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TPW Commission

Regional Public Hearing, November 1, 2017

Transcript

TPW Commission Meetings

TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION

November 1, 2017

TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT
PITSER GARRISON CONVENTION CENTER
LUFKIN ROOM
601 NORTH SECOND STREET
LUFKIN, TEXAS 75901

REGIONAL PUBLIC HEARING

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Now, good afternoon, everyone. Before we start official business, I'd like to just personally say how appreciative I am of the opportunity to be here. Lufkin is known for its love of the outdoors, hunting and fishing. We were very fortunate yesterday afternoon to have a tour of Boggy Slough and it was absolutely fascinating and I can't wait to come back in a couple of years and see all the fruits of the effort that's been put into managing it.

We get out of Austin not often enough, and it's a real pleasure to be here to see and hear what things concern the people of East Texas. You have a long tradition of hunting and fishing. I mentioned this morning that at one point, Lufkin had the highest per capita ratio of hunting and fishing licenses to population of any city in Texas. So thank you, and we're glad to be here.

And with that, I'll start the meeting, called to order November 1st, 2017, at -- well, must be 2:14.

Mr. Smith, I think you have something to say.

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

Public notice of this meeting containing all items on the proposed agenda has been filed in the Office of the Secretary of State as required by Chapter 551 Government Code, referred to as the Open Meetings Act.

Mr. Chairman, I would like for this fact to be noted in the official record of the meeting.

Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, I just want to join all of you in welcoming everybody to this regional public hearing. Obviously, we have a big footprint in East Texas -- as the Chairman alluded to -- on the fisheries, the wildlife, the law enforcement, and the state park side. We know that this part of the state is filled with people who care about the outdoors, their outdoors, and we're proud to be your partner in helping to steward it.

This is an opportunity really for us to hear from y'all and we came here very, very specifically because of the importance of this region to Texas as a whole and a chance for us to hear what's on your mind about the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. And that's probably a pretty good segue just into a little bit of the housekeeping in terms of how we're going to conduct the regional public hearing today.

Hopefully, all of you who want to have a chance to address the Commission have signed up outside. At the appropriate time, the Chairman is going to call you forward by name. You'll have a chance to come to the podium. I would simply ask that you state your name and where you're from and whether that's Evadale or Lufkin, tell us what part of East Texas you're from; and then everybody will have two minutes to address the Commission on any topic of interest to you.

And so, again, we're excited to be here. We appreciate y'all taking time out of your afternoon to share your sentiments about the work that we do with all of you to help steward your fish and wildlife and parks. And so thanks for the chance to be here.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Thank you, Carter.

First, I would like to start with a couple of special guests. First one is Mayor Brown. Would you please step forward? Thank you.

MAYOR BOB BROWN: Thank you, sir. Thank you for your kind words. We are thrilled to death that you have come to Lufkin, Texas, to have this open hearing. We are thrilled to death that you took time to do so, and don't wait two years. Come on back. We are ready for you.

Executive Director Smith, thank you so much for what you do for the State of Texas. We are thrilled to death and I noticed -- Morian?

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Morian.

MAYOR BOB BROWN: Morian.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Yeah.

MAYOR BOB BROWN: That you're from Houston. What I want you to do when you go to bed tonight, is remember that you spent the day in Lufkin, Texas, where the Thundering 13 won the Little League World Series and I pray with an open heart that you go home tonight with a World Series. Congratulations.

(Round of applause)

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Thank you very much. I understand there's going to be a TV in a corner someplace where we're going to be this evening.

Next, is Senator Nichols. Love to hear from Senator Nichols. Welcome.

SENATOR ROBERT NICHOLS: Thank you, sir. Welcome. The Mayor just welcomed you to the city. I want to welcome you to East Texas, Senate District 3. We've got 19 counties. We have more River Authorities -- I think six River Authorities here in East Texas and we've got game, fish, forest. It's beautiful, and Texas Parks and Wildlife is a very important part of that.

