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TPW Commission

Regional Public Hearing - Amarillo, May 22, 2018

Transcript

TPW Commission Meetings

TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION

May 22, 2018

TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT
HERITAGE ROOM
401 SOUTH BUCHANAN STREET
AMARILLO, TEXAS 79101

REGIONAL PUBLIC HEARING

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome. I'd like to call this Regional Public Hearing, which I think is a first in Amarillo, to order on May 22, 2018, at -- somebody's got to give me the time because I don't wear my watch -- 3:05.

Before we proceed, I believe Mr. Smith has an announcement 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 and Commissioners, I just want to join all of you in welcoming everybody to the -- this public meeting in Amarillo. Obviously, we're deeply honored to be up here in the High Plains. It's a great privilege for all of the Department staff to be here. We have a big presence in Amarillo and beyond with our State Parks and Wildlife and Law Enforcement and Inland Fisheries teams and as part of this hearing, we're going to have a chance to hear from some of our local leaders to talk about some of the going-ons in the Panhandle and we hope that you'll have a chance to listen to that.

For those of you who plan to speak at the public hearing -- and we're anxious to hear from any and all of you who want to share your feedback with the Commission and the Department -- just as a reminder about protocol, the -- we'll ask that you sign up out front. At the appropriate time, the Chairman will call you forward by name; and then you'll have two minutes to address the Commission about any topic that you want having to do with the Department.

My colleagues will run a green light/red light system. Green means go, yellow means start to wind it up, and red means eject. And so we want to make sure that we've got time for plenty of others to have a chance to visit with the Commission today.

Again, we're honored to be in your home ground. Thank you for all the hospitality and all the support of the Department.

So thank you, Mr. Chairman.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you, Carter.

I first want to note that Commissioners Friedkin, Galo, and Lee were disappointed they couldn't join us; but there's some health issues with a couple and some other challenges. So they're unable to join us, but they were excited for the Commission to have the chance to be here and to hear from Amarillo area citizens. So we're really looking forward to that.

And then before we start with our first briefing item, I would like to recognize the Honorable John Smithee, who's a State Representative. I'm sure most of you, if not all of you, know we're really privileged to have him here.

Welcome, Representative Smithee. If you'd like to say something, we'd love to hear from you.

REPRESENTATIVE SMITHEE: Well, I just want to say on behalf of all of us who are here, welcome. This is -- we always appreciate any State Board coming to Amarillo or to the Texas Panhandle. Sometimes we feel a little isolated up here and so when you come up here, we appreciate it greatly and you're welcome back any time.

As you know, we're the home up here to Palo Duro Canyon and, of course, just below that, Caprock Canyon. We believe that these canyons are really the crown jewel of the Texas park system. We're very proud of these parks. They bring a lot of people into our area, and we appreciate all you do.

A few years ago, we had the privilege of working with Mr. Smith and other staff members at Parks and Wildlife for the creation of the Mack Dick Center down there, which was no easy task; but as I'm sure you've seen, it's a very beautiful facility and it is probably one of the most utilized facilities in the park system. It's been well-utilized. It's hosted so many events of national recognition such as when President Bush brought the Wounded Warriors in. And so it's been a tremendous facility for the park system and for our area and we appreciate all your help, Carter, in getting -- in making -- and making that possible.

We're also a mecca in this area, obviously, for hunting; and that's a big part. We rely a lot on our game wardens and, we really appreciate what they do. Sometimes hunting and cattle country don't mix all that well; but the wardens are an essential part of making all that work together, and we appreciate the job they do and appreciate the work that you-all do through them.

So once again, welcome; and help us get some rain down in the canyon. You know, we really need the rain. It will help a lot of things, particularly in the area of fire danger. We're always concerned about fires in this area. So thank you very much.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you very much. Appreciate that and I join you in lauding your parks. We were fortunate enough this morning -- this group here on the dais -- went out and had a great morning visit to Palo Duro and it is a spectacular jewel and we do face some challenges there that we -- in terms of pressure and need to get better access and perhaps do some capital repairs. So anything you can do to help us next year in the budget process with park funding, we would greatly appreciate that; but thank you so much for your remarks and for joining us today.

We'll now turn to Briefing Item No. 1, which is Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Operations and Initiatives in the Texas Panhandle. I would like to call on Ann Bright. Welcome, Ann.

MS. BRIGHT: Good afternoon, Commissioners. For the record, I'm Ann Bright. I'm the Chief Operating Officer. And to echo what Carter Smith said earlier, on behalf of staff, I want to let everybody know how happy staff is to be here; and I'm especially happy. As many of you know, I've got family roots that are deep and wide in this part of the state.

Parks and Wildlife also has roots that are deep and wide in this part of the state and we're going to hear from a group of those. We're going to begin with State Parks. Shannon Blalock, who I think many of you may have met earlier today, she's the State Park Regional Director for this part of the state. She oversees the operation of 17 state parks. Her entire 11-year career with the Department has been in this area, including three and a half years as superintendent of what is truly for many of us the crown jewel of the system, Palo Duro Canyon State Park. She's been in her current position for seven months.

Following Shannon, we're going to be hearing from Brian Van Zee. Brian Van Zee is a Regional Director in the Inland Fisheries Division. He's been with Parks and Wildlife for over 20 years. He's been a Regional Director since 2005. He oversees nine districts across the western two-thirds of Texas. He coordinates Fisheries management activities within the state, including stocking. He's also become the Agency's subject matter expert on some invasive species such as Golden algae and Zebra mussels.

Following Brian, we'll hear from Calvin Richardson. Calvin Richardson has been with the Department for over 25 years. He served as a wildlife biologist in the Panhandle for five years, before promoting to a technical guidance biologist for the Trans-Pecos, where he worked for nine years. He then -- was then promoted to Program Leader for Pronghorn, Mule deer, and Bighorn sheep, where he served for three years. For the past nine years, he's held the position as District Leader in the Panhandle.

And then finally, we'll hear from Law Enforcement, Captain Chip Daigle. In 2004, he graduated from the 50th Game Warden Academy. He's a lieutenant -- he was a lieutenant in the Lubbock Regional Office; and was later promoted to Captain for Region 6, District 1, which includes 19 counties and is actually headquartered here in Amarillo.

So please join us in listening to this presentation on what we're doing in the Panhandle. Thank you.

MS. BLALOCK: Good to see you-all again, Commissioners. I am Shannon Blalock; and as you know, I have the privilege of serving the talented teams of professionals that steward our state parks in this part of the state. Welcome to the Texas Panhandle. We tried to do that in a really big way this morning out at Palo Duro Canyon State Park.

We don't have a large number of state parks in this part of the state; but the ones that are here, the three that are here -- Copper Breaks State Park over in Quanah, Caprock Canyons in Quitaque, and Palo Duro Canyon that we experienced this morning -- are three spectacular sites. You heard this morning that I called Palo Duro home for almost four years, and so it certainly holds a special place in my heart.

All of these parks offer very rich cultural history, and they're very diverse as far as the natural landscapes go. They offer a myriad of recreational opportunities to our visitors and they truly serve the communities that they reside in, not just economically; but as partners to local organizations, as outdoor classrooms to schools, and as healthy reprieve from the hustle and bustle of urban environments.

Visitation and revenue at these three sites, like this -- like the whole system, the state park system as a whole in Texas, continue to grow at a pretty rapid rate. Visitation in these three parks has grown by almost 160,000 visitors just in the last five years, wrapping up in August of last year at almost 550,000 visitors just at those three sites alone.

Revenue has increased, as well. It's increased over 35 percent to about 2.8 million at just those three locations. I think this really speaks to the increased desire of Texans to spend time outdoors and to the quality experiences that our State Park teams provide. So for the remainder of the time that I have with you this afternoon, I'm going to focus specifically on Palo Duro Canyon because it's truly the backyard of Amarillo.

Palo Duro is one of the crown jewels in the Texas state park system. It's vast in size, as I think many of you saw this morning. It's roughly 28,000 acres; but it also has an incredible amount of history, and it's a very unique natural landscape. The canyon is the second largest canyon in the United States, and it spans almost 120 miles. Even though the canyon itself is only about a million years old, the history, the geology that you saw displayed on its walls this morning, spans 250 million years.

The varying habitat in the canyon provides home to a very diverse species of flora and fauna, to include the endangered Palo Duro mouse. People have inhabited the canyon for over 12,000 years. Clovis and Folsom people first lived in the canyon and hunted large herds of bison and giant mammoths. Other cultures, such as the Comanche, the Apache, and Kiowa, also recognized the canyon's abundant resources and called the canyon home more recently.

We talked briefly this morning about the Red River War. It began in June of 1874, and it ended in the spring of 1875. Palo Duro Canyon was home to the battle of Palo Duro, which was a very decisive battle in the Red River War. Colonel Mackenzie led the 4th U.S. Calvary in a surprise attack at dawn on a camp of Comanches, Kiowas, and Cheyenne. The Native American families fled up the canyon, and they left everything behind. Mackenzie's troops captured and killed 1,400 of their horses, burned their winter storage, and destroyed their tepees; and without their supplies and their horses, the Native Americans had no choice but to return to the reservation.

The Red River War ended shortly after, and it was a significant event in Texas and Plains history. It saw the virtual extinction of the southern herd of buffalo, the final subjugation of the powerful Comanche, Kiowa, and Southern Cheyenne Indians and consequently, the opening of the Texas Panhandle to white settlement.

