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TPW Commission

Work Session, January, 2018

Transcript

TPW Commission Meetings

TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION

January 24, 2018

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

COMMISSION WORK SESSION & EXECUTIVE SESSION

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Good morning, everyone. I'll call the Wednesday Work Session of January 24th, 2018, to order at 9:06 a.m.

Before we proceed with our business, I believe our Executive Director has a statement to make.

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

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

Also, Mr. Chairman, on behalf of all of us at the Department, congratulations on your appointment; and we're excited about working with you in this new capacity. So, yeah.

(Round of applause)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you. Thank you very much.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Any comments?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: No comments other than thank you and I'm very lucky to have the team that we have here at the Commission table, Carter, and 3,100 dedicated employees that makes the job fun. So thank all of you.

Okay, the next order of business is the approval of the minutes from the November 1, 2017, Work Session, which were distributed. Is there a motion for approval or are there any comments or questions?

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: I so move.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Motion by Commissioner Latimer; second, Commissioner Scott. All in favor say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

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

Next order of business is the approval of the minutes from the Regional Public Meeting held November 1, 2017, which were distributed. Is there a motion to approve those minutes?

COMMISSIONER LEE: Move.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Commissioner Lee motion. Second, Commissioner Scott. All in favor say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries.

Agenda Item No. 7, the Implementation of Legislation from the 85th Legislative Session on House Bill 1260 Relating to Regulation of Commercial Shrimp Unloading, the Request Permission to Publish will be withdrawn from today's -- or is withdrawn from today's agenda.

So that takes us to Item 1, an Update on the Progress in Implementing the Land and Water Conservation and Recreation Plan.

Carter, please make your presentation.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Carter Smith. Just maybe as a point of departure, Chairman, if I could, I just want to give you some feedback from the Lufkin Commission Meeting.

That was incredibly well-received by the community over there in East Texas. They were very grateful for the time that this Commission invested in that meeting and having a chance to hear from their citizens and our constituents, who is all of you know, are keenly interested in the work of this Department and I continue to hear from people from East Texas, how grateful they were that the Commission took the time to come over and hear about issues that were germane in interest to that group. And so I want to thank y'all for that.

To that end, the Chairman has asked us to continue on with that tradition of looking for ways to get the Commission around the state and seeking opportunities for meetings outside of Austin wherever possible; and so I just want to remind you that the May meeting we have scheduled for -- to be in both Amarillo and Lubbock. And so how do we look at that actually taking place?

What we are hoping to do is that the Commission would come into the Amarillo area on the Tuesday, the 22nd; would have a chance to tour Palo Duro Canyon State Park, which as you know, is one of the great flagship state parks within the system; get back to Amarillo to have an open public hearing, in which residents and constituents would have a chance to speak to the Commission about items of interest; have a reception and dinner that evening with key partners there in Amarillo; and then get up the next morning and make the hour-and-a-half or two-hour drive over to Lubbock in which we'd start the Commission Meeting the next day around 11:00.

We'd go through the Commission Meeting that afternoon. Also have an open Public Hearing, which we'd have a chance, again, to hear from folks in the Lubbock area in vicinity on items of interest; have a reception and dinner. The next day, we'd finish up with the Commission Meeting and then the staff leadership team is going to stay over and have a town hall meeting with our staff up in the Panhandle.

So just wanted to make sure that we got that on the calendar. We're excited about that opportunity to be up in the Panhandle, and I know that the people up there will be looking forward to welcoming y'all to that part of the state. So any questions about any of that?

We're going to nail down some of the logistics and details; but I just wanted to make sure that y'all were thinking about that because we'd be asking you to spend a little bit more time than is normal in coming up there to that part of the world and it would require a little bit of -- a little bit more travel than usual.

COMMISSIONER WARREN: So that's a Tuesday/Wednesday?

MR. SMITH: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday.

COMMISSIONER WARREN: And Thursday.

MR. SMITH: And Thursday, yeah. Yep. Yes, sir. Yep.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I assume you're not going to tell Mr. Bivins about this.

MR. SMITH: Well, he has been notified. I'm afraid we got ahead of you, and he is -- he's excited about it and looking forward to being the consummate host up there, so.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Do we have to invite him?

MR. SMITH: If you want to direct Dee to do otherwise, that is your prerogative as the Chairman, so.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: His invitation got lost in the mail, that would be okay. No, I'm jesting obviously.

Well, that's -- I think that's terrific and I just say as soon as we can get some planning information out to the Commission, the better; but it's a -- I think it's an exciting schedule and opportunity to see Palo Duro, which is a really cool spot and meet with a lot of different constituents in the Amarillo and Lubbock area and so it's a -- I think it will be good fun and hope everybody can make it out Tuesday, and we'll have a short of meeting as we can on the Thursday to get out of there. So thanks, Carter, on --

MR. SMITH: Perfect. Yeah, you bet. Thanks, Chairman, Commissioners. And we will -- we'll get out information posthaste on that.

Just we'll continue with the rapport. As is customary, just want to say a few words about Internal Affairs. Obviously, want to compliment Major Gray and his team, who continue to balance their caseload with a variety of other things. Captain Longoria recently gave ethics training to the new cadets. Just as a reminder, we have a new cadet class of game warden cadets and state park police officer cadets that enrolled in the Academy here in January. So I appreciate Johnny going over to do that.

Major Gray also continues to make it a priority for professional advancement and development with the team, and I believe they've taken courses recently on Constitutional law and use of force and interrogation and interview techniques. So appreciate Jon paying attention to the development of our officers.

Hopefully, all of you got the note from Ann about the new Support Resources Division that we have created inside the Agency. Both administratively and operationally, I think this is a very good move for us. It essentially takes any number of important cross-cutting related programs and responsibilities that the Agency has and centralizes them and houses them under one leadership team. And so, you know, that's everything for the development of our policies, to working with FEMA, to ADA compliance, how we manage or fleet, how we manage this building, sustainability, etcetera, etcetera.

Those programs and initiatives are very important to the Agency. Historically, we've had them housed in different parts of Agency. Probably haven't had as much visibility and attention as they sometimes warrant, and so we're excited about this change. Particularly pleased that Scott Stover was selected as our new Division Director out of a very competitive pool of applicants.

Scott's got 35 years of experience, nine years with this Agency as our Deputy Director of Infrastructure. And so where is Scott for those of you who haven't met Scott -- Scott over here.

So, Scott, excited about you assuming this role and looking forward to your leadership of these important functions.

So just join me in welcoming Scott to this position. So, Scott, yeah, congratulations.

(Round of applause)

MR. SMITH: Really excited about the work of Craig Bonds and Dave Terry and Ken and Todd and the whole bunch on the relaunch of the Toyota ShareLunker Program. You know, that program has been in existence for about 30 years. You know, always designed to help engender more angler interest in this extraordinary fishery that our biologists have helped to manage and create in the state. Also designed, you know, clearly to get those genetics from source lakes and hopefully spawn fish that could be released back into those lakes to help continue to improve population genetics.

Really applaud Craig and his team for stepping back after really three decades of this program and through a very extensive stakeholder analysis, a lot of input internally and externally, worked with our Communications and other team -- other team members; have relaunched the Toyota ShareLunker Program. You see a new logo, a new tagline. But even more importantly, I think they have reframed the goals of that to better activate angler interests and participation in the program, to look at expanding the genetics from our ShareLunker statewide as opposed to primarily just in source Lakes; but also to get more science and collect more data on bass caught around the state through a really creative citizen science program.

And so they've instituted a whole new series of measures to provide incentives and rewards to anglers that catch fish that are now eight pounds and larger. There are various categories of acknowledgment in that. The opportunities to submit data now can be done electronically through a specialized mobile app that anglers can download. That can be done year-round as opposed to just during a three- or four-month period; and our team is looking to utilize the genetics from ShareLunker fish and have those completely populate our hatcheries so that we can restock lakes with those genetic statewide, as opposed to just historically from the source lakes.

We've got some new partners to add to Toyota in this regard: Yeti, Bass Pro Shop, Skeeter Boats. Again, really a masterful job of reframing a program and thinking creatively about the next generation of this; and that got launched in December to a lot of fanfare and really good reviews.

I think what we'd like to do, Mr. Chairman, and would love to get Mandy Scott -- probably, Craig -- to come back maybe within a year or so after we've had a year under our belt with this and come back and give you an update as to where we are with it; but excited about the next generation of this program. It's, again, one of our flagship Inland Fisheries programs; excited about this new generation of it.

A number of us were talking before the meeting about these series of freeze events that we've had throughout the state and particularly on the coast over the last month and a half: The one in early to mid December; of course, the one that helped us kick off the New Year in 2018; and then another brutal one last week. Can't say enough about our Coastal Fisheries biologists and technicians and our law enforcement team on the coast who just worked overtime to deal with these freeze events on the coast.

And I want to share a few words about some of the actions that we took, particularly with the New Year's freeze, which was very substantial; and then talk a little bit about some of the lessons learned going forward and how we plan for these in the future.

I think as all of you know, when we get these protracted freeze events along the coast, our game and nongame fish and our sea turtles are very susceptible to direct and indirect mortality in the shallow bays. They're very vulnerable to a lot of things; not only the freezing, but also exploitation in areas.

And so one of the things that we have the ability to do is to put in place some temporary fishing closures to protect preselected deepwater holes along the coast from vulnerability to overfishing and exploitation. We did that, as you can see, in early January in select places throughout the coast. Again, our Fisheries team -- Coastal Fisheries team and Law Enforcement team did a great job of getting the word out.

We definitely saw some localized impacts in terms of fish mortality. Places like Pringle Lake saw some big fish that died; not surprisingly, Upper Laguna Madre. Robin shared with me some pictures of some, you know, Snook and Tarpon. You know, kind of more subtropical species that we lost up there that A&M Corpus had collected. So definitely were some localized freeze-related impacts, and some concerns down in deep South Texas of about some overfishing in areas and our Law Enforcement team is certainly on top of that; but, again, an important tool that we have in our tool belt to help protect the fisheries during these events.

Really can't say enough about our work with the barge industry New Year's Eve and New Year's Day to affect essentially a voluntary shutdown of barge traffic from Corpus Christi down to Brownsville. That's a big deal, as you might imagine. And the obvious concern is, is that those fish in those shallow water bays -- particularly the Laguna Madre -- gravitate to that deeper water ditch. There, they're very susceptible to impacts from the propellers and also prop wash that kicks up a lot of sediment and can smother cold-stunned fish or cold-stunned sea turtles.

The barge industry led by Kirby Inland Marine in the Gulf Intercoastal Canal Association was incredibly responsive on New Year's Eve to help us put this in place and get the word out. And so just want to sing their praises and thank them publically, and we'll talk in just a minute about some things that we want to do to kind of parameterize how we work with them in the future on that.

Also, I think as some of you are aware, our Coastal Fisheries team and Law Enforcement team, along with a whole suite of other volunteers and professionals, were out in the bays rescuing these Atlantic Green sea turtles. That's the smallest of our four sea turtles that use our bay system. Again, a subtropical species. They tend to be very vulnerable to these cold-water events where temperatures get below 50 degrees.

We had the largest cold-stunning event in at least documented history over the first of the year when over 2,000 Atlantic Green sea turtles were found out in the bays cold stunned. Many of those were captured by our Fisheries biologists and technicians and game wardens. They were brought to hatcheries, places like the Texas State Aquarium, to help warm up before being released out into the bay. As you can see from this chart, the majority of those are found kind in that Corpus Christi area there in Corpus Christi Bay and the Upper Laguna Madre; but really a herculean effort to help that species.

The flip side of that is, you know, while there are obviously a number -- lots of sea turtles that were impacted, largest ever, it's also a pretty good indication of how well those sea turtles are doing, the fact that we're seeing so many of those.

And I think that, Robin, mortality was what, 15, 17 percent or so of those cold-stunned turtles.

So kudos to our folks for being out there. Very publically that was very well-received, as some of you noted.

Commissioner Jones, we really appreciated your acknowledgment and note to that effect. Thank you for sharing that with us and that feedback.

Going forward, Robin and his team are going to work with our stakeholders to kind of seek to just sort of maybe more closely parameterize the conditions in which we might even consider or just contemplate things like closing areas to fisheries, working with the barge operators and Kirby Inland has offered to help facilitate those discussions with the barge community. And so we're going to be coming back to the Commission with a report on that, but after we have some meetings with our stakeholders and so forth.

But again, really, really proud of their work on the coast, Chairman. It was just terrific.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I just think this is numbing. It's so cool. And thanks to everybody who contributed to that effort. It's -- I just -- I don't know how those fish and turtles make it when it gets that darn cold so fast.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, it's tough.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Anyway, great work, great work. Thank you.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, kudos to our team. They did a --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Bill.

COMMISSIONER JONES: To Carter's comment earlier, I was getting notes from people that knew me that were down in South Padre and they saw all of our folks doing all the work and this one particular couple's wife is very passionate about the sea turtles and he was sending texts and e-mails saying, "Man, your guys are rocking down here. I mean, Parks and Wildlife is all over the place. They are -- they are -- you can tell all the people in your staff or whatever that the folks here in SPI really appreciate what they're doing."

And so Carter's right. They were public, and it was noticed. So I was getting unsolicited texts and e-mails from folks who were observing what Parks and Wildlife wardens and Wildlife fish biologists were doing and it says a lot and they were sending out Tweets and pictures and it was pretty cool.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That's great.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Yeah.

MR. SMITH: Good stuff. Thank y'all for the kind words about our team. They did a terrific, terrific job; and so also very, very proud of them. Thank you for that.

Mr. Chairman, the last item of my agenda is I want to give you kind of a quick update on kind of where we stand on our CWD surveillance in the state and also a proposal that we want to move ahead with to expand our containment zone up in the Panhandle.

Obviously, we continue to take this very, very seriously, as certainly the Commission has as well. I wanted to remind you that during hunting season, our Wildlife biologists and technicians are very active with respect to statewide CWD-related surveillance. Clayton and his team, with Mitch and Dr. Dittmar and Alan Cain and others, have divided the state as part of our normal deer management-related responsibilities into 44 different deer management units. Each of those are unique geographic areas that similar in soil and vegetation and habitat and so forth, and they've done a risk assessment with respect to the probability of detecting Chronic Wasting Disease and then done an epidemiological analysis to drive sampling goals in that area.

And so our Wildlife team has been very busy over the course of hunting season. I think statewide, they had set a goal to collect 6,735 CWD samples of hunter-harvested and road-kill related deer. Our team is at 139 percent of that goal to date. I think they've collected 9,400 samples statewide. So well in abundance of what that initial goal was. So it's been terrific.

The few deer management units in which we're maybe not as high in the collection as we would otherwise like to be, are those areas that have really low deer densities and, therefore, very little hunting pressure; but by and large, the team, again, has done a terrific job.

With respect to the geographic distribution and what we've found, nothing has really changed markedly that you're aware of. We essentially have three geographic kind of focal areas of concern. Obviously, the Hueco Mountains out in far West Texas near El Paso, where we originally found the disease in free-range Mule deer that we believe had came over the state line from New Mexico; the area in the northwestern part of the state northwest of Dalhart where we found CWD in free-range Mule deer, an elk, and now a White-tailed deer and I'll come back to that; and then the area in kind of Medina, northern Medina, eastern Uvalde Counties in which we've found the disease largely in a number of deer breeder facilities, but also as you recall, in one free-range young White-tail buck last year.

