TPW Commission

Work Session, August 22, 2018


TPW Commission Meetings


August 22, 2018




false start. Do we have a quorum, Mr. Sweeney?

MR. SWEENEY: We do not.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay, thank you. Wrong answer.

MR. SWEENEY: Now, you do. Now, you do.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. Welcome, Anna.

Good morning, everyone. I'm going to call our meeting to order August 22, 2018, at 9:16 a.m., CDT. Before we proceed with our business, Carter has a statement to make.

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

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

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


Our first order of business is approval of the minutes from the previous Regional Public Hearing held May 22, 2018. Those minutes have been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?

Commissioner Scott. Second Commissioner Latimer. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries.

Next, is approval of the minutes from the previous Work Session held May 23, 2018. Those, too, have been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?

Commissioner Latimer. Second Commissioner Galo. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries.

Next, we need to approve the minutes from the previous Regional Public Hearing held May 23, 2018, which have been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?

Commissioner Scott. Second Commissioner Lee. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries.

Work Session Item No. 3, the Fiscal Year 2018 Internal Audit Update and Proposed Fiscal Year 2019 Internal Audit Plan, as well as Item 13, Disposition of Land in Blanco County at Blanco State Park have been withdrawn from today's agenda and will not be addressed.

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

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, members. For the record, my name is Carter Smith with the Parks and Wildlife. Thanks for the opportunity to share a few words this morning.

Mr. Chairman, I'll caution you. This may be a little longer than normal just because we've got a bunch of things to cover. So I'll try to get through it as quickly as possible.

As is customary, just a quick report on Internal Affairs related matters. I do want to congratulate three of our officers who just completed their dignitary protection training. They'll be joining our Executive Protection team. And so those are: Scott Green, who's a park police officer; Gus Armas; and Jason Jones, both of which are game wardens. And so you'll have a chance to see the three of them around on a more regular basis. So --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Have they been assigned to Commissioner Scott?

MR. SMITH: Well, they are bidding for that privilege, Mr. Chairman. So --


MR. SMITH: So, yeah, yeah.

Last thing, you know, as is customary as we wrap up the fiscal year, Jon and his team will complete an end-of-the-year Internal Affairs report and so Jon ought to have that wrapped up sometime mid September and we'll plan on submitting that to the Commission for your review. Obviously, if you've got any questions about that, please let us know.

I want to share a couple of quick words about some colleagues that have gotten some really prominent national and even international recognition as of late. Mike Mitchell, who's a lieutenant with our Law Enforcement team, really unquestionably one of the most innovative and entrepreneurial members of our team. Oftentimes, called kind of the technology warden. He's brought a lot of modernization with respect to the use of digital media, social media, the creation of new apps, facilitating the efficiency of reporting for our game wardens, improving communication, records management. Mike has just really been a pioneer in this field.

Mike has been asked the last few years to be an instructor up at the National Association of Conservation Law Enforcement Chiefs Leadership Academy for law enforcement leaders from around the company -- the country. And so Mike has really helped others learn just about the power of technology and how important that is. Recently, Colorado Parks and Wildlife flew Mike in for three days to provide training to their leadership team about different tools that they could be implementing in Colorado and we're awfully proud of Mike and his work and leadership.

And so, Mike, yeah, thank you for everything you're doing to lead.

I'll say this: You know, in Hurricane Harvey, Mike quickly developed applications to help facilitate reporting for our game wardens on disaster activity reports and such. He and George worked very closely in that regard and so Mike just continues to innovate in big ways.

And so thank you, Mike, for your leadership. Much appreciated.

Next colleague I want to mention is Jared Laing. Jared is a waterfowl biologist over in East Texas and the holy grail for a waterfowl biologist is to get invited to participate in the annual waterfowl breeding and habitat survey that goes on across North America in the breeding grounds and so this a survey that's been going on since the 1950s to assess the health of breeding populations of waterfowl of all species across the Artic and Boreal Forest and the Prairie Pothole Regions and the eastern parts of Canada. It's conducted by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and their counterparts in Canada, the Canadian Wildlife Service. And that data is what gives us the biological information to set harvest parameters each year for migratory bird hunting, particularly waterfowl hunting. So the survey is critical.

And for a state biologist to get invited to participate in that survey is a big deal, and this has been a life-long passion of Jared's. He was recently invited this past year, invited to participate. Spent three or four weeks up in Canada, was responsible for flying the breeding grounds in Ontario and Quebec and Newfoundland. And, again, just did a tremendous job representing the Department and proud to have a Texan to help with the collection of that critical data that's so important to decisions that we make here in Texas. And so kudos to Jared.

I -- did Jared come? Is he here with us? No? Okay, all right. Well, we'll --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Before you move --

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Just a quick question. Does that survey include a survey of Sandhill crane? Just by -- I was just curious.

MR. SMITH: Dave Morrison or Shawn? Guys?

No, it does not. No.


MR. SMITH: You bet.

Yeah, Clayton, was glad -- I looked over at him. I hear him whispering over there, "Thank God I wasn't called upon." So it -- yeah, yeah. Went to the experts in the back of the room.

I also want to update you on some federal fisheries disaster relief related funding that we're going to be deploying along the coast. In February, Governor Abbott petitioned the Secretary of Commerce to declare a federal fisheries disaster designation for the Texas coast because of the obvious negative impacts to the coast from Hurricane Harvey. And, obviously, this body knows better than anybody the extent of those impacts; but certainly our recreational and commercial fisheries and supporting infrastructure and habitats were severely damaged from Corpus all the way up the coast and well inland.

Secretary Ross responded very quickly granting that designation for the Texas coast, within a month I think of being requested, if not sooner. Congress appropriated funding for states that had received such a declaration in the last couple of years. The Texas share of that is almost $14 million and can be used for a variety of things, including helping to rebuild local infrastructures such as boat ramps and fishing piers, restoring habitats, engaging in research and so forth.

The catch this year -- and Lance Robinson really quarterbacked this for us -- was that the funds have to be encumbered by the end of the federal fiscal year, which is the end of September, and have to be fully expended within two years. So, essentially, any project that's going to be eligible for these funds, has to have already gone through their engineering and planning and design.

So we scoped the coast. Got input from local officials and so forth and have a series of recommendations that we have made to the Secretary of Commerce through NOAA. They involve some infrastructure rebuilding, like the construction of boat ramps and piers that were impacted on the mid coast. Also, some additional restoration of habitats from oysters to marsh related environments and artificial reef -- again, to help rebuild fisheries stocks. We're proposing to invest in some research on everything from barotrauma to oyster related aquaculture and also setting aside some funding to help capitalize the oyster license buyback program, which again is an offshoot of that very successful shrimp license buyback program that we've had. And so we expect a decision from NOAA on our recommendations very soon, as they're very anxious to get these funds encumbered. So I wanted to make sure the Commission was aware of that.

Moving on, talk a little bit about Red Snapper. Again, something the Commission has spent a lot of time on. We're in our inaugural year of the two-year pilot exempting fishing permit related program and, basically, wanted to report, I think, it's gone exactly as we contemplated that it would. As a reminder, every state was allocated a certain amount of poundage that it could manage through harvest in both state and federal waters of off the respective state coast. That poundage had to be allocated across, again, state seasons and federal seasons that the Commission now regulates in federal waters at least for the next two years, just for the private rec part of the fishery.

As we contemplated, we had proposed a roughly 82-day open season in federal waters off the Texas coast, thinking that based on historical landings and poundage caught, that we'd be able to sustain that level of effort and catch.

We just closed the season, I guess, Lance, last night at midnight and accounted --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: When you say "closed the season," you mean in federal?

MR. SMITH: In federal waters, yeah. The state waters remain open, you know, year round, Chairman. You know, that's a great point.

What Lance and Robin and our Coastal Fisheries team have seen is exactly what you might expect. If you look at the landings and the poundage that are brought in from the 1st of January through the end of June, fairly nominal -- 45,000 pounds or so. You know how much the wind blows in June. So people aren't going out in the federal waters. The first two weeks of July, fishermen were able to get out and really fish a lot harder and participate more actively. We saw, you know, upwards of 24, 25,000 pounds caught just in those two weeks alone; and so -- and, of course, then we've steadily saw that percentage increase.

But as of the most recent data and our team is collecting and tabulating that on kind of a two-week basis, Lance, if I'm correct, we're at roughly 58 percent of our annual allotted catch. That will bump up a little bit and, obviously, anglers will have a chance to continue fishing state waters through the end of the year.

I think the message, Chairman, is I think this is working. As you and I talked about, we certainly left plenty of room we believe in terms of a future harvest in state waters. So we don't expect to be bumping up against that -- those catch limits that we have. Obviously, we want to do everything possible to make sure that we're not exceeding them as part of our conservation and management of these stocks; but our team has done a terrific job on that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: How do we announce to the public or inform the public when the season in federal waters close?

MR. SMITH: We did press releases that went out. We've used social media pretty extensively on that and a lot of word-of-mouth related issues.

Josh, anything else you want to ad to that?

MR. HAVENS: Press releases and social media.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Do we ever contemplate signs at some of the larger boat ramps and marinas?

MR. SMITH: We've certainly done that in the past for a lot of issues.

Lance, for -- we did not do that for this one. Was there a need in your mind?

MR. ROBINSON: I don't think so. The word got out.

MR. SMITH: Yeah. He said the word got out.


MR. SMITH: As you know, we've done that for other issues -- closures on freeze events and so forth -- so it's a good idea.


MR. SMITH: Yeah, you bet.

Moving on, I want to share also an update with the Commission on some of the capital construction repair projects going on across the state. Jessica and her team have been extraordinarily busy. And just to put this in perspective -- and Commissioner Scott is probably as familiar as anybody with this -- you know, we've got about 150 different capital construction repair projects exclusive of minor repair projects that are going on in the parks and exclusive of road related projects.

You know, with a portfolio of almost a quarter of a billion dollars of capital construction projects that are underway. So there's a lot happening around the state. And I want to just hit some of the ones that are perhaps some of the most visible, Chairman, to share kind of an update.

A number of these, as you will see and certainly understand, were sites or facilities that were built by the men of the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 30s. So no surprise really that they need some additional tending. The Bastrop State Park pool is a terrific example of that, having major issues with leaks and other failures in the pool. Curiously enough, that is the only public pool that's open for kids in Bastrop; and so that's where the kids come to swim. We have an arrangement with the YMCA of Central Texas that manages and operates the pool for us inside the state park that works out really well; but because of the extent of the those problems, we had to facilitate an emergency construction related project and Jessica, Maureen, and others who were involved on that project did a terrific job of getting it over the goal line in time for summer.

The pool is now open. It's fully operational. The kids have been using it all summer. We've also made some additional improvements with adding a wheelchair lift, etcetera, to help facilitate all people to be able to access the pool. We're really, really proud of the work that was done in very short order.

