TPW Commission

Commission Meeting, March 22, 2018


TPW Commission Meetings


March 22, 2018




everyone. I'm going to call our meeting to order March -- wait a minute, I can't read -- March 22, 2018, at 9:07 a.m.

Before we proceed with our business I believe Carter has a statement he needs to make.

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

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

Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, let me just join you in welcoming everybody we've got a full house, standing room only this morning. Happy third day of spring to everybody, and a special thanks to everybody that's come from far away to help celebrate some of the service awards and retirements and special recognitions that we'll kick this meeting off with this morning.

After we finish that, the Chairman will provide a recess for those of you who are not going to stay for the rest of the meeting; and at that time, he'll take five or ten minutes for us to regroup and start the regular meeting. And just as a reminder, when the regular meeting starts, if any of you plan to speak on an action item, just want to remind you to sign up outside. That's everybody except Ellis Powell, and everybody else please do sign up.

You'll be given three minutes to address the Commission on any item of interest to you. Please tell the Commission who you are and who you represent and we'll time you over here with a green means go, yellow means start to wind it down, and red means eject. So thanks for being with us this morning.

So thank you, Chairman.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. Next is approval of the minutes from our Commission Meeting January 25, 2018, which have been previously distributed. Is there a motion for approval?




COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Second Commissioner Lee. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Hearing no opposition, the motion carries.

Next is acknowledgment of the list of donations, which has also been distributed. Is there a motion for approval? Commissioner Scott. Second Commissioner Warren. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries.

Next is consideration of contracts, which are in your booklet; and there's a slight adjustment to contracts. Is there a motion to approve those amendments?


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Commissioner Lee and second Commissioner Latimer. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries.

Now, for the best part, Mr. Smith, would you please perform your magic on recognitions and retirement and service awards?

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Carter Smith. Good morning.

Get to kick it off this morning with a really nice acknowledgment from our friends at the National Wild Turkey Federation. Y'all know them as just one of our strongest partners. They play such an important role with us helping to promote our hunting heritage, helping to restore habitat all over the state, and also most recently very focused on bringing back wild turkeys to the woods of East Texas and that project is really going well and we couldn't do it without them.

Each year, they name an officer -- Wildlife Officer of the Year, a game warden of the year; and really, really honored this year that Carlos Maldonado out of Jim Hogg County as our game warden of the year for the National Wild Turkey Federation.

Carlos has been with us for nine years. He was part of the first Game Warden Academy class that graduated out at Hamilton at the new Academy out there. That was before that Academy had its Sunday clothes on. It was in a little bit different state out there. Carlos has been stationed down in Jim Hogg County for nine years, and he's been exactly what you'd hope for out of a game warden. Deeply embedded in that community.

He's always there for the career days at Bruni or Hebbronville for the kids. He's on the Board for the Emergency Services District. Serves as a volunteer fireman down there. He's a Little League coach. Takes kids on youth hunts out at the many ranches in that area and then also, obviously, has more than a full-time job down there working to combat trespassing and poaching and illegal hunting, illegal smuggling of both humans and drugs and all of the illicit activity that goes on down in that deep part of South Texas.

Carlos is known for being incredibly dependable, a great mentor to new wardens, always willing to help out, very calm under pressure, great relationships with the Sheriff's Office and the DPS and the border patrol and the Constable's Office and all the other officers that are down in that area. He's a firearm's instructor. Always lends his talents as a Spanish speaker to other game wardens that need help in that regard when they're interviewing folks that only speak Spanish, and he's just been a consummate team player. And really, really proud that the National Wild Turkey Federation is honoring him with this award.

We've got five of our friends at the National Wild Turkey Federation -- or four, I guess -- that have come in to honor Carlos today. And I'm more than a little bit proud to tell you that three of those are former Parks and Wildlife employees. Eddie Hines, who was game warden; and by the way, Eddie also -- I think when Eddie was in Fannin County -- he'll have to refresh my memory -- was named Officer of the Year by the National Wild Turkey Federation. He's now Vice President of Development. Gene Miller, who was a long-standing technical guidance biologist for us up in the Panhandle; and, of course, Ross Melinchuk, who is now their Director of Conservation Programs. And so those three are with us, along with Dr. Bob Linder, to help celebrate this award for Carlos. Let's give Carlos a big round or applause. Ask our friends from the Wild Turkey Federation to come up.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Trying to get that group lined up for a picture was like trying to put a drop net on a bunch of turkeys, Clayton. That was impressive we got that done.

We now are going to celebrate the retirement of a couple of colleagues that have been with us for a long time, and we're going to start off with Janie Reeh. Janie has been with us for 33 years, Brent, in the State Parks Division.

She started off as a seasonal maintenance person there at Enchanted Rock and fell in love with the state parks. Became a First Aid in CPR Instructor. Our State Parks team hired her full time. 1988, she transferred over to Sebastopol, which is an example of period architecture there in Seguin and a historic site we used to manage before we transferred that to the City of Seguin.

In '93, she went over to Guadalupe River State Park, where she was very involved in developing the safety program there. She also became a utility plant operator, which is a critically important function in terms of managing the water and wastewater systems for a high public use park like Guadalupe River.

And then in 2002, she moved over here on the land that we sit, which is McKinney Falls State Park. Became our Assistant Superintendent and helped to develop that park from kind of a sleepy little jewel to what I guess, Brent, now is one of the top five or six or seven most visited parks in the state.

And Janie was here to help us get through the really devastating floods in 2013, 2015. She was an incident commander -- or on the Incident Command Team that was leading the response to the Bastrop fires in 2011; and she's just been an integral part of the Parks and Wildlife team and particularly our State Parks and we're going to miss her. Thirty-three years of service, Janie Reeh. Janie, please come forward.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague is from our Coastal Fisheries team, B.J. Stoerner. B.J. has been with us 22 years in terms of employment, but she's been with us actually a lot longer. When Sea Center got started down in Lake Jackson -- y'all know that as our flagship public outreach and education center there that our Coastal Fisheries -- world class hatchery -- B.J. was one the volunteers. And just like this amazing volunteer program that we have there -- and sometime I hope y'all have a chance to go down and meet those volunteers that help make that place tick -- B.J. stood out because of her attitude and her enthusiasm and her just dedication to that place.

Our manager recognized that talent, talked her into coming to work for the Department at Sea Center. She managed the office and the volunteer team for years; and then she moved over into the fish production side in the hatchery and got involved in the fish propagation-related side of that work. All the while, keeping a close finger on the pulse of all the volunteer activity, which was so near and dear to her heart.

A number of us were down at Lake Jackson last month to celebrate, just again, amazing spirit of volunteerism and service there at Sea Center and you can just tell that B.J. is absolutely beloved by that community who just turned out in droves to honor and thank her for her service to the Agency. I don't I think she's going far. I think we're going to get a little bit more of her time back as a volunteer not only at Sea Center, but also I hear maybe traveling around and maybe hosting at some state parks. So we're going to keep her close to the family; and today, we want to thank her for 22 years of service to this Agency, B.J. Stoerner. B.J., please come forward.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague who we're celebrating his retirement you know well. He's leader of the fabled and fearless team that we used to call the "Melinchukers."

Ross came to us, as many of you know, from Ducks Unlimited. And I got such a kick out of when Ross came to work for the Department, listening to folks try to pronounce his name. My favorite was John Sharp, who I think really knew Ross' last name; but insisted on calling him Ross "Muckaluck." It sounded like a Dr. Seuss character. Anyway, did it for about nine years and probably still does.

Ross has a very long and rich history in the wildlife community. Grew up on a farm there in Saskatchewan; went to the University of Guelph; got his master's a Lakehead; was a wildlife biologist there in Saskatchewan; became their Waterfowl Management Coordinator, which is a big, of course, because that's the breeding grounds for the waterfowl that really feed this massive migration we know as the Central Flyway.

Worked for them for a number of years. Went and worked for the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, leading the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. Was with Ducks Unlimited for almost 20 years as their Director of Public Policy, forming State agency partnerships all over the country. And nine years ago, we had the good fortunate of recruiting Ross to come serve as our Deputy Executive Director of Natural Resources and later, our Director of Conservation Programs; and so he's led our teams in Inland Fisheries and Coastal and Wildlife and Land Conservation and GIS and international-related programs, the new Farm and Ranch Land Program that Chairman Morian oversees.

So Ross has just been an integral part of this team and has been such a wonderful ambassador for this Agency, particularly on the national front where Texas wants to lead from a fish and wildlife perspective and whether it's his service on the Reservoir Fish Habitat Partnership, his work to help keep the Lesser Prairie chicken off the endangered species list, work on migratory bird and waterfowl and Flyway or waterway/water issues, Ross was always front and center.

And he's gone to work for a great partner, the National Wild Turkey Federation, as their Director of Conservation Programs; and as you can see by his presence in the audience today, he hadn't gone far. And today, we want to think Ross Melinchuk for his great service to this Agency. Ross, bravo.

(Round of applause and photographs)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Ross, I want to say on behalf of my colleagues, how much we have appreciated your leadership; and we're going to miss you.

(Round of applause)

MR. SMITH: I think that's the last retirement. It is. And I tell you, you want to sit down for this next one, Chairman, for our service award -- ha, ha, ha. Sorry. I was being facetious. I better not get in the habit of barking orders at my Chairman. Let me retract that.

So every one of you know the first person that you meet when you come in these doors. He's always got a big smile on his face, a big grin. He's got a great story or a joke that just seems like it was custom tailored for you. He's a remarkable ambassador. And for 50 years, Paul Israel has worked for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Paul has just been an extraordinary colleague and we talk about that long tenure, that love of service that so many of the men and women that work for this Agency embody and Paul is really at the top of the class.

He's a native son of the Rio Grande Valley. Grew up down in San Benito; and prior to this celebration of his 50-year award with the Department, perhaps one of his other greatest claims to fame was being on that famous Rio Grande Valley football team, the San Benito Greyhounds.

Now, Commissioner Jones, before you dismiss that out of hand, I'm going to encourage you to take a look at a book called "Border Ball." It was written by a sociologist at the University of Texas-Pan American, and it's on these legendary football teams of the Rio Grande Valley. Now, don't worry. It's a short book and so you -- but in 1961, the San Benito Greyhounds were doing pretty well and got all the way to the State semifinals with Paul Israel helping to lead the charge -- I won't tell you what string he was on, that's just details -- when they ran into, Commissioner Scott, the Mighty Bulldogs out of Nederland and brought that season to a crashing halt. And Paul wrapped it up and God bless him, was sent to the Marine Corps.

And Paul served this country incredibly well. Got a Navy Commendation for his service to our country and was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps and came to work for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department on November 2nd of 1966. And as he said, he wasn't looking for a job. He was looking for work.

And Paul was one of two people in the mailroom at the time for Parks and Wildlife Department. And this is another interesting fact: His supervisor was Lisa Engeling. And Lisa is a famous lady inside the Department. Her late husband was murdered trying to apprehend a poacher in the Gus Engeling Wildlife Management Area, his name in his honor and his memory. Her nephew Todd is our leader for our Hatchery Program inside Inland Fisheries, but Lisa also has the distinction of being the only other employee that I'm aware of that's worked for this agency for 50 years.

So he followed well in her stead. As Paul liked to say: Back then, the mail was a whole lot more interesting. You didn't have to be so worried about incendiary devices. What you had to be worried about is what the biologists would send in the mail and what kind of animal parts they'd send up here to age and measure and so forth.

Paul went on to run our Licensing team, so all the hunting and fishing license stuff; and was in that branch and ran it for upwards of 22, 23 years. And then got that wonderful status that we all aspire to called "Special Projects," you know, where you kind of get to go off and do whatever you want. And Paul decided that there was a lot of things that need fixing around here and a lot of that was just going to take legislation.

And so Paul got busy on helping to draft legislation and getting Legislators to carry stuff and, actually, some really important stuff. Paul was involved in helping to draft the legislation on the dedication or the identification of the sporting goods sales tax back in 1993; also getting Commission authority to be able set license fees; getting the Commission authority to be able to define a resident versus a nonresident and that had very important implications for the Commission's work, for example, to treat nonresident youths the same as resident youths with respect to their charge for a hunting license so we wouldn't have a barrier to entry for them coming to hunt or fish in Texas.

He was involved in working with Chairman Kuempel to give the Commission authority to create special license structures like the super combo, which as you know, is our most important and largest selling license. And so needless to say, Paul has left a big impact.

Sometime in the 90s, we were down a headquarter's police officer and the branch manager at the time, recognized Paul's just outgoing and cheerful personality and recognized just what a great ambassador and servant he would make out here front, helping to guide all of the activity, welcome folks, make sure that any questions they had could be answered, point them to all the right directions. And he's just done a masterful job. Not a person comes in this place that meets Paul whose day is not lifted up beyond measure, and he's been a great bright light for this Department. And today, we're thanking him for 50 years of service. Paul Israel, bravo.

(Round of applause and photographs)

(Mr. Israel exits after photographs)

(Round of laughter)

MR. SMITH: Back to work. All right. Enough lollygagging around.

Thank you, Chairman. You run a tight ship here, don't you? We'll see where I'm headed after this presentation.

So, all right. Our next colleague, Mark Webb with our Inland Fisheries team, has been with us 30 years, three decades. And Mark is our District Biologist out of Bryan and College Station. He's just been such an important part of the spirit and success of that team. Been involved in a lot of research projects over the years, everything from sport fish length limits to exotic species life history related things, study on Largemouth bass reproduction and population ecology.

He leads our District team in that Bryan-College Station that's responsible for managing the lakes and reservoirs and rivers and streams and fisheries in that area. Been a real pioneer in native plant and native habitat restoration. Formed some great partnerships with bass clubs and other places at Lake Conroe and elsewhere. Been on the frontline fighting the exotic species, exotic plants that are threatening to take over a lot of those East Texas waterbodies.

Also, he and his team have really been on the forefront for Inland Fisheries in developing our community fishing lakes and really targeting trying to develop urban area fishing opportunities in and around Houston area; and they just done a masterful job. In fact, we had a chance yesterday to acknowledge a couple of these colleagues that have been working on that and Mark's been their leader over there. We're awfully proud of his 30 years of service to our Inland Fisheries team, Mark Webb. Mark, bravo.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague is Eric Howard. Eric has been with us -- where is -- I see Eric hiding in the back, not a chance my friend -- 25 years as a game warden for this Department.