The battle was a running battle. It took place at the south end of the canyons, south of where you ate lunch earlier today. And in 2005, State Parks was able to acquire 7,800 acres -- the home camp property -- to further protect the battle site.

The ranching era, all of us as Texans, the ranching era is a hugely significant part of our history. The canyon belonged to the J.A. Ranch until the 1890s and in 1933, the parkland was purchased by the State of Texas and the Civilian Conservation Corps spent the next five years developing what you saw this morning, which are the facilities that make up the park. All of the history presents itself as tangible natural and cultural resources that the park strives to care for and share with 410,000 visitors each year.

Another aspect of the Palo Duro Canyon operation is the large number of partnerships that the park is engaged in. The park has longstanding partners, like the friends group. Many -- I saw many familiar faces here today. Partners in Palo Duro Canyon Foundation is the park's friends group. The park also has a longstanding relationship with the Texas Panhandle Heritage Foundation that operates the show "Texas" and the Old West Stables. These partnerships truly make the park a world class destination and a bucket list trip for international visitors.

Brent mentioned earlier today, "Texas" has taken place for over 50 years. Each night, they ask, "Who is attending from the furthest destination," and rarely do they have someone that's not from outside of the United States in attendance. All of these partners help the park offer opportunities that we would not be able to otherwise and increase the diversity of the visitor experience. We're so grateful for their loyal, unwavering support.

The park is extremely engaged locally and it continues to expand those partnerships at every turn. Over the last three years, the park has partnered with Amarillo and Canyon ISDs to host a high school intern program. It's the only state park that's doing such a thing, and it's been incredibly successful. The two folks that you see pictured here, were the park's first high school interns, Currie Case and Cooper Wolken. They have gone on to become employees for us at Texas Parks and Wildlife. They're both studying at West Texas A&M and intend to pursue a career with us as State Park police. We're really proud of that program.

The park also has an organized volunteer group called -- they refer to themselves as the "Canyon Conservation Corps." Their hope is to produce work that's just as sustainable as the original work of the Civilian Conservation Corps more than 80 years ago. Without their volunteer efforts, obviously, the park would not be nearly as successful as it is.

The park will soon host it's 12th 24 Hours in the Canyon Event and as we talked about this morning, it's the only simultaneous mountain and road biking event that takes place in the country. It funds the Harrington Cancer Center, which is a cancer survivor clinic that operates here locally. It provides all of the services to cancer survivors for free because of the profits that are raised from that event.

The park also recently saw the fruits of years' worth of data being collected in conjunction with the National Weather Service and West Texas Mesonet. I'm not sure how many of you noticed the kiosk this morning in the Visitor Center, but that was provided by the National Weather Service. It provides realtime weather data to our visitors and the hope is to increase public awareness of heat-related dangers that exist while folks are visiting the canyon.

One other thing that I think is worth mentioning is that just recently, the National Weather Service -- because of the data that's been collected -- the park operates as its own independent weather zone now. The National Weather Service can issue heat-related warnings without having to issue the same warning for Randall County. That, too, is all in the hopes to reduce the number of heat-related incidents that we have at the canyon.

The canyon is a wild and rugged place. You-all saw that this morning. 410,000 people recreate in that wild and rugged place each year. With that kind of combination, many search-and-rescue operations occur; and some of them can be quite complex. There's over 40 miles of trail, and it's across extremely challenging terrain. It takes a village to deal with the search-and-rescue operations that the park experiences. Partnerships with local first-response agencies abound. And, again, those are more of the familiar faces that I see in this room today. Without the help of Canyon Fire, Randall County Fire, the Sheriff's Office, our Law Enforcement Division, Life Star, BSA -- the list goes on -- these operations would not have the positive outcomes that we normally experience.

Over the last several years, a great deal of capital investment has been made to continue to improve and develop opportunities at the canyon. We thank you for the support of those efforts. Six low-water crossings were replaced with bridges by our friends at TxDOT in an effort to enhance visitor safety and allow for reliable ingress and egress, even during flash-flood events.

The Mack Dick Group Pavilion, which you ate lunch in earlier today, was constructed through a generous donation from Mr. Mack Dick, a longtime friend and advocate for the park. It's a beautiful group facility that stays booked for reunions, retreats, and weddings. Partners and Palo Duro Canyon Foundation helped furnish the building and kitchen equipment and really put the finishing touches on an outstanding facility.

The Juniper Loop and Tasajillo Pavilion were completed in November of '16; and offer newly designed campsites, a group camp area, and a smaller group facility. Feedback that the park has received has been -- about these improvements -- has been nothing less than stellar.

And in 2001, the Cannon Cedar Ranch was acquired; and over the last several years, the Gillman Educational Center was developed. The development was the work of incredible people and truly demonstrates what people working together towards a common goal can accomplish. The Amarillo Area Foundation, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, and the Department produced an incredible facility that offers a conference center, cabin, and bunkhouse that provides colleges and universities an outstanding location to conduct research and have events.

West Texas A&M has hosted the President's Retreat there recently. Colorado State has conducted research and the Texas Archaeological Society has hosted trainings there, just to name a few things. It's truly an incredible place to learn in and experience.

And as we approach the state park centennial, we continue to look towards the future for Palo Duro Canyon. Growing visitation is celebrated, but it is certainly something that we have to plan for. Visitors need to be able to enjoy their experience as they arrive to the park and traffic has to be able to flow smoothly. With the expertise of our Infrastructure team, we continue to look at a new layout and plan for the top rim of the canyon that will allow for smoother, more expedient flow of visitors in and out of the park; and this is what you see displayed here.

Our hope is to redesign the area in such a way to keep intact the incredible thought that the CCC put into the awe that comes with that first glimpse of the canyon that you experienced this morning and to hopefully make the experience better for our frontline folks and our visitors staying overnight in the cabins.

Our Panhandle parks are incredible places that tell significant stories for all of us as Texans, and I appreciate you allowing me to share some of that story with you. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you, Shannon.

MR. VAN ZEE: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, I'm Brian Van Zee. I'm the Inland Fisheries Regional Director for the central and western two-thirds of the state. I want to thank you guys for the opportunity today to come give you a little bit of information about what it is that Inland Fisheries Division does and some of the projects that we have been working on here in the High Plains region, as well as West Texas.

Now, obviously, in West Texas there are fewer reservoirs when compared to East Texas. However, still in the Panhandle Inland Fisheries District Area, showing here on the map, there are 97 public impoundments, including reservoirs such as Meredith, Greenbelt, Mackenzie, Alan Henry, Buffalo Springs, and the Well House Draw Lock Lakes, and as well as many others. These 97 impoundments will cover nearly 39,000 acres when they're at conservation pool.

Of particular note is that within this area, there are 74 community fishing lakes. Now, these community fishing lakes are important to the Inland Fisheries Division because we utilize those as outreach tools; but also because we try to provide quality fishing opportunities close to where people are living.

Now, there's four river basins within this area of the state, including the Canadian, the Red, the Brazos, as well as the Colorado. Obviously, even though there's fewer reservoirs in West Texas, they are still very important to our anglers and our boaters from an economic, as well as a recreational perspective. In order to maintain and enhance these fisheries, our district offices will go out and conduct objective-based fishery's surveys on all the major reservoirs. The data and information collected from these surveys is used to write fisheries management plans for all the major reservoirs.

Now, obviously, West Texas lakes and anglers are no strangers to drought and fluctuating water levels. In fact, many West Texas reservoirs have been suffering from drought for many years. Still, there are some lakes such as J.B. Thomas and others around the Abilene area that have really benefited recently in the recent years from increases in water levels.

The graph you see here on this slide is of Lake J.B. Thomas' water levels since 1987. In 2013, it was 56 feet low. In 2015, it caught over 50 feet of water; and that lake is again providing angling and opportunities to our anglers.

Golden algae is an issue that has been plaguing many of our Central and West Texas reservoirs since the early 2000s. It is -- when environmental conditions become favorable for it to bloom, it will produce a toxin that is lethal to fish and other gill-breathing organisms within the reservoirs. So it certainly has been something that has been negatively impacting many of our reservoirs; but the good point of this is that in recent years, the prevalence of Golden algae related fish kills has subsided and we've actually begun rebuilding some of these fisheries.

Now, certainly fisheries management in West Texas can be challenging; but we still have many very viable fisheries in West Texas and in the Panhandle. In fact, since January 1st of this year, there have been 22 Lunkers -- that is bass that are 8 pounds or larger -- entered into our new ShareLunker Program from these reservoirs shown here on this slide. Of particular note, is that bass that you see here in the photo, that was a 13.4-pound bass caught out of Twin Buttes Reservoir near Lake San -- near San Angelo.

That fish was donated to TPWD. It was later then returned to that angler and restocked back into Twin Buttes Reservoir, where hopefully another angler can enjoy catching it.

Now, the median age of our reservoirs across the state is over 50 years old and habitat quality can degrade over time or be diminished due to decrease in the water levels. Often, our biologists across the state will work with controlling authorities and local angling groups to improve habitat within the respective reservoirs. In 2017, our local district office partnered with the Lubbock County Water Improvement District and the local anglers to do a habitat improvement project on Buffalo Springs Reservoir.

In that project, they placed a 131 artificial structures in 14 different locations in the reservoir and they used various different types of structure to create habitat that would be suitable for different species and sizes of fish. They also planted native aquatic vegetation and those plantings are currently being monitored and if they're successful, continue -- we will continue planting additional aquatic vegetation.

