TPW Commission

Regional Public Hearing - Lubbock, May 23, 2018


TPW Commission Meetings


May 23, 2018



COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Good afternoon, everybody. I would like to call the Regional -- I think first ever Regional Meeting in Lubbock, Texas, of the Parks and Wildlife Commission to order on May 23, 2018, at 2:25 p.m. And then ask Mr. Smith to make his traditional announcement.

MR. SMITH: Yeah. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. For the record, my name is Carter Smith. 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. Mr. Chairman, I would like for this fact to be noted in the official record of the meeting.

Mr. Chairman, I just want to join you and all the Commissioners in welcoming everybody to this Regional Meeting. As you said, this is our inaugural one in Lubbock. I certainly hope it will not be our last. We're absolutely honored to be here. Everyone has just rolled out the red carpet of hospitality to the Department. I hope all of you that live in this area know, we have a strong and deep presence in this community with our Wildlife and Inland Fisheries and Law Enforcement and State Parks teams.

We're honored to be working with you on trying to help leave our home ground a little bit better. And I know that before we have comments, Mr. Chairman, we're going to have a chance to hear from Chairman Perry and Chairman Frullo and also from some of our team to provide an orientation to some of the good work that's going on up here in the High Plains. And so we're honored to be a part of your community, and thank you for the warm welcome. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right, sir, thank you.

Carter is right in noting that we are very privileged today to have our Oversight Chairman in the Senate, your own Senator Charles Perry here, who has been fabulous for us to work with and we look forward to continuing to deal with our issues with him in the next session and also Representative John Frullo from -- who we're very pleased to have and privileged to have here and I would like to invite each of them to address the group and the Commission with any remarks you choose to make at this time.


SENATOR PERRY: I want to speak to your colleagues, too, and thank you for being in Lubbock. I call it "God's country." So you're going to get a little taste of what heaven looks like for when you go back to Austin, there's a plan there in action. We say that out in the missionary field. So we expect good things from you guys being here, and you're always welcome here.

It's good to have people from Austin in Lubbock. Sometimes I think we're kind of out here on our own, by ourselves; but we've got a good thing going on here with respect to people that we've had in the past. We thank you for what y'all do. A lot of people don't recognize the footprint of Parks and Wildlife. They understand parks, and they understand wildlife; but they don't understand the intricacies of, you know, what it means to flood a bay or Chronic Wasting Disease, you know, what that looks like or deer tax and stuff or our oysters and our shrimp stuff. You know, we deal with some really strange topics, but multibillion dollar industry in Texas.

And most importantly and probably more importantly, it's the legacy of stewardship of what God created in this state of our wildlife and our reserves and our resources and our natural resources. And I thank you for that. And then, you know, unfortunately, we find a lot of bad guys who might be out there and y'all do a good job with that. Thank you for what you do.

Carter, thank you for being here. Hopefully, you won't have to have the Chairman in Lubbock to come back. You never know. It's a very political climate out there these days, but just thank you very much. Thank you guys for what you do. And I did speak to you about -- I don't know if it was you -- but who's your best spokesperson in your whole state that I've run across that lives out in this area?

MR. SMITH: Oh, you're talking about one of our game wardens?


MR. SMITH: It's -- yeah. Sure, she's terrific. She's focused on the program.

SENATOR PERRY: I heard she'll be here today and tomorrow maybe?

MR. SMITH: Yeah, yeah. I think she'll be here, yeah. Yeah.

SENATOR PERRY: So I would just say you retrain your training (inaudible) priority.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, we'll all take her class.

SENATOR PERRY: Thank you guys for being here, and thank you guys for your service to the state.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you very much, Senator.

(Round of applause)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And so at this time, I would like to invite our Chair Oversight in the House, Senator -- Representative Frullo to welcome -- welcome you and let you make any remarks you'd like to make. We're gratified you joined us today.

REPRESENTATIVE FRULLO: Well, thank you. And I visited with Mallory yesterday. This is kind of strange here. I'll maybe just do half and half. They say when you're speaking to a group, no more than one cheek at a time. So, you know, I'll try and address both sides of this. No pun intended there; but, you know, Carter, sorry about that. It may not be back to Lubbock after I get done here, but it is -- it's good to see you folks out here.

I know that our wildlife out here is a little bit different than what you have in Austin. You know, Charles can attest to that; but it's missionary work in both places, I guess. And I think this is neat. It gives the folks a chance to visit. And, of course, we've got some active folks out here in the audience. You know, Dallas -- or Dallas Safari Club, the Sportsmen Club, and, of course, Bighorn sheep. And I think we do a lot of good work out here and it's exciting to have you to where people don't have to travel to Austin.

We were chatting a little bit earlier how difficult it is for people to come to Austin and meet. They have to take off work and it's nice just to get around the state and, of course, provide you with a chance to just see what different parts of the state are like. So, again, we appreciate it. I know that my committee has a hearing scheduled the first of June down in Brownsville that Carter and his group is going to go out and help us out a little bit and take us around and show us what we're doing and that really helps a lot to help us figure out what's important, what needs to be done, and what the concerns are. And so I applaud y'all and look forward to hearing what all is going to be said. So thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you very much, Representative Frullo.

Again, we have one other person here I would like to recognize: Mary Whistler, who is with U.S. Senator Ted Cruz's Office. Mary, would you please stand? Just everybody acknowledge that she took time to join us today. Thank you very much.

So at this time, we will begin with Briefing Item 1, Parks and Wildlife Operations and Initiatives in West Texas, Ann Bright, welcome.

MS. BRIGHT: Good afternoon, Commissioners. To echo some of the things that have been said earlier by Carter Smith, Chairman Perry, Chairman Frullo, one of the things that we've realized as we've been out here, is how many of the staff here have deep connections to this part of the state, whether it's like me who grew up out here, have family from here, extended family, went to school here, and it's really great to see.

You-all know that Parks and Wildlife has a really nice, big presence out here; and this is such an important part of the state. So before we go into our Regional Public Hearing today, we're going to hear from some of the staff out here in terms of some of the work that's being done right here in the South Plains. We're going to begin with Shannon Blalock, and I know some of you heard from her yesterday.

She is the State Parks Regional Director. Her region includes this area. It includes 17 state parks in North and Central Texas. She's been with the Department for 11 years and her entire career she's been in this area, including three and a half years at Palo Duro Canyon State Park. She's been the Regional Director for seven months.

After Shannon, we're going to hear from Brian Van Zee. Brian has been with Parks and Wildlife for over 20 years. He's a Fisheries Regional -- Fisheries -- Inland Fisheries Regional Director since 2005. He supervises nine districts in the western two-thirds of the state. It includes fisheries management activities and statewide fish stocking. He's also if ever you hear any stories about invasive species, particularly Golden algae and Zebra mussels, Brian is really our expert on those areas.

Then, we're going to hear from Chip Ruthven from the Wildlife Division. He started his career with Parks in Wildlife in 1995 as a Wildlife biologist, then the Assistant Manager for the Chaparral Wildlife Management Area in South Texas; and many of you know, that's one of our premiere WMAs. In 2004, he accepted a position of Project Leader in the Panhandle and this includes some WMAs that are also some of our showcase WMAs, including the Gene Howe, the Matador, and Yoakum Dunes. His responsibilities also include Taylor Lake and the Dimmitt Playa Area.

And then we're going to wrap up with Captain Aryn Corley. Captain Corley is a 2002 graduate of the 48th Game Warden Academy. He spent 12 years in San Jacinto County in East Texas; was promoted to Captain of Region 6 District 2, which covers 26 counties and that is actually headquartered here in Lubbock.

So now we're going to start with Shannon and State Parks.

MS. BLALOCK: Good afternoon. Again, Commissioners, I am Shannon Blalock. I do have the privilege of serving our State Parks teams as Regional Director of this part of the state. So yesterday, we talked about three state parks in Amarillo. Those included Caprock Canyon, Palo Duro Canyon, and Copper Breaks.

This afternoon, I want to expand a little bit southward to also include five additional sites: Monahans Sandhills, Lake Colorado City, Big Springs, San Angelo State Park, and also Abilene. Those eight parks consist of 58,000 -- over 58,000 acres. Like we talked yesterday, visitation and revenue at these eight parks continues to grow as the entire Texas state park system is experiencing.

Visitation has grown by nearly 200,000 visitors, ending last fiscal year with over 860,000 visitors to these locations alone. Revenue has also continued to increase to nearly 4 million across these eight parks, which is, again, over a 33 percent growth just in the last five years. We'll end August of this year, our fiscal year, with additional growth, as well. So the upward trend certainly continues for us.

Across these parks, we manage some uniquely different resources. At Copper Breaks State Park, for example, our team works extremely hard to protect the night sky. That's the picture that you see there on the left. The natural night sky is all of our universal heritage. It's important to us all. And so through their efforts, Copper Breaks holds a Gold Star Rating with the International Dark Sky Association. The park is truly one of the darkest places in our state, and it's an incredible place to experience stargazing opportunities, as the picture illustrates.

The pool at Abilene State Park is incredibly popular and has provided locals with -- until recently -- the only publically assessable swimming opportunity in the Abilene area. Like the facilities at Palo Duro Canyon, the Civilian Conservation Corps built the swimming pool in the 1930s and great care goes into its maintenance and repairs. We hope to protect the integrity of the CCC's work by putting into place capacity limits and limiting the season of use. All of that is done to actively manage and properly steward that significant part of our history.

Caprock Canyon State Park is home to the official bison herd of the State of Texas, a herd that originated from Mary Ann and Charles Goodnight back in 1878. The historic natural landscape of Caprock Canyon State Park is a key factor in conserving both the animal itself and also its wild nature. Before European settlement, both the shortgrass and mixed-grass prairie environments would have been compromised of native prairie grass communities, consisting of Blue grama, Sideoats grama, and Buffalo grass to name a few. At present, the Texas State bison herd is semi-free ranging on approximately 11,000 acres of Caprock Canyon State Park and it consists of approximately 150 animals.