Eric came to us from the Travis County Sheriff's Office, if I believe, and went through the Game Warden Academy back -- and, Commissioner Lee, you'll remember this -- when the Game Warden Academy was right next to the University of Texas Intermural Fields on the north part of Hyde Park. Kind of an odd spot to be training game wardens. And Eric went through the Game Warden Academy and -- but maybe it was fertile ground with all those UT poachers over there, kids shooting deer around Austin. Let me rethink that.

Eric got out of the Academy, was over in Montgomery County for five and a half years. Transferred back to Travis County working as a game warden and became an instructor there at the Academy there in Austin as a lieutenant. And then when we moved the Academy in 2008 to Hamilton, Eric took over the coordination role for our Operation Game Thief related program and led that program for a number of years and. Decided to retire. Got awfully bored. Got separation disorder complex from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and we were able to talk him back to come back and work as a recruiter for us for our game warden team and Eric has just done a masterful job.

He's all around the state trying to recruit the best and brightest talent to come work for us not only in law enforcement, but any part of this Agency in which he sees a fit and an opportunity. He's a wonderful ambassador for this Agency. You couldn't meet a nicer guy; and awfully proud to celebrate his 25 years of service today, Eric Howard. Eric, bravos.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague is from the Wildlife Division. Also with us for 25 years, Fernando Gutierrez, Pablo. And Pablo I have known for a long time and I first met Pablo when I was sent over to work at the Kerr Wildlife Management Area and Pablo took me to the place where I was going to be staying that summer and he said, "We're going to put you up at Ringtail Lodge." And half of that name was right.

It had what looked like walls. Sort of a beaver lodge transplanted to the land I think is how I'd describe it. And the only thing about the -- the other part of the thing that was right, absolutely right, there were four ringtailed cats that I shared the summer with. And so Pablo welcomed me to the Kerr Wildlife Management Area and has been a wonderful friend and mentor ever since.

Pablo has been involved with so many wildlife projects around the state, not just at the Kerr; but all over. He helped to build the bison pens back when the last wild bison were trapped off the old J Ranch and brought to the Caprock Canyon's area now. The -- of course, the state park. Involved with the feral hog toxicant project that y'all are aware of at the Kerr Wildlife Management Area. All of the deer-related research. He's trapped Bighorn sheep in the mountains of West Texas. Banded mottled ducks on the Gulf coast. He's been involved in a project to help re-establish javelina over in Mason County. Trapped and help study bats there at Old Tunnel. Done countless deer surveys, countless surveys on the endangered species there at the Kerr, prescribed fire, you name it.

He can build anything. He can fix anything. He just has one of best attitudes and has just really been the backbone and great spirit and this wonderful chemistry that you see at the Kerr Wildlife Management Area that is really one of our flagship wildlife management areas in research and demonstration sites not only for this Department, for this state and really for this country. And Pablo has been such an integral part of that and that integral spirit of the Wildlife Division. And today, we thank Pablo for 25 years of service. Bravo, Pablo.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague, also from the Wildlife Division, Calvin Richardson; and Calvin started about the same time that Pablo did. Calvin had been with the Extension Service for ten years in Texas and South Carolina and then was hired to come back to Texas to be a wildlife biologist up in the Panhandle and after a few years of that, he was promoted to be technical guidance wildlife biologist in the Trans-Pecos and so he literally worked with landowners on enhancing habitat and improving wildlife on millions and millions of acres out in far West Texas.

Calvin did that for almost ten years before he was promoted to be our Program Coordinator overseeing our work on Pronghorn antelope, Mule deer, and Bighorn sheep; and so he had three full-time jobs all rolled into one.

In the fall of 2009, Calvin was promoted to be our District biologist and District leader up in Canyon, overseeing all of our work up in the Panhandle; and so a lot of things that this Commission has dealt with while under Calvin's leadership up there. Things having to do with the recovery of the Prairie chicken, the experimental seasons on Pronghorn antelope, the new experimental antler regs there on Mule deer.

He and his team have been busy on waterfowl, wetlands Mule deer, turkey, Prairie chickens. You name it, Calvin and his team have been awfully busy. They do a terrific job. Again, he's been with us for 25 years; and he said with each passing day, he gets a little closer to thinking about that 19-foot bass boat and a big lake and lots of Largemouth bass. Twenty-five years of service, Calvin Richardson. Bravo, Calvin.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague, Selton Williams, also 25 years. Selton -- also just like all of our colleagues we've had a chance to celebrate -- has such a servant's heart. And Selton came to us after serving in the U.S. Army, was there in Desert Storm in Iraq where he proudly served our country.

After he finished up his service, came to work for this Department really as one of our maintenance mechanics. And the wonderful thing about Selton -- and I certainly can speak to this over the last ten years -- is you also Selton around here. He's always got a tool belt on his waist, a big smile on his face, and he is always fixing something. And whether it's electrical, whether it's carpentry, whether it's just some bolt or nut that has to be replaced or the roof or floor are caving in and rattlesnakes are coming up through the ground, whatever the issue is, Selton is there to take care of it and he's always done it with such a great smile on his face.

He's the first one here in the morning. You can see him perched in a big lift replacing lightbulbs up in the parking lot. Whatever, Selton is taking care of it with a big smile. Just been such a great part of this team.

The other passion of Selton -- and I just love this -- is he's been a volunteer member of our Buffalo Soldier's related program and Selton has traveled the state just tirelessly on evenings and weekends and holidays to help re-enact and tell the story of the Buffalo Soldiers and that part of our history and our state. He's done that all on his own time and just out of a love of history, a love of heritage, a love of this Department. And today, we get a chance to tell Selton thank you for his 25 wonderful years inside of Parks and Wildlife. Selton, bravo. Thank you.

(Round of applause and photographs)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Selton -- Selton, I just wanted to ask you: As long as you're fixing things, he's obviously forgotten his conference phone. So if you wouldn't mind taking a look at it because Commissioner Morian -- Vice-Chairman Morian couldn't use it the other day.

One to go. Last one.

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague, Julia Gregory. Julia has been with us for 20 years. She's a Web Administrator. Works with our Communications team. Julia started off in our education program with our hunter and angler and boater ed and Project Wild and Julia's the one that introduced the brave new world to the Texas Parks and Wildlife called the "internet" and brought us kicking and screaming into the use and application of that and just has done a masterful job with that and so, so much more during her 20 years of service to this Agency.

She was the Program Administrator for Exploring Texas, which was a program that we had worked with schoolteachers across the state to teach kids how to produce web-related content which they would then upload to our web page. Back in 2003 when we had to go through a pretty significant budget reduction, Julia moved over to Inland Fisheries and was working on an important -- very important -- issue for us on Golden algae and fisheries biologists across the country were struggling with how to deal with Golden alga blooms and the impacts to water quality and fisheries-related populations and problems in hatcheries and she was managing our website to help disseminate education research not only all across the state, but really all across the country.

She came back to work for our Communications team working in social media. She's in charge of helping with our Wild Net, which is our kind of internal website for Parks and Wildlife employees. She does our inside track blog in which we get to hear about our colleagues all across the Agency. She's just been such a wonderful gift to this Agency; and we're awfully proud today to celebrate 20 years of service, Julia Gregory. Julia, bravo. Thank you.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman, are we done? Done, okay. Do you want to do Grahame?


MR. SMITH: Why not?

You know, Chairman, I've got to tell this story. So this would have been not this Christmas; but last Christmas.

I found myself, Commissioner Jones, at this little Christmas play at Ryland's little school.

And all the little kids are, you know, dressed up in costume, right? And it's the Christmas story, right? And this will give you some sense of Ryland's acting abilities. He was a cow. And so, not a whole lot more to say about it than that, is there?

But two memorable parts of that early evening. One, at some point in the evening and during the little play, much to my wife's chagrin, Ryland that decided that being a bull would be a whole lot more fun than being a cow and his two little friends who were playing Mary and Joseph, who you were turned in a very prominent position up there on the stage acting, soon got the brunt of Ryland's full-force charge and horns into their rear ends and knocked little baby Jesus out of the little cradle. So there was a lot of memories from that.

Afterwards, the moms -- as they're wont to do with these sort of things -- are taking the pictures of all of their little angles and our little cow and I'm sitting in the back, talking to all the fathers who obviously wish they were anything -- anywhere but there. And we're making small talk and about eight of us or so and this guy turns to me and said, "Hey, do you work for Parks and Wildlife?"

I said, "Yeah, I do."

He said, "Do you know a guy named Grahame Jones?"

I said, "Yeah, sure. I know Grahame."

And he said, "Is he, like, a game warden or something?"

I said, "Well, yeah, or something, yeah."

And he said, "Well, I was curious," and everybody's kind of rapt with attention. You know we're going to get a game warden story, right? This will be interesting. And so he says, "You know, when I grew up, our game wardens knew everything, right? I mean, they knew every fishing regulation, every hunting regulation, anything. All you had to do was ask them." He said, "I went fishing with this guy and we're sitting in a river and fishing and finally I turned and I said, 'What's the limit here,' and Grahame -- this guy said he didn't know and he said, 'But let me call a guy.'"

And so he whips out his cell phone, calls a real game warden, I guess, and gets the bag limit and he said, "Yeah, it was kind of weird."

And so, you know, there are eight of these dads around and I think, "All right, I've got a little damage control here to do." And so at the time, you know, Grahame was Chief of Special Operations. I said, "Well, let me just talk this up."

I said, "Well, listen. You know, Grahame's a little far removed from that. He oversees our special operations and our covert operations and our canine teams and this and that," and I really talked it up and he's just eating it up.

Finally, he looked at me and kind of nodded his head and said, "He's kind of like Miami Vice isn't he?" Mr. Miami Vice, Grahame Jones.

Grahame's wanted to be a game warden since he was a kid and got his wish. He and Eric were in the same class. Graduated 25 years ago, was sent over to East Texas in the Piney Woods; came over to the Katy Prairie, where he served for several years over in Waller County. Worked as a sergeant in the environmental crimes. Promoted to captain up here in Internal Affairs; later our major; then chief of Special Operations, where apparently he forgot everything they taught him in the Academy. And, obviously, in September, promoted to colonel, overseeing this extraordinary team of men and women that you know as your Law Enforcement team.

Grahame and his wife, Julie, are the proud parents of two wonderful daughters and what a friend, what a gift, what a wonderful colleague. Twenty-five years of service, Grahame Jones. Grahame, bravo.

(Round of applause and photographs)

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

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Great job, Carter. And thanks to so many fabulous people for your service to this great Agency.

So we'll take a short pause here, a couple -- five minutes, let's call it, and we'll resume at five till and give everybody a chance that wants to leave, to leave the room and we'll then proceed with Briefing Item 11. So let's take a five-minute recess.

(Recess taken)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. I'm going to call the -- call our meeting back to order at 9:57.

Before we go to Action Item 1, I want to announce that Briefing Item 11, Control of Cormorants in Texas, will be heard after we here Briefing Item 9 on Bighorn sheep. So we're just adjusting the agenda a bit.

Which brings us to our first Action Item, Mule Deer Advisory Committee Formation Rules, Recommended Adoption to Proposed Changes. Welcome, Ann Bright.

MS. BRIGHT: Good morning, Commissioners. For the record, I'm Ann Bright. I'm the Chief Operating Officer.

So a little bit of background on advisory committees. The Parks and Wildlife Code authorizes the Chairman to appoint advisory committees. In addition, there are provisions of the Government Code that govern these committees, including a requirement that we have rules, that there be an annual evaluation, that the committee select the presiding officer, a membership limit of 24 members.

We've got a number of advisory members and -- or advisory committees and as you probably saw in your materials, we're going to be coming back in May with a proposed adoption to approve the extension of those for another four years. But one of the committees that we're going to go ahead and propose ahead of that, is a Mule Deer Committee.

And so the Mule Deer Advisory Committee would be -- again, these advisory committees need to be adopted by rule and so a rule has been proposed and we're here today to seek adoption. The membership of the advisory committee would include folks from various interests, including the ecological range in Mule deer, landowners, conservation and management organizations and hunters.

It will expire July 1, 2022; and what this will do, is this will put this on track with the other advisory committees so that they will all expire at the same time. And the role of this advisory committee would be to advise the Commission and staff on issues relevant to advisory committees.

Our plan is to hopefully get this in place by May 1st. That will give us time to get the rule adopted and get the committee members appointed. We received a few comments on that. Thirty-seven comments completely agree, three disagree and no reason for the disagreements were provided.

So the recommendation is that the Commission adopt the following motion: Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts Section 51.61 concerning Mule Deer Advisory Committee, with changes as necessary to the proposed text as published in the February 16th, 2018, issue of the Texas Register. I'm happy to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Are there any questions or comments from the members? Discussion?

Is there anybody in the audience that would like to speak on this action item?

Okay. Is there a motion for approval? Commissioner Scott. Second Commissioner Warren. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries. And I would like to announce that I am, today, going to appoint former Chairman and member of this Commission, Dan Allen Hughes, to Chair this new committee; and we're all excited to have -- we've got some great, great names to place on the committee; but he has agreed to Chair the committee, and I think we'll -- we, as a group, are looking forward to the counsel and input from this committee because we consider Mule deer very important to our job. So thank you for approving this.

All right. Action Item 2, 2018-19 Statewide Recreational and Commercial Fishing Proclamation, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. We'll start with Ken Kurzawski. Welcome, Ken.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Thank you, Commissioner. And good morning, Commissioners. My name's Ken Kurzawski of the Inland Fisheries Division, and I'm here once again to go over our proposed changes to the freshwater fishing regulations and to give you the -- provide a summary of public input.

As we've noted before, Largemouth bass were the focus of this year's changes and we reviewed Largemouth bass regulations and the goal of that review process was to standardize and simplify regulations, at same time as always maintaining the good fishing quality that our anglers expect in Texas.

This first group of a dozen locations, we're -- three of those had 16-inch minimums, had three with 18-inch minimums, and six with 14- to 18-inch slots. We are proposing to move all these to the statewide limits, which is a 14-inch minimum and the five-fish daily bag. In analyzing population structures in these reservoirs, we didn't identify any benefits from the special regulations and we feel that moving to the statewide limits will be suitable for these populations and maintain the fishing quality.

