TPW Commission

Commission Meeting, March 20, 2019


TPW Commission Meetings


March 20, 2019



CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Good morning, everyone. I'll call our meeting to order on March 20, 2019, at 9:06 a.m., Central Daylight Time.

Before we proceed with our business, Carter has a statement to make.

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

Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, I just want to join all of you in welcoming everybody to our March Commission Meeting. We have people that have come in from near and far to be here. We're particularly appreciative of all of the friends and family members that have come from out of town to see your friends and colleagues and loved ones honored this morning.

And, in fact, we're going to start off the Commission Meeting after the Commission deals with a couple of things, with our special recognition and service awards. And for those of you who have not attended one of the Commission Meetings, just a little bit about how the meeting will flow. After we finish up those special recognitions, the Chairman will call a quick pause in the meeting and give everybody five minutes or so to depart the room if you aren't planning on staying for the rest of the meeting.

For those of you who are planning on staying for the rest of the meeting and you're interested in a particular agenda item, I just want to respectfully remind you that if you plan to speak on the item, please sign up out front with our colleagues. At the appropriate time during the session this morning, the Chairman will call you and ask you to come to the podium.

You'll have three minutes to state your name and who you represent, your position for or against or neutral on any action item that the Commission is taking. And my colleague Dee Halliburton will be monitoring the time and so green means go, yellow means start to wind it up, and red means eject. And she's pretty rigid with that, so watch your comments carefully and so welcome. We're thrilled to have you this morning. Thanks for being here.

Thank you, Chairman.


All right. Our first item is to approve minutes from the January 24th, 2019, Commission Meeting. Those minutes have been previously approved [sic]. I have a motion for approval from Commissioner Scott. Second Commissioner Warren. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries.

All right. Next, acknowledgment of the list of donations, which that list has also been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?

Commissioner Latimer. Second Commissioner Galo. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries.

Next, consideration of contracts, which have also been distributed to members. Is there a motion for approval?

Commissioner Warren. Second Commissioner Scott. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries.

Now, to the special recognitions, retirement, and service awards. Carter, will you please make the presentations.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. Good morning. For the record, my name is Carter Smith with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. We're going to kick it off this morning with recognizing and honoring a couple of your game wardens that are doing extraordinary work around the state. Obviously, no surprise to all of you.

And our first recognition is the Texas Game Warden Association Game Warden of the Year and no surprise, it's going to Matt Waggoner. Very deserving warden. Matt has spent, I think, the entirety of his career up in the Brazos River Country, there ten years in Palo Pinto County and then about a year ago, he transferred over to the neighboring county in Young County. But any game warden that works over there is going to spend a lot of time on Possum Kingdom and a lot of time on the Brazos, and so Matt has been very busy on the water safety related front. One of our experts in enforcing BWI. He knows every square inch and run and riffle and bend of about 80 miles of the Brazos River that he's responsible for patrolling.

Great relationships with landowners and his fellow Law Enforcement officers there on the Brazos and in that area as he deals with every day whether it's reckless airboaters or lost kayakers or fishermen doing things or hunters they shouldn't -- things they shouldn't be doing, trespassers, poachers, et cetera. Just done a fabulous job.

Matt is one of those leaders on the team. His Captain Pat Canan selected him to be a field training officer to work with our younger and newer wardens to help mentor them and that's a real honor for Matt. Very involved in our community with his church and Little League, sponsoring youth hunts, hunts for kids of the families who've lost fathers or mothers in the line of duty, as officers helping to sponsor hunts for wounded warriors, doing youth safety events there in Graham and other places. Again, he's just been an integral part of that community as he's carried out his very important conservation law enforcement duties for this Department.

I want to read a quote from David Pellizzari who nominated Matt to get this award because I think it just sums, again, so well why Matt is being recognized by the Game Warden Association today. And David worked with Matt for six or seven years, I guess, closely as his partner and what he said was, "When he transferred into Palo Pinto County, he was incredibly proud to call Matt his partner. Matt showed me around the county, introduced me to all of the landowners and all our fellow officers. We fed off each other and pushed each other." He said, "I know that I'm a better officer today because of my time working with Matt. Matt epitomizes what a game warden should be and I cannot think of a better person to be selected for this award than Matt Waggoner."

And so ladies and gentlemen, we want to honor Matt Waggoner with the Game Warden Association Officer of the Year and I want to ask Quint Balkcom, Captain Balkcom who's the President of the Game Warden Association, to come up and with Colonel Jones and the Chairman for this picture. Matt Waggoner, Matt.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Calvin, it's your turn. We're now going to be able to recognize Calvin Harbaugh with the National Wild Turkey Federation Officer of the Year. And again a very, very fitting honoree. Before I say a few words about Calvin and ask Craig White, the President, to come forward, I just want to remind this body what a critical partner the National Wild Turkey Federation is. Every single day their biologists are out there working to improve habitat, create opportunities for hunters, working with our team on improving and working on conservation for turkeys, helping with restocking. Their members help to raise private dollars every day to help fund conservation all over the state, all across the country; and they're just a terrific partner.

Every year they also honor an Officer of the Year and Calvin Harbaugh is a game warden that's been with us for 25 years, been stationed over in Fayette County and La Grange for eight or nine years or so -- Calvin, I see him shaking his head. That's probably mostly right. Calvin is incredibly respected around the state as one of our senior wardens and go-to guys that everybody looks up to. He's just got a very steady, calm demeanor. There's not a situation in the state he hadn't dealt with on inland waters, coastal waters, the border and enforcing our fish and game laws.

He's a member of our search-and-rescue team and a swift water technician. He's also an expert airboat operator and so when we have these catastrophic floods, whether it's on the Colorado River or it's one of the hurricanes, Calvin is one of the first guys called in to be able to operate those airboats and help to rescue folks that need help, oftentimes in very precarious situations.

Calvin is very involved in the local community giving presentations, getting youth groups out to hunt, does a radio show there in the community to kick off every hunting season to help the landowners and hunters be reminded about what the game laws are. Again, just a wonderful ambassador for the Department, again, whether it's on the outreach or whether he's doing emergency response or his critically important law enforcement responsibilities. And it's no surprise that Calvin was selected with this very prestigious recognition from the National Wild Turkey Federation.

And we've got a lot of colleagues here from the National Wild Turkey Federation. We've got at least one retired wildlife biologist and one retired game warden that I see out there that are part and parcel of it and a former Chair of our -- or member of our Upland Game Bird Committee. But I want to ask Craig White, the State President for the National Wild Turkey Federation, to come up and say a few words as we present this award to Calvin. So, Craig.

MR. CRAIG WHITE: Good morning, Chairman Duggins, Commissioners, Executive Director Smith, Department staff, and guests. My name is Craig White. I'm the President of the Texas State Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, representing 5,000 dedicated conservationists across our state. We appreciate the opportunity to appear before you today on the occasion of recognizing another great state game warden, Mr. Calvin Harbaugh, as Texas NWTF's Wildlife Officer of the Year for 2019.

It is our pleasure to do this on an annual basis at the NWTF national convention in Nashville, but more importantly before this governing body here at home. These carefully selected state game wardens are a credit to Law Enforcement Division, the Department, and to the sportsmen of Texas. The work and efforts put forth by these fine men and women daily, are essential to our mission and our wildlife as a whole. Without their determination, we would fail to be successful in our mission at NWTF in conserving the wild turkey and preserving our hunting heritage.

Mr. Harbaugh has shown a great deal of dedication as one of our outstanding wardens and his 25 plus years of experience make him a role model within the game warden family. We hope to continue and expand on the great collaborations with the Department. On behalf of the NWTF Texas State Chapter, thank you for the opportunity to address you today; and thank you, Mr. Harbaugh, for your dedicated service to our great state. Thank you.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman, no retirements today. So that's good. We've talked them out of it for another Commission Meeting. So we do have some service awards and, God, it just seems like yesterday that we were honoring Judit Green for 20 years. Today, we're honoring her for 30 years, Clayton.

Judit has got a great history as a wildlife biologist for the Department. She started out as a wildlife technician over in East Texas working on everything from alligators to colonial waterbirds and then she was one of our first urban wildlife biologists and started out in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and then moved to San Antonio, where she represents us in that San Antonio Bexar County area and works on everything from urban wildlife issues, land use planning, complicated water, endangered species, backyard habitat, native pollinators, land and water conservation. You name it, Judit is out there and she's representing the Department with presentations and programs and outreach and technical guidance.

She's just a terrific ambassador and partner representing the Department as one of our urban outreach biologists. She's also one of those wonderful husband-wife teams that we have at Parks and Wildlife. Her husband, Carl, works for us at Government Canyon State Natural Area. They've got two great kids and we're honored today to recognize Judit for her 30 years of service to Parks and Wildlife and the State of Texas. Judit, bravo.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague has also been with us 30 years, Aida Hinton. And Aida is with our Law Enforcement team; but she actually started out with us in State Parks, Rodney. She was out there at Seminole Canyon just west of the Pecos and west of Comstock. She started out as a fee collector in the park and then she was a tour guide taking visitors to go look at Fate Bell Shelter to see those just magnificent pictographs from the Lower Pecos rock art there.

She was our officer manager and then in 2004, Aida moved over to Houston and became an administrative assistant there at our South Houston Law Enforcement Office, where she's helped with administering that office and helping to serve all of the customers that come through, support our captain and his team from a law enforcement perspective, and we're very proud today to recognize Aida Hinton for 30 years of service to Texas Parks and Wildlife. Aida, please come forward.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Aida, someday I want to hear the story of how you got from Comstock to Houston. Those are two different worlds, so.

Our next colleague has been with us for 25 years, Inland Fisheries biologist Hugh Glenewinkel. And Hugh started out as a technician at there at A.E. Wood, our fish hatchery just south of here down the road in San Marcos. Was there for a few years and then was promoted to be a hatchery biologist, Commissioner Scott, at the old Jasper Fish Hatchery and so did a tour of duty there at that property, helping with the hatchery production when that was still going strong.

Then, I think, in '99 moved back to A.E. Wood as a hatchery biologist there in San Marcos, where he's proudly dedicated his career to helping to produce literally millions and millions and millions of fish to put back into our lakes and rivers and streams and creeks. He's really one of the go-to guys on production methods for Channel cats and native Black bass, wrote the -- wrote the book. Really understands what Todd Engeling and his team will refer to as the art and science of hatchery production and producing those fish, which I think is a great characterization.

Hugh is incredibly well respected by his colleagues with his experience and his just steady, calm demeanor. He's a great mentor, and we're awfully honored today to celebrate Hugh's 25 years of service to our Inland Fisheries team. Hugh, bravo, 25 years.

(Round after applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague is a wildlife biologist, John Davis, also has been with us 25 years. John started out in the field doing rare bird surveys in the western Hill Country on the Devils River and at Lost Maples and Kickapoo Caverns. And I gather when Judit moved from Dallas to San Antonio, John then applied for the urban outreach biologist up in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and represented us there in 16 counties up there in the Metroplex and really where John developed I think what has been his passion about how do we connect wildlife and nature with people, particularly in audiences in which they may otherwise be very disengaged, and John is just a terrific ambassador in that regard.

A really sought-after communicator and public speaker for his ideas and thoughts about how best to do that and has really helped shape a lot of our programs and ideas about how we do that better as an Agency. 2008, John moved to Austin; and in 2010, took over supervisory responsibilities for our Wildlife Diversity Program. So that's all of our nongame related programs, our citizen science, our natural diversity database, our rare and imperiled species, our nongame permitting related programs. Again, critical core functions for our work.

John has also been very active nationally in representing Texas on efforts to help secure a more sustainable funding stream for State wildlife agencies. Chairman, something that you've been involved with at the Recovering America's Wildlife Act. And John has been one of our really primary leaders for the State and representing Texas and we're awfully proud of him and his leadership for that.

He and Judit both said one of their proudest moments as urban biologists working for the State was the creation of your Master Naturalist Program, a partnership that we have with Texas A&M that trains this army of citizen scientists and volunteers, teaches them about the State's natural heritage and then they go out and volunteer at parks and wildlife management areas and private lands for conservation and it's just a wonderful contribution. And so today, we're recognizing John Davis for 25 years of service. John, bravo.

(Round after applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague, Sean Willis, also a wildlife biologist that's been with us for 25 years over behind the pine curtain in the Pineywoods. Started out in '93 working on a habitat suitability project, looking at the possibility of Black bears coming back into the river bottoms of deep East Texas. Worked on that for a couple of years and then moved over to work on our Eastern Turkey Project, looking at stocking Eastern turkeys in the woods of East Texas and developing partnerships with landowners, partnerships with the National Wild Turkey Federation.

In 1999, Sean was hired as our first technician, our wildlife technician at the Toledo Bend and Alazan Bayou Wildlife Management Areas there, where he did a terrific job. And then in 2000, he was poached for a different job by a then young, full-haired, flat-bellied buck named Clayton Wolf, who was the District Wildlife Biologist back in the Pineywoods way back when if you can imagine that. And so Sean was hired there in Lufkin to be a regulatory biologist serving six counties, working with the big timber companies, working with the nonindustrial private forest landowners, doing surveys on everything from alligator to deer to colonial waterbirds and Bald eagles, writing wildlife management plans, and again just does a terrific job representing the State over in East Texas today.

Sean has been married to his wife, Melissa. They celebrated their 25th anniversary this year, as well as their 25th anniversary with the Department. Have two great kids. And today, we're honored to celebrate Sean's 25 years of service as a wildlife biologist to the State of Texas. Sean, bravo.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague is part of our Communications team. Some of y'all -- and probably all of you have had a chance at some point to meet Bruce Biermann. Bruce leads our media production team, but he started out as a TV producer. And so he was one of our producers and videographers. Got to travel all around the state shooting B-roll and stories for the PBS Parks and Wildlife TV series and so climbing mountains trying to get footage of Bighorn sheep and Black bear, scaled to the top of the San Jacinto Mountain. He's been to -- or the Monument. He's been to the bottom of Kickapoo Caverns State Park. Hung out of helicopters. He had lots of fun when he was a spring chicken.

He -- in 2013, he had his arm twisted to take over supervisory responsibility for our media production team, in which he leads an incredibly talented and creative group of artists that help to tell the stories of our state and our lands and waters and fish and wildlife and parks that you see on our videos, our YouTube, our TV shows, and Bruce just does a fabulous job leading that team. He himself has been recognized and honored with over 40 different industry awards for the quality of his productions; but I know he's most proud of the work of his very, very capable and talented team.

Bruce wrote a little poem to share with y'all to celebrate his 25 years. Sit down, Josh. And so I'm going to read it and he says this: "To work in television in the Texas outdoors, Parks and Wildlife offers me the chance to explore. Places I've met, places I have traveled, learning so much and being totally dazzled. I photographed from helicopters and been diving with sharks. I've been airsick and seasick. Enough of those remarks. From El Paso to Beaumont and Brownsville to Dalhart, I'm fortunate to have seen our Texas as art. I'm grateful to say thank you for the experiences I've received. After 25 years, there's much more to see."

Twenty-five years of service, Bruce Biermann. Bravo, Bruce.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague, Rosa Sullivan, 25 years of service with our Financial Resources Division and as Mike Jensen reminded me, all of our colleagues across the state better pay attention because she's the one who heads up the paycheck part of this deal. So clap loudly, I might respectfully suggest.

Rosa started out with our team in the licensing section and then moved over into the payroll related responsibilities. And literally, she handles every single part of that in terms of the disbursements of paychecks and the required distributions, making sure that we're complying with all of the federal and state tax related requirements. Rosa has been our team lead as we've transitioned to the CAPPS HR Project, that centralized accounting and payroll and personnel system that we have moved to, at least partially, on our HR side and we'll be doing the financial piece of it next year and so she's been our team lead on that and has just done a terrific job.

Mike wanted me just to, again, reflect how proud he is of Rosa and just the incredible hard work that she puts into supporting all of the men and women of this Agency and just what joy it gives her to support their hard work and make sure that they get paid on time and she does a terrific job and we're proud of her. Rosa Sullivan, 25 years of service. Rosa, bravo.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague, Jeannie Muñoz Poor. Jeannie started with us 20 years ago. She started actually as one of our permit specialists in the Deer Breeding Program. She then took on responsibilities for permits having to do with the Triple T and the aerial wildlife management permits, the depredation permits. Ultimately, her job continued to get expanded and her responsibilities broadened and in 2004, I think it was, Jeannie was asked to basically oversee all of our essentially wildlife game and nongame related permits. And, again, just did a terrific job helping to streamline processes, making sure that we had all of the necessary coordination with our federal partners at Fish and Wildlife Service on the federal/state relationships that govern so many of these permits, whether it's a falconry permit or an aerial wildlife management permit or you name it, she really committed to helping improve things.

2008, she was asked to lead the Agency's new project management office, where she led projects that were interdivisional, interdisciplinary, Chairman, the production and update of the Land and Water Plan that you and I talked about recently and she'll soon be embarking upon another revision of that that we'll certainly talk about. Helping to reframe the "Outdoor Annual." She assisted David Buggs on the Diversity Committee when we got that stood up. Again, just a real servant's heart in that role. Recently, she was promoted in our support resources team to lead up our policy related branch in which she's working every day to help improve our policies and business practices at the Agency and we're awfully excited about honoring Jeannie today for 20 years of service. Jeannie, bravo.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague, Ava Sumners from Lufkin who was hired as one of our accounting clerks, has been promoted up to our Administrative Assistant Four there in our Lufkin Law Enforcement Office and Ava just does a tremendous job making sure that the day-to-day responsibilities of that very busy office in Lufkin is administered well. Supporting her captain, supporting the game wardens out in the field. She's been kind of the heart and soul of that office in terms of organizing every birthday and anniversary and Christmas party and retirement. Again, just that wonderful esprit de corps that you see in the offices and families of Parks and Wildlife wherever they may be.

Ava has been married to her husband, Terry, for 30 years. They've got two wonderful kids and for 20 years, she's just been a terrific public servant with a great servant's heart representing the Agency out in Lufkin and today we're proud to honor her. Ava, thank you. Ava.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Merry Schwarz is Ava's counterpart over in Abilene and she, too, has been with us for 20 years. Her entire career has been at our Abilene Law Enforcement Office. Again, just the backbone of that office, making sure that it's running smoothly, and that all of the necessary administration and paperwork and licenses and customer needs are being met, supporting her captain. Lacy, I guess she's lived through three or four of y'all along her career and broken everybody in quite well.

Again, just does a terrific job in the critically important administrative functions that we have in those field offices, supporting our game warden team out in Abilene. And today, we're honoring Merry for 20 years of service to Parks and Wildlife. Merry, please come forward. Bravo.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague needs no introduction. I will let you in on a little secret. You know him as --


MR. SMITH: -- Charles Bonds. Well, that's one name that I've heard for him. You know, Chairman, I -- Charles -- and I think that's a very fitting way to refer to him with the appropriate decorum. He's also, as you know, known for his irrepressible spirit and positive outlook and attitude, which earned him the forever nickname by Jessica of "Skippy." Now, don't tell anybody that that's what his colleagues call him; but Skippy has served proudly with us for 20 years.

Charles graduated from Texas A&M --

(Round of whoops)

MR. SMITH: Perfect. Right on cue. Right here, it's -- you'll appreciate this, Commissioner. In the script right after the Texas A&M thing, it says, "Pause for dramatic effect" and I can always count on the good checks from the Wildlife Division to let out a loud whoop there.

Charles got his bachelor's from A&M and his master's from Virginia Tech, where a lot of our fisheries biologists go off. Terrific programs at both schools. And in all seriousness, Craig has served all over the state, which gives him just a wealth of experiences. He was a management biologist over in East Texas. Assistant District Leader in Tyler and then in San Marcos where he worked the Highland Lakes and the Central Texas rivers. He was a district biologist out in West Texas in San Angelo. Regional Director out in East Texas and he -- so he's worked on everything from all of the fish management and stocking and surveying and angler access and aquatic invasive species related issues that they've had to contend with, how we recruit more anglers, how we recruit more boaters, how we manage our stocks to support that in a sustainable way and he's just been an incredible thought leader and practice leader in working with our team.

2014, Craig was promoted to be our Division Director. And, Chairman, I'll tell you two reflections on that that occurred. One, of course -- and I say this as respectfully -- I saw some sports writers out that there that will appreciate this. The late Ray Sasser who in his latter years writing for the Dallas Morning News was, I think it's fair to say, sparing of his praise for the Department. And I got a note from Ray, a handwritten note that said and I quote after we let him know that Craig had been hired, "Well, you finally did something right."

And so I've always treasured that, guys. I want you to know that. High praise from Ray. The other thing, Craig married a rancher's daughter and typical taciturn rancher, doesn't have a lot of use for these highfalutin scientists. I've just got to be honest with you. And one of Clayton's -- my favorite story is after Craig gets named the Division Director for the Inland Fisheries -- you know, here he is. He's overseeing all of the fisheries biologists. They're producing millions of bass and catfish, you know, to put in our thousand reservoirs and 200,000 miles of lakes and rivers. He's responsible for fishing in Texas. You know, he's strutting around here like a little peacock and he goes back home to the ranch to see his father-in-law and finds him dumping a bunch of little minnows in these ziploc bags into the stock tanks and he said, "What are you doing?"

He said, "Well, I'm stocking my tanks."

Craig said, "Well, you didn't ask me for any help?"

He said, "No. I just went over and talked to the guy at the feed store and he told me exactly what to do."