Now, certainly fish stocking and is an important fisheries management tool in West Texas. When you consider things like drought, water level fluctuations, and Golden algae that can affect natural recruitment within our reservoirs, fish stocking becomes very, very important. Even though we don't have a state fish hatchery here in the Texas Panhandle, all five of our state fish hatcheries do provide fish to this region in the state.

Within any given year, our hatcheries will produce roughly 15 to 17 million fish and stock those throughout the state. In 2017, over 5 million fish were stocked here in the Texas Panhandle alone, including these 112 adult Florida Largemouth bass that were stocked in the Baylor Creek Reservoir after it caught significant water and rose to over 80 percent of capacity. These adult Largemouth bass were retired broodstock from our A.E. Wood State Fish Hatchery, and each one of them averaged roughly four and a half pounds each.

Now, the Inland Fisheries Habitat Conservation Branch has also been very active here in West Texas in the High Plains, working to conserve our native fishes, as well as to restore our river ecosystems. In 2015 and 2016, they conducted over 43 bio assessments within the Canadian and the Upper Red River Basins. Data and information collected from these bio assessments is used to help manage species of greatest conservation need, to do habitat restoration projects, as well as to manage for invasive species.

In 2011, the Upper Brazos River Basin was essentially no longer flowing. It was during -- if you remember, it was during the heat of the drought in 2011. Flows within the Upper Brazos River Basin were essentially nonexistent, and there was concern that the endangered Sharpnose shiner and Small Eye shiner would eventually become extirpated or potentially lost if the remaining pools in the Upper Brazos Basin were to go completely dry. Therefore, our river state staff, along with Texas Tech University, went out and collected 3,000 Small Eye shiners and Sharpnose shiners and transported to a Possum Kingdom State Fish Hatchery where those fish were maintained and kept alive until they could be safely reintroduced back into the river.

Another 300 Sharpnose shiners and Small Eye shiners were also brought to Texas Tech University, where they could be -- research could be conducted on them and where they could develop captive breeding techniques for those endangered species.

Now, the Inland Fisheries Division does a lot of partnering work with Texas Tech University and with the Fish and Wildlife Co-op Unit there at Texas Tech. And in fact, Dr. Allison Pease at Texas Tech, currently serves on our Freshwater Fisheries Advisory Committee.

Now, Saltcedar are an invasive species that are found throughout most of West Texas. Saltcedars will impact aquatic life. They'll change channel morphology. They'll affect river flows, water availability, and even the plant communities along the riparian corridors. In 2015, the Inland Fisheries started partnering with local landowners, as well as other agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas A&M AgriLife, Texas Tech University, and University of Texas at Austin, to conduct -- begin -- to begin treating Saltcedars within the Upper Brazos Basin.

To date, they have treated roughly 178 miles and nearly 6,700 acres of Saltcedars using in targeted aerial herbicide treatments. They plan to continue these treatments, as well as to monitor the areas that were treated previously. Over half a million dollars has been allocated to support the Saltcedar treatments within the Upper Brazos Basin. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Hold on a second will you, Brian.

MR. VAN ZEE: Sure.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Where did -- I'm curious. Where did you stock the Rainbow trout?

MR. VAN ZEE: The Rainbow trout, they're stocked within our community fishing lakes throughout the Texas Panhandle.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: In the winter?

MR. VAN ZEE: Yeah, in the winter months.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay.

MR. VAN ZEE: Yep. They start usually about the end of November, beginning of December; and then go to early March.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And then on the Saltcedar treatment, do we -- do we request landowner participation in that? For example, we spray one side, they spray the other. Do we try to -- just because we're -- I know we're limited in our resources. I'm just curious about how interested landowners are in trying to --

MR. VAN ZEE: I know we're --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- knock this back.

MR. VAN ZEE: Yeah. I know we're working very closely with the landowners, obviously, to get permission and allowance to work as a partner with them in the treatments; but I'm not positive that we are doing any cost sharing with them.

Craig, can you...

MR. BONDS: For the record, I'm Craig Bonds, Director of Inland Fisheries.

Mr. Chairman, we do work very closely to get landowner permission to perform these treatments. However, at this point in time, to my knowledge, we haven't asked for any cost sharing. However, we do work very diligently to leverage various different pots of money to perform these treatments.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I was just curious. Anyway, that's good work.

Anybody have any other questions or comments?

Thank you, Brian.

MR. VAN ZEE: Thank you.

MR. RICHARDSON: Good afternoon. For the record, I'm Calvin Richardson, Panhandle District Leader; and today, I'm going to visit with you about some of the wildlife projects in the Panhandle. But I've also been asked to provide a brief review of the chronology of CWD events in Texas, as well as a summary of CWD in the Panhandle, Chronic Wasting Disease. So I'm going to go ahead and cover that topic first, and then I'll get to the wildlife district projects.

These are the CWD zones that I think most of us are familiar with. The Trans-Pecos zones, the surveillance and containment zones that are associated with the positives in the Hueco Mountains and then, of course, in the Panhandle, the zones that are associated with positives in Dallam and Hartley County and then the zones in South Central Texas that relate to the captive facilities in you Uvalde and Medina Counties.

And this is a timeline that many of us have seen before. I won't go through every event; but I did want to highlight some of the more significant discoveries over the past six years and as you know, we began surveillance for CWD in 2002. And about ten years later, we found our first positive CWD animal in Texas after some strategic surveillance in the Hueco Mountains and surrounding areas.

This was a free-ranging Mule deer in the Hueco Mountains. Fortunately, this mountain range is fairly isolated. During the past six years, all 15 of the positive Mule deer in the Trans-Pecos have occurred in this one mountain range.

Three years later, in July 2015, we detected our first positive White-tail deer in a captive facility; and that was in Medina County. During the next two years, CWD was detected in 78 animals within five different captive facilities. Those 78 positive animals consisted of 76 White-tail deer and two elk. In January 2017, CWD was detected in a free-ranging White-tail deer in Medina County. The origin of that deer is uncertain, but genetic analyses indicated that the DNA profile of that deer did not resemble the DNA profile of the native deer population.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So is the takeaway on that that the inference can be drawn that --

MR. RICHARDSON: There's a high probability that that was not a native deer. That it -- that's correct.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you.

MR. RICHARDSON: In early 2016, we detected the first positive free-ranging Mule deer in the Panhandle; and that Mule deer was harvested in western Hartley County about 7 miles from the New Mexico border. We established a containment zone and surveillance zone; and that following hunting season, set up check stations, mandatory check stations, in Dalhart and Vega.

Almost a year later, December 2016, we found our first positive free-ranging elk in the Panhandle. That elk was harvested in Dallam County, about 40 miles north of that first positive Mule deer.

And then the last event within the timeline that I'll mention, is the first positive free-ranging White-tail deer in the Panhandle. That White-tail was a road-kill deer found on the eastern edge of the containment zone, which led to a recent zone expansion that include a small expansion block to the east of that location.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And have we done or do we plan to do DNA analysis of the elk in the White-tail deer?

MR. RICHARDSON: Not that I'm aware of. Dr. Dittmar couldn't be here. Mitch Lockwood couldn't be here, but I would have to ask them if that's too late to do DNA on those.

And I'll conclude with a quick visual of our CWD sampling efforts in the Panhandle. This image is a slide of our CWD sampling during the four years prior to finding that first positive Mule deer. The White-tail deer are the blue dots. The Mule deer samples are the red triangles. And then we found that first Hartley County positive. We, of course, put in the CWD zones, set up check stations, and increased sampling throughout the Panhandle; but especially in that northwest corner.

We even had a few elk come into the check station. I think there's been 39 elk over the past two years come into our check stations. And that's the final year. That's the accumulation of all of our samples in the past six years. That includes this last year; and in those two mandatory zones, we've collected a total of 829 samples. We found seven positive animals: Five Mule deer, one elk, and one White-tail deer. And all of them are in that pinkish area, the containment zone.

So that concludes the CWD summary, and I'll go ahead and move into the Panhandle wildlife projects. First, I'll provide a general overview of the Panhandle. The two ecoregions that compromise our district are the High Plains to the west, the Rolling Plains on the eastern side. The Rolling Plains also includes the Canadian River drainage that stretches from New Mexico over to Oklahoma.

And I don't know if y'all can see the light blue shading that's mostly on the High Plains, those are actually individual dots; and there's 23,000 of them. And what those are, is our ephemeral wetlands that we call "playas." And these are a significant feature for wildlife, as well as for aquifer recharge; and you'll get to hear a little more detail about playas tomorrow from Don Kahl down in Lubbock.

District 2 includes 56 counties. We have seven district biologists, each responsible for six to ten counties. That's about 5 million acres each. We also have a technical guidance biologist and a wildlife diversity biologist that work the entire district, and we share an administrative assistant with the WMA project.

I'll mention a few of our conservation challenges. The Panhandle is blessed with very rich reserves of oil and gas, which is a mixed blessing, especially when we consider impacts to wildlife habitat. Wind energy development is another stressor on wildlife habitat. Certain species, like the Lesser Prairie chicken, don't deal all that well with the taller structures and the disturbances that come along with these two industries.

Most of the Shortgrass prairie and even some of the mixed prairie to the east have been replaced by cropland. Certain species, like Pronghorn antelope, deal somewhat with those changes; but there's other species like Swift fox, Lesser Prairie chicken, that aren't nearly as tolerant to that kind of a change to the Shortgrass prairie.