The Caprock team is focused on managements goals and objectives for the conservation and preservation of the State bison herd. The park continues to implement and work towards many of those goals, which include implementing a management program to provide sufficient surplus animals to establish bison herds in other locations to protect and promote the health and welfare of the bison resource. They also work very hard to provide an opportunity for the public to engage with and learn about the bison and their restoration work. And let me tell you, I don't know if any of you have ever had the opportunity to experience bison work days; but that happens once a year, and you certainly should do it if ever given the chance. There's a lot of life lessons and self-evaluation that become crystal clear when you have a 2,000-plus bull bison charging down the alley towards the working pens that you're standing in.

One of State Park's main objectives is to grow tomorrow's stewards and educate the next generation about the value of the great outdoors and our rich history. We strive to do this by providing a variety of programs to include educational talks, outdoor skills opportunities, nature hikes, music programs, and living history days. In one year alone, the staff at the eight parks we're talking about today, reached 16,562 youth through programming. Of those, over 9,300 were school-aged children who visited the parks through a school field trip or the park staff conducted outreach at their schools.

If only 1 percent of those children were impacted by the efforts of our incredible teams, we've gained 165 future stewards. The future of our work looks pretty bright, in my opinion, when you have those types of efforts happening each and every day in our state parks.

Some really unique partnerships exist, particularly at Caprock Canyon that I would like to mention as well. Caprock Partners Foundation, along with many other organizations, host Bison Fest each year. Bison Fest is entering its eighth year. It's an outdoor music festival that's attended by over a thousand people. They come to enjoy country music all in support of the future of the State's bison herd. All proceeds from that event help fund conservation efforts and truly bring the entire town of Quitaque together around a common cause.

Superintendent Donald Beard educated over a thousand schoolchildren last year about the Texas State bison herd. You see that picture to your right. Those students in -- photoed there -- photographed there, raised several thousand dollars for bison conservation efforts through their own independent fundraising and those -- their efforts have provided GPS tracking collars for the bison to help us learn more about their movement and herd behavior. They've also funded a drone and several remote game cams. The park team is currently working with these schools to develop an interactive website in which students can witness firsthand the inner workings of herd management.

The last thing that I would like to mention, is that Caprock Canyon also manages the Caprock Trailway. The trailway is very unique. It runs over 64 miles and was purchased by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department after an incredible effort by the Rails to Trails Conservancy. The trailway hosts 46 bridges and is home to Clarity Tunnel and it also spans three counties to include Floyd, Briscoe, and Hall Counties. The trailway connects people across communities to parks and parks to those communities.

Thank you for the opportunity over the last couple of days to share the incredible work of our State Park teams with you. I appreciate it.


MS. BLALOCK: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Any members have comments or questions?

All right. I guess Brian's next.

MR. VAN ZEE: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, my name is Brian Van Zee. I'm the Inland Fisheries Regional Director for the Central and Western two-thirds of the state. Again, I want to thank you-all for allowing me the opportunity to come to give a little presentation about what it is the Inland Fisheries Division does and some of the projects we've been working on here in West Texas and in the High Plains Region.

Now, obviously, in West Texas there are fewer reservoirs when compared to East Texas. However, in the Panhandle -- Inland Fisheries Panhandle District, the area shown here on the map -- there are still 97 public impoundments, including lakes such as Meredith, Greenbelt, Mackenzie, Buffalo Springs, Baylor, Childress, Alan Henry, and several others. Now, these public impoundments, that conservation pool, will cover roughly 39,000 acres.

Of particular note within this area of the state, there are also 74 community fishing lakes. Two of which are in our Neighborhood Fishing Program. We -- these community fishing lakes are important to the Inland Fisheries Division because we utilize those as outreach tools, but we also manage them to be able to provide quality fishing opportunities to our anglers real close to where they live. Basically, in backyards and their parks. Within this area of the state, there are four river basins that we work on, including the Canadian, the Red, Brazos, and the Colorado.

Now, even though there's fewer reservoirs in West Texas, they are still very, very important to our boaters and our anglers from a recreational and even an economic perspective. In order to build and maintain and enhance our fisheries in this part of the state, our district biologists will conduct objective-based fisheries surveys. The data and information collected from these surveys are used to write fisheries management plans for all the major public reservoirs.

Honestly, here in West Texas, the reservoirs and the anglers, they're no strangers to drought and to water level fluctuations; and there's -- and throughout much of West Texas, our reservoirs have been suffering from low water levels for many, many years. However, there are some lakes, such as J.B. Thomas and many of the lakes in the Lubbock/Abilene area, that have benefited recently from increases in water levels. These lakes, such as J.B. Thomas, if you look on the graph on this slide here, this is from 1987. In 2013, Lake J.B. Thomas was nearly 56 feet low. However, in 2015, it caught 50 feet of water and is, again, providing angling opportunities to our anglers.

Now, Golden algae is another issue that has been plaguing several Central Texas and West Texas reservoirs since the early 2000s. When environmental conditions are ripe, Golden algae will bloom and it'll produce a toxin that is lethal to fish and other gill-breathing organisms. Fortunately, over the past couple of years, the prevalence of Golden algae related fish kills has subsided a little; and we've been able to rebuild some of those fisheries.

Now, obviously, fisheries management in West Texas can be challenging. However, there are still many very viable fisheries in this part of the state. In fact, since January 1st of this year, there have been 22 Lunkers entered into the new Lunker Program. These are lake bass that are either eight pounds or larger in size, including the fish that's shown here on this slide. This was 13.4-pound Largemouth bass caught from Twin Buttes Reservoir near San Angelo. This fish was donated to TPWD to our Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center. That fish was then later returned to the angler and restocked back into Twin Buttes Reservoir where hopefully another angler can enjoy catching it one day.

Now, the median age of reservoirs throughout the state is over 50 years of age. Habitat within these reservoirs will degrade over time or even be diminished due to decreasing water levels. Oftentimes, our district biologists will work with controlling authorities or angling groups to improve the habitat within the respective reservoirs. Last year, our local district biologists worked with the Lubbock County Water Improvement District and local anglers to improve the habitat here in Buffalo Springs Reservoir.

They placed 131 structures at 14 locations within Buffalo Springs. They also utilized a variety of structures in order to create complex habitat that is suitable for different species and sizes of fish. They also stocked and planted native aquatic vegetation. Now, these plantings are currently being monitored; and if they're successful, then additional plantings will be conducted in the future.

Now, obviously, in West Texas, fish stocking is going to be an important fisheries management tool when you start looking at drought and Golden algae that can affect our fisheries natural recruitment. And while we don't have the fish hatchery here in the Texas Panhandle, all five of our State fish hatcheries to provide fish to this region of the state. Within any given year, our State fish hatcheries will produce roughly 15 to 17 million fish. Last year in the Texas Panhandle alone, over 5 million fish were stocked, including 112 adult Florida Largemouth bass that were stocked into Baylor Creek Reservoir after it caught significant water and rose to over 80 percent of capacity. Now, these adult Largemouth bass were retired broodstock from our A.E. Wood State Fish Hatchery and averaged roughly four and a half pounds each.

Now, the Inland Fisheries Habitat Conservation branch has also been very active in West Texas and in the High Plains Region, conserving our native fishes, as well as trying to restore our river ecosystems. In 2015 and 2016, over 43 bio assessment sites were sampled within the Canadian and the Upper Red River basins. Data and information collected from these bio assessments is used to make informed decisions about species of greatest conservation need to do habitat enhancements, as well as to manage for invasive species.

Now, in 2011 during the height of the drought, there was concerns that -- well, essentially, the river flows within the Upper River Brazos Basin was non-existent and there was concern that our endangered Smalleye shiner and Sharpnose shiner could eventually become extirpated or lost if the remaining pools in the Upper Brazos Basin were to go completely dry. Therefore, our river studies staff, along with Texas Tech University, went out and collected 3,000 Smalleye shiners and Sharpnose shiners and transported them to our Possum Kingdom State Fish Hatchery, where they are kept and maintained alive until they can be safely reintroduced into the river.

Another 300 Smalleye shiners and Sharpnose shiners were transported to here -- to Texas Tech University -- where they could be researched and where captive spawning techniques could be developed. Now, over the years, the Inland Fisheries Division has worked a lot with Texas Tech University and the Wildlife and Fisheries Co-op Unit on several different research project. In addition, right now Dr. Allison Pease at Texas Tech, serves on our Freshwaters Fisheries Advisory Committee.

Now, Saltcedars are an invasive species that is found throughout much of West Texas. Saltcedars will impact aquatic life, channel morphology, river flows, water availability, and riparian plant communities. In 2015, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department started to partner with landowners and other agencies, such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas A&M AgriLife, Texas Tech University, University of Texas at Austin, to begin the management of Saltcedar within the Upper Brazos Basin. To date, they've treated over 178 miles and nearly 6,700 acres of Saltcedars.

Their plan is to conducting treatments and to monitor the areas that were treated again in 2018. Over half a million dollars has been earmarked and targeted for the management of Saltcedar within the Upper Brazos Basin.

So, again, thank you for the opportunity to come give a presentation and give you a little idea of what it is Inland Fisheries Division is doing in this area of the state.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you. Doing a great job. Appreciate your remarks today.

Okay. Who's next?

MR. RUTHVEN: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and fellow Commissioners. My name is Chip Ruthven. I'm the Project Leader for the Panhandle Wildlife Management Areas, and I'll be presenting some of the activities we have going on on our WMAs up here in this part of the state.

The Panhandle WMAs are comprised of six different properties in the Rolling Plains and High Plains ecological regions, and they encompass a little over 51,000 acres. Our management strategy is from an ecosystem standpoint. Our primary focus is restoring native grasslands to the benefit of all native grassland and wildlife. To do that, we're using all the habitat tools we have at our disposal. We utilize herbicide quite a bit primarily on invasive woody vegetation. In the upper right-hand corner, you can see an aerial application of herbicide to a dense stand of Honey mesquite. We also use mechanical treatments down there in the lower left. We use that as a follow-up to some of our herbicide treatments. We also use those as a standalone treatment, especially in our riparian areas where we can use a backhoe/track hoe to actually selectively remove undesirable woody plants while retaining beneficial woody vegetation.