Your rules, your regulations, your enforcement are all vital. We appreciate the fact that you did take the time to come to East Texas; and on other occasions, come to other parts of the state. I would encourage the Commission to set up as a routine basis, going out. We were talking about that earlier. Some of the other agencies do that; and it gives people an opportunity around the state to visit, to be heard, that otherwise would not go to Austin and have the meeting.

So we very much appreciate the work that you and the people of the Department do for our state, and so thank you very much for being here.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Thank you, Senator.

(Round of applause)

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Representative Ashby, welcome.

HOUSE MEMBER TRENT ASHBY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members. Welcome to God's country. We're delighted to have you here in Lufkin, Angelina County, East Texas, the heart of House District 57 that I'm blessed to represent.

I just wanted to say publically how much I appreciate all that you do as public servants serving on the Parks and Wildlife Commission. I know from time to time, it can seem like a thankless job; but I want you to know the people of East Texas appreciate the role that you have because we're equally passionate about our outdoors, about our state parks, about our fisheries and I'm just delighted to have you in this part of the state where we take our relationship that we have with you very seriously.

And we try to be, along with you, good stewards of those state parks and wildlife management areas in this area. And also, I want to publically think our law enforcement, our game wardens that are out there serving us on the front lines. Many times, we don't get a chance to publically thank them for what they do for the Texas Parks and Wildlife and the folks that are behind me here. They're out there in these woods this time of year getting ready for opening weekend of deer season, but we appreciate the role they play in keeping us safe and making sure that we're adhering to the rules and regulations that you put before us.

And so it's just an honor to have you here; and I join with Senator Nichols in echoing what he said, as well as the Mayor, we'd love to have you back. Y'all are welcome here any time; and certainly on behalf of this area of the state, we want to warmly welcome you to East Texas and we wish you best for a productive meeting while you're here in the area. So thank you.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Thank you.

(Round of applause)

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Thank you and Senator Nichols for all the support you've given the Department. It really makes a difference and is deeply appreciated and we're glad to be here.

And with that, I'll call those that have signed up to speak. You have two minutes, and I'd like to -- I'm going to read two names, with the second person -- I think it's appropriate to ask them to be on deck. The first is David Yeates, and second is Dalton Perry.

MR. DAVID YEATES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name's David Yeates. I work for Texas Wildlife Association. It's a treat to be here to talk about something fun, and that's the Texas Youth Hunting Program. As you know, it's an official partnership with TWA and Parks and Wildlife.

The program, since its inception in '96, has hosted about 3,000 hunts, taken about 23,000 young Texans mostly on their first hunt across the state of Texas. Most of that's been on private land. We've got a corps of volunteers of about 17,000. We have access to about 600 landowners' properties around the state and we're on a clip this year to run about 225 hunts for about 1,500 kids. And, again, most of those are inner-city youth and they're almost all first-time hunters. So it's a deeply impactful program.

The partnership is both formal and informal. There's MOUs and agreements and volunteer hour tracking and structure and all that, but the informal part of it is so much more important. We have so much support from the Parks and Wildlife staff, from all over the state; but here close to home, Penny Wilkerson over in Cass County in the Wildlife Division, Robert Barker in North Toledo Bend and Alazan Bayou WMA and then all the way out to John Apgar out in the Trans-Pecos, putting together volunteer trainings for game wardens to host hunts.

So it's just been a tremendous success that's demonstrated in the template being exported to five other states and Mexico, most recently Tennessee. So Texas leads the way, again, on the youth hunting front.

I just want to say thank you very much for the support. It means a lot. The credibility that the Department lends with the official partnership, moves mountains with landowners. The Department's been providing access to land for hosting hunts and there's nobody that can speak better about the program than one of its participants, Mr. Dalton Perry next to me or coming up next is a participant and I look forward to hearing his words. So thank you very much.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Thank you.

Mr. Perry.

MR. DALTON PERRY: Good afternoon. My name is Dalton Perry --

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Up on deck is Carl Ray Polk.

MR. DALTON PERRY: -- and I was originally chosen to go on a youth hunt in South Texas and some friends of ours that went with us, they had never been on a hunt before and they got to learn a lot about conservation and I think that's important because sometime, we're going to be the ones voting for whether it's right to hunt or not. And I just wanted to thank y'all.

