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TPW Commission

Annual Public Hearing, August 23, 2017

Transcript

TPW Commission Meetings

TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION

August 23, 2017

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

ANNUAL PUBLIC HEARING

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And we now turn to our Annual Public Meeting, and want to welcome each of the members of the public who have chosen to attend today. Good afternoon.

The Annual Public Hearing is called to order August 23, 2017, at 2:18 p.m. May I ask everyone to please rise for the posting of the colors by the Texas Buffalo Soldiers.

(Presentation by Texas Buffalo Soldiers)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right, please be seated.

For those in our audience who may not be familiar with the Buffalo Soldier Program, Buffalo Soldier was the name given to the African-American troops of the United States Army as they served on the western frontier in the late 1800s. Since 1995, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Buffalo Soldiers Program has served as an outreach program of the State Parks Division, dedicated to sharing a unique and often overlooked piece of African-American history, as well as other untold stories of our multiethnic past.

The program provides educational and interpretative experiences that connect underrepresented populations with Texas State Parks through heritage interpretation. So we really appreciate those gentlemen coming in today and presenting the colors.

At this point, Mr. Smith, before we proceed with any further business in connection with the annual public meeting, I believe you have a statement to make and comments about how the system will work this afternoon.

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

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

Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, let me join all of you in welcoming everybody to our Annual Public Meeting. This is a chance when people from all over the state get to come and address the Parks and Wildlife Commission about any subject that is germane and of interest to you and the Parks and Wildlife Department, and so we appreciate everybody traveling from near and far to join us today.

A little bit about the protocol for this afternoon's hearing. Anybody who wanted -- who wants to speak to the Commission, we'd respectfully ask that you sign up outside if you haven't already. If you have, at the appropriate time, the Chairman will call you forward by name. Please come up to the dais and tell the Commission your name, and then everybody will have two minutes to address the Commission. We've got a green-light/red-light system. Green means go, yellow means wrap it up, and red means eject.

So also, I just would respectfully ask that if you have a phone call or a substantive conversation that you need to have, I'd ask that you step outside the room. Welcome. We're glad you could join us today.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you, Mr. Smith.

So at this point, we will now call those who have signed up to address the Commission on matters within the Commission's jurisdiction to speak. Each of you will have two minutes to speak. And, again, the way this operates is your comments are to be addressed to matters within the jurisdiction of the Commission and not otherwise.

Before I call up the first speaker, I want to give everyone notice that we have two individuals who submitted written comments. The first is Lauren Ice, representing Save Our Springs Alliance; and her written comments are -- and I quote -- "We continue to oppose the appointment of Kelsey Warren on the TPWD Board as an inherent conflict of interest. The practice of Energy Transfer Partners continue to threaten and endanger the parks, water, and wildlife of West Texas, in addition to the border wall threatens wildlife and their habitat; and TPWD should oppose it. Thank you for your consideration, Lauren Ice."

Now, I read that verbatim; but I would say that this is an example of a comment that is not within our jurisdiction. This Commission does not have the power to appoint the Commission or members of the Commission, nor to remove them. So that's -- keep that in mind, that we value comments that are relative -- related, rather -- to business that we can conduct to the business of this Commission.

The second written comments come from the Honorable Dennis Bonnen, State Representative from Angleton, District 25. And he writes, "I am writing to express my concerns regarding the status of our public oyster reefs in Texas. Oysters are a vital component of our coastal landscapes, serving as the foundation of our entire aquatic ecosystem, positively impacting other marine species and keeping our bays healthy by providing numerous ecosystem services."

"Oysters on Texas public reefs have been under enormous pressure, and I fear that we are at a critical point in the management of this species. My constituents have personally observed commercial oyster fishermen overharvest our bays, destroy our reefs, deplete our oyster supply, and cost taxpayers millions of dollars while repeatedly denying their abuse of our coastal waters. This past March, an oyster company caused massive marine" -- excuse me -- "marine pile-up in my district while" -- excuse me -- "challenging our local elected leaders when asked to rectify the situation. What has happened in Brazoria County, Christmas Bay and in our other sensitive coastal areas is a travesty and should never happen again."

"I spoke out strongly against these actions during the past legislative regular session and devoted a good deal of time to ensure that we effectively passed House Bill 51. This bill will not only help reduce the pressure on the fishery by establishing the buy-back program; but will also achieve some more immediate impacts to the fishery such as returning oyster shell back into coastal waters and deterring illegal activities by enhancing the penalties for violations, including illegal possession of undersized oysters at the dealer level. However, this bill alone will not be enough to offer public oyster reefs and sensitive coastal zones needed protections."

"Texas Parks and Wildlife Department must take actions to protect the resource and stop the destruction of reefs that are required to maintain our marine ecosystems. I have reviewed the proposed changes to the Statewide Oyster Fishery Proclamation and support these measures. Collectively, we have an obligation to relieve the pressure on this resource and reverse the current trends in this fishery. In my estimation, these additional protections will help foster a sustainable commercial fishery and preserve our public oyster reefs to the greater benefit of Texas."

"I appreciate your dedication and look forward to our continued collaboration regarding this vital issue. Sincerely, Dennis Bonnen."

So we appreciate Representative Bonnen's comments and his -- particularly, his leadership during the session on this and many other issues.

So with that, we will now start with those who signed up to make public comments. Again, you have two minutes and remember that your comments should be addressed to something within the scope of the jurisdiction of this Commission. And what I'll do is try to call the name of the next speaker so you can be prepared to come up and this will hopefully go smoothly and efficiently for all.

So we'll start with Todd Merendino of Ducks Unlimited; and in line, James Nau, also of Texas Ducks Unlimited. Welcome, Mr. Merendino.