Indian Lodge out in the Davis Mountains, that historic flagship adobe lodge out there that is just absolutely beloved. Also built by the men of the Civilian Conservation Corps. The -- basically, put on whole new stucco to protect that adobe structure. Gave it a real facelift. You can see that just shiny, white new appearance there at the lodge. That project was completed in June. Also, again, opening up in time for the busy summer and fall season. And so if you have a chance to be out in that neck of the woods, swing by it. It looks terrific. Really did a great job.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Didn't we have to close the entire facility for this?

MR. SMITH: We did.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I thought so, yeah.

MR. SMITH: We did, yeah. So folks were very anxious to see that open back up. Yes, you're right about that, Chairman.


MR. SMITH: Another project that we've got a grand opening coming up is out up at -- or down at Goliad State Park and Historic Site. On the left, you can see the old caretaker's cottage that was built by the men of the CCC in the 30s. And thanks to the leadership of our State Parks team and our Historic Sites folks, Cindy Brandimarte and others who had a vision to turn that site into an interpretive center to help tell the story of the Camino Real, which was, of course, the old Spanish road that connected all the Spanish missions and forts across Texas going back to the 1600s and 1700s.

Our Infrastructure team has redesigned that site into new interpretive center, and it's right off the highway. It's going to be a great destination for folks to visit. The grand opening will be on the 31st of August. All the local officials will be there and anybody that has an interest in coming to Goliad to join us for that, I hope you will. It's a terrific project and a neat bit of Texas history that's going to be told there. So we're excited about that.

Franklin Mountains State Park, groundbreaking with respect to the new education and visitor and interpretive center. You know, this is the largest urban state park in the lower 48 with, you know, 27, 28,000 acres, just right there in the heart of El Paso in the center of the city. Franklin Mountains is everybody's backyard. We really haven't had any kind of a visitor center or education center or place to come to get oriented to the park of any kind. And so with support from the Legislature and the Land and Water Conservation Fund, we're building a new visitor center out there and it's going to be fabulous and there was a groundbreaking that a number of our colleagues -- Brent and Jessica and Josh and Rodney and others -- were out in June, I guess, to do that.

That appears to be -- I'm not quite certain -- a few Parks and Wildlife staff with shovels. So make sure you screenshot/save that so you see them working. It looks like Jessica, Brent, and perhaps Rodney. I don't know if that's Bob Sweeney with a hat on backwards and the glasses, but it looks suspiciously like him. So we might have gotten a little work out of the lawyers, too, Chairman.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: When is that expected or projected to open?

MS. DAVISSON: Next June.


MR. SMITH: Next June.


MR. SMITH: Yeah. So we'll have a grand opening on that, Chairman, and that will be -- the delegation out there is ecstatic, as you can imagine. It's a great, great project; and we're excited about it.

You know, this is one that has gotten a lot of attention, as you know; and that is really the failure and the compromised wall at Balmorhea State Park. You know, this spring-fed swimming pool, the largest of its kind across the whole world. You can see great shots of how that wall where the diving board and end of the swimming pool was completely compromised, largely by the spring-fed water percolating around below -- behind and below that wall and eroding out the soil there.

Also, we suspect that over time, the draining of the pool -- with the drain being fairly close to the edge of the pool -- probably caused some additional erosional pressures on that wall that exacerbated it. But for obvious reasons, we've had to close the pool to launch a major repair related project and so the pool -- another huge destination across the state -- has been closed all summer.

There is some real silver lining in this story. One, the contractor that did the work out at Bastrop on that pool, is also going to be doing the work at Balmorhea and we've got a lot of confidence in the quality and integrity of their work. So they're a real known entity. The project is very complicated, as you might imagine, with all of the unique archaeological and cultural resources, the historic site designation. We've got a number of rare and endangered fish that depend upon those spring waters. We've got downstream farmers that depend upon water for irrigation and so much of this is going to have to be done manually. And so cofferdams are going to be created and the work will last several months, Jessica, and so hope to get --

MS. DAVISSON: Four months.

MR. SMITH: -- this completed in the fall. I hope all of you heard the news about the Apache Corporation announcing a $1 million gift to the Parks and Wildlife Foundation to help with covering the unexpected and unanticipated cost of these repairs. We expect this to be about a $2 million project and Apache, through their CEO, called and expressed their interest in making this donation, which is a matching donation through the Foundation. Just incredibly generous and so Apache is working with the Parks and Wildlife Foundation now to try to raise the entire $2 million to cover the full cost of this and so we're very grateful for their spirit of generosity and support on this and look forward to getting this finished and reopened for the public to enjoy in the fall.

Meanwhile, we've got a bunch of other work going on there at Balmorhea. We had launched a complete refurbishment of the old motor courts, the San Solomon Springs Courts, also built by the men of the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 30s. And this refurbishment is literally taking these lodge rooms and refurbishing them from top to bottom with, you know, new walls, new ceilings, new floors, new roofs, etcetera. And so it's going to look radically different. On the right-hand side, you can kind of start to get a feel of that with the adobe structure and the terracotta roof and I think it's going to be a real desirable destination for folks that want to come out and stay in this extraordinary West Texas oasis and enjoy the mountains of West Texas. And so really, really pleased with the progress on that.

And, Jessica, what's our timeline on this one?

MS. DAVISSON: Next summer, as well.

MR. SMITH: Next summer. So expect a lot of changes at Balmorhea, and so put that on your hit list. It's going to be a terrific place to come visit.

Mr. Chairman, I want to now transition into a presentation on our Legislative Appropriations Request. You know, believe it or not, it's that time in which we're already preparing for the next Legislative session. And this Friday, we will be formally submitting, which is, of course, the first part of a multi-series, multi-step, and rather long process that we will all go through together and so let me kind of walk you through what's at least in this initial phase of it.

As a reminder, the guidance that we get from the Legislative Budget Board is that our base budget -- the core budget -- essentially is the same as it was in the -- or we'll propose to be in the current biennium. Anything that we ask for above and beyond that are those exceptional item requests, special requests, to be considered by the Legislature and has always been the case -- certainly as long as I've been in this job -- we have been asked to put together a proposed 10 percent budget reduction schedule. So if we were hypothetically asked to reduce our budgets by 10 percent in general revenue and general revenue dedicated funds, what would that look like? Again, normal and customary, we haven't been asked to reduce any budgets by the way. I want to be very clear about that, but that schedule is always part and parcel of this request.

In terms of what the funding looks like in the base at a macro level, roughly 723 million dollars over the biennium. You can see the sources of revenue or the method of finance on the left-hand side of that table from general revenue, general revenue dedicated, and then federal funds and other and then what their respective totals are. So that's what we're working at again at a very, very macro level in terms of the source of funding that we have to fund the various operations and programs and capital expenses inside the Agency and, obviously, there's a lot of different categories within those. Couple of --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Just for the -- just to quickly recap. General revenue, what's in general revenue and what's in the dedicated? Just the big picture.

MR. SMITH: Yeah. So general revenue dedicated are going to be those restricted funds, license related funds, hunting and fishing related licenses. After that portion of the sales tax that comes from the sale of sporting goods is formally appropriated to us, that too becomes general revenue dedicated related funds. And general revenue related funds are funds like we're using to pay for border security and law enforcement, that kind of thing. That particular part of --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So Fund 9/Fund 64 are general revenue dedicated?

MR. SMITH: That's correct. That's right.


MR. SMITH: Yeah, yeah. Fund 1 is what we call the general revenue related source of funding.


MR. JENSEN: Sporting goods sales tax is considered GR, as well, until it's transferred.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yeah, until it's -- yeah, appropriated and transferred. Right. Thank you for that clarification.

A couple of things I just want to call your attention to, Chairman and Commissioners, and this has to do with some re-purposing of appropriation authority in the base. And so in the current biennium, we received appropriations from two sources of revenue to help us accomplish a couple of very important things in the current biennium. The first one was $4 million in general revenue to be used to purchase a replacement 65-foot patrol vessel for our Law Enforcement team down in Brownsville. And so that $4 million was appropriated and is being expended on the purchase of a new patrol vessel.

There was also an $8 million appropriation out of our lifetime license related fund, and y'all remember we had a lot of discussion about how that endowment had grown over time. We were limited to only being able to use the interest off that endowment for a very restricted suite of purposes. Legislation was passed last session that opened up our ability to access that fund and utilize it, but stipulating that the endowment be kept at a level that did not dip below $20 million. And so there was $8 million of appropriation and corresponding authority that we utilized or are utilizing in the current biennium to buy patrol boats for our Law Enforcement related team. Also to fund some critical capital construction and repair related projects and a little bit of that funding is also potentially going to help with some land acquisition needs for our Wildlife division. So, again, $8 million in authority that we've got from that source of revenue in the current biennium. Four million from the other.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Are you saying you're going back and seeking approval to re-purpose it?

MR. SMITH: So, yeah, what we're proposing -- that's a great question, Commissioner. So that authority carried over in the base budget that we were given for planning purposes from the Legislative Budget Board and so -- so -- and it's not obviously tied to those uses that I just outlined that are being deployed in the current biennium. So here's what we're proposing to do in the next biennium with that authority in funding. Does that make sense?

COMMISSIONER LEE: (Nods head affirmatively).

MR. SMITH: So the authority, the -- let's say the $12 million authority in revenue in the current biennium, we're using for the boat, patrol vessels, capital construction. Those expenditures will be completed. Those items will be accomplished this biennium.

In the proposed base budget for next biennium, that authority -- at least as it stands now -- is transferring forward in our base.

COMMISSIONER LEE: But you're seeking Legislature approval for the re --

MR. SMITH: Yes, for the re-purposes part of the appropriations request. Yeah, yeah, that's great. Yep, yep, that's exactly right.

And so here's what we're proposing to do. With that $4 million in authority that we had to purchase the 65-foot vessel, we're proposing to use that authority, plus cash, to buy radios for our Law Enforcement team. This gets at interoperability, officer safety related issues, making sure our game wardens and park police officers can communicate with other first responders and other agencies, which is critical in operations, emergency response. Y'all know the criticality of that. So that's what we're proposing to do with that source of revenue.

With the $8 million in appropriation authority, we are proposing to utilize that authority and various sources of funding to address some longstanding and kind of foundational financial challenges that we've had inside the Department. Namely, providing stable and secure funding for some programs that are kind of tenuously funded; and you can see these outlined here. They include Communications and funding for our Production team that historically has been tied to a very narrow source of funding. This would allow us to expand that a bit to fully serve the entirety of the Agency.

We have our team that ensures our compliance work with ADA and SORM and risk management and safety and FEMA related issues that we've got to provide sustained funding for. So we're proposing to take some appropriation authority and revenue to fund that team to ensure, again, we've got a stable source of revenue for that. We have Wildlife division staff whose salaries are tied to a federal source of revenue, which is unpredictable and varies over each year; and so this would, again, tie that operating and salary support to our Fund 9 related funding.