(Round of applause)

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Thank you.

And next, Gerald Reichl.

MR. CARL RAY POLK: Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission, Director Carter, my thunder was stolen. I think it's pretty evident by the comments from the Mayor and Senator Nichols and Representative Ashby, you're being here in Angelina County is a big deal and we appreciate you taking out the time in your schedules to do so.

Secondly, I'm an advocate for the program that David and the young man just spoke about. Many of these -- many of these attending today -- I'll forget names, so I won't go through them specifically -- both here in East Texas and at their places in other parts of the state, have been advocates for that program.

I was a part of one of them a week ago. Our local game wardens came out and take part in those and it is a fantastic experience for those young kiddos that have not had the chance to be exposed to the outdoors. So, again, kind of took my thunder with David there; but we're appreciative that you're here.

My last comment would be about your staff, Mr. Chairman. It starts from the top, the leadership that your Director imposes on his staff all over the state, but specifically to our favorite part of East Texas -- whether it's our biologists, whether it's our wardens -- I would remind you, these guys, they -- I don't have to tell you this -- they work very hard. They represent landowners, and I was just reading an article the other day that they're my game wardens. So we commend you for your work there. Thanks for being here, and we hope you come back. Thank you, appreciate it.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Thank you.

(Round of applause)

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Gerald Reichl and Viron Barbay is on deck.

MR. GERALD REICHL: My name is Gerald Reichl, from Grapeland, TX, not Grapevine. Good afternoon. We want State public target ranges with access as outlined in a document provided to you earlier.

In the 1930s, sportsmen volunteered for an 11 percent excise tax on guns, ammunition, and more recently, on archery equipment. This tax is called Pittman-Robertson or PR tax. That tax money goes to the federal government, then back to the state, basically, on the number of licensed hunters in that state. Texas is number one. We receive more money than any other state.

Last year, the Texas Wildlife Department received $32.14 million. This money goes to the Wildlife Department, not the general fund. It took an act of Congress in the year 2000 to slow this mismanagement of PR funds. That act passed 423 to 2. It further defines how our tax money is to be spent.

Because we volunteer for this tax, we have a say in how this money is to be spent. One of the items we've approved is target ranges. So we contacted the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and asked: Where is our nearest Texas target range?

The TPWD answer: We don't have any.

When asked: What have you done with the $462.59 million we have already given to you?

Their response: The portion that applies to target ranges we give to private companies.

Two examples: Shady Oaks Gun Range in Cedar park, just north of Austin, was given $668,646. If you want to shoot at this range, the fee is $20 an hour. Or the Sportsmen Shooting Center in Grapevine. That private business was given $2 million -- that's right, $2 million -- by TPWD. If you want to shoot there, it will cost you $50 an hour.

Neither of these ranges meets our definition of a public shooting range. We want State target ranges. We want State target ranges. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Thank you. Okay.

MR. VIRON BARBAY: My name is Viron Barbay, and I'm President of the Sabine County Landowners/Leaseholders Association. We are a 17-year-old organization with approximately 400 members, and we all live and/or hunt here in deep East Texas. I'm also a past board member of OGT.

A couple of things. I'd like to compliment you on your staff. The biologists that work this region, they have done countless educational seminars and presentations for our organization over the last 17 years and the men and women that work down there are exemplary in their help and support of what we do.

Also on that note, the law enforcement -- your wardens here -- I don't think we could have gotten our feet on the ground and got going 17 years ago if it was not for the support and backup that these guys and gals provided. They are always there when they're needed, and they are what protects our resources. Thank you for having all these people out there.

The issues I wanted to talk to you about: One, East Texas today, known high-poach region of the state would be putting it mildly maybe. We have empty warden slots in every county around me, including one the one I'm in. I understand there are budgetary issues; but in the future, we sure hope that we can get assignments in our area to fill the rest of our slots.

