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TPW Commission

Work Session, March 22, 2017

Transcript

TPW Commission Meetings

TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION

March 22, 2017

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

AUSTIN, TEXAS 78744

COMMISSION WORK SESSION & EXECUTIVE SESSION

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Okay. Good morning, everybody. This meeting is called to order March 22nd, 2017, at 9:10 a.m. Before proceeding with any business, 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. I would like for this fact to be noted in the official record of the meeting.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: The Chair and Vice-Chair had conflicts that arose. So the meeting is going to be handled by me and Mr. Jones this morning. So bear with us and help us if we get in trouble.

The next item of business is the approval of the minutes from the previous work session held January 25th, 2017, which have already been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?

COMMISSIONER JONES: So move.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Second Commissioner Latimer -- seconded by Commissioner Jones. All in favor say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

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

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

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. Good morning. For the record, my name is Carter Smith. Nice to see everybody. I want to share a few words just on an update of some things going on throughout the Agency. Just as is customary and a point of departure, let me say a few words about Internal Affairs.

I think last meeting, I had a chance to announce that Johnny Longoria was going to be attending the FBI National Academy and he'll start that in April, I believe, and we're very excited about Johnny representing the Agency in such a prestigious fashion. On the flip side, we have been notified that Captain Brad Chappell of our Internal Affairs team will be retiring in June after 30 years of service to this Agency. And the only people celebrating that are his wife and all the crooks that Brad has caught over the years, but we've still got a couple of months to try to talk him out of that. So help me if you can and we'll be sure and fête Brad accordingly at the right time; but my goodness, what a treasure and an asset he's been to this Agency in so many different capacities.

Jon and his team are doing a great, great job on the Internal Affairs front. I want to acknowledge Assistant Commander Chief Mike Durand, who taught officer water survival at the Game Warden/Park Police Officer Academy. Obviously, a critically, critically important skill set that our officers have to have in terms of knowing how to deal with protracted immersion in water in oftentimes very dangerous conditions. And so kudos to Mike for doing that.

Also, Jon has got his team attending a multi-day investigative training involving officer-involved shootings. And occasionally, we have those at the Agency. So it's absolutely essential that our Internal Affairs officers know how to account for that and investigate that when necessary. So appreciate Jon and his leadership on that front.

Just Clayton wanted me to give everyone a quick reminder about the Managed Lands Deer Permit implementation update. I think y'all will recall that almost two years ago -- back in August, 2015 -- the Commission decided to make some fairly substantive changes with our Managed Lands Deer Permit, which, you know, undoubtedly has been one of the most successful private lands incentive-based conservation efforts that the State -- and certainly this Department -- has and really proud of our Wildlife team for that. But as you will recall, we're transitioning into basically two options for MLDP enrollees: The Conservation option and the Harvest option.

Our Wildlife staff, working with IT, are doing all of the changes to our IT system to account for this transition. That will be done sometime this summer. For those landowners that are going to enroll in the Conservation option, which is roughly the equivalent of what we used to call or do call the MLDP Level 3, that deadline for enrollment is going to be sometime this summer, June or July. And so we'll make sure that we publicize that very widely and broadly to all of our landowner partners. That new program will officially take place on the 1st of September. So just a reminder that that's coming; and, again, we'll be talking about that to make sure that landowners have plenty of notice and understand their various options here and which one is best for them and their property and their management and, obviously, our biologists are there to assist them.

Also, I'll just comment quickly on SB 722 with Senator Perry. This is a bill that Senator Perry or Chairman Perry has proposed that would give the Parks and Wildlife Commission the authority to set some kind of a reasonable fee schedule to charge for landowners who enroll their properties in Managed Lands Deer Permits. You know, when we started this program -- where is Clayton? Twenty years ago; is that right? Nineteen --

MR. WOLF: '98.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, '98. So not quite 20 years, but almost. You know, we've gone from roughly 3 million acres of lands enrolled to now almost 30 million acres enrolled in that program, which is roughly 20 percent of the land base of the state, to put that in perspective. And that is a free program offered by the wildlife biologists and technicians of this Department and, obviously, it shows the interest and stewardship by the private landowner community; but our capacity for overseeing that program has not changed. So we've basically had the same number of biologists during that entire timeframe, and so this is an idea that a lot of the private landowner groups and various advisory committees of this Department has come up with as a way for users to pay some kind of a reasonable fee to invest in more biological capacity to help implement this program. So this is an important piece of legislation and just want to make sure that we called your attention to that.

We had some great news on the ShareLunker program. Again, one of the great flag -- I see Commissioner Jones eyeing that bass and saying, "Why didn't I catch that?" -- and one of these great programs our Inland Fisheries team implements where, you know, as you-all know, if an angler catches a 13-pound bass or larger in public waterways, they can donate that fish to the ShareLunker Program and they'll mate it to other big fish there in the hatchery at Athens and produce fingerlings and the offspring then will go back and stock in lakes and reservoirs around the state to help improve the genetic integrity and quality of our fisheries in the state.

And the first two ShareLunkers this year -- one caught over in Marine Creek Lake near Fort Worth, and another one over at Lake Naconiche -- as it turned out, both were direct offspring of other ShareLunkers that had been caught -- this one in 2006, and then the one at Lake Naconiche 2008 -- that had been donated to the program and selectively bred and then offspring put back in the lakes and reservoirs. So what a great testament to our hatchery program and that ShareLunker Program. So, Craig, kudos to y'all. Fun to see that reaffirmation, just what an important program that that is.

Just want to brag a little bit on -- this is really a lot of our Headquarter's team and our Sustainable team, our Green team. The City of Austin recognized the Agency as platinum status -- the only State agency to ever get this -- because of the Agency's investments in, you know, making sure that we're doing everything we can here with water conservation, energy conversation, xeriscaping, volunteerism. Our Green team has responsibility for highway clean-ups and just helping the community and just do a great job of modeling our conservation mission and values right here in Austin. So nice to see the City recognize the Department for that and a big shout out to Andee Chamberlain and a lot of our others that are so involved with that. So nice to see them recognized in that way. It's a nice, nice deal.

This is our newest license plate. This makes the eighth specialty license plate that the Agency offers. You know, just as a reminder, these specialty plates can be purchased for $30. Eight dollars goes back to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Twenty-two dollars then comes to support dedicated programs. This one is helping to celebrate just the wonderful value of our Texas rivers. And so the funds generated from the sale of this license plate will go to support river conservation and more access for anglers and paddlers and kayakers and other river enthusiasts.

Our Communications team and our Inland Fisheries team have partnered on this license plate and I think it just came out really, really well.

So, Josh, is it -- when will this officially go on sale? Do you know?

MR. HAVENS: Later in May.

MR. SMITH: May? Okay. So in May, look for this option. This represents the portfolio of all of our license plates. Here are the eight plates now that we'll have and so everything from the big bass to support our Inland Fisheries work, the nice White-tail buck to support our Big Game Program, the Bluebonnet and the tent there on the State Parks, and then, of course, the ones on the bottom with the Horned Lizard and the rattlesnake and the humming bird to support our Wildlife Diversity Programs. And so great license plate and excited to have this new one added to the portfolio.

Want to say just a couple of words about our aerial wildlife management permits and specifically, the landowner authorization agreement. I know that many of us received a fair amount of correspondence from pilots and others about the implementation of this. You know, just as a reminder, the Commission adopted some new rules in January of 2016 that were really targeted at a burgeoning problem of aerial trespass. And these weren't our, you know, traditional pilots that are used to working cattle on ranches around the state or engaging in targeted predator control to help on ranches that are producing sheep and goats; but a lot to do with a lot of newer pilots and people that were paying to get up and shoot hogs from the air and they were not being as cognizant and respectful of property boundaries as we need them to.

So our game wardens were dealing with a lot of complaints from landowners about aerial trespass. And so the Commission adopted a suite of rules to help address that problem and one of which was a requirement that there had to be a map of the property that was going to be flown on and that that map had to be authorized by the landowner and the pilot, so that everybody would know the boundaries of the property that they were flying and shooting hogs and coyotes on. So fairly commonsensical.

We got a lot of feedback from pilots about concerns about those rules, and I want to compliment Mitch Lockwood and Chris Cerny and Ellis Powell and Clayton Wolf for working extensively with the pilot community to address some concerns over the mapping requirement and also providing some additional time for folks to comply and I think we've gotten past a lot of those issues.

There is one issue that we'll be bringing back likely to y'all in May, and I just want to give you a heads up about that. Historically, under the old Aerial Wildlife Management Permits and the landowner authorization agreement, there was an option for pilots to seek emergency permission or an emergency LOA by contacting their local game warden if they needed to get up in the air quickly for some issue. In the past, that was rarely used; and so we had proposed and the Commission had agreed to discontinue that special provision.

In talking with pilots with the implementation of this -- particularly those that fly out in sheep and goat country in West Texas -- if ranchers have got a lambing pasture or a kidding pasture and there's problems with coyotes and so forth getting on lambs and kids, sometimes they've just got to get up in the air immediately and so don't have time to go through the normal process. And so we're going to propose -- after consulting with the pilots on how best to do this -- to reinstate some element of that. And I just want to give you a heads up that that's likely coming in May. We think that's a very commonsensical way for the Department to be as responsive as possible to these kind of issues where producers are suffering losses and they need to get up in the air and we think we can effectively administer that; but, again, just heads up that's coming.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Carter --

MR. SMITH: You bet.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: -- can you just give us some examples of an emergency?

MR. SMITH: Yeah. So an emergency might be that, you know, a rancher has got a bunch of sheep that he's put in a lambing pasture and all of a sudden, you know, coyotes move into the area and then target that area and they're starting to see a lot of depredation and they need a pilot to get up the very next morning and for whatever reason, they're not able to get a map prepared in time and submitted through TWIMS in order to activate their permit. And so that's the kind of emergency that I think we're anticipating in which some of the pilots have been talking about.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: So a for-hire helicopter hog hunt would probably not ever fall under an emergency --

MR. SMITH: No.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: -- permit?

MR. SMITH: No. No, we're really not contemplating that kind of thing. It really is more at livestock depredation. You know, some kind of immediate imminent threat/loss to really livestock. I mean, that's really what this relates to, yeah; not a helicopter hog shoot. Yeah.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Okay. Just wanted to --

MR. SMITH: Unless there's a problem with hog predation.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: -- make sure that's clear.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, good question.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Thank you.

MR. SMITH: This is a great project, "Release the Kraken." I love this name. Of course, the -- you know, the Kraken, the great mythical sea creature from -- who wrote the sonnet -- Tennyson, Tennyson -- the great sonnet about the Kraken and the multi-headed sea monster of Icelandic mariner of nightmares that allegedly roamed the deep. And this is a ship that our Artificial Reef team had acquired with Deepwater Horizon funds and brought it in from Trinidad to -- all the way to Brownsville. Got it cleaned up and then took it 65 miles off the coast of Galveston and was sunk in water 140 feet deep and so it's going to provide great submerged structure for reef fish and diving and just a really nice addition to that, you know, largely featureless Gulf floor. And so our Artificial Reef team and Dale does a terrific job and so this was an exciting project and so not every day we get to sink a big ship out in the Gulf. So fun to celebrate that one, and kudos to our team for that. A lot of work went into it. Our Communications team made a lot of hay out of this one and so fun to be able to celebrate that.

COMMISSIONER LEE: How did you sink it?

MR. SMITH: So the ship was sunk, I think, by boring holes into the bottom of that ship and letting water come in and then just letting it drop. And I'm -- from an engineering perspective, I'm sure it was a lot more complicated than that, Commissioner; but, obviously, from my simpleton mind, that was it. So --

COMMISSIONER LEE: Nothing exciting?

MR. SMITH: Nothing exciting, yeah. I don't think dynamite was used on this one. Yeah, yeah. So we've done that in the past.

Last but not least, just a chance to highlight one of the work -- some of the work of our park police officers; in this case, Scott Green. Scott's a park police officer over in East Texas and Lake Livingston. And our officers, as y'all know, are asked to do some very, very difficult things on a regular basis. In this case, Scott was called by dispatch over there about a gentleman that was spotted with a rope around his neck on Highway 59. And when he got there, unfortunately that individual had put a tow strap around his neck and tied it to the bumper and was hanging from the bridge and Scott pulled him up and with the assistance of a trooper and a paramedic, was able to bring him back to life miraculously. And it just, again, just goes to show the multifaceted community service, public service roles our park police officers and game wardens play. Really proud of Scott, not only for that incident; but for a lot more. And just, again, wanted a chance to highlight his service.

Mr. Chairman, with that, that concludes my presentation on the Land and Water Update and happy to address any questions that you or the other Commissioners might have.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Any questions?

Thank you for your presentation.

Work Item No. 2, Legislative Update. Mr. Carter Smith, please make your presentation.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. Again, for the record, my name is Carter Smith. Just want to share a view words about kind of where things stand in the Legislature vis-a-vis Parks and Wildlife. I think all of you know, obviously, we're 60 days in it and the proverbial clock is ticking. Lots of discussion about various and sundry things, not a lot of decisions, per se; but a lot of very fast work ahead, and I just want to make sure the Commission is appropriately apprised of key issues affecting the Department.

