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TPW Commission

Work Session, January 23, 2019

Transcript

TPW Commission Meetings

TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION

January 23, 2019

TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT
COMMISSION HEARING ROOM
4200 SMITH SCHOOL ROAD
AUSTIN, TEXAS 78744

COMMISSION WORK SESSION & EXECUTIVE SESSION

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Welcome, everybody. We're going to call this meeting together -- to order January 23rd, 2019, at 9:05 a.m. I believe Mr. Smith has a statement.

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

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

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: At this time, we would like to recognize our two new Commissioners: Beaver Aplin and Oliver Bell. And if y'all would like to say a few words or anything, you're more than welcome. If you're smart, you might not want to yet.

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: Thank you. We're excited to be here. I know Oliver is, too. We've talked about it. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER BELL: Absolutely. Thank you. Looking forward to today and learning from everyone.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Thank y'all for your service.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Congratulations, Mr. Chairman, on your reappointment.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Thank you, I think. No, I'm very happy to -- very happy to be back and do it again.

Before we proceed, I want to announce that Work Session Item No. 4 and Work Session Item No. 5 and No. 6 are going to be moved back into the -- later into the agenda. We're trying to wait for Chairman Duggins and Vice-Chair Reed Morian to get here. They are on TPW business in another deal. They're in the courtroom listening to one of the cases we have. So they'll be here as soon as that hearing is over.

Also, Work Item Agenda No. 7, the Pipeline Easement in Orange County, has been removed or withdrawn from today's agenda.

The first order of business is the approval of the minutes from the previous Work Session held November 6th, 2018, which have already been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?

COMMISSIONER LEE: I'll move.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Second.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Commissioner Latimer and Commissioner Lee. All in favor, please say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Any opposed? Motion carries.

The next item of business is the approval of the minutes from the Regional Public Hearing held November 6th, 2018, which have already been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?

COMMISSIONER GALO: So moved.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Commissioner Galo.

COMMISSIONER WARREN: Second.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Kelcy Warren, Commissioner Warren. All in favor, please say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Any opposed? Motion carries.

And then one more. We had all those meetings scattered around. We've got one more approval of minutes, and that was from the Regional Hearing held November 7th. Is there a motion for approval?

Commissioner Latimer. Commissioner Warren. All in favor, please say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Any opposed? Motion carries.

Okay. Now, we get to the stuff where Carter gets to do stuff. Work Session No. 1, Update on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Progress in Implementing the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Land and Water Resources Conservation and Recreation Plan, Carter.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, great. Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. Obviously, already scared off Commissioner Bell. So not off to a very auspicious start this morning.

Welcome, Commissioner Aplin and Commissioner Bell. We're excited about y'all joining the Commission and look forward to working with you.

Mr. Chairman, thanks for a chance to share a few words about some of the many going ons inside the Agency. I want to touch on a number of topics and just as a point of departure and as is customary and as required by law, just want to provide a very quick update on the Internal Affairs related team.

Jon and his team continue to manage a very active caseload and are doing a very good job on that front. Hopefully, everybody got last year's end-of-the-year report and the summary on their activities. If you have any questions about that, please talk to Jon about it.

For our new Commissioners, just as a reminder, should you receive any serious allegations about violations of law or policy inside the Agency, please refer all of those complaints to Internal Affairs so that they can investigate those very thoroughly.

Not a whole lot else really to report on the I.A. front. I do want to compliment Jon and his team on something that they're looking at a little more proactively. They're going to begin a regular newsletter in our employee WildNet System that will help just kind of remind our colleagues about employee and departmental policies and various dos and don'ts for all of us, things having to do with social media and so forth.

And so, Jon, I appreciate that proactive effort and just making sure that we all stay advertent to the things that we're committed to following. So thanks for doing that proactively.

Mr. Chairman, if y'all will indulge me for just a minute. I always like to be able to brag on colleagues that have been bestowed very nice and deserving honors and I'm thrilled, but I can't say I'm surprised, that three of our colleagues from Information Technology were honored at the recent Public Sector Chief Information Office Officer Academy this year. That's the big network and conference in professional development for Information Technology executives across the state and we were ecstatic to see George Rios, our I.T. Division Director, named the CIO of the year. And where is George? Probably hiding sheepishly over in the corner. George, I can't think of a more deserving award. He is incredibly well-respected by our colleagues across the state, both in the public and private sector and has been a real leader throughout his career here.

And so very fitting, George. Congratulations.

I know really he's even more proud of Jamie and Jeff for their awards. Jamie works with our I.T. team and is head of our business and strategy development effort and she was named the Outstanding I.T. Manger. And then Jeff Krempin, who handles all of the desktop support and mobile technology management for the Agency, was named the Rising Star. And so, you know, as we think about, obviously, succession planning and how we position our colleagues for their continued growth and development, it's nice to see them recognized statewide for their leadership and I know y'all are proud, George.

So congratulations to you and Jeff and Jamie for, again, those very, very well-deserved rewards.

Speaking of that, I had a chance to let y'all know about the newest addition to our Statewide Leadership team, Rodney Franklin, our new State Parks Director. Got to get -- Rodney is over here. Grew up in Northeast Texas, a little town close to Paris, Texas, that I think all of you are familiar with. You can see he's a proud graduate of Texas A&M.

(Rounds of whoops)

MR. SMITH: Thank God. It's -- I'll tell you, they had gotten a little quiet during the Coach Sumlin years; but they have really kind of resuscitated recently, and so y'all were on life support. So nice -- yeah.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Commissioner Jones gets to live on.

MR. SMITH: He lives on, exactly. Commissioner Aplin ready to help carry the flag. So it's nice to have an Aggie to talk about in this body.

So Rodney doesn't need any introduction to most of y'all. He's been with us for nearly 30 years and has had a broad range of experiences. Was a superintendent at the Sam Bell Maxey House and at Cooper Lake, Lake Bob Sandlin. He was a State Park police officer. Really important that he have that law enforcement experience in this leadership. Our Park police officers play a hugely important role for this Agency. He was our Deputy State Parks Director before this promotion. He was a Regional Director in which he oversaw our parks all the way through North Texas, including places like Palo Duro Canyon. And so we're proud of Rodney and excited about this promotion and welcome to the team, Rodney. We're very excited about it.

Speaking of State Parks, really excited to let y'all know that we're going to be rolling out the next evolution of our State Parks Business System and that ought to be coming online in the next few weeks or perhaps the next month. This has been a longstanding effort by our State Parks team, led by Mark A-R who some of y'all have met and we've had a chance to recognize him for his service.

For the new Commissioners, this is both the back-end business system that handles all the accounting and revenue management and registration for our state parks; but it's also our primary customer interface in which park users have a chance to learn about what's happening at the parks, also make their reservations for when they want to visit. And with, you know, now close to 10 million people a year visiting the state parks, this system is becoming even more important in terms of making sure that we're meeting customer demand.

We're excited about this next new generation of the system for a number of reasons. One, it's obviously going to be mobile friendly, which is critical as folks are doing more and more business on their smart phones, as y'all know; but I think just as importantly, it's going to provide more flexibility to our park users with respect to the reservation offering.

So for the first time now, you know, Commissioner Bell, if you're going to take your family to a park, you can go online on your smart phone. You can look up the park. You can see all the amenities that are offered there. You can make a reservation for a specific campground or public use facility or cabin. You can look at all of them individually and with pictures and location to decide which one is best for you and reserve. Again, that individual site, that's a new development for us.

Also, people will have the ability to make a day use reservation. And the Commission knows how critical that is because of the capacity limits we've had to put in in our parks that have gotten so visited, heavily visited, that we've had to close parks.

So, again, back to that hypothetical example, Commissioner Bell. If you want to take your family to Enchanted Rock and as opposed to rolling the dice as to whether or not you're going to be sitting on a highway for three hours waiting to get in, you can make a reservation, you know, ahead of time to be able to visit just with a day pass. And at some of our parks, you can do it -- you can pick a specific hour block that you think you're going to be there. I think I'm going to get there around 10:00, so you can make reservations to get there and if you get there at that time, then you're going to be able to go right in as opposed to waiting in line.

So we see this as a wonderful enhancement and improvement to the user experience and to serving our customers. So look forward to that getting rolled out and I want to compliment Mark and his colleagues that have been working on that. It's been a real team effort, and we'll let you know exactly when it rolls out; but it's coming very, very soon.

Our Wildlife team has been really busy out in West Texas. Candidly, they've been busy all over the state; but I'm going to just pick one particular project today to highlight. Y'all have heard a lot about the work of our Wildlife biologists out in West Texas on restoring Pronghorn and Bighorn sheep and the Mule deer management out there. Aoudad sheep have become a source of increasing interest and arguably concern out there. I think as probably most of you know, Aoudads are either beloved or reviled out there, depending on what you think of them and what your management goals are.

We do believe that their numbers are increasing in many of the mountain ranges out in West Texas; and our biologists are getting increasingly concerned about competition with, of course, the native Mule deer and Bighorn sheep. We've had concerns for sometime about disease transmissibility between Aoudad and Bighorns; but we've launched a study with support from the Texas Bighorn Society and in partnership with Texas Tech and Sul Ross to look at the overlap of Aoudad sheep and Mule deer and Bighorn in a mountain range out in West Texas near Van Horn to look at the competition for space and food and forage and water and so forth, but also to look at disease-related transmissibility possibilities there between Aoudad and other species. And so that project just got launched in January.

This late December I guess, Clayton, there was a big capture event in which Bighorns and Mule deer and Aoudads within a mountain range were captured and had transmitters fitted on them and our partners at Texas Tech will be following those over the next couple of years, again, to learn a bunch about numbers and dynamics and habitat utilization and spacial overlap. So that will be a very interesting study and will help facilitate our team's management of that species and that landscape in West Texas.

So, yeah, Mr. Chairman.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: How long -- how long is that study going to take, Carter?

MR. SMITH: You know, my guess is, Clayton, that's probably going to be a two-to-three year study?

MR. WOLF: That's my guess.

MR. SMITH: Is that -- I don't know if Mitch is here or Shawn. Is that correct?

Yeah, yeah. I think the transmitters are expected to last two years. Is that right, Shawn?

MR. GRAY: Yes, sir.

MR. SMITH: Yeah. So two to three years is what we would expect and so we'll keep you posted on that.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Thanks.

MR. SMITH: Great. We're excited about it.

Obviously, this body has been heavily involved with oyster-related management around the state as a Commission, but also working with the Legislature. You will undoubtedly recall HB 51 last session that now Speaker Bonnen and Representative Guillen and Senator Hinojosa and Kolkhorst and others sponsored to help provide more tools to assist with the management and regulation of commercial oyster harvest around the state.

House Bill 51 did a number of things for enhancing the management of that fishery in terms of giving us authority to create an oyster license buy-back program in which we could buy oyster licenses from willing sellers. For the first time, it also provided a requirement that oyster dealers that were buying oysters from commercial fishermen had to return 30 percent of the oyster shell or some other similar substrate equivalent to that or a value equal to that to the Department, basically to restore material back into the bays to help restore the reefs. And so that's the first time that we've had that in which any of that public material, that shell, returned back to the bays, again, to provide substrate for oyster spat to settle on and then help to grow back the reefs.

Our Coastal Fisheries team has been busy on the first round of oyster reef restoration through this program, and they've been adding shell to reefs in Galveston and Lavaca Bays and have additional reef enhancement projects planned in Aransas Bay and in San Antonio Bay. And so those will augment other efforts that we've got going on with oyster restoration up and down the coast, but we're excited about that development. I want to compliment Robin and Lance and their team for their work on that and moving it forward.

Another critical part of HB 51 had to do with the establishment of enhanced penalties for those commercial oyster fishermen that were repeatedly violating oyster protection related provisions, particularly concerned about the overharvest of juvenile oysters and, again, the repeated violations of the laws that the Commission and the Legislature have set protecting that resource.

Our Law Enforcement team has done a terrific job this oyster season, Grahame, having a lot of visibility and presence all up and down the mid and upper coast with respect to patrolling the waters and making sure the oystermen know that our game wardens are out there checking on things. As our team often does, they will occasionally launch specific multiagency operations to have an even more heightened presence and they had one such operation in December called "Operation Reef Safeguard" in Calhoun and Aransas Counties. That was a multiagency operation by land, water, and air and found what you would expect. You know, some boats that obviously had previous violations and were getting more violations. Had some individuals that had warrants out for their arrest from past violations that they were able to apprehend. Had boats fishing in restricted or closed areas. Some violation of the regulations on the amount of juvenile oysters they could harvest and so forth.

And I think, Grahame, also one boat in which there was not a single violation on and the crew there was incredibly proud of that fact and asked to have their pictures taken with the game wardens, which they did. So we thought that was a nice, nice touch; and, obviously, want to highlight anybody and everybody that's helping to --

COLONEL JONES: Absolutely.

MR. SMITH: -- mind their P's and Q's on the water and help to celebrate that. But the main message is that, again, the Department as a whole continues to put a huge emphasis on protecting this critical resource that this body knows is just so important to our bays and estuaries and the help of our Fisheries and our Law Enforcement and Coastal Fisheries team are doing a terrific job and so we'll continue to keep you posted on that front.

The last thing that I want to cover today -- and I'm going to do this really at a 30,000-foot level and we can come back to it later if you have any questions about kind of the granularity of it. I'll get Mike Jensen up here. But, obviously, as you know, the legislative session has started in earnest. Governor Patrick has named the committee members of the various committees. We're still awaiting to see which committee that we'll fall under.

As you recall last session in the Senate, we were under Chairman Perry, who oversaw the Senate Ag, Water, and Rural Affairs Committee. Governor Patrick has split off the Agricultural Committee into a new body and then Chairman Perry is going to oversee Water and Rural Affairs. Again, we're still waiting to see which committee that we'll be placed under from a jurisdictional perspective and we expect some news perhaps this week on Speaker Bonnen and his committee structure. Obviously, we'll still be in the House Culture and Recreation and Tourism Committee, I believe; but we're waiting news on who the chairman and members of that committee will be and as soon as we know, we will let you know.

One thing that we do have are the proposed House and Senate budgets, and so they have their baseline budgets. Those have been released, as has the Comptroller's biennial revenue estimate. And so, again, I want to do a quick kind of 30,000-foot fly over of that and just hit on some key topics on this to draw your attention to. And, again, if you've got some more detailed questions, I'll ask Mike to come up with.

This table basically depicts by the method of finance what we had proposed in our Legislative Appropriation Request or LAR. Again, big picture by method of finance -- GR, general revenue; GRD, general revenue dedicated; things like hunting and fishing licenses or Fund 64 for state parks. Our federal funds, you know, those are, of course, things like Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson related funding streams. Other funds are everything from revenue from grazing leases to interagency contracts to oil-and-gas revenue and so forth.

You can see what the House and Senate have proposed. Before I talk about some of the differences between the two bodies, what I want to emphasize is we are starting at a very good place from a baseline perspective in both the House and Senate. I could not feel better about where we are. And so that's a testament to this body and your work with the Legislature in making sure that they're aware of the core and critical needs of this Agency and I think we see that reflected in both the House and the Senate. No proposed reductions to operations. No proposed reductions to FTEs. That's obviously always a source of angst and anxiety as you might imagine, and so we were pleased about that.