Two things that the Commission is responsible for that our organization is 100 percent behind, and I wanted to pat you on the back and tell you that. One is your management and oversight of high-fence deer operations. All of us are in constant fear that CWD is going to get out. Once it's out, you can't put it back in the bag. So thank you for that management level. The other thing that we are very much in support of, is the 13-inch antler restriction. It has done immense good here in East Texas; and to the member, I believe all of us are behind you on that.

Thank you very much for coming east of the Trinity River.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Thanks for your comments.

Next, we have Richard Landers and Julie Shackelford.

MR. RICHARD LANDERS: My name's Richard Landers. I'm from Pollok, Texas, which is north of Lufkin about 12 miles. I'd like to talk about youth hunting.

I think it's a great program. I know recruitment's a problem, and I can tell you from my own experience with my own son. I started him with me when he was five, and I helped him kill about eight deer; but then when it was 13 -- and I'm not against the 13-inch rule, okay, for elks -- but when the 13-inch rule come into place, after about two years, he quit hunting because he got tired of watching deer walk by. He couldn't shoot them.

This past weekend, I took my great-nephew on a youth hunt at Alazan; and there, they allow you to kill whatever they want. Bill Adams, who's over Alazan, does a good job there and all the staff. And because of it, my nephew killed his first deer and we weren't afraid whether it was legal or not or whether we broke the law. When a buck -- it ended up being, would have been legal. But when the buck walked out, I had no issues with worrying about what it was or how big it was and he made a good shot and I was proud of him.

But my deal is, what I would like to see the Commission do, is come up with a plan to maybe find a way to let youth on their license maybe have one buck tag and they can fill it however they want. That's what I would like to see happen.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: That's something to think about.

And after Julie is Will Kirkpatrick.

MS. JULIE SHACKELFORD: Good afternoon. Welcome to East Texas. I'm Julie Shackelford. I am from Nacogdoches, and I am a former Texas Parks and Wildlife Department employee. I currently work for the Conservation Fund, where I've been for about 15 years. We're a national nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving land and water; and we have worked with the Department on many land conservation projects over the last few years, including Powderhorn Ranch, Village Creek, natural resource damage assessment projects, and now the herculean efforts of the staff to work on BP-related acquisitions.

And I just want to give a couple shout-outs. Y'all have been incredibly terrific to work with as partners and the common thread through all the projects that I have just listed has been your Land Conservation Department and in particular, Ted Hollingsworth, who is just the consummate, efficient, and professional partner and he's just a real treat to work with.

A couple of other points I just wanted to bring up is your Nature Tourism staff has done a really incredible job of bringing to life unique programs like the Birding Trails, the Paddling Trails. I think it's brought a lot of attention to, in particular, East Texas -- positive attention because this an area where I think we can really capitalize and bring additional tourists to. Shelly Plante has been a fabulous person to work with on the Parks and Wildlife staff. And lastly, I just want to give a shout-out to the biologists who are out there who have really adopted an ecosystem-habitat approach as opposed to a single-species approach and I think that's going to serve the land and serve our citizens well as we go forward in the future and just thank you for being a terrific partner.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Thank you.

(Round of applause)

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Adrian Van Dellen and Richard Donovan.

MR. WILL KIRKPATRICK: My name is Will Kirkpatrick. I live on Sam Rayburn Reservoir, so. Recently, I gave Director Smith one of Bassmaster Tournament Organization's last hundred copies of the 44-page booklet, "Keeping Bass Alive." They will not reprint these due to the inability to find a sponsor to pay for the printing costs.

I was asked by B-a-s-s to assist in this booklet due to my involvement and knowledge on the issue. Recently, there was a for-profit major league fishing television tournament involving Bassmaster Elite Pro Anglers held on Lake Nacogdoches this spring. During TV viewing of that event, I had an unobstructed view of six pro anglers landing 77 pre-spawn bass, of which 48 were grasped around the body with dry hands twice. This method of handling violates every detailed catch-and-release study done, including the four-page -- on page 4 of the "Keeping Bass Alive" booklet.