MR. TODD MERENDINO: Yes, sir.

MR. BOB FILBERT: Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, I'm Bob Filbert, Texas State Chairman for Ducks Unlimited.

MR. JAMES NAU: I am James Nau, Texas State Policy Chair.

MR. TODD MERENDINO: And, sir, I'm Todd Merendino, Manager of Conservation Programs for Ducks Unlimited.

MR. BOB FILBERT: On behalf of Ducks Unlimited and our over 1 million members and supporters, including nearly 50,000 in Texas, we would like to thank Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission and staff for your efforts on long-term partnership to provide habitat for waterfowl.

MR. JAMES NAU: The Commission has a long-term recognition that waterfowl are a shared resource and that waterfowl habitat conservation has to take place not only here in Texas, but also on the breeding grounds in Canada where most of our waterfowl are produced.

MR. TODD MERENDINO: And Texas' annual contribution of State Migratory Game Bird Stamp Funds to conservation in Canada, for the current year, it stands at 725,000, which makes Texas the top state in the nation. And Texas was the first state to provide $50,000 to Ducks Unlimited Mexico. These funds were leveraged by Ducks Unlimited a minimal of four times; thereby, multiplying conservation impact on nesting and also upland wintering grounds.

MR. BOB FILBERT: In Texas, the Texas Prairie Wetlands Project celebrates 26 years of unique wetland conservation partnership with Texas Parks and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, private landowners, and Ducks Unlimited working cooperatively to deliver wetland's habitat on the Texas Gulf coast. It may be the longest running, most successful, private landowner, multiple agency NGO partnership in the country.

This past year, Texas Parks and Wildlife increased program funding by $100,000, focused directly on mottled ducks and their habitat. The Texas Prairie Wetlands Project completed four projects with these funds, restoring grasslands and wetland units, resulting in 694 acres of habitat for mottled ducks.

MR. TODD MERENDINO: Ducks Unlimited has assisted Parks and Wildlife on their various WMAs and then projects across the state. Most importantly, these projects not only provide waterfowl habitat; but they provide a lot of public hunting opportunity, as well.

MR. JAMES NAU: Working with this Commission and many other partners, DU has now conserved over 14 million acres of wetlands in North America. Our special thanks go out to the Commission and staff and all Texas waterfowl hunters for your parts in this impressive accomplishment.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Mr. Nau, I wanted you to ignore the red light since all three of you signed up to speak. Please go ahead and finish your comments.

MR. JAMES NAU: Yes, sir.

MR. TODD MERENDINO: Okay. Thank you, sir. And for the most part, we would like to thank several staff. Obviously, these projects and partnerships are about funding and agreements; but they're also about people on the ground. People to thank are Dave Morrison, Kevin Kraai, Jeff Rausch, Shaun Oldenburger, and Jared Timmons, who are part of the Migratory Game Bird staff, along with Carter Smith, Ross Melinchuk, and Clayton Wolf. I'd like to give out a special thanks to various Wildlife Division field staff, some of Lynn Polaske's staff in Region 4 include Mike Rezsutek, Matt Nelson, and David Butler; in Region 3, some of the core and basic staff are Jeff Gunnells and also to Matt Symmank. And to Ms. Debbie Borrego, who's retiring at the end of August, we need to give a special thanks to her. She's walked us through a lot of different agreements in this process.

MR. BOB FILBERT: On behalf of Texas Ducks Unlimited, its staff, its 50,000 members, and all waterfowlers, thank you for your unwavering support and for all you do for Texas wetlands and waterfowl across the continent. These are great times for duck hunting; and with your continued support, the best is yet to come. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Mr. Filbert, I want to apologize for not mentioning your name. I didn't realize that it was paper-clipped. I'm a little slow on the draw, but --

MR. BOB FILBERT: That --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- Mr. Bob Filbert, thank you for joining --

MR. BOB FILBERT: Thank you, sir. I appreciate --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- Mr. Merendino and Mr. Nau today.

MR. BOB FILBERT: -- everything that you do for us.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you so much.

MR. JAMES NAU: Thank you very much.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right, sir.

Ms. Janice Bezanson of the Texas Conservation Alliance, please come to the podium.

Please be ready, Mr. Tom Goynes.

MS. JANICE BEZANSON: Good --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Welcome, Janice.

MS. JANICE BEZANSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. My name is Janice Bezanson. I'm with Texas Conservation Alliance. Texas Conservation Alliance has been working with the Department for 30 to 40 years on many, many projects; and we're very, very aware of the time and resources, personal resources it takes to be a Commissioner. And we first of all just want to tell you how much we appreciate your service.

We particularly appreciate the resolution y'all passed last fall in support of the Blue -- I want to make sure I get this right -- the Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America's Diverse Fish and Wildlife Resources. This was a national panel that included conservationists, hunters, oil and gas industry, business people; and their recommendation was that Congress pass legislation to make $1.3 billion a year available from oil and gas revenues on federal lands to the various states for wildlife projects.

And I want to let you know that a coalition is forming that is the Texas Alliance for America's Fish and Wildlife -- it will be aligned with the National Alliance for America's Fish and Wildlife -- to support the recovering of America's Wildlife Act, which will be introduced in Congress we expect in September. If this bill passes, it will mean $70 million a year to the State of Texas to work on land acquisition, resource restoration; and we just hope that you will personally help us in supporting this act. Thank you so very much.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you very much.

Okay. Mr. Tom Goynes, Texas River Protection Association; and please, would Shasta Lusk be in waiting.

Welcome, Mr. Goynes.