In the lower right, we utilize prescribed fire extensively. All of the ecosystems in this part of the state are fire-dependent ecosystems and we utilize fire as a standalone treatment, as a follow-up treatment to our herbicide and mechanical treatments, and we use it as a maintenance treatment to existing grassland communities.

And then finally on the upper left, we utilize livestock grazing to manage herbaceous vegetation. Again, the ecosystems up here are dependent on grazing. Historically, it would have been bison. Today, it's cattle. Livestock grazing is still the primary land use in this part of the state; and so we utilize it as a habitat management tool. Then, we will use our WMAs as demonstration sites for private landowners and private land managers to show them how we're enhancing grasslands, enhancing the wildlife resources, and maintaining productive livestock operations.

This is a typical site at the upland site at the Matador Wildlife Management Area. It's been invaded primarily by Honey mesquite. In this scenario, we've used fire and rotation of livestock grazing to move this more toward a grassland community. This is another upland site, again, on the Matagorda WMA, looking back toward the floodplain of the Middle Pease River. In this scenario, we've -- it's been, again, invaded primarily by Honey mesquite. We've used both herb -- we've used herbicide, livestock grazing, prescribed fire, and mechanical treatments to, again, move this more toward a savanna grassland type state.

This is a riparian area along the Middle Pease River, again, on the Matador WMA. It's been invaded by Saltcedar, mesquite, and Redberry juniper. Again, we've used all four treatments -- livestock grazing, prescribed fire, mechanical treatments, and herbicide treatments -- to, again, move this to more of a savanna grassland type state.

Matador WMA also served as a site for the establishment of a Saltcedar leaf beetle as a form of biological control against Saltcedar. We worked with USDA and AgriLife Extension on this endeavor. You can see the damage the beetles are doing to Saltcedar there along the Middle Pease River. Down there in the bottom right is a picture of a beetle larvae, which does most of the damage to the Saltcedar. Just to the left of the that is a picture of some of the adult beetles.

Wetland projects, we have numerous wetland projects. This particular one is at the Gene Howe Wildlife Management Area. We have a lot of old sloughs off of the Canadian River that have silted in over the decades. You can see we're -- on the left side there -- creating a work platform to get equipment in there. We use an excavator to actually dredge out that accumulated silt in the channel of those sloughs. Then we feather out that dredging spoil to let -- allow those areas to revegetate and are providing that open water for waterfowl and a wide variety of other aquatic resources.

Siberian elm is an invasive exotic that we have issue with at our Taylor Lakes WMA. Again, we're using mechanical treatments and herbicide treatments to suppress Siberian elm. If you look in the background, the center background in the photograph, there's a fairly large Cotton tree back there in the background back there. Following our treatments, you know, we've created a more open savanna type community. That same Cottonwood, far background just to the right of center is that same Cottonwood tree.

Shin oak is another species of concern, especially in our deep sandy soils, like we have over at Yoakum Dunes WMA. Decades of overgrazing and fire suppression has allowed it to take over a lot of sites. Here, we primarily use herbicide to restore the native tall grass prairie that would have historically dominated those sites to the benefit of all grassland and wildlife; but here in particular, for Lesser prairie chickens.

I'd also like to mention here briefly, we do have several conservation organizations that support our habitat management activities, such as the National Wild Turkey Foundation, the Mule Deer Foundation, and Quail Forever. Research, we have a wide variety of research going on on our WMAs on both game and nongame wildlife. A lot of that research is focused on how this wildlife is responding to our habitat management on our WMAs. We've done extensive radio telemetry work with wild turkeys at the Matador and Gene Howe Wildlife Management Areas. Yoakum Dunes WMA is currently serving as a study site for an ongoing research project looking at the influence of agriculture on Mule deer movements and survivorship. And then we have long-term monitoring programs on a couple of our species of concern, such as the Ornate box turtle and the Texas Horned lizard.

Another species of concern that we monitor very intensely is Lesser Prairie chicken, which we have over at Yoakum Dunes WMA here just west of Lubbock. This is showing some of the increases of birds found on our booming grounds over there since we took over management in 2014.

Infrastructure projects, currently we're building a headquarter's complex at Yoakum Dunes WMA, including an office, a shop, and equipment storage facility, and a residence. We're also expanding and upgrading the bunkhouse up at the Gene Howe Wildlife Management Area.

Outreach, we conduct a wide variety of outreach events on our WMAs. We have annual youth shooting sports events. We participate in the Wildlife Alliance for Youth contests and we provide sites for regional and statewide contests and then we host several landowner workshops and field days, focusing on a wide variety of topics from upland game bird management to prescribed fire to livestock grazing.

And finally, we have a very active and diverse public hunting program on our WMAs; and we hunt both Mule deer and White-tail deer, waterfowl to include ducks, geese, and Sandhill cranes, turkey, dove, quail is quite popular on a couple of our WMAs, pheasant, and also feral hogs. And that concludes my presentation. Thank y'all very much.


Okay. Captain, welcome.

CAPTAIN CORLEY: Good afternoon, Chairman Duggins, Commissioners, Director Smith, and I'd also like to say thank you to Senator Charles Perry and Representative Frullo for being here today. Thank you very much. And before I get started, I'd like to also report that Game Warden Mallory Mitchell gave birth this morning to a baby boy; and so mom and baby are doing very well this morning.


MR. SMITH: No public speaking classes today then for Mallory. We're going to have to wait a little bit, huh?

CAPTAIN CORLEY: None from Mallory; but I'm sure if given the opportunity, she would have had the baby here at the meeting. I told her under no circumstances was that to the case. That she was to power down and spend time with her family.

So my name is Captain Game Warden Aryn Corley, and it's a privilege for me to be able to speak to you today about some of the great things that we're doing here in Law Enforcement Region 6. So what I would like to first start with, is to tell you about the place that we call home here in Lubbock in this Lubbock District -- or in Region 6.

In this area of the state that the Spaniards called the "Llano Estacado," it's compromised of 68 counties, and as you can see by my slide, 65,000 square miles. To give you some idea, that's roughly the same size as the State of Florida. We have 56 full-time employees covering that area. Economically, we have cotton, cattle, oil and gas that remain the top economic producers; but the growth here recently has moved towards the tech sector and, of course, we have a booming wine industry that's going. So hopefully, we'll get to enjoy some of that red gold that's coming up out of the ground. The region also supports a vast array of wildlife that some of the other presenters have talked about. We've got everything from Whooping cranes to Prairie dogs.

Now, I would like to tell you about the people that we call our neighbors. They are hard working and of traditional values. These are people that -- whose word is their bond. There are many civic groups that work in the area, like the Lions Club, the Rotary Club, the Kiwanis Club, American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity to name just a few; but community service is very much woven into the fabric of the community here and we're excited to be a part of it and it's important because the people here support our mission of preserving the natural resources for the use of future generations and they're very supportive of our efforts in law enforcement.

So we accomplish our mission through a three-pronged approach involving education, prevention, and apprehension. It's our mission to serve the public and also maintain public safety, and we couldn't do that without the cooperative relationships that we have with our stakeholders and the people in this area because it's all about the people.

On the educational side, we have our Operation Game Thief trailer that we take out to various events and that's always a great way to get the dialogue started about what does conservation mean, what does hunter ethics mean, what does safety mean; and our OGT trailer is a great way to not only interface with adults, but also children. Everybody understands that when you go out there and hunt, you've got to do it ethically and you've got to do the right thing. And so that's a way we're able -- be able to accomplish that. We hold many kid fishes and youth hunting events. We -- with our youth hunting, we're able to provide opportunities to kids that otherwise wouldn't have an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and to get to spend time with them and visit with them and make that an enriching -- hopefully, life changing experience for them.

With the kid fish events, we are highly visible. They're marketed in the media, and we get to interface with people from what would traditionally be underserved communities. In fact, next weekend we will be at Mae Simmons Park with the Hundred Black Men of West Texas, an event that we've been involved with well over 20 years with the support of game wardens and also the Texas Game Warden Association. So if you're here next weekend, come by. We'd love to see you. We'll be out there, and also our cooperative relationships with Texas Tech University and South Plains College.

We have people that are entering into a criminal justice field of study for the sole purpose of becoming Texas game wardens. That's pretty cool. So what we're able to do -- and also, those students that start at South Plains College have a pipeline into the Department of Natural Resources Management to continue that education pursuant towards that goal; and so what we're able to do then, is these students that are on that track, we've identified them. And so we provide them with ride-along opportunities that are more mentor based than they are just riding around, getting to see what a game warden does. We're actually using it as a developmental program for these people so that when they come to us, then they're ready to take that next step; but most definitely, every single person that rides with one of our game wardens leaves a better person as a result of it.

Through our prevention efforts, we have high visibility in the community that people are always seeing game wardens out there doing something, checking fishing licenses, on patrol, talking to people. On high -- excuse me. During peak times, we have saturation patrols, like our Mule deer season, Pronghorn season. This weekend, Memorial Day weekend, our boats will be out there. We'll be out there interfacing with the public, hopefully, making an impact on water safety. Another way, too, that we're involved in the prevention aspect of it is partnering up with the Wildlife Division with these antler restrictions that are coming in, being part of the dialogue of, you know, how does -- how does the enforcement apply, where do we set up check stations, how can we help with the logistical data collection matters. It's very team effort.

And also with our Public Information Officer Program, Game Warden Aaron Sims and sometimes I do to a lesser degree when Sims is not available, we're able to form relationships with our local media so that we get to tell our story. So whenever we have things that are of a local interest, then the media will make arrangements with us to be able to tell our story and it's through those cooperative relationships that we have with them, we're able to generate positive response and also educate the public as to what it is that Parks and Wildlife does; but then also what it is that we're specifically doings in the South Plains as game wardens.