The major differences really between the House and Senate can be encapsulated with this. First, the Senate, as you see, has proposed to appropriate more money than the House. That's largely an artifact of a couple of things. One, they have proposed to appropriate all of the available sporting goods sales tax to the Department as they had estimates at the time in which the budgets were prepared. So the Senate is proposing to appropriate that full 94 percent of the sporting goods sales tax to the Department to support the various state park and local park related needs. So that's a very positive development on that front. And, again, it's based on the estimates that they had at the time. Doesn't reflect the new estimates from the Comptroller. So there's a little bit of opportunity for growth there; but, again, starting in a great place.

The other major difference -- and you see this reflected, and I'll show you in a subsequent slide -- in GR, the Senate has proposed to put even more money than what we asked for to address the deferred maintenance or capital construction and repair related needs inside the parks. So that tells us very clearly what's on the minds of the Senate and where they're putting an emphasis is to, again, to help address deferred maintenance.

And so on the House side, they actually took out all of the funding that we thought might stay in our baseline budget and did not appropriate that initially, nor did they appropriate any additional funds for deferred maintenance like the Senate. Now, let me quickly say that is usually how it works actually. Usually both chambers do that and we have discussions throughout the session about what our deferred maintenance needs are, among other things. So I can't say that that's a surprise, but that's the main difference: The sporting goods sales tax appropriation, and the fact that the Senate put a lot of resources into the deferred maintenance. The House is obviously waiting to have more conversations about that.

So the other thing I think is really important and I'll talk about this in the next slide, y'all will recall --

COMMISSIONER LEE: Before you start that.

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER LEE: When you roll up to the LAR --

MR. SMITH: Uh-huh.

COMMISSIONER LEE: -- and it's about 50 million difference (inaudible) or so. What methodology did they use to end up that split the baby?

MR. SMITH: Yeah. So I think the easiest way to describe that -- and, Mike, you please jump in -- is we had $55 million in capital or deferred maintenance in our LAR that we were hoping would stay in our base. The Senate kept that amount in there. The House removed it. And then as you will recall, we had asked for another $40 million in deferred maintenance through exceptional items. The Senate added a lot more of that in there to address the needs inside the parks. The House didn't. So that's the main difference there. That roughly accounts for that 90 million.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Okay.

MR. SMITH: This is a really important part of this conversation and y'all will remember the discussion we had at one of the previous Commission meetings where we submitted our Legislative Appropriations Request and it was our hope that in working with the House and Senate appropriators and their staff, that there were a number of changes financially that they would make within our base budgets that would get approved and allowed for. And as you can see by this list, almost all of the things that we asked for from an adjustment perspective inside our base budget that would help to reprioritize or plug the proverbial holes in the dike got addressed. And so I want to highlight some of those to call your attention to it.

You will recall that for the last few biennia, we have been deficit budgeting in state parks to the tune of about $3 million a year and then covering that with lapsed salaries. That's a difficult way to run the proverbial railroad. Both the House and Senate fixed that issue.

You'll also recall that our Infrastructure team, their salaries have been project paid up to now. Meaning, that we've had to charge those expenses to projects. With the real oscillations in appropriation over biennia, that's been a challenge to be able to maintain the requisite level of staffing to manage projects that, as y'all know, are multiyear in nature, four to five years in nature. Plus, in the last biennium, the ability for the Department to be able to move unexpended or unencumbered capital balances from one biennia to the next was removed. And so our Infrastructure team, as they encumber funds at the end of a biennium going through the planning and design and ultimately the contracting for a construction project, the vast majority of a capital project will happen in a different biennia from which the original appropriation happened.

If we don't have the ability to move money from one biennia to the next, there's no place -- there has been no place for our Infrastructure staff to charge their time. And so this resolves a lot of issues. Plus, we're no longer charging those expenses to a project and so we have more funding to be able to invest in the capital project. So this was a huge thing for us and we're really, really, really pleased about it.

Couple of other things that I'll just highlight and, again, we can come back to them with any questions you have. Whole series of kind of method of finance related swaps that we wanted to ask the Legislature to consider and the House and Senate addressed any number of them. I'll give an example of that. Like our TV show, which y'all know is so important. Does a great job of communicating the messages for the Department. We've been funding that largely through Pittman-Robertson funds and so there are real restrictions then on what content we can have on that show to ensure that it's consistent with the source of funding. So we can't begin to kind of tell all the stories of the Department with the restricted nature of those funds.

And so the Legislature allowed us to change the method of finance to support that and also frees up those PR funds from other things related to hunting and shooting and wildlife management. So, again, a real help on that front.

We've talked to you in the past about some of the important Department-wide initiatives that we've lacked funding our base to be able to address. You know, things like risk management to deal with insurance and storm related recovery. Trying to have some nominal funding for George and his team on R and D related initiatives on IT. Tomorrow, you'll hear from Dr. Wheeler and Matt Kennedy the results of the Survey Employee Engagement; and as y'all know, our long-standing Achilles heel has been the compensation issue inside the Agency. And so we had proposed to the Legislature a request to be able to make more funding available to help try to address the compensation issue according to a plan that we're developing, and so all of those things were approved. So I could not, again, be more pleased with where we're starting from a base perspective and I want the Commission to know that and I know y'all will relay that to the members of the Legislature when you have a chance.

One item in particular I do want to call your attention to that we did not get included in the base and so we're going to be asking for it inside the exceptional items, y'all will recall the discussions about the need to replace our Law Enforcement radios and we had had a one-time appropriation of general revenue to help with a specific need during the current biennium. Our hope was that that general revenue would stay in our base budget and we'd be able to use it to help really address about four-fifths of the need we had to buy our Law Enforcement team new radios.

That general revenue was not included in the budget and so we're going to be asking for it as an exceptional item. One of those things I was disappointed; but again, to be fair, general revenue, they're always looking for opportunities to sweep that back in and then talk about how best to expend it during the session and so we look forward to working with y'all to make our case for that critical need. Again, all in all, we're starting in a great place. A lot of needs got addressed.

This next slide kind of shows then the modified Legislative Appropriations Request and how we account for the different proposed appropriations in the House and Senate, and then how we've had to summarily adjust our exceptional item request. Again, the things that we're asking for above and beyond the base budget for the Legislature to consider. That second line where it shows the LAR House/Senate base amount, that just reflects the total of what we asked for in our LAR and then the House initial base and the Senate base and you can see where we're starting.

What I want to really call your attention to are a couple of minor changes in the exceptional items that we have -- that we've asked for or had to adjust. You know, the first one being the increased state operational costs. We've talked a lot about that with y'all. With 10 million visitors a year coming to the parks, exceeding capacity, having to close parks because of thresholds, the public safety challenges, et cetera, the need to invest more in personnel there. And so we're still asking for that 15.4 million over the biennium in the House. We've had to adjust downward our request in the Senate because of a method of finance limitation and there's just not -- the way the Senate is proposing to fund our budget, there's not the available funding in either sporting goods sales tax or Fund 64. So it's a slightly less request there.

Palo Pinto Mountains State Park, we've talked a lot about and that 12-and-a-half-million dollar request over the biennium. We hope to leverage that with funds that the Parks and Wildlife Foundation would help raise, plus some other investments we make through our TxDOT Road Project to, again, bring that park online and that's a really high priority, obviously.

Capital construction and repair, that's the biggest change. You can see that $40.6 million request that we initially had. The reason it's bumped up so high in the House -- again, going back to Commissioner Lee's question and maybe we can talk more about this offline -- is there was $55 million of capital construction and repair deferred maintenance for both Fund 9 and Fund 64 related needs in the base. The House took that out. So that creates an automatic need for us that we adjusted our request upwards to reflect that. On the Senate side, again, they have proposed to fund everything we asked for and more on the deferred maintenance on the park side; but we still have important deferred maintenance needs on the Fund 9 side. And by that, I mean our Inland and Coastal hatcheries and our wildlife management areas that we've got to take care of and we have specific funding streams that can be used for those purposes and so our request to the Senate reflects that change.

The fourth item on Law Enforcement training, equipment, and aircraft, we had originally asked for 16 million. You see now that we're asking for an additional 4 million over the biennium. That reflects that 4 million that we were hoping to be able to keep in our base and then use to buy radios for our officers. So we bumped up that request.

That's really the sum and substance of the major changes in that. I do want to let you know, Chairman and Commissioners, that Senate Finance has scheduled our inaugural budget hearing for January the 30th. So that is next Wednesday. Senate Finance will start at 9:00 o'clock. I know Chairman Duggins is planning to go. Anybody else that's interested in being there, obviously, we'd love to have Commissioners in attendance to watch that. That will be our first discussion with Senate Finance this session, and so we're looking forward to that. And, obviously, we'll let you know when House Appropriations has their initial hearing, as well.

With that Mr. Chairman, that's a pretty -- again, and I intended for this to be a 30,000-foot fly over over the budget. Mike can answer any more granular questions. We can have some more offline conversations. Bottom line, we're starting at a really, really good place and that's the core message that I really want everybody to take home from this. There's some issues that we've got to continue to talk about with the Legislature and hope we can get some or all of them resolved, but as good a starting place as I've seen in my 11 years in this job.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Carter, on the -- I did not know we were going to get this included on this part of the budget, so; but on the dry berthing on the Battleship Texas, so they both -- so am I reading this --

MR. SMITH: No.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: -- where they understand anything or are we still in the same boat? Pardon the pun.

MR. SMITH: That's a -- yeah, good pun, Chairman.

COMMISSIONER LEE: And where is that boat?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Sinking. Sinking boat.

MR. SMITH: We are still in that same boat, and I'm sorry that that was not clear. That House initial/Senate initial, that really should only reflect that top line number of what was in the base. Everything beneath that in those columns are what we are still asking for, amounts we are still asking for in the House and Senate.

As you know on the Battleship, our goal here is really to call attention to this critical need and to try to get the Legislature to provide some direction about where to go with that. And, obviously, a lot of people feel very strongly about that issue on all sides of it and I won't belabor that point; but the amount is daunting, but we needed to call attention to it and we've done that. But, no, nobody has proposed to fund that yet.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: We've just got to keep shoving, right?

MR. SMITH: Yep.

COMMISSIONER LEE: What is the backup in our LAR if it was submitted to the dry berth option for the Battleship Texas?

MR. SMITH: What is the -- what is -- yeah.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Looking down the road, the maintenance on it, is that captured somewhere else over the --

MR. SMITH: Yeah, that's a great question, Commissioner. You know, I think we've estimated -- and, Jessica, please elaborate if need be. In general, you know, we've had roughly a million dollars a year in unplanned kind of repairs, emergency repairs to that ship. And so we would have to cover that out of either State Park operating funds within our base or that deferred maintenance amount and work with the Legislature just to reprioritize how we spend it.

So it would basically mean that some other project that we'd plan to go forward with -- say, some water or wastewater or bathroom project -- would have to take a backseat because of continued emergency management or maintenance on that ship. So it would essentially come out of whatever base budget we've got.

And we've tried to convey that, Commissioner, to the leadership about the expenditures we've had to that effect every year and obviously making the case that something needs to be done. The bubble gum and baling wire approach that we have now is we don't think sustainable.

Mr. Chairman, if there are not anymore questions, that concludes my remarks.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Any questions by any Commissioners?

Okay. Thank you, Carter.

MR. SMITH: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Work Session Item No. 2, Financial Overview. Mike, you're up.

MR. JENSEN: Good morning, Commissioners. I'm glad to be here this morning. I have a presentation I'm going to walk you through. This is not going to be a comprehensive review. We have two Commissioners. I would like to welcome y'all.

I just wanted to highlight the user fees that we rely on heavily, we're going to have a presentation that walks you through the state park fees, the boat fees, and the license fees. I want to get you an idea of what the average year-to-year growth has been and how Hurricane Harvey impacted that and has kind of lowered the growth. I wanted to get you an idea of what a 12-month cycle looks like for each one of those revenue streams, as well.

Before I get started, I want to -- I'm surprised that we didn't a whoop from Jessica. She's not an A&M graduate, but --

MS. DAVISSON: I don't know how to do it.

MR. JENSEN: -- that's -- the slide that Carter had up there, I've been here for ten years and a couple of those items we've been wanting to do for long before I got here. To eliminate salaries from project paid for Infrastructure, that's really a huge deal. So that's why I'm thinking she would want to say whoop. I think she hurt our Budget Director's hand from a high-five. It's not Workers' Comp claim, but I think he's still on injured reserve because of that.

Let's go to -- I'm going to give you a yearend so you can see how a yearend for '18 and the prior four years looks like for these revenue streams. We'll start with state parks. You can see this slide and you can see that downslope on '18. That's a result of the impact of Hurricane Harvey. If we compare the year-to-year average of '17 to '13, the growth rate was about 7 percent, about 3 million per year; but when we factored in the full year of fiscal year '18, that actual growth rate dropped to two and a half percent, about a million per year.

So '18 is significantly behind '17 about 9.3 percent, slightly behind '16; but it's ahead of '15 and '14. So we didn't recover to the '17 level that we had hoped.

If you look at a 12-month cycle, this is pretty typical for each fiscal year that we have. State park revenue, is pretty much -- it's a backloaded revenue stream. The first six months, the winter periods and with the exception of spring break months, it's about 35 percent of your revenue. The last six months is 65 percent of your revenue. Typically, your best months are the spring break month of March, about 13 percent last year's revenue; July was 12 percent; and June was 11 percent. Those three months themselves are about 38 percent of the revenue.

So when Carter was talking about going live with the new park business system, it's very important to get that going soon because they don't want to try to go live in the middle of spring break. You can see that's an important month for us.

Now, if we compare the variance, you can see this is all a factor of the hurricane because 2017 was really the best year of record that we had. The hurricane hit right at the end of the fiscal year of 2017, around August 17th, and lasted about three weeks. So it had a severe impact on state park revenue and a severe impact on license fee revenue; but not much of an impact noticeable on the boat revenue. So you can see '18 about 9 percent behind. That's about 5 million behind where we would like to be.

We were hoping to return this fiscal year to about the '17 level, but we're still -- we'll have some slides on that. The first quarter, we're still tracking a little bit behind.

The boat revenue is a smaller revenue stream. During the course of a year, it's roughly about 22, 22 and a half million that comes in from boat title fees, sales tax, and registration fees. The registration component is probably the more important. By close to the year's end, it's about two-thirds of that revenue stream. You'll look at the chart and you'll think sales tax, that's kind of puny, that 3.29 million in fiscal year 2018; but that really represents the 5 percent that's available to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

We collect boat sales tax all across the state, primarily in the Law Enforcement offices across the state. The other 95 percent is retained in general revenue for the State of Texas. So that other 95 percent is 62 and a half million. So the total sales tax that was collected in fiscal year '18 was $65.8 million.

And don't feel like we're being slighted. We do get other general revenue to the Department that helps the Department. Carter mentioned sporting goods sales tax. The two introduced bills are -- the Senate would give us the full 321 million that's coming in. We also get general revenue, unclaimed refund of motor boat fuel tax that comes into our Department. Those are revenue streams that we rely on and that are important to us. Sales tax is important here, but what I'm keying on is that registration is probably more important because it is the lion's share of that revenue stream.

In a 12-month cycle, this is even more backloaded than the state park fee revenue. We rely heavily on the spring and early summer months for this revenue stream. The first six months is about 29 percent of revenue. The last six months is about 71 percent. The peak month here is May, and that's typical of most years. So May is about 15 percent of the revenue, June is 14 percent, and July is 12. That's 40 percent of the revenue just for those three months alone.