Having spent hundreds of hours with accredited biologists on the water, in my fishing schools, TPWD events, and detailed correspondence -- both written -- summarize that dry hands kills fish. In a recent phone conversation with a TPWD member, it was explained that although this isn't the best method, it killed fewer fish than the other methods.

Our TPWD "Outdoor Regulation" booklet on page 15 -- and I gave everything I've got here to Director Smith -- waste of game deals with this very issue. It's illegal. It's a Class C felony -- misdemeanor. TPWD biologists did one of the first and most lengthy bass tournament mortality studies involving a month-long study of two tournaments, documenting the death rate of 25 and 31 percent of the bass. These bass were from a Bassmaster's Tournament "Don't Kill Your Catch" and a Bass Federation Tournament held on Toledo Bend.

It was recommended by the biologists -- and I'll read this after I'm done since Senator Nichols and Representative Ashby are in the audience -- your press release of September 21st also states that you will loan weight scale kits to tournament organizers throughout Texas and if tournament demands grow, you may look into having more scales available at no cost.

I'm assuming you plan on using our money to fund these purchases for the -- to be used by for-profit bass tournament organizations, although there is no fee in place to use our State's water by for-profit events without any funding. Recreational anglers must continue to support TPWD and all of their associated costs. You also continue to improperly spend our funds, including the 43 million-dollar hatchery that started out, when I first became involved in it, at 13 and a half million dollars.

You continue to draw in over $9 million annually from our stamp fee that was set up for ten years, and it was set up here by our -- Todd Staples was Mr. Nichols' predecessor. And he set it up for ten years. I've talked to him in his office. I've talked to Bob Cook. Mr. Cook told me standing about 10-foot away, "Will, it's written in stone. At the end of the ten-year period, this fee is gone."

Well, it was supposed to end in August 31st of '14; and this is November the 1st of '17, and we're still paying it. The hatchery's done. They're going to use this money probably for something else. I recently asked Director Smith about the expenditures of 70 employees we used for -- they used for Bass and Toyota events. It totaled out those 70 employees -- I asked him what it cost us to have them, because it is our money. For $720, they'll tell me how they spent our money.

With that, I'd like to read you your biologist's statement: Organizations holding tournaments for profit, such as the ones monitored in this study, can make a significant contribution to the Largemouth bass management efforts of State conservation agencies throughout a tournament permit purchase. In my opinion, States should require such charges for these tournaments and the money should be earmarked for bass research -- Largemouth bass research and management programs. Based on Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's pollution mitigation policy, which charges $2.25 for a 12-inch bass -- this was done before the 14-inch limit came in -- there would be a $2.25 fee, which would account for approximately $2,000 for the 900 fish that are killed in the catch-and-release program. If you have any questions, we have more information; but thank you for your time.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Thank you, Mr. Kirkpatrick.

All right. Next is Adrian Van Dellen, Richard Donovan, and Brenda Job.

MR. RICHARD DONOVAN: Am I out of place? I'm Richard Donovan. Am I out of line?

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Welcome.

MR. RICHARD DONOVAN: I'd like to begin by voicing my thanks, like the rest of the people here, for having your folks in East Texas. We kind of feel like sometime that we may be forgotten about behind the pine curtain here sometime.

I'd like to speak to you about paddling trails. Thank you so very much for the beautiful paddling trail that you've already established on our East Texas rivers. We think that does a good bit to bring people to East Texas. And along that line, I'd like to speak about establishing a series of paddling trails from the Anderson crossing on the Neches River down to Highway 59.

If we could get that done, that would be 47.7 contiguous miles of paddling trails on the Neches River. There are some 14 million people living within an easy day's drive of Lufkin, Texas. I think that if that 47.7 contiguous miles of paddling trails were available, I think we would get a lot of visitors to East Texas and help our economy here that has suffered so much from recent economic losses recently.

To do this, I think that's going to take Texas Parks and Wildlife, the U.S. Forest Service, Angelina County and Trinity County working through some kind of relationship to get all of this done. I'm not here to try to tell you how to do your job because I'm certainly not intelligent enough to do that, but I do wish that somebody would put their wheel -- their shoulder to the wheel and try to help get this done because it would mean so much to East Texas. It would mean so much to the youth that could come here and enjoy themselves and have a lot of benefits that I can't even stand here and enumerate today.