On the apprehension side, as you can see, those are 2017 numbers. We filed 3,898 citations; 2,271 warnings. The -- of that 3,898, that's from Class C misdemeanors all the way up to first-degree felonies. We run the gamut of some of things that we're involved with and because much of the area where we work is rural, it's not uncommon for one of our game wardens to assist either the highway patrol or the local sheriff with some of their enforcement efforts. I can tell you that my Game Warden Matthew Cruse up there in Matador, it's he and the sheriff and that's it and they do a fantastic job of serving their community.

We're also seeing a number of contraband items that we're running across out there, whether it's boating, hunting, fishing. Apparently, you know, the drug problem is not just limited to the inner city. We're running into it, too; but we're dealing with it and we're trying to, you know, reach out to young people and get the message out that that's not the thing to do.

Now, as you can see here on that top slide, we've got Game Warden Drew Spencer, Game Warden Britton Stuckey, and Game Warden Dustin Delgado on a case that they made recently out of Lynn County, involving some hunt without landowner's consent. And I'll kind of give you the high points of it. Stuckey had gotten a report that this kid had put all these deer -- they shot these deer and they posted it on Instagram. Okay? I know, right? It's a good thing that Instagram's not collecting OGT rewards because it would be rich.

And so we have this information. So Britton goes to the guy's house and they guy's not going to come out because now he's got a game warden on his doorstop. Oh, and by the way, the truck is over here with blood on it and they gun they used is on the porch. So Britton Calls Drew and Drew comes over there and then finally this kid's, like, "Oh, my game warden problem is getting worse because now I've got two."

So he comes out and they ask him, "You know what this is about?"

And he says, "Yeah, I know what you're here for. My buddy and I, you know, we killed these deer."

So through some good old fashioned gumshoe detective work, they locate the number two buddy and so they meet with him in Lamesa and they said, "Well, we need you to follow -- need you to follow us back over here to talk about these deer."

And so he says, "Okay," and they follow him over there. And so now they've got these two suspects and they've got the one deer that they dumped and they said, "Well, where's the second one?"

And they said, "Well, let's retrace our steps."

Well, they found the second one laying in the middle of the road because when they shot these two, they took pictures of them; but then they went and dumped them. They didn't even do anything with them. It was just, you know, careless, blatant disregard for the resource. But in that conversation of, "Okay, now where did you shoot these deer," they went to where they shot them and they found a third one laying out there. I know.

And so finally, they were able to get all three of them -- of the deer that they killed -- rounded up. Thankfully, Drew contacted the landowner, told the landowner what was going on. The landowner said, "Absolutely, yes, let's press the charges," and so the charges have been filed. They are currently pending in court. So those weapons have been seized.

The deer totaled something in the neighborhood of $11,238.50 in restitution, and so we're waiting for those violations to be adjudicated; but it just goes to show some of the things that we're dealing with out here with some of these people that have no regard for public safety or the resource at all.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Sounds like an episode of Lone Star Law.

CAPTAIN CORLEY: You -- the one time the cameras are not up here, they fall into that good case; but I'm sure we probably haven't seen the last of that kind of thing, but I don't know. That particular case did get a lot of publicity and so anyway, thankfully, we were able to publicize it and get the message out that if you do this, you're going to get caught and it's going to sting a little bit.

So that's all that I have for my presentation. Thank you so much for letting me have this opportunity. Do you have any questions for me or any of the other presenters?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Questions, members?

Thank you very much, Captain.

CAPTAIN CORLEY: Thank you very much.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: It's good work you're doing out here, you and your team.


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. Ann, anything further on your part?


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Where were you born? Why don't you come up here and tell us a little more about why you're connected out here?

MS. BRIGHT: I was actually born in what is -- it's not exactly Cafe J now, but it's very close. There is a restaurant here called Cafe J, which is across 19. At one point, it was Saint Mary's Hospital. So I get great pride out of -- there's a little boutique next door -- telling them I was born here. So, but I grew up Petersburg, which is about 40 miles northeast of here, Hale County. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And you can't quit.

All right. At this time, we'll turn to those who have signed up to speak. I think we have about 16 or so. And if you haven't signed up and wish to, please come see Dee Halliburton on my right and to Carter Smith's right; and she will give you a little form, if you don't mind filling out, because we would love to hear from you. We would like to ask you to try to confine your remarks to a couple of minutes and we -- she has grouped these into topics. So I'm going to take them by topics unless anybody who's asked to speak has a time crunch and needs to get out of here, if you raise your hand, we'll take you out of order so we don't hold you up.

Okay. The first topic is trails and we're going to ask Mr. Joe Heflin to speak, followed by Shane Jones. Welcome, Mr. Heflin.

MR. JOE HEFLIN: Thank you very much. Chairman, Members, Carter, it's always good to see you. I'm here as President of the Board of White River Municipal Water District, where we have been for years working on a multipurpose trail. Not to say we don't have a multipurpose trail. We have many trails, but we would like to have more control over those trails for the safety of our property and also for the safety of the citizens. So we -- as this thing has progressed, we've had ebbs and flows, as many projects do.

We have recently as -- we formed a committee that meet with the landowners. Landowners have presented their issues, and we are working with them on each and every issue. Will we solve every issue? No. Will we make the issues better? Yes. We believe we've already made great steps.

One of things, we're going to have a confined place, an area for ATV or UTV vehicle, instead of just running all over the lake because that's part of the problem was they was running down behind the houses and through the houses and all that. So that's one of the things we're doing. We're also working on getting a -- we don't have a fire department at White River. And by the way, White River provides water for Post, Crosbyton, Ralls, and Spur. So we provide water. That's our main purpose, but we also have to provide a safe environment.

So we're working on not a volunteer department, but we are securing a fire truck to assist in fires while the Cities send their fire units; and we have had many gas fire -- or grass fires. So we think we're moving forward with this project. We think the project is developing well. I think there's a new era of cooperation between the citizens and the Water District itself and we look forward to moving forward and hopefully have you-all out one day to look at this trail. Thank you and I'll be glad to answer any questions if you have them.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I don't think there are any questions, but we sure appreciate you taking time to address us.

MR. JOE HEFLIN: Thank you very much.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you so much.

Shane Jones, White River Municipal Water District. Welcome, sir.

MR. SHANE JONES: Thank you, sir. Chairman, Commissioners, thank you-all for having us. As you said, my name's Shane Jones. I'm the General Manager for White River Municipal Water District.

As Joe had mentioned, we started this project back in 2012. So it's been an ongoing process. In February of 2014, we had public hearings at the City of Post. We also had public hearings at the City of Ralls. We've had public hearings there at the lake. So, you know, we've done our due process. We're trying to listen. We're trying to work.

Some of the concerns that have been brought up, as Joe put it, was fire control, law enforcement issues, sound issues. You know, some of the main issues that go along with this. Currently, the District has been through a lengthy public input process. We've recorded all of the public input, negative and positive on the project. The District directors and staff have demonstrated a desire and willingness to address all the comments and concerns in a positive and effective manner.

Several of the compromises to the original scope and scale of the project have been made by the District. Staff have reviewed the revised plans. Still working on revising the other issues that need to be addressed at this time. As with any project proposed, public facility, there's always going to be some opponents to the project. In this case, the opponents are there. We're trying to listen to them. We're trying to address their concerns.

One of the issues that we have is currently, there are a lot of trail systems already out there that are not sustained and we would like to build a sustainable trail system to enhance the use out there at the lake. Do y'all have any questions?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right, sir, thank you very much for your time.

Okay. Next topic, playas, which has been one that we've heard a lot about yesterday and, of course, this morning. So we're interested in this. Starting with Mr. Mike Carter, followed by Jenny Burden, please. Welcome, Mr. Carter.

MR. MIKE CARTER: Thank you, Commissioners and Director Smith. My name is Mike Carter. I'm the Coordinator for the Playa Lakes Joint Venture. I've been in that job for the last 16 years and during the course of that job, I get to work in six states. And from that vantage point of time and geography, I'm here to tell you that this is the time to work on playa lakes.

Investments such as migratory stamp funds now, are critical to advancing the work and some of the really unique approaches that I'm going to tell you about here in just a minute. For example, yesterday I was in Clovis, New Mexico, where the whole community -- ranchers, count commissioners -- are working on restoring 300 playas to conserve their aquifer for the future. There's about 30 towns in the State of Texas that would benefit from a similar program working on playas to recharge aquifers. The mayor of Clovis says that we like to reduce, reuse, and recharge. And there's plenty of agencies that are looking for relevance these days. This is a program that makes agencies even more relevant to the citizen.

The recharge of the aquifer basically really quickly is three inches per year per playa. So if you take a 4-acre playa, that's 1-acre foot of recharge. That's about 327,000 gallons. That's enough for a family of four for a couple years. So between that and the programs that are out there, recently we rolled out a program in Kansas that featured a reverse auction where landowners could bid what they wanted dollar-wise to put their playa in a program. The program was limited to 10,000 acres. We sold out 14,000 acres in six weeks and Farm Service Agency accepted 3,500 acres of that.

There's two cases there of relevance and farm programs working for producers and Texas, as you know, has all the playas in the world and they're also the biggest in the world and we welcome you to this partnership effort. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you, sir. Appreciate your good work.

Jenny Burden, followed by Manuel DeLeon, please. Welcome, Ms. Burden.

MS. JENNY BURDEN: Thank you. Thank you, Commission. Again, my name is Jenny Burden. I am here in partnership with the Texas Conservation -- Playa Conservation Initiative representing Texan by Nature. We are a nonprofit based in Austin that was started by Mrs. Laura Bush in 2011, and our mission is partnering businesses with conservation initiatives in Texas because we believe, like Mrs. Bush believes, that business and conservation can work together in the state to help the people in prosperity and natural resources.

One of the programs that I run is the Conservation Wrangler Program, and this is six projects that are across the entire State of Texas. We accept applications at the beginning of the year and Texas Playa Conservation Initiative was one of those projects that reached out to us to partner with us and they were chosen because we read through their application and really felt that they embodied the importance of taking the natural resources that are just critical to this area and partnering with businesses and the public and exemplifying the importance of those.