MR. TOM GOYNES: Hi, I'm Tom Goynes. I'm President of the Texas Rivers of Texas Association, and we're here today to ask if y'all would consider putting us on your regular agenda at a meeting sometime in the near future so that we can present a proposal to create the first linear state park in Texas on the San Marcos River.

And, now, the reason. Our Constitution says that the rivers of Texas are to be highways of trade and travel and our Legislature has said the surface water of Texas is to be held in trust to the people of Texas.

Now, I want you to imagine a paved highway someplace where it was X-rated in the afternoon, where you couldn't take your kids there in the afternoon. Everybody understood, "No, there's too many drunk college kids, there's too much X-rated music out of the boomboxes, too much nudity; this stretch of Interstate 35, it's for the college kids. They need a place to party." We wouldn't do that. Texas wouldn't do that; and, yet, the San Marcos River is X-rated.

We don't take our kids there. I live there. I used to run a youth camp in the summer. Now, we can run it in the fall, winter, and spring; but not in the summer.

Three years ago, we met -- and y'all met in Houston -- and we said, "Hey, consider making this river into a linear state park." I thought it turned -- it turned red and then it turned yellow, so. And then two years ago we said, "Give us a -- give us a task force to study it."

And Mr. Jones on the very first day said, "Does anybody have a solution?"

And I finally raised my hand and said, "Let's make the river into a linear state park."

And he said, "The one thing we won't talk about is creating a linear state park."

It was off the table. Just give us a chance. Let us have a chance to present that proposal. Thanks, appreciate it.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you.

All right. Next up, Shasta Lusk of Austin; followed by David Siegmund of Hempstead.

Is Shasta Lusk in the audience?

All right. We'll pass to Mr. David Siegmund of Hempstead, who wants to discuss oysters; followed by Will Kirkpatrick.

MR. DAVID SIEGMUND: Wow. I haven't ever spoken in front of the public in 40-plus years. My name is David Siegmund. I'm a recreational fisherman.

We are here because we must do something to protect the oysters. The proposals as they are just written are wrong because it punishes the recreational fishermen. We need to create sanctuary bays. We need to close them from commercial harvest. Mr. Robinson has said that the recreational fisherman creates minimal impact on the resource. He also stated that the shallow bays were where we historically harvest the resource.

The reason is, we wade to pick up the oysters. I cannot do that in 5-foot deep water. If y'all fence us out, we're through. I mean, I cannot go to Powderhorn Lake and pick up a couple of dozen oysters to take home with me because it will be illegal.

It's my proposal to leave the sanctuary bays open to recreational fishermen. Restrict it to only hand harvest. That cuts out the sport oyster boats with a dredge that come in there and dredge them up faster than they can reproduce. The reason for hand harvest is to deter the unlawful sale of the resource. Mr. Robinson said he felt there was a problem with that, but I do not think the recreational fishermen should be punished for the greed and overharvesting of the commercial industry. That's it.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you Mr. Siegmund.

Mr. Will Kirkpatrick, followed by Tony Gregory.

MR. WILL KIRKPATRICK: My name is Will Kirkpatrick. Several years ago, I testified here about the inequity fostered upon our State's bass population and recreational anglers by tournaments. I was informed by a seated Commissioner, I didn't understand what was actually involved and he would correct me following that meeting. Director Smith and I encountered each other outside the meeting, both recognizing an unstructured meeting in the hallway was not advisable.

Director Smith was going to set up a later meeting, but the Commissioner and TPWD official met me in the hall and proceeded to critique my feelings and knowledge of for-profit tournaments. I spent 31 years with four divisions of the original Bell system in nine states, several overseas' location, fished in 19 states and three countries, with my first Bassmaster's tournament in 1970.

1971, I joined Pro Staff of the nation's largest lure manufacturer, which I'm still with today. 1974, I began a continuous 44-year, part-time/full-time freshwater guide service; which as of today, I've spent $3,400 for that license. In 1989, Stephen F. Austin State University requested I set up a freshwater fishing school, which I'm still conducting today.

For 15 years, TPWD officials/personnel were given free time at these schools with liberty, explaining their connection to our State's outdoor. Texas Parks and Wildlife programs, our license fees and use fees, plus other tax supports and all the lodging and meal costs were paid by me. I donated $3,000 to a TPWD catch-and-release study; 750 for an economic study on Rayburn.

Your packet has previous information I have provided, dating back to 1995, and two editorials from the Fishing Tackle Retailer, which is our fishing industry's bible; and if you read these, you'll find them very interesting. TPD -- TPWD doesn't know today how many for-profit freshwater fishing tournaments are held yearly in Texas, nor the number of anglers participating and the amount of moneys involved. Yet, my own dad and the kids still pay the majority of the TPWD license fees.

The information from the hallway meeting was incorrect and is still wrong and I'm still waiting for a meeting and if any of you want to have a meeting, we can get the information together and provide it in any kind of meeting you want.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you, Mr. Kirkpatrick.

MR. WILL KIRKPATRICK: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Next up, Tony Gregory, Battleship Texas Foundation; followed by Ken Baker.

MR. TONY GREGORY: Thanks for this opportunity to be here. I'm Tony Gregory, Chairman of the Board of the Battleship Texas Foundation. I'm a native Houstonian. Like a lot of native Houstonians, I spent time on the ship as a young boy.

I'm a little unique in that I'm the third generation of the Gregory family to serve on the Battleship Texas Foundation. I'm here with my esteemed colleague Bruce, who left you a paperweight made out of steel from the ship. So I was just wondering if Bruce came up here, if I get four minutes. I'm okay. Battleship Texas --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Bruce can speak.