Thank you so much very much for your patience.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Well, thanks for your input.

(Round of applause)

MR. ADRIAN VAN DELLEN: Well, Richard Donovan is a hard act to follow. Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission, and Director Smith, thank you for this opportunity to briefly speak to you. I'm Adrian Van Dellen. I live in Woodville and Chairman of the Texas Black Bear Alliance.

The Alliance has a mission seeking restoration of the black bear in suitable, rural habitat in its historical range. And through partnerships and education, research, and habitat management, we hope to accomplish our mission.

Just imagine seeing resident black bears occupying prime bear habitat in East Texas. We have a million acres of prime bear habitat in Texas, and there's not a breeding population in there. Our neighboring states have done well on an active approach in restoration and demonstrated remarkable success and peaceful coexistence with the black beer.

However, black bear conservation and management in Texas has been and continuous to be a passive one. This is working very well in West Texas; but in East Texas, a passive conservation and management plan holds little, if any, promise in restoring black bear to our part of the state. This sporadic, temporary reappearance of a keystone species, primarily in Northeast Texas, but constitutes nearly all males. The last female was sighted six years ago.

Wandering bears just don't stay in East Texas. We need a restoration action plan to get a breeding population of black bear back into East Texas and a restoration action plan for the black bear that is applicable to East Texas. This has been written and successfully implemented for the last 25 years and it was written in the early 90s, when the Black Bear Conservation Committee was organized and the Louisiana black bear was listed under the Endangered Species Act. That plan continues to unfold in Louisiana and could and we suggest should include East Texas.

So if I may be so bold to suggest that Texas Parks and Wildlife should start joint discussions between Texas and Louisiana officials, exploring pertinent resources and relevant strategies for East Texas black bear restoration action plan. We, of the Texas Black Bear Alliance, would welcome and delighted to be part of such discussions. Thank you very much. You are appreciated. Appreciate you being here.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Well, thank you. Appreciate your input.

MS. BRENDA JOB: I'm Brenda Job, and I pass my time.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: You're going to pass your time? All right, thank you.

Kent Evans and Robert Potts.

MR. KENT EVANS: Good afternoon. I am Kent Evans and my remarks are directed today in support of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the work you've been doing to assist the restoration of the Longleaf Pine fire and ecosystem to its historic range in East Texas. Your Agency has been a vital part of the work for many years.

In 2010, your Department helped me and others forge a partnership now known as the Texas Longleaf Task Force and it's led by a steering committee of 14 conservation organizations, of which you're a part, and roughly 300 stakeholders of landowners, agencies, and others here in East Texas. Restoration of the upland native forest ecosystems in East Texas -- Longleaf and Shortleaf being the most scarce of those -- they're disappearing components of the native forest and they require regular use prescribed fire.

So our team, your team, our team together, these 14 organizations, they've been helping to secure grants and provide cost share of moneys through Texas A&M Forest Service to help landowners offset the cost of those burns. So your Department has provided technical guidance to landowners and you've been standing alongside, in a limited way, but helping landowners to burn their own land. It's really important.

Now, I participated in public and private partnerships in four states for over 30 years as a U.S. Forest Service person and I want you to know, I recognize what you're doing here in East Texas is extremely important and the use of prescribed fire -- and I've got Smokey Bear here on my collar -- it's not only improving wildlife habitat; but each acre that you burn, reduces the risk of catastrophic wildfire, which we had in 2011 and your acres burned and your people helping, is helping to reduce that risk. So please keep doing it.

And also as a person that plays on the beaches and bays of Matagorda -- I see the yellow light -- and Brazoria County, the clean water that flows out of East Texas hits our bays and when it gets there, I need y'all to do everything you can to protect those shallow-water oyster reefs from overharvest and degradation. Thank you, gentlemen.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Thank you.

Mr. Potts and Mr. Dickinson -- Dickerson.

