March 23, 2017




COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I guess everybody got quiet when Commissioner Jones came back. Good morning, everyone.


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay, officially. Good morning, everyone. This meeting is called to order March 23, 2017, at 9:12 a.m. Before we proceed with the rest of our business, I believe Mr. Smith has a statement to make.

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

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.

Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, I just want to join all of you in welcoming everybody today. Ecstatic to see this room in a standing-room only basis. I know many of you have come from all over the state to see colleagues and friends and family get celebrated and honored today in front of the Commission and we don't take that travel lightly and I just want to thank y'all for making such a special effort to be here.

Just a little bit about the sequence of events this morning. The Chairman and Commission are going to have us go through a special presentation shortly in which we have a chance, again, to celebrate some special awards and recognitions. At the conclusion of that, the Chairman is going to call for a brief recess for all of you who want to depart the Commission meeting, to go ahead and take that opportunity to leave; and then he'll re-adjourn the meeting and at that time, we'll hear the rest of the items on the agenda.

A few little minor housekeeping items, if we could. Just if I could ask everybody to go ahead and silence their cell phones and if it turns out you've got an urgent call or conversation you need to have, I'd respectfully ask that you step out and do that in the hallway. Thanks for being with us today.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. I first want to announce that Action Item No. 5, Acquisition of Land, Aransas County, Approximately One Acre at Goose Island State Park has been withdrawn; and we'll take that up -- put that on the agenda for a later meeting. It's withdrawn today.

Next, I would ask for consideration of approval of the minutes from the Commission meeting held January 26th, 2017, the minutes have been previously distributed. Is there a motion for approval?




COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Second Commissioner Jones. Any opposition?

Hearing none the motion carries unanimously.

Excuse me just a second. Ann, could I see you for a second?

Sorry, my confusion. Next is approval of the agenda. Is there a motion for approval?


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Commissioner Morian. Second Commissioner Warren. Any opposition?

Hearing none, the agenda is approved unanimously.

Next will be acknowledgment of the list of donations. The list has been previously distributed. Is there a motion for approval? Commissioner Scott. Second by Commissioner Lee. Any opposition?

Hearing none, the motion carries unanimously.

Next is consideration of contracts, which have also been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Commissioner Jones. Second Commissioner Warren. All in -- sorry. Any opposition to the motion?

Hearing none, the motion carries unanimously.

Now to special recognitions, retirement, and service awards. Mr. Smith, will you please make the presentations?

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Carter Smith. Nice to see everybody today. We're going to kick it off with a special presentation from one of our closest partners and I know that the Houston Safari Club needs no introduction to all of you and our friend Joe Betar, their eminently capable CEO and President who's been such a fixture in outdoor sports and the hunting industry and conservation. Houston Safari Club has been wonderful supporters of our Operation Game Thief Program, the big Mule deer restoration project that our wildlife biologists have been working on out in West Texas. Houston Safari Club has been a partner of that and also our Bighorn sheep restoration project, one of the flagship conservation projects for this Agency.

You may not be aware; but each year, we have a special designated Bighorn sheep tag that we provide to a nonprofit organization to auction off to raise funds for wild sheep conservation. And, of course, the goal is to put huntable sheep populations on every suitable mountain range in the Trans-Pecos and our biologists and their partners and landowners are making great headway in that regard.

This year, we provided that tag to the Houston Safari Club for them to auction off at their annual fundraiser in Houston in January. And the way that works is we donate the tag, there's usually a frenzied bidding war for somebody who gets the chance to hunt over-mature ram at one of our Trans-Pecos wildlife management areas that's guided by our wildlife biologists and technicians and 90 percent of the proceeds from the purchase of that item get invested back in wild sheep conservation and so it's a big deal.

This was a banner year for us in terms of the Houston Safari Club. They just went to extraordinary lengths to help promote that tag and raised a bunch of money for wild sheep and Joe Betar is here to say a few words and make a special presentation to the Commission that I think all of us will appreciate. And so, Joe, welcome. Thanks for coming.

(Round of applause)

MR. JOE BETAR: I'll keep my comments brief. You guys have a busy day ahead of you. So I just wanted to thank everybody on the Commission and thank everyone here today for the honor of being able to offer the desert Bighorn sheep tag this year to our membership and our attendees at our annual convention and conservation expo. This year, we were fortunate enough to raise -- the tag went for 120,000, which I believe was the second highest amount in history.

(Round of applause)

MR. JOE BETAR: We wanted to be number one, but we gave it everything we had. So today, I would like to present to the Bighorn sheep program and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department a check from Houston Safari Club in the amount of $108,000.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. JOE BETAR: Hope you guys find a place that will cash that.

MR. SMITH: Joe, I think you just single-handedly solved our budget woes. So God bless you my friend.

Next, we've got to have a couple of very, very special -- really awards for a State game warden and a Wildlife biologist. And these are provided each year, very competitive across the country; and they're awarded by our partner the National Wild Turkey Federation. Again, another extraordinary organization that needs no introduction to this group. Restoring habitat, restocking turkeys, working with private landowners, introducing youth to hunting and outdoor sports through their JAKES program. They just are a fabulous partner for us and, of course, they're right in the middle of our efforts to introduce -- reintroduce turkeys in East Texas. And so just can't say enough good things about them.

And each year they present a special Conservation Officer of the Year Award and I could not be more proud of the fact that this year, the winner and honoree is Dean Fitzpatrick. Dean has been a State game warden with us for almost 20 years. He works in our Criminal Investigative Division, our Special Operations team. He does sort of our lead investigators, specially trained to do covert operations all over the state. Some of the most sensitive investigations get kicked to Dean to handle and that's true whether it's death threats against officers in southeast Texas or Austin or stolen M-4s or poaching rings that he's been asked to help apprehend criminals on, Texas poachers poaching out of state.

One of the -- one of the -- couple of interesting cases he made from a resource perspective recently was going undercover to catch some guys who were illegally selling deer and other game and fish on a commercial market. And then, of course, most recently we had a very sensitive, very visible project in which -- or an incident and case that Dean was the lead on in which an unscrupulous wildlife manager and biologist -- not employed by this Department, let me quickly say that -- illegally smuggled a hundred turkeys from out of state to stock on a ranch without appropriate permits and quarantines; thereby, putting our native game and turkeys at great risk. And Dean was the one that cracked that case and led that investigation.

He's just been a model game warden for us. He does so many things behind the scenes that people don't see and don't know about. Always protecting the resource. He and his wife live in Montgomery County. Incredibly embedded in that community, coaching little league, President of the Youth Sports Association, and just really exemplifying our community-based law enforcement and we couldn't be more proud of the fact that dean is being honored this year with the 2017 Conservation Officer of the Year Award from the National Wild Turkey Federation. We're very fortunate to have a bunch of our colleagues and partners from the National Wild Turkey Federation that have come to celebrate this award, and I want to ask Larry Noble, the President, to come up to present this award to Dean and we'll get a picture. Let's give Dean a big round of applause. Dean.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. LARRY NOBLE: Well, I really don't know what to say. This is my first time to be doing stuff like this. But for all your great efforts and everything else and doing what you're doing to keep the game and fish and everything else in the state of Texas back in the water for now and for further on when our kids get grandkids, we appreciate your efforts. Thank you very much.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next award, also coming from the National Wild Turkey Federation, is the Joe Kurz Excellence in Wildlife Conservation Award. This is one of the most preeminent awards that a wildlife biologist across the country can receive. It's named in honor of Joe Kurz, who was a wildlife biologist in Georgia who was just legendary in a host of circles; but particularly for his work in wild turkey conservation. And over the years, I think that 22 of these awards have presented -- been presented across the country. And today, we're going to announce the third winner from Texas, the third wildlife biologist. So all of you will be proud that Texas, I think, leads the country in terms of our wildlife biologists receiving this award. You will remember, of course, the first one, the late Randy Fugate from South Texas and then Dana Wright from up in the Childress area. And this year, this incredibly prestigious and distinguished award was awarded to Micah Poteet out of East Texas.

Micah started, I think, at the same time as Clayton in 1993, working as a wildlife biologist in the Piney Woods. Quickly promoted to a technical guidance biologist and, of course, at that time, you had all of the big timber companies that owned so much of East Texas and Micah spent a good bit of time working with the timber companies -- Champion and Temple and International Paper and all of the hunt clubs -- and obviously, Micah has watched that landscape change dramatically over the years; but he's been on the front lines advising landowners, nonindustrial private forest landowners, the big T-mows and hunt clubs and others how to effectively manage their woodlands and waters for wildlife.

Micah's great love is turkeys. Micah has always been passionate about making sure that everybody has a chance to wake up and hear that sound of a gobble each morning and he's been very interested in making sure that we bring back Eastern turkeys to their former glory days. And so he's been working closely with the our team to develop the habitat suitability index that our biologists developed with other scientists to help identify the areas that were the most suitable biologically and ecologically to restock turkeys in East Texas.

Micah also wanted to make sure that we were doing sufficient research on turkeys that we were restocking in the woods and watching their response in terms of their range utilization, habitat utilization to prescribed fire on the landscape; and that vision came to fruition with the big research project that our Wildlife team is involved in with 80 turkeys that have transmitters on them and watching them and watching, again, the response to fire in that landscape. He's just done an extraordinary job representing this Agency with very quiet, steadily, steady professionalism.

A mutual friend of ours texted me this morning that's a big rancher and landowner in East Texas and wanted all of you to know that every single day, Micah Poteet brings his A-game to the Piney Woods and represents this Agency with great professionalism and couldn't be more proud of him to receive this award and I want to ask Larry Noble to come back up and say a few words before we present this award to Micah.

So, Larry, all yours.

MR. LARRY NOBLE: Where is he at? Micah come on up here and join us. I'm kind of favorable to East Texas, too. That's where I was raised at in the big thicket. But for all your efforts and whatever you do, I haven't been up through there in a long time; but I'm sure the last time I went through there, there was lots of changes going on. For your efforts and everything else, from the National Wild Turkey Federation, we do lots of stuff with Texas Parks and Wildlife; but here's a nice little trophy for you.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: We're going to now transition into our retirements and service awards. We've got one retirements that obviously we celebrate obviously with mixed sentiments always and particularly when we're talking about Tammy Schulle. Tammy has been with us for almost 30 years. And I'll tell you, if there is a model of customer service inside this Agency, it's Tammy.

She started out in, of course, what we called our Administrative Resources team. We now call that our Financial Resources team. She worked in the boat registration section. She was responsible for collecting revenues and managing revenue streams. Did that also with hunting and fishing licenses, magazine subscriptions, fines and other law enforcement related penalties.

Just because of her vast knowledge of revenue and licenses, she was promoted in 2003 to head up our Lifetime License endowment. And so Tammy Schulle was responsible for overseeing and administering that program dealing with everybody around the state that had a Lifetime License. And I can say this: In my nine and a half years on the job, I think Tammy is at the top of the list in terms of the number of calls and letters that we have received complimenting a colleague for their extraordinary customer service and just how helpful she has been to people when they needed it most. And she's just been a great testament to the spirit and service of this Agency.

Y'all will remember when we made the big transition in 2010, the big IT transition from Verizon to Gordon-Darby. That was a big, big deal. And Tammy was on the front lines to help work on that and make sure that we built and integrated that new software system, which was so critical to the administration and operation of our hunting and fishing license system and just did a great job -- 2013, I'm sorry.

She is retiring on us after 28 years of service. Fittingly, her colleagues purchased her a Lifetime Hunting License. Let's give her a big round of applause. Tammy, come forward.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: We're going to now honor colleagues for literally decades of service and I want you to take note when I say this: Our very first honoree has worked proudly for this Department for 45 years. And I don't want any of you to take this personally when I tell you this, but Ms. Bettye Simms, who works in our Law Enforcement office out of Beaumont with Captain Ousley, when we told Ms. Bettye -- as the team calls her -- that we wanted to honor her in front of the Commission and let the Commission thank her for her 45 years of service, she politely declined and said while she appreciated that, that it seemed a little frivolous given all of the work that she had to do back in the office. And so God bless Rod for hauling her up here so we could say a word of thanks after 45 years of serving this Agency.