I think for the purpose of this discussion, Mr. Chairman, I'll approach this in kind of a binary fashion and talk a little bit on the appropriation's side; and then I'll talk about some of the statutory and programmatic issues. Just as a point of departure and as a reminder, this is basically where we started in January from a budgetary perspective. In our Legislative Appropriation's Request, we had asked for $686 million over the biennium. The House and Senate had submitted their initial budget bills. They look a lot closer really than they are.

You know, as a reminder, our LAR reflected a roughly 4 percent discount right off the -- or reduction right off the top. So roughly $23 million, plus both the House and Senate budgets include a very aggressive estimate on federal funds, considerably more so than ours. And so, again, the numbers here don't quite tell the story.

We were pleased, of course, to see that in these difficult budget times, that our number of FTEs was held the same. So that was -- that was positive. But this was basically the starting point. Again, as a reminder, we had eight exceptional items that we had asked for above and beyond the base, wide range of activities. I'm just going to talk about these first four in the interest of time; but at the top of the list, of course, is our capital construction and deferred maintenance program. All of you know the huge backlog of deferred maintenance that we have. You know, literally three-quarters of a billion dollars across the Agency, if not more.

We had a very large appropriation this biennium; but that really was predicated on both the hope and expectations that we would have continued appropriations to address this backlog of deferred maintenance -- water, wastewater, utilities, bathrooms, all kinds of repair and renovation efforts -- plus as part of, for instance, a ten-year plan that we had submitted for our state parks, a plan to develop one new park each biennium; with the first one being, of course, the Palo Pinto Mountains State Park that we acquired in exchange for the old Eagle Mountain Lake State -- and state park. So we have deferred maintenance and capital construction plans for all of our divisions -- Inland, Coastal, Wildlife, State Park. This is a critically, critically important need.

Now that need, of course, was compounded by the fact -- and you see this on Exceptional Item No. 4 -- the weather-related damages that as y'all know, we suffered considerably from the floods in 2015 and 2016. Hit some of our largest urban and near urban and lake-based parks. Places like Lake Ray Roberts and Cedar Hill and Somerville and Lake Whitney. Also, places like Bastrop. So that need is, again, very real if we're going to make sure that those parks are brought fully back and open to, again, the record visitation that we're seeing in the parks.

Our second exceptional item, 31 and a half million for our Law Enforcement operations and capital transportation and equipment. This is bread-and-butter stuff. These are fuel budgets. These are maintenance budgets. These are travel budgets. These are addressing a very antiquated boat fleet that averages on age 19 plus years in which we had boats that wouldn't start or breakdown in the middle of rescue and life-saving operations, radios that don't communicate with other first responders because of the age. And so this is not glitter-and-glitz stuff. This is how we keep the trains running. So this 31 and a half million, very important to us. Particularly as our Law Enforcement officers are being asked to do much more emergency response, disaster relief, etcetera, on a scale that we haven't done before.

And then the last one that I'll just highlight, of course, is our State Park operations and that $23.9 million request over the biennium. And what's interesting about that, as in the current biennium, our full appropriated share of the sporting goods sales tax -- that 94 percent that we expected -- was all appropriated. Most of that increase, if not all of it, really came in capital funds to deal with this deferred maintenance issue that y'all know well inside our state parks; but there was really very little funding, if any, additional funding provided for the operations of our parks. And what we have seen is, is notwithstanding all of these were park closures, that visitation at the parks is just going through the roof. And so our growth in visitation over the last two years is about twice our long-term average, and we see that continue to grow. So the demand is very high. But each visitor, you know, there's consumables or extra utility. There's wear and tear. There's public safety related issues. There's impacts on vehicles and equipment, etcetera. And so we definitely need to account for this visitation and this pressure; and if all of that sporting goods sales tax was appropriated, that would help in a big way.

So, again, these were the eight exceptional items that we had highlighted and wanted to call your attention in particular to those top four. So, you know, where do we stand now at the high level?

We've done a lot of work with the -- and testimony in front of the House Appropriations Committee and Senate Finance and their various workgroups and subcommittees. Both Appropriation committees, we understand have sent proposed budget bills to the printer. You know, we expect both chambers to be voting on budget bills, you know, likely next week. So imminently.

As I think all of you know, there's a big gulf between the House and Senate budgets. They're roughly $5 billion apart and, you know, significant questions to resolve about whether or not the State does or does not tap into the Economic Stabilization Fund or the "Rainy Day Fund." So big issues that have to be resolved. So not really a surprise that at this juncture if you're coming out of that process flat right now, you're in about as good of shape as you can be, given cuts that are being looked at elsewhere. Couple of --

COMMISSIONER LEE: Flat off the LAR.

MR. SMITH: Flat off our LAR. Flat off the LAR, yeah.

You know, where we stand now roughly, both chambers roughly, 70 percent of the sporting goods sales tax that would otherwise be appropriated to the Department is proposed to be allocated. So, you know, $90 million there over the biennium that we hope could be available at least in whole or in part to address some of these capital construction and State Park operation needs. Again, really for all practical purposes, all exceptional items that we have were not adopted by either the House Appropriations or Finance Committee. So not terribly surprising.

You know, the House has at least tentatively rolled out a proposal to maybe use some of the "Rainy Day Fund" to address some border security related needs that would impact the Department. Also, that $49.2 million in weather-related repair. We don't know that that's going to happen, but there's been some discussion surrounding that. On the Senate side, we were concerned that coming out of Senate Finance Committee is a proposed reduction of $9 million to our local park grant programs, plus another $5 million dedicated rider. So that would reduce available grant funding to our local community partners by roughly $14 million over the biennium. So that's a concern to us.

So, obviously, we're watching this very closely, working on this all of the time, and look forward to engaging all of y'all as we go forward on this appropriation's process.

Let me shift, Mr. Chairman, to some of

the statutory related priorities and issues affecting the Department. Number of issues that the Commission and the Department identified as priorities going into the session that, if addressed, could -- we think -- substantially help the operation and the capitalization of the Department. So I'll spend a few minutes talking about these.

HB 51, having to do with oysters. We're going to go come back, by the way, in May and talk pretty extensively about oysters. Y'all know a lot of issues with that. This bill would add some more tools to the tool belt in terms of a license buy-back program and some additional enforcement options that we need to make sure that we're getting compliance on a resource that is under great, great pressure and stress.

HB 78 by Guillen goes back to this age-old issue of the sporting goods sales tax and is it or isn't dedicated and how does the Legislature ensure that it is dedicated so it is appropriately appropriated for use for state and local parks.

HB 48 by Guillen, this gets at kind of the issue that we've talked a lot about with the Commission and that is: How do we stabilize Fund 9? Y'all remember the issues that we've had with Fund 9 with these various directed expenditures exceeding our annual revenue collections and we're having to pay out of our cash balances in Fund 9 and we've had to take a number of steps to make sure that we don't go in the red and in working with leadership, got to this session so we could work with the Legislature to address some things. 448 does that. Right now by law -- and this goes back to 2003 -- the Department is required to transfer 15 percent of all of the revenue collected from boat registration and titling fees over to Fund 64. It's roughly $2.9 million a year. Chairman Guillen's bill would make that permissive, as opposed to mandatory. So it would just give the Department a little more flexibility to put that money wherever we need it most. It's not a lot, but it matters when it comes to Fund 9. And, again, as y'all know, sometimes Fund 64 is doing really well. Other times, Fund 9 is not. And this would just be a way to help level it out in a small way.

HB 3537 may seem obscure, but it is very important fiscally to the Agency. This gets to the issue of diversion of hunting and fishing license related revenue. As y'all know, the Department gets an appreciable amount of federal excise taxes that are paid for by hunters and anglers and that comes back as Dingell-Johnson and Pittman-Robertson grants to the state, which we can match on a three-to-one basis. You know, we get 50, 60, 70, 80 million dollars a year in funds from various federal sources. In order to be eligible to get those grants, State Legislators have to pass laws to preclude the diversion of revenue associated with the sale of hunting and fishing related licenses so that those funds can be only be used for intended purposes -- namely, fisheries and wildlife management and conservation law enforcement.

Last session, the Legislature -- and really inadvertently -- you know, they set up a statewide deferred maintenance account. And so all funding for agencies from the National Guard to the Facilities Commission to the Parks and Wildlife that were going to deferred maintenance was swept into a statewide account. That included roughly 8 or 9 million dollars of saltwater stamp money that we need for renovation of hatcheries.

The Fish and Wildlife Service ruled that a diversion. We disagreed with that interpretation because the funds were still going to be used exactly for what we asked for, for Robin and his team to utilize them for requisite engineering and design and repair related work; but the Service saw it differently. And so in exchange for promising to go to the Legislature and ask for some additional language to bolster what's called the ascent language, Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed to hold off on this. So Chairman Geren is carrying that bill. Again, very significant fiscal implications for us.

3781 by Phelan, this also is getting at this Fund 9 related issue. You know, we've got a lifetime license account. That funding is managed as an endowment. It's basically managed for cash and cash equivalence. The Department can only expend the interest off that account for a very narrow range of purposes. By the end of this year, we expect that endowment to reach roughly $27 million; and we think there's probably -- and by the way, it's growing at about a million to a million two a year. We think there's probably room to access some of that corpus and to change up some of that restrictive language so that we could use some of it for some one-time capital related needs and also be able to access more of that growth for, again, a wider range of needs. So this bill would help accomplish that. Again, part of that Fund 9 stabilization effort.

Last bill I'll mention, by Chairman Estes, has to do with also potentially opening up the freshwater fish stamp for more allowable uses. Right now, we can only use it for the construction or repair of hatcheries or the purchase of fish for stocking efforts like our winter trout stocking efforts that our Inland Fisheries team do so well across the state. Our Inland Fisheries team and our advisory committee thinks that maybe those stamp dollars could also be utilized effectively for various habitat related things, research, monitoring, and some other capital related things. So all of those bills have been filed and some of them have gotten hearings already and look forward to seeing them progress.

Host of other bills affecting the Department. I'm not going to go through all of these, but I want to call your attention to them categorically. The first one is what, you know, we just broadly call, you know, revenue impacting bills. And these bills all very well intentioned; but in the aggregate, basically either completely give away or discount fees for various demographic groups -- nonresidents, all veterans, people with any type of disabilities and their caregivers -- and provide, again, free hunting and fishing licenses or free entrance to state parks. Again, all very worthy on the surface.

The issue for us is if all of those were to pass, you know, it's a 65-million-dollar-a-year impact to the Department, which we simply can't sustain. And important to remember as an Agency whose financing depends upon basically a user base that pays for a huge portfolio of public benefits that any additional impacts to that revenue stream has got consequences to the services that we provide to the state as a whole and in the aggregate, these are very significant. So just want to call the Commission's attention again to potential fiscal impacts there.

Can't have a Legislative session unless you spend a lot of time talking about things that have four legs and a white tail. And so we've got a raft of deer breeder related bills that propose a variety of things from privatization to the ability to sell venison. Others address issues associated with the marking or tagging of deer, use of illegal drugs, issues with some of the rules that the Commission adopted as part of that package in the summer on the CWD front. So, again, wide raft of bills addressing breeder deer.

Other deer bills, one that frequently comes up that for religious purposes would give members of the Kickapoo tribe the ability to hunt antlerless deer year round for ceremonial and religious purposes. Another bill that would require the Department to implement basically a Mule deer/deer management permit -- like what we already have for our White-tail deer, deer management permit. Right now, the legislation is permissive. This would make this mandatory. So a number of bills there from a resource perspective.

Couple of bills on the state park's front that are worth calling your attention to. Yesterday, there was a hearing in the Senate on a proposed bill that would transfer Lions Municipal Golf Course from the University of Texas to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. That, as you might imagine, has received a lot of interest from people all around the state. Senator Estes went to great pains in laying out the bill to make it abundantly clear that this was not a Parks and Wildlife initiated idea and that the Department had nothing to do with it. That the Department was simply his vehicle or way to ensure that the golf course stayed an open space. So just want to make sure y'all are aware of that and be happy to answer any questions offline about that.

Also, Senator Kolkhorst has got a number of bills dealing with Washington on the Brazos Historic Site. On that historic site that we manage, there's really a great museum there called the Star of Texas Museum, which tells basically the history of the Texas Republic from 1836 to 1845 and it's operated by Blinn Junior College. Senator Kolkhorst is wanting to take a very holistic look at Washington on the Brazos, which, again, you know the motto is where Texas begins right there. And so these bills, in her estimation, are a way to help compel some conversations. So as you can see, she's proposed a wide range of potential outcomes here; and, obviously, we're in very active dialogue with Senator Kolkhorst about her various bills here.

I'm not going to talk about all of these, but our staff -- just so you know -- Intergovernmental Affairs, Harold and David Eichler and our Legal team and our Division staff are literally monitoring hundreds of bills that would affect the Department in some form or fashion. It is a very, very, very busy time for this Agency, and here are just some examples of that: You know, proposed Constitutional amendments that dedicates sporting goods sales tax; tax-free weekends on firearms and hunting supplies; hunter ed exemptions; you know, being able to shoot hogs and coyotes out of a hot-air balloon. I mean, it runs the gamut, to say the least.