Probably the most interesting thing -- well, before I say that, let me just give you some numbers, Chairman. To date, our team has identified 79 Chronic Wasting Disease positive animals, three geographic areas. Fifty-eight of those are White-tailed deer. Two of those free-range: The one in Medina County, and then the one in the Panhandle that I'll talk in a minute about. Our team has found it in 19 Mule deer. All of those were free-range in either the Hueco Mountains or the area northwest in the Dalhart area. And then two elk: One free-range elk up in the Panhandle, and one at an approved release site. I also want to, obviously, compliment our partners at Animal Health Commission, all the private landowners and hunters that have participated in this.

In the new zone, that South Central Zone in which the Commission established, that Area No. 3 where we have mandatory reporting of all hunter-harvest deer, as you will recall, we went from a voluntary-testing related model to a compulsory one after we found the free-range White-tail that was infected with CWD. I'm pleased to tell you that the samples that our team have collected and that folks have submitted as part of that, are about 60 percent higher than what they were previously. So we feel like we continue to get better sampling and a better handle on frequency, distribution, etcetera. Not perfect, but better; but about 60 percent above what we had through the voluntary program. So I wanted to share that.

The biggest finding perhaps was this White-tailed deer that we found up in Hartley County. It was a road-kill deer collected, I believe, by one of our game wardens; and then sent off for testing. As you can see it, it's located just to the south and east of Dalhart on the very eastern edge of that containment zone. Given the location of that deer -- in fact, it's the first White-tail up there, first road-kill that we found, I believe -- our biologists think it's prudent to expand the containment zone area. And so essentially what we're proposing to go out in the Texas Register with, is the notion of expanding that containment zone from just under 2 million acres, adding another 78 to 79,000 acres of habitat to that. We'd come back in March for proposed approval of that with the Commission.

There's no practical changes for most landowners and hunters. Meaning that that area in which we would expand it into, was already under a mandatory reporting requirement. So there's no changes there. The change would come for any landowner that was interested in pursuing a permit to move live deer, and there would be some more stringent procedures in place in on that regard; but, otherwise, landowners and hunters would continue to have to submit samples as they already are doing in that area.

With that, Chairman, I just wanted to make sure that there were no issues with that; or if you had any questions, I'm happy to get Clayton or Mitch or one of our subject matter experts to talk further about it.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Carter, I'd like to just follow up a little bit on the CWD. As you know, I think that's just a real important component and there have been some articles recently in the paper where it seems to be catching on, people are becoming more and more aware. And I worry sometimes when I look at this map where Texas is basically free, I don't want us to relax because another article -- which I don't know if you're aware of the Canadian Province of Saskatchewan and Alberta -- they got hit with it and one of the biologists described it as "spreading like a boreal fire."

It's now in at least those two provinces, and it all came from -- started at the deer farms. And one biologist is quoted as saying, "Farming cervids caused this exactly as some of the world's best scientists predicted." So this article -- how contagious it was -- is something I think we need to be aware and the more aggressive we are, the better I feel about it.

MR. SMITH: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: So I hope you're paying attention to what some of the people are finding in other areas, such as Canada. Of course, we know that the meerkats, that's caused some concern amongst scientists, too, so.

MR. SMITH: You bet, you bet. Absolutely, yep.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yes, sir, Dick.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Reed brought it up and touched on it; but I wanted to make a comment that, you know, I think this Commission and preceders that are not necessarily all here anymore, but what we did back when we did it, ends up being vindicated pretty clearly that a lot of people had their head in the sand and weren't paying attention to the true issue and we took a proactive approach and I hope that this word gets out because how serious it is is obvious now. I mean, that just sums it up. But our proactive approach, I think, was more than appropriate at the time, even though we took a fair amount of heat for it from some; but I think we did the right thing.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: And we're going to continue it.

MR. SMITH: Understood. We share -- excuse me.

COMMISSIONER JONES: I have a quick question. There was the one that you found in free-range. I guess was that the only one that you found free-range in the Panhandle; or was the one that we found last year free-range, was that down in Medina County?

MR. SMITH: The other White-tail that we found that was free-range was in Medina County. So this is only the second White-tail that we've found that's free-range.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay.

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER JONES: In the Medina County area, did you find any additional CWD positive that were not free-range --

MR. SMITH: Yes.

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- in all of your testing?

MR. SMITH: We have found additional CWD positives in the Medina County area within certain breeder facilities.

COMMISSIONER JONES: And how many?

MR. SMITH: I'd have to get Clayton or Mitch or Dr. Dittmar to answer that question. Yeah, it's probably -- I tell you what, I won't speculate. Let me get Mitch to answer this.

Thanks, Mitch.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Good morning, Commissioners, Mr. Chairman. For the record, my name is Mitch Lockwood. I'm the Big Game Program Director.

We have three fenceline adjacent facilities in Medina County -- that is not including our index facility, which is a little bit to the north of those three. When I say "fenceline adjacent," I mean next-door neighbors. And one of those --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Would you explain what you mean by "index facility," just so we're clear about that.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Yes, sir, Mr. Chairman.

The index facility is the facility where CWD was first detected in captivity. That facility has since been depopulated, and they are still operating under a herd plan on their pasture setting where some susceptible species still remain. Then the second facility and third facility in Medina County, which are next-door neighbors, there's been -- at the second facility, there's been 21 positives to date at the -- and that includes their pastures where breeder deer have been released. So 21 either from their breeding pens or their release sites. And then for the Facility No. 3, which is just to the east of Facility No. 2, there have been 25 positives detected to date. Again, some of those in the release site, most of those in the breeding facility. And then the facility that's just to the east of Facility No. 3, which is also fenceline adjacent, there's been two positives total in the breeding pens at that facility, with no positives detected in the pasture; but the surveillance in the pasture has been very, very light, if any, to date; but they're under a herd plan to conduct surveillance in that release site, as well.

And then the free-ranging positive was just to the east of that eastern-most facility that I just referenced.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Are you able to make any -- and I understand it may be somewhat preliminary -- but scientific deductions from what you've found so far, with all of the testing that has been done from the index facility to the neighboring facility to the neighboring facility to the neighboring facility? What does that tell you?

MR. LOCKWOOD: We do not know where this disease came from. We have not been able to really get any closer to knowing the source of the disease. There could be multiple sources of the disease, quite frankly. We do not know the relationship between these -- in other words, we don't know if this disease is spreading through the fences through, you know, runoff; through scavengers; through deer just getting out, escaping from one pasture to another. We don't know if it's happening that way or if it's being introduced by man in trailers into these different facilities and it's just a coincidence; but we're very really not sure, Commissioner. I don't know if that's addressing the question you asked.

COMMISSIONER JONES: No, it is. I mean, I'm -- we put all of these processes in place to accomplish the ultimate goal of preventing the spread of the disease as best we could; and as we gather evidence from our process, I just want to make sure that we continue to analyze what it means. And to the extent there still remains questions, then we keep asking the right questions to the extent we get some answers, then we provide those answers to the public so that they understand what we're doing and the results of what we're doing.

And so for me, I would periodically just want to know: What does this mean? What does this tell us? Can we draw any conclusions from the processes that we put in place?

MR. LOCKWOOD: I think one thing I could say, is from our continued surveillance in that free-range setting in that whole Containment Zone No. 3, we're increasing our confidence that the disease is not well-established into that population, into that free-range population. Obviously, we would hope it's not established at all. We do know that there was one positive -- free-range positive -- harvested last year; but we don't know the source of that deer either. And I think a lot of you are aware that we are conducting a research project or kind of an investigation, if you will, doing some genetic's analysis with geneticists at the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute to try and learn more about that deer and the origin of that deer to determine is this a deer that is truly born and raised free-range deer or might this deer have escaped from one of those release sites where CWD has been detected and that genetic analysis is currently underway.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Jeanne.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: That was my question: Is CWD a disease that you can genetically trace?

MR. LOCKWOOD: That's a very good question. We've asked that question. I believe the answer to that is no; not the disease itself, but you can do some genetic analysis on the deer to try to determine the source of those deer and kind of track the disease movement through tracking the deer movement through time.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: And that's probably because prions -- is that how --

MR. LOCKWOOD: Yes, ma'am.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: The prions are not something that can be genetically tested, like a bacterial or viral disease, correct?

MR. LOCKWOOD: That is what has been explained to me. Yes, ma'am.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, on to your -- I'm sorry. Go ahead, Anna.

COMMISSIONER GALO: I just had one question about the index facility and you might have answered it and I might have missed it. But has any CWD been detected after it was depopulated?

MR. LOCKWOOD: No CWD was detected in their release site. The -- there were a total of four positives in the breeding facility, and some of those were removed during the depopulation event. Some of the positives were learned about because of the depopulation event.

COMMISSIONER GALO: But since it's been depopulated?

MR. LOCKWOOD: No more pos -- no positives on their release site. The facility is empty. The breeding facility is empty and the pasture has never had a positive detected. Quite frankly, we removed a lot of the animals from the release site, the Department did; and we worked with Texas Animal Health Commission on that. The landowner has conducted some surveillance since then. They have harvested a very limited number of deer and conducted surveillance since then in elk, and no positives have been found.

COMMISSIONER GALO: Okay.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Is it a low-fence facility?

MR. LOCKWOOD: None of these facilities are low fence; but as you all know, there's really no such thing as a deer-proof fence either.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay. So that was my question. How did -- if we depopulated it, how did the deer get in the facility? They just -- holes and low places and whatnot?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Let me clarify, if I may. We depopulated the deer breeding pens; but the release site is, you know, around 2,000 acres of huntable land. That has not been depopulated. If I used that term, I apologize. We did remove a relatively large number of White-tailed deer from the release site, but we did not remove all of them.

COMMISSIONER GALO: And the reason I ask, is just because the prions from the article say that it can be in the soil and so that it can continue to spread in that manner.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Yes, that's what makes this disease perhaps the most challenging disease to manage that we're aware of.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But you might clarify to Anna's question that we don't test -- we haven't tested Mr. Patterson's ranch soil, have we?

MR. LOCKWOOD: We have not tested soil. There actually was some soil that was collected during the depopulation event from the breeding facility and sent to research facilities, and I'm unaware of any analysis that's been conducted on that to date.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I just wanted the record to be clear about the extent of the testing that Mitch was referring to.

In an observation that I had after your questions, Jeanne, we had a symposium on CWD. I think it was two years ago, and you came.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Yeah, right.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And I thought it was a fantastic opportunity to listen to scientists and veterinarians about what's going on in other places and what they've discovered. It seems to me, we might want to explore having another one here because we're now two years down the road and there's going to be more data out there; and to Reed's point, the more we can -- the more we can do to get as far down the road as we can on what's going on, the better we'll be for managing the State's deer here.

And so I don't know how that one got set up; but I was there, too.

And I think, Dick, weren't you there?

It was a terrific day. So can we do something like that again or offer to host something like that?

MR. LOCKWOOD: We certainly could. That is a good idea. And while we may not host one every year, we are still very active. Dr. Dittmar and I both are very active in participating in that very same type of symposium relatively frequently. In fact, there was one just a few months ago held in Michigan back in the fall that was very, very similar symposium. The same -- to a large degree, the same suite of speakers with some updated presentations. And so we still do participate in those type of symposiums, but that doesn't -- there's no reason why we couldn't host the next one.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, the benefit to having one here, obviously, is that landowners and people in the deer business benefit from -- if they'll come to it, they'll benefit from the data and the talks that are given. They can do what they want to do after that, but I think we should try to set one up for -- to be done in Texas in a central location and for the benefit of all of our constituents who are in the -- either just they're managing their own ranches for their own hunting or in the deer breeding business.

MR. LOCKWOOD: I think there's tremendous benefit for the public to hear that, especially when we read what we do in the op-eds and the different editorials about -- from those who downplay the seriousness of this disease. In fact, we'll share an article that will be published any day now that will address some of those common -- not common, but some of misconceptions that some are printing out there downplaying the disease. But for that reason, that's one of many reasons why I think it would benefit the landowners and hunters in this state to have an opportunity to participate in such a symposium.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So can I put that down on our to-do list?

MR. SMITH: You may, Chairman. Yeah, yeah.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Next --

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: You'll -- that's what -- you'll keep us apprised of what other states and Canada are doing because they are taking different approaches and apparently Canada is really tightening down on deer movement and deer animal part movements.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And I think Wyoming has seen a very significant decline in the White-tail herd and they had -- for some time, I think -- thought it was not that big of deal and I think they're looking at it entirely differently. So --

MR. SMITH: They are.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- I would love to have participation of Wyoming whenever we do this, Mitch.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Yes, sir. Wyoming and Wisconsin both. Not that they didn't think it was a big deal, but how do you tackle such -- as you all know -- how do you tackle this disease? And so they did take a less active approach; but both of those states have done about-face here recently and are getting much more active in their disease management. There's never been more attention for this disease by State and Federal agencies -- or State agencies anyway -- than there is today.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And when we do it, I would suggest we include in the invitation, people who are in the exotic manage -- exotic business in Texas. Like, people that are selling elk hunts and that sort of thing because elk, we know, are really -- are easily susceptible -- or very susceptible to the disease.

I have a question on the map. The top of the new proposed expansion area, is that a road? Why would we not go to the county line, the Dallam/Hartley County line?

MR. LOCKWOOD: It is a road and that's just for ease of enforcement and just for hunters to know.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. And I assume the same if you're going to the east, it's a road?

MR. LOCKWOOD: All of those boundaries -- the eastern boundary and the northern boundary and the southern boundary are all roads.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. All right, anybody else -- yeah, Bill.

COMMISSIONER JONES: I have one quick scientific question. Can you kill a prion? Is there something that will kill a prion?

MR. LOCKWOOD: It's not a -- it's not a living thing. We often use that phrase, but -- you know, about killing a prion. Prions, we believe, can be denatured with a bleach solution. I'm not sure that that's the definitive, though; but it is believed that you can denature proteins -- prions -- with a bleach solution.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Do we not have some scientists at A&M who can do some research on that and help us out?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Not at A&M. Sorry. You sent me a softball on that.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Texas Tech, I don't care.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: No, I think -- were you -- I mean, you were asking a serious question.

COMMISSIONER JONES: I am asking. I was serious.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yeah, I didn't want to poo-poo the question.

MR. LOCKWOOD: There has been -- I mean, there's been research on this, Commissioner. Like I say, it's -- I just don't know to what degree the denaturing is, you know, how effective it is. I don't know that offhand.

And, Dr. Dittmar, if you happen to know offhand, please feel free to come up here and share some more; but it certainly -- it is the accepted method used to conduct cleanup, decontamination of sites. We all use this bleach solution when we exit these facilities when we're conducting antemortem surveillance or other reasons why we're out there. We spray our shoes, our tires, etcetera, because that is the accepted method of CWD.

DR. DITTMAR: Yeah, I'm Bob Dittmar, veterinarian with the Department, for the record.

Yeah, Mitch is correct. It's not really a living thing. So you really can't kill it. You can denature it. Bleach is one of the things that will help denature or destroy it in very, very concentrated bleach solutions. There are some other compounds that are used and there has been a quite a bit of research on what actually you can do to denature it or dispose of it.

The issue is a lot of those are not available in this country. There's some research in Europe where they're actually developing products that possibly could be used in the environment to denature the prions. Extremely high heat and pressure like autoclaving at levels that are much higher than we normally would autoclave surgical instruments will also denature the prion.

COMMISSIONER JONES: What was that thing you said? What was that thing you said before "surgical instruments"?

DR. DITTMAR: Autoclave.

COMMISSIONER JONES: What is that?

DR. DITTMAR: That's how you sterilize surgical instruments. If you go to a hospital, a veterinary clinic, those instruments are autoclaved; and basically, they're treated with very high heat and pressure --

COMMISSIONER JONES: Oh, okay.

DR. DITTMAR: -- to sterilize them.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Not something you can do to land.

