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TPW Commission

Work Session, May 23, 2018

Transcript

TPW Commission Meetings

TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION

May 23, 2018

TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT
LUBBOCK MEMORIAL CIVIC CENTER
BANQUET HALL
1501 MAC DAVIS LANE
LUBBOCK, TEXAS 79401

COMMISSION WORK SESSION & EXECUTIVE SESSION

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Good morning -- is this thing working or not? There we go. Good morning, everyone. I would like to call this Wednesday Work Session to order May 23, 2018, at 10:35 a.m.

Before we proceed with our business, I would like to ask Carter to make his general statements.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Appreciate that.

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; and I would like for this fact to be noted in the official record of this meeting.

Yeah, thank you, Mr. Chairman.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you.

Next order of business is the approval of the minutes from the previous Work Session held March 21, 2018, which have been previously distributed. Is there a motion for approval?

Commissioner Scott. Second Commissioner Warren. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries.

Now, we're going to take up the report from our head of Government Relations, Harold Stone, on how to eat a 72-ounce steak. Harold, would you like to -- okay. I guess he's not here. So we can infer what we wish.

MR. SMITH: He's still recovering, Chairman.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. The next thing is that -- I will announce that Land Conservation Work Session Agenda Items No. 16, Acquisition of Land, Brewster County; No. 17, Exchange of Land, Washington County; No. 19, Disposition of Land, Blanco County; No. 20, Transfer of Land, Walker County, have been withdrawn from today's agenda.

So that would take us to Work Session Item No. 1, an Update on Progress in Implementing the Land and Water Resources Conservation and Recreation Plan. Carter.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Carter Smith. Mr. Chairman, with your permission, I'm just going to stay up here on the dais, as opposed to go down to the podium.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Please do.

MR. SMITH: Just as a point of departure, obviously by law, need to provide a very quick update on our Internal Affairs team. That team continues to work at a normal clip. We've seen a slight uptick in case referrals. Probably an artifact of just the amount of visitor contact that we have going into the summer on the water and in the parks; but, again, we'll have a year-end summary early fall for the Commission.

I do just want to simply acknowledge the Internal Affairs team and the Executive Protection team just for all their work on the logistics of these meetings, which, as you know, have been extensive. And so really appreciate their service to the Commission and the Department as we've been moving around from city to city.

I want to talk just a little bit about I think one of our favorite subjects for the Commission, and that is a chance just to herald all of the good deeds of our team out there in the field. All of you know that there's a thousand acts of service and goodness that are going out each and every day among our colleagues working in the field.

I want to put a date on your calendar if I may and that is August 7th in Austin, which is the employee recognition awards. And so that's going to be in Austin. We have a chance to recognize our colleagues for their exemplary actions severing the state. And for those of you haven't been there in the past, I'd encourage you to come. It's really great fun. I know Pamela's looking forward to it as her inaugural year as our HR Director, and so it should be another exciting ceremony. So if you can make it, please do.

Meanwhile, you know, we also encourage our work teams to recognize their colleagues for their service. State Parks has had a program called "Stars in the Parks" for the last six years I believe it is, Brent. And we've got total of about 17 awards that we give out to colleagues from all over the state for their actions and service inside the parks. Everything from customer service to leadership to innovation to exemplary natural resource or cultural resource related protection. And so it's a nice way, again, to recognize folks across the state.

This year, we had 15 awardees from around the state that were recognized for, again, a variety of actions. You can see from very happy and deserving employees, again, at places from Lake Livingston all the way up to Palo Duro Canyon. And just to emphasize it, two of our honorees were from Palo Duro Canyon. One of whom you had a chance to spend a lot of time with yesterday. She's now a Regional Director; but she was the superintendent at Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Shannon Blalock, and she was recognized for an act of valor. She and her husband were leaving the park, driving into Canyon, and one of her colleagues ahead of them on that little county road had a massive cardiac arrest event and drove off the road and wrecked. She and her husband were able to extricate that colleague from the car, perform CPR, and really saved his life until EMS could get there. And so Shannon and her husband were recognized for that and so awfully proud of her quick action.

Also, an important opportunity to just reemphasize the criticality of the first aid training that we provide to our folks out in the field and how important it is that we do not cut that short for our colleagues.

Also, another one of our colleagues in the park got a leadership award: Dusty McBroom, who's a park ranger up at Palo Duro Canyon. Our lead ranger up there had had a debilitating accident and, again, you saw all of the many needs of that park from the trails to the customer service, the emergency response, all of the myriad things we ask of our rangers and Dusty stepped into that lead ranger role on an interim basis and just did a phenomenal job. And so awfully proud of our team and sorry we don't have time to recognize all of them, but just wanted you to get a sense of, again, our colleagues and the good work that they're doing there around the state.

Obviously, oysters has been a major area of conservation focus and emphasis for this Commission and the Department. I want to thank Robin and Lance and their team for all the work that our Coastal Fisheries team has done on that front. Also, our game wardens have just done an extraordinary job with regard to their patrols and enforcing the laws out there, many of them new. And it's worth a reminder that, you know, the very first six game wardens that we hired in the State of Texas in 1895, were hired to protect oyster reefs in Galveston Bay and we think about that here in 2018. They're still doing that today every day and proud of their work.

As you know, commercial oyster season ended at the end of April. The first of April, our Law Enforcement team -- I want to compliment Grahame and Danny and our folks out in the field for emphasizing that. We had a multiagency kind of saturation patrol there on the mid coast where we had a lot of activity San Antonio and Lavaca Bays. They put together an operation with the Coast Guard, the local Sheriff's Office, CBP, and some other agencies to really have high visibility and presence in those bays. And they were seen and their actions were felt and those who violated the law were caught.

Thirty-six boats ended up getting cited in that operation. Ninety-five citations were issued, another nearly 30 warnings. It's not going to surprise any of you that most of those cases were for exceeding the allotment of undersize oysters and/or fishing in closed areas, including fishing within that 300-foot buffer zone that the Commission established. So we're going to continue to emphasize the criticality of that.

I want to thank our game wardens for making that a priority. You know, conservation law enforcement is what they do; and this is a really important part of that. Just -- we got some statistics from Brandi that I wanted to share with y'all from the end of oyster season. And, you know, our game wardens, again, had a very active presence on the bays and while we don't measure success by the numbers of citations -- I want to be abundantly clear about that -- what we want is compliance.

Our wardens did a terrific job. Had 556 citations that were issued overall. Again, that's not reflective of this huge amount of effort they put in being out there on the water. Again, I want to emphasize that the two most prominent violations were for overharvest of juvenile oysters and for fishing in closed areas, whether that was management areas that we had closed to let those reefs recover from a biological perspective or within this new 300-foot buffer.

So, Chairman, that's a priority for us and there's an area we're going to need to work on in the session. I'll stop there. You've got something you want to say.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I have a question actually and follow-up to that. Were the -- any of the citations that were issued for fishing in closed areas, to boat captains who had previously been cited for the same violation?

MR. SMITH: You know, I would have to ask Brandi on that. I know we had some repeat violations for overharvest of juvenile oysters, including one that was cited multiple times.

But, Brandi, can you address that --

MS. REEDER: Yes. Again --

MR. SMITH: -- particular question?

MS. REEDER: -- my name's Brandi Reeder, with the Law Enforcement Division. Yes, there were repeat offenders. We had one individual, I believe, that had his sixth citation for undersized oysters this season. One thing that we've realized is, granted, eventually the law will catch up to them; but the individual had not made contact with the court at all this season. So come next season, we will visit him and then it will catch up and then the suspensions will be put in place as appropriate.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, we need --

MS. REEDER: Oh, we did? And we did serve a warrant on one individual.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I'm sorry. Would you repeat that?

MS. REEDER: We have served a warrant on an individual who had not addressed the court properly.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, I would say we certainly need to share that information with Representative Bonnen and Senator Kolkhorst, who certainly I think never intended their -- that loophole to be abused, as some of these people appear to be doing. So anyway, thank -- thank you and --

MS. REEDER: Appreciate it.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- Grahame and everybody for the effort and successes in trying to protect the people's resources here from this kind of abuse.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Chairman.

Thank you, Brandi.

Thank you, Grahame.

Moving on, I want to say a few words about Craig and his team and the relaunch of the ShareLunker Program. You know, this has been one of our flagship programs in Inland Fisheries. We've had it for 31 years now. And you will recall in January, that we announced the relaunch, reboot, rebranding of this program, you know, with the tag line "Bigger Better Bass." And I think that's really important about this -- a program that, by any account, has been very successful -- our Inland Fisheries team willingness to step back and look at that program and ask objectively: What's working? What's not? How can we modernize it? How can we change it? How can we engage more anglers? How can we make this program more assessable? How can we better emphasize the conservation message? How can we better utilize social media and digital media related tools to help encourage participation?