MR. ROBERT POTTS: Good afternoon. My name is Rob Potts. I'm representing the U.S. Forest Service National Forest and Grasslands in Texas here in Lufkin, Texas. I want to express my appreciation and thank you to the Department for invaluable contributions they make to habitat restoration for the betterment of game and nongame species, including work we're doing in Longleaf pine, Shortleaf pine, and Blackland prairie.

I also want to express my appreciation for contributions the Department is making to our response to various disasters in East Texas, whether it's drought or flooding or straight-line wind events. I also want to express appreciation for contributions the Department has made especially in times of declining budgets, to budgeting and accounting systems and auditing systems to ensure that we are being good stewards of the financial resources that we're blessed with.

Again, we thank you for being here and thank you so much for the partnership. We just simply could not complete our mission at the Forest Service without your partnership. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Thank you.

Mr. Dickerson, Dennis Dickerson, and Gordon Henley.

MR. DENNIS DICKERSON: I've got a couple questions, I guess. You know, kind of -- if we're so important to you guys, how come it took y'all to get here?

We've been here for a long time and we've enjoyed the piney woods around here and I don't know where some of these people are getting their information on the 13-inch rule; but the people I've talked to, my friends and fellow hunters and people like that, family, they're not in favor of it. I get about one out of ten that favors the 13-inch rule. And I guess my question would be: Why do we have the 13-inch rule?

And I haven't understood that yet, but I would like to -- where do we go to get answers? Are we at the right place? And I would like to know. I've attended several meetings in the past, and I haven't found out anything yet.

MR. SMITH: You know, Mr. Chairman, if I could ask, we've got the head of our Wildlife Division here and the head of our Big Game Program, Mitch Lockwood and Clayton Wolf, and they're sitting right here and if you can take a little time after the meeting to visit with them, I'd love for them to have a chance to explain the basis for the rules and share a little bit about its history and also what we're trying to accomplish.

MR. DENNIS DICKERSON: Well, I understand the rules; but I don't understand the why.

MR. SMITH: And I would love for them to explain the why.

MR. DENNIS DICKERSON: All right.

MR. SMITH: Yeah. So let me ask them to raise their hands in the audience. And so that's Mr. Wolf and Mr. Lockwood, and we'll be happy to make time to visit with you.

MR. DENNIS DICKERSON: All right.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, thank you for asking.

MR. DENNIS DICKERSON: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: We'll get you your answers. Thank you.

Gordon Henley, thank you; and Terry Tate is on deck.

MR. GORDON HENLEY: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Director Smith, I welcome you to East Texas, too. I am Gordon Henley. I'm Director of the Ellen Trout Zoo here in Lufkin and I've had numerous relationships with Parks and Wildlife during my tenure here and I want to commend you on all of the things -- the relationships we've had.

I'm here, in particular, to talk about the Louisiana Pine Snake Program. It's the rarest snake in the United States; and any time that we have to work with Parks and Wildlife in our permit session for that snake, we get an immediate cooperation and it's made the program work. What we're doing is breeding them in captivity and releasing them in suitable habitat in the wild; and right now, it's in Louisiana. So we deal with transportation of the snake through Texas and through Louisiana and we bring in large numbers.

We consolidated the population this year, which was we got ahold of the permit office and within an afternoon, our permit was modified to allow that activity. And bringing back a snake, I mean, everybody is talking about deer and bears and I'm here to tell you about a snake. And it's wonderful to be able to get that kind of support and to know that we're making a positive effort to keep that snake alive in the wild and it's a large part due to you. Thank you very much.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Thank you.

(Round of applause)

MR. TERRY TATE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would like to thank you and the Council members for your serious consideration of allowing big-boar air guns to take game animals in the State of Texas and I think it may be on the agenda this year and I certainly do appreciate you looking at it. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Thank you.

Eric Henderson.

MR. ERIC HENDERSON: Pass.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Pass.

Scott Hall and on deck, Ellen Temple.

MR. SCOTT HALL: Mr. Chairman, thank you for being here in East Texas, Commissioners.

Carter, always good to see you.