MR. TONY GREGORY: The Battleship Texas is in a state of emergency due to continual, multiple leaks in the hull. A series of major leaks have breached the hull beginning in June of 2012, November of 2016, and June of this year, when it leaked enough that it listed eight degrees to starboard. We spent about $2.7 million to fix these leaks.

So we are here to advocate the saving of the ship. If we said to ourselves, "Okay, let's just forget it. Let's abandon ship," we would still encounter some significant costs to scrap it. We have estimates from reputable shipyards where the costs to scrap it because of environmental concerns is significant.

We would rather be on the team that saves the ship and the incremental costs between scrapping it and saving it, could be less than we think. So in return on investment for investing and saving the ship, would certainly be a lot better. Saving it is the right time -- it's the right thing to do. It's the right time to do it.

At this moment, when our history seems to be under attack, saving the Battleship Texas seems like something we could all agree to. So we're here to request the formation of a Blue Ribbon Committee to decide the future of the ship; and we ask for your support in this Committee with the task of offering recommendations to the State leadership in the 86th Texas Legislature as to the best plan of action for saving the ship. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you very much.

Mr. Ken Baker, followed by Erick DeLuna.

MR. KEN BAKER: Parks and Wildlife Commissioners, thank you for you allowing me to address y'all today. My name is Ken Baker. I am retired Captain State Game Warden with some 41 years of service.

I will come -- I will come forward with some facts and personal observations of what was the proud men and women in Law Enforcement Division have had to endure in the field for some four and a half years since I retired and counting: Budgets where there were no replacement for patrol vehicles, for worn out ones; vast numbers of units in excess of 160,000 miles; so bad that wrecked and inoperable patrol units were badly needed to salvage parts just to keep ones in the field running; a budget where wardens are not afforded a decent uniform replacement schedule; a budget where patrol vessels costing more than a quarter of a million of a $6 million safe boat fleet sitting on trailers for a year because there's lack of engine replacements, no funds for other parts to make them operative; no funds for special four-by-four vehicles to mobilize these special units; district offices that are so small, there was no evidence rooms, you had to put the safes in the bathrooms; a division where there's no budget to install Law Enforcement equipment, you have to utilize marine mechanics; and the list goes on and on.

But I would like to commend Carter Smith and the Parks and Wildlife Commissioners in addressing these issues and providing support in budget increases in those areas, especially in the next budget in terms of capital and operation funds. I thank you for support and thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you, sir. Appreciate that.

Okay. We next have up Erick DeLuna, followed by Douglass Boyd.

MR. ERICK DELUNA: Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Erick DeLuna; and I'm here to voice my opinion and concerns on the current state of the Texas state parks, specifically the future of Balmorhea State Park, the surrounding parts in West Texas, and the Rio Grande Valley.

Recently, I took a trip to West Texas and was able to see firsthand the development happening all around. The drive and the scenery consisted mostly of oil rigs, oil flares, and oil tankers. I come here today as a concerned Texas seeking answers as to what will and can be done to protect the water wildlife found in the region.

Tourism is still the main driving force of the area; and I'm afraid to think what will happen when the tourism stops because of excess drilling within the surrounding communities and God forbid, an accidental spill. I come here concerned as to what will remain of the residents, the businesses, the agriculture, and the tourism with everything happening out west.

Furthermore, I ask what will happen to the endangered species of fish -- the Pupfish, the Freshwater catfish -- that only reside in these areas once fracking and -- if it does happen -- contaminate the 15-million gallons of water that pump out of Balmorhea. I question if there has been enough research in finding out the dangers of fracking so close to this oasis in West Texas.

Furthermore, down south in the Valley, there's a different type of concern. The proposition of a border wall that will tear right through Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park. The community surrounding, depend on the state park for the revenue produced through ecotourism. A study by A&M College Station, says that over 125,000 tourists from all around the world come to enjoy of the natural wonders and wildlife of the region. This translates to roughly 400 millions -- $400 million a year going directly to the local communities.

It provides unparallel birding experiences to those that visit with rare songbirds migrating through each year. Additionally, it is one of the very few riparian zones that exist along the Rio Grande. So it is imperative that we protect this one-of-a-kind area.

In conclusion, I quote the mission statement for the Texas State Parks and Wildlife Department. It reads: "To manage and conserve the natural and cultural resources of Texas and provide hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation opportunities for the use of enjoyment of present and future generations. Future generations. I, myself, am 24 years old. You guys will probably be long gone by the time I turn 50, but I'll be responsible for these parks.

I mean, all of us, the young people here -- there's children here -- and we care and something's not right in West Texas. Something is not right in the Valley. People here sitting that are directly involved with this, and what are we doing? What is -- me, as a taxpayer, I want to know: What are we doing as Texans to fix these issues? Thank you very much.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you.

Douglass Boyd, followed by Brian Tickle.

MR. DOUGLASS BOYD: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, for this opportunity to speak. My name is Douglass Boyd. I'm a recreational fisherman. I've been fishing the Texas waters for over 60 years with my father and grandfather. I was born in Galveston. So I know the coast.

I want to thank you for how well the State has managed the marine resources. We have abundant trout. We have abundant redfish. We have abundant flounder, and we're doing even better with flounder now. Because you care about habitat and the science that supports healthy ecosystems, Texas has enjoyed great offshore fishing and inshore fishing. You have also had the foresight to lengthen the seasons for the State waters offshore; and we don't have to fight a derby every year on three days, two days, or five days to fish for Red snapper.

In my opinion, your management team has been very fair with the needs of private boat anglers and charter-for-hire and head boat operators. I want to thank you for your reef building program off the coast of Texas. I encourage you to support in concept and with budget dollars, additional research in reporting so that we can get better data and we will know more about who is fishing and how many fishing -- how many fish we are catching.