We're proposing to set aside a million dollars for capital construction or office lease needs for our Coastal Fisheries team. We're currently housing upwards of -- gosh, Lance -- 25 Coastal Fisheries/Wildlife/Communication staff at A&M Corpus. The lease period that we had there has expired, and so we're on kind of a year-to-year basis with the University. We may have to move out. We may have to build something. We may have to lease something. So we're going to need money to accomplish that.

And this next one -- and this is an important one, and one we've talked about with the Commission. In fact, there was a fairly sizable discussion on this the last time we presented the results of the survey of employee engagement and this is the two-year survey we do of all of our staff. Every agency does this to get, essentially, the sense of employee attitude perspectives on the work environment; the climate; how they're feeling, again, about the place and work. And in November, we'll present the formal findings from that survey of employee engagement and by and large, they're really good.

The Achilles' heel is compensation. Our staff, like others, not only feel but really are woefully under-compensated in so many ways. I mean, we pay them in pretty sunrises and pretty sunsets and that doesn't pay the utility bills or kids going to college or escalating costs with health care and so forth. And so we have had very, very, very limited ability to bring resources to the table to address these compensation needs; both from a recruitment of new talent, but also a retention of existing talent. So we're proposing to allocate $4 million in authority and funding from Fund 9 and Fund 64 to help address what we think is a critical, critical workforce related issue here. And so that's part of that $8 million proposal in the LAR.

And then last, but not least, we have a lot of critical investments that we need to be making in our Information Technology related programs to support the Agency statewide. And so this is a fairly nominal investment, but that's how we're proposing to do it.

So I wanted to spend a little extra time on that just because it's significant. I wanted you to be aware of it. I wanted you to know our best thinking and what the needs are that we have identified that are, you know, really foundational for us. Plus, we have sources of revenue with existing dollars that can be used to fund these things. So we're very hopeful that authority will carry forward in the next biennium and we have the means to fund it through, again, resources in Fund 9 and Fund 64.

Commissioner Jones, you've got a question?


MR. SMITH: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Carter, I just want to be clear. The $4 million that you mentioned at the first part of the presentation on the...

MR. SMITH: Law enforcement vessel, the 65-footer --

COMMISSIONER JONES: The Law Enforcement foot vessel -- the vessel has been purchased, correct?

MR. SMITH: It -- we are purchasing it. So it will be purchased this biennium.


MR. SMITH: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER JONES: And so the 4 million is not going to affect the purchase of that vehicle?

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Or that vessel, excuse me.

MR. SMITH: No. The 4 million is dedicated this biennium to facilitate the purchase of that 65-footer. That will be accomplished. That will be -- that will be done. What we're wanting is that authority -- that $4 million authority, the ability to spend $4 million -- to be extended in our next biennial budget and then we're proposing to use that authority and cash to fund the purchase of radios for our Law Enforcement team.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Got it. Carry forward, basically.

COMMISSIONER LEE: I'm not following that. Is there an $8 million appropriation and we used four to buy the vessel this period and you're seeking re-purpose authority on the second four?

MR. SMITH: No. We had a $4 million appropriation authority over this biennium to buy that vessel. So we're going to buy that vessel for $4 million. So that will be done this biennium. The base budget that we are planning for in the next biennium -- the next biennium that the LAR is contemplating -- right now at least in our base budget that the Legislative Budget Board has given us, includes that $4 million of authority. Okay? So that $4 million in authority carries forward.

So the question is: How do we want to spend it?

And what we are saying is, we want to spend that authority with cash to purchase radios for our Law Enforcement team. We can talk more about it if you want to. Yeah.

COMMISSIONER LEE: It's been a long time coming on the radios. So great job.

MR. SMITH: Yeah.


MR. SMITH: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER LEE: It's been years.

MR. SMITH: It's huge.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Congratulations.

MR. SMITH: Yeah. Well, and we need the support.

COMMISSIONER LEE: We need to get it. We need to get it.

MR. SMITH: Yeah. So your support will be critical on that front, but I know y'all know how important that is.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Can I ask just a quick question on --

MR. SMITH: Of course.

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- salaries and compensation?

MR. SMITH: Uh-huh.



COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay. I didn't think so.

MR. SMITH: It's not. It's not, Commissioner; and thank you for raising this. You know, it's always a balance with what we think we can afford and in this case in the existing budget, you know, coupled with other revenue that we'll try to find inside our various division teams to leverage that to make it larger; but this is only a start, and it's only scratching the surface.

We felt like that this was meaningful enough that we could make some impacts that would be felt at certain levels; but by no means is it enough.

COMMISSIONER LEE: What is the balance in the lifetime, approximately? Is it 28 million --

MR. SMITH: Lifetime license?

COMMISSIONER LEE: -- more or less?

MR. JENSEN: It's 28 and we're going to spend some of that this biennium down to close to about the 21 or 22 level.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Okay. And the 4 million here, is that for the biennium?

MR. SMITH: 4 million is for the biennium, yeah.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Okay, thank you.

MR. SMITH: So, Commissioner, when we give our presentation on the results of the survey employee engagement in November, that compensation issue is going to stick out like a bright flashing red light and it is the -- it is the issue that is front and center on the minds of Parks and Wildlife employees about what else can we be doing to ensure that they are, you know, fairly and adequately compensated.

We have taken a lot of salary actions over the last few years; but regrettably, they are not keeping pace with, again, the other inflationary pressures and costs that our colleagues face on a day-to-day basis. And y'all know these issues in your own workplaces and your own families. The Department unfortunately is so far behind from a compensation perspective, that it becomes very difficult to be able to catch up to stay competitive with other bands of employers that are in our space -- either at the state level, the federal level, or the private level. And then certainly when we're talking about trying to recruit or retain talent in metropolitan areas like Austin, where there is a huge demand for professionals at all levels, you know, we just have historically fallen woefully short and we feel like we have just got to get on an investment plan in which we're bringing more resources to the table to help address this across the Agency and would welcome any additional feedback and guidance and direction from the Commission on that front.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Sell more lifetime licenses.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, and get the appropriation authority to use it. Yeah, absolutely.

COMMISSIONER LEE: That wasn't a serious comment.

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER JONES: One of the challenges obviously we face, we need to obviously think about, you know, when you're on a university system or something like that, they just raise tuition on the kids or families to help pay for their salaries and increases in university law enforcement and whatnot. And we're kind of stuck in a do-loop on that because, you know, the very first thing you would think of is, well, let's just go up on the hunting licenses and fees and the people that we're serving and then that has a backlash of -- on the other end or increasing in park fees or increasing whatever the kind of fee structure that we get. But we really do -- we really probably ought to start thinking about some of those income producing sources so that we can have a source that we can point to to say, "This is where we're going to help raise the money to pay our salaries of our people."

And I don't know about anybody else; but I'm willing to go to bat for our people, even if it's a little painful, to figure out sources of income.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, we are -- it's a good point. We are -- we have had some discussions about, as we move forward this fall, evaluating increases in various fees that we haven't had an increase in license fee -- hunting license/fishing fees, I think, since '09.

MR. SMITH: That's correct.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And I think the lifetime fee was last increased four or five years ago. It certainly deserves to be adjusted upward. But we are going to -- I think this fall, we're going to -- that's going to be one of the things we'll likely get a briefing on at the November meeting, I would anticipate. If not, November or January.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Just to follow up. But what I would like to know -- and then maybe this is where you're going with your evaluation or your study -- what's the amount?

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER JONES: What do we need to raise? What's the wish list?

COMMISSIONER LEE: And in the structure that's not a one-timer, which is what it looks like.

MR. SMITH: Right, yeah. You bet. So it's sustained, and we can --


MR. SMITH: Yeah, absolutely. Why don't we have all that information ready for y'all in November so we can present what that plan would look like and some options?

You know, just as a reminder for some of the Commissioners that weren't here in 2009 when license fees were raised and with the support of the Legislature -- again, because you've got to have the corresponding authority to be able to spend that funding if you generate it -- the basis for that rather modest license fee increase, which was roughly 5 percent across recreational licenses on average, was really to address compensation issues and it was originally contemplated to be larger; but just because of the economic situation at the time, it was brought back to that percentage. It was certainly a help at that time. I don't want to discount it.

We had a lot of support from the hunting and angling community for that and I know it was a lot of work to assess attitudes and hunters and anglers were very clear that if they knew that additional fees were going to recruit and retain talent in Fisheries and Wildlife and Law Enforcement and Conservation, that they were willing to pay a little extra to make that happen and I would be shocked if that sentiment has changed much since then. So I look forward -- oh, I'm sorry, Commissioner. Yes.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Didn't we do this exercise about five or six years?

MR. SMITH: We did in 2009, yes, sir.


MR. SMITH: Uh-huh. Yes, sir. Yeah, we presented the survey of employee engagement to the Commission, Commissioner, every two years and --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Because I had been --

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I remember we went through this deal and I had just gotten on and I'm basically starting year eight. So I was trying to remember because y'all had a pretty in-depth breakdown for all the different categories of, you know, the whole deal across the board.

MR. SMITH: The different revenue streams and licenses and so forth, is that what you're --

COMMISSIONER LEE: He's talking -- he's talking about the survey, which --

MR. SMITH: Oh, the survey. Yeah.

COMMISSIONER LEE: -- we've gotten during all of our terms every two years.

MR. SMITH: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER LEE: I think you're talking about the last time there was a fee increase.

MR. SMITH: Okay.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I was more interested in the -- I'm trying to remember now. It's been a day or two. But y'all had a really good breakdown on all the different categories of our employees --


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: -- in the Agency and y'all must have just -- I must have come on when y'all were presenting that to your deal because I remember it. It was very -- so you're going to be redoing that for us for November?

MR. SMITH: Yeah. We would welcome that to layout that plan and those bands and where we think those investments and at what levels could help move the needle and to be able to look at options that, again, would be impactful. I think that's the most important thing, Commissioner. I mean, not that a cost-of-living increase is not helpful and well received by our team; but thinking about some appropriate increases that would be impactful. We'll put that together, and we'll look forward to that discussion in November. Does that work?


COMMISSIONER LEE: Could we expect that there might be other data, even if anecdotal, that aside from the survey, there might be instances where we have missed quality new hires or have lost people? It kind of gets difficult when you put names and situations together to use, but this is a support -- this is support data for what we're going into in the spring, right?


COMMISSIONER LEE: And so it might be helpful -- maybe if you can't give us specific situations, to talk broadly about it; but then also some of the comparisons to other public sector --

MR. SMITH: You bet.

COMMISSIONER LEE: -- or public entities that we're losing people to or missing out on the opportunities to bring great people in and private or charitable foundations or charitable organizations that --


COMMISSIONER LEE: -- we're losing them to, too? It -- the more data the better because the survey is one piece and we know what it shows. It's red lining in this area and everything else is very positive and it probably shows what it did two years ago.

MR. SMITH: It does. You're right.

COMMISSIONER LEE: And to get a permanent solution for this one that's not a one-off funding like this is, which I commend you for you doing, it's not enough. Commissioner Jones is right, but we need a more permanent structure here and data helps.