And Inland Fisheries, through a terrific multidivisional collaboration -- and I really want to highlight that teamwork with Communications and IT -- worked together to relaunch that program in January and the results have just been terrific. You know, as you will recall, there are now four different size classes, eight pounds and above. The largest one, the Legacy Class for those that want to donate a 13-pound plus bass for spawning purposes, anglers can still do that. Otherwise, our anglers can catch a fish, take a picture of that, weigh it, and release it and then turn that in and they can get a replica mounted if they want; but we get valuable biological information about the bass, and the bass is let go back into the lake or reservoir or river for somebody else to catch.

Through April, Craig, I think we've had 274 or 275 bass entered. The feedback has just been terrific. There were six of the -- I guess it's the Legend or the Legacy Class Series bass that were caught. Three out of Lake Fork. Four out of the six were successfully spawned. So we'll get that, those fingerlings put back in lakes to help improve the genetics. And so anyway, just kudos to our Inland Fisheries team and Communication and IT. Really well done.

One other part of that, too, was this past weekend and that's the annual Toyota Bass Master Texas Fest, which is a, you know, pro angler fishing tournament. It's set up entirely to raise money for Texas Parks and Wildlife and to showcase the work that Fisheries biologists do to help improve and enhance fishing in Texas. That's really the message. Again, this is also a catch, weigh, and release tournament. So, again, I think one of the few, if not the only one of its kind, that our Inland Fisheries team has helped set up.

This year, it was on Lake Travis. Maybe not known to a lot of people as being a world class fishing lake; but they caught a gaggle of fish over there, and I think the biggest one was a 10-pound 5-ounce bass, a lot of 7-, 8-, 9-pound bass and some very happy pro anglers. We had pretty good weather. We had good turnout from all the Divisions to help wave the flag. $250,000 was raised and donated to the Department to invest back into the neighborhood fishing lake related programs, the "Take Me Fishing" trailer, and also the State fish art contest and that's probably a little briefing we ought to do some time, Craig, and show that about how the kids from all over the state participate in this art contest. The talent out there among our kids and the drawings of fish are just phenomenal.

And so kudos to our team. We're excited about the next generation of the ShareLunker Program, and proud to be able to report on that.

Chairman, the last thing I want to mention is you had asked for just a quick update on White-nose Syndrome in bats and you're going to get a much more thorough and detailed briefing from our Wildlife team in August. Likely, Jonah Evans, our mammalogist or John Davis, Clayton, I assume will give that; but this is another one of those disease concerns that are very -- is very, very real.

You know the importance of bats as pollinators, important as controlling pests in agricultural-related environments. Critically important for nature tourism in another number of communities throughout the Hill Country. And so ecologically, they have a really, really important role.

White-nose Syndrome is caused by a fungus which can infect bats while they're hibernating during the winter. During the winter, bats will hibernate. They'll go into a state of torpor, or they're reducing their metabolic energy and caloric production and trying to save that. The fungus will cause an irritation of skin, cause the bats to wake up from that reduce metabolic pressure and torpor, cause them to go out into the elements, try to look for insects that aren't there. They become exposed to disease and weather and starvation, and the disease has literally wiped out bat colonies in parts of the country. So it's very serious.

It's spread from bat to bat. Also, concerns about spelunkers going into caves and inadvertently picking up that fungus and transplanting it to other caves to help get it established. Typically, we see a two- to four-lag time between the presence of the fungus and then the manifestation of the White-nose Syndrome.

The syndrome was first discovered in New York in 2006; and unfortunately, we've watched that march across the states. In 2017, the fungus was discovered in Texas caves up in the Rolling Plains in the Panhandle. Our Wildlife team has been well prepared for that. They've had a White-nose Syndrome plan for a number of years, has been doing active surveillance and engaged key partners from Bat Conservation International to Texas Tech and Texas A&M and others. We've invested a lot of resources in surveillance of bat roosts across the state. Also, swabbing to detect the fungus.

Again, first detected in 2017. This map shows a depiction of where the fungus currently is. We haven't seen an expression of the White-nose Syndrome yet. Hope we don't, but we need to be prepared for that. Sorry, I'm a little color blind; but I think the orange color is where we discovered that in 2017, those counties. And then the red counties are ones in which we discovered it this year with the help of BCI and Texas A&M and, obviously, our Wildlife biologists -- I see Calvin nodding his head back there -- have been very involved in this effort.

You'll note that the fungus jumped down to Central Texas, to Blanco and Kendall Counties; and so no longer just a concern of the Rolling Plains and the High Plains. Our biologists have been working with BCI on an experimental treatment that you'll have a chance to hear more about.

Mainly, just wanted to pre-stage this for you, Chairman. Again, you'll get a much more detailed and comprehensive briefing in August; but this is a very serious. A very serious concern for bat colonies all over the country. I think we've got 32 states which have White-nose Syndrome now, six Canadian provinces, and a big resource concern for us.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: The second bullet point, it says, "Still no evidence the syndrome had manifested." What does that mean?

MR. SMITH: That basically means just because you have the fungus, doesn't mean necessarily that the syndrome has taken hold. So the fungus is the causative agent, as I understand it, oftentimes, will pick up the fungus before it actually infects bats and we start to see the syndrome spread throughout a colony and those roost sites start to exhibit the symptoms of this. Again, where they're leaving the roost during the winter months where they're in these hibernacula and basically are overwintering and staying in the caves. That syndrome then causes them to be irritated, to leave the caves, and end up exposed to the elements and so forth.

So we've got the fungus. We don't have the syndrome yet, as I understand it; but, obviously, we're deeply concerned about what may be ahead. But please know our biologists are working studiously on this and have a good plan of attack and action. We've put in place a lot of new procedures that are affecting spelunkers use of caves, for instance, on state parks and wildlife management areas and I suspect that will be something that John and Jonah will talk about when you get your briefing in August.

Yeah. With that, Mr. Chairman, I'm going to just go ahead and cut it off right there. Are there any other questions that you or the Commission have for me?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Members, any questions or comments?

All right. Thank you very --

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- much, Carter. Great update.

Work Session Item No. 2, Financial Overview. Mike Jensen, would you please make your presentation?

MR. JENSEN: Good morning, Chairman, Commissioners. I'm Mike Jensen, Division Director of financial Resources. I have a presentation similar to the one you've seen in the past. So I'll probably go over these slides fairly quickly. I'll finish up with some summary comments about the strategic plan and some -- I don't have a slide on the Legislative Appropriations Request; but I'll probably make a couple comments on that, and then I'll conclude.

We'll start first with the state parks revenue. You've seen this slide before. This is typically the pattern that we experience over a 12-month -- a full cycle. The peak periods generally being spring and summer months. It's a backloaded system where the last six months is roughly two-thirds of the revenue comes in. The first six months is a little bit more than a third comes in.

If you look where we are year-to-date, the impacts of the hurricane have been pretty significant for state park revenue. When we compare this year with the same periods of the prior year, we're behind pretty much every month, with the exception of March; and March was just slightly ahead of last year. So for year-to-date, we're behind about 10.7 percent, three and a half million dollars. So basically, we're performing about at the level -- somewhere between fiscal year '15 and fiscal year '16 with respect to revenue. Most of that's attributed to Hurricane Harvey, the impact in August and September.

The five-year trend, when you don't account for the hurricane, we were doing very well in state park revenue. The last two or three cycles, we were growing at a rate of about 7 percent, about three point -- three and a quarter million per year. So when I recalculate this next fiscal year, I'll have this year in here. So those averages are going to come way down because of the performance of this year. The average of the prior two cycles has been closer to 9 percent, until that hurricane hit.

We're behind when compared to the same period for 2017 and 2016. We're actually ahead if you compare to fiscal year '15 by about nine and a half percent. We're about 16 percent ahead of '14 levels. As I said, year-to-date, we're behind 3.58 million, 10.7 percent. This slide shows you the variances between the five high level categories that we track. If you look at visitation compared to earlier years, we're behind '16 by 2 percent. We're actually ahead of '15 by 10 percent, and '14 by 16 percent. Compared to the prior year, we're behind 10 percent.

The boat revenue, it's a similar pattern; but it's a little bit more backloaded than even the state park revenue. The first six months are roughly 30 percent; and the last six months, about 70 percent of the revenue in any given year. This is what the current year looks like. We're holding even. So you can see that the boat fee revenue has less adverse impact with the hurricane and some of that makes sense because a lot of these are collected over a two-year cycle and -- but if historically you look back over this, it's a relatively flat revenue stream.