DR. DITTMAR: Oh, no. But there are some -- probably sometime in the future, at least in Europe -- there are going to be maybe some things approved for use in the environment, some of those products.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Commissioner Latimer mentioned fire, I think, a while ago; and Dr. Dittmar gave the briefing to this Commission at a recent meeting on some of -- kind of a research update and touched on an article that kind of theorized the use of prescribed fire as a management tool for CWD, but that wasn't to kill or denature the proteins. It was more to remove the vegetation --

DR. DITTMAR: Yes, yeah.

MR. LOCKWOOD: -- that would have the prions in it and, therefore, could not be consumed by the animals. And, again, that's all theoretical.

DR. DITTMAR: And just to -- not to keep this conversation going, but you asked about genetic typing. There really is not genetic typing, like Mitch said; but there are strains of prions and so far, there have been at least two strains recognized in the United States. And I want the Commission to understand that when we're collecting samples and particularly doing these depops, we're collecting extra samples that we're contributing to researchers that are in the United States. And one of the things we're looking at is: Do we have a different strain in Texas?

We're doing a lot of genetic information. As y'all probably know, that there are some genotypes of White-tailed deer and elk and Mule deer that while they're not resistant, but the disease progression is slower. So we're looking at a lot of things in helping in research -- or we hope we're helping in research -- by sending those to people around the country to look at.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Now, one of the -- I thought, fascinating -- disclosures that I picked up on at that seminar was that some deer -- to your point, Dr. Dittmar -- don't show any symptoms of it for years, whereas other ones may show it within a few months. It's just their genetic resistance, I guess, to the disease, as I understood it at least from hearing it that day.

DR. DITTMAR: Right. There's no true resistance that we've found to Chronic Wasting Disease. That's kind of the holy grail that everybody is looking for. One of the things that may be a way out of this hole, is if we can find a truly resistant -- like we found in sheep with Scrapie. The sheep industry has been able to eliminate Scrapie from our U.S. sheep flock by having or selecting for genetically resistant animals, but haven't found that in deer at this point in time.

MR. LOCKWOOD: But the reason that Dr. Dittmar said that we wonder if we're dealing with a different strain here is because the deer in our situation haven't really read the textbook on CWD. We've had very young -- in fact, less than a year old fawns -- that were of the genotype that should not be testing positive at that age -- what some people would call the more resistant -- in some of these deer. So it's been kind of odd.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, that's -- anyway, let's do work on that symposium and setting that up and thank you-all.

Anybody else have any questions or comments?

Thank you both. I'll authorize staff to publish a rulemaking proposal regarding the CWD containment zone in Hartley County, to publish that in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.

Next --

MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman, that's it. That's it for me, unless you had any other questions about anything else. Are we good?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay.

MR. SMITH: All right, thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you, Carter.

Next item is Financial Overview. Mike Jensen, would you please make your presentation?

MR. JENSEN: Good morning, Commissioners, Chairman. I'm Mike Jensen, Division Director for Financial Resources Division. The materials I'm going to present, I'm going to go through them fairly quickly. You've seen the same format last year, last January, March, and May. I'm going to show you the 12-month cycle for the three primary revenue streams, and then I'll show you where we are for the first quarter month to month. Then I'll compare that to the prior four years and I'll move through each of the state park revenue, boat revenue, and license revenue. Then we have one slide dealing with budget adjustments since the August meeting.

This first slide gives you a summary of the cycle, full 12-month cycle, of state park revenue. 2017 was the best year of record. As you can see, it's fairly backloaded; not as much as the boat revenue, but the first six months account for 37 percent of the revenue. The last six months account for 63 percent of the revenue. Peak months are spring break and the summer months May through July. Best months are July, March, and June.

And you can see last year, it was 55.1 million. The current quarter, first three months, we had adverse impacts that we mentioned at the November meeting. So you'll see this in the slide. Year to date total revenue is 11.35 million, compared to the prior year for those three months. Prior year was 12.86. So we're about 1.5 million behind. Month to month, September was 17 percent behind; October was about 16 percent behind; November was about 3 percent behind the prior year. Most of that we attribute to the hurricane; but then again, 2017 was also the best year of record.

Now, if we look at that first quarter and we compare it to the prior four years, you can see we're tracking fairly close to about the performance levels for fiscal year '15. However, if you look at the trend over the five years, the average growth has been about 7 percent per year, about 3.2 million. If you look from fiscal year '15 through '17, the growth was closer to 9 percent per year, about 4.4 million per year. So the hurricane did have a significant impact because year to date, we're about 11.7 percent behind, 1.5 million behind.

Compared to '16, for this period, we're about 5 percent better than '16; compared to '15, about 7 percent better; compared to fiscal year '14, we're about 16 percent ahead.

Now, if you look at the data just comparing these two quarters against each other for the current year and prior year, you can see we're down by about 11.7 percent, 1.5 million. The next slide shows you the variances by the different types of categories within the revenue streams, and you can see most of those are down. Then again, if you compare them to '16, '15, and '14, we are actually doing better than those fiscal years.

If you scroll down to the visitation, you can see the first quarter is down about 10 percent; but if you compare it to '16, '15, and '14, we're better than those. We're better than '16 by about 8 percent; same with '15; about 20 percent better over '14. As I mentioned before, the last three years we've seen significant spike in revenues in visitation in the State Park System.

Moving to the boat revenue, the boat revenue is also backloaded; but it was not as adversely impacted, at least so far from we can see from the data, as the state park revenue stream. The peak months are the spring months, spring through summer, April through July. March and August are pretty good months, as well. The first six months account for about 29 percent of the revenue, and the last six months about 71 percent. Best months are June, May, and July.

The next slide is going to show you the performance of the first quarter. As I mentioned, the impact of Hurricane Harvey were less severe to this revenue stream; but there was some impact because September performance was roughly 8 percent lower compared to the prior year. However, October was 11 percent better. November was about a half percent better. And through December, we're about hanging even with boat revenue.

Now, if we compare this to the prior four years, you can see that this is a revenue stream that's relatively flat. Over five years, it grows about a half percent a year. That's about 108,000. From '15 to '17, it's grown about three times that rate, about 1 and a half percent per year, with '16 being the best year of record.

As I mentioned earlier in the prior slides, we're behind '16. That was the best year of record by 5.7 percent, but fiscal years '15 and '14 are about 5 and 6 percent respectively ahead.

So the total revenue is down for the first quarter about a tenth of a percent, which I would consider to be hanging about even. It's about $2,000 behind.

This slide shows you the variances between sales tax, titles, registrations; and it gives you the volume and counts of registrations. You can see that we're behind a tenth of a percent. I consider that holding even. The volumes on registrations were up about 3.1 percent. Titles are up about 1.9 percent. Again, this is extremely backloaded. Most of the revenue that we get is from registrations. It accounts for about two-thirds of the revenue, about approximately 23 million a year that we get.

The next slide will turn our attention to licenses. As all of y'all are familiar with, when we kickoff the license year, that first month is the peak period for license year 2017, which is the best of record. September of the prior year, we had 44.53 million. You're going to see the impact of the hurricane when I go to the next slide. The peak months for the combo and hunting are September through December. Peak months for fishing is September because of the kickoff of the license year, but most of those revenues delayed March through July.

First month is 41 percent for prior license year. First six months is about 75 percent of the revenue. Last six months, primarily fishing license revenue, 25 percent. First quarter, you can see the impact of Hurricane Harvey was pretty significant here, similar to the state park revenue; and we expected that because this is a front-loaded revenue stream. September was about almost 11 percent behind license year 2017. That is roughly 4.75 million. October held even. It was actually up about two-tenths of a percent. November was up about 9 percent. And you can see the people who delayed purchasing their licenses, did purchase them right before the hunting period for the deer hunt. Year to date, we're behind about 5.4 percent, which is about 3.65 million.

Now, if you look at this first quarter and you compare it to the prior four years, you can see that the trend has been upward over the five years of roughly 2.8 percent per license year. If you look at '15 through '17, that trend's been slightly higher, about 3.3 percent per license year. That would be a growth of about 3.3 million per year.

Because of the hurricane primarily, year to date we're behind 5.4 percent or 3.65 million. If you compare it strictly to license years '16, '15, and '14, we're holding almost even with about license year '15; and we're hoping we'll catch up with fishing license sales through the spring and the summer.

This shows the most recent -- the current year with the prior year. We're down 5.4 percent, 3.65 million. This gives you the variances between the different types at a high level. So if you combine fishing resident and nonresident, year to date we're behind about 14.6 percent. Combining resident and nonresident hunting, we're behind about 2 percent. Combination licenses, we're behind about 4 and a half percent. Again, the best months for fishing are ahead of us, March through July. So we're hoping to see the year-to-date deficit drop as we approach the end of the license year.

Next slide is a pretty quick slide about the budget adjustments that we had for the first three months of the fiscal year. I want to remind the Commission that in August, we changed things up a little bit. We made sure that the budget you approved, tied dollar for dollar/penny for penny with the General Appropriation Act. Historically, there's an estimate in that Act for fringe benefits. I reported to the Commission that we expected that fringe amount, it looked a little high.

What we had done in the past, we had made that adjustment and the Commission approved that with the adjustment included. Well, what happens over time, you get people from the press, people outside asking: Well, why doesn't -- why doesn't the Commission approve budget tied to the Appropriation Act? So we always have to explain that fringe adjustment.

So now when we get those media requests, it's going to much easier to point them to the Appropriation Bill. And you'll see that negative 19 million on here. That's the adjustment I'm talking about. The Appropriation Bill had an estimate for fringe. It was not an estimate that we, as a Department, provided. It's something that the Legislative Budget Board put in the bill. So this adjustment trues it up to make it more in-line with actuals.

The approved budget was 469.27 million in August, and that ties to the Appropriation Bill. We have four categories of adjustments. The first one's federal and UB adjustments and the adjustment is 75.48 million. That's from 31 different federal sources of funds. Top five being wildlife restoration, outdoor recreation acquisition, sport fish restoration, national recreation trails, and some restore moneys for work that's being done in Matagorda Bay.

The second category of adjustment is appropriated receipts and UB of 14.36 million. It's from nine high-level categories and sources. The most -- the largest component being donations that has the ability to move forward of about 9.5 million out of that 14.36 million total.

The third adjustment line on here is for capital and capital construction UB. This is on top of what was already in the base with our Rider No. 4. So we have an additional 5.7 million in federal funds; 3.2 million in appropriated receipts; a million and a half of general obligation bonds; interagency contracts of 924,000. That's totals up to this 11.3 million line item.

The fourth, I explained; and this is just trueing up the employee fringe amounts with the actual fringe costs that have been reflected and already recorded in the ERS system. And that's an adjustment of 19.1 million. So the subtotal of the adjustments is 82 million; and the adjusted budget on November 30th, 2017, is 551.32 million.

That concludes my presentation. I'd be happy to try and answer any questions if you have them.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Questions or comments?

Okay. Thank you, Mike.

Work Session Item 3, Internal Audit Update. I think Ed Best is going to present for Cindy Hancock. Ed.

MR. BEST: Good morning, Commissioners. For the record, I'm Ed Best, Senior Auditor in Internal Audit, filling in for Cindy Hancock. I'm here today to update you on the completion status of the current Internal Audit Plan and any external audits. Our last presentation was in August, 2017; so I have a little bit more to update you on today.

Our FY '17 Internal Audit Plan has been completed, and all reports have been issued. For the FY '18 Audit Plan, we have completed the federal grant audit. We are in the fieldwork stage for the state park audits, with ten reports issued to date. We are also in fieldwork regarding the follow-up audit and one special project regarding unpaid citations.

The IT governance audit is going on through the quality assurance phase. In addition, we have started planning on the sand and gravel program audit, the wildlife management area audits, contract audit, and a selected IT system audit.

For the federal grant audit that we completed, we reviewed the recreational trails program grant and found no significant issues within the areas that we reviewed. For the follow-up audit, we are pending our follow-up process on 11 issues that will be covered by ongoing external audits. Currently, we have 21 recommendations outstanding, with 11 issues pending further external audit work and six recommendations that have future follow-up dates and we hope to close out four of those during this month's review.

Also of the ten state park audit reports issued, nine had no significant findings; and this is a list of the compliant parks that we had. Currently, we have several ongoing external audits. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Civil Rights Division, is conducting a desk review to determine if TPWD meets the non-discrimination requirements of the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program. The Texas Comptroller is beginning their periodic post-payment audit. The Texas Department of Energy Management has hired audit firms to look at support documentation regarding Hurricane Ike compliance and recovery in the 2015-16 floods; and FEMA is also asking for initial Hurricane Harvey cost information.

The State Auditor's Office is conducting a follow-up audit on a contract audit that they performed back in 2014. They are also beginning an audit of our fleet management processes. And periodically, the Office of the Governor reviews support documentation on TPWD grants; and this is going on right now.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Ed, before you move, what -- would you explain what you mean by "fleet management"?

MR. BEST: That is the vehicles that we have --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: The management of all our vehicles?

MR. BEST: Yeah, and the requirements that we have to upkeep those and keep records on them.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So most of them are -- the audit will reflect that a lot of them have over 200,000 miles?

MR. BEST: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yeah. Okay, good. Thank you.

MR. BEST: The State Auditor's Office completed their audit of the Infrastructure Division's contracting processes. Their final report was issued in December, with several recommendations which were provided to the Department. The KPMG audit firm was hired by Microsoft to conduct a Microsoft Office licensing audit and they came up with a few issues and these have been resolved.

The Department of Interior Office of Inspector General conducted a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service federal grant audit, with several findings that TPWD is working on, along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The State Office of Risk Management conducted an on-site consultation with several recommendations contained in the report. Scott Stover and Steve Schroeter will be working on those recommendations.

Office of the Governor completed a desk review of one of our grants, which resulted in no findings; and the U.S. Coast Guard had also conducted a desk review of the recreational boating grant, and they found no issues.

That concludes my presentation, and I'll be glad to try and answer any questions you may have.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: One quick one.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yes, Dick.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: On that last one of the completed external audits, the last bullet Coast Guard deal, that has nothing to do with the issue that prompted cracks in the session?

MR. SMITH: No.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Okay.

MR. SMITH: No.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I just wanted to make sure it didn't have anything to do with that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Bill.

COMMISSIONER JONES: I don't know if y'all noticed when he said that nine out of the ten state park audits were "found no findings." So what that tells me is we're not perfect, but we're real close. We're real close, and we really --

MR. BEST: The one park that had a finding, it was just one finding; and it wasn't that major.

COMMISSIONER JONES: So whenever I send out those e-mails to the Board, to the Commission, commenting on the audit findings, I'm not sure if y'all remember or recognize this; but Ed is the one that sends the original e-mail out, and we're about to lose Ed because he's getting ready to retire, as I understand, is that right?

MR. BEST: Yes, sir. February 2nd.

COMMISSIONER JONES: So I just want you to know that we appreciate all of your work and everything that you've done in this Department and for the Commission, and I know there will be a more formal recognition upon retirement; but this is your last meeting, and I just wanted you to know that we really appreciate everything that you've done --

MR. BEST: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- for the Commission.

MR. BEST: Yeah, I've thoroughly enjoyed working here. Met a lot of great people. And I'd like to take the opportunity to thank Carter and the Commission and especially you, Commissioner Jones, for your acknowledgment and support of the internal audit function. It really helps us and makes our job a lot easier, and I know Cindy feels the same way.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Well, I appreciate all that y'all have done. Gone from policing organization to helping with continuing improvement of our processes and that helps us all.

MR. BEST: Okay.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: He's not an Aggie, is he, Bill?