Most of the playas have been altered with trenches or pits or they've experienced sedimentation, all of which reduce the beneficial effects of playas, beneficial functions; and that's not just benefits for wildlife, but their ability to funnel high-quality recharge to the Ogallala aquifer. Assistance to private landowners is a high priority. Like other districts, many of our efforts involve deer and MLD permits; but we're a bit unique in that a substantial portion of our wildlife management plans don't involve MLD, but are tailored more towards species like quail, pheasants, Prairie chicken, Pronghorn antelope, nongame species.

We're also a little bit unique from some of the other districts in that we don't just issue MLD permits for White-tail, but also for Mule deer. And we also issue Pronghorn permits on 4.7 million acres and general season antlerless Mule deer permits on more than a half million acres.

We're responsible for numerous wildlife surveys every year. We have a large diversity of wildlife species; but especially unique game species like Mule deer, Pronghorn, pheasants, Prairie chickens. So pretty busy every month of the year on those and I'm still impressed even after all these years that my staff is able to get all these completed during the year, while also doing technical guidance, CWD check stations, Pronghorn check stations, prescribed burning, all of our other activities. It's very impressive.

We've been capturing and translocating Pronghorn to the Trans-Pecos since 2011. We've shipped almost 800 animals to far West Texas, and our colleagues tell us that they're finally on the path to recovery out there at the Marfa Basin, Marathon Basin. This Pronghorn research is being conducted over a three-year period. It's still ongoing, but we've already learned some very interesting information about crop use and about native plants in the diet. The GPS satellite collars also provide us with some very interesting information about movement, restrictions to movement such as busy highways, certain types of fencing, and exactly where those restrictions are occurring.

We initiated a regulatory experiment in 2013 that provided landowners with the flexibility to control their own harvest on Pronghorn, much like we do with White-tail deer and Mule deer throughout the state. In 2017, we expanded the effort from three herd units to six herd units. We had check stations in Dalhart and Pampa and we collect information on age class, horn growth, and we survey all such units every year by fixed-wing aircraft.

We're approaching the end of an intensive study on Mule deer that spanned over five years. Staggered research project that includes three different study sites. Two of those sites are in the Rolling Plains, Turkey and Stinnett; and one of the sites is on the High Plains out west of Lubbock. And we've already -- I think we've got one to two more years left on that; but we found out some important information about Mule deer and movements, habitat use, mortality, as well as antler development.

And this is the last project that I'll mention: The Texas Playa Conservation Initiative, which is a response to the declining conditions of playas throughout the Panhandle. Pits and trenches are filled at no cost to the landowner. Plus, there's an $80-per-acre inventive to once again get that water to spread throughout the playa basin. The major partners are listed here, but we have several other partners that are sharing in the larger partnership.

And that's all I have. If there's any questions on either presentation.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Members any questions or comments?

Good work, sir.

MR. RICHARDSON: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you very much.

MR. RICHARDSON: Thank you.

CAPTAIN DAIGLE: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Mr. Smith. My name is Chip Daigle. I'm the Captain game warden here in the Amarillo District for Region 6 District 1, and it's an honor to be up here to talk about one of my favorite subjects: Texas game wardens, especially Texas game wardens here in the Panhandle.

Just real quick, I'm not from this part of the state. I'm a newcomer. There's always been a stigma about the Panhandle that I've always heard and part of my job that I've always -- since I've got it -- was kind of be a cheerleader for the Panhandle and kind of bring up some of the beauty that the Panhandle has to offer. Amarillo is a great town, but it is more than just Amarillo. There's a bunch of diverse landscapes and game wardens here in this district that have -- they have to deal with on a day-to-day basis from, you know, desert-like landscapes to prairie lands to -- if you look at the picture bottom right, it's actually trees. Who knew we had trees here in the Panhandle?

And then, obviously, the canyon, which y'all saw this morning. Just it kind of reaches more than just canyon and south Amarillo. If you get outside of Amarillo, even to the northeast and up towards Dalhart, you see a lot of canyon breaks and things like that. And then, obviously, we do have the flatland that offers its own challenges for our -- for your game wardens as they work.

With these diverse landscapes, becomes -- or comes diverse conditions that we work in every day throughout the year, whether it be snowstorms, ice storms, the -- you know, some of the worst thunderstorms to roll through this area come through the Panhandle. Tornadoes pop up pretty often here. And then, you know, this, what we're in now, a dry drought season. All of these offer different challenges; and game wardens here in this district are squarely right in the middle of all of these with search-and-rescue operations, helping out their local law enforcement teams to assist in any way and have value in their communities.

And then, you know, we get into straight-line winds that seem to never end around here, which lead to dust storms and then unfortunately, what we're experiencing a lot right now that our game wardens are spending more and more time, are responding to these wildfires and doing what they can to help. It's an ongoing deal right now. Here in the last week, we did get some rain. So it stifled it a little bit; but this is a lot of what we do right now, and the game wardens are putting on a different hat and thinking outside the box in assisting. This isn't a traditional game warden law enforcement type role, but this is what the community is asking for and this is where we're answering the call.

Now, to jump into the district here. It is 19 counties; about 390,000 people; 21,000 square miles. The reason why it says "20 counties" is Deaf Smith is actually part of Lubbock district; but the game wardens here in District 1 cover Deaf Smith right now because it is vacant. So it is a pretty big chunk of land that we cover. That population, 390,000, does kind of explode during hunting season. So this isn't the area where a lot of people live like the rest of the state, but a lot of people come here to play and to hunt and recreate with everything that the Panhandle offers.

Just real quick, faces of the division. These are all the game wardens that are here in the division or in the district. I do have -- there are 12 game wardens here and two admin staff. It is kind of a unique situation because the Panhandle is rarely ever vacant. We rarely ever have any vacancies, and we range from game wardens that are on for a couple years to one of the game wardens that's stationed here in the Amarillo district has one of the most tenured field guys with 32 years. And so they all bring their own talents and missions and enforcement actions that really make us a well-rounded district.

Hunting in the Panhandle: The Panhandle offers all kinds of unique opportunities to hunt; and as I said earlier, people from all over the state, all over the country, come to enjoy the experiences. You can hunt almost virtually every game animal here in the district and a long list of exotic species and nongame species and our game wardens do a great job of enforcing and being in tune with everything that's going on.

Water in the Panhandle, so we do have some water. There are some lakes and one of the things that was mentioned in some of the other programs was the community fishing lakes, which is a big part of what we do, especially around the Amarillo area; but Greenbelt Reservoir is the southeast part of the district. We've got one boat stationed on Greenbelt Reservoir with up to two game wardens at any time able to respond to that lake.

Palo Duro Reservoir up in the north part of the Panhandle, there's one boat, a couple kayaks that are stationed there with one to two game wardens in response to that lake, as well, at any given time. Wolf Creek, northeast part of the Panhandle, also kayaks are pretty -- are used pretty heavily on this lake, as well as a boat and two game wardens. And then we have Lake Meredith, which is kind of right in the middle of the district that most of the game wardens get some piece of Lake Meredith at some point throughout the year. We have four boats dedicated to Lake Meredith that can respond, up to five or six game wardens.

And then the other water of the Panhandle that kind of is a unique situation is the Canadian River. This is -- this flows throughout the whole district and every game warden in the district is responsible for enforcing any number of regulations on the Canadian River, and it's unique because there's not any boats dedicated to the Canadian River because there's not a lot of water in it. So it's mostly land patrol, and it offers some water safety work; but a lot of hunting because it is all surrounded by public hunting lands.

All right. And the violations in the Panhandle, this is just a quick snapshot of what the game wardens here in the district did last year. Hunting, fishing, water safety are our three core mission enforcement actions. The other category covers everything above the Class Cs. That's all our BWIs and drug arrests and then warnings. If you add up the actual violations, it's about 750 violations and about 400 -- or 550 warnings for fiscal year '17.

And so we see everything from hunting violations to the confiscation of hunting weapons and then there's a really good Sandhill crane case that we made. And then the other thing that we're doing, is we're being very proactive in pushing forth to the media of letting them know, you know, what we're doing and pushing out news media releases through our Public Information Officer Program. And then nowadays with the corridors running through Amarillo -- I-40, 287, and 27 -- a lot of what our guys are getting into is also the drugs and money and it seems like we haven't made a hunting case here in the last year that wasn't involved with drugs and money. And so this case here was on the Canadian River.

And then just a snapshot of what the Panhandle operations we do throughout the year: Operation Pronghorn, this is where we bring in game wardens from outside of the district or outside of the region; Operation Pheasant; and then the Mule Deer Operation in the southwest part of the district; and then the sand drags on the Canadian River. This is where we have an enhanced enforcement -- a saturation patrol, if you will -- and mainly, especially with the sand drags, really revolves around public safety, which is, again, it's a broader scope besides just the hunting, fishing, and water safety aspects of our job.

And then outreach, outreach here in this district is a huge thing. Between kid fishes and youth hunts and just different types of activities that our guys do, public programs last year, the game wardens in District 1 did over 200 public programs. And Operation Outdoors, where they take kids or novice hunters hunting on a ranch, we did over -- or just under 60. And then recruitment efforts with these colleges -- these are the two big colleges. There are a bunch of smaller junior colleges scattered throughout the Panhandle; but Amarillo College and West Texas A&M, we partner with them quite a bit in recruitment efforts through ride-alongs or just, you know, any type of mentoring the they're involved quite a bit with our Operation Outdoors and our recruitment numbers last year were at -- topped 650. Mainly college-age students to recruit, to try to get them interested in being a Texas game warden.

So, again, that's all I have. I could sit up here and talk for hours about the Texas game wardens here in the Panhandle. I am the last presentation. So if any of y'all have any questions for me or anybody else, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Captain, thank you. Any members, questions or comments?