The growth has been roughly half a percent; but '15, '16, and '17, that growth was closer to one and a half percent. We're ahead -- or basically, we're even. We're about one-tenth of a percent ahead of the prior year, which is roughly 13,000. So basically, we're even with last year. The best year of record was actually '16.

This slide shows you the variance between sales tax, titles, and registrations. Of the three up there, registration is probably the most significant; but when it comes to boat revenue by the year's end, registrations account for about two-thirds of all boat revenue. In each given year, roughly about 22, 23 million comes into the Department of boat fee revenue.

If you look at registrations, they're up by about a half percent. New ones, new registrations are down 1.3 percent; transfers down 3.3 percent; and renewals are up 1.6 percent; and titles are down 1.4 percent.

License fee revenue had the same adverse impact as the state park fee streams. As you're aware, we have that big push on the license year when it begins in August and September with dove season. We really haven't caught up from that loss. We were slightly behind when we started the year by about 5 million. Right now, we're behind about 3.9 million; and it's -- the way it's going on a month-to-month basis, some months we're ahead pretty good and then some months we're behind pretty good. So when it all settles down, we're behind about 4.3 percent right now.

Similar to the state parks revenue, we're performing somewhere between fiscal year -- or license year '15 and '16 levels. And this slide shows you the variances between the high level categories that we track. When I combine fishing, resident and nonresident, we're behind about 10 percent; hunting, resident and nonresident, we're behind about six-tenth of a percent; combination licenses, we're behind about 3.4 percent. We do have the rest of this license year/fiscal year before us. If we perform well, we can make up some ground on fishing licenses through the end of the year.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Mike, before you go on --

MR. JENSEN: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- there's no practical way to make up that $600,000 delta on hunting at this point, is there?

MR. JENSEN: No, there's not. There's not. Fortunately, the nonresident hunting was very, very strong. It's a much smaller population, but the fee rate is much higher than a resident price. So that -- the net of that, we're only behind 128,000 when you combined resident and nonresident together. I did the math here on the side of my slide. So basically, resident and nonresident, we're behind 128,000. It's the resident impact that was pretty significant --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Right, right, right.

MR. JENSEN: -- because of the huge population down along the Gulf Coast where the hurricane hit. A lot of those folks, just they didn't participate in dove season; and some of them probably had trouble participating in deer season.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: My numbers were off. So I just want to note that. But anyway, my point is that the variance, we're not going to catch up?

MR. JENSEN: Not on hunting and not on combination license. Now, we're hoping for a very strong fishing summer; and usually by the end of the year, fishing tends to account for almost 30 to 32 percent of the revenue. We're still not quite there yet. So we're going to sell a lot of fishing licenses over the next couple of months.

Budget adjustments, there were a few. The budget adjustments were about two and a half percent. The budget increased. We have four categories. We had some federal and UB come in for 5,911,000 and we had appropriated receipts, which includes donations, seven and a half million. Capital construction UB, small amount, was $74,891. The fourth item on there is actual employee fringe/unemployment. We true up, 523,099. The subtotal is 14.02 million. So the adjusted budget as of the end of March is 571.04 million.

Next couple slides are really a high level overview of the strategic plan. The Governor's Office and Legislative Budget Board significantly changed the instructions and the rules for strategic plans about two years ago. So this cycle matches pretty closely what was done two years ago. It has two primary components.

One component is of primary interest to the Legislature; and the second, the supplemental items, is more of interest to the Legislative Budget Board. So the first section, it has our Agency mission. It has our goals and our action plans and it's has a section dealing with redundancies and impediments. Two years ago, they put a 30-page page limit on that. The instructions this time wiped that away because I think that was difficult for most State agencies to talk about those components in a limit of 30 pages.

The redundancies and impediments, they want us to identify barriers and they also want us to identify -- explain what the problem is and what are some recommended changes that could improve the situation, make government more efficient and effective.

Now, the second group, the supplemental items, this is of key importance to the Legislative Budget Board because of the longitudinal interest in data. That's our budget structure, and I have another slide I'll -- that will talk about the budget structure and performance measures. It also has our Agency HUB Plan, our Statewide Capital Plan, and our Agency Workforce Plan that Human Resource coordinates for the Department.

So this slide you can see a strategic plan. It allows the Legislature and Legislative Budget Board to compare all agencies, apples with apples. We have some schedules that we have to perform that really don't make sense for us, and then you had some elective agencies that don't have indirect built into their budgets. So they have to do some schedules that they probably don't understand why; but the reason we do some of those schedules that are not meaningful for us, is for the Legislative Budget Board to compare us across the board.

It's a very high level. Allows us to have a framework for where we want to put the funding when we come to the Legislative Appropriations Request, and these plans will be due on June 8th. This slide here represents the Legislative Budget Board focus. It's dealing with the actual structure and performance measures.

Our Agency has five goals, nine objectives, 26 strategies; and we have 71 performance measures. Nineteen are key. So when our bill pattern is published, you'll see those 19 in there. And then there's 52 measures that are non-key. Out of the 71, 42 are output measures, 13 are explanatory, 11 are outcome. On this slide, we were requesting some changes just to -- our goal was to improve the data for oversight, as well as for constituents.

With respect to the Managed Land Deer Program, the harvest option is relatively new. So you'll have some folks out there who are only interested in the harvest option, and they won't have a conservation plan. So we were trying to improve the measures and the definitions for those three populations: Those constituents who are only conservation, those who are only interested in harvest, and the third, those who do both. So we had some proposed measure changes so that we'd have better quality data for those three cohorts.

And it's the same thing with capital construction and minor repair. We requested some changes to measures to make it more meaningful to how Infrastructure delivers projects and how State Parks manages their minor repair program. No decisions have been made yet from the Budget -- Legislative Budget Board or Governor's Office on what we submitted.

This slide represents the legislative focus, the things that are in the primary -- the redundancies and impediments part of the plan. I'm not going to go into detail on these. You've been briefed on many of these things. For example, at the last meeting you had a Chronic Wasting Disease briefing. They're interested in Hurricane Harvey and lessons learned from that. Our plan's going to include a narrative on aquatic invasive species and not just aquatic, but all invasives.

Transition to CAPPS. In July, our Agency is going to move to a new payroll system, which is the new timekeeping system. And about a year from there, we will engage in another project to use the Comptroller's accounting system -- it's also called CAPPS -- financials. So we'll have 12 months to get used to the new timekeeping system, and then we'll embark in a new financial accounting system.

I think you're aware of the concerns and issues related to the Battleship Texas. Those are going to be included in the plan. There's always interest in border security and what the game wardens are doing; and we're going to have narrative with respect to the state parks, the centennial that's coming up, including their capital needs, their road needs, and their development needs.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Before you move on, when is this submission to be made?

MR. JENSEN: The due date is June 8th.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Would you please get -- as soon as you can -- get me a draft of at least the portion pertaining to the Battleship and the state park funding?

MR. JENSEN: We'll get that to you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you.

MR. JENSEN: I actually have a couple things I want to tell you. This is my last slide; but when you talk about strategic plan, you should never just stop there because the next step is the Legislative Appropriations Request. This summer, that's what we're going to do. I think y'all are very familiar with that.

This is where we do our base reconciliation. We can do adjustments to out base. We fill out the schedules, and we can shift our base within the authority that we currently have. And then we can ask for exceptional items. We can do Rider revisions that are pertinent just to our Agency; and that's where we also have the schedule that all agencies have to do for 4 percent reductions, a theoretical. The last go-around, they actually took every agency up on those reductions. So we'll be doing those schedules.

We don't know when the instructions will come through. We expect them soon. Our base reconciliation is actually due about a month and a half earlier than two years ago. It's due the end of this month, May 31st.

With respect to cash, our cash balances are looking good. If you look at the beginning fiscal year 2020 cash balances for Fund 64, it's roughly 38 million that's available; but you've got to remember that's more than just the state park fees. That's all the donations that come in. That's the royalties on oil and gas and it's -- Account 64 has been relatively stable. There's not a lot of growth. So while it sounds like a lot of money, it's about 38 million. If we do exceptional items, we need to be mindful of if we want to propose something that's a recurring cost, we'll spend down that fairly quickly because it's really not growing.

When you look out two or three years beyond 2020, it slightly decreases because you'll remember we're no longer pumping 3 million a year in from the boat fees. That's staying in Fund 9.

The Fund 9, the unrestricted piece only, that is more fungible than the restricted stamps, it's going to have a beginning fiscal year 2020 balance of about 13 million; and that one's actually growing at about two and a half million per year. So we'll have greater opportunity there.