So Craig got his first piece of humble pie in terms of how most of us big shots really get treated out there in the real world. Craig is a real leader. He serves as a board member of the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, named as an Outstanding Fisheries Biologist from the American Fisheries Society. He's been President of the Texas Chapter and the Southeastern Chapter. Again, we just couldn't be more proud to have him on our leadership team of the Agency. So Charles Skippy Craig Bonds, 20 years of service.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague today is Mike Felts. Mike has been with us for 20 years. He grew up there at Flour Bluff, right there on the shores of the Upper Laguna Madre. Obviously, fell in love with fisheries and fishing. Watched the Redfish wars unfold with the Department in the 70s. In the 80s, was inspired to pursue a career with Parks and Wildlife. Came to work for the Department originally at Mustang Island State Park and worked there for three or four years and then he transferred over to the CCA Marine Development Center, the hatchery there in Flour Bluff, his home town right outside of Corpus.

And Mike has been involved with the production of literally millions and millions of trout and Redfish that have gone back into our bays and estuaries to help enhance and augment our fisheries stock. He oversees our maintenance there at the hatchery. He's now intimately involved with the development, Robin, I guess of our new Southern flounder propagation facility which he's really excited about. He's just been a terrific mentor to our new technicians and biologists and folks that work at and with the hatchery. He's a proud father. And today, we're honoring Mike for 20 years of service to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department with our Coastal Fisheries team. Mike, bravo.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague, Tammy Dunham, just like the others, I simply can't say enough about. Many of you may not have had a chance to meet Tammy, but her work is incredibly important to the governance and risk management and compliance of this Agency.

Tammy actually started off on a two-week temporary assignment to the Agency 20 years ago to help as a temporary purchaser. Since that time, she has steadily worked her way up to head up all of the purchasing and contracting for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and that means she is really responsible for ensuring that this Agency complies with all of the myriad state regulations and rules and laws regarding procurement and contracting. Critically important. Tammy does a masterful job of trying to help our colleagues navigate their way through some sometimes very difficult, hard to understand rules and laws that govern our purchasing and contracting in state government and she makes sure that we do it lawfully and she always tries to find alternative solutions to help our colleagues get what they need. And whether it's the, you know, purchase of a new boat or a tractor or a four-wheeler or a critical service's contract, Tammy and her team are there to make sure, again, that they can get it done.

She's incredibly hard working when the emergencies hit and our law enforcement and other teams are out there having to buy supplies and fuel and equipment and food and they need all the help they can get and they can't worry about what's happening behind the scenes, Tammy and her team are there to support them every step of the way. Again, I just can't say enough about her work.

She's led our efforts to help expand our business relationships and partners with groups like the Mexican-American Chamber of Commerce and the African-American Chamber of Commerce. She's a go-to person for Senator West to help provide advice and counsel on how we better implement HUB programs in state government. Again, just a real thought leader, a real innovator, and just does a terrific job supporting the men and women of this Agency and their very, very important needs and we're honored today to recognize Tammy for 20 years of service. Bravo, Tammy.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our last colleague, also 20 years of service, Yaddira Careaga. And Yaddira started with us a little over 20 years ago in our HR team. She actually started out in administrative assistance. She -- a secretarial position. She moved up to take on a program specialist related position and has really done everything under the sun supporting our HR team. She's been involved in the personnel administration, the special leaves, the benefits, the Workers' Compensations, the position classification analyst. She helped develop our online personnel action module and tool that we all use from an HR perspective.

She's our classification team lead. And so in other words, she's just a terrific go-to person for our HR team that support the 3,200 or 3,300 men and women of this Agency and Yaddira just does a fabulous job and we're proud to recognize her today for 20 years of service. Yaddira, please come forward.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman, Commission, that concludes my remarks. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you, Carter. Those are always special. Appreciate everybody's patience as we honor our employees.

So this is a good time -- if you want to stay for the remainder of the meeting, we invite you to do so; but if you wish to leave, this is a good and appropriate time. We'll take a -- why don't we take a five-minute recess, and we'll start back at five minutes before the hour. So we'll recess for five minutes.

(Recess taken)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right. I'll call the meeting back to order at 10:02 a.m. Our first action item is the consideration of the 2019-20 Statewide Recreational -- Recreational and Commercial Fishing and Statewide Oyster Fishery Proclamations, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. After we hear from Ken Kurzawski and Lance Robinson, we will then invite those members of the public who have signed up to speak to come offer their viewpoints on this. And I would like, just for planning purposes, to -- because I understand we have a number of people who wish to comment on these -- on this action item, to be prepared to come up. And the first speaker I'm going to call is Jeff Beck, followed by Will Staener, followed by Michael Cravens. So be prepared gentlemen, please.

And with that, Ken Kurzawski, will you please make your presentation?

MR. KURZAWSKI: Good morning, Chairman, Commissioners. I'm Ken Kurzawski with the Inland Fisheries team. And by the way, Carter, thanks for helping me get in the building this morning, so.

Today, I'll be reviewing the proposed changes to the freshwater fishing regulation changes for the new regulatory year that starts September 2019 and summarizing the public comment on those proposals. As we discussed in Tuesday's Work Session Meeting, the Lake Conroe proposal was removed from consideration pending further evaluation. Staff will come back to the Commission in the future to further discuss bass regulations on Lake Conroe.

Starting off with some of the bass regulations first. Mill Creek Lake, it's a small lake near Canton that has a history of producing large bass that is currently managed with a 14- to 21-inch slot limit. We are proposing a 16-inch maximum length limit, 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 to maximize catch of larger bass and allow harvest of smaller bass.

Lakewood Lake is being developed as a Leander City park in the Austin metro area and will include fishing access. This lake will add another opportunity in the Austin metro area for small-lake fishing using kayaks and canoes. For Largemouth bass, our proposal is to implement an 18-inch minimum length limit and three-fish bag, which we decreased from the five bag on your suggestions. The lake has an existing quality bass population and 18-inch limit is typically what we use to protect bass populations in these situations from overharvest.

Next on Alan Henry, Alabama bass are considered a different species than the Spotted bass native to Texas. They are native to the Mobile River drainage in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. Alabama bass obtain a larger size than our native Spotted bass and that's why we experimentally stocked them in Alan Henry. That's the only location in Texas that has that species. We have managed both Largemouth and the Alabama bass with a five-fish bag that allows the harvest of two bass under 18 inches; but while abundant, few Alabama bass have exceeded 18 inches. We are proposing to remove the Alabama bass from the special five-fish bag, which means anglers could harvest up to five Alabama bass of any length. Increased harvest of the abundant Alabama bass may benefit both bass fisheries in Alan Henry.

Next in Southeast Texas, we implemented a 12-inch limit in 2016 in response to increased interest in bass fishing and bass tournaments in the coastal estuaries of Southeast Texas. That limit is in effect in the areas noted on the slide. The change has been well received and has local support. We have had some compliance and enforceability issues with waters that border and extend into the non-listed bordering counties. We wanted to encompass those waters that have bass populations with similar characteristics to eliminate some of those issues.

We are proposing to add a portion of Liberty County south of U.S. Highway 90 and all of 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 limit.

To go over the public comments we received on these proposed changes to bass regulations, the persons agreeing were more -- received more in that regard. And as far as those disagreeing, there wasn't any real consensus to those comments, those specific comments, on disagreement. Mostly, enough people wanted to stay with the current regulation or they had some suggestions for other possible regulations; but we believe these changes are appropriate for all these waters at this time.

So with that, if you have any questions or comments on these bass regulations before I proceed to Alligator gar, I'd be happy to entertain those.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Members, any questions?

All right. Please go ahead.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Okay. Starting off, we have some changes, four changes on Alligator gar. The first one on the Trinity River, we are proposing a 48-inch maximum length limit. That means no Alligator gar over 48 inches could be harvested. There would be no change to the statewide bag limit of one. The length limit would be implemented on the Trinity River from the I-30 bridge in Dallas, downstream to the I-10 bridge in Chambers County, including the -- this would include the east fork of the Trinity up to the dam at Lake Ray Hubbard.

Under this limit, we would see more larger fish in the population and most of the spawning age fish would be protected until they reach reproductive age. This limit would allow some limited harvest.

Next, also on the Trinity River on that same section, we are proposing to implement a drawing that would allow persons selected to harvest one Alligator gar over 48 inches per year. The limited entry system would allow a nontransferable harvest authorization for a set number of Alligator gar. Authorizations would be selected and distributed through a random draw of interested applicants. Alligator gar could be harvested by any lawful means, including pole and line and bowfishing. This opportunity for harvest would be valid for one license year, September 1 through the following August 31.

Next, staying on that same stretch of the Trinity River, based on the Commission's discussion in yesterday's Work Session, all waters of the state would continue to be open for nighttime bowfishing for Alligator gar. The only restriction would be on the Trinity River for that same section as we've been discussing where that is proposed for the 48-inch maximum and a drawing for the harvest opportunity. A person receiving a harvest authorization for the drawing would be allowed to take an Alligator gar at night using a bow.

The final proposal concerning Alligator gar is that we are proposing to require mandatory harvest reporting. Persons harvesting Alligator gar would have to report the date, general location, size, and method within 24 hours by website or app, which is similar to the current requirements for Eastern turkey. We are proposing to exempt Falcon Reservoir, which has a five-fish bag, as it appears that reservoir has a more robust population and that information is not needed to manage that particular population. Also, harvest reporting statewide would be -- would aid in tracking any harvest that is displaced on the Trinity to other areas.

To go over some of the public comments we've seen germane to the proposals we are discussing today. We looked -- we did look at the composition of the responses by the methods that the respondents preferred to use. We did receive over 700 individual comments on each of these. Up to 100 specific comments in disagreement. And as you can see, they were fairly evenly divided between the agree and disagree.

Next, looking at some of the comments we received by other methods. We had some public hearings, four public hearings: San Antonio, Conroe, Athens, and Livingston. And we also received a number of letters, both that agreed with the proposals as proposed in the Texas Register and some that disagreed with those. Most of the comments in favor were in support of all the changes. Specifically, for the Lone Star Chapter Sierra Club, they were in favor of that; but they were concerned about harvest of large Alligator gar around the remainder of the state.

Among those that -- the various organizations and businesses that put in comments relative to disagreeing with the proposals, they were mostly generally in favor of our efforts to regulate Alligator gar. They did have some particular disagreements with methods that would impact bow anglers and there was a little -- as far as some agreement among those that were disagreeing was -- there was some -- some of those were in favor of the mandatory reporting aspect of it.

We also did receive -- after yesterday's meeting, did receive a petition by mail that had over 7,000 signatures. We did receive comments from the Freshwater Fisheries Advisory Committee. They were mostly in favor of the changes and the Coastal Resources Advisory Committee also was in favor of the proposed changes.

So finally to sort of categorize the reasons that were given in disagreement. These are sort of in the or -- the top reasons that were given. Starting off, there was some general opposition to the -- to any changes. Comments were directed towards it was not needed, that gar are abundant or in good shape. There was a questioning about the lack of supporting data. There was a number of alternative regulations suggested. All the way from either more harvest regulations or even allowing a total unregulated harvest of Alligator gar. There was that concern expressed by a lot of people about some of the changes that specifically targeted bow anglers and the economic impact it would have. Some comments about the restricted nature of the drawing and the reporting that could be onerous to some people. And then finally, there was some comments relative to the impacts of hooking mortality of pole and line methods.

So that concludes all our proposals that we have for this year and the public input. Do you have any questions or comments?

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Members, any questions?

All right. At this time, we'll hear from Lance Robinson on the saltwater side.

MR. ROBINSON: Good morning, Chairman Commissioners. For the record, my name is Lance Robinson with the Coastal Fisheries Division. This morning, I'm here to present the four proposed regulation changes under the statewide saltwater fishing regulations. These include the expansion of the five-fish bag limit for Spotted seatrout, making the daily bag limit consistent coast-wide; a requirement for the use of non-offset non-stainless steel circle hooks when fishing for sharks; an increase in the minimum size limit for cobia from 37 inches to 40 inches; and finally, the temporary closure of recently restored oyster reefs.

Regarding the Spotted seatrout, the Department proposes to expand the five-fish daily bag limit coast-wide. Currently, Galveston Bay and Sabine Lake have a ten-fish daily bag limit for Spotted seatrout. The Department has received requests from both private recreational anglers and fishing guides to consider lowering the daily bag limit to match the rest of the coast.

Coastal Fisheries data shows that the population of Spotted seatrout in these two systems remains stable. Additionally, most anglers fishing in these two systems land five or fewer fish per day. This slide shows the daily bag distribution for private recreational anglers during the 2017 fishing year. Over 91 percent of the anglers intercepted during these creel surveys, retained five or fewer Spotted seatrout. Similarly, the bag distribution for guided trips shows about 87 percent of intercepted anglers keeping five or fewer Spotted seatrout during that 2017 season.

The previous two bag distribution slides represented the combined data for both Galveston Bay and Sabine Lake. However, it has been suggested that the current proposal would result in Texas anglers changing their behavior, as they would begin launching their boats on the Louisiana side of Sabine Lake to take advantage of the more liberal Louisiana regulations for Spotted seatrout, which currently is set at 12-inch minimum size limit, 15-fish daily bag limit with no more than two over 25 inches.

Department data suggests that this trend is already occurring. There are two boat ramps located on the Louisiana side of Sabine Lake where Parks and Wildlife conducts creel surveys. This slide represents the residency of anglers intercepted during surveys in 2017. Approximately 75 percent of the private recreational anglers and approximately 10 percent of guided trip anglers launching at these two boat ramps are Texas residents. However, data collected during these Department creel surveys from these two Louisiana boat ramps, show that a majority of the anglers -- a little over 82 percent -- keep five or fewer Spotted seatrout per day. We see a similar trend for guided trips originating and ending from the Louisiana side of Sabine Lake, with 71 percent of anglers keeping five or fewer Spotted seatrout.

Moving on to sharks and cobia. The proposal for sharks would require anglers fishing for sharks in state waters to use non-offset non-stainless steel circle hooks. This requirement would not apply when fishing with artificial lures. The National Marine Fisheries Service has adopted these requirements in federal waters to address overfishing and to help with the rebuilding of the Atlantic dusky shark population.

The proposal for cobia would increase the minimum size limit from 37 inches to 40 inches total length. The gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council recently chose to change the commercial and recreational minimum size limit for Gulf cobia in federal waters to 40 inches. These proposals would make shark and cobia regulations in state waters consistent with federal regulations, which the Department believes will reduce confusion and enhance compliance, administration, and enforcement.

And finally, the Department proposes to temporarily close five oyster reefs within three bay systems that have recently been restored through cultch plantings or will be restored before the summer's end. These closures will be for two years and will allow juvenile oysters to attach the newly placed substrate and grow to legal size before being available for harvest.

These sites include two in Galveston Bay -- Pasadena Reef, just over 56 acres; and Pepper Grove, about 12 acres -- one in Matagorda or Lavaca Bay, 30 acres at the Noble Point Reef Site; and two in Copano Bay, a sanctuary reef of about 35 acres and a non-sanctuary reef of 35.6 acres. Buoys would be installed on the corners of each of these sites to help identify them as closed areas for both commercial and recreational oyster fishermen.

The Department -- through about 4:00 o'clock yesterday afternoon, the Department has received over 2,800 comments regarding the proposed proposals before you today. For the expansion of the five-fish bag limit, we received about 90 -- 69 percent of the comments received have been supportive of the proposal, 26 percent have been opposed, and 5 percent have indicated that they were neutral, had no opinion on the particular proposal. We did receive support from both the Coastal Resources Advisory Committee, as well as the Coastal Conservation Association.

For those individuals who indicated their opposition and provided a reason for that opposition, I've listed the highest or the most common ones that were listed in these -- that we received in order and the number one, about eight -- a little over 18 percent indicated that their opposition was due to the fact that they believe the science -- it was not science based and the science didn't support it. Others believed that anglers will simply refrain from buying a Texas license and buy the Louisiana license instead and that the proposal would have minimal impact and that they just wanted to be able to keep more fish and finally, that the proposals only benefit guides.

I put down at the bottom of the screen, just as reminder, the results of our mail-out survey that was done in 2018 that we talked about yesterday just to give you a sense of the percentage in support and opposition for that survey.

Regarding the proposal for circle hooks when fishing for sharks, about 47 percent of the respondents indicated their support, with 12 -- a little over -- almost 13 percent in opposition; but 40 percent indicated neutrality or that they had no opinion on that particular proposal. Again, the comments down at the bottom reflect the highest scoring percentages of comments provided for opposition. Primarily that the proposal wouldn't make a difference and that individuals would like to use circle hooks for other species and that it was unfair to land-based anglers.

For increasing the minimum size for cobia to 40 inches, about 48 and a half percent of the respondents indicated their support for the proposal. Again, with support provided by the Coastal Resources Advisory Committee and CCA. Opposition was about 12 percent, and about 40 percent of the respondents indicated that they were neutral to the proposal. Those indicating their opposition that provided a comment, primarily was that the -- we should wait on the results of the 2019 stock assessment for the species that's being completed by the National Marine Fishery Service or that they wanted to be allowed to keep actually more fish and that -- and then slightly less than 3 percent indicated that we should just ban commercial fishing for the species.

And then finally for the temporary closure of oyster restoration sites, 71 percent of the respondents indicated their support for the proposal, about 2 and a half percent in opposition, and about 27 percent with no opinion. Again, the comments from those opposing was primarily that they wanted to keep the area open for recreational harvest or that they wanted to clarify that the area would only be closed for oystering, that other fishing activity could take place within those boundaries which is, in fact, the case.

So with that, that's the conclusion of my proposal. And the recommendation that the Department brings forward today is that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts repeal of Chapter 57.979 and amendments to 57.972, 57.981, and 57.992 concerning the statewide recreational and commercial fishing proclamation and amendment to Chapter 58.21 concerning taking or attempting to take oysters from public oyster beds general rules, with changes as necessary to the proposed text as published in the February 15th, 2019, issue of the Texas Register. And with that, I'll close and take any questions you may have.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Members, any questions or comments? Commissioner Scott.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yeah, I -- having grown up in Southeast Texas, particularly around Sabine Lake and everything, would like to voice the support that -- on the changing the limit to the five. The success that we have witnessed on the bottom third and the middle third of the coast when we went to the five-fish limit has been extraordinary on the difference in the size of fish and all the people I've talked with that are either professional guides or fish a great deal down in that part of the state, support the five-fish limit. So I would just like to be -- make everybody aware that I personally think that's a very good idea.

MR. ROBINSON: Thank you.


Any other comments or questions?

All right. So thank you, Lance.

At this time, we'll hear from members of the public who have signed up to speak on these -- on Action Item 1. And as I said, we'll start with calling Jeff Beck, followed by Will Staener, followed by Michael Cravens. And everybody, you will have three minutes to make your points.

MR. JEFF BECK: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. I appreciate the time this morning. My name is Jeff Beck. I'm a recreational angler from Austin, Texas. I fish down in Galveston and Matagorda Bay. I'm here to provide comment on the Spotted seatrout proposal. I'm here to publically support the rule change for the Spotted seatrout, extending the five-bag limit to the upper coast for both Galveston and Sabine Lake.

I've spent most of my time fishing Matagorda Bay and have enjoyed the size and the fight that you get down there. And so on the other side of Galveston, smaller, less of a fight. Let's bring it up to the top and make it equal for the whole coast. Optional or additional to that, both of the other proposals -- including the limit for cobia and the hook change for the sharks -- I support. And I'd also like to take the opportunity to support the two-year temporary closure of the oyster restoration areas in Galveston, Matagorda, and so forth.

I would like to thank y'all for listening, appreciate your consideration, and keep working to foster our fisheries. We appreciate it. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you, sir.

All right. Mr. Will Staener, followed by Michael Cravens, followed by Peter Gregoire. Hope I'm pronouncing that right.

MR. WILLIAM STAENER: Good morning, Mr. Commissioner, Chairmans. My name is William Staener. I am also a recreational angler from Austin, Texas, here. I grew up in Lake Jackson, Texas, close to the Galveston Bay system. I spent a lot of my time fishing that system, but I also take trips down the coast for what we call the bigger fish. And that five-bag limit has really helped, you know, grow the size of those fish. That obviously gets people excited. That gets people spending more money.

Another thing is we want to get all of our laws to be clear and concise. I have talked to people who have -- you know, when you start to talk about bag limits, "Oh, well, here it's this and here it's this." I think if we can really get our laws in line, especially one that works, I think it's important to go ahead and bring that all the way up the coast.

Circle hooks for sharks, it just makes sense. A lot of anglers, we're already using circle hooks without being told to do so and I think it only makes sense that the survival rates of these species are going to go up when we use a hook that's easier to remove and it's going to also help grow that population, as well.

The cobia, it just makes sense in the same way to get our regulations in line and make sure that we continue to have this resource for our kids and for recreational anglers in the future. So thank you guys for taking comments and for working to conserve these resources. We really appreciate it, and thank you for your time.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you, sir.

Okay. Michael Cravens, followed by Peter Gregoire, followed by Whit Terry.

MR. MICHAEL CRAVENS: Good morning. My name is Michael Cravens. I'm the President of the Bowfishing Association of America, also referred to as the BAA. I'm here today to support my fellow bowfishermen in what I feel is an unfair and unjustified proposal.

You will hear many of my organization's members today speak about the lack of biological studies, harvest rates, and economical impacts that we need to support these regulations. For me, this comes down to doing what is right by the residents of the State of Texas, the Commission that you represent, and the fishery that we are all trying to protect for our future.

We understand the value of Alligator gar and what it means to the sportfishermen all over the world, especially bowfishing. We support the current regulation of one Alligator gar per day per person and feel that the limit is fair for both the fishermen and the species to thrive. I also personally support any research that needs to be done on the fishery to protect it, including implementing a mandatory harvest reporting system. Across the United States, we have seen that this has been successful with other species and I feel it would be beneficial to Alligator gar, as well.