We were surprised that 2018 was actually the best year of record for boat revenue because that's a very different story compared to the state park fees and license fee revenue. So while it may have been impacted by Hurricane Harvey, it wasn't as severe an impact.

You can see the total revenue was up 2.2 percent. That's almost half a million dollars. The volumes were up by nearly 2 percent. New registrations were up 3.7. Transfers were down 1 percent and renewals almost 2 percent and titles were up 2.2 percent.

This is a slide of the five-year yearend of the license revenue that comes in, and you can see how it kind of dropped off in license year '18. License year, really it's -- it mirrors the fiscal year, but they bring in additional two weeks' worth. License year starts the last two weeks of August, and then it carries from September through the end of August again. So you can see before the hurricane, the license year average year-to-year growth was a little over 2 percent, which is about 2.1 million. When we factor in license year 2018, it dropped that to about 1.6 percent, about 1.6 million per year.

We're hoping by the end of this license year to be closer to license year 2017 levels, which is the highest period that we've had; but right now, we're tracking closer to license year '16. It's not bad, but it's not where we'd want to be.

Talking about a front-loaded system, this is it and it's the nature of how we sell hunting and fishing licenses. Most of our fishing licenses are good from the beginning of the fiscal year to the end of the fiscal year, but we do have a fishing license that's a year from purchase. That's the only one like that. As a result, we've trained our customers to try to get in there when we start the new license year on August 16th to get their license. They get an extra two weeks for it, and it lasts a year.

So that first month alone accounts for about 38 percent of the revenue that comes in from license fee revenue. The first six months is about 73 percent, and the last six months is 27 percent. Combination in hunting peak periods is, of course, September; but it's also going to be that first quarter, September through December. Fishing is what we're going to rely on to wind down the year. You can see that on the chart. Fishing is September and March through July are the peak periods. Best months typically again are September, 38 percent; November, 13 percent; and October, 11 percent. Those three months themselves account for 62 percent of the revenue.

Now, when you look at the variance here, that drastically shows the impact of Hurricane Harvey. It's not as severe in the state park system; but when you lump resident and nonresident together, fishing last year was behind about five and a half percent, hunting resident and nonresident combined was about half a percent behind, combination licenses were behind about 3.4 percent, other licenses were ahead almost 1 percent.

So that's how we ended fiscal year and license year 2018. Here's how we look in the first quarter of 2019. This shows you the revenue that came in for each month. September was actually heavy when you do a September-to-September comparison, about 2.8 percent. However, October and November were both behind. So when we compare to '18 -- and '18 was actually a poor year to compare against -- state parks is behind 4.3 percent through November. However, I don't have December on here. December was a good month. December was 7.4 percent better than last year's December. So through December, we're still year-to-date behind about 2 percent.

So that's what it looks like. And, again, you've got to remember the state park's revenue is more of a backloaded. So we're looking at the lower revenue months right now. This will look hopefully different as we get to spring break and the summer months.

MR. SMITH: Mike, just for the Commission's edification, isn't it important also to acknowledge that maybe one of the drivers that we're seeing here is all of the construction projects that we have going on inside the parks and we've got a fair amount of parts of parks that are closed to visitors and so I think we're seeing some of that effect, too. I mean, ultimately, that's an important investment long term; but in the short term, I guess I'm not surprised to see that visitation being driven down a little bit by that, as well.

MR. JENSEN: I'd agree that's correct. The biggest driver for all these revenue streams is something we can't control. It's weather. I mean, Hurricane Harvey is a weather issue. When I started with the Department almost ten years ago, it was drought. The drought has severe impact on state park revenue and it can impact license revenue, as well. And sometimes rain is a great thing; but this year, it rained every weekend when people wanted to dove hunt. I think that may have impacted the license revenue when we get to those slides.

So you can see through November, that we still haven't recovered. We want to be closer to the fiscal year '17, the best year; but we're tracking closer to '16. It's not bad, but it's not where we want to be. We'd like to see some gradual growth for each year to year.

And that's just the two-year comparison. It shows that through November, we're down 4.3 percent. That's going to improve when we add December in there. And that gives you the variances for the different revenue streams. Entrance fees down, which correlates strongly to visitation. Total visitation is down by nearly 12 percent right now, and some of that may be construction; but a lot of that typically is weather because we've had some flooding events that have closed parks down and the Hurricane Harvey, it took a lot of work to open up some of those sites.

Before we got to the Hurricane Harvey, the prior two years, we were having visitation growing at nearly 10 to 11 percent a year, so. Which is a good thing, but it's also a challenge because it creates additional operational costs. So our base budget that we submitted is a good thing. We're trying to address some of those operational difficulties and holes that we had. So they're filled and hopefully will continue and we'll get some additional help with our exceptional items that Carter mentioned.

Boat revenue the first quarter. Again, the boat revenue was not as impacted by the hurricane. It's -- last year was the best year of record. There's not a lot of fluctuation year to year. September was 7 percent better than the prior September, but October and November we're behind. So we're tracking slightly behind '18, but '18 is the best year of record.

This gives you the comparison back to fiscal year '15 for the first quarter for each of these years. You can see before '18 was the best year of record, '16 was the best year of record because it was performing very well in the lower revenue months. Through November, revenue is down about 40,000; and that's holding steady through December, as well. It's pretty even with '18. And this gives you the variances of the revenue. It also gives you the count on volumes. Registrations are down about 8 percent, and titles are down about 7.4 percent. Sales tax has been doing very well.

Moving to the license revenue. We started the year very well. It was a very strong September and since it's a front-loaded and front-loaded in that first month, that was a great start. So we compare it to the prior year, which was truly a poor year, we're 3.9 percent ahead, which is a million and a half. However, October is six and a half percent behind and November was about seven and a half percent behind. So year to date, we're about three-tenths of a percent behind license year 2018; and 2018 is not what we want to mirror. We want to mirror 2017, pre-hurricane.

So when you chart that first quarter out, this is what it looks like. You can see we're closer to about a license year 2016 level, which isn't bad. So for the first quarter we're down by three-tenths of a percent or 174,000; but that's comparing us to license year 2018. If you compare us to where we want to be, license year 2017, we're about 3.8 million behind where we'd like to be.

And this gives you the variances. So fishing, when you combine resident and nonresident, it's behind about a half a percent. Hunting is behind 2.7 percent. That's probably not going to recover much. All we have really left is the turkey hunt. Combination licenses are down by nearly 1 percent, and other license types are up about almost 7 percent. Fishing, the strongest months for that are March through May. So we're going to rely heavily on fishing. Hopefully, we have a great year for fishing.

This slide here shows what the Commission had approved as the starting budget for the Department back in August, and these figures tie exactly to the General Appropriations Act. The big -- if you look at the book, it's about the size of a dictionary. We're in Article 6. And it was 344.5 million for this current fiscal year with a line item for employee fringe, 74.5. So that's 419.02.

Since then, we've had some adjustments. And in August, we mentioned that that line item for employee fringe benefits looked to be -- the Legislative estimate was too high. So you'll see this adjustment in parenthesis down there, the fifth item, negative 21.63. That's to bring the estimate down closer to what actuals are going to be for the year. That's what that adjustment is.

UB on this slide means "Unexpended Balances." What that means is we had authority to spend money in 2018. We didn't spend it, but we're able to move that authority and spend that in the current fiscal year. So we had operational noncapital UB amount of 3.8 million that were moved into the '19 budget. Federal and UB of federal and -- federal funds from the prior year that we're moving forward, 71.04 million. That's from 29 different federal sources. The third line item there is appropriated receipts in UB, primarily donations, about 76 percent of that 20.1 million. Capital construction UB from nine different sources of finance, includes federal funds, sporting goods sales tax, bonds, even the lifetime license endowment. Total adjustments would be 146.99 million for an adjusted budget as of November 30th of 566.01 million.

That's all I had prepared for you today. I just wanted to give you a rundown on the revenue streams and what the high level -- what the budget adjustments are. I'd be happy to try and answer any questions about these slides or some additional detail on the introduced House and Senate versions if you have any.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Any Commissioners have any questions on this?

COMMISSIONER BELL: I just have one question. Just to make sure when you were doing the 2018-2019 comparison, that was quarter to quarter, not the '18 year and a projection for '19?

MR. JENSEN: It's quarter to quarter actuals. Uh-huh.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Any other questions?

Okay. Thank you, Mike.

MR. JENSEN: Thanks.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Work Session Item No. 3, Internal Audit Update. Cindy, you're up.

MS. HANCOCK: I've got to get in the lower chair here. Good morning. I'm Cindy Hancock, Director of Internal Audit; and I'm going to give you a quick update on the completion status of our internal audit plan and any external audits.

So our fiscal year '18 internal audit plan looks like this to date. All of our audits have been completed, with two remaining special projects, our TxDOT Gov reconciliation and ethnics review still yet to be issued. I expect these last projects to be completed and issued within the next three weeks, and then we'll wrap up our fiscal year '18 audit plan.

For the fiscal year '19 audit plan, we have six projects going on. The IT audit regarding the Texas Wildlife Information Management System and the grant audit and they'll be completing their fieldwork in the next week. These audits will be reviewed and a report written and issued shortly thereafter. I have two auditors conducting the Law Enforcement fiscal control audit and we have completed six field office sites -- have visited fieldwork for six field office sites at Victoria, San Antonio, Fort Worth, Beaumont, north and south Houston offices and we have issued one report and it was for the Victoria office and it had no findings.

Our follow-up audit will be ongoing throughout the fiscal year. Since my last update to you in November, two internal and one external audit recommendation have been implemented. We've also withdrawn one internal audit recommendation because it was replaced by SAO, a very similar external audit recommendation during the SAO fleet audit. Management is currently working to resolve the other 21 external audit findings and 17 internal audit findings.

For the two advisory projects that are underway, I'm working with the new FEMA and ADA coordinators and will be providing them different types of information that will hopefully help them and assist them in their duties.

For ongoing external audits, fieldwork for one external audit by the Comptroller has been completed. However, we have not received a final report. The SAO has completed fieldwork for the audit of the information technology job classifications, and this audit involves all statewide natural resource agencies. However, we have not received a report for it either.

The State Auditor's Office has also begun an audit with the Texas Comptroller -- of the Texas Comptroller's vendor performance tracking system where they're looking at the accuracy of the system information and user access to that system. Their audit will be -- will include the Comptroller's Office, Parks and Wildlife, and the Texas Workforce Commission. Tentatively, they've said that that report will be issued in May.

Since there's not been any completed external audits, I have nothing to talk about on that one. So that concludes my presentation. I'll be glad to answer any of your questions.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Any Commissioners have any questions?

Well, you're getting off light.

MS. HANCOCK: Yeah, it was a short one. Sometimes things happen rapidly, and sometimes it takes a while to get it. So next meeting we should have some updates.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Thank you very much, Cindy.

MS. HANCOCK: All right. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: As previously stated, Work Session Item No. 7 has been withdrawn at this time.

Relating to Work Session Item No. 8, Acquisition of Access Easement, Bexar County, Approximately a Tenth Acre at Government Canyon State Natural Area, does any Commissioner have any questions or comments on this item?

If not, I'll place the acquisition of access easement of approximately a tenth of an acre on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Work Session Item No. 8, Acquisition of Access Easement -- oop. Same one. Is that a duplication? Oh, no. I did the short version. Excuse me. Forget that. We're onto No. 9.

Work Session Item 9, Donation of Land, Reeves County, Approximately 5 Acres at Balmorhea State Park, any Commissioners have any questions or comments?

If not, I'll place the donation of land, Reeves County, approximately 5 acres at Balmorhea State Park on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Work Session Item No. 10, Exchange of Access Easements, Presidio County, Big Bend Ranch State Park. Ted, you're up.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good morning. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This first item we're going to look at, pertains to Big Bend Ranch State Park. As many of you know, it's out in West Texas in the Big Bend Region of the Rio Grande, just a stone's throw from the Big Bend National Park. It is our largest state park by far at about 310,000 acres.

The area we're going to be looking at is adjacent to what we call the "panhandle" in the northern, northwest portion of the park. From a staff perspective, this is sort of a housekeeping item; but it does require your authorization.

We acquired the lion's share of the park in 1988 and have added to it several times since then. Again, a big park with about 22 miles of frontage on the Rio Grande. Over 100 miles of boundary in common with private landowners. And most of y'all have been in that neck of the woods. You know it's pretty rugged terrain and sometimes it's not easy to get from Point A to Point B, and we're -- we have several agreements with the adjacent landowners regarding fences and access roads and other agreements that are in our common interest.

In the year 2000, La Mota property you saw, 13,000 acres -- over 13,000 acres -- was donated to the Agency for addition to the park. At the time, we were also granted a 10-mile long easement that ran north and south through that ranch. It runs near the ranch headquarters and it connects an internal park road to the northern portion of that panhandle.

Last year, we did an exchange that y'all authorized with the La Mota Ranch that added several hundred acres to the park, simplified that boundary; but it also resulted in us acquiring a much, much, much better road into that northern panhandle. That 10-mile long easement, I might add, is a really hard way to get from Point A to Point B. I believe David Riskind is probably the only State Parks employee who has ever been on that road. And, again, we retained it because we saw there might be some utility for it; but now that we have a much better road, the owners of that road have asked us to abandon it -- or the owners have asked us to abandon the easement.

And in exchange, there is an existing road in the southwest corner of their property that's about a mile long that would connect two of our internal park roads which provide much more utility for the staff and for the public to get into that southern portion of the panhandle. It would save many, many, many, many miles of going around on existing internal state park roads; and the owner of the ranch has agreed that if we will abandon that 10-mile long easement that runs by their headquarters, they will grant to us that 1-mile easement that really makes more operational sense for us.

And you can see in this map where those easements are. Again, that existing easement, I doubt seriously that anyone from the public has ever used it. And, again, we have much better access into that northern panhandle now than we had before. That replacement easement you can see just lops off that southwest corner of their ranch; but it does save many, many, many miles around from one ranch road to -- from one park road to another. And those park roads do lead to remote camping areas that the public does use.

I would add that I use the term "road" pretty loosely here. These are jeep traces. Most of them require high clearance. Many of them require four-wheel drive and someone who knows how to operate a four-wheel drive to get there from here. But, again, that -- staff believe that that shorter easement would have far more utility, more operational usefulness for the park.

We have received no comments from the public regarding this item, and staff requests that the item be placed on Thursday's agenda for public comment and action. I would be happy to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Any question by any Commissioners?

Looks like a pretty cut-and-dried deal to me.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: It makes a lot of sense to staff. Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Okay. Well, if there's no further discussion, I will place the exchange of access easements, Presidio County, Big Bend Ranch State Park on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

And now we're going to play musical chairs since the powers that be are back. And I'm sure dying to hear what you learned, Reed.

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Well, you have to talk to the lawyer. I'm just a pseudo-lawyer. Where did he go?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Good question.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Sorry. Good morning. It's so good to see you.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: It's good to see you. It's good to be here.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you, Commissioner Scott, for handling things while Reed and I were downstairs -- downtown.

Where's Bob?

Bob, can I diverge for a minute and summarize the arguments that just took place downtown?

MR. SWEENEY: I think the best time do to that would be in Executive Session.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. Sorry. And you have welcomed our two new comrades to the --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I have.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: -- den of --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: We've warned them -- we've warned them about you and many other things.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay.

COMMISSIONER LEE: Don't do it. Don't do it.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: We've got the whips.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. Well, good. Thank you for indulging us and participating in the arguments of the Supreme Court.