Next, we have two lakes within state parks: Purtis Creek State Park Lake and Lake Raven, which is in Huntsville State Park. They're currently under catch-and-release, with an exception for possessing a fish over 24 inches if you submit it for the ShareLunker Program. And looking at these two reservoirs, we think we could allow some harvest there of fish within state parks. We get a number of bank anglers, let some people catch a few fish; and we're proposing to put a 16-inch maximum, which means they can keep fish under 16 inches, up to five, and then we would maintain an exception for those fish over 16 inches if they want to keep one for the ShareLunker Program that's over 13 pounds.

Next, are three power plant reservoirs: Fayette County Reservoir, Gibbons Creek Reservoir, and Lake Monticello. We've been managing with those with a 14- to 24-inch slot length limit; and we're proposing to change that to the 16- to 24-inch, which is a slot that we have on Lake Fork. We don't see a lot of benefits to maintaining that 14- to 24-inch category. This one will be -- do just as well as maintaining those populations, and we'll be able to eliminate one of those slot categories to 14- to 24-inch.

Next, on Grapevine Lake, we have a 14- to 18-inch slot there and a five-fish bag. We're changing that to the no minimum length limit, allowing anglers to keep five fish, and allowing them to keep two of those fish less than 18 inches. We think we could allow some harvest there on that reservoir and maintain the population and we use this reservoir -- use this regulation on three other reservoirs, and it's been well received after it's been implemented by the anglers.

Next, we have two changes that are outside of the regulatory review process. Lake Bellwood, which is small lake near Tyler. That currently has an 18-inch minimum. We're proposing to change that one to the 16-inch maximum that we talked about earlier. And also Davy Crockett Lake, another lake within the Caddo National Grassland. That has a 14- to 18-inch slot, and we're also proposing to move that to the 16-inch maximum. This would allow anglers to harvest a few fish less than 16 inches and protect some of those larger bass from harvest; and smaller such as these, have are limited capacity to produce larger bass compared to some of our bigger reservoirs.

We only have one minor clarification in the proclamation. Last year when we added Alabama bass as a separate species, we need to tweak the heading for that section to maintain the Spotted bass as one of the species, just to clarify that.

And that's all the changes that we have proposed for this year. Some of the -- looking over the public comments we received on this, a vast majority of them were of the 212 or 13 comments we received were over our online web comment on our website. For these six reservoirs, most of the comments were received in agreement with these changes. All six of these are moving back to the statewide. Almost no individual specific comments received against these.

The next six, these six are also being moved to the statewide 14-inch/five-fish limit. Once again, similar to the other ones. Not too many comments against and very few individual comments.

The last group of nine here, these are some that we were moving from the special regulation to different special regulation. We did have a few more people commenting against those. Probably the one that stands out is Grapevine Lake in the Metroplex. That's the one, if you remember, we're moving to that -- the no minimum length limit, but five-fish bag; allowing anglers to keep two under 18 inches. Some of the comments we received, just a little bit of confusion on that one and some people thinking various than going to the statewide. But, you know, we think that regulation is a good fit for that reservoir.

And based on these comments, we -- staff doesn't have any recommendations to any of the proposals as presented, and I'd be happy to take any comments at this time if you have any?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Any members have questions or comments?

Okay. I think we now turn to Dakus for his share of this presentation. Welcome, Dakus.

MR. GEESLIN: Good morning, Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Dakus Geeslin with Coastal Fisheries Division; and before you today, I have proposed license year 2018-2019 saltwater fishing regulation changes.

We are proposing an increase in bag limit on King mackerel from two fish to three fish per day per person. This is to standardize with recent increases in the federal bag limit in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic. As a reminder, this Commission adopted a temporary exception back in January, which increased that bag limit from two fish to three fish. That temporary exception runs to August 31st, at which time the statewide regulation change would take effect.

Our public comments were overwhelming in support, with 95 percent in favor. Only five commenters disagreed, with one commenter opining that they felt that this additional fish would be a waste of fish.

And with that, staff recommendation: That the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts Sections 57.981 and 57.992 concerning the statewide recreational and commercial fishing proclamations, with changes as necessary to the proposed text as published in the February 16th, 2018, issue of the Texas Register. And I'll take any questions or comments if you guys have them.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Members have any questions or comments?

All right, thank you.

MR. GEESLIN: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: We have one person who has signed up to speak in connection with this item: Mr. Shane Bonnot. Welcome, Mr. Bonnot.

MR. BONNOT: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. My name's Shane Bonnot. Apparently --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Oh, sorry. My apologies.

MR. BONNOT: That's all right. I've been living with it my whole life. It's okay at this point in time.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: You call me "Doogins." That's what I've been --

MR. BONNOT: Well, apparently, I'm the only one that likes the King fish, so; but I'm happy to be here this morning. I work for CCA of Texas, Coastal Conservation Association of Texas. I serve as their advocacy director. CCA of Texas certainly appreciates the move to three fish, especially since it makes it a little bit easier for our game wardens to do compliance checks and eases enforcement. So we appreciate the move in that regard.

There are anglers that do like to catch King mackerel and go out for King mackerel. So the increase in opportunity is important to our organization, as long as it doesn't have an adverse affect on the stocks; and we trust that Coastal Fisheries has made the right determination. So I just want to come and say we support this move, and thank you for the opportunity.


Any members have comments or questions?

All right. Thank you, sir, very much.

MR. BONNOT: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: We appreciate you taking time to appear and express your views on behalf of CCA.

Is there anybody else in the audience that would like to speak in connection with this action item?

All right. At that point -- at this point, I'll accept a motion or entertain a motion.


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Commissioner Lee. Second Commissioner Latimer. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries.

Thank you, gentleman.

Action Item 3, 2018-19 Statewide Hunting, Migratory Game Bird, and Furbearing Animal Proclamations, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. Alan Cain, welcome.

MR. CAIN: Thank you. Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, I'm Alan Cain, the White-tailed Deer Program Leader. This morning, I'll be presenting proposals and seeking adoption regarding changes to the White-tailed deer harvest regulations and methods of take.

As you'll recall yesterday, we -- staff are proposing to standardize the close of general deer season statewide. Currently, the North and South Zone ending dates for those seasons are different and South Zone counties have an additional two weeks of hunting that North Zone counties do not.

Staff are proposing to open the general season from the first Saturday in November and run that through the third Sunday in January. Staff would also propose to move the muzzleloader season, the special late season, and the late youth season back two weeks; and it would open the first Monday following the third Sunday in January for 14 consecutive days.

As I mentioned yesterday, staff don't believe there would be any significant biological impact by this proposal to move the season back -- or the -- extend the season, standardize it. Majority of harvest occurs during that general season between November and the end of December, with peaks around the holidays and that opening weekend, even though there's still considerable number of days of deer hunting left after January 1st.

Staff believe this simplification of regulation also will provide in additional hunting opportunity which falls in line with R3 effort, nationwide effort, to recruit and retain and reactivate hunters.

To date, there's been 2,814 comments. 91 percent of those commenters agreed with the proposed changes; 9 percent disagree. Reasons for disagreement include: That the season is too long; some wanted the season opened earlier or later; there were concerns that overharvest may occur with an additional two weeks of hunting; there was concern the harvest of shed-antler bucks; some believed that this proposal would reduce incentives to participate in the Managed Lands Deer Program; some thought that archery hunting should be allowed during muzzleloader season, which is not germane to this program; and there was a number of comments that disagreed, commented that they thought the extension of the deer season or standardization of deer season in North Zone would interfere with quail, duck, squirrel, and varmint hunting.

Additionally, this proposal was presented to the Upland Game Bird Advisory Committee; and they did not support the standardization of deer season, as they fear it may adversely impact quail hunting opportunities and decrease recruitment of quail hunters. Additionally, the Quail Coalition Group does not support this proposal for similar reasons.

As I mentioned yesterday, quail season runs from the Saturday closest to October 28th through the last Sunday in February and provides quail hunters 17 weeks or so of quail season; and we've had this quail season overlapping deer season in South Texas and don't appear to have any issues with that.

Additionally, we've had a letter from State Representative Jim White that reached out to the Department requesting that we standardize deer season; and he provided support for that change.

The next proposal is regarding the use of air guns and airbows for the take of big game species in Texas. Currently, Parks and Wildlife regulation prohibits the take of native big game animals with airbows or air rifles because they're not defined as legal archery equipment or legal firearms under the Texas -- or the TPWD regulations, the Texas Penal Code, or the federal firearms regulations. Air rifles are, however, allowed under our regulations for the take of squirrels; and because we don't regulation exotic species, air rifles and airbows can be used to take those in the state.

Staff are proposing to allow air guns and airbows to be used to lawfully hunt alligators, game birds, game animals, and furbearers. Air guns must be used -- must be .30 caliber or larger to take alligators, deer, Pronghorn/Bighorn sheep, javelina, turkey. And then alligators may be taken with air guns and airbows in non-core counties; but in all counties where alligators can be caught on a taking device that may be dispatched by means of air guns or airbows. And lastly, air guns .177 caliber or larger may be used to take squirrel, pheasant, quail, or Chachalaca.

Staff are also proposing to define air gun as a device that functions by using unignited, compressed gas to propel a bullet and an airbow as a device that propels an arrow or a bolt solely by means of force of unignited, compressed gas.

Commissioner Warren yesterday asked that we use the word "inert" in place of "unignited," but I was informed yesterday that that's probably not a proper term to use because inert gases or air refers to noble gases such as helium, argon, radon, and a slew of others that wouldn't be appropriate because air gun enthusiasts that use air, don't fill their air guns or airbows with those noble gases. They're going to use CO2 or air, just regular compressed air.

So as an alternative solution to that, I'm going to suggest that we either use "unignited" or change it to "noncombustible." Whatever the Commission may desire, and then --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: How about the "noncombustible"?

MR. CAIN: "Noncombustible"?


MR. CAIN: Okay. We can make that change.

Additionally, arrows, bolts, and broadheads used with airbows, must conform to standards in the current regulations for lawful archery equipment. And, again, I'll note that airbows will not be allowed to be used during archery season because they're not defined as legal archery equipment. They can only be used during seasons in which firearms can be used to take game animals, game -- nonmigratory game birds or furbearers.

To date, there has been 2,267 comments. 65 percent agree with the proposal; 34 percent disagree. Some commented that airbows should not be allowed during archery season, which they're not. Some thought this was just a gimmick or just for a small niche group of hunters and wasn't necessarily for the change. Others thought that airbows and air guns would be insufficient to ethically take down a big game animal. There might increased wounding loss. Some thought that the air guns would be too quiet. It may increase poaching or a safety issue for hunters in the field. Others thought that it should be allowed for small game, but not for big game. And then some thought that the .177 caliber minimum was too small for the small game.

The next proposal --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Before you leave, could I ask you a question about this?

MR. CAIN: Yes.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: What -- remind us what the -- is there a -- in the recommendation or the staff's proposal, is there a specification of a minimum muzzle velocity for these airbows and air guns?

MR. CAIN: There's no specification for minimum muzzle velocity. That's -- a couple of reasons why. One, that's very hard for Law Enforcement to enforce and measure and it could change by a few feet and there's so many factors. It depends on how close you are to an animal, how far away, how much muzzle velocity or muzzle energy is needed to sufficiently take a big game animal. No different than somebody using a firearm and shooting an animal at 700 yards with a .223. You know, the muzzle energy at that point of impact is very small and no different than somebody using an air gun outside its effective range. There's an effective distance.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So the way you propose to address the lethality, if you will, is to require the minimum bullet size?

MR. CAIN: The minimum caliber size.


MR. CAIN: And that's generally standard with what other states have put in place. That varies from .25 caliber up to .45 caliber. It just depends on the state. But Ellis and I, as I mentioned yesterday, we had a chance to test some of these air guns and we took White-tail deer with a .30 caliber and it was sufficient and did what it needed to do to sufficiently take that animal down.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And the staff's proposal is to require a minimum .30 caliber bullet?

MR. CAIN: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: When hunting deer or big game?

MR. CAIN: Big game.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yes. Okay, thank you for your clarification.

MR. CAIN: Okay. The next proposal is a simple housekeeping change. It's to remove the reference regarding the need to have MLD tags to take antlerless deer on U.S. Forest Service, Corps of Engineer, or River Authority lands when and where hunting is allowed on those properties. Staff also wanted to clarify that antlerless deer hunting or take of antlerless on U.S. Forest Service lands is prohibited except during archery season; muzzleloader season; youth only, both early and late seasons; and during the four doe days in Montague and Wise County.

And additionally, just again, I'll note that this change would -- or this proposal would not affect antlerless harvest on Forest Service properties managed by TPWD through our public hunt draw system. So these are places like Alabama Creek WMA. Those have a separate set of tags, antlerless tags, that are issued through our public hunt program. So those properties that we manage and that are Forest Service lands, they wouldn't be affected by this proposal.

To date, there's been 1,763 comments. 95 and a half percent agree with the proposed changes; 4 and a half percent disagree. Comments were: Some folks wanted to make archery legal during muzzleloader season, which is not germane to this proposal; others commented that they wanted to be able to harvest antlerless deer during general season, both for and against on any U.S. Forest Service property; some thought that you should be able to draw antlerless tags to hunt on U.S. Forest Service lands outside of what the Department oversees or manages; and some were concerned this proposal would take away the antlerless permits through our TPWD public hunt draw program.

Again, the next proposal is also a housekeeping change. This proposal would clarify on the antler restrictions for White-tailed deer that in each county where antler restriction is imposed, a person who takes a buck in violation of the antler restrictions, is prohibited from subsequently harvesting any buck with branched antlers on both main beams in that county during that deer season.

This change is necessary to prevent hunters who accidentally or intentionally take a buck that is not legal from taking a buck with an inside spread of 13 inches or greater, and reduce the opportunity for overharvest of bucks that have a 13-inch inside spread or greater by one individual who likely intended to take a 13-inch buck in the first place.

Total comments are 2,518, to date. 87 percent agree; about 13 percent disagree with the proposed changes. Some of the comments -- or the majority were that these are honest mistakes and the hunter shouldn't be penalized twice. The commenters felt that a citation, the restitution for those particular deer, were sufficient penalty. Some commented that we needed to remove antler restrictions completely or change the criteria from inside spread to number of points, which both of those are not germane to this proposal.