I encourage you to seriously consider the current amendments before the Gulf Council that would establish State management for all recreational fishermen out to 200 miles. The most difficult part of State management will be the consideration of allocations. That is a very difficult part of that whole process and your managers are very capable of that negotiation. The biggest part of that is going to be the problem with most of the Red Snapper being to the western Gulf and the other -- and the other part is the abundance of fishermen in the eastern Gulf.

And finally, I'd like to say thank you to Carter Smith, Ross Melinchuk. Thank you for Robin Riechers. Thank you for Lance Robinson. These guys have done a great job for the State of Texas and I commend them. Thank you, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Mr. Boyd --

MR. DOUGLASS BOYD: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- thank you. And I did want to respond to you said you hoped that this Commission would take a look, I think, at regional management of the Gulf; and I think it's -- we have previously very publicly stated that we are very much in favor of regional management; but that's going to require some changes in Washington.

MR. DOUGLASS BOYD: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But I just wanted -- you are aware of that?

MR. DOUGLASS BOYD: Yes, sir, I am.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. Thank you for your comments.

MR. DOUGLASS BOYD: These new amendments are a little bit different than the last one that came before the Gulf Council; and so it will take some additional consideration on your part, I think. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you.

All right. Brian Tickle, followed by John Gosdin.

MR. BRIAN TICKLE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Members. My name is Brian Tickle. I'm the Legislative Liaison for the Access Fund. I'm also a board member of the Texas Climbers Coalition and a board member of the State Parks Advisory Committee and, also, a lifelong Texan and a rock climber. And I haven't prepared anything formally today.

I just wanted to speak on behalf -- or to speak in thanks to the Department for the work that they've been doing at the Chinati Mountains and planning for Kronkosky and Powderhorn and Palo Pinto and our organizations have followed the Legislative session pretty closely, so we're pretty aware of the challenges that the Department is going to face over the next -- the 2018-19 biennium. And I'm really just here today to offer my support to the Department in any way that I can because it would just be a shame to see those projects delayed any further because of a funding at the session.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, we appreciate your support of our park system and I think everybody up here is aware that our park visits are continuing to skyrocket.

MR. BRIAN TICKLE: Yes.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: It's confirmation of how important parks are to this State and to its citizens; and you can help us by letting your Legislators know how important they are and urge them to help us with more funding, which we --

MR. BRIAN TICKLE: We will, absolutely.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- certainly need. But thank you.

MR. BRIAN TICKLE: All right. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. Mr. John Gosdin, followed by Jerry Sharp.

MR. JOHN GOSDIN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the Commission. My name is John Gosdin, and I'm currently the President of the Texans for State Parks Organization. So, appreciate that little introduction that you gave about the popularity of our state parks these days.

The Texans for State Parks is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization working statewide with fringe groups at over half of the state parks. So we have about 50 friends groups that work hand in glove with staff at our state parks to provide a source of volunteers to help with all those services that can be done by a volunteer group. These volunteers have a contribution of talents, skills, and services that help provide a better experience for those visitors that do come to our state parks.

We looked back a couple years ago and there were about 900,000 volunteer -- hours of volunteer services provided and that equates to almost 500 full-time equivalence that are provided at no taxpayer dollars, but just those who love the parks and are there to help provide the visitor services for those who visit there.

With us being stressed for dollars in the years ahead, Texans for State Parks has the goals of trying to continue to build and support the growth of new friends groups and also to provide training and technical assistance through the existing friends groups we have. I know we have some challenges ahead and we just wanted to be there to help to provide a spotlight and also support that we can to make the visitor experience as best as it can for visitors to our state parks. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Mr. Gosdin, thank you and your team for all you do for the park system.

All right. Jerry Sharp, followed by Carl Goss.

MR. JERRY SHARP: Good afternoon, Honorable Commissioners. I represent myself and I'm here today to voice my concerns regarding threats that currently face our parks and other public-use lands. My focus, in particular, is Balmorhea State Park. In the past three days there have been three earthquakes, with the largest one a magnitude 3.2 with its epicenter approximately 35 miles from Balmorhea State Park as the crow flow -- as the crow flies.

The immediate concern is the threat of these and future earthquakes, which inadvertently might affect the unique karst and fault line features in which San Solomon Springs flows of -- flows out from. To further expand, possible seismic activity potentially may reroute the flow of spring water to the CCC built pool, which provides recreation and irrigation to many of those in the surrounding area and the State of Texas; not to mention the importance of the desert cienegas within Balmorhea State Park as one of the few areas that is home to two federally listed endangered species found nowhere else on earth.

I understand that this is not a TPWD jurisdiction, but let me ask you this: If a wildfire burns your neighbor's house, would you wait to fight the blaze only when it touches your fence?

It is imperative that a stronger stance be taken to address these issues and concerns of citizens and fellow neighbors. I trust this Commission's better judgment in understanding the scale of this threat and others that face TPWD and this great state. Thank you for your attention and time commitment to TPWD.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you, Mr. Sharp.

Up next -- up next, Carl Goss; followed by Marika Alderrink. I hope I pronounced that correctly. Thank you.

MR. CARL GOSS: Hello, Commission. I'm glad to be able to speak to you today. I have wanted to speak to you for several years and having an annual meeting to do that makes it a little more difficult and one of the things I'd like to ask you to consider is to do that more often, maybe even in more places around the state so that more people could provide impact -- input to how the community feels about the Parks and Wildlife.

And I'm a big supporter of Texas Parks and Wildlife, and I've been an annual member since I could make that decision. And I've visited not all the parks yet; but several of them I've been to many, many times and appreciate our parks, proud of our State for what we do with our parks, brag about our parks, take my friends, my family. You know, it's part of our life, you know, being part of these parks.