These next two couple ones that I will spend a minute on: HCR 53 and SCR 4, by Chairman Nichols and Representative Gooden. This would propose to move the Game Warden Memorial Statue from Athens, where are we have it now at our Freshwater Fisheries Center Complex, right off the State Capitol grounds in front of the Sam Houston building, so kind of part of that area. We would love to see this happen. It would just give more prominence to the memorial honoring game wardens that have fallen in the line of duty; and I just think that would be a great addition to, again, that general area outside the Capitol fence, per se. But, again, right in front of the Sam Houston building where the Department has an office and would be very prominently featured; and so, obviously, we -- we're in support of that. Our Game Warden Association is working actively on that.

The next proposed House and Senate resolution by Chairman Bonnen and Chairman Hinojosa, basically a proposal to reaffirm their support of having State Fish and Wildlife Agencies assume responsibility for the management of Red Snapper out to 200 miles, as opposed to the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Council, which as y'all know, we've had a lot of issues with on the Snapper fisheries.

So, again, lots of bills that are out there affecting the Department. Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, I just wanted a chance to again highlight again where we stand on appropriations in some of these key statutory issues. And I think with that, let me stop and just see if there's any questions at all.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Any --

COMMISSIONER JONES: I have just a couple of questions. Are we -- on the Kolkhorst conversations about Washington on the Brazos, are we okay with what is being proposed or at least some of what is being proposed and are the conversations --

MR. SMITH: Sure. I think it's a great -- it's a great -- it's a great question. Really from our perspective, our team is doing a great job with the resources that have at Washington on the Brazos. And, you know, again, we've just go into -- we thought -- a new era in which more funding would be available for our park and historic sites so we could manage them to the level that our team has always aspired to do it.

At Washington on the Brazos, our team is working very closely with the friends group on a new expanded vision for the site, Independence Plaza. Our foundation has been working there to help acquire some new land to look at a new entrance and also help us invest, again, in some engineering and design work on, again, what we think would be a transformative renovation to that site. So we're very excited about that. So we obviously think because of all of the disciplines that are required to manage that site -- not only on the park site; but we've got, you know, all of our historians, our cultural resource specialists, our interpretive staff, our Infrastructure team, which has a lot of specialty on the team and historic sites, renovation and management, law enforcement and natural resource management -- that we've got the capabilities to continue to manage that site and take it up to the next level that we want to go to.

You know, the question about transferring the museum to the Department or the Historical Commission, I think our position on that, Commissioner, at the staff level at least is that if -- if, if, if -- the museum is going to be transferred from an entity away from Blinn to another State agency, we think it would probably make the most sense to fold it into our existing operations at the Department, again, because of suite of professional staff that we have that could help support it. Now, admittedly, we don't operate large museums. That's not part of our purview; but if it's going to be transferred to another State agency, there could be real value with potentially unifying that with, again, just singular Department management.

We already take care of the grounds. We've got Infrastructure staff to deal with water, wastewater, utility, regulatory compliance related issues, law enforcement, so forth, fee collection. We could envision simplified signage. Could envision programs that just better streamline and made more consistent interpretive stuff at Goliad, San Jacinto, Washington on the Brazos. So I think there's a real argument to be made there.

You know, obviously, there are other options that the Senator wants to consider. We respect those; but we just want to make sure that she's got a full understanding, again, I think of our capabilities here and what we can bring to the table if asked to do so.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay. Well, let me know if there's any assistance I can provide with --

MR. SMITH: You bet.

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- Senator Kolkhorst. She's -- I know her pretty well, and that's close to where I'm from.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, you bet, you bet. You know, in fairness to her, she wants what's best for that site. She loves Washington on the Brazos and she wants to see that flourish just like we do and so, you know, making assured that that happens is something we are squarely in agreement with and I think our team has put in place some plans that -- assuming we can secure the requisite funding -- would help that, again, just to flourish in ways that we haven't had a chance to see in recent years. So we would love to talk more about that with you, Commissioner.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Who runs San Antonio?

MR. SMITH: We do. So we manage the overall complex.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay.

MR. SMITH: And remember, that includes the Battleground, which our State Park team is responsible for managing. With respect to the monument, that is -- there is a museum inside the Monument --

COMMISSIONER JONES: Right.

MR. SMITH: -- that's managed by the San Jacinto Museum History Association, which has been a partner since really I think the monument was built; and they have been a great, great partner. I've got to tell you, they have been a terrific nonprofit partner. Work very closely with our team. And then, of course, we've got the Battleship there as well that our team manages and we get support from the Battleship Texas Foundation and other friends group; but we have the overarching responsibility for that site.

COMMISSIONER JONES: So couldn't that model work at Washington on the Brazos, or are there other challenges that make that model not exactly the same?

MR. SMITH: So, Commissioner, by that model, do you mean potentially engaging a nonprofit partner to help with that?

COMMISSIONER JONES: Yes.

MR. SMITH: You know, I think that's something that very well could be looked at. You know, I think it's worked very well with the monument in terms of the Museum History Association there. The Fredericksburg Museum of the Pacific War that is managed -- it's a fabulous museum which is managed by a nonprofit through an agreement with the Texas Historical Commission. You know, could something like that work as a public/private partnership between the Department and some kind of nonprofit for the museum or Blinn? Certainly, that's something that could be discussed as part of this as well. You're right.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Well, I just personally -- I'm not speaking for the whole board -- I would personally not want to get on the hook for maintaining a museum, since that's not really our core responsibility. If we can arrange to have a foundation do that, that's typically a better vehicle for running museums and --

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- I would not want to have to worry about all the funding issues that we're having to worry about now, and then have that museum be a constant pull on our limited finances.

MR. SMITH: You bet. Well, it's a very real issue. And, you know, financially just the core operations of the museum, you know, coupled with the obvious capital repairs that come with a building of that size and all of the important pieces and artifacts that are in that museum and you're right. I mean, we don't operate large museums. That's not what we do.

Are there models by which we could oversee that and administer that as part of an effective administration of the overall site consistent with our telling of that critically important part of Texas history? Yeah, I think there's some viable options out there; and, again, I think that's worthy of a much deeper dive. Trying to do that in the next 60 days strikes me as ambitious and so, you know, hopefully we could continue these conversations after the session.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Yes.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Can you give a little color in SB 210, the repelling amending Agency rules before implementing new rules and increased costs?

MR. SMITH: You know, that's -- so I --

COMMISSIONER LEE: How does that work? What are they thinking?

MR. SMITH: I think that's the two-for-one rule. That for any new rule that's proposed, two more have to come off the books. What we haven't had to chance to talk with Senator Kolkhorst about is does she intend the kind of annual, routine, statutorily required, you know, game and fish related laws to be included as part of that. With your permission, I may ask Ann --

COMMISSIONER LEE: Is that really a two-for-one, or just one that if there are -- I assume there's a cost benefit analysis that's done on all the rule changes?

MR. SMITH: Uh-huh.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Is -- doesn't this just require it to be cost neutral, or is it a really a two-for one?

MR. SMITH: Ann, do you know? Or, Harold?

I'm sorry. Let me ask Ann or Harold to come up and answer those questions. Sorry, I don't know the answer, Commissioner.

MS. BRIGHT: I'm Ann -- good morning.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Is it likely to become law?

MS. BRIGHT: I can't answer the last question. I'm Ann Bright, Chief Operating Officer. And there are actually several bills -- this is one of them -- that affect rulemaking. You know, and unfortunately, I'm not -- I don't remember if this is one that just affects bills that increase costs. There are obviously a lot of questions about these because the way rules are done, you know, they're done by section. And when they say "rule," do they mean each section?

So I think if that was the case, that could affect us or not. I mean, we don't do -- we do new rules a lot of times in reorganizing and like we did some of the new CWD rules; but for the most part, most of our rules are simply amendments to existing rules.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Okay.

MS. BRIGHT: I can give you -- let me give you some specific information later --

COMMISSIONER LEE: If we can look at analysis now, irrespective of what this bill or law would require, that we're looking at what the implementation costs might be and to try to level those out, are we doing any of that?

MS. BRIGHT: You mean in terms of if we adopt a rule that increase costs to the Agency or to the --

COMMISSIONER LEE: To the --

MS. BRIGHT: -- the regulated --

MR. SMITH: I'm sure we do it like for small business.

MS. BRIGHT: We're required to do an analysis for every rule about impacts on -- first of all, we have to do a fiscal impact statement. We're also required to do a required -- an analysis of the impact on small business. The bulk of our regulated community is a small business and so we do a pretty thorough analysis on what the -- what the anticipated costs are of compliance, as well as alternatives considered to reduce those costs. We are not required to analyze indirect costs, which, you know, there are a lot of -- for example, if we closed a season in a county, if might have an indirect cost on the local business; but we're not required to analyze those indirect costs. Is that kind of what you're looking at?

COMMISSIONER LEE: No. I just think it might be useful on some of the rules that we consider, if we were -- had the benefit of some of the cost benefit work that we're already doing -- right, it sounds like? Either there's a requirement or we're doing -- electing to do it ourselves. It might be useful information. Of course, if you begin to do it, then you're -- then you start producing it every time and it becomes the issue rather than the rule.

MS. BRIGHT: And are you talking about on -- and this may be something that we can talk about in terms of how to do that. I mean, we -- you know, like I said, we do that on every rule.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Does this Commission get the benefit of that work? Do --

MS. BRIGHT: It's in the materials that -- every time -- whenever we send a rule to the Texas Register, the proposal and it's -- I mean, there's some examples in your materials --

COMMISSIONER LEE: Not necessarily the analysis. Just the point that it was done.

MS. BRIGHT: Well, actually the whole -- the analysis is in the proposal.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Whether it has an impact on our fiscal --

COMMISSIONER LEE: Right.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: -- law enforcement impacts and it has small business impacts and local -- it says that it's determined for the first three years, whatever the time --

MS. BRIGHT: The first, I think, it's -- yeah, yeah -- it's five years, I think.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Five years that the implementation either will or won't have any affect and that's in all these.

MS. BRIGHT: And if you'd like us to highlight that a little bit more in the materials you get, we're happy to do that; but every time we send a rule to the Texas Register -- and the materials that you get hopefully before you even approve proposals, but always before you approve an adoption, should include the full rule package. That includes not only the text of the rule; but a fairly extensive preamble that talks about what the rule does, as well as all of these various analyses.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: One question. The navigational district authority expansion, is that anything to do with some of our issues?

MR. SMITH: You know, I think just we continue to monitor that, a couple pieces of the legislation that would seek to expand some authorities for navigation districts along the coast. Obviously, you know, y'all are familiar with at least one of the issues we've had fairly prominently with a navigation district regarding oyster leases and so just making sure that we're monitoring that to make sure we understand what impacts, if any, those pieces of legislation would have on the Department.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Any other questions?

Thank you for your presentation.

Work Item No. 3, Financial Overview, Mr. Mike Jensen.

MR. JENSEN: Good morning, Commissioners. I'm Mike Jensen, Division Director for Financial Resources Division. I have a brief presentation. I'll probably move through it kind of quickly. So please feel free to pause me and ask questions if you have specific questions; but I'm basically going to review for you our three primary revenue streams, and then show you the budget adjustments of where we are through January.

I'm going to start first and give you a snapshot of a full cycle of the State Park's revenue from the prior fiscal year. You've seen this before, so I'm not going to spend a lot of time on it. I just want to point that for State Parks, the revenue stream is primarily backloaded. The first six months account for 39 percent of the revenue. The last six months account for 61 percent. And for all three of these revenue streams, last fiscal year was the best year of record for all three, including State Parks. The best months typically are July, March, and June. If you look at where we are for the first five months of this fiscal year -- September, October, November, December -- they all performed the prior year. In fact, October was 21 percent ahead; November was 30 percent ahead. January did not perform well compared to January. So we fell about six and a half percent. But remember, this is the first half of the year that accounts for less of the revenue. We have the big months ahead of us. The good news is we're ahead by about 12.9 percent year to date. And if you look at the average comparison for the same period for the prior four fiscal years, at 18.5 million through January is great. If you compare it to where we were back in fiscal year '13, we're about 33 percent better than '13; 31 percent better than '14; 21 percent better than '15; and almost 13 percent better than last year. So that's pretty good. So if we can match the last fiscal year for the last six months of this fiscal year, we will have, again, another year of record. So hopefully we'll have a good last six months.

This slide gives you a graphic comparison where we are in '17 compared to '16, and we're up almost 13 percent or 2.1 million. And this table shows you the variances and you can see that for every category, we're doing very well so far through January. The entrance fees, about 29 percent of the revenue; facilities, 38 percent; concessions are about 12 percent; park passes are 20 percent; and miscellaneous is 1 percent. And visitation is up about 12 and a half percent from total visits; about 13 percent on paid visits. So we're doing well so far.

Boat revenue, this follows a similar pattern as the State Park revenue; but it's even more heavily backloaded. A greater portion of the revenue occurs in the last six months as opposed to the first six months. About 31 percent of the revenue is recorded in the first six months; and the last six months, about 69 percent of the revenue. The best months are ahead of us. So when we meet back in May, we'll get an idea of what March is looking like and what April is looking like.

Best months typically are June, May, and April. First five months, got to remember '17 was the best year of record. Even though that this is a funding stream that's relatively flat when you compare it over the past really 10 to 15 years, September was behind, October was behind slightly, November was about 10 and a half percent ahead, and then January is about 4 percent ahead; but these are some of the smaller revenue collection months. So the big months are ahead of us, April through June.

