TPW Commission

Work Session, November 6, 2018


TPW Commission Meetings


November 6, 2018



CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. Good morning,

everyone. I will call our meeting to order November 6th, 2018, at 9:05 a.m. Central Standard Time.

Before we proceed with our business, I think Carter Smith has a statement he needs to make.

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

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

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: First order of business is the approval of our minutes from the previous Work Session held on August 22, 2018. Those have been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?



CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. Motion by Commissioner Morian. Second Commissioner Jones. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries.

Next, we need to approve the minutes from the Annual Regional Public Hearing held August 22, 2018.


CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Wait just a second.

Is that date right? We've got both of the minutes dated the same, on August 22.

MS. HALLIBURTON: Yes. We had that Annual Public Hearing that afternoon.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right, thank you. Just wanted to be sure.

All right. Motion Commissioner Latimer. Second Commissioner Scott. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries.

Okay. Work Session Item No. 1, Update on Texas Parks and Wildlife Progress in Implementing the Land and Water Conservation and Recreation Plan. Carter, please make your presentation.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Carter Smith. Thanks for the opportunity to share a few words with respect to this update.

Just as kind of a normal point of departure, I want to share a few words about our Internal Affairs related team. You should have received a copy of the annual fiscal year '18 Internal Affairs report. Jonathan did a great job compiling just a summation of all the activities by our Internal Affairs team over the last fiscal year. I'd ask that all of you take a look at that and if you have any questions at all about any of the information in there, please let either Jonathan or me know.

Also, Jonathan will be sponsoring -- along with the San Antonio Police Department -- another Executive Protection school. So we have a number of game wardens and park police officers that will be going through that training, and so we're excited that that's going to be launched here very soon. So you may also see some new faces on the Executive Protection team as we expand those professional development opportunities for our officers with State Parks and Law Enforcement.

You also should have received from Dee a copy of the 2018 stocking report. We provide this to the Commission on an annual basis. It's a great, really assimilation, of the fish and wildlife stocking related activities that our biologists are doing across the state. As you know, we have a long history in that regard stocking fish and game and nongame fish and wildlife in our lands and waters across the state. Please do take a look at it. You know, that's a very important tool that our biologists use for various conservation and stewardship and management related objectives. I obviously am not going to go through that in any kind of detail, but I might highlight just a couple of things to call your attention to.

Robin and his team have long been working on our three coastal hatcheries on the stocking of Red drum and Spotted seatrout along the coast. Those are, obviously, the two fish that we stock the most of along the coast; but they have also pioneered the successful culture and propagation of Southern flounder over the last ten or so years and that's a real breakthrough. We've been limited in terms of what we can do by capacity inside the hatcheries.

And so, Robin -- I'm looking for Robin -- we've got two new buildings that are going to be flounder propagation facilities at Sea Center and down at Corpus at our CCA facility that's going to help significantly expand the capacity there and that's a big development across the coast on the Southern flounder. So excited about that.

Inland Fisheries had another great year in the five hatcheries across the state. You'll see the stocking report there. Obviously, the lion's share of fish that are stocked are a Florida strain of Largemouth bass and Striped bass and Striped bass crosses; but there are a host of other species that they stock, depending on the management related objectives.

We were very pleased by all the rain in September and October, particularly up at Wichita Falls. We depend upon the water in the lakes up there for the Dundee hatchery and sometimes the water supply can be a little iffy up there. So those rains certainly came at a very timely fashion. That's really important to our Striped bass production.

Also, while a relatively small part of our hatchery related program, the work that Inland Fisheries is doing to stock lakes and rivers on state parks is disproportionately important in terms of providing opportunities for people of all ages and families to get out and fish. Y'all know we've got free fishing in state parks, and Inland Fisheries and State Parks are doing a terrific job in collaborating on that front.

On the wildlife front, you'll see a report --


MR. SMITH: Yeah.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Before you leave the fish stocking --

MR. SMITH: Uh-huh.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: -- do we have the capability to offer fish stockings to municipal -- to municipalities that have city parks for their lakes?

MR. SMITH: We --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: And if so, do we try to facilitate that?

MR. SMITH: We do, yeah.


MR. SMITH: We absolutely do. That's an important part of our program and we get those results -- or get those kind of requests pretty frequently. Sometimes we have to go outside of our hatcheries to get fish, but we try to get those accomplished wherever we can.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: And how do we let cities know that they have the ability to --

MR. SMITH: To request that?

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: -- to request that?

MR. SMITH: Most are aware of that, Craig, wouldn't you say?


MR. SMITH: Yeah. Do you want to elaborate on that, please?

MR. BONDS: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, I'm Craig Bonds, Director of Inland Fisheries.

Most of our district fisheries offices proactively develop strong working relationships with our municipalities. Especially our parks and rec departments. So they're developing those relationships, and those requests get routed up through our stocking plan for the year; but we routinely stock a host of different species in these small, urban impoundments. And it's really critical for our recruitment, retention, and reactivation strategy for the Agency to get more participants.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Well, I'd just say if there's a -- if we don't have a formal methodology we follow, I would consider some letter or something maybe on the website for municipalities so they know they have that opportunity because I think we would benefit small and big -- both small towns and big cities to increase angler participation in city lakes.

MR. BONDS: Absolutely, Mr. Chairman. We can certainly take that under consideration to try to more formalize that process, but I can promise you that our -- each of our district fisheries biologists notice and acknowledge that that is critically important to develop those working relationships with those municipalities. Especially in those districts that have, you know, large metropolitan centers for sure.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Good deal. Thank you very much.

MR. SMITH: You bet. Thanks, Craig.


MR. SMITH: Maybe last thing on that, Chairman, I'll just say on the wildlife front, you'll have a chance to read about some of the things y'all have been very familiar with, really important work our Wildlife Division has been doing with private landowners and others to restore Pronghorn out in West Texas. Obviously, the Bighorn sheep restoration project is ongoing. I think all of you have heard some, too, about the work that we've been doing to stock Eastern turkeys back in the Pineywoods and parts of the Post Oak; but you also have a chance to read about some of the experimental work that our biologists are doing with trying to stock Horned lizards back in suitable range at some of our wildlife management areas. Create a new Black-tailed prairie dog colony there at the Mason Mountain Wildlife Management Area and also some experimental work with translocating Bobwhite quail as part of Western Navarro Bobwhite Conservation Initiative. So some great information there about what our Fisheries and Wildlife teams are doing on the stocking fronts, and I know all of you will enjoy reading that. All of that, of course, is supported very strongly by hunters and anglers across the state with our landowner partners.

Brag a little bit about Clayton and his team. Recently, were the recipient of the Fire Bird Award from the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative. The National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative -- or NBCI is the acronym -- is just what it sounds. It's a multiagency, state fish and wildlife agency, federal agency, nonprofit organizations that are working to help restore and enhance habitat for Bobwhite quail throughout its historic range.

This year, our Wildlife team was recognized nationally for their work in the Oaks and Prairies joint venture and specifically through the launch of the Grassland Restoration Incentive Program or the GRIT Program, which is a cost-share program with private landowners in the central part of the state to help restore grasslands for Bobwhite quail and other grassland birds, which all of you know have declined pretty precipitously because of the loss of habitat or the modification or alteration of habitat. And so really proud of the work that Clayton's team has been doing with private landowners.

They've had a hundred or so projects across 60,000 acres within the area; and nice to see them recognized for their work on that front, on the quail front.

Y'all have also heard a lot about our various partnerships with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Robin has done a terrific job as our quarterback for our relationship with NFWF on the Deepwater Horizon funds and literally the hundreds of millions of dollars that we are investing very strategically along the coast to help protect and restore and enhance habitats that were affected in some form or fashion in the Gulf by the Deepwater Horizon spill.

We also have number of other relationships with NFWF across Texas and one of the newest ones is out in the Chihuahuan desert. In 2017, they launched this new Southwestern Rivers Initiative to help focus on those very unique creeks and streams and tributaries of the Rio Grande, as well as all of the affiliated habitats within the watershed. NFWF consulted very closely with Parks and Wildlife and our Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Division, as well as our partners in New Mexico to help kind of prioritize focal geographic areas and priority species and very pleased to report that through the leadership of our Wildlife and Inland Fisheries team, we've received a million-and-half dollar grant from NFWF in partnership with Sul Ross and the Parks and Wildlife Foundation to do work on the Devils River, the Pecos River, Alamito Creek and Terlingua Creeks, some little streams up in the Davis and Guadalupe Mountains and then some grassland work out in the Trans-Pecos. So we're excited about that grant and excited about the investments that the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation is going to be making in the Chihuahuan desert. So good things to come on that front, and we'll keep you posted there.

Josh and his team, working with Inland Fisheries, wrapped up over Labor Day the annual boater and angler awareness campaign to help educate boaters and anglers about what they can do to help try to mitigate or arrest the spread of these very harmful invasive and exotic species that are unfortunately jumping from lake to lake to lake. Obviously, continue to be very concerned about the proliferation and spread of Zebra mussels and Giant salvinia and other aquatic vegetation and organisms. This campaign, as you can see, was called "Protect the Lakes You Love" in a very targeted effort at anglers and boaters that would be potentially moving boats and trailers from infested lakes to high risk lakes and so there was a very targeted effort to reach out to them through, you know, a variety of social media related engagement, digital ads that were georeferenced, as well as traditional, you know, kind of pump toppers at the gas stations and billboards.

Josh, you know, something like 160 million impressions that were made with that campaign through really a relatively small investment on our part. About a half a million dollars that was leveraged with other funds from river authorities and others that partnered with us. And so, again, I think Communications and Inland Fisheries did a terrific job of helping to educate boaters and anglers about what part they can play in trying to help mitigate the spread of these very pernicious and harmful organisms.

I was thrilled to see our team -- specifically, Communications and Inland Fisheries from an interdivisional perspective -- recognized with the Boone and Crockett Award at the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies national meeting for their work on this specific campaign, the "Protect the Lakes You Love." It sets a great standard and example across the country about the work that we can be doing on the education and outreach front to help fight, again, the spread of these harmful species and their impacts to lands and waters.

It seems like we can't go a Commission Meeting without having some kind of intervening catastrophic event that we have to come back and report on. The latest, of course, were the October floods in the Colorado River watershed and the impacts to the rivers and the Highland lakes related chains. You know, it was described as record rainfall and record impacts to the Highland lakes; and by every account, it certainly was.

You know, just as a reminder, when it looks like we're going to have some kind of event like that, the Governor will usually activate the State Operations Center that is led by the Division of Emergency Management at DPS and it's a consortium of multiple state and federal agencies, local agencies, nonprofits; and it provides a very coordinated statewide response to these kind of disaster related events.

We fold our emergency response related efforts into that team; and so we are there as part of, again, a multiagency effort with DPS and Texas Task Force One and the Forest Service and TxDOT and other agencies working, again, to make sure that we've got assets in the places that people need them most. Our game wardens serve as the Agency's liaison to that team. Do a fabulous job.

You know, we had a number of kind of sequential events in October, starting out with floods on the Llano River and culminating with the giant floods along the Colorado River as a whole. In addition to our local game wardens that were in the area, we deployed another 50 game wardens, search-and-rescue teams, swift-water swimmers, shallow-water boats, our aviation team to help with immediate search and rescue. And, again, once again, our Law Enforcement team went above and beyond in terms of their efforts to very capably help people that need it the most. Responsible for dozens of high-water rescues, as well as the very unfortunate and grim task of body recovery and the other things that go with the events of that kind of magnitude.

You can see some of the highlights in terms of evacuating folks with our State Park team from Colorado Bend State Park or, you know, rescuing people with pets, which are so important in times like these, or helping to haul hay to ranchers that need it, who can't get hay to feed cattle. And so very, very proud of their work.