One of the things I love about our parks is the example of stewardship to our land, to our water, to our air, to our wildlife; and I think that as a state, as a Parks Department, that we project that into our community, the values of our State into our community and this is the opportunity for our community to project our values to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. And I know I've seen, you know, what goes on in the parks and involvement in the parks and everything that we do and, you know, the annual fair that we have here, I love that. My daughters have been to that all their life.

And I know that we have a balance between commercial interests and community interests that we have to consider all the time. I mean, commercial interests in many ways supports so much of what we do in this state, so much of what the Parks and Wildlife Department does; but does commercial interest have to be in line with the community interest? And I think the community interest has got to come first. And being good stewards of our State, of our land, our water, our air, our wildlife, not just in our parks; but what we project into our State, how do we treat our land, our water, our air, and our wildlife?

That's what we do. That's what we, as a community, are here representing to you what's important to us; and that is important to us. And with the rapid advancements that we're making into sustainable energy, both efficiency and economy of it, I just ask that -- ask the Commission that we look at everything that we're doing in regards to parks and into our State and what we're showing on how we take care of our land, of our water, and our air because I don't think what's happening in the oil industry is the best use of our land, our water, our air.

I don't think it's helping our community, that we have other options now that are coming on quickly and are becoming more and more viable quickly in everything that you look at. Please lean into sustainable energy, lean away from anything consuming our resources and hurting our planet. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you.

Next up is Marika Alderrink, and I hope I pronounced that correctly.

MS. MARIKA ALDERRINK: That's me. I've got a really restless kiddo on my lap. So I wonder if it's okay if I speak from here?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: If you what?

MS. MARIKA ALDERRINK: If I can speak from here?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, do you want to wait and I can take you at the end; or do you want to -- the problem is, we've got a lady here who transcribes the meeting and she needs the microphone. We would be happy to move you around in terms of order if that might help you. Your daughter can come up with you, if you want; or son, I can't tell quite yet other than blond hair.

MS. MARIKA ALDERRINK: My son has very long, beautiful hair.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay, sorry. I didn't -- I thought I better cover myself.

MS. MARIKA ALDERRINK: Well, some people have already stated this more educatedly than I; but I'm here to represent my concerns about what's happening around Balmorhea. Just from a layman tourist, mama's point of view, I want to make sure that we're doing everything we can to protect the water and protect that place as a place I can bring my kids and a place that -- like, there's history there, which I really love. I love that we have a place that we can go that has been open for a hundred years, that we can see pictures of great-grandparents swimming and such. And so I want to make sure that we're doing everything we can to make sure that the fracking isn't going to affect the water there. Thanks.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you very much.

The next speaker is Spence Collins, followed by Andrew Lucas.

MR. SPENCE COLLINS: Good afternoon, Commissioners. We thank you. I thank you for allowing me to speak here today. Speaking as a recreational fisherman -- in particular, a coastal recreational fisherman today -- I reside in Travis County here, but have a place in Corpus Christi on the Laguna Madre up in the Laguna Madre there and grew up in Houston fishing Galveston Bay, San Luis Pass, the surf there. And my dad grew up in Port Arthur and he's got an affinity towards seafood gumbo. Everybody knows you have to have good oysters in seafood gumbo and we'll talk about that tomorrow, I guess, too. So --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Does he know Mr. Scott?

MR. SPENCE COLLINS: I'm not sure.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: He likes seafood gumbo too, a lot.

MR. SPENCE COLLINS: Well, good. I'm glad.

I'm here today to talk about some Red Snapper and also give kudos to the Coastal Fisheries Department and the job that they've been doing overall and, in particularly, on this recent Red Snapper issue, as you well know, a couple months ago when it was proposed from the feds that they open up this summer season to a three-day fishing weekend. I think on behalf of the Coastal Fisheries Department, they made it happen quickly, as y'all did as well. So I just wanted to say as a recreational fisherman, thank you for making that happen and allowing us guys to get offshore.

As you know, when the feds hand down a two-day or a three-day or a nine-day or eleven-day season or whatever that may be, as they have over the past years, typically, that's in June and that doesn't -- that's not real conducive to offshore fishing. So we need to come up with a better solution, as you stated earlier; and I'm aware of that y'all's Board is supporting that. And I continue to ask you collectively as a Board and individually as a Texan to do what you can to lobby the feds, whether that be the fishery managers and/or the elected -- especially the elected officials to make that happen.

In regards to the Red Snapper there, when that does happen, we need to get, obviously, a little bit more recreational fishermen time. With the commercial guys taking, you know, half the quota and us taking the other half and only getting that two-day season, we need to figure out ways if we can get the State control to get, you know, more available days for the recreational fishermen to get offshore in a time period of the year that is conducive to offshore fishing. So please keep that in mind as you move forward with that red-hot issue there.

And, of course, the Coastal Fisheries Department is well-equipped to manage that if it, indeed, gets handed over to State management. They've got a wonderful track record as, that boy mentioned, with Redfish, the Speckled trout, and more recently the flounders. So I thank you for your time today, and I thank you for your service to the Texas outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, appreciate your comments and I think, then, Commissioner Scott wants to say something. I would encourage you and any others who share your views, to consider reaching out to members of Congress; and, in particular, Congressmen Graves in Louisiana and then Texas, members of the Texas delegation, and let them know how you feel about the --

MR. SPENCE COLLINS: I've done so, and will continue to do so.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- management of the fishery because that makes a difference.

MR. SPENCE COLLINS: It does.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And, of course, you're right in that our staff -- Robin Riechers and his team and Carter Smith -- did pull off a pretty amazing feat this year to get the additional days that we got for the summer. So you're correct in lauding them.