MR. SMITH: You bet. You bet. Great point. We will have all that. We'll have that comparative analysis, Commissioner, to present. Absolutely, yeah. Thank you.

I think I've got my marching orders on that. Thank you for that discussion. I really appreciate it that focus on our employees. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Hopefully, what y'all are hearing is this Commission is willing to fight for you. We just need a little help needing a little data and make sure we -- what present, we present it well; but that's really what we're up here for, to help support you and employees and we'll take the arrows the rocks -- we'll let Ralph lead. Ralph's on point, but we'll take the arrows for you.

MR. SMITH: Thank y'all. Yeah, thank you for that discussion.


MR. SMITH: Moving on to the exceptional items that at least are contemplated now and, again, this is just looking at all of these myriad programmatic and operational and capital related needs across the Agency. You can see eight specific items that we are requesting above and beyond the base budget; and in the aggregate, it's a $200 million request over the biennium. I'm going to call your attention to the last item there, which is the major driver of that, and the dry berthing of the Battleship Texas. And I'm not -- not necessarily this is the place to have the conversation now about what decision is ultimately made about the future of the ship, but clearly a decision needs to be made, and that's the prerogative of the Legislature to provide direction and guidance. And irrespective of the recommendation that's been put forward by the Sunset Commission that recommends that the ship be transferred to the Historical Commission, that doesn't negate the basic fact that something has to be decided with respect to this ship.

We're spending roughly a million dollars a year in terms of emergency repairs. As you know, that means that we have to pull funding away from other much needed capital construction and repair related sites to accomplish that. And so the -- continuing with the band-aids and baling wire on the ship is really not an option from our perspective. There's a huge amount of risk associated with that, and so we've obviously been having conversations with leadership about what those options are. Dry berthing being one and, again, a very rough coarse estimate of $100 million that could be financed in multiple ways and probably over multiple biennia or some other initiative that attempts to salvage key artifacts from the ship; but, again, that's the purview of the Legislature.

This is -- the goal here is a placeholder to make sure that that conversation continues to happen and we're at least doing our job as we have of raising the issue to leadership that a decision needs to be made.

The other seven items are ones that this body is certainly very familiar with. I'll start at the top with respect to the operational costs associated running our state parks. We spend a lot of time talking about the capital construction and deferred maintenance related needs; but as we have continued to see that visitation continue to grow, parks being closed because of storm related events, and candidly also because of a lot of capital construction that's going on, we simply can't sustain the amount of use that's happening in the parks. We can't keep up with maintenance. The cost of operating the parks is in no small part tied to the number of visitors that use it because of their consumption of utilities and water and fuel and costs with maintenance and public safety, etcetera. And so we have got to be able to hire some more staff to address this heightened visitation and demand in state parks, which by the way, is not going away.

Keeping the state park numbers static is just a recipe for some real problems. So we're proposing a little over $15 million over the biennium and adding additional 52 FTEs in terms of maintenance technicians and park rangers and law enforcement personnel, again, across a system that has 95 state parks and historic sites. So the number of FTEs is not large at all.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Carter, if we need the 15 million to address what you just described, that's not a biennial need. It's going to continue. So shouldn't that be in the base, as opposed to exceptional?

MR. SMITH: The -- so the -- we don't have the bandwidth in the base to fund that. So we're proposing it as an exceptional item that it would be funded next biennium and then would roll in the base.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Become base and --

MR. SMITH: Become part of the base.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. That's what I was trying to address.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, yeah.


MR. SMITH: The next one is one that we've talked about, too, which is the new Palo Pinto Mountains State Park. In addition to taking care of the places we have, if we're going to meet the demand, we have got to get on a program of opening some of these new state park sites across the state. This is the one, of course, west of Fort Worth. We have a plan to be able to leverage funding with the Parks and Wildlife Foundation and we're asking for roughly 12 and a half million dollars over the biennium to help with the construction of that site to bring it online.

The third exceptional item request is a $40 million request just to help with, again, the capital construction and repair and deferred maintenance across our fish hatcheries, our wildlife management areas, and our state parks. And so this would, again, help to address that hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars of backlog that we have in deferred maintenance in buildings and infrastructure and water and wastewater and utilities and buildings and marinas and piers and you name it, ponds at the hatcheries and facilities at the WMAs that need to be addressed.

The fourth item is $16 million over the biennium for additional law enforcement training, equipment, and aircraft. And so that would include things like side-scan sonar and night vision related equipment, additional training in emergency response and rescue. The biggest need here is adding additional aircraft for our aviation related efforts. You know, at this juncture, we have one functional fixed-wing aircraft and one helicopter. The fixed-wing was purchased in 2008. The helicopter in 2015. So we have essentially two aerial assets to cover all of the needs we have across the state from a Law Enforcement, from a natural resource related protection, from a border enforcement to an emergency response and disaster relief.

And with all of the hours that we have on either the plane or the helicopter, you know, frequently one of those is down at any one time. So we simply don't have the capabilities to carry out our mission and respond to those myriad needs and so we're proposing to add an additional helicopter and plane to the Law Enforcement fleet, again, to help us with all these needs. And Hurricane Harvey just simply re-enforced the criticality of those needs, and we just feel that's very important.

The next item is a legislatively mandated one and it is to implement the new centralized accounting payroll and personnel system. All State agencies are being mandated to do this, being managed through the Comptroller's Office. As you will recall, we decided to take this in bites. And so in the current biennium, we are implementing a new CAPPS HR related module, Human Resources related module, which we will complete at the end of this biennium. And for the next biennium, we're asking for a little over $2 million to help with the building out of the new system that's going to handle all of our accounting and financial systems and payroll and payments, etcetera. So it's a big expenditure and we need some support from the Legislature, who's requiring that we do that.

The next line item is Hurricane Harvey related damage. That may look small to you. I'll simply remind you that we re-purposed -- Jessica --

MS. DAVISSON: 11 million.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, a little over $11 million to address kind of the tyranny of the urgent from Harvey repairs that we had to make following the storm. We're also applying to FEMA for some reimbursement of some infrastructure, but there's about $9 million in unaccounted for infrastructure related costs like Brazos Bend or even at Buescher State Park with the damage to the dam on the lake there that we're asking for support for.

And then last, but not least, we're asking for $5 million over the biennium to help support the Local Park Grant Program, which this Commission oversees. So that constitutes those exceptional item requests that will be submitted. We will have a chance in January to come back and revisit these items and potentially modify them and so we'll obviously be talking more about that. We have our first initial rollout of the LAR or Budget Hearing with the Legislative Budget Board staff and staff of from the Governor's Office on the 5th of September, I believe. And so, again, that will launch a lot of conversations that will ultimately culminate in the release of a proposed budget by the LBB sometime in January; but, again, we'll have a chance to come back and revisit this. So we'll talk more about it.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: On local parks, haven't we historically requested 32.5 or gotten 32.5 million for that over a two-year period?

MR. SMITH: Yeah. Remember we got funding in our base budget that's already carrying forward. And so this would be additional funding to bring that up to, essentially, the equivalent of what we have had in the last biennium. We also have some federal sources of funding, Chairman, that we're able to utilize to add to that account through Land and Water Conservation funding and a new source of revenue that's coming to us called GOMESA, is the acronym for that. So we think with those two federal sources of funding and this, this will help to meet -- at least in part -- the demand across the state, which as y'all know is robust.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So that's a valuable program.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, absolutely.


MR. SMITH: There are some key legislative budget riders that I want to just call to your attention that will also be part of our request during the Legislative session. I won't talk about all of these. If you see one you want to ask about, please do; but let me just pick out one in particular to talk about and that that's this Rider 4, the unexpended balances or UB for construction related projects.

The typical lifespan for a construction project, as y'all know, is roughly four to five years. And so that includes the idea or scoping phase, going through a formal planning and design and engineering related phase. It has to be contracted for so that we can have, ultimately, construction ready documents. Then going out for bid on the construction. Then the actual construction and inspection and sign off on the completed project.

Historically, we have had the ability to move unexpended balances in that fund from one biennia to another. So if there are funds that are unencumbered in one biennium, we've been able to roll those forward to the next biennium. And so why is that important?

So if you think about kind of the contracting cycle of these construction projects, basically our team goes through the scoping, the planning, the engineering and design to get ready to go out for bid for the construction documents and the construction part of this is where we spend 80 to 85 percent of an appropriation on any one project; but because of the time it takes to get there, we are essentially going into contract with 80 percent, 85 percent of the funds for any one biennium in the very last quarter of the last year of the biennium.

And so we encumber those projects with the firm, but the construction is really going on in the next biennium. And so as that happens, then we frequently will have unanticipated events that will happen. There may be natural disasters or our team gets into construction projects with a Civilian Conservation Corps' facility or old facility, things that we didn't anticipate or could have no idea that they were there and there are additional costs that have to be accounted for and there's no funding source to essentially pay for that or we get a major natural disaster related event. So, again, we're having to pay for projects elsewhere; or we get to the last quarter of the last year in the biennium and we go out for bid -- let's say in a remote part of the state -- and nobody bids on it. And so the biennium ends, the fiscal year ends, and those project funds don't get rolled forward.

Historically, we've had the ability to roll those projects forward and -- or roll that funding forward. We -- that authority went away last session. Jessica and I have had a lot of conversations with the Chairman of the Joint Facilities Oversight Committee about the challenges associated with that for an Agency like ours and being able to address that rider is a critically important issue.

Commissioner Latimer, did you have a question?

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Well, just for an example, if we were asking for the 12.5 for Palo Pinto and you have it just the two-year period to use it in, you might not get it all done in that two-year period and so you have to be able to extend it.

MR. SMITH: That's right, yeah. I mean, we would get those funds encumbered. That would certainly be the plan. So they would be accounted for; but let's say then we get into the construction in the subsequent biennium and there's some unanticipated cost need, issue, a big flood that comes in, etcetera, and affects the construction in some form or fashion or changes it. There's no -- there's no existing revenue stream to draw from, other than other projects that are being funded. So it's an issue for us, and it's a very real one.

And, Jessica, is fair encapsulation of that?


MR. SMITH: So I call that one to your attention. We've got a number of these. In the interest of time, I'm not going to talk about any of these unless you've got a question about any of them.

COMMISSIONER JONES: How do other agencies, State agencies, handle similar issues? They may not have maybe as much as we do just in terms of that negative potential effect; but I'm just guessing based on what I know about other State agencies, they would run into the same issue of having to cross over a biennium from the funding to do a building construction or -- and I'm thinking right now of universities --


COMMISSIONER JONES: -- when they have to put together student housing or --

MR. SMITH: Right.

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- some project that might take planning, same --

MR. SMITH: Design, engineering.




MS. DAVISSON: They are. They are struggling with it like we are, as well.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay. So they're having the same issues?


COMMISSIONER JONES: So y'all are talking?

MS. DAVISSON: Correct.