You know, this is kind of a shot of the environment in which they are working. It's very dangerous. Our game wardens and park police officers go through very intensive and specialized training to be able to respond to events like this in terms of the swift-water rescue training. In the middle on the top, you can see one of our rescue swimmers being lowered by a hoist from a DPS helicopter that rescued a lady from that brush that you see in the middle of the river.

I believe, Grahame, she had floated downstream something like 20 miles and miraculously survived; and thanks to the partnership with DPS and our rescue swimmer game warden, were able to save her. And so just some remarkable stories on that front. Really, really proud of the team, to say the least; but just know it's a very, very challenging environment for our team. Hard on them, hard on equipment, and the investment in training and resources is essential to help on that.

Certainly, the other part of that is making sure that we're taking care of the assets that the Department is specifically responsible for and it seems like our state parks are always in the line of fire when we have one of these events. We had 21 parks that were impacted in some form or fashion by the floods along the Llano and the various tributaries along the Colorado River.

First order of business is, obviously, making sure that visitors and staff are safely taken care of and our park staff do a terrific job on that front, Rodney. Have very important safety protocols that are in place. Obviously, there's an impact to future business as the parks are closed; and I think we had upwards of almost 2,500 reservations that were canceled. We'll try to steer them to other parks if folks are willing to do that, but sometimes that's just not possible.

We had five parks -- I guess, Rodney -- that were fully closed in the aftermath of that storm and they were right where you would expect them to be. The South Llano River State Park, which is in -- a lot of that's in the floodplain over there in Junction in that pecan bottom along the river there at Inks Lake along the Colorado River at Colorado Bend, but also up at Lake Whitney on the Brazos and at Abilene State Park. All of those parks are now back open, with the exception of Lake Whitney, which as I understand it, we still can't get to because of the flooding in the lake. That park is located, I think, almost entirely within the floodplain of the lake; and so it is not at all uncommon for it to go underwater.

Our teams have done a terrific job dealing with the aftermath of these kind of floods. Again, just want to make sure the Commission knows we have very well-developed and time-tested protocols for what our park staff do in terms of safely reentering the park, making sure that they're dealing with electrical and other hazards, checking buildings for their structural safety. Obviously, there's a lot of debris clean up and the impacts were exactly as you kind of see here. Lots of debris piles, eroded trails, impacted boat ramps and fishing piers and cabins and parking lots and shade shelters and so forth.

We don't have a final tabulation of what the impact will be from an infrastructure perspective; but probably safe to say, Jessica and Rodney, maybe not as bad as we expected. But, again, it's one more impact to a State Park system that has taken a lot of impacts from floods and storms over the years, in addition to just the antiquated nature of the system there. So more recovery that we'll have to be looking at investing in; and we'll certainly keep you apprised of what those ultimate numbers are. But couldn't be more proud of our team in terms of how they handled it.

Last thing I'll just mention quickly, too, Chairman and Commissioners, we frequently get calls from the public after big flood events like this. They'll see localized area fish kills along banks and rivers and streams after these flood. There's a lot of concern about what happens to fish and wildlife in these kind of events. You know, clearly fish in Central Texas streams and rivers are very adapted to our flood/drought kind of pulse related environment. Not at all uncommon we're going to have fish that are washed downstream. We're also going to have fish that migrate out of the river channel into the floodplain area to kind of get out of the fast-moving water and occasionally, those waters will recede too quickly and we'll get localized fish kills along the banks, which will cause alarm among lakeside residents and concerns.

We typically don't see population level impacts from these kind of events, but people do get concerned and our biologists spend a lot of time answering questions about it. But there are also some real beneficial impacts from the flooding events in terms of a scouring, building back up of shoals, creating some additional spawning structures. So for species like Guadalupe bass, these periodic flood events on some of those Hill Country streams actually can be beneficial to the habitats that they need and depend upon. Our Inland Fisheries team has also done a great job -- and I guess, Craig, this was really following on the heels of the Blanco floods -- of providing a landowner riparian restoration guide for landowners who want to know: "What do I do after a flood has come through my property? How do I deal with this debris, all this fallen timber, you know the impacted brush, etcetera?"

Obviously, a lot of that depends upon your management objectives; but just from a purely fish and wildlife perspective, our advice is usually less is more. The less disturbance the better. So, again, really proud of the coordinated response of our team during this event. Just really the height of professionalism. So thanks for letting me share a few words about it.

Chairman, last thing I'll say and mention to the Commission -- and this has an impact or a potential impact -- hopefully, not -- on our public hunting areas. Our Commission has made it abundantly clear that you want us to maximize the opportunities for public hunting and fishing in the state and, of course, on the hunting side, a big part of that has been in the timberlands of East Texas.

Clayton, I'm forgetting when Temple-Inland divested itself of their holdings. 2005, 2006, when Campbell purchased their roughly 2 million acres of timberlands across the southeast. Over a million acres in Texas. Y'all know what a terrific, longstanding relationship we had with Temple. That relationship certainly continued, at least in part, with Campbell and our Wildlife team was able to negotiate a series of sequential three-year public hunting leases on timberlands in Sabine and Newton and San Augustine Counties to provide public hunting opportunities.

Recently Campbell, which was obviously a timber investment management organization, has recently announced that they're selling all their assets or timberland assets to a group called CatchMark out of Atlanta, Georgia, which is a real estate investment trust. Our public hunting leases are at the third year of a three-year lease, and so we're going to try to renegotiate an extension to that; but -- and are very hopeful that those public hunting lands can be part of CatchMark's management efforts because it's important to provide those opportunities over in East Texas, and we've got some sizable acreages leased up; but if something were to change on that front, we'll certainly let you know.

Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, with that, I'll stop there. And, Chairman, if there's any questions, I'm happy to answer them.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Members, any questions, comments?

COMMISSIONER JONES: I don't have any questions, but I do have a comment on the effect of the recent floods. It hits kind of close to home for not only people who attend and go to our parks, but people who try to enjoy the benefits of what we offer in Texas in hunting and whatnot, including my brother-in-law who went to his deer lease in Junction last week and to -- for deer season. And he sent this text to me, and I'll read it to you. I'll exclude the harsh words. And it was after -- for context, it was after the A&M loss to Auburn.

MR. SMITH: You Aggies are so sensitive, Commissioner.

COMMISSIONER JONES: The last few minutes of that game and the text reads as such from Junction, Texas: "Deer lease wash the blank out. Feeders somewhere downriver with the other trailers. Not a happy time of the year for me. Look forward all year to college football and deer season. Both flowing toward the Gulf now."

So if in all of your efforts for recovery and whatnot, if you find a deer feeder somewhere flowing toward the Gulf, would you mind retrieving that so I can get it back to my brother-in-law and try to at least salvage the deer season. Of course, I think the football season is gone.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: It's what you get for paying for a high price coach.

Okay, let's see. Work Session Item No. 2, the Fiscal Year 2018 Internal Audit Update and the Proposed Internal Audit Plan for Fiscal Year '19. Welcome, Cindy Hancock.

MS. HANCOCK: Thank you. For the record, I'm Cindy Hancock, Director of Internal Audit and I want to update you today on our status of our current internal audit plan and any external audits and then I want to brief you also about our proposed internal audit plan for fiscal year '19.

Let's see how this works. It's not working.

MS. CLARK: It is not working. There we go.

MS. HANCOCK: Thank you. So our fiscal year internal audit plan looks like this to date. Most of our big audits have been completed and two special projects are still underway and two remaining audits are in the reporting stage.

For the follow-up audit this last fiscal year, 15 recommendations were implemented and 28 remain in progress. I would like to thank management for their work in implementing these recommendations.

Also, of the 29 state park audit reports issued, 28 had no findings.

And here is a list, Commissioner Jones, of all the compliant state parks and it was very hard to get these all on one slide. They did very good this year.

COMMISSIONER JONES: That's a good problem to have.

MS. HANCOCK: That is.

For ongoing external audits --

COMMISSIONER JONES: So many parks in compliance, you can't even get them all on one slide. That's awesome.

MS. HANCOCK: That's true.

For ongoing external audits, fieldwork for one external audit by the Comptroller has been completed; however, we haven't received a report yet. The State Auditor's Office has started an audit of the Agency IT job descriptions. This audit involves all state natural resource agencies.

For completed audits, the Office of the Governor performed a desk review of one of our law enforcement grants and there were no findings there. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Civil Rights Division desk review was performed, and there were several things the Agency needed to work on. And also -- excuse me. Also, the State Auditor's fleet management audit report was just issued last week; and there were also things noted there that we need to work on. Agency staff are taking this seriously, and they're implementing -- and they're working on implementing all these recommendations.

So before I move on to the proposed internal audit plan for '19, fiscal year '19, are there any questions about current audits that are going on right now?

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: In any of the conclusions that were offered by Fish and Wildlife or the State Auditor, were any of these, in your view, significant enough that we should hear about them now?

MS. HANCOCK: I can give you a brief -- there were about four main items. One was increase the outreach to minority organizations. Another one was to collect participation statistics at our meetings, do a better job doing that. Ensure all agreements and contracts in our contract language, that includes EEO nondiscrimination laws that apply to our subcontractors. That has been corrected already. And then the main thing, the big thing, is continue off-lands for a transition plan and how we're going to become more ADA compliant at our sites, field sites. So that's the main thing. That's the one that we're going -- it's going to take time for us to work on.

MR. SMITH: And, Chairman, you may not know this; but we have actually hired an ADA Coordinator who came from the City of Austin. She works with Scott Stover. She's a great addition to the team, and is really going to help lead these efforts. That is a herculean undertaking to address all of the ADA related issues on our myriad facilities across the state, and I say that not to make excuses or be defensive; but just to remind everybody that many of these facilities, as you know, were built in the 30s and 40s and 70s and so forth. So there's a lot of work that needs to be done, and we're simply going to have to prioritize how we go about that with candidly the limited nature of funds that we have.

Having someone that can focus on that full time to help us, again, prioritize those investments that we're to address I think is going to help with that, Cindy.

MS. HANCOCK: It will.

MR. SMITH: And that's been a concern that we did not have somebody that was really leading that effort formally for the entire Agency and was focused on this. And so having Sandy on the team to do that now is a big help; and she's great, by the way.

MS. HANCOCK: I believe she came from the City of Austin.

MR. SMITH: She did. She came from the City of Austin --

MS. HANCOCK: So she's familiar with --

MR. SMITH: -- and their Parks Department, Scott. Yeah, yeah.

MS. HANCOCK: -- parks and --

MR. SMITH: Yeah, got a lot of experience.

MS. HANCOCK: Uh-huh.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, very enthusiastic and just -- she can be a great partner to all of our asset managers around the state.


MS. HANCOCK: Okay. The Texas Internal Audit Act requires that the audit plan should be developed using a risked-based approach consisting of executive management's review of the Agency's functions, activities, and processes. The risks should be ranked on their probability of occurrence and impact to the Agency in the financial, managerial, compliance, and information technology areas.

Questionnaires or surveys were sent to executive management and Division directors. The surveys are structured to obtain top concerns within the Division, Agencywide, external to the Agency, as well as concerns regarding information technology and fraud, waste, and abuse. Responses were reported and these concerns were scored and ranked, creating a list of priority concerns.

Once the responses were scored, I sent the top concerns to executive management, the Chairman, Vice-Chairman, and Commissioner Jones for further input and comment. I also estimated the work hours needed to complete each project and compared it to the total number of hours available for our audit team. The result is a proposed fiscal year '19 internal audit plan, and the plan will be finalized upon Commission approval.

So Exhibit A -- I believe you have those -- shows the new proposed projects for fiscal year '19. This exhibit also includes the number of hours estimated to complete each project and it also includes an alternative project if time permits. We have a big coverage in most divisions this year, and it will be busy.

Therefore, this is the motion I have asked you to adopt: Approval of the fiscal year 2019 internal audit plan. And I would like to request that this item be placed on Wednesday's agenda for public comment and action. This concludes my presentation. I'll be happy to answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Members, any questions?