It's just absolutely amazing. She started out in the Lufkin Law Enforcement office when, of course, we were issuing paper licenses and so all of that was written in hand and duplicates and triplicates and you can imagine just what a nightmare that was. Bettye lived and breathed it. She was just invaluable to that office, working with our Law Enforcement related team. In 1999, she transferred over to Beaumont and quickly became the go-to person on all of the boat registration related issues on the coast. Became an expert in saltwater fisheries related regulations, both on the recreational and the commercial side. You know, she worked and trained up ten different captains over the course of her career. She's had 150 game wardens that have come to her for all kinds of motherly advice during her time and she's just been such an extraordinary ambassador for this Agency and it's also, I have to say, a little bittersweet too because she has told us after these 45 years, she's also going to be retiring and well earned, I would say. And as Captain Ousley has said, he's going to spend the next five weeks begging her to stay. And y'all help me try to do that, 45 years of service, Ms. Bettye. Bettye.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague, Bill McDonald. Bill is a landscape architect with us, and Bill hasn't been with us for 45 years; but it's been close. He's been with us for 35 years. Started out as a landscape architect for the Department in one of the earliest iterations of the Infrastructure Division and Bill was on the front lines really of a time in which we were developing a lot of parks around the state. So Bill was instrumental in helping to develop and plan out Choke Canyon and, gosh, Lake Tawakoni and Martin Creek and Cooper Lake and Lake Bob Sandlin, a bunch of -- a bunch of big lake parks over in East Texas.

More recently, you may have seen Bill's expert handywork at the Game Warden Training Center. He designed that whole gate entry there and the firing range; the camping loop that we opened up there at Palo Duro Canyon there which is just really, really a nice addition to that area; the boardwalks and trails and Interpretive Center there at Sheldon Lake Environmental Center there in Houston that's been, you know, Bill's genius in terms of managing that and making sure that all of those features were well-integrated into the parks and the training centers and WMAs and hatcheries that he's work with over his 35 proud years with this Agency. So we're celebrating his 35 years of service today, Bill McDonald. Bill.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague in purchasing and contracting in our Financial Resources Division, Sherrie Haddock. Sherrie has been with us for 35 years, all out of the Austin office; and she has played an integral role in the administration of this Agency. She started off in our licensing section and she, again, at the time in which we were doing all paper licenses and she was responsible for 3,000 license accounts across the state. So every time a vendor would sell licenses, they would send in weekly reports of those license sales to the Department. They all had to be processed manually. They all had then to be entered into a very clunky, awkward computer system manually and Sherrie was responsible for 3,000 of those accounts each week, making sure that they came in and were processed and that we sent the bills out at the right time to the vendors, including the two biggest: Walmart and Academy. And so she had a very, very big job and no surprise then that she was one of the leading contributors and architects to helping move the Department to what we know now, of course, as the point-of-sale system and so in which we have gotten away from all of those manual entries and people can buy their licenses directly from the vendors and online and that's just been a huge benefit to us.

Sherrie, after working in that area, moved over to the Communications Division where she was in the print shop, had a number of responsibilities there working on the earliest web design and website. She worked for the magazine for a period of time. And then in 2006, she came to work for, again, Administrative Resources in purchasing and contracting as one of our major purchasers around the state and she is now responsible for overseeing all of essentially the credit cards inside the Agency. So 1,240 credit cards, 100 travel cards, 2,500 fuel cards, and she's the one that makes sure that we dot every "I" and cross every "T" appropriately and use those cards responsibly and she does a great job of that and we're very proud of her service. Sherrie Haddock, 30 years of service. Let's thank her. Sherrie.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague, Cindy New, has also been with us for 30 years. And Cindy's had a fascinating career with the Agency. She started out when she was in high school, Brent, up in Quitaque working at Caprock Canyon State Park as a seasonal employee and did that through high school. Went off for a few years and then came back as a seasonal employee there at Lake Sandlin, Lake Bob Sandlin State Park. She got hired by our Force Account team and then Cindy traveled around the state helping to develop parks at Purtis Creek and Cedar Hill, among others; and got hired as one of the first park rangers there at Cedar Hill State Park, just west of Dallas and near Fort Worth.

Cindy transferred over to Matagorda Island to be a park ranger there. She got commissioned as a park police officer there, helping to work on what was then a state park on the island; but then decided to transfer back as a full-time park police officer there at Cedar Hill. She met her soon-to-be husband and they got married and she became the mom of their daughter or stepdaughter Jessica. Their family took off, had a son; and she decided that she needed to pursue a little different line of work inside the Agency. So she went to work for our Law Enforcement team there in the Garland office, helping with, again, all of these myriad administrative functions: Dealing with the public, licenses, boat registration and titling, just helping with general customer service.

She's been a great member of our team there in that very, very busy office, helping our Law Enforcement team there in, again, processing licenses, dealing with the public. Cindy loves the outdoors. She -- in her spare time, she and her husband participate in mountain-man reenactments and she's known for her western finery. In fact, she and her family have been depicted as models in a bunch of paintings and she goes by the western name "Whiskey Rose." So 30 years of service, Whiskey Rose, Cindy New. So, Cindy.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague, Tedell Bradley, has also been with us for 30 years; and Tedell has spent really a whole career -- a whole career, for all practical purposes -- up at Caddo Lake State Park. And I don't need to tell this body what an extraordinary place that is on the Louisiana border. Our only big natural lake, just phenomenal. A wonderful, wonderful place to visit.

Tedell started out at Caddo Lake on a job training program. He was hired part time on a seasonal basis and then he was hired as a park ranger to work at what was then Lake Lewisville State Park and he did a few months over there and separation disorder kicked in from Caddo Lake and he went back to Caddo Lake and has never looked back. And Tedell is our maintenance supervisor there at the park and so he's made -- he makes sure that everything stays as put together as we can for all of the visitors. Just does a tremendous job representing us there at that state park; and today, we celebrate 30 years of service to our State Parks Division and Caddo Lake State Park, Tedell Bradley. Tedell, please.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague, John Ingle. John is with our Inland Fisheries Division and he's been a fisheries technician for us for 25 years. Spent most all of his time kind of up in the North and West Texas area. Started out in our Canyon Inland Fisheries office over near Amarillo, moved over to Wichita Falls, back to Canyon, and then went to San Angelo in 1996, I guess, and has been out in West Texas for that time working on all of the things that our fisheries technicians and biologists do in terms of managing the fisheries in the lakes, working on stocking related issues, angler access, creel monitoring, habitat-related surveys.

You know, he's lived through all of the death droughts out in West Texas, the floods, the Golden algae outbreaks. You know, you name it, John has been on the front lines all with an extraordinarily positive attitude. He's incredibly proud of the team that he works with in Inland Fisheries and I think this is a wonderful hallmark to the great servant leader. John is particularly proud of his supervisors that he has worked with -- Mandy Scott, who was a district biologist for us out in San Angelo that was promoted to head up the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center Complex there in Athens when Alan retired and also another biologist who at one time was his boss that you may have heard of named Craig Bonds. And John, very proud to see him where he is today and so we're honored to celebrate 25 years of service to this Agency, John Ingle. John.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague from State Parks Division, Johnny Crawford. Johnny's been with us for 25 years and I've got to tell you, Johnny is one of the first people I met when I came back to the Department, Brent, in January of 2008. The State Parks Division was having a big meeting in Wichita Falls. Yeah, they had taken over the Holidome there, the old Holiday Inn. You know, it's January and you walk in, they've got that pool and all that fake, plush vegetation and you thought you were in a tropical rainforest and Johnny unfortunately had the inauspicious responsibility of having to pick me up at the airport and I knew I was going to like him. He pulled up in this old, battered, beaten up, you know, white pickup truck with tools everywhere and just popped out of the truck with a big smile on his face as big as the state and a firm handshake and said, "Welcome to Parks and Wildlife."

And I get a chance to see Johnny across the state about once a year. Johnny started out working for us on a Force Account crew building basically screened-in cabins there at Lake Whitney State Park and then he moved up to Lubbock at the site that used to be a state park, the Lubbock Lake Landmark State Park that's now part of the Texas Tech system that, I think, they co-manage with the City of Lubbock. And Johnny was promoted to a really important position inside State Parks, which is basically a Regional Maintenance Specialist. And so he oversees a team that's responsible for all of the minor repair and upkeep in all of the parks inside a region and, of course, his region is big. It's Palo Duro Canyon and Caprock Canyon, all the way down to Mother Neff and a lot of places in-between; and so he's constantly on the road.

He and his partner, Joseph Ybarra, just live out of their trucks. They fix anything. The parks guys call them J and J Construction and they keep it all together. Twenty-five years of service, Johnny Crawford. Johnny, bravo.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague needs no introduction to this crowd, Tom Harvey, our Deputy Communications Director. Tom has been with us for 25 proud years, just part of the great spirit of this Agency. Tom had a very successful career before coming here as a reporter for both the CBS and I think the NBC affiliates at various times here in Austin. Came to work for the Department to help build up our -- really our news media program. So he started the very successful "Passport to Texas" radio show that you can now hear on a hundred different stations across the country, our video news program that our Communications team and produces and feeds to outlets all over the state.

And in 2010, when we reorganized the Communications team into kind of four different business units or workgroups, it was really Tom that coined the name to describe all of them, whether they worked on web and social media or video or radio or TV and Tom coined them all as the Agency storytellers and that's what they do. They bring the life and history and story of this Agency to people across our state every single day.

Tom has done a great job representing this Agency. Occasionally, he'll still find some time to write and very proud of the fact that in 2015, he had a magazine story on the Powderhorn Ranch acquisition in which he was honored with the very prestigious National Journalism Award for that. So he's one of those great creative geniuses that just loves the Agency, never tires out. Recently took a big trip with a bunch of the State Park ambassadors, a big hiking trip out to Big Bend Ranch to see if he could keep up with the 20-somethings for about a week and I think he done okay. Tom Harvey, we're celebrating 25 years of service. So, Tom.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague from our Inland Fisheries team, Todd Robinson. Todd is a fisheries technician up in the Grayson County area, up around Denison and Sherman, a little community of Grayson. He's been with us for 20 years. Came to us from Pennsylvania State University, where he got his bachelor's in fisheries and wildlife biologist. Was hired to work for us as a technician working up in that North Texas area. Y'all know how important that lake country is there. There's 12 or so big reservoirs that our Inland Fisheries team is responsible for in terms of managing the fisheries and the habitat and the public access for our anglers. So Todd is out doing, again, creel surveys, habitat surveys, electroshocking, gillnetting. You know, all of the myriad things that our technicians do to manage the fisheries.

He's been particularly instrumental in helping work across state lines at Lake Texoma, which is obviously one of the State's most premier fisheries and working with our colleagues in Oklahoma on Striped bass and Blue catfish and making sure that we're managing those very consistently and well across that water body.

One of the things Todd has also made it a great point to do is be very active in his community to introduce youth into the outdoors. And so he's responsible for creating a youth fishing park there in Denison in which our Inland Fisheries team will release Rainbow trout and other fish to help give kids a chance to fish as part of our neighborhood fishing and urban fishing outreach related efforts. He organized a senior citizen fishing tournament as well that he does. Again, assisting folks of all ages. Works with the Boys and Girls Clubs to make sure that those kids have a chance to get out into the out of doors and he's been a partner with Cecilia Nasti in our Communications Division. This really interesting partnership with Central Market in which we'll invite folks to the cooking school at Central Market and teach them how to cook and enjoy wild game and we'll have Fisheries and Wildlife biologists and technicians that will talk to them about the natural history and biology and management of the fish and game that they're eating and then show them how to prepare it and show them how to enjoy it and hopefully, we make a few more hunters and anglers out of it, reach an audience that we hadn't otherwise reached. And so Todd has done a great job. We're proud of his 20 years of service to this Agency. Todd, bravo.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague, Ya Sheng Juan, has also been with us 20 years as a fisheries biologist with our Coastal Fisheries related team. Ya Sheng started with us as the hatchery manager there at Perry R. Bass, our hatchery there in Palacious in which we do so much R and D related work. Because of his skills and background in aquaculture, our Coastal Fisheries team moved Ya Sheng down to our Brownsville field station to be our official liaison with all of the commercial shrimp farmers in the state and that's a critically important job in terms of working in aquaculture and making sure that they're responsibly managing the production of those exotic shrimp just because of water quality related issues, environmental related issues, and making sure that all of those are managed appropriately and that there's not any inadvertent impacts to other resources and Ya Sheng has been our liaison with that community, organizing meetings, making sure that they're well-trained and certified and have all their licenses in order. He really serves as a liaison for multiple agencies that are involved in the State's aquaculture program, from the Department of Agricultural to us to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. He really is an expert in his field and we're proud of Ya Sheng's 20 years of service. Let's thank him today. Ya Sheng, thank you.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Last but not least, Doyle Wesson. Doyle has been with us for 20 years with our Infrastructure team as an engineering specialist and really his specialty is electrical engineering. And Doyle got his start part time really just in our backyard here when he was hired to oversee an operation there at McKinney Falls State Park in which we were moving the electrical lines from an overhead system to an underground cable system and so a big charge and Doyle did a fabulous job and as soon as that project was over, our Infrastructure team wisely snapped him up and offered him a full job as an engineering specialist for the Department.