The stamp, migratory stamp will be an opportunity. It has a stagnant balance of 15.7. So what they've done in the past, the revenue stream that's coming in per year, it's already appropriated at that level; but we do have an opportunity for some one-time projects to spend some of that 15.7. We have to get off the upland game bird stamp because it will be spent down. They spent that for us. You'll recall that Rider that we have.

We have the saltwater stamp. It will have a balance of about 5.4 million. It grows about a million a year. So there's an opportunity there to leverage that stamp to the tune of about a million of a year to match the revenue stream that's coming in. Same with the freshwater stamp. It will have about 27, 28 million balance in 2020; and it grows about two and a half to 3 million a year. So there's an opportunity there to tap into just that growth. Of course, there's the balance that's there for one-time projects that would be available.

And we'll have opportunities with the unclaimed refund of motor boat fuel tax; and depending on what the Comptroller's revenue estimates are, we might have some opportunities with the sporting good sales tax. If you'll recall two years ago, we were surprised at their estimate because their estimate of sporting good sales tax increased by 20 percent over the prior biennium. So while we didn't get 100 percent appropriation that we wanted for sporting good sales tax for this current biennium, we actually got more money.

Two years ago, the Department received about 261 million. This biennium, we have about 277 and a half million because of the revenue estimate by the Comptroller. We don't understand why it grew, but we weren't complaining. So we'll monitor that again; and hopefully, it will either stay at that level or have a slight growth. We're not expecting a 20 percent growth, but we weren't expecting it last time either.

That concludes my comments. If you have any questions, I'd be happy to try and answer them.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Commissioners, any questions?

All right. Thank you very much, Mike.

With regard to Work Session Item 3, Designation of Nonprofit Partners, do any of the Commissioners have any questions or comments?

All right. Hearing none, I will place Designation of Nonprofit Partners Item on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action by the Commission.

With regard to Work Session Item 4, Advisory Committee Rules, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes, do any of the Commissioners have any questions or comments about that item?

Hearing none, I will place Advisory Committee Rules on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

With regard to Work Session Item 5, Alligator Rules, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes, do any of the members of the Commission have any questions or comments about that item?

Hearing none, I will place the Alligator Rules on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action by this Commission.

All right. Item 6, Chronic Wasting Disease Detection and Response Rules, Facility Location Information Requirements, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes, Mitch Lockwood, please make your presentation.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Mr. Smith. My name is Mitch Lockwood. I'm the Big Game Program Director; and this morning, I'll present proposed amendments to the comprehensive CWD management rules that are located in Division 2 of Chapter 65 Subchapter B.

The proposed amendments would require a georeferenced map showing the boundaries of any facility to which or from which deer may be transferred under the authority of a permit. Now, there's several reasons for this proposed amendment, including the need to provide our Law Enforcement Division with location information for the sites that they're responsible for monitoring.

Additionally, we've become aware of some instances in which some breeding facilities have been closed and later reopened or some release sites have been closed and re-registered, eliminating the need for CWD testing requirements where, in fact, CWD testing requirements should continue. We've also become aware of some -- the creation of some fictitious release sites and some transfer permits actually activated to ship deer to those fictitious sites.

We've also proposed an amendment to the definition of a facility, which is currently defined as any location required to be registered in the TWIMS under a Deer Breeder's Permit, a Triple T Permit, or a DMP, including release sites and/or trap sites. The proposed amendment would include locations affected by permits for the trapping, transporting, and processing of game animals or the TTP Permit.

The existing rule authorizing the Department to require a map specifically for Triple T trap sites would be redundant under these proposed amendments. Therefore, we propose to strike that language from the rules.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That language being what's in 65.972?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Yes, sir.

And finally, the existing rules state that a TC 1 or TC 2 facility may transfer a breeder deer under a transfer permit that has been activated and approved by the Department as provided in 65.610(e). Well, Subsection E is specific to the details of a transfer permit; but there are other important and relevant subsections of 65.610 that pertain to the transfer of deer. Therefore, we propose an amendment to 65.95 to eliminate the reference to Subsection E and make this subsection reference all of 65.610 relating to the transfer of deer.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Let me ask you there: Why do you even need the language in 65.610? Why not just say "has been activated and approved by the Department"?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Without having 65.610 open in front of me at this time, I'm struggling to provide you an answer that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I'm sorry?

MR. LOCKWOOD: I said without having 65.610 open in front of me, I'm struggling to provide an answer to that question.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, I would suggest you consider dropping it because it's a limitation that doesn't seem to be necessary. It's tied to a transfer permit that has been activated and approved by the Department. That's the operative language. So why limit it to one in that one subsection?

MR. LOCKWOOD: I will visit with our legal counsel.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I will just suggest look into that, will you?

MR. LOCKWOOD: I will. I'll visit with our legal counsel on that. Thank you.

I did -- as of last night, we have received 13 valid comments on this proposal, all of which are in support of this proposal. And I'd also would like to state that if this is adopted tomorrow, the effective date of this rule would depend on application development. We would begin gathering the business requirements upon adoption to determine whether or not this project can be completed within six months or whether or not we need to return to this Commission with an approved -- I mean, with a proposal for a delayed effective date.

And that concludes my presentation. I'll be glad to answer any other questions you might have.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Commissioners, any comments or questions?

Thank you very much, Mitch.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I will place the Chronic Wasting Disease Detection and Response Rules, Facility Location Information Requirements, on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action by this Commission.

All right. No. 7, Reassessment of Commission Action Regarding Air Guns and Airbows Rules, Possible Rescission or Other Reconsideration of Commission Action, Clayton Wolf.

MR. WOLF: Good morning, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, Mr. Smith. For the record, my name is Clayton Wolf. I'm the Wildlife Division Director; and this morning, I'm going to visit with you about big bore air rifles and what we're now referring to as arrow guns. So the first thing I want to do, is cover a little bit of terminology.

You'll recall that in the previous presentations, we had been going with the term "airbow," a generic term; and in looking at this reassessments of the rules and visiting with industry reps, you know, what we know is that there is actually an arrow gun out there that the brand or the model is "Airbow" and, of course, we were using it more in a generic context. But we believe to cut down on confusion because there are other models out there and other manufacturers that produce arrow guns, that we -- through the rest of my presentation, I'll by using the term "arrow gun" instead of "arrow bow," hopefully to cut down on some confusion for folks that are following these rules.

Additionally, I'm going to -- later in my presentation -- introduce a term "pre-charged pneumatic." And, you know, if you think about air rifles maybe that we grew up with, those were the kind of air rifles that you pumped up. You know, you pumped up the forearm, you cocked it; or even in more modern times, there are these break-over rifles where you break the barrel over and it loads a spring that compresses a piston and so everything that creates that pressure is onboard the gun.

When I use the term "pre-charge pneumatic," we're talking about these modern big bore air rifles that actually use an external source such as a compressor or air tank or a pump to get the required pressure; and so I'll be introducing that term about two-thirds of the way through my presentation.

Just a little history. You know, today and at least through the rest of this license year, TPWD regulations prohibit the take of alligators, furbearers, and most game animals with air guns and arrow guns. Air guns are legal for the take of squirrels, and air guns and arrow guns are legal for the take of exotic animals; but arrow guns are not considered archery equipment.

Of course, last year we received a petition from Crosman Corporation to legalize the use of big bore air rifles and airbows for use in taking large, big game animals and we had received several other requests and so you're familiar with the proposal that Mr. Cain had presented on several previous meetings. As a result of that, in March this Commission approved for adoption a regulation change that would make law -- it would make it lawful to hunt alligators, game animals, nonmigratory game birds, furbearers and air gun -- with air guns and arrow guns.

We had some other provisions in there. A minimum of .30 caliber for the take of those larger species, the furbearers and turkeys and larger species; and we also had some provisions that made the take or dispatch of alligators similar to those regulations associated with firearms. And then in that approval and that vote, we added -- or you added the pheasant, quail, and chachalaca to the list of species that could be taken with air rifles down to a .177 caliber in size.

Back in March, we also modified a bit our definitions of -- at that time, it was airbow and arrow gun. So you have the definitions there in front of you; but essentially, devices that function by using noncombustible compressed gas top propel a bullet or also the same would be for an arrow or a bolt for the arrow gun. And we also clarified that if -- that the arrows or bolts and broadheads used with arrow guns, must conform to the standards in regulation for lawful archery equipment.

So today I'm here to visit with you because, you know, this Commission, I understand, wants to be comfortable in knowing that whatever regulations are adopted, that when that is complete, that those means and methods are suitable for the humane harvest of game animals. And so today what I'm going to do, is just take a little bit deeper dive into some information.