So next item, Work Session 11, Transfer of Real Estate, Brazoria Country, Approximately 355-Acre Dredge Placement Area at Bryan Beach, Permission to Begin Public Notice and Input. Again, Ted.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good morning. For the record, my name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program.

This particular item is -- has been lingering for quite some time. It pertains to a property called Bryan Beach. At one time, it was called Bryan Beach State Park. It was property we acquired back in the 70s and 80s with the intent of creating a state park on the beach outside of Freeport, just south of Freeport, Texas. It consists of a number of tracts. A number of which we acquired by condemnation. It's a pretty impressive stretch of beach; but it's very, very, very difficult to get to.

We had amassed close to 900 acres by the time we realized that the access was so difficult and the terrain and the climate was so harsh that it just -- we did not have the capacity to turn that into a state park, but we did that during the 70s and 80s. And in 1986, we entered into a transfer of jurisdiction with Texas Department of Transportation to continue using a portion of this site for the placement of dredge material from the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway.

TxDOT is the State agency that is the State sponsor of the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway under Chapter 51 of the Texas Transportation Code. I would add that they have been depositing dredge spoil on that site for many decades before we acquired it. I'm not sure how aware we really were of that at the time, but we have aerial photographs going back into the early 1940s that show that by that time, it was well underway as a dredge placement for the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway.

Ultimately, again, we realized that it just wasn't feasible to develop a traditional state park there. The Commission asked us to locate a local sponsor for that property that turned out to be the City of Freeport. We transferred or we attempted to transfer the property to the City of Freeport with a reverter in it stating that it had to be used as park property. We -- and I'll get to this in a moment, but the reverter -- I'm sorry. The transfer jurisdiction that would have allowed TxDOT to allow the Corps of Engineers to continue placing dredge spoil there, expired in 2017; and TxDOT -- when TxDOT looked to renew that, they did some title research and realized a couple of things. One of which was that under the reverter, the City really didn't have possession of that dredge spoil area because it couldn't be used for park purposes. They also realized that we had not successfully transferred the entire property to the City of Freeport. That close to half of that property, because of the number of tracts and the way the transfer was written, we still own.

And so it's a complicated situation and we've been working with the City of Freeport and with TxDOT to try and come up with a good resolution for that. So what we're proposing to do is have the City of Freeport quitclaim the entire -- whatever we transferred to them back in 2005, to quitclaim that all back to the Department. Let the Department carve out everything that is not part of Placement Area 88, the 355-acre dredge placement area. Convey that back to the City, again with a reverter requiring that it be used for park purposes. And then that 355-acre dredge placement area, TxDOT would like to purchase -- would like to purchase in fee simple so that they don't go through this cycle of having to renew the easement every few decades.

Here's the summary of that. The City would quitclaim their interest back to TPWD. We would clear up remaining title issues as best we could. We would convey everything to -- back to the City of Freeport, save and except Placement Area 88. Again, with a clause requiring that the City continue to use that for park purposes. And then the proposal that requires your authorization is that we -- is that we would then sell Placement Area 88 to the City -- I'm sorry, to TxDOT at fair market value.

TxDOT does have an appraisal underway, an appraisal of that property. They've retained a Valbridge Appraisal Services out of the Houston office. It's an appraisal -- an appraiser that we've worked with in the past. We have a lot of confidence in their work, and we anticipate finding out what that value is before we return to the Commission.

In this map, you can see what that entire area look likes and what part of that has been used for dredge placement and what part of that would remain as a city park. And staff requests permission to begin the public notice and input process. I'd be happy to answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Members, any questions?

I have one. You propose that the City quitclaim to the Department. Why wouldn't the City give us a deed?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Well, the deed they received from us is a deed without warranty, of course. And quite frankly, we don't know what they own and don't own and what we own and don't own and the amount of title research that we would be required to determine that to prepare a viable -- a viable exhibit for the deed would be prohibitive. And I guess we could -- we could take exactly the deed that they received and --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: That's what I propose.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: -- have them deed it back to -- there's no reason not to do that.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. Well, I'd like to then propose that we adjust the recommendation to be they execute the exact same instrument that we executed with them as the grantee.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: I will ask Colette Barron to chime in if there's anything I'm overlooking here.

MS. BARRON-BRADSBY: I don't think so. Commissioners, I'm Colette Barron-Bradsby from the Legal Division; and I assist Ted in the Land Conservation transactions.

I think we have a number of options available to us, and we settled on the quitclaim because it seemed to be the most simple for the City of Freeport to wrap their heads around; but we can use whatever transaction would actually legally transfer whatever interests that the City has.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: I just suggest pull the instrument where we conveyed whatever we conveyed to the City and just reverse it and refer to that instrument by volume and page number and just have it be them sign the exact same conveyance. For whatever it was worth then, it's worth that back to us.

MS. BARRON-BRADSBY: Okay. We can pursue that.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Is everybody okay with that?

Okay. Well, with that adjustment, I will place the exchange of real estate, Jefferson County, on tomorrow's meeting agenda for public comment and action. All right. Did I read that right? No. Sorry. I'll authorize staff to begin public notice and input process regarding the transfer of real estate in Brazoria County, approximately 355-acre dredge placement area.

Work Session Item No. 12, Conveyance of Access Easements, Van Zandt County, Ted, 2 Acres at Purtis Creek State Park.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir. Chairman, Commissioners, good morning. For the record, my name is still Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program.

This is another housekeeping item from staff perspective, regarding a couple of acres in the northwest county -- northwest corner of Purtis Creek State Park. Purtis Creek State Park straddles Henderson and Van Zandt Counties and sort of northeast -- central northeast Texas, about 10 miles northwest of Athens. Not a real big park at about 1,600 acres. Very, very, very pretty park that surrounds a 355-acre lake. Again, just a very popular, very pretty park. Especially for folks coming out of the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Roughly 65,000 visitors a year, which is a lot for a -- you know, for a small -- for a small park in that part of the state. Again, just a very popular destination.

In 2009, we purchased a two-and-a-half-acre strip of land with a dirt road running through it. Just a long, narrow strip in that north-northwest corner -- and I'll show you on a map in a moment -- in order to provide access into a section of the park that was otherwise cut off by the lake and by a creek and the topography and we needed access into that area for management and for emergency use.

The road that was there was serving several other landowners at the time, had been for decades; and previously in the chain of command, easements had been retained. When the property was sold to us, the seller and their broker and their title company, quite frankly, simply overlooked the conveyance of an easement. These landowners have used this driveway -- these driveways to get their to homes ever since. No one has said anything until somebody went to sell a tract a few months ago, and the title company noticed that there was a break in that chain of access.

We've only been asked, again, for one easement to serve one tract that has actually subsequently being -- has been sold. But the title company and staff really feel like it would be a good idea to go ahead and paper those easements for all of those existing landowners that so that in the future, there don't continue to be questions about whether or not there's legal access to their homes and their properties.

Staff believe that the conveyance of these easements is not going to interfere with operations in any way. It hasn't in the time that we've owned that road; and, again, we only use it rarely for access into that corner of the park. We feel like the fair thing to do and the right thing to do is convey what was obviously intended to be conveyed previously, which is access to the existing landowners.

You can see where that is in relationship to the park and here you can see a closeup and you can see several barns and homes and tracts of land that are served by that road that also serves the park.

We've received no public comments regarding this item, and the TPWD staff requests that this item be placed on Thursday's agenda for public comment and action. I'll be happy to answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Members, questions or comments?

I have one. Why -- could we look into limiting the easement use to nonindustrial, noncommercial use?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir. There's not currently an easement. The easement, it will be issued under our items. Yes, sir, we can do that.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: The use of the easement has been to access residential property?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: That's correct. Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: How do they access the easement?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Sir?

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: How do they access the easement?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: It's from -- it's from a county road there you can see on the west side of that easement. I think I have the actual -- no, I don't have --

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: From left to right?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: From left to right, yes, sir. That is a paved -- that's a good paved north-and-south county road.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: I'd like to suggest that limitation, that it not be an easement for use for industrial or commercial purposes.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir. May we exclude traditional home business use?

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Yes.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Okay.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay.

MR. SMITH: And I assume, Chairman, that wouldn't preclude somebody that that's, you know, running a small livestock operation or a little poultry operation or something like that. That's not the intention, right?

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: That's an agricultural use.

MR. SMITH: Okay. Yeah, yeah, okay.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. I will place the conveyance of access easements as limited just a minute ago in Van Zandt County for public comment and action on tomorrow's Commission Meeting agenda.

Work Session 13, Exchange of Real Estate, Jefferson County, 120 Acres at the J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area. Ted, will you present that issue?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good morning. My name is Ted Hollingsworth, and I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This is an item that most of y'all have seen two or three times already. We've discussed the fact that at J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area, which is just south of Port Arthur in south -- extreme Southeast Texas, that we acquired a tract a number of years ago called Round Lake.

It's a neat lake, similar to some of the other isolated, round, freshwater intermediate lakes that you can see in that landscape. It appears -- it appears from the history that we thought at the time we acquired it, we would probably acquire surrounding land. The surrounding land is owned by an industrial interest, Port Arthur -- Port Arthur LNG.

The Round Lake property has been -- has proved difficult to get to. You can see a tiny line there which is a very small canal. Access is primarily by airboat. The only public use right now is an annual youth alligator hunt. Otherwise, there is, for all intents and purposes, no public use; and we rarely access it.

We acquired it in 1988. Again, it's surrounded by property belonging to Port Arthur LNG. Because of erosion on the Port Arthur Ship Channel, the highway and several pipelines are going to have to be rerouted around the PALNG property and that will -- they will cross that canal that gets to Round Lake, which is going to further hamper our access to that property. You can see in this picture what that looks like. You can see the property owned by PALNG, and you can see where the reroute of the road and the pipelines will occur.

For this reason, staff feels like there's just going to be decreasing utility in terms of the mission of the wildlife management area for that Round Lake property. PALNG is also concerned. They are in the process securing permits for an LNG export facility. They're concerned about Round Lake being a liability and ultimately hampering their use of their property for industrial development. And so as most of you know, they approached us about a year ago about the possibility of finding a property that was of more value to the Department and to the wildlife management area and entering into an exchange.

Per discussions that we've had with y'all in Executive Session, we had determined that any exchanged property should be of similar habitat type and support a comparable suite of coastal wetlands and species, offer significantly greater net fish and wildlife values, offer public access and recreation commensurate with the rest of the wildlife management area, and be adjacent to the wildlife management area and not complicate operations or require additional staff.

As it turns out, staff had had their eye on a 1,280-acre tract of land for some time, the Howell tract. I've been talking to the Howells off and on for probably seven or eight years. It's a tract that is very desirable from a biological standpoint, from a potential recreation standpoint.

In discussions with PALNG, they requested permission to pursue acquisition of that as a potential trade. We, in turn, discussed that with the Commission. That tract is under contract. The parties are prepared to close on fairly short notice should the Commission so authorize.

We've received one public comment from the Southeast Texas Clean Air and Water Association. They -- their comment was that it clearly, clearly enhances conservation values in Southeast Texas. They do note that access for public recreation to the 120 acres is limited. They suggest limiting access to a portion of the acquisition tract, as well. They also suggest that -- they don't ask the Commission to take action, but they just suggest in their letter that PALNG maintain Round Lake in its current natural condition.

The Parks and Wildlife Department staff request that this item be placed on Thursday's agenda for public comment and action. I'll be happy to answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Commissioners, questions or comments?

Commissioner Warren.

COMMISSIONER WARREN: I have a question. So with this exchange, would -- have you ever done this or does this make any sense that if they were to market that property down the line, could we attach a right of first refusal if they were to sell the property that we're exchanging, the Round Lake property?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: I'm going to ask Colette to join us. We have broached that topic. I'm not sure they're opposed to that, but I just simply do not recall.

MS. BARRON-BRADSBY: Again, Commissioners, I'm Colette Barron-Bradsby in the Legal Division. We have approached this as a straight out trade, and we do think we're getting a pretty good benefit for it. We have said, though, any deal is contingent upon Commission approval and that the Commission might want to put conditions upon that transact -- you know, upon that transaction. So, I mean, we can begin that discussion. We have not had a specific discussion about the range of options that might be or conditions imposed upon it. Right now, it is just a straight transaction, the Round Lake property for the Howell tract, with no other conditions.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: I'd like to have a discussion with you in Executive Session because I think this involves legal strategy. Not any kind of lawsuit, of course; but, I mean, just to get legal advice and to discuss the potential for tweaking things. So let's put this on a discussion for Executive Session if we can.

MR. SWEENEY: Yes, Mr. Chairman. Thank you. Bob Sweeney here from the Legal Division. It is noticed for Executive Session. So --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. Well, let's hold -- withhold action until we have a chance to discuss it in Executive Session.

MR. SWEENEY: Thank you.

MS. BARRON-BRADSBY: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right. Let's see here. Well, pending the discussion in Executive Session, I'll defer moving that to the Commission agenda until later today. Okay?

All right. Thank you very much.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: My pleasure.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: We'll now hear Item 4, the 2019-20 Statewide Recreational and Commercial Fishing and Statewide Oyster Fishery Proclamations. Start with Ken Kurzawski. Welcome, Ken.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Thank you, Commissioner. Good morning, Commissioners. My name is Ken Kurzawski with the Inland Fisheries Division; and today, I'll be reviewing the proposed changes to the freshwater fishing regulations for the new regulatory year that starts in September 2019.

Just to go over a quick summary of what we'll be proposing today. We are changing or adding some bass regulations on four locations, we're modifying an area for a 12-inch Largemouth bass limit in Southeast Texas, and we're also going to discuss some modifications to Alligator gar harvest regulations and requirements.

Starting off with Lake Conroe. Lake Conroe is an important bass fishery in the Houston metro area that has produced 17 ShareLunkers. Here by ShareLunking -- ShareLunker, referring to Largemouth bass 13 pounds and larger that have been submitted to us for spawning purposes as part of our ShareLunker Program. It also has been a popular tournament destination, hosting the 2017 Bassmaster's Classic and five Toyota Texas Bass Classics.

After review and standardization of bass regulations that we undertook last year, it was the only lake with a 16-inch minimum length limit for Largemouth bass. Because of the importance of this reservoir and fishery, local staff took a close look at the bass population and fishery. They modeled the current population under a 14-inch minimum length limit and found that the impacts to the fishery would most likely be minimal with a change from 16 to 14 inches.

As we discussed last year, we're not undertaking the standardization just to standardize. Our goal here is to maintain good fish populations, and angling is still a top priority.

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 length limit. We are considering moving to a 16-inch maximum limit, which confines all harvest of bass less than six -- which confines all harvest of bass less than 16 inches, but does allow temporary possession of bass over 24 inches and 13 pounds for submission to the ShareLunker Program. Goals are here are to maximize catch of larger bass and allow the harvest of some smaller bass.

Next on Lakewood Lake, this is a 47-acre lake being developed as a Leander City park and will include fishing access. We were considering this last year, but there were some issues with border land that we are resolving. This park is tentatively scheduled for opening in fall 2019. We are considering implementing an 18-inch minimum length limit and a five-fish daily bag limit for Largemouth bass. This lake has an existing quality of Largemouth bass population, and this limit is typically what we use to protect bass populations in these situations from overharvest when open to more fishing.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Before you move forward, can I ask you a question about Lakewood?