The last proposal, staff are -- the last proposal, staff where requesting to remove certain requirements for archery equipment. These would -- these proposed changes would remove requirements for broadhead hunting points to have a minimum of seven-eighths-inch width on the broadhead hunting point and a minimum of two cutting edges on the broadhead.

The proposal is to remove minimum requirements of 125-pound pull for crossbows, as well as the minimum requirement of stock length and the mechanical safety. As mentioned yesterday, staff believe that providing guidance on archery equipment effective for taking big game animals is best accomplished through bow hunter education programs, the outdoor media, and popular articles and general standards developed by the archery industry itself.

And as I mentioned yesterday, the ATA survey revealed that 24 states had no requirements for mechanical safety; 26 states did have some sort of requirement. And just a quick review, show that the 32 crossbows that we looked at on the market all had mechanical safety. So the industry is putting these safety requirements in place.

To date, there's 2,110 comments. Seventy-six and a half percent agree. We did have a letter of support from the Archery Trade Association. Twenty-three and a half percent disagree with the proposed changes, and reasons for disagreement: Some folks didn't want crossbows allowed during archery season, which again is not germane to this proposal; some thought that removal of some of these regulations would result in unethical harvest or increased wounding loss; others commented that we should keep the safety requirement, and I believe there was 54 of the 495 that wanted to keep that safety requirement; and then others wanted to keep the minimum broadhead width. So that concludes my presentation.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Any members have any questions about -- I beg your pardon. Any members have any questions?

COMMISSIONER WARREN: I just want to make sure I understand this. So we are recommending removing the safety requirement?

MR. CAIN: Staff are. The Commission may decide differently or whatever y'all's preference is, but staff would recommend --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I'm going to -- I was going to comment when we finished that I have a -- that's one of the items -- one of the aspects of the proposal with which I disagree, but we'll have a chance to speak on that later.

Okay, thank you.

We'll then call on Shawn Gray to make your presentation. Welcome, Shawn.

MR. GRAY: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name's Shawn Gray. I'm the Mule Deer and Pronghorn Program Leader; and this morning, I'm seeking adoption to the proposed Mule deer regulations for 2018.

So this map illustrates our current Mule deer seasons in the state. You'll notice we have three different colors. We have three different seasons. The gray-colored counties do not have a Mule deer season. You'll notice we have one county in those red-colored counties, and that doesn't have a season. So, therefore, staff is proposing to open Lynn County as nine-day buck-only general season county, which is consistent with those other red-colored counties. And as I shared with the Commission yesterday, there's no biological concern opening a Mule deer season in Lynn County.

Staff also propose an experimental Mule deer antler restriction to improve buck age structure and sex ratios in six counties in the southeast Panhandle, colored blue in the map. These counties are Briscoe, Hall, Childress, Floyd, Motley, and Cottle. Public comments made online and during public hearings indicate that 93 percent of the respondents agreed with the Lynn County proposal, and 84 percent were in favor of the experimental Mule deer antler restriction.

Germane comments from those who opposed or disagreed specifically on a part or specifically on a part of the Lynn County proposal, were some believed that there weren't enough deer for a Mule deer season and some thought that we should apply the experimental antler restriction to Lynn County if a season is opened. During the public hearing held in Tahoka on March 7th, the 16 attendees in -- were in support of the season, but they did request the Department to include Lynn County in the experimental antler restriction counties. In addition, attendees at the public meeting were concerned that a new season would increase poaching and trespassing.

As for the experimental antler restriction and the germane comments from those opposed or disagreed specifically on the proposal, were what about older age bucks that don't meet the antler restriction and the Department should include unbranched antler buck harvest. And this concludes my portion of the statewide regulation changes. I'd be happy to address any questions you might have.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Members, any questions?

All right. Thank you, Shawn.

MR. GRAY: Thank y'all.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Now, please, Shaun Oldenburger, make your presentation. Welcome, Shaun.

MR. OLDENBURGER: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, fellow Commissioners. For the record, my name is Shaun Oldenburger. I'm the Small Game Program Director in the Wildlife Division. Today, I'm going to go forward with the adoption of proposals for the 2018-19 season for migratory game birds and resident game birds.

First, we'll start with migratory game birds. Just for your information, as I stated yesterday, all the waterfowl, Sandhill crane, rail, gallinule, and woodcock seasons are no change except for a calendar progression from last year.

Starting with teal season, the proposed dates would be a 16-day season starting September 15th, ending on the 30th, 16 birds in the daily -- 16 birds in the bag limit and that's an aggregate for all teal species. Moving on to High Plains Mallard Management Unit, youth season start October 20th and 21st and then regular season would start October 27th and 28th, with a split, starting again November 2nd, running to the 27th. As we mentioned yesterday, there is a five-day delay for all duck seasons for dusky ducks. So, therefore, this dusky duck season would not -- dusky ducks would not be available for take until November 5th in the High Plains Mallard Management Unit.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Would you remind us why that is the case, please?

MR. OLDENBURGER: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service a few years ago -- I believe it was four or five years ago -- put in a restriction for the protection of mottled ducks. They actually saw a bunch of the harvest -- based on band returns -- occurred very early in the season. So, therefore, by decreasing that -- basically, not opening at the regular season and them at the same time, would protect them from harvest or some harvest, some level of harvest.


MR. OLDENBURGER: Moving on to North Zone: Youth season, November 3rd and 4th; regular season, November 10th to 25th; with a split occurring; regular seasoning starting again December 1st and running out to federal frameworks on January 27th; and once again, that five-day delay on dusky ducks starting November 15th.

In the South Zone: Youth, October 27th and 28th; regular season, November 3rd to the 25th and December 8th, starting again, running to the 27th. There, dusky ducks starting November 8th, with that five-day delay. And this is really where we have a majority of the mottled ducks, but that provision applies to all the zones in Texas.

Moving on to ducks, mergansers, and coots. This does have the one change for waterfowl seasons and the proposed bag limits. Two birds are proposed for pintails in the daily bag limit compared to one that had occurred this last year. That's a big positive for Texas hunters, especially those on the coast that see lots of pintails fly by the decoys. And just another note, possession limits for all migratory game birds are three times the daily bag limit.

Moving on to geese, for daily bag limits here, five dark geese to include no more than two white-fronted geese, 20 light geese with no possession limits. That's the one exception for migratory game birds for the possession limit issue. On -- for here for the two zones -- Western Goose Zone in red and Eastern Goose Zone in blue -- dark geese and light geese in the Western Goose Zone would be November 3rd to February 3rd and the conservation order for light geese only, from February 4th to March 17th.

In the Eastern Goose Zone, we have a Canada goose only season that starts September 15th and runs through the 30th, which is concurrent with teal season. That's for breeding Canada geese that we have in northeastern Texas that have expanded outside the historical range, take advantage of that for some of the hunters out in that area. The dark and and light goose seasons in this area would be November 3rd to January 27th, with a conservation order starting directly after that on January 28th and going to March 17th.

Sandhill cranes in blue there. You see Zone A. That's where we see a large majority of the wintering birds. That season will start October 27th and then go through January 27th for the 93-day season. Three birds are allowed in the daily bag limit there. Zone B starts November 23rd, runs to January 27th. Also three birds in the daily bag limit. As I mentioned yesterday, we do take a delay there to allow Whooping cranes to allow the migration through that area into -- down to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding lands, the major wintering grounds, for their protection.

On Zone C on the Gulf coast there, December 15th to January 20th. That's only a 37-day season allowed under federal frameworks; and we're only allowed two birds in the daily bag limit there underneath that, as well.

Moving on to rails, gallinules, moorhen, snipe, and woodcock. That season occurring during teal season, September 15th to 30th and then once again, November 3rd to December 26th. Snipe, we have a 107-day season, starting October 27th and running to February 10th. Woodcock would be no change from this last year. We go to the backend of federal frameworks, which is January 31st, go forward for 45 days and start on December 18th.

We'll go through statewide regular dove seasons now. Once allowed 90 days in the season. As I mentioned yesterday, that was a change from a couple years ago where we only had 70 days in the regular season and we're allowed 15 birds in the daily bag limit and that's an aggregate for White-wings and Mourning doves, but only two White-tipped doves allowed in the daily bag limit, but those are only found in remote areas of the South Zone in Texas.

Here's North and Central Zones. These would be concurrent. Start September 1st, running to November 4th, and then the split occurring, opening again December 1st, and running out the rest of the days to January 14th.

For the South Zone Special White-wing dove days, you'll see the Special White-wing dove days there in yellow: The 1st, 2nd, 8th, and 9th. Those, we'll only have half day hunting, afternoon hunting only, in the South Zone for Special -- for White-wing doves. Only two Mourning doves are actually allowed in the daily bag limit during those days. That season would begin September -- or as early as -- on September 14th, and running through October 30th. As I noted yesterday, in past years, that would have only been able to open on September 21st; but thanks to the change in federal frameworks, we can open as early as September 14th now.

You'll also note here the dates there in blue, starting December 14th and running to January 21st; and first five days there, December 14th and 18th, that was a request from yesterday to move those five days from the backend of the first segment to the front end of the second segment.

Proposed falconry seasons, Mourning, White-wing, and White-tipped doves, November 17th to December 3rd. Woodcock, moorhen, gallinule, rail, and ducks in North and South Zone, January 28th through February 11th.

All right. Moving on to a couple of proposals for the wild turkey regulation changes, and both these changes are with our eastern counties where we have our spring-only season in those areas. Based on -- as I mentioned yesterday, based on harvest the last three years, we've averaged one bird or less in these two counties over the last three years. And, therefore, based on what we presented in 2014, those counties -- Upshur and San Augustine -- would be available for closure for the upcoming -- for next year's spring turkey season.

Also the recommendation from staff is to push back the Eastern Zone start date from April 15th back to April 22nd, and then run out to May 4th. And this is basically for the protection of basically nesting females to allow them to be bred and also to allow them to begin incubation before season opens. That was a recommendation from the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Wild Turkey Working Group for the state wildlife agencies in that area. That was basically to protect basically the population from hunting season that occurs in the spring. And based on this graph, you can see where the mean would occur, based on research that has occurred in Eastern Texas on these wild turkeys and it basically shows April 22nd to be that midpoint of incubation during this season.

Moving on to possession limits, we're currently allowed three times the daily bag limit for possession limits for migratory game birds and quail. We have a proposal that would include species where possession limits remain two times the daily bag limit and that's pheasants, squirrels, and Chachalacas.

I would recommend -- I would state on public comment, we had 88 to 95 percent support for all of the proposals. The one being less than that would be the Eastern turkeys, which was 78 percent support. That one was basically people taking opportunity away and not having season during where gobbling activities occur. We would state on that that gobbling activity does not predict nesting chronology as well. So that's kind of -- argument is kind of germane to actually the protection of those birds, which we've been trying to restore in East Texas.

Therefore, the recommendation to the Commission, for Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission: Adopt amendments to Chapter 31 in the Texas Administrative Code, which Subsection 65.3, 65.11, 65.42, 65.46, 65.60, 65.64, and 65.66 concerning the statewide hunting proclamation and those Subsections 65.315 and 318 to 321 concerning and the migratory game bird proclamation and 65.375 concerning the statewide furbearing animal proclamation, with changes as necessary for the proposed text as published in the February 16th, 2018, issue of the Texas Register. I'd be happy to take any questions.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Members, any questions?

All right. Thank you, Shaun.

We have three people who have signed up to speak in connection with this item. Begin by calling on David Yeates of the Texas Wildlife Association, followed by Gene Miller and Joe Hosmer. I hope I'm pronouncing that name right.

Welcome, David.

MR. DAVID YEATES: Thank you and thank you for pronouncing my name correctly. I'm normally "Yeets," not from you, not from you. General public.

For the record, my name is David Yeates. I work for Texas Wildlife Association. While we've encouraged our membership to provide public comment on the statewide hunting proclamation, we've not provided formal comments. I wanted to do that today.

Generally speaking, TWA is supportive of expanded hunting opportunities if done in an ecologically sound way. As such, we are definitely in support of the allowance of big boar air guns and airbows. We are in support of the expanded Mule deer season to include Lynn County. We're especially pleased with the experimental antler restrictions for Mule deer up in the southern Panhandle. That's shown to be very effective, despite what some folks still continue to argue in East Texas, that's believed unequivocably a success and should work well in Mule deer.

We're also in full support of September 14th, you know, the earliest day that's expanded hunting opportunity for dove season. So we've got the best of both worlds with that falling on a Friday. That Friday is so important for, you know, the season opening traditions; and we're really pleased to see that come into play.

One little piece or nuance of the proclamation that's received a lot of attention is the synchronization of the hunting seasons between -- for White-tail between the North and South Zone. TWA, you know, on its face it seems like a good idea to expand hunting opportunity and provide additional options for landowners; but certainly wasn't something that we've advocated for, and I would describe our position as ambivalent on that issue. We don't want to inadvertently crowd out other users, like Bobwhite quail hunters in the trans -- or in the Rolling Plains.

So that concludes our comments on it. I do want to also echo your enthusiasm for the Mule Deer Advisory Committee. Elevating the focus on that special species is a great move and we're very, very pleased to see that. So with that, I'll close and be happy to answer any questions that you may have.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Any members have any questions of Mr. Yeates?

No, seriously. Thank you, David, very much.

MR. DAVID YEATES: Yes, sir. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: We always appreciate your input.

MR. DAVID YEATES: Yes, sir. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Gene Miller, National Wild Turkey Federation. Welcome, Mr. Miller.

MR. GENE MILLER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. I am Gene Miller, District Biologist with the National Wild Turkey Federation for West Texas and Oklahoma. This morning, I'm here to speak to you on behalf of Ms. Annie Farrell, who's our District Biologist for Eastern Texas; also the Texas State Chapter Board of Directors, National Wild Turkey Federation, of which we had several members here this morning earlier; and our 5,000 members and to say that we want to wholeheartedly show up in support of the recommendation by staff to close the eastern season in those two counties, as well as Mr. Oldenburger explained and per his -- all of his explanation -- based on good, sound science and in agreement with the C.F. Wild Turkey Working Group support the shortening of the season, as well.

Lest someone think that since we are clearly on record with being all about R3 -- hunter recruitment, re-enactment and re-engagement and retention -- all of this activity in support of the Department's efforts, lest anybody think that some short-term -- perceived short-term loss of hunter opportunity would be the case, no. We think the greater good for long-term, effective conservation of the wild turkey resource and in view of the Department's long and arduous restoration efforts in East Texas, that this is the best course and fully support Wildlife Division staff and program staff in this recommendation and we would truly hope that you would consider this favorably, that that would be a good thing to do. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Any members have any questions of Mr. Miller?