COMMISSIONER JONES: Mr. Chairman, you might notice that the ADA coordination is also part of the proposed internal audit plan, some time dedicated to the audit of that function, as well.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: I did see that and I was going to ask for the -- the items that you mentioned that you considered significant from U.S. F and W and the Comptroller, how do we manage a follow-up on those? Is that part of the -- should that be or is that part of the '19 --

MS. HANCOCK: That is part of our follow-up process, to follow-up on external audit findings. And in our proposed audit plan for this year, we have quite a few advisory projects because we have a new division and what I'd like to do is share information from the years that I've been working in Parks and Wildlife with these new departments and offices, this new division -- FEMA is one of them, the ADA Coordinator -- and several other items and work with them to give them information so they can move forward on their process. But a lot of these findings from external audits, we -- all of them we follow up on to see how they're doing, so.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: But is it actual -- is it in the plan as an actual report-back item?

MS. HANCOCK: That's our follow-up audit that we do once a year.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. Under where it says, "Follow up of internal and external audit recommendations"?

MS. HANCOCK: That is -- that is the report that we --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay, thank you.

MS. HANCOCK: All right.

COMMISSIONER JONES: And just for the record, there is a report that is generated that tracks the follow-up so that we know what has been recommended and then we know when we intend to complete the recommendation and then we have the closing of that by the actual completion of the recommendation and that's all in the report that is updated before every meeting.

And I think, Brent, we're going to do a dashboard for sort of a quick look or quick view of where we are with the various implementation on the State audit recommendations?

MR. LEISURE: That's right, Commissioner Jones.

And, Chairman, if I could. Brent Leisure, Chief Operating Officer. I'd would just like to address this real quickly and provide some reassurance to the Commission because I want you to know that the audit findings that have occurred over the number of years -- particularly, those that are cross-divisional, cross -- cutting across divisions and really across the Agency -- deserve a more intense focus on our part.

And so what we're doing is to institutionalize our efforts here and try to make sure that we assign a -- or develop a monitoring system within the Agency that helps to illuminate where the needs -- where the work needs to happen and make sure that we're on a timeline. Scott Stover's division, our Support Resources Division within the Agency, has been assigned the task of developing a monitoring tool.

Now, you referenced that, Commissioner Jones. And we're going to -- this next week, as a matter of fact, me and Scott and Sandy and the other stakeholders that are important in developing this dashboard tool that you identified and I think that's a great idea and we're going to work on that and we'll get that to you. It's something that you'll see on a regular reoccurring basis. So you'll be able to see clearly where we stand on any of our external or internal and we'll be in a better position to forecast how, you know, we're doing and make changes along the way for you.

COMMISSIONER JONES: And the point of all of this is the excellence that we've shown in the various divisions in response to the initiative that Cindy put in place a few years ago -- whether it's State Parks, whether it's Law Enforcement Division -- the excellence that we've seen there, came about as a result of leadership doing things in each of the parks so that it didn't matter which park you went to, the processes were the same. You didn't have to worry about going to Possum Kingdom, and things were working great; but going to another park, and things were not working so great. It was across the board. So we're looking to push that excellence out division-wide in all the areas, and there are a lot.

I mean, we have a lot of areas where we handle either money or cards or vehicles or things that you have to keep up with and account for and that's what we're looking for is that across-the-board excellence no matter where you are, no matter which division, no matter what the item is that falls within our responsibility and our stewardship. We want it done well.

MR. LEISURE: That's right.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you, Brent.

And thank you, Commissioner Jones, for continuing to stay on -- or give particular focus to the audit process and work of the audit -- internal auditor.

All right. With regard to Work Session Item 3, Raptor Proclamation Rules, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes, does any Commissioner have any questions or comments? If not, I'll place it on tomorrow's agenda.

Okay. Hearing none, I'll place the raptor proclamation rules on the Wednesday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action by the Commission.

With respect to Work Session Item 4, Shad Rules, which are Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes, does any Commissioner have any questions or comments about those? If not, we'll take those up tomorrow.

Hearing none, the shad rules are on the -- I will place the shad rules on the Wednesday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Work Session Item 5, 2019-2020 Statewide Recreational and Commercial Fishing Proclamation Preview, Ken Kurzawski and Lance Robinson. Welcome, Ken.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Good morning, Commissioners. My name's Ken Kurzawski with Inland Fisheries Division and today I'll be previewing the freshwater fishing regulation changes we are considering for the new regulatory year that starts in September 2019. Here's a summary of the changes we are considering and bringing before you for your consideration and input.

We are looking to change our bass regulations on four locations. We're going to modify the area description for the 12-inch bass limit in Southeast Texas and then finally we're looking to --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Ken. Ken, I'm sorry to interrupt you; but Vice-Chairman Morian has a matter he needs to attend to. Is there any possibility you could skip to the presentation on Alligator Gar?

MR. KURZAWSKI: Sure, I can certainly do that.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: That would be great if you could before he has to leave.


MR. KURZAWSKI: Okay. That's the slide, okay. For Alligator Gar, as you remember, we updated the Commission in our -- on our work with Alligator Gar in March. We talked about how Alligator Gar are long-lived, mature later in life relative to most species, and spawn infrequently based on spawning conditions. We relayed that our staff had done extensive research on Alligator Gar, resulting in numerous scientific publications and are recognized as leaders in Alligator Gar research and management.

While we have been able to characterize most of our important Gar populations and estimate exploitation rates, while developing new and innovative methods to collect this data, collecting detailed information on Gar harvest and persons catching Gar is our next challenge. That information will be needed to further refine our Alligator Gar management.

Since implementation of the one-fish per day bag in 2009, we've estimated harvest in the Trinity and Brazos Rivers and Choke Canyon Reservoir. After accounting for non-reporting, we estimate that the harvest rates range between 2 and 4 percent of the fish populations annually and were within the range we consider sustainable based on our population modeling. Also, half of the fish larger than six feet remain in the population at these harvest levels. However, based on this information, sustained annual harvest above 5 percent could result in reduction in number of large Gar.

You expressed your continued concern with the harvest of large Alligator Gar, especially in the Trinity River, and directed us to propose regulations to eliminate the harvest of some of these larger Alligator Gar. Staff has explored regulation options to address these concerns, and that's what we're bringing before you today for your consideration.

First on the Trinity River, we are considering a 5-foot maximum length limit. We are not considering any changes to the statewide daily bag limit of one. This limit would be implemented from the I-30 bridge in Dallas, downstream to the I-10 bridge in Chambers County. Under this limit, most of the spawning age fish would be protected when they reach reproductive age. Females reach maturity around 5 to 6 feet and at 5 feet, average around age eight. Males are 5 feet at -- and are around age -- males at 5 feet are around age 15. A 6 foot Alligator Gar is usually between 10 and 30 years old and can weigh up to 100 pounds. To reach 7 feet takes 20 to 50 years.

This limit would allow some limited harvest. Anglers also take Alligator Gar that's in the Trinity River, which rarely exceed 5 feet. We always have concerns about length limits in these scenarios and allowing some Alligator Gar under 5 feet would serve as a buffer for mistaken ID if anglers are pursuing Longnosed Gar.

We use the same population modeling techniques that we've used previously to understand how levels of harvest can alter Gar populations. Under a 5-foot maximum limit, we would see more larger fish in the population. Most anglers in the Trinity River come to take a larger fish. So we don't believe levels of harvest on Gar below 5 feet would increase much above current levels.

Next, we would like to require mandatory harvest reporting statewide except for Falcon, which has a five-fish daily bag. Persons harvesting Alligator Gar would have to report the date, general location, size, and method by website or app, which is similar to the current requirements for Eastern turkey. We are considering exempting Falcon, as this is more robust population and based on our surveys since the five-bag was implemented in 2015, can withstand this level of harvest.

Since local anglers are harvesting fish to eat there, having to report all those fish would be onerous and that information is not needed to manage that population. Unregulated commercial fishing on the Mexican side make this a challenging location for protection of large Gar.

Harvest reporting statewide would aid tracking any harvest that is displaced from the Trinity River to other areas. Information on harvest is also needed as we transition from research to management. Earlier this year in conjunction with our Communications staff, we did a media blitz on Alligator Gar. We had detailed information on Alligator Gar on our website at a social media driven Gar week and conducted an online survey of persons who fish for or are interested in Alligator Gar. We asked some questions on how they fish; what they fish for; some opinions on Gar including some management scenarios. This information can be used to inform management decisions on Alligator Gar.

Just to hit some of the highlights of that survey. Around 8,600 -- 86,000 persons gave some response to some of the questions. We had 3,777 responses to the question on gear usage and rods were the methods most used. There were 1,440 responses to the location question; and to no surprise, the Trinity was the most popular area.

As I noted, we also asked some questions on possible management scenarios. We did ask questions on two actions under consideration today: Length limits in general and harvest reporting. We segregated the responses by gear use and here when the other compromises mostly of persons using jug lines.

Looking at the length limits first, we got a little over 2,300 responses from persons using rods and if you combine the strongly support and support categories, that's about 78 percent. For persons using bows, we had about 708 responses and support was 58 percent. And for jugs, there were 308 responses and we had 68 percent combined support.

We also asked a question on support for harvest reporting. For that, we got 2,381 responses from persons using rods and the combined support there was 68 percent. For persons using bows, about 800 responses and 55 percent support. And for the jug anglers, 350 responses and 63 percent. So for these two management scenarios, the responses of support were similar for both the length limits and show decent support for these.

So that would be our proposals we're considering for Alligator Gar: The 5-foot maximum on the Trinity River and the mandatory harvest reporting. I'd be happy to answer any questions at this time on these.

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: I've got one question. If you go back to the slide of the effects of the 5-foot maximum length limit. And on the left column -- on the left -- yeah, the number. Is that all Gar habitat, or is that just the Trinity River?

MR. KURZAWSKI: This is a -- this is a model based on the upper end of the Trinity River, middle Trinity River.

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: So just eyeballing this, I look and it takes 6-foot or greater -- you have 750 six to seven and 250 seven to eight. So that's a thousand fish. And at the current level of harvest, those thousand fish, that's a sustainable level?

MR. KURZAWSKI: Yes. From based on when our, you know, results that we looked at previously, we do see the population has been at a sustainable level. We're estimating that there's about 3 percent exploitation when we looked at that previously.

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Well, my instinct, my -- I have no facts to back it up, but my instinct tells me that's a very small population of old Gar, if you have a thousand. And I'm just wondering if this 5-foot limit really does enough, or should we think about -- I just want to err on the side of caution here. It just seems like this is a very fragile, small population that if you can take one Gar a day, it wouldn't take many people to bow hunt and take that thousand fish out. Am I missing something here?

MR. BONDS: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, I'm Craig Bonds, Director of Inland Fisheries Division. I think it's important to point out that the proportions of those Gars are based on actual data from the middle to upper Trinity. However, the initial population size is theoretical. So what the graph really depicts is basically under a 5-foot max versus the current limit and under what we believe is current exploitation rate, this is what the population size structure would look like.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Over what period of time?

MR. BONDS: Sort of at an equilibrium state. So over -- as exploitation is applied to that population over time and you reach sort of an equilibrium state, that's what it would look like. So if you applied exploitation with a 5-foot maximum, you could actually increase the numbers of fish above 5-foot proportionally based on those bars on the graph. That's what we would expect to see.

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: That still seems -- I'm just concerned, and hopefully you can allay those concerns; but I just wonder what it would look like if you went to a 4-foot maximum.

MR. KURZAWSKI: I have a slide on that.

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Yeah, that's the slide I'm looking at.

MR. KURZAWSKI: So you would see some increases with the 4-foot max, just like you see with the five. It's just incremented a little bit larger.

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Yeah. Well, I just raise the point. That's my thoughts and comments.