I know the Chairman wanted to me to reach out to industry and visit with industry experts, and we do have industry experts. The one principal person I was -- I have been visiting with is Mitch King. Mitch is sitting right here. We've known Mitch for a long time. You know, Mitch has been a part of the wildlife conservation world, worked with Fish and Wildlife Service. I got to know Mitch when he worked for his ten years with the Archery Trade Association, helping with archery initiatives in Texas; and you may even recall the support of the CWD rules back in 2016. Archery Trade Association signed on, and Mitch was instrumental in helping get that support from ATA.

Mitch is now with the -- he is the President and CEO of the Air Gun Sporting Association, and so I used Mitch as the conduit. I mean, I know Mitch reached out to other experts. We do have this morning with us John McCaslin, as well, sitting to Mitch's right. John is with AirForce Air Guns. Actually, a Texas-based company out of Burleson, Texas. And it is my understanding we'll have some more air gun experts that will be here tomorrow, and we can anticipate that they will all make some comment during the public comment session; but Mitch is also available today if you have any questions. He has made himself available if you want to go deeper, and I'm not able to answer your questions.

So in visiting with Mitch and reviewing forums and blogs and reading articles on this, the one thing that -- one of the things that became obvious to me is that we really need to look at the use of air guns in the context of all legal means and methods and what -- you know, a common theme or a common thread that I've discovered through this is even with all the existing legal means and methods, there are limitations to those means and methods.

The screen there in front of you has just a sample of items like centerfire rifles, centerfire handguns; but even longbows and traditional muzzleloaders. And, obviously, when we think about that, we think about the traditional muzzleloader, the longbow having limitations; but even the .306 centerfire rifle has its limitations and hunters -- and we expect hunters to be able to understand those limitations so that they can ethically use those to harvest game animals.

All of these legal means and methods propel some kind of a projectile. On the screen that we have here in front of you is just a sample of some of those; but it's, obviously, all kinds of arrows and bolts, modern bullets that are bonded bullets, copper, you've got hollow points, you've got rifled slugs, you have round balls and buckshot and they all propel these projectiles, but they all perform at different levels. And that's what we're going to take a little bit deeper dive in, is looking at the variation in the velocity and ultimately, the muzzle energy that -- of these or the energy of these projectiles and how efficient they are.

This particular table is one that may look familiar to you. It's one that Mr. Cain displayed at -- in March meeting and even the previous meetings. And over on the far right column, it's just a comparison of the different muzzle energy levels for big bore air rifles as compared to some of the other means of take that are legal in Texas. I'm going to go a little bit deeper in that a little bit later in my presentation; but what I did discover and -- is if you look on the screen on this slide here, it's actually two images I got off the internet of bullets that had been fired into ballistic gel. And so ballistic gel is a medium that folks use when they want to look at the performance of different bullets and even arrows are fired into ballistic gel. And in this particular image that you have in front of you, hopefully you can see that the image is much different and the channel that is created by the two bullets in the top image, they came in from the left, the enter the ballistic gel from the left, and you can see that that channel mushroomed out and is larger and then eventually as that bullet lost its energy, that channel kind of just basically followed the track of the tracker bullet.

On the bottom image, a little bit different. Really that channel is pretty much restricted to the diameter of the bullet. Now, I don't know what calibers these are; but what I can tell you, it is very likely that in the top image, that those bullets were traveling at a much greater velocity and had much more energy and when they hit that ballistic gel, that energy is transferred throughout that ballistic gel. And so that's characteristic of your high powered bullets. When they hit that particular gel, they'll expand; but it's not as simple as that.

And so I've got a couple of other charts off the internet and folks really get deep into this and they will look at one caliber. This happens to be diagrams of .308 bullets fired into ballistic gel and just looking at the different performance. What's interesting to me is on that next chart, is if you'll look at the bottom of the screen there, that's also a .308 caliber bullet, 150-grain bullet, that was fired at almost 3,000 feet per second; but it performed much differently than the other bullets.

And so the point is, even with high velocity projectiles, the makeup of that projectile can really impact how it performs. And some of them are built -- some bullets and projectiles are built to stay together and retain the energy and get as much penetration as possible. And then some -- for instance, like hollow points or polymer-tipped bullets -- are made to expand and put as much energy into the target at entry. And so it's obviously a science to folks.

As I was doing my research, I guess -- I don't think it's a coincidence -- as I'm Googling and I'm looking on my phone one day, I open up my Facebook page, you know, and I've got, you know, how they try to market to you on what you've looked at. I get this -- I see this article from "Outdoor Life" and it's entitled why hunters have been subscribing to the knock-down power myth and why it's all wrong. And really that -- that was really central as I was -- central to this theme as I was having conversations with folks and reading these forums, is basically what they're trying to say is not to overestimate that energy and that knock-down power.

Really what most folks that I've talked to and in this article reiterated, was that bullet placement or shot placement, first and foremost, is the most important. Knock-down power and that kinetic energy can have some added value in humanely killing an animal, but it can't be the substitute for a good shot. And so shot placement is the theme that was repetitive throughout this.

Now, obviously, you still have to have enough energy to get through the vitals on an animal. So energy is important at some point and you do need to have enough to be able to penetrate the vitals and ideally, you know, have that bullet or that projectile exit the other side; but ultimately, shot placement and enough energy to penetrate the vitals is the common thread for many of the devices.

For me, it means the most when it pertains to archery equipment. This is a picture of an arrow that is being fired through some ballistic gelatin. I'm a bow hunter and I know the limitations of archery equipment and I have to get very close. I'm going to show you some figures later, but archery equipment has very low energy levels for that arrow that's being fired. And so my -- you know, my typical archery shot and for most bow hunters is 20 yards or less. I know I have to get that close for two reasons. Number one, for shot placement, for accurate shot placement; and number two, the closer I am to that animal, the more energy that arrow has and it will be able to pass through that animal.

So whether we're talking about archery or we're talking about firearms or air guns, those are common themes is shot placement and enough energy to penetrate the animal. And, yes, high powered rifles do have more kinetic energy and can -- and create a bigger channel and have some more additive effects, but it's not a cure-all for the humane harvest of our game species.

So I asked Mitch to provide me some examples, some photos. He scanned the industry to get some photos of some examples of game animals that have been harvested with big bore air rifles. The one here in front of you, of course, is a White-tailed deer and we have a lot of White-tailed deer in Texas and I think you may recall that our Wildlife Division staff and Law Enforcement staff also tested a couple of different air guns on White-tailed deer in Texas, .45 caliber and a .30 caliber, and were able to effectively harvest White-tailed deer. And so clearly, air rifles out there in the right hands are efficient to harvest White-tailed deer in Texas; but there's also plenty of examples of them taking animals with much bigger body mass.

This particular picture is a Red stag that was killed with a .50 caliber at 70 yards. And then also in some areas where bear hunting is allowed, I've got three pictures that were sent to me of bears that had been harvested with a .50 caliber and varying bullet weights.

Now, what I want you to take note of at the very -- is the bottom line there is the range and some of these others and a very common theme among air rifle harvest, big bore air rifle harvest, is close range. Very common 25, 30, 50 yards. Yes, some of the higher performing guns can shoot out there at 100 yards, 75 yards; but when you look at the statistics that were reported to me through this, it's very common that these animals were harvested at close range and that's because, just like a bow hunter knows, they know the proficiency of these air guns and they know that they should not take them beyond their limitations.

Mitch also provided to me a table, and this is half of the table. This is the upper end of the caliber spectrum. You've got on the left there the caliber of the bullet, then the next is bullet weight velocity and, obviously that combination results in muzzle energy and what we added was some comparable handgun cartridge equivalence or what Mitch added to the table, just for folks that are not familiar with air rifles and with their level of efficiency to do a comparison. So if you shoot a .357 or a .38, then you'll recognize that those bullets are performing along the same lines as some of these air rifle combinations here.

On this particular table, the lowest kinetic energy was the .45 caliber, shooting a 143-grain round ball. Now, on the lower end of the spectrum, in the .30 to .357 caliber, this particular -- and I also want to reiterate, those are all pre-charged pneumatics on that other table. On this particular table, all lines are also pre-charged pneumatics, except the one -- the top line that I have -- I added to this table. And the point of this is to look and see and as you can see, the muzzle energies, the amount of kinetic energy goes down. Some of the equivalent handgun cartridges are comparable to legal handgun cartridges for taking game animals in Texas. Some are below that threshold and comparable to, say, a .22 rimfire or a .22 magnum.