MR. KURZAWSKI: Sure.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Well, since it's only a 47-acre lake, is there concern that allowing everybody to take five could quickly deplete the existing quality of bass population? Should that number be lower given that it's a -- that's a small lake and accessible from the shoreline, I presume.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Yes, there will be shoreline access. Typically, what we've seen in many of these small lakes on 18-inch, our bass anglers just aren't harvesting that many bass and that 18-inch has proved, you know, beneficial in those situations. We can certainly, you know, decrease that. We have had lower limits for larger fish in some of the other reservoirs.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Well, how about -- what's your thought on -- if you kept the five-fish daily bag limit and you said only one over X inches, wouldn't that be --

MR. KURZAWSKI: Well, it is -- it would be -- you know, it is over 18 inches. I guess we could -- you know, currently, you just can't keep fish 18-inch over. So we have five --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: But that's my concern is --

MR. KURZAWSKI: Right.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: -- you're harvesting the larger fish and if everybody harvested five in such a small lake, that seems to me that doesn't take very long for that to --

MR. KURZAWSKI: Well, we can certainly, you know, do -- we have used, like, 21 or 24, limiting the harvest of fish over that size for some of our other limits in the past. And currently, we have a limit of -- in some of our lakes, a limit of one over 24 inches. That would be another way we could tweak that, or we could just reduce the overall bag to something like three.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: I'd propose we go to three, I think, just to see how that works. And if it's still fine and we have more fish than we need in that waterbody, then we can always ramp up the take; but I think just be a little more conservative going in, given that it's such a small waterbody.

MR. KURZAWSKI: You know, we could -- we could propose that moving forward.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Our next -- for Lake Alan Henry, Alan Henry is one of our newer reservoirs, having been impounded in the early 1990s. It was originally stocked with Largemouth and Smallmouth bass and later with Alabama bass in 1996. At that time, Alabama bass was considered a subspecies of Spotted bass, known as Alabama Spotted bass; but recently was elevated to species status and in 2017, that species name was updated in our rules, if you recall that action we took.

Alabama bass are native to the Mobile River drainage in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. It attains larger sizes than the Spotted bass native to Texas and other states, and that trend continues when it is -- species are stocked outside its native range. The world record currently comes from California. The species seems to do best High Land reservoirs, similar to some of the places they've been stocked in California that have water fluctuations and that's why we experimented with it at Alan Henry. Alan Henry is a fairly isolated lake outside of the range of our native Spotted bass.

The current regulation is that we manage both species with the special five-fish bag that we have on this reservoir and two others, Jacksonville and Ivie. Our goal is to redistribute the harvest and hopefully produce some bass -- some over 18-inch Largemouth bass and Alabama bass. The number of ShareLunkers from here attest to the good harvest -- the good Largemouth bass fishing; but while abundant, few Alabama bass have exceeded 18 inches.

We are proposing to remove Alabama bass from the special five-fish bag, which means anglers could harvest up to five Alabama bass of any length. This coincides with the statewide limits for Spotted and Alabama bass. Since Alan Henry is the only lake with Alabama bass, this would also eliminate another statewide exception to simplify our rules.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Wait just a second.

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: And I've got one question.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Sure.

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: There's no minimum length?

MR. KURZAWSKI: No, there would not be any minimum size.

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Statewide is 12 for --

MR. KURZAWSKI: Yes, 12 for Spotted bass and Alabama bass. Alabama -- as I mentioned, that is the only location where we have Alabama bass. A lot of the numerous reservoirs where we have abundant Spotted bass populations, there's a number of them less than 14 inches or 12 inches and they're not overharvested in any way, shape, or form. In fact, anglers -- a lot of cases --

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: So there's no need to put a minimum?

MR. KURZAWSKI: No. No, that's not a concern.

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Okay.

MR. KURZAWSKI: And next, moving to Southeast Texas. The change from a 14- to 12-inch minimum length limit was done in 2016 in response to increased interest in bass fishing and bass tournaments in the coastal estuaries of Southeast Texas. We've always known that the bass population in coastal areas were different than the populations further inland. These areas have numerous 12- and 13-inch bass, but few bass over 14 inches.

Actual mortality in these systems is high, even though the condition of the fish is good. Typically, bass are needing four years to reach 14 inches; and typical in other parts of the state, it's two to three years. When we looked at coastal populations in other Gulf states, we found the populations in these areas displayed similar characteristics.

The 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 Toledo Bend Dam down to Sabine Pass. Toledo Bend Reservoir is not included in this 12-inch limit.

The change has been well-received there, and it has local support. We have had some compliance enforceability issues with the waters that border and extend into non-listed counties. We want to accomplish -- encompass those waters that have bass populations with similar characteristics to -- excuse me -- eliminate some of these issues. Therefore, we're proposing adding a portion of Liberty County, the area south of the U.S. Highway 90, and all Hardin and Newton Counties in an effort to improve understanding enforceability of the regulation. Toledo Bend will continue to be excluded from the 12-inch minimum.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Wait just a second before you move to Alligator gar.

Dick, are you okay with all this or you got questions?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yeah. You know, Ralph, if you'll remember back, it's been a few years back, Representative Phelan from down there came to us and we had done a study. They were trying to get the inch length decreased because the bass are so much smaller in that brackish water, and we approved that back then. And, basically, this just is expanding the same concept, is my understanding; and it makes good sense to me because the bass are just not -- they just don't grow good in that brackish water.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay.

MR. KURZAWSKI: We worked with Representative Phelan on this and when we proposed that change in 2016, he attended our public meeting down there and he and local people were very supportive of it.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Yeah. Well, we appreciate Commissioner Scott's close involvement in that area and, in particular, this issue. So thank you. All right, on to Alligator gar.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Oaky. For the new Commissioners, I would note that Alligator gar have been a frequent discussion topic at the Commission meetings, which has been great because Alligator gar are really one of our most interesting freshwater species. It's a long-lived species that matures later in life relative to most of our species, and it spawns infrequently based on spawning conditions.

Our staff have done extensive research on Alligator gar, resulting in approximately 20 scientific publications and are recognized as leaders in Alligator gar research and management. In fact, four of our staff will be presenting presentations at an Alligator gar symposium that's being held starting at the Southern Division -- Southern Division of American Fisheries Society meeting, which will be held in Galveston starting tomorrow. So they're presenting four out of the approximately 20 presentations during that session.

We have been able to characterize most of our important gar populations and estimate exploitation rates, while developing new and innovative methods to collect the -- collect data on this species. The exploitation rate is a proportion of the numbers or biomass removed by fishing and it is calculated annually and is expressed as a percentage. Collecting additional information on gar harvest and the persons pursuing gar is one of our next goals.

The photo down on the left is a picture of some spawning gar; and on the right is a picture of a gar otolith, which is a structure in their inner ear that can be used to age the fish. It lays down annual rings that we can -- under a microscope, we can age the fish. This particular otolith came from a 95-year-old Alligator gar that was caught in Mississippi, which is the current world record. We have found fish in Texas up to about 60 years or so.

In 2009, harvest regulations were changed from unlimited harvest to a one-fish-per-day bag. You know, I would just let to stop there and, you know, kind of highlight that a little bit. You know, we had -- in the history of Texas, gar were treated as pretty much a trash fish and, you know, do whatever -- you know, harvest as many as you want --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Mistreated.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Mistreated certainly. And making a change from unlimited harvest to one fish per day was quite a quantum leap and I think looking at the populations since then, the wisdom of that change at that time has been proven.

Also in 2014, the Commission granted the Executive Director the authority to close areas to take or attempt to take for not more than 30 days during spawning. This can be enacted when conditions are conducive to spawning, such as water temperatures between, say, 68 and 82 degrees or during flood events of a certain level as reported by the USGS gauging stations. A closure was enacted in 2015.

You have continued to express your concern with harvest of large Alligator gar, especially in the Trinity River System; and directed us to propose regulations to eliminate harvest of large Alligator gar. Based on that, we have modified the potential regulations that we presented to you at the November meeting.

First on the Trinity River, based on your input, we have modified the proposal from a 5-foot maximum length limit to a 4-foot maximum limit. There is no change proposed to the daily bag limit of one. The limit would be implemented on the Trinity River, which would include the east fork of the Trinity River to the dam of Lake Ray Hubbard from 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.

Female Alligator gar typically reach maturity at about 5 to 6 feet and at 4 feet, average around age two. Males at 4 feet are around age five. In Alligator gar, the females grow much larger and faster than the males. A 6-foot Alligator gar usually -- is usually between 10 to 30 years and can weigh around 100 pounds. To reach the seven -- 7 feet it can take 20 to 50 years.

This limit would allow some limited harvest. There are concerns about the use of length limits when some take is by lethal means, and allowing some Alligator gar under 4 feet would serve as a buffer if a mistake -- if there's a mistake in identification when persons are pursuing Long-nosed gar in the river.

Next, we are proposing to require mandatory harvest reporting statewide except for Lake Falcon, which has a five-fish -- five-fish bag. Persons harvesting Alligator gar would have to report the date, general location, size, and method within 24 hours by -- on our website or by app, which would be similar -- similar to the current requirements for Eastern turkey. We are proposing to exempt Falcon, as this reservoir has a more robust population and based on our surveys since the five-bag was implemented, can withstand that level of harvest. Since local anglers are harvesting fish to eat, having to report on all those fish would be onerous and that information is not needed to manage that particular population.

There is unregulated commercial fishing on the Mexico side of Falcon, and this makes this -- this makes this a challenging location to manage for the protection of large gar. Harvest reporting statewide would aid in tracking any harvest that would be displaced from the Trinity to other areas.

Just a quick look at the impacts of that 4-foot maximum length limit. We --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Sorry, Ken. Before you tackle that slide, can you go back to the harvest reporting one? I would like to make one suggestion. This is picky; but instead of "general location," can we go to "approximate"? I think it's a little tighter on location.

And then this is a question. Do you anticipate the mandatory harvest reporting to apply to any Alligator gar or just to one over 4 feet in length?

MR. KURZAWSKI: We were -- it would be to all Alligator gar harvested.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. Is there any reason to consider limiting that? And I'm not -- I'm not advocating. I'm asking.

MR. KURZAWSKI: We would like have -- you know, we would -- that's one of the things, we'd like to see what the harvest is and the sizes of harvest around the state. So that would be some valuable information.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. Go on to the next one then, please.

MR. KURZAWSKI: As I said, we use the same population modeling techniques that were used previously to understand how levels of harvest can alter gar populations. I'm sure the older Commissioners can explain those techniques to the new Commissioners in their spare time there. But under a 4-foot minimum length -- minimum length -- 4-foot maximum length, we would see more larger fish in the population.

Most anglers come to the Trinity to take large fish. So we don't believe levels of harvest on gar below 4 feet would increase much above the current levels. From the Trinity River, when we did model that, we modeled an adult population of about 10,000 fish and then applied an angler exploitation rate of 3 percent to derive these estimates. Based on the information and estimates we have, our exploitation rates are in that 2 to 4 percent and our target has been to keep those below 5 percent.

For some additional considerations, you have given us additional input with concerns about the potential for overharvest during periods of potential vulnerability and suggesting prohibiting the statewide take of Alligator gar by bow fishing at night. Limiting the use of bows to daylight hours, similar to legal shooting hours for hunting, could be considered to address that concern.

And those are -- would be all the proposals I have at this point and would certainly be happy to answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Members, any questions?

I wonder, Ken, can you and the team evaluate going forward -- I'm not suggesting prepare this for a vote in March. But just looking forward, can we consider whether we should expand the -- if the proposal were to pass on the Trinity, to expand that statewide; but consider a limited draw system where a certain -- a small number of the larger fish were permitted to be taken by nontransferable draw, can we evaluate that and you come back to us sometime in the future?

MR. KURZAWSKI: Well, of course. We -- you know, that's something we have discussed, some of those various methods to limit that harvest of Alligator gar, especially those larger fish. So that's something we could dive back into and, you know, some of the administrative and some of the hurdles to that.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. Well, let's do that, please. And thanks to you and Craig for all your continued work on this important matter. I would say one thing I'm not sure you mentioned is -- for the benefit of Beaver and Oliver, the others have heard this -- but the Health Department has issued a no consumption for fish in the Trinity. Am I not right?

MR. KURZAWSKI: For -- it's a number of species, but for all gar species.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Certainly for Alligator gar.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Right. All -- it covers all the gar, which includes Alligator gar. Correct.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. Well, thank you very much.

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Can you still harvest if you can't consume it? Is it just a warning?

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: It's a caution not to --

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Caution.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: -- consume it. It's not --

MR. KURZAWSKI: Right. There -- it's not -- you can harvest them if you wish, but --

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Yeah.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Let's see here. Lance, are you around? Okay. Lance Robinson, we'll hear from you now. Welcome.

MR. ROBINSON: Good morning, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. For the record, my name is Lance Robinson with the Coastal Fisheries Division; and I'm here before you morning to provide some information on four proposals that Coastal Fisheries is asking for consideration.

Just in quick summary or overview, we're going to be looking at changing in bag limits of Spotted seatrout the upper Texas coast, some gear restrictions when harvesting sharks, size limits for cobia, and not shown on the slide are some temporary closures of some areas that were recently restore -- oyster reefs that were recently restored based on some of the information that Carter presented to you earlier.

So starting out, the proposal for Spotted seatrout would be to extend or expand the five-fish bag limit to the upper coast. Essentially, creating a coast-wide five-fish bag limit for this species. Parks and Wildlife Fishery independent data shows that populations in Galveston and Sabine Lake remain stable; but also looking at the harvest of those fish in those two systems, anglers already are taking home less than -- the majority of anglers are taking home less than five fish per day.

This slide shows the results of recreational landings of Spotted seatrout from Sabine and Galveston Bay for 2017. This is what anglers are reporting, what we measure in the creel, the number of fish per angler that are harvested. And you'll see for private recreational anglers, just over 91 percent of those anglers are taking home five or fewer fish. For guided trips, we see a similar trend. The percentage is little lower. About 80 -- almost 87 percent of trips where Spotted seatrout are harvested, five or fewer of anglers are landing -- or keeping those fish.

In order to get some additional information about users, fishermen in the Galveston and Sabine areas, the Division conducted a mail-out survey; and I just want to give you a little bit of background on the survey design before we go into the results. Parks and Wildlife looked at our creel surveys from 2017 for the Galveston and Sabine areas. Identified anglers who told us or advised us that they were targeting Spotted seatrout or the had, in fact, landed Spotted seatrout in the creel survey. And when we looked at those anglers and looked at the county of residence of those anglers, we identified 14 different counties that accounted for over 90 percent of the anglers targeting or catching and retaining Spotted seatrout from those two systems.

Out of that, out of those 14 county areas, we identified the total number of anglers who held a license that would allow them to fish in saltwater. That universe was about 411,000 anglers, and I'll show you a map in the minutes of the counties; but it encompassed about 411,000 anglers who had a license in 2017 that would allow them to fish in saltwater.

We then subsampled that population, identifying -- randomly selecting about 2,300 private recreational anglers and when we looked at the number of fishing guides in that 14 county area, the total number was 358, almost 360. So the decision was to go ahead and survey every guide that held a license in these 14 county areas. And so the response rate on those surveys was about a 25 percent response rate, which is actually pretty good for these kind of survey instruments.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Lance, does that --

MR. ROBINSON: Yes.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: -- include the guides?