Left Austin, moved to the coast there in Aransas County; and for the last 20 years, he's been working at parks and wildlife management areas and fish hatcheries all over the state as our really electrical engineering specialist and has just done a fabulous job and taught electrical code to park rangers and staff all over the state that otherwise wouldn't have that kind of training or expertise. And so just, again, a critically important function to taking care of the 3,000 plus facilities that this Department has in its portfolio and we don't have a chance to thank colleagues like Doyle enough; and so let's do that today. Twenty years of service, Doyle Wesson. Bravo.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman and Commission, that concludes my presentation. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you, Carter. And thank you everyone for sharing this -- these service awards. It's always a great pleasure for us to get to know the loyal team members we have here. It's wonderful.

All right. As we usually do, this is when we allow anyone who wishes to stay for the remainder of our meeting to, of course, stay and participate; but if you wish to leave, this would be a good time to do so. So we'll take a couple of minutes to let those who wish to exit take off.

(Recess taken)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. I would like to call the meeting back to order. We'll now take up our action items, beginning with Action Item 1, Regulations Rule Review, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes and Completed Rule Review on several chapters that Ann Bright will make a presentation on. And after, of course, she finishes, we have a few people who have signed up to speak and make comments on Action Item 1.

I just want to remind those who have signed up to speak, that we allow three minutes and that we do require the comments to be relevant to the particular topic and we welcome comments; but they are to be made in that framework.

So, Ann, would you please make your presentation on the regulations rule review?

MS. BRIGHT: Good morning, Commissioners. I'm Ann Bright. I'm the Chief Operating Officer at the Department, and I'm here to wrap up a process that we have to go through every four years. And just for background, I know that you've seen this slide several times; but we're required to review all of our rules every four years. We have to assess whether the reasons for having the rule continue to exist. We have to publish a notice in the Texas Register; and then following this, we either -- the rules are either readopted, adopted with changes, or repealed. And I'll tell you that the Department takes this job very seriously.

So the -- our process normally involves three meetings. The first meeting, we'll notify the Commission that we're going to begin the process. In the second meeting, we will come back and ask the Commission for permission to publish proposed changes resulting from the rule review. In the third meeting -- and that's where we are today -- we will seek adoption of the proposed rules.

And this is the schedule. It's a little bit of a busy slide, but we ended up pushing off some of the January adoptions to today. So we've got quite a few rules that we're requesting that you adopt amendments or repeals of; but I am going to go through this fairly quickly, as most of these changes are extremely minor.

In terms of our fees, we're not adding fees; but we are correcting some statutory language. We're eliminating a couple of -- a couple of fees associated with permits that no longer exist. On the stamps, we're modifying a reference to the design and issuance and also eliminating a reference to some stamps that no longer exist.

In terms of our boat regulations, we're changing some language to reflect what is actually the current nomenclature. We're deleting references to a tax that we don't collect, and then we're changing some statutory references. In terms of our rules in Chapter 57 on harmful or potentially harmful fish, shellfish, and aquatic plants, we're making a change to allow -- to now allow the Department to waive a permit fee if somebody is reducing or seeking a permit to remove prohibited nuisance aquatic vegetation. We're also clarifying that permits allowing the removal of these have the same validity as a treatment proposal. There was some confusion there.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Ann, before you move on --

MS. BRIGHT: Yeah, sure.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- back to 57.117. I realize the proposed amendment eliminates the fee, but does it still require the permit?


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Good. I just wanted to make sure. Thank you.

MS. BRIGHT: Yes, it's still -- it's -- absolutely.


MS. BRIGHT: The species on introducing fish, shellfish, and aquatic plants, there's a provision that we're propose -- or we're requesting to amend, that would basically give us some flexibility in terms of the period of the permit, the length of the permit.

On collecting broodfish in Texas water, these are really just clean-up provisions. They're not intended to make any real substantive changes. There was a reference to freshwater stamp right now. To fish in -- at all in Texas, you have to have either a freshwater or a saltwater stamp. So we just eliminated a reference there. We had a duplicative reference to broodfish permit.

And then, as you-all know, we have a permit review process and we noticed that in one of the rules, that we had failed to include the Inland Fisheries Division Director on the review panel. Clarifying language in -- also in Chapter 57. In the parks, again, we're not making any really serious changes. We had a reference to a permit. We had some redundant provisions. We had a wording change that staff thought was more appropriate. In terms of park entry passes, we had some duplicative references that we're eliminating. Again, we also had some unnecessary words. We have a provision that allows fees for a car or a vehicle full of people. So I guess if someone brings in someone else on a motorcycle, we wanted to make sure that was included. We've deleted "guided" from reference and just have tours. And then the Executive Director doesn't really issue these orders and so we just modified that language.

We combined some use fees to make it clearer. Deleted some narrow references and just moved some fees around and the last -- hoping your time on the Commission, you will never see an item more insignificant than this last item where we added a zero. The -- on the statewide oyster and fishery proclamation, there is a change that is really going to align our fishery reg -- our shrimping regulations. We had some other provisions that were changed a few years ago. We noticed that there were some that were not changed to match those.

Statewide hunting, in your materials this looks like we're making a lot of changes; and really what we're doing is as you will recall in 2014, the Commission adopted some rules regarding the Managed Lands Deer Program to streamline that process. Those rules are going to go into effect for the 2017-2018 hunting year, and we needed to go back and really just clean that up in other places throughout our regulations. So there's some sections that are going to be repealed. There's several sections that are going to be -- that we're proposing to amend. And then, again, there is a modify to consolidate repeated language regarding a fee.

In terms of endangered and threatened, protected native plants, this is a list that we -- first of all, we're repealing a duplicative fee. It's in another section. We don't need it in two places. These lists of endangered and threatened plants just reflect the federal list. So we're not adding anything that's not -- or deleting something that's on the federal list. But there is one that we're deleting, and one that we're proposing to add.

On the recovery value, as you-all know, when someone takes a species that we regulate illegally, that person is required to pay civil restitution to the State. So the State has -- the Commission, you know, years ago has adopted fees for recovery values for these species. We noticed that we didn't have one for alligator eggs. So we added -- we're proposing one for alligator eggs. It was going to be based on the number of successful hatchlings. In looking at this further and actually in response to a comment, I think it was determined that a person's requirement to pay restitution should not depend on whether there were successful hatchlings. So -- and I'll talk about that a little bit more in a minute, but we're proposing to make that change to just the current market value.

These are the comments we received. On Chapters 53, 58, 57, and 59, we received no comments in opposition. Less than ten on -- in terms of agreement. On Chapters 65 and 69, we received mostly comments -- received several comments. We did receive a few that were in disagreement. On the wildlife rules, there was a commenter asking that we change the muzzleloader dates. There was also a request that we change some provisions regarding Milam County and let me get through these real quickly and then I'll tell you what the response is on those.

Similarly, there was a change regarding -- that was requested regarding Goliad County. There's a different season bag limits -- whether -- based on whether south or north of Highway 59. In talking with the Wildlife Division about these, these all affect deer. And as you-all know, we are now on a four-year cycle in terms of our deer regulations. Every time we adopt deer regulations, from a biological perspective, the Department wants to have a period of time for those to -- for staff to evaluate the biological impact of those. The last batch was adopted in March of 2016. What we would recommend that we do is hang on to these comments and when we go through the next batch of deer rules, to come back and really seriously dig into these. I think staff believe that their rules as they exist today are biologically defensible and we also have Wildlife staff if you have any specific questions on that.

Resource protection rules, I mentioned the alligator eggs and we are proposing when the Commission -- if the Commission approves the requested motion, it will reference changes and the change that we are specifically requesting is to change from the proposal to eliminate the survival rate reference. There was also a question about adding a plant and deleting a plant from the endangered species list. And as I mentioned earlier, those are only species that are either on or off the federal list.

This is an extremely long motion, and so I'm just going to kind of summarize it for you. We're asking the Commission to adopt amendments and repeals to Chapters 53, 57, 58, 59, 65, and 69 as published in the December 23rd and the February 17th Texas Register, as well as the completed rule review of those chapters, with changes including the change to the alligator egg provisions. And I'm happy to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Any questions or comments by members?

I have one, Ann. On 69.26, the alligator egg provision, it's proposed to change it to current market alligator egg price. Would it not be more appropriate to refer to the current market value in Texas for alligator eggs?

MS. BRIGHT: That is a -- we're happy to make that change. Absolutely.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Either way, I think it ought to be in Texas so that there's not some --

MS. BRIGHT: And let me --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- vagueness argument that it's --

MS. BRIGHT: Before I get --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- alligator eggs in Louisiana where Dick has them for breakfast every morning.

MS. BRIGHT: Before I get too far in front of that one, I need to kind of look and -- Clayton?

We're good.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. I -- does anybody have any problems with adjusting that definition?

Okay. All right. Thank you, Ann.

We'll now hear from those who have signed up to speak on the regulations rule review. The first speaker is Drew De Los Santos, who has signed up as neutral on this item.

MS. DREW DE LOS SANTOS: Good morning. Good morning, Commissioners. My name is Drew de Los Santos. I'm a native Texan, born and raised here and have enjoyed the Texas Parks my entire life and it's a beautiful state that we live in and must protect. And, you know, as you-all know, this is a very important vote because the rules are only reviewed every four years. And so I ask that you -- as I'm sure you will because it's your duty to take these very -- this very seriously.

And so I would like to say that I think it's inappropriate and disrespectful to the people of Texas and the parks and wildlife that you are here to protect, to vote with such people as Mr. Kelcy Warren, who has an extreme conflict --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Excuse me, excuse me. We're not going to hear complaints about whether a Commissioner is qualified or appropriate to sit. That's not relevant to the topic. So if you have comments on the particular rules or the adjustment that I suggested, we welcome it; but not comments about whether Commissioner Warren should sit. He's going to sit and participate in this meeting.

MS. DREW DE LOS SANTOS: I understand that. And so especially as it concerns the endangered species, I think that, you know, it's really important to consider that, you know, as people participate in this meeting or whatnot, they may vote or take consideration with private interests in mind. Thank you very much.


Next speaker is Cindy Sosebee or Sosebee. I hope I pronounced it right on one of those two attempts, who has not stated whether she is for, against, or neutral on the rule changes. So first thing we'd like to ask you --



MS. CINDY SOSEBEE: And it's Sosebee. You got it right on one of the times.


MS. CINDY SOSEBEE: Thank you for giving me a chance to speak. I am here -- I drove from Houston -- because I'm very concerned about what things that are going on with Texas Parks and Wildlife because actually, I love our parks and our state is beautiful. I would ask that on regarding Item 1 on the agenda, I ask everyone on the Commission to please only vote in the best interest of our parks, our land, and the people and be sure that nothing is voted on that is for any private interest. That it's only for what's best for our land, our people, and our natural resources. And your job is to take care of it. So please do that properly. Thank you.



COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Next speaker is Michelle Wilk, who has signed up to speak against the regulation changes.

MS. MICHELLE WILK: Good morning. My name is Michelle Wilk. Thank you very much for listening to me today and giving me the opportunity to speak. This is my first opportunity coming to a hearing here at the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife and I'm very excited to be participating in this very transparent process and I'm very excited to share my opinion. I'm from San Antonio, Texas. A resident born and raised. I, too, am a lover of the parks and our natural spaces and believe that they serve great benefit to our community, economy, and many other aspects of our life.

I drove here from San Antonio, Texas, this morning in order to speak on Action Item 1, which is regarding the regulation rule review and whether or not we should adopt the proposed changes that Mrs. Bright just went over. And I am speaking before the Commission today to oppose any vote on the adoption of the proposed changes to regulations. It is inappropriate for this Commission to make any regulatory changes so long as such blatant corruption is occurring. I do not need to name names because I know that will probably upset you; but as a lifelong Texas resident, I'm incredibly disappointed and yet not surprised that the State could not manage to find another competent Commissioner who is not an oil --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. Excuse me --

MS. MICHELLE WILK: -- tycoon on the Forbes wealthiest people --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- excuse me. Ms. Wilk. Ms. Wilk you are excused from commenting any further on this because you're attacking Commissioner Warren, and that's off topic. Thank you very much. We'll hear the next speaker.


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Olka Forster, who is also signed up to speak against it, please come up and tell us why you're against the proposed rule changes.

MS. OLKA FORSTER: Hello. Good morning. My name is Olka Forster. Nice to meet you. Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to come here and speak. I want to say thank you so much for the work that you do for the State and for the parks -- for the parks and wildlife that are here.

So I wanted to start off with a bible quote and this quote says -- it's Matthew 3:64 -- and it says that "No man can serve two masters for either he will hate one or love the other or else he will hold the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and money."

So with that being said, I want to congratulate you, Commissioner Warren, for being a 13th top billionaire. Lucky No. 13 in Texas --


MS. OLKA FORSTER: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- you're excused. Thank you.