So we are wanting to work with them to amplify that message and exemplify how the municipalities around here and the importance of the playas to the people. Everyone needs water. So we are going to be working with them on that project and I wanted to come and speak on their behalf and let you know that Texan by Nature all the way over in Austin, Texas, believes that this initiative is critical to the state.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Good. Well, thank you and thank you for making the trip all the way from Austin to share your remarks.

Okay, Mr. DeLeon. Welcome, sir.

MR. MANUEL DELEON: Thank you. Mr. Commissioner -- or Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, I appreciate the opportunity to visit with you today, carter, Dee. My name is Manuel DeLeon. I'm the NRCS biologists here out of Lubbock. Appreciate y'all coming here and appreciate y'all being in Amarillo yesterday and I just want to express some gratitude and appreciation for all that you do for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department; but I especially want to focus on the science and the wildlife part of it.

I know Chip talked about the wildlife management areas. As a federal agency, we use those areas as well to help train our new employees to see some of the work that they're doing. So it helps us -- as we also work with landowners, it helps us inform management recommendations that we may make to those landowners that we're working with.

In regards to the other research going on -- the Mule deer research that's happening, and the Lesser Prairie chicken research -- that helps me help landowners work through the federal aspects of the work that we do through the Natural Resources Conservation Service. So it's highly appreciated and it's very much needed, the research that they do.

And then I also want to speak on the playa lakes. Growing up in this area, I've seen those playa lakes. They can be really fascinating when they're wet; but they're just as fascinating when they're dry. So they're very important for our area, and we certainly appreciate the opportunity to partner with Billy and Calvin and Don Kahl and the work in trying to get some of those playas restored. So thank y'all for coming, and I appreciate the partnership on behalf --


MR. MANUEL DELEON: -- on behalf of NRCS.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you for coming and for your good work on the playa's issue.


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: We join you in how important they are.

All right. Next, we're going to talk about -- it looks like -- ATVs, starting with Mr. Tom Moreland, followed by Richard Foster. Welcome, Mr. Moreland.

MR. TOM MORELAND: Good afternoon. I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the Commission. I was one of the four men that went down in May of 2014, and was able to speak to you in opposition to the ATV trail at White River Lake.

My wife and I are both retired. We're full-time residents at the lake. We're not weekend warriors, like a lot of people are. We live there. Everything we own is there. All of the history of my family, great-grandparents all the way down to my grandchildren are in our home at White River.

On March the 5th, a low-riding vehicle -- it was a sports car -- was riding up and down an adjacent ranch to where we live, and it started a fire. Fortunately -- and, of course, we're in a very extreme drought time. Fortunately, they went to the Water District, reported it. When the fire was sparked, it started a very large grass fire, which became a lot larger. West Road is the main road that runs north and south on the east side of the lake and it's adjacent to our homes and the fire came up to that particular point.

I have a picture for you to look at. I brought that, and that was taken from my back porch. That fire came 691 feet from my residence and seven other residences there. So -- and we do not have any fire protection out there at the lake. Had the firefighters who eventually got there and fought the fire, had they not been headed back in this direction -- there was also a fire that they put out in Matador and they were headed back. They were diverted due to the information that was given to the Water District. They got them back down there so that they could be to that fire and that picture was taken 20 minutes before they got there.

When they got there, just a crew of maintainers came through, cut a firebreak and, again, they were able to set a backfire to start it; but needless to say, I was scared to death when I took that picture. We have no fire protection out there. According to the firefighter in charge, he said that had the fire jumped the road, had they not got it stopped, then they would not have been able to cross the road and fight the fire to help the residences and we certainly can understand why. We've got -- we've got bottled propane and gasoline in all of our stuff. We have lawnmowers and things that we work with out there.

But during that same month in Roaring Springs, an ATV caught fire and burned the majority of Roaring Springs golf course. And my point is, that regardless of what happens, we have an extreme fire danger out there; and I think an ATV park going in there would definitely add to that. And despite being a burn ban, they're still having to put fires out at White River on the campsites and we don't have a police officer yet to do that. So thank you very much. I appreciate my time. Thank you, Commissioners.


All right. Mr. Richard Foster and followed by Linda Huffaker.

MR. RICHARD FOSTER: Thank you, sir, for letting me speak today. My name is Richard Foster. I am a homeowner at White River Lake, a 35-year retired police captain of the Lubbock Police Department, and I currently serve on the Board of Managers for the 9-1-1 emergency management district in Lubbock. I, too, am in opposition of placing an ATV park at White River Lake; and I would like to speak addressing the concern of adequate police presence at the lake.

I believe everyone would agree that the some 300 residents of the lake have a reasonable expectation of adequate police protection. Currently, lake management allocates funding for one full-time, licensed police officer to enforce lake rules, state law, respond to emergencies and calls for service, and provide a crime deterrent patrol within the 1,700 acres of lake property. The problem we have is appointing and retaining qualified law enforcement.

Currently, we have not had a full-time, on-site police officer since November of 2017. As a matter of fact, since 2011, the lake has employed no less than five police officers; and during that time, we have not had any police presence for a cumulative total of over two years in-between the hiring's and the replacements.

While this is an issue for the lake to resolve, I understand; the point being, that the advent of an ATV park and attend these activities, full-time law enforcement is imperative. And history has demonstrated the lake is unable to consistently fill even one position.

We feel it's also worthy mentioning that in May of 2014, associates from Texas Parks and Wildlife attended a White River District Board Meeting. In attendance were Mr. Trey Cooksey, Mr. Tim Hogsett, Mr. Steve Thompson. When the subject was addressed, it was Mr. Cooksey who stated that with the implementation of the proposed park, it would require no less than three full-time law enforcement officers during hours of operation. It is also said -- it was also said by another representative of Parks and Wildlife at this same meeting, that an ATV park at the White River Lake was not meant to be or would be a revenue-generating venue for the lake.

Taking into consideration the 20-year commitment the lake would take on, added police and other staffing cost -- moneys -- just to keep the ATV park open. If it's not going to generate revenue, residents would then be taxed with funding by increased homeowners' fees and taxes. I appreciate your time for listening. Thank you.


Linda Huffaker. I hope I pronounced that right.

MS. LINDA HUFFAKER: You did. You certainly did --


MS. LINDA HUFFAKER: I've had other names, but that's perfect. First, I would like to thank the Texas Parks and Wildlife for the opportunities you've given our state and also for having the meeting in Lubbock. I appreciate it very much. I'm Linda Huffaker, and my home is at White River Lake. I am also in opposition to the proposed ATV trails for the same reasons as mentioned previously and many others we've not had time to mention.

My topic has to do with the funding and repayment if it's necessary for the lake. I'm not going to cover some of the stuff that's previously mentioned. Just know that we're supposed to maintain in good condition by repairing and replacing, if necessary, fencing, infrastructure, and gates open and trails maintained for the next 20 years or we would have to repay the funding. If that's not done, then there's, you know, a big expense for us.

During two different public hearings, a Director for Texas Parks and Wildlife stated that an ATV park is typically not a money-making project. I am on the committee that Mr. Heflin referenced earlier, and I appreciate the opportunity of being on that committee trying to resolve the issues. The Director was sitting next to me and I turned to him -- I mean, I asked the Directors to provide us with a list of why it would benefit the lake to have an ATV trail and the reasons why they were in support of it. This has been going on for a while and the reasons have changed.

A Director sitting next to me turned and said, "Why does it matter?"

Speaking from my banking experience, if you spend a million dollars, you want proof that your money was well spent and that at some point, repayment is anticipated. I told him that residents pay taxes, leases, trash pickup and water and, if necessary, due to lack of income from ATV trails, then our lease would go up, water rates would go up.

The five towns depending on water from the lake will be the ones paying us back. White River has already accepted $150,000 at this point; and if we walk away from our grant, we will be expected to pay it back. I asked him if he would rather pay 150,000 or a half a million.

The next -- I have one more thing. The Water District was formed to provide water to Spur, Ralls, Crosbyton, and Post. At this time, the lake is 25 feet low; and two of the towns are on well water that is running out. Three are on the lake, which includes the White River residents. That leaves approximately 17 feet of usable water in our lake. Why do we need additional expenses for an ATV, rather than try to find a solution to our water supply and have some kind of long-term plan in place to provide water as the charter was intended? Thank you so much.


Okay. Next is David Prewitt, followed by David Tate. Welcome, Mr. Prewitt.

MR. DAVID PREWITT: Welcome, Commissioners. I'm not very good at this. I'm just a country boy, and I get a little nervous in front of a group.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Don't be nervous. We love country folks.

MR. DAVID PREWITT: But I've been on the White River Board for -- since 2002. And that was the year I retired as Mayor of Ralls. I was Mayor of Ralls for 14 years, and this hadn't been an easy decision for the White River Board to move forward with the ATV park.

Obviously, you've heard some of the opposition that we've been faced with; but I feel like it's the Water District's place, No. 1, to provide water to the four cities that we provide water for; but it's also our place to offer a source of recreation to our residents. I know we can learn a lot from these residents of White River that have just spoke because they've been utilizing the park trail system that we propose to develop for their own personal use for the last number of years.

And I drove over there last month. It's amazing how many trails that they've already established and I think that points out that there's a need other people can also share in this recreational experience and I appreciate you for your time.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you so much. Appreciate your remarks.

David Tate. Welcome, Mr. Tate.

MR. DAVID TATE: Thank you. I thank the Commissioner for the opportunity to speak before you today. My name is David Tate. I was one of the ones that spoke to the Commission in May 2014, as well. I'm a 21-year homeowner at White River Lake and owned a property/casualty insurance agency for 40 years. I'm here in opposition to the ATV trail.

The homeowners have many frustrations with the way the ATV trail has been represented. Homeowners were told at a White River Board meeting the ATV station area would be 1.8 miles away from the closest house. However, it's about point six-tenths of a mile as the crow flies now; and the actual trail actually gets closer to the homes down to about four-tenths of a mile.