On that top line there, that's a -- that is one of these break-over .30 calibers. And so Mitch and Mr. McCaslin informed me that there are not a lot of .30 caliber break-over type air guns on the market, but there are a few. They do not have the same velocity. I looked at one video on the internet of a gentleman that had one and was shooting pigeons and it clearly is -- it performs at a level that's good for pigeons, but it's not built for shooting deer. And we really don't think that any reasonable hunter would grab one of these; but nonetheless, there is a break-over point here where that's a non-pre-charged pneumatic and the rest of these pre-charged pneumatics. And as you look at this table, you can see that the energy that is produced with those pre-charged pneumatics goes up quite a bit, as compared to the non-PCPs.

The other factor to look at here is bullet weight. And so if you look at some of those comparable handgun equivalents, the .22 rimfire and the .22 magnum, and you look at over to that second column, what you'll notice is those are lighter bullet weights. So we will come back to that a little bit later on; but basically, I was also trying to find some other metrics that if this Commission wanted to try to establish some different minimums, looking at some objective metrics that folks in the field could easily understand and abide by and would maybe raise the floor a little bit on air gun performance. And so we will come back to PCPs and bullet weights at the end of my presentation.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Before you move on, I have a question on this slide. It's got a .30 caliber on it.

MR. WOLF: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: It's not the one with -- it's the one before it. Yeah, that one.

MR. WOLF: Okay.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So the proposal that was presented at the March meeting, was any .30 caliber?

MR. WOLF: That is correct.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So if you look at that chart, two of these .30 calibers would be the equivalent to a .22 long rifle and a .22 rimfire?

MR. WOLF: That's correct. At least in the first one, it's velocity and bullet weight limited. In the second one, as I highlighted on the other one, you'll see the velocity is the same as the one below it; but the bullet weight is significantly lower. So in those -- in Line 2 and Line 3, different muzzle energy and it's a variance in the bullet weight that's really changing that.

Now, if you look at the formula for calculating kinetic energy, it's pretty easy; but it's velocity squared. So if you're changing bullet weight and you're changing velocity, you're always going to have a bigger impact with a change in velocity than you are with bullet weight because it's velocity squared times the bullet weight squared divided by a number. But in this particular case, bullet weight is really the reason that that -- those -- that energy equivalent is equivalent to a .22 long rifle.

As a quick point of departure, you know, obviously, we're also talking about arrow guns; and so a little bit different situation. The metrics there on the left, that's -- those are metrics very similar to a bow that I shoot, a 400-grain arrow at 300 feet per second; and that equates to 80-foot pounds of energy. So very low energy levels. Obviously, as I indicated before, the reason to get close to your target. But when you look at, in this case, the air bow, it can shoot a 375-grain arrow at 450 feet per second. So it has twice the kinetic energy of modern archery equipment. So clearly as far as propelling a projectile, it has a lot more energy than a lot of the modern bows.

So let's -- so this is the point where I want to talk about some options out there. The Commission could, if you choose, just choose to go with the vote that was taken in March with no change to the March approval. At the other end of the spectrum, the Commission could rescind that decision and essentially go back to status quo. And if we went back to status quo, I do want to make it clear that air rifles would still be legal for the take of squirrels since that is the state of affairs today.

But then we could have a combination of rescinding that decision and publishing a modified rule, and so some examples -- we'll go back to what I was talking about. One example, if the Commission wanted to do this, to raise that minimum standard and pick a criteria that's pretty objective, is to exclude the non-pre-charged pneumatic rifles from being a legal means of take. So you'll recall that first line on .30 caliber had a much lower performing projectile. It had very low velocity. It was not a pre-charged pneumatic. And so that is also something in visiting with Law Enforcement, it's easy to identify. You know if you have a pre-charged pneumatic rifle or arrow gun versus one that, you know, that basically is a break-over. So it's very easy for anyone to identify whether that's a legal means of take or not, if the Commission wanted to look at excluding non-PCP air rifles for the large game animals, from furbearers, turkeys, and size up.

And if -- if we -- if the Commission chose to go down this road and direct us in that direction, we also -- Mr. Cain found a definition from another state to basically provide a definition for pre-charged pneumatic, which would mean an air gun or arrow gun that is charged from an external high compression source such as an air compressor or air tank or external hand pump.

And then another factor, not quite as easy to discern in the field for Law Enforcement, could be bullet weight. Bullet weight is another one. As you'll recall, it was those light bullet weights that resulted in the lower muzzle energy; but as you might expect, if you went out in the field and someone dropped a bullet in your hand and didn't tell you what weight it was, it would be hard for me to discern whether that was a 130-grain bullet or a 150-grain bullet. Obviously, if you have packaging and other things, it could be easily determined in the field; but it is something that would be easier for hunters to identify with and know what they purchased or produced. If they were producing them on their own and weighing them, it wouldn't be quite as easy to identify as a pre-charged pneumatic; but what it would do, is raise the floor on those minimum standards for muzzle energy.

Now, I'll come back to this slide at the very end to talk a little bit more; but I think it's only fair that I use this slide to kind of remind me. This is a young lady that killed a fairly substantial feral hog. She killed it with a .25 caliber pre-charged pneumatic with a fairly light bullet at 33 yards. And I use this to remind myself that she -- you know, she obviously knew the limitations of this air rifle and was able to effectively kill this animal.

And so, you know, if the Commission chooses to direct staff to publish a rule that changes that minimum standard, wherever we end up on a minimum standard, there's going to be air rifles below that standard that can do the job as long as the person knows what they're -- the limitations. And there's going to be air rifles or other methods of take above that minimum standard that if that hunter does not know the limitations and is not familiar with it, could result in wounding and loss of game. And so that's why it's important whether we're talking about air rifles or crossbows or muzzleloaders and it's always part of our hunter education program, is for hunters to take the responsibility to know the limitations of the means of take that they have chosen to use and not extend that beyond that level of proficiency to humanely take an animal.

So we could have some minimum standards, but it's also I think worth -- it bears worth repeating that hunter responsibility and education and our hunter ed programs are very important. I know that Mitch visited -- has visited with Steve Hall as a board member of our iHEA and I also visit with Steve on a state level and if this Commission chooses to proceed with adoption of air rifles and arrow guns at some point, we would incorporate material into our hunter education program so that our hunters would know the limitations and be able to use those devices responsibly, as well.

Quickly on public comment, this is a slide from the March 22nd meeting. Fairly voluminous comments, with 65 percent agreeing and 34 percent disagreeing. You'll recall some of these reasons for disagreeing: Folks misunderstood the rule and didn't want them allowed in archery season, insufficient to harvest big game, possibly too quiet, will increase poaching, etcetera.

Since March 22nd, when we reposted this rule, we've received -- let's see -- as of this morning, it's going to be 139 comments. So we'll add two comments to this slide here, and those were both agreeing with the proposal. A lot of the reasons were the same. There were still folks that misunderstood. They don't want arrow guns being used during archery season. We did have several people that were suggesting minimum caliber sizes ranging from .25 to .357. Some folks were recommending minimum muzzle energies, a 100- to 350-foot pounds of energy. But essentially, if you wrap it up, you know, those -- the folks that are proponents of it, many of them suggested because of their experience that they know the limitations and they can effectively harvest big game and others were recommending some minimum standards, whether it's caliber or even PCP air rifles.

So I will conclude my presentation with this last slide with at least a couple of the potential options out here for this Commission to consider and I'll be happy to take any questions and also do want to remind you that we do have Mitch King here. So that if it gets beyond something I can answer, hopefully Mitch could help support.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Members, any questions or comments?

Commissioner Warren.

COMMISSIONER WARREN: Yeah, thank you.

The -- I thought I remember from the March meeting that when the question was asked about the quietness -- because that's what I immediately drew as my conclusion, that that would be the allure here -- I think you told us that they actually are not that quiet, probably by comparison of a rifle; but --

MR. WOLF: Right. So just to be fair, I've never fired a large caliber air rifle; but Alan Cain, I believe he said there's a crack. You can hear a crack. Obviously, not like a centerfire rifle; but it's not inaudible, and it's not silent. It's not a whisper. More of a crack. Sounds like I got that right.

COMMISSIONER WARREN: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Anyone else?

I think that on the option -- your third bullet point, which would be to pull back on the March vote and allow further work on this, I just want to say -- confirm that we could take up a new proposal at the August meeting and if it were approved by the members of the Commission, it could take effect by October 1; is that right?

MR. WOLF: Yes. Yes, that's my understanding; and I see Bob Sweeney also nodding his head. So it would be adopted in August and, obviously, we would get that to the Register as quickly as possible. I believe it becomes effective 20 days after it's submitted. Is that --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And the other question I think I'm right on is if the March action were left untouched, these .30 caliber guns that were referenced in one of your slides that you said were no different than a .22, would be allowed?