In regard to the statewide ban for Alligator gar bowfishing at night, we appreciate the removal from that -- of the -- from the proposal. Also in regard to the petition that had 7,600 signatures, it wasn't clarified; but that actually is in opposed to the regulation. Thank you for your time.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you, sir.

Peter Gregoire, Whit Terry -- followed by Whit Terry, followed by Tim Jackson. I hope I pronounced your name right. If I didn't, correct me.



MR. PETER GREGOIRE: Gregoire. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Welcome, Mr. Gregoire.

MR. PETER GREGOIRE: Thank you. Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Vice-Chairman, Commissioners. My name is Peter Gregoire and I'm an officer and a representative of the Bowfishing Association of America. We are a national organization, and we have over 5,500 members. So we stand today in opposition to the proposed regulations on Alligator gar in the Trinity River and we seek to be stewards of the resource and take actions to protect it whenever necessary, but we feel that there is currently a lack of scientific evidence regarding the current population structure to suggest such a dramatic change as imposing a length limit restriction.

And to that point, without a firm understanding of the population in this stretch of the river, the creation of a permit to harvest a large gar would be arbitrary at best in regards to the number of permits offered. And we also see that this system could potentially be abused by non-anglers if it went into effect. This would negate any opportunity for a bowfisher to potentially harvest a large gar from the Trinity River and as a nonresident bowfisher to the State of Texas, I would be hesitant to journey here, knowing that these restriction are in place.

We would like to see additional research efforts to determine that the current population warrants any new regulations because our belief is that the Trinity River Alligator gar population is stable at the current harvest rates. The Bowfishing Association of America would like to partner with the TWPD[sic] on these research efforts, as well as explore alternatives, like augmentation of the Alligator gar population through potential supplemental stocking programs.

I have no doubt that you will hear additional compelling arguments today about the impacts these regulations could have to local businesses and local economies, as well as how increases in rod and reel fishing pressure could actually have unintended consequences regarding hooking mortality. We believe that putting effort into studying the effects of these impacts is also a necessary next step before taking any actions on any of the new regulations.

Lastly, we would like to thank the Chairman for proposing the removal of the nighttime bowfishing ban for Alligator gar and taking that off of the table for consideration. So thank you for your time.

And, Mr. Chairman, I would welcome any questions that you may have for me at this time.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: I don't have any questions; but I do want to make sure that you and others understand that the proposed ban on harvest of fish over 48 inches in the Trinity, would be by any means. It's not limited just to bowfishermen.

MR. PETER GREGOIRE: Yes, and we understand that. It's just that the proposed permit system that you're suggesting, that would not be -- there would not be permits allocated just to bowfishing or there would not be permits allocated just to the harvest with rod and reel. It would be for anybody, and we think that there is the potential that that could potentially be abused.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Well, it's going to be by -- if it's adopted, it will be by random draw. And so I don't know how anybody could game the system if it's a lottery type draw.

MR. PETER GREGOIRE: Well, you had indicated in your proposal that all interested parties and there's a potential that interested parties could be non-fishermen, for example. They could potentially --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Well, I suppose if somebody wants to take the time to apply for a permit they don't intend to use, we can't stop them. We don't --

MR. PETER GREGOIRE: And I understand.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: We can't get in their brain to --

MR. PETER GREGOIRE: That's true.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: -- determine --

MR. PETER GREGOIRE: We're just aware of that in other permit type systems, you know?

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. Well, we appreciate you coming all the way from Missouri.

And also I guess, Mr. Cravens, you too came from Missouri. So.


CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: -- appreciate you -- Vice-Chairman Morian I think has questions or a comment.


VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Yes. The lack of data is one of the issues here, but you just stated that you feel current harvest rate is fair and sustainable. What do you base that on?

MR. PETER GREGOIRE: So we've read a lot of the studies that have been conducted by the TWPD[sic] and some of the studies that were conducted even prior to that and we have seen that the data indicates that if the, you know, the harvest rate stays below, for example, 5 percent for any long-lived species similar to the Alligator gar, that it's potentially viable and that harvest rate is sustainable. And we haven't seen any data that would indicate that the harvest rate is in excess of 5 percent at this point.

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Well, that's one of the issues. We don't have the data. We don't know if it's 5 percent or more or less. So this is sort of an attempt to collect the data so we can make a good decision in order to protect this species; but we do know that unfettered harvest of 40-, 50-, 60-year-old fish in the Trinity River is not sustainable. The question is: What is the sustainable level? And hopefully, that's what we're going to determine sooner than later.

MR. PETER GREGOIRE: Yeah. And the point that I'd like to make in regards to that is that we are all in favor of continuing the research to ascertain what the current sustainable harvest rate is. Unfortunately, making a determination to put a regulation in place without that data seems presumptive in our opinion.

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Yes, I grant your point there; but it's -- I'd rather be on the safe side and take a little breather here and collect the data so that we can make a good decision and hopefully, you and your fellow fishermen will get us the data that we need or the Department needs to make a good decision.

MR. PETER GREGOIRE: And we are all in favor of --


MR. PETER GREGOIRE: -- working with you to establish those data points.


MR. PETER GREGOIRE: We just would like to not be, in our opinions, penalized while that is taking place because if the data does suggest that the sustainable harvest rate is less than 5 percent and we are below that, we are going to miss out on opportunities to harvest large trophy gar in that stretch of the Trinity River.

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Well, there's no -- no one -- there's no desire to penalize anybody at this point. It's just we need to get better research and input.

Go ahead.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: I agree with all that the Vice-Chairman has said and I think our concern is since we don't know at this point in time, for this regulation to be on the cautious side until we get that data because if we find that the harvest is more than 5 percent, which is unsustainable, or possible -- you know, whatever the data says, for a temporary ban on the large fish. Once those large fish are gone, it will take another however many years to replace those large fish. So I think that we, as a Commission, want to err -- until we have more data -- on the side of caution.

MR. PETER GREGOIRE: My only concern is that if we -- if we assert a regulation in place, it will be very hard to turn it around in the event that the data does prove that we're at a sustainable harvest rate. And to Mr. Cravens' point earlier, you know, we are supportive of the mandatory reporting and if that is where you can establish your data points and you can get that information in conjunction with some of the population studies that you've conducted and it proves scientifically that there is an unsustainable harvest rate currently of large Alligator gar, then we are ready to help, you know, in any way that we need to to sustain the population. We just feel that this is -- it's unnecessary at this point to make that far of a stretch for the regulation.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right, sir. Thank you very much for your comments.


CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: So next up is Whit Terry, also with Bowfishing Association of America; followed by Tim Jackson; followed by Casey Minshew.

MR. WHIT TERRY: Mr. Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Commissioners, Law Enforcement, fellow citizens of Texas, I appreciate the opportunity to all come together and discuss these matters of Alligator gar. As a former federal agent and recently retired Army officer, I'm here on behalf of the love of bowfishing and rod and reel fishing for Alligator gar.

I've fished and bowfished for Alligator gar for 20 years now and I truly love to fish and know a lot about the fish and one of the targeted areas in which I go to try to catch these fish is the Trinity River. I'm here on behalf of just giving you some examples of bowfishing and rod and reel fishing and hopefully to take my considerations before making any decisions.

For example, rod and reel fishing, it's quite simple to catch an Alligator gar on rod and reel. It's basically a 4-foot leader, a 200-pound steel leader, a 3- to 4-aught treble hook, and a chunk of carp or buffalo and if you can see gar rolling in the river, you can easily catch one. That is not the case for bowfishing. Bowfishing, it is extremely hard and difficult to harvest an Alligator gar bowfishing in the Trinity River.

As you know, the Trinity River is not very clear in that stretch of the river in which we are talking about. It is very dirty. You do not see these fish swimming in the water. You have to have them come up and gulp air before you can actually harvest this Alligator gar with bowfishing equipment. The amount of time you have to harvest Alligator gar with a bow is -- you can't even hardly measure the time that you have to draw your bow and make an accurate shot to actually harvest an Alligator gar and then even then getting the fish to your boat is an absolute challenge.

With a rod and reel, my -- one of my main concerns with rod and reel fishing is we do not know how many Alligator gar that we unintentionally harvest by -- even though you do release that Alligator gar, you don't know if that Alligator gar is going to make it or not. I know all of us in the room, if we fish for other fish such as catfish or bass, if you accidently have the bass swallow your bait or a catfish swallow your hook, more than likely that fish is not going to make it and it's just the same in Alligator gar.

But the reason that I give you this example, so the most commonly used hook is a treble hook for Alligator gar and we don't use the traditional bent, curbed barbed hook on a treble hook. We use a straight barbed treble hook, which allows us to hook a soft lining in the fish or has a better hook set on a fish such as Alligator gar with a hard structure, bony type head. That being said, the most common and the easiest way to hook an Alligator gar and catch it with a rod and reel is have them take the bait, swallow the bait, and then reel and that's a good way to get the hooks out on an Alligator gar because their mouth is so bony that you cannot really get a good hook set with any type of hook. So I just wanted to --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Would you please wrap it up just because we've got so many speakers.

MR. WHIT TERRY: Yes, sir. I just want to give you those few considerations to take before you make a decision, whether it's bowfishing or rod and reel fishing and I appreciate your time and pending your questions, Mr. Chairman, that's all I have.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: I do have one question. How often do you bowfish in the Trinity?

MR. WHIT TERRY: Given my work schedule, it's -- I probably go 30 times a year.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: And do you eat the fish that you take?

MR. WHIT TERRY: Yes, sir, I do.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Even though there's a State Health Department consumption advisory that says it's harmful or potentially dangerous to consume gar?

MR. WHIT TERRY: Yes, sir. It is an advisory and there's tons of people that eat fish besides Alligator gar in the Trinity River, be it Sand bass or Flathead catfish.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Well, thank you very much for your comments.

We'll now hear from Tim Jackson, followed by Casey Minshew, followed by Max Blackburn. And I understand Mr. Jackson and Mr. Minshew are also with the Bowfishing Association of America?

MR. TIM JACKSON: Yes, sir, I am.


MR. TIM JACKSON: Good morning, Chairman, Commissioners. I'm here today for us on part of the BAA, just like most of us here. I'm going to kind of move in a little bit of a different direction for the most part. I'm going to be reading a lot. So I may not be looking at you. I wrote a bunch of stuff down.

But Texas Parks and Wildlife has a philosophy. Y'all have it on y'all's Facebook page and it says to serve the State of Texas, its citizens, and our employees with the highest standards of service, professionalism, fairness, courtesy, and respect and rely on the best available science to guide our conservation decisions.

Still looking for that number. We went into -- in 2009, we changed the regulation to one a day. The tagging efforts were halted somewhere around the 2013 date. Where's this data from? Where's the data that was supposed to be collected all this -- from 2009 to now?

There's nothing posted on it. Mr. Kurzawski in one of the meetings stated that he felt under the studies that were done by our biologists, that our numbers were sustainable. Those biologists work for the people of Texas. We pay their salaries with our tax money and our license money. Why would we go against their findings?

It's a question that I have, that a lot of people have. We care about this fishery as much as anybody does. If it wasn't for them since the 1940s when Texas tried to eradicate every one of them in the state, who was there to help bring them back? It was us. We manage these fish. Yes, we do harvest fish occasionally; but we manage these fish. We do eat fish out of the Trinity River, just like the cat-fishermen do and the Sand bass fishermen do. My children deserve the right to go and be able to do the same things that I've been doing. I want them to be able to.

And there's no data to back up the decisions that are being made today and I just cannot understand how a regulation can be made without any data when it's been available since 2009 when we started. Where is the data? Did we just let it go? Why did we stop the tagging efforts?

I'm all for possibly buying a stamp like a duck stamp. If you want to go fish for Alligator gar, it's a hundred-dollar stamp. You have it. Now you know how many people are fishing for Alligator gar. You've got the mandatory reporting. I'm all for it. Now you know how many gar were being taken, plus you're making money on it for research, for stocking. So you've got numbers. You've got data and you're making money on it and we're not doing a knee-jerk reaction to something that we have no facts to back it up. I appreciate y'all's time.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you, sir.

Okay. Next, hear from Casey Minshew, followed by Max Blackburn, followed by Bubba Suggs.

MR. CASEY MINSHEW: My name is Casey Minshew. I'd first like to thank the Department for their concern with the Alligator gar species. We care about the Alligator gar more than anybody else without a doubt.

First off, as you've heard before, rod and reel fishing is going to increase with this law put in place. I think that's probably most the reason for this law is to encourage rod and reel fishing. And just like the sharks, y'all put circle hooks on the board; but Alligator gar need circle hooks just as much as sharks do. I don't know why sharks get circle hooks and Alligator gar get stuck with the treble hooks as we had explained the process of it.

And this method of conservation doesn't match any other model of species control that I can think of. Why is that? Why do we allow the harvest of smaller gar, but not older? We don't do that with any other species that I can think of. I know y'all have a preconceived inclination that you don't think the smaller gar will be harvested because we're not interested in them, but I went -- I was fishing with Tim Wells this weekend and we were shooting fish with blow darts and let me tell you, a four-foot gar with a blow dart is a pretty good trophy. That's not going to be the -- that may not be safe as you think it might be.

Myself, and I think most of us here, would be willing to pay for the hundred-dollar stamp like a duck stamp. Like I said, you'd know how many of us there were and the mandatory harvesting would put how many were taken and where they were being taken and that's the research you need and if you take us off the water, you're not going to get it. I don't know how else you could get it.

And lastly, I've been hearing that the Trinity River gar are not fit to eat from the Texas Health Department. Why don't y'all help the cat-fishermen out? They catch thousands of catfish off the river and eat them. There's crappie -- crappie guides, catfish guys, and White bass guys on Lake Livingston and they're harvesting those fish and letting their clients eat them and there are still even commercial fishing operations on Lake Livingston as a small thing, so.

Those are some of the points I wanted to make. I know a lot of people are going to reiterate what I just said. If you have any questions for me, Commissioner, I'd be happy to take them.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: We appreciate your comments and I think your -- particularly your comment about the hooks is one that we should follow up on.


CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: So I appreciate that very much. Thank you for your comments.

All right. Mr. Max Blackburn, followed by Bubba Suggs, and then by Stephen Moye.

MR. MAX BLACKBURN: Commissioner, Board of Directors, thank you for your time. My name is Max Blackburn. I have a lifetime hunting and fishing license for the -- here in the State of Texas and participate in most outdoor opportunities. I like to hunt. I like to fish. I fish with a rod and reel. I fish with a bow and arrow. Hunt birds, hunt behind dogs, hunt for deer. I love every opportunity that we have to get out in the outdoors and use our outdoor resources.

And I'm opposed to any change in regulation that would strip myself or any other resident or visitor to this state of their ability to participate in outdoor activities and to take away the opportunity for a trophy fish in the Trinity River system is really -- I find it repugnant that we would take away the trophy species. There's not any other species that I can think of that the State regulates hunting or fishing for that we remove the trophy animals from the species for consideration for taking. And with that said, I would like to oppose the changes that are proposed for the Trinity River system.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Appreciate your comments. I would say -- I think this is obvious -- but just you do understand you will continue to have the opportunity to engage in bowfishing for Alligator gar on every other waterbody in the state. It's just one where the very large old females exist if this proposal passes. You can still go to Choke Canyon, Falcon Lake, lots and lots -- Neches -- lots of places where you have the opportunity to engage in it. And we welcome -- we love people, constituents like you, that enjoy the State's bounty; but I just want to make sure everybody understands this proposal is -- this aspect of the staff's proposal is limited just to this segment of the Trinity.

MR. MAX BLACKBURN: Yes, sir, I understand that. I actually have never traveled to the Trinity to fish for large Alligator gar because of how far it is from my home; but the people that live there may not have the means or the ability to travel to South Texas for a chance at a trophy fish.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right, sir. Well, thank you --


CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: -- for taking time to appear.

Next up, Mr. Bubba Suggs, also with Bowfishing Association; followed by Stephen Moye; followed by Benny Elliot.

MR. BUBBA SUGGS: How y'all doing?

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Good. Thank you.

MR. BUBBA SUGGS: I had a speech, but it don't look like it's going to work out. Y'all are hearing the same thing over and other. I host a tournament for Alligator gar on the Trinity River. I've done it since 2008. I helped the Texas Parks and Wildlife 2008, 2009, 2010 on turning in the fish for the studies and the aging and everything. I don't know why the Trinity River is being targeted as much as any other bodies of water. I mean, I just -- I can't see that. I was going to get up here and read my speech to try to -- but I'm kind of going with my heart here.

But I see these fish, and I just can't believe that y'all haven't come to us more to try to get studies done. That's really dumbfounded me, I guess. I don't know the word there. But I've worked with the biologists in East Texas, try to help them out as much as we can, try to give them all the information that they need or would want.

The problem is they need to get in our boats and go out there and see the fish. Rod and reel fishermen can set up anywhere, throw a hook in the water. Bowfishermen, they have to lay their eyes on the fish in the Trinity River. I mean, there's no better asset to finding these fish and learning about them than through us. I just don't know why -- I mean, I see thousands of fish whenever -- I mean, we take one. Sometimes we never get one. We never get the opportunity of one. Through the studies of the Gar Bonanza it was 55 man-hours -- in-between the Gar Bonanza and another tournament we had on -- in Anahuac, it was 55 man-hours to harvest one Alligator gar. That was the studies, the fact.

It was over 100 hours of man-hours to harvest one over six foot. There's thousands upon thousands of giant fish on that river system, and I don't know why we're targeting just the Trinity River. I mean, you got Falcon down there. One side of the river -- one side of the lake, there's no restrictions. There's netting. Whatever you can do on the Mexico side to harvest them fish, they take them. Thousands probably. On the Texas side, they get five per day.

I mean, there's been a lot of studies saying -- down there that shows that -- that -- I mean, it's sustainable at five per day per person. We're not -- I mean, the tagging system -- not the tagging system, but the stamp for it, I'm all for a stamp to help research and go after it. But I just don't feel like it needs to be taken away at this point, but y'all have -- do you have any questions about any of the stuff as far as my tournament goes?

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Sir, I don't believe so; but thank you very much for your comments and for appearing.

All right. Stephen Moye, followed by Benny Elliot, followed by Mike Shehane. I hope I said that right.

MR. STEPHEN MOYE: Good morning. My name is Stephen Moye.


MR. STEPHEN MOYE: I'm here on behalf of taxidermy here in Texas. We own a large taxidermy business in Livingston, Texas. We mount quite a few Alligator gar each year by taking this -- and most of them come from the Trinity River. I logged in about 450 hours on the Trinity River bowfishing this past year alone. I've been fishing for 37 years, bowfishing. And I appreciate everything that the Parks and Wildlife Department and the Commission does for our waterways and our wildlife and I get to work closely with them being in the taxidermy business.

And this would negatively effect all the taxidermy industry because a lot of, like I say, the larger fish come from the Trinity River and I just think this is an overregulation. It's an overkill at this point because we just don't have the -- y'all don't have the data that y'all need. And like everyone before me has said, there's -- we need to gather more data. The stamp, mandatory reporting would give y'all that information before y'all jumped the gun and passed these regulations.

And I just think for my portion of the river I fish that evidently the Parks and Wildlife is out of touch with our water system down there, our waterways. There are so many big fish down there and, like I say, I fish probably at least three days a week on the Trinity, Lake Livingston, Trinity below the dam down to Highway 59 and there's just no need for that at this time. I think y'all need to gather more data before y'all jump the gun and pass these regulations. And I appreciate your time and thank you for your consideration.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you for appearing.

Okay. Benny Elliot, followed by Mike Shehane, followed by Roger Borgelt -- Brog -- Borgelt. Sorry. I'm sure I'm not getting that one right.

MR. BENNY ELLIOT: Thank you, Commission, for taking my time -- or taking y'all's time to listen to me. I am a bowfishing guide and on my boat last year personally, I took over a hundred out-of-state bow -- fishing -- people fishing to go bowfishing, more for Gator gar than anything else. Just an opportunity.

Out of that -- out of that hundred license that we sold, we live in a small town, they sold a hundred overnight stays, 300 meals. Lots of money spent at convenience stores, all this stuff; and that's taken out of a little bitty town that don't even have a red light. You take all that out, they're going to be calling me wanting to know where everybody has gone.

We had one specific Gator gar -- I had five different -- three different groups of five different people on my boat at one time -- seen and the first two groups got a shot at the same Gator gar in the exact same area and nobody's hit that gar yet. To my knowledge, it's still swimming to this day. Those same 15 people have rebooked and are coming back this year. We ain't killed a Gator gar yet and harvested one period.

There was five Gator gar tooken [sic] off my boat last year. We�ve seen over 40. Over 20 of them got shot. Some would be "Hail Mary" shots. Five were taken. We sold a hundred licenses, and five Gator gar were harvested. We wouldn't be -- and I don't think you should do anything about the rod and reel fishing. I'm -- because if y'all do away with bowfishing for Gator gar, I will be become a rod and reel fisherman. You're not going to take the money off of my table and food off my plate when I'm going to have to do what I have to do to make a living and if that means going to the Trinity going bowfishing -- I mean, rod and reel fishing, that's where I'm headed. And if not, the people that you take them away from the -- bowfishing away from Texas, these out-of-state people are going to Louisiana.

That's a lot of money going out of state. It's like telling deer hunters, "Don't shoot 12-point deer this year." That's just not going to work. They're not going to do that. It wouldn't be -- one of my biggest problems is: What do y'all consider to be a harvest? A fish laying on the front of the boat that's been caught with a rod and reel that has deep hooked, drug on the bank, laid on the bank for 20 minutes while you take pictures or you drag him up in the boat and go down the river until you get to a pretty sandbar to take pictures?