MR. BONDS: Thank you, Mr. Vice-Chairman. One other important point, I think, to make is that we strongly suspect -- and this is anecdotal. We don't have -- this is not scientifically justified. But we suspect that a lot of the motive for bow fishing on the Trinity right now are for folks to search for the largest Gar that they can shoot. If you remove that motive and that incentive, we don't believe -- with a 5-foot maximum or a 4-foot maximum -- we don't believe that exploitation on the vulnerable part of the population would actually increase because we suspect that those anglers will probably be displaced elsewhere or just not fish the Trinity. So we don't -- if -- whether you choose a 5-foot or a 4-foot maximum size limit and eliminate harvest on large fish, we don't expect exploitation on the rest of the population to increase because you're removing that incentive.

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Yeah, that's -- I hadn't thought about that. That's an interesting point.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Other members, questions or comments on this?

COMMISSIONER JONES: I just have a quick question. Go back to the original Alligator Gar slide that has two pictures. That one. What's the picture to the lower right?

MR. KURZAWSKI: That's a picture of Gar when they were spawning. They go up into those shallow waters and spawn and there would be aggregations of males and females together.

COMMISSIONER JONES: No. The lower right.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Oh, the other one. That's the otolith. That's the ear bone of the Alligator Gar that we use to age the fish.

MR. BONDS: And that's actually a picture of the world record Alligator Gar from the Mississippi River that was aged at 95 years old.



MR. KURZAWSKI: We've seen a few Gar over 60 years old. Aged a few. Most of them are -- older ones are between 40 to 60 years. That's the most reliable method for aging the fish or most fishes is using the otolith.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: I have a couple of questions and comments. What was the justification for excluding Falcon Reservoir from the statewide reporting?

MR. KURZAWSKI: Well, as you know, we have that special 5-foot bag limit there. It's a very robust population. We see good spawning in there, good reproduction in the population. We don't -- we don't see the need to have to know -- to have that information to be able to manage that population. We have -- we do -- there's a lot more consumptive use of that population. Anglers are taking some of the smaller fish for that, and we also have with the -- the border is Mexico. There is some harvest on the Mexican side, which we wouldn't be able to capture as part of that, also.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Is there a downside to having the data?

MR. KURZAWSKI: It's just having the -- having people that are catching more fish having to report that more frequently, and we don't know -- you know, having them do that, we don't know -- the value of that information for us is pretty minimal versus the rest of the state where we don't have that information and we still have the one-fish bag. That information will be a lot more valuable to us than that information that we'd be collecting down there on Falcon.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Are we collecting any data on the harvest of these fish in Falcon?

MR. BONDS: Do you want me to address that?

So in 2014 and then again in 2018, we -- our Fisheries management team went down and collected a fairly robust sample of Alligator Gar. And based on what the population structure looked like in 2014, then the five-fish bag went into effect. We wanted to go back and check to see if there was any type of measurable impact on the population. And what we saw in 2018, this year, is that the size structure, relative abundance of the Alligator Gar population in Falcon is very, very similar to the way it looked in 2014.

So at least up until this point, we haven't seen any deleterious impact of a five-fish bag on that particular population. And the surveys, the human dimension surveys that we've done in that area, seem to point towards that localized angling constituency is more consumptive oriented rather than having interest to catch large fish.

And then with half of the lake roughly are on the Mexican side experiencing unregulated commercial harvest, we felt like a fisheries management objective for Falcon Lake is probably going to remain different than for most of the inland populations in Texas, where we may want to manage for a more trophy or a large fish fishing opportunity. So Falcon is just kind of a unique situation and so we felt like looking at the tradeoffs, it would be -- it would be our recommendation to exclude it. But, of course, we're open to direction on that.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Was any consideration given to the thought that staff expressed about ten years ago when it recommended that bow fishing be banned for catfish because it was -- your predecessor Mr. Durocher felt like this was a fish that was more worthy of being killed by bows. Has that been taken into account at all or is that position, the staff's position, changed on that?

MR. BONDS: I think the difference in that particular instance is that catfish in Texas are considered a sport, a game fish. They have that designation. Whereas Alligator Gar and the other Gar species in Texas do not. And I think just generally and at a high level, we try to manage the Alligator Gar; but also other species in Texas to try to provide the most -- sorry -- the most opportunity possible, as long as those various opportunities can be done in a sustainable way. And that's just basically our philosophy for managing fishes in Texas.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: But you're not suggesting that Alligator Gar should be less worthy than a catfish, are you?

MR. BONDS: Not at all.


MR. BONDS: No, sir.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Well, I think that that was a -- that was the basis of staff's recommendation, which the Commission adopted, in stopping the harvest of catfish with a bow was that it was -- that it just wasn't appropriate and I think there should be no distinction between the two, frankly. But I just ask you to consider that as we move forward with this process and I think Vice-Chairman Morian -- had to leave, regrettably -- but one of the concerns he has expressed to me is that if you have a 5-foot cutoff, that you're likely to have some error from time to time and end up harvesting even a much larger fish than a 5-foot fish. And it perhaps would better if we're going to err on the side of protecting these large, old fish to go to 4 feet, just to reduce the level of error by the person who's trying to take these fish with a bow.

I don't think -- your rod and reel, that's a totally different question. But so I would like to suggest that the rule be reduced to four, or the proposal rather. As you come back in January, let's look at four for that reason. And I know the Vice-Chairman shares that viewpoint. I don't know how the rest of you feel about it.

Yes, Commissioner Latimer.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: I just have a rule regulatory question. In hunting game birds, for instance, there's a daily bag limit and a possession limit; but fishing, in general, there's no possession limit on fish or is there?

MR. KURZAWSKI: Yes. The possession limit statewide is two times the daily bag. So that would be --

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Okay. So that was my question. So the same person couldn't go catch, whatever fish it is, the limit day after day after day?



MR. KURZAWSKI: We did ask -- relative to our survey, we kind of looked at the distribution of how many fish people are harvesting and it's skewed down to the per year four or five fish a year.


MR. KURZAWSKI: So, you know, people aren't going out every day. If they were, we would see impacts to the population.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Right. That was -- if we were looking at trying to avoid exploitation, it would be by certain people that were doing it day after day after day, too, in the regulations. Thank you.

MR. SMITH: But just to be clear, Ken, I mean, somebody in theory could go fishing --

MR. KURZAWSKI: Yes, right.

MR. SMITH: -- day after day after day.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Sure, right.

MR. SMITH: The issue is in their possession, they could only have twice the daily bag limit. So in theory, somebody could go day after day after day, but there are possession limits to keep people from having more than twice the daily bag limit at any one time.


CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: But keep in mind that at least for this stretch of the Trinity, I think the State strongly recommends there be no take -- or eating rather or consumption of this --

MR. SMITH: Correct, you bet. That's right.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: So it would appear that these big fish that are being harvested are done just for sport and I'm not sure there isn't waste going on as well. I guess we don't know that. So that's what we'd like to see: Is come back, let's reduce that to four in the proposal, and maybe we have some further discussion about whether to go on and request some reporting from Falcon. I understand your perspective on it, but let's continue to have a dialogue about that. Just seems like it's a resource that we would have that would perhaps save some need to do surveys more frequently. And anyway, we'll just continue to discuss that.

MR. BONDS: Okay. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right. Ken, sorry. Now you can go back to the order you had. I just wanted to allow Vice-Chairman Morian the opportunity to hear your presentation.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Okay. Going back to some of our bass regulations. Lake Conroe is an important bass fishery in the Houston area and that has produced 17 ShareLunkers. And here when I'm referring to ShareLunkers, those are the Largemouth bass 13 pounds and over that have been donated to our ShareLunker Program for spawning purposes. And also it's been a popular tournament destination hosting the 2017 Bassmaster's Classic and five Toyota Texas Bass Classics.

After review and standardization of bass regulations done last year, it was the only reservoir left with a 16-inch minimum. Because of the importance of this lake, staff took a look at that bass population and fishery. They modeled the current population under a 14-inch limit and found that the impacts to the fishery were most likely minimal changing back to the 14-inch minimum.

So as we discussed last year, we are -- we are -- we have been pursuing a goal of standardizing, but just not to standardize. We do want to maintain the quality of those populations and the quality of fishing and we think this would continue to fit into that category.

Next, Mill Creek is a small lake near Canton that has a history of producing large bass. It has produced four ShareLunkers and is currently managed with a 14- to 21-inch slot. We are considering moving it to the 16-inch maximum limit, which confines all harvest of bass to those bass less than 16 inches; but does allow temporary possession of bass over 24 inches and 13 pounds and over for submission to the ShareLunker program. Goals are here to maximum trophy potential and allow for some additional harvest.

Next, Lakewood Lake is being developed as a Leander City park and will include fishing access. We had been considering doing this limit on this lake last year, but we needed to resolve some issues with bordering private land. We've been able to resolve those, and are pursuing this regulation for this lake. The park is tentatively scheduled for opening in fall 2019.

We are considering implementing an 18-inch minimum length limit and five-fish daily bag for Largemouth bass there. It has an existing quality bass population and that's when we typically use to protect for some of the overharvest of those larger fish.

Lake Alan Henry is one of our relatively new reservoirs, having been impounded in the early 1990s. It was originally stocked with Florida Largemouth bass, Smallmouth bass, and later with Alabama bass. The Smallmouth bass population unfortunately never has really developed as we had hoped. No Smallmouth were sampled in our last lake survey in 2017. Most anglers would probably be surprised to learn that it has produced 27 ShareLunkers, which is second to Lake Fork.

Alabama bass, which we stocked there '90, '96, are native to the Mobile River drainage in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. It attains a much larger size than the Spotted bass native to Texas and most other states and that trend continues a larger size when it is stocked outside its native range. Right now the world record for that Alabama bass comes from reservoirs in California.

This species seems to be suited to those Highland reservoirs with some water fluctuations, kind of what we anticipated Alan Henry would be like and similar to some of those reservoirs in California that produced those large fish. So we did an experimental only stocking of that lake in that -- in Alan Henry to see how those -- if we could produce some of that similar type fishing. The current regulation there --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Ken, before you go on, can you tell us what the material differences are between a Florida bass and Alabama bass?

MR. KURZAWSKI: Well, they are different species. The -- those Alabama are, you know, confined to that one particular area in northern Alabama. They just don't quite retain -- attain as large a size. They were more specific to those higher rivers and lakes up in that area. So they're a little bit different habitat. Florida bass were, you know, developed in Florida. More of a warmer -- certainly an overall warmer climate, more lake-like habitat.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Would it be fair to say that the Alabama bass is perhaps better suited to the northern part of the state, of our state, and to lakes that have more of a fluctuation water levels? I'm just curious about this.

MR. KURZAWSKI: It -- I guess it could be. It's just that we were concerned, you know, in a lot of those lakes that we do have in northern Texas, have native Spotted bass and we didn't really want to stock -- at that time, the Alabama bass was a subspecies. There could be some hybridization of those fish. So we were preferring to try that in an area where we didn't have any native Spotted bass and on a reservoir that was fairly isolated.

So we have managed both species in the lake with the five-fish -- the special five-fish daily bag, which confines the harvest to two fish less than inches -- two fish less than 18 inches. We also have that regulation on two other reservoirs. Our goal is to redistribute the harvest and hopefully produce some over 18-inch Largemouth bass and Alabama bass.

The number of ShareLunkers from there attests to the good Largemouth bass fishing; but while abundant, the Alabama bass, we haven't produced many over 18 inches. Although, we produced a state record out of there.

We are considering removing Alabama bass from the special five-fish bag, which means an angler could harvest up to five Alabama bass of any length. This coincides with the state limits for Spotted and Alabama bass and since Alan Henry is the only lake with Alabama bass, this would eliminate the statewide exception and simplify our rules.