COMMISSIONER JONES: I need to share a quick story. This afternoon, we checked into the hotel and Margaret Martin, who's a former Commissioner, and I arrived at the same time and we went up to the desk and Margaret was wearing "Lone Star Law" T-shirt and the lady who's checking us in said, "Are you with 'Lone Star Law?'"

And Margaret said, "Well, yes; but sort of. We're having a meeting, you know, here in town across the street."

And she said, "So are the guys from 'Lone Star Law' going to be here?"

And Margaret said, "Well, yes. Well, sort of." And about that time, about seven Parks and Wildlife game warden trucks pulled up with Commissioners and whatnot all in front of the hotel and I swear you would have thought that it was George Strait and Miranda Lambert and Jason Aldean and Mick Jagger all arrived at the same time. So the point of that is, you guys are rock stars; and we appreciate what you do.

CAPTAIN DAIGLE: Thank you very much. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. At this point, we will now hear from those who have signed up to speak; and if anyone wishes to speak who has not signed up, we would certainly invite you to do so because we would like to hear from you. And before I -- the speakers have been grouped by topic; but before I start, I would like to ask if there's anybody who's pressed for time, maybe raise your hand and I'll take you -- take it out of order. Otherwise, I'm going to go by topic.

Okay. Well, we're going to start with Rocky Chase, representing the Coastal Conservation Association, who wants to speak about Red Snapper. Welcome, Rocky.

MR. ROCKY CHASE: Thank you, Commissioner. Thank you, Chairman Duggins and Commissioners. My name is Rocky Chase. My script says I'm from Beaumont, Texas; but I'm actually from Amarillo. I was born and raised here and it's very nice to come home and see great friends. I'm with Coastal Conservation. I'm a recreational angler and I'd like to take this opportunity to read a letter from the President of CCA National, Mr. Patrick Murray.

"Dear Chairman Duggins, CCA would like to recognize the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for outstanding work on the State's Exempted Fishing Permit, EFP, which will allow the State's recreational anglers and those visiting from other regions to enjoy the longest Red snapper season in federal waters in many years. Under your leadership, the Commission, coupled with Carter Smith and Robin Riechers of the Department, we know that fisheries management decisions will be made to ensure our natural resources are available for all Texans now and in the future. We have witnessed Mr. Riechers tirelessly battle for all recreational anglers from a position rooted in principles, values, and science. CCA has long believed that Texas fisheries managers are better equipped to find a balance between the conservation of marine resources and reasonable public access. Over the past decade, the complex and highly politicized Red snapper fishery has devolved under the federal fisheries management system into an unworkable condition for recreational anglers. This two-year pilot program will allow the State to fine-tune its recreational data collection system and set regulations that make the most sense for Texas and the Red snapper resource off its shores. With the knowledge and experience gained from the EFPs, we look forward to working with each Gulf state and the continued development of the state management amendments of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, which will hopefully give the states' greater control over all the aspects of the Red snapper fishery. The state management amendments, coupled with the independent Gulfwide Red snapper stock assessment currently underway and the recalibration of the historical recreational effort data, have the potential to profoundly alter the management paradigm of this fishery. We would encourage Texas representatives to the Gulf Council to refrain from supporting any fundamental or far-reaching proposals in the Red snapper fishery until managers have an opportunity to evaluate the EFPs and fully consider all new information. Thank you again for your efforts to create a better fishery management approach for Red snapper based on the spirit of stewardship and cooperation." -- I see the red light -- "Recreational anglers are confident the principles that Texas has used to manage wildlife and fishery resources so successfully in our great state, can be applied to the Red snapper fishery to create more opportunities and access for everyone. Best regards, Patrick D. Murray, Coastal Conservation Association."

Thank you very much.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, thank you very much. We appreciate the letter from Mr. Murray and appreciate you taking time to address us today on this important issue. It is a big breakthrough. We still have work to do, but thank you so much.

All right. Next up is Todd Merendino. I hope I'm pronouncing that right.

MR. TODD MERENDINO: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Please join us, followed by Jim Steiert.

MR. TODD MERENDINO: Yes, sir. Thank you for the opportunity. My name is Todd Merendino. I'm Manager of Conservation Programs for Ducks Unlimited and just opposite of the last speaker, I actually grew up in Beaumont/Port Arthur; but spent six of my best years in Lubbock, Texas, and married a Panhandle girl and learned quickly how important playa lakes are for wetlands and waterfowl.

So in my current day job as Manager of Conservation Programs, I just want to tip my hat to Carter and folks at Parks and Wildlife and the Wildlife Division. This is our greatest partnership in the state, if not in the country, for waterfowl and wetland's conservation.

Calvin mentioned it briefly, the Texas Playa Conservation Initiative. That's a step here in the Texas Panhandle to recreate that model. We do a lot of work with Parks and Wildlife and private landowners on the coast and Texas Playa Conservation Initiative is an opportunity to do that in the Texas Panhandle. The playa lakes are a priority conservation area for Ducks Unlimited here. Unfortunately, we don't have any staff here in the Texas Panhandle. So we work, again, in partnership with the Texas Parks and Wildlife folks and I have to applaud Billy Tarrant and his staff, Calvin Richardson and Don Kahl, also the efforts of Kevin Kraai and Jeff Bonner and others in helping to lead and spearhead this initiative.

This initiative has been on the ground a couple years. We're starting to gain success, again, in working with private landowners to restore and enhance playa wetlands. And like all initiatives, the funding is slow in starting; but the funding is starting to flow and the on-the-ground effort is starting to get done. Again, we're pleased to be a partner in this effort and we really encourage Texas Parks and Wildlife and the Wildlife Division to continue this effort and any -- and just know Ducks Unlimited is really good at helping to raise and leverage funds. Any additional funding through the Division and its effort, we can certainly play a part in helping to raise additional funds and put even more playa conservation on the ground. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you, sir. Appreciate the partnership we do have with Ducks Unlimited.

Okay, Mr. Steiert -- if I'm pronouncing that right -- the great town of Hereford. Welcome, sir.

MR. JIM STEIERT: First of all, I want to thank all of you for coming to the Texas Panhandle. It is not the end of the world; and if you're here at the right time, it's absolutely amazing when the rainfall is kind. Twelve years ago, we went on a missionary trip to Kenya and there were amazing correlations between what they have there and what we have here. And we were on a walking safari at a place with a gentleman named Joseph Mutongo and we were talking about the rain and the neat things and actually, it turned out his name meant "who is rich," Joseph "who is rich."

And when it rains on us kindly here, aren't we all rich here in the High Plains?

I want to talk to you a little bit today echoing what's already been mentioned about the Playa Lakes Initiative and the efforts that have been going on and I know this is difficult captus kin, but we have got to do more to protect our playas up here. They're being absolutely decimated by development, by siltation, and tragically currently we're fighting a battle in Deaf Smith County over a cattle -- a dairy calf feeding ranch that is hauling manure off premises and dumping it in a playa. And, yes, we have raised the alarm bell with TCEQ. I've been in touch my friends Kevin Kraai and Calvin Richardson and other folks, and we appreciate them all being here; but the feds don't seem to be able to protect the playas.

We've got to have them. Functioning playas are down to about 17,000 here in the High Plains. They're absolutely vital to recharge of the Ogallala aquifer. And if we're continuing to continue to have habitation here on the plains, we have got to preserve those playas and their recharge functions. Thank you again for coming up here and for your time.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you so much for your good work on playa protection and appreciate your comments.

Okay. Next up, Dennis Gwyn -- we're going to talk about the Palo Duro -- Dennis Gwyn, followed by Mel Phillips. Welcome, Mr. Gwyn.

MR. DENNIS GWYN: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, good afternoon. I am Dennis Gwyn. I'm the Deputy Fire Chief for the Randall County Fire Department. Joining me today also is Mike Webb, Fire Chief of the Canyon Fire Department, as well as Rich Gray, Chief with the Texas A&M Forest Service.

I'm here today just to express our concerns about the ever growing wildland fire concerns at Palo Duro Canyon State Park. As y'all were down there I guess earlier today, you noticed the beautiful grasses that we have down there, the beautiful junipers, and the mesquites and everything. It's all beautiful; but to us, that's a fire load and it's a concern.

Your meeting today comes on the heels of the closing out of a major incident in neighboring Armstrong County, the Mallard fire incident, which took approximately two weeks for that fire to be contained and controlled and consumed over 75,000 acres of land with a similar geography and fuels as Palo Duro Canyon State Park.

As you probably well know, the mitigation of these fuels through prescribed burning is not only good for decreasing the chances of an uncontrolled wildland fire from occurring, but it's also good for the soil and the stewardship of the soil by revitalizing the lands.

Along with this concern of an uncontrolled wildland fire occurring in Palo Duro Canyon State Park, take a major incident and compound that with thousands of visitors being in need of being evacuated, one way in and one way out of that state park. The same path that they're going to be trying to evacuate out of, is the same path that the emergency responders need to be getting in to that fire to hopefully get the fire knocked down with an initial attack so it does not grow into a multi-week event.

I believe in speaking with Mike Webb and I, we've been -- also with the Canyon Fire Department as a volunteer for a little over 30 years -- I believe it's been 15-plus years since we've had any type of mitigation activity on the state park lands at Palo Duro Canyon State Park. So I guess one of our questions: Are there any current plans for any type of mitigation work, either through mechanical mitigation or prescribed burning or what can we do to hopefully decrease this threat of wildland fires in the state park?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Mr. Smith, do you want to --

MR. SMITH: Yeah, and thank you for raising that.