I want to remind folks that this Commission enjoys and wants to hear comments from members of the public on items we're considering. We value that input, but we do ask respectfully that you limit your comments to the particular action item and not about complaints about whether a particular Commissioner is corrupt or not or is competent to serve. If you have issues with that, I suggest you take them to the appropriate body; but we're not going to waste the other members of the public's time hearing off-topic comments.

So the next speaker is Dr. Tane Ward, who is also noted as being against Item 1. So we'll hear from Dr. Ward on why he is opposed to these changes.

DR. TANE WARD: Good morning. Thank you all for your time. I'm interested in the adoption of rules in general because I think rules are important. Rules are an embodiment of the values that we carry when we're doing our work, and you are all here to serve the values of the people of Texas. People who want to protect the land, protect the wildlife, protect these parks; and I think that is valuable work in general to do. And it's been commented upon that the nature of the Commissioners serving is not something that is -- that matters when we're talking about the adoption of rules. Several people have brought up Commissioners just now and you've told them that it's not important and I think it absolutely is important. Each of you --


DR. TANE WARD: -- come here --


DR. TANE WARD: -- with specific values --



COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Please address the particular rule changes and not a particular Commissioner.

DR. TANE WARD: I'm addressing the concept of rules. It's very important --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: The concept of the rules is not the topic, sir. It's these particular rule changes and we welcome --

DR. TANE WARD: There are rule changes --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- your comments on these --

DR. TANE WARD: -- that are missing. There are rule changes that are missing.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, that's not on topic. What about these rules are you against? What specific rules do you have a problem with and why? We welcome those comments.

DR. TANE WARD: We all -- many of us here have a problem with something. It is corruption.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. You're excused, sir. Your comments are off topic.

DR. TANE WARD: It is somebody who is making millions of dollars --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: You are excused, sir.

DR. TANE WARD: -- off of other people's backs.

MR. VANNOY: Thank you for your comments.

DR. TANE WARD: That is not the value of --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: You are excused, sir.

The next speaker is Lisa Fithian, who is noted as being neutral on the proposed regulations changes.

MS. LISA FITHIAN: Good morning. I seem to -- as I watch this process go forward, I feel less inclined to offer the niceties that I've seen other people offer here because I don't feel like there's mutual respect going on for people's concern. So in one of the rules, you talked about -- I have a couple things about these rules, and I may not understand enough; but the concept of talking about alligator eggs and market value. Like, what does market value have to do with protection of our parks and wildlife?

And that is, I think, one of the underlying concerns that you see coming from people is that what has happened in the State of Texas where we both value our parks and we want to go through all these rules to protect them; but we have such clear conflict of interests in how our systems have been set up. You talk about exotic species rules, and I know it's about water and all; but you have people on the Commission that engage in exotic species. That's a conflict of interest. It's a conflict of interest.

So part of what we see here is concerns about not just the rules of what's going -- like, our deer and this and that; but about the integrity of the whole thing and that when we have a conflict of interest that's so blatant and when we have a Commission that's not willing to address that in a real way, so I don't know if I've got my little -- I've got a little bit more time to here, so I'm going to continue until I get closed down; but this stake of our land and our water and our air and the future in this country and for the generations -- as your mission says you are about, protecting this for generations. When we are, you know, applying a business model to our management of our resources, it changes how we make our decisions and it changes the terms by which we think it's okay to make these decisions.

And as a community of people who benefit from the land and who honor it and who see ourselves as stewards -- because I think that's part of what's happened is that this land which was originally indigenous land where the indigenous people were stewards of this land --

COMMISSIONER JONES: Ma'am, which specific rule are you -- which chapter --

MS. LISA FITHIAN: What I'm talking about --

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- Chapter 53, Chapter 57, Chapter 59 --

MS. LISA FITHIAN: I didn't --

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- Chapter 58 --

MS. LISA FITHIAN: Okay. Well --


MS. LISA FITHIAN: Well, I'm talking about maybe finances. Maybe why don't we talk about finances or parks if you want to go to the rules because what I'm talking about is how we steward the land. How do we rule --

COMMISSIONER JONES: Which chapter? Which chapter are you addressing? I'm confused.

MS. LISA FITHIAN: You know, honestly, I am not going to buy in to the bureaucratic -- getting buried in rules and bureaucracies when we're talking about the quality of our life, the quality of our democracy because our democracy and how it works is directly related to how we treat the land, how we treat people.

COMMISSIONER JONES: So you're not addressing any one of the chapters that I've just --

MS. LISA FITHIAN: Well, I'm telling you right now --


MS. LISA FITHIAN: -- that on the exotic species things, you have some conflict of interest on this board.

COMMISSIONER JONES: You've got six choices. Which one is it?

MS. LISA FITHIAN: I'm telling you that on the alligator eggs, that market value -- thinking about applying market value so that we can eat whatever deal with alligator's eggs -- and, again, I may not understand it; but I'm doing the best I can.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I don't think you do. This is establishing a fine for people who take eggs illegally.

MS. LISA FITHIAN: Well, that --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But thank you. Your time's up. We appreciate your comments this morning. Yes.

MS. LISA FITHIAN: Kelcy Warren --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you very much, ma'am. You are excused.

MS. LISA FITHIAN: -- you need to resign from this board. You are undermining the integrity of the entire process and you should be ashamed of yourself for allowing him to continue to be on this board.

MS. OLKA FORSTER: Corruption.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. The last speaker --

MS. OLKA FORSTER: Pipelines and (inaudible) --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: You are excused, ma'am, from this meeting for disrupting a public meeting.

MS. OLKA FORSTER: We know the facts. You know the facts. You and Tomi Lahren can both suck it.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I apologize to those of you who are here to discuss these particular rules and to hear comments on, for this disruption.

The last speaker who signed up on the proposed rule review changes is David Cortez, who is noted as being neutral and representing the Sierra Club.

MR. DAVID CORTEZ: Good morning. Mr. Buggs, it's good to see you. I've got a few friends in this room. My name is Dave Cortez. I'm born and raised in El Paso, Texas. And, you know, I'm here to speak on Item No. 1, regulations and rules review.

Actually, I'm kind of a fan of regulations and rules review. It's something I look at for many State agencies. You know, I grew up in Franklin Mountains State Park and before I begin my formal comments on Chapter 57.399, I want to thank the staff of the Texas Parks and Wildlife who worked so hard to make this Department run. The staff, you might be listening to this. I have spoken to many of you. There's many I haven't spoken to and just want to say thank you.

The land from El Paso to Balmorhea to Shafter is my family's ancestral homeland. It's where we come from dating more than a century back, more than a hundred years ago after they migrated from Chihuahua and Zacatecas and the Rio Grande, the San Solomon Springs that's in by blood. It flows throughout my body, and I speak to you today with that in my heart. I recognize --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Mr. Cortez. Mr. Cortez --

MR. DAVID CORTEZ: -- I missed the discussion around the Executive Session --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: No. Excuse me, Mr. Cortez. Just a second --

MR. DAVID CORTEZ: -- of your rules review --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Mr. Cortez, just a minute. Are you videoing --

MR. DAVID CORTEZ: So it would be inappropriate --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- these proceedings?

MR. DAVID CORTEZ: -- to speak against this rule?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Excuse me. Are you videoing these proceedings with your cell phone?

MR. DAVID CORTEZ: I'm videoing myself. It's a selfie.


MR. DAVID CORTEZ: Yeah. Is that okay?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: It's fine with me. I just was -- I was asking for --

MR. DAVID CORTEZ: I'm not filming anybody else here. I'm just -- this is a live video.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. Please proceed and limit your comments to the rules.

MR. DAVID CORTEZ: Sir, I would love to finish my comments that I was just speaking about. Let's see. You threw me off my line. I think that's very rude. I want to be clear about that because I was saying your rules review, it would be inappropriate for me to speak against this rule. Chapter 57.399, okay, which I already spoke about and raised a minute ago before I was so rudely interrupted. You speak about making sure certain designees are appropriate members of a review process. That's a good process. I appreciate that type of scrutiny of making sure that you have appropriate folks reviewing decisions and I'm wondering why a similar process about appropriate persons in a decision-making process, isn't being applied to the issue around the J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area that was brought up and tabled on November 3rd and it has not been brought back up before this Commission.

COMMISSIONER JONES: What do you have to say about the Inland Fisheries Division Director or his or her designee.

MR. DAVID CORTEZ: I'm not --

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- designee --

MR. DAVID CORTEZ: I'm not speaking about that. I'm speaking about the --

COMMISSIONER JONES: Excuse me, excuse me --

MR. DAVID CORTEZ: -- item --

COMMISSIONER JONES: Excuse me, excuse me --

MR. DAVID CORTEZ: I will be happy to take --

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- Inland Fisheries --

MR. DAVID CORTEZ: -- questions after I finish my comments, sir.

COMMISSIONER JONES: No, no. I need to clarify what you're speaking to.


COMMISSIONER JONES: That rule 57.3 --

MR. DAVID CORTEZ: -- I would like to finish my comment.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Well, you might not get to finish your comment, sir.

MR. DAVID CORTEZ: This is highly inappropriate. I'm representing an organization and speaking --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: You're time is up, sir. You're excuse.

MR. DAVID CORTEZ: -- on an issue. I'm representing an --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: You're time is up, sir. You are excused.

MR. DAVID CORTEZ: I can't finish? I will not leave because you will not allow me to finish my comments. I'm here officially on business and you stopped me.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: You're time is up. You had three minutes. You're excused, sir.

MR. DAVID CORTEZ: I pray for all of y'all's integrity. I don't know how --



MR. DAVID CORTEZ: -- you work this way. You're the wealthiest man in Texas, and you have no integrity by standing up for this man.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. Again, my apologies --

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Water is life. We cannot live without water. Our bodies are made --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: You are excused, ma'am --


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- for disrupting --

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: -- our earth is made of water --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- this meeting.

Will you please escort her out?

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: If we don't have water, we will all die. We will all die. I need my water so I can live.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: You have it in your hand. Good luck.

Is there anyone else in the audience who wishes to speak on Action Item No. 1?

All right. Hearing none, at this point, I'd ask are there any comments from the Commission or questions from the Commission?

Is there a motion for approval? Commission Scott motion.


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Commissioner Lee second. Is there any opposition to the proposed rule changes as tweaked on the alligator eggs?

Hearing none, the motion carries unanimously. Thank you.

Action Item 2, 2017-18 Statewide Recreational and Commercial Fishing Proclamation, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Rules. Ken Kurzawski, will you please make your presentation? I think you're going to be joined by Tiffany Hopper and Mark Lingo or maybe later, sorry.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Yes. Good morning, Commissioners. My name is --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Why don't you just a second --


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- a few people are leaving. Let's give them an opportunity to leave.

All right, sir, please proceed.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Thank you, Commissioner. Good morning, Commissioners. My name is Ken Kurzawski, Inland Fisheries Division; and I'm here today to go over again our proposed changes to freshwater fishing regulations and to apprise you of the public comments we received on those proposals.

First one was on Bedford Boys Ranch. A small lake in the -- in Bedford in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. That was recently drained and renovated and our local staff is assisting the city there with improving fishing conditions on that lake. We're interested in providing some good fishing. Bass and sunfish are easily overharvested in small lakes. So we're proposing to change the rules there for catch-and-release for those Largemouth and Smallmouth bass. Keep some fish in there. Let people -- give people something to catch and we are stocking catfish and Rainbow trout in there for those people who wish to harvest some fish.

Next on the Devils River, it's one of our most unique rivers in Texas. People go there for the whitewater paddling and also for the Smallmouth bass fishing. Smallmouth bass were stocked into Lake Amistad in the late 70s and early 80s and those populations -- those fish have made their way up the Devils River and produced some good fishing in the Devils River. Current bass regulations there for -- overriding for the river are for Largemouth and Smallmouth, it's the statewide regulation, 14-inch minimum and five-fish daily bag; but we did implement a special regulation for Smallmouth bass on there from Baker's Crossing down to Dolan Falls, an 18-inch minimum and a three-fish bag and we had that on there 1994 to protect the -- those Smallmouth, the quality of that Smallmouth bass fishing.

Currently, anglers and outfitters and the local residents are reporting some declines in the bass fishing in that area. Over the last ten years or so, we've had more publicity. We've had more outfitters. We've been working ourselves to improve the river access and that is more people on the reservoir increases the fishing pressure and that may be affecting those populations, certainly the catchability of those populations. That water body, the river is difficult to sample; but from some of the information we've obtained there, the fish are growing well. We have seen some reductions in our catch rates and a small decrease in the growth of those fish over time.