Commissioner Scott.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: He caught most of the points that I was going to make. There's no question this Commission supports us having control of our own destiny. We're working on our friends to the east and think that they will hopefully get on the same program because we've got the most Red snapper between the two of us and all the rest of it put together.

MR. SPENCE COLLINS: Right.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: But it's an issue that is constantly being worked on. What Ralph said is accurate. This is going to take a lot of letter writing and it's going to take lot of people making their views known to Washington about what needs to go on in our Gulf. Thank you.

MR. SPENCE COLLINS: I agree. I'll do my part.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you.

All right. Next up, Andrew Lucas; followed by Graham Davis.

MR. ANDREW LUCAS: Good afternoon. My name is Andrew Lucas. I'm here on behalf of the people, the public land, and the wild places of Texas. I would first like to think TPWD for the service they provide the State. Without you, citizens would have little access to the outdoors. Thank you to the rangers, interpreters, wardens, park police, scientists, and all employees, patrons, and volunteers for your daily service. You are the ones who make it happen. Thank you for your access to the outdoors and the examples you've set for private land management. Thank you for your stewardship and you efforts in land conservation. I truly mean it.

The State has been trusted with safeguarding the public land that both the State and its citizens have worked to create. These are special natural and cultural places that have sanctioned for future generations. I'm here to address some very serious threats facing our private lands and public lands because of these liberties are currently under siege.

On my recent trip to Mission, Texas, in the Valley, I found the border community hand-in-hand for a future without walls. To my disbelief, I learned that plans for a wall were already underway. It seems that the strategy for quickly constructing a wall has been to target wildlife sanctuaries and public land trusts. The National Butterfly Center received no notice before work crews were found extending roads and clearing land on private property.

The wall, which is being raised along the levee, plans to split through Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, La Lomita Mission, as well as Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park. Who will want to visit these places when you need a passport to get past the visitor center?

In reality, it's likely that these places will no longer be assessable. My question is: If our public land is being violated here, what is in store for Seminole Canyon State Park, Falcon State Park, Casa Blanca State Park, Big Bend Ranch State Park, and Black Gap Wildlife Management Area to mention a few?

This wall will hurt our community, our wildlife, our tourism, and State image. It breaks my heart that border security means spending billions of dollars to send walls through these beautiful places. It breaks my heart that making America great again means drilling thousands of holes through the life-giving waters of Balmorhea.

What will happen if Balmorhea State Park -- our most visited park -- and other desert water sources in 20 years when a lack of water laws have pumped springs dry and underground networks have been spoiled by thousands of holes in waste pits, drilled through the delicate system, taking the water, and returning it to the ground as poison?

It takes one over-pressured valve, Mr. Warren.

With my own eyes, I've seen the construction of drilling rigs in the Davis Mountains and the orange horizon where there was once darkness from the vantage point of the McDonald Observatory. It seemed all the people I talked with were terrified by what is happening.

I speak with the hope that you hear me because we need our parks to stand with the people and land whom you represent. Help us defend these places. I call on the TPW Commission to publish a resolution which seeks to protect the sanctity borders, to hence forth state that no wall shall be built through our parks. I encourage TPW to stand publically against these attacks and our lands. I believe all TPW employees should be allowed the First Amendment right to speak up against these threats.

We cannot stand idle by as our sacred places are ruined. Please, we need your help. With love and respect, I call on the Commission to protect the natural and cultural resources of Texas for present and future generations.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you.

Graham Davis, followed by Colleen Mulvey.

MR. GRAHAM DAVIS: Hi. Thank you for hearing my thoughts today. My name is Graham Davis. I'm just a private citizen. I'm interested in wolf reintroduction efforts in Texas, specifically in Texas and also the rest of the country.

Wolf reintroduction is a contentious issue, as you guys well know; and it's currently against the law in Texas. So I'm not here to ask that we launch any kind of wolf reintroduction effort in Texas. That would be fruitless and ill-informed. The fact is, we have no idea what impact that would have, positive or negative.

I've done a little digging. We have no research, current research, about wolves in Texas since they were extirpated in the last century. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department doesn't have research, current research, on wolves; and the Border Lands Research Institute doesn't have any research on wolves in Texas, as well.

I have two specific requests for the Commission. The first is that the Commission ask the Department to do some research on the scientific impact of having a robust Mexican wolf/Mexican gray wolf population in Texas. And the second would be to provide guidelines on the type of research that would be helpful to the Texas Department and Wildlife and the Commission, should private individuals or organizations wish to fund and conduct this research on their own. So what would be helpful for you to make policy decisions.

Wolves are extirpated in Texas and it's against the law, so why should we spend resources on researching wolves to begin with?

The Mexican gray wolf range used to include West Texas. There's been several reintroduction efforts, and most notable is in Yellow Stone that has restored damaged ecosystems. Their current efforts in Arizona and New Mexico and also Mexico to our south, specifically around the Mexican gray wolf, and other efforts -- North Carolina, Wyoming, and Idaho -- of other types of wolf species.

Given the lack of research available to lawmakers and policymakers today, it's unlikely that our existing laws and policies reflect actual science. And so I think we're missing an opportunity to understand the impact of having wolves in Texas and the following areas: Ecology revitalization, such as riparian areas; species balancing, such as balancing a coyote species, foxes, and grazer populations; ecotourism, there could be tremendous benefits; and also hunting, I know big game hunters who would be interested in hunting wolves.

So I've laid out my research requests. I think there's a number of things that we can do specifically in the research area. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you, Mr. Davis.