Brent, you may want to address this. Shannon brought this up today when we were down in the canyon and mentioned that this is a very real concern to you and the others. So we're certainly advertent to it. Brent, I'm going to ask that you and Shannon and the team take a hard look at our prescribed fire plans and what we can do to help amplify those and accelerate them.

Obviously, the fuel loads are high; and we, too, are very concerned about wildfires and visitor safety. And so can you speak to that? And then let's get a report back to the Commission on this issue.

MR. LEISURE: Absolutely. I'd be glad to report back to you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, I'm Brent Leisure, Director of the State Parks Division. We work very closely with our partners here with the local fire departments, Texas Forest Service. Mr. Gray and I were just talking about it just prior to the hearing today.

We've not been in a good situation in hitting our prescription for prescribed fires up in this area. So we look forward to improved conditions where the prescriptions are such that we can do some fuel mitigation at Palo Duro Canyon. We talked a little bit about the access issues in and out of the canyon and the risk that that presents to the community and visitors to the canyon. So certainly we'll explore ways that we can step up our mitigation efforts, and I'll report back to you after visiting with our fire program.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right, thank you. I encourage you to perhaps coordinate discussions with Mr. Gwyn and his colleagues because it sounds like they may be willing to help on the prescribed burning when the conditions are appropriate.

Mr. Gwyn, thank you very much for your comments.

All right, Mr. Mel Phillips. Welcome, Mr. Phillips. Followed by William Britain, I believe.

MR. MEL PHILLIPS: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, thank y'all for coming up here. It's our honor to have you up here. We hope you'll come back soon and often.

My region is supported basically on four pillars: Agriculture, farm, ranch, cattle; oil and gas; highway crossroads and railroad crossroads; and the emerging one that is growing really nicely is tourism. Tourism we have, I'll say, three major attractions. First is the Big Texan. They probably just would like for us to leave them alone. I'm not sure we need to do anything to help them. Palo Duro Canyon, if you'd been here two days ago, you wouldn't have been able to get any water down there.

We need some capital improvements done down there, and I would hope that you would do it. I'm on the Friends of Palo Duro Canyon -- Friends of Palo Duro Canyon Foundation and we're seeing so much traffic down there and we have an antiquated system to try to solve it and I think y'all know about it. I'm telling you that we're going to have one of these 4th of July weekends with wall-to-wall people and they won't be able to flush toilets and they won't be able to drink any water and so it's something I'd hope that you would consider to address as an emergency.

The other one, the big structure that we have for tourism is Lake Meredith; and that's primarily my reason for being here today. Lake Meredith, although it's a federal facility by the BLM, the fishing part of it -- the rules and regulations and the stocking -- is done by Texas Parks and Wildlife. They have stocked, since the lake came up, 6 million Walleye, 39,000 Smallmouth, a couple of thousand bass, and a couple of thousand -- or 6,000 crappie; but the number one fish in popularity and the fish that you can catch in the summertime, is not a Walleye.

Walleye will go suspend at 30 foot over the deepest part of the lake, and I don't know how many times you have gone fishing and fished in suspended water at 30 foot; but the average person that takes his kids and his grandkids up there, he's not going to catch them and it's just -- it's the way Walleye are. They're a great fish. They're a great eating fish. They're a great sport fish; but for summertime recreation, when that's the primary time that we do it -- we don't really go ice fishing up there a whole lot in the wintertime, but the Walleye fishing is good at that time.

The fish that's missing is the Largemouth bass, by far the most popular fish for the summertime for the guy that's going to go out there and take his kids fishing. And you can catch them up at Meredith. We proof of it. The State record is 12 pounds. When I did a little fun fishing tournaments, little three-hour fishing tournaments, several bass over 10 pounds were weighed in. Some of the biologists tell us that the bass won't live up there. History has proven them wrong, and I would hope that you would consider and it is my request that you stock some Largemouth bass up in Lake Meredith.

We need it; and if we want to keep this next generation coming and staying active in the outdoors, we're going to have to have a fish that they can catch when they go fishing and that's the summertime. And so if you'll do that, I'll be happy and the kids will be happy. Thank you very much.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you, Mr. Phillips. Appreciate your thoughtful remarks. I will say that we're with you on the desire to make capital improvements to the park and we understand that demands -- our parks are being loved to death, and it's not just Palo Duro. We're turning people away in other parks, and we wish we had the funds to do more; but we can be helped there by your efforts and the efforts of your colleagues contacting State Legislators and let them know how important parks are to you and capital improvements in parks because it all comes down to appropriations that we have to have from the Texas Legislature. So we understand; and we're working to try to address these capital improvement needs here, as well as at our other park facilities.

MR. MEL PHILLIPS: I have some friends that will also help pay for stocking Largemouth bass if that --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, I'm going to come back to that. I would say you heard from Brian Van Zee, and I would -- he's here. So I would encourage you to visit with him. He's right behind you here. Talk to him about that because it all starts with Inland Fisheries staff and his team.

MR. MEL PHILLIPS: Right.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So we appreciate your efforts to try to work on the fishing, and I would encourage that you visit with him if you have time.

MR. MEL PHILLIPS: Mr. Chairman, thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you, sir.

All right. Next up, William Britain, followed by Frannie Nuttall.

MR. WILLIAM BRITAIN: Chairman Duggins, Commissioners, Commissioner Latimer, Director Smith, I'm Bill Britain. I'm a lifelong resident of Potter County, and I go to Palo Duro Canyon every chance I get. And I can tell you that hiking along Rock Garden Trail at dawn, is an ethereal experience and seeing a Vermilion Flycatcher flit from branch to branch or seeing a Golden eagle soar overhead or standing up on the rim this tall, can lift you out of your daily cares very easily.

Everything in Palo Duro Canyon to me is perfect. However -- there's always a "however" -- seeing a long line of cars with license plates from all over the nation waiting for an extended amount of time trying to gain access to our canyon, seems a little embarrassing for the incredible organization that Texas Parks and Wildlife is.

I don't know if it's funding. I imagine it's Smithee's fault. I don't know if it's funding or the management of ingress and egress, the organization thereof. I don't know what it is; but I know that if somebody on the Commission will focus on this very small, but really impactful issue, I know it can get solved quickly.

I just thank you-all so much for being here and thank you for all that you do and administering the incredible canyons that we have here in the Panhandle. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, we really appreciate your remarks and your support for this fabulous spot; and I would invite Brent Leisure, who's head of State Parks, maybe to give you a quick response on some upcoming -- some work that's in progress. I think you're going to see some improvements in the waits.

Brent, could you --

MR. WILLIAM BRITAIN: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- perhaps comment on that.

MR. LEISURE: Thank you, Mr. Britain. We appreciate the comments.

Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, we visited a little bit about it today; but ingress and egress to Canyon is certainly a concern of ours. There's a choke point, frankly, that cannot deal with the masses of people that are coming in; and we realize this.

There's two points to this solution, and we're going to be working on both of them. And one is an improved design into the headquarters and roadway and the traffic flow coming into the park. That portion requires some investment and capital funds. And then the second part -- and we're pleased to let you know that in December, later this year, we're going to have a new business system that's going to allow for a more efficient access and to not just Palo Duro Canyon, but all state parks, with -- by providing for advanced purchase of day passes, as well as camping permits and making those reservations. It's going to be more convenient online, but it's also going to be more convenient for you when you arrive at the parks. It should be able to improve the access there.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you, Brent.

I hope that -- I hope that helps to learn that. We're excited about rollout of this new system later this year.

All right. Frannie Nuttall, welcome. Followed by Debbie Comer, I believe.

MS. FRANNIE NUTTALL: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and members of the Commission. Like everyone else here, we're very pleased to have you here today. Welcome to the Texas Panhandle and to Amarillo.

I'm the past President of Partners in Palo Duro Canyon Foundation. Our organization serves many duties in the Palo Duro Canyon State Park, including serving as a local friends group for our beloved park; but more importantly, for volunteers. We provide educational support, manage the Visitor Center and the park gift shop. The Palo Duro Canyon -- or the Canyon Gallery is the name of our gift shop. We also provide extensive financial support of the Palo Duro Canyon State Park.

We're concerned today about the budgeting process with individual parks. There seems to be no plan for appropriate -- no plan for appropriate operating costs. We, as an organization, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, regularly provide mattresses, sheets, towels, coffeemakers, etcetera, for the cabins, while no receipt of income stays in our area. It doesn't come to our park, and it doesn't stay in the Texas Panhandle.

The gate income goes to Parks and Wildlife to fund many of their projects; but we are a very large park in the State system, and we see very little of that return. We have a large amount of capital problems in our park: Water, septic systems, cabins. We have a lot of issues that have been left behind when you talk about infrastructure; and as an organization who provides a lot of money back to the state park, we would appreciate some assistance in having those needs put into the forefront.

The Amarillo Convention Visitor Center spends a lot of money bringing people into this area, as does the Parks and Wildlife Department; but we're not going to be able to provide good services or give people a wonderful experience in our park without some infrastructure improvements in Palo Duro Canyon.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: We appreciate your comments. We agree about the need for capital improvements and as I think I mentioned earlier, each of us up here continue to lobby our Legislators to appropriate funds for needed capital improvements; and I think we have around $45 million in park fund balances from park receipts that has not been appropriated for us to spend. We -- Mr. Smith and his team and, as I said, the members of the Commission appreciate the need to address the capital repairs' issue; but we've got to have the Legislature appropriate funds for us to do it.