MS. DAVISSON: One other issue I would like to bring up -- for the record, Jessica Davisson, Infrastructure Director. One of the other issues that we're seeing is if we encumber money to a contractor that's not performing, we can't enforce the contract and terminate that contract without losing the money we encumbered because it doesn't transfer of the biennium. So that's another real issue that we have right now. So it's really hurting the Agency if we try to enforce the contract.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Is that fixed in the proposed modification? Is a fix in the proposed --

MS. DAVISSON: If we are able to UB, that would fix that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yeah, that needs to be fixed. That's ridiculous.

MR. SMITH: So I think y'all -- sorry, Commissioner Jones. You good? Okay.

I think y'all understand that issue and the criticality of it. We just wanted to provide a little granularity to why that was so important.

Last, but not least, again -- and I mentioned this at the outset -- as part of any Legislative Appropriations Request submission, there's a requirement that we include a proposed 10 percent reduction schedule and we're given numbers that we need to meet. You can see here the 10 percent that would be called for, if actualized, would be 53.2 million over the biennium, split between the GR and GRD related funds. We have and will put together a schedule for what those reductions would potentially look like and, you know, just to allay any concerns -- particularly among our staff who develop a lot of angst over these sort of things -- this is a normal and customary process. We haven't been asked to make any reductions in our budgets and the amounts that we're submitting.

There's a whole legislative process in which issues associated with budgets and either growth or reductions are dealt with. The programs or parts of programs that we have proposed to reduce, if we had to actualize this, don't affect what I will call the core-est of the core of the Parks and Wildlife related mission and programs: Managing the parks, the law enforcement, the fish and wildlife related operations. These would largely affect things like pass-through related grants and so forth to other entities to help fund projects that, you know, we love to see funded; but candidly if we had to right now -- which we're not being asked to do, this is just a hypothetical schedule -- that's how we would at least prioritize that. And so happy to talk more about that later; but I wanted to just, again, alert you that that's part of the process.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Carter, is this 53.2 million --

MR. SMITH: Million.

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- the amounts we would reduce?

MR. SMITH: If we -- yes. They asked for a 10 percent cut -- what's called a 10 percent cut schedule and the 53.2 million is that target.

COMMISSIONER JONES: But what is that based off of? Because I thought your earlier number --

MR. SMITH: Was seven something.


MR. SMITH: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Where's the 10 percent?

MR. SMITH: It's coming out of certain identified GR and GRD related funds. The Legislative Budget Board gives us that number; and so it's not against the total, like, including federal funds and others.


MR. SMITH: There's also certain programs that are exempted in the calculation of that number.


MR. SMITH: Does that make sense or at least as much as state government budgeting could make sense?

COMMISSIONER JONES: (Nods head affirmatively).

MR. SMITH: All right. So Green Jays and brushlands, let's move on to that. Just a reminder, the November Commission meeting is going to be down in the Rio Grande Valley. Looking forward to being able for the Commission to go down there. I know the folks in the Valley are excited about that. Thank you for understanding the need to accommodate a shifting of the schedules to that Tuesday and Wednesday, the 6th and 7th. I know that may pose some issues for one or more of you, and we certainly get that.

The plans are to be down in Mission/McAllen area on the 6th for the Work Session. We'll have a public hearing. We'll have a reception as is customary for partners and local officials and elected officials that evening. Wednesday morning, we will continue on with the formal Commission Meeting; and then we will head over to Brownsville for the afternoon for a public hearing and then a reception with, again, partners and stakeholders and local officials. And so this will allow us to kind of bracket parts of the Valley by being in two places over those two days.

The schedule is going to be a little more compressed than normal; but, again, out of respect to everybody's time, we thought we would try to make the most of it and really focus the time and so we're looking forward to that.

So any questions about that or anything, Chairman, you want to add?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: No. I'll just say that we're -- we are excited about the chance to go see people in the Valley and hear what they have to say at the public -- two public sessions. And then there's a -- for those who care to stay Wednesday night, I think we can set up or arrange for the ability to go see Bentsen State Park and the Birding Center, which is just world renowned for anybody who's interested Thursday morning.

MR. SMITH: You bet.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That's optional, but not on the schedule.

MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, I think that's all the news that's fit to print on my end. So anything else?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, we left out -- speaking of Land and Water updates, wearing a Texas Parks and Wildlife hat is somebody who hasn't shaved and should be here working.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Which smells worse?


COMMISSIONER LEE: Where are they? Do you know?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yeah, Commissioner Scott appropriately observed that is a very, very nice Cape buffalo. Congratulations.

Okay. Thank you, Carter.

And that takes us to Item -- let's see here, just a second. Oh, with regard to Work Session Item 2, the Financial Overview, Fiscal Year 2019 Operating and Capital Budget Approval and Budget and Investment Policy Resolutions, do any of the members have any questions about that?

If not, I'll place it on the tomorrow's meeting agenda for public comment.

Okay. I will place Item 2, the Financial Overview and Items A and B on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and Commission action.

Item 3, of course, I've previously noted has within withdrawn. Which takes us to Work Session Item 4, Commercial Turtle Harvest Rules, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes, Meredith Longoria. Welcome, Meredith.

MS. LONGORIA: Good morning. Good morning, Chairman Duggins and Commissioners. For the record, my name's Meredith Longoria, Nongame and Rare Species Program Leader within the Wildlife Diversity Program. You may recall in March, I introduced a proposed rule on commercial freshwater turtle collection seeking permission to publish to the Texas Register. Today, I'll provide a brief refresher of my previous presentation and review public comment in response to the proposed rule.

In 2007, the Commission adopted the current rules designed to protect freshwater turtles from overharvest. Under current regulations, commercial collection of all freshwater turtles on public lands and public waters is prohibited. However, an exception was made during that rulemaking to allow these four most commonly harvested species to be collected only from private lands and private waters, including the common Snapping turtle, Red-eared slider, and the Smooth and Spiny softshell turtles.

The current regulations were based on a source-sink model, which assumed that turtle populations in protected public waters would be a sufficient source to replenish populations vulnerable to overharvest in private waters. TPWD funded a five-year research project beginning in 2008, that examined whether the current rules were sufficient for protecting freshwater turtle populations from overharvest.

Data from the five-year research project just mentioned, combined with the continued monitoring of commercial collection data and review of additional research, shows that turtle populations are extremely sensitive to commercial harvest. Even modest commercial harvest can lead to long-term declines. Public waterbodies in Texas are not a sufficient source for repopulating overharvested private waters; and since illegal commercial harvest continues to be a large threat, closing the loophole by removing the exceptions from the current rule, will help position Law Enforcement to better protect turtle populations in Texas and would serve as a preemptive effort to protect turtle populations from a resurgence in the international commercial market.

Because of their long lifespan, long generation times, slow growth rates, and delayed sexual maturity, they have very low reproductive rates. They also have low survival rates and population sustainability is dependent on adult survivors, particularly breeding age females, to offset the high mortality rates in eggs in juvenile life stages. As a result of these characteristics, turtles are highly sensitive to harvest. Also, populations may appear to be stable with the presence of juveniles; yet if breeding age females aren't present, it takes decades for juveniles to reach breeding age.

Threats in addition to commercial collection and life history vulnerabilities include environmental threats such as water pollution, road mortality, and habitat loss. Depredation also poses a threat. Freshwater turtles are sometimes disliked by landowners and fishermen because of the common misconception that turtles prey on or compete with game fish and may be unnecessarily targeted for depredation. And failure to discriminate among some species with similar appearance, can be detrimental to rare turtle species that may be mistaken for more common species.

We introduced the proposed rule on commercial freshwater turtle collection and the reasons for it to the Wildlife Diversity Advisory Committee in August of 2016. The committee unanimously supported the proposed rule, and we proceeded with preparing to bring it before the Commission. In October of 2017, TPWD received a petition for rulemaking requesting that we prohibit the commercial collection of freshwater turtles in Texas, as we were already preparing to make that recommendation.

Since commercial activities require a commercial nongame dealer permit and all collections, sales, and purchases are reported annually to the Department, staff were able to assess any potential economic impact that might result from rule changes. All 71 permit holders that reported buying or selling turtles between 2015 and 2017 were surveyed to assess potential economic impact. Staff received 12 responses from those 71 permit holders. The total annual income reported by the 12 permit holders that responded to the survey are shown here by species and year.

Each of these amounts were reported by individual permittees. No more than one permittee reported annual income on any particular year for any particular species. Looking at these numbers, commercial harvest appears to be down. However, there's no continuity or trend evident in these data which makes it unclear whether this is a result of under-reporting, a lull in commercial activity, or an overall decline in turtle populations. Regardless, these data indicate that removing the existing exceptions to commercial collection of turtles will not produce a significant economic impact.

The proposed rule was published in the Texas Register on April 20th for public review and comment. As of yesterday, we received a total of 1,174 comments. Of those who commented, more than 98 percent agreed with the proposed rule and less than 2 percent disagreed completely or with a specific part of the proposed rule. The reasons cited for the disagreement included the support of the right to harvest animals in a sustainable manner; the support of the right to catch, collect, keep, breed, and sell turtles. Two people cited the importance of conserving rare species through captive breeding efforts. One person cited disagreement with laws that prohibit collection of non-endangered species on private land. One person stated that there should be no commercial collection of any species. Bag limits were recommended by several. One person stated that we should allocate more resources to Law Enforcement. Sale, offer for sale, exchange, barter, or collection of turtle eggs should also be prohibited under commercial activity. Limits should be placed on pet turtle ownership; and finally, several disagreed with the data cited.

To clarify, I'd like to emphasize a few important points about this proposed rule. Landowner rights remain unchanged. They'd still be able to manage their turtle populations as they see fit. A nongame dealer permit is already required under the current rules to buy and sell freshwater turtles. So nothing would change there. Captive breeding and sale of lawfully obtained broodstock by permitted nongame dealers would continue to be legal under the revised rule.

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


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: What you just said.

MS. LONGORIA: Yes. Captive breeding and sale of lawfully obtained broodstock by permitted nongame dealers, would continue to be legal under the revised rule.


MS. LONGORIA: Uh-huh. The rules for recreational collection would not be changed. Nobody wants to discourage nature enthusiasts, hobbyists, and children from pursuing their interest in turtles. And most importantly, this rule addresses the unsustainable commercial exploitation of a public resource.

In light of this information, the petition we received and with the support of the Wildlife Diversity Advisory Committee, TPWD staff recommend removing the exceptions for commercial collection of the four species of freshwater turtles to make the rules consistent across all turtle species and all waterbodies in Texas, to enable TPWD to better protect the turtle populations in Texas, including those especially vulnerable rare species from overharvest.

And this concludes my presentation for today. I'm happy to take any questions you might have.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Members, any questions?

All right. Thank you, Meredith.

I'll place the Commercial Turtle Harvest Rules or the Proposed Commercial Turtle Harvest Rules on tomorrow's Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and possible action by the Commission.

MS. LONGORIA: Thank you.


With regard to Work Session Item 5, Gulf Shrimp Unloading License, Replacement License Rules and Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes, do any of the members have any questions or comments?