Colleen Mulvey, you're welcome to speak. You've listed in your issue Kelcy Warren. As I have previously said, if you're up to complain about his appointment, that's not what this meeting's for.

MS. COLLEN MULVEY: Yes, sir. Is Mr. Warren able to step down?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Do you have comments that you wish to make concerning matters that we have jurisdiction over? If it's here, again, to complain about Mr. Warren's appointment, that's really not relevant.

MS. COLLEN MULVEY: Well, sir, I think it's very relevant because he is able to step down. There is action that this Council can take to make itself more able to fulfill its duties.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Again, are your comments directed to his appointment and his sitting on this board?

MS. COLLEN MULVEY: My comments are directed to his ability to fulfill the position that he has taken.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. That's really outside the scope of this meeting. So I'd ask you to please stand down.

MS. COLLEN MULVEY: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you.

The last speaker is Alyssa Tharp.

MS. ALYSSA THARP: Thank you, Commissioners. My name's Alyssa Tharp. I am a resident here of Austin, Texas; and this would be the third meeting that I've come to with the Texas Parks and Wildlife. I spoke before particularly relating to the JD Murphree Wildlife Management Area.

My concerns are largely related to climate change and actual fulfillment of the mission of the Parks and Wildlife to manage and conserve natural resources and cultural resources of Texas, to provide outdoor recreation opportunities for use and enjoyment for present and future generations. Climate change is a very serious threat to the enjoyment of Texas parks and future generations and also in current generations because we see heat indexes in 103 and 107, causing a lot of people inability to even go out to enjoy our state parks currently and we know that these issues will continue to rise.

And so my request to you today are that you assess the scientific predictions of the impacts of climate change on Texas, particularly with state parks; that you look at the national science climate reports previously and the public records of the one that's currently in review at the administration on the federal level and that you recognize and make some kind of policies as the Park's Commission with regards to acknowledging the climate's science reported that humans are responsible already for 1 to 1.13 degrees raise in the global average temperature.

I request that you assess goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department operations, that you assess how you can limit or completely phase out fossil fuel extraction on parklands, particularly the 20 lands and 11 wildlife management areas where drilling is currently happening; and that you assess greenhouse gas climate impacts in assessments for future proposed projects on State parklands and wildlife management areas; that you set goals to also look at environmental justice issues. The fact that we have a situation where as with the wildlife management JD Murphree area, you have a petrochemical corporation in areas where we see severe injustices in who is impacted by pollution across the Texas Gulf; and they are coming to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission and forcing throughways in park areas in order to perpetuate what is actually a violation of civil rights law on the federal level, where we see an unjust amount of pollution in neighborhoods of color, particularly African-American neighborhoods in Beaumont and Port Arthur. That is a concern to you because the people in these areas have heightened rates of cancer, heightened rates of asthma; and they might look to Texas Parks and Wildlife to get away from pollution and, yet, would go to find more extraction in these parklands.

Our entire culture is at risk because we're so dependent upon fossil fuels, and now is the time to do something different about it.

I also have concern that Park's Commissioners are profiteers who use and leverage wealth and --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Would you please wrap up? Your time up and has been up for about a minute.

MS. ALYSSA THARP: So I request that anyone who's a profiteer of the fossil fuel industry, rescind from voting on issues about fossil fuel throughways in parklands. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you.

Is there anyone who's signed up to speak whose name has not been called?

Yes, sir.

MR. TROY WILLIAMSON: Troy Williamson.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Did you sign up, sir?

MR. TROY WILLIAMSON: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Well, please come forward and address the Commission. I apologize that we overlooked you.

MR. TROY WILLIAMSON: That's all right. I've been lost in the shuffle before.

Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak here today. My comments are off-the-cuff and miscellaneous. I have had the good fortune to interface with your management team over a decade or two and I just want to take this opportunity to step up and -- in no order of importance -- mention a few folks I've had the good fortune to communicate with. Carter Smith and Robin Riechers, Lance Robinson and Mark Lingo, and Brandi Reeder.

I've had a wonderful association with those folks. They represent this Department extremely well, and I echo the comments of my good friend Spence Collins and Doug Boyd on their message to you this morning -- or this afternoon. And I guess except for -- my retriever did want me to affectionally mention Warden Carmen Miranda down in the land cut for her intercept that he enjoyed so much. So thank you this afternoon.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Before you step down, just so we have this for the record here, would you give us your address, please?

MR. TROY WILLIAMSON: Yes. I'm an avid coastal fisherman and duck hunter from Corpus Christi, Texas.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And would you just give us your -- whatever your preferred address is, whether it's residence of business?

MR. TROY WILLIAMSON: Sure.

(Dee Halliburton hands Commissioner Duggins information)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: You're in time out.

MS. HALLIBURTON: I'm sorry.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. We have it now. Thank you very much.

Is there anyone else that Dee overlooked?

Okay. That being the case, on behalf of my colleagues, I want to thank those of you who took time to appear today and share your thoughts. And I would say one of you, I think, commented that you hoped we would hold these -- this annual meeting at other locations.

In the past, we have. We've had it in Houston, San Antonio, Fort Worth; and this November, we're going to have our meeting in East Texas at Lufkin. So we are going to attempt to try to move some of the meetings outside of Austin and give others around the state a chance to come and appear.

So with that, the Commission has completed its business; and I declare us adjourned. Thank you very much.

(Public Hearing Adjourns)


C E R T I F I C A T E

STATE OF TEXAS       )
COUNTY OF TRAVIS )

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

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

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

___________________________________
Paige S. Watts, CSR, RPR

CSR No.: 8311

Expiration: December 31, 2016

7010 Cool Canyon Cove

Round Rock, Texas 78681

(512)779-8320

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