If we look at this snapshot point in time through January, we are behind '16 by about 4 percent; but we're ahead of fiscal year '15 by 6 percent. We're ahead of 14 by 9 percent, and ahead of fiscal '13 by about 6.9 percent.

Comparing '17 against '16 through January, the revenue is down by 4.2 percent, about $221,000. And variances are available on this slide. You can see that the total revenue is down 4.2 percent and, again, last year was the best year of record. So if you compare it to the '13, '14, and '15, we're actually doing better than those years. Registrations right now are behind 5.2 percent. Titles are behind 1.9 percent. In a full cycle, we expect registration fees to account for approximately two-thirds of the total boat revenue. Right now on this slide, you can see that sales tax through January is about 15 percent of the revenue; title is about 24 percent; registration is about 61 percent. We expect all of these to pick up as we move forward through the peak months, the last six months.

License revenue that we get through hunting and fishing license or permits is very much front-loaded, and I think you're aware of this. In fact, anywhere from 42 to 45 percent of the total revenue for any given year happens in the first month because most of our licenses are designed that way. We only have one license right now, the fishing license, which is a year-from-purchase license. So the first six months for license revenue accounts for approximately 76 percent of total revenues. The last six months is about 24 percent of the revenues.

The peak period for the combination and the hunting licenses are September through December. Fishing license peak months are September; and then we have a March through July where fishing revenues will grow, as you can see on the graph. For the first five months, you can see that September held about even with last year. October was about 6 percent ahead of last year. November was about 11 percent ahead. December dropped about 7 percent behind last December, and January is about three and a half percent. Year to date, we're still ahead.

For this same period, if you look at the prior four license years, the general trend is a trend of growth, which is good. In a 12-month cycle, that growth has been approximately 2.8 percent a year, about 2.7 million a year. We're a little bit behind right now through January; but hopefully as the fishing season picks up, we will get back on track with that average.

Total revenue is up 1.5 percent, about 1.16 million; and the variances are on this slide. If you combine resident and nonresident revenues, fishing is up about 5 and a half percent; and when you combined resident and nonresident hunting, we're down about five-tenths of a percent. Combination licenses are up about 1 percent. Again, the best months for fishing are ahead of us; and so hopefully, we'll see some growth in that area.

The last slide that I have for you is to record and reflect the budget adjustments that took place since the January meeting from the period of November 30th through January 31st. We have five broad categories of adjustments that I'm summarizing here for you. As of November 30th, 2016, our adjusted budget was 583.9 million. You can see below that we have federal and UB. That's about -- out of the 26.42 of total adjustments that we made, that's about 65 percent of those. Most of that is related to wildlife restoration, cooperative endangered species funding, sport fish restoration, state wildlife grants.

The second line item, appropriated receipts and UB, that's about 13 percent of this total adjusted amount of 3.47 million. That's primarily from donations and reimbursements. The third item on there is 160,000 of capital and capital construction UB. The fourth item is operating unexpended balances, UB, and that's 5.18 million. That's about 20 percent of the total of the adjustments. And the final adjustment item is we just true-up each month the employee fringe benefits and unemployment amounts, and that's $491,709. So the total adjustments is 26.42 million. So the adjusted budget through the end of January, January 31st, is 610.32 million.

I told you I was going to be quick. That's what I have for you for the revenue update and the budget update. I'd be happy to take questions if you have any, and I think Carter already covered where we are through the Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 1.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Any questions?

Okay. Mike, thank you for your presentation.

We'll move on to Work Session Item no. 4, Internal Audit Update, Cindy Hancock.

MS. HANCOCK: Good morning.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Good morning.

MS. HANCOCK: For the record, I'm Cindy Hancock, Director of Internal Audit; and I am going to give you a brief audit update. Since I missed our last meeting due to illness, I would like to inform you that we have completed all audits from our fiscal year '16 internal audit plan. We issued the final three Law Enforcement audits and the two State Park audits; in addition, we have completed and issued the travel voucher audit.

For fiscal year '17 internal audit plan, we've completed and issued the contract audit, which resulted in no significant issues. It's not changing here. There we go. Other fiscal year '17 audit projects that are in progress include the State Park fiscal control audits, of which we've completed and issued 14 of the 32 scheduled reports. In addition, we've completed but not issued five State Park fiscal control audits and seven Law Enforcement audits. Those will be coming forth pretty soon. So we still have 13 State Park and five Law Enforcement audits left to perform this year.

The follow-up audit is ongoing. However, during November through February, we followed up on the implementation status of ten recommendations, with eight having been implemented. Management provided new implementation dates and are currently working on the two that were not implemented. This leaves 16 internal and four external recommendations remaining in progress as of February.

The licensed agent -- the license agent requirement audit and the IT audit have begun, and both are in the planning stage and we've selected the license system for our IT audit this year. Also, our federal grant audit has just entered the planning phase just a few days ago. So our fiscal year '17 internal audit plan looks like this to date: Three audits are in the fieldwork stage, three are in the planning stage, and one audit -- the contract audit -- and two special projects have been completed.

For external audits, the Department of Interior Office of Inspector General conducted a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service federal grant audit; and we just received the draft report last Friday. Management is currently working on responses and will be working with the Fish and Wildlife Service and I'll provide you an update once that final report has been issued, which will be in about 90 days. If you would like a draft of that report, I can send it if you let me know.

COMMISSIONER JONES: If you don't mind, I would like to see the draft, if that's all right, Cindy. Appreciate it.

MS. HANCOCK: All right. I'll send it right out to you. Sure.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay.

MS. HANCOCK: This concludes my presentation, and I'd be glad to address any questions.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Thank you very much for your presentation.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Cindy, have the divisions stopped cringing when the audit team shows up now?

MS. HANCOCK: No, and they probably never will.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay. Do they -- but they don't greet you with things like, "Oh, my God, not you guys again"? At least you've gotten past that?

MS. HANCOCK: That's true. That's true.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay. Well, I congratulate your team. I know, you know, what you do is difficult; but I appreciate what you're doing.

MS. HANCOCK: And I appreciate your support. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Thank you. And I appreciate the division's support. Brent and his group, Colonel, I know we've been all over your guys over the last year or so and looking into things; but really appreciate all the help and work that staff is putting into getting clean audit reports. Yeah.

MS. HANCOCK: They're doing well.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Doing very well. Very, very well. Thank you.

MS. HANCOCK: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: And it's always nice to see Commissioner Jones' e-mail saying "everything is okay."

COMMISSIONER JONES: Those are good. I like to write those.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: All right. We regard to Work Session Item No. 5, Regulations Rule Review, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes to and Completed Rule Review of Chapters 53, 57, 58, 59, and 65 and then 69, unless anyone has any questions or comments, I'm going to place the regulations rule review on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment. Any comments? Questions?

All right. I'm going to place that on the Thursday agenda.

Work Session Item No. 6, Disease Detection and Response Rules, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes to the Texas Register: Chronic Wasting Disease Zone Rules; and, B, Movement of Deer. Mr. Mitch Lockwood, please make your presentation.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Mitch Lockwood. I'm the Big Game Program Director. And this morning, I request permission to publish in the Texas Register proposed amendments to the rules pertaining to our Chronic Wasting Disease zones or CWD zones in Texas, as well as an amendment to the comprehensive CWD rules that were adopted by this Commission last June.

The slide before you illustrates the CWD zones that were in effect during this past hunting season, the 2016-17 hunting season. To refresh your memories, those areas that are shaded in red were our containment zones and those areas that are shaded in yellow were our surveillance zones. You may recall that we did not establish a containment zone in that area of concern that includes portions of southern Bandera County, eastern Uvalde County, and western Medina County that I'll probably refer to as the Medina County area during this presentation.

We did not establish a containment zone in this particular area because the only places in which CWD had been detected at that time were within permitted deer breeding facilities or their associated release sites and all of those facilities had been issued hold orders or quarantine orders and had requirements associated with those orders that satisfied the needs for a containment zone; but the Commission did establish a surveillance zone, and we worked very closely with elected officials and landowners and other interested parties in that area to coordinate an aggressive voluntary surveillance effort during this past hunting season.

And that effort produced 774 samples. Now, we actually established check stations in this zone the year prior during the 2015-16 hunting season and had already started a more aggressive surveillance effort after the detection of CWD in that index facility in the northeastern part of this zone; but that effort in the 2015-16 season was not -- not -- it was a much less coordinated effort than the effort we had this past seasons; and so in that prior year, we had collected 123 samples.

This next slide illustrates all 897 samples that were collected by TPWD staff during the past two hunting seasons. Most of these samples were collected from hunter-harvested deer, but you'll notice by the location of several of the blue dots on this map that we also collected samples from quite a few road kills in this area as well during that period of time. I think it's very important to note that this map does not give you a complete picture of the CWD surveillance in this particular zone. As you're well aware, there are some properties within this zone in which CWD has been detected and under the quarantine orders they've been issued, they do have mandatory surveillance requirements for any hunter-harvested deer on their sites and they're responsible for submitting those samples to the lab and having them tested. And so this map does not include those samples during the 2015-16 hunting season. Those sites produced about 220 samples that could be added to this map, and we anticipate that they've collected at least that many samples again during the 2016-17 hunting season.

The red star on this map indicates the location of one of our most recent CWD findings. That effort that produced those 774 samples this past season did result -- or did allow for the detection and hopefully the early detection of CWD in a free-ranging White-tail deer and it was -- that was harvested in this particular area. And that particular deer was a one-and-a-half-year-old White-tail buck. It was harvested on December the 11th, 2016, on a 785-acre low-fenced property. We had seven hunter-harvest samples submitted from that property and our staff also collected three road kills on the county road or farm-to-market road that borders that ranch.

This particular deer was harvested just less than three miles to the east of the closest facility or ranch in which CWD had previously been detected. About three miles from what we call Facility No. 4, the fourth facility in which the disease was detected, and about five miles to the east of what's referred to as CWD Positive Facility No. 3. This deer did not have any ear tags; any, you know, indication that this deer was raised in captivity.

That finding resulted in the surveillance zone becoming a containment zone under emergency rulemaking this past January, and the voluntary surveillance and carcass movement restrictions became mandatory for the remainder of the MLDP season. These immediate and necessary temporary rules were put in place to protect the public resource until we could come to you with a proposal for formal rulemaking.

For the benefit of some relatively new Commissioners, the Executive Director does have the authority to engage in emergency rulemaking when it is determined that a species regulated by the Commission is in immediate danger; but the emergency rules have a limited lifespan, and staff must initiate formal rulemaking to replace those temporary rules, which is what I'm presenting this morning.

The proposal that I'm presenting this morning will include amendments to the delineations of the CWD zones; but they also include amendments to the rules that are associated with these zones, and we'll begin by discussing the latter.

I'm going to share with you on these next couple of slides a table that's going to increase in the number of rows as I progress through this presentation and this table is going to have three columns. The first column will show an activity or a requirement and the second and third columns will indicate whether or not that activity is authorized or required for surveillance zones -- excuse me, for the containment zones and surveillance zones respectively. I'll begin also with a refresher of what our current rules currently authorize or require.

So currently, CWD sampling is required. Mandatory testing of hunter-harvested deer and carcass movement restrictions are required for any deer harvested within any of these zones in the State of Texas -- any containment zone or any surveillance zone. Trapping activities of what I'll refer to as free-ranging deer, which basically means any deer that is not held in captivity under the authority of a deer breeding permit, trapping activity of these free-range deer is not authorized in a containment zone or in a surveillance zone. However, we do authorize the introduction of deer into a surveillance zone under the authority of a Triple T permit. We do not authorize the introduction of deer into a containment zone under the authority of the any permit. No introduction of deer is authorized in a containment zone, and maybe this would be a good time to explain the reasoning for that.

This dates back to when CWD was first detected in the Hueco Mountains back in 2012; and at that time and ever since then, staff and members of our CWD task force and other interested parties have felt very strongly that we do not want to artificially increase the number of disease hosts in a containment zone. That would make our containment strategy more challenging than it already is, and I'll touch on that here a little bit more as I proceed through this presentation.

Our current rules also do not allow for the establishment of new deer breeding facilities within a containment zone, but they do allow for the establishment of deer breeding facilities within a surveillance zone. And these next three rows that just entered the slide, involve the movement of breeder deer -- the movement of breeder deer into the zone, the movement of breeder deer out of a zone, and movement of breeder deer just within the zone. And the yellow highlights are -- or the rows that you'll want to focus your attention on, the yellow indicates the activities that we are proposing amendments to, to the rules.

So currently, let's just focus on the -- I mean, the containment zone here for a minute. The only movement that is allowed of live deer into, out of, or within a containment zone is breeder deer that are located in facilities with a TC 1 status may be released onto the adjacent release site that's under the same ownership as the breeding facility. That's the only movement currently allowed, and that's within a containment zone. As you'll see on this slide, there's no movement authorized into the zone or out of the zone.

For the surveillance zone, TC 1 facilities are allowed to move deer in -- move to bring deer -- let me -- let me rephrase that. Facilities with TC 1 status are authorized to transfer deer out of a surveillance zone, just like deer breeders that are located elsewhere in Texas; but TC 2 facilities are not allowed to move deer out of a surveillance zone. We do allow movement of deer within a surveillance zone. Whether you have TC 1 status or TC 2 status, there are no restrictions on the movement within -- of breeder deer within that zone.