What we're proposing to change that, is to propose that we do catch-and-release for Smallmouth and Largemouth bass and we're going to implement that from State Highway 163, Baker's Crossing, down to Big Satan Creek. That's approximately 38 miles, and Big Satan Creek is on the downstream boundary of the Dan A. Hughes State Natural Area. What we're looking to do there is to maintain the bass abundance of the population and hopefully maintain the angling -- angler success there. Protect against potential overharvest as use increases down there and the catch-and-release philosophy kind of fits our management philosophy for the Devils River and our state natural area properties of more of a wilderness, minimal use type strategy. And it also does address some of the stakeholder concerns we've been hearing down in that area.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Ken, before you move on to the next topic, is -- what's the thought behind beginning the proposed catch-and-release at the Baker's Crossing take-in or put-in, as opposed to not taking it upstream further?

MR. KURZAWSKI: There's almost -- there's very little public access above that. That's -- there's some mostly private property above there. Almost no fishing from the public fishing goes on above that. So it's -- as far as the bass population there, it has no impact on the rest of the river. Baker's Crossing, that's historically where all the public access starts on the Devils.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, but even if it's more public pressure from Baker's Crossing down, would there not be some benefit to imposing the -- first of all, be more consistent and easier, I think, to under -- for people to understand that the entire stretch of the river we're putting catch-and-release, but wouldn't there be some benefit to doing that upstream?

MR. KURZAWSKI: We did discuss that when we were, you know, discussing the regulation early on and our staff -- as we said, we don't -- we don't see any public access on that area. So it's really -- it doesn't have any impact on the regulation one way or the other. We could do it. It just -- we don't -- we didn't see any benefit and since Baker's Crossing is a recognized landmark where everyone starts, we chose that for that reason.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: By we could if the Commission --

MR. KURZAWSKI: Yes, we could.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- were so inclined, we could ask you --

MR. KURZAWSKI: Sure. We could extend that up. It goes up -- I think it goes up into one more county, up above this -- up into Sutton County from Val Verde County, so.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Thank you. Sorry to distract you there for a minute.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Oh, no problem.

And next, we are making a change for -- regarding a bass species, Alabama bass, that was previously considered a subspecies of Spotted bass. We use as our official nomenclature the common and scientific names of fishes put out by the American Fisheries Society. They changed the name to that. We did stock the Alabama Spotted bass as it was previously known in one reservoir in Texas, the Alan Henry. So to account for that, we have to name that species, add it to the game fish definition, put it into our statewide regulations, and also adjust the regulation on Alan Henry. We have a special regulation that covers previously Spotted bass in there and we'll just change that name to Alabama bass.

And last changes on Kirby Lake, which is a reservoir in Abilene. The City had an ordinance limiting various aspects of fishing there to pole and line and some other gear restrictions. That's been on there a while. It wasn't enforceable. There was a lot of confusion on that. Since it wasn't passed by the Commission, it wasn't enforceable for our game wardens. The City finally went around and removed that in December, 2016. We do have excellent catfishing there. We have a special regulation on catfish in that reservoir and we're hoping to further -- sort of a conservative measure -- protect that if people were going to allow to use jug lines, throw lines, and trotlines, those type of passive gears. And our proposal was to prohibit the use of those three methods in Kirby Lake.

This is a compilation of the public comments that we received on that. Among the first three, we did receive some in opposition to Devils River. A lot of those were just in the interest of maybe allowing limited harvest there, maybe one fish or so. Most people were -- even in that case -- were generally in favor of those more restrictive regulations. And as you can see on Lake Kirby, we did get quite a few comments on that one and there was a number of them that were opposed. Most people -- those people were interested in wanting to use some of those passive gears, like primarily jug lines on Kirby Lake.

And based on those comments, we don't recommend any changes for Kirby; but we -- based on the number of negative comments in opposition on Kirby Lake, we are deciding to pull that proposal to ban those jug lines, throw lines at that time. So specifically, we would have to delete these sections of the code: 57.973(g), 90 covers the jug lines, 21(b) covers the throw lines, and 22(c)(ii) covers the trotlines.

As I mentioned, we got a late start on that into December. We didn't really have an opportunity to get out and talk to the anglers before we -- as much as we would have liked to and that there's just a lot of general confusion from the previous ordinance and some of that led to some of the people opposing that. And so we're interested in, you know, having our staff go back to the anglers there and talk to both -- to the people involved in the issue and possibly pursue some changes in the future, so.

And that's all we have. If you have any other additional comments?

COMMISSIONER JONES: I just want to clarify that last point on Kirby Lake. As I understand the recommendation by staff about the jug lines, throw lines, etcetera on Kirby Lake, your recommendation is still the same in terms of what is best for the lake, what is best for the anglers, what is best for the fish, etcetera. You just need some time to have some conversations with the --


COMMISSIONER JONES: -- local folks to make sure everybody understands what we're doing and why we're doing it?

MR. KURZAWSKI: Correct. That's where, you know, we -- when we put these regulations on, we like to talk to people. We did put a -- that same lake, we put a special regulation on catfish a few years ago. We were able to get out, talk to people and we got some general agreement with them. You know, we just didn't seem to have the time to do that. There would be theoretically another -- you know, if we wanted to come back, there would be another year period because those rules -- right now, those gears are legal on Kirby Lake; and, you know, we would -- if we waited another year, it would be September to August of next year and it would also give us an opportunity to go out there and see how many people are using those methods to give us an idea. You know, is that going to be an issue with -- mainly our concern there is certain times a year, jug lines are very proficient at taking large Blue catfish and we do have a good population of Blue catfish over 30 inches in that reservoir and we could -- we'd have an opportunity to go out there and see if that's having an impact, so.


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Anyone else have questions or comments?

All right, Ken, thank you.

We'll now hear Tiffany Hopper, who I think is presenting for Mark Lingo. Tiffany, welcome.

MS. HOPPER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Tiffany Hopper with Coastal Fisheries Division. I'm here this morning to give you a brief summary of the proposed changes to the saltwater regulations, as well as a brief summary of the public comments that we've received on these proposals.

Specifically, we have proposed regulation changes for Gag, Black grouper, Nassau grouper, and Hammerhead sharks. Three species in this case: The Great Hammerhead, Smoothed Hammerhead, and Scalloped Hammerhead shark.

So I'll begin with the regulations for the Gag and the Black grouper. For both of these species, the current federal minimum size limit is 24 inches. In the State of Texas, our current size limit for Gag is 22 inches and we do not currently have a size or bag limit for Black grouper. Our recommendation for Gag is to increase that size limit to 24 inches and for Black grouper, we recommend establishing a size limit of 24 inches and a four-fish bag limit.

Among the public comments that we received for these two proposals, 88 percent of those comments were in support of the regulation change for Gag and 83 percent were in support of the regulation change for Black grouper.

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

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Before you -- sorry.

MS. HOPPER: Sorry.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Before you move on to Nassau grouper, what federal rule, if any, exists with respect to Nassau grouper?

MS. HOPPER: It's prohibited.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But didn't -- aren't we trying to parallel the federal rule with Gag?

MS. HOPPER: I'm sorry?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, on Gag and Black grouper, the federal minimum size limit is 24 inches. Ours, twenty -- is twenty -- currently 22 and you're proposing to go to 24, which is to parallel with federal --


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And I'm saying in the Nassau grouper, did we -- do we -- are we taking into account that it's not permitted to be caught at all and --

MS. HOPPER: Yeah, we're paralleling the federal regulation.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I'm sorry. I'm not following you.

MR. RIECHERS: Director of Coastal Fisheries, Robin Riechers. What it -- basically, it's prohibited, which is the landing is prohibited; but certainly there's still the possibility of a hook-up and so we are trying to just parallel here and make them a catch-and-release species only here in Texas.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But can you actually target the species?

MR. RIECHERS: Yes, you can. I mean, they're still very popular -- I should say very popular. Some of the species, you can target them; but the goal, obviously, is a catch-and-release species. We catch very few of these anyhow. Mostly seen in Florida. But certainly in Florida, they can still have hook-ups. It's just that their take is prohibited.


MR. RIECHERS: Sorry for that confusion.


MS. HOPPER: All right. I will move on really briefly here and talk about the proposals we have for the Hammerhead sharks. This would apply to three species: The Great, the Scalloped, and the Smooth Hammerhead shark.

So current federal minimum size limit for these shark species is a 78-inch fork length, which if we convert that, that's a 99-inch total length that would be the federal minimum size limit. The current size limit here in Texas is 64 inches total length. So we recommend increasing the minimum size limit to the 99-inch total length for these three species of Hammerhead sharks. Among the public comments we received on this proposal, 74 percent of them were in support of this regulation change.

And with that, I'd be happy to answer any other questions that any of you might have.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Commissioners, any questions or comments?

Okay. Tiffany, thank you very much for your presentation.

We'll now hear from Brandi Reeder. Welcome, Brandi.

MS. REEDER: Good morning. Good morning again. My name is Brandi Reeder. I'm the Fisheries Law Administrator for the Law Enforcement Division. Law Enforcement is requesting a change in the statewide recreational and commercial fishing proclamation, Section 57.973, to no longer allow commercial crab and finfish fishermen to fish up to three traps north of State Highway 146.

Again, on the lower right-hand side of the slide, you can see State Highway 146 highlighted in the red box. To the north is I-10 and to the west is 610, noting the saltwater boundary. This shows -- this clearly displays the amount of water this regulation covers, making detection of violations incredibly difficult. This area is also covered under the Texas Department of State Health Services, who has issued a fish and shellfish consumption advisory for catfish and Blue crabs due to presence of dioxins, BCPs, and organochlorine pesticides. There we go.

We would recommend that the language in 57.973 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. And, again, as far as public comment, we have had none.

And with that, we'll make a recommendation to adopt the sections if you have no questions.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Commissioners, any questions? Discussion?

All right. Thank you, Brandi.

MS. REEDER: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: We have no one signed up to speak on Action Item 2. So at this point, I would ask for a motion for approval.


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Commission Morian. Second Commissioner Scott. All -- sorry. Anyone opposed to the motion?

Hearing none, the motion carries unanimously.

That brings us to Action Item No. 3, 2017-18 Statewide Hunting Proclamation, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Rules. We'll begin with Shawn Gray. Welcome, Shawn.

MR. GRAY: Good morning, Vice-Chairman, members of the Commission. For the record, my name's Shawn Gray. I'm the Mule Deer and Pronghorn Program Leader; and this morning, I'd like to seek adoption of the proposed Pronghorn regulation changes into the Texas Register.

As I briefed you yesterday, 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 different approach when it comes to Pronghorn management, as in other areas we use a limited quota system where permits are issued to the landowners; therefore, we proposed these rules and adopted them as a pilot project.

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

Here is a map of our current Pronghorn herd units in the northern Panhandle. Those in red are where the experimental season are being conducted currently. Herd Units 8 and 17 are around the Dalhart area, and Herd Unit 25 is around Pampa. These were selected because they're representative of habitat, landownership, Pronghorn population parameters, and permit demand and utilization throughout the northern Panhandle.

As I shared with the Commission in more detail yesterday, 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 gathered 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 same three areas and expand the experimental system into two -- into three new areas and monitor for another four hunting seasons.

Again, this is a map of our current Pronghorn herd units in the northern Panhandle. Those in red are where we're currently conducting the experimental system. Those in blue are where staff would like to propose -- or we did propose to expand into and these would give us 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. And this concludes my portion of the statewide hunting proclamation. Before I turn it over to Dave Morrison, do y'all have any questions concerning this adoption?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Commissioners, any questions or comments?

Thank you, Shawn.

MR. GRAY: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: We'll now call Mr. Migratory Bird, Mr. Dave Morrison.

MR. MORRISON: Mr. Chairman, Commission members, this morning I'm not going to be talking about migratory birds; but I am going to be requesting your approval to move forward with some changes to turkey regulations in the statewide hunting proclamation.

With that, again, and what we're proposing today is to clarify some language with respect to spring turkey seasons in the Angelina Natural Forest, as well as clean up some language that was put in for the youth spring turkey season dates in the North Zone and we're also requesting that -- your approval to eliminate the designated check station working in our rules right now.

With respect to Jasper County, Angelina National Forest lands are all closed in Jasper County. So the entire national forest is closed to turkey hunting, but we want to make sure that everybody understands that all public and private lands in Jasper County are open to turkey hunting. Several years ago when we really got into our Eastern turkey restoration and what have you, we had the opportunity to open those seasons. At the time, we wanted to make sure we knew how many birds were being harvested. So we implemented a designated check station to get information on those birds.

Since that time, we've implemented a web-based, app-based approach to gather that information. So thus the need for a designated check station is no longer. So we're requesting approval to eliminate that language in our rule.