COMMISSIONER JONES: I don't think so.

MR. BEST: No.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Ed, I want to echo what Bill said about the good work you've done and also to say thanks for the good news because the internal audit function is a critical function here and gives this Agency great creditability with the Legislature and others. So it's a very, very important function for us to continue to keep the focus on our audit function, as we have, and also thanks to Bill for shepherding this on behalf of the Commission.

MR. BEST: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right, sir, thank you.

From one end to the other. We're going from Internal Audit to King Mackerel. Dakus?

MR. GEESLIN: Dakus.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Dakus, I beg your pardon. Dakus, please make your presentation.

MR. GEESLIN: Good morning, Commissioners, Mr. Chairman. For the record, my name is Dakus Geeslin. I work in our Coastal Fisheries Division. So I come before you today to present regulation changes specific to King mackerel, commonly known as our "King fish."

We are proposing a regulation change in a two-step process, and I want to explain that process here today so it becomes crystal clear. The first would be a temporary exception to the bag limit for King mackerel, increasing the bag limit from a two-fish per day to a three-fish per day bag limit until August 31st, 2018. That would become effective as soon as we enact that and publish that.

The next step would be to get that within our statewide hunting and fishing proclamation in its normal cycle. So you would have the temporary exception until August 31st, 2018; and then we will come before you again to propose the statewide -- statewide change. So that would pick up on September 1. We felt that was the simplest process to reduce and minimize any confusion, ambiguity with -- amongst our anglers and our Law Enforcement staff, as well.

So this all came about through a federal amendment to the Gulf Pelagic and Migratory Fisheries Management Plan, which they changed the bag limit from two to three. And as you can see, we've got other states, other Gulf states, doing the same thing -- doing the same thing -- following that liberalization of the King fish/King mackerel bag limit. Most of the states are either in the process or have made that adoption, made that change.

Our public comments, overwhelming 91 percent in favor. We did have 11 individual comments that disagreed, and just one that was neutral. So total, 145 total comments. And, again, I just wanted to reiterate that this request now is to that temporary exception to get us through August 31st, 2018; and we will also be proposing and be before you again in March with a statewide -- statewide change for the King mackerel bag limit regulation. And I believe Ken Kurzawski will be including a point of that in his address here momentarily. So with that, I'll take any questions on King mackerel.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Any questions or comments?

Bill.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Other than everything is bigger in Texas, why is the minimum size limit larger than every other state?

MR. GEESLIN: That is a great question, and what we do -- and it's the anatomy of the fish. They -- other states do a fork length. We do a total length, and that goes from the tip of the fish to the very end tail of a fish. The other states do where the fork begins of the caudal fin.

COMMISSIONER JONES: So there really isn't any difference?

MR. GEESLIN: It's not. But if you look back, our 27, that incorporates what we think the extra three inches on that given size fish would incorporate the extra length of the tail. It's simpler, and we do that -- that's a common measurement throughout all of our fishes in Texas with our regulations.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And so we understand you, the proposal is to implement a temporary increase until the increase can be made permanent through the statewide proclamation?

MR. GEESLIN: This is correct. That bag limit never expires. We're aiming for a seamless transition from the temporary exception to the statewide proclamation.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. I would say when we publish this, I would like to suggest we make clear about the measurements, how we measure to Bill's point. I think it's a good question. And I see you've got T.L. versus F.L., total length I guess?

MR. GEESLIN: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So I just -- let's just make sure that our disclosure --

MR. GEESLIN: Absolutely.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- is clear on that.

Anybody have any other comments or questions? Okay.

MR. GEESLIN: Great.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Just a procedural issue, so whenever we pass this issue -- assuming it passes -- it would be immediate? The effect of the passage would be immediate?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Tomorrow if it passes, it will take effect as a temporary increase to remain in effect until we go through the statewide proclamation; at which point if that passes, it would become a permanent change.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay, okay. Do we need to say that specifically in the proclamation that it is immediate or that it takes place -- since it is sort of in the middle of the -- I'm just saying procedurally. I don't know if we need to or not; but, you know --

MR. GEESLIN: This could take effect as short as 20 days from the time of notice.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay.

MR. GEESLIN: From the time we publish, the -- as soon as it could get published, we have 20 days until that -- the shortest length it could come.

MR. RIECHERS: Chairman and Commissioners, my name is Robin Riechers with Coastal Fisheries Division. Yeah, just -- Dakus is right. Basically, as soon as we can file it with the Secretary of State, it will then take effect 20 days after that filing. So we would hurry to do this as quickly as we could so that we get it filed hopefully by next week; and then once filed, it has to sit there for 20 days, and then it becomes effective. So we'll try to hurry that up as quickly as we can.

The whole reason for doing this temporary notion was to put in place for this season so that people could take advantage of this increased bag limit this summer or spring and summer. So we'll work to do that as quickly as we can.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you.

I think I said this; but in case I didn't, I will place the King mackerel rules on the agenda for tomorrow's Commission Meeting for public comment and action by the Commission.

Work Session Item No. 5, the 2018-2019 Statewide Recreational and Commercial Fishing Proclamation, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Register. Ken Kurzawski, welcome.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Good morning, Chairman, Commissioners. My name's Ken Kurzawski with the Inland Fisheries Division, and I'm here today to go over the proposed changes to the freshwater fishing regulations.

The focus of this year's changes are Largemouth bass. Our goals for Largemouth bass management are to manage for diverse and quality angling opportunities across the state. There's really no such thing as an average angler. They have diverse desires when it comes to what they want out of their fishing experience, and we're fortunate in Texas to have diverse resources that we can use to manage for that.

As with all our regulations, we have an ongoing process of evaluation by our biologists. This year, we've reviewed Largemouth bass regulations that differed from statewide regulations to ensure they're meeting our management goals. A goal of the review process was to standardize and simplify regulations, while at the same time maintaining fishing quality. In this round of the review, we targeted specific regulation categories: 14- to 18-inch and 14- to 24-inch slot limits and the 16-inch minimum length limit.

Over time, catch and release of bass by anglers has greatly increased for length limits and especially slot limits. To be effective, anglers need to harvest some fish. Now, anglers rarely harvest bass and our management strategies and use of regulations have to account for those changes in attitudes around harvest. Additionally, we will continue to use other tools, such as -- in concert with the length limits, such as stocking and habitat improvement to maintain or improve fishing quality and fish populations.

For this group of 12 reservoirs, we are proposing to change the regulations back to the statewide limits, which is 14-inch minimum limit and five-fish daily bag. Three of the reservoirs -- Granbury, Possum Kingdom, and Ratcliff -- are currently under 16-inch minimums; have 18-inch minimums on Bryan, Cooper, and Old Mount Pleasant City Lake; and then we have a group of six lakes that have 14- to 18-inch slots. In analyzing these bass population structure in these reservoirs, we don't see any current benefit to maintaining the special regulations and believe the statewide limits will be suitable for these locations.

This is just a depiction of where these reservoir are around the state and the size of the reservoirs. The largest there is Cooper, down to Burke-Crenshaw, which is 10 acres in the Houston area.

Purtis Creek State Park Lake and Lake Raven, which is in Huntsville State Park, are under catch and release with an exception that allows the anglers to possess and weigh bass over 13 pounds for entry into the ShareLunker Program. For these two reservoirs, we are proposing a change to a 16-inch maximum length limit and a five-fish daily bag and maintain the ShareLunker exception. The 16-inch maximum allows anglers to harvest bass under 16 inches, but an angler could only maintain possession of a bass over 16 inches if it's over 24 inches and over 13 pounds and it's accepted for -- into the ShareLunker Program.

We have three reservoirs -- Fayette County, Gibbons Creek, and Lake Monticello -- that have -- currently have 14- to 24-inch slots. All three of these are currently operated as cooling reservoirs for power plants; but with some of the changes in the power industry, that status could change. Our proposal is to change these to the 16- to 24-inch slot, which is the limit we have on Lake Fork. So we'll have one slot limit that will cover sort of our trophy regulations for those lakes. This will eliminate the 14- to 24-inch slot category.

Grapevine Lake in the Metroplex has a 14- to 16 -- 14- to 18-inch slot limit and our proposal is to change to a no minimum lake limit regulation to allow anglers to harvest bass of any size. Of the five bass that anglers would be allowed to harvest, only two bass could be less than 18 inches. So we're redirecting harvest to the size of the fish that we think are most appropriate to harvest out of those reservoirs. We have that regulation on Alan Henry, O.H. Ivie, and Lake Jacksonville; and so far, it's been well-received by the anglers and the populations have responded well.

So to kind of just wrap up our summary of the proposed changes from the regulatory review, as mentioned, we'll reduce the 16-inch minimum length limit from four to one. The remaining location is Lake Conroe, and we're continuing discussions there to possibly change that 14-inch to 24-inch slot. We'll completely eliminate that. And the 14- to 18-inch slot, we'll go from ten down to two. The two remaining locations we have, one is Caddo, which we co-manage with Louisiana and we discuss management of that reservoir. If we want to make a change there, we could just -- we would discuss with them in the future. And also Lake Nasworthy in San Angelo, we put that regulation on there in 2015 and we're still in the process of evaluating that.

So to kind of look at that overall, on our major reservoirs -- those reservoirs that are 500 acres and over -- we reduce special regulations from 30 down to 21. Additionally, we have two proposals that are not part -- that were not part of the review process. The first, Lake Bellwood near Tyler, currently has an 18-inch minimum; and we're proposing to change that to the 16-inch maximum, which we discussed for Lake Grapevine.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I thought you just said an 18-inch minimum, or did you say maximum?

MR. KURZAWSKI: 16-inch maximum.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Changing --

MR. KURZAWSKI: Changing to the 16-inch maximum. It has an 18-inch minimum currently. So the minimum is, you know, you can't harvest fish under 18 inches; but the maximum is you can't harvest fish over 16 inches. So that's the regulation we talked about for Lake Grapevine.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay.

MR. KURZAWSKI: And next, Davy Crockett, another small reservoir in Caddo National Grassland. That currently has a 14- to 18-inch slot limit and a five-fish bag. Now, the proposed change there would be a 16-inch maximum length limit that we have discussed previously, with maintaining that exception for the ShareLunker fish.

The objectives of that 16-inch maximum is to maintain or increase the abundance of some of those larger bass and allow our anglers to harvest some bass less than 16 inches. These smaller reservoirs -- like these two reservoirs -- have a limited capacity to produce larger bass. So we feel there's some benefits to protecting some of those larger bass. These reservoirs have produced a few of these. These reservoirs should be a good fit for these -- this regulation should be a good fit for these reservoirs and the populations.

One final minor change in the proclamation, we have to change one of the headings to add Spotted bass back into that heading. Last year when we made some changes to add Alabama bass to the proclamation as a new species, we inadvertently deleted Spotted bass and we just need to add that in. And finally, as was just discussed on the Coastal Fisheries side, we will need to add King mackerel into the statewide commercial fishing -- recreational and commercial fishing proclamation. And as mentioned, that will go from two to three fish. So we'll have that -- get that -- getting that on the record to continue that regulation on.

So with that, unless you have any questions, we would, you know, request your permission to publish these proposed changes in the statewide recreational and commercial fishing proclamation.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Dick.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Just a quick question. Back on your slide, the summary of proposed changes from regulation review, you mentioned that you had something going on on Caddo?

MR. KURZAWSKI: We have a 14- to 18-inch slot on Caddo.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: So where do we stand with Louisiana?

MR. KURZAWSKI: We meet with them on a regular basis. We haven't any discussed any changes any possible changes on that. Next time we meet with them, that's something we would discuss with them.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: So if we pass it, it's not going to go into effect until they pass it?

MR. KURZAWSKI: Correct. It's not part of this proposal at this time.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Okay.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Good question.

Anybody else have any comments or questions?

I have one comment and request. I would like for the Inland Fisheries team to look further into additional restrictions on killing very large gar and whether we should continue with the current scheme and rules or whether we should -- whether the Commission should seek public comment on tightening that on the bow hunting of very large gar.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Well, we certainly appreciate your interest in Alligator gar. As you know since we passed that limit in 2009, our staff has continued to just do lots of research and look at those populations around the state. You know, both in our Heart of the Hills Research Station and our district offices have done the work. We've involved Coastal, there's -- looking at some of the populations along the coast. So we have, you know, just a wealth of information. Probably some of the best in the U.S. on that and we'd be -- you know, certainly be happy to come back to you and, you know, go over that with you and discuss with you any other options that you might think might be appropriate for managing those populations.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Reed.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Yeah. My question is: What's the distribution of these 80-year-old, 180-pound, 200-pound gars? I mean, are they -- can they withstand the pressure that we're putting on them? I don't know the answer, but I'm looking to you to --

MR. KURZAWSKI: Yeah. We've -- you know, as I said, we've been looking -- certainly, the -- you know, the Trinity River, the Middle Trinity specifically, we've done extensive work on that. You know, looked at exploitation rates of the population; looked at, you know, the size of the fish being harvested. And those exploitation rates the last time we looked, were within the range that we feel is sustaining the population.

We've been fortunate over the last couple years to have some good spawns in the river with some of the high water. And, you know, right now the way we look -- what we see, the population is hold -- it's certainly holding its own. That's the -- you know, we have a variety of population strength. They have different characteristics, also; but, you know, Trinity is the one that people always -- you hear about people coming through. There's a lot of guides that operate there, and that's the one we've certainly focused on since -- you know, since we started working on Alligator gar back in, you know, 2007, 2008.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Could you give us some feedback at some point when --

MR. SMITH: You bet.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I'm particularly interested in the age classifications, not the total number.

MR. SMITH: Yeah. I mean, I think what we hear you saying is you're particularly concerned about -- or the question is: Is there an overharvest of older age class, larger Alligator gar; and if so, what does that look like and what is it doing to the populations?

As Ken said, our team has done a lot of research on this front. We hear the direction and the question. Let us assemble all of that and then come back with a presentation on some of the science and findings that address this question and more, particularly given the geographic variability in those populations and then get further direction from y'all on what the Commission may want us to consider. Would that work?

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: If that address all your concerns or --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yeah, I just want to see us follow through. We -- we've -- when this issue first arose several years ago, we said we were going to need to do -- get a lot of science on it and we've now had two, three, four years of history under our belt and I'd just like to see us revisit this, the risk of whether or not we should allow a person to kill a very larger gar one a day. That, to me, is not sustainable just from a logical standpoint; but I'm not a scientist. So I just want us to revisit the topic.

And thank you very much for your presentation. If nobody else has any comments or questions, appreciate it.

So I will authorize staff to publish the 2018-19 statewide recreational and commercial fishing proclamation in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.

Next item is No. 6, 2018-19 Statewide Hunting and Migratory Game Bird Proclamation, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Register. Welcome, Alan Cain. And is Shawn going to join you or are you going to alone, solo here?

MR. CAIN: I think we're going to go in order. There's Shawn Gray and Shaun Oldenburger. So I'm going to cover the first part.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Tag-team this.

MR. CAIN: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right.

MR. CAIN: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, I'm Alan Cain. I'm the White-tailed Deer Program Leader; and this morning, I'll present several proposals for your consideration that will seek to amend the statewide White-tailed deer hunting and hunting regulations.

The first proposal for consideration was a result of a petition for rulemaking where the petitioner requested that general deer season start and end dates be standardized statewide from the first Saturday in November through the third Sunday in January.

Currently, all counties with a White-tailed deer general season, open on the first Saturday in November; however, the ending dates differ between the North and the South Zones, where North Zone ending date is the first Sunday in January and the ending date for the South Zone is the third Sunday in January. With the current general season structure, South Zone hunters have an additional two weeks of general season hunting that North Zone hunters do not enjoy right now.