And I would just say in terms of specific issues you have with the park, I think we've heard you; and we actually this morning, our park staff talked about the need to address the water and wastewater issues out there because of the huge increase in park usage there and we're trying, but we can only do what is appropriated. So we'll continue to work with you and we thank you for all you do for the park and --

MS. FRANNIE NUTTALL: You bet.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- it's a wonderful, wonderful place. Thank you.

MS. FRANNIE NUTTALL: Yes, it is; and we want to keep it that way. We do -- we are also working with our Legislative delegation from this area and we have a lot of members who vote. So maybe that will make a difference.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: It helps and --

MS. FRANNIE NUTTALL: Yes, it does.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- you might let the Lieutenant Governor's Office know it's important to Amarillo area residents that everybody -- the parks are just being loved to death all over the country. I had breakfast with Secretary of the Interior Zinke a few weeks ago and he said the National Park System is facing the same kinds of challenges. So it's not unique to Texas, but we certainly want to try to do more and would love to even provide more parkland; but it's -- it comes down to money. So anything you can do --

MS. FRANNIE NUTTALL: Yes, it does.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- to help encourage the Legislature to appropriate more funds, we'll be grateful.

MS. FRANNIE NUTTALL: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you so much.

Next up, Debbie Comer. Followed by Angela Harney. Welcome, Ms. Comer.

MS. PEBBIE COMER: Thank you. And it's Pebbie. Just like Debbie, except with a P.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Oh, I beg your pardon. I sure see that now.

MS. PEBBIE COMER: That's okay. I have lots of aliases: Debbie, Peggy --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: My new glasses are not --

MS. PEBBIE COMER: It's okay, so I'm good.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: My apologies.

MS. PEBBIE COMER: Thank you guys so much for coming and taking your time to come to the Panhandle. I, too, am a Board member on the Partners in Palo Duro Canyon. The canyon holds a special place in my heart. I'm going to tell my age here. I actually worked at the Sad Monkey Railroad in '69 through '72. Some of y'all may remember that. But when we first moved to Canyon, I worked out there in high school. It's no longer there; but if you were at the park today, you saw it where the stables is and there used to be a little guy on a train that gave you a 15-minute tour, which was really cool.

But I also have a background in geology. So I love rocks and minerals and being at the canyon and volunteering is just one of my favorite things to do. You've already heard from Frannie and you've heard from Mr. Britain. So I'm just going to echo what they're talking about.

We literally -- and I'm sure you know this -- but we have people from all over the world. Some people can't even speak English. You end up doing all this funky sign language trying to direct them to the bathroom or how to count their money out, but I'm amazed at how many people we have that come from all over the world to see us. So, again, I just wanted to back up what they say to encourage more capital improvements in the parks.

We're kind of the first line of griping. I don't know. Sometimes they can't maybe catch a park guy, or they don't always stop at the front gate; but when they come into the Visitor Center, guess what? They get us. "This bathroom didn't work. This water didn't work." I'm just reiterating what they've already said and I realize we need to work with our State Legislators to appropriate the money and get it coming our direction, but we appreciate you guys coming and seeing firsthand. At least you didn't have a massive windstorm today. So you don't have a lot of grit in your ears and your nose at this point, but we do appreciate you guys coming to see what we have.

It is truly a gem of the Panhandle. It's a privilege to get to volunteer out there and help and I really enjoy it, but thanks for coming.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, thank you so much for all you do to support the park and for coming today.

MS. PEBBIE COMER: We enjoy it. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: You also did a good job this morning. It was in the low 60s.

All right. Angela Harney, followed by David Townsend. Welcome.

MS. ANGELA HARNEY: Hi. Good afternoon. My name is Angela Harney. I am an avid user of the Palo Duro Canyon State Park. I'm probably not your typical, you know, resident of the Panhandle because I'm literally there probably twice a week. So I use it a lot. It is the gem of the Panhandle, which I know a lot of folks have already talked about today; and I'm very glad that you-all were able to come up here and see it.

My request today is actually unbelievably simple. So don't be too shocked. We don't have soap in the restrooms at Palo Duro Canyon State Park and, you know, it's just -- it's just a really simple thing; but I'm a mother of two children and I'm an avid hand washer and, you know, soap and sanitizing your hands was the single greatest advancement in medicine in the 19th century. Yet, here in Texas at the jewel of the Panhandle Texas state park, we don't have soap in the restrooms. And we have people from all over the world coming to this park; and yet, the restroom is literally like going to a third-world country.

So I would just like for us to put soap in the restrooms. That's my number one request. I know we spend a lot of money on infrastructure improvements and things to improve public safety. Adding soap would also improve public safety by preventing communicable diseases.

Secondly, along the restroom theme, we've talked a lot about today about the Mack Dick Pavilion and what an incredible facility it is; and I would like to echo those comments. Unfortunately, this facility is grossly underutilized. We have these wonderful, large restrooms that are always locked and never available for the public use. They are only opened when there is an event being hosted. So you have literally hundreds of people coming to the canyon, parking there, and just relieving themselves wherever they can in that parking lot because those restrooms are perpetually locked.

And I think that just echoes an overall theme of what you've heard today of just infrastructure improvements. You know, there's a lot of people coming into the park. There's not enough facilities. Basic things like hand washing and using a restroom are things that are going to protect our environment and protect this wonderful resource. So I just ask that you open those doors. I don't know why they can't be open and why the public can't use those restrooms.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I have a question for you.

MS. ANGELA HARNEY: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: How would you feel about portable restrooms? If that --

MS. ANGELA HARNEY: I would welcome a Port-a-Potty.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And I don't know that is doable or should be done.

MS. ANGELA HARNEY: I would welcome a Port-a-Potty.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I'm just throwing that out as a --

MS. ANGELA HARNEY: I mean, that's a great idea. The sad thing is that the taxpayers and I'm sure private donors have spent millions of dollars on this incredible facility that is -- and the restrooms are never unlocked to the public.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I --

MS. ANGELA HARNEY: And only unlocked for the use of a wedding or a reception. So it just seems like a waste of taxpayer dollars that we're not able to use those facilities.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, Mr. Brent Leisure, who's right there to your left, took -- diligently took notes as you were speaking.

MS. ANGELA HARNEY: Soap, pretty simple.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I bet we'll see soap in the bathrooms.

MS. ANGELA HARNEY: Yes.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, Chairman, we will have soap. Yeah, I promise you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: If I have to pay for soap for the next 30 days, we'll have soap in those bathrooms.

MS. ANGELA HARNEY: Okay. Can I get your -- can I get your cell phone number?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: You can.

MS. ANGELA HARNEY: Thank you very much. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: We really appreciate --

MS. ANGELA HARNEY: Thank you very much, Commission. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- your comments and by my laughing, I'm just -- I'm so -- I think it's so important we do have good hygiene and good --

MS. ANGELA HARNEY: It's pretty simple.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So I appreciate that.

MS. ANGELA HARNEY: Thank you. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay.

COMMISSIONER JONES: We might have to take up -- we might have to pass the plate at the next Commission meeting if we need to, but we'll have soap.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. David Townsend, followed by Phyllis Nickum. Welcome, Mr. Townsend.

MR. DAVID TOWNSEND: Welcome to Amarillo, guys. Okay. First of all, I installed soap in the Visitor Center this morning. So we've got plenty of soap there.

Welcome again, as I say. I'm just reiterating what has been said today already about the infrastructure of the water. I do run and operate the Visitor Center, Canyon Gallery; and it is an ongoing thing, tourists coming in, the bathrooms are down, the drinking fountain is down, no drinking water. It's just an ongoing thing. I believe that over the last six months, there's been water leakage in the park at least a dozen times. That is just an ongoing thing. That's -- I'm just reiterating, but that's the basic thing right now that I wanted to speak on.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, we're grateful for you taking time to come mention this and I would -- I'm being repetitive here, but let your area Legislators know how important it is that the parks get adequate funding to fix capital needs. We have water and sewage, wastewater treatment needs; and it's not just Palo Duro. It's all over.

And it's not that Carter Smith and Brent Leisure and teams don't care about it. It's a funding challenge. So anyway, thank you for taking time to join us today and for your work in the park.

MR. DAVID TOWNSEND: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Phyllis Nickum, welcome. Followed by Bill McCubbin.

MS. PHYLLIS NICKUM: Well, thank you for allowing me to be here; and thank you for coming to the Texas Panhandle. I am a member of the Partners of Palo Duro Foundation, but I'm also a Western Heritage Tourism Operator. My ranch sits on the rim of the state park; and every year, we have thousands of people come from every country in the world to ride horses, to have chuck wagon events, and to hear about the rich history that Shannon mentioned earlier about the Texas Panhandle and specifically, Palo Duro Canyon and the surrounding area.

I hate to be repetitive; but as we send people to Palo Duro Canyon State Park, we need to be assured that there is an infrastructure in place that will allow them soap and water whenever they're going to use the restrooms and we appreciate everything that you're doing. As a member of Partners of Palo Duro Canyon Foundation, we are talking with our Legislators, as well; but if you can also please keep this important issue on the forefront.

As a landowner that sits on the rim of Palo Duro Canyon State Park, water is such a major issue. As we mentioned before, there was a huge fire here and without water, we can't put out a huge fire in the canyon. Without water, we can't have toilets operating properly. And as a tourism professional, I know the impact of tourism to Texas and to this area. And thank you for everything you do, but could you do more? Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Sorry. We're certainly going to try and thank you so much for coming today and for your support of the park.