And then finally, DMP is not -- DMP activities are not authorized within a containment zone. We do authorize those activities within a surveillance zone. However, any deer that is detained within a DMP facility, must be released onto that adjacent release site; and the reason I emphasize that is, is over the years it has become common practice for the holder of a DMP permit to introduce a breeder buck into a DMP facility just for breeding purposes. Some people refer to it as a "loaner" buck. It breeds does in that DMP pen and then that buck is transferred back to the originating deer breeding facility or another deer breeding facility.

Well, because of the concern that is associated with a surveillance zone, we do not authorize that a breeder deer to return to any deer breeding facility; but rather all of those deer be released on that site. So again, what you see here in the rows that are not shaded in yellow, we do not propose any amendments to those rules. As I advance to this next slide, you'll see a proposed amendment to the -- regarding the movement of breeder deer into zones. In fact, we propose to allow the movement of breeder deer into both containment zones and surveillance zones.

If you remember back on the third row where it shows the movement of Triple -- deer moving into a surveillance zone by Triple T permit, that is currently authorized and we are proposing to also authorize the movement of breeder deer directly to release sites that are located within a surveillance zone.

I shared with you earlier that we have concern with increasing the number of disease hosts within these zones. In -- that concern is really greatest for a containment zone. We really don't want to artificially increase the number of disease hosts. However, we are proposing to allow people to bring deer into -- breeder deer -- into a containment zone, but we propose that the harvest on these sites, on these release sites, and that season immediately following that liberation be equal to or greater than the number of deer that they introduced.

We received this request to amend this rule to address practices where people purchase bucks for hunting purposes and for the purposes of hunting them that season. So this would allow them to do that without artificially -- I'll say without artificially resulting in a net gain in population size.

We also propose to allow some more movement of deer within a containment zone. Remember under our current rule, the only movement that's allowed there is the facilities with TC 1 status can release onto their own adjacent properties. Well, we're now proposing for TC 1 facilities to be able to transfer deer anywhere within that same containment zone. So to other deer breeding facilities or to other release sites within that containment zone.

We're also proposing to allow facilities with TC 2 status to be able to transfer deer within a zone, within a containment zone; but specifically to their adjacent properties under the same ownership. But we also propose that this be allowed for the TC 2 facilities after the TC 2 facilities provide not-detected tonsil biopsy test results for any deer that are to be released and that those samples be collected no more than 60 days prior to the release of those deer.

But before I advance, I should point out one thing to you. If we go back to that first row highlighted in yellow where I recommended -- where staff are proposing that while deer may be transferred into a containment zone, the harvest must be equal to or greater than the number of deer brought in. We did receive a request from members of our CWD task force to include a provision that would say "Unless otherwise authorized by a wildlife management plan." In other words, perhaps if there's a situation where you already have a very, very low density of deer, a wildlife management plan allow for the release of those animals with the hope of increasing that population; but at this time, staff still have a great deal of concern with any artificial increase in the number of -- within that population.

So again, this slide before you illustrates the current containment zone for this Medina County area. The red stars indicate the approximate location of CWD confirmations within permitted deer breeding facilities or their associated release sites. The blue star indicates the approximate location of that free-ranging White-tail deer in which CWD was confirmed. And now I will advance to the other part of this proposal, which is proposed amendments to the delineations of this these zones.

Staff propose to reduce the geographic extent of that containment zone -- which, again, is the area shown in red on this slide -- and to reduce the extent to an area that would extend five miles from the location of a free-ranging White-tail deer in which CWD was detected and two miles from the boundary of any property in which CWD has been detected in a breeding facility or associated release site. And staff propose to designate the remainder of that current zone as a surveillance zone, which is illustrated in yellow or shaded in yellow on this map before you.

Now, I'm sure you notice there on the west side of this map where the proposed containment zone extends beyond the proposed surveillance zone, which is a concern. This aerial imagery shows us that the Saginaw River is in close proximity to the western boundary of this proposed surveillance zone. And I'll turn around and use a pointer on this careen at the back of the room to show the Saginaw River. It flows there on that west side. And staff believe that this would provide a suitable boundary for the western boundary for that surveillance zone.

If you notice, that Saginaw River does intersect Highway 187 and Highway 90, which are already -- form the boundaries, the western and southern boundaries of our surveillance zone. So as I advance to this next slide, you'll see that staff propose to extend that surveillance zone out to the Saginaw River, which would provide a recognizable boundary for this zone and staff believe that it's very, very important to have easily defined, easily recognizable boundaries for our hunters to always know whether or not they're hunting within a zone in which testing requirements apply and carcass movement restrictions apply. That would be very difficult to achieve within a zone that has invisible boundaries. You may ask: Well, why wouldn't that same concern apply to a containment zone? Why is it okay for a containment zone to have invisible boundaries?

Well, if we think about who these rules affect, the rule that affects the large number of customers out there, the rules that involve mandatory testing of hunter-harvested deer and carcass movement restrictions. It would be very, very difficult to have hunters understand whether or not these rules apply to them without easily recognizable boundaries. But if you think about the rules that are unique to a containment zone, that area shaded in red, those rules affect a very, very small number of customers. And in this case, we believe it's four customers, in addition to the sites in which CWD is already known to exist. And we can simply notify these four customers that they would fall within this zone delineation and how the rules would affect them as we move forward.

I should note that there were some members of our task force, of the CWD task force, that did express concern for any expansion of the surveillance zone to the west or anywhere for that matter; but for the reasons I just shared with you, staff do recommend that we do expand that zone to the Saginaw River with this proposal.

Now, I would like to shift our attention to the Panhandle. Staff propose to slightly extend the eastern boundary of the surveillance zone in the Panhandle, as I advance to this next slide, around the cities of Dumas and Amarillo; and the reason for this, is we -- this change would allow hunters in this area to transport whole carcasses directly to processing facilities or taxidermists that are located within the eastern outskirts of Dumas and Amarillo.

And finally, for this part of my presentation, we also propose to amend the amount of time for which hunters have to submit samples to a check station. Our current rule requires that the unfrozen head be submitted to a check station within 24 hours of harvest. This can be difficult to comply with. In some cases, these are large distances in which hunters have to travel sometimes on consecutive days if they've had successful hunts or their hunt party anyway has successful hunts. And staff recognize that some more time could be allowed without compromising the quality of the sample; and after visiting with members of our CWD task force, staff recommend that we extend that period of time to 48 hours. In addition, staff recommend that we have the ability to extend that even further upon request from hunters. So there may be times where the forecast is for the temperatures to stay cool for several consecutive days in which we could authorize those hunters, in writing, to an extended time beyond this 48-hour extension even before they bring samples to the lab.

Now, this concludes the part of my presentation that involves or proposes amendments to Division 1 of Chapter 65 Subchapter B. And with my final slide this morning, I propose amendments to Division 2 of Chapter 65 Subchapter B, which is our comprehensive CWD rules that were adopted by this Commission last June; and this amendment pertains to samples that are lost at a diagnostic laboratory. A deer breeder submits CWD samples to a lab and after the lab confirms receipt and the samples are subsequently lost, our current rules -- well, I'll say when that -- in the event that that happens, that could affect the movement qualified status and even the transfer category status of some breeders. There are some instances in which it could affect those statuses, and the current rules do not allow for breeders -- again, it depends on the situation; but there are some situations in which there would be breeders who drop in transfer category status and the current rules would not allow them to regain their transfer category status -- that upper level, that TC 1 status -- any time soon. And so staff propose an amendment that would not affect the facility's status that would otherwise be affected by a sample that was lost at the diagnostic laboratory, provided that their substitute samples -- that are currently authorized in rule -- are submitted to a diagnostic lab within 45 days following the expiration of their reporting year.

So these samples could be lost at the diagnostic lab at the beginning of a report year; but we would propose to amend this rule to allow that deer breeder to wait until the conclusion of that report year and then if necessary, then go collect their substitute samples and submit them to the lab and give them 45 days to do that. And the reason that we would propose that is because it's possible if this were to occur at the beginning of a report year, there may be enough natural mortalities that occur in that facility that that breeder could have tested and still achieve the 80 percent testing requirement to maintain their status without having to go through the expense of antemortem testing to make up for these lost samples.

So we propose to just wait, let them live that year through and see what that happens that year; and in the event they need some antemortem substitutes, provide them 45 days to submit those to the lab. And that concludes my presentation. I know there was a lot of information there; and I may take for granted the complexity of it, from time to time. So please feel free to ask me any questions that you may have.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Mr. Chairman, may I ask a quick question?

How prevalent is the lost samples in the facilities?

MR. LOCKWOOD: There's been one instance, to my knowledge, of lost samples. And I'll just say there's been one instance of it. There were a whole box of samples that were shipped from our lab in Texas, the TVMDL, to Wisconsin who was helping test, I'll say, the overflow samples. There was such a backlog at TVMDL, that they would farm out some of these samples to two other labs; and one of the boxes that was received in Wisconsin was subsequently lost and there were 49 samples in that box. Most breeders affected had just one sample that was lost. There was one individual who lost six.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay. I guess is there a -- I don't know what the issue was, but has there been something put in place to ensure that samples aren't lost? Because that's kind of a big deal if you lose samples of these --

MR. LOCKWOOD: It's a very big deal. I'm not sure how to respond to that, Commissioner. I don't know what happened either, and our friends at TVMDL can't explain it either. They take it very seriously. I know our partners at TVMDL, the Texas A&M Veterinarian Medical Diagnostic Laboratory, take it very seriously and I don't know what those measures might be; but they have assured us that this is not something they take lightly and certainly, they're going to do their best to ensure that doesn't happen again.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Do we need to send our audit team over there? Because we'll figure it out, and we'll give them some recommendations.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Ms. Hancock?

MR. SMITH: Don't swing at that pitch, Mitch.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Any other questions?

If there's no further discussion, I'll authorize staff to publish proposed Chronic Wasting Disease zone rules and movement of deer rules in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.

Thank you, Mitch.

Work Session Item No. 7, Statewide Recreational and Commercial Fishing Proclamation, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Rules. Ken, please make your presentation.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Good morning, Commissioners. My name is Ken Kurzawski, the Inland Fisheries Division; and I'm here today to once again go over our regulation proposals for freshwater fishing and to give you some -- summarize some public comments we've received over the last few months.

The first one was Bedford Boys Ranch. A small lake in Bedford, in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. That lake was recently drained and renovated and local staff are working with the City there to work on fish habitat, access, and stocking. One of our concerns there, bass and sunfish are easily harvested in those small lakes. We do want to provide some chance -- opportunity for people to catch fish there. So we are proposing to change that to catch-and-release only for Largemouth and Smallmouth bass. We will continue to stock the catfish and trout into that lake for -- to give people opportunity to harvest some fish.

Next on Devils River, that's one of our most unique rivers in Texas, conditioned to go -- for paddling. People go there for Smallmouth bass fishing. We stocked Smallmouth bass into Lake Amistad in the late 70s, early 80s. Those fish came up the Devils River and established a reproducing population. We were -- most of that river was under the statewide bass regulations for Largemouth and Smallmouth, which was a 14-inch minimum length limit and five-fish daily bag; but we did have a special length limit since 1994 for Smallmouth bass, 18-inch minimum and a three-fish daily bag; and that was from Baker's Crossing at State Highway 163 down to Dolan Falls and that was put in there to maintain the quality of that Smallmouth bass population.

Looking at the current status of that, anglers and the outfitters and the local area residents are reporting declines in at least the ability to catch bass. Over the last few years, we've had more publicity, more outfitters. We've been working to improve river access to that and that's allowing more people to get on the river. That's resulted in some increased -- certainly increased fishing pressure and maybe more harvest on those fish. That's a difficult river to sample, the remote location. Some of the information that we have been able to attain, show the growth of the population is good. Although, we have some decreases in the Smallmouth bass angler catch rate samplings and a little bit in growth.

What we are proposing on the Devils is to replace the existing harvest regulations with catch-and-release for Smallmouth and Largemouth bass; and that will go in effect from Baker's Crossing there at State Highway 163 down to the confluence of Big Satan Creek, which is on the south end of or our Dan A. Hughes State Natural Area. That has a distance of 38 miles. What we're hoping to do there is to maintain the bass abundance and keep the angling success up and hopefully protect against some potential overharvest as this river becomes more popular. Also, catch-and-release kind of fits or management strategy there for our properties, the State Natural Areas, to kind of minimal impacts and make them more of a wilderness-type experience and it also does address some of the stakeholder concerns there in the local area.

Next, Kirby Lake. It's 740-acre reservoir in Abilene. City of Abilene had some ordinances limiting fishing to pole and line and various other gear. Those were passed as a City ordinance. So they were not enforceable for our game wardens. There was a lot of confusion about just the -- on what was the status of those and the enforceability and the City removed those in December of 2016.

The reservoir is subject to some water level fluctuations, but over -- the last time it came up, has produced some excellent catfishing, including some large Blue catfish over 30 inches and a very abundant Channel catfish population. In 2011, we put a special regulation on there to try to get anglers to harvest some of those smaller catfish and that -- there's a 50-fish bag with five fish over 20 inches and that has still maintained some good catfishing there.