And the last change under bass we're considering is for Southeast Texas. We made a change from the 14- to 12-inch in 2016 in response to increased interest in bass fishing and bass tournaments -- and bass tournaments in the coastal estuaries of Southeast Texas. We've always known that these bass populations in those coastal areas were different from populations farther inland. These areas have numerous 12- to 13-inch bass, but few bass over 14 inches. Natural mortality is high, even though the condition of the fish is good. Typically, bass are needing almost four years to reach 14 inches. When we looked at coastal bass populations in other Gulf states, we found those bass populations displayed those same characteristics.

Current regulation covers Galveston, Chambers, Jefferson, and Orange Counties and includes any public waters that form boundaries with adjacent counties. It also includes the Sabine River from the Toledo Bend Dam down to Sabine Pass. Toledo Bend Reservoir is not included in that. That change has been well-received and has local support. We have had some compliance and enforceability issues with waters that border and extend into non-listed counties. We want to encompass those waters that have bass populations with similar characteristics to eliminate some of those issues.

We are considering adding a portion of Liberty County and below south of U.S. Highway 90 and Hardin and Newton Counties in an effort to improve understanding and enforceability of the regulation. Toledo Bend will continue to be excluded from the 12-inch limit.

Those are all the regulations that we're considering at this time. I'd be happy to answer any questions. We did -- I would like to say that we did present these to our Freshwater Fisheries Advisory Board last week, and that was the first meeting of our new board. We have a number of new members on there, and we have a really good diversity of people on that. We're looking forward to working with them, and they endorsed -- endorsed these proposals we are considering at that time. And as you mentioned, we'll take your input, you know, continue reviewing these proposals, and then come back to you at the January meeting with the formal proposals

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Members, any questions, comments?

I have a question, Ken. Has staff given -- does staff have any fishery specific ideas with respect to Tucker Lake out at Strawn now that that's -- we're moving forward with the development of the new park at Palo Pinto?

MR. KURZAWSKI: I'm not familiar if we'd had discussions. Craig might have had.

MR. BONDS: Craig Bonds, Director of Inland Fisheries. Mr. Chairman, our Fisheries management team up in Wichita Falls, that new state park will fall under their jurisdiction, their district. They have conducted multiple fishery surveys and samples there and they are really looking forward to working with our State Park colleagues to make that the very best fishery possible. Inland Fisheries and State Parks, we have a good history of collaborating together on all phases of fisheries management activities and that will certainly be a prominent state park lake that we look forward to working on, not only conducting fish surveys to check on the status of the population, but recommending stocking recommendations if need, working on habitat enhancement related projects. If there are any type of an invasive species, we'll be on the lookout; and if they show up, going into control. But we have a fisheries management plan in effect right now with our Fisheries management team up in Wichita Falls, and we look forward to putting that into practice.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Well, I just say as we get -- move into January with formal proposals, consider whether you need to make any suggestions or proposals with respect to that lake. I know it's not big like some of these other ones; but still, it is worthy of making sure we're not missing anything there.

MR. BONDS: Thank you. I'll check back with our team.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you very much.

Okay. Ken, thank you.

I guess, Lance, are you going to present? Yes, sir. All right. Welcome, Lance.

MR. ROBINSON: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Lance Robinson with Coastal Fisheries. I'm bringing before you today a preview or four items that we are considering for formal proposals in January. Those items include a five-fish expansion of Spotted seatrout regulations through Galveston Bay and Sabine Lake. If you'll recall, that's an area -- ten fish at that -- in those waterbodies right now. Also looking at some specific gear requirements for -- when targeting sharks and also the increase in the minimum size of cobia to kind of help manage with some federal regulations and then finally, temporary closures of several areas around in multiple bay systems to commercial oyster harvest because of recent oyster restoration activities in those beds.

So the first proposal, just as a reminder, the current regulations south of Highway or FM 457 in Matagorda County is five fish. It carries all the way down to the Valley. Galveston Bay and Sabine Lake were maintained at a ten-fish per person bag limit. Minimum size is 15 inches across the state, and there's also a statewide requirement that no more than one fish over 25 inches can be retained per person per day.

Just a little information from our fishery independent and dependent sampling. The population in those two waterbodies -- Sabine Lake and Galveston Bay -- continue to remain stable; but as we looked at the harvest level of anglers through our intercept surveys, what we find is that over 90 percent of the anglers that are harvesting Spotted seatrout in Sabine and Galveston Bay, are retaining less than five fish now and almost 90 percent -- 87 percent of the guided fishing trips in those two waterbodies are returning with five or fewer fish each day.

To gauge an angler opinions about an expansion of the five-fish limit to the upper coast, a mail out survey was conducted of a subsample of anglers that were intercepted during our creel surveys that targeted or landed Spotted seatrout from those two waterbodies. A stratified random sample size of 2,342 anglers who resided in the 14 counties that you see highlighted there who held one of 11 licenses that would have allowed them to legally harvest and fish for saltwater fish, made up the sample population. The sample also included a census, if you will, of all of the individuals who helped guides in that area. That was 358 guided fishermen in that area. And that mail out survey went out earlier this summer.

The results of that survey when directly asked about the support for reducing the bag limit in the upper coast from ten fish to five fish, you'll see the graph on the left-hand side that fully 77 percent of guides were either in -- strongly supported or supported going to a five-fish bag limit. Whereas on the private recreational side of the fishery, we had almost 46 percent that had a strong support or verbalized support of going to five fish. But I'll also draw your attention to middle gray-colored portion of that graph on the right-hand side. That was a neutral response. And so fully a third of the private recreational anglers who we surveyed, indicated that they had really no opinion, neutral support on going to five fish or not.

Looking at, I guess, from the different perspective, you focus in on those that actually oppose or strongly oppose. You'll see that 17 percent of the guided fishermen or the guides in that area, indicated that they were opposed to going to five fish. Whereas the private recreational, about 25 percent of those individuals surveyed, indicated that they were opposed to dropping that bag limit, daily bag limit.

The second and third proposals that we are considering, would be the requirement to use a non-offset, non-stainless steel circle hook when fishing and targeting sharks in State waters and this would match the current federal regulation that this particular regulation was designed for those individuals targeting sharks to kind of help protect dusky sharks, which are heavily protected and there's a no-catch, no-take on that particular species.

Similarly with cobia, this would be to match a federal regulation that is being considered and going through the process now through the Gulf States Marine Fisheries -- I'm sorry -- the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council and this would increase the minimum size of cobia. And just as a reminder, so that the confusion -- hopefully we won't have -- we talk about this every time. The federal regulation that's proposed currently is at 33 inches fork length and they are increasing the federal requirement for cobia up to 36-inch fork length. That translates -- we measure in Texas on a total length and that would -- currently, it's 37 inches total length in Texas State waters. We would be proposing to go to 40-inch total length, which mirrors the 36 in federal -- the fork length regulation. Sorry for the confusion, but there is a different way we measure here in Texas to try to make it hopefully easier for our anglers looking at one standard measure.

And then finally the proposal that we would be bringing before you in January, would be to close three areas: An area in Galveston Bay, any area in Lavaca Bay, and an area -- small area in Copano Bay. These areas have recently received cultch materials to restore some oyster habitat there. The two areas -- Galveston Bay and Lavaca Bay -- are actually -- that restoration effort is a result of some actions that came about under House Bill 51. A number of the dealers are returning shell back to the bays now. Both the Pepper Grove Reef in Galveston Bay and the Lavaca Bay Reef have recently received some cultch planting from dealers in those areas, and so the Commission has the authority to close those areas to commercial harvest for a couple of years to allow that population to establish and reach larger sizes. So that would be an item that we would bring before you in January to temporarily close these areas.

The last item in Copano Bay, is an area that was recently restored by the Nature Conservancy. And as part of their grant requirements, they are required to monitor post-construction looking for success of that restoration effort; and they've come to the Department asking for consideration of closing that reef in Copano Bay to allow them to continue the monitoring after construction to be able to document success of that funding from that outside grant source.

And so I'll stop there and certainly take any questions that folks may have.




COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Okay. What discussion have you had with Louisiana on the Sabine Lake situation? If we do this deal, we get a comparable situation to Toledo Bend, would be my recollection. Is that accurate?

MR. ROBINSON: We -- yes, sir. We have different regulations on Sabine Lake right now. Flounder is operating under a different set of regulations between Texas and Louisiana. Trout are currently managed under different size limits and bag limits between Louisiana and Texas today.

We've had conversations with Louisiana. Our folks up there have talked with them. I believe there is some conversation that we're hearing about within Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries to kind of look at those waterbodies to the west and perhaps look at lowering their bag limits. I don't think they're considering five fish, but they are -- we do converse with them regularly, but we already have differential bag limits and size limits for a variety of species in Sabine Lake now.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Carter, I would like to see some of the -- on the seatrout survey.

MR. SMITH: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: It says they've got 2,340 saltwater anglers and all the guides in those 14 counties. I would like to see that.

MR. SMITH: You want to see that survey and the survey results? Sure. Yeah, and I assume the --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I'm just curious.

MR. SMITH: -- 2,300 saltwater anglers, that was the survey --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Because that seems like an awfully large gathering of people that you've already gotten. I find that interesting. I would like to look and visit --

MR. SMITH: Sure.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: -- with some of the -- as everybody knows, I'm from down there. So I know --

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: -- and I'm just curious to see the read because it is different and we all know that it did work very well when we went and did the middle --

MR. SMITH: Sure, absolutely.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: -- coast. There's no question everybody has seen the difference in the size of the fish and --


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: -- the quality of what we've got. I just question whether if we get into that up there, are we going to have the same results due to the impact of the Louisiana side of the deal since you're already saying that they don't pay any attention to our rules anyway. So, you know, that's a concern and that's what I'm curious about.

MR. SMITH: Yeah. So, Commissioner, we'll get you the survey results and then we can sit down and go over that with you if you'd like obviously.


MR. SMITH: So, okay. Yeah.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I'd just like to review it anyway.

MR. SMITH: Absolutely. We'll follow up on that. Thank you.


CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Any other members have questions or comments?

Lance, on the oyster closures, we've had such a challenge with certain people overharvesting, harvesting undersized oysters, fishing in closed -- or harvesting in closed areas. And I know that the resource has also been, I guess, ecologically challenged by the freshwater -- the hurricanes and the freshwater inflows. So against that backdrop, are we sure that we have identified the potential areas that would benefit from a temporary closure? And if not, I would just say when you come back in January, I would encourage you to add any area that has been -- that's challenged and that could benefit from the same type of proposed closure that you're suggesting be considered.

MR. ROBINSON: Yes, sir. We'll certainly look at that. These particular sites have recently put cultch down, which is a substrate that we need to get the oysters growing. So this will certainly help allow that population to come back in those areas; but we'll certainly take a look at those other areas, as well.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: See if there are any others that --

MR. ROBINSON: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: -- might be appropriate for the same type of action.

MR. SMITH: Chairman, just as a reminder, we have the ability to do that now through a delegation of authority from the Commission and our Coastal Fisheries team has a series of metrics that they use to assess kind of the status of oyster reefs and then we can close reefs if the proportions of juvenile oysters to adult oysters and harvestable oysters are at certain levels or don't meet certain thresholds. So right now, we have public oyster reefs that are closed for management purposes; and we can do that very quickly.

What I think might be helpful, Lance and Robin, is if we provide a summary and some maps to the Chairman about what we have closed from a management purpose. And remember, as oyster season goes on, we will be continually closing areas to make sure that they're not excessively overworked.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay, good deal.


CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right. Thank you, sir.

Work Session Item No. 6, 2019-2020 Statewide Hunting Proclamation Preview, Shaun Oldenburger.

MR. OLDENBURGER: All right. Good morning, Chairman, fellow Commissioners. For the record, my name is Shaun Oldenburger. I'm the Small Game Program Director. Today, we're going to talk about our feathered friends for the 2019-2020 migratory and resident game bird regulation briefing.