We really appreciate you taking time to share your comments and value your input very much. Thank you.

MR. GENE MILLER: Thank you, gentlemen.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. The last gentleman who signed up to speak on this is Joe Hosmer -- I hope I'm pronouncing your last name correctly -- with Quail Forever. Welcome, Joe.

MR. JOE HOSMER: You nailed it. You got it right.


MR. JOE HOSMER: Thank you for this session. Thank you for this podium. I appreciate it. For the record, my name is Joe Hosmer. I sit on the National Board of Quail Forever, and I've also been asked to pass along that the Texas Quail Coalition is in full endorsement of our position.

First, I want to say I appreciate everything that -- we all appreciate everything that the Commission has done for upland birds and upland game quail and specific, but we are concerned with the extension of the deer season to the north. Private land leases usually go, "You guys can come in and hunt quail when the deer hunters leave."

We feel that it is going to encroach upon our hunting and our opportunity to take and hunt quail in the north areas. Contrary to what was said earlier, on the 3R issue --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I'm sorry. On the what issue?

MR. JOE HOSMER: I'm sorry. On the R3 issue -- the recruitment, retention, and reactivation issue. We have found that quail and pheasant hunting have been a great way to get large numbers of people in, to get the recruitment. As an organization nationally, Quail Forever last year did 180,000 kids in the field in one year and we have programs going with our various chapters to introduce kids to hunting and bring people in and this is an opportunity for us to get more people in to hunt quail. We would really hate to lose that. So with that, I thank you for your time.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Any members have any questions of Mr. Hosmer?

Thank you so much for taking time to join us today and share your comments. We appreciate it.

MR. JOE HOSMER: My privilege. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Is there anybody else that would like to speak on this action item?

All right. With that, as we have some discussion here, I would like to open it by saying that with great respect for the staff, I respectfully disagree with the proposal to extend the White-tailed deer season in the North Zone. I disagree with the wisdom of the proposal.

The primary reason I have is that any landowner who wants to participate in a longer White-tail deer season, can apply for MLDP participation and, thereby, extend hunting on his or her land. So -- and I think also the heritage of quail hunting is terribly significant to this organization and this state. I don't want to do anything that could adversely impact that heritage. So I cannot agree with that aspect of the proposal.

And secondly on a point that I think Commissioner Warren may want to speak, I think we should require safeties on crossbows. More than half the states do so. It seems like most of the manufacturers wisely already have them on guns they're selling -- crossbows, rather, they're selling. And I think we're all about safety here first. So I would suggest that we excise those two aspects of the proposal in any motion and then with that, I'll call on the other members.

But, Commissioner Warren, do you have any comments, questions, you want to --

COMMISSIONER WARREN: Yeah. I mean, just if one life can be saved because of our actions of mandating a safety on a crossbow, then we've done a good thing and I believe that that will be the case. My son -- I have a 15-year-old. He exclusively hunts with a crossbow and I'm telling you, it's dangerous. If you don't have a safety, it's dangerous; and we just -- I don't want to be a part of that.


Commissioner Scott, do you have any comments?



Commissioner Morian.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I've got one. I want to agree -- I agree with you on the extension of the White-tail deer season, but for a little different -- from a little different angle. I normally would applaud simplification and I like the market setting when the quail hunters and deer hunters get to go to the field; but in this case, I think it unduly hampers existing relationships in the North Zone and there's no need to simplify by standardizing the season. So I'm supporting your conclusion on that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. Any other members have -- Commissioner Lee.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Could you clarify for us what your amendments are?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Certainly. I am suggesting that any motion we have today on this, expressly carve out two aspects of the proposed -- staff's proposal. One is delete the extension of the White-tailed deer season for the North Zone. Secondly, the aspect on crossbows to require that the crossbow have a safety.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Do we have that language?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I'm going to call on -- I think Commissioner Morian --

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I've got it right here, and I've got two more amendments. Should I make those motions now?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Just go -- why don't you go ahead and discuss them and then --

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I'll make them, and then you can discuss them.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. Let me call on a motion -- for a motion. Commissioner Morian?

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I make a motion to adopt the rules as proposed, except for the extension of the White-tailed deer season in the North Zone and the related changes to youth, muzzleloader, turkey, and antlerless and spiked deer. Secondly, I make a motion to approve the change to the South Texas dove season, as presented by staff this morning. I make a motion to continue the requirement for a mechanical safety on crossbows, and I make a motion to add the word "noncombustible" to the definition of air gun and airbow.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Is there a second? Commissioner Warren second.

Before we vote, is there any further discussion?

All right. All in favor?

COMMISSIONER JONES: Wait, wait. Was there a -- I may have missed one of the amendments. Was there an amendment regarding the -- regarding the antlerless deer portion, or was it just the North Zone?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: This is just White-tailed deer in the North Zone.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Just the White-tailed deer in the North Zone.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay. All right, good.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. All members in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries unanimously. We're grateful for everybody's hard work on this.

And before we move to the next item, I would like to mention that I would request that staff, as promptly as you can, consider extending the experimental antler -- sorry -- antler restrictions for Mule deer to other counties in the area, including Lynn County. If you will, let's take a hard look at that. I think there's some real wisdom in that. Thank you.

All right. Action Item 4, Chronic Wasting Disease Containment Zone Delineation of Hartley County Rules on Movement of Deer, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. Welcome, Mitch Lockwood.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Thank you. Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Mitch Lockwood. I'm the Big Game Program Director; and this morning, I'm seeking adoption of proposed amendments to the delineation of Chronic Wasting Disease Containment Zone No. 2, which is located in the northwest Panhandle.

This map before you illustrates the current delineations for CWD Zone No. 2, shaded in pink, and CWD Surveillance Zone No. 2, shaded in yellow. Both zones involve the mandatory CWD testing of hunter-harvested deer, as well as carcass movement restrictions. There are also restrictions on the movement of live deer from any containment zone and surveillance zone.

There are a total -- the total number of confirmed CWD positives in the northwest Panhandle is now seven. We have five Mule deer that have tested positive, one elk, and the most recent was a White-tailed deer that was the victim of a vehicle collision on Highway 385 between Hartely and Dalhart, which happens to be the border between the existing containment zone and surveillance zone.

Staff believe that the most recent finding necessitates a precautionary expansion of the containment zone, which will be bordered on the south by U.S. 87, on the east by County Road 47, and on the north by F.M. 281. This change will not result in any additional requirements for hunters or landowners unless the landowner is one who is accustomed to moving live deer under the authority of a permit; but we have no permitted deer breeders in this by area, and we have no other sites from which White-tail deer or Mule deer have been moved under the authority of a permit.

We have received 50 comments to date. Actually, this morning I noticed there was a 51st comment that we received. 94 percent of those comments are in support of this proposal; 6 percent are in opposition. And with that, staff recommend that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts an amendment to 65.81 concerning disease detection and response, with changes as necessary to the proposed text as published in the February 16, 2018, issue of the Texas Register.

That concludes my presentation. I'll be glad to entertain any questions you might have.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Members, any questions of Mitch?

All right. Thank you, Mitch.

I don't show that anybody has signed up to speak on this item. Is there anyone who would like to offer comments?

Okay. Hearing none, I will entertain a motion for approval. Commissioner Scott. Second Commissioner Morian. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries.

Action Item 5, Local Park Grant Funding, Dana Lagarde. Welcome, Dana.

MS. LAGARDE: Good morning.


MS. LAGARDE: My name is Dana Lagarde. I'm the Local Park Grant Manager in the State Park's Division; and today, I will be presenting our recommendations for 26 very deserving communities to receive a local park grant.

Funding from a portion of the state sales tax on sporting goods and from federal offshore gas royalties, provide matching grants to local governments for the acquisition and development of public parkland. Available funds include $2,925,272 in Texas Recreation and Park's Account, $2 million for the Texas Large County and Municipality Recreation and Park's Account, and $3,789,780 in the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

I would like to add that we have not received our 2018 apportionment from the Land and Water Conservation Fund yet, and so it has not been included in this; but we will be having a motion at the end to -- that when we receive it, that we may go further down the line; and we can discuss that in a few minutes.

So we have three programs that we reviewed. The Urban Outdoor Recreation, which is for communities 500,000 or more in population; the Nonurban Outdoor Recreation Program, which is for communities under 500,000 in population; and the Small Community Recreation Program, which is for communities under 20,000 in population.

As of October 1st, 2017, TPWD received 60 eligible applications, requesting $17,338,624 in matching fund assistance. Exhibits A through C rank the projects in descending order based on each grant program scoring criteria previously adopted by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.

We have two recommendations today that we're requesting your feedback on or your approval on. The first is that the TPWD Commission approves funding for 26 projects listed in Exhibits A through C in the amount of $8,715,052, which I would be happy to answer any questions on the first one.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Members, any questions of Dana?

Is there a motion for approval?


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Commissioner Jones. Second Commissioner Lee. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries. Thank you.

MS. LAGARDE: Okay. And the second motion is that the TPWD Commission authorizes the Executive Director to award -- as supplemental grant funds become available in fiscal year 2018 -- the projects in Exhibits A through C in descending order by score. I'd be happy to answer any questions on that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So in our booklet, it's page 221 is Commission -- sorry -- is Exhibit A, the million-dollar grant to the City of Fort Worth and million-dollar grant to the City of Dallas, correct?

MS. LAGARDE: That's correct.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And then Exhibit B is pages 223 and 224, which provide for grants on the -- in the far left column, ranks 1 through 14?

MS. LAGARDE: That's correct.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And then Exhibit C, page 225 and six, which provides for grants in the left column on ranks 1 through 10?

MS. LAGARDE: That's correct, with the current funding. If we get additional Land and Water funding, which we expect to receive some in June, then we would like to go further down the list with the Nonurban Outdoor and possibly the Small Community Programs.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, that's what I'm -- I would like you to identify the contingent, the grants --

MS. LAGARDE: I understand.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- that you're requesting contingent authorization for.

MS. LAGARDE: We would go in order of the score; and unfortunately, we don't have the exact amount that we may be receiving in June. So we were unable to identify the exact grants.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, can you identify the contingent grants that would be included if you had the full amount?

MS. LAGARDE: Enough funding?


MS. LAGARDE: If we had the full amount, we would start with the Nonurban Outdoor and we would then go to No. 15, which scored a 73, and we would basically go down the line until the funding ran out.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And so is that the normal way we would do things? And I ask that because what if, in the interim, another user submitted an application that scored higher than, for example, No. 15 did?

MS. LAGARDE: And we don't have another round until October 1st of 2018, and those would be presented to the Commission in March of '19. So this is only if we get our '18 funding by the end of the fiscal year. If we don't get it, then it will be put towards the next round and we will present it to you next --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: You'll re-evaluate the scores, is what you're saying, if the funding is not received by 8/31/18?

MS. LAGARDE: If we don't receive the funding, that money will be used in the following year. So we have 8 million now, and we might be getting an additional 3 or 4 million. So if we get the additional funding, we'll continue to fund additional grants in this list.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But if the funding is not received by August 31st of this year, would you then recalculate the various applications? Go through the scoring again, is what I'm asking.

MS. LAGARDE: Not for these. We would then use that money for the next round, which is October 1st.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Any members -- Commissioner Latimer.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: To clarify then, these that don't receive funds this physical year, could reapply in the October --

MS. LAGARDE: Absolutely.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: -- next October round?

MS. LAGARDE: Absolutely.


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Any other members have questions?

COMMISSIONER JONES: I have a question.


COMMISSIONER JONES: Do you exhaust Nonurban Outdoor grant scoring first and then flip over to the unfunded Small Community grant, or do you go back and forth?

MS. LAGARDE: That's a good question. And we will make recommendations -- the -- if you pass the motion, we would make recommendations to Carter Smith; and most likely, we would start with the Nonurban Outdoor. The reason for that is that the Nonurban Outdoor grant took a $5 million hit this year due to a Rider that was taken out of the competitive grant funds and so the small community is pretty much at the normal full funding and so is the Urban. So we felt that we would backfill with federal funds.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Any other members have questions?

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I have one question. Just confirming that, I would assume, that you only received two requests for Urban Outdoor grant?

MS. LAGARDE: That is correct.


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. Before we entertain a motion, we have several individuals who have -- thank you, Dana -- who have asked for the opportunity to address the Commission. I'll start with Tommy Bogart with the City of Stratford and Mr. Art Garza, with the City of San Benito is next.

Welcome, Mr. Bogart.

MR. TOMMY BOGART: Thank you, sir. My appreciation to the Commission. I represent the City of Stratford. We're 576.4 miles from here. My community has 2,017 people in a county of 5,000. Our county is 900 square miles, and we have no formal municipal swimming pool in that county.

This is the first step, receiving this grant, to that in regard is to one day have a swimming pool in our county. And the fact that we received this grant -- this is our third time to apply for it. I want thank Ms. Lagarde. She was a great help in directing us in what we needed to do to get this grant. Though we are a small community and this is a small grant in the big scheme of things, this helps our community a lot and we really appreciate it. We will one day soon -- once this step is finished -- again approach the Texas Parks and Wildlife Grant Division to maybe one day build a swimming pool within our county, which is Sherman County. And, again, I want to thank you very much for this opportunity.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to appear today. Appreciate it.

Okay. Mr. Art Garza, City of San Benito. Welcome, Mr. Garza. Followed by Sandy Skelton.

MR. ART GARZA: Good morning, Chairman and members of the Commission. First of all, I want to thank you for the opportunity to fund our park. We've been planning this park for over ten years. This will be the first park that the City owns south of the expressway here in our community. So on behalf of the City, I thank you. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Appreciate you taking time to appear and offer your support for the proposal.

Sandy Skelton, City of Clarendon. Welcome, Mr. Skelton. Followed by Doug Peterson.

MR. SANDY SKELTON: Thank you, Chairman Duggins and members of the Commission. My name is Sandy Skelton. I'm the Mayor of Clarendon, Texas, which is a little bit south of Stratford, the fellow that just talked. And I'm speaking in regard to Item No. 5 under your Nonurban Outdoor Recreation Grant. Fortunately, we were ranked No. 5 out of 36 and I want to thank the Commission staff for making that recommendation to the Commission and I think I just heard y'all approve it.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: No, we haven't voted yet.