Staff are proposing to standardize the general deer season statewide to open the first Saturday in November and close the third Sunday in January. Proposed changes would also include turkeys, to make that consistent with the current fall hunting season regulations in which deer and turkey can be taken during the same season in the fall, whether that's general season, archery, or the late seasons.

Staff are also proposing to move the muzzleloader, special late season, the late youth season back two weeks in the North Zone counties to follow the close of the general season on that third Sunday. So the proposal would be that the season would open the first Monday following the third Sunday in January and run for 14 consecutive days.

Staff do not believe there would be any significant biological impacts that would result from this proposal to modify season dates because the majority of harvest statewide occurs from the opening day of general season through the end of December, that last day of December, with peaks occurring around opening weekend and then Thanksgiving holiday and Christmas holiday when folks are generally off with their kids or just have time to take off and get out and do some deer hunting.

Although we still have a special late season, a muzzleloader season, the late youth season, MLD season, the South Texas general season is still open, and then generally a few days the North Zone general seasons open after January 1st, statewide harvest after January 1st only represents 13 percent of the total harvest during that timeframe. So additional harvest that may result from this proposed change in season dates, it's not likely to have any population level impacts in the North Zone counties there where the -- those deer management units are showing it stable, the increasing trend in the vast majority of those deer management units in the North Zone.

These proposed changes would also simplify regulations for hunters, provide additional hunting opportunity. And then just to let the Commission know, there may be some folks out there that claim that deer season is already too long, that folks may harvest shed-antler bucks, that extending the deer season may interfere with quail hunting that occurs through February, and also may interfere with squirrel hunting in East Texas where they use dogs to hunt squirrels. So just wanted to make y'all aware there's some different viewpoints on this out there.

The second proposal is also a result for a petition for rulemaking in which the Crosman Corporation request that and airbows and big bore air rifles of .357 in caliber or larger be made for legal harvest of big game in the state. Since that time, I've had another -- a number of other informal requests from big bore air rifle dealers and airgun hunters and enthusiasts in the state.

Currently under our regulations, it specifies that any legal firearm may be used to harvest alligators, game birds, and game animals; and those firearms would include centerfire rifles, handguns, muzzleloaders, shotguns, and any of those firearms with a silencer. And currently, our regulations do not specify minimum caliber requirements, bullet size, velocity, or energy requirements. However, the regulations do provide an exception that prohibits the hunting of alligators, deer, Pronghorn and Bighorn sheep with rimfire ammunition or a fully automatic firearm.

Our current regulations also prohibit the take of native big game species with air rifles and airbows because air rifles and airbows are not defined as firearms or legal archery equipment under our Parks and Wildlife regulations or under the Texas Penal Code or under the Federal firearm's regulations. However, air rifles are allowed for the take of squirrels under our Parks and Wildlife regulations and because TPWD does not regulate exotic big game species, air rifles and airbows may be used to harvest those animals in the state.

So staff are entertaining this petition for rulemaking from the Crosman Corporation. We also looked at what other states were doing, and we found that there were seven states that allow the harvest of big game species with air rifles. You can see the states up there, from Alaska to Arizona and some in the southeast. There were eight states that allow the harvest of big game animals with big bore air rifles. Again, some of the similar states; but also the addition of Nebraska and Vermont.

The requirements on the use of airbows and big bore air rifles by state varies, but all states restrict the use of airbows and air rifles to their firearm season. Most states require some sort of rule that says that the big bore air rifles or airbows must be charged from an external charging mechanism, such as an air tank or a hand pump. And there's one state, I believe, that sets a minimum caliber size or minimum velocity and arrow lengths for the airbows; but most states require -- you know, those states do require the external charging mechanism.

Just to provide just an illustration of what some of these big bore air rifles and airbows look like, there's a number of them shown on the screen there. There's a number of different brands and models of big bore air rifles and they project bullets ranging in size from 38 -- .30 caliber up to .58 caliber. Airbows and big bore air rifles function simply by using compressed air in a canister that's attached to that airbow or air rifle; and if you look at the bottom air rifle there, you'll see a little canister on the back of that firearm there, that air gun, and it can hold up to 3,000 -- three to 4,000 PSI in there and that's what they use to project that bullet.

So as previously mentioned, TPWD regulations do not specify minimum requirements for bullet weight, muzzle velocity, or muzzle energy for the various legal means of take with a firearm. As staff were researching this, there were some questions to whether these big bore air rifles were capable or had sufficient energy and velocity to make them capable of harvesting big game. And so even though TPWD doesn't have minimum standards for these other legal means of take, I wanted to provide a comparison of bullet weight, muzzle velocity, muzzle energy, with the big bore air rifles compared to some of the other legal means of take.

And so, for example, the AirForce Texan big bore air rifles of .45 caliber, shoots a .45 caliber bullet; has a muzzle velocity of a thousand feet per second and 500-foot pounds of energy, which is comparable to a .45-millimeter automatic, which is legal to harvest White-tail deer in the state of Texas or other big game, that has a muzzle velocity of 900 feet per second and 360-foot pounds of energy. And it's comparable to a .17 Hornet as far as the muzzle energy, with about 592-foot pounds of energy.

So these air rifles are capable of -- comparable and capable of harvesting big game in Texas. And, in fact, Ellis Powell and myself were able to go out back in early October and successfully take three White-tailed deer with big bore air rifles using a .308 caliber and a .45 caliber and it's just as effective as one of the firearms that would be legal to harvest a White-tailed deer.

Therefore, staff are proposing to allow air guns and airbows to be used to lawfully hunt alligator, game animals, and nonmigratory game birds. Air guns used to take alligators, deer, Pronghorn, Bighorn sheep, javelina, and turkey, must be .30 caliber or larger. Alligators may be taken with airbows and air guns in non-core counties; and then in all counties where alligators may be caught on a taking device, that may be dispatched with an airbow or air gun.

And the only air guns .177 caliber or larger may be used to take squirrel, pheasants, quail, or Chachalaca. And I do want to let the Commission know that at least with regards to the take of upland game birds or these nonmigratory game birds with an air rifle or airbow, that was presented to the Upland Game Bird Advisory Committee and they did not support this proposal. They felt that it would further complicate the regulations for the benefit of such a small user group of hunters.

Just to point out, staff have always thought -- sought to simplify regulations when possible and if we were to be able to hunt with airbows or air rifles, staff believe it would be less complicated to allow the take of all the game animals, nonmigratory game birds, with air rifles and airbows rather than create an exception for one group and not another.

Also, if staff were to be allowed to publish this proposal, we would also like to amend the exhibit prior to publishing in the Texas Register to include the take of fur-bears by air guns and airbows. Staff would also propose to define in regulation that air guns as a device that functions by using un-ignited compressed gas to propel a bullet, and define an airbow as a device the propels an arrow or bolt solely by means of the force of un-ignited compressed gas and then arrows, bolts, and broadheads used with airbows, must conform to standards defined in regulation for lawful archery equipment. So it will have the similar standards to what archers use on traditional fire -- or traditional archery equipment.

The next proposal is a simple housekeeping change to clarify that Managed Lands Deer Program tags are not required to take antlerless deer on U.S. Forest Service, Corps of Engineers, and River Authority lands when and where hunting is allowed on those properties. Additionally, as part of that housekeeping change, staff are proposing to clarify that the take of antlerless deer is prohibited on U.S. Forest Service lands except during archery season; muzzleloader season; the youth-only season, both early and late; and then also during the four-doe day season on the LBJ National Grasslands in Montague and Wise County.

The next proposal is also a clarification to the current antler restriction regulations for White-tailed deer; and this proposal would clarify that in each county where antler restrictions are imposed, a person who takes a buck in violation of antler restrictions, is prohibited from subsequently harvesting any buck with branched antlers on both main beams in that county during that same season. And this is essentially necessary to prevent a hunter who accidentally or intentionally takes a buck that's not legal from taking another legal buck that -- with an inside spread of 13 inches or greater. And this is to help reduce the opportunity for overharvest of bucks that have a 13-inch spread by one individual, when that person who took the undersize buck had an intention to take a buck with a 13-inch spread or greater.

And the last proposal concerns modifications to requirements of certain archery equipment. The Archery Trade Association recently completed a project to evaluate bow hunting equipment regulations in all 50 states. The intent of this project was to highlight the complexities and confusion regarding bow hunting equipment, archery regulations in the states, and offer suggestions to state wildlife agencies to help clarify or remove unnecessary regulations that could be barriers to bow hunting, recruitment of new bow hunters, and confusion of what is legal and not legal with regards to bow hunting equipment, especially for those hunters that have archery equipment that hunt in different states that have different requirements or different standards for that sort of archery equipment.

The survey revealed that Texas has minimal regulatory complexity, few potential barriers, and no regulatory outliers. Although Texas regulations had minimal issues, the survey prompted staff to conduct a thorough review of our current archery regulations and consider removing any unnecessary standards for archery equipment, especially if not consistent with the majority of other states.

After a thorough review of current regulations, staff proposed to remove the following requirements which include removing requirements for broadhead hunting points to be a minimum of seven-eighths-inch width and have two cutting edges. We'd also remove -- propose to remove the requirements to have a minimum of 125-pound pull for crossbows, remove the requirement to have the crossbow length at 25 inches, and also remove the requirement for mechanical safety equipment on a crossbow.

Staff believe that providing guidance on what archery equipment is effective for taking big game -- or game birds, game animals, is best accomplished through our bow hunter education programs and through other media outlets, such as the Outdoor Annual website or with the articles about bow hunting. In addition, the marketplace will likely have a greater influence on what archery equipment is acceptable for responsible and ethical take of game birds and game animals, much like how the market drives what's acceptable when it comes to the use of firearms to take game birds and game animals.

And just as a quick example, I did a review of 70-plus broadheads on the market and all but one of those had a 1-inch width on their blades or cutting width and the one that didn't was thirteen-sixteenths of an inch. And so the industry already has those standards in place, and so there's not a lot of need to specify some minimum requirements with the number of cutting edges or some of these other requirements that may be some barriers for hunters in coming in the bow hunting field or just the equipment that they need.

So with that, staff requests permission to publish the proposed amendments in 65.3, 65.11, and 65.42 in the Texas Register. So I'll be happy to answer any questions that the Commission might have.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Anybody have any questions or comments? I have -- Kelcy, please.

COMMISSIONER WARREN: Yeah. So tell me by taking the North Zone and adding more time to the season, any estimates on what that means to commerce for the hunting industry? It's got to be positive.

MR. CAIN: I would -- I would agree. I think it's positive. I don't have a good estimate on how much more it would add to the economy through the additional two weeks. And keep in mind, you'd extend the late -- the youth season, muzzleloader season, special late season an additional two weeks; and so it could be a significant amount, but I don't have good answers for you.

COMMISSIONER WARREN: Processing and corn and protein and --

MR. CAIN: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER WARREN: Yeah, yeah. And next question -- and I'm -- because this air gun thing I'm not familiar with that much, other than what I've heard here. But is it a substantial savings in ammunition to buy a cartridge versus the ammunition you're buying under normal rimfire?

MR. CAIN: I guess it depends on where you're getting the bullets from. The fellow that came down and brought his air rifle, he buys bullets wholesale from somebody out in New Mexico and I don't remember the exact cost; but it was maybe a little cheaper for the bullets compared to going down to Cabela's and purchasing .30-06, you know, a box of those. But they use just a lead-cast bullet, obviously, because it's propelled by air versus an explosion out of the shell itself or the casing.

COMMISSIONER WARREN: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Is there a report with the air rifle? Is there a report, a sound?

MR. CAIN: Oh, yes. So it's -- the air rifle and even the airbow, it's not quiet. It's not -- you know, most people think like a small pellet gun; but there's enough of an echo -- the deer Ellis and I were able to harvest, they were at 120 yards or so; and when you shot, there was enough of a crack that all the deer in the field ran off. It's probably comparable -- a little louder than -- I don't know -- a .17 Hornet. I mean, it's loud enough that you can hear it. So it would be like -- I would compare it, just based on my experience, to shooting like a .223 with a suppresser on it, which is obviously legal in the state; but you definitely hear it crack.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Anybody else?

I have a couple of questions and observations. On the extension -- proposed extension of the White-tailed deer season, did we seek input from the Upland Game Bird Advisory Committee and the Private Lands Advisory Board on that?

MR. CAIN: The extension related to the upland game birds or the nonmigratory game birds, that was run by the Upland Game Bird Advisory Committee; but we didn't run this proposal by the Private Lands Advisory Committee.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, first, I'd say we should run it by Private Lands Advisory Board. I would like to know what their position is on the proposed extension, but -- and I just want to clarify: You're saying the Upland Game Bird Committee did evaluate the effect of an extension to the deer season on upland game?

MR. CAIN: No, I'm sorry. I'm confusing my proposal. I was -- the Upland Game Bird Advisory Committee -- none of the committees, Private Lands or Upland Game Bird, provided comment on the extension of the season. They provided comment on the air rifle take for upland game birds.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Would you try to get some feedback from those two advisory committees before we vote on this? Because it -- I just think I'd like to know what they -- how they react to it.

MR. CAIN: Okay. We can reach out to those committees, and see what they feel about it.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And on the air guns, I don't understand why we would suggest that anybody use one to hunt a bird; and from a safety perspective alone, we've got a statute about bullets that cross a fenceline. It just seems like we're implicitly endorsing something that's totally impractical and I have a safety issue with it? Did we think about that?

MR. CAIN: That's a good point. I will point out that under our current regulations, you can hunt quail with a .22 long rifle. You can hunt them with a deer rifle. It just says you can take. The only exception, I believe, is for Eastern turkeys, which require a shotgun; but everything else, it's one of those legal firearms. And so if we're not going to put a standard there, then why would we on the air rifles if we're going to propose that and the Commission decided to allow this to be published in the Register.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Are we going to require a minimum bullet size?

MR. CAIN: On the --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Air rifles.

MR. CAIN: The air rifles for alligators, turkey -- you know, the big game species we do and turkeys, .30 caliber; but for the other ones, there's no minimum requirement except for it's a .177 caliber or larger, I believe, is what the proposal had because it had squirrel, Chachalaca, pheasant, and quail.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Well, let's lay aside the bird hunting, which I think is in question, the practicality of that. But on the deer, is there going to be minimum caliber or --

MR. CAIN: Yes, sir. A .30 caliber or larger. So that would include things like .308 or .30-06, just things larger than a .30 caliber.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. And then lastly on archery, I understand the first four, the logic behind the first four; but a crossbow is not a -- doesn't function like a longbow or a recurve or a compound because it's cocked. And from a -- I don't understand why we would eliminate the safety requirement of carrying around a cocked weapon. I really have safety concerns about that. Did --

MR. CAIN: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- you-all think about that?

MR. CAIN: Yeah. You know, we don't -- again, we don't have requirements for firearms to have mechanical safeties and many do; but we don't list that in regulations. So to be consistent --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But a gun is not made without a safety, is it? Does anybody manufacture a gun without a safety?

MR. CAIN: I don't know. We don't -- the point is, we don't have it -- it's not consistent in regulation with whether it's archery or firearms when it comes to mechanical safeties. We can -- you know, if the Commission desires, we can remove that from the proposal; but, again, the industry -- and I hadn't checked every crossbow out there, but most crossbows are going to have the mechanical safety on them anyway. And so the industry is going -- like the broadheads or anything else -- is going to kind of push the market with the standards that hunters -- you know, including safety -- are going to use. And then again like we said through bow hunting education and other things, we would recommend folks, you know, obviously purchase equipment with safety.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But if we eliminate the safety requirement, what's the impetus for the manufacturer to continue to incur that expense if they don't need to? I just think you're going to find they'll fall off the -- it's likely -- I personally have an issue with that. The rest of the Commission may not, but I just point that out. I think crossbows are different than --

MR. CAIN: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- hunting with a regular bow and to carry around a loaded crossbow and then now, we're not going to have a minimum length and it's just from -- we're always talking about hunter safety and that seems to me to be unwise from a safety perspective.