That happens; but as long as that fish

was caught with a rod and reel, it's okay. He's turned back loose in the water. Who's to say all them fish survive, but y'all do not -- you automatically assume because of law, bowfishermen have to harvest Gator gar. Gator gar are harvested other ways, too; and a lot of it is through the deep hooking on Gator gar with rod and reel. And if y'all have got any questions for me, I'll be willing to answer anything.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you, sir, for your comments.

Mike Shehane, followed by Roger Borg -- Borgelt -- Borgelt, followed by Steven Law.

MR. MIKE SHEHANE: Good morning, y'all. Hope y'all are having a good day. I'm here. I'm opposed to these regulations. I mean, I'm all for, you know, data. I mean, there's been ten years of research done. I mean, I'm on the river probably 60 days out of the year just because I love to bowfish. I love the species. I mean, each female can lay anywhere from 77,000 to 138,000 eggs and within seven days, they're hatched out there for eating, I mean.

And I'm all for -- I mean, y'all did a great job implementing one Gator gar per day per person. I mean, that helped the species dramatically. I'm seeing a lot. My concern -- or y'all won't allow these big fish and, I mean, your game fish are going to suffer on that. I mean, I go out there. I catch White bass. They -- they're tore up by big Gator gar. I mean, the catfish are tore up by big Gator gar.

I mean, I've caught these fish and had seven-foot Gator gar rip half that fish off my hook. I mean, I want to know the research, the negative. You know, y'all want to pass this, y'all only want to keep the big ones. Y'all want to harvest the small ones. I'd like to see some research on the negative impact too many of these large fish in this river system can cause.

I mean, that's -- that's my main concern. I'd love for my kids and my grandkids to be able to do what I love and I enjoy. I mean, I want everybody else to have that same opportunity. I mean, I think -- and you don't always get the opportunity. You see these big fish. You don't always get a chance to shoot them. I mean, it's split-second, I mean. And we pass fish all the time. I mean, I've seen fish floating with leaders stuck in their throat, gasping for air. I do the right thing. I go ahead and harvest that fish because I know it's going to die.

I mean, there's mortality rate on rod and reel fishing. I don't know the percentage. I mean, I've helped people do it; but I've never -- I don't know the numbers. Say out of 20 fish, a couple of them may die and these are trophy fish. I mean, that's -- that's my concern is y'all are jumping the gun on this without the data on -- for both sides, whether it's good or bad. I appreciate y'all for y'all's time.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you, sir.

Okay. Roger Borgelt, followed by Steven Law, followed by Royce Patterson.

MR. ROGER BORGELT: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. My name is Roger Borgelt, and I'm here representing the Lone Star Bowhunters. As you've already heard, there's a specific concern with the length limits on the Alligator gar in the Lower Trinity.

I did review your preambles to your proposed regulations and take issue with some of the conclusions in that preamble language. I think that the Department has incorrectly concluded that there will be no adverse economic effect on persons required to comply with the rules. I also think the Department has incorrectly concluded its proposal does not directly affect small businesses, micro businesses, or rural communities; and so the economic impact analysis and the regulatory flexibility analysis that were stated as not being required, should have been conducted.

I also believe the Department has incorrectly concluded that the rules as proposed will not impact local economies. You've already heard from a number of the guides and the folks that are locally affected as to how they were affected. You're going to hear from more of them. They can speak for themselves far better than I can speak for them, but it's flawed economic analysis reasoning.

I received just from the first six data points -- folks that came in, members, guides, and others -- quick calculator math, about $300,000 in economic impact for lost revenue for fishing, for taxidermy, for motel stays, for any number of other things. That was quickly and easily determined with hardly any effort at all on my part. It took me about five minutes to come up with that 300,000 and I'm sure there's thousands more in impact and myself and the other members are happy to provide more specific information on the economic impact that this regulation actually has.

Limited even to the Lower Trinity River, the level of economic impacts you're talking about here is very significant. I don't think that it can legally be ignored by the Department, nor do I believe that it should be. Also, as has already been stated, we've been made aware through multiple public information request responses that we don't have biological data. That's already been mentioned by several speakers. We don't have studies. We don't have any sort of data that would support this 48-inch length limit. In other words, you failed to rely on the best available science to guide your decision-making here.

The science should come first before the regulation and we do support the recording requirement so that you can get the science and then you can make the best possible regulation once you have that science. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you, sir.

Steven Law, followed by Royce Patterson, followed by Isaac Avery.



MR. STEVEN LAW: I'm going to try not to mumble too much to y'all. We're all going to find out together how successful I am. I prepared a speech today, but -- or earlier to talk about the nighttime bowfishing ban. Then I found out y'all had already tabled that and so I guess y'all heard I was coming and got scared, but so I sat down at intermission and wrote this mess in front of me.

A lot of the regs y'all are talking about for the Trinity River are -- suffer from the same problems that the nighttime bowfishing ban in that they are not -- don't seem to be based on research and prediction models. At least none that have been provided to us. But from what I'm hearing, there just aren't any available, right?

And so it seems a little premature to institute regulations that can hurt private business and, you know -- and also potentially damage the datasets that you would gain, you know, because it's kind of gaming the system and you aren't -- maybe the datasets would be corrupted by throwing these regs in there. And so I don't know. I think it would be valuable to take a step back and do some things that we already heard people talk about with the stamp and everything like that so we can build these datasets and institute, you know, responsible conservation practices. All right, thank y'all.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you, sir.

Royce Patterson, followed by Isaac Avery, followed by Chris James.

MR. ROYCE PATTERSON: Chairman, Commissioners, good morning. Thank you for taking the time to hear our opinions on the proposed regulation changes regarding the Alligator gar. My name is Royce Patterson. I'm a business owner. I own three businesses in Wood County. I'm a school board member, and I'm a bowfisherman.

I stand opposed to these changes for several reasons. I also stand before you today to defend my rights, my son who's in the Navy's rights, and anyone else who could not be here today to do so's rights to continue to bowfish for these incredible creatures.

We have a small sampling of the BAA members here today whose membership stand in excess of 5,000 bowfishermen. My first objection is there is no data that I have seen that shows the current population is not sustainable under the laws in place now. Although I believe we must be proactive in the protection of the Alligator gar, it must be through sound and scientific data. All of your other agenda items discussed yesterday morning include a -- included data supporting those proposed changes.

Secondly, there is no data that I have seen addressing the mortality rate of fish caught on a rod and reel. Texas Parks and Wildlife recognizes the need for tackle restrictions based on your shark proposals I saw yesterday. These fish are not protected from harmful tackle such as treble hooks, stainless hooks, and leaders. Fishermen regularly and intentionally allow the fish to carry the bait for 5, 10, 20 minutes so it will swallow the hook and bait and leader deep into their stomachs. There is a mortality rate associated with this technique that we have no data for. Also, the fisherman has no control over the size of the fish that picks up his bait. Is it 4-foot? Is it 7-foot? But by the time you get that fish to the boat, it's a little bit late. The damage has been done.

Rod and reel fishermen regularly catch 10 to 20 fish per day. Do the math. The proposed regulations can and will exponentially and adversely affect your goal with this mortal -- without this mortality data, as hundreds of bowfishermen convert to rod and reel fishermen. Please, I ask you that you table these proposals until you make a decision based on sound data. We can't afford to get this wrong.

Thirdly, I can find no merit in the proposed nighttime ban on Alligator gar as there is a very rare occurrence in the East Texas area and, therefore, would have no negative impact on the population. So thank you for removing that from your agenda today.

In closing, I would like to add that I'm a hunter, a fisherman, a conservationist; and as a conservationist, I would like to see the State of Texas pull us in as a group rather than push the largest organization that truly cares about the Alligator gar and has the members to make a difference. Animals of all shapes and sizes throughout history have been saved by the people that actually pursue them. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you, sir.

Isaac Avery, followed by Chris James, followed by David Dillman.

MR. ISAAC AVERY: Good morning. I'm Isaac Avery. I'm the owner of Pure Shot Outdoors in Longview, Texas. I'm in opposition of the proposed regulations for the 48-inch limit on the Trinity River.

As a bow shop in East Texas and online, my springtime sales are directed to bowfishermen across the states. I've been one of the largest Oneida bow dealers in East Texas and in Texas alone, selling anywhere from 100 to 200 bows during the springtime to bowfishermen that target all sorts of our bowfishing rights and particularly, a lot of those target the Alligator gar. So I've just taken a percent of 50 percent of my sales eliminated and bows alone, not necessarily gear, but anywhere from 45 to $55,000 yearly springtime income from my small business.

I have many customers come through that are targeting the Alligator gar specifically on the Trinity River. Due to a lot of the Texas Parks and Wildlife implementation of the one-per-day limit, the ability to shut down the spawning times that they may consider spawn times in the river, has created possibly the world's greatest fishery for Alligator gar. And I understand this is trying to protect that, but it is in place as it is and it's protecting and is doing a great job.

I have also personally worked with Texas Parks and Wildlife in reporting Alligator gar in the harvest of tagged fish and particularly, the Brazos River record. I reported and worked side by side with Texas Parks and Wildlife to further study with that fish and they -- and we did the studies. Concluded the studies because the fish was harvested.

And back to my speech, I didn't want to talk about the data. That's already been covered. Again, I'm in opposition. And as an avid outdoorsman, I would like to further be able to have an opportunity to harvest these fish. The many, many manhours that I've put in yearly to take fish is unreal. An uncountable number of hundreds of hours a year. So a minimal opportunity to have an opportunity to harvesting fish. So I appreciate it and thank y'all. If you have any questions.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you for your comments.

Chris James, followed David Dillman, followed Eric Valentino.

MR. CHRISTOPHER JAMES: My name is Christopher James. I am Vice President of Sales for FeraDyne Outdoors, the world's largest archery accessory manufacturer. We currently sell and manufacture 19 different industry leading brands for the archery and hunting space. I came in here today in opposition and to speak against the regulations that you guys are looking at implementing.

There's a lot of things that's already been covered in this short time. You know, the one thing I want to talk about is the economic effect and what happens on small businesses and I get a little bit different perspective that not everybody gets to see. I only get to see my brands, but the impact on it. Muzzy Bowfishing is one of our brands and there are several other -- or bowfishing manufacturers that are out there. There's -- we're one of about four or five that are similar in size and sell different things.

We focus on the consumables. Mostly arrows, reels, points, things of that nature. We've just recently gotten into the bow side of things. So I have an idea of how big that market is; but we're a very small portion of the bow sales, as was previously mentioned. Roughly right now, the retail sales -- the dollar generated in the State of Texas from bowfishing just from my brand, is $200,000 annually. Extrapolate that out, that's well over a million dollars when you consider all of the other manufacturers that are included in that.

On top of that -- granted, I understand that you're not eliminating every thing; but you're eliminating an aspirational fish the people come from a a long way across the country. I'm not a resident of the State of Texas myself and it is something that people plan and lay out, the guides. They want to go with a guide or they get together with a group of people that know the area. They come. They spend. If they're not going with a guide, they're not doing it in a day. They're coming for a week at a time. They're waiting for the conditions. They're out there planning. They're hoping to get a chance to harvest one of these fish that, yes, they can go other places; but they're never going to go to that place again.

It is the place to go shoot the biggest fish that you could possibly ever get to get a state record, to get a world record. Those are the things that people aspire to do, and we're all for protecting that. Just, for example, most people on those trips are going to spend somewhere in the neighborhood of two to $3,000 in the local economies. Now, if you just take $2,500, to put that in perspective, that's a million dollars for every 400 individuals that come there. If they come in a group of three or four, a hundred trips -- you just heard he sold a hundred trips last year. So if you're looking at it as an overall aspect of it, it goes far and beyond the small aspect that you're looking at right now on the economic side of things.

I don't have the data for the out-of-state sales that you have; but if you put in place some of these things where you can track it and do the research to go along with it, we 100 percent support tracking how many fish are harvested, how many people are targeting these fish both with rod and reel and with a bow.

Another point on that, $2 million of revenue that's generated, that's about $165,000 in tax revenue, roughly just based off of 8 and a quarter percent sales tax, not including bed taxes or fuel taxes.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you, sir.


CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right. Next, David Dillman, followed by Eric Valentino, followed by Randy Woodward.

COMMISSIONER BELL: Mr. Chairman, can I make a comment?

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Absolutely, Commissioner Bell.

COMMISSIONER BELL: Just in -- I know that in terms of everyone's comments we've got, we have all this information down for the record, as well. But I wanted to invite anyone that had a written document or a summary of their information, if they wanted to turn it into a staff member and we could collect those documents later just to have them available, in addition to whatever is in the record. Is that okay?

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: If anybody wishes to submit written comments in connection with this proposal, we encourage you to do so and I would bring them up to Ms. Halliburton here at the green table if you wish to submit them.

All right, sir, go ahead.

MR. DAVID DILLMAN: Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Commissioners, my name is David C. Dillman. I'm a full-time fishing guide for 30 years in Galveston Bay. I'm opposed to the regulation change for the Spotted seatrout. I feel this proposal was induced by a select group of fishermen in Galveston Bay. Surveys were sent out this past summer. The survey's results are a poor representation of the fishermen in Galveston Bay.

Second of all, fishing guides should have never have been in the survey. We are commercial fishermen. We fall under the commercial fishery in my opinion for Galveston Bay. I also wonder why Texas Parks and Wildlife would value what a CCA conservation group would say about this proposal, considering they support the biggest kill tournament on the Texas coast.

Texas Parks and Wildlife and the Commissioners have sided with the recreational angler when it comes to Red snapper. I hope they side with the anglers when it comes to Spotted seatrout in Galveston Bay.

So will the five fish make a difference in Galveston? Will the angler that catches two, according to the creel surveys, end up starting to catch five? Not going to happen. That same angler that goes out now on a perfect day and catch two fish, they'll be the same angler that will catch two when you change the limit to five.

Second of all, Galveston Bay has never been a trophy trout fishery. People in Galveston -- when you go to Galveston, you never went to Galveston Bay to go catch a so called trophy trout. Those fish came from South Texas. South Texas numbers increased due to the fact that guides started to release those fish because they saw what they were doing when they would promote the big trout fishing on the lower coast by keeping everything they caught.

Back then when the limit was ten, they were filling coolers with 27-, 28-, 29-inch fish to get customers down there to go catch a so called trophy trout. Those numbers of trophy trout in a bay system are this -- are this (indicating). You start talking about the numbers of 1- to 3-pound fish, well, you have a class of fish like this. So when you have numbers like this and you start taking all those fish out of a bay system, that's where the decrease of the population of the big trout happened in the lower coast; but the guides and the anglers got smart enough to realize, hey, we're decimating our fishery. And then you came along and proposed a five-fish limit on them.

Did it help? Maybe. Maybe not because the numbers aren't there because what these -- what this group of anglers did on the lower coast or on the middle coast, they released those fish. So then the population of big trout -- sure it increased because they're releasing the fish. But Galveston is a complex bay system. It composes, what, 660 square miles of water. It's complex. We have the Houston Ship Channel. We have rivers that -- we have the City of Houston that floods the bay system. I mean, it's very, very complex.

So if you're thinking you're going to decrease the fish to five and turn it into a trophy trout fishery, it's not going to happen. Never has been, never will be. Anyway, that's all I have to say. If you have any questions, I'll be happy -- more than happy to answer.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you, Mr. Dillman.

Eric Valentino, followed by Randy Woodward, followed by Jeremiah Hoyes.

MR. ERIC VALENTINO: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Vice-Chairman, and Commissioners. My name is Eric Valentino. I'm representing myself and Eagle Point Fishing Camp. Eagle Point is a bait camp that's been on Galveston Bay since 1929. I am 45 years old. I have been at Eagle Point since I was born. I go back four generations in the shrimping industry and the fishery industry and the oyster industry.

That being said, the proposal that is presented, I am against it and here's why. The idea that further limiting the trout that an angler can take home to eat, that it will allegedly reward anglers in the future with higher catch ratios and the negative effects of the next freeze would be drastically minimized. That's what this bill is being sold on.

However, creel surveys conducted by TPWD since 1983, show no angler catch ratio increase related to the bag limits. So every time they increase the bag limits -- meaning, you can keep less, you can take home and eat less -- there's been no catch ratio increase that's shown since 1983. Not only that, but we were told that it was going to protect us against a freeze. And after the December 1983 freeze and the December 1989 freeze in Galveston Bay and Matagorda Bay, the catch ratios went to all time recorded lows.

So where were these trout? These trout were saved for our kids, for our future. Where did they go in 1984? Where did they go in 1990? That's my question. What are we saving all these fish for to be killed by a freeze?

Again, all this is the same in the Matagorda Bay creel surveys. I obtained these through the Open Records Act through the Texas Parks and Wildlife. Also, it has been stated that the trout need to be protected against high angler pressure. I'm at a bait camp. I worked 180 days straight this year. There is no pressure. I talked to shrimpers. There is no pressure. There's no plethora of boats and this is displayed because records obtained show that license sales to be down in 2018 by 42,096 when compared to 2005. Where are these all fishermen?

Lastly, the same correlation exists in new boat sales. Outboard boat sales, 16- to 25-foot, there is no dramatic increase in boat sales; and these boat companies are putting an outboard on almost every boat you can sell between 16- and 25-foot. These boats are going to freshwater lakes, as well. Where is the pressure?

And then I do share -- I see that my time is up. I do share the belief that: Why are guides dictating what we do on Galveston Bay? Why are they dictating what we do on the lower bays? These are not the people paying for the resource. I talk to tens of thousands of customers a year. These customers do not want guides dictating what they do. The general public that pays for the fishery and the Texas Parks and Wildlife, were not adequately surveyed and their opinion was not taken into consideration.

These people do not have the time to be going fishing all the time. They were not sitting at the dock when the Texas Parks and Wildlife were doing these creel surveys. And then we go out and take the opinion of all these guides and then the Texas Parks and Wildlife makes a recommendation on that. I think it's unjust. I think it's unfair, and I think it needs to be considered. That being said, thank you for your time. Would you have any questions for me sir?

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: No, sir. Thank you very for much your comments.

MR. ERIC VALENTINO: Thank you for having me.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Randy Woodward, followed by Jeremiah Hoyes, followed by Dora Cook.

And you're from Oklahoma, as I understand it?

MR. RANDY WOODWARD: Yes, sir. I'm from Coweta, Oklahoma.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right, sir.

MR. RANDY WOODWARD: Founder of the Youth Bowfishing Association. I've been traveling the Trinity River since 1975 since I was 16; and back then, y'all's record was 212 pounds. That was a dream killing a 200-pound fish. Now, your record's a lot more and people are killing 200-pound fish. Back then we'd go hunting and see maybe seven to ten big fish a day in a hole. Now, I can go on the Trinity River and go to every hole and see over ten big fish and to kill one with a bow is almost impossible. It's not as easy as people think.

If it's in the spawn when it's flooded, they can get up in the bushes and kill them. You already have the ability to stop that on the Trinity River. Y'all have shut down the Trinity River during the spawn. That's what we need. If you think we need the fish protected, that's what we need to do; but you need the data before you stop. You don't change laws before you get data.

I've spent over a thousand dollars every trip. I've been here almost every year by my -- you know, with my family and stuff. My Coweta, Oklahoma, is full of bowfishermen. We have at least 10 or 12 families come a year. Every one of those families is going to spend way over a thousand dollars. Through these tournaments he talked to you about, he averages 44 boats on that tournament. Most of those boats don't bring in an Alligator gar. Okay? Hardly any of them do. But then there's some boats that are from here. They know the fish. They kill some.

But we've seen some 200-pounders killed. That was -- that's like a Boone and Crockett buck. Okay? And the Trinity River is -- it's got more fish than anywhere y'all got in this state. I know Falcon is supposed to be real good, but the Trinity River is awesome. You've got little fish. You've got big fish. Just get your research first before you change laws.

I know of five families coming this year and I'm going to bring my granddaughter because I'm afraid we won't be able to come down here and try to kill a big fish. Most of the time I leave, we don't kill a big fish. The biggest one in our boat ever has been 175 pounds by my son last year. We gave -- donated the meat to a family. We're mounting the gar. But thousands and thousands of dollars have been spent by me that y'all just -- you're going to kill your small businesses around Trinity. Think of them.

You've sold thousands of fishing licenses just for these gar. People are going to go to Louisiana. They're not going to come back here if that limit happens there. Thanks for your time.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you, sir.

Jeremiah Hoyes, followed by Dora Cook, followed by Rey Saldaña. Oh, sorry. Not Mr. Saldaña. That's been -- wrong stack. My apologies. Followed by Dena Kana.

Yes, sir, proceed.

MR. JEREMIAH HAYES: Gentlemen, Ladies, hope you're having a good day today. My name is Jeremiah Hayes. I've worked all over the world. Lived in 15 different states. Came to Texas about nine years ago working storms, power lines. Never left. Texas became home because it's a great state in the nation to me. Living in Texas screams freedom, and a lot of that is because of how it's ran from the government down to the individual businesses.

You know why we're here today. You've heard the different reasons, and I'm going to look at it from a couple different angles. One, we're going to have like a little mock trial. We have the accused or the defendants if you would call it, the bow fishing men and women of Texas. Then we have the prosecution, the people with the proposal which we'll call the TPWD. And then now we need a jury and you guys are going to be the most important and accomplished juries in the world at this point in time. And as a jury, you need to be free of bias or prejudice towards the issues and individuals in this case.

The TPWD is accusing the defendant with overharvesting of Gator gar population on the Trinity River at a rate that is not sustainable under the current regulations. The defendants would like to present their case against these allegations. The last year studies were done by Texas biologists was 2013. These studies show that the current harvest was 1 to 3 percent of the current population and that we would be able to sustain a healthy population even up to 5 percent, which you guys have heard all day long.