If not, I'll push this to tomorrow.

Hearing none, the Gulf Shrimp -- excuse me. The Gulf Shrimp Unloading License, Replacement License Rules, on the -- I'll place that on tomorrow's Meeting agenda for public comment and possible action by the Commission.

Work Session Item 6, Air Gun and Arrow Gun Rules and Hunter Education for Air Gun and Arrow Gun Rules, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. Clayton, welcome.

MR. WOLF: Good morning, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, Mr. Smith. For the record, my name is Clayton Wolf. I'm the Wildlife Division Director. And this morning, I'm going to talk to you again about big bore air rifles and arrow guns. This is a subject that's been covered numerous times before this Commission; and so this morning, I'm going to dispense with a lot of the details and the background information of ballistics and things that I've covered before and really try to get to the meat of the issue on big bore air rifles and arrow guns.

You'll recall that you were briefed as far back as November of last year. Again, we came with permission to publish and January. And then in March, we came with a proposal; but, first, I'd like to talk to you a little -- just clarify that right now, air guns are not legal for the take of alligators, furbearers, and most game animals and that same goes for arrow guns. With the one exception that air guns are legal for squirrels. They're legal for exotic animals, and arrow guns are not archery equipment.

It was last -- or prior to last November, that the Crosman Corporation petitioned us to consider the use of these big bore air rifles and we'd received several other comments and so when we went through that briefing process and came to you in March, the minimum specifications for big bore air rifles for the take of big game animals -- turkey and alligators and furbearers -- had a .30-caliber minimum. At that -- after that meeting, staff was asked to look at these rules and come back with some further limitations, if you will, or minimum specifications really to try -- in an effort to try to reduce the chances of wounding loss.

So in May at the meeting in Lubbock, we came back with some of the same minimum specifications, the same .30-caliber minimum specification; but also, we introduced the term "pre-charged pneumatic" after working with Mitch King with the Air Gun Sporting Association -- who, by the way, is again in the room with us this morning. And so we -- in that particular revision, the proposal suggested that all of these big bore air rifles for taking big game animals also be pre-charged pneumatics and fire a projectile that weighed at least 140 grains.

We received quite a bit of testimony from air gun enthusiasts and folks in the industry. Quite a bit of dialogue among the Commission and we received further instruction to really narrow down and look at -- and also, again, in an attempt to reduce wounding loss -- look at the foot pounds of energy, which ultimately means, you know, how much energy that projectile carries and look at metrics that are either used to calculate the foot pounds of energy or just go directly to that foot pound energy minimum.

So with those instructions, in July we withdraw all the proposed changes to Section 65.3, 65.11, and 65.375; and we proposed new changes. And I would like to clarify that these -- that we also have some changes that were previously approved at the March Commission Meeting. And so when we withdrew these changes within those sections, we had to take all the sections down. And so there were changes to, for instance, archery standards. I'm not going to go into detail on that; but I do want to clarify that the proposal that we're asking you to consider for adoption tomorrow, does come with -- covers some of those other aspects. I will hit them briefly just to remind everyone of some of the previous discussions.

We brought to you a definition of an air gun. We were asked to modify that at the January meeting. And so at the March meeting, we brought a new definition; and that's the definition that is in the proposal today. We also brought to you a repeal of several archery equipment standards. We have three of them there in front of you that this proposal contains, which is we would remove the requirement to -- that a broadhead hunting point by seven-eighths of an inch and have a minimum of two cutting edges, that crossbows have a minimum of 125 pounds, and also are suggesting to repeal the requirement that a crossbow stock be not less than 25 inches.

You will recall in our proposal in March, we had also were planning to repeal or proposed to repeal the requirement for a mechanical safety; and after direction from the Commission, we have left that in. So this proposal does not include that repeal. So if adopted in this form tomorrow, crossbows would still be required to have a mechanical safety.

At the May meeting, we -- you may recall we introduced the term "arrow gun" and quit using the term "air bow" and so we have a definition for arrow gun and that's where we introduced the term "pre-charged pneumatic." And then the one new change is hunter education requirements. Right now, our current hunter education requirements only apply to firearms and archery equipment; and these pneumatic devices are neither. And so we have a proposal in here that would basically make the hunter education requirement standard across arrow guns and air guns, just like they are for hunting with firearms and archery equipment.

It's also important to note, Chairman, that at the direction of the Commission, we are also working on education efforts to let folks know the limitations of air rifles, just like we do with all other equipment. That they understand the equipment they're using, the limitations of that equipment, and that we encourage proficiency in order to reduce or avoid wounding loss. And so Mitch King has been working with Steve Hall to incorporate that kind of information on air guns and arrow guns within our hunter education curriculum.

We also have website that's set up. If you've got your Outdoor Annual, you'll notice right now it points you to a website on air guns. Right now, it just says "Stand by." But if this proposal is adopted tomorrow, our Communications team has information to load up there and not just the regulations would be loaded onto that site, but also we have some guidance. We -- our -- Josh's team, Steve Lightfoot worked with Alan Cain and Mitch Lockwood to develop some guidance for those folks that are contemplating using or buying an air gun or arrow gun, to let them know of the general limitations and also to encourage -- just like we do for all hunters -- that hunters become familiar, they become proficient, and they understand the limitations so that we reduce wounding loss. And so -- and, in fact, when I talked to Mitch King this morning and he got a chance to review that, his plans are to take that particular document that we developed and that guidance and also use it within the air gun industry and have that distributed among their commercial retailers and wholesalers, so that that kind of guidance goes out to everyone that is considering using these types of equipment.

So the meat of the issue. What we are proposing, that is in the proposal that was published in the Texas Register, is that these big bore air rifles that would be used for big game animals, alligators, and turkeys, would again be pre-charged pneumatics only, a minimum of .30-caliber, a minimum of a 150-grain bullet weight in combination with a muzzle velocity of at least 800 feet per second or any bullet weight and muzzle velocity combination that produces at least 215-foot pounds of energy.

Now, some folks might suggest that there's some redundancy in here when you look at that 215-foot pounds of energy. It might essentially cover that third sub-bullet. There's about 2-foot pounds of difference. But what we did when we published this proposal, is we wanted to make sure that this Commission had the maximum latitude to look at all these parameters and so we made sure we included not only that one specific minimum combination, but also anything that could produce at least 215-foot pounds of energy.

For furbearers, the proposal would be that these big bore air rifles be pre-charged pneumatics only minimum and a minimum of .30-caliber. That's to make sure that these breakover types or the multi-pump air rifles that do not produce the same velocity, would not be legal for the take of furbearers. As a reminder, furbearers are a much smaller. They include animals such as foxes, nutria, raccoons, beavers, etcetera.

And then for the small game -- for squirrels, chachalaca, quail, and pheasant -- the proposal is a minimum of a .177-caliber and 600 feet per second. In this particular case, there are non-PCP air rifles out there, the breakover type or multi-pump, that can produce 600-plus feet per second in velocity and we believe that is sufficient to humanely take these small game animals. And so in this particular case, the devices would not have to be PCPs, but could be the pump-action. Obviously, what we wanted to make sure that was not included in this was the Red Ryder BB gun and types that, obviously, do not produce sufficient velocity.

As far as public comment on the game animal section, we have 118 individuals that agree with the proposal. Eighteen that disagree completely, just do not think that air rifles and arrow guns should be legalized. And then 11 comments from individuals that disagree with specific components of the proposal. The reasons for complete disagreement are that the device is just simply not needed, there's enough pieces of equipment out there to hunt with already; and then some folks thought that the use of big bore air rifles would increase poaching.

Reasons for specific disagreement included some folks thought the muzzle energy requirements were too low. Some folks thought the muzzle energy requirements were too high. Others indicated that these air rifles should not be for big game species, and then also we got at least one comment -- I think a couple -- that the proposal -- the proposed rules were too complicated or unenforceable.

As far as furbearers, we had 42 individuals that agree, 10 disagree, and 3 that disagree on specific components. And the reasons for complete disagreement is that these devices would increase wounding loss and increase poaching. And then reasons for specific disagreement, one individual opposed the mandatory hunter education. Some folks thought that these pneumatics were -- should be for small game only and then one individual suggested that we reduce the minimum caliber requirement for the take of furbearers.

We'll also let you know that I've been contacted by Crosman Corporation and I spoke with Mr. Duncan yesterday and we should -- I'm expecting a letter from them sometime today, and so we'll get that to the Commission as soon as we receive that.

And so just as my final slide, I will put back up for you there, those metrics that are within the current proposal. That concludes my presentation, and I'll be happy to take any questions.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Members, any questions?

Thank you, Clayton, you and the others and Mr. King for all your work on this. I will place this item on the Commission agenda for Commission action tomorrow.

MR. WOLF: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Let's see. Work Session Item 7, Raptor Proclamation Rules, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Ranger[sic]. Do any members have questions or comments about that?

All right. I'll place that item on -- I'll authorize staff rather to publish the Raptor Proclamation Rules in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.

Work Session Item 8, Shad Rules, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Register. Do any members have any questions or comments about that?

All right. I'll authorize staff to publish the Shad Rules in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.

Let's see. Item 9, Rules for Special Events at the -- at Various TPW Facilities, Recommend Adoption of Proposed Changes, Rodney Franklin. Welcome, Rodney.

MR. FRANKLIN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good morning, Commissioners. My name is Rodney Franklin. I'm the Deputy Director of State Parks. I'm here to talk to you today about a proposed rule change to state park's rules of conduct, specifically as it relates to the consumption and public display of alcohol and sale of alcohol in a state park.

Currently, our rules state that it is an offense to consume or display an alcoholic beverage in public inside a state park. Also prohibited is the sale of alcoholic beverages in state parks. And so our rule that we are proposing amendment to, would change that and allow for a few exceptions and the exceptions would be the consumption of alcohol as it relates to public events as approved by the Executive Director. So for consumption of alcohol for public events, we would allow that if it was reviewed by the -- through our process and by the -- approved by the Executive Director.

Consumption of alcohol would also be allowed under this rule in concession contracts. We have some specific concession contracts around the state. And if we authorize -- if the Executive Director authorizes these concession contracts with regard to restaurants specifically, that would be authorized by this amendment.

And then also sale of alcohol as it relates to our concessionaire as authorized by special event or contract that would be approved, as well. So we have a process by which all of that is considered and the ultimate approval would be by the Executive Director.

So the reason we're asking for this change is to facilitate fundraising activities for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. From time to time, we have people that -- or groups or entities or partners that approach us and want to do special events and host those inside a state park and if alcohol is associated with those, our current rules don't allow us to consider that. And we also feel that in some of our concession contracts, specifically with regard to restaurant activities -- like, Ray Roberts Lake State Park, we have a marina up there that have sit-down meals and to be able to have alcohol with a meal, we want to be able to accept that and consider that in those situations. So that would be outlined in the concession contract and the parameters would be outlined and approved and we think that will enhance the viability of those restaurant facilities and allow them to be more successful. We want to make sure that they are successful; and this, we believe, would enhance that.