MR. CAIN: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That's my own personal observation, and I don't speak for the Commission on it. Does anybody else have that concern? I'm just curious.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: You know, Ralph, part of the issue, when you're cocking a regular rifle or something, it can be fairly quiet. Most people, when they're wrestling with a crossbow, it takes a lot of energy, you know, to get one loaded and if you're actually stalking an animal -- a deer, say -- you know, you see a deer at 100 or 60, 70 yards, you know, what you're going to shoot at it, by the time you've sat there and done all your gyration and got an arrow in your -- in a bow, you know, the odds of that animal still being there are pretty slim. I think that's part of the issue that we need to think about. If we want them to use that type of a weapon period, it needs to be on an equal basis with a rifle or something or else we're giving a preference over one form over another. Where does that get us legally as far as -- do you see what I'm saying?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, but everybody that I know that hunts with a rifle, has got a safety on the rifle and then I just think --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Some pistols, no.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Well, I'm talking about rifles. I --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Most rifles, yes.

MR. CAIN: And I can check -- and I have the report from the Archery Trade Association. And I can't remember, but there's a number of states that either don't specify that there's a need for a mechanical safety on crossbows. Some do, but there's some that don't. And I think that's what Archery Trade Association wanted to point out is that, look, some states do, some states don't; and especially with the hunters that may have equipment, you know, like I said, that are hunting in multiple states, it can be confusing or problematic.

And so if there's not a need to have that in the regulation, then we can remove that to provide some consistency or by not having it in there, you know, folks can -- it allows that. But I can check and get you some numbers on the comparison of what the other states are doing.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Don't they have a safety?

MR. SMITH: Yeah, most crossbows have a safety.

MR. CAIN: Yeah.

MR. SMITH: You know, one thing we could do, Alan, is -- Commission, I mean, we hear the concerns about the safety-related considerations. We could talk to Hunter Ed folks, Law Enforcement, what are they seeing in the field, further investigate this and be prepared to share a little bit more at the -- in advance and at the next Commission Meeting. Is that --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That's fine.

Kelcy, you were going to say something.

COMMISSIONER WARREN: My son hunts with a crossbow and it's got a double safety actually. You've got to have the safety on to even load the bow and it triggers again with the arrow, then you have to flip it. So it's very safe. If there was no safety, my son would not use that. So just on a personal level, I wouldn't let him use it.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yeah, I'm very -- again, just one of the team here; but I --

MR. CAIN: Sure.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- have an issue with it. Let's hear more on what other -- how others have dealt with that next time. Let's hear more about that, in particular.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Maybe if we're achieving consistency, maybe we ought to consider the other states adopting safeties so that all states can be consistent, but more safe, rather than less regulation on the safety, so that we're consistent with other states that don't require it, I mean.

MR. CAIN: Good point.

COMMISSIONER JONES: If consistency is what you're after, I would say consistency towards safety rather than the other way. I have two quick questions. Is an airbow -- are we going to consider that the same as a crossbow and a compound bow or whatever for purposes of early hunting?

MR. CAIN: And I may not have mentioned that; but the airbow, which is the -- it looks more like a firearm. It's up there in the top left of the screen. And it would only be -- airbows and air rifles would only be allowed to be used in seasons where a firearm is allowed to be used.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay.

MR. CAIN: And so it's not considered archery equipment. It has its own definition, but it's only allowed to be used during that firearm season.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: And that's clear in the proposal --

MR. CAIN: Yes.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: -- that it's during firearm season?

MR. CAIN: Yes.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Now, the only -- and I don't want to, you know, beat this too much; but the only concern I might have with the cutting off the minimum requirements of the broadheads, I would want to make sure that the arrow has a broadhead rather than a practice broadhead or something like that. Somebody takes their son out and says, "Oh, you're fine because we have no regulations, you can hunt with that practice broadhead," which has no cutting edges on it.

MR. CAIN: It requires the -- we didn't take out the requirement to -- we left the requirement to use a broadhead. It says that in the proposal. It just doesn't specify a minimum width, a cutting width of that broadhead or the cutting -- number of cutting edges.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay.

MR. CAIN: But it does specify you have to use a broadhead. That's in --

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay.

MR. CAIN: We're not going to modify that from the current regulation.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay. So just to make sure I'm clear. I want to make sure. Is a practice broadhead not considered a broadhead?

MR. CAIN: I believe it's just considered a practice point.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay. All right. I just want to make sure that that definition is clear so somebody reading it can't mistakenly say, "Well, you didn't say that a practice point wasn't a broadhead," because I consider that a broadhead. I mean, I don't know. Maybe among archers that's very clear. It's not clear to me.

MR. CAIN: I don't recall right off the top of my head. It may actually say "broadhead hunting point," which would be a clarification. I'll look, but we can make sure that's clear.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay.

MR. CAIN: And, again, folks that are bow hunting for deer or whatever, they're going to use whatever equipment necessary to make an effective --

COMMISSIONER JONES: Bring the animal down.

MR. CAIN: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER JONES: I agree.

MR. CAIN: And so a broadhead hunting point is obviously not going to do that or a --

COMMISSIONER JONES: I just wouldn't want to give somebody and excuse to not use something that would actually bring the animal down and say, "Your regulations don't require it."

MR. CAIN: Sure.

COMMISSIONER JONES: "I wounded that animal and, you know, couldn't find it," or whatever; but --

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Prohibition against leaving a wounded animal doesn't apply because you didn't say it wasn't --

COMMISSIONER JONES: Right.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: -- as part of the new rules.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Right.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. Anybody else comments or questions?

Alan, thanks.

I guess we'll go to Shawn now. Shawn Gray, please join us.

MR. GRAY: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Shawn Gray. I'm the Mule deer and Pronghorn Program Leader; and this morning, I'd like to seek permission to publish the proposed Mule deer regulation changes into the Texas Register for public comment.

This map illustrates our current Mule deer seasons in the state. The yellow-colored counties have a 16-day general season that starts the Saturday before Thanksgiving, with a special archery season. The red-colored counties have a 9-day general season that starts the Saturday before Thanksgiving, with no special archery season. And in the Trans-Pecos, the green-colored counties, we have a 17-day general season starting the Friday after Thanksgiving, with a special archery season. And all general seasons are buck only, and the gray-colored counties have closed Mule deer seasons. You'll notice that we have one county left with a closed season in the 9-day season block.

Therefore, staff propose to open Lynn County as a 9-day buck-only general season county, which is consistent with the other red-colored counties in the area of the panhandle. You may recall that staff proposed opening Lynn County in 2014; however, a petition letter was sent from members of the Tahoka community opposing a Mule deer season in Lynn County. The letter stated that TPWD had limited data regarding the Mule deer population, and that TPWD could not adequately provide enough resources to patrol for poachers if a season opened up in Lynn county.

To address the limited-population data issue for the Lynn County area, staff delineated a new Mule deer monitoring unit in 2014. In this area, survey transects are flown annually per our statewide Mule deer population monitoring protocol. The purple area in the map represents this new monitoring unit and contains over 360,000 acres. Since 2014, the population surveys indicate an average of about 2,000 Mule deer or a density of approximately 200 acres per Mule deer. The average sex ratio is two does to one buck, and an average fawn crop of over 70 percent. These data support there's no biological concern opening a new buck-only season in Lynn County.

Local staff also contacted 18 landowners in Lynn County last October. Of these landowners contacted, 12 supported a season and three were neutral. Only three landowners were against a season in Lynn County because they believed it would lead to more trespassing and poaching on their properties.

The next Mule deer proposal is an experimental antler restriction. Over the last 20 to 25 years in the Southeast Panhandle, excessive buck harvest has occurred primarily because of increased lease hunting and the popularity of Mule deer hunting. This success of buck harvest has affected the Mule deer sex ratio in the area, with our survey data indicating a post-season sex ratio of five to six does per buck.

In addition, intensive buck harvest has also impacted the buck age structure and these data highlight the fact that mature Mule deer bucks in the Southeast Panhandle are rare. Because of this, staff over the last several years have received many requests from landowners and hunters to improve the buck age structure of the Mule deer herd in this area of the Panhandle.

Many locals remember the type of Mule deer buck that could be produced in this part of the state. The buck in this newspaper article was harvested in 1988 in Hall County, which had 21 points and a spread of over 30 inches. In addition, the success of the White-tailed deer antler restriction has proven that an antler restriction using antler width works for improving buck age structure.

In 2016, staff began collecting specific antler and ear measurements to potentially develop a Mule deer antler restriction. Initial data indicate that an antler restriction might be able to be used to improve the buck age structure. To test this, staff are proposing an experimental Mule deer antler restriction in six counties in the Southeast Panhandle colored blue in the map. These counties would be Briscoe, Hall, Childress, Floyd, Motley, and Cottle.

Most western states have tried an antler and point restriction, such as a minimum of four points on one side, with no significant improvement in buck age structure. This is because many young deer meet these minimum requirements. We are proposing a different antler restriction criteria. Using the White-tailed deer antler restriction as a model, staff have collected data on Mule deer captured during ongoing research projects and hunter-harvested Mule deer in the Panhandle to estimate the ear-tip-to-ear-tip spread of bucks standing in the alert position. The average ear-tip-to-ear-tip spread for Mule deer bucks standing in the alert position is 21 inches, demonstrated in the picture.

Based upon the success of the White-tailed deer antler restriction harvest -- harvest strategy and requests from landowners and hunters in the Southeast Panhandle, staff are proposing an experimental Mule deer antler restriction harvest strategy. Because the average ear-tip-to-ear-tip spread on Mule deer buck standing in alert position is 21 inches, staff propose a restriction of using an outside spread of 20 inches to protect younger aged Mule deer bucks and allow hunters some leeway in the field judging the antler restriction.

The outside spread is estimated in a similar manner as the inside spread; but by using the outside measurement of the antler material. These illustrations will be used to demonstrate what type of buck can be harvested or those that will be protected with the potential Mule deer antler restriction. Using the average ear-tip-to-ear-tip measurement in the alert position as a guide, which is 21 inches shown by the blue dash lines on both drawings, the buck on the left would be legal for harvest with an outside spread of 20 inches or greater. It would not be legal to harvest the buck on the right because the outside spread is less than 20 inches. Even young deer have an ear-tip-to-ear-tip spread of about 21 inches.

Unbranched antlered bucks with an outside spread of less than 20 inches would be illegal for harvest, as shown in these examples; and this is different compared to our White-tailed deer antler restriction regulations. Our main goal is to get more Mule deer bucks into older age classes. Most unbranched antlered bucks are yearlings; and allowing more yearlings to be harvested, can significantly impact future buck age structure, especially during drought.

Mule deer populations are much lower than White-tailed deer populations, and can be more sensitive to overharvest. Preliminary data analysis suggests that an antler restriction with an outside spread of 20 inches should protect at least 80 percent of one-and-a-half to three-and-a-half-year-old bucks and about 90 percent of bucks five years old would be available for harvest.

In December, staff sent out a web-based opinion survey to gauge support for the potential for proposing a Mule deer antler restriction in the Southeast Panhandle. The online survey was sent to 3,404 e-mail addresses. Staff had e-mail addresses for 132 landowners in these counties who have participated in programs such as Antlerless Mule Deer Permits and MLDP. Thanks to Mike Hobson, we were also able to obtain another 3,700 e-mail addresses for those individuals who purchased hunting licenses online in either 2016, 2017, and have residence in the proposed six counties, as well as Hale, Lubbock, Potter, and Randall Counties.

The e-mail summarized the proposed Mule deer antler restriction, provided illustrations, and included a link to the questionnaire. We had a response rate of 15 percent by sending out an e-mail on December 7th and December 14th. We asked four easy questions for descriptive information about the person and the property and whether or not they would support the proposed Mule deer antler restriction.

The first question was used to describe the respondent's association with Mule deer hunting or management in the Panhandle. Almost all respondents identified as either a hunter or a landowner. The last question was asked if respondents would support an experimental Mule deer antler restriction starting in 2018 in Briscoe, Childress, Cottle, Floyd, Hall, and Motley Counties, as proposed for four hunting seasons. 81 percent of the respondents supported the Mule deer antler restriction as it is proposed. Only 12 percent of the respondents did not support the proposed antler restriction.

Therefore, staff propose an experimental antler restriction in six counties in the Southeast Panhandle for at least four hunting seasons to test the effectiveness of an outside spread antler restriction to improve the buck age structure within this area. With this proposal, any buck with an outside spread of 20 inches or greater, would be legal for harvest. Thus, any buck with a spread of 20 inches or less, would not be legal to harvest, regardless of unbranched antlers. The experimental antler restriction will not apply to MLDP properties. As part of the MLDP Program, TPWD sets property specific bag limits for Mule deer; and they're generally conservative.

Staff will monitor success of the experimental antler restriction using population surveys, such as sex ratios and voluntary check stations to collect more antler and ear measurements, as well as buck age structure data. We also plan to send out opinion surveys, like I just showed you, to evaluate landowner and hunter support before and after the experiment.

Again, staff propose a new Mule deer season in Lynn County and to initiate an experimental antler restriction in Briscoe, Hall, Childress, Floyd, Motley, and Cottle Counties. And before I turn it over to Shaun Oldenburger, I would like to address any questions y'all might have.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Any questions or comments?

I guess I have one observation on the Lynn County situation; and I think now that we've implemented a White-tail season, now considering allowing Mule deer hunting. I think -- not that Law Enforcement doesn't do a great job; but I think it's critical that we make sure we've got Law Enforcement people there to protect the rights of -- particularly poaching and illegal hunting, road hunting, that sort of thing. Okay, thanks.

MR. GRAY: Yeah, thank y'all.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Shaun Oldenburger, welcome.

MR. OLDENBURGER: Good morning, Chairman, fellow Commissioners. For the record, my name is Shaun Oldenburger. This morning, I'm here to prevent -- for permission to publish staff proposals for the 2018-19 migratory and resident game bird regulations. We'll begin with the 2018-19 season for migratory game bird regulations.

Basically with the migratory game bird proposals this year, everything is basically a calendar adjustment from the previous year, with two exceptions, two regulations. For webless species, due to federal framework changes and the Department was interested in, we were able to allow opening of South Dove Zone as early as September 14th. And also, there was a change in daily bag limits for pintails from one to two on a daily bag for those, which will be a big plus for our waterfowl hunters, especially those on the coast where there's large concentrations of pintails.

I will start with teal hunting. We're allowed 16 days under federal frameworks. Staff preference is to -- for the last three full weekends in September, to hit the migration of these birds from the prairies. Proposed season dates would be September 15th to 30th, with six birds in the daily bag limit and that's an aggregate bag for all teal.

And then moving on to our season structures in the High Plains Mallard Management Unit for ducks, mergansers, and coots, proposed seasons would be the youth season early on in October during the 20th and 21st; the regular season would begin October 27th and 28th. Then we would have a split, starting again on November 2nd and running out to the rest of the federal framework dates to January 27th. As you'll notice in all the duck proposals, we have to delay five days for the take of dusky ducks. So, therefore, in the High Plains Mallard Management Unit, we would delay until November 5th and go out to the rest of the federal framework to January 27th.