MS. PHYLLIS NICKUM: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. Next up, Bill McCubbin; followed by Daryl -- Darren Mooneyham. Welcome, Mr. McCubbin.

MR. BILL MCCUBBIN: Thank you. Welcome to Amarillo. I'm a hunter ed instructor. I've met Carter before and have got a couple of questions for you. I was looking through the incident reports for last year on the hunting incidents and out of 21 incidents, I noticed that there were two fatalities, which is good for us, bad for them; but five of the people involved in those 21 incidents were graduates of hunter education. And I'm hoping that y'all are keeping an eye on those folks and if they have gone through the online course only and never been subject to a -- any marshaling by the instructor, if that would continue to be that way and we continue to see that number grow.

So there's people kind of taking the easy road out, doing the online course only and never going to class. You might heighten the age or raise the age requirement so that the 17-year-olds can't do that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, we -- when changes were made to the hunter ed requirements about two years ago, a great deal of -- there was a great deal of consideration by staff, as well as this Commission, in making those changes; and I'm sure staff will -- maybe could get back to us next -- by our next meeting in August.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, we can do that. We can get a report on that. We'll look at any correlations with respect to accidents related to those who did or didn't take the online version. We'll have a report to you. I'll get with Josh and the team on that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I can assure you that hunter safety is of paramount importance to this group. I mean, just in March -- at our March meeting, for example, Commissioner Warren led the charge on air gun -- requiring safeties on airbows rather.

MR. BILL MCCUBBIN: Right.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I mean, this is something we all take very seriously and we do want people to go through and take the class and take the requirement seriously.

MR. BILL MCCUBBIN: I hope we don't continue to give them an easy way out, opportunity, so.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, we'll look forward to staff circling back on it and see where we are; but I sure appreciate your work in hunter ed and for coming today.

MR. BILL MCCUBBIN: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you.

Okay, Darren Mooneyham wants to talk about Lake Meredith. Welcome, sir.

DARREN MOONEYHAM: Thank you. Appreciate it. Thank you for being here. I hope you don't consider the Panhandle the armpit of Texas like a lot of the football recruiters do. So we just thank you for being here.

My, I guess, suggestion and question is first off, I was born and raised fishing at Lake Meredith. I'm a lure designer by trade and tournament fisherman. I grew up fishing the lake and most people don't know that there's three state records and one world record out of Lake Meredith. The world record is a still in basin Largemouth caught on a fly rod, six pound tip with 14 pounds and 9 ounces. So my question is, we don't stock Largemouth in Lake Meredith and we're catching Largemouth out at Lake Meredith.

They typically have grown well at Lake Meredith, with the record being 12 and a quarter pounds. I know that Lake Fork in Central Texas is kind of the State's baby and they average 500,000 to 300 -- 300,000 to 500,000 fingerlings yearly, but we get zero. There's 9,000 total Largemouth stocked in the Panhandle of Texas. Most lakes will get 900,000 over a couple years. You know what I mean?

And I know I probably need to be talking to Brian. I'm sure that's where you're going to lead me to; but it's very important for our economy, and it's very important for the people that are raised up here to have the Largemouth bass in Lake Meredith.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I appreciate your -- we appreciate, rather, your suggestion there and I would encourage you to visit with him. It sounds like a reasonable request to me, but I'm not a Fisheries biologist and so I --

DARREN MOONEYHAM: Okay.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But, again, thank you for trying to improve fishing there and Brian's right here and I'm sure he'll visit with you if you have a few minutes.

DARREN MOONEYHAM: Perfect, thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you so much, Mr. Mooneyham.

MR. SMITH: Chairman, you know, just I think we had provided this information; but we are looking at Largemouth bass stocking in 2019. So that is very much on the horizon and do want to just reiterate the opportunity to visit with Brian and Craig for those that are interested in this subject, but I did want to make sure the Commission knew that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That's good news. Thank you.

Okay. Dale Scarberry, followed by Kirk Coker. Welcome, Mr. Scarberry.

MR. DALE SCARBERRY: Thank you, Commissioners. What they said about Lake Meredith. So I guess I'm reduced to telling a fish story. But first, I want to tell whoever green lighted "Lone Star Law" is a genius. I've been in the broadcast business for 40 years, and I'm glued to that show. Now, there's one called "North Woods Law" or something. All those guys talk funny, you know, and there's moose and stuff; but these guys are great.

But I want to address this Lake Meredith issue. I started fishing Meredith in the 60s when you could catch a hundred Walleye and bass and none of them were keepers and went through the period where you could catch a hundred keeper Walleye in a day and a lot of big blacks; but as the water receded and the quality declined, I moved west to Conchas and I've been fishing over there for 25 years.

So I'm here to represent a pretty narrow constituency: That's me and my two grandsons. It's 320 miles to Conchas. It's 104 miles to Meredith. So starting a week ago Wednesday, we fished a total of 16 hours at Meredith. Generally, three hours at a time. We caught 112 Walleye. Three of them we could keep. We harvested 13 out of that. So my statement is, pour all the fish you -- I don't care what it is. Put carp in it, but put as many fish in that lake as you possibly can. Thank you. Appreciate it.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, we appreciate you joining us today and that you're bringing your grandsons along in the great tradition of fishing and thank you so much.

All right. Kirk Coker, followed by John Miller. Welcome, Mr. Coker.

MR. KIRK COKER: Thank you very much. I'd like to say that I'm here to speak on behalf of the game wardens in the Law Enforcement Division. Although, we know game wardens aren't real police because we see it on TV all the time. I'm kidding, guys. Don't throw nothing.

I started my law enforcement before it was even legal for me to go out and purchase a bullet. I was a police officer, and my parents had to buy ammo. I worked down south, and I've worked with game wardens all over the State of Texas. For several years, my police car was a boat on Lake Conroe and worked with them and I moved up in the Panhandle in '06. To this day, I have never seen a more professional agency in my life.

The dedication these guys have, tells me y'all are doing something right up here. I work real close. Lake Meredith is in my county. Lance Lindley is one of our game wardens here; and any time we have a problem, he's there to help. I've been in shootings since I started as Sheriff. Lance was there. We have wildfires. Lance is there. Always, "What do you need? Where do you need me?" I've even jumped on boats and helped do recoveries with them.

I just want to tell y'all that they have my utmost respect. I appreciate what y'all are doing, and I appreciate their help and their assistance that we get. And so many times, we don't hear that. I want them to know it.

And, Captain Daigle, I want you to know your guys are awesome out here.

Thank y'all very much, and that's all I needed.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Mr. Coker, thank you so much for that very gracious comment. Our Colonel is trying to chase you down because you got his chest puffed out all the way and I know Danny Jones -- or Danny Shaw, rather, is probably feeling the same way. We really appreciate it because we share your sentiments about the LE group.

Welcome, Mr. Miller.

MR. JOHN MILLER: Thank you. My name's John Miller. I go by Jack. So if you holler "John" at me, I probably won't answer; but it's nice to see all of you. I welcome you to Amarillo. I'm glad you're here.

Director Smith, I'm glad you're here.

I'm here to say thank you to you because I know the hard work that you do. One of my good friends is a former Commissioner and he tells me of all the hard work you do or at least he made it up so he'd look better; but we appreciate it, and we appreciate the endless hours that you put in. But I also want to speak mostly to the guys that do the work on the ground out here.

We have a ranch north of town that's been in our family since 1910. I'm the fourth generation. My grandkids are the sixth. We have all the hunting species. We have quail. We have dove. We have turkey. We have deer. We have White-tail. We have Mule deer. We have all that, Pronghorn; but we also have Horny toads and birds and such fascinating things to see every time you go out there and that's what my little grandkids like the best to see. And we really appreciate the work these guys do to keep all that kind of fresh for everybody.

The eastern -- the western part of our ranch is along the Chronic Wasting Disease line along Highway 287. So we have involvement there. The southern part of our ranch is along the Canadian River, and the eastern part of our ranch is along the Canadian River. So we have lots of visitors there from the public lands, which have really become not very conducive to hunting with all the ATV traffic and that sort of thing. So people tend to maybe jump the fence, and we really appreciate your people that help us control that.

We also are at ground zero where our ranch is for the sand drags, and we have gotten tremendous cooperation out of the Parks and Wildlife Department. We loan them a staging area for their work that they do at the sand drags; but they really help keep the order, reduce fire danger, reduce -- or increase public safety and it's for that, that I'm really here to say thank you.

So when you see these guys in their uniforms, we say, in my family, "Thank you for your service, for your kindness, for your diligence, for all those things that you do for us." Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you. That's very thoughtful of you, and we really appreciate it. We agree. These -- our Law Enforcement team and our entire team does a great job.

Okay. Is there anybody else in the audience that would like to speak on any matter, good or bad or medium?

All right. Do any of the members have any comments?

Okay. Let me look to see what I've got to do to dot our I's here. All right. Before I adjourn, I just want to say to anybody who may be interested, that we're going to conduct a public meeting like this tomorrow in Lubbock and anybody who was unable to join us today and would like to address the Commission, we would greatly enjoy hearing from you in Lubbock tomorrow. And with that, I will say that the Commission has completed its business. So I declare us adjourned. Thank you, everyone.

(Public Hearing Adjourns)


C E R T I F I C A T E

STATE OF TEXAS ) COUNTY OF TRAVIS )

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

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

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

___________________________________

Paige S. Watts, CSR, RPR

CSR No.: 8311

Expiration: December 31, 2018

7010 Cool Canyon Cove

Round Rock, Texas 78681

(512)779-8320

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