There's been a healthy Gator gar spawn every year since 2013. Since 2012, the Trinity River has been at flood stage eight times at the Oakwood river marker outside the city of Palestine on the Trinity River. Three times in 2015. Three times in 2016. That's over 37 and a half feet. The evidence and studies clearly show that the men and women of bowfishing have not overharvested Gator gar and that they are, indeed, sustainable at the current rate of one Gator gar per day.

These allegations are unjust and not backed by current data or studies. How or why could a major change be proposed without the current, up-to-date data, studies, harvest rates, and economical studies needed that would show the need for such proposal?

I'm a father. I have two little girls. I'm not good at it. I learn every day. They're four and six. Now, I don't take something from them or ground them because I think they're going to do something bad or because I think they are going to get in trouble. When they get in trouble or when I see that something needs to be done or that I need to step in as a parent and take action, that is when I take action; but not beforehand.

You've heard the prosecution. You've heard the defendants' defense. What's the verdict? Are they guilty until proven innocent, or are they innocent until proven guilty? You don't have to be a biologist to see that the studies and data do not back this proposal. I ask that you go forward with integrity and non-biased opinions on this matter. I don't -- we are asking y'all to work with us.

These people in this room that bowfish are the greatest people in the world. Few of you are from Harvey -- or from Houston. When Harvey hit, the people in the front line with our airboats with lights on them that bowfish, that was us. The people on the cover of New York Times is a guy holding a little baby, that was one of my good buddies. They were bowfishers. We didn't ask for a dollar. We did it out of our own goodwill to help people.

We want to help the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. You guys need help studying these fish, getting data. There is no better people in the world than this group right here because we have thousands and thousands and thousands of hours on the river and we can help you with that and we want to help you with that, but we don't want to be punished or have these rules changed before the correct studies and data has been collected. If you have any questions.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you, sir. Appreciate your comments.


CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. Dora Cook, followed by Dena Kana, followed by Dustin Cole.

And, Ms. Cook, I understand you're with Lone Star Bowhunters Association?

MS. DORA COOK: Yes, sir.


MS. DORA COOK: I'm a member of Lone Star Bowhunters Association and I would like to take this opportunity to thank you, the Commission, for allowing public comment and also to thank you for removing the ban on nighttime bowfishing for Alligator gar.

I've simply been asked to read a letter from our legislative committee. You do have the letter, I believe.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: You don't -- if it's been presented to us, you don't need to read it.

MS. DORA COOK: I don't need to read it?

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: You're welcome to use your time if you wish to do so. That's up to you.

MS. DORA COOK: No. I would like to expedite things. So if you do have it, okay, I will just forego reading it.


MS. DORA COOK: All right, thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you, ma'am.

Dena Kana, followed by Dustin Cole, followed by Jeff Beall. I hope I'm saying that --

MS. DENA KANA: Good morning. Thank you very much for having us here, and I would like to say thank you for removing the nighttime ban on bowfishing. I'm with the Lone Star Bowhunters Association, and I appreciate all the research that has been done on the Alligator gar. I've read it all, and there is no research that I have found that shows that there's not a sustainable population of Alligator gar on the Trinity River or any body of water in Texas.

The Trinity is a unique fishery. We have people that come internationally to fish here. By taking the fish away and putting a limit, a size limit, on the Alligator gar, it's going to cause a huge economic impact on micro businesses, small businesses, and rural communities, which I don't think any of us want to see.

Executive Director Smith has the authority to make an emergency decision to close down the fishery already in the spawn; and if I'm correct, I think you have the authority to do that at any time if it needs to be done. So there's already -- there's already rules in place for that. So if it needs to be done, then we already have rules to do that. And so I'm not going -- everybody else has said everything else that I needed to say. So I thank you for your time. I don't want to take up any more. Thank you very much.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you very much.

Okay. Dustin Cole, followed by Jeff Beall, followed by Stephen Slevin.


MR. DUSTIN COLE: Hello. My name is Dustin Cole. I own a boat manufacturing company in East Texas. This year alone, I built two boats and three boat trailers for gentlemen that fish the Trinity River specifically. Boats and trailers specifically designed to get in and out of that river that is almost inaccessible because of the way it is. I mean, the constant river up and down, silt in the ramps. And if you take away their right to shoot Alligator gar, you're taking away 25 to 35 percent of my income. It will destroy my income completely. I will have to find other means to supplement that income.

Alone last year, I traveled to Choke, Amistad, Toledo, Sam Rayburn, the Frio River, the Navasota River, the Sabine River, the Guadalupe River, the Colorado River, and Lake Falcon. I spent $65,000 last year alone chasing Alligator gar. It's what I live for. A three-time Texas State bowfishing champion and still out of all of those places, nothing compares to the Trinity River for sheer number of large Alligator gar. You can roll into one creek, multiple creeks and see anywhere from 100 to 200 five-foot to seven-foot Alligator gar.

It's incredible how many fish are in that river. I don't think the studies have been done. It's obvious that there's some sort of lack of -- there's way more fish than what people think there are. The studies conducted by Parks and Wildlife's biologists have shown that the breeding population of gar on the Trinity River is sufficient to support the current harvest rates of gar annually. The Trinity -- it says that the Alligator gar may only spawn when the river reaches flood stage and stays there for long periods of time. Also that the river does not reach these stages but once every several years.

This information is incorrect because these gar will spawn in vegetation along the riverbanks and creeks with even a moderate rise. It may not be the entire stretch and population of gar spawning throughout the river, but there will be small pockets of spawning gar. There is a reason these fish have survived for millions of years and a drought won't keep them from reproducing.

Has anyone on the Commission considered the economic impact these regulation would have on small business such as my own? All across the state, retail stores selling bows and other equipment will be effected. Boat manufacturers like myself who build boats for these fishermen and all of that income will completely disappear. Let's not forget about the guides and taxidermists that provide for their family for years that now will have to look for other work because the State outlawed their only source of income.

Never should these regulations be based upon emotion and personal opinion. From information I've seen at this meeting, there is a multitude of harvest and success rate surveys done on the seatrout in Sabine Lake. It is obvious that the work has been done to understand and without a doubt make the correct decision for this species harvest rates on the Sabine Lake. So with this in mind, how can we make a rational decision on harvest regulations on a fish that we have almost no recent studies to reference?

There needs to be more research and effort to understand the success rates when targeting Alligator gar while bowfishing. We also have to know exactly how many gar are actually in the river right now versus what the study showed over five years ago. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you, Mr. Cole.

Jeff Beall, followed by Stephen Slevin, followed by Mark Malfa.

MR. JEFF BEALL: Mr. Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Commissioners, thank you for giving me this time. I would just like to begin by saying that in 1987, I first started going to the Trinity River to chase Alligator gar. So as a fresh 16-year-old with a new driver's license from Henderson, Texas, that's a two and a half hour drive. I passed up a lot of water that had Alligator gar in it just for the opportunity to go to the Trinity River.

So after 32 years of bowfishing the Trinity River, obviously, I've learned it. I've learned when to go, when not to go. I also was not in favor in 2009 of the one fish per day limit that was imposed on us. But I will have to say that as a young kid and a young man and going to the river, I would say that we were kind of reckless. So what I've noticed is after 2009 and the implementation of the one fish per day limit, we've seen numbers explode. We've seen sizes explode.

Back then, a 200-pound Alligator gar on the Trinity River was fairly rare. And from social media alone and from tournaments and from constituents and friends that go to the Trinity, a 200-pound fish these days is very common. So what we've seen is the one fish per day daily bag limit that we're imposed with right now, we feel is enough. Until more data and research becomes available to pass new regulations, I think we're in a good place where we are now, just from the experience that I've had of going to the river.

A lots been brought up about the consumption advisory of fish -- of eating the fish on the Trinity River. So I have to say, as I'm standing here alive and not glowing green after eating fish out of that river for 32 years -- whether it be Alligator gar, catfish, Sand bass, crappie, you name it -- it hasn't killed me. Thank God, I'm still here. So that -- the advisory comes up a lot on that Trinity River; but in the part of the East Texas where I live, just about every body of water has come sort of consumption advisory, whether it be selenium, whether it be mercury. I'm around Lake Caddo, which has a mercury consumption advisory. We eat crappie. We eat catfish. We eat fish. We've literally grown up our entire lives eating those fish and to no, you know, ill will or health that I've seen. So I would just like to make that point; but also I would like to say thank you for the opportunity to do this, and I appreciate it.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you for your comments.

All right. Stephen Slevin, followed by Mark Malfa, followed by Tim Franke.

MR. STEPHEN SLEVIN: Good morning, Commissioner, members --


MR. STEPHEN SLEVIN: -- of the Commission, Board. My name is Steve Slevin. I'm here on behalf of, you know, bowfishermen in the State of Texas, as well as the groups and organizations here. I would like to say that I'm opposed to any of the new regulations until we have collected more data and science. We've been trying to -- you know, they tried to eradicate these fish in the 1940s and people have been bowfishing them -- for them ever since that time and their numbers are stable and going up and we have no clear data that says we need to be regulated. We've already regulated it to one fish per day per person. I think that's a great start.

I would like to be able to take my kids to the Trinity River or any place else in Texas and be able to have an opportunity on Alligator gar. I don't see a reason to have it have to be over 48 inches. I think one of the unfair advantages that you're going to have -- that you're taxing bowfishermen with -- is that a lot of people -- I started the theme -- most people in this room have been fishing, but not too many people have been bowfishing. But there's guys -- a lot of guys standing there in the back that are going to disagree with me. But most of the people on the Commission Board may have been fishing at one time or another with a parent or an adult. So you have some feelings about that, but most of you don't know what bowfishermen do or how hard it really is.

It's not that easy to do it. If you -- if you put a drawing system in, even if you put tags in, we're going to have, you know, go in the draw against all the people from all the other states that want to come to the Trinity River and fish. So that's going to limit it. Then we're going to have to be against all the rod and reel anglers and then we're going to have a split-second decision to make sure is the fish legal to shoot, can we tag it; and if we shoot it, it's one and done. So we shoot one over 48 inches, we're done. We harvest the fish. We take it home. We eat it, you know, if that's what you want to do.

The rod and reel fishermen, if you don't put some kind of system on them also, they catch a 6-foot fish, they want a 7-foot fish, cut the leader, throw him back in the water and hook a 7-foot fish. You know, keep going until they trade up. How many fish are they going to injure or damage trying to get to their trophy fish? You've virtually eliminated the out-of-state people's chance. They're going to have to take every shot at every legal gar that they see with no chance of selection in order to, you know, potentially harvest a fish that they've waited three or four years for a tag for, you know?

At least with deer, you offer them doe tags if they can't shoot a buck over 13 inches. And you've put a harvest system in place that's unfair to Texas residents that have lived here all their life and fished for these fish all their life. A fish that we historically can't eradicate and there's been people bowfishing since their numbers were them extremely low, you know? That's all I wanted to say is that, you know, I think we should have sound science and we should do it for the residents of Texas, what's right, not what we think is right or what somebody has proposed. I think it should be about sound science and getting the people that utilize the resource to help you make those decisions. Thank you for having me here today to speak. Y'all have a great day.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you, Mr. Slevin.

Next up, Mark Malfa, followed by Tim Franke, followed by Janice Bezanson.

MR. MARK MALFA: Hey, everybody. Thanks for having me, and I really do really greatly appreciate y'all taking off the table the nighttime bowfishing. That's tremendous. That would actually just shut down Texas for bowfishing. Really, it's huge. And, again, thank you so much, all of y'all, really.

Anyway, my name is Mark Malfa. I've been doing this -- I've been guiding 19 years, 15 full time. I think I'm the only guy in this whole room that actually offers rod and reel fishing for Alligator gar, as well as bowfishing. And I've been doing it a very long time. Since the 70s.

Hooks do -- definitely do kill. There's no really limit on rod and reel fishing. It's catch and release. We catch them. We kill them. Most of them -- most of them live. Probably the mortality rate, I would say is probably somewhere around 15, maybe even 20 percent.

To give you some stats real quick, I had a couple clients. So far, I've only done one rod trip this year because it's a little early. We caught three. Guys came in from England. All the way from England to catch some Alligator gar. We caught three. The conditions absolutely horrific. It was cold, windy, overcast. We caught three. Let them all go, obviously. I feel fairly confident that one of them did die. I had two clients just a couple days before that, two groups of clients. I had six people one night. Two people the night before. We shot -- they shot at 14 Alligator gar all between 5 and maybe a little over 7 feet long. Out of all those Alligator gar, that six -- eight people shot at, they only killed one. They only hit one.

And what I'm getting at is rod and reel is very simple, and those hooks do kill. Bowfishing is very, very difficult and if you really want to take somebody that has very little knowledge -- and the guys that are killing these gar on the Trinity River, these guys are good. You can't take some average Joe on the Trinity River to shoot Alligator gar on the Trinity. It's just too hard. It is way too hard. They're not going to do it. They're going to get mad at me and it's just, you know, losing. You lose -- anyway, as I ramble, as far as you -- it would be great if y'all -- instead of the 48-inch limit, if y'all could do some type of tagging system, I think that would be a much better route to go. More money for the State. I'm all about putting money in the pockets of the State, this great State of Texas. And you can get more research, a lot more knowledge through that rather than just taking 48-inch minimum -- maximum.

Because what's going to happen is no one is going to bowfish the Trinity anymore. They're not going to because they're going to spread out and disperse. That money is going to go to either Louisiana or other parts of the State of Texas. They're not going to want to come to the Trinity because no one is going -- no one wants to have the chance of shooting some little small Alligator gar when they can go somewhere else and shoot a trophy and take something home and eat it, mount it, whatever they're going to do with it. So there's going to be a certain amount revenue that's lost along the Trinity River because of that.

And also as far as -- and I want you to know something. I'm definitely for conservation. Back when y'all put this thing up back in 2009, I'm one of the few bowfishermen that actually signed that petition for conservation to stop that and what's help -- and the numbers of gar -- I fish a lot of places. All the main places that you've all mentioned -- Falcon, Choke, Trinity River -- and I've fished a lot of other places that -- and I don't ever see anybody chasing a gar. I don't. I do a lot of saltwater stuff. I do rivers that dump into some of these bays. Some of these places are very well-known and there's just -- there are so many gar at so many places that studies aren't even getting done that I see so many gar at.

That's pretty much all I've got to say. I mean, I could ramble; but I see I've got a red light. So I guess the Oscar people are saying I've got to get off the stage.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you for your comments.


CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Appreciate them.

MR. MARK MALFA: Beaver, good seeing you. It's been a while.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right. Tim Franke, followed by Janice Bezanson, followed by Shane Bonnot.

MR. TIM FRANKE: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Commissioners. Thank you for inviting us here to speak this morning. My name's Tim Franke. I'm a recreational angler from Austin, Texas. I grew up in El Campo and spent my early years fishing with my dad in Matagorda Bay system and going offshore when we could get out to a free-dive structure and just loved it as a kid. Been doing it for 50 years.

I've seen the fisheries transition from take home all you want to the Redfish wars of the 70s and early 80s to the point where now I think we're doing a much better job of managing our resources. I take my family now to Port Aransas, primarily fish Redfish Bay down to the land cut and we do go offshore when the wind gods have pity on us.

So I'm here to provide comment on two proposals or several proposals on the 2019-2020 saltwater regulations. I publicly support and strongly support the rule change for Spotted seatrout, extending the five-fish bag limit to the upper coast for Galveston and Sabine Lake, Galveston Bay and Sabine Lake. Having seen the result of the five-fish bag limit down south, I can say it's time to move those same limits to the upper coast. I believe -- in my experience, I believe we'll see great results over time.

It seems to me that the five-fish bag limit has made a significant difference in the quality and the quantity of fish taken where that limit's been put in place and we've got to look down the road to the state population, which is growing incredibly every year. And so that means more anglers on the water, same number of resources. I think we need to start now putting plans in place to protect those resources for this increased population.

So I would also like to take the opportunity publically support the rule change for cobia and sharks to match the federal regulations. It makes sense to me to simplify the rules so that there's not this constant enforcement question. So I support the 40-inch length limit. As far as non-stainless steel hooks for state waters, I think it makes perfect sense for sharks. In fact, I would propose that we actually create a catch-and-release system for sharks. I see no reason to keep them, but that's a discussion for another day.

So I would like to thank the Commission and Parks and Wildlife staff and field folks who do a great job and do great research to back up many of the proposals that are put forward to the public. So thank you very much.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you, Mr. Franke.

Janice Bezanson, followed by Shane Bonnot, followed by Mark Ray.

MR. JANICE BEZANSON: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission, Mr. Smith. I'm Janice Bezanson with Texas Conservation Alliance. Texas Conservation Alliance is a 45-year-old -- well, now 48-year-old -- conservation organization and we've been working with Parks and Wildlife on issues for many, many years.

We would like to thank you for getting ahead of the curve on the Alligator gar regulations. This fish has been eliminated from much of its range. It can happen. It has happened, and we certainly don't want it to happen here. A lot has been said about that there isn't data to absolutely prove that we need to lower the -- you know, change -- make these changes in regulation, but that's getting the cart and the horse kind of backwards.

The burden of proof needs to be on proving we can sustain a certain level of fishing and this is a -- bowhunting on the Trinity is growing. There are a lot of videos online saying, "Come to the Trinity. This is the place to be." And even if it could sustain what what's being done today, that doesn't mean it's necessarily going to be able to sustain for the coming years. So the burden of proof needs to be on proving we can have a certain level of harvest.

What we do know is that it's the older, bigger fish that do the breeding. And so protecting these breeding fish is the way to go and we very much appreciate your putting these regulations -- proposing these regulations. We fully support them, and we appreciate you doing the preventative measure.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you for your comments.

All right. Next up --


CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: -- Shane Bonnot, followed by Mark Ray, followed by Dan Appling.

MR. SHANE BONNOT: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. My name is Shane Bonnot. I'm the Advocacy Director for CCA Texas. Appreciate the opportunity to provide these comments.

First off, I want to say that CCA supports the proposals for the use of non-offset non-stainless hooks for sharks. We also support the proposal to move to 40 inches for cobia and we fully support the closure, temporary closure, of oyster restoration sites for two years. We are also in support of the rule changes for Alligator gar, particularly along the Trinity to protect those spawning age fish.

CCA Texas supports the Department's efforts to conserve the Spotted seatrout fishery by moving the five-bag limit up the entire Texas coast, including Sabine Lake. As of yesterday, we had nearly 70 percent of respondents in support of that proposal. That level of feedback -- that level of support on any proposal should serve as a pretty good indicator that that's the desire of Texas anglers, as we have seen the positive benefits in other portions of the coast and we desire an improved fishery for the upper Texas coast.

We cannot and should not wait for Louisiana to make changes to their trout regulations before we make our decisions regarding our fishery. They are, indeed, finalizing their trout stock assessment and they are going to be faced with some difficult challenges moving ahead as they continue to come to grips with the status of their fishery.

When you compare Texas and Louisiana bag limits, slot limits, size limits for other species -- Red drum, Black drum, flounder -- they are not -- we are not consistent. So let's not wait for Louisiana to do something to match our measures to promote, enhance, and preserve our public trust resources. It was asked yesterday if there's any data to support or any data that highlights the effects of five fish on other portions of the coast and I'd like to point you to an article by Parks and Wildlife biologist Jason Ferguson. He wrote an article in the Texas Saltwater Fishing magazine in September of 2018 and he did a review of the ten years of the Lower Laguna Madre being at five fish and in that time period, the mean catch rate and Parks and Wildlife samples increased 16 percent. The mean overall average length of fish increased 4.4 percent and the percentage of fish greater than 25 inches increased 58 percent, representing nearly 15.6 percent of the total trout population.

And he concluded that article by stating, "These results suggest that management in the Lower Laguna and the current population is much now -- more robust now than it was before. That means not only is the fishing better, but the trout population stands a better chance of recovering from natural disasters. Perhaps even more importantly, the Lower Laguna Madre continues to remain one of the best places in the country to go catch a trophy trout now and hopefully for years to come."

And it was mentioned yesterday that Parks and Wildlife has been a leader in conservation and I wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment, both as a former employee and now as an outdoorsman and I thank this Commission for preserving that legacy, for continuing to lead the way so that future generations of Texans can enjoy our wonderful resources. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you, Mr. Bonnot.

Mark Ray, followed by Dan Appling, followed by Evelyn Merz.

MR. MARK RAY: Good morning, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners and Director Smith. My name is Mark Ray. I live in Corpus Christi, Texas. I'm a business owner there. I had the honor of serving as the Chairman of the Coastal Conservation Association Texas. CCA Texas is a nonprofit, marine conservation, volunteer-driven organization. We boast a current membership of 70,000 Texas -- Texas recreational anglers, outdoor enthusiasts, conservationists, and lovers of the Texas coast.

CCA is dedicated to conserving and enhancing our coastal resources for the benefit and enjoyment of the public. Thank you for this opportunity to provide comments on the proposed regulations for Alligator gar. CCA Texas supports Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's effort to conserve the Alligator gar. When I think about the protection and conservation of this iconic long-lived fish, my mind travels back to another time in Texas history. A time when another iconic Texas fish was undervalued, overfished, and suffered major set backs from pollution and hydrologic changes in our Texas rivers. I'm referring, of course, to the Tarpon.

I asked myself: What would the Tarpon fishery in Texas look like today if fishery managers at the turn of the century in the early 1900s had the foresight, had the vision, and had the sagacity to establish regulations, to enact change, and to develop policy that would offer protections to conserve one of the greatest of all game fishes? What if?