MR. SANDY SKELTON: No, not yet?


MR. SANDY SKELTON: I must have been hoping a whole lot.

COMMISSIONER JONES: But we like your positive outlook.

MR. SMITH: It's looking good.

MR. SANDY SKELTON: Not to influence you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, you could help by next time I drive through there on my way to Amarillo, raise the speed limit. I'm joking. I'm joking.

MR. SANDY SKELTON: Well, we just put up a new stoplight. I'm afraid you're in trouble.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I noticed that last week. I noticed that.

MR. SANDY SKELTON: I was approached in the summer of 2015 by a local rancher who said, "I will give the City a Clarendon $500,000, but you've got to match it." And so over the next two years, that's what we've been doing. We not only matched his 500,000, but we raised an additional significant amount. And if you approve the 500,000 that's being recommended today, then we are -- we're about 95 percent ready to begin construction on that pool. So I want to thank you and encourage you to vote for that proposal.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. Really appreciate you making the trek here today to share your comments.

Doug Peterson, Exploration Green Conservancy. Welcome, Mr. Peterson.

MR. DOUG PETERSON: Thank you very much. Yeah. My name, for the record, is Doug Peterson with the Exploration Green Conservancy down in Harris County, the most southern tip of Harris County; and we are in a partnership with the Clear Lake City Water Authority in that area to develop -- to create a 200-acre flood detention, conservation, and recreation area right in the very heart of Clear Lake and it's quite remarkable.

It's called "Exploration Green" because it's less than a half a mile from NASA Johnson Space Center. That's the community there. This is right in the heart of the original neighborhoods in that area; and we have a good partnership between the Conservancy, which is responsible for raising the funds and creating everything from water's edge up in this 200-acre area.

There are going to be 39 acres of wetlands, 40 acres of open water, and there are five different sections and each of those sections will have a separate lake and a habitat island within that. We have great partnerships where Trees for Houston and where they're generating and contributing over a thousand trees for each one of those sections, native Texas trees. And also the Texas Coastal Watershed Program is helping us with the kind of support, expertise, and plants for that many acres of wetlands.

Our request is for support for part of our 6- to 12-mile trail system. We're at the very heart of an area down in the southern tip of Harris County where there are very few trails at all and, in fact, very few assessable parks surprisingly. And so we appreciate support. We ask for your support.

This is a project that is already getting all kinds of interest on the detention standpoint because of Harvey -- because of Hurricane Harvey, our first pond was 80 percent excavated and it actually saved over 200 homes in the Houston area, south of Houston, from flooding. And, in fact, we've gotten national recognition for that aspect of our multipurpose project.

And with that, I want to thank you for the opportunity to come and talk and represent our activity and I want to thank the staff that reviews these things and makes the recommendation and I thank you for the good work that this Commission and the Agency does. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you, Mr. Peterson. We appreciate you taking time to appear today.

All right. Next speaker, Brad Bentsen with the City of Mission. Followed by Richard Zavala with the City of Fort Worth.

Is Mr. Bentsen here?


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Oh, welcome, Mr. Bentsen.

MR. BRAD BENTSEN: Just taking the long way round.


MR. BRAD BENTSEN: Good morning. My name is Brad Bentsen. I'm Park's Director for the City of Mission. Mr. Chairman, Commission, Ms. Lagarde, on behalf of Mayor Norberto Salinas, the City Council, and of course the tennis enthusiasts both young and old alike, I would like to thank you for your consideration for this grant.

This grant is going to be matched by the Valley Baptist Legacy Foundation in the amount of 500,000 and this is for the complete remodel of Birdwell Memorial Park. This is a conversion of an 8-acre park. We have a baseball field -- a non-lit baseball field, playgrounds, and three tennis courts, a half basketball court, and it's going to be converted to 16 tennis courts and it will be well-lit tennis courts with Musco lighting I hope and it's going to be the first of its kind in the Upper Valley.

Also with that, we'll enlarge our hiking trail, our walking trail around the park. We have a covered pavilion and a large parking area. But on behalf of the City, I would like to say thank you very much for your consideration.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you, sir. We really appreciate you making the trip to share your comments.

Richard Zavala, welcome, from the City of Fort Worth. A pretty good spot.

MR. RICHARD ZAVALA: Thank you, sir. Mr. Chair, members of the Commission, I bring you greetings from Mayor Price and the Fort Worth City Council and expressed appreciation for your favorable consideration of the grant before you.

I have three points to make, and I will be brief. First is this grant, Alliance Park, will enable us to continue to develop in a public/private partnership with Hillwood Properties, what will ultimately be a 155-acre park in the northern sector of Fort Worth. Second is just to remind you about the kind of participation that the Commission and this grant program enables communities, as you've heard here, but also in Fort Worth.

This is our fourth grant in the northern sector of Fort Worth. The other park, Northwest Park, combined, those two parks are enabling us to set aside 400 acres that will be set aside in perpetuity for the citizens of Fort Worth and the people of Texas, of open space and active park space.

The last thing -- and as you've heard it before -- is you are blessed to have an exceptional staff in the Grants and Aid Division. I know that Carter Smith is appreciative of that. They ride us hard, make no doubt about that; but they do so and they should do so, but they are objective, they are professional, and I think you can see the fruits of their labor from the various grants that are being awarded today.

So, again, thank you. Again, I hope you approve this grant for Fort Worth. Otherwise, I'm going to Clarendon and I'm going to plant some trees in front of the speedway -- speed limit signs. Other than that, I'll go back to Fort Worth with good news.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you, Richard, for coming and joining us today. Appreciate your support of the Department, too; and I echo those comments. This is a fabulous program and it does a lot of good, needed good, across the state. I just wish we had more funds to help more cities and communities, small communities.

With that, I'll entertain a motion for approval.




COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Second Commission Jones. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries.

Thank you everybody.

All right. Action Item 6, Acquisition of Land, Aransas County, Approximately 214 Acres at Newcomb Point Coastal Management Area, Stan David. Welcome, Stan.

MR. DAVID: Chairman and Commissioners, for the record, I'm Stan David with the Land Conservation Department. I'm going to present a second reading of acquisition of land in Aransas County for approximately 214 acres.

It's in the Newcomb Point Coastal Management Area, which that area is about 10 miles north of Rockport. This tract has been identified as a high priority for conservation on Lamar Peninsula. It's one mile northwest of Goose Island State Park, and it's one of the largest unprotected tracts of land actively used by the Whooping cranes. It's a great location for public bird observation.

Adjacent to it, land is protected by a conservation easement held by the Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program. The funding for this purchase would be by Restore Federal Grant. The transaction is being brokered by the Nature Conservancy. The property would be managed under long-term agreement with Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program.

The subject tract's in red. You see Goose Island State Park outlined in yellow. And the staff recommends the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorize the Executive Director to take all necessary steps to acquire approximately 214 acres of land in Aransas County. And I'll be glad to answer any questions you might have.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Members, any questions or comments?

All right. Is there a motion for approval? Commissioner Latimer. Second Commissioner Scott. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries.

MR. DAVID: Thank you.


Action Item 7, Grant of Easement, Jefferson County, Approximately 9 Acres at the J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area. Mike, please make your presentation.

MR. REZSUTEK: Good morning, Commissioners. For the record, my name's Michael Rezsutek. I am the Project Leader for the Wildlife Division's Upper Coast Wetlands Ecosystem Project. Today, I will cover the ecological aspects of this grant easement. Then my co-presenter, Mr. David, will cover the actual easement itself.

The easement is located in Jefferson County. It is on approximately nine acres of land within the J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area. The J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area is found within the Chenier Plains of Texas and consists of fresh, brackish, and salt marshes, fresh-to-brackish lakes and ponds and bayous and coastal prairies.

You'll hear me mention the Salt Bayou watershed and when I talk about the watershed, the outlined area is what I'm referencing. This area is approximately 139,000 acres. This map shows only a section of the watershed south of the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway in 1938, but is representative of the conditions before the canal was dredged. Note that there is little open water within the marsh anterior outside of the larger lakes, ponds, and bayous.

By 2012, the amount of open water more than doubled from the 1938 condition. Most of that gain is from interior marsh degrading to open water, but measurable losses also occurred due to erosion along the interior shorelines of the lakes, ponds, and bayous and the Gulf beach. Most of the conversion to open water occurred in the east side where J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area and Sea Rim State Park are located.

Prior to the Intercoastal Waterway being dredged, the pattern of runoff and water flow is represented in this map. The flow came from the west and the north, flowed into the watershed towards the east, and then back north to be taken through several bayous and into the northern of Sabine Lake. Under these conditions, the marshes within the watershed stayed relatively fresh because saltwater from the Gulf was excluded by a beach ridge and dune system and freshwater inflows would hold back the moderately saline waters of Sabine Lake.

The biggest drivers to change in the conditions of these marshes, have their root in human activities. The Gulf Intercoastal Waterway cut off freshwater flows to the southern end of the marsh complex -- and the Intercoastal Waterway is represented by the orange line -- and that severed natural channels and opened several entry points for saltwater that had not existed prior to the dredging. At first, these newly created entry points had structures to prevent saltwater from passing through them and into their fresh and intermediate marshes. However, these structures eventually failed and were never replaced.

Now that these areas were constantly open, the entry points led to significant increases in salinity in the historically fresh-to-immediate marshes. An interagency group called the Salt Bayou Working Group formed to try to identify the drivers for these changes in the marshes and solutions to the causes for the changes.

The group developed four recommendations to address the impacts of altered hydrology. And by "altered hydrology," I mean more than just saltwater intrusion. The first three of these are direct actions to address the altered hydrology at its sources, while the fourth is designed to mitigate the loss of marsh soils that occurred as a result of changes in hydrology. Of the four recommendations that the group provided, the first is complete.

The Keith Lake Fish Pass Project, locally known as the "baffle," was completed in March of 2015. The second project has one component complete, a beach ridge running from Sea Rim State Park into Chambers County and one in progress restoring sand dunes along the Gulf beach to prevent damage and loss of the berm as it is built now.

Number three is funding and awaiting permits from the Corps of Engineers, and this is what we were going to speak to you today: Increasing freshwater inputs into the Salt Bayou system by installing a set of siphons under the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway. And finally, number four is a continuously occurring activity as dredging material becomes available.

The first project right here, the Keith Lake Fish Pass, was designed to reduce the cross-section because of the altered hydrology from erosion. When the pass was first dredged in 1977, it was 150 feet wide and 5 feet deep; but by 2012, had eroded to over 300 feet wide and an average of 12 feet deep. The larger cross-section allowed more saltwater to exchange within the marsh at a relatively high velocity, resulting in accelerated rate of conversion to open water.

The project reduced the cross-section of the pass to nearly that of the original channel using a well engineered rock structure and monitoring to date indicates that the structure is reducing salinity within the marshes surrounding Keith Lake with no detrimental impact of fish or its resources.

The Gulf beach once consisted of a high sand dune system; but over the years, because of a loss of sediment, transport from jetties and other issues, has eroded to the point where it's now just a clay bank. Decades of storms and recent hurricanes have taken that clay bank to the point where now the Gulf waters can overtop on a regular basis, pushing saltwater deep into these freshwater-to-intermediate marshes.

Jefferson County and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service worked to rebuild the clay berm along the shore that keeps most tides out, including recent storm tides that before the berm would have completely pushed into the marsh. They are now working on building a sand dune system to protect the berm and provide additional beach habitat for wildlife.

The third project for altered hydrology is siphons, and you'll notice there are two arrows. One is on the J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to put a similar set of siphons on the McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge to bring water from their part of the watershed into the lower part of the watershed. These siphons are designed to reduce the excess freshwater that is sitting on the north side, which is actually drowning out these marshes; and put it to good use by bringing the freshwater inflows into the southern marshes.

The siphons are designed to just carry water passively from the area of high pressure -- on this case, represented on the left side of the slide -- under the Intercoastal Waterway and to discharge it into the southern portion of the marshes below the -- off Intercoastal Waterway. As long as the upstream end has water in the higher elevation than the downstream end, freshwater will move into the marshes south of the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway. If tides increase the elevation of the water on the south side, a set of flap gates will close against the increasing pressure from the rising tide and prevent backflow of saltwater through the siphons.

The expected benefits of the project are to create a line of decreasing salinities from the point of discharge -- or, sorry, increasing -- decreasing the salinity from the point of discharge and then gradually establishing a new isohaline lines to the Keith Lake Fish Pass. Under current modeling and hydrologic studies, the area near the discharge plant -- which is represented in yellow in this diagram -- would be about zero parts per thousand during most of the year. And as you go through to the different bands, you add about a one part per thousand to the salinity in the waters until you get to the Keith Lake Fish Pass, which is the purple blob, which will be about ten parts per thousand. The big blue area is the J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area Big Hill Unit, which is currently experiencing an excess of freshwater through most of the year and would be the source for this siphon's inflow.

Research being conducted by Lamar University on the WMA has documented that the ten percent -- or, I'm sorry, the ten part per thousand goal for the Keith and Johnson Lakes is being reached about half of the time with just the baffle as it was built in the Keith Lake Fish Pass. The addition of freshwater through the siphons will increase the days during which the goal is met, but we don't know if we will make a desired 80 percent or more of a typical year, being ten parts per thousand or less, at this point.

Texas Parks and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and our University partners will continue to monitor the salinity within the watershed into the future to determine the effectiveness of the Fish Pass and and siphon projects in meeting our goal.

MR. DAVID: For the record, Stan David with Land Conservation. I'm just going to hit the highlights of the actual subject easement in question. There's going to be an entry point/exit point on both sides of the Inter Water Coastal Canal. So the easement is going to be a split easement.

Jefferson County will construct the siphon system. The access to the siphon will be via the Intercoastal Waterway, and an easement covering approximately nine acres is needed to provide the required access area to Jefferson County. The actual easement is outlined in white. So you can see where they would access it via the water. Then they have to get on the marshland to do the construction. So the easement would be that area.

The staff recommends the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion: The Commission adopts the resolution attached as Exhibit A. And we can answer any questions you guys might have.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Members, any questions or comments?

Thank you, gentlemen.

MR. DAVID: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Is there a commotion for approval? Commissioner Dick Scott. Second Commissioner Warren.

All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries unanimously. Thank you.