Excuse me. Homeowners were also told at a Board meeting there would be an alternate entrance to the trail other than the ones used by all the homeowners on the east side. That also has not happened and I gave you a handout/letter from the Honorable Carter Smith in paragraph 4 where he was addressing that concern. Homeowners were told at a Board meeting that the grant of approximately 141,000 would not have to be repaid should the lake decide not to move forward with the ATV trail.

About two months ago at another Board meeting, we were told the lake would have to pay back the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department portion. The lake has submitted for a boat access grant. Last week, the lake manager stated that if the lake did not go forward with the ATV grant, then the lake would be blackballed from any further grants from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, including the boat access grant. "Blackballed" is the lake manager's word, not mine. And I find this -- this seems very inappropriate.

In 2018, the Parks and Wildlife might give the lake approximately 68,000 to complete a number of surveys at the lake to see if the lake is eligible for the ATV trail. It seems like these surveys should have been done prior to the initial grant. Two months ago at a Board meeting, the question came up concerning where the entrance might be now should the lake go forward with the ATV trail. No one on the Board knew, nor did the lake manager. The only entrance currently available and the one addressed in the letter from the Honorable Carter Smith, is the entrance that goes by every single house on the east side of the lake, which is in excess of 100 homes.

All the pictures I've seen of all Texas Parks and Wildlife ATV trails, there's no rooftops anywhere. It's like some of the pictures that were shown earlier. As far as you can see, it's just wild, open plains. In the Escondido Draw Recreational Area -- and this is a quote on their website -- the land still represents the untamed and primitive values of the old west, end of quote. And there's no pictures of any homes in there, as well.

This is just some of the misinformation that is causing homeowners frustrations. Our frustrations and concerns are not with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. We realize TWPD[sic] has spent a lot of time and money on this. I sincerely hope the Commission will re-look at this project, with all the homes that are close by and all the concerns that have been raised, and not go through with this project. We are here at the mercy and ask -- of the Commission -- and ask for your help. I want to thank you again for the time you've allotted me.


MR. DAVID TATE: Yes. sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I noticed we have a letter from -- it looks like Mr. Larry Winkler -- expressing opposition to the ATV trail. If you're here, Mr. Winkler, do you wish to address the Commission?

Okay. Is there anybody else that would like to speak on the issue?

Carter, do you -- do you or do you have somebody on the staff that would like to perhaps --

MR. SMITH: You know, maybe I'll ask Trey Cooksey or Steve Thompson to come forward and see if there's any questions that the Commission has. Obviously, this issue has come before the Commission on several occasions. You've directed the team to meet with residents and the board to try to sort through and work through these issues. Sounds like that they are doing that; but there's some, obviously, some key, unresolved issues. And I'm not up to speed on those, but if y'all would address them, I would appreciate that.

MR. COOKSEY: I'm Trey Cooksey. I manage the Recreational Trail Program. Yes, to our knowledge, the White River Municipal Water District is still pursuing that alternative entrance. They have not been able to acquire it as of yet, but they are pursuing it.

We do have an existing grant with the White River Municipal Water District to conduct extensive cultural and biological resource surveys on the entire property where the trail system will be. A desktop survey was completed for the pavilion and a -- the staging area that they talked about, before that was constructed.

It is true that we told them in 2014 that they would not have to pay the grant back if they didn't utilize it. They did utilize that grant to construct those facilities. It's a matter of fact that the Federal Highway Administration will require us, Parks and Wildlife, to pay back the money to them if we default on that 20-year commitment. So that's where that came from.

MR. THOMPSON: Good afternoon. My name is Steve Thompson. I manage the Off-Highway-Vehicle Program from Parks and Wildlife. When we were first approached by the Water District and asked for help for them to develop a management plan to address issues with existing views for motorized vehicles on the trails in the park on the land around the lake, there has been use out there for many years and as is typical of unmanaged areas, the trails were built by volunteers. They are not necessarily built on sustainable grades. There are issues with erosion and sedimentation and to a drinking water supply and the main issue that the District wanted us to help them address, was to develop a plan to allow managed recreation on the property and to use national best practice standards to try to make the activity safer for the folks that come to the park, protect the resources of the land, and to protect the -- prevent erosion and sedimentation into the drinking water lake.

And our grant program has tried to address those issues. We've worked with the Water District to meet with the citizens to find out what their concerns are and try to address those through developing a management plan and also looking at ways to address issues like alternative entrances. I know that the management of the District is still trying to pursue alternative entrances to try to make it a little bit more direct route from the county road into the riding area and bypass the homes there.

We've provided some grant money to allow them to put basic infrastructure on the ground. The grants that they've asked for in the future, would fence the entire area that exists that's -- would allow continued use into the future. Many of the trails that are used today, are not necessarily in areas where the District would like to see that activity and, therefore, they would like to close it and focus it in an area where the activity can be managed to a higher standard and provide safety to the folks that come to the area to use the trails for motorized recreation; but also to protect the resources of the property.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, I think that there obviously are some serious user conflicts here, it appears to me, from listening to the remarks and remembering the discussions that we had in Austin several years ago about it. I would just ask on behalf of the team up here, if you guys can facilitate additional discussions and concessions and try to move people to work with each other and it's never going to be perfect, it sounds like; but if there's a continued dialogue and a respect for viewpoints, all viewpoints, maybe you can help close some of these gaps.

And then I would ask that you keep us posted and perhaps give us a written report/summary of all this and maybe some things you think we might be able to do to help resolve some of these conflicts in differences. Over the next month or so, if you could get us a letter or something on that, I'd appreciate it.

MR. THOMPSON: Yes, sir, we can do that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That would be great.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Mr. Chairman, might I ask one just quick question on the same topic?


COMMISSIONER JONES: Have you-all addressed some of the fire prevention and fire issues in some of your conversations that have -- particularly, some of those that have been brought up about what happens if -- have any of those conversations been facilitated?

MR. THOMPSON: Yes, sir. We've tried to address those through the management plan. I think the District was faced with two alternatives. There was existing use or has been for many years and to address those issues, they could have shut that activity down completely and that would have addressed the current use; but rather than shut down the activity on the entire property, they wanted to try to develop a plan that would allow them to manage that activity in a way that would be protective of the resources and, of course, fire was one of the original issues.

And I think the District has worked with the firefighting facilities and organizations in the area to better address that and certainly, our grant program would allow them to develop facilities where their equipment or buildings to stage firefighting equipment right there on the site.

COMMISSIONER JONES: That's good to know.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Anything -- Commissioner -- Vice-Chairman Morian.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: No, I just -- would you respond at some point to Mr. Tate about the boat grant and just --

MR. SMITH: Sure, yeah. Absolutely. So there was a representation made -- and I don't know who made it -- but an allegation that the District would not be eligible or would, in fact, be blackballed from receiving any other Parks and Wildlife grants and presumably, talking about a boating access grant. That's absolutely patently not true.

But will you conform that, Trey, as our --

MR. COOKSEY: I have never said that to anyone, nor would it be true.

MR. SMITH: Okay.

MR. COOKSEY: You know, it would reflect probably poorly on any grant sponsor if you took grant money and then didn't complete the project. For instance, we would maybe ask for it to be repaid; but as far as blackballed? No, that is definitely not the case.


MR. COOKSEY: And that project is moving forward, as far as I know.

MR. SMITH: Okay, thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I would say I join the Vice-Chair on that. I picked up on that, too, and underlined it. We absolutely, ladies and gentlemen, don't blackball anybody from applying for park -- local park grants. We love that program and we encourage people, cities, municipalities, counties to take advantage of the staff's willingness to help on grant applications. We love it, and we hope Representative Frullo will give us more local grant money next session because it is a great program. So that's -- absolutely no way that we blackball anybody. So I just want to make that point, echo that point.

MR. COOKSEY: And, Mr. Chairman, I don't think that Mr. Tate said that Parks and Wildlife staff said that at all.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I didn't say he did. I just wanted to make certain that we declared on our own that -- whoever made the statement, doesn't matter -- I just wanted to assure people Parks and Wildlife does not blackball anybody, any applicants, and how much we value that program.

And thank you both for coming up and your remarks, but I would appreciate a written report if you can put something together in the next 45 days and maybe some suggestions you might have and just try to help out here if we can. It may be something we can't do anything about.

MR. COOKSEY: We can do that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right, thank you-all.

Okay. Next up, I would like to call on Sheriff Doc Wigington, followed by Frank McLelland. Welcome, Sheriff.

SHERIFF WIGINGTON: I'm Sheriff Wigington with Throckmorton County. Thank you for having me here today.

When I got in this line of work back in 1992, I had the pleasure of working with some old school game wardens like the late Rick Medford and Gary Hobbs in Palo Pinto County. I've always had a good working relationship with Texas Parks and Wildlife up until January 1st of 2017, when I became Sheriff of Throckmorton County. When I took office, I was informed that Throckmorton County did not have a game warden assigned to the county.

I know that Throckmorton County has not had a game warden assigned since 2014. The last game warden assigned was Ray Milloway. When I took office, I met with Captain Lacy Loudermilk of the Abilene region. I requested a game warden and was informed that our lakes were not big enough to warrant a game warden. This confused me as Throckmorton County has 915 square miles of prime hunting land. Our population doubles in size from the hunters coming in from the Dallas/Fort Worth area. We have one lake in Woodson, on in Throckmorton, and a substantial portion of Miller Creek Reservoir.

In talking to Captain Loudermilk, he advised that Throckmorton was on the transfer list. I repeatedly asked for the status of getting a game warden and the same response is, "You are on the transfer list."

In previous administrations, I was made aware that, in some cases, the game warden was used for primary call. I assured Captain Loudermilk that this would not happen under my administration. My agency consists of me and one part-time deputy for 915 square miles. We are tasked with enforcing criminal laws, civil statutes, and also game laws.

Earlier this month, I had a phone conversation Captain Loudermilk after receiving information that Throckmorton was finally going to receive a game warden. This turned out to be untrue, as it was the county south of mine of Shackelford to replace Shea Guinn, who had recently been promoted. I asked Captain Loudermilk the status of my county getting a game warden, if not a transfer, possibly a newly graduated recruit. I was informed that Throckmorton County does not have enough activity to warrant a game warden out of the academy.