So some of the things that are not changing with regard to this rule, this is not a complete disregard for our current authorization for public consumption. So we're not looking to generally release the prohibition of alcohol as it relates to consuming in public areas, like our day-use area and our camping areas. And also package sales in state parks would still not be allowed. We're not looking to change that rule, as well. But the bottom line, as with all of our contracts and all of our special events, we would not authorize anything or any activity that would be in conflict or inconsistent with our Texas Parks and Wildlife mission or the values that we set forth. So anything that would go against that, would not be a part of this rule exception that we're asking for. That would continue to be prohibited.

So additional considerations that we wanted to point out, additional conditions, the consumption of alcohol would be related to specific time and specific areas in the state park and all of that would be outlined in our concession agreement or our special event contract. So that would all be spelled out and that's currently reviewed by Operations, the Regional offices, and the State offices. Our Legal team also reviews all of those contracts; and in this specific instance, it would also be further authorized and reviewed by the Executive Director.

Additionally, concessionaires would be -- still need to comply to any state and local rules with regard to this, including any permits or licensing that would be required by TABC, for example. So those prohibitions would still be a part of this. And then some of the additional items that would be in our contract terms that will be addressed, any safety and security requirements would also be outlined in the contract. Currently, we might assign additional resources like our park peace officers for events that are large. So that would be spelled out; but additionally, if we thought the need was there, it would be spelled out in the contract where the concessionaire would be required to have additional security, depending on the scope and size of the event. So that would be one of the things we would outline in the contract, as well as any liability requirements that would be needed. And additionally, any operational issues that would be specific to a specific state park that we would need to consider in the contract with regard to location and protecting our resources, all of that would also be outlined in the contract.

So thus far, it's -- we've had about 51 total comments regarding this rule change. Thirty-two have been in favor, and 19 opposed. With regard to the 19 opposed, we feel like there was really a lack of understanding of what the rule is supposed to encompass. Again, it was a feeling that alcohol allowed completely in a state park was not -- they were not in favor of that. But this rule is to designate specific times and places and it's limited in scope. So we're not releasing -- as I mentioned before, we're not allowing alcohol to be just publically displayed on general terms in day-use or camping areas and our comments -- excuse me -- our comments were really about safety with regard to that and our after-hours noise compliance, which would still be enforced by our park peace officer and it was really about safety. We still will -- safety of our customers is of the utmost importance. So we will still enforce these rules so that we can be safe and our visitors can be safe. Our park peace officers will still enforce those rules. So that was the majority of the comments of people that were opposed.

And for -- and one other thing I will mention, that people had the opportunity to call or send direct e-mails and we received no comments by phone or by e-mail. All of these comments we received by the website. So with that, I will take any questions you have about this proposed rule that I will be presenting tomorrow for action.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Members, any questions?

Rodney, could you go back to the -- yeah, contract terms. That bullet point, yes. I just want to make sure that I understand on Bullet Point 2, that our contract -- our contracts, whether it's concessionaire contracts or a special events contract, will include a requirement that the user give us a certificate of liquor liability insurance?

MR. FRANKLIN: Correct. Yes, it will require that. If that's part of the contract they're requesting, we'll have that as part of the contract.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, I think that should be requirement is what I'm ask -- what I'm suggesting to you is --

MR. FRANKLIN: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- that when you say this will be -- you say liability insurance requirements. My thought is it should say, "The user must provide a certificate of current insurance that covers any type of violation of TABC rules or other liquor liability laws."

MR. FRANKLIN: Yes, sir. That makes sense. And we can for sure add that as part of the requirement each time.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. I want to make -- my request is let's put that in for tomorrow's proposal.

MR. FRANKLIN: Okay, I'll make that change.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Anybody else have questions or comments?


COMMISSIONER JONES: I saw it in your charts, but I just wanted to make sure. When you refer to "limited in area" and I think it was "area and scope" or whatever, we just want to make sure that they can't take the bottle out of the restaurant --

MR. FRANKLIN: Correct.

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- or grab a six-pack and take it out of the fundraising event and go out to their tent in the park and have their own --

MR. FRANKLIN: That's correct, sir. So the contract will definitely outline the location that the event takes place and the time that the event is to begin and end.

COMMISSIONER JONES: All right. And is there an exception for Parks and Wildlife Commission members?

MR. FRANKLIN: We can certainly discuss that; but currently, it is not a part of this.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay. I was just checking. That's all.


COMMISSIONER JONES: I was asking for a friend.

MR. FRANKLIN: I understand.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Let the record reflect that Commissioner Jones was jesting, please.

Okay. Rodney, thank you very much for your presentation.

MR. FRANKLIN: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I will place the Rules for Special Events at TPW Facilities on tomorrow's meeting agenda for public comment and action.

With respect to Item 10, Employee Training Rules, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Register, do any members have any questions or comments about that?

If not, I'll place that in the -- okay. I'll authorize staff to publish the Employee Training Rules in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.

Item 11, Acquisition of Land, Marion County, Approximately 2 Acres at the Caddo Lake Wildlife Management Area, Stan David. Welcome, Stan.

MR. DAVID: Thank you. Good morning, Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, Stan David with the Land Conservation Program.

This agenda item concerns an acquisition in Marion County, approximately 2 acres at Caddo Lake Wildlife Management Area. It's in very northeast Texas. It's approximately 20 miles northeast of Marshall. Caddo Lake WMA consists of almost 7,000 acres in Marion and Harrison Counties. It's located 20 miles east of Jefferson. The state acquired the core of the WMA in 1992. In '93, Caddo Lake was selected as a wetland of international importance, especially waterfowl habitat, under the Ramsar Convention. Today, the WMA is very popular in northeast Texas -- or for northeast Texas destination for wildlife viewing, hunting, and fishing.

Staff has negotiated the acquisition of a 2-acre tract of land that shares 420 feet of boundary in common with the WMA. Access to this parcel of land is from -- and I have a map to show this -- from FM 805 through a locked TPWD gate. So the landowner opens the gate, travels 500-foot of WMA road to get to their driveway to get in their property. Acquisition of this tract of land will address several issues for WMA operations, including public hunting and managing the access.

Existing infrastructure on the property will be modified and used for WMA purposes. They have a septic system, water, and electricity and we could use that possible for an office trailer or bunkhouse or something for that side of the WMA. The red star on the very west side is where this tract is located. The tract is outlined in yellow there. You can see faintly there's a WMA parking area. So the road is just to the west of that. There's a yellow pipe gate that's there that stays locked. The owner of this tract would have a key or have access through that gate.

We've received 20 comments so far. All 20 are in support. Just generic, we approve buy more land. That was the commenting. Anything we can add, the citizens are for. The request is that this item be placed on Thursday's agenda for public comment and action, and I'll be happy to answer any questions that you might have.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Commissioners, any questions?

Okay. Hearing none, I'll place the Acquisition of Land, Marion County, Approximately 2 Acres at the Caddo Lake Wildlife Management Area on tomorrow's meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Thank you, Stan.

MR. DAVID: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Item 12, Exchange of Land, Washington County, Approximately 1 Acre at Washington-on-the-Brazos, Trey Vick. Welcome, Trey.

MR. VICK: Good morning. For the record, my name's Trey Vick. I'm with Land Conservation Program. What I'm presenting today is an exchange of land at Washington -- in Washington County of approximately 1 acre at Washington-on-the-Brazos.

Washington-on-the-Brazos is located in Washington County, 7 miles northeast of Navasota. Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site sits along the Brazos River. Fifty-nine delegates met here to make formal declaration of independence from Mexico in March of 1836. This is the original 50-acre site -- pardon me, the original 50-acre site was acquired by the State in 1916 to preserve the original Washington town site.

To date, the site consists of about 300 acres and includes reconstructed Independence Hall, the Star of Republic Museum, and the Barrington Living History Farm. It's long been a goal to acquire a little bit more property at the entrance. The Commission approved the acquisition of a 4-acre tract a few meetings back adjacent to the entrance that would help protect the entrance and provide space for the improvements.

In order for this 4-acre tract to be contiguous to the park, there's a 1-acre sliver that sits between the 4-acre tract and the park entrance that we need to acquire. The owner of the adjacent 1-acre tract is willing to exchange that sliver for 1 acre out of the 4 acres we look to acquire.

As you can see here, the park is outlined in red. The 4-acre tract that the Commission approved for us to pursue is outlined in yellow. There's a little gap between there. We've been in talks with a the neighboring landowner, who is open to exchanging the two tracts outlined like this. This might not be exact, but this will give you an idea of what we're looking to do: Exchange our yellow tract for the red-shaded tract.

If you have no questions, I ask that you put this on the agenda; and I'd be happy to answer any questions you may have.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I -- members, any questions?

I have one or two here, Trey.

MR. VICK: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: When you say "exchange the tract in yellow," you don't mean the entire tract?

MR. VICK: No, sir. Just --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: You mean the actual -- the area that's jade green or sort of lime --

MR. VICK: Correct.


MR. VICK: Correct.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. The second question is: If you've got this unusual protrusion that's still would exist at the top of the slide or PowerPoint, have we attempted to see if we could keep that line that crosses the 1155, keep that line straight and then add some additional land to the neighbor?

MR. VICK: The neighbor is very open. We kind of presented this as a 1-acre-for-1-acre exchange. He's made it clear that he'd be open for a little more, a little bit less, just whatever we need once we get to the design part of how the entrance is going to lay out.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, just from looking at this slide, I would suggest we explore making that red line that crosses 1155 stay straight, so that we don't have that protrusion that's currently shown with the yellow point. Do you see what I'm talking about?

Carter, do you see that, too?

MR. SMITH: I do. I mean, that makes sense to me in terms of squaring it off.

Trey is there any other reason why we wouldn't consider that?

MR. VICK: No. This is just a proposal basically. We just want to get approval from y'all to proceed with the exchange negotiations.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, what I'm asking -- and maybe this is something Ann or Bob need to weigh in on -- but can we modify the proposal so that tomorrow, we authorize that?

All I'm suggesting is I think the Commission would like to consider giving the discretion to the Executive Director to negotiate for that straight line that I just described.

MR. SWEENEY: Right. Mr. Chairman, I think that the plan -- the area that's outlined in yellow, is what you've already authorized the Department to buy. So if that transaction is successful, it will already have squared it off, if I'm following you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That's not my understanding. I thought the proposal is to authorize us to exchange the area in jade green at the bottom of the slide for the area that's shaded in burgundy or --

MR. SWEENEY: Right, right. But we have to complete the transaction to buy what's in yellow first and then we have something to trade and then once we have something to trade, then we go ahead and do the trade; but I do appreciate the -- sort of the idea that there would be flexibility in terms of 1 acre -- approximately 1 acre or some, as it makes sense to -- once the surveys have come in -- to rationalize that situation there as best as can be done with the cooperation of that -- with the willing landowner there. So I think that's good guidance, if you would -- I would encourage you to give us that guidance and say, you know, if it turns out to be a little more or less in order to make it -- the entrance make more sense, that's absolutely a place we should go.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I'm sorry. I'm confused. I don't know how we can exchange land we don't own. Where's the authorization to buy the land that's surrounded by the yellow line?