So migratory game bird information is available now for the 2019-20 season. What you'll recall a few years ago, the Fish and Wildlife Service changed the process in how we set regulations. Prior to that, we actually had early season and late season regulations. Early season regulations were mostly the wetlands migratory game birds, and late seasons were the duck and geese. And so we changed that. So now we're using previous year's information from the Fish and Wildlife Service birding population surveys to set regulations for the 2019-20 season.

And so as such, one thing to be -- keep in mind, we're actually going to combine the early and late season migratory game bird in the proclamation to at least propose that for January; and it makes no sense to have early and late season. Now, we do it in one process within our Code. And then also just so you know, frameworks are basically unchanged for the geese, dove, and other migratory game birds except ducks and I'll show you which one that is on ducks and that's at the ending framework and date now.

So federal frameworks -- and this is for waterfowl, ducks, and geese -- ducks are Saturday nearest September 24th -- that's when we can open -- and go to January 31st. That is a change that just happened a few weeks ago at the Service regulations committee meeting with the Fish and Wildlife Service. That was a push from our colleagues over the Mississippi Flyway and they accepted that change and that will be published in Federal Register in December. So that is a change where it used to be the last Sunday in January.

As far as geese, Saturday nearest September 24th and then that ends the Sunday nearest February 15th. And once again for, I believe, the 23rd year in a row, we have a liberal package for ducks and no changes for geese.

Looking at the doves, season length and daily bag limits are unchanged. Once again, just so you know why with the zones and the segments we have here in Texas, we're allowed by the Fish and Wildlife Service to have three zones with no more than two segments. The North and Central can start September 1st and go to January 25th. The South can start September 14th and end January 25th; and this will be, I believe, the second year in a row where we're allowed to go as early as September 14th. That was a change that was made this last year thanks to the work here in Texas and the Fish and Wildlife Service agreeing to do that.

Then the Special White-wing dove days, which we still hold those four days in early September, which are typically the first two full weekends in September when it allows.

Some potential proposed changes: Proposals, obviously, are still being developed by staff. Waterfowl and doves, dove daily bag limits are the same as this year except pintails will decrease from two per day to one per day. We have that pintail population that still keeps bouncing around where we have two per -- and one per day. And so unfortunately, we got one. We went up to two this year, and we're going to go back down to one next year. So that is set, and so that will be published in the December Federal Register, as well.

All the migratory game birds -- the rails, coots, snipe -- those are going to coincide with waterfowl seasons and calendar adjustments will happen where necessary.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Before you leave that --


CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: -- I've received a couple of publications on a national basis that raise what appear to be very serious concerns about pintail populations. Are we -- are you comfortable that we should have -- be talking about having an open season on them, given these concerns and should we --

MR. OLDENBURGER: Yeah. So one thing -- kind of going back to Ken's presentation on Alligator Gar where they show those exploitation rates at 2 to 4 percent. When we look at harvest rates on pintails, when we look at the impact the gun is having, when we look at band returns, we're talking about in the percentiles. Whereas you look at mallards, for instance, maybe 10, 12 percent harvest rates. And the pintails, we're usually around 4 or 5 percent is where what -- the percentage that we're harvesting every year due to sport hunt -- sport shooting. And so it's pretty low harvest on that; but, obviously, you would have to be conservative if there is some impact to harvest.

One thing the Department is doing in that, is obviously we're improving wintering ground habitat because we know we do have issues on the Gulf Coast due to the reduction in wetlands. So we're working a lot with the migratory game bird stamp funds and our WMAs and private lands with the Texas Prairie Wetlands to improve that habitat. And then also on the north end in the breeding grounds, we've been sending money to DU Canada in the last few years -- obviously, for about 25 years -- to improve habitat conditions at that end. So I think the Department has taken the approach that it's more of a habitat issue than a harvest issue, and so those are the ends of what we've been working on as a Department.


MR. OLDENBURGER: Next, we're going to talk about some proposals for wild turkey regulation changes. The first one is kind of a language cleanup. We had some ambiguous language that was existed for proof of sex for turkeys and this is some draft language the Department has been working on, staff, along with Law Enforcement, Legal. And this is just to kind of clarify as far as what you need for proof of sex in turkeys, whether you need it attached or unattached. And this kind of just kind of shows some clarification.

Previously, we had in there Ennis County and we do have counties here in Texas that do have differential regulations in the North and South and we have counties that are split. So this is just making sure that this clarifies a little bit better with what our current regulations are and also clarifies in there what it does -- it can be attached or unattached, as well. And then also one thing, we just make some clarification here on the male turkeys and female turkeys as far as proof of sex.

The language that was in there, the bird accompanied by one -- accompanied was kind of redundant with the previous language and so we're just going to delete that out and these proof of sex languages don't really change. It just clarifies it with what current regulations are.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: I'm sorry. What do you mean by attached or -- I get attached. But what's "unattached" mean?

MR. OLDENBURGER: So, basically, you could have it in a Ziploc bag, along with the turkey in a cooler; and, therefore, you know, you would actually have your proof of sex with the bird. Whereas whether it would have to be attached to the bird and what that would look like. That created some confusion with hunters and within staff, as well, what that meant.

And so, for instance, like you could actually have part of the breast with the feathers attached with the beard and if you had that along with, basically, a bird that you already butchered at -- in the field or at the camp house, you could have that along with it and then that would be legal.


MR. OLDENBURGER: One other one we looked at for turkeys is one gobbler Rio Counties. This is a one-gobbler only season initiated in 1997. It was four birds in the bag prior. Here is just a general spring season in those counties listed that you have in front of you. The open season is April 1st through April 30th, and the bag limit there is one turkey and gobblers only.

There was some confusion amongst staff whether that was one gobbler only per zone or county. It should be clear that in the regulations, it is definitely one bird per county, not per zone. And so there was some confusion also if the Eastern tag turkey is legitimate for the take of a second turkey in the zone. Currently, small game harvest survey suggests a growing number of hunters; but static harvest. And so the staff are kind of looking at some recommended language possibly to state that one bird should be per aggregate and not per county.

We do have some ongoing research with Louisiana State University in this area and so those pendings are still preliminary and so we're kind of waiting to get those before we make some determination to see if this is biologically significant or not and so this is one that's still kind of on the burners with staff and we'll see if we propose it in January or not.

And so just for a summary of the things that I presented. Proposals were developed by staff. The Resident and Migratory Game Bird Technical and Advisory Committees will review and provide input. The Upland Game Bird Advisory Committee has already met and endorsed the turkey proposals, and the Migratory Game Bird Advisory Committee will meet December 13th at headquarters. Final proposals will be presented to the Commission in January, with adoption in March. And so with that, I will take any questions.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. Any questions, comments?

Thank you.

Alan Cain, will you please make your presentation?

MR. CAIN: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, I'm Alan Cain, the White-tail Deer Program Leader. And this morning, I'll preview possible changes to the 2019-2020 big game harvest regulations.

The first change staff are considering would be the expansion of doe days in 41 counties in the Post Oak, Savannah, and Blackland Prairies ecoregion. There'd be two different doe day structures we're considering. One for the counties in yellow that are outlined by pink that currently have a four-day doe season; and then also for the counties in green that are outlined by blue, which are currently antlerless by MLD only during the general season.

Over the last four or five years, we've had a number of requests from landowners and hunters and especially in those green counties to open a doe season or a short doe season to provide an alternative to the current season structure, which is by MLD only. And in the yellow counties, just to increase the number of doe days over there in those particular counties.

Our big game harvest or survey in those regions, indicate about a two and a half to 2.7 percent average annual increase in the deer population over the last ten years. So that population has been growing. Additionally, the big game harvest survey indicates that 41 percent of the total harvest in those areas that we're considering changes in, are comprised of antlerless deer and which may contribute to the skewed sex ratio, which is about 3.79 does for every buck in that particular region there.

The areas -- the counties in green have a high number of MLD cooperators. There's over 4,800 MLD properties in those 21 counties in the green. That's because those are antlerless harvest by MLD only. The bulk of those folks participate through the Wildlife Management Association or Cooperatives in those counties and through which the co-op receives a harvest recommendation and -- or each member of the co-op receives a harvest recommendation for MLD.

Additionally, about 56 percent of the recommended harvest in the MLD Program in those counties is obtained each year; and so they're not meeting the harvest recommendations that we're providing for those cooperators in the area. It's only about 56 percent.

So by expanding the doe days, staff, number one, expect to address the request from the public to open a doe day -- some days in those counties in green and expand some doe days in those counties in yellow to provide some additional hunting opportunity and reduce impacts on the habitat from the growing deer population and also relieve some pressure on the bucks in those particular counties.

So one of the changes staff would be considering is in the yellow counties, expand from the current four-doe day season to a 16-day season, which will run from the first 16 days of general season. And then in the counties in green, staff will be considering opening doe-day season that runs from Thanksgiving day to the Sunday following Thanksgiving day, with a bag limit of two does, which is consistent with all the other counties with doe days in the state.

Staff -- and although staff don't believe there would be any resource issues that would arise from a four-doe -- four-day doe season in these counties in the green, we are aware of some concerns by some landowners in those counties about overharvest. They've been reluctant in the past years to support opening doe days in these counties and that stems back from back in the 90s when they remember some changes, a short doe season and some population crashes. Not necessarily associated with doe days, but just some changes. But over time as the population has grown, they've been limited by harvest. Antlerless harvest has been limited to MLD only and that regulation has been in place since 1996. And so today, we're having a lot more requests to provide an opportunity, other than MLD, to harvest does in those counties.

And so although staff don't believe there would be any resource issues, we do -- we would consider a change to implement an experimental mandatory harvest reporting for antlerless deer in those 21 counties to help ease some of the concerns from those landowners and hunters in the area about overharvest and also to provide us the opportunity to closely monitor antlerless harvest. And antlerless harvest -- or mandatory reporting for antlerless harvest would be applicable only to those antlerless deer harvested using a hunting license tag. MLD -- antlerless deer harvested under the MLD program would not be required to be reported because those deer are already required to be reported through the LMA system for all MLD participants. And so this mandatory harvest, again, reporting could be accomplished through the "My Texas Hunt Harvest" app, which is currently used for the Eastern wild turkeys in that -- in the portion of the state.

And then, again, this would just address some of those concerns by those landowners about overharvest, give the Department an opportunity to assess harvest in realtime, and make changes as necessary if that's the case.

The next change staff are considering is a modification to the Mule deer hunting regulations in the Panhandle. This map currently illustrates the three different Mule deer seasons we have in the state. Two in the panhandle to start the same date, but they have different ending dates. And then the Trans-Pecos has a 17-day season.

As the Commission will recall back in March, you-all adopted an experimental antler restriction regulation for Mule deer in six counties in the Panhandle outlined by the rectangle there in blue. And those counties include Briscoe, Hall, Childress, Floyd, Motley, and Cottle Counties. And this year will be the initial year of that experimental antler restriction regulation. Also at the March Commission Meeting, the Commission adopted a proposal to open a nine-day, buck-only Mule deer season in Lynn County. And at that time or just previous to that Commission Meeting in March, public hearings were held in Tahoka and attendees at that meeting provided public comment that requested the Department apply the experimental antler restriction regulation in Lynn County, as well. And the Department has received a number of other requests from landowners in that particular county asking for the Mule deer experimental antler restrictions.

When staff did present this information in March, I believe the Chairman asked that we consider this request and also move quickly on it if we could; and so we're bringing for forward this possible change. Staff do support -- do agree with these requests and would like propose to include Lynn County in the Mule deer antler restriction experiment. Staff believe that by adding Lynn County to the experiment, it would provide valuable data regarding the success of antler restrictions to maintain an older age -- older buck age structure and a natural sex ratio since this November will be the first ever Mule deer season in Lynn County. So, basically, we're starting at scratch this year with an opening season and we were to propose -- bring forward a proposal and adopt the Mule deer antler restriction regulations, it start out basically with the unhunted population of this one season under the -- underway. So it would provide some valuable background data.