Since that regulation was sort of in doubt in people's mind, they weren't using many of the methods elicited here -- jug lines, throw lines, and trotlines -- and our proposal there was to prohibit the use of those in trying to maintain the population, especially those larger Blue catfish. Certain times of the year, those methods -- especially jug lines -- are very -- can be very effective in catching the large Blue catfish.

Finally, the last change is for Alabama bass that was previously considered a subspecies of Spotted bass. We use the American Fisheries Society names of fishes for our own official nomenclature, and the name was changed. It was declared a separate species, Alabama bass. We'll add that to the game fish definition -- Alabama bass to game fish definition -- and also add that to the statewide bass limits. And also, we need to adjust the regulation in Alan Henry.

Alan Henry was the only reservoir in Texas that we stocked some of those fish back in the 90s and we do have a population there and a special regulation there. So we'll make those adjustments.

Going on to the public comment summary, these were all of our regulations and proposals. We do public -- we did a few public hearings, take online comments. We did -- certainly take e-mails, phone calls, and we also do an online webinar to get the word out to the people. For most of them, not too much opposition, just looking at the ones with the lower numbers of opposition. The Devils River is the one that we did have a few. Most of those people were generally in favor of that regulation, but did mention that they would like to keep a fish or two. Certainly, Kirby Lake there stands out that we have quite a -- got quite a few comments, both online, a few at public hearing, and also on e-mails at that one. So that is one that -- the one -- to characterize some of the comments against it, people were interested in using those other methods -- jug lines, throw lines, trotlines. A lot of anglers were -- on supporting it -- were interested in just keeping that mainly pole-and-line fishing only.

So based on those recommendations here, we don't have any changes except for Kirby. We're recommending that we pull that proposal to ban those methods. Some of that's due to -- you know, that came up in December. We didn't have an opportunity to get out there as we usually do with all our regulation talk to anglers before we even make the proposal, see what -- get their input and see where we want to go with that and that's -- with that existing regulation, that was kind of confusing and I think this has led to a lot of confusion and some of that opposition to our proposal.

So what we propose to do there is, as I say, pull that at this time. Go back into the anglers' local community and, you know, if we can sit down with the anglers and see what we can do there and pursue some changes in the future. Other than that, that's all I have; and I'm happy to answer any questions if you have any at this time.

COMMISSIONER JONES: If the Commission doesn't mind, I would like to take the other speakers and then have all the questions of any of these speakers at the end, if that's all right? Unless somebody has a burning question that we don't want to forget. So with that, if we could have Tiffany Hopper come up?

MS. HOPPER: Good morning, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Tiffany Hopper with Coastal Fisheries; and I am going to give you guys a brief summary of the proposed changes to the saltwater fishing regulations, as well as provide an update on the public comment that we received on those proposals.

Specifically, we have proposed regulation changes for Gag, Black grouper, Nassau grouper, and three species of Hammerhead sharks -- the Great, the Smooth, and the Scalloped Hammerhead shark. So I'm going to begin with the proposals for Gag and Black grouper.

Currently, for both of these species, the federal minimum size limit is 24 inches. Currently in the State of Texas, the size limit for Gag is 22 inches and we have no current size or bag limit for Black grouper. So our recommendation for Gag is to increase that size limit to 24 inches; and for Black grouper, to establish a size limit of 24 inches and a four-fish per day bag limit. Among the public comments that we received on these two proposals, 88 percent of those comments were in support of the regulation change for Gag; and 83 percent of the comments that we received were in support of the regulation change for Black grouper.

Moving on to Nassau grouper, this species is currently listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. However, we have no bag or size limit in the State of Texas. So we recommend establishing a catch-and-release only bag limit for Nassau grouper. For the public comments we received for this proposal, 89 percent of those comments were in support of this regulation change.

And lastly, the proposal for the Hammerhead sharks. Again, this covers the Great, Scalloped, and Smooth Hammerhead sharks. The current federal minimum size limit is a 78-inch fork length, which converts to a 99-inch total length which is the way that we measure sharks here in Texas. Our current size limit in Texas is a 64-inch total length. So our recommendation is to increase the minimum size limit to 99 inches total length for these three species of Hammerhead sharks. And among the public comments that we received on this proposal, 74 percent of those comments were in support of this regulation change.

So we recommend amending Sections 57.981 and 57.992 of Code, as shown in Exhibit A of your Commission briefing book.

COMMISSIONER JONES: All right. And we have one more presenter under this particular section, and it's Brandi Reeder. Ms. Reeder.

MS. REEDER: Good morning.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Good morning.

MS. REEDER: My name is Brandi Reeder. I'm the Fisheries Law Administrator for the Law Enforcement Division. I'm here to talk about proposed changes to the statewide recreational/commercial fishing proclamation.

Our recommendation is to no longer allow commercial fishermen to fish up to three traps north of State Highway 146. On the lower right-hand side of the slide, you can see State Highway 146 highlighted by the red box and then to the north is I-10 and to the west is 610. That notes the saltwater boundaries and shows clearly how much water this regulation affects. This amount of water, obviously, makes it a little difficult for enforcement to detect violations. And then this area is also covered by an advisory on consumption from the Texas Department of State Health Services as far as for the presence of dioxins, PCBs, and organochloride pesticides.

With both the enforcement challenges and the consumption advisory, staff recommends amending Rule 57.973 to reflect that it is unlawful to fish for commercial purposes of crab trap in waters north and west of Highway 146, where it crosses the Houston Ship Channel in Harris County. On this item, so far we've received no public comment at all. If I can answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER JONES: That may be a first.

All right. Any questions of either Brandi, Ken, or Tiffany by the Commission?

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: So basically, you're banning crab fishing past that?

MS. REEDER: For commercial purposes.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: For commercial purposes.

MS. REEDER: Uh-huh.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Okay.

MS. REEDER: Yes, ma'am.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER JONES: All right. Any other discussion by the Commission?

All right. I would like to thank everyone for their presentation. If there's no further discussion, we will place the proposed 2017-2018 statewide recreational and commercial fishing proclamation on Thursday's Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Work Session Item No. 8, 2017-2018 Statewide Hunting Proclamation, Recommended Adoption for Proposed Rules; and we'll have three presenters, starting with Mr. Shawn Gray.

MR. GRAY: Good morning, Commissioners. For the record, my name's Shawn Gray. I'm the Mule Deer and Pronghorn Program Leader; and this morning, I would like to provide a review of the Pronghorn regulation changes that we will be seeking adoption at the -- tomorrow's Commission meeting.

So as I have briefed you during the November and January meetings, the Commission adopted new Pronghorn regulations in March of 2013 to allow landowners to determine their own harvest strategy for bucks through an experimental system in the northern Panhandle. This is a new approach when it comes to Pronghorn management, as in other areas we use a limited quota system where permits are issued directly to the landowners; therefore, these regulations were proposed and adopted as a pilot project.

TPWD has conducted this pilot project over the last four hunting seasons, and staff have monitored populations through annual aerial surveys and mandatory hunter harvest check stations. Staff have also used hunter and landowner opinion surveys to gauge support for continuing expanding the experimental system. Staff believed after the experiment, if data suggested minimal or no decline in Pronghorn numbers, sex ratios, average buck age structure, and hunter success, then no negative biological impacts would occur with a landowner-controlled system for bucks.

This map illustrates our current Pronghorn herd units in the northern Panhandle. Those herd units in red are where the experimental season is currently being conducted. And Herd Units 8 and 17 are near Dalhart and Herd Unit 25 is near Pampa and these herd units are representative of habitat, landownership, Pronghorn population parameters and permit demand and utilization throughout the northern Panhandle.

Staff use mandatory check stations located in Dalhart and Pampa to collect harvest data on the total harvest, age structure, and horn growth of harvested bucks. Hunters are required to present their Pronghorn at a check station within 24 hours of harvest. In addition, annual population surveys occur in these herd units to acquire population trend, reproduction, and sex ration data, which we compare to other similar herd units to determine effects of the experimental season.

The population estimates for the Dalhart experimental area and surrounding herd units are shown in this graph. The yellow line represents years prior to the experiment and the purple line signifies years during the experiment. The gray line shows the population estimate for herd units surrounding the Dalhart experimental area and these white lines are illustrated to show the trend and they have somewhat similar trend; however, these population trends have been fairly inconsistent through time.

Formatted the same as the previous graph, the population estimates for the Pampa area are shown here. The yellow line designates years prior to the experiment. The purple line represents the years during the experiment, and the gray line signifies the population estimate for those herd units surrounding Pampa. Again, the white lines are the trend lines and they've had a slightly different trend; but, again, they have been fairly erratic through time.

As part of the mandatory check station, staff collect data regarding hunter information, harvest location, basic horn measurements, as well as remove one to two incisors from the harvested Pronghorn for aging purposes. And we use age structure of harvested animals to be a measure of harvest intensity, and the ages are estimated by using the Cementum annuli method on the pulled incisors. The graph illustrates the average age of harvested animals in each area -- Dalhart, Pampa -- as well as other areas in the Panhandle, that's symbolized by the "PH."

The age structure in the Dalhart experimental area is younger now than the initial year, but it has stabilized; while the Pampa experimental area age structure appears to be similar to other areas in the Panhandle. Preliminary population data do not seem to indicate negative biological impacts with the experimental system for bucks; however, some data are inconsistent, and staff would like to continue the pilot project in the same areas in hopes better defined trends develop.

Based upon data garnered from hunter and landowner opinion surveys previously presented to the Commission, hunters and most landowners support the experimental system and its expansion to other areas in the northern Panhandle. Therefore, staff propose to continue the experimental system within the three new areas and expand the experimental system into three other areas and monitor for another four hunting seasons.

Again, this map demonstrates current Pronghorn herd units in the northern Panhandle. Those in red are where the experimental season is currently being conducted. The blue herd units are where we would like to expand into with this experimental system, and these would create a much larger contiguous acreage in each area for the experimental system and provide more information to better evaluate the impacts on Pronghorn.

Public comments that were germane to the proposed Pronghorn regulation changes taken from public hearings and our website indicate that all respondents support the proposed Pronghorn regulation changes. That concludes my portion of the statewide hunting proclamation. Do you want to take questions now or wait until the end?

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Any questions?

MR. GRAY: Now, I'll turn it over to Dave Morrison.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Dave Morrison, please make your presentation.

MR. MORRISON: Mr. Chairman, Commission members, my name is Dave Morrison; and I am the Deputy Director for the Wildlife Division. This morning, I'm going to be presenting some suggested changes to the statewide hunting proclamation, as well as bring you guys up to date on where we stand with the migratory bird regulations and that process.

What we're requesting for the statewide hunting proclamation, deals primarily with turkeys; and what we're asking the Commission to consider is clarification of wording for spring season on the Angelina National Forest, some language clean-up with respect to the youth spring turkey season dates in the North Zone. Also requesting that we eliminate the Eastern turkey designated check station wording. With respect to the migratory game bird proposal, we are bringing forward a proposal to expand the Special White-wing Dove Area. Based on the Fish and Wildlife Services, we are also being mandated to reduce the pintail bag limit from two to one and the Service has also offered up changes to the youth waterfowl season age change.

And so what I would like to do is begin with those clarifications with respect to wild turkeys. First thing I wanted to deal with is closure in the Angelina National Forest, particularly in Jasper County. The Angelina National Forest lands in Jasper County are closed to turkey hunting; however, all other public and private lands in Jasper County have an open spring turkey season. With respect to the elimination of language for designated check stations, several years ago, we changed the process by which we gather information on Eastern turkeys harvested. We went to an app-based, computer-based system. Since that time, we've been getting very good cooperation from our hunters and do not believe we need to continue with the designated check stations anymore.

Back in 2014, this Commission took action to add additional days to the late fall turkey hunting season and it was just basically expanded to coincide with the late fall youth season. Unfortunately, when the State Register was published, they also added that same amount of days to the spring youth turkey season, which basically increased that youth season by about 12 days. And so what we're requesting is to go back to what the intent of the Commission was, is to only have that spring youth season being the weekend before spring turkey season and the weekend after the spring turkey season. With respect to public comments, there were no public comments on any of these issues related to turkeys.

Now, I would like to move into the 2017-18 migratory game bird proposals. First like to state that these proposals were developed working with the Small Game Program and the Migratory Game Bird Technical Committee of this -- of the Wildlife Division. These proposals were also presented to the Migratory Game Bird Advisory Committee, who endorse them as well. I should also note that the publication of the final rules by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was delayed as a result of the administration change. Although we do not anticipate any changes, we really can't move forward with adoption of these at this time until the Federal Register process has been approved. So as a result, we're asking that the Commission grant Commissioner -- Executive Director Carter in consultation with the Chair of the Commission to adopt these dates at a later date, using provisions that we have used in the past.

We just learned about this in the last couple of weeks. Really not a lot we can do. So we do not anticipate that final Register being done until probably later this month, earlier next month, so.

MR. SMITH: Dave, just if I could. Just as a reminder, this is a process that we historically used before Fish and Wildlife Service changed the regulations so that we could reconcile these decisions with the normal statewide. So, again, this is just kind of going back to a bit of that awkward process that we had before; but we know how to do it and can implement it in a very perfunctory fashion, make sure the Chairman is consulted and all the Commission is notified of the ultimate decision.

MR. MORRISON: Thank you, sir.