MR. WOLF: That is correct. They would be allowed.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay.

MR. WOLF: One other thing I'd like -- I would add I visited again with Mitch and John this morning. On that bullet weight -- and, obviously, we would have some latitude if we published a certain bullet weight minimum -- that minimum bullet weight, when I visited with Mitch, was really his best estimate for taking large game animals. It wouldn't -- that 140 grains is not necessary for furbearers or turkeys; but at the same time, you know, we -- I believe if we can -- we could get overly complex and make it hard for folks to understand a regulation. So 140 grains is a suggestion, and it's -- and in the situation where Alan and -- Alan and Ellis Powell went out, I do know that those .30 caliber guns, which were high performing guns, that .30 caliber was a 110-grain bullet and it was very effective at killing the animal.

So once again to my point, whatever minimum is established, you know, there's probably going to be air guns out there below that that could do the job. And once again, it's understanding the equipment.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But you're not advocating using a .22 long rifle on deer and --

MR. WOLF: No, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- Bighorn sheep are you?

MR. WOLF: No, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. All right, well, I'm -- we'll wait tomorrow to take our action, but I'm hesitant to move forward with the rule as broad as it is right now. I think we can improve on it, but we'll take that up tomorrow and hear from the public and including Mr. King and Mr. McCaslin. If you wish to offer comment, we welcome that. And then we'll take a vote at that time. So I will place the reassessment of commission action regarding air guns and --

MR. WOLF: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- not airbows --

COMMISSIONER JONES: Mr. Chairman, can I --

MR. WOLF: Arrow guns.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Arrow guns on --

COMMISSIONER JONES: Mr. Chairman, can I ask just a quick -- I just wanted to ask a quick --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Sure.

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- question on how enforcement -- an enforcement question.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well -- okay, go ahead, please.

COMMISSIONER JONES: So if you have a certain bullet weight requirement, is that what you were referring to earlier -- I guess what I'm asking is how would our boots on the ground measure the weight of the bullet in the field?

MR. POWELL: Good morning. For the record, my name's Ellis Powell with the Law Enforcement Division.

Commissioner Jones, you're asking how we would tell a 110 from a 120 or a 140? Like Clayton said, the only sure way would be factory markings on a box and even that could be, you know, falsified in some way or put a different bullet in there if somebody wanted to be unethical. Short of that, you'd have to weigh it. There's such a slight difference in it, you would have to weigh it on a scale.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay. Okay.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That would suggest that you place a minimum high enough that you would be -- you would be able to know it's a safe enough sized bullet that you're not likely to have wounding.

MR. POWELL: Yes, sir. I mean, you could tell the difference from maybe a 50-grain and a 140-grain for sure. But 130 and 140? Not so much.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. Thank you, Commissioner Jones.

So I will place the reassessment of Commission action regarding air guns and whatever we're calling airbow rules on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and possible action.

All right. With regard to Work Session Item 8, Public Hunting Program, Establishment of an Open Season on Public Hunting Lands and Approval of Public Hunting Activities on State Parks, does any Commissioner have any questions or comments?

Who's -- Justin, are you here?

MR. DREIBELBIS: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Were you going to make this presentation?

MR. DREIBELBIS: Yes, sir. I'm prepared to do it today and tomorrow or whatever you'd like.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Could you come to the stand, please? I just have a question --

MR. DREIBELBIS: You bet.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- please. Can you confirm that the staff's proposal does include seeking authorization from the Commission to allow feral hog hunts on state park lands.

MR. DREIBELBIS: Yes, sir. For the record, my name's Justin Dreibelbis, Private Lands Public Hunting Program Director. Yes, sir, there are a number of feral hog hunts proposed on state parks for this year.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. I'd --

MR. DREIBELBIS: As have been in the past.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I'd like to ask between now and tomorrow that you and Bob Sweeney talk about whether there are ways that the Commission could have rules that might apply to those hog hunts if we go forward with air guns that would not apply on private lands. Hog hunts on private lands, leave that untouched; but look at whether we should take some steps for hog hunts on state park lands.

MR. SMITH: So just -- I want to make sure I understand that. What sort of rules are you contemplating?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Some sort of rule on a minimum air gun --

MR. SMITH: Okay, back to the air gun --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- for a hog hunt on --

MR. SMITH: -- and the arrow gun.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- state park lands.

MR. SMITH: Okay. In state park land only.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Only.

MR. SMITH: Okay, okay.

MR. DREIBELBIS: And related to minimum requirements as far as?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Not so much what should the requirements be, but can we do that --

MR. DREIBELBIS: Okay.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- and not in any way tamper or fool with the ability or the options that private landowners have to deal with feral hogs on their land. I'm not going there.

MR. DREIBELBIS: Okay.

MR. SMITH: Just limit it to state park hunts. Understood, yeah.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Just limit it to state --

MR. DREIBELBIS: I understand.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- park lands that we control.

MR. SMITH: Sure. We'll have an analysis of that.

MR. DREIBELBIS: Yes, sir. We'll get with Bob.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. Thank you very much, Justin.

We'll -- I will place the public hunting program item on Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

With regard to Work Session Item 9, Implementation of Legislation from the 85 -- 85th Texas Legislative Session, House Bill 1260, Relating to the Regulation of Commercial Shrimp Unloading Rules, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes, do any of the members of the Commission have any questions or comments?

Hearing none, I will place House Bill 1260, Commercial Shrimp Unloading Rules, on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Work Session Item 10, Red Snapper Exempted Fishing Permit Rules, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes, do any of the Commissioners have any questions or comments?

Hearing none, I will place Red Snapper Exempted Fishing Permit Rules on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Work Session Item 11, Oyster License Buyback Program Rules, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes, do any of the Commissioners have any questions or comments?

Hearing none, I will place Oyster License Buyback Program Rules on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

I'm on a roll. Work Session Item No. 12, Gulf Shrimp Offload License, Replacement License Rules, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Register, do any of the Commissioners have any questions or comments?

Hearing none, I will publish -- authorize staff to publish Gulf Shrimp Offload License, Replacement License Rules in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.

With regard to Work Session Item 14, Texas Statewide Recreational Trail Grants Funding, Recommended Approval of Trail Construction, Renovation, and Acquisition Projects, do any of the Commissioners have any questions or comments?

Hearing none, I will place Texas Statewide Recreational Trail Grants Funding on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Work Session Item 15, Rules for Special Events at Parks and Wildlife Facilities, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Register, Ann Bright and Brent Leisure -- take a pause here for a second.

My apologies. I skipped over Work Session Item 13, Briefing, Playa Lake Conservation Needs, Don Kahl.

MR. KAHL: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, and Mr. Smith. Welcome to Lubbock. For the record, I'm Don Kahl, Wildlife Region 1 Migratory Game Bird Specialist; and today, I'll be briefing you on playa conservation efforts and concerns in the Wildlife Region 1.

Playas are easily one of the most distinguishable features on the High Plains of Texas. They are clay-lined ephemeral wetlands that are dependent upon the runoff from surrounding uplands for their inundation. They experience prolonged dry periods, which is important for their overall health; but when wet, they are highly productive areas that produce and hold a great amount of plant and wildlife diversity.

They are unique, yet complex systems, that unfortunately go unappreciated by many. There are more than 80,000 playas found throughout the Great Plains, with more than 23,000 of those playas found in Texas. On this map provided by our partners with the Playa Lakes Joint Venture, we can identify playas across the region by the blue shading.

Playas are areas of focused recharge to the Ogallala aquifer, with an estimated 10 to 100 times -- or recharge rates within playa basins being an estimated 10 to 100 times greater than recharge rates of surrounding uplands. Healthy playas lead to cleaner recharge, and properly functioning playas will properly filter out sediments and contaminants from runoff. These wetlands are extremely important for migrating and wintering waterfowl and shorebirds, among other wildlife.

An example of this is from our 2017 midwinter waterfowl survey. During that survey effort, we estimated that 1.6 million ducks were utilizing the playa region of Texas during that effort.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Before you move on, Don --

MR. KAHL: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- could you tell us what PLJB stands for?

MR. KAHL: That's the Playa Lakes Joint Venture. Sorry.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I'm sorry?

MR. KAHL: Playa Lakes Joint Venture.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Joint venture?

MR. KAHL: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you.

MR. KAHL: So how do playas recharge the Ogallala aquifer? During extended dry periods, the clay soils of a playa basin dry and they shrink to form large cracks or fissures within that clay pan. During heavy rain events, runoff collects into those playas and initial recharge occurs as water flows through those cracks. As the playa remains inundated, those clay soils become saturated and begin to expand and seal off the clay layer.