Action Item 8, Acquisition of Land, Harris County, Approximately 23 Acres at the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site, Trey Vick. Welcome, Trey.

MR. VICK: Thank you. Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, for the record, my name's Trey Vick; and today, I'm asking permission to acquire land in Harris County, approximately 23 acres at San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site.

The State Historic Site is located in Harris County, sits about 20 miles east of Houston. You can see the 1,200-acre battleground site there outlined in yellow; and please note all the development around it. The first tracts were acquired in the 18th -- 19th century. We currently hold about 1,200 acres. The entire Historic Site is surrounded by the petrochemical industry, Houston Ship Channel, and dredgable containment sites. The goal has always been for Parks and Wildlife to protect as much of the original battleground site as possible.

The subject 23 acres consists of two tracts. We manage and own the land surrounding this 23 acres. These tracts are purchased by the San Jacinto Battleground Conservancy to protect them from development. The Conservancy and Parks and Wildlife propose that TPWD purchase the two tracts. The two tracts are outlined in red.

The terms of the purchase would be Land and Water Conservation Funds. The match provided would be provided by the equity in the land. There'll be a conservation easement put on the land, and Parks and Wildlife will seek help from and input from the San Jacinto Battleground Conservancy for site restoration.

The staff recommends Parks and Wild -- Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion: The TPW Commission authorizes the Executive Director to take all necessary steps to acquire approximately 23 acres in Harris County for addition to San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site. I'd be glad to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Members, any questions or comments?

I don't show anybody signed up -- as with the last action item -- that there's anybody signed up to speak one way or another on this. Is there anybody who would like to offer public comment?

All right. Thank you, Trey.

MR. VICK: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Is there a motion for approval?


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Commissioner Jones. Second Commissioner Lee. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries unanimously.

All right. I believe that takes us to Briefing Item 9, Bighorn Sheep Restoration and Management. Justin and Froylan, please come forward and share what you can tell us about the restoration of Bighorn.

MR. HERNANDEZ: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, I'm Froylan Hernandez; and I'm the Desert Bighorn Sheep Program Leader for the Wildlife Division. This morning, I'll be providing a brief update and a summary on Bighorn restoration; and then my colleague, Justin Dreibelbis, will provide information on the Bighorn hunting, as well as permit allocation.

Back in the late 1880s, it was estimated about 1,500 Bighorns occupied 16 mountain ranges out in the Trans-Pecos region of Texas. However, by the early 1960s, they had been -- all the native Texas Bighorns had been extirpated. The extirpation is primarily attributed to unregulated hunting, diseases associated with the introduction of domestic sheep and goats into sheep habitat, as well as net-wire fencing, also associated with domestic sheep and goat industry that prohibited movement between and among mountain ranges.

The early restoration efforts focused primarily on captive propagation. However, those facilities faced many challenges; and while there were releases made from those facilities, they were subsequently terminated. We are fortunate now to have surplus animals and so we focus strictly now on free-ranging brood stock for all capture -- translocations for restoration purposes.

From 2010 to 2017, we've been fortunate to be able to capture and translocate a little over 400 Desert Bighorns into three mountain ranges, which had been void of sheep since their extirpation 50 years prior. We've also been fortunate to have at least 70 percent of those 403 animals collared with radio telemetry equipment, which facilitates monitoring as well as research.

Currently, the areas highlighted here in yellow is our current range where sheep have been restored to. And the three mountain ranges that I mentioned earlier, are the Bofecillos Mountains of Big Bend Ranch State Park; Nine Point Mesa, which is just south of Alpine; and then more recently, the Capote Peak which forms part of the Sierra Vieja rim.

Some of the yearly activities that we conduct in the sheep program include helicopter surveys, and these are essentially done the whole month of August. In conjunction with the surveys, we also do exotic management and primarily lethal removal of Aoudad. We also perform all our predator management activities on our wildlife management areas; and then more recently on the Big Bend Ranch State Park in conjunction with the Bighorn restoration, as well as we construct all our water and habitat enhancement facilities, as well as all the maintenance and repairs associated with those water construction projects.

Some of the costs associated to the program -- and these are yearly costs here -- include our helicopter surveys. Again, they're done in August and they typically run for about 150 to -- 130 to 150 hours of flight time. We typically pay about $130,000. Captured and translocations run us about 45,000, and that's for a minimum of 50 animals being captured and translocated. Some of the telemetry collars and telemetry equipment that's used in association with the captured and transplants, in just this year alone, we spent $240,000 for those telemetry collars. Excuse me. Also with the help of our Department Vet, Dr. Bob Dittmar, we've been able to enhance our disease monitoring program and costs associated with that program typically run about 15,000, $15,000.

Now, I will say that these costs do not include staff time. These are strictly costs associated to the actual projects and these projects are primarily paid through the sheep account and the sheep account receives their money primarily through private donations, as well as the hunting program, which my colleague Justin Dreibelbis will address.


Justin, welcome.

MR. DREIBELBIS: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name's Justin Dreibelbis. I'm the Private Lands and Public Hunting Program Director in the Wildlife Division.

As Froylan mentioned, the Desert Bighorn Sheep Restoration Program has been very successful; and it takes a lot of money to make the restoration work. An important point I understand here is the vast majority of the funding used for these restoration efforts comes directly from Bighorn hunting. And so this morning, I'm going to take a little bit of time to talk to you about how we allocate permits on our public lands here in Texas.

We currently do it through three programs. These are listed here in priority order, and I'm going to go through each one as we go through the presentation; but Big Time Texas Hunts, Conservation Auction Permits, and the TPWD Drawn Hunt System.

Big Time Texas Hunts is a conservation fundraiser. We raffle off nine high-quality, all-inclusive hunting packages. The most well-known is our Grand Slam Package, which includes Bighorn, Pronghorn, White-tail, and Mule deer hunt all for one hunter over the course of one year. Just an exceptional opportunity that gets a lot of interest around the state and around the country.

These proceeds are earmarked in statute that they have to go back to wildlife conservation, public hunting, and research. And this Grand Slam Package, we average -- since we started in 1996 -- about 20,000 applications a year. Those are $10 entries, $9 online. And this past year, we actually sold over 22,000 entries for this one package. Since '96, we have grossed $4 million for this one individual package; and we feel it's an extremely appropriate place for the first permit of the year to go since we kind of check both of the boxes of providing public access and creating a large amount of money for wildlife conservation.

The second -- where the second permit goes each year is to a conservation auction, and this is where Parks and Wildlife donates a Bighorn sheep permit to a conservation to organization to auction off at their fundraising banquets. This money is also required to go -- this one's actually required to go specifically to Desert sheep restoration. This generally translates into 90 percent of that auction revenue coming back into the sheep account, and 10 percent staying with that conservation organization to cover their auction costs.

Sheep hunters are willing to pay a lot of money for these permits at auction because they know where the money goes; and it's just an exceptional, rare opportunity in the state. These permits are going from anywhere to 80 to well over $100,000 for a single permit with the most on record for one of these Texas permits going for $152,000. Since 2004, over a million dollars has come back into the sheep account from these auction proceeds and been used directly for Bighorn restoration work.

So any leftover permits, any remaining permits after the Big Time Texas Hunts Grand Slam and the Conservation Auction Permit have been allocated, go into our TPWD drawn hunt system and this is how we allocate all the rest of big game permits for state parks and WMAs in the state. It, again, is a hunt held on a WMA, guided by Parks and Wildlife staff. They're $10 applications; but the difference here is that they're -- applicants are limited to one application, and the proceeds go into Fund 9.

It's a very popular draw for people around the country. We average -- over the last few years -- about 5,500 applications a year. And it's important to note that in 2017, we did not offer a permit in the draw system because of a preplanned translocation effort between WMAs in the Trans-Pecos. We have offered as many as two over the last -- over the last ten years. I believe we've done that three times, offered two permits in the same year; but this is the first time in the last ten years that we have not offered a permit.

Our hope is that population levels and habitat conditions will be at a good place next year to where we'll be able to offer at least one in the drawn hunt system, too.

In conclusion, you know, our staff is constantly weighing our charges of providing public hunting opportunity and gathering funding to keep this Desert sheep restoration going. We're -- permits are always going to be issued with sustainable population levels and habitat health in mind and we're always going to err on the side of being conservative because this is a very important wildlife resource for us and we want to make sure that we keep them out there on the mountain.

With that, I'll be glad to answer any questions you might have.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Members, questions?

Well, I just want to say how much -- how good it is to get this news from Froylan and you. I mean, this is exciting progress that the Department has made with this great creature. So it's -- keep it up.

MR. DREIBELBIS: Thank you.


And thank you, Froylan.

MR. HERNANDEZ: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. This is an interesting topic. Craig, will you please brief us on Cormorant Control.

MR. BONDS: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, Craig Bonds, Director of the Inland Fisheries Division. And if you're wondering why a Fisheries person is giving a presentation and a talk about birds, it's because these birds are fish-eating birds and they depredate on both wild and captive fishes; and I want to briefly turn your attention to this photograph on the slide, which I feel is illustrative of some of the challenges that we face in creating quality fishing opportunities.

In particular, this is a photograph of Grover Nelson Pond in Abilene, which is one of -- one of 18 participating small urban impoundments in our Neighborhood Fishing Program. Experiences twice-monthly stockings of Channel catfish in the summertime and then Rainbow trout in the wintertime. This is a game camera picture where we were using game cameras to look at fishing pressure of our anglers, and you may notice something that's notably absent from this picture are angler; but what you also may notice are several dozen Double-crested cormorants and actually two White pelicans out there in the middle of that pond. And you can imagine how challenging it would be to create quality fishing opportunities in a circumstance like this.

This is an interesting issue that cuts across terrestrial and aquatic resource management disciplines. And while migratory bird management is traditionally housed within the Wildlife Division's purview, the impacts of bird depredation is felt most acutely within the Inland -- within the Fisheries realm. And this issue requires close communication and collaboration among Wildlife and Fisheries professionals at federal, state, and local levels. And, in particular, Shaun Oldenburger within the Wildlife Division has been an excellent collaborator and communicator with our Fisheries staff as we work to address this common issue.

There are two species of cormorants that visit and reside in Texas. Double-crested cormorants are the more abundant of the two, but are more transitory by their migratory nature. Peak occurrence is typically October through March. Most of these birds breed in the upper midwestern states during the summer. The Neotropic cormorant is less abundant and mainly resides in Southern Texas and along the coast, although this species has been expanding its range further inland in Texas and also bird depredation from Neotropic cormorants has been observed in several other southern U.S. states -- for example, Oklahoma, Arkansas, New Mexico, and Arizona. Seasonally, the ranges of these two species can overlap in Texas. Particularly, in the southern part of the state.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act prohibits the taking of cormorants unless authorized. And prior to 1998, the sole method for lethal take of cormorants was through individual depredation permits. After 1998, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a depredation order authorizing commercial aquaculture producers in 13 states, including Texas, to take cormorants without a federal permit.

In 2003, the Service published a final environmental impact statement and modified aquaculture depredation order and a public resource depredation order, which eliminated the individual permit requirements. These two depredation orders were reviewed and renewed every five years. So in 2009 and again in 2014.

TPWD formerly issued permits through the Wildlife Division's Permit Office to private lake owners and fish farmers under the authority of the Service's depredation orders until 2016. Under the depredation orders, nonlethal activities must first be attempted and documented prior to permits being issued. And it's important to note that this wasn't just a license to take at will. You had to document depredation, birds were present, their economic or recreational losses.

TPWD issued a per year, on average, about 50 new permits and renewed, on average, 111; with an average annual take from these private lake owners, TPWD permittees was about 4,000 birds and ranged from anywhere from about 2,500 to about 6,300 birds a year.

Under the depredation orders, TPWD Inland and Coastal fish hatcheries took, on average, about 109 cormorants annually with a high of 152. In May 2016, the depredation orders were vacated by U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The Court determined that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not sufficiently consider affects of depredation orders on Double-crested cormorant populations and failed to consider a reasonable range of alternatives in the environmental assessment, which went under review in 2014.

The Service then reverted to issuance of individual permits, like the old system; but these were halted until a new EA could be perform. And during the interim, we were experiencing significant depredation at several of our State fish hatcheries. And without the threat of lethal action, these birds can get very bold and the harassment techniques are really no longer effective; but with the threat of lethality, then those harassment techniques become very effective. I just want to make that quick point.

As the picture of Grover Nelson Pond in Abilene illustrated, we've been experiencing significant challenges with cormorant depredation at seven of our 18 neighborhood fishing ponds; and depredation harm is most acute in smaller impoundments and especially in cases where put-and-take fisheries exist. We've also been receiving numerous and impassioned complaints from public water anglers and private pond owners about their observations of high numbers of birds, depredating cormorants, especially in private waters where economic and recreational losses have, indeed, incurred.

So the Service filed notice of the completed EA on November 15th, 2017; and they began issuing individual permits again for take across 37 states, with an annual take not to exceed 51,571 birds. And this was the expected annual take based on authorizations for cormorant take from 2010 to 2015. It was also conservatively below the lower limit for a potential take limit model that they used.

Of that national allotment, the Central Mississippi Flyway was allocated approximately 39,000 birds; and of those birds, Texas was allocated about 5,200. The Service issued a finding of no significant impact as a result of the proposed action; but they've been directed to take a very conservative approach in allocating those permits. And the scope of that EA was limited primarily to aquaculture facilities, but also for alleviating human health and safety concerns, say, at airports where they didn't want birds to fly into a jet, protecting threatened and endangered species, and reducing damage to property.

However, we received notification last month that the Service approved our application for a permit to take birds at nine TPWD aquaculture facilities. So we have five Inland hatcheries, three Coastal hatcheries, and a research station. We were originally approved for only 50 Double-crested cormorants and no Neotropics, which was a substantial reduction from what we asked for. So we went back and following further communication with the Service, the Region 2 Office in Albuquerque, our permit was amended up to 150 Double-crested and 25 Neotropic birds, which we've been putting to good use.

Matter of fact, as of yesterday, our facilities across all nine of them, we've taken 88 birds over the past month. It's important to note that even implementing lethal take on small scale, does make our nonlethal harassment techniques much more effective.

Cormorant depredation on free-swimming fish populations in public or private lakes and ponds were excluded from this action step. And the Service claim that this alternative was rejected for limited data; it's very difficult to determine causative relationships from bird depredation on fisheries resources, especially in larger waterbodies; and they also needed some additional data to -- beyond the existing environmental assessment.