I am Scott Hall, General Manager for the Lower Neches Valley Authority. And I just want to thank you and make sure you, as Commissioners, are aware of the good work that we've been doing together on Sam Rayburn Reservoir and Lake B.A. Steinhagen.

About a decade ago, LNVA partnered with the Corps of Engineers and Texas Parks and Wildlife to address invasive aquatic vegetation issues, mainly on B.A. Steinhagen. As time has progressed, that has shifted us to focus on Sam Rayburn; and about two years ago, we had a big raft of Giant Salvinia come out on the north end of the lake. It was toward the end of the year. LMVA and the Crops were out of funding that year and Parks and Wildlife came through in a big way and we got that addressed.

In the last 12 months, our partnership has taken care of 5,000 acres of lake surface that was covered with Giant Salvinia. It has been a tremendous success story. Appreciate Senator Nichols and his contribution to make sure you got the funding from the State to keep that up. I hope you will continue to support that, those efforts. The additional funding has allowed for wintertime treatments that really make a dent; and this year, we feel like we've turned a big corner on that project. So thank you for your consideration on that, and I hope you keep up the good work. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Thank you.

Welcome.

MS. ELLEN TEMPLE: Thank you all so much for being here in East Texas. It's a joy to have you. It was good to be out in the woods with some of you yesterday, too. Thank you for that.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: You're welcome.

MS. ELLEN TEMPLE: And I'm here to draw attention to a new program that's just starting. It's called "East Texas Natives." And I know Parks and Wildlife with all your wonderful restoration work, TxDOT, landowners all need native seed. South Texas has it. They've got programs now in West Texas and Central Texas. And the Caesar Kleberg Institute out of Texas A&M Kingsville is coming to East Texas, and I just want -- it's a point information really for you.

I know that you-all need seed. I think all the landowners here do, and we have a great opportunity. I want to thank Senator Nichols for his support for this program, and thank all of you for listening and for being here especially. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Thank you, and thank you for your hospitality.

(Round of applause)

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Is there anyone that wants to speak that I've missed, or who would care to speak?

All right. Carter, do you want to say anything or does anybody else want to say anything?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I grew up down in Port Arthur. So I consider this part of East Texas about as much my home. I spent about 25 or 30 years working all up through here and everything, and I was amazed how fast it was grown; but I will tell you, the people are still the same and we appreciate y'all's hospitality.

COMMISSIONER JONES: I have a question of the gentleman that spoke on the black bear. Was that Adrian Van Dedler?

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Van Dellen.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Van Dellen. I think I know the answer --

MR. ADRIAN VAN DELLEN: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- to this question, but you can confirm it. Is the sighting of the males only a reflection of the males, basically, being put out of the habitat where there are females because the other male is the dominate and runs the others off?

MR. ADRIAN VAN DELLEN: That's a good question, and the exact answer to that is really not known. We know they're coming in probably from Oklahoma, Arkansas, perhaps Louisiana; and they're young males. So they're probably being driven out of that particular range, looking for females. And they get to East Texas, and they don't find any girls. So they go right back, we presume; but that's not known.

We're hopeful that a program could be started where maybe some of those wandering bears could be collared and we'd get more data on them. In particular, migration would become better known to us. But we know they're coming in from surrounding states where bear have been restored in an active phase, in an active program. It's very successful. Oklahoma, this year, has a second day of bear hunt. Only one day -- per day, two days. We hope one day we can get that here, but they're not likely to stay is what it amounts to.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay.

MR. ADRIAN VAN DELLEN: Thank you for the question.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: All right. Anyone else?

Well, then I declare this Commission has completed its business and we are adjourned. And, again, thank you for your hospitality; and it's been wonderful to be here today.

(Regional Public Hearing Adjourns)


C E R T I F I C A T E

STATE OF TEXAS       )
COUNTY OF TRAVIS )

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

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

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

___________________________________
Paige S. Watts, CSR, RPR

CSR No.: 8311

Expiration: December 31, 2018

7010 Cool Canyon Cove

Round Rock, Texas 78681

(512)779-8320

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