I suspect that if that what-if were to come true, Texas today would be enjoying the greatest Tarpon fishery in North America. So here we have the Alligator gar. A fish in many ways like a Tarpon. They're both prehistoric. They're both relics to the age of dinosaurs. Both are long-lived, reaching very similar sizes and weight. Both fish take many years to reach sexual maturity. Both fishes can gulp air, giving them the ability to live in harsh environments. Both fishes are not traditionally targeted for their flesh, but rather for their fight on the line. And both fishes suffering remarkable decline in abundance throughout their course of historical geographic range.

I think about these things and the what-if scenario for Tarpon becomes a why not for the Alligator gar. Why would we not want to protect this trophy fish? It has and will undoubtedly continue to soar in popularity both among residents and destination anglers, many of which claim that the Alligator gar is the greatest sport fish endemic to North America.

Texas has one of the last remaining populations of these trophy-size fish, and we should do everything to ensure that future generations of anglers have the opportunity to participate in this world class fishery. CCA believes that the proposed regulation changes for Alligator gar will help foster sustainable fishing practices. Therefore, we support the Department in their efforts to conserve this fishery. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you for your comments.

MR. MARK RAY: With the permission of the Chairman, I would like to also read a statement from Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: On behalf of Harte?


CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Yeah, that would be fine.

MR. MARK RAY: Okay. I also have the distinct privilege of serving as the Chair for the Center for Sportfish Science and Conservation, which is housed within the Harte Research Center for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M. I asked the Director of the Sportfish Center, Dr. Greg Stunz, to give a brief statement on behalf of the Center pertaining to Alligator gar and here are his words and I quote: "I would recommend Texas Parks and Wildlife Department adopt a very precautionary approach to management of Alligator gar. This is a unique fishery. In general, little is known scientifically about this unique species. However, they are declining throughout their range. For example, they were well -- once well-known to occur in 14 states; but are now extremely rare or extirpated for six of those states due to overharvest and habitat decline. The primary reason for the decline in Alligator gar is that they're slow to mature. It takes ten years for an Alligator gar to reach sexual maturity and they live to at least 95 years and probably more. Their reproduction is closely tied to optimal conditions, which we have heard. This leads to erratic and indeterminate spawning, which sometimes does not occur for years at a time. Thus, based on these population attributes, Alligator gar can only handle a very low exploitation rate and it will take decades to recover from overfishing."

I appreciate your time and those are my comments and I'll enter these into the written record.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you very much.

Next up, Dan Appling, followed by Evelyn Merz, followed by John Shepperd.

MR. DAN APPLING: Good morning, Commission. My name is Dan Appling. I'm part of a third generation recreational fishermen -- fishing family in Texas. Texas Parks and Wildlife has done a really great job of managing the fishing resource in my opinion, and I support their current initiatives.

The proposed fishing regulations I think are important to err on the side of caution, as the previous speaker said. Texas, as we all know, is experiencing expansive growth and some of those people are going to be fishing and so it can't help but to conserve the resources that we have.

We all know what happened to the Redfish 20 or 30 years ago, really because of a restaurant. And so the bowfishing is getting very popular. The boats are getting better at running the rivers. I think that we need to look hard at those regulations. I think the reduced Spotted seatrout, the science is there that it's worked in the south and it will work in the north. So I appreciate everything that y'all are doing and letting me speak. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you for your comments.

Evelyn Merz, followed by John Shepperd, and a lady named Bonnie Gonzales has sent in a card; but checked the box "I wish to observe only." But if you do wish to speak, then you'll be third.

MS. EVELYN MERZ: Good morning. My name is Evelyn Merz, the Lone Star Chapter Conservation Chair. I represent the approximately 25,000 members in the State of Texas. We would like to commend Texas Parks and Wildlife for taking on the issue of Alligator gar protection and thank the Commission for its direction.

We have two criticisms of the proposed regulations. They do not give sufficient consideration of the cause and effect of implementing a regulation; and, two, the population assumptions are being made without a recent population census or a determination of an estimated optimal population. A December 1st, 2010, article in the Beaumont Enterprise stated: "TPWD estimates the reach of the Trinity from just downstream of Dallas/Fort Worth to the upper reaches of Lake Livingston to -- holds just 9,200 Alligator gar measuring three and a half feet or longer. Only about 1,400 of those fish are 80 inches or longer, six and a half feet."

My understanding is that another population survey was done about two years later, yielding about the same results. In the intervening seven years, what has been the effect of trophy hunting on the population of the whole and of the larger fish, which are mostly the breeding females? The females begin breeding at about ten years of age. Per TPWD information online, a 5-foot long Alligator gar would be about ten years old, the age which breeding would begin for females. So the question is whether regulations adequately protect the size class of fish for breeding females at least five feet, in addition to the even larger fish.

While the Lone Star Chapter agrees with the 48-inch length limit for the main Trinity River segment, it disagrees that only this limited geographic area should be included in the restrictions. It's acknowledged that the particular impetus is because of the stress of trophy fishing. There is a direct correlation between length and sexual maturity. Trophy hunters tend to select for the largest specimens, which means they are selecting for the sexually mature females which tend to be larger than the males. Once they impose a length limit on a certain segment of stream, trophy hunters will simply move to another stream segment where there are no restrictions. This is especially true from anglers of out of state. I've been told this is a concern. They will been monitoring, but you don't need to monitor to know human behavior.

Another proposal is to implement a drawing to allow selected anglers to take over 40-inch -- a 48 inches in length larger per year. Again, there's no discussion of what the optimal population of larger Alligator gar would be or how the number of angler special permits would be determined per year.

If the current numbers of larger fish are now fewer today than 2010/2012, then the population should be allowed to recover before offering special permits. There should be a size class census and a determination of the optimum population size before putting in place a permitting system to essentially harvest the breeding females. Your research indicated that back in 2010, about 73 percent of the Alligator gar taken from the Trinity were taken with bowfish and about 27 percent taken with hook and line. Some anglers are doing catch and release, which is not possible with bowfishing. If the vast majority of Alligator gar catch is still as a result of bowfishing, then it could be justified to have an additional level of discrimination based upon the method of fishing. For example, considering setting a season for bowfishing if population studies recommend it. Thank you for your attention to these comments.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you, Ms. Merz.

All right. John Shepperd and then as I said, if Ms. Gonzales wishes to make oral remarks, we would invite her to do so following Mr. Shepperd's comments.

MR. JOHN SHEPPERD: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the Parks and Wildlife Commission. My name is John Shepperd. I'm the Executive Director of the Texas Foundation for Conservation. I'm here in support of the proposed regulations in Item 1, but I will limit my comments to the Alligator gar.

Everyone in this building has a moral and ethical duty to conserve our native fish and wildlife resources so they can be enjoyed by future Texans forever. Native fish and wildlife are owned by all of us equally and with every decision that we make about the management of these resources, it should reflect that truth. That said, proper management often results in a surplus that we can safely and responsibly enjoy in the field, on the water, and on the dinner table; but policy decisions are more challenging when a resource generates a strong economic interest. And in this case, the excitement and allure of the Texas trophy Alligator gar is bringing fishermen in from all over the world.

So we have to balance those human factors into the available science about the fishery, and sometimes this results in difficult decisions that may be unpopular in the short term. And let me drill down a little bit more. Based on discussions I've had with Parks and Wildlife biologists, the data from several years ago indicated that we were close to the 5 percent threshold at that time, which did not include an unknown amount of commercial harvest. And since then, there has been increased interest in trophy gar fishing.

So this social science and human behavior aspect must be factored into the decision-making, along with the biological science. And we know it's always better and less expensive to act before population levels become critical. Thankfully, we can support the great success stories in Texas fisheries management. Especially where good, working relationships exist between Agency biologists in the field and the fishermen in the flats that have given us healthy and sustainable fisheries that will outlast all of us in this room.

I believe that with the constructive cooperation of all the people in this room today, we can achieve that for the Alligator gar, as well. Thank you. If you have any questions.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you, Mr. Shepperd.

Is Bonnie Gonzales still here?

MS. HALLIBURTON: I think she left the building, Chairman.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. She did not register her position on Item 1. She just said she wished to observe. So note that she registered to observe.

Is there anybody who has not offered comments on the fishing proclamations here that wishes to offer comments?

Okay. With that, we'll close the public comment. And I'd ask Mr. Bonds if he has any comments or observations he wants to add to the prior presentation in light of hearing the public comment. You're not required to do so. I'm just giving you that opportunity.

MR. BONDS: Mr. Chairman, for the record, my name is Craig Bonds, Director of Inland Fisheries. Is there any particular comment that was made that you would like for me to address? Maybe I could ask for some direction on that.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Any members have any particular -- any comment that we'd like staff to elaborate from staff's perspective?

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: I've got one. I was going to save it for later. But the comment about hooks, I think we should look into that. We may be inadvertently causing more harm than we know. So I think we ought to look into the -- into the -- what kind of mortality we might be experiencing due to the fishing method for gar.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: I would add to that. I was going to say that irrespective of what action, if any, the Commission takes on Action Item 1, I'd like to ask staff to research or evaluate the wisdom of eliminating treble hooks or changing the requirements for hooks as we did for sharks and as we asked yesterday, to look into should we expand that -- those hook changes to other species, pelagic species, in the Gulf. I think it's a very fair observation that certain speakers made that if a treble hook is being swallowed and it's -- certainly if it's stainless, that's problematic. Very problematic. And we need to know what, if anything, we can do to -- if it's -- we think it's catch and release, that it's true catch and release.

I recognize from hearing from biologists for years that there's always some percentage of mortality when you catch a fish, whether it's a bass. I heard Charlie Inman tell me that 25 years ago that 10 percent of every bass are going to die no matter how you handle it. So we recognize that, but I would like to ask you and your team to consider these. As the Vice-Chairman said, let's consider should we -- should we -- you propose changes to the types of hooks that can be used for Alligator gar.

MR. BONDS: Well, we heard that direction. We certainly heard the comments, too. The only thing that I would add to that is we have some anecdotal information. I wouldn't call it solid science on hooking mortality, just due to some of the research that we've done for investigating other aspects of Alligator gar science. So we've got some signals, but we don't have really strong science on the mortality. I would also like to add that just so that you -- the body here understands that we will do as directed and certainly I'll get with staff and look into that issue.

It is very difficult to perform a hooking mortality study and isolate all the particular confounding factors that contribute to mortality; but we can certainly communicate back to this group what we can do and also looking into the future, what -- and looking into the recent past and the communication that we've had with some of the rod and reel guides, we do know that through just voluntary measures on their part, they've been experimenting with various different types of hook types, whether it's the size of the treble hook or moving away from a treble hook to more of a circle or J-style single hook and what that means for the success of their hook-ups with their clients and that type of thing.

So I know that that is a concern that is shared by rod and reel anglers and biologists, as well; and we will certainly have more conversations and get back with you on that.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Good deal. Thank you.

MR. BONDS: Okay.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Anybody else have a questions of Mr. Bonds?

All right. Is there a motion for action by a Commissioner?


CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: By Vice-Chairman. I'm sorry. You move approval? Second Commissioner Latimer. Any discussion? All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, Action Item 1 carries unanimously.

Action Item 2, 2019-20 Statewide Hunting and Migratory Game Bird Proclamations, Recommended Adoption of the Proposed Changes, Alan Cain.

MR. CAIN: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, I'm Alan Cain, White-tailed Deer Program Leader in the Wildlife Division. This morning, I'll be presenting proposed changes to the statewide big game harvest or hunting proclamation and seeking adoption of those.

The first proposal staff are considering would amend the current rules to authorize the Department to be able to refuse enrollment for any tract of land enrolled in MLD which a deer has been harvested, but has not been presented at a mandatory check station for CWD testing where that's required. Refusal for enrollment would not be automatic and the proposed change would clarify in rule that the Department would take into consideration factors that include whether an applicant has advised hunters of mandatory check station requirements for CWD testing; whether the applicant encouraged, advises, directs, or directs a hunter not to present deer at a mandatory check station; the number of deer harvested on a MLD property that were not presented at the check station; or any other aggravating or mitigating factors deemed relevant by the Department.

To date, we've had 124 public comments. I think there's a few more that have come in this morning, but the percentages are about the same. 92 percent in support of the proposed change, and 8 percent disagree. No comments were made for those disagreeing with the proposed change and this has been reviewed by the White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee, who also supports this proposed change.

The next change staff are considering is the expansion of doe days in 41 counties and in this suite of 20 counties, staff are proposing to expand doe days from 4 to 16 during the general season and they would run the first 16 days of general season. And as mentioned yesterday during the Work Session, deer populations are increasing in these areas and we've had requests from hunters to either extend the doe season here in the next slide or next couple slides. Actually open a doe season in those counties.

To date, we've had 236 public comments. 81 percent in support. 19 percent opposed to this change, and the primary concern was overharvest is why folks were opposed to that doe day proposal. In these 21 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 two-doe bag limit for all seasons combined.

Staff are also aware of concerns from some landowners and hunters in this particular suite of counties that -- about potential overharvest. And so staff don't believe there to be any resource issues with a four-day doe season; but to address concerns of possible overharvest, staff would also propose an experimental mandatory harvest reporting for antlerless deer tagged with a hunting license tag in these counties and this harvest reporting would be accomplished using the "My Texas Hunt Harvest" app that is available on the TPWD website or through mobile devices and hunters would have to report harvest within 24 hours of harvest.

To date, we've received 357 comments. We've had a few additional comments come in since yesterday, but the percentages are about the same. 61 percent in support, and 39 percent oppose the proposed doe days. The primary concerns are overharvest and the reduction in participation of wildlife management cooperatives or associations in this particular region.

We do want to note we did receive a letter from the Lavaca County Wildlife Management Association President that's in opposition to this proposed change. We've also run this by the White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee, and they were supportive of the change. We did have one of the committee members suggest that we increase the harvest rate under the harvest option MLD Program as an alternative to implementing doe days in these particular counties.

The next proposed change, staff would consider adding Lynn County into the Mule deer -- experimental Mule deer antler restriction for this season. In the -- as stated yesterday, any buck with an outside spread of less than 20 inches is not legal for harvest and this does not apply to MLD properties since staff provide site-specific harvest recommendations and are fairly conservative.

Today, we've had 103 public comments. 90 percent in support. About 10 percent in opposition to the proposed change. The reasons for opposition include comments that hunters will not be able to judge whether a buck is legal, determine the spread of 20 inches or greater, and this proposal would favor trophy hunting and that folks should be able to take any buck or the proposal takes away from the spirit of the hunt with antler restrictions in place.

And the final proposed change is the addition of six counties to the North Zone javelina season, which include Borden, Dawson, Gaines, Hardeman, Scurry, and Terry Counties. And they would be added to the North Zone suite of counties in which the season runs from October 1 through the last Sunday in February, with a bag limit of two javelina all seasons combined.

And to date, we've had 101 public comments. 96 percent in support, and 4 percent in opposition. Those in opposition provided comment that their population wasn't sufficient to support harvest in those six counties or that -- one commenter suggested that we needed a larger bag limit than the two per year.

And that concludes my presentation. I'd be happy to answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Just a second, Alan.

MR. CAIN: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Alan, can you help me understand. Under the second -- this is on the additional doe days. And under the -- your summary of the reasons for disagreement by those people who commented, you had reduced participation in wildlife management associations. I don't understand that. What does that mean and why would that be an outcome or a result if the Commission were to add additional time?

MR. CAIN: So as I mentioned yesterday, in these suite of counties -- the green ones you see on map there -- currently, antlerless harvest is by MLD only during general season. And so the way many folks are able to harvest antlerless deer is to participate in MLD through a wildlife management association or a cooperative. And so what happens if we open the four-day doe season, some of the co-ops -- for example, like Lavaca County -- are concerned that they'll see members drop out of the co-op and rather than receive MLD tags to harvest antlerless deer through the co-op, they'll stop participating in a cooperative and just utilize the four doe days to harvest the antlerless deer because some of them join those co-ops in part to, you know, participate in MLD and receive an antlerless tag through that co-op's MLD enrollment.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: But the proposal would actually increase opportunities for hunters, wouldn't it?

MR. CAIN: Yes. The proposal would add another option in addition to MLD.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: That's what I'm saying.

MR. CAIN: And I don't know that it's necessarily going to reduce participation in wildlife management associations. That's just a concern that was kind of voiced among several commenters because people can still be a member of the wildlife management association in that county, but they can also choose to either utilize the WMA and that MLD enrollment to get an antlerless tag or they could opt to utilize the four-doe day season; but they can't do both.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Yeah. Commissioner Scott.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Alan, I've had a little bit of information over the years on those co-op deals. I don't agree with that statement at all that it would reduce participation. I personally -- they get together because when times are bad, but they're not bad. We've got plenty of stuff to shoot. So, I mean, I don't agree with that, so.

MR. CAIN: I appreciate that comment.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right. Thank you, Alan.

MR. CAIN: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Shaun Oldenburger, will you make your presentation?

MR. OLDENBURGER: All right. Good morning, Chair -- good afternoon, Chairman and fellow Commissioners. For the record, my name is Shaun Oldenburger. I'm the Small Game Program Director for the Wildlife Division. I'm going to recommend -- we're going -- staff is going to recommend adoption of proposed changes. I'm going to continue off where Alan left off with statewide hunting proclamation and continue on to the migratory game bird proclamation.

So we have one more proposal for statewide hunting proclamation with regards to wild turkeys. This is basically just a language clean-up for proof of sex. This is just to clarify a regulation for constituents. Currently as written, it's a little bit confusing for some folks as far as what they need with that bird once they harvest it from the field and bring it to their permanent residence and so this just clarifies it mostly in there where it says attached or detached from the bird. So, therefore, the proof of sex can be either of those.

And moving to the proof of sex. Once again, just some language clean-up there. Just clarifying what it is and making it a little bit simpler once we get this in the Outdoor Annual and put it online for our constituents.

So that -- public comment, this has unanimously approved by the Upland Game Bird Advisory Committee. Also, we received 125 folks that commented online. 96 percent agree completely. Five disagree completely, and the one comment was concern about using previous year's proof of sex when they're transporting that bird.

So that concludes the proposed changes to the statewide hunting proclamation. I'll move on to proposals for the migratory game bird proclamation at this time. Just for clarification, we'll be combining the earlier and late season migratory game bird proclamations proposed. A few years ago, Fish and Wildlife Service changed the process as far as how migratory game bird regulations occur. So, therefore, that is no longer needed. And just a reminder that frameworks are basically unchanged prior -- basically from last year.

So just a little bit background. There's three zones for statewide regular dove seasons in Texas -- the North, Central, and South -- a 90-day season and we're allowed 15 birds in the daily bag limit. That's an aggregate of White-winged and Mourning doves. We're also allowed two White-tipped doves, but those primarily occur in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

So going through the calendars for both the North, Central, and South Zones. Here's the North Zone's proposals. Basically, opening as soon as probable on September 1st, running through November 12th, opening again December 20th, and running out the rest of the days to January 5th. Moving on to the Central, we would open September 1st as well, running out through November 3rd, opening again December 20th as the North is, and running out the rest of days to January 14th.

Moving on to the South Zone, the Special White-winged dove days. The Special White-winged dove days there highlighted in yellow. That's an afternoon-only season, mostly for White-winged doves. In the South Zone, basically that would be the 1st, 2nd, 7th, and 8th as proposed. As you'll see, that's the 1st and 2nd. The 2nd being Labor Day and that's the same as what was proposed in January -- or in 2013 when we had this calendar progression. We would open the season as soon as possible, which is September 14th, run through November 3rd, and open again December 20th as the other two zones and then run out the rest of the days to January 23rd.

Moving on to waterfowl proposals for teal hunting. We're allowed 16 days. Staff preference has always been go to the last three full weekends to capture the Blue-wing migration in the state. Therefore, the proposed dates are September 14th and 29th and we're allowed six birds in the daily bag limit.

Moving on to duck zones for High Plains Mallard Management Unit. We're allowed 15 more days of hunting opportunity on ducks in this area compared to the North and South Zone. Youth zone -- youth would open October 19th and 20th, the regular season would be October 26th and 27th, opening again November 1st, and running out to the last Sunday in January, which is the 26th. In all zones, we have a five-day delay for dusky ducks.

So this is what it looks like on a calendar there. In light blue is teal season, dark blue being youth, and and the regular seasons being in green; and we'll just show the calendars to back up what I've said in the slides prior to then.

Moving on to North Zone, youth season will be November 2nd and 3rd; regular season will be November 9th, running to December 1st, opening again December 7th and running out to January 26th as proposed. Once again, a five-day delay for dusky duck harvest. This is what that looks like on a calendar. Once again, there teal season being the same in all areas, the blue -- dark blue, the 2nd and 3rd of November being youth season and then the regular season open November 9th, running to the 1st of December and then we're opening again on the 7th of December, running out the rest of the days to January 26th.

For the last zone for ducks, mergansers, and coots. As proposed, the youth season would be October 26th and 27th, regular starting November 2nd and running to December 1st, having a little bit more prolonged split, the second segment opening again December 14th and running out to the last Sunday in January, as well. And here's where we have mostly our mottled ducks in the state. Dusky ducks would be here delayed five days, as well.

Looking at this on a calendar, as well. There you have the teal season. The same as previous. And then the dark blue, October 26th and 27th would be your youth seasons as proposed and the green being the proposed regular season, starting again November 2nd, running through December 1st, opening again December 14th and running through January 26th. Just as far as bag limits, these are unchanged prior to last year with one exception. You'll see one pintail is highlighted there. Basically, that would be a change from two to one for this year. Also just for clarification, when I say "dusky" duck, that means a mottled, black, or Mexican like duck. Therefore, the overall bag limit is six per day. Possession limit is three times the daily bag limit for all migratory game birds.