So the Service intended to provide more immediate relief to aquaculture facilities that were experiencing economic damages. On February 27th of this year, Chairman Duggins, Ross Melinchuk, and I traveled to the Department of Interior in Washington, D.C., to meet with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff -- including Greg Sheehan, the Principal Deputy Director; Steve Guertin, Deputy Director; and Ken Richkus, Deputy Chief of Migratory Bird Management -- to discuss the need and explore potential options for expanding lethal take to free-swimming fish populations in public and private waters. And at this meeting, we were able to share our perspectives and explore ideas for possible solutions.

Next week at the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference in Norfolk, Virginia, cormorant management will be a topic of discussion within various committee meetings. And I plan to be there, along with several of my TPWD colleagues. There, fisheries and migratory bird specialists will have the ability to come together and discuss this common issue. Now before, that's one of the challenges with this issue is it's been siloed between the Wildlife professionals and the Fisheries professionals; but this meeting and as well as some work conducted by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, are coming together to try to provide that structural platform for this crosscutting issue.

The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies is also engaging on this issue. They'll be conducting a survey of State agency fisheries leaders over the next couple of weeks to gain a more comprehensive assessment of cormorant depredation impacts across waterbody types, available and desired cormorant population data, and permitting issues.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be initiating a new EA process to address free-swimming fish. The Service is open to possibly carving out smaller waterbodies, which is simpler, fewer birds need to be taken in those situations, and it's more easy to provide those causative relationships as opposed to those larger great lakes, big public impoundments. And we agree that that would be a reasonable approach.

They're also contracting with a third-party facilitator to host four regional stakeholder workshops around the country this summer to gather stakeholder input. TPWD staff have signaled our desire to be engaged throughout the EA process as the natural resource community and the Fish and Wildlife Service works to address conflicts between migratory birds, fish, and the people who care much about them.

That concludes my presentation this morning. I'd be happy to answer any questions that you may have.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Members, any questions or comments?

Well, let me say first, thanks to Ross -- what was it?

MR. SMITH: "Muckle-luck," is that the word you're looking for?


MR. SMITH: Yeah, all right.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yes. To Ross "Muckle-luck" and Craig for arranging for this meeting at the -- in D.C. It was -- it's clear that the Service is appreciative of the problem. I think they're still a little bit gun shy over the lawsuit that the bird watchers brought and prevailed on the inadequacy of the original EA, I guess, is the best way to put it. But particularly Deputy Director Sheehan, who comes from Utah, has personally experienced the same problem in fishing ponds and lakes, state and otherwise in Utah. And so we didn't get any pushback on our data, I guess, and anecdotal stories that we shared and I think they want to try to find a solution, particularly for private pond owners and lake owners who can get wiped out. Your bait fish can be dramatically reduced in a very short period of time.

And that picture you presented -- and that's less than acre -- I counted over 90 cormorants in that picture. And I don't know how much they can eat; but back when the order was in place, I did have a permit. And when I did kill some, I checked their stomachs and I found a shad, a gizzard shad in one, that was almost 12 inches long. So they can depredate a pond very quickly. And it's been a problem for State hatcheries. So I'm glad we made progress in getting -- even if it's 150 or so -- the ability to protect our hatchery fish that we're trying to raise for various public fishing opportunities.

So we appreciate your leadership on this, Craig, and let's continue to try to do what we can to help move this forward where we can get some relief for our private landowners who have lakes and ponds and are experiencing real problems.

MR. BONDS: Yes, sir. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you so much.

All right. I think our last item -- is Dakus going to present on -- okay. Texas Abandoned Crab Trap Removal Program --

MR. GEESLIN: Good morning.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And Commissioner Scott said he's got his boots out, and he's ready to go.

MR. GEESLIN: Good deal. We welcome his help.

Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. My name's Dakus Geeslin, with Coastal Fisheries Division. I'm extremely pleased to be briefing you-all today on something other than King mackerel. And in all seriousness, I'm honored to share some of the success stories of the Texas Abandoned Crab Trap Removal Program and specifically highlight some of the community outreach milestones and conservation milestones that we've experienced through this program.

Just a little bit about Blue crab in Texas. This is a very commercially viable fishery. In 2016, there was over 5 million pounds harvested. That's worth over -- it's a little over six and a half million dollars. Being that it's such a viable fishery with a substantial commercial fishing effort, the potential for a lot of crab traps in our bays and estuaries is high. And inadvertently, these traps can be become dislodged from their buoy lines and become abandoned and lost and that in and of itself creates a problem.

These traps become very problematic for many of our fish, crabs, and even a marine reptile, the Diamondback -- Texas Diamondback terrapin. So A little bit about the program itself. The Abandoned Crab Trap Removal Program was established in 2001 with the passage of Senate Bill 1410 in the 77th Legislature. And what this did, is it mandated a ten-day closure within the crab fishing season in February, where essentially it mandates that all crab fishermen -- both commercial and recreational -- get their crab traps out of the water and that's where during that ten-day closure, that's when an army of volunteers and partners spring to action and get out on their vessels and muck around in the marshes and pull these things out of the water.

So this has been an annual event -- I'm sorry, I skipped ahead -- this has been an annual event since 2002. Over time, we've experienced the help of over 12,000 volunteer hours, with over 3,000 volunteers, utilizing over an thousand vessels, both personal and from other partner agencies. In all total, we've pulled out over 35,000 crab traps from our coastal waters.

And some of -- just some of the direct and numerous resource benefits and probably the primary benefit, is the reduction of ghost fishing. And for those that don't know about ghost fishing, this is what happens when a crab trap is initially placed in the water. It's -- first of all, it's baited so it can attract crabs; but if that thing becomes lost and abandoned, other fish and crabs get in that trap and without a way out, they can die and then they essentially become bait themselves and lure other fish, crabs, and marine reptiles into those traps and the cycle just continues. That's what the definition of ghost fishing is.

Blue crab are the predominate species that get caught up in these traps, followed by the Stone crab and even some our game fish, like Sheepshead. A very popular game fish along the coast. Over time, over 40 different species of, again, fish and crabs and marine terrapin have been freed from these crab traps. It also benefits some of our sensitive habitat, like our vital seagrasses along the coast which provide, you know, food and shelter and habitat for many organisms.

And what happens is once these crab traps become dislodged and they settle down in these seagrasses and wind and wave action kind of blows them around, they just kind of scours out that seagrass much in the way that a prop scar would and it creates kind of a wallow and really erodes that bed of seagrasses.

It also improves aesthetics. As folks are around out there buzzing around on their boats picking up crab traps, they're also picking up derelict buoys. Buoys that may mark channels and picking up trash along the way.

So this next slide slows you -- this graph really highlights the bay systems and this is where the crabs occur primarily in the Galveston and San Antonio Bays. So the crabs are predominate inhabitants of those two bays. So you see a lot of fishing pressure there with the commercial fishery. Consequently, you see a lot of crab traps there. Over double the amounts cumulatively of the other bays are predominately in the San Antonio and Galveston Bay there.

So this aerial photo taken in 2002 prior to the initial -- the inaugural crab trap removal event -- really shows you aerial image of kind of the crab trap hot spots. Now, these aren't individual crab traps; but these are concentrated areas where commercial fishing is really targeted those crabs within a bay, Espiritu Santo Bay, which is on the east side of San Antonio Bay. And as these maps -- as we do these aerial flyovers through the program, these maps are then provided to the volunteers before they go out on their boats. So they know which areas to target and take out the traps with these -- with the aid of these maps.

So here's only three years later. Three years later, you can see a dramatic, dramatic decrease in those traps and those trap concentrations within the same bay system. So this is telling us a couple things. One, the program is working. The program is working; but yet, the crab traps are still there. So there's still a need to go back every year and conduct this program and take advantage of those partners and volunteers to help us out with this.

It also tell us that this ten-day closure each February is really having an impact in the commercial crab fishery. I think they're getting the message that, "Hey, if you're going to leave your crab traps out in our bays, we're going to come right out there in February and we're going to pick them right up." So I think they're getting the message that the program really means business.

So over time, over time what we've seen is a dramatic decrease in the traps we're picking up year to year. You can see in year 2002, that inaugural year, we had over 8,000 traps. 8,000 traps within our bay and estuary systems. Now, this -- you've seen a marked decrease over time and we've stabled out -- stabled out in these last five to seven years. And these events, they're highly, highly weather dependent.

That first inaugural crab trap cleanup day is on that first Saturday of the ten-day closure; and if you get bad weather, your volunteers -- your volunteer army -- is going to stay back. But if it's good weather, you're going to have folks coming out of the woodworks to help you out. We've had folks come in not only all along the coast, but also come in from our Metroplex areas. We've had folks come in from Dallas, Houston. A lot of folks come down to Austin. It's kind of an annual pilgrimage to come down and help out with this program.

And just prior to that ten-day closure, we really do a great job here with our internal Coastal Fisheries media and communications effort in getting our -- getting the word out. Soliciting volunteers with a flier, through various channels we distribute in regional offices, hatcheries, some of local bait and tackle shops. Certainly put it at our Sea Center Visitor Center. We also issue press releases. We put this thing on our website. We make numerous social media posts to really kind of drum up support and solicit volunteers for the program.

We feel this community-based outreach and really an education component of the program is just as important as the resource benefit gained through the program. This is really an opportunity for us, Parks and Wildlife staff, to engage our coastal constituents, to get out there and help them out with a common goal. It really fosters a sense of stewardship and provides a sense of ownership to folks for their local watersheds or their local bays and estuaries that are out in their backyards.

The biggest -- the big cleanup event on Saturday, as I mentioned, our partners turned out for a fun -- it's kind of turned into a fun event, with creating a sense of comradery between the groups and, you know, some even have started friendly type competitions. You know, me and my son can get out and catch -- collect more crab traps than Robin and his boat and his two boys. That kind of thing is ongoing out there. And I just want to direct your picture -- your attention to the bottom right of this picture.

This is probably our smallest crab trap stomper and what I hear is she's come every single year since she was a baby and her parents bring her every year. It's been an annual tradition for that particular family to come and participate in this effort. So were creating a legacy of conservation and stewardship right there along the coast.

And with that, we couldn't do that without our partners. The collaborative partnership between us and several organizations is really paramount to the success of this program and the partners I have listed on this slide, I've termed them "legacy" partners been. This group has been there since day one; and in addition to providing numerous volunteers, these groups have made significant contributions to the program in terms of monetary and in-kind donations. Our brethren over at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Coastal Conservation Association, Coastal Bend and Bays and Estuaries Program, and the Galveston Bay Foundation, they are the foundation of the partnership within this program.

And as this thing has grown and grown in popularity, so has the partner list. We've had folks as far as the Dallas Zoo providing volunteers and helping out with this program. Many other organizations helping us out here. And I would be really remiss if I didn't extend our gratitude and sincere appreciation for our folks over in the Law Enforcement Division, our game wardens and our staff over in the Wildlife Division, also at our WMAs, all those wildlife management areas, that not only provide volunteer man-hours; but provide those vessels, those airboats that allow us to get into those shallow water areas. You know, if we've got a low tide, there's only a couple of ways to get into those areas. And these folks have been instrumental in providing, you know, again not only the man-hours and the volunteers; but the airboats so we can get in and get those traps out of the water.

So with that, I'm really proud to have been able to speak with y'all today; and I'll be happy to take any questions.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Commissioner Morian has got a question, and then followed by Commissioner Scott.

MR. GEESLIN: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I don't have a question. I just want to congratulate you. I was aware of this program; but until I read an article in the paper, I didn't have any idea of the magnitude of this. And it's just what an extraordinary project, and thanks for doing this. It's just what a difference it's made, and I love it.

MR. GEESLIN: Well, thank you. And I'll extend those sentiments to our staff, as well.



COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I certainly agree with Commissioner Morian; but as a side note, I happen to know some lobstermen up on Chesapeake and they are the biggest consumer I think of Texas crab meat. Now, you know, we export mountains of it. So when you're sending out your outreach stuff, send some up there to Maryland and everything and say if they want to keep getting crab, they need to come down and give us some help.

MR. GEESLIN: We'll put that on our to-do list. We sure will.


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I have a question for you. It seems like ten days is a very short period of time, particularly given the month that it's in, to get out there. Would it be beneficial if we were -- if we could convince the Legislature to extend that to 30 days? Would that be -- make it a little easier to get more people out to address these crab traps that are left?

MR. GEESLIN: Given the unpredictability of our Texas weather in February, where you can have a hit or a miss and that really dictates our volunteer participation, I think that's something that could certainly be investigated. Sure.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Next question for you: Do you happen to know what a commercial crabber pays for the privilege of taking crab in a trap for commercial purposes?

MR. GEESLIN: A license? A commercial crab fisherman's license? I do not. I'm sure one of my trusted colleagues -- I'm looking around --

MR. RIECHERS: Grahame, would you like to answer that?

COLONEL JONES: Hey, where's Ellis?

MR. SMITH: Where's Ellis? Where's Ellis when you need him?

Okay. Chairman, I'm sorry. We'll have to get back to you on that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I was just curious about it.

Okay. Well, that's a great presentation and I --

COMMISSIONER JONES: I have one quick question. How much are the traps?

MR. GEESLIN: How much are -- the traps are pretty inexpensive. I would guess less than $100.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Quite a bit less.


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: They're just chicken wire.


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. What I was going to say is I join my colleagues in thanking you and and all of the others within the Department and without the Department who are giving time to address this problem. It's a serious problem, and we've got to continue to stay on top of it; but thank you very much. A great presentation.

MR. GEESLIN: Thank y'all.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Well, with that, my appreciation to Carter and the team and all the wonderful 3,100 people that work in this fabulous organization for your commitment to the mission. I declare us adjourned.

MR. SMITH: Thank you.

(Commission Meeting Adjourns)

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


Ralph H. Duggins, Chairman


S. Reed Morian, Vice-Chairman


T. Dan Friedkin, Member


Anna B. Galo, Member


Bill Jones, Member


Jeanne W. Latimer, Member


James H. Lee, Member


Dick Scott, Member


Kelcy L. Warren, Member



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

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

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


Paige S. Watts, CSR, RPR

CSR No.: 8311

Expiration: December 31, 2018

7010 Cool Canyon Cove

Round Rock, Texas 78681


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