MR. ROBINSON: That included all -- the whole overall population. So that 25 percent was the overall response rate.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: But --

MR. ROBINSON: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: -- if I'm understanding you, you're saying only 25 percent of the guides responded?

MR. ROBINSON: We didn't get 100 percent. Yeah, some of them did not respond.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: But was the number below 50 percent of guides? Let's focus on guides.

MR. ROBINSON: I don't know that I -- I don't know that I have it broken out by group. I can get that information for you.

This is a map of the 14 counties covered in the survey. So most of them you'll see are concentrated around Galveston and Sabine Lake.

So one of response -- one of the questions in the instrument basically asked the anglers what their support -- whether they strongly oppose, support, or strongly support a reduction -- the idea of a reduction -- from ten fish, which is the current bag limit in those two systems, down to five fish. And you'll see we separated -- tease these out by guides and non -- private recreational anglers. And so you'll see that for the guides, 77 percent supported or strongly supported going from a ten-fish to a five-fish. Private recreational anglers, a bit lower. About 46 percent rated it strongly support or support that reduction. But I'll also point out too, if you'll look at that middle category, about 25 percent of the anglers -- a quarter of the anglers on the private recs -- indicated a neutral support. They had no opinion one way or the other on that particular question.

At the request of Commissioner Scott, we went ahead and also tried to tease out this data between the two bay systems. And so you'll see the next slide shows the same question, but it was really for those guides that -- or and fishermen that identify themselves as fishing primarily in Galveston Bay. And you'll see that the response rate for the guides is still fairly high for Galveston Bay. About 78 percent support or strongly support reduction in the bag limit, and about 53 percent of the private recreational fishermen will support that. Again, the neutral support for the private recreational was about 20 percent in that particular graph.

There's a bit different picture when you look at Sabine Lake separately from Galveston Bay, and this slide reflects it clearly. In the Sabine Lake system, when we queried the number of -- the guides that identify themselves as targeting or fishing in that system, 57 percent indicated their opposition or strong opposition to lowering the bag limit from ten to five. Similarly, it was about a little bit higher percentage of private recs. Almost about 39 percent who also opposed it; and those that support it, about 34 percent.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Well --

MR. ROBINSON: On the private -- yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: -- before you move, though, you're saying that 57 percent is out of a survey number of seven people, isn't it?

MR. ROBINSON: Yes, sir. It's a small sample size and the reason that number is smaller is that in order to identify which body --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All I'm saying is --

MR. ROBINSON: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: -- is I don't know that you can attach a great deal of significance to the opinions of seven people.

MR. ROBINSON: Yeah, it's very small.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: That's just one of my observations.

MR. ROBINSON: One thing I'll also point out, that neutral support for the private recs was about 26 percent. So about almost a third of the anglers of private recs voiced a neutral position.

That covers the five fish for Spotted seatrout. I'll certainly answer all questions at the end or take any questions now regarding Spotted seatrout. It'd be a pleasure.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Dick, do you have any questions?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Well, I'm going to reserve the right. I have concerns over the size of the sampling model myself, and I also -- you know, we get into the situation with Sabine Lake where we -- same thing as Toledo Bend, right? We share that with Louisiana. So how are we going to monitor -- you know, I mean, they're used to a 20-fish limit, you know? I mean, I'm curious how we're going -- how our Law Enforcement is going to be able to -- be able to patrol and handle this big discrepancy in that number of fish.

MR. ROBINSON: I don't know if Law Enforcement wants to speak to this or...

ASSISTANT COMMANDER BARKER: Jarret Barker, Assistant Commander with Fisheries Enforcement. Your question being how do we handle the disparity between the two, there's really not a whole lot of handling that goes to it. I mean, the Louisiana anglers that are landing their fish and fishing under a Louisiana license would be allowed the Louisiana bag limit. Where in Texas, our anglers would be bound to whatever bag limit is put in place by the Commission.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: And see there's what gets my concerns up quite a bit. We've seen the success of doing the bottom third and the middle third by decreasing the bag limit. There's no question that has worked quite a bit. Too many people have told me that. But if we get up to Sabine Lake -- and I don't even question that it would probably work in Galveston Bay. But my question is, it's kind of like Toledo Bend, you know? I mean, how much success are we having? Do we even write tickets to Louisiana fishermen that are in Texas water?

ASSISTANT COMMANDER BARKER: Well, I would be speaking out of turn to know exactly how that is handled on that end right now. I can contact the local captain and get that information for you.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: See, that's my -- probably the crux of my main concern is if we're going to knock our people, the Texas residents, down to five fish and the other side is still catching what they want to catch, 20 at least, so what have we accomplished? I mean, I don't know that we're going to get the same success rate in Sabine Lake that we have gotten in the middle and the bottom third and even what we would probably get in Galveston Bay.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: That's why we're sending you to the Louisiana Legislature to change their rule.

MR. ROBINSON: I will also mention, too, Commissioner, that we're currently operating under differential bag limits between Louisiana and Texas right now. I believe, if I'm correct, that the bag limit for Spotted seatrout in Louisiana -- at least in the Sabine and Calcasieu -- is 15 fish a day. And so if you launch from the Louisiana side of the lake, you can fish on the Texas waters; but it's where the fish are landed. So anglers right now are able to fish throughout Sabine Lake. If they launch from the Louisiana side and they catch their fish in Louisiana water -- or in Texas waters, they land back in Louisiana, they're allowed the Louisiana bag limit. If they land -- launch from Texas and land those fish in Texas, they follow the Texas regulations. And so that disparity between Louisiana and Texas currently exists today.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Well, that seems -- I think that's what he's talking about. Why should we allow them to take more than a Texas angler if they're taking it in Texas waters? It seems like the Texas rule ought to apply to Texas waters whether you launch from New York or Louisiana.

MR. SMITH: I don't believe that's the case, is it, Jarret or Grahame? Do you want to address that?

ASSISTANT COMMANDER BARKER: Well, we do -- we do split jurisdictional line down the center of the lake. If they're caught fishing in Texas, they would be bound by the Texas limit.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay.

ASSISTANT COMMANDER BARKER: The license itself is valid. We allow repro -- we honor their license --

COMMISSIONER LEE: Reciprocity.

ASSISTANT COMMANDER BARKER: Reciprocity. We honor their license in our waters, but they would be bound while fishing in Texas to the Texas limit. They would have to return to the Louisiana side. But, you know, ultimately a lot of those fish are inspected at the shoreline where they're landed. You know, we do inspections on the water; but, you know, the crux of the enforcement takes place where the fish are landed?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: As some additional information I think I would be interested in, I would like to know how much -- how many tickets our law enforcement and stuff are. What is our history, you know, of Sabine Lake? Do we write very many tickets to Louisiana anglers that are fishing in Texas waters? I've not ever seen any data about that. I'm just curious because I know what's -- I know what's fixing to start coming down the pipe after -- when we put this --

ASSISTANT COMMANDER BARKER: Correct.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: -- in the public register.

ASSISTANT COMMANDER BARKER: We could run some reports in our citation history and query it by waterbody to see what the citation history looks like. I don't know that we can limit the field to the state of residence, but we might be able to pull that out.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I'm just curious. Y'all see my concern.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you.

MR. ROBINSON: Next proposal is for -- to require the use of non-offset, non-stainless steel circle hooks when fishing for sharks in State waters, except when fishing with artificial baits or artificial lures and this is to primarily protect some of the protected species of sharks that are currently on the federal list and also to match regulations that are currently in place by the National Marine Fishery Service in federal waters off Texas.

And then for cobia, the proposal would be to increase the minimum size limit for cobia that are caught in Texas state waters from the current 37-inch total length to 40 inches. Again, to mirror the recreation -- the changes in regulations that are taking place in federal waters to make it compatible to all fish harvested.

And then finally, requesting permission to temporarily close about five different areas located in three different bay systems along the Texas coast. These are areas that were recently involved in oyster restoration/cultch planting. As Carter alluded to, two of the sites in Galveston Bay. One a fairly large site of about 57 acres. The other one, about four and a half acres. They were planted. The goal here would be to close these areas to commercial harvest for two years to allow those oysters and that cultch material to colonize and oysters to grow to legal, harvestable sizes. One site in Matagorda Bay, a 50-acre site; and then in Copano Bay, two sites that are being planted by the Nature Conservancy under a project that they are involved with. A 30 -- about a 35-acre site that would be -- is being constructed as a sanctuary reef. It would be built in such a way that it would not be harvestable by commercial fishermen, recreational fishermen; and then a non-sanctuary reef, if you will, about 35 and a half acres, as well.

And as I said, these sites would be temporarily closed. They would be marked with buoys so the industry would know where the closed areas were; and then after two years, those areas would be re-evaluated by the Department and if conditions warrant, they would be reopened for commercial harvest. So with that, I think that concludes my presentation this morning.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Members, questions? Any further questions or comments?

All right. Thank you, Lance.

I'll authorize staff to publish the proposed changes in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.

Item 5, 2019-20 Statewide Hunting and Migratory Game Bird Proclamations, Shaun Oldenburger. Hi, Shaun.

MR. OLDENBURGER: Good morning. Good morning, Chairman and fellow Commissioners. For the record, my name is Shaun Oldenburger. I'm the Small Game Program Director in the Wildlife Division. Today, staff will be seeking permission to publish the 2019-20 migratory game bird proclamation and the 2019-20 statewide hunting proclamation.

Just to start with migratory game birds and the information available, we'll be combining the early and late season migratory game bird proclamations this next cycle. That's just for the fact that Fish and Wildlife Service now starts the regulation cycle in the end of August, and both early and late -- what were historically known as early and late seasons, are now available at the same time.

And so we'll talk about frameworks are basically unchanged for geese, dove, and other migratory game birds except ducks. That was pushed back to January 31st as far as how late the season could run. And just a little bit of the information on here, when I talk about federal frameworks, basically -- to use an analogy, the Fish and Wildlife Service basically constructs the football field, gives us the rulebook, and we have to play by it. So when I said the federal frameworks, that's basically the rulebook we have to abide by. And so, basically, that has regulations on when you can start a season, close a season, how many daily -- the daily bag limit, possession limits, and how many segments you can have in a season.

So for proposed changes by staff for waterfowl and doves, the daily bag limits are the same as this year except pintails. We'll decrease from two per day to one per day. That harvest strategy has been bouncing around. It's based on the breeding population of pintails and also the centroid of the breeding population and so that's been bouncing around a little bit the last couple of years, going from two to one to two to one. And so this next year it's proposed to be one per day. All other mother -- all other migratory game birds are to coincide with waterfowl season and calendar adjustments where necessary in most other species.

So we'll start the season proposals by staff for the 2019-20 season for migratory game birds, and we'll start with doves. This is the statewide regular dove season. Here is the zone map in front of you. There are three zones. We can only have two segments per zone by federal frameworks. Ninety -- we can have up to a 90-day season and 15 birds are allowed in the daily bag limit and that's an aggregate for White-winged doves and Mourning doves. We do have a constraint on White-tipped doves. That's only -- you know, that's pretty much those birds are only found in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

And so starting off with the calendars, we'll have a number of these. This is the North Zone here. We start as earlier as possible, which is September 1st, run through November 12th, and then start again December 20th and run out of the rest of the days January 5th. We did have some discussion amongst the advisory committee and the technical committee on this one and there was an adjustment that was made by the advisory committee on this to extend some more days on the front end and the technical committee agreed with that and so here is that finalized calendar working with our advisory committee.

For the Central Zone, starting September 1st, running through November 3rd, starting once again on December 20th, and running out the rest of the days there as well to January 14th. And as you may recall last year, you asked for some guidance on south dove seasons due to the changes in federal frameworks. We are allowed to open as early as September 14th now in the South Zone. Previously, it was the Friday nearest September 20th; but no earlier than September 17th. And so here is the policy that was run by our advisory committee. First segment in -- to open on as early as possible, run through the first Sunday in November, the second segment to open the third or fourth Friday in December and run out the available days, capture MLK weekend every year. And, obviously, we worked very closely with our Migratory Game Bird Advisory Committee on this policy.

And so following that, we'll have South Zone and Special White-wing dove days. Special White-wing dove days would occur September 1st, 2nd, 7th, and 8th. It would be allowed 15 in the aggregate, but only two Mourning doves during that afternoon only hunt. And just before we get to the calendars here to let you know, you'll see something a little bit -- usually that's a Saturday/Sunday. The 1st and 2nd fall on a Sunday/Monday, being Labor Day; and so this would be very similar to what we did in 2013 for the Special White-wing dove days and also the Special White-wing dove days now encompass the whole South Zone. So that started last year.

Regular season would open September 14th, run to November 3rd, open again December 20th, and run to January 23rd. And so to look at this staff proposal on the calendar, there you have the Special White-wing dove days highlighted in yellow and the regular season in gray.

Before moving on to ducks, is there any input on dove seasons at this time? Okay.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Everybody that I've visited with was pretty happy with the seasons we did last year. That's good as we could ever do, I think.

MR. OLDENBURGER: All right. Moving on to teal hunting. We're allowed 16 days and the staff preference is usually to have those the last three full weekends of September. That is usually to catch the -- towards the migration -- the most of the migration that occurs in Texas for Blue-winged teal. The proposed dates this year would be September 14th, 29th. We're allowed six birds in the daily bag limit and that's an aggregate bag limit. That includes Cinnamon teal and Green-winged teal; but, obviously, most of the harvest in Texas is Blue-winged teal.

And so we'll move on to our regular seasons for ducks, mergansers, and coots. Proposed seasons for the High Plains Mallard Management Unit, this is a special area. We're allowed a few more days than our North and South Zone under federal frameworks and so, therefore, the youth season would be October 19th and 20th, regular season opening October 26th and 27th, having basically a break, opening again November 1st, and running out to the last Sunday in January, January 26th.

As you'll see in these, there will be these dusky duck regulations. By federal regulations, we have to have no harvest during the -- regulations have to have no harvest the first five days of a regular season and by "dusky duck," we mean a Mexican, light duck, a mottled duck, or their hybrids. And so looking at this on a calendar here, you'll see in light blue is the early teal season, youth being in the darker blue, and the regular season being in green.

For ducks, mergansers, and coots for the North Zone, here are the staff proposals. Youth would be November 2nd to 3rd, regular season November 9th to 24th, having a short split there and starting the second segment on November 30th and running out to the last Sunday in January, which is the 26th. And once again, a five-day delay there for dusky ducks. This is what that looks like on the calendar. Once again, light blue there the teal season, dark blue being youth, and the green being the regular season.

For the South Zone for ducks, mergansers, and coots, the youth season October 26th and 27th, regular season November 2nd to 24th, having a fairly extended split there and starting the second segment December 7th, and running out to January 26th. Here is where we have most of our mottled ducks in the state, obviously; and here you would have a five-day delay in regular season on dusky ducks and start November 7th and then running concurrent with regular season.

This is what this looks like on a calendar. Once again, same as previous. Light blue being teal, dark blue being youth, and green being regular season.

All right. Daily bag limits for ducks, mergansers, and coots. Once again, no changes from the previous years except for pintails. You're allowed six ducks per day in the daily bag limit; five mallards, only two which may be hens; three wood ducks; three scaup; two redheads; two canvasbacks; one pintail; and one dusky duck, mottled black or Mexican light duck. After the first five days, all others are six. For mergansers, you're allowed five per day; but only two hooded mergansers. For coots, it's 15 per day and possession limit on all migratory game birds is three time the daily bag limit unless specified otherwise.