Moving on to geese, the daily bag limits are unchanged from the previous year. You'll see two zones there in the State of Texas: The Western Goose Zone in red and light blue is the Eastern Goose Zone. Dark geese and light geese is basically unchanged. Calendar progression from previous year, November 2nd to February -- November 2nd to February 2nd and the Conservation Order starting directly after that for light geese only, which starts February 3rd and runs to March 15th.

The Eastern Goose Zone has a special season -- well, not a special season; but it's Canada goose only season that runs September 14th to 29th, which is concurrent with teal season as proposed. And there, dark and light goose season is a week shorter, starting November 2nd and running to January 26th. The Conservation Order starting directly after that on the 27th and running to March 15th.

Proposed dates for Sandhill cranes, daily bag limits remain unchanged from prior year. Zone A and Zone B and Zone C are just calendar progressions. So, therefore, there is no change really from the previous year's regulations.

Moving on to rail, gallinule, moorhen, snipe, and woodcock. Once again, calendar progression same as previous years with the exception of woodcock. Those season dates remain unchanged. The end of federal frameworks being January 31st and we back up the 45 days to December 18th.

Then we move on to proposed falconry seasons. Once again, calendar progression. Mourning, White-winged, and White-tipped dove is November 16th to December 2nd. Woodcock, moorhen, gallinule, rail, and ducks in North and South Zone, January 27th through February 9th would be that season. As I said yesterday in the Work Session, there is no falconry-only season in the High Plains Mallard Management Unit because we already take advantage of our full 107 days for take for ducks in that area.

So with that, as far as public comment on this, the Migratory Game Bird Advisory Committee unanimously agreed with all the proposals. We had very limited comment online. Twenty-six individuals. 72 percent agreed completely. One disagreed completely. Six disagree specifically on these issues I presented yesterday. Obviously, the top two there are in regards to federal frameworks. So, therefore, they do not apply. We cannot be more liberal than the Fish and Wildlife Service rules. And then, obviously, some of the ones there lower, we'll take into consideration for next year; but it was later snipe season, reduced bag limits/possession for ducks/geese, ducks and deer season on the same weekend in the South Zone, opening the same as it had historically.

So with that, I'll take any comments prior to moving on to the adoption slide. All right. So staff recommend the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts amendments to Section 65.10, 65.29, 65.42, and 65.44 concerning the statewide hunting proclamation and the repeal of 65 -- Sections 65.314 through 65.321 and amendment to Section 65.313 and new 65.314 through 65.320 concerning migratory game bird proclamation, with changes as necessary to the proposed text as published in the February 15th, 2019, issue of the Texas Register. And I can --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: That's a mouthful.

MR. OLDENBURGER: That is a mouthful. I could barely get that out.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you, Shaun.

Any comments by members of the Commission?

I don't show that anybody has expressed an interest in speaking in connection with this action item. Is there anybody in the audience that does wish to offer comment?

Hearing none, I ask members for a motion for approval.


CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Vice-Chairman Morian motion. Commissioner Scott second. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries.

Action Item 3, Deer Breeder Regulations Regarding CWD Testing Provisions and Release Provisions, Mitch Lockwood.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Mitch Lockwood. I'm the Big Game Program Director and this afternoon, I'm seeking adoption of proposed amendments to rules pertaining to deer breeding activities. As we discussed yesterday, the proposed amendments would create additional CWD testing options for deer breeders who are currently prohibited from transferring deer into or out of their facilities and the amendments would extend the period of time that breeder deer -- that liberated breeder deer may be confined in a soft release pen or acclimation pen.

You may recall during the Work Session yesterday that I reported that there are approximately 155 deer breeders in the state that currently have a not movement qualified status because of inadequate CWD testing. And over half -- in fact, about two-thirds of those deer breeders have the ability to get movement qualified at this time utilizing live animal testing options that our rules currently provide; but there are several -- in fact, a little more than 50 of these facilities -- that do not have enough test eligible deer in the facilities at this time to conduct the adequate CWD surveillance to get movement qualified.

In fact, several of these won't have enough deer for years. Some will never have enough deer to get movement qualified to conduct the adequate surveillance to get movement qualified. So after much consultation with our Breeder User Group, our CWD Task Force, and our White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee, staff propose to amend the rules to allow deer breeding facilities in this situation to regain movement qualified status after two whole herd -- two rounds of whole herd antemortem or live animal testing. In other words, every test eligible deer in the facility be tested twice using antemortem testing methods.

The first test could occur 12 months after the Department has determined that that facility is a closed facility. In other words, after we -- after their status was changed to a not movement qualified and the Department has determined the identity of all the deer in the facility. And then the second round of whole herd testing could occur 12 months after the conclusion of the first round. And as I shared with you yesterday, the majority of these facilities could actually begin immediately upon adoption or these rules taking effect with their first round of testing.

Unless there are any questions on the first proposed amendment, I'll go ahead and move into the second proposed amendment, which would extend the period of time that breeder deer may be confined in a soft release pen before ultimately being liberated onto the registered release site. And this proposal would extend that period of time from 30 days to more than six months. And while staff believe that 30 days is sufficient time for a released deer to physiologically acclimate to its new surroundings, as was intended with this provision, I shared with you yesterday that the practice of releasing breeder deer has evolved through time. It has evolved to where, you know, deer breeders have been moving more -- or their clients rather, have been moving more towards a model where deer have been placed in small enclosures for extended period of time. I'll call these small enclosures de facto soft release pens. But in reality, they're registered release sites. Albeit, they may be only a few acres in size.

And there's various reasons why they may choose to do this. One example I gave you yesterday is they may purchase bred does and put those does in this smaller enclosure, this smaller release site, and leave them there long enough to produce their fawns and to get those fawns -- at least leave them in there during the times when they're still more vulnerable to predation and then ultimately release those deer onto the larger release site, maybe in the fall of the year.

Well, in an attempt to respond to this business model, staff proposed to amend the rules to state that breeder deer may law -- excuse me -- breeder deer lawfully transferred to a registered release site, may be held in temporary captivity for any period of time between March 1 through the eleventh day immediately preceding an open deer season to acclimate the breeder deer to habitat conditions at that release site. So again, this would be an extension from 30 days to more than six months.

That ending date is very important for two reasons. First, it is consistent with what is commonly referred to as the ten-day rule. Statutes state that deer cannot be released with antlers intact during an open season or within the ten-day period immediately preceding an open hunting season. And this proposal would allow for antlered bucks to be released from these soft release pens with their antlers intact and not conflict with that statute.

Secondly, the ending date is important so that the deer are released before the breeding season begins because detaining does with at least one buck during a breeding season would require a permit, either a deer breeding permit or a DMP, or Deer Management Permit. The proposed amendment also states that release shall consist of the removal of at least 20 feet of the components of a pen that serve to maintain deer in a state of detention within that pen. However, no opening shall be less than 10 feet in width and such components shall be removed for no fewer than 30 consecutive days. Again, this is consistent with the rules pertaining to how to facilitate release from a DMP facility.

As we discussed yesterday, this proposal has been vetted through different advisory groups -- our Breeder User Group, our CWD Task Force, our White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee. With regard to the Breeder User Group, all except one member supported both of these proposed amendments. The CWD Task Force actually only heard one of the proposed amendments. The proposed amendment pertaining to providing additional options for obtaining movement qualification. That CWD Task Force did support the proposal as published in the Texas Register. And then our White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee also supported that same proposal.

Now, there was quite a bit of concern from several members of the White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee for that other proposed amendment. The amendment pertaining to the extension of that soft release period from 30 days to more than six months. And, of course, the owner of a release site where a soft release pen may exist, doesn't receive the same benefits of holding those deer in that enclosure that a permitted deer breeder would receive. Nonetheless, these members who expressed this concern, consider these soft release pens -- especially for an extended period of time -- to be extensions of breeding facilities or satellite breeding facilities; but they don't come with the same obligations that a permitted deer breeder would have, such as having to report mortalities or test a proportion of mortalities for Chronic Wasting Disease.

Now, I should be clear that this proposal does not introduce any new risks that lead to these concerns. These concerns that were expressed, are really concerns for existing rules or practices that this proposal doesn't address. And our White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee was well aware of that. In fact, some members actually provided some recommendations on how their concerns might be addressed, such as compliance with the Department's stocking policy.

And in response to those concerns, I understand -- as I understand it, this Commission and Director Smith provided some guidance yesterday with a recommendation that we actually include a sunset provision or a sunset date with this -- with this particular rule amendment to allow the staff some time to evaluate this, go through a cycle of operating under these rules, evaluate just what -- how this is -- how well this is working, look at things such as stocking densities, periods of detention, other factors. And then after taking all that into consideration, regroup, revisit with our advisory committee and solicit some feedback from them and see is it -- is this meeting its intended purpose or do we need to make some modifications to those rules again?

And so in order to give staff time to evaluate data that's received through September of 2020, that basically would take into consideration that peak release season next spring that would operate under this six-plus month window of keeping deer in this soft release pen, that would end around mid to the latter part of September. Staff could then evaluate the information received, convene a meeting of our advisory committee, potentially develop a rule proposal, and ask this Commission for permission to publish a rule proposal as early as the January 2021 Commission Meeting and then this Commission would take action on that potentially in March of 2021. And if this timeframe is what the Commission had in mind, then I would propose a sunset date of May 1st, 2021.

And before I open this up for any comments you may have or advance to the staff recommendation slide, I should also state that since we met yesterday, I did receive 15 additional comments from deer breeders. All of which were in support of both proposed amendments. We've also received four comments from other stakeholders who were in opposition to the extension of the soft release pen, period of detention, for reasons already given.

And then, Mr. Chairman, you also -- we received a letter last night that was addressed to you. I believe all members of the Commission were copied on that letter. It is from Texas Deer Association, who expressed support for the extension of the soft release period. In that support, they did state that they are concerned with staff's interpretation of the comprehensive CWD rules regarding fence restrictions and state that, you know, the staff don't have the authority to approve or deny a landowner's ability to construct or remove interior fences within privately owned ranches in Texas.

While it is critically important that the risk that is associated with transferring deer and releasing deer in the State of Texas, that that risk be confined to that registered release site, I shared with this Commission yesterday that not only are there instances in which release sites may be amended, there have been many instances in which release sites have been amended to change in size. Mainly to remove interior fences and consolidate additional acreage that may be acquired by that landowner. And I also shared with this Commission some situations in which interior fencing may be erected. High fencing may be erected where release sites may be subdivided. So I believe that was made pretty clear in the Work Session yesterday; but if not, I'll be glad to answer any questions there.

Finally, in that letter, Texas Deer Association did express opposition for the proposed amendment to provide this additional option for deer breeders to gain movement qualified status and they state that they believe that the Department should postpone passage of that proposed rule change in order to work alongside with Texas Animal Health Commission veterinarians and epidemiologists to find a better way to regulate facilities with insufficient animals to live test. And basically, that we should not use a one size fits all approach and cite -- and referring to some instances where there may be mass mortalities beyond the control of the permitted deer breeder.

I'm sure I don't have to remind this Commission that we've worked very, very closely daily alongside with our good friends and partners at Texas Animal Health Commission. In fact, our State epidemiologist, Dr. Rollo, and their general counsel, Gene Snelson, are with us here today. And Dr. Rollo is actually a co-chair of the CWD Task Force that has commented on this -- provided recommendations actually and helped draft this proposal. And so we will -- as we shared with you yesterday and at your recommendation or directive, Mr. Chairman, we are committed to continue to work closely with our CWD Task Force and seek additional options for obtaining -- for breeders in this situation to maintain or to achieve movement qualification.

But staff's concern with that recommendation there, is that it would prolong, if not increase -- I mean, the recommendation that we receive from Texas Deer Association -- it would prolong, if not increase the anxiety of deer breeders that are in this situation, when we have an option here that could allow some to start this process of getting out of the mousetrap, so to speak, immediately.

And so with that, before I advance to a recommendation slide, if there any questions, I'll be glad to address those at this time.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Go ahead and present the recommendation, please.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Okay. So with that, staff recommend that Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts amendments to 65.94 concerning breeding facility minimum movement qualifications and an amendment to 65.610 concerning transfer of breeder deer, with changes as necessary to the proposed text as published in the February 15, 2019, issue of the Texas Register.


At this point -- or at this time, I want to call for public comment and I have two cards. First is from Tim Condict with the Deer Breeders Corporation. So, Tim, would you please come up. And followed by Joey Park with Texas Wildlife Association and CCA, both.

MR. TIM CONDICT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission, Carter Smith, Clayton, and Mitch. I want to thank all of you guys for coming up with a solution to try to help the deer breeders get out of these situations that they have found themselves in. And I really appreciate Mitch going the extra mile to come up with some things and continuing a discussion with us to try to move this ball forward to come up with better ways along the way to solve this problem in a better manner. But the Deer Breeders Corporation supports both amendments, and we proudly support both of those amendments.

I would also like to say that I talked Mitch Lockwood about the georeferencing and was told by Megan recently that that was coming down the pike and I've talked to Mitch Lockwood about that a couple of three weeks ago and we'd like to be able to do a webinar with the TPWD staff to train our members how to do that. And with that, I appreciate you guy's time. I'll be short and sweet, and that's really our comments; but the Deer Breeders Corporation is 100 percent in the support of both amendments.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you for taking time to appear and offer comments. We appreciate it.

MR. TIM CONDICT: Thank you.


MR. JOEY PARK: Good morning, Mr. Chairman. My name is Joey Park. I'm here today as a poor substitute for David Yeates and the Texas Wildlife Association. I would ask you that you -- I did have to amend my registration card to become a speaker when he couldn't make it today. He's been trapped at the Capitol. I signed up on behalf of CCA on another event. I can assure you that Coastal Conservation Association doesn't have much interest in the breeder applications that are being proposed today.

We are here today to support the CWD testing rules and appreciate the Department's efforts to continue to find live testing rates to continue to certify that these animals are disease free. With regards to the expansion on the soft release pens, although we don't oppose it, we do share some of the concerns that were iterated by Mitch. You know, there's other options for that rather than creating these long-term expansions; but just wanted to express our support for those today. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you very much, Joey.

All right. Is there any discussion by the Commission or comments? Motion by -- or let me call on Commissioner Scott.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yeah. First, I would make a motion to approve this. But what I would like to ask more so than that, I really appreciate the good relationship between the Deer Breeder Corp, Texas Animal Health, and our staff. I feel like things are getting negotiated and are being done in a very professional manner.

And what I would like to ask is that y'all continue this and try to clean up some of these deals and bring us some recommendations for the May meeting that we can act on so that, hopefully, we can solve everybody's issues. And thank y'all.

Thank you for your hard work, Mitch. I know you've got a lot of time invested.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: So if I may for purposes of clarification, is your motion to approve subject to the sunset of two cycles, I believe it is for the --

MR. SMITH: On the soft release.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: On the soft release. Is that your motion?

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right. There's been such a motion by Commissioner Scott. Is there a second? Commissioner Warren. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries.

MR. SMITH: And then, Chairman, just to confirm. Per Commissioner Scott's direction, we will go back to the CWD Task Force to continue to explore viable alternatives for testing and other means that producers that are caught in the trap of not being able to move their animals and come back with some ideas on that.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: That would be great.

MR. SMITH: Okay.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: That's what we would like to see happen.

MR. SMITH: All right. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Before we move to local park grant funding, Mr. Condict mentioned Clayton, I think. And I just wanted to observe -- to borrow Mr. David Buggs' term -- that Clayton looks casket ready today.

All right. So that takes us to -- just make sure nobody is asleep out there -- Action Item 4, Local Park Grant Funding, Request Approval of Proposed Funding Recommendations. Dan Reece, would you please make your presentation.

And I believe that Commission Galo wishes to recuse on the portion that pertains to Webb County, is it?


CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: The proposed grant to Webb County?


CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: So when we get to that, she will leave the dais. If you'll just give me the high sign so she can recuse --

MR. REECE: Okay, fair enough.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: -- herself physically, please.

MR. REECE: Okay. Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. My name is Dan Reece and I'm the Local Park Grant Program Manager within the Recreation Grants Branch in the State Park Division and I'm here this afternoon to present to you funding recommendations for 38 new local park grants.

Funding from a portion of the state sales tax on sporting goods, in addition to oil -- federal oil and gas royalties, combined to provide matching grants to eligible local units of government for the acquisition and development of public parkland. Currently, we have available funding through the Texas Recreation and Parks Account in the amount of $7,037,012. In the Texas Large County and Municipality Recreation and Parks account in the amount of $5,245,957. And currently available through the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, or LWCF, we have a total of $3,990,363. And at this point, I would also like to mention that additional federal LWCF funding could become available later in the current fiscal year and I'll make reference to that again with our staff recommendations.

We have a total of five individual grant programs within local parks. Each of these are based on population of the submitting entity, as well as project scope. We have the urban outdoor and urban indoor recreation programs, both of which are for all communities with a population of 500,000 or greater. We have the nonurban indoor and nonurban outdoor recreation programs and these are for eligible communities with a population of less than 500,000. And we also have the small community program, which is for jurisdictions with a population of 20,000 or less.

As of October 1st, 2018, we received 71 eligible local park applications requesting a total of $25,377,315 in matching funds assistance. Exhibits A through E rank projects in descending order based on each grant program's scoring criteria as previously adopted by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission. Exhibit F displays the scoring for the Webb County nonurban outdoor application.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. Well, let's hold off on Exhibit F until we cover A through E.

MR. REECE: Okay.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: And then Commissioner Galo can excuse herself when you start discussing F.

MR. REECE: Okay.


MR. REECE: Staff recommends that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motions: Motion 1, funding for projects listed in Exhibits A through E is approved in the amount of $16,005,139. And I'd be happy to answer any questions about that.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. Members, any questions or comments about the proposed grants in Exhibits A through E? If not --

COMMISSIONER GALO: I would like to move for approval.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right. Commissioner Galo moves for approval. Second Commissioner Scott. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries.

All right. At this point, Commissioner Galo is excusing herself and recusing on this item in its entirety.

COMMISSIONER GALO: Yes. And I'd like to state for the record, the purpose of the recusal is that my husband is a Webb County Commissioner, for the record. Thank you.


MR. REECE: Okay.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Oh, I tell you what, before we do that, I overlooked -- as Carter just pointed out -- we have a number of people who registered to speak. So let's go ahead and have -- if you don't mind, step aside and let's allow those people to speak, whether it's on A through F. Since she's out, let's go ahead and -- we've already voted A through E, but forgive me for my oversight there.

Start with Tom Edwards with Morgan's Point Resort, followed by Carlos Colina-Vargas with McMullen County.

MR. TOM EDWARDS: Thank you for this opportunity to represent Morgan's Point Resort. This was our first attempt to submit a matching -- a request for matching funds for our parks improvement program. I want to especially thank Aaron Friar for his assistance last August when I made my first attempt at such an application and also for Dan Reece who's been very encouraging in recent days.

I'm here just to ask a question, and it's based upon my experience in my day job. I work for the Xerox Corporation. I'm federal government contract manager for Xerox. When we lose a deal with the federal government, they give us a chance to ask for a debrief so we can learn what the deficiencies were in our application in hopes of doing better the next time around. I don't know if such a process exists here for this, but I'm asking that hopefully we can be informed of the deficiencies. A score of 65 in high school and college was not a passing grade, and a score of 65 is what we got on your evaluation; but it was below the line on the ones that were approved. And as Dan has said, some more funding may become available. So we're still hopeful. And I'm just asking if we could get a debrief in hopes to have a better chance next time around.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Very fair question. I'll let Mr. Smith respond because I think we can accommodate your request.

MR. SMITH: Well, we absolutely can, Chairman; and so let me just reinforce that for the record.

I'd ask you to get with Dan. Our team is more than happy to meet with --


MR. SMITH: -- you and your colleagues and help assist you in any way for the next round if you don't --

MR. TOM EDWARDS: Thank you.

MR. SMITH: -- receive funding with the expanded funding that we think is going to be available. So please, please count on that. We look forward to it.

MR. TOM EDWARDS: Thank you very much.

MR. SMITH: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Are you otherwise okay with the staff's recommendations?

MR. TOM EDWARDS: Oh, yes, yes, yes.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. I would like to note that all of the speakers who I overlooked, registered in favor, as I understand it, of the action item. So, again, my apology.

All right. Mr. Colina-Vargas, welcome; followed by David Garza with Cameron County.

MR. CARLOS COLINA-VARGAS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the Commission. Early this morning, I was practicing or rehearsing to say "Buenos dias, Senor Chairman." At this time, I have to say buenas tardes.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: We like that, too. We're getting there.

MR. CARLOS COLINA-VARGAS: I appreciate your dedication to conduct this meeting and award these grants. I raced here to represent McMullen County in South Texas; but Commissioner -- Judge James Teel is here. Later, he will address the Commission also. And I represent then the City of Elsa in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Both the McMullen County and the City of Elsa have been recommended for half a million dollars in outdoor recreation for recreational facilities and park development in Elsa.

The City is using an abandoned easement at the railroad company to development a linear park that will be much by the Valley Baptist Legacy Foundation and the City of Elsa, the urban county, and Hidalgo County. So that is a multiagency project that will really, really enhance and benefit the recreational resources of this community.

I have greetings from cities and counties in South Texas and a request to the Commission that you continue your support to retain the sales taxes on sporting goods solely for the use of parks and recreational development. I also would like to express their appreciation -- in this case, our appreciation, including myself -- to the staff of the recreation branch, park recreation branch for the commitment to this program, their support, and their patience in dealing with these applications and the implementation of these facilities. They're a great group, and we appreciate their help. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you very much, Mr. Colina-Vargas. Appreciate your comments and taking time to appear today.