For the youth spring seasons in the North Zone, back in 2014, this Commission took action to expand the youth turkey hunting to coincide with the late fall deer season. Somehow inadvertently, that language was carried forward in the Texas Register and added onto the spring season; thereby adding about, you know, 12 days of spring youth turkey season, which was not the intent of the Commission. And so what we're requesting is to remove that language and put back what the intent was: To have the weekend before the spring turkey season and the weekend after for youth turkey hunting. Still provide youth hunting, not that long season that was inadvertently published.

There were no public comments on any of these. And with that, I will be happy to take any questions you may have.


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Just a point of interest or information. We're still introducing those Eastern turkeys up in that part of the world?

MR. MORRISON: Yes, sir, we are. We actually concluded our restoration here recently. We -- we were shooting for 100. We actually got 116. We put those on three different areas, and so we're still moving forward with our restoration areas.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Good. So on this season, are there any Rio Grande turkeys also up there or is it strictly the Eastern? I've heard the deal about how east of the Trinity, you know, it goes to where the Eastern is the only one that really seems to do well.

MR. MORRISON: We're actually doing some research on some of our WMAs where we're trying to find out that very answer. We're putting the Easterns and Rios. We're going to find out which one does the best to kind of guide our decisions.


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Anyone else have any questions or comments?

Okay. Thank you, Dave.

MR. MORRISON: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Mr. Ellis Powell, will you please make your presentation. Welcome, Ellis.

MR. POWELL: Good morning. Good morning, Commissioners. My name's Ellis Powell. I'm the Wildlife Law Administrator for the Law Enforcement Division. Today, staff is proposing the adoption to clarify the boundary in Val Verde County for deer and turkey zones. As I spoke yesterday, this does not actually change the boundary. It's just a clarification in the language.

Currently, it reads that portion of Val Verde County located both south of U.S. Highway 90 and east of Spur 239. The proposal would change to read "South of a line beginning at the International Bridge and proceeding along Spur 239 to U.S. Highway 90 and thence, to the Kinney County line."

Again, this is not an actual boundary change. This is how it shows on the map in the Outdoor Annual. With that, Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts -- we would recommend the adoption of 65.40 and 65.64 concerning the statewide hunting proclamation, with changes as necessary to the proposed text as published in February 17th, 2017, issue of the Texas Register.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. Thank you, Ellis.

MR. POWELL: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Does any Commissioner have any questions for Ellis?

Okay. Then we will now hear from two individuals who have signed up to speak on this item. The first is Brian Schreckenbach -- I hope I'm pronouncing that right -- with Blackfoot Guide Service in Slaton, Texas.






COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And you're against this. So let's hear why you're against it.

MR. BRIAN SCHRECKENBACH: Well, I'm Brian Schreckenbach. I own Blackfoot Guide Service up in Lubbock, Texas. I'm one of the largest waterfowl outfitters in the Panhandle and I've kind of been nominated to speak on the dove regulations.

Talking with Mr. Morrison, he said with the Trump administration, things have been frozen. But dove season has gone into, I guess, November and we want to ask you guys to take the last two weeks of the first split that goes into November and add it onto the second split and take it into January, so just for our hunters. So our morning goose hunts, we don't have anything for hunters to do in the afternoon. So we have 20 outfitters and they're sitting in the hotels in the afternoon with nothing to do.

So with afternoon dove, they would have something. You know, Bluebird afternoons, we can't do ducks. If it's cold, they can't do cranes. So dove would be great for them. So what we're asking to do, you know, during November, nobody is shooting dove anyway. Everybody is deer hunting, right? And January, there's no deer season. So if you guys actually switched over dove, it would give everybody, you know, a chance to shoot dove.

So we're just asking you to take the last two weeks of the first split and then just take it over to January. So just something simple. So I know you can't do it know. Like I said, Mr. Morrison said Trump's frozen everything; but just asking just take it two weeks from the first split and switching it over to the second split, giving our hunters something to do. So, thank you.


Anyone have any questions?

Commission Morian.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I have a question. Are there doves there in --


COMMISSIONER MORIAN: -- that time of year?

MR. BRIAN SCHRECKENBACH: Oh, tons. Yes, sir. So, and it starts about December 18th and it's plenty good; but during that Christmas break, you know, all the outfitters are off, you know, for Christmas, of course, right? And then we've got those five days and it's really, really good; but, you know, we're going to end December 31st and we run the whole month. And Mr. Morrison said we've got until, I guess, January 25th. The federal regs go until January 25th. So we could actually go until then and we've got birds until then, but we've got anywhere between 200 and 400 -- 200 and 400 hunters out there. Like I said, there's 20 outfitters and we just -- you know, we've got plenty of hunters. Just nothing for -- you know, there's no pheasant season going on or anything like that. We've got plenty of birds. We just -- nothing to chase.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Well, it's certainly something we can look at next time.

MR. BRIAN SCHRECKENBACH: Please soon. Thank you.


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I actually think migratory birds will be in May, won't they? I mean, we'll -- sorry. It will be done as in previous years?

MR. SMITH: No. Actually, Vice-Chairman, sorry. Because of this issue with the federal administration and the transition there, they're lagging behind with respect to their setting of the federal framework and so we discussed this yesterday. So we're going to have to go back to the old system in which the Commission basically authorizes me -- after we get the federal framework approved -- to come back to the Chairman and then consult about the final decision and then inform the Commission of that. So we will be making a decision.

Dave, if you want to come forward and just address that again? It probably good to get that out on the public record.

MR. MORRISON: Yes, sir. Again, my name is Dave Morrison. As Mr. Smith said, when the -- with the administration change, basically all rulemaking got froze, got delayed until they had an opportunity to look at it. We learned a couple of weeks ago that that did impact our ability to move forward on the migratory game bird proposals, simply because the timing of publication of the Federal Register has been delayed. So what we are requesting is, as Mr. Smith said, once we get the final approval from the Service that, "Yes, it is published," then working through Executive Director Smith, through the Chair of the Commission, then we can adopt them.

We used to do it this way quite frequently in the past because we had two different systems back then. The gentleman is correct that the framework allows from September 1 to the 25th and this Commission can pick days anywhere in-between, provided we don't exceed the number of splits and you guys know all of that part. So we will be coming forward hopefully -- fingers crossed -- in the next couple of weeks to finalize this, but we're still waiting on the final word from the Fish and Wildlife Service.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Do you have any particular reactions at this time that you're prepared to make or share with respect to his request or suggestion?

MR. MORRISON: I would --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: You may need time to think about it. I'm not trying to put you on the spot.

MR. MORRISON: Well, honestly -- no, it's fine. Honestly, where those days go doesn't matter. I mean, the biology of the bird is we can start from September 1 and run to the 25th. The decision of where you put those days is your decision. We make proposals every year and by and large, you know, what we come up with is accepted by the Commission; but how you want to distribute those days is your call.

From a biological perspective, from a youth's perspective, from what hunters want, you know, we'll give you the frameworks and we will suggest what we think this is; but ultimately, that decision is yours. So his suggestion is not a problem.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. I think Commissioner Scott --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Just briefly, if you would, make a note on that issue so that it doesn't fall through the cracks so that when we start evaluating when you finally get approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife, that we need to -- we need to start addressing what your recommendations are. Just don't let this one fall through the crack.

MR. MORRISON: Well, I can appreciate that comment; but once we get the approval from the Service, then we really do need to react. So if there was something that this Commission would like to consider more in depth as a group, certainly whenever Executive Director Smith goes to the Chair, he could remind him then; but he would not have the opportunity to pass it by this group. And so if there was some substance to this idea and you guys would consider it, I would suggest that maybe sooner rather than later because once we get that final approval --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Carter, he just dumped you in the grease. You've got to -- you've got to remember.

MR. SMITH: So, yeah. No. And we absolutely will remember. I think a couple of things I'll say -- and thank you, Dave, for dumping me in the grease as you said so elegantly, Commissioner Scott.

In all seriousness, it's a great point and we need to hear from our outfitters and hunters up in the Panhandle about, you know, what their options are. Obviously, we're trying to maximize hunter opportunity here without impacting the resource. I think what Dave would tell you is the amount of hunting pressure as you look at it across the board on the tail end over the first or the second split is very negligible compared to the overall hunter activity throughout the course of the season. So it just becomes, you know, kind of a value decision about where we try to create the most opportunity for the most people.

You know, this proposal that we brought in front of you was, of course, brought through your Migratory Game Bird Advisory Committee; and so it was vetted and discussed through that committee and that resulted in the recommendations that were brought to this Commission. I think the gentleman that has come from Slaton has brought an excellent point. Let us take that under advisement. I want our folks to talk with him about that to understand more of those opportunities and where they exist and how that reconciles with other opportunities throughout the zone, including those who have asked us to put more days on the backend of the first split and that's the delicate balance here that we're trying to walk, but we definitely can consider it within the framework.




COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Following up with you -- as I've done for a couple, three years -- when are you going to be trying to change -- we're trying to change those zones. You had to get the data and all that. Is that next year?

MR. MORRISON: We were -- if I may --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Or, well, I guess I should -- I guess I should say that I'm assuming, which you know what that does.

MR. MORRISON: Yes, sir. Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: But I'm assuming that with these rules and changes that are now being -- are looked at from D.C., that's going to have an effect on what we were working on, right?

MR. MORRISON: No, sir. No, sir. All this was, was a delay for the new administration to come in and make sure that they were comfortable with everything. With respect to your question in the South Zone, our proposal does consolidate the Special White-wing in South Zone and provide those weekend -- those first two weekends in September. In -- in the 2018-19 hunting season, that is the timing when we will be able to establish the fixed date of September 14th for the entire South Zone to get all weekends. So that really is not part of this discussion. That is part of the rulemaking that the Service has already gone through. So whenever we get our next year's package, that should be part of it.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Anyone else have comments? Questions or comments?

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: No. I would just like some more input; and if we can't get that this year, well, it's something to consider next time.

MR. MORRISON: Yes, sir.

MR. SMITH: You bet. Yeah, thanks.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. Thank you, Dave.

MR. MORRISON: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And thank you, Mr. Schreckenbach. Hope I --


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Schreckenbach, sorry. Appreciate you making the effort to come present your comments today on this issue.


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. The next speaker on this Action Item 3 is Natasha Nolan, apparently of Austin, who is neutral.

MS. HALLIBURTON: Chairman, I got word that she was not going to speak.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. She's elected to pass on making her comments, and there is nobody else signed up. So at this point, are there any comments from the commission?

Is there a motion for approval? Commissioner Scott. Commissioner Galo second.

Anyone opposed?

Hearing none, the motion carries unanimously.

Next item, Action Item 4, a wonderful action item, Local Park Grant Funding. We'll begin with Dana Lagarde on Urban Outdoor Recreation Grants. Welcome, Dana.

MS. LAGARDE: Thank you. Let's see here. Good morning. My name is Dana Lagarde. I'm the Local Park Grant Manager for the State Parks Division and today, I'm going to be -- excuse me -- I'll be presenting our recommendations for funding of 37 local park grants across the State of Texas.

Funding from a portion of the State sales tax on sporting goods and from federal offshore gas royalties, provide matching grants to local governments for the acquisition and development of public parkland. We have available funds through the Texas Recreation and Parks Account in the amount of $8,709,081; the Texas Large County and Municipality Recreation and Parks Account in the amount of $5,761,477; and we have $1,397,935 in the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund money. The total equals approximately $5,868,493.

We have five grant programs that we are funding this round. They're all based on population. We have the Urban Outdoor Recreation and the Urban Indoor Recreation, which is for communities over 500,000 in population. We have the Nonurban Outdoor and the Nonurban Indoor, which is for communities with under 500,000 in population. And we have the Small Community Recreation Grant, which is for communities 20,000 and under in population.

As of October 1st, 2016, TPWD received 65 eligible applications requesting $25,283,389 in matching fund assistance. Exhibits A through E rank the projects in descending order based on each grant program scoring criteria previously adopted by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission. Staff recommends that TPWD Commission adopt the following motion: Funding for 37 projects listed in Exhibits A through E in the amount of $15,868,493 is approved. I'd be happy to answer any questions at this time.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Members, any questions or comments?

All right. Thank you, Dana.

Is there a motion for approval?



MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman, we've got a few folks.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Oh, I beg your pardon. My apologies. Thank you. I apologize.

All right. We've got our first speaker on the park grants is Ricardo Garcia from the City of Mercedes. It's unclear whether you're for, against, or neutral. So we would ask that you clarify that when you come up and then --

MR. RICARDO GARCIA: Mr. Chairman, I will yield to the Mayor of the City of Mercedes, who's also signed up.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. But are you for the proposal?


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. Thank you, sir, very much. So you defer to Henry Hinojosa, Mayor of the City of Mercedes, who is signed up to speak for. Welcome, Mayor.