Moving on to geese. Proposed dates for geese, this has become simplified over the last couple of years and here's the Western Zone and Eastern Zone, as you'll see depicted here on the map. The daily bag limits are the same for Western and Eastern. That's a simplification that occurred a couple years ago. So five dark geese to include no more than two white-fronted geese, 20 light geese, and no possession limit. Once again here, the possession limit is different for light geese compared to other migratory game birds.

The Western Goose Zone, in dark and geese -- light geese seasons would be concurrent from November 2nd to February 2nd. The conservation order for light geese only -- which is not a hunting season, but allowed underneath Congress where you can actually use unplugged shotguns and electronic calls -- that starts February 3rd and runs to March 15th.

For the Eastern Goose Zone, we do have a special Canada goose only season which is concurrent with teal season. Basically, that's to take advantage of those breeding Canada geese we have in Eastern and mostly Northeastern Texas. And then the dark and light geese would be November 2nd to January 26th and the conservation order would start after that, the 27th and run to March 15th.

To look at this, both these on a map, here it is. Once again there in the East Zone, you'll see that light blue. That's that Canada goose only season and for the most part, the other ones are fairly similar as stated.

Just to kind of give you a heads up. For the dark goose definition, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Servicer has proposed to split Canada geese into two species: Canada and Cackling geese. This was a proposal that was done about 12 years ago by the AOU, kind of the overarching body for taxonomy in birds. The Fish and Wildlife Service had drug their feet on doing this due to complications that may occur for regulations. So we may need to go back and adjust our definition of dark geese, although that's unknown at this time. I've tried to get in touch with Fish and Wildlife Service on that, but obviously they're in the federal shutdown right now. So this has been kind of a question mark since the shutdown started.

We'll move on to Sandhill cranes. On Zone A, October 26th to January 26th. The daily bag limit there is three. That there is -- we have a Sandhill crane season that opens about a week earlier compared to goose season. We do have differential migration between geese and Sandhill cranes, with a lot of the Sandhill cranes showing up in mid-October. So the hunters like being out there for a whole week to get after the cranes kind of before the geese show up and a lot of goose hunters hit the field.

Zone B, November 22nd to January 26th. The daily bag limit there is three. We do delay the season. Kind of a handshake agreement with Fish and Wildlife Service to allow Whooping cranes to migrate through that area. That's the major migration corridor for Whooping cranes in North America as they go to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding areas there on the coast.

And then Zone C, we have December 14th to January 19th. This is only a 37-day season, and we're allowed two birds in the daily bag limit underneath federal frameworks.

For rails, gallinules, moorhens, snipe, and woodcock and starting with rails, gallinules, and moorhens, September 14th to 29th, that being concurrent with teal season, and then starting up November 2nd and running out the rest of the days to December 25th. Snipe is a 107-day season. You're allowed eight birds in the daily bag limit. That's October 26th to February 9th. And woodcock is a 45-day. You're allowed three birds in the daily bag limit. That's December 18th and running out to the end of federal frameworks, which is January 31st.

Proposed falconry seasons, Mourning, White-winged, and White-tipped doves, November 16th and December 2nd. Woodcock, moorhen, gallinule, rail, and ducks in the North and South Zone are January 27th to February 9th. We do not have a falconry season in the High Plains Mallards Management Unit due to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. We're only allowed three and a half months of hunting or take for any migratory game birds. So, therefore, we use all of our days in the High Plains Mallard Management Unit for ducks.

All right. We'll be moving on to staff proposals for statewide hunting proclamation. I'm going to talk about wild turkeys. Alan Cain will be talking about deer and javelinas after I and so we'll move on with one proposal, staff proposal, on white wild turkeys and this is basically a language cleanup on proof of sex. And here you have the proposal in front of you.

It basically says during a season in which the bag composition for turkey is restricted to gobblers only or gobblers and bearded hens, proof of sex must remain with the harvested turkey attached or detached from the bird. You read the rest there. Basically, this was just to clarify some practice that had been going on and to make it clear for hunters that they could have basically the proof of sex with them in the cooler while they have the turkey and be legal while they're going back to their house.

And so here, a little bit more cleanup on this looking at what proof of sex would be. And for the gobbler, a male turkey, it would be one leg including the spur or a patch of skin with breast feathers and the beard attached. Bearded hen would be a patch of skin with breast feathers and beard attached. Obviously, you can tell the difference there between the breast feathers on either a gobbler or a hen and so that's why that occurs there.

So with that, that presents the one proposed regulation staff did have on wild turkeys and just to summarize, the Resident and Migratory Game Bird Technical and Advisory Committees provided input and supported all staff proposals. The public input process will begin this next month, and adoption would be scheduled for March on these staff proposals. With that, I'll take any questions if there are any.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: You left out one important bullet point.

MR. OLDENBURGER: Uh-oh.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Did you get approval from Dean David Morrison on this?

Welcome, Dave.

He presented this for so many years. Should we separately authorize publication of this from the deer, or do it all at once?

MR. SMITH: Do you want to do it all at once, Bob, or --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: There's no reason we can't do it twice. I'm going to go ahead and authorize staff to publish the proposed changes you just went through in the Texas Register for the required public comment. Now, we'll take Alan Cain's presentation.

MR. SWEENEY: That's fine.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Welcome, Alan.

Oh, I'm sorry. One comment, Shaun. In light of the fact we're down to one -- proposed one pintail and one Mexican duck, I would like to ask that before we have a decision on this or any action on this in March, that you or your team do a little deeper dive on whether we maybe should just eliminate that for one year since we're down to one bird and they're obviously at some sort of risk here. So would you mind doing a deeper dive on those two species and discuss that in a little more detail in March?

MR. OLDENBURGER: Yes. Staff will prepare that and get back to you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you very much.

Okay, Alan. Sorry.

MR. CAIN: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, I'm Alan Cain, White-tailed Deer Program Leader. This morning, I'll be reviewing the proposed change to the statewide big game harvest regulations.

At the direction from this Commission, the first proposal for consideration is in regards for refusal for enrollment to the MLD Program. Current regulations allow the Department to refuse enrollment in the MLD Program for several different reasons, including missing reporting deadlines, exceeding harvest recommendations, failing to conduct the required number of habitat management practices, and certain violations of the Parks and Wildlife Code.

The proposed change would authorize the Department to also be able to refuse enrollment for any applicant that is encouraged, advised, evaded, or attempted to evade CWD sampling requirements on properties owned or managed by that applicant where CWD testing is required, including all CWD zones in the state. Refusal for enrollment would not be automatic and this proposed change would clarify in rule that the Department would take into consideration factors that include whether the applicant has advised hunters of the mandatory check station requirements, whether the applicant directs the hunter not to present deer at a mandatory check station, or the number of deer harvested on the MLD property that were not presented at a check station and other factors the Department deems relevant.

The next change staff are considering, proposal would be the expansion of doe days in 41 counties in portions of the Blackland Prairie and Post Oak Savannah ecoregions. Staff would be considering two different doe day season structures. One for the counties in yellow that currently have a four-day doe season, and a different season structure for the counties in green where antlerless harvest is currently by MLD only.

Within this region, regulatory deer surveys indicate a positive trend ranging from a 4.8 percent estimated average annual increase in the yellow counties and 3.1 percent average annual increase in the green counties over the last 11 to 13 years. Our big game harvest surveys also indicate the estimated antlerless harvest comprises about 41 percent of the total harvest in the region, which may contribute to a skewed sex ratio of 3.8 does per buck in yellow counties and 4.2 does per buck in the green counties.

MLD participation in these regions is high, with over 4,800 management units enrolled in the MLD Program in these areas. Many of these MLD properties are associated with wildlife management associations or cooperatives, in which the members receive antlerless tags through the co-op or WMA's MLD enrollment. This is especially true for those green counties where it's by MLD only, antlerless harvest is by MLD only.

MLD harvest data indicates that 56 percent of the recommended antlerless harvest is achieved each year just on average and the trend suggests that MLD participation alone is not sufficient to address deer population growth in this area. Additionally, staff have been receiving requests from constituents over the last five years, especially in these green counties, asking the Department to open a doe day season to allow hunters the opportunity to harvest does without having to participate in the MLD Program.

By expanding the doe days, staff expect to be able to address requests from the public for an option to harvest antlerless deer other than the MLD program, as well as provide additional hunting opportunity, reducing impacts of deer browsing on the native habitat, and relieving pressure on the buck harvest.

Therefore, in these 20 counties, staff are proposing to expand the current four-day doe season to a 16-day season that would run the first 16 days of general season. In these 21 counties or portions of counties, staff are proposing to open a four-day doe season that runs from Thanksgiving day through the Sunday immediately following Thanksgiving day with a bag limit of two does for all seasons combined. Just as a reminder, antlerless deer harvest in these green counties has been -- is by MLD only and it's been that way since 1996 and landowners and hunters in this area have been reluctant to support opening a doe day season in past years, 10 to 15 years ago; but more recently, we've had lots of requests to open a short doe season.

Now, although staff doesn't believe there to be any resource issues that would arise from a four-day doe season, we do hear concerns of possible overharvest voiced by some of these landowners and hunters in these green counties. And to help ease concerns among hunters and landowners regarding potential overharvest, staff also propose an experimental mandatory harvest reporting of antlerless deer in these 21 counties. Now, only deer -- antlerless deer tagged with a hunting license tag would need to be reported within 24 hours of harvest.

MLD antlerless harvest is already required to be reported for all MLD properties. So this proposed change would not affect MLD reporting requirements for those individuals. Mandatory harvest reporting would be accomplished using the My Texas Hunt Harvest app that's available on the mobile devices or our website like you heard for the gar proposal and is being used for the current Eastern wild turkey reporting.

Obviously, the reporting requirement would allow staff to obtain accurate harvest information so we can assess the impacts of this harvest regulation on that deer population and would also address the requests by some landowners in these counties to closely monitor harvest.

Staff have conducted 16 scoping meetings in 16 of the 21 counties from November through January to gauge public interest for this doe day proposal and the mandatory reporting requirements. There were a total of 449 attendees among all the different meetings. With regard to doe days, 260 are in favor of the proposed change; 126 were against the proposal. And I should note that Lavaca County had 62 people attend their scoping meeting. Majority of those were members of the co-op and they were generally not supportive of the doe days and they represent about 43 percent of those folks that are against it. So kind of disproportionately skew those results a little bit. So just keep that in mind.

Mandatory reporting was favored by the majority of individuals, 87 percent, to help us keep track of the antlerless deer harvest. Some folks that were in favor of the mandatory harvest reporting were only in favor of the reporting if the doe day proposal was adopted. If there was no proposal adopted in the future, then they weren't supportive of it.

Some of the concerns or comments we heard during the scoping meetings are common overharvest by my neighbor, we don't have enough deer in our area to support doe harvest, there would be a decline in co-op participation. Some folks requesting alternative for harvest reporting other than the app or the website. They wanted paper forms or other things. And then on the other side of the coin, those that were supportive of the doe days, we heard them comment that they wanted a longer season. A lot of farmers in some of these counties were talking about crop damage and then others just talking about excess does out there and wanting another alternative to help manage those populations.

The next change staff are proposing concerns Mule deer antler restrictions. In March of 2018, this Commission adopted an experimental Mule deer antler restriction in six counties in the southeast panhandle. Those are the ones outlined in blue, including Brisco, Hall, Childress, Floyd, Motley, and Cottle Counties; and 2018 was the first year of the experiment. At the same time this experimental Mule deer antler restriction regulation was adopted by the Commission, they also adopted a new Mule deer season in Lynn County, which is this county with the blue circle around it.

During the public hearings held in Tahoka prior to the March adoption of the Lynn County Mule deer season, all the attendees provided public comment requesting that the Department also apply the experimental antler restriction to Lynn County, as well. The Department also received other requests from the public to include Lynn County in the Mule deer antler restriction, as well.

Staff agree with these requests and would like to propose to include Lynn County into the Mule deer antler restriction experiment. Staff believe the inclusion of Lynn County to the experimental antler restrictions would provide valuable data regarding the success of antler restriction to maintain an older buck age structure and a natural sex ratio since this past November was the first ever Mule deer season in Lynn County.

Just as a background, the antler restriction regulation limits harvest to any buck with an outside spread of 20 inches or greater and bucks with a spread of less than 20 inches are not legal for harvest. In addition to the experiment, experimental antler restrictions, it does not apply to MLD properties because our Parks and Wildlife biologists set property specific bag limits for MLD properties which are generally pretty conservative.

Staff will continue to monitor success of the experimental antler restriction regulation using population surveys, voluntary check stations, data to collect more ear and antler measurements, as well as buck age structure data. And we are also sending opinion surveys out to evaluate landowner and hunter support for and after the experiment.

The next change staff are proposing is to open a javelina season in six counties in the North Zone. Currently, there are 43 counties in the North Zone that are noted by those in yellow with a javelina season that runs 151 days from October 1 through the end of February and another 50 counties in the South Zone, which are those in the green, that have a javelina season that's open year round.

Historically, javelinas once ranged from Brownsville to the Red River, as depicted on the map by the light orange shading. The counties with the dark orange stripes are counties where TPWD has restocked javelinas probably in the mid to late 1950s. All that range was from 1939 to 1978. Current javelina range is primarily restricted to the South Texas Plains, western edge of the Edwards Plateau, the Trans-Pecos, and portions of the Rolling Plains as you can see are outlined by the red shading or cross-etching on the map.

Over the last several years, both Law Enforcement and Wildlife staff have received a number of reports from hunters and landowners on an increasing number of javelina sightings and a few requests about a javelina season in six counties outlined in red there. Staff believe there's no biological concern with the implementation of a season and that that javelina population can sustain harvest in the following counties: Borden, Dawson, Gaines, Hardeman, Scurry, and Terry Counties. Therefore, staff are proposing to add these six counties to the current suite of counties in the North Zone in which this season runs from October 1 through the last day -- last Sunday in February and has a bag limit of two javelinas.

That concludes my presentation. I'll be glad to answer any questions?

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Members, questions or comments?

All right. Thank you, Alan. I'll authorize staff to publish the proposed changes you just narrated in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.

No. 6, Deer Breeder Regulations, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes on Release Provisions and CWD Testing, Mitch Lockwood. Welcome, Mitch.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Thank you. And good morning, Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission. For the record, my name is Mitch Lockwood. I'm the Big Game Program Director; and this morning, I'm seeking permission to publish proposed amendments in the Texas Register, proposed amendments to rules that govern deer breeding activities in the state. Specifically, the propose -- the proposed amendments would create additional CWD or Chronic Wasting Disease testing options for deer breeders or deer breeding facilities that are currently prohibited from receiving or transferring deer. The second amendment would extend the period of time that breeder deer may be confined in a soft release or acclimation pen at a release site prior to permanent liberation.

With regard to this first proposed amendment, currently there are 159 deer breeding facilities in this state that are not movement qualified because of inadequate CWD surveillance. And when I say "not movement qualified," I mean they are not qualified to receive deer into the facility or transfer deer out of the facility. Only 102 of those facilities currently have enough deer to conduct the required CWD surveillance to regain movement qualified status.

In fact, there are quite a few of these facilities that will never have enough deer to be able to conduct adequate surveillance and regain movement qualified status. They're essentially under a permanent quarantine order.

We took this problem to our breeder user group, and they provided a recommendation with two options. Our breeder user group is one of a few ad hoc committees appointed by our Executive Director that advises the Department on contemplated rule-making and other issues that are important to this industry and as you might imagine, it's comprised of several deer breeders, agents of deer breeders, and others who are intimately familiar with deer breeding practices in this state.