MR. CARLOS COLINA-VARGAS: Muchas gracias, Señor.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Muchas gracias, Señor.

David Garza, Cameron County; followed by Joe Vega, also with Cameron County. Hi, Mr. Garza.

MR. DAVID GARZA: How are you doing, Chairman?

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Good, sir. How are you?

MR. DAVID GARZA: Good to see you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Good to see you again.

MR. DAVID GARZA: And thank you for allowing us a few minutes in front of your Commission. Curtis, glad to be here.

First and foremost, thank you for including us in what you were -- will be approving shortly because as part of the recommendation on the nonurban outdoor and indoor grants, with one slight name change on the indoor grant. I think it reads "North Z Boaz Park" and it should be "South Texas Ecotourism Center." It's like a typo, I think.

MR. SMITH: Duly noted, yeah.


MR. SMITH: Don't you worry about your funding.


MR. SMITH: Yeah, we're good, Commissioner.

MR. DAVID GARZA: Okay. I just wanted to make sure I cleared that up.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Rest easily.

MR. DAVID GARZA: You know, first and foremost, I want to thank you for joining us November the 6th and the 7th in the Valley this last year. It was wonderful having your presence and the awareness that you brought to our communities on the importance of what you do. The day that you spent with us in the Oscar Dancy Building in Cameron County was really, really great for our county and I want to personally thank you on behalf of our Commission, our Judge and Commissioners, for having chosen our site to have the regional district hearing that you did. And, you know, that was excellent; but we are really fortunate to have you as partners with us in this project that we're undertaking.

At the end of this month, as I showed you on that PowerPoint, we've got a 3-D conceptional view of everything we're doing that we're going to share; and what this funding allows is for us to do a complete project of everything that we had planned to do on the premises in this South Texas Ecotourism Center, which is a first of its kind in our region. So in anticipation of what you will be doing shortly, I want to say thank you and I want to thank Carter for all of the game wardens that we have on South Padre Island in the last couple of weeks helping manage the crowds that have been there. We have had the presence of game wardens, which has made it really nice for us and extremely helpful. So thank you so much for that.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you. And I would, for my colleagues, would say again how much we enjoyed our trip down there and you were -- you and your colleagues were fabulous hosts and I'm sure in future years, another Commission will come back. But anyway, thank you so much for taking time to come today.

MR. DAVID GARZA: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. Mr. Joe Vega, followed by David Sharp. Welcome, Mr. Vega.

MR. JOE VEGA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the Commission. For the record, my name is Joe Vega. I'm the Parks Director for Cameron County, and I would like to thank you for the funding opportunity on our South Texas Ecotourism Center; but most important, I would like to again thank you and thank Mr. Carter Smith, Executive Director, Ms. Dana Lagarde, the park -- the Director for the grants program, Mr. Dan Reece, and the great team you have with the grants program at Texas Parks and Wildlife. And most importantly also, I would like to thank you for the great partnership that we have established with Texas Parks and Wildlife.

Our park system has 17 parks. Fourteen out of those 17 parks are in colonias areas, in underserved areas. And because of your partnership, we are able -- we were able to build parks in those colonias areas, improving the quality of life for our residents in those colonias areas. Thank you and God bless you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: We love hearing that. Thank you so much for taking time to come today.

All right. David Sharp, followed by Richard Zavala. Welcome, Mr. Sharp.

MR. DAVID SHARP: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Commission members. It's a pleasure to be here today. I'm -- my name is David Sharp. I'm representing the Board of Directors of Exploration Green Conservancy and we're speaking -- I'm speaking in support of the application by Clear Lake City Water Authority for Exploration Green Phase 4.

Just wanted to thank you for your support of previous phases of the Exploration Green Project. The Phase 1 part of the project was opened on Earth Day last year for a grand opening. It was very well received by the community. We continue to have widespread community support and widespread use of the completed portion of the Exploration Green Project by members of the community.

We've also -- when I say support, it comes in two forms. We get individual donations from members of the community and a very healthy outpouring of volunteer effort by members of the community. We now have volunteers exceeding in the hundreds. Lots of volunteers to plant trees, plant native grasses and plants and nurture and plant aquatic plants in the project.

Most recently we had an event the day after Valentine's Day. We all called it "Glow on the Green." We put out luminarias around the walking trails in Phase 1. We got a very good community turnout. We had over 500 people in the community that came out. We offered guided tours of the facility led by volunteers and kind of explaining the benefits of the overall facility to members of the community that were not familiar with the intended purposes of flood control, water quality improvement, habitat for wildlife, and personal enrichment for people in the local community.

Feedback on that event was great. People asked us to do more events of this nature and also to continue to offer the guided tours so that people could fully appreciate it's more than just a place to walk around and it has multiple benefits for wildlife and the community.

We're currently planning another event for Earth Day coming up this year in April. We will provide more tours. We will have a food truck on site, and we'll be having a native plant sale in partnership with the Native Plant Society of Texas. So, again, I want to say thank you for your support on this project.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you, sir. Appreciate you.

Richard Zavala, City of Fort Worth; followed by Mary Jane Verett or Verette. I'm sorry. I don't know which.

MR. RICHARD ZAVALA: Mr. Chair, members of the Commission, Director Smith, I'm happy to be here. Richard Zavala with the City of Fort Worth. I consider it an honor and a privilege to address you and express appreciation on behalf of our Mayor, our City Council, and our City Manager, and most importantly, the citizens of Fort Worth that are going to benefit from the two grants that the City of Fort Worth will be receiving in this round of grants.

I have three points to make, and I'll be brief. First of all, the projects. One is an indoor grant. We will be replacing a 50-year-old recreation center in the central city that is predominantly served by the Hispanic population in the Diamond Hill area. The second is an outdoor grant, which is a 1928 donation of parkland to the City of Fort Worth. For fourscore, it served as a golf course. Unpopular as it may have been, I closed that golf course. Got 138-acre community park inside the loop in the City of Fort Worth and you'll be leveraging these funds with funds approved by the citizens of Fort Worth in our most recent bond program. It's a wonderful thing to get 138 acres inside the loop of any large city in the state.

The second point I want to make -- and this relates to the local park fund -- as you know, we're going through that process to get us the Constitutional amendment before the voters in November. A lot of work has gone into that process over really the last 20 years to ensure that that funding continues to serve the kind of projects that you're hearing about today.

The foundation of all that over the last 20 years have been you, your predecessors, many people across this state that have supported the local park fund. Somewhat like William Barret Travis, we served in the Alamo here. The enemy has demanded a surrender of discretion, otherwise the garrison is to be put to the sword. I answered that demand with a cannon shot and our flag still waves proudly.

Our San Jacinto Day is going to be November 5th of 2019, when this becomes a permanent appropriation for parks in leveraging those funds across the state.

The last thing I will say to you is the Director asked me to come on Monday to testify before the Senate Committee and I told him, "Well, I was planning on coming on Wednesday to say thank you to the Commission and recognize the staff for all their effort." I told him, "I'll come, but you need to understand it's Saint Patty's day on Sunday. So I'll probably show up in a leprechaun suit, green cowboy boots, and a green cowboy hat and it's going to be a late night."

As diplomatic as Director Smith can be, he said, "You know, Richard, I would be remiss if I didn't tell you the Commission really appreciates you coming down on Wednesday when we give out the grants. So do us all a favor, don't come down Monday in that leprechaun suit."

So I didn't come on Monday, but I'm here today and I want to tell you how much we appreciate everything the staff does and everything you do. So thank you very much.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you, Richard. Appreciate that.

Okay. Mary Jane -- you're going to have to help me. Is it Verette or Verette?


CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Verette, okay. San Antonio Parks Foundation, followed by Sandy Jenkins.

MS. MARY JANE VERETTE: Thank you so much for this opportunity. I'm Mary Jane Verette, and I'm President and CEO of the San Antonio Parks Foundation. We endorse the approval of an urban outdoor recreation grant for the benefit of Pearsall Park in San Antonio.

Pearsall one of the finest examples of converting a negative space -- a landfill -- into a destination recreational area that welcomes all of the community. The bicycle park will be an incentive for families to experience the outdoors in an expansive area without having to cross city streets and traffic. And by doing so, we improve the quality of life as a whole for today and for our future generations. Thank you very much.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you. Appreciate your comments.

Sandy Jenkins, City of San Antonio; followed by Rey Saldaña, also City of San Antonio. Welcome, Ms. Jenkins.

MS. SANDY JENKINS: Thank you so much. I'm Sandy Jenkins and I am City of San Antonio Parks and Recreation Manager and I just want to express my thanks to Carter Smith and to the Commission for our grant at Pearsall Park. I worked very hard on that grant and it's going to welcome our first bicycle park in San Antonio and so it's a very exciting time for us and I just want to express my thanks to you-all, as well as the staff.

Carter, you have an excellent staff. I love working with them. Thank you.

MR. SMITH: Agreed.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you so much.

Rey Saldaña, followed by Steve Wright. Welcome, Mr. Saldaña.

MR. REY SALDA�A: Thank you, Chairman Duggins, the rest of the Commission, to the staff. I wanted to come by and register my support for Item No. 4. My name is Rey Saldaña. I'm a member of the San Antonio City Council and I've been on the Council for eight years now and I know what it's like to receive testimony and hear citizens be heard and I think I can count on one hand the amount of times in eight years that somebody come has over and just said, "Thank you."

So that's the reason for my drive up from San Antonio. You see, the funding that you-all are approving today -- namely, the urban outdoor park -- includes Pearsall Park, which is in the district that I represent and the district I represent is an underserved area; but the area around Pearsall Park is the most underserved in the district that I represent. And so just to give you a sense, you don't have to be an urban planner or study much of San Antonio to be able to identify the areas that are underserved because as was mentioned and I hope it's not overlooked, this might be the best example of making lemonade out of lemons.

This used to be a former landfill in the City of San Antonio. It's about 250 acres. When we discovered that we could actually turn it into a park, we've now turned it into 500 acres. And this funding is a portion of Phase 2 of this project. And back in 2012, just early in my tenure, it was just an idea of transforming this former dump into a destination and so we received citizen input on what kind of elements should be included as amenities in this park. The City and the City residents and voters have approved funding, but this second phase of funding is critically important for us to add the kind of amenities and components that will be matched by the Texas Parks and Wildlife.

And I'm grateful for the opportunity to be in front of you, privileged to get to sort of see the interactions of the business that you-all do; but I will say this is the first time I've seen the sequence happen that the vote has occurred before the citizens being heard and I thought I was going to have to come up here with boxing gloves. I think we scored just one point above El Paso. So we'll take the gloves off, and I will say how grateful we are to receive this project.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Well, let me say on behalf of my colleagues, we're appreciative of you taking time out of your busy day to be here, as well as the others who have patiently waited to speak on Item 4 and it's always -- this is one of the great times for us when we approve these local park grants. We believe in them just as much as you do and wish we had more and hopefully in the future, we will have more. But thank you so much for taking time to join us today and we're glad that your grant has successfully passed the hill.

MR. REY SALDA�A: Absolutely. Thank you so much.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, sir.

All right. Steve Wright, City of Houston; followed by James Teel, McMullen County. Welcome, Mr. Wright.

MR. STEVE WRIGHT: Thank you. Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Executive Director Mr. Smith. Pleasure to finally meet you. My name is Steve Wright. I'm the Director of Houston Parks and Recreation. When I had the opportunity to come up here, at first I thought I was going to have to go by and throw in a support of approval on this. I'm glad we got past that. But I wanted to drive up here literally on behalf of the City of Houston, on behalf Mayor Turner himself just to extend a thank you.

We couldn't do what we do out there with 380 parks without the help of the Texas Parks and Wildlife. Mr. Dan Reece, his team, Dana, they've been amazing. Executive Director, really appreciate your help.

This is about equity. We're using these funds -- well, obviously matching funds. We've got a park in an underserved area. Those parks have long gone ignored or maybe just because of resources, haven't had the resources available; but working together collaboratively with groups such as this was well worth the drive. Plus, it's obviously great, beautiful weather. Love coming up to the Hill Country. So if y'all will please let Mayor Turner know that I came up here and worked vigorously all day long and I learned a whole lot about Alligator gar and bowhunting that I never figured I'd have to learn; but, you know, I appreciate all that, as well. So I appreciate y'all's time and thank you for everything you do.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you, Mr. Wright. Appreciate your patience and your remarks.

James Teel, McMullen County; followed by Eric Garrity with the City of Mexia. Welcome, Mr. Teel.

HONORABLE JAMES TEEL: Good afternoon. For the record, my name is James Teel. I am the County Judge of McMullen County. Commissioner -- I mean, Chairman and Commissioners, thank you very much for your approval of grant funding this round. McMullen County is a small, rural community in South Texas, as you probably know and with a population of about 800 people. We were donated a piece of property back in the 1950s and until now, haven't had an opportunity like this to come along to where we could afford to be able to leverage dollars to be able to have a park in our county. So we're very, very appreciative. And just like the previous gentleman who had 380 parks, we couldn't do it without you guys either and we appreciate your hard work and effort, each and every one of you guys that supported this. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Judge, thank you so much. Appreciate you coming in and your comments.

All right. Mr. Eric Garrity, followed by Eric Belaj.

MR. ERIC GARRITY: Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission, thank you for this opportunity to come before you here today on behalf of the City of Mexia. I'm Eric Garrity. I'm the City Manager for the City of Mexia. Thank you seems insufficient. This is our park. Our one park. And we're going to have soccer field and baseball fields and we're going to be able to keep kids in our community because of what you're doing. Thank you so much and thank you to the staff. It just -- thank you doesn't seem sufficient. Thank you very much.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Well, thank you and I'd suggest you call Martin Bowen in Fort Worth and pry some money out of him. He came --


CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: -- from Mexia and he's got a lot of money.

MR. ERIC GARRITY: Thank you, sir.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Eric Belaj, followed by our last speaker Frates Seeligson. Welcome, Mr. Belaj.

MR. ERIC BELAJ: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. I'll keep this really quick. I heard some stomachs growling as I was walking up here. I just want to make --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: There's one growling to my left.

MR. ERIC BELAJ: Might have been mine. It might have been mine. I don't know. I just want to make two very quick points. I know it's late. It's emphasized, but I don't think it can be emphasized enough of the positive impact that you guys have on communities like the City of Lago Vista. So our park that we applied for, the grant is going to be the first free-to-use park, believe it or not. We don't have any parks in the City of Lago Vista that you don't have to have a key card or you don't have to walk behind a gate. So this is going to be definitely a first for us and we are incredibly grateful.

The second point I want to make, I haven't worked with Dan; but I have worked with Susan Sharpe and Dana Lagarde. Fantastic staff. They didn't leave us out there to just basically sink or swim. They helped us along the way and they are just fantastic and we are very grateful for you guys and the staff that you have. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you very much for your comments.

Frates, welcome.

MR. FRATES SEELIGSON: I think I'm the person you're looking for. The last one.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: You're last, but not least.

MR. FRATES SEELIGSON: Hi. Thank you. My name is Frates Seeligson. Commissioners, Carter, I want to appreciate all that you-all do. I'm here representing the City of Kenedy, the San Antonio River Authority, the San Antonio River Foundation on behalf of the Escondido Creek Parkway Project. I want to just say how much I appreciate Parks and Wildlife realizing that parks can be in the rural part of the state, too. It's not just an urban thing and it sounds somewhat of an oxymoron to have a park in the rural part of the state; but they're vitally important, especially in small communities like Kenedy. And I just want to thank you-all.

I also really want to come up here just to thank the staff. If you guys have ever -- I don't know if you've ever done one of these grants, but it's like applying to MIT. And throughout the whole process -- Dan, Susan, Aaron -- they were helpful, friendly, supportive. You've got a great team and just thank you-all and I think I'm the last speaker, so good. Thanks.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: You are. Thank you very much for your comments.

Is there anybody else in the audience who would like to make -- offer comments on Action Item 4?

Okay. I think we still need to formally approve Exhibit F. So is there a motion to approve the proposed grants in Exhibit F? Commissioner Latimer. Second Commissioner Bell. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries.

Our last action item is Disposition of Real Estate in Brazoria County, 300 --

MR. REECE: I'm sorry. I have one more motion.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: This is my bad day. Sorry.

MR. REECE: So I mentioned a little earlier and has been discussed a little earlier, there's a potential for additional federal LWCF funding to become available this current fiscal year. Motion 3 is pertaining to that. Motion 3: funding for projects listed in Exhibits A and B is approved in the amount of additional LWCF funding that is made available in the current fiscal year, not to exceed $6 million with priority given to outdoor program applications.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right. Any comments or questions? Is there a motion for approval? Commissioner Aplin. Second Commissioner Warren. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries.

Now, did we cover everything?

MR. REECE: I'm good.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you. Appreciate the good work you and your teammates are doing here.

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: Can we bring her back?

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: I'm sorry? Yeah, please invite Commissioner Galo back.

All right. We now come to Action Item 5, our last item. With great respect for David Buggs who prepared to make a briefing today, because of the hour, we're going to ask you to indulge us and make that at the May meeting if you will.

So our last item will be Action Item 5, the Disposition of a 355-Acre Dredge Placement Area at Bryan Beach in Brazoria County, Ted Hollingsworth.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good afternoon. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This is a second reading of basically a housekeeping item regarding Bryan Beach. We went into some detail on this item in January. So I'll keep it brief.

Bryan Beach is down in Brazoria County. It's at the mouth of what we call the New Brazos River and the Gulf of Mexico. The New Brazos River was dredged before World War II in order that the old channel, the original channel of the river, might be managed as the port of Freeport. In the 1970s, we acquired a number of tracts by eminent domain, close to 900 acres, in an effort to turn that area into a state park. It's remote. That channel is not between jetties. It's very natural. There are beaches and sand spits and channels there that move regularly. It's a fascinating place. Good fishing. Good opportunity for recreation.

But we discovered after owning it for about 20 years, that because of the location and because of the distance from our nearest staff, it really was not feasible for us to operate it as a park. And in 2005, this Commission asked staff to find a new home for that property. And working with the City of Freeport, we ultimately transferred the property to the City for a use for park purposes.

In the meantime, we had entered into a transfer of jurisdiction with TxDOT to use 355 acres of that property as a dredge spoil area. Now, that area had been used for many decades for dredge spoil. So we simply -- although I've never seen the original lease, we simply extended that lease. TxDOT is the party -- because of the fact that they are the State sponsor for the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway and in that capacity, they secure lands to be used as dredge spoil areas on behalf of the Corps of Engineers.

That transfer of jurisdiction expired a couple of years ago. When TxDOT did research into that, they found a couple of things. One of which is that a reverter that we had placed on the entire property meant that the City of Freeport did not actually own what they call Placement Area 88. It actually still belonged to Texas Parks and Wildlife. They also discovered some of the discrepancies in our transfer and so we're not sure which acreage we actually transferred to the City and we which we did not. Although it was clearly our intent to transfer all of our holdings at Bryan Beach to the City.

So the resolution that you have in front of you would recognize the fact that Placement Area 88 has not been used for park purposes and to make this clean and to accomplish what the Commission had intended back in 2005, the City would transfer their entire interest back to the Department. The Department would sell Placement Area 88 to TxDOT, so that they could use it in perpetuity for dredge spoil purposes. There is no possibility of that area being used for public recreation. And then we would convey the balance of the property, over 500 acres, to the City of Freeport we would do that hopefully in such a way that that entire property is permanently conveyed.

We would, of course, place a reverter on that so that if it was ever not used for public park purposes, it would come back to the Agency. We would, of course, retain all of any mineral interest that we own and just out of -- I don't have a slide to that purpose, to that point -- we received no public comments about this proposed transaction.

This is a map showing the lay of that land. The City park area would be roughly 500 -- it would be 507 deeded acres. Again, the beach moves, the river moves and -- but roughly 507 acres and that dredge placement/dredge compartment is, as shown, about 355 acres.

With that, staff recommends that the Commission adopt the following motion: The Commission adopts the resolution attached as Exhibit A. I'd be happy to answer questions.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Members, any questions?

Is there a motion for approval? Commissioner Scott. Second Commissioner Warren. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries.

Before I declare us adjourned, even though we've lost the majority of our guests, I want to say on the record that I think this is likely Commissioner Kelcy Warren's last meeting as a Commissioner at Parks and Wildlife. Sadly, sadly, sadly we are losing him to the University of Texas System Board and we have so valued your participation here and we hate to see you go; but happy for the UT System to get your leadership skills. And anyway, thank you for all you've done and I hope I'm wrong and we see you in May, but it sounds like that there's a high probability you will be serving the State in another capacity soon.

COMMISSIONER WARREN: Well, it's been an honor and I've learned a lot and as you -- you've got to be honest. You're going to get -- like some of these distractions that I bring going away. Be honest.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: You brought no distractions that we didn't enjoy dealing with or at least that I didn't enjoy dealing with.

COMMISSIONER WARREN: But thanks to everybody. I've enjoyed it.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: With that, we have completed our business. So I declare the Commission Meeting adjourned at 1:33 p.m.

(Commission Meeting Adjourns)

In official recognition of the adoption of this resolution in a lawfully called public meeting of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, we hereby affix our signatures this _____ day of ______________, ______.


Ralph H. Duggins, Chairman


S. Reed Morian, Vice-Chairman


Arch "Beaver" Aplin, III, Member


Oliver J. Bell, Member


Anna B. Galo, Member


Jeanne W. Latimer, Member


James H. Lee, Member


Dick Scott, Member


Kelcy L. Warren, Member



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