MR. HENRY HINOJOSA: Good morning. Henry Hinojosa, Mayor of City of Mercedes, located in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. And we first of all, applaud your efforts in doing what you do for the citizens of Texas and protecting our lands. As mayor, I can certainly appreciate and applaud. It's not easy sitting up there, making those decisions.

We are currently developing our second city park that sits adjacent to a dome shelter that we have completed. It withstands 200-mile-an-hour winds, and is also our second recreation center for our youth. We appreciate that -- the 500,000 that hopefully y'all will pass to further go a long way in developing our second city park.

We have recently finished a walking trail that's a mile and a half and we received a $500,000 grant from the Knapp Medical Foundation. And we received $125,000 grant from the Valley Baptist Hospital Medical Foundation for exercise stations throughout that walking trail. So we're hoping that with the $500,000 grant that we receive from Texas Parks and Wildlife, it will go further in developing tennis courts, soccer fields, baseball fields to enhance the quality of life of our citizens. So with that in mind, we thank you very much.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Let me say -- speaking for myself; but I believe for the others, I think they would share this view -- that we really appreciate your leadership for your families and youth and the citizens there and nothing more important than trying to develop city parks and create opportunities within inside the city. So good job. Thank you very much for coming today.

MR. HENRY HINOJOSA: Thank you and God bless all of y'all. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. The next person who has at least turned in a card as a potential speaker is Hollis Rutledge, Jr. Do you still -- you wish to observe only or --

MR. HOLLIS RUTLEDGE, JR.: Observe only.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But you're in favor?


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Just wanted to make sure. Thank you for coming and signing up.

All right. Moving to the next area, would be Mark Fury, Harris County Precinct 3 for Parks, and you wish to -- it's unclear whether you're --

MR. MARK FURY: I'm for.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. Welcome --

MR. MARK FURY: I'm for it.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- Mr. Fury, and please address the Commission.

MR. MARK FURY: Chairman and members of the Commission, I just wanted to say thank you for your consideration of the staff's recommendation to fund the Environmental Education Center in John Paul's Landing Park. This is a park that's under development in west Harris County on the Katy Prairie and we look with this Education Center with the collaboration with you to memorialize for future generations and for schoolchildren, the Katy Prairie and its significance historically in the State of Texas.

I want to just take a minute to thank Dan Reece and Roxane Eley on the staff, and also Diana Foss who helped us tremendously in developing this grant application. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you very much for coming. Appreciate your comments.

The next speaker, also Harris County Precinct 4, is Dennis Johnston who is signed up as for this proposal. Welcome, Mr. Johnston.

MR. DENNIS JOHNSTON: Thank you, Commissioner. Thank all of you Commissioners for inviting us here today. I appreciate the opportunity. My name is Dennis Johnston. I'm the Park Director for Harris County Precinct 4, representing Commissioner Jack Cagle who couldn't make it today.

I just wanted to say Harris County is a huge precinct. Precinct 4 is 1.2 million people estimated and growing very fast. Harris County, 4.3 million people. Our precinct alone if it was a state by population, would be the 43rd largest state in this country if you just measured by population. The type of grants like this Urban Outdoor Grant, which we applied for and are in consideration of, is an important grant for a large metropolitan area like that. And I just want to say it's a great resource for us. You know, our resources are stretched across a huge area amongst a very large population and I wanted to say -- give -- say my appreciation to you guys for supporting and funding grants such as that Urban Outdoor Grant.

Our project is the Alabonson Park Project. It's a partnership with the City of Houston, who provided the land; Texas Parks and Wildlife, who's providing $1 million; and Harris County, which will provide $2 million in matching funds, as well as in-kind and equipment. Building parks today, we used to be able to build them for -- open them up for about one to two million. Now, it's three to six million to open a park door nowadays. It's very expensive. So we really appreciate you guys making a difference in these -- especially in these underserved neighborhoods where this park will go.

Thank you again, Commissioners. I want to say my appreciation for Tim Hogsett and Dana Lagarde for all the work they did. I know I have to score playgrounds and proposals every now and then; but scoring hundreds of grants has to be a huge, huge task. And we want to thank everybody here who has worked on this in their Grant Staff Division. We appreciate the work being done by Texas Parks and Wildlife, and we hope to see you at the grand opening of the park.

And on a personal note, I just want to say thank you for the fish stocking program. I'm also a scout leader, and we had a great time with the trout this year. I took out the boys and over half of the boys caught their very first fish in the trout stocking program, that we also partnered with Texas Parks and Wildlife through Harris County Precinct 4. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Commissioner Scott's got a -- just a second, Mr. Johnston.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Who was -- who's the County Commissioner that you -- where you are in Precinct 4?

MR. DENNIS JOHNSTON: Precinct 4, Jack Cagle. Yes, sir.



COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Mr. Johnston, thank you very much for your good work and for making the effort to come address us today.

Next speaker for the City of Rockdale, Chris Whittaker, who is noted as being for the proposed grants. Welcome, Mr. Whittaker.

MR. CHRIS WHITTAKER: Chairman and Commissioners, thank you very much for this opportunity to speak today and thank you for the opportunity to support Rockdale. We are putting in splash pad in our economically disadvantaged part of Rockdale, where we're actually getting 30 new affordable housing units over the next year. So it's really kind of turning around that part of the community and we're appreciative of your Commission and what you're doing to support our city. So thank you very much.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you so much for coming today to address us. Appreciate your support.

The next speaker on behalf of Houston Parks and Rec Department, Mr. Joe Turner. Welcome, Mr. Turner. Welcome back, I should say.

MR. JOE TURNER: Thank you. Good morning, Commissioners. How are y'all today? I would just like to come forward and thank you for your pending approval of the grant program, particularly our grant program -- our urban grant program -- for Avondale Promenade Park. We're very appreciative of this. This is a very urban, small park and that contribution is going to allow us to develop this park in the Montrose area. We're very appreciative of that.

I would like to tell you also this is toward the end of my time as Park's Director in the City of Houston and I would like to appreciate and tell you that since my time, we have taken almost $17 million in grants through this Agency and to that, we thank you for that from the Parks Department. We would never be able to do what we have done in the last 13 years. To Diana Foss, who was amazing for us with our Bat Program in Houston. Thank you to Diana, who we've already heard; Tim Hogsett; Justin Rhodes, who actually held his regional meeting out at Lake Houston Wilderness Park. We took that from the State Park system approximately 11 years ago. And two people here probably don't remember this date. I did not know it actually until somebody posted something on Facebook today. Five years ago, Carter Smith and Commissioner Morian were at the grand opening of the Lake Houston Wilderness Park, which I calmly call the roast of Joe Turner. You had to be there to see it. And to Brent Leisure and Carter Smith, thank you for what you do not only for our urban park systems, our other park systems; but also our State Park system. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, thank you very much for making the effort to join us and address us today. Commissioner Morian, I think, wants to --

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: No. I just want to tell everybody Joe is retiring. He's been a tireless champion of parks in Houston, and I've watched his work and Houston is a much better place park-wise for Joe's hard work. I don't even want to know what you leveraged that 17 million into, but it's a big number.

MR. JOE TURNER: I have a long list, but we won't do that today. How's that?

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Well, thanks for your service; and Houston is going to miss you. So thank you.

MR. JOE TURNER: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you very much, Mr. Turner.

MR. JOE TURNER: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. The next speaker from Bexar -- representing Bexar County is -- I'm sorry -- Ms. Betty Bueche as representing Bexar County is wishing to observe only. Do you want to address the Commission?

MS. BETTY BUECHE: Since you called me, I will just say thank you very much for considering our grant application for Hot Wells County Park. This is on the Mission reach of the San Antonio River, and is within the boundary of the area that is protected for the World Heritage designation of the San Antonio Missions. So the proposal is that this will become a new county park immediately across the river from the portal that leads to Mission San Jose and will very much contribute to the further development of the World Heritage area in San Antonio. Thank you again for your good work. I know you don't know this; but in 1975, I was hired as your first woman park superintendent. So I'm back home. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, thank you so much for reminding of us that important fact. That's great and also for making the effort to come and for your good work on behalf of the county.

All right. I think that is -- I have called everyone who has signed a card to speak on this Action Item 4. Have I missed anyone?

All right. Is there any discussion or any comments from members of the Commission?

Hearing none, I will entertain a motion for approval. Commissioner Lee.


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Second Commissioner Jones. Anyone opposed?

Hearing none, the motion carries unanimously. Thank you all and congratulations to those very worthy recipients.

All right. The Action Item 5 has been withdrawn at this time. So that takes us to Action Item 6 and a mystery guest, who's going to talk about Acquisition of Land in Matagorda County, 453 Acres at the Perry R. Bass Marine Fisheries Research Station. Sir, please identify yourself.

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

The station is only 40 acres of land, which includes a small cluster of buildings, lab buildings, offices, and ponds. The site was acquired in 1967. Our specialty there is fisheries genetics and fisheries population dynamics, marine fishery population dynamics, and I think we probably lead North America, quite frankly, in the quality of marine fisheries research that we do. And we've outgrown that facility; and so for several years, staff has been keeping eyes open for an opportunity to acquire land that would enable us to expand those facilities.

Last year, we became aware of a tract basically across the street the Research Station that was available for sale. After several months, quite frankly, of discussing that with the broker for the owners, we agreed on an option to purchase. We do have some funds available to us from a grant award from the Restore Council. These are civil settlement funds from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

You can see the relationship of the subject tracts to the Perry R. Bass Research Center. There's an 11-acre tract adjacent to the Research Center. It would provide us an area of for a needed new saltwater intake for the ponds and then there's the larger area that has some uplands that are about 10 or 11 feet above the bay level. It would give us some much higher ground to build these new needed facilities on.

You can see from the Spit looking across the lake, that it's a very, very productive natural resource, 40 or 50 acres of oyster beds just in that small lake, as well as seagrass beds; and you can look across the lake and see those uplands that, again, would provide ideal location to expand the research facilities themselves.

We've received no comments regarding the proposed actions and with that, staff recommends 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. I'd be happy to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Any comments or questions from the Commission?

I have a question. On the chart -- or, sorry, the aerial. What are all the little rectangles that are some in green, some in gray that are there in the bottom just above the -- or to the left rather of Sartwelle tracts?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Those are actually commercial fish and shrimp farming operations.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right, sir. Well, Mr. Bass would be very, very pleased with your good work and staff's good work on this.

Is there a motion for approval?


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Commissioner Lee. Second Commissioner Warren. Any opposed?

Hearing none, the motion carries unanimously.

All right. Thank you on that one. Now, we'll go to Action Item 7, Acceptance of Land, Brazoria County, Additions to the Follets Island Coastal Preserve. Ted, will you make your presentation on that?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good morning. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the land conservation program. This item pertains to the Follets Island Coastal Preserve. Y'all initiated that conservation project back in 2014, with -- when you authorized us to acquire 441 acres of land that straddle that barrier island from the Gulf to the Christmas Bay/Drum Bay system; about 25 miles southwest of Galveston, about 50 miles south of Houston.

At the time, we identified an area of about 1400 acres, including the 441 acres that we acquired in 2014. It's undeveloped land that straddles the barrier island, again, from the Gulf all the way to the bay system, all being very high quality coastal habitats and desirable for addition to the coastal preserve. We've been working closely with Trusts for Public Land since that time. They've been successful acquiring some grants and some donations to acquire additional tracts.

Last year, you authorized adding 230 additional acres to the 441; bringing that coastal preserve up to 671 acres. There's still about 800 acres to be acquired. Trusts for Public Lands continues to get grants and donations and has two or three additional tracts under contract now. Rather than coming back to you each time one of these tracts is closed to request your permission to add it to the coastal preserve, we thought it prudent to ask you to just go ahead and authorize the Executive Director to accept these tracts as Trusts for Public Lands acquires them and closes those, as long as they fit those parameters for conservation and for expanding the conservation area, the conservation initiative.

The Trusts for Public Lands is looking at probably acquiring three to five more tracts in this year and in 2018, for another four to 500 acres. It's getting us pretty close to that goal. We've received no comments regarding the proposed action, and staff does recommend that the Parks and Wildlife Commission authorize the Executive Director to take all necessary steps to accept the donation of land consistent with the goals of the Follets Island Coastal Preserve in Brazoria County. I'd be happy to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Any comments or questions by members?

All right. Thank you. Boy, that's great work, Ted; and we're indebted to the Trusts for Public Lands very much. So please let them -- let their representative know how much the Commission appreciates their diligence and good work on this.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: I'd be very happy to do that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Is there a motion for approval? Commissioner Scott. Second Commissioner Galo. Any opposed?

Hearing none, the motion carries unanimously.

Thank you, sir.

Our last agenda item is a briefing item, Nature Tourism Programs. Shelly, welcome; and please make your presentation. Shelly Plante.