Now, I would like to start with staff proposals for ducks, mergansers, coots, and geese. With respect to the September teal season, breeding estimates of teal have again shown us that we can have a 16-day teal season. Staff preferences to maximize weekends and so we're proposing the last full three weekends in September and our proposed dates would be September 9th through the 24th, with a six-bird bag limit.

For ducks, mergansers, and coots, we're going into either the 24th, 25th year of liberal regulations and a six-bird bag limit. In the High Plains Mallard Management Unit, we are proposing a youth season of October 21 and 22; the regular season would open the following weekend on October the 28th and 29th, have a four-day closure and the seasoning would reopen on Friday the November 3rd and run to the end of the framework, which is January 28th. Once again, the Fish and Wildlife Service is requiring that for the first five days, we have a closure on dusky ducks, being mottled ducks, black ducks or Mexican-like ducks. So the first five days, they're off limits to hunters.

In the North Zone, we again have a 74-day season plus two youth hunting days. The youth season, we're proposing November 4th through the 5th. The regular season would open on November the 11th and run through Jan -- to November the 26th, which is the Sunday after Thanksgiving. We'd have a five-day closure. That season would reopen on December the 2nd and run through January the 28th, which is the very last day available for us according to federal framework. Again, dusky ducks closed for the first five days.

In the South Zone, we're -- staff is proposing that the youth season be on October 28th and 29th. The season will reopen on November 4th and run through the 26th of November. Again, Sunday after Thanksgiving. In the South Zone, we have a 12-day split and we would reopen that season on December the 9th and run through January the 28th. Again, the perfunctory five-day closures on dusky ducks. With respect to bag limits, basically unchanged from last year with one exception. We're being offered six birds per day, which only five mallards, only two of which could be hens; three wood ducks; three scaup; two redheads; two canvasback; and where the change occurred this year is with respect to pintails. Last year we would have two. This year it's one. Breeding populations estimates from last spring indicate the numbers were slightly down; but when you plug all that information into the models that we use, it spit out one pintail. I'm pretty surprised at that; but unfortunately, we don't really have a whole lot of choice in the matter. One dusky duck, all the duck species are six. Mergansers, you can have five per day, which no more than two could be hoodeds; 15 coots with the possession limit of 15, three times the daily bag limit.

West zone for geese, both the dark and light geese, we're proposing a season that would run from November 4th through February the 4th, with a light goose conservation season beginning on February the 5th and running through March the 18th. Bag limit in the West Zone is five dark geese, to include no more than two white-fronted geese and 20 light geese.

In the East Zone, the Fish and Wildlife Service is again offering us the opportunity to have an early Canada goose season. That early Canada goose season would run concurrent with the September teal season of September 9th through the 24th. Then Canada, white-fronted, and light geese for that late season will all run concurrent from November 4th through January the 28th. The day after that goose season closes, we would open up the light goose conservation order and run from January 29th to March the 18th. Like in the West Zone, the dark goose bag limit is five, to include no more than two white-fronteds, 20 light geese with no possession limit.

I mentioned earlier about the youth season. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has modified the age structure for participation in the youth waterfowl season. Essentially what they've done, is they have given the States the authority to establish the age structure to correspond with what the States have in their regulation, provided it's under 18. So the current language that we currently have is to participate in youth hunts, you have to be 15 years of age or younger.

Well, the revised language will kick that up a year so it can be 16 years of age and younger to participate in youth waterfowl season. But I would have to say that if you are 16 participating in the youth waterfowl season, you will be required to have a federal duck stamp because that is federal law.

Now, moving on to the fun stuff -- the dove, Sandhill cranes, rails, gallinule, snipe, and woodcock. For the statewide regular dove season, we're again being offered a 90-day season with a 15-bird bag limit. In the North Zone, we're offering to you for consideration September 1 through November the 12th, closing down for a period, and reopening on Friday, December the 15th and running through December the 31st. In the Central Zone, staff are proposing September 1 through November the 5th and December 15th through January the 7th.

I need to point out that the information that you have in your packet is incorrect. In your packet, those dates for the Central Zone list a closing date of November the 8th on the front end and January 21st on the back end. I'm not real sure how we missed that, but just make certain that you understand these are the dates staff are proposing because the ones in your packet exceed the 90 days.

With respect to Special White-wing Dove Area in South Zone, the Special White-wing Dove Area is that area that's illustrated in green with the South Zone being the cross-hatched and plus later on, that's not cross-hatched. It gets really confusing, even for me. But what we're going to offer up is a potential to change that Special White-wing Dove Area and expand it basically from Del Rio to Beaumont south of Highway 90 and Interstate 10. The Service has offered this as an option to Texas Parks and Wildlife, starting with this coming hunting season; and essentially, it does provide us some options.

Now, that entire South Zone will have the opportunity to hunt the two weekends in September. What we're proposing is the 2nd and 3rd, 9th and 10th; season would close; reopen on September the 22nd, which is the earliest date we're allowed to open that dove season in the South Zone and run through November the 8th. The season would reopen on December 15th and run through January the 21st. I would like to point out that we are still on track to changing the '18, '19 at this particular area to open on a fixed date of September the 14th, get away from the Friday nearest September 20th, no earlier than the 17th; and hopefully, make things very simple for all of us.

Just for clarification to make sure everybody understands because there was a little bit of a mix-up on those dates, this is what it looks like on a calendar for the North Zone: September 1 through November the 12th; reopen on Friday the 15th of December and run through December the 31st.

Central Zone, this is the one that is incorrect in your booklet; but staff is proposing a September 1 opening date, with that first split closing on November the 5th; second split open on the 15th of December and run through January the 7th.

For the South Zone, again, if we accept this expansion, the entire South Zone Special White-wing will become the Special White-wing Dove Area and we would have the opportunity to open on September 2nd and 3rd. Then reopen the next weekend on 9th and 10th. Season would open for its final opportunity on September the 22nd, run through November the 8th; then again -- just like the rest of the state -- open on Friday, December the 15th and run through January the 21st.

For Sandhill cranes, basically these are calendar adjustments from last year, with Zone A being -- our proposal being October 28th through January the 28th, with a bag limit of three. In Zone B, we delay that opening to allow those big white cranes to get through onto their wintering areas; and so that season proposal is November 24th through January the 28th, with a bag limit of three. And in Zone C, we take full advantage of the 37 days that we are offered with a season structure of December 16th through January 21st. Federal frameworks only allow for a two-bird bag limit in this zone.

COMMISSIONER JONES: How many of those birds are estimated to be taken on an annual basis, Sandhill crane?

MR. MORRISON: Sandhills? I would have to get back to you with an exact number because I don't have it at my fingertips, but we do have a very good survey that we have because we are required to issue federal Sandhill crane permits. So we really zero-in on crane hunters. So we do have an estimate; but unfortunately, sir, I don't want to give you a number that's not right. But we do have that number.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay. You can do it later. I just --

MR. MORRISON: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER JONES: I'm just curious.

MR. MORRISON: Sure, no problem.

With rail, gallinule, moorhen, snipe, and woodcock; for rails, gallinules, and moorhens we try to set that first few days to run corresponding with the September teal season and we typically reopen it with the South Zone duck season, which is November 4th through December the 27th, to take advantage of our full 70 days offered.

For snipe, we're offered a 107-day season, which we're proposing from October 28th through February the 11th. And for woodcock, we have a 45-day season; and essentially, this doesn't change because we take it from the back end, which is the end of the framework which is January 31st, count backwards to 45 days. So this season really never changes.

For falconry seasons, we're proposing for Mourning, White-winged, and White-tipped dove a special season November 18th through December the 4th. And for woodcock, moorhen, gallinule, rail, and ducks in the North and South Zone, we're proposing a season -- an extended season of January 29th through February the 12th. The High Plains is not offered a falconry season simply because we take full advantage of the 107 days we are offered.

And with that, I conclude my presentation and take any questions you may have.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Any other questions?

Thank you, Dave.

MR. MORRISON: Thank you very much.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Ellis Powell, please make your presentation.

MR. POWELL: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, I'm Ellis Powell with the Law Division. I'm the Wildlife Law Administrator. And tomorrow, staff will be asking for the adoption of some clarification in the boundary description in Val Verde County for deer and turkey zones. This will help with some compliance issues.

It's not an actual boundary change. It's just a change in the way it's described. Currently, it says "that portion of Val Verde County located both south of the U.S. Highway 90 and east of Spur 239." That will change to read, "South of a line beginning at the International Bridge and proceeding along Spur 239 to the U.S. Highway 90 and thence to the Kinney County line."

You can see that that's the actual boundary; and, again it does not change the actual boundary. It's just the verbiage. We received no public comment on this, and I'll entertain any questions that you may have.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Any questions?

All right. Thank you.

MR. POWELL: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: If no further discussion, I'll placed the proposed 2017-2018 statewide hunting proclamation on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Work Session Item No. 9, Public Lands, Request -- Public Lands Proclamation, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Register, Mr. Justin Dreibelbis.

MR. DREIBELBIS: Yes, sir. Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name's Justin Dreibelbis, Private Lands Public Hunting Program Director, the Wildlife Division. This morning, I'll be presenting a list of proposed amendments to the public lands proclamation and seeking permission to publish in the Texas Register.

Our proposed amendments fall in these four categories. First, property inventory additions. We're seeking to redefine and re-purpose a special access permit for state parks. We would like to re-title preference points as "loyalty points" and also allow reinstatement of loyalty points due to military deployment and then the remainder of those items will be just general housekeeping items that we'll talk a little bit about.

First item is a simple addition to four properties to our public lands inventory. These four properties have varying levels of public access, but the bottom line is that we would like to add them into our inventory in the public lands proclamation so that we're able to set rules and enforce those rules on the property. The four properties are the East Texas Conservation Center in Jasper; the Roger Fawcett WMA in Palo Pinto County; the Nature Center in Tyler; and the Yoakum Dunes Wildlife Management Area in Cochran, Terry, and Yoakum Counties.

Next amendment deals with the special access permit. So before we moved to an automated system, an automated draw system in 2014, this permit was issued to authorize public hunting access on specified units of the state park system. Now that we have an automated system and that automated system issues one special hunting permit that covers WMAs, state parks, and other public hunting lands, there's no need for this permit anymore; and so we would just like to clean up the proclamation by removing it.

However, rather than just doing away with the permit altogether, staff is purposing that we re-purpose this permit to provide access to nonhunting persons during authorized activities at the hunt manager's discretion. The idea behind this is that it would allow a drawn hunter to be able to bring a friend or family member with them, again, at the hunt manager's discretion thinking about safety and space issues that could come up; but with our charge as an Agency to recruit and retain the next generation of Texas hunters, we feel like this is just a good move in the right direction.

Next item deals with loyalty points. The first proposed amendment would remove all reference to the term "preference points" and replace that with "loyalty points," and we do that for a couple of different reasons. One, is it's consistent with what we have on our website and all of our printed materials. We've called our -- we've called our system, our point system, a "loyalty" point system for a long time. So we would just like to clean up the language in the proclamation, but it's also a much more accurate description of what our point system really is. It's what most of the western states would call a bonus point system where a hunter accrues a point every year they're unsuccessful in the application process and then when the drawing comes, it's basically a raffle system and their name goes in the hat as many time as they have a bonus point, plus their current application. And so just to clean up what it really is and to be consistent with our current terminology on the website, we'd like to clean that up.

Secondly, the proposed amendment deals with reinstatement of loyalty points; and so currently the public lands proclamation only allows us to reinstate loyalty points for two reasons. One, is if the Department has to cancel a hunt. We occasionally have to do that for weather reasons. And basically, the process is that will refund permit costs; and we'll go ahead and just reinstate those loyalty points back to what they were. The only -- the second situation where we're able to reinstate those points is human error associated with an incorrect hunt assignment; and that dates back to when we didn't have an automated system and a person was actually taking a hard copy application, entering it into the computer, and occasionally there would be a missed key stroke or something like that and so that just gave us some cover there. Now that we have an automated system, that human error has been taken out of the equation. So we propose going ahead and removing that second paragraph.

The only other item we would like to address here is that we would like to add some language that would allow us to reinstate points for a member of the U.S. military that's unable to attend their hunt due to military deployment. We currently don't have any language in the public lands proclamation that would allow us to do that, and staff really thinks that would be a nice courtesy to be able to extend to those members of the military.

The remainder of all the changes are general housekeeping items that we believe clarify existing provisions, eliminate repetition, and remove some of those obsolete references from before we had an automated draw system. And so with that, staff requests permission to post the proposed amendments to the public lands proclamation in the Texas Register for adoption in May. And at that time, we'll be also coming back to you to establish a season on public hunting lands and to present a candidate list of proposed state park hunts for approval. I'd be glad to answer any questions you might have.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Thank you, Justin.

Any questions from Commissioners?

I will authorize staff to publish proposed public lands proclamation and the rule changes in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.

Work Session Item No. 10, Alligator Farming Rules, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Register, Mr. Mitch Lockwood.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Mitch Lockwood. I'm the Big Game Program Director; and this morning, I'm requesting permission to publish in the Texas Register amendments -- proposed amendments to the rules pertaining to alligator farming facility standards.