MR. SWEENEY: That was done in a previous Commission Meeting, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: But we haven't closed on that?

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: But we haven't acquired it yet.

MR. SMITH: No, we have not.

MR. SWEENEY: That's right. We have not closed on that yet.



MR. VICK: Yeah, and the acquisition would be contingent on us being able to make this swap, too.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. All right, anybody -- yeah, Commissioner Jones.

COMMISSIONER JONES: The only thing I heard in there that I might -- and this is all timing in terms of when you do the next step. But if you're going to have surveying done, it just seems to me that you would do the survey with what Ralph has indicated the Commission wants to do to square that off. So to keep the surveyor from having to come out twice, why not survey it that includes that little triangle that Ralph pointed out, rather than having them come back and resurvey it again?

MR. VICK: Yes, sir. There's a considerable amount of survey costs involved because we need to get the tract that we're acquiring surveyed. It needs to close at the same time with the swap. So the two parcels each would need to be surveyed. So we wanted to get 100 percent permission from the Commission before we spend any money, you know, acquiring the surveys and doing the legwork on this.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Well, and just to make sure I'm clear. So when the survey is done, what Ralph is saying is let's --

MR. VICK: Yes.

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- survey it according to what the Commission is indicating --

MR. VICK: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- it wants --

MR. VICK: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- rather than what we see here today in red.

MR. VICK: Okay. Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Are we all clear? Is that -- we're on the same page?


COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Would a better recommendation be we authorize it to include the necessary adjustments to make it a usable piece of property or -- I don't know.

MR. VICK: Yes. Yes, ma'am.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, I think the way we'd like you to present the formal proposal tomorrow, is to give the additional authorization to negotiate an exchange for that area that protrude -- currently is shown as protruding.

MR. VICK: Okay.


MR. VICK: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Everybody okay with that?

Very good. Let's see, I will place the exchange of land as tweaked -- as suggested to be tweaked for Washington County, approximately 1 acre, more or less at Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site on tomorrow's Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Thank you.

We've already -- I've already withdrawn Item 13 from the agenda. So that takes us to 14, Transfer of Land, Walker County, .60-acre at Huntsville State Park. Do any members have questions or comments about this? Otherwise, I'll place that on tomorrow's Commission Meeting agenda.

Okay. Item 14, Transfer of Land, Walker County, .60-acre at Huntsville State Park is on the Commission Meeting agenda for tomorrow for public comment and action.

Let's see. Item 15, Exchange of Land, Bexar County, Approximately 56 acres at Government Canyon State Natural Area, Permission to Begin Public Notice and Input Process. Now, I see why you stayed up there. Please give us your presentation on this item.

MR. VICK: All right, thank you. Again, Commissioners, for the record, my name's Trey Vick. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. Today, I'm going to present a second first reading. This is something that was presented back in May of 2017. It is an exchange of land in Bexar County. It's approximately a 56-acre swap at Government Canyon State Natural Area. It's located in Bexar County. It sits in northwest San Antonio.

Government Canyon is 12,000 acres, state natural area, that includes 3,000 acres acquired by the City of San Antonio to protect Edwards Aquifer recharge area. The City transferred this property to TPWD in 2014 to add to the state natural area. Out of the 3,000 acres -- the 3,000 acres consists of approximately 20 tracts, including a tract in the southern extremity of the state natural area that is low-quality habitat, mesquite filled. This tract that I'm speaking of is not over the recharge zone. It's adjacent to a residential neighborhood.

A landowner adjacent to the main body of the SNA, proposed to exchange TPWD's low-quality habitat for a higher-quality habitat tract. Staff at the natural area feel that the exchange will increase net conservation and recreation values of the SNA. Staff of Government Canyon also has coordinated with the City of San Antonio, Bexar County, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure that everyone's on board with the proposed exchange.

You can see a map here of Government Canyon and the area we're talking about is at the far southwest corner. The two tracts in question right now are outlined in yellow. Our tract is the light tract to the south. It's pretty much flat field. It's covered in mesquite. The neighboring tract is the darker green to the northeast, which is -- has more elevation. It's fully wooded.

Staff requests permission to begin the public notice, and I'd be happy to answer any questions you may have.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Commissioners, any questions?

Okay. I'll authorize staff to begin the public notice and input process regarding the Exchange of Land, Bexar County, Approximately 56 Acres at Government Canyon State Natural Area.

Thank you, sir.

MR. VICK: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But before you leave, let me say -- going back to the previous item, No. Item 12. My bad. I didn't realize that we were -- already had the area depicted in yellow under contract. So we will -- if that closes, we will own that little triangular portion once we close on it. So we don't need to have an exchange for that. That's my mistake in misreading or misunderstanding that we already were going to own the yellow. So I'm sorry of the confusion I created for you and the members of the Commission.

MR. VICK: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. That takes us to Item 16, Acquisition of Land, Brewster County, Approximately 16,000 Acres at the Black Gap Wildlife Management Area, Ted Hollingsworth. Welcome, Ted.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good morning. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm glad to be here this morning. Let's see, I think we're looking for an item on Brewster County...

MS. CLARK: Uh-oh. That's the work one. Hang on. Oops, hold on a second.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Don't worry. It's George Rios' problem.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: It was running nice and smooth, Ted. Why are you going to get up here and mess us up?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: I've been gone. I need to make an entry.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I'm jesting about George Rios, by the way.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: We know this is the only one on here. So you have to make something out of it.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Exactly. Make the most of it, uh-huh.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Do we need to take a short recess?

MS. CLARK: No. I've got it.


MS. CLARK: Yeah.


MS. CLARK: That means -- I'm sorry -- it's not on your laptops. Yeah, it's not on your laptops.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Can you -- how much time --

MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman, you're only going to -- you're only going to see it on the screen.

MR. CHAIRMAN: But how much time would it take before we could get it on the laptop.

MR. SMITH: That might be a little more.

MS. CLARK: I would have to have y'all move out the way to get to each of the computers.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Well, can we -- well, let's try to get by looking at the big screen and if anybody has a problem with that, we'll recess and try to address that.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I've got to look at it anyway.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: It's also in your notebook there.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: And this is an item that y'all have seen previously. So hopefully nothing in here is a surprise, but it does involve a very significant acquisition at Black Gap Wildlife Management Area in the Trans-Pecos of West Texas.

Black Gap is our largest wildlife management area, at approximately 110,000 acres; but more significantly, it is adjacent to several other conservation initiatives, trans-boundary conservation initiatives, that all put together include roughly 5 million acres of conservation initiatives, both south and north of the Rio Grande of the Mexico/Texas border. And I just want to point out that the tract in question is actually kind of a doughnut hole in that 5-million-acre initiative.

That entire initiative, that entire area called the Rio Bravo Conservation Initiative, is something that Texas and Mexico have been working on for a number of years; and it, obviously, is essential habitat for a number of native species, including some extremely rare species and species found only in that desert ecosystem of West Texas and northern Mexico.

As you can see a little closer here, you can see that that 16,000-acre tract does plug a significant hole in that conservation initiative. The only other land that's not publically owned is just south of there, but that is held in conservation easement and is owned by CEMEX. It's part of their participation in that trans-boundary conservation effort that includes Texas -- the desert Bighorn sheep, Black bear, and other iconic West Texas species.

Just in a nutshell, again, it is a very important conservation area. The bear and the sheep and trophy Mule deer and three species of quail are all found in that area.

I mostly wanted to update y'all today on the status of our attempt to work out an acquisition of that property. We have been meeting with the General Land Office. We are -- with your blessing today, we will begin working out the details of a letter of intent to acquire that from the General Land Office. We've talked to some local brokers and anticipate that the price breaker for that acquisition is in the 350 to $500 per acre range. We do have a noted appraiser on board that the GLO has approved and that we've worked with extensively. We feel very comfortable with his ability to establish a fair market value there. And if we proceed, we will use Pittman-Robertson funds that the Wildlife division has already earmarked out of this year -- the last year and this year's appropriation of funds. Those are funds that are federal funds generated from a tax on firearms and ammunition. It can only be used for conservation -- acquisition of conservation lands, not recreation lands. Therefore, it can only come in to Fund 9; and in terms of acquisition, can only be used to acquire wildlife management areas or lands to expand wildlife management areas.

It requires a 25 percent match. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation has agreed -- if you would like for us to proceed, they've agreed to attempt to raise that match. We've received, actually of this morning -- as of this morning -- 198 comments. Every one of them in strong support of this acquisition. About 150 of those or so came from the backcountry hunter and anglers. The rest came from independent commenters.

That concludes my presentation. The request is that you give us authorization to solicit public input -- I'm sorry. This is an action item. Our request is that tomorrow, you authorize us to take action consistent with this acquisition.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Commissioners, any questions?

Okay, thank you. I'll place the acquisition of Brewster County Property, Approximately 16,000 acres at the Black Gap Wildlife Management Area on tomorrow's meeting agenda for public comment and action.


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. Item 17, Exchange of Real Estate in Jefferson County, 120 Acres, more or less, at the J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area, this item will be heard in Executive Session; as will Work Session Item 18, Litigation Update on Oyster Litigation and CWD Related Litigation; as will Work Session Item 19, Sunset Commission Recommended Transfer of Eight State Properties from the Parks and Wildlife Department to the Texas Historical Commission; and finally Item 20, Performance Evaluation of our Executive Director will also be heard in Executive Session.

So I will announce at this time that pursuant to the requirements of 551 of the Government Code, known as the Open Meetings Act, that an Executive Session will be held for the purpose of seeking legal advice under 551.071 of the Act, including advice regarding pending or contemplated litigation, deliberation of real estate matters under 551.072 of the Act, and deliberating the evaluation of personnel under 551.074 of the Texas Open Meetings Act. So we will recess at this time for Executive Session.

(Recess taken for Executive Session)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: We will reconvene the regular session of the Work Session on August 22, 2018, at 2:17 p.m., CDT.

Work Session Item 17, Exchange of Real Estate, Jefferson County, Approximately 120 Acres at the J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area, Permission to Begin the Public Notice and Input Process, this item was heard in Executive Session. I do authorize staff to begin the public notice and input process regarding the proposed exchange or a proposed exchange of approximately 120 acres.

Work Session Item 18, a Litigation Update, this item was heard in Executive Session. No further action is required at this time.

Work Session Item 19, Sunset Commission Recommended Transfer of Eight State Sites that are in the Parks and Wildlife Department to the Texas Historic Commission, this too was heard in Executive Session and no further action is required at this time.

Work Session Item No. 20, Performance Evaluation of our Executive Director Carter Smith was heard in Executive Session. No further action is required at this time. So I declare that the Commission has completed its Work Session business and declare us adjourned.

(Work Session 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


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