MS. PLANTE: Good morning, Vice-Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Shelly Plante. I'm the Nature Tourism Manager here at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, in the unenviable spot of being between you and lunch. So I'm here to brief y'all about three nature tourism programs here at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department; but first, I want to tell you a little bit about why nature tourism is big business here in Texas.

While many of you know, we have 2.2 million anglers who spend $2 billion a year in our state -- or in our state. And then 1.1 million hunters who spent a little over $2 billion. We also have 4.4 million wildlife watchers here in Texas, and they're spending more than $1.8 billion in our state and providing close to 150,000 jobs. It truly is big business. We also have quite a few paddlers in our state. While in America, more Americans canoe, kayak, or raft than play soccer and that's five years and up soccer players. So little league teams. We also have more than 1 million paddlers in our state. So this is an area that we're interested in, and we want to help people engage in nature through paddling tourism.

Additionally, we at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department are very interested in connecting people to nature. This connection is important as we all know because people develop an appreciation for nature and habitat conservation through experiencing nature. So providing programs such as the ones I'm going to tell you about, we are helping them connect to why habitat conservation is important, why what Parks and Wildlife's mission does is very important to them personally.

We're also helping communities because they're seeing economic benefit through sustainable tourism using natural resources. They're learning that by preserving natural resources, they're going to be attracting this wonderful nature tourist to their region. So to that end, while Parks and Wildlife has many nature tourism programs -- that's what we're in the business of -- I'm here to brief you about three of them: The Great Texas Wildlife Trails Program, the Great Texas Birding Classic, and the Texas Paddling Trails Program.

First, I want to talk about the Great Texas Wildlife Trails Program. With the number of birders and wildlife viewers in our state and additionally, the fact that we're second in the entire nation with the number of species of birds that we actually have, decided in 1996 to create the Great Texas Wildlife Trails Program with the Coastal Birding Trail. This trail really unified existing sites and helped develop some new ones that gave a unified marketing platform for local communities.

Now communities were able to buy in to a program by just conserving wonderful sites that tourists could visit, that we would help promote. We gave them a larger reach to reach more wildlife viewers in our state. And these trails include both public sites, private sites, as well as all of our state parks; and there really is a large variety. People can experience whatever they like. We have just hiking trails and boardwalks to full-blown visitor centers with high-end interpretive signage. So there really is something for everyone on these sites.

We now have over 920 sites on the Great Texas Wildlife Trails, and that is including five different regions. As you see here, there are five different trail signs that you'll actually see along highways throughout the State of Texas and they're regionally specific and we're really excited because we're starting to work with TxDOT to update these signs. The program has been around for more than 15 years and we're -- more than 20 years at this point -- and we're looking forward to working with TxDOT to update signs, add signage for the new sites that have come on board, and we'll be working on that over the next year or two.

With the completion of all the trails that happened in 2010, we were in a really good position to update our website. So we did that in 2013. We were able to update this and make this more user friendly, more mobile friendly, and people can get this kind of information from the trails on the go. They don't have to have the paper map if they don't want. They can do this on their mobile phone, on their laptop, and their iPad.

We also started updating the maps themselves. Since we started printings in 1996, some of the information was getting outdated; and last fall, we actually completed updating all nine maps. So we now have very up-to-date information to arm nature tourists with as they go out and explore Texas. Additionally, with the new website, if site need to be updated in-between printings, we have a very nimble, easy way to go in and make the information online accurate to date as of today.

So with that, we're starting to really advertise the trails again. We're actively promoting it to give people information on where they can go wildlife viewing in our huge state. So we're doing this with magazine advertising in Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine, as well as Texas Monthly. We're also starting to sending out e-mail information. So we're doing seasonal e-mail blasts that tell people about unique wildlife viewing opportunities that are seasonally appropriate and we're highlighting sites along the trails throughout the state. So we can really use this as a way to bump up people's reasons to go out throughout the year, not just on vacation; but there are reasons to visit different parts of the state at different times of the year because they're going to have different wildlife viewing experiences.

We are also now on Facebook and so we have created a Facebook page and we're able to start posting more regularly. If something really amazing happens with Texas wildlife viewing, we can tell people about it right away. We just launched the final of the nine map revisions and we did that at Bonham State Park up in Fannin County just two weeks ago and so that actual -- that post got thousands and thousands of views. We had video and we had photos and it got people engaged and interested in prairies and piney woods wildlife viewing.

Not only are we really excited; but it's great to see that communities are incredibly excited about wildlife viewing opportunities. If you watch ads, which I do, our partners really have started including wildlife viewing and birding in much of their national advertising. So you see them highlighting the fact that they're a birding local, and that is really amazing. They're seeing that connection through economics, wildlife viewing, natural resource conservation, and bringing tourists into their location for the unique things they have to offer.

So I would like to point out that in 1996, we were the only state doing this. No one had ever unified wildlife viewing sites along a driving trail and Texas pioneered that. And now here we are, 20 some odd years later; and over 40 states have followed our model. When you see magazine articles or stories about wildlife viewing trails and birding trails, they always mention Texas. We are the grandfather of birding trials. They mention that we were the beginning, and that's something we can be proud of to this day.

So as a result of the wildlife trails and this interest in wildlife viewing, in 1997 we decided to launch an event here at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department called the Great Texas Birding Classic. This was created as a way to really highlight the wildlife trails year after year and infuse money into conservation grants that support the Texas Wildlife Action Plan through people participating in birding and this was a coastal event for the first few years. In 2013, we shifted this to a statewide competition and it really is for everyone. We have events for young, old, male, female. We have kids. We have teens. We have adults. We have mixed-age teams and it really is fun for everyone and there are enough different categories that people can really find their niche.

So here we have a group of people at Resaca de la Palma State Park, a little birding center; and they're doing a big sit. They're literally birding from a 17-foot diameter circle for a day to see how many birds they can see. And here we have a college professor who takes her students out each year as a spring trip and a reward for making it through her class and being avid enough in birding that they want to go birding with their professor in April. We also have a human-powered event where people can go biking or hiking and families are doing this. With the mixed-age teams, we're seeing a lot of interest in families going out for the Birding Classic in one of our tournaments and, in fact, one mom made this her Mother's Day wish several years in a row. She said, "All I want is y'all to be on my team and go out birding with me on Mother's Day," and, yes, the Birding Classic does cover the time period of Mother's Day.

So we also have youth teams where kids can just get together and be their own team and so we have several youth birding clubs throughout the State of Texas that take part. We also have siblings, such as these on the right; and they're brothers and sisters that get together and do this team every year with their mom as their mentor. And then we have several categories that allow us to really highlight how wonderful our parks are for birding. So we have a state park tournament. We have a tournament called the Texas Two Stop. Here we have a team at Goose Island State Park participating in the state park tournament two years ago, and this category has really grown. So we're really seeing people look to our state parks as a place to visit and go birding in the spring.

So when we expanded this event in 2013, we solidified the dates. It's April 15th to May 15th every year. People can count on it. They can be really flexible with what date they choose and we have some new categories to make it easy for novices, as well as experts to part and feel like they have a place and really streamlined things. We took a lot of things online, and we made a lot of wonderful partnerships to make our job a little bit easier.

At Parks and Wildlife, we're always trying to do more with less and be really efficient with how we use our resources and so we've partnered with some amazing organizations, from Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, Cornell Lab of Ornithology's eBird has a Texas portal that we partner on and then Audubon Texas helps us run our award ceremonies every year; but we also have corporate sponsors and community sponsors, such as Toyota, the Texas Ornithological Society, Port Aransas Chamber, NRG Energy, and Swarovski Optik, who come back year after year either supporting teams or are actually sponsoring the event.

So in the first 20 years, we've had really amazing success; and by going statewide, we have started having most successful events ever. Last year, we had 113 teams participate in our 20th anniversary, which included over 750 participants in the Great Texas Birding Classic; and that was a 40 percent increase in participation from the previous year. As a result of that, the sponsorship dollars and registration fees, we were able to donate $36,000 in conservation grants to support the Texas Wildlife Action Plan, bringing our total for the full 20 years to $880,500 that we've donated to on-the-ground enhancement, acquisition, or restoration projects.

So as I said, in addition to wildlife viewing, we're very interested in paddling and paddle sports; and I'd like to share some details about the Texas Paddling Trails Program. Due to that growing number of paddlers, we really, as an Agency, wanted to figure out a way to increase boater access, angler access, and community involvement on our waterways and create family friendly paddling trips. And when I say "family friendly," we were really focusing on trips that people could do in a half day or a day and know that they're going to encounter another public access site that they can get out on.

So we began the statewide program in 2006. We did have seven initial coastal trails that were created here internally back in the 90s and those are still in the program today and we've started finding community partners for each of those. In 2006, we did launch our first inland trail, the Luling Zedler Mill Paddling Trail. So that became Trail No. 8; but we are now, ten years later, looking at 72 paddling trails across the State of Texas and growing.

So we are continuing working with community partners to connect paddlers and to enhance communities ability to have this as a tourism attraction, to really see that river or lake in their backyard as an opportunity for economic development. This team is very small, but mighty. We're a cross-divisional team here at the Agency and in addition to Melissa Parker and Ron Smith in Inland Fisheries, Zack Thomas in Coastal Fisheries, and myself in Communications, we do work with park managers and other park staff when we have trails at state parks and our unique strengths in areas of expertise have really helped this program be a success, I think.

Some of our -- some of the things that we're really proud of and highlights for communities are that we have a very easy application process. We work hand in hand with the community from the start to figure out if the trail's a fit, if they need to do any enhancements; and then we have these communities who are so amazingly interested in boater access and engaging the paddlers within their communities and who are traveling, that we are always working. We always are work on at least a dozen paddling trails at a time; and through that, communities have benefited from program branding and marketing. They know if they have a Texas Parks and Wildlife paddling trail, that their visitors know that there's a certain standard that they can expect. They can find the information at the access sites. The sites are going to be maintained. The community is involved and engaged; and then we have these kiosks at every single access site that provide additional information for the paddlers, which is great for Texas Parks and Wildlife and for the community because we're able to give water safety information. We're able to talk about ethics on the water and water conservation messaging that we might want to share, whether it be a lake, a river, or a bay. Fishing and wildlife information, telling them what they can catch, what they might see, and telling them about invasive species issues in our state. These really give us a lot of opportunities.

And much like the other programs, we do market and promote them. We do magazine advertising. We do advertising through e-mail and we've seen the communities come where they're including paddling, as well. So they've gotten very creative and I've seen communities who host flotillas, river clean-ups. They might have nature festivals. They'll do fliers that they have in their local restaurants or their local convenience stores. They've created canoe clubs around their paddling trail. So these paddling trails have really been a start for them to promote their area for paddlers and embrace the water within their own city.

The paddlers also receive benefits. They now have improved and maintained water access sites; and like I said before, they're half-day/full-day paddles. They know what they're coming up to if they see a Texas Parks and Wildlife paddling trail. They have emergency numbers at their fingertips. They have kiosk information, as well as information online. They have maps of the trail that they're going to visit, and it really is -- makes it very easy for people to try to get started in paddling or people who are already into it to find new places to go visit.

And so our newest trail just launched two weeks ago, the Mission Reach Paddling Trail near downtown San Antonio. And with this, we're looking forward to the future. We're looking forward to, in the next year, updating our website, making it more user friendly, making it mobile friendly, updating our maps online, and really moving this to a level where people can access everything in their hand, on their phone, and be ready. We're also looking forward to working with more communities.

And with that, I'm happy to answer any questions that you might have. Thank you for your time.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Any questions, comments by members?

Shelly, great report, as Commissioner Scott just said. Does Billy Hassell -- did he donate this?

MS. PLANTE: Yes, he did. So you each --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: He's a wonderful artist.

MS. PLANTE: You each received the Sierra's Birding Classic poster that just came out last week. It just came off the press. So y'all are the first people to receive it, other than Carter. Don't say anything.

MR. SMITH: You didn't have to tell them that, Shelly.

MS. PLANTE: But, yes, Billy Hassell donated the use of his work and we're going to use T-shirts and we've had an amazing response. People have really responded to this artwork, where they don't even -- if -- even if they're not participating, they're wanting to know how to have a version of this.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, this is exciting. Kudos to you and your team members. This is wonderful. Nice report.

MS. PLANTE: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. Thank you.

At this time, I declare that we have completed Commission Meeting business; and we are adjourned at 11:55 a.m.

(Commission Meeting Adjourns)

In official recognition of the adoption of this resolution in a lawfully called public meeting of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, we hereby affix our signatures this _____ day of ______________, 2017.

T. Dan Friedkin, Chairman

Ralph H. Duggins, Vice-Chairman

Anna B. Galo, Member

Bill Jones, Member

Jeanne W. Latimer, Member

James H. Lee, Member

S. Reed Morian, Member

Dick Scott, Member

Kelcy L. Warren, Member



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