Our current rules require a facility to provide pooled water sufficient to allow complete submersion of alligators to dry grounds sufficient to permit alligators to completely exit from the water. Staff have learned in the past year that this requirement adversely impacts hide quality for a couple of reasons. One reason is that just the simple act of climbing out of the water on to dry ground can scratch the hides. Another reason is that this requirement can lead to territorial confrontations between alligators, which results in scarred hides and this, obviously, would affect the marketability and value of those hides.

Staff believe that the skin quality is an indicator of husbandry practices and that reducing animal conflicts, would produce a more humane environment for farmed alligators, which also would result in more marketable hides. Furthermore, there is a strong correlation between increasing stress levels and a reduction in growth rates; and these confrontations between alligators would certainly be a source of that stress.

Therefore, staff propose to eliminate the requirement for alligator farming facilities to provide dry ground to allow alligators to exit the water. Louisiana has adopted this very rule change recently and that really makes -- puts Texas alligator farms at a disadvantage because of the adverse impacts that this requirement we would believe would have on alligator hides and just puts them at a disadvantage in the marketplace.

This concludes my presentation. I'll do my best to answer any questions that you may have. Better yet, since I'm not likely to be able most questions pertaining to American alligators; now might be a good time to introduce our alligator expert who joined our team in February. Dr. John Warner, sitting back here on the second row, joined us back in February. He's our Alligator Program Leader based out of Port Arthur; and he brings with him a considerable experience working with crocodilian species, including a stint of several years working in South Africa managing Nile crocs. So we're real excited to have Jonathan on board and real excited to see where he takes this program in the future. But with that, if you have any questions, we'll do our best to entertain.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Mitch, I've got one question. How many alligator farms do we have?

MR. LOCKWOOD: That is a good question.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: How many permits are there?

MR. LOCKWOOD: There are very few permits, and I think I referred in my presentation to alligator farms in the plural sense; but really, there's only one alligator farm today that I consider be a bona fide farm that this rule proposal would affect. We do have some other individuals who collect eggs and then incubate those eggs, hatch them, and sell their hatchlings to farms such as this farm or farms in Louisiana; but there's only the one that grows them out to, say, three, four, five foot in length for watchbands and other purposes.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: And they operate under a permit from the State?

MR. LOCKWOOD: That is correct.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: And they're inspected like a deer breeder or -- I assume?

MR. LOCKWOOD: They are inspected, yes.

COMMISSIONER MORRIAN: Okay. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER JONES: I have a question just about alligator habitat. Does the alligator need to come out of the water to sun themselves, to do whatever it is alligators naturally do? And I'm a little confused as to there was some reason we had a rule that allowed them to do, and I get it about them fighting and being territorial once they get to the land; but are we now suggestion that they must stay in the water?

MR. LOCKWOOD: We are. And while I'm attempted to address that question, I've learn a lot about this practice in the last several months; I think now would be a good time -- with your permission, Mr. Chairman -- to ask Dr. Warner to come join me and he would -- he's much more qualified to answer this.

COMMISSIONER JONES: All right. Dr. Warner, now is your -- this is your debut. This is an initiation I think is what they call it in this Commission.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: That question didn't stick long, Mitch, did it?

COMMISSIONER JONES: Just like an option pass.

DR. WARNER: Good morning, Commissioners. So in regards to your question, I guess first, these alligators under consideration in these farms for this rule change, are small individuals all under 24 inches. They're raised communally in pens completely in the dark at a stable temperature. This proposed regulation change to remove dry ground is an attempt to make that pen's habitat spatially consistent.

As Mitch talked about, the removes some competition and the sliding and the scarring of the skin's habitat specifically. The dry ground regulation initiated in bigger farms, some of the overseas with other species that are -- required basking habitat for thermal needs. Alligators are much more aquatic. They're obligate baskers, especially in the wild. They're in the water the majority of the time. And in this farming situation where they're in the dark at a controlled temperature the whole time, there's no need for a resting board or a dry space.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay. So -- all right. I think that answers my question, but I'm not sure. So normally in the wild, they would come out of the water for basking, I think is what you called it; is that right? Did I say that right, basking?

DR. WARNER: Yes. So specific -- therm -- when it's cooler, for thermal regulation, they'll come out and bask late morning, late afternoon on hot days; but for these younger alligators that are in pens where the temperature is controlled at a fairly high temperature, there's no need for them to thermal regulate by crawling onto dry ground, especially since they're kept in the dark. There's no sunlight in these pens regardless.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay. All right. Okay.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: And how long are they -- how long -- how long does a farmer grow out a -- how many months or years does he grow out an alligator?

DR. WARNER: So this particular farm in Texas, they can grow them to about four feet within a year --

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Okay.

DR. WARNER: -- on average. And the specific market that our farm in Texas aims for is the watchband, which is smaller individuals four feet and under. So, on average, those alligators aren't in their pens more than a year.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Thank you.

Any other questions?

If there's no further discussion, we'll authorize staff to publish proposed alligator farming rules in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.

Thank you.

Work Session Item No. 11, Acquisition of Land, Aransas County, Approximately One Acre at Goose Island State Park will be heard in Executive Session.

Work Session Item No. 12, Exchange of Land, Bexar County, Approximately 56 Acres Government Canyon State Natural, Request Permission to Begin the Public Notice and Input Process. Mr. Trey Vick, please make your presentation.

MR. VICK: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. My name is Trey Vick. I'm with the Land Conservation Program, and I'm here today to present a proposal for exchange of land of 56 acres at Government Canyons -- or Government Canyon State Natural Area.

Government Canyon sits in Bexar County, and is just outside the northwest corner of the City of San Antonio. The 12,116-acre Government Canyon State Natural Area includes 3,021 acres acquired by the City of San Antonio to protect the Edwards Aquifer recharge. This property was transferred to Texas Parks and Wildlife in 2014 as an addition to the State Natural Area. The 3,021-acre transfer consisted of approximately 20 tracts, including one tract that is in the far southern part of the State Natural Area; and is low-quality habitat mesquite field this tract does not sit over the recharge zone, and it's adjacent to a residential neighborhood.

The landowner with the land having high-quality values adjacent to the SNA, proposed an exchange for Texas Parks and Wildlife's low-quality habitat tract for his high-quality habitat tract that sits over the recharge zone. His tract also has habitat for the endangered Golden-cheeked warbler. Staff for the SNA believe that this exchange will increase the net conservation of recreation value to the SNA. In coordinates with Chapter 13.009 of the Parks and Wildlife code, both properties will be appraised as part of due diligence.

The staff of the SNA has coordinated with City of San Antonio, Bexar County, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure all parties concur with the proposed exchange. Here's a map of -- an overall map of Government Canyon and here's a close-up of the two tracts that we're proposing the exchange. Staff requests permission to begin the public notice and input process, and I would be happy to answer any questions that you might have.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Why would -- why does the land -- why does the landowner want to do this?

MR. VICK: In my opinion, his tract is a little bit harder to build houses on than our tract; and it's a real benefit for the State Natural Area, his tract is, the addition of his tract would be.

COMMISSIONER JONES: And am I understanding this correctly, the mostly cleared tract is --

MR. VICK: That's our --

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- what we have?

MR. VICK: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER JONES: And the mostly wooded tract is what he has?

MR. VICK: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay.

MR. VICK: Our tract is relatively flat. His tract is very rugged. So like I said, I assume that it would be a lot easier to develop our tract than it would his tract.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: And there's probably a regulation in his development if it's Golden-cheeked warbler --

MR. VICK: Could be.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: -- area.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Did we approach him, or did he approach us?

MR. VICK: He approached us.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Do we have an idea -- I know you're going to appraise it -- the approximate values of the two?

MR. VICK: I don't. We will have it appraised. I can tell you that we did -- y'all approved a partial trade of the entire tract last meeting and those two tracts -- his tract appraised at, plus or minus, 700,000 for nine acres. Our tract appraised for, plus or minus 350,000 for that nine acres. So it's very valuable property in that area.

MR. SMITH: And just to make sure that we reinforce this point, Commissioner. I mean, we're not going to trade a tract that has -- in which we're giving up more economic value than what we're getting. Obviously, Trey talked about the net conservation benefits to the state, which we think are appreciable; but in the terms of an exchange, the appraisals are going to have to substantiate that we are getting, at the very least, a net equivalent economic value for the parcel in return.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Which begs Commissioner Jones' question why the donor is suggesting the tract.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Any other questions?

I'll authorize staff to publish the exchange of land, Bexar County, to begin the public notice and input process.

MR. VICK: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Thank you.

Work Session Item 13, Acquisition of land, Matagorda County, Approximately 453 Acres at Perry R. Bass Marine Fisheries Research Station, Mr. Ted Hollingsworth.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good morning. My name's Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This item pertains to a proposal to acquire approximately 453 acres adjacent to the Perry R. Bass Marine Fisheries Research Center in -- on Matagorda Bay in Matagorda County.

The Fisheries Research Station was acquired back in 1967. It's a 40-acre site? And was acquired as a location to do research into fisheries, genetics, and fisheries population dynamics. It's a relative small site for research. It's served it's purpose very well, but we have -- we have outgrown those facilities in terms of the research that we do and the staff that we have doing that research now. And for several years, the staff has had its eyes open for an opportunity to acquire either adjacent property or property nearby on which to expand those facilities. The buildings includes a lab, office space, and, of course, there are some grow-out ponds that are used as part of that research.

We became aware last year of a 453-acre property in two tracts. One of which is adjacent to the facility and one of which is very nearby, which you'll see in a moment. We began negotiating with a broker at that time, and we negotiated a price we believe is going to be supported by appraisal of that property. Fortunately, we have a grant through the Restore Council for acquisitions in the Coastal Bend area that includes this area; and we do have funding from that grant available for this acquisition.

Not only would the acquisition provide that much needed space for expanding those research facilities, it's a property that we would probably be interested in anyway because of its very high coastal values, coastal habitat including marshes and prairies and it partly surrounds Sartwelle Lake, which is a very shallow tidal lake. Very high habitat values, though. Very high native diversity. One of the few coastal embayments where the marshes are creating naturally. Extensive oyster beds have been mapped in Sartwelle Lake and there are extensive seagrass beds as well. So it's a very high-value property.

Coastal Fisheries is kind of excited about this because in addition to space for increasing the research center, it would turn -- it would create the opportunity for maybe some boardwalk trails that would allow the visiting public not just to see the kind of research that we do and how we do it; but also to get out on the ground and actually see those coastal habitats, get a firsthand look at some very high-quality emergent marshes, perhaps a bird observation deck, and perhaps even a small pier for fishing. There is a part of that facility that would make it more of a destination for visitors interested in understanding what our Coastal Fisheries Division does.

Here are a couple of ground-level pictures from that spec looking back across the lake and you can see in the background that there's about 10-foot of elevation on the property, which is considerably more elevation than we have at the current facility and would make any new development more tropical storm resistant. It's just would be better -- a better location for new buildings.

We have received no comments regarding the proposed action. Staff does recommend that the TPW Commission authorize the Executive Director to take all necessary steps to acquire approximately 453 acres in Matagorda County for addition to the Perry R. Bass Marine Fisheries Research Station, and I would be happy to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Yes.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: What is the tract currently on that adjacent tract, the ponding and the --

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Those -- that land is actually owned by the GLO, and it's leased for commercial fish and shrimp farming.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Okay.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Lots of homes.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Any other questions?

If there is no further discussion, I will place the acquisition of land, Matagorda County, on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Work Session 14, Acceptance of Land Donation, Brazos County, Additions to the Follets Island Coastal Preserve, if there's no questions, we will place that item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Work Session Item 16, Legal Issues Regarding Commission Meeting, Policy and Procedures, this item will be held in Executive Session.

Item 17, Update on Regulatory Litigation -- ah, almost made it.

MR. SMITH: You're doing great.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: What happened?

COMMISSIONER JONES: I was just --

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Work Session Item 15, East Texas Wildlife Management Areas, Conservation and Public Use Strategy, this item will be heard in Executive Session.

Item No. 16, we already addressed.

Seventeen, Update on Regulatory Litigation, this item will be heard in Executive Session.

At this time, I would like to announce that pursuant to the requirements of Chapter 551 Code referred to as the Open Meetings Act, Executive Session will be held at this time for the purpose of seeking legal advice under section 551.071 of the Open Meetings Act, including advice regarding pending or contemplated litigation, deliberation of real estate matters under of Section 551.072 of the Open Meetings Act. We will now recess for Executive Session.

(Recess taken for Executive Session)

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Okay. Work item -- Work Session Item No. 11, Acquisition of Land Aransas County, Approximately One Acre at Goose Island State Park, this item was heard in Executive closed session. No further action is required at this time.

With regard to Work Session Item No. 15, East Texas Wildlife Management Areas, Conservation of Public Use Strategy, no further action is required at this time.

With regard to Work Session Agenda Item 16, Legal Issues Regarding Commission Meeting, Policies and Procedures, no further item is required at this time.

With regard to Work Session Item No. 17, Update on Regulatory Litigation, no further action is required at this time.

Mr. Smith, this Commission has completed its work session work business; and I declare us adjourned at 2:00 o'clock.

(Work Session Concludes)


C E R T I F I C A T E

STATE OF TEXAS       )
COUNTY OF TRAVIS )

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

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

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

___________________________________
Paige S. Watts, CSR, RPR

CSR No.: 8311

Expiration: December 31, 2018

7010 Cool Canyon Cove

Round Rock, Texas 78681

(512)779-8320

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