As a background, any buck with an outside spread that is less 20 inches is not legal to harvest. That's an illustration that's currently in the Outdoor Annual to illustrate what's legal and what's not. In addition to the experimental antler restriction regulation for Mule deer, do not apply to MLD properties. As part of the MLD Program, TPWD staff set property specific bag limits, which are conservative in those -- for those properties.

Staff will also monitor the success of an experimental antler restriction using population surveys and voluntary check stations in which they can measure the antler measurements for inside spread and also ear measurements of these Mule deer bucks, as well as obtain age structure data. We also plan to send out opinion surveys to evaluate landowner and hunter support for before and after the experimental regulation.

And the next change staff would be considering is to open a javelina season in six counties in the Panhandle.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Before you move to javelina.

MR. CAIN: Yes.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Go back to your potential Mule deer antler restriction map where you have the counties outlined in yellow, red, and green. There, that's fine. That's good enough.

Why is Coke County split out, not contiguous with the other counties of either red, green, yellow, or whatever?

MR. CAIN: So as I recall, Coke County, there was some Mule deer transplanted back years ago in Coke County and that population still persists. And so we maintain a county -- or a Mule deer season in that county so if a hunter accidentally harvests a Mule deer, they're not in violation of the rules.

Clayton, is there --

MR. WOLF: That's correct. That's not necessarily a contiguous population.

MR. CAIN: Right.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: And before you move on from Lynn County, we allow White-tail hunting there?

MR. CAIN: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Should we consider antler restrictions for White-tail, as well?

MR. CAIN: We -- without -- well, one, we wouldn't place -- normally, we don't place antler restrictions in a single county disjunct from everything else and what we look at for antler restriction for White-tail deer is if greater than 60 percent of the harvest is bucks one or two years of age or younger. And that part of the state over there, that deer management unit which Lynn County falls in, typically has an older age structure. That's in the Western Rolling Plains there, and I don't have the harvest numbers to provide you. I can get that information; but generally, South Texas and the Rolling Plains up there have older age structures that don't necessitate antler restrictions in those counties.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Has the White-tail Deer Advisory Committee been asked to consider that?

MR. CAIN: In Lynn County?

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Well, for Lynn County and maybe surrounding counties. I'm just saying in general.

MR. CAIN: No, we have not presented any info -- or any requests to the Advisory Committee regarding antler restrictions in the western part of the state.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Could you maybe make a note and bring that up as a topic of discussion at the next meeting?

MR. CAIN: Sure. I'll be glad to do that.


COMMISSIONER JONES: Let me just ask --

MR. CAIN: Yep.

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- one last follow-up question for Coke County. Are those Mule deer -- are they in a high fence? The ones that were transported there?

MR. CAIN: I don't believe so. So I don't think --

MR. WOLF: I'm not sure.

MR. CAIN: Yeah.

MR. WOLF: I'm not sure. We can check on that.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Well, the only reason I ask is if they're not in a high fence, then I'm just curious, how do we know they stay within the border of the county?

MR. CAIN: Good point. We don't.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Well, if they don't. You can shoot them in the surrounding counties.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Well, I guess that's right; but I'm just curious. Have they -- if they've moved somewhat, I'm just -- I mean, it just strikes me as odd that there's just one county that's sort of stuck out there and if they're not high fence, then I just --

MR. WOLF: Yes, Commissioner, we'll check on that because my recollection is that the property that was stocked may be high fenced; but even irrespective of that, when you get along those county lines, you do have -- you will have a sprinkling, if you will, of Mule deer, you know, either going west or White-tail -- or Mule deer east and White-tails west. So it's obviously not, you know, a definite boundary; but my understanding is that particular population in Coke County was significantly different. It may be because it's a high-fenced ranch. We'll follow up on that, but that doesn't necessarily say that there aren't some Mule deer in that -- in the area between.


MR. CAIN: So the current map on the screen illustrates the javelina seasons in the state. The counties in yellow are in the North Zone. They run from -- the season runs from October 1 through the end of February. And then the counties in green have a season year-round, 365 days; and that's in the South Zone.

In the counties over the last several years, Law Enforcement/Wildlife Division staff in the Panhandle have received a number of reports from hunters and landowners of the increasing number of javelina sightings in those six counties that are outlined in red, just to the north of the counties with a javelina season under the North Zone season structure. Additionally, it appears that the javelinas are expanding their range northward; and we've had requests from landowners in those counties just north of the counties that currently have a season -- so those in the red counties -- to consider opening a season.

Staff do not see any reason not to consider a javelina season in Borden, Dawson, Gaines, Hardeman, and Scurry and Terry Counties and the season structure would mirror that of the North Zone javelina counties which border these counties in red that would be under consideration.

And so, again, that season that staff would be considering would be from October 1 through the end of February. And that concludes my presentation.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Were javelina there 100 years ago, out of curiosity?

MR. CAIN: I don't know. I need to -- Froylan Hernandez is our Javelina Program Leader. So I'll follow up with him. I'm -- you know, there was probably some ranging up in that area through that of the Trans-Pecos; but we can check and let you know.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Members, any other questions, comments?

All right. Thank you, Alan.

Work Session Item 7, Briefing North American Non-Lead Partnership. Clayton Wolf has a guest to introduce.

MR. WOLF: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, Mr. Smith. For the record, my name is Clayton Wolf. I'm the Wildlife Division Director. And this morning, my role here is to introduce Mr. Chris Parish with the Peregrine Fund and also the topic -- important topic that he's going to talk about and that's the North American Non-Lead Partnership.

An ever increasing body of science has refined our understanding of how incidental ingestion of lead ammunition residues by scavenging wildlife poses a risk. Studies have been conducted to investigate the impacts of ingested lead on individual animals, as well as populations. When birds ingest lead shotgun pellets or when scavenging birds and mammals eat the remains of carcasses shot with lead ammunition, lead can be absorbed into the bloodstream, sometimes causing long-term side effects and in some cases, even death.

Options such as non-lead shot shells or high performance non-lead rifle ammunition, like copper solids, can prevent poisoning in wildlife. Mr. Parish is going to share with you the efforts of the North American Non-lead Partnership to engage hunters and other wildlife enthusiasts to promote the voluntary use of non-lead ammunition while using scientific evaluation to assess and improve programs.

Chris is a lifelong hunter and angler who's had an opportunity to work in the conservation biology field for over two decades. He first worked -- he first worked with the Arizona Game and Fish Commission; and for the past 18 years, has worked for the Peregrine Fund. He currently serves as the Director of Global Conservation. His passion in conservation is making sense of scientific findings and bridging the gap between scientists and nonscientists to advance our proud wildlife conservation in hunting heritage.


MR. PARISH: Thank you, Clayton and Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission, Mr. Director, members of the Texas Parks and Wildlife. Thank you for the opportunity to come and present to you today some of our findings and then some paths forward that have been taken to address and investigate this issue of lead versus non-lead ammunition.

As you know from the print and what the press takes forward on this, it has been somewhat contentious in places. I hope to be able to share with you, one, a story of nearly two decades of work on the Condor Program in northern Arizona; but also expand beyond that, and share with you what some states have done to engage and initiate conversations with their sportsmen and women.

I come to you first as a hunter and angler. I became a biologist because of my interest in hunting and angling and think I'm a better hunter and angler because of that and vice versa. So the implications from the studies that I'm going to share with you about the California condor, I want you to focus on not because of the endangered status of the condor; but because it's a species that we're actually able to track and monitor on an individual basis. Therefore, giving a complete picture of what lead can do to an obligate scavenger like that of the condor. So it's not just the ESA status, but it seems the ESA status seems to always taint how the media deals with this. So I want you to focus on it as an individual level monitoring of lead in a populations and the implications for the rest of the environment.

As you can see in the first slide there, the implication slide, we have 70 deaths where these birds were able to be recovered and 38 of those -- 54 percent of those birds died of lead poisoning. So it's a significant issue for that population there.

Within those that have died, 66 percent contain some type of identifiable ammunition residue and the reason for that long definition there, is we've seen everything from intact bullets, usually pistol bullets they look like in the gut of these birds, lead and copper fragments and lead shot. So there are three different types of ammunition residues that we've found in those birds' wound channel -- or sorry, wound channel -- the digestive system.

You can see from another study here, we monitor blood lead levels of these birds throughout the year and we saw an increase in correspondence of high levels of exposure in November and December each year, coinciding with the majority of the population that is tracked via VHF telemetry and GPS transmitters. We can see that there is a correlation between high use of the Kaibab Plateau, which is where the predominant deer hunting happens at that time. So it pointed us in the direction for our studies and the next study, of course, was how much lead actually results from a single shot fired into a game animal like a Mule deer. And the way we investigated that is we shot some deer up in Wyoming with standard hunting practices and calibers and quantified rates of fragmentation because we asked: How many fragments could there possibly be? And being a lifelong hunter, I said, "Well, there can't be many, right, because we don't see them."

Well, I also didn't x-ray them. So we started this study and we x-rayed. 74 percent of those deer shot with lead-based ammunition had over 100 fragments each in the whole animal, but we took it a step further because it wasn't just the wounding loss -- say, 11 percent of the deer which is an annual rate of wounding loss -- that these birds were encountering. We're talking about 80 percent of this population showing really high levels of lead, not -- couldn't be explained by just those wounding losses.

So the gut piles really stood out to us. Some of these gut piles had over 200 fragments. Some of which had over 400 fragments from a single shot; and this astounded us, again, as lifelong hunters and as biologists. The pictures speak a thousand words. These gut piles that are consumed by all different types of scavengers contained, like I say, as many as 470 fragments. So this is a positive image showing you the metal dense fragments in those gut piles. And, of course, the worst-case scenario is when a bullet impacts bone and, of course, the bullet's got to give way and lead and it doesn't act any different except when you increase velocity.

So this is an example of an animal that was shot through the neck. This is part of a poaching case because we tracked the birds and found that they had eaten this deer and it was a headless deer and having worked for Game and Fish, I notified law enforcement. And the importance here though, is that even at the point of entry in the bottom part of that image, you can see the bullets begin to fragment to varying degrees, depending on the composition of those bullets and then once it hits bone, it fragments even more.

And when you think about the life history of a scavenger, where do they usually enter these carcasses and it's usually in these existing holes. Usually, it's eyes, ears, nose, anus, and things like that -- great pre-lunch conversation, I know -- but also the entrance and exit wounds of these animals that are shot and left in the field.

The question now that's just a little bit about what we're seeing in the wild, but what we do with this information has far more meaning to me as a conservation biologist than just quantifying the rates of fragmentation and such. We took our information to the Arizona Game and Fish Department and asked for their help in disseminating this information and our findings to our fellow hunters to ask for their support. I'll repeat that again: To ask for their support.

And they had an unprecedented response in getting this information out to the hunters and an unprecedented response by the hunters. The birds also were known to scavenge and feed up in southern Utah and we mounted a similar campaign there with the Utah Division of Wildlife.

You've probably all heard about the ban in California, and I'll speak a little more on that; but these are three different resulting actions that have been taken by three different states in how to initiate conversations with their hunters, and I have opinions of my own that I'll keep back for now. So we have the Arizona deer hunters. We've earned 87 percent annual participation for the last 11 years from our deer hunters there. In Utah, we have over 80 percent participation from the deer hunters there. And California, again as you note, the lead ban -- the regional lead ban has been in place since 2008. So we have a nice little review for you here: Two voluntary programs and one regulatory program.

Unfortunately, the diagnosed deaths of these condors that we've studied, still is about 50 percent of all diagnosed deaths continues to be lead poisoning and 55 percent in Arizona. I point this out not to say that our program has failed. I point it out to say that these birds and other scavengers don't just eat deer and they don't just eat deer in northern Arizona and southern Utah. There's a wide variety of different species out there that might contain lead that might still be contributing to the lead that exists out there.