My question is to Texas Parks and Wildlife: How do you know what the activity level is if you have not been there in four years?

I'm just requesting a definitive answer of the citizens of Throckmorton County, along with the citizens of the great State of Texas who've come to hunt, fish, and who own and lease land in Throckmorton County, going to be receiving a game warden or not.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Sheriff, I understand your concerns about not having a warden there. We hear this from any county who hasn't had a warden. We've had a lot of retirements in recent years. It's my understanding that Throckmorton County has currently been posted as an open position, and anybody in the -- an existing warden can apply for a transfer there and should no one accept that option or elect that option, that someone from the game -- the latest Game Warden Academy class will go there in August. So I think by August, one way or another, you will see a warden there.

And as I say, we appreciate the value that wardens bring and the need to have them there. Sometimes we just can't. It doesn't work the way we hope; but in this case, it's my understanding the position is presently open and posted so that a warden can transfer there at his or her option. But if that -- if no one accepts that option, that somebody out of the current class will be there by August.

Is that right, Director Smith?

MR. SMITH: Colonel, is that right? Grahame, are we -- we're looking at -- it's open for lateral right now, right?

COLONEL JONES: That's correct.

MR. SMITH: And then presumably, if no one elects to lateral, then we'll open it up to the graduates in August?

COLONEL JONES: It's based on a priority status, it's going to be -- for the record, I'm Grahame Jones, Director of Law Enforcement Division.

For the record, it's open for transfers at this time. The transfer process is closing now. If it's not filled, what we do is we look across the state on a priority basis in need and we assess it at that time. There is a possibility that it would be filled at the next cadet class when they graduate; but, again, we look at that on a priority basis.

MR. SMITH: Chairman, let's take a hard look at it. We, obviously, owe the Sheriff an answer on that.

And so, Grahame, let's talk and --

SHERIFF WIGINGTON: And the game wardens that are coming to cover, I mean, they're doing a great job. I mean, but they have their own counties to cover as far as Baylor County, Haskell County, Stephens County, Shackelford County, Young County; but when we do have a situation where we have to call on them, you know, they do a great job. Those guys, I mean, are top of the line as far as I'm concerned.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, we're going to try to help you out and I understand your frustration because I heard it from your colleagues in Shackelford County who were pounding on me in the last few months as Carter knows and Grahame knows and we -- I think that position was just filled through a lateral transfer. Someone elected to fill it at their option, so.

COLONEL JONES: And also I just wanted to thank the Sheriff for his time to coming in today and talking to us.


COLONEL JONES: In addition, I wanted to thank Major Ron VanderRoest also who's working, you know, within his region and ensuring coverage from local game wardens in other counties.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: We very much appreciate you took time to come, and we'll do our best to try to fill that spot as soon as we can.



Okay. Next up, Frank McLelland. Welcome, Mr. McLelland.

MR. FRANK MCLELLAND: Thank you, sir.


MR. FRANK MCLELLAND: I still am. Commissioner Duggins, Commission, Mr. White[sic], thank you for letting me speak. I -- my name is Frank McLelland. I take care of a ranch property in Lynn County, which is just south of here. You guys were able to give us a Mule deer season this year, I guess, and some of us are really happy and some of us aren't quite sure that we're happy about it; but we're ready to deal with it.

The reason I came to speak to you today, has to do with the antler restriction program that I think you're going to put in six counties to the northeast of here on the Rolling Plains; and I came to ask for the same consideration for our Mule deer herd in Lynn County. I feel like and I've been told that the reason that you're putting in this experimental antler restriction in those six counties, is to try and build the age of the deer herd back up to a more natural and manageable state where we're not shooting a yearling and two-year-old deer.

And what I would propose is that we do the same thing in Lynn County so that we don't get behind the eight ball, so to speak, as we start out with a season. And I know that you have talked about this a little bit before and I would just ask you to consider that.

The slide that showed that the -- and the Captain talked about earlier where the deer were poached in Lynn County, that was on our property. And I just also want to say -- thank the Commission, the game wardens for the work that they did in finding those guys, even though they kind of stuck their neck out on Instagram or whatever it was. Whatever it takes. Anyway, I appreciate the work that you guys have done and that the Law Enforcement Division has done on that. Anyway, thank you for your time.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, we appreciate that you took time to come talk to us about it. I do think that this is something that we've already -- I believe at the last meeting, one of us -- I or somebody -- asked staff to put that in the --

MR. SMITH: You did, Chairman. Yeah, you asked us to take a look at it; and Clayton and the team are looking at that 13-inch rule and that experimental rule and taking a look at that for Lynn County. So you've asked us to come back to you on that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So that evaluation is in progress and I --


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- appreciate that you came to reinforce your belief that it needs to go on and we have had good luck with that in East Texas. It's made a big difference. So I understand what you're saying. Thank you very much.

MR. FRANK MCLELLAND: Thank you for your time.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. Next up, Kathy Boone with the Texas Bighorn Society. Welcome, Ms. Boone.

MS. KATHY BOONE: Thank you, Chairman, Commissioners, Carter, Don. My name is Kathy Boone. I'm with the Texas Bighorn Society. I'm a past President and current Treasurer. Our Texas Bighorn Society was started back in the early 80s with the sole purpose of reintroducing desert Bighorn sheep to Texas in conjunction with Texas Parks and Wildlife.

Without a doubt, we have the most successful program in the whole United States for reintroduction of desert Bighorn sheep or any large mammal. Right now currently, we have about 1,500 free-ranging desert Bighorn sheep in the State of Texas; and they are being hunted by public hunters on private ranches, as well as on public lands.

The Texas Bighorn Society is a 501(c)(3). Over the almost 30-year span that we've been around, we've created or donated in excess of $3 million to Texas Parks and Wildlife through our Wildlife Guzzler projects, both on our WMAs in the Trans-Pecos area, as well as on private ranches in conjunction with Parks and Wildlife. This past year, we've partnered with Texas Tech with a grant to provide microbiology information studying our sheep -- the DNA -- hopefully, to enhance our sheep program and if we do get stuck with a disease problem, our DNA research will help that project.

In addition to that, over the last ten years, starting in 2008, I know you have an upcoming land grant possible program where you will be purchasing land. Texas Bighorn Society has been leasing that 16,000 acres adjacent to Black Gap, south of Black Gap, for the past ten years almost. We've been paying the lease on that land, and we are very for Texas Parks and Wildlife purchasing that land. So thank you for allowing me to speak.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, we really appreciate that you took time to speak; and we're glad you approve of that purchase because we're all excited about it, too. We think it's a great addition to the state and important to protecting the various resources and the sheep particularly. Thank you so much.

All right. Next up, looks like on the hunting licenses, we were going to hear from Robert Joseph and later, Brian Schreckenbach, if I've pronounced that correctly. Mr. Joseph, welcome.

MR. ROBERT JOSEPH: Good afternoon. My name is Robert Joseph. Many of you probably know me as a very passionate member of the Texas Bighorn Society, as well; but today, I'm here just for a couple of personal recommendations I would like to see you consider.

No. 1, on Texas hunting license, I would like you to consider being able to put a notation on the license that the license holder has passed the hunter safety course. I can tell you from personal experience that when I round up my -- of course, I'm too old to have to worry about it. But when I round up my children and grandchildren to all go hunting, it's quite a task to make sure everybody has a valid hunting license to start with; but when you throw on top of that the fact that all of them have to have their hunting safety certificate on them, it's just a mess sometimes. And I think it would be -- it would seem like it would be an easy thing to do, is to make a notation on the license.

Currently, it's my understanding you can buy a hunting license without having a hunter safety certificate, even if you're required to have that; but if you're hunting in the field, you have to have your license plus the hunter safety certificate.

The second thing I would like to ask the Commission to consider, is establishing a program to help all of us hunters, as well as nonhunters, learn how to cook wild game. It seems to me that we are very good in Texas at harvesting game, but we are not too good at enjoying the bounty of our harvest. And, you know, I'm a very passionate hunter and I eat a whole lot of what I shoot and I have worked for years trying to perfect that art and it would seem to be a real service to the public if you guys could assist us in learning how to do that.

You know, it's all the rage now the farm to -- farm to table, the sustainability, and wild game and what we do here in Texas clicks it, checks all those boxes. So I would like you to consider that if you think it's appropriate.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, you can look up here across the dais and see who's been eating wild game and who hadn't. It's not me. So I'm not sure I can help you.

COMMISSIONER JONES: I've got a great duck recipe that I'll share with you afterwards, and we can get started on this right away.

MR. ROBERT JOSEPH: Good, thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But just an aside on that, I -- on the hunter safety notation, I think -- and I'm going to ask Carter to pick up after I stop here. But I think that you -- at issuance, if the license purchaser hasn't gotten the course, we want them to go ahead and be able to buy the license and then if they later obtain it, you obviously can't notate it on a license that's already been issued. Now, if the person has gone through the certification at the time of issuance, maybe we could look at whether that --

MR. SMITH: Ellis, can you come forward? Will you address that, please?

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

Yes, sir. Currently on the hunting license, if you've already taken it, the database is merged with the hunting -- hunter education and it's noted on there. The law requires you to have proof of hunter education, and that comes in two ways: Either the notation that's on the license, which if you've taken it, it has your certification number; or a card that says you've passed it. And that's -- there are situations where you're exempt from it. So it wouldn't be on there. If you're not -- if you're required to have it and, say, you're hunting with an adult or something; but it's on there right now.


MR. ROBERT JOSEPH: It's automatically on there?

MR. POWELL: Yes, sir.

MR. ROBERT JOSEPH: Okay. Well, then I stand corrected.

MR. POWELL: Yes. It's on the top, right-hand side.

MR. ROBERT JOSEPH: That you have passed the hunter safety school?

MR. POWELL: It doesn't say you passed it. Obviously, you did pass it because it has the number.

MR. ROBERT JOSEPH: All right. And that eliminates the need to carry your certificate with you?

MR. POWELL: Yes, sir. It says "HE" and then it will have a number.