In North Zone, youth season would be early on as, once again, November 3rd and 4th; regular season starting a week later there on November 10th, running to the 25th, having the split, begin again December 1st, and running out to the last day allowed by federal frameworks, January 27th. Once again there is the five-day delay with dusky ducks, as you can see.

For the South Zone, youth season will be October 27th and 28th; the regular season will begin November 3rd and running to the 25th, then once again with a split, opening back up December 8th, and running to January 27th. Here, you have a five-day delay. So regular season wouldn't begin on dusky ducks until November 8th, running to the 25th, opening again December 8th and running to January 27th.

For proposed bag limits for statewide, once again under harvest strategies by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and other federal frameworks, basically, we're allowed the same daily bag limits as we are allowed this year, with one exception. That would be pintails going from one bird to two birds in the daily bag limit for the 18-19 season. Just a reminder, possession limits are three times the daily bag limit for all migratory game bird species.

Proposed dates for geese, we have two zones: The Western Goose Zone and the Eastern Goose Zone. Daily bag limits are the same: Five dark geese, to include no more and two white-fronted geese and 20 light geese, no possession limit. For the Western Goose Zone in red, dark geese would open November 3rd, running to February 3rd; light geese would be the same; and then conservation order would begin afterwards, starting on February 4th, and running to March 17th.

For the Eastern Goose Zone there in green -- or in blue, sorry -- we do have a resident population of Canada geese there in the northeast -- mostly in the northeastern part of this zone. So we do allow a Canada goose only season. That goes concurrent with teal season and so that would begin September 15th, running to the 30th; opening up regular season November 3rd and running to January 27th, which is the same as the end of federal frameworks for ducks. White-fronted geese would begin November 3rd and running to January 27th. Light geese would begin November 3rd and running to January 27th, as well. The conservation order for light geese would begin after this, beginning on January 28th, and running out to March 17th, same as the Western Goose Zone.

Proposed dates for Sandhill cranes, we do have three zones. They're on the western side of the state in blue. In Zone A, that begins October 27th and runs out to January 27th. The daily bag limit there is three. And Zone B, starts -- is delayed. The reason we delay there is to allow Whooping crane migration. That is the migration corridor for those birds. So we voluntary delay that to allow those birds to get to the coast. So that will be November 23rd and run out to January 27th. The daily bag limit there is three. Zone C has a 37-day season we're allowed under federal frameworks and we would begin there December 15th, running to January 20th. Daily bag limit there under federal frameworks is only two birds, compared to the three in A and B.

For rails, gallinules, moorhen, snipe, and woodcock -- rail, gallinule, moorhen coincide with teal season. Once again, September 15th to 30th; opening again November 3rd and running to December 26th. For snipe, we're allowed a 107-day season; opening October 27th and running to February 10th. On woodcock, this is not a calendar adjustment. We actually go to the backend of federal frameworks, which is January 31st, and run forward 45 days. So December 18th, which would be the same dates we had this year for woodcock.

Statewide regular dove seasons -- once again after this, I will show calendars of each season so you can see them for each of the three zones -- we're allowed 90 days in the season under the liberal frameworks. That was a change we did two years ago and we're allowed 15 birds in the daily bag limit during the regular seasons and that's an aggregate bag.

For the North Zone, we would open as early as possible under federal frameworks. It would be September 1st, running to November 11th is the current staff proposal; opening again December 14th, and running out the rest of the 90 days to the 31st of December. For the Central Zone, once again opening September 1st, running through November 4th, and then opening December 14th, running out the rest of the framework days to January 7th.

Just for more information here on the South Zone Special White-winged Dove days, as you know, just last year we were able to expand our Special White-winged Dove area to the whole South Zone. So those dates would be September 1st, 2nd, 8th, and 9th, same as -- just calendar progression, once again. Fifteen birds are allowed in the daily bag limit. Just a reminder, you're only allowed two Mourning doves in the daily bag limit during that special season because it is a special season under federal frameworks for White-winged doves.

The regular season, once again as I noted earlier, there would be a change. We're allowed to go early to September 14th and then run to November 4th, open again December 21st, and then run to January 23rd. We will look at this on a calendar. There you see highlighted in yellow the 1st, 8th -- or 1st, 2nd, 8th, and 9th in yellow. That's where we allow only afternoon hunting on White-winged doves primarily. The regular season would begin September 14th, running to the 4th, and then the 21st of December starting again, and then running to January 23rd.

I would like to note in your exhibit, we did make an error earlier that we did not catch MLK Day in a previous exhibit; and so we made sure to go back and talk to our advisory committee and they were supportive of making sure we ran that season later to the 21st. Because if you do calendar progression from this year and you look at that, we would actually close -- go to the 14th is what we assumed was MLK Day. So that was an error on staff part.

Proposed falconry seasons, Mourning, White-wing, and White-tipped doves, November 18th to December 4th; woodcock, moorhen, gallinule, rail, and ducks in North and South Zones, January 28th through February 11th. And just for notice, we do not have a falconry season for ducks in the High Plains Mallard Management Unit because we have already used our maximum days allowed for federal frameworks for those species.

Moving on for staff proposals for wild turkey regulation changes, if you look here, here are the current spring turkey seasons highlighted in those four colors -- yellow, green, red, and blue. If you look at the red and blue colors there, those are our Eastern Zone and our Western Zones, which we're allowed one gobbler and only have spring seasons. Also there in East Texas is where we've been doing a lot of restoration work for our population in that area.

Currently, when we look at -- and back in 2011, we came forth to the Commission with some county closures that met criteria. We look and -- look at the average harvest across a three-year period, four counties. If the average harvest is one or less over the three-year period, we propose closure for those counties. So you'll see there in hashmarks or two outlined -- to take a closer look, those are Upshur and San Augustine. Both those counties the last three years have averaged one -- less than one bird reported to Texas Parks and Wildlife. And just for another note, with these seasons -- with these one-gobbler Eastern Zones -- it is mandatory reporting if you take a turkey during the spring season in these counties. So the mandatory reporting has been less than one bird, on average, for the last three years.

We also propose an Eastern Zone change to season dates. Currently, our season runs from April 15th to May 14th. It's a 30-day season. If you look at some nesting chronology information that we've done on some research with the University of Georgia and others, they have found that the first nest initiation for hens ranges from March 30th to June 1st. There was a white paper done by the Southeastern -- Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Wild Turkey Working Group, due to concerns about decreasing Eastern turkey populations in the southeastern states, to have some guidelines for spring seasons. Out of that white paper, basically, it said to establish a season basically at the mean point when you would have your hens first initiating. For Texas that, based on current information -- that's that black line there, which is April 29th. And so staff would propose delaying the season in the spring early on a week, and running to May 14th. So April 22nd to May 14th. And just for your information, those are fixed dates compared to some of the other hunting seasons we have.

For possession limits, we currently allow three times the daily bag limit for possession limits for migratory game birds and quail. We did have some input from some hunters that were confused why we had "two times" and "three times" on daily bag limits for certain species; and so this is just really for simplicity sake to make them concurrent across the species. So we would propose to include species where positions -- possession limits remain two times the daily bag limits and that's pheasants, squirrels -- in east counties in Texas -- and Chachalacas.

So just a summary, proposals were developed by staff. The Resident and Migratory Game Bird Advisory Committees provided input and we would be seeking approval and adoption in March. With that, that concludes my presentation. I would be happy to take any questions.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. I want to recommend that we make a couple of tweaks to these dove dates, and then I have a question about Sandhill cranes.

MR. OLDENBURGER: Okay.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: On the North Zone, it's currently recommended that we end the first season on November 11th. I propose that we cut that back a week to the 4th and add a week at the end of the second season, extending the second season from January 7, 2019, to January 14. Did you follow that?

MR. OLDENBURGER: Can you repeat that one more time? Sorry?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: End the first season one week earlier on November 4th, instead of November 11th.

MR. OLDENBURGER: Yep.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And add a week to the end of the second season, to go from January 7, 2019, to January 14.

MR. OLDENBURGER: So -- so what we could do -- because that would now allow that segment there to skip and have another break, you can move basically November 5th through 11th to the backend of the season and so, therefore, you would have January 1st through basically the 7th; is that correct?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I'm sorry. I was -- Carter said something. I -- repeat what you just said.

MR. OLDENBURGER: So if it's the Commission's preference --

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: The North Zone?

COMMISSIONER LEE: Look at the North Zone.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: So it would only go through the 7th.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, the book -- all right. The printed material is different than what's shown on here. That's the problem.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Is it? Yeah.

MR. OLDENBURGER: Okay. Sorry about that error.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: The printed material says, "North Zone end December 26th," and I was talking -- I may have given you the wrong day -- adding a week to December 26th close, so that we'd take it through the New Year's weekend.

MR. SMITH: So --

MR. OLDENBURGER: So basically just moving -- moving -- no matter what the dates are, we would basically just move a week from the front-end split to the backend of the second split.

MR. SMITH: That's correct.

MR. OLDENBURGER: So we can do that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: It says "January 7th" on here.

MR. OLDENBURGER: Okay. Well, we'll clarify what those dates are; and we can make that change.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So that's -- this chart is different than what's written on page 63 of the book.

MR. OLDENBURGER: Okay.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: And if this is what we're voting on, if you would, give us a written piece tomorrow so we'll have some paperwork to put in our book.

MR. OLDENBURGER: Okay.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So that's the first suggested tweak. Central Zone, let's go to the -- because maybe they're different, too. But if you go to the Central --

COMMISSIONER JONES: It's already like that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yeah, but I'm going to suggest we add a week at the end and go to the 14th of January and take a week off; instead of starting December 14th, start the 21st, which will be consistent with what I'm about to say on South. So on the Central Zone second hunt, instead of starting 12/14, start 12/21; and instead of ending 1/7/19, go to 1/14/19.

MR. OLDENBURGER: Okay.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay?

MR. OLDENBURGER: Yep.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Now, on the South Zone -- again, I was referring to the book; but because I do think it's important that we continue this tradition of -- as long as the Fish and Wildlife Service permits us -- to carry the hunt through Martin Luther King holiday. That's a big deal for the hunters and quail hunters, etcetera, in South Texas. So I'd say take -- well, let me address first the start.

One of the -- it seems like one of the policy issues that we face is: Do we now start the South hunt on September 14th, which is the earliest day we can start and start it every year on the 14th, even though that's going to move during the week? This year, it happens to be a Friday; but it might be a Sunday, it might be a -- so that's going to move around.

I happen to think we're better off setting the precedent of starting on the first Saturday closest to the 14th. So that that -- people can, I think, more easily follow that and it's more consistent with when they're likely to go hunt anyway, which is a weekend. So I would propose we move the start from the Friday the 14th to Saturday the 15th. So that -- we get one -- that adds one day to -- that gives us one day to add to the end, and then start the second hunt December 18th and go to January -- through January 21st.

MR. OLDENBURGER: Okay. So January 22nd, 23rd, would come off and the September 14th would come off; and we'd basically add those to December, to the front-end of the second season, and start the 18th. So those days match.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yes.

MR. OLDENBURGER: Good.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yes. Now, the next question I have is on cranes, which are South Zone, the book says "end January 20th," which is a Sunday. Can we add Martin Luther King, the 21st, to make it consistent with the end of dove season?

MR. OLDENBURGER: Let me get to -- so we are allowed to go later underneath the federal frameworks. We can do that. The only thing I would suggest is that begins on a Saturday and ends on a Sunday, the way the season is structured right now.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I understand that, but it's -- okay. I just think since we've got dove hunting through the 21st and MLK, I would think -- can we move the crane hunt to end the same day, or do you think it's more important to stay --

MR. OLDENBURGER: I -- personally, I would probably favor opening on a Saturday, opening that weekend; and then that way, not having a disjunct weekend with waterfowl regs. Because if you open that Saturday, you have consistent -- people look forward to that Saturday, have consistent regulations, and it doesn't differ between Saturday and Sunday on a weekend hunt.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. And then I would say before we vote on this in March, can you run these by the Migratory Game Bird Committee?

MR. OLDENBURGER: Yes.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: These tweaks?

MR. OLDENBURGER: Yes, the tweaks we can run by the Migratory -- yes. I'll get ahold of Chair Osborn as soon as possible.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That's great.

Anybody else have any thoughts on the schedules or the -- and, of course, ducks, geese, any of that, turkey? Okay.

MR. OLDENBURGER: All right, thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. With those suggested tweaks, I'll authorize staff to publish the 2018-19 statewide hunting and migratory game bird proclamation in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.

No. 7, have we withdrawn that? Yes. Item -- Work Session Item 7 on the shrimping, that's been withdrawn.

So now, we're going to have Ross talk about creation of a Parks and Wildlife Prosecutor of the Year Award. Ross.

MR. MELINCHUK: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Director Smith. For the record, my name's Ross Melinchuk. I'm Director of Conservation Programs. It is my pleasure this morning to propose for your consideration the establishment of a new award -- the Texas Parks and Wildlife Prosecutor of the Year Award -- to formally recognize a courtroom champion for Texas' fish, wildlife, and cultural resource conservation.

The purpose of this award is to honor and recognize prosecutorial contributions in wildlife, fisheries, natural and cultural resources, water safety, and environmental crimes. Any currently seated elected prosecutor or assistant at the County, District, State, or Federal level would be eligible. Contributions must have occurred during the previous two calendar years.

Nominations must be submitted through a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Law Enforcement Regional Director, only one nomination per L.E. region, and all nominations would then be forwarded to the Law Enforcement Division Director. Nominations may come from Texas Parks and Wildlife game wardens, natural resource, and state park staff, prosecutors or other law enforcement agency personnel.

These are the current eight Law Enforcement regions, which coupled with a ninth special operations statewide region, translates into a maximum of nine nominees per year. As far as selection criteria go, candidates must exhibit one or more of the following: Exceptional skill and outstanding commitment to protecting Texas' fish, wildlife, natural and cultural resources; superior performance in prosecuting natural and cultural resource, water safety, and environmental crimes; the relentless pursuit of justice for the most egregious violators, with the ability to prosecute controversial or landmark cases; or the exemplary work promoting and maintaining collaborative relationships with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in pursuit of conserving Texas' natural resources.

Award winners will be chosen by a majority vote of a selection committee; and in the case of a tie, the Commission Chairman or his or her designee would make the final selection. Selection committee would be comprised of the following six individuals: The Commission Chairman or his or her designee, the Executive Director, the Chief Operating Officer, the General Counsel, the Director of Law Enforcement, and the designated staff attorney for L.E.

This award will be a high-quality bronze that's commensurate with the value the Commission places on this one-of-a-kind recognition. It would be engraved with the recipient's name, their affiliation, and the year of the award. The winner would be announced annually at the August Parks and Wildlife Commission Meeting, and then presented -- formally presented -- at the Texas District and County Attorneys Association annual conference, which is normally held the third week of September.

For 2018, the program schedule would look like this. We would open nominations on February 1st and close them on May 15th, giving the selection committee two full months to review and select a winner by July the 15th. The winner would be announced at the August 23rd Commission Meeting and then follow up with a formal presentation at the TDCAA conference held September 19th through the 21st this year.

Tomorrow, I will propose the recommendation shown on the screen for your consideration; and I'm prepared to answer any questions you may have.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I think the way, Ross, that you worded eligibility on the PowerPoint is different than what's in the book.

MR. MELINCHUK: It may be.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And the description in the book is broader, which I think it should be. This could be read to require an elected prosecutor.

MR. MELINCHUK: Oh.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And I think we should -- I think we ought to just delete the word "seated or elected." Just any prosecutor, including an assistant or a special assigned prosecutor. We get, from time to time, a DA can disqualify themselves and refer to the -- just to the Attorney General, who will then appoint somebody from Attorney General's Office to prosecute it. So I just think to give you more flexibility on the award, why not just generalize this as any prosecutor period.