Another ad hoc committee that we rely on quite a bit, especially since the spring of 2012, is our CWD task force, which is comprised of wildlife disease experts, landowners and, again, individuals who are very familiar with deer breeding practices in this state. There's actually a fair amount of overlap between these two committees and that CWD task force actually advises not only our Agency, but Texas Animal Health Commission as well and the membership is appointed by the Executive Director of both these agencies.

When we took the recommendation from the breeder user group to the CWD task force, who ultimately advised us to proceed with one of those options and that being the option that provides the most confidence that the rules would not inadvertently allow for the transmission of CWD from one breeding facility to another. So with that, staff propose to amend the rules to allow a deer breeding facility in this situation to regain movement qualified status after having conducted two whole herd antemortem or live animal tests in the facility, with the first test not being conducted any sooner than 12 months after that facility receiving a not movement qualified status and completing a herd inventory inspection and then the second round of testing taking place no sooner than 12 months after the conclusion of the first round. And, of course, every single test result -- every single deer that is tested would need to have a not detected test result for that -- for both rounds of those tests for that facility to regain movement qualitied status.

The second proposed amendment, again, would extend the period of time in which breeder deer could be confined to a soft release pen or an acclimation pen prior to permanent liberation. Now, we're about to get pretty deep in the weeds in this discussion when it comes -- with regard to some of the intensive deer management practices that are authorized in this state. We're going -- I'm going to make references to deer breeding facilities, to DMP facilities, to soft release pens or I might call them acclimation pens and it can get very confusing very quickly. It's inside baseball, if you will.

And so I think it would be a good idea as a primer for some of you and as a refresher for others to kind of take a little time to discuss the distinctions of which individuals may possess White-tailed deer in this state or Mule deer in this state and I've made a few slides to try and help simplify this discussion as much as possible. I made a few slides with graphics and with animations and while they're intended to simplify things, they can complicate things too because it could be easy for each of you to not advance at the same rate that I'm advancing slides and then that could further confuse or make some of what I'm presenting to you confusing. So with that in mind, you might want to consider focusing your attention on the big screen behind me just to make sure we're all staying on the same page.

The slide before you illustrates a diagram of a hypothetical release that site that has three high-fenced pastures or three distinct populations of White-tailed deer. Each one of these pastures is a registered release site. Meaning, they can receive deer from deer breeding facilities in this state. This ranch also has a deer breeding facility which is authorized by a deer breeding permit which authorizes that individual to engage in the business of breeding White-tailed deer and releasing deer from that facility either onto his own registered release sites or to other release sites or to other deer breeding facilities in the state of Texas.

This ranch also has a soft release pen in each of these three release sites and rather than sending deer directly to those registered release sites, that landowner might choose to place those deer in a soft release pen first for a period not to exceed 30 days and this would basically help those deer acclimate to their new environment, but for ultimately being provided access to the registered release site.

The practice of releasing breeder deer has evolved over the years and has become increasingly common for landowners to subdivide their release sites and basically create smaller release sites within a larger registered release site. And they would then place some deer -- one common practice is to place bred does in the spring of the year in one of these smaller release sites, which might offer those does and ultimately or eventually their fawns more protection than what might be provided in the larger site. And so for whatever reason, including other reasons that may result in higher survival, they may put those deer in that smaller release site in the spring of the year and then ultimately once the fawns are born and actually up in that hill, then they may open those gates and provide those deer access to the larger site.

Well, this is something that became increasingly common over the years; but then the comprehensive CWD rules that this Commission adopted back in the summer of 2016 state that no person may intentionally cause or allow any live deer to leave or escape from a release site onto which breeder deer have been liberated. So if a deer is placed in facilities or Release Sites 4, 5, or 6 in this example, those relatively smaller sites, they cannot ordinarily be allowed to leave that site alive.

However, we do recognize that there are situations when the size of release site must be modified. In fact, those same comprehensive CWD rules do state that a release site owner may modify the acreage of a registered release site to recognize changes in acreage, such as the removal of cross-fencing for the purpose of adjoining land. We have documented several release site amendments here in the last -- past few years that resulted from just that: Landowners removing interior fencing or landowners acquiring additional acreage adjacent to release site and that release site would be modified to incorporate that additional land.

This in itself is not a problem. What becomes problematic is when that landowner subsequently wants to reestablish that smaller release site for subsequent releases. We have actually received a request to allow a release site to subdivide into multiple release sites in the spring of the year. Bred does may be placed in those multiple release sites. And then again in the fall of the year once those fawns are at heel, consolidate those multiple release sites back into one site and provide those deer access to that entire acreage. And then continue this practice of subdividing and then later consolidating and combining these release sites on an annual basis.

This practice would significantly complicate program administration and it would require significant and costly reprogramming of our online application that's used by our Department, used by Texas Animal Health Commission, and used by every deer breeder in the State of Texas, as well as others. I may have clicked something there. That's not on your screen, so that's good.

Let me summarize what the problem is, and then follow-up with a proposed solution. There is a desire amongst release site owners to release breeder deer in small release sites, relatively small release sites, and then subsequently provide those released deer access to more acreage. And, again, the CWD rules require that those released deer remain on the registered release site; but clearly -- or I should say and clearly, the annual division and consolidation of release sites is problematic; but, again, that 30-day limit that's tied to the current soft release provision is not adequate for those who desire for released does to produce their fawns in a more confined environment and that may provide more protection from predators or otherwise believed to increase survival.

So staff have a proposal which we believe will address the business practices of the customers of some deer breeders without requiring very expensive and exhaustive rewrite of our online system. Staff propose that breeder deer be allowed to be transferred to a release -- I'm sorry -- to a soft release pen any time between March 1st and the ten days prior to Friday closest to September 30th. So an extension of the 30-day provision, if you will.

And this ending date is very important for at least two reasons. First, it is consistent with what's commonly referred to as the ten-day rule. It takes the statute, the Parks and Wildlife Code, state that deer cannot be released with antlers intact during an open season or within ten days of an open season. This proposal would allow bucks to be released with antlers intact without conflicting with the statute. In fact, to be consistent with the wording in the statute, we might actually modify the language that you see on the screen before you to state that deer may be placed, lawfully transferred to a registered release site, may be held in temporary captivity for any period of time between March 1 and the ten-day period immediately proceeding an open season. And that would be consistent with the language that's in statute.

Secondly, this ending date is important so that deer are released before the beginning of a breeding season because detaining does with one or more bucks does require a permit, either a deer breeding permit or a DMP. And with the exception of one member, the breeder user group supports the proposal that I have shared with you so far; but they did ask me to provide an alternate proposal for your consideration and then seek your guidance on which proposal, if any, you would like to see published in the Texas Register.

The alternate proposal would allow for different release dates for does as compared to bucks. Bucks would need to be released similar to the original proposal. Bucks would need to be released no later than ten days prior to the Friday closest to September 30th, but does would not have to be released from a soft release pen until October 31st. This would benefit those who would like to use those same does for DMP purposes. So just when you think you've had enough of all these acronyms and whatnot, here with this slide and the previous slide, I spring the DMP acronym on you and you may be wondering what's that all about.

So we'll return to this example of this ranch that has a deer breeding facility with three release sites and a soft release pen in each release site and I'll share with you that this ranch also has a DMP facility. A DMP or a Deer Management Permit authorizes individuals to temporarily detain deer for natural breeding purposes and those deer can be detained from the actual release site, from the pasture that's surrounding this DMP facility, or the deer can be obtained from a deer breeding facility.

This program has evolved quite a bit over the years, but it is clear that the intent is for those deer to be detained for -- that the detention of those deer be temporary and not for an extended period of time. In fact, in the early days of this program, we actually offered a Level 1 DMP and a Level 2 DMP. Under a Level 1 DMP, the deer had to be released or could be detained for no longer than ten months and they had to be released no later than August 31st. But under a Level 2 DMP, those does could actually be retained for a longer period of time and held back for a second breeding under that same permit. In fact, their offspring from the first breeding could actually be retained as well and bred as well.

Well, about 15 years ago, our White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee expressed a lot of concern for the extended breeding that was authorized under a Level 2 DMP and they believed that such extended breeding should be restricted to those in possession of a deer breeding permit and under their advisement, the Level 2 DMP was repealed here several years ago.

The reason for this request for a later release date for the does would be to facilitate an easy transfer of those deer from a soft release pen directly to a DMP pen to get a second breeding out of those does. Admittedly, staff are concerned that this is very similar to what was authorized under a Level 2 DMP that ultimately was repealed and we are concerned with the additional complexity of the rule language, but also the program administration of having two different release dates, one for bucks and one for does. But I did agree to present both these options to the Commission and seek your guidance on which, if any, you would like to see published in the Texas Register. I'll return to this momentarily.

The final component of this proposal has to do with how to facilitate release of deer from a soft release pen. There was limited discussion on this topic at the breeder user group meeting; but during a follow-up meeting that some of us had with the leadership of Texas Deer Association, during which many questions were asked regarding what constitutes captivity and how to facilitate a release, it became quite obvious to staff that this proposal should clearly state the requirements for facilitating release and we believe that it makes good sense for those requirements to be consistent with the requirements for releasing deer from a DMP facility.

Therefore, staff propose -- excuse me -- that the release shall consist of the removal of at least 20 feet of the components of a pen that serve to detain the deer in the pen, with no opening being less than 10 feet wide, and that those components shall be removed for no fewer than 30 consecutive days. This could be achieved by opening two 10-foot gates.

Now, I should be clear that this clarification was made after the breeder user group meeting and that group has not yet been given an opportunity to comment on this aspect of the proposal. So with that, I would like to return to the original proposal, as well as the alternate proposal that the breeder user group asked that I present to you and seek your guidance on which you would like to see published in the Texas Register. Again, the original proposal would be that breeder deer lawfully transferred to a registered release site, may be held in -- may be held in temporary captivity for any period of time between March 1 and ten days prior to the Friday closest to September 30th. Again, that might be reworded to say -- to be more consistent with the statute -- ten days immediately preceding an open hunting season. And then the alternate proposal would have the same starting date for allowing deer to enter into a soft release pen, but then the release date would be different for bucks versus does. Bucks would have to be released by that ten-day rule deadline, if you will. Again, the ten days prior to the Friday closest to the September 30th. The does would not have to be released until October 31st.

That concludes my presentation. I'll be glad to entertain any questions you might have and, again, we seek your guidance on which, if any, of these options you would like to see published in the Texas Register.

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Just tell me one more time, why are we changing the buck and doe release dates?

MR. CAIN: So the request for two separate release dates, the breeder user group recognizes that bucks need to be released by that ten-day rule deadline.

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Right.

MR. CAIN: So that they can be released with antlers intact. The request to retain those does for a longer period of time would again be to facilitate the easy transfer of those deer from a soft release pen to a DMP pen once a DMP permit has been acquired and essentially get a second breeding out of that same group of does without having to recapture them out in the pasture.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: But isn't one inconsistent with that when you say they've got to be released ten days prior to the Friday, September 30th?

MR. CAIN: So No. 1 is the original proposal. This would be staff's recommendation and the original recommendation of the breeder user group and that would require all deer in a DMP --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: So No. 2 is the alternate proposal?

MR. CAIN: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Yeah. I couldn't -- I was trying to reconcile the two of them.

MR. CAIN: I'm sorry. Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Yeah.

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Okay.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. Well, Jeanne, you had a question or a comment?

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: I have a question on the previous proposal. The live testing in the deer breeding facilities, it would be a span over two years?

MR. CAIN: Yes, ma'am.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Okay. So they -- and that -- from the -- your advisory group thinks that's a sufficient amount of time?

MR. CAIN: Yes, ma'am. The -- and the CWD task force is comfortable with this proposal, and that's actually their recommendation.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: And remind me, is there any identification requirement on these deer?

MR. CAIN: There is identification requirement for deer that are possessed within a deer breeding facility. Once -- and that would be an ear tag with a unique identification number applied to it. Under current rules under statute, once those deer are released -- and under current practice, if you will -- once those deer are released, the ear tag may be removed; but the deer must have a tattoo that's stamped in the ear with that same four-digit unique identification number. So once they go to a soft release pen as the second part of this proposal, they would not have to have an ear tag under the current rules; but in statute --

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: But they still have to have --

MR. CAIN: -- they need a tattoo.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: -- an identification?

MR. CAIN: A tattoo. Yes, ma'am.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Anybody else have questions or comments?

Mitch, I'd like to suggest that with number -- oh, did you have a question? Sorry.

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: Yeah. In Proposal 2, how would they -- they'd have to go in and rework the deer to separate the bucks from the does?

MR. LOCKWOOD: If those are in the same pen, it would be difficult because once those deer are in a soft release pen, they are considered released and then it would be a violation to handle those deer. To either dart the deer or capture the deer, that would be a violation without some other permit authorizing them to do that. And so what some of the members of the breeder user group are suggesting, that if they took this second route, they would probably have does in separate -- in pens separate from bucks. Two different pens, if you will.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Well, Beaver raises a good point. I was going to suggest that we -- let's -- we'll consider and give further thought to the alternate proposal, which is No. 2; but let's move forward with staff's proposal and take public comment on it.

Okay. Does that conclude your presentation?

MR. CAIN: That does conclude my presentation. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right. Thank you, sir. I'll authorize staff to propose -- to publish the proposed change, No. 1, in the Texas Register for the required public comment and ask staff to continue to evaluate the alternate proposal.

Does that take us to 14?

MR. SMITH: Executive Session, yeah.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right. We're now going to go into Executive Session to hear Work Session Item 14, Sunset Advisory Commission Recommended Transfer of Eight State Historic Sites From TPW to THC. Also, Work Session Item 15, Litigation Update on Oysters, CWD, and Border Wall will also be held in Executive Session. So pursuant to Chapter 551 of the Government Code --

MR. SWEENEY: Better read the caption for -- that's not in the script.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: In addition, we're going to hear further discussion -- have further discussion on Work Session Item 13, the Exchange of Real Estate at the J.D. Murphree, Jefferson County, Wildlife Management Area.

So pursuant to 551 of the Government Code, known as the Open Meetings Act, an Executive Session will be held at this time for the purpose of deliberation of real estate matters under the Open Meetings Act, seeking legal advice under the Open Meetings Act, including advice regarding pending and contemplated litigation. So we'll recess for that purpose now at 12:03 CST.

(Recess taken for Executive Session)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. I'm going to reconvene the Work Session of January 23, 2009[sic], at 1:47 p.m. CST.

Work Session Item 13, Exchange of Real Estate in Jefferson County, 120 Acres at the Murphree Wildlife Management Area, I will place that on tomorrow's meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Work Session Item 14, Sunset Advisory Commission Recommended Transfer of Eight Historic Sites to the THC, no further action is required at this time.

Work Session Item 15, Litigation Update on Oysters, CWD, Condemnation of the Border Wall, no further action is required at this time.

Mr. Smith, the Commission has completed its Work Session business and I declare us adjourned at 1:48 p.m. CST.

(Work Session Adjourns)


C E R T I F I C A T E

STATE OF TEXAS ) COUNTY OF TRAVIS )

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

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

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

___________________________________

Paige S. Watts, CSR, RPR

CSR No.: 8311

Expiration: December 31, 2020

7010 Cool Canyon Cove

Round Rock, Texas 78681

(512)779-8320

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