MR. ROBERT JOSEPH: First recommendation done. Thanks.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you, Mr. Joseph. I'd say you might on the cooking recipe, there are some good books on cooking wild game. My grandfather gave me one or maybe look online for some options. Other than that, I think maybe we'll stay out of offering cooking advice. But thank you very much for taking time to address us.

Brian Schreckenbach, if I'm pronouncing that correctly. Welcome, sir.

MR. BRIAN SCHRECKENBACH: Thank you for letting me speak. I got to speak in front of you guys last year or the year before about dove season and moving the dove dates back, and you did. Thank you very much. It's going to happen this year us.

So today, I own Blackfoot Guide Service and I'm coming in from Tejas. Crooked Wing and Ranger Creek couldn't be here. So I'm going to speak on their behalf, as well; but we are coming in front of you. We would like Texas Parks and Wildlife to start issuing outfitter licenses/guide licenses, forcing outfitters to start getting insurance. So things are starting to get to be like the wild west here in Lubbock.

We've got out-of-state outfitters coming in, and we've got a bunch of Texas Tech college kids. There's just been a lot of issues and it's getting worse and worse. I've been doing this 18 years; and every year, it's gotten worse and worse. So we are just coming to you. Montana, South Dakota, Idaho, all these other states have outfitter licenses; and we would like it just to have some congruity, I guess. I don't know.

A lot of times, these college kids show up and the game wardens will text us, "Hey, who's this or who's that?" We don't know and it's just these fly-by-nighters and it's causing issues with landowners and things like that and which kind of leads me into my next issue.

This year was the first year that we had to deal with land leases and paying land lease permits and it caused a few issues and we would like to -- instead of -- talk to you guys about it, either switch up the co-op land lease permit and make it to where, like, the land lease permit for the co-op ends August 15th and we can't add any farmers after that. We would like you to work with us on that.

And another thing, no farmers are going to give us their Social Security number, their date of birth, and their driver's license number, to me, to put them on that. So if you won't do the outfitter license, can you please work with us on maybe doing a co-op land lease license. But we would like to do the regular outfitter license versus dealing with the land lease license. I got nickeled and dimed so many times and I got forced to pay for land that I never hunted or the farmer plowed up before I got to hunt it.

So we would like to pay one fee up front and then not have to worry about all these different little farm -- you know, these land leases. So, I'm out of time; but it's just one of those things. We want to work with you guys and hunting land lease -- I mean, the outfitter license and guide licenses, there's so many outfitters and hunting guides in Texas. You know, it's a revenue generator for you guys and you're not doing it.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: On that point, I think that's probably something that has to go through the legislature. Representative Frullo --

MR. BRIAN SCHRECKENBACH: We met with head game wardens --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- would have to authorize us to or require --

MR. BRIAN SCHRECKENBACH: Yes. And the problem with that is, I went with Charles -- or he's actually my accountant, right? And so you've got to go that route; but I heard through the grapevine that you guys weren't going to do that because in Junction and Kerrville, there's a guy with a quarter section of ground that has a deer feeder and a deer blind and you're not going to force him to get an outfitter license. So it's catch-22 for us.

So, you know, one thing with this land lease license that's not there is that the outfitters that run on public lakes and in the bays, they pay, like, a captain license; but they're not paying a land lease license, right? Same ducks, same paying duck hunters; but they're not paying anything, so. And I paid over six grand in hunting license fees to you guys this year, so. And, you know, it all has to do with size of the ground. I had to lease -- I hunted a pond. It was playa lake that was three acres; but because it was on a section of ground that was all CRP, it goes above the 500-acre part, right? So I had to pay the land on top of that. Does that make sense? The next level of the permit, you know, and I only got to hunt it twice before it dried up.

So the land lease permit that we got forced to pay this year, the outfitters didn't like it at all and the law was 97 years old and it wasn't meant for waterfowl, migratory birds. You know, you can use it on the rangeland side. Okay? You can high fence a deer. You can bait deer. We can't do that with a goose. It's not legal, right? You can't bait migratory birds. Okay?

So we would like to work with you guys on changing some stuff up and making it easier. Like I said, and there were outfitters this year that didn't pay any land lease fees. They were just like -- it's a Class C misdemeanor if they get busted. They never got busted. So we're just coming to you asking for an outfitter license and a guide license coming up or in the future, you know, or just adjusting the co-op land lease license because, like I said, the part we have to have all our farmers in by August 15th, I don't know where I'm going to be hunting in January. So it does me no good.

MR. SMITH: So, Chairman, what he's referring to is the hunting lease license, which has been around since 1923, 1924; and if you lease out your land for hunting as a landowner, you are required to have a hunting lease license. Now, the individual who's held accountable for that license is actually not the landowner, but the hunter. And the issue for our outfitters and landowners up here is, we have not -- up until recently -- been enforcing that requirement and so it's been perceived as a new requirement.

MR. BRIAN SCHRECKENBACH: Correct, correct.

MR. SMITH: It's not. And so but we've made it clear that that requirement exists and we were going to start enforcing that and I think we provided a year for folks to get in compliance with that. The challenge for outfitters like this gentleman is, is when, you know, he's moving around scouting geese and cranes and ducks, he's trying to look for different farms to lease at different times of year and the co-op hunting lease license that we have available, doesn't lend itself well to that kind of a fluid lease. We don't have an outfitters license for hunting, as you know.

And so the request is, is there some other solution we can have to simplify a permit for guides that would handle this hunting lease license and outfitter license --

MR. BRIAN SCHRECKENBACH: Well, the thing is, if you made every outfitter pay up front at the beginning, September 1st or whatever, you're getting all your money up front, right, instead of these guys, these college kids that are winging it, right, and not paying you or these other outfitters that aren't paying at all, right? Does that make sense?

MR. SMITH: No, we certainly get it. And I tell you, we're not going to resolve it in the next 15 minutes.

MR. BRIAN SCHRECKENBACH: Oh, I understand. No, I understand.

MR. SMITH: But why don't we do this -- and I now that Ellis and Kevin and others have had a chance to visit with you. Why don't we commit to getting back together, talking through this issue, Grahame and others, and see what kind of solution we have? It may require a legislative solution to this and --

MR. BRIAN SCHRECKENBACH: We're just -- to keep people from cheating, you know?

MR. SMITH: Sure.

MR. BRIAN SCHRECKENBACH: And I've been doing this for 19 -- I'm the oldest outfitter in Lubbock, you know? And the other outfitters, we didn't find out about this until today and the others couldn't make it, you know, so. But we just want something that's easier for everybody.

MR. SMITH: I think you've made that abundantly clear and so just give us a chance to follow-up --


MR. SMITH: -- with you and so point well taken. You know, we appreciate everything you do to get sportsmen out in the field and --

MR. BRIAN SCHRECKENBACH: Oh, and I appreciate y'all giving us that extra two weeks of dove season. I mean, that's helped us out a ton.

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

MR. BRIAN SCHRECKENBACH: So it gives us, our outfitters -- I mean, our clients something to do in the afternoons for three weeks. So, no, thank you very much.

MR. SMITH: Chairman, let us follow-up on this and meet with the outfitters locally and then let us come back to the Commission and if there's some recommendations, to share those with you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That would be good.

Thank you so much for taking time to come today.

All right. Next up and last up, I think, Kevin Brindle. Welcome, sir.

MR. KEVIN BRINDLE: I don't know why I'm always last. I guess my reputation precedes me here. Thank you for the opportunity to get to visit. Thank you for coming out to West Texas. My name's Kevin Brindle. I'm the County Judge for Dickens County, and I'm here today to represent not only Dickens County; but a part of the Texas called -- recently been tagged as the "Big Empty," which reaches from the western Caprock escarpment out to the Cross Timbers, from the Red River Valley down to somewhere around Abilene and the big country.

The "Big Empty" is so called the "Big Empty" for the lack of people that call it home. Abandonment is evident everywhere in this area compromising about ten counties. Nevertheless, it's home to some of the finest people in Texas. They want to be there. They're loyal. They're self-sufficient, and they're proud of their heritage.

Now, serving as County Judge, I began to realize a few things that I'd like to point out to you. Texas Parks and Wildlife and the game wardens are very, very important to us. We need them in our counties. That abandonment that I just referred to a few minutes ago left by our absentee landowners, they're leaving behind all these old buildings, these old barns, and these old houses. That's given an opportunity for criminal activity to emerge that's almost undetected.

Low-end drug manufacturers are taking advantage of these old homes and barns and our law enforcement resources. They've been reduced to the small departments. They can't provide 24-hour coverage. Having these game wardens in our counties, it brings well-trained support to our local law enforcement; and we need them. Every small community also has a need for good, strong leadership and that's something I believe in and I see these qualities coming from these men and these women that are game wardens in our counties.

They're leading our school boards. They're serving on our stock show committees. They're 4-H volunteers, providing a lot of education and training. They're active in our churches. They're coaching our youth. They're role models to our teens. And I'm here to say thank you to each and every one of them and as you as the Commission.

The Texas Game Warden Academy is producing a great product. Here's some perspective to help us. Recruitment needs to equal retention. Recruit with that in mind. Come to West Texas. Come to rural Texas when we start recruiting these young men and women because that's who we need coming. We need people that are fond of the counties that they were raised up in, that they want to be trained by excellent law enforcement academy, come back home, raise their families, and be strong in the community. Retention and recruitment need to be together. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Judge, thank you so much for your remarks. We really appreciate it.

Is there anybody else in the audience who has not had a chance to speak that would like to?

All right. Well, as we close, let me say on behalf of my colleagues how much we appreciate those who came to address us today, took time out of their day to share their thoughts. I thought they were constructive and helpful, and we value suggestions. We value criticism. We want to be the best out there we can be and we, of course, really appreciate Chairman Frullo, you coming and sitting through the whole thing and appreciate your leadership very much in the House and look forward to continuing to work with you next session on everything. So thank you so much for joining us.

And with that, I will say we have completed our business and I will declare us adjourned.

(Regional Public Hearing Adjourns)



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