As water volume continues to increase in that playa, recharge shifts to the edge of the playa where the clay layer ends; and it's much like water running over the lip of an overfilled bowl. And then further recharge can also occur along the roots of emergent aquatic vegetation, as well.

So although much of this sounds positive, changes to land use since -- changes in land use since settlement of the region has greatly threaten many of our playas and also the underlying aquifer. One common threat exhibited on the photos on this slide is pit excavation in playa basins. A majority of these pits were created to support row-flood irrigation practices, which have since transitioned to -- or most of the region has transitioned to center pit irrigation. So this has left many of these pits unused and abandoned for many years.

The presence of the pit vastly changes the overall hydrology of a playa -- in essence, draining the playa -- limiting its value for many wildlife species and also threatening water quality of recharge that occurs in that playa.

With our help from our partners through the Playa Lake Joints -- Joint Venture -- we have a map here. It's a little tough to see on this screen; but this is an example of some of the pitted playas that would be available for restoration within Texas, with the dark blue shading of the playas indicating a pitted playa. And so there's roughly 3,445 playas within Texas that fit -- that fall under this threat.

Another threat to our playas is a lack of a suitable grass buffer, which leads potentially to the siltation of the playa basin. Grass buffers are important for filtering out sediments and contaminants from the runoff as it enters the playa. Without an adequate buffer, the basin is left vulnerable to silt buildup, which shallows the basin and also will affect the water retention capabilities of that playa, as well. Without a mechanism to help filter potential containments, water quality of the aquifer is also threatened.

With help from our partners, again, at Playa Lakes Joint Venture, we have a map here that has identified approximately 5,000 playas at risk due to an improper buffer; and these particular playas are highlighted in red on the map. Adding growing concerns over the reduction of the Conservation Reserve Program and many more of these playas in the coming years could find themselves at risk to sedimentation issues, as well.

Wind energy development in the playa region of Texas is booming, with the addition of solar development within the region also imminent. These industries will only continue to expand throughout the region, bringing with them an increase in infrastructure development with things like solar fields, wind turbines and towers, transmission lines, as well as maintenance roads. With this development, will come increased risks to playa watersheds, as well as increased risks to wildlife for wildlife collisions. This photo on the right is an example of a Sandhill crane and transmission line collision event, which occurred this past winter east of Amarillo.

So this heat map -- again, created by our partners at Playa Lakes Joint Venture -- shows current wind turbines as black dots and then also it shows the areas at risk for further wind development, with the areas of highest likelihood for development shaded in bright red.

So realization of these threats and many others to playas, led to the development of the Texas Playa Conservation Initiative back in 2015; and focal partners involved in the development, the funding, and the administration of this program, include Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Playa Lakes Joint Venture, Ducks Unlimited, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

On the next two slides, you'll see examples of some of the restoration work that's been conducted through this program over the last year. The primary focus to date of this program has been to restore playas that are pitted, and this is done essentially by often bringing in a bulldozer and putting dirt back into a hole. A lot of times, the clay soils that came out of the pit are bermed or piled next to the pit and it's a very simple, quick fix to basically bring in machinery and push that dirt back into the hole to fill it.

The program, as it is now, covers the entire cost of the restoration. So there's no money out of the landowner's pocket; and then on top of that, we also pay a small, one-time incentive payment for doing business with us. Through state, federal, and grant funds, the initiative has acquired roughly 4,000 -- or $425,000 for use in pit filling projects. To date, we have ten projects that have been completed, restoring 400 playa wetland acres; and that's come to about an average cost of $14,000 per project.

So as we move forward, we hope to continue to restore and conserve this critical resource and also plan to educate the people of the region of their importance. I appreciate the opportunity to address the Commission on this important issue today, and I thank you for your time.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Members, any questions or comments?

I have one. When you --

MR. KAHL: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: When you proceed with one of these pit filling projects with a private landowner, do we require any type of covenant about how long they'll leave it and not disturb the work that --

MR. KAHL: We do. There is a contract involved, obviously, whenever they agree to sign into this program; and we do have a ten-year period that we request that they not dig another pit within that playa, do not reverse the restoration that we've done. So they agree to a ten-year period; but to be honest, unless there's any drastic changes in irrigation of this region, unless we revert back to a row-flood irrigation system, we feel like many of these will remain as is restored for a very long -- for a very long period of time.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Do we try for a longer period, or we just picked ten years?

MR. KAHL: We haven't.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Pardon?

MR. KAHL: We haven't yet. There's always concerns -- I alluded to playas often going unappreciated. It's a very tough resource for us to sell conservation on. So I believe in the development of the program, there was maybe some hesitancy to increase that period for too long of a period in case it were to potentially scare off some potential landowners that we would like to work with; but it's something that we probably definitely going forward consider or talk more about.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Thank you very much.

MR. KAHL: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. Now, we'll move to Work Session Item 15, Rules for Special Events at Parks and Wildlife Facilities, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes, Ann Bright and Brent Leisure. Welcome, Ann.

MS. BRIGHT: Good morning, Commissioners. I'm Ann Bright, Chief Operating Officer. Currently, Parks and Wildlife Code authorizes the Commission to promulgate rules regarding conduct in state park facilities and these rules currently prohibit the consumption or display of alcoholic beverages in a public place within a state park facility. And the public place is, of course, important. That doesn't include inside a cabin or a place that is not considered at least a general public place. It also prohibits selling alcoholic beverages within a state park facility.

The Department periodically is approached by a person or entity that wants to do something -- hold an event in a park that would raise funds in support for the Department and some of these may involve selling, serving, and/or openly consuming alcohol. In addition -- and there's some limited situations in which it might be appropriate for a restaurant or similar facility operated by a concessionary and I think you-all know that a lot of our facilities, we have a pretty big concession operation in several facilities. Some of them are large concessions, and some are very small. And there may be some opportunities there.

So staff is requesting permission to publish proposed rules in the Texas Register for public comment that would allow selling, serving, and/or openly consuming alcoholic beverages on state park facilities in connection with some special events or by concessionaires in specific situations subject to conditions and restrictions. And I want to emphasize that these would be very limited. This is not something that would just be general. We're not looking -- obviously, we don't want to have keg parties and that sort of thing at a park; but we're looking at some very, very limited -- Carter is smiling at me -- some very limited opportunities where there may be some event sponsored by an entity to raise funds for the Department or, for example, at Ray Roberts there's Lantana Lodge, which has a really nice restaurant that might be appropriate to serve some alcoholic beverages there.

And so we're just requesting permission to publish proposed rules in the Texas Register. We'll come back in August with -- if authorized to do so, we'd come back in August with request to adopt. I'm happy to answer any questions.

MR. SMITH: Commissioner Latimer.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: It's probably just a logistical question. Would these permits go through the State Parks Division?

MS. BRIGHT: Yes.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Okay.

MS. BRIGHT: Yes.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Any other Commissioners questions or comments?

All right. I will authorize staff to publish rules for special events at TPWD facilities and for concessionaire sales of alcoholic beverages in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.

Work Session Item 16 has been withdrawn.

Work Session Item 17 has been withdrawn.

Work Session Item 18, Acquisition of Land, Bastrop County, Approximately 20 Acres at the Bastrop State Park, do any of the Commissioners have any questions or comments?

Hearing none, I will place the Acquisition of Land, Bastrop County, Approximately 20 Acres on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action by this Board.

Work Session Item 19 has been withdrawn.

Work Session Item 20 has been withdrawn.

Work Session Item 21, Litigation Update on Red Snapper, Oysters, and Chronic Wasting Disease will be heard in Executive Session.

Work Session Item 22, pertaining to the exchange of real estate in Jefferson County of approximately 120 acres at the J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area will be heard in Executive Session.

So at this time, I would like to announce that pursuant to the requirements of Chapter 551 Government Code, also known as the Open Meetings Act, an Executive Session will be held at this time for the purpose of seeking legal advice under Section 551.071 of the Open Meetings Act, including advice regarding pending, threatened, or contemplated litigation, as well as deliberation of real estate matters under Section 551.072 of the Open Meetings Act. So we will now recess for Executive Session.

(Recess taken for Executive Session)

(Work Session Adjourns)


C E R T I F I C A T E

STATE OF TEXAS ) COUNTY OF TRAVIS )

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

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

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

___________________________________

Paige S. Watts, CSR, RPR

CSR No.: 8311

Expiration: December 31, 2018

7010 Cool Canyon Cove

Round Rock, Texas 78681

(512)779-8320

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