MR. MELINCHUK: Okay.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Take out the --

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Take out the "seated, elected" and then take out the parentheses.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Just any prosecutor at the County, District, State, or Federal level.

MR. MELINCHUK: Okay. Or there assistant? Include that?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: No. Just any prosecutor, period.

MR. MELINCHUK: Good. I have no reason why not to do that.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Is everybody okay with that?

COMMISSIONER LEE: Yeah, I noticed that, too.

MR. MELINCHUK: Okay.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Okay. Well, let's make -- just to give you more flexibility and to make sure somebody isn't precluded from being considered who should be, let's make that tweak.

MR. MELINCHUK: Yeah, I like it.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Anybody have any other questions or comments?

Okay. Thanks, Ross.

Consideration of creating the Parks and Wildlife Prosecutor of the Year Award will now be considered tomorrow on the Thursday Committee Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Okay, with regard to Work Session Item 9, Implementation of Legislation from the 85th Texas Legislative Session, Senate Bill 1289, Relating to the Purchase of Iron and Steel Products Made in the United States, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes, do any of you have any questions or comments about that?

Yes, Dick.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yeah, having lived through the late 80s, early 90, whenever it was about the "Buy American" clause, my question -- this is probably a legal question. You know, I see they're showing some little light-weight steel on a building; but -- and I know what the sentiment is, a lot of people have around the country to use all American steel; but that deal never did work. So my question -- I'm sure it's to you -- how do we overcome -- because all these highway jobs -- I mean, billions of dollars, you know, is not under "Buy American" and it appears to me that this is in conflict with the federal law, which we get a lot of federal money. So how do these -- how do these work and if we vote to do this, are we cutting ourselves off of some money?

COMMISSIONER LEE: Doesn't the statute already require it? It's required by law, Texas law.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: But how does that -- how does this relate to federal funds that are going to highway projects and everything, to which we get some of that money of some sort? I don't know what, but that's my concern: Is are shooting ourselves in the foot? So that's where I'm at. I'm just trying to understand the legal side of what the Legislator did.

MS. VOSS: Yes, sir.

Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Mr. Smith. My name is Jennifer Voss. I'm the Management Analyst with the Infrastructure Division. That's a good question. In the presentation I want to give you, I'm going to talk about that federal law that we actually already abide by during, you know, projects that are federally funded.

So maybe if it's okay with y'all, I'll just go ahead and perhaps go through these slides. Maybe that will help answer it.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Help yourself.

MS. VOSS: Thanks.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: As far as I'm concerned.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: No, let's go ahead and do it today; and then we won't need to do it tomorrow.

MS. VOSS: Okay. All right. Well, I'm here to present a proposed rule for adoption concerning the purchase of American-made iron and steel. For certain governmental construction projects, staff were -- we were authorized to publish the proposed rule in the Texas Register during Commission's November 1st, 2017, Work Session.

Senate Bill 1289 was passed during the Legislative Session, this past Legislative Session. The author was Senator Creighton, and it was signed into law by Governor Abbott. Senate Bill 1289 amends current statute and requires all State agencies to contractually obligate bidders to use American-made iron and steel products in construction projects and the bill also requires the Commission to pass a rule promoting compliance to that effect.

Additionally, the law apply -- does allow for an exemption request process for the following reasons: That would be insufficient quantities; if it's not reasonably available; unsatisfactory quality; if the costs would increase by more than 20 percent; or if it's not in the best interest of the public. So in the remote chance an exemption is applicable, we would notify and request approval from the TPW Commission.

We are going to apply this requirement to structural iron and steel, such as angle iron and I-beams; and we already abide by this at a federal level when carrying out any of our construction projects that utilize federal funds. And we do see -- you know, we do see several projects like that, that have that requirement. Also -- excuse me -- the public comment summary, we did receive five total comments. Two were in agreement, two were in disagreement, and one was just a general, neutral comment; and the two opposing comments simply questioned the necessity of this rulemaking.

So with that, the staff -- we will recommend tomorrow for you to consider adopting this new rule, which basically states that we will promote the compliance, follow the law.

MR. SMITH: Good, good.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Well, going back to my original concern because I remember how I had products coming from out of the country and it was aggregates -- but it doesn't really matter anymore. I mean, it's all -- I support the deal. I'm not against doing this at all, don't misunderstand me; but my concern is just what I'm saying: How does this affect us on federal funds?

I don't see how you can -- I mean, that's a pretty broad deal, you said 20 percent and --

MS. VOSS: Yes.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I mean, you know, you're getting into some -- and that actually affects us more by far than the highway stuff probably because structural, we build buildings, we do parks. I mean, so that's -- that is where my concern is, is to make sure that we're not in violation of a fed statute that hasn't been accomplished yet.

MS. VOSS: Good point.

MS. BRIGHT: I just wanted to reiterate something that Jennifer said, is that I'm -- first of all, I mean, most of our road construction, we don't actually do that. That's done by TxDOT, and so that would be a TxDOT issue that they would have to deal with in terms of whether or not there's sufficient steel produced in the United States for them. The -- the -- for the contracts that we get, the ones that come primarily, I think, probably through U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or Park Service, there's already a requirement. There's already this "Buy America" requirement, and so we're already doing that on our types of contracts that we're already dealing with now.

Highway projects, I mean, those are kind of different. You know, while we occasionally do get some highway funding, you know, the bulk of that work is going to be handled by TxDOT. So I don't really see -- I guess I should say rather than create a conflict with federal law, this is probably going to be bring us more in alignment so that our federally funded projects and our state funded projects would have similar requirements.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: That's fine.

MS. BRIGHT: Make sense?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I just -- I've just fought that other battle many years ago, and I want to make sure we're not getting ourselves in another one.

MS. BRIGHT: And unfortunate -- unfortunately or fortunately, however you want to look at it, this is a Legislative requirement. So this is not something we have a lot of options on, so.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Okay, thank you.

COMMISSIONER WARREN: May I?

MR. SMITH: You bet. Yeah, please.

COMMISSIONER WARREN: I've got a question. So how does -- how do you -- by the way, I totally under it's the law. We follow the law. But so like in my business, you go buy plate steel and we'd be require to buy plate steel at a steel mill and then we pick a manufacturer to make it into pipe or whatever we choose. So if the Commission were to go buy I-beams, for example, for a construction project, is it your job to police where that company purchased their steel to make those I-beams? So is that a -- how does that work?

MS. VOSS: So the contracts will obligate the contractor to buy American-made steel, right, and so we've already implemented that language. Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER WARREN: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I don't know if you remember, Kelcy, but back in when they did that "Buy American" deal, you know, that turned into such a can of worms, anyway.

COMMISSIONER WARREN: Laundered steel.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yeah, there you have it. There you go.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Dick, did your questions get answered to your satisfaction?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: If these nice ladies are on board and are comfortable and dotted -- if they're on board and we're doing all right, then I'm on board.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Anybody else have questions or comments on this?

All right. Thank you, Jennifer.

I'll place implementation of Senate Bill 1289 relating to the purchase of iron and steel products made in the United States on tomorrow's Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Okay. With regard to Work Session Item 10, Disposition of Real Estate in Williamson County, a House and Lot in Florence, do any of the Commission have questions or comments about that and want to hear a presentation; or if not, I'll place it on the agenda tomorrow? Everybody okay moving to the agenda -- that to the agenda tomorrow for action?

Okay. That Item 10 will be placed on tomorrow's Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

That takes us to Work Session Item 11, Transfer of Land, Walker County, Approximately Half an Acre at Huntsville State Park. Do any of the Commissioners have questions or comments about that item; and if so, we'll hear a presentation?

Okay. Well, I'll place transfer of land, Walker County, on Thursday's Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Work Session Item 12, Disposition of Land, Smith County, Approximately 3.5 Acres, Formally Part of the Tyler Fish Hatchery. Do any of the members have questions or comments and want to hear a presentation on this item?

All right. I'll place disposition of land, Smith County, on Thursday's Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Work Session Item 13, Acceptance of Land Donation, Brazoria County, Expansion of Project Boundary, Approximately 190 Acres to the Follets Island Coastal Management Area, Ted Hollingsworth. Are you here somewhere?

MR. SMITH: He's here.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I don't see him.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: There he is.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: He's been hiding. Oh.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: I didn't think you could skip me.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Well...

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: I've stayed -- I kept my head down as long as I could, but --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Welcome, Ted.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: -- Chairman, Commissioners, good morning. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This item pertains to a proposed addition to the Follets Island Coastal Management Area down in Brazoria County. You may call recall that back in 2014, we begun that Coastal Management Area with the acceptance -- with the purchase of about 441 acres on Follets Island.

The real significance of this area is that these properties straddle the Follets Island, which is basically a barrier island from the Gulf beaches all the way to the bay, to Christmas Bay and Drum Bays, which are the extreme southwest extension of the Galveston Bay System. And at the time we acquired those, it was with the understanding that as additional properties became available, that we would attempt to acquire those and expand this area.

That effort has gone better than any of us would have imagined. The Department now has 825 acres that straddle that island. The Trust for Public Land has done a -- just done a tremendous job of working out relationships and transactions with landowners, finding grant funds to acquire those lands.

In March of 2017, we came to you and asked you permission to just simply accept those tracts as they were acquired and became available. In an area -- this slide's a little misleading. It was 1,300 acres in addition to the 441 acres and had already been acquired and you approved that and this slide shows the original project area and the original 441 acres that was acquired to begin that project.

Recently, the Trust for Public Land has been offered an opportunity to purchase another 190-acre tract that is southwest of the area that y'all previously approved to be the conservation area; and the advantage of this property is that it also stretches from the Gulf all the way to the bay. It has extremely high conservation values. It's adjacent to the Brazoria County National Wildlife Refuge.

There have been some internal discussions and some discussions with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as well about the prospect perhaps someday of the Follets Island facility being managed as part of the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge. That makes a lot of sense from a logistics and resource's standpoint and this tract would make that physical connection that might help with that discussion in the future.

In order to do to so, we would enlarge that project area and take in some more properties that would have very high value if they could be acquired in the future. That tract, that 100-acre tract, is separated from the original area by a small community. Having said that, there are a couple other small communities within the project area. Those small -- I don't even want to call them subdivisions; but those streets that have fishing shacks on either side of them, this is in COBRA Zone, these are mostly just temporary structures that people build -- or minor structures that people build so they can have a place to stay while they're fishing -- are not considered to significantly impair those conservation values. The animals that live and use these properties -- Reddish egrets, Piping Plover, coyotes, King snakes, Diamondback terrapins -- I mean, these animals that are being protected are not much affected by those small subdivision projects.

And so we would propose that adding this 190-acre tract is consistent -- consistent with the intent under which we created the Coastal Management Area. You can see a close-up of this tract. Again, frontage on the bay; frontage on the beach; frontage on the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway, which is the boundary with the National Wildlife Refuge; a bio system; significant emergent marshes; barrier strand prairies, what we call "strand" prairies; just the entire ecosystem.

We do believe that that would be a very worthwhile conservation addition to the project area. And with that, the staff recommends that the Executive Director be authorized to take all necessary steps to accept measures to accept the donation of approximately 190 acres for addition to the Follets Island Coastal Management Area and to expand the overall project area to roughly 3,000 acres. I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Anyone have questions or comments?

Okay. I would just say, Ted, good work here and continue -- please continue to look for strategic acquisitions to protect the coastline. It's great work.

So I'll place the acceptance of land donation, Brazoria County, on tomorrow's Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

That takes us to Item 14, Acquisition of Land, Aransas County, Approximately 214 Acres at Newcomb Point Coastal Management Area, Permission to Begin the Public Notice and Input Process. Ted, will you present that?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good afternoon. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This item before you is a proposal to create a new Coastal Management Area in Aransas County on Lamar Peninsula. For those of you who are familiar with Rockport and that neck of the woods, this property fronts on Copano Bay, about 10 miles north of Rockport.

This tract has been identified as a high priority for conservation for some time. It's 214 acres; but it's some of the very last undeveloped property on Lamar Peninsula, and I'm told it may be the largest unprotected tract that is actively used by the Whooping cranes season after season.

The property has almost a mile of frontage on Highway 35, which means it's already a popular destination for people hoping to get a look at the Whooping crane and other coastal birds. It would be a great location for a bird observation deck, boardwalk trail, that kind of minimal recreational development.

The property is adjacent to land currently protected by a conservation easement held by the Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program. The reason we have the opportunity to acquire this property is because, as most of you know, we acquired a large Restore Act Grant a couple of years ago for the primary purpose of buying land on Matagorda Peninsula. We've completed that purchase. We have funds left over. You've authorized the acquisition of property, the Sartwelle tract at the Perry R. Bass Marine Fisheries Research Center. Even upon completing that acquisition, there will be some funds left over that would be sufficient to acquire this property.

It's only about a mile from Goose Island State Park. Nonetheless, we would prefer not to have the responsibility for monitoring and managing the property. Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program has expressed an interest in that management. The Restore Council has indicated that they have no problem with us leasing or entering into a long-term agreement with Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries to monitor, to do any low-development -- low-impact recreational development to manage that property.

We do think that it's significant enough conservation property to justify our ownership; but, again, if we can find somebody else to do the real legwork of monitoring it and managing it and taking care of it, that would be our recommendation.

As you can see in this map, it is -- they're about a mile from Goose Island State Park. And with that, staff is requesting permission to begin the public notice and input process.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Any questions or comments from the Commission?

I guess if you're thinking about -- if the acquisition goes forward -- thinking about allowing a third party to manage the property.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I think it's very important that that agreement give us significant input into any type of material change to the property, and I don't know how that would be worded. We've got a great legal team; but I would just be sure we've got continuing rights there to inspect and to approve -- reasonably approve -- for example, whatever they propose to do there. So, I mean, it's great they want to do it and I understand why we don't want to expend the FTE time on it; but I just -- I don't want us to just completely hand it over. I don't think that's wise without some aspects in the agreement that give us appropriate rights, I'll just put it --

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir. And we would not be able to do that. Under the terms of the grant agreement, the federal grant agreement, there are some fairly strict federal deed restrictions; and we are the ones responsible for making sure those are monitored and enforced. And in addition to that, our management agreements always make sure that we have the final say-so when it comes to development, the issuance of any easements, or any other potential impacts to the property; and we'll make sure that this one is good and tight. Yes, sir, be happy to do that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. All right, if no other questions or comments, I'll put -- authorize staff to begin public notice and input process regarding the acquisition of land in Aransas County.

Thank you, Ted.

Work Session Item 15, Boundary Issues Update with Respect to Blanco State Park, this item will be held in Executive Session.

Work Session Item 16, East Texas Wildlife Management Area Operations, East Texas Conservation Center, this item will also be heard in Executive Session.

And Work Session Item 17, an Update on Litigation, Threatened Litigation, Anticipated Litigation with respect to Red Snapper, Oysters, CWD, and Damages to State Park Property and Operations, that update will be heard in Executive Session.

So at this time, I would say that pursuant to the requirements of Chapter 551 of the Government Code referred to as the Open Meetings Act, an Executive Session will be held at this time for the purpose of deliberation in real estate matters under 551.072 of the Open Meetings Act, seeking legal advice under 551.071 of the Opening Meetings Act, including advice regarding pending or contemplated litigation. We will now recess for Executive Session at 12:07 p.m.

(Recess taken for Executive Session)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Mr. Smith, this Commission as completed its Work Session business; and I declare us adjourned, 3:12 p.m.

(Work Session 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, 2018

7010 Cool Canyon Cove

Round Rock, Texas 78681

(512)779-8320

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