Right now, we have -- looking at varmint hunting, in some places like southern Utah, varmints don't even -- don't fall into the category of a hunted species and there are no regulations there and quite often, these animals are shot and left in the field. So I say this not as a scare, but to show you the amounts of fragments that can be contained in a single carcass and, thereby, consumed by scavengers.

There are other studies that look into smaller game, like this study from 2005, and more recently another study that quantifies rates of fragmentation with .22 long rifle and a .17 caliber, very high -- this is the one with the .17 caliber -- with Belding's ground squirrels where they were shot with a .17 caliber super mag and 28 to 17 times more mass. The take-home message here is the faster the bullet travels, the more potential for fragmentation and depending on what's done with the remains of those animals, they may either be accessible or not accessible to scavenging wildlife.

And it's not just hunting, as well. The different methods of introduction of lead into the system can be from our law enforcement actions where we're dispatching wounded wildlife. It might be a rancher who dispatches an animal in the field because it's more on a needs to be put down or it might be an animal that's shot, like the coyotes, or it might be some traditional hunting practices like our deer hunts.

The point is, is that the opportunities for exposure exist and what are the implications for other scavengers. We've gone beyond just that of the condor. Again, some of which by design because of the implications of the Endangered Species Act and the hot topic that that becomes. But we look at other more common raptors like Golden and Bald eagles and we found -- we have been finding that they, too, use the remains of scavenged -- or scavenge the remains of hunted animals in the field like, this gut pile at the Kaibab Plateau. Even some species that are thought to be not scavengers and strictly predators, like this goshawk, have been found to be consuming the remains of gut piles left in the field from our deer hunt.

We're looking at other studies. We're -- because of the way we approach this with the -- and I say "we," the Peregrine Fund -- approach this with our management agencies, we've been asked actually to come out and look at other species like Bald and Golden eagles on White Sands, New Mexico, and we're doing a scavenger study there, again, showing what are rates of use of these gut piles by these varying species and is there a potential impact there that can be dealt with.

A lot of folks have been dealing with this; but it's usually one of us in one area or another because we're hunters, we're concerned hunters, we're also conservation biologists. But it's been hit or miss in these small efforts and outreach events and usually they're lumped into unfortunately, you know, people that are pushing for lead bans and we are pushing for information and education so that our fellow hunters can make a more informed decision. Even some of the zoos, like Oregon Zoo, has stepped up in hiring a non-lead hunting education coordinator. Something, again, I think is unprecedented as far as how to reach out to hunters; and more importantly, how to educate nonhunters about what hunters are doing for conservation.

We all want to think that we are a part of a new paradigm of conservation, I think, when we start our wildlife careers; and I think we all realize that these single species efforts -- like that of the condor recovery program -- we have to keep in mind the big picture and we can't lose focus and we can't lose our audience. And right now, our biggest audience is our hunters and even more important are the nonhunters and worse yet, the anti-hunters for how we go about dealing with things like this.

It's going to take sociopolitically scaled efforts to move the needle for conservation so that we can build that capacity so that we can move forward in dealing with these things. We know from watching what happened in California about the backfire effect and how this changed a seemingly simple problem and seemingly simple solution into what has turned out to be a "Don't Tread On Me" campaign and I represent both sides of that because I, too, feel like we're often walked on in these things.

The way we go about doing this is just like we're doing here today and it's usually in small groups like this where we're conveying the results of our finding and asking: How do we best go about initiating conversations about this issue? But we needed something better and larger than the small-scale of 10, 20 people here and there.

The way we do this, is we connect our research with our existing values and our pride and tradition of the North American Model, for example. Teddy Roosevelt, Aldo Leopold, and things like that. We add new science to this notion of our responsibility and we get great results.

Here's what we came up with and this is where it changes from kind of a representation of the best available science to what we have chosen to do as the Peregrine Fund and we've partnered. And if you'll notice here, the back of this -- or this logo is the back of a bullet and at the primer where it all starts, we have the adult representation there of our current and past traditions in conservation and looking forward to the future with the young person there to the right. We have the traditional animals that we have hunted for ages and we have the rest of the ecosystem represented by that raptor on the other side and the link between the two being the partnership of this North American non-lead partnership.

We wrote a resolution that basically described our two primary objectives are to preserve our wildlife conservation and our hunting heritage, one in the same; and we currently have the three founders I've already mentioned. Though I failed to mention Institute for Wildlife Studies. They're a group out of California that does a lot of work with Bald and Golden eagles, the Peregrine Fund, and the Oregon Zoo.

Our first state signatory is on this resolution and this partnership are the Oregon Fish and Wildlife, Arizona Game and Fish Department and the Utah Division on Natural Resources. We also have the added National Wild Turkey Foundation's Arizona Chapter, who vowed to pledge their support for the program and also some funding on an annual basis. So we're selecting right now and targeting the hunting groups and agencies who manage hunting in these different states. We also added the Arizona Deer Association, Arizona Elk Society, and the Arizona Mule Deer Group.

We just launched in July. So this is relatively new. However, if you've been to WAFWA or AFWA this last year, you've heard more and more about this. And be we believe that this is giving us a greater -- a better platform to operate to share information with our fellow hunters and agencies so that we can move forward in ways that are a little less contentious, like what happens in the media. We also are using hunter thought leaders within the community. People that hunters are listening to and we've done podcasts, which has exposed this issue and potential paths forward for voluntary programs with the likes of Randy Newberg and the thousands -- tens of thousands of listeners that they have.

The goals for the coming year, we've almost licked every one of those; and it's been a big year in launching this campaign to help spread this information. You can look back at that if you'd like. We also had a recent presentation that we made in the field to the Pacific Flyway Council addressing all these different states. We've also focused on hunter education because that's the future of the understanding and the carrying that torch forward of conservation and at the WAFWA meeting this last year in Oregon, there was a proposal made to work with the International Hunter Educator Association to help share information on the benefits of using non-lead for wildlife when -- if and when states are willing to and wanting to address that.

I'll leave this with the last bit of the pitch here: Is what do we bring to the table for your further consideration? This is not the pitch to be made here. Just to make you aware of what's going on out there and what potential we might have with the partnership to help. We can help initiate these necessary conversations before they become contentious. We have the ability and the track record of aligning efforts and groups and agencies with what I think is pretty effective single-voice messaging.

We do things like providing workshops and shooting demonstrations, showing the difference between lead and non-lead ammunition so hunters can see it themselves. We have tons of outreach and education and incentive type programs, and I'll leave that at the end there for that pitch; but ultimately, it's to share this information with you. If you have any questions about any of this and if we have time, I'd be happy to answer them.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Any questions?

Well, Chris, thank you very much for this. I -- as a little bit of background, I happen to be a member of the board of the Peregrine Fund and Chris made a very similar presentation to the board a year or two ago and I was fascinated by learning just how far down the food chain lead particles travel and also was so interested in the fact that he and others had -- through presentations like this -- been able to convey the risk of the use of lead and then it's up to the hunter to determine whether to use lead or non-lead. But once you learn about the benefits of using something other than lead, it's encouraging that so many hunters in Arizona and Utah are two great examples because those are hardcore hunting states.

MR. PARISH: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: I mean, Arizona is 90 percent federal land and it's elk and Mule deer and whatnot. So the fact that the education made a difference, I thought was so telling. And I guess I wanted to ask, you elaborate if you don't mind, on what the studies showed about the effect of -- for example, if you're shooting rabbits or squirrels with a .22, what's the effect on -- what did the studies show the effects to be on owls, buzzards, crows, things like that?

MR. PARISH: You bet. That one paper that I presented there of Garth Herring, he's a fellow from USGS, they did some modeling based on data they collected in the center pivot shooting that's really popular in eastern Oregon and they -- from that data they collected, they showed that the amount of lead being carried back to nesting raptors, to chicks that were forming in the nest, there were at some times three and five times the level that would be assumed to cause mortality. And that -- that's a first of its kind study to show that and it -- the implications for the species that are within those areas, that even at the sound of shots fired, that called the ravens and once the ravens come in, a visual indicator, then the other raptor species came in.

And I forget how many species there were, but that citation is there. So you can go and look at that. But it was astounding. And for more scary to me, is what the implications of what some groups will do with that information in painting a picture of how hunters don't care. And my findings have been hunters don't often know, like you said, how far down the food chain this lead fragmentation can have an effect and that's what this partnership is all about.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. Well, again, thanks for making the trip here to share the results of the work that you've been engaged in with others. It sounds like it's slowly having a positive impact on voluntary conversion, which is what, of course, we would hope would occur here; but it's important that people don't get caught up and think we're here talking about a ban that's around the corner because we're certainly not. It's -- this is purely an educational presentation today and thought provoking. Thank you so much.

MR. PARISH: Thank you for your time.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right. With respect to Work Session Item 8, Employee Training Rules, which is an action item for tomorrow, does any Commissioner have any question or comments about it? Or otherwise, I'll push it over to tomorrow.

Okay. Hearing none, we'll hear employee training rulings on the Wednesday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

The next item is Work Session Item 9, Pipeline Easement, Orange County, Approximately 1.3 Acres at the Lower Neches Wildlife Management Area, Permission to Begin the Public Notice and Input Process.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Mr. Chairman, there is a possibility that I could have a conflict on this particular item. So I'm going to step out during the discussion, and I think we still will have a quorum even with me not being here.


All right. All right, Stan David.

MR. DAVID: Yes, sir. Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, I'm Stan David with Land Conservation. I'm here to present a first reading on a proposed pipeline easement at the Lower Neches Wildlife Management Area. The approximate size of this easement will be 1.3 acres.

The Lower Neches WMA is in Orange County. It's about 5 miles north of Port Arthur. It consists a little over 8,000 acres of coastal marshland. The land was donated to TPWD in the late 1980s and the early 90s. The area is known for waterfowl and hunting and nature-watching opportunities.

The preferred route of this proposed easement will cross the northeast corner of the WMA adjacent to an existing power line right-of-way. The proposed easement will be 2,806 feet long by 20 feet wide. The construction method will be subsurface horizontal directional drill. There will be no surface impact or surface expressions other than the marker signs, and compensation will be in accordance with TPWD's current damage-and-fee schedule.

And here's a map showing the reason that this is the preferred route. It's crossing a drier area of the WMA, but also avoiding the homes to the north and northeast of the WMA. If there's no objections, staff request permission to begin the public notice and input process; and I can answer any questions you might have.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Members, any questions or comment?

I have just one, Stan. How often do we revisit our -- our --

MR. DAVID: Fee schedule?

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: -- fee schedule?

MR. DAVID: It's yearly. We kind of -- Ted Hollingsworth designed it, made it. He and us kind of have an idea of what the rates are. So we visit it yearly.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. All right, thank you.

MR. DAVID: Which if we need to -- I would say if we need to revisit it or go through it with anyone, we're more than happy to do that.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: I just think we -- that's always a moving target, so.

MR. DAVID: It is. Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you for staying on top of that.

All right. I'll authorize staff to begin public notice and input process regarding the pipeline easement, Orange County, approximately 1.3 acres at the Lower Neches Wildlife Management Area.

MR. DAVID: Thanks.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Work Session Item 10, the Recommendation of the Sunset Advisory Commission to Transfer Eight Sites from Parks and Wildlife to the Texas Historical Commission, as well as Work Session Item 11, a Litigation Update, will each be heard in Executive Session.

So at this time, pursuant to Chapter 551 of the Government Code, known as the Open Meetings Act, an Executive Session will be held for the purpose of deliberation of real estate matters under 551.072, the Open Meetings Act, and seeking legal advice under 551.071 of the Open Meetings Act regarding pending and/or contemplated litigation. We'll now recess for the executive session.

(Recess taken for Executive Session)

(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.


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, 2020

7010 Cool Canyon Cove

Round Rock, Texas 78681