as far as what the smaller group came to a decision on; but those -- you know, those five decisions were still -- and I think one person was out of the country. She was trying to correspond with them to see if they agreed as well. So information from the small group will be rolled out to the larger group, and they'll be kept apprised as we move forward.

MR. SMITH: Maybe one thing we can do, Mr. Chairman, is provide the Commission with a list of those various stakeholders that were --

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: That would be a good idea.

MR. SMITH: -- part of the larger stakeholder group, which I agree with Clayton was very inclusive and I think covered the waterfront pretty well with respect to all of the major and interested stakeholders -- landowner, hunting, breeder, manager related groups.

The smaller group, as Clayton said, just out of necessity, we had to winnow that down to the -- as small as we could reasonable make it and still have represent -- or representation from different interested parties. To be more explicit though, we did get a formal protest from an organization that was not included in the smaller group and Clayton and I met with the leadership of that organization and explained our rational for why we had to narrow it down. They have continued to object to that and we have acknowledged that and we'll continue to do what we can to make sure they're included in the future going forward. They are a part of the larger stakeholder group and certainly they'll have plenty of opportunities to comment on this proposal, as will any others.


CHAIRMAN-EMERITUS BASS: Clayton, I've got a question, please. And you and I have had discussion on this before. But to recap for everyone, the modeling that we've done in-house -- and I, along with you, thank your colleagues in the fisheries and other areas of non-Wildlife Division people for pitching in and helping. I think that speaks to the comradery of the Department very well. But the modeling that we have done so far and the capacity for modeling, as I understand it, that we've been able to bring to it in-house, basically provides for running a scenario for a one-year -- a hypothetical one-year cycle.

And granted, there are, you know, a huge number of potential variables. You can throw in here everything from herd size to what prevalence disease may be present. You know, testing regime, you know, what it provides in terms of validity. But basically, we've been running models that are just one-year snapshots.

MR. WOLF: Actually, we -- and maybe -- it may have been the latter meetings where you weren't able to attend. But we did -- we did run some models. Later on, we -- our experts ran some models looking at a five-year model and the probability of detection through time. And then in some cases, then layering in on top of that an increase in the prevalence of the disease. Which is understandable if the disease is there, the prevalence will likely go up. And so we did run some five-year models and we did run some models where the prevalence doubled every two years and every three years and we reference those, you know, occasionally in our last discussions, just trying to do some comparisons because, you know, you're trying to -- you'd hope to compare apples and apples, but it's tough. You know, it's tough looking at the probability and you're five in one facility versus year one or the other. So everyone -- so we used a little bit of that, that information and I think it was specifically requested of us and so we ran some five-year models. We, and by "we," it wasn't me.

CHAIRMAN-EMERITUS BASS: Okay. That's good. I wasn't aware of that, but that's helpful. My real question I was getting to is would it be helpful for the Department to try to access outside expertise -- and modeling -- to try to be able to run more time-lapsed modeling of various scenarios in a more efficient and timely way than what we're able to do with our own capacity, in order to get a better clarity of these various four options that you outlined for us today and alternatives as to how they stack up and compare to one another in terms of disease detection?

I think it's pretty clear that all of them -- even in one year -- are an improvement over the of Texas Animal Health Commission five-year standard that we've been using previously. But anyway, that's just kind of a question of whether some consideration of getting some outside sources.

MR. WOLF: Yes. In fact, you know --

CHAIRMAN-EMERITUS BASS: That may be something the Foundation can help fund if financing it is an issue.

MR. WOLF: That point -- and, you know, our -- the Fisheries Division staff, you know, acknowledged that there -- you know, there are folks out there with SAS. You know, folks that do modeling of, you know, Ebola virus and things like that where you're bringing in a lot more complex variables, which, you know, this modeling just, you know, did not consider that. So that capacity does exist. The expertise does exist to do that. It's -- and it's definitely something worth exploring. I have no idea what that -- you know, what that price tag is to do that; but there are more refined -- there could be more refined models that are built specifically for, you know, a Texas deer breeder type situation.

CHAIRMAN-EMERITUS BASS: Epidemiology. I just raised that --

MR. SMITH: Sure.

CHAIRMAN-EMERITUS BASS: -- as something that perhaps merits some discussion. Also, I have a -- if I could ask Ms. Schultz to come back up, I have some questions that --

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Before she comes up to answer questions, as I recall from the symposium -- and I'm -- this is maybe clarifying for everyone -- the five-year Class I -- for them to be classified as Class I and no restrictions, comes for the interstate transfer and that's from the USDA?

MR. WOLF: That is correct. You know, USDA has the -- is the federal oversight for interstate movement of deer and then the State Veterinarian Office. In Texas, that's Texas Animal Health Commission has the -- is in charge of administering that program. So there are federal rules and federal guidelines and then the -- kind of like our migratory bird regs. Then the State agency can adopt something and as long as it conforms with those guidelines, then USDA will basically bless that program and allow for interstate movement.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: I got that information because I was there, but no one else may know that --

MR. WOLF: That's a very good point.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: -- rational for the five-year.

MR. WOLF: Very good point.

CHAIRMAN-EMERITUS BASS: Good point. I was at the first, the two-day meeting; and so I'm aware of -- and just for everyone else's benefit, the process as you introduced it and the buy-in and we all signed an agreement that outside of that room, we would not finger point, you know, and use names. So, therefore, an unidentified organization or representative, as opposed to name calling. So I'll honor that.

Unfortunately with my schedule, I was only -- haven't been able to attend the other meetings and the conference call. My question to you is, you know, with your professional experience doing this facilitating and trying to get groups to come to consensus, having a rather significant player at the -- of the group at the 11th hour say, "No, we can't" -- I forget exactly what quote you used; but basically, you know, "We can't represent that we've agreed to anything," is the way I took it.

You know, to what degree does that compromise, in your mind, the whole process? And because they were clearly a factor in how what was otherwise termed "consensus" was reached and then they disavow it. I'm just wondering from your professional point of view kind of how does that -- how does that -- to what degree does that compromise the product and how do we deal with that?

MS. SCHULTZ: So we're still dealing with that. I'm still having conversations with them to be very clear about what that means. What I -- my view currently at this particular point in time is that the individual items on which they reached consensus, that doesn't unravel the -- from the perspective of the staff that this was what this group decided was the best option.

My understanding -- and again, I'm not speaking on their behalf -- but what they have told me and my understanding is that because they have a fundamental objection to these rules as a whole, that they did not want to bound their organization by saying that they have -- that they would stand by their consensus agreement, if that makes sense. I will follow up with them and have further discussions, but I believe that from -- because -- so essentially -- and I think they agree with this -- these stakeholders, these individuals that are at the table, have a responsibility to speak up when we are trying to reach consensus. And so that because they believe that their concerns were addressed, they were part of the negotiations, and they believe that they have presented their concerns and their views during these four days, then that's the best options that they believe that they negotiated, along with the rest of the group.

So I would articulate it in such a way that consensus was reached on these specific items; but then we have a fundamental objection to the whole set of rules, if that makes sense.

CHAIRMAN-EMERITUS BASS: As I recall it, one of the items in the statement that all of the participants signed -- and spent probably more than the first hour, maybe close to two, going over the statement and agreement that we all --

MS. SCHULTZ: Absolutely.

CHAIRMAN-EMERITUS BASS: -- signed to participate, included an agreement to support what we had reached as consensus, you know, outside of that room.

MS. SCHULTZ: Right. And so --

CHAIRMAN-EMERITUS BASS: It's kind of perplexing to me, but --

MS. SCHULTZ: So in other words -- and the -- again, the benefit of this process is that you're absolutely right, that once we have reached consensus, then basically stakeholders agree to support draft rules that will be consistent with that consensus. And so I think part of the clarification is that they will not object to the specific rules; but -- and, again, state their position to the overall process of -- I mean the overall objective of the rules.

CHAIRMAN-EMERITUS BASS: Okay. I have one other question, which I don't know whether you've had similar experiences before with working with -- I'm sure you've had a lot of various things happen. But as Clayton outlined, it's envisioned that there are other items and that this same working group has more work to do.

What's your feeling about how to approach this situation with their further participation or how do you go forward with this? In your opinion, what's the best path?

MS. SCHULTZ: So knowing what we know now?


MS. SCHULTZ: We would go forward with a clear understanding of what their participation level is going to be, and then it will be up to the Department as to whether or not that they want to include them in the negotiations.


COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Commissioner Scott.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: As a follow up to Lee's comments, some of the -- some of Clayton's presentation, you said that the Department chose these particular timelines, these -- whatever they were. You know, y'all arbitrarily -- what effect does that have if most of the consensus of those groups was off of what they discussed, then our Department has arbitrarily made some points or changed some stuff, how does that interact with what they've already agreed to? How do we -- how does that get reconciled?

MS. SCHULTZ: So there are certainly some items on which the group did not reach consensus, and there were certain specific items on which they wanted the Department to make the final decision. And so that's fine. There's give and take there and there's some items where they understand that the Department is going to be making the last decision on, just like they understood that even their consensus is a recommendation to this Commission and through traditional rulemaking, this Commission can decide ultimately what the final rules are going to look like. But, again, what the process allows is for airing of a lot of concerns and information so that hopefully the end product is a better product than without this process and without their input.


COMMISSIONER JONES: So what I'm hearing is that we may have had some disagreements about end results or outcomes, but all concerns were heard and understood by the Department. Is that fair?

MR. WOLF: I believe that's -- yeah, that's a fair statement.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Well, we all know where the ultimate buck stops --

MR. WOLF: And I --

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- with any decision like this. It stops here, and we're held accountable for what we decide. What I think is important to us is to know that we hear -- even if we ultimately disagree with or can't come to a consensus, what's important to us is that we hear all the sides.

MR. WOLF: And I do want to clarify and enlighten -- of course, this is a little bit different process than normal. But, for instance, the breeder deer, those TC 1, 2, 3, and those four pathways, you know, everyone had a chance -- including, you know, the Department -- to voice our concerns, you know, with certain strategies that were laid out. Everyone, you know, laid out different options and it was a pretty long and arduous process; but as we winnowed it down to those options there, then, you know, my perception was, you know, folks were nodding and there was agreement, that we came to agreement on that particular set of options as the best set of options for addressing everyone's concerns. And Ms. Schultz can correct me if that's --

MS. SCHULTZ: That's right.

MR. SMITH: I guess one thing I want to assure the Commission, you know, however we choose to go forward with the subsequent deliberations with the small stakeholder group in whatever form that takes, you know, assuming there are recommendations that are outside those that are of a consensus nature that are Department introduced, I just want to assure the Commission we will label them as such so there will not be any ambiguity about that. So I just wanted to follow up on that.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: The main thing is what Commissioner Jones is saying though. Everyone that wanted to voice their opinion, got to voice their opinion and that's what I'm hearing.

MS. SCHULTZ: And also I mean, again, this does not take the place of the traditional rulemaking. You're still going to have public comment period.


Okay. Any other questions?

Thank you.

MR. WOLF: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I think you did a marvelous, marvelous job. Remarkable job.

MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman, just because we've got Dr. Rollo and Gene Snelson, the general counsel for the Animal Health Commission, would be remiss if we did just not think our sister agency for the extensive collaboration with the Department on the CWD front; but also many other fronts, too. We've had a great partnership. It's deepened and broadened because of this. But we have just been working side by side for many, many, many, many months and I to thank that agency for all of the expertise that they have brought to the table to add value to our work and so just want to make sure that folks are aware of that. So, thank you.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: All right. Good point. Thank you.

All right. We have three more items, I believe. Is that right?

MR. SMITH: Do you want to take a break for a moment?

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Well, I was going -- I was going -- I don't think there's anything -- shall we just go on through? These are land items and --

MR. SMITH: Okay.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: -- unless one becomes -- then have lunch? All right.

COMMISSIONER JONES: How fast can Ted talk?

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: How hungry are you?


COMMISSIONER JONES: Yeah, I was going to say, "How hungry is he?" That was the question.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: All right. With that, we'll go to Item No. 8, Conveyance of Land, Harris County, 10 Acres at Lake Houston Wilderness Park, Request Permission to begin the Public Notice and Input Process, Mr. Hollingsworth.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good afternoon. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm hungry and we can get through this expeditiously, I believe.

This particular item pertains to Lake Houston Wilderness Park. It's a piece of property -- it's a very special piece of property, almost 5,000 acres currently surrounded by Houston suburbs, straddles the Harris County/Montgomery County line. It used to be a state park. Back in 2006, we were struggling financially as an Agency and the County and the City approached us and came to this Commission and suggested that the property be conveyed to the City and that the City had the resources to develop it and open it to the public and make it more functional and this Commission did make a transfer.

As you can see from this picture, the property is almost completely surrounded now by neighborhoods and subdivisions. Very, very special piece of property. In that conveyance, the Agency reserved the right to approve any conveyance of land rights. This Commission has approved a couple of pipeline -- transmission pipelines corridors, for example. At this time, the City is asking us to authorize the conveyance of a few acres of land for the Grand Parkway.

The Grand Parkway system is Houston's outermost loop, third loop system. We've been working with the Grand Parkway Association, Federal Highways Administration, TxDOT for 20 years now on a route for this road. The original preferred route took that highway right through -- split that park right neat in half and we've been working with them to convince them to use the Farm to Market Road 1475 corridor -- 1485 corridor. And in exchange, we've agreed all along that when the time came to actually lay that highway on the ground, that we would work cooperatively to minimize that footprint; but if there were a few acres that were needed to put that highway north of that park and not go through the park, that staff would recommend to the Commission to undertake that, do that route.

The City very much wants an off-ramp -- of course, the Grand Parkway is a limited access freeway system -- wanted an off-ramp and a frontage road at the park so that people could get in and out of the park readily without having to leave the Grand Parkway miles away and snake their way through neighborhoods to get to the park. In order to accomplish that, you can see from this map it will be necessary to transfer just about 10 acres of Lake Houston Wilderness Park. One disjunct tract that's currently on the north side of 1485, and then another tract on the east there to convey that.

Staff's been working on this for a long time. We are convinced that that is the minimum acreage, the minimum impact to the park that can be had and still accomplish that off-ramp and frontage road that the City requests. And so with that -- and so with that, the City does request an easement or permission from this Commission to authorize the conveyance of that land and since it is a conveyance, it's a two-meeting process and staff requests permission to begin the public notice and input process.

I'd be happy to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER JONES: I've just got a quick question. Am I to understand that the earlier map you showed, the two little slivers you're showing at the top are at the very -- no, no. Go back. Go back. That one.


COMMISSIONER JONES: They're at the top of that map, right? At the very top?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: At the very top, very northmost. Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay. What's that line that runs through that looks like it runs through the middle of the park?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Those are pipelines. There's a -- the lower one, the one that runs east/west is a utility electric -- a high line corridor. And the one that runs north and south is a pipeline corridor.


COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Any other questions?

If not, I'll authorize staff to begin the public notice and input process.

Shall we do --

MR. SMITH: I think you can ask the --

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Yeah. Item No. 9, the Acceptance Of Donation in Cameron County we've heard before. Would anybody -- does anybody have any questions about it?

If not, then we'll place that on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

No. 9 -- No. 10. No. 10 -- thank you -- Grant of Utility Easement, Brazoria County, Approximately 37 Acres at the Justin Hurst Wildlife Management Area, Mr. Hollingsworth.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, good afternoon. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This item is, in some ways, is a housekeeping item. It affects the Justin Hurst Wildlife Management Area in southern Brazoria County, about 60 miles due south of Houston, right on the coast. Really one of our premiere waterfowl hunting destinations. Over 14,000 acres of low coastal prairies, bottomland hardwood forest, marshes. It's one we've been managing since 1985. Just a tremendous, tremendous destination for waterfowl and, of course, for waterfowl hunters, deer hunting, other public uses.

It is very, very close to petrochemical industries in Freeport; and, therefore, has been a fairly frequent target for utility easements over the years. We've been successful at keeping a number of those out of the WMA. But back in 1994, we did issue a construction permit for a transmission -- an electric transmission line across the WMA. Because of the procedures at the time, we issued a 10-year surface use agreement.

That surface use agreement expired in 2004 and for reasons that are really not clear at this time, an easement was not -- was not entered into to cover that line. The company either believed they were continuing to operate under the surface use agreement or simply failed to note that the agreement had expired.

A few years ago, staff became aware of the fact that we had a high-tension utility line across the WMA for which there was no easement. We began pressuring South Texas Electric Co-op to come to the table and negotiate an easement. We finally reached that point now where we have an agreement on terms and conditions. This is the location of that line across north portion of the wildlife management area. It's a big right-of-way. It's a hundred foot long and over 3 miles long, covers about 37 acres; and we're proposing a standard easement, which would be a 10-year term, renewable at the end of ten years for an additional ten years. The fees would increase each term by the amount of the published cost of living increase.

In order to minimize that impact of the hundred wide easement, STEC has agreed not to manage vegetation and the staff of the wildlife management area have agreed that should there be vegetation in the future that might threaten that line, it would have to be trees, that we would be responsible for managing those trees. Again, so that that right-of-way scar can return to the habitat, the native habitat there, and minimize the impact of that high line on the biology of the facility.

We've received no public comments in regard to this item, and the staff does recommend that the Commission adopt the -- a motion -- the resolution that you have attached as Exhibit A. And I'd be happy to answer any questions.


COMMISSIONER JONES: Just remind me again, was this line put in after we owned it or before we owned it?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: After we owned it. Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER JONES: So how did they put it in without an easement from us?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: They put it in under the terms of a surface use agreement and at that time, it was our habit to issue a surface use agreement and then once the line was constructed, we would have as-built diagrams, we would have the details, we would then enter into an easement. At that time, we had -- our recordkeeping was not nearly as systematic at the time as it is now, and that one just somehow slipped under the radar screen.


COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Any other questions?

MR. SMITH: Commissioner Latimer.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: As a new Commissioner, I'm just not familiar with how you negotiate or what's in the easement contract. Is there -- are there clauses in there if, in the future, they abandon that easement that they have to remediate it to the prior condition?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, ma'am, and that was actually one of the terms. This was -- we actually had intended to bring this to the Commission in November and again in January. That was one of the terms that we had to come to agreement on is that if they abandon that line, that they're responsible for removing those -- those -- that infrastructure from the wildlife management area and restoring that area to our specifications. Yes, ma'am.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Good, okay. If no other questions, we'll place this item on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

And we'll move to Work Session Item No. 11.

MR. SMITH: I don't know if you want to hear this one or not.


MR. SMITH: We've heard it before.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Well, let's go ahead.

MR. SMITH: Do you want to hear it? Okay.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Okay. Because I don't remember the details of it.

MR. KUHLMANN: Good morning. I guess I sit between y'all and lunch. So I'll make it snappy. This is an item in Tarrant County. It's for a recreational trail that's being requested by the City of Fort Worth Recreation Department. This is an old Inland Fisheries fish hatchery that was abandoned because of lack of water to run the hatchery, and it's been turned into a district office.

The City of Fort Worth had planned a recreational trail around Lake Worth. Lake Worth is the drinking supply for Fort Worth, and the trail is going to run along about 5.7 miles of the lake. They contracted for a plan designed for this trail system for about 5.6 miles. During that design, they realized that property they got in 1975 along the -- between the actual fish hatchery and the river had eroded away and didn't realize this until they were pretty far into the project. And as a result, the continuation of the trail, the alignment, would cross onto Parks and Wildlife property along the old fish hatchery.

We've dealt with them. You know, this is something we want to accommodate. They've requested an easement to accommodate the realignment of the trail. We were worried about the security of the rest of our property because this is one of the few pieces of habitat left. Most of the other trail runs through neighborhoods and along other parts of the lake and the river. They will provide security. That was one of the things we were worried about; but they're going to provide security for the property with secure fencing, special fencing, not just chain-link, but we're in negotiations with them about what kind of fencing and camera surveillance.

One of the things about the property is that it's right behind the dam at Lake Worth and so for security reasons, there has to be pretty good security between us and the dam and we're the only thing that lies between the dam and this new trailway. There will be a reversion clause that we'll write into the easement. If they ever fail to maintain it or use it as a trail, it will revert -- the easement will go away.

Here is the -- here's an area where the hatchery is. You can see the dam there at Lake Worth and the small -- the polygon to the northeast is the easement area. We're going to -- we're going to grant a temporary surface use agreement for them to accommodate some of the construction process. That will go away when it's built, and then we'll give them an easement not to exceed two acres in size. As Ted mentioned before, in a case like this, they'll come in. They will build the trail and we will give them an easement just to the portion of it that they actually use, not to exceed two acres.

There's been no public comments regarding this action, and we will recommend tomorrow that you adopt the resolution attached as Exhibit A. And I'll be glad to answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN-EMERITUS BASS: In looking at the easement area on the map, it just kind of ends. Is it -- is the trail going to cross the river at that point?

MR. KUHLMANN: Yes, sir. It's going to be a -- and it's a pretty wide expanse there. It's going to be like a 230-foot bridge, footbridge across the river at that point. And what you can't see is where it crosses -- if you can notice to the northeast, too, there's a water plant or a plant of some sort the City has. It will run right to the -- to the -- if you're looking at the map, to the left of that. And on the hatchery property, part of their property that washed away, there's going to be like an 80-foot trail across a ravine there before it turns and goes north across the river for that 230-foot walk-bridge. Pretty -- pretty -- I guess it will be nice.

You can't see; but like Ted was showing with the Houston property, once you zoom out, everything is solid houses. And it will be a pretty unique system, I guess, once it's completed.


COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Any other questions?

Then we'll place this item on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.


COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I believe we're -- we've come to lunchtime here. Completed its work session business and I declare us adjourned at 12:55.

(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 ________________, ________.

Paige S. Watts, CSR
CSR No.: 8311
Expiration: December 31, 2016
7010 Cool Canyon Cove
Round